Year In Review – Best Picture Project

Well, the end of the calendar year fell on Saturday, a sour day in which I saw my beloved Michigan State Spartan’s get absolutely decimated by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl.  On the upside, the Manchester United got a much-needed away win.  More importantly, it was the close of the first full calendar year of this blogs existence.

Initially I started this blog to give me another writing outlet from the fiction I conjure up in my spare time, and also from my work as a lawyer.  Most of my features were scattered in topic – actresses and nudity, the length of films, etc. – but as of late I’ve focused most on the Best Picture Project.  Since the beginning of the project I’ve seen 29 Best Picture winners, some were late models – such as The Hurt Locker – but 17 of the 29 were drawn from the pre-1960 winners.  If the number counted pre-1980 films, I think the number is 26 of 29.

Mentioning how the majority of the films were drawn from a more classic age of cinema is important because, compared to victorious films of late, it’s ever-more apparent that what once worked with the Academy doesn’t necessarily work as well now.  One cannot imagine such threadbare films as Broadway Melody and Cavalcade getting any sort of love now and yet, in their respective years, they were the champ.

Aside from this lesson, there are a few others that can be gleaned from the 29 films.  The first is that, throughout the history of the awards there was a preference for event films, the bigger the better.  How else to explain the victories of such films as Ben-Hur and Around the World in 80 Days over other, formidable competition.  And lest you think spectacle is something of the past, look at Dances With Wolves winning over Goodfellas and, though I haven’t gotten to it yet, Titanic over L.A. Confidential.

Another lesson is that sometimes, in a given year, it’s better to have been previously shunned than it is to actually be the Best Picture.  What I mean by this is, how else to explain the victories of Gigi And Oliver!, both mediocre pictures, and yet, winners of the top Oscar.  The conceivable reason: directors Vincente Minelli and Carol Reed being previously overlooked for better, more influential pictures.

The most important lesson, though, is how often the Oscars just plain get it wrong.  Of the 29 films seen I believe I only made a case for no more than five being the true Best Picture in a given year – the top four were certainly in that group.  But, if we didn’t have a little disagreement over awards then it just wouldn’t be fun.

Neverthless, drawing the end of the first year of the Best Picture project I’ve compiled the rankings of the 29 films, complete with links, broken down into two lists: the best and the worst.  Number one amongst the best was clearly the best.  Number one amongst the worst was clearly the worst.  Discuss and enjoy.

Best Picture Rankings

  1. Rebecca
  2. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest
  3. Annie Hall
  4. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  5. The Hurt Locker
  6. Mutiny on the Bounty
  7. Lawrence of Arabia
  8. Patton
  9. Dances With Wolves
  10. It Happened One Night
  11. From Here to Eternity
  12. Marty
  13. The Apartment
  14. Ordinary People
  15. Platoon
  16. All About Eve
  17. Oliver!
  18. Around The World in 80 Days
  19. Rocky
  20. Mrs. Miniver
  21. Ben-Hur
  22. All Quiet on The Western Front
  23. How Green Was My Valley
  24. The Best Years of Our Lives
  25. The Sting

 Bottom Ten (#1 being worst)

  1. Cavalcade
  2. Broadway Melody
  3. Gigi
  4. Grand Hotel

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