Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thoughts on every Best Picture I've seen

Wings (1927) -- Not very interesting, mostly just a typical rah-rah war movie. Good flight effects for 1927, though.
Sunrise (1927) -- Technically, this won the first and only "Unique and Artistic Production" award the same year as Wings. Which is fortunate, because it's much better than Wings. It's the world's simplest story (happily married man is tempted by seductive woman -- that's the whole plot), but it unfolds so beautifully.
All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) -- Brutal. I'm not sure how it even got made. There are no characters we care about and the plot is just an excuse for spectacular battle sequences. I think it was Francois Truffaut who said that it's impossible to make an anti-war film because you can't depict war on film without making it look exciting. That applies here. I come away from this movie thinking two things: "War is a miserable, hellish, nightmarish experience," and "As far as miserable, hellish, nightmarish experiences go, it's probably the best".
Cimarron (1931) -- Total failure, just awful on every level. Purports to be an epic tale of the American frontier or whatever. What it's really about is this total asshole who gets everything he ever wants, for no other reason than because everyone around him is completely incompetent. A protagonist without failings is the most boring thing in the world.
Grand Hotel (1932) -- Garbo!!! Joan Crawford!!! Four or five different plotlines that sometimes overlap. It's a lot of fun.
Cavalcade (1933) -- Another "sweeping history" would-be epic that fails completely. The main characters don't even DO anything, they just sit around being affected by every single historical event of the early 20th century. People accused Forrest Gump of ripping off Being There, but it's really a rip-off of old Hollywood movies like this that cheapen the scope of history by trying to dramatize it.
It Happened One Night (1934) -- One of the best screwball comedies ever. Gable eats a carrot, Claudette whips her leg out, you know how it goes. It's too bad films like this can never win an Oscar anymore.
Mutiny On The Bounty (1935) -- I remember not liking it much, probably because the movie is totally pro-Fletcher Christianson. From what I understand about the historical record, Bligh was actually one of the more humane captains and Fletcher was a traitorous scoundrel. But whether this is true or not, it certainly didn't work having the movie just portray Bligh as a one-dimensional monster (though Charles Laughton is of course, awesome).
The Great Ziegfeld (1936) -- This movie is 3 hours long and as boring as hell.
You Can't Take It With You (1938) -- Stupid.
Gone With The Wind (1939) -- Awesome (though Scarlett O'Hara is one of the most hateful heroines of all time and I'm always glad to see her get her comeuppance).
Rebecca (1940) -- Not the best Hitchcock movie, but certainly one of the classiest. But who cares about that. Hitchcock as a deranged pervert is far more interesting to me than Hitchcock as a dramatic masterpiece director.
How Green Was My Valley (1941) -- Probably John Ford's worst movie. The Grapes Of Wrath should've won the year before, and Citizen Kane should've won this year.
Mrs. Miniver (1942) -- I remember very little about it, but it's a "effects of war of normal families" sort of thing, and as those things go, it's nice enough.
Casablanca (1943) -- Greatest movie ever made.
The Lost Weekend (1945) -- The bleak look at alcoholism is kind of cool, but it kind of does the "All Quiet On The Western Front" thing. In trying to make its subject seem horrifying, it actually ends up looking quite glamorous. Anyway, at least dying in a gutter puddle of your own vomit isn't boring, right?
The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946) -- The guy with hooks for hands was kind of a bad actor (or at least badly overmatched by Fredric March and Dana Andrews), but parts of the movie were really good.
Gentleman's Agreement (1947) -- Gregory Peck poses as a Jew in order to blow the lid off of the hidden racism in society. The message actually holds up really well, but the approach to the material is very much heavy-handed.
Hamlet (1948) -- Maybe not the best film version of Hamlet, but certainly the best one with Laurence Olivier in it.
All The King's Men (1949) -- Holds up like hell, more relevant than ever. Politics rarely make for good drama, so it's encouraging to find a movie like this that manages to make it work.
All About Eve (1950) -- Fantastic. As perfect as a movie can ever be.
An American In Paris (1951) -- I love watching Gene Kelly dance as much as a straight man possibly can, but this thing is like so boring. Lavish set designs and elaborate musical sequences shouldn't have to come at the expense of plot and character.
The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) -- Star-studded cast playing a billion people who work for the circus and nothing happens in the movie for like all 3 hours of its running time. Gloria Grahame wrapped up in an elephant's trunk is the most adorable thing I'll ever see, but everything else in this movie was totally forgettable.
From Here To Eternity (1953) -- Totally badass. Saved Frank Sinatra's career, made kissing by the ocean seem like a good idea, used Hawaii as a legit filming location, established Ernest Borgnine as the coolest man in the world. Nothing is wrong with this movie.
On The Waterfront (1954) -- I like it, but that doesn't mean I agree with the guy who made it that he should've ratted out all those commies. Be a man, get yourself blacklisted like everyone else.
Around The World In 80 Days (1956) -- I watched this as a kid, but I remember exactly nothing about it. Guess I need to rewatch.
The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957) -- It's unbelievable how awesome this movie is considering every character in it is fully psychotic. Why are P.O.W. movies always so light-hearted and upbeat? I would think that being an actual P.O.W. would be pretty miserable. But this movie is super cool, especially the ending. I give it 9 exploded bridges out of 10.
Gigi (1958) -- Musical. I did not enjoy it.
The Apartment (1960) -- You should see this, and you should love it, and that's all I'm gonna say.
West Side Story (1961) -- Musical! Dancing and singing! Natalie Wood as a Puerto Rican! Yeah, half the songs are boring love ballads, but the rest of the numbers are a blast. I'm completely embarrassed at how much I enjoyed this and maybe I should turn in my man card, but I also don't care. Sharks and Jets!
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) -- Can I just say how much I hate the fact that Gregory Peck won Best Actor this year instead of Peter O'Toole. I like Peck and everything, but he was born to play Atticus Finch, that's way too easy for him. But playing the main character of a four-hour historical epic in your first starring role? That's gotta be a little more difficult, right? By the way this movie rules.
Tom Jones (1963) -- British sex farce. Whatever, I'm not going into this one.
My Fair Lady (1964) -- I like the play this is based on, but not this version. Mostly because I don't see why Rex Harrison has to be such a dick to her the whole time. What kind of asshole proclaims his love by saying he's "grown accustomed" to someone's face? 'Enry 'Iggins, that's who.
The Sound Of Music (1965) -- Look, a musical is only as good as its songs, and about half of the songs from this are permanently embedded in my brain (therefore they must be good), I've accepted that. So what if the movie around it is just conflict-free sap. You can revoke my man card now.
In The Heat Of The Night (1967) -- Yeah, Poitier! Rod Stieger kicks ass too. It's hard to find a movie about race-hate that's less preachy than this. Maybe because there's an actual story in it.
Midnight Cowboy (1969) -- Look, rule number 1: If you go to New York to pimp yourself and you have a cowboy hat on, OF COURSE you'll only end up turning gay tricks. That is why this movie will always be stupid.
Patton (1970) -- Awesome, obviously.
The French Connection (1971) -- This movie singlehandedly decided what every other movie made in the 1970s would look like. I think a lot of the movies that came after it were better, but most of them don't have a character as badass as Popeye Doyle in them.
The Godfather (1972) -- Greatest movie ever made.
The Sting (1973) -- It's fun.
The Godfather Part II (1974) -- It's awesome when Fredo dies and in the DeNiro flashback scenes, but every other part of it is kind of boring.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975) -- Rules. I love how Nicholson played the charcter completely differently than he was written in the book, and yet the story still worked.
Rocky (1976) -- Hey, it's Rocky. It's good.
Annie Hall (1977) -- I hate this movie.
The Deer Hunter (1978) -- Super badass, I don't even hold the hourlong wedding in the beginning against it.
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) -- This movie is just as cute as hell, but Apocalypse Now should've won instead.
Ordinary People (1980) -- Mary Tyler Moore is awesome in this movie, which is like a depressing suburbanite thing.
Chariots of Fire (1981) -- SO BORING. But that musical theme is so nice! Let's listen to it again.
Gandhi (1982) -- I'll never say anything bad about Ben Kingsley, but good lord this movie sucked.
Terms Of Endearment (1983) -- Debra Winger, Shirley MacLaine, yes of course I'm there even before I find out about Jack Nicholson. SO yeah, this movie good.
Amadeus (1984) -- Amadeus is totally badass.
Out Of Africa (1985) -- I can't remember anything about this, but I know it was boring.
Platoon (1986) -- This might be Oliver Stone's only good movie. Tom Berenger rules.
The Last Emperor (1987) -- Long and boring and uninteresting. Go watch Kundun instead.
Rain Man (1988) -- Dustin Hoffman is one of the best actors who's ever lived, but not because of this.
Dances With Wolves (1990) -- I like the part where the Indians slaughter the stupid white man. Unfortunately, this movie isn't as good as the sci-fi remake AVATAR.
Silence Of The Lambs (1991) -- This movie made everything better. But it's hard to watch it now without getting the sense that every TV show about criminal investigations has basically ripped it off to the point where it doesn't feel fresh anymore.
Unforgiven (1992) -- Probably the best movie Eastwood ever directed, and one of the more badass Westerns ever made. I love movies where a guy who used to be a bad guy tried to straighten out and be a good family man, but he can't keep his true nature from coming back out. And of course, Gene Hackman, the end.
Schindler's List (1993) -- I feel like I can't say anything bad about this movie, so nevermind.
Forrest Gump (1994) -- I hate this movie so much.
Braveheart (1995) -- Good movie. In retrospect, it's apparent that Mel Gibson was always crazy.
The English Patient (1996) -- I remember almost nothing about this, but it's definitely not as bad as that Seinfeld episode makes it sound.
Titanic (1997) -- Oh, THIS thing. I have always hated it and I probably always will.
Shakespeare In Love (1998) -- Shakespeare in love you say? I'll pass.
American Beauty (1999) -- Chris Cooper is awesome in this. That's the kind of dad I'm gonna be. I'll piss-test my own son and execute his gay neighbor. The rest of this movie is more depressing suburbanite stuff. If your marriage sucks that bad, I don't see why you wouldn't just get a divorce.
Gladiator (2000) -- This movie has always been awesome. I'll even forgive it for making 300 possible.
A Beautiful Mind (2001) -- Total unwatchable schlock. When Russell Crowe is getting attacked and threatened by mysterious forces, it's impossible to see why he doesn't fight back and kick all their asses. He's Russell Crowe! I just saw him decapitate a dude using two swords! More of that next time.
Chicago (2002) -- Seeing bad women succeed will almost always be entertaining.
The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003) -- I'm one of those silly people who like Fellowship the best, but this one's not bad.
Crash (2005) -- You know what I said about In The Heat Of The Night being a movie about race hate that isn't preachy? This movie is the opposite of that.
The Departed (2006) -- Movies don't get much better. Until the year after this:
No Country For Old Men (2007) -- GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE.
The Hurt Locker (2009) -- Always fun to see James Cameron fail, and to his ex-wife at that. Disarming bombs in the desert never looked so fun. I feel like this is the last good decision the academy will ever make.


Tracie said...

Wow you've seen a lot of Best Pictures. I've seen a goodly amount of the ones you've listed and I agree with many of your comments. When I have more time, I'll post a more detailed comment.

Austin said...

I do have time, so here's my addition. (I've seen more than the ones listed, just my opinion on either the films, your summary of them, or both.

It Happened One Night -Amen. Also the reason Bugs Bunny popularized rabbit's affection for carrots.

Gone With the Wind - there's a reason why Scarlett is one of the most unlikeable heroines out there, and that's kind of the point. There are so few movies with a female lead, even fewer grand epic movies with a female lead, even fewer with a three dimensional female lead. Scarlett is a bitch, but a magnificent one, and so much more.

Casablanca - I need to watch it again. I thought it kind of boring, but it could be because I slept through some of it. (it was like 3 in the morning)

My Fair Lady - You mean you like the play Pygmalion by Shaw, or the play My Fair Lady? Because Rex was the original Henry Higgins in the play. (Julie Andrews was Eliza, and risking hate from every girl I've ever met ever, I think would've done a better job than Audrey. At least she'd have sung her own songs.) Also, Enry Iggins IS an ass. That's 9/10 of his character.

Annie Hall - I hated it too. Still do.

Amadeus - A bit off-putting that many of the characters had American accents, but better than the Hollywood staple of "If you're foreign (or alien) you're British." Didn't affect my enjoyment of the film at all, or the career-apex performances of F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce.

Silence of the Lambs - Two of the most intriguing serial killers in film in the same movie. Of course, I haven't seen Dexter, but still.

Forrest Gump - I'm curious why you hate it. Wait, no I'm not. I still love it tho.

Braveheart - Amen.

Titanic - Double, no, triple A-freaking-men.

A Beautiful Mind - It might have been more interesting if the "twist" hadn't been visible 100 miles/minutes off. No, it still wasn't. Jennifer Connelly's still hot tho.

Chicago - Music by Kander & Ebb is some of the best musical material there is. Now where's MY man card? ;)

LOTR - I see the trilogy as one 9 hour long movie, and in that regard, the first act may be the best, though my favorite will always be the Two Towers with Smeagol/Gollum's schizo dialogue.

That's all, you've reawakened my desire to see more classic Oscar winners, such as The Apartment and Lawrence of Arabia. (And in the words of Noel Coward, "If he were any prettier, he'd be Florence of Arabia.")

Wendy McMillan said...

You assessments are almost identical to what I would have said. I still shake my fist at Forrest Gump and feel guilty admitting how awful Schindler's List was but there I said it. And I'll never understand Driving Miss Daisy. Field of Dreams was way better.

Also, Marty??? That's ok, you were probably in a hurry.

We got so close. We really should finish the list. Oh wait, that would include Million Dollar Baby so never mind.

Jacob I. McMillan said...

@Austin: That's a good point about Scarlett, but the thing is that I love to hate her. Seeing all of the bad things that happen to her wouldn't be quite so fun if she was a kind, good-hearted person. But since she fully deserves everything she gets, it's satisfying on a "cosmic justice" sort of scale.

@Wendy: Can't believe I forgot Marty. Here's my thoughts on it:

Marty (1955) -- So basically Ernest Borgnine is this big fat sweaty guy who starts seeing this quiet mousy chick and they slowly fall in love. This movie is awesome because if it were made today, they would cast regular good-looking actors to play these parts and just ugly them up like Charlize Theron in Monster. Or worse, you'd take a fat ugly dude like Seth Rogen or Kevin James and pair him with some hot bimbo. But since it's 1955, they can get away with using actual ugly people in the roles, which makes it all the sweeter when they fall in love.

Amalie said...

Hm, i am now tempted to write a blog on this subject, though my list would be a lot shorter