Sunday, February 22, 2009

Best Picture, Volume Two

1960- The Apartment- Very good romantic comedy/social drama from director Billy Wilder, but either Spartacus or Psycho should have won Best Picture of that year.

1961- West Side Story- Okay, but The Hustler was another good nominee.
1962- Lawrence of Arabia- Great film, Oscar nailed it.
1963- Tom Jones- Good
1964- My Fair Lady- Good
1965- The Sound of Music- Great film.
1966- A Man For All Seasons- Very Good.
1967- In The Heat Of The Night- Good.
1968- Oliver!- Until 2002's Chicago this was the last musical to win Best Picture and although it is a good movie the film that should have won was NOT even nominated (has this become a pattern or what?)...

2001: A Space Odyssey

1969- Midnight Cowboy- The first and only X-rated film to win Best Picture although it was changed to an R-rating later. I prefer Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid for that year. By the way, this was the first of three Best Pictures Dustin Hoffman starred in.
1970- Patton- Very good film for which George C. Scott refused to accept his Best Actor Oscar.
1971- The French Connection- Good
1972- The Godfather- Once again Oscar nails it! Other than 1943, 1962, and 1993 this is their proudest moment.
1973- The Sting- Great film.
1974- The Godfather Part II- Now they're on a roll.
1975- One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest- Great film and the first film since 1934's It Happened One Night to win the "big five"- Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay. It has happened only one other time since.
1976- Rocky- Good
1977- Annie Hall- Great film. Some still feel that Star Wars should have won, but Annie Hall is probably the greatest comedy of all time so I don't have a problem with it.
1978- The Deer Hunter- One of my least favorite winners, very depressing and long, but unfortunately there weren't many other worthy contenders that year. The only one I really like is Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait.
1979- Kramer vs. Kramer- Dustin Hoffman's second film to win Best Picture is okay but there were a few that were much better including Woody Allen's Manhattan, Peter Sellers' classic Being There and the big one which should have won the award...

Apocalypse Now

So the Academy didn't end the decade strong but the 1970s were their best decade overall for getting it right.

1980- Ordinary People- So much for getting things right. They start off the new decade by bombing big time! They chose a boring melodrama over one of cinemas greatest films, although DeNiro did get the award for his performance...

Raging Bull

1981- Chariots of Fire- Good, but in retrospect Raiders of the Lost Ark should have won!

1982- Ghandi- Good although E.T. was another worthy nominee. But what an injustice that Blade Runner wasn't nominated!
1983- Terms of Endearment- Good
1984- Amadeus- Great film.
1985- Out of Africa- Boring movie. The Best film that year was The Color Purple by a long shot! It was nominated for 11 awards and won none! Ridiculous.
1986- Platoon- Okay, but I prefer Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters or my pick for Best picture (not nominated)...


1987- The Last Emperor- Okay, but for me it was Spielberg's Empire of the Sun which wasn't nominated.
1988- Rain Man- Good, and Dustin Hoffman's third Best Picture.
1989- Driving Miss Daisy- Okay but other films like Henry V could have won. Many were upset that year when Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing didn't get a nomination. Funny because that credo is one Spike Lee would never follow being so committed to the "wrong thing":neo-marxism! Sorry, but the Academy Awards always shoves politics down our throat so I thought I'd play along.
Anyway, my pick for Best Picture (which wasn't nominated) would have been...


1990- Dances With Wolves- Good film but much better ones were Miller's Crossing which wasn't nominated and one of the best films of the decade, Goodfellas.
1991- Silence of the Lambs- The last film to win the "big five".
1992- Unforgiven- Good
1993- Schindler's List- Among the greatest films. Oscar gets it right again!
1994- Forrest Gump- Good. Many felt that Pulp Fiction should have won but not me.
1995- Braveheart- Good, but I would have picked Appollo 13 or 12 Monkeys which was NOT nominated!
1996- The English Patient- Good, but I would have chosen either Fargo or one of my personal favorites which of course wasn't nominated...

Bottle Rocket

1997-Titanic- Obviously this is the type of film the Academy loves to pick: big, broad, melodramatic. But, it was completely outclassed by L.A. Confidential which should have won or Amistad which wasn't even nominated!
1998- Shakespeare In Love- One of Oscars darkest moments. It is a good film but nobody knows to this day how it beat Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture!

And neither The Big Lebowski or Rushmore were even nominated for Best Picture that year! Huh?

1999- American Beauty- I hate this movie. I can't recommend Being John Malkovich but it was clearly a better film.
2000- Gladiator- Good film but Almost Famous and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were just as good if not better. But, surprise, the film I cherish most was predictably not nominated...

O, Brother Where Art Thou?

2001- A Beautiful Mind- Good, but I would have picked The Royal Tennenbaums which wasn't nominated.
2002- Chicago- Good but two films that were better, Adaptation and About Schmidt , weren't nominated.
2003- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King- Great.
2004- Million Dollar Baby- No way. The best films of the year, The Passion of the Christ and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind were NOT NOMINATED! Shameful!
2005- Crash- Sorry, but Cinderella Man should have won or The Incredibles.
2006- The Departed- Good
2007- No Country For Old Men- Good but I was also very impressed with Atonement.

Odds are they screw up 2008, too. We will soon see.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Best Picture, Volume One

This is the big one. No other award in entertainment is more disputed or remembered than the Academy Award for the Best Picture of the year. And it is astonishing to look back at what films lost and what films were not even nominated. We will start at the beginning and work forward highlighting some egregious choices and more mind-boggling omissions.

1928- Wings
1929- Broadway Melody- the field of possible contenders was very weak that year, but still this is the worst "Best Picture" winner of all time.
1930- All Quiet on the Western Front- great film
1931- Cimarron- Not a very good film. What should have won?

City Lights

1932- Grand Hotel- Great film
1933- Cavalcade- Probably the second worst "Best Picture" winner. On Academy night Frank Capra mistakenly got up to receive an Oscar for best director when it was actually Frank Lloyd for this film. Well, wherever you are Capra you should have won both Best Director and Best Picture for Lady For A Day.
1934- It Happened One Night- Great film and Capra justly got his awards.
1935- Mutiny on the Bounty- Great film
1936- The Great Ziegfield- Good movie but Chaplin's Modern Times should have won.
1937- The Life of Emile Zola- Good but in retrospect Disney's first feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarves should have won for historical significance alone.
1938- You Can't Take It With You- Capra does it again.
1939- Gone With The Wind- considered the greatest year in film history there are multiple contenders that could have won Best Picture, including The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, Gunga Din, Stagecoach, Destry Rides Again, and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
1940- Rebecca- Hitchcock's only Best Picture winner.
1941- How Green Was My Valley- Great film BUT the greatest film of all time should have won!

Citizen Kane

1942- Mrs. Miniver- Good but the statue should have gone to Sullivan's Travels or...

The Magnificent Ambersons

1943- Casablanca- Oscar really got this one right!
1944- Going My Way- Should have gone to either Meet Me In St. Louis or Double Indemnity.
1945- The Lost Weekend- Highly regarded but I think A Tree Grows In Brooklyn should have won.
1946- The Best Years of Our Lives- As previously discussed It's A Wonderful Life should have won and My Darling Clementine was another strong nominee.
1947- Gentlemen's Agreement- First Best Picture winner for director Elia Kazan
1948- Hamlet- Classic but the award should have gone to either Red River or The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
1949- All The King's Men
1950- All About Eve- A good flick to be sure but C'MON!!! Sunset Boulevard should have won or The Third Man which WAS NOT NOMINATED! Criminal!
1951- An American In Paris- Great, but I would have picked A Streetcar Named Desire
1952- The Greatest Show On Earth- This is one of the Academy's worst years. Not only is Demille's circus movie not that great, but films like High Noon and The Bad and the Beautiful were much better and worst of all the one that should have won was not even nominated! Are you kidding me?!!!

Singin' In The Rain

1953- From Here To Eternity- Great film but I could easily switch it with Shane.
1954- On The Waterfront- Elia Kazan's second Best Picture is an excellent film but I could easily give the award to Hitchcock's Rear Window.
1955- Marty- Another huge black eye for the Academy. The Award could have gone to either James Dean film, East of Eden or Rebel Without A Cause but in my book it should have gone to another un-nominated masterpiece!

Night of the Hunter

1956- Around The World In 80 Days- NO!NO!NOOO! Why are these Academy voters so clueless? Again one of the greatest films of all time (go back and read my blog entry on the Greatest Films) not nominated...

The Searchers

1957- The Bridge on the River Kwai- David Lean's first Best Picture.
1958- Gigi- Remember what I said about the 50s in my Best Actor category? These voters were zombies. Yes, Gigi was the last great MGM musical BUT not to even nominate Touch of Evil or ANOTHER of the "Greatest films" and Hitchcock's masterpiece....



1959- Ben-Hur- Too late to redeem themselves but at least the Academy ended the decade by getting it right!

Next I will tackle the 60s forward.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Best Actor

I'm sure there are years when you thought somebody else should have won. I remember thinking Al Pacino finally winning for Scent of a Woman was like a lifetime achievement award in the same way John Wayne winning for True Grit was. They both should have won years earlier for different films. I just want to highlight a few years which I think could have gone differently. Some are fairly close and some were big oversights in my opinion.

First and foremost I have said many times that Jimmy Stewart's performance in It's A Wonderful Life is the best in film history. The year was 1946 and the post-war drama The Best Years of Our Lives won Best Picture and Fredric March (in one of many good performances in the film) won Best Actor. It is a good film and timely in it's message showing the realities of post-war life in America, BUT in hindsight it is silly to think it beat out It's A Wonderful Life and March was chosen over Stewart's performance. Silly.

Then we have the decade of the 50s where the Academy voters seemed to take a long nap.

1952- The only one I don't have a big problem with. It could have gone either way but it seems a shame that Gene Kelly didn't win an award for Singin' In The Rain but Gary Cooper did for High Noon. Couldn't they both win? Hepburn and Streisand did it once.

1955- Sorry, but there is no way Ernest Borgnine in Marty can match Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter. NO WAY!

1956- Speaking of earlier movies John Wayne should have won for....The Searchers, probably The Duke's greatest role and definitely his greatest film. Yul Brynner won for The King and I, a very good role he became synonymous with, but I still think that was Wayne's year.

1957- Close one, but Henry Fonda for 12 Angry Men instead of Alec Guinness in The Bridge On The River Kwai

1958- No brainer! It should have been Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo instead of David Niven in Separate Tables. Seriously is that even correct? What on earth?! Honestly! I can't believe I have to type that! (By the way I really like David Niven....but REALLY?)

See what I mean about the 50s? But all of that put together is really nothing. The big one, the one that makes me laugh even, The biggest mistake I think they ever made in choosing Best Actor is from 1960. Burt Lancaster won the award for Elmer Gantry but.....

Anthony Perkins DID NOT win for Psycho.

Perkins created one of the best characters on screen for all time and unfortunately for his career could never live it down. He was an amazing actor but after Hitchcock's masterpiece he was typecast or overlooked for major roles afterward. Now I want to go watch that one again. The way he makes Norman Bates both sympathetic and scary is brilliant.

More recently there are some supporting actor awards I thought should have gone differently.

1989- Morgan Freeman instead of Denzel Washington in Glory although Denzel is excellent.

2002- Daniel Day-Lewis for Gangs of New York instead of Chris Cooper in Adaptation although Cooper is excellent.

Next we will tackle the monumental mistake parade of Best Picture winners and amazingly inexcusable snubs. I will have to break it up into volumes, but boy will this be fun!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Best Actress

This is the easiest subject to tackle and since it is always first in the award show it will be first here. I think the Oscars have done a fairly decent job picking the winners in this category. Sure I could think of some that might go a few ways but generally they do OK. I could quibble over Halle Berry winning for Monster's Ball but there weren't any other performances that blew me away that year so why bother. I suppose I could rant about the fact that Maria Falconetti didn't win an award for Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc in 1928 which is widely regarded as the greatest acting performance of all time (male or female)...but the Award was brand new and the film was French so I'll give 'em a break.

The only one I guess seems ridiculous now would be from 1941. Joan Fontaine won for Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion. Good movie and fine role for Fontaine, but not even close to Barbara Stanwyck in the classic Preston Sturges comedy The Lady Eve.

It seems criminal now that Stanwyck never won an Oscar for acting, although in 1982 she was given an "honorary" Oscar for lifetime achievement. This will become a familiar theme as we examine the dubious omissions of the Academy.

Next we will look at Best Actor which will not be this easy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Taking the Academy to the woodshed!

Which Oscars were deserving, which weren't? I have a few opinions on this subject and since this is Oscar month I will be sharing some. The Academy Awards are among the most honored in terms of importance in the entertainment industry, but even so it is still subjective and basically meaningless. Time always proves what is really the "best picture" of a given year or "best" anything else. So this is my chance to pick a few bones with the Academy. I thought at first I could blast them for a few Best Picture screw ups and omissions but after doing some research I've found that they've screwed up ALOT!! This will take a few posts so stay tuned.