Tag Archives: academy awards

The Best Picture Project – Rankings

So, as you know, I’m doing the Best Picture Project, where I watch all 88 Oscar winners for best picture and honestly, life just isn’t fun without rankings, so follows are my rankings of the Best Picture winners, from 1 to 76, complete with links to all previous posts, with 10 being shuttled over into their own special circle of hell, The Bottom Ten.  Two others were unranked, for reasons apparent in their initial reviews.

Best Picture Rankings Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project – Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Million Dollar Baby poster.jpgDirected by Clint Eastwood

Screenplay by Paul Haggis, based on the stories of F.X. Toole

Starring Hillary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena and Margo Martindale

Well, here we are – the penultimate entry of the Best Picture Project.  After six years of toil and misery,[1] there is but one After Cimarron?  There will be no more, forever.[2]  But that, is for another day.  On this day I bring you the entry I’d been putting off longer than the rest – Million Dollar BabyConsciously putting off longer than the rest.  And the delay?  Imposed not because I was saving it for myself, like a delicious dessert.  No, it was put off because I did not want to see it again.  Not now, not ever, and, as I put it off, I sort-of hoped I might die before I had to get to it and, in death, I’d be spared the discomfort of it.  But, given I’m only 40 and in very good health, death did not save me.  And that, dear reader, is a lesson – death is its most-cruel when we want it, but are denied.

Alas…

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The Also-Rans Project – Room (Best Picture Nominee 2015)

Room Poster.jpgDirected by Lenny Abrahamson

Written by Emma Donoghue, based on her novel

Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Tom McCamus and Sean Bridgers

Best Picture 2015 was the first year in which The Best Picture Project and The Also-Rans overlapped – probably because The Also-Rans didn’t exist before.  This meant 2015 was the first – and likely only – year in which I could alter in real-time what movies I was going to see with respect to that year’s Best Picture contest.  Generally, try to catch all the Best Picture nominees in theaters, and because this was the first year I knew I was going to be doing The Also-Rans, I had the chance to hold out on seeing one, or more, of the nominees for the express purpose of watching that film later for The Also-Rans.  The movie I withheld?  Room. Continue reading

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The Also Rans – The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (Best Picture Nominee 1966)

Russians are coming.jpgDirected by Norman Jewison

Screenplay by William Rose, based upon the novel by Nathaniel Benchley

Starring Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Alan Arkin, Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters, Paul Ford and Theodore Bikel

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming might’ve been nominated for Best Picture – and Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and a couple others – but it had zero chance of winning.  And by zero, I mean zero.  There’s always one or two of those kind of films in any Best Picture race and in 1966 The Russians are Coming was it.

One reason was history: Since the beginning, only six comedies have won the Oscar for Best Picture.  Ironically, at the time Russians came out, it would’ve had a better chance than it does today, because at that time five comedies had won Best Picture.  In the fifty years since, just one.  In a very real way its zero chance of winning in 1966 has steadily fallen below zero since. Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project — The Godfather Part II (1974)

Godfather part ii.jpgDirected by Francis Ford Coppola

Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo, based upon the novel by Mario Puzo

Starring Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Bruno Kirby, Lee Strassburg, Robert Duval, G. D. Spradlin and Harry Dean Stanton

It strikes me now that as I’ve come to the homestretch on the Best Picture Project, and looking to start my final kick,[1] I’m facing down what might be the toughest stretch of movies, having inadvertently saved some of the longest, and some of those I’d been dreading most, for last.  The streak started a few movies back with Crash (dreading), continued to The Departed (long), then on to My Fair Lady (long), leading right up to this one (long).  To come, Schindler’s List (dreading for emotional reasons and my discomfort at feeling feelings), Return of the King (massive length), Cimarron (saved for basically being unavailable), and Million Dollar Baby (dread because when I saw it in the theater, the bait-and-switch made me downright hostile with it).  Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project — Crash, dir. by Paul Haggis (2005)

Crash ver2.jpgDirected by Paul Haggis

Screenplay by Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco

Starring Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, Thandie Newton, Michael Pena, Ryan Phillipe, Larenz Tate, Shaun Toud and Bahar Soomekh

Did you ever feel like the whole world was against you and it was because you were black?  Or white?  Or Muslim?  Or Hispanic?  Or white?  Or whatever?  And more than anything, you wanted to see a movie that confirmed your suspicions, so that you knew you weren’t just imaging it?  Only to preach at you that your problem might be as much your own racism as it is the racism of others?

Well, if you did, Crash is the film for you.

Or, did you ever feel like people hurt each other, simply so they feel alive?

Well, if you did, Crash is also the film for you.

Or, did you ever wonder why it is that people crash into each other?

Thankfully, Crash has an explanation for that, too – “We crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”

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The Also Rans Project — Gaslight (1944) – Best Picture Nominee

Gaslight-1944.jpgDirected by George Cukor

Screenplay by John Van Druten, Walter Resich and John L. Balderston, from the play Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton

Starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, Dame Mae Witty and Angela Landsbury

It’s always best to start a discussion about a thing with maybe understanding that thing – since we’re talking about the movie, Gaslight, that means talking about the plot of Gaslight.  Except, you probably already know the plot of Gaslight because if you know the term ‘gaslighting’, you can guess exactly what a movie called Gaslight is about.  But if you haven’t, I’ll lay it out for you— Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project — Chicago (2002)

Chicagopostercast.jpgDirected by Rob Marshall

Screenplay by Bill Condon, based on ‘Chicago’ by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb and ‘Chicago’ by Maurine Dallas Watkins

Starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah, Taye Diggs, Christine Baranski, Dominic West, Lucy Liu and Deidre Goodwin

As with many of the films in this series – at least of the ones I’d seen before – I hadn’t laid eyes on Chicago in close to a decade before jotting down my take on it.  Sometimes, not having seen the film in years and forcing myself to revisit worked a detriment of the film, in that it made films I one enjoyed, seem a bit less than I thought they were – I’m looking at you A Beautiful Mind.  Sometimes, it only confirmed what I already knew – hello Gladiator.  So, in returning to it, Chicago faced the very real danger that while I once liked it a lot, I’d suddenly loathe it.  Fortunately – if you can call a middling response something of a fortune – I reacted to Chicago this time largely the same way I reacted to it last time.  Then, as now, I saw a film with parts I was fond of/blown away by, and parts I could have done without.  And perhaps in the most honest assessment a person can give, after having watched it again this time I suspect the DVD will do as it did before – it will go back into my collection and sit for another decade, if not more, collecting dust.

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The Also Rans – Stagecoach (Best Picture Nominee 1939)

Stagecoach movieposter.jpgDir. John Ford

Screenplay by Dudley Nichols, based on the short story “The Stage at Lordsburg” by Ernest Haycox

Starring John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, John Carradine, Andy Devine and Claire Trevor

I resist John Wayne.  I always have and make no bones about why — he’s a rat bastard red-baiting jingoist war-monger and to this common-sense liberal, he’s repulsive.  And such is my repulsion that I can barely separate John Wayne the man from the characters John Wayne plays to such a degree I suspect he could play Ralph Nader and the only thing I’d think is, “My, it’s strange how conservative Ralph Nader is.”  To me, John Wayne’s a racist old grandpa we should be embarrassed about, not building films around.

Under the circumstances, it’s no surprise I’ve only seen three John Wayne films and have varying attitudes to them all:

  • True Grit
  • The Quiet Man
  • The Searchers

The Searchers, thought to be a classic, hardly registers with me beyond being racist in story and casting.  (Ironically, Gone With The Wind plays a similar game with it’s racial elements and yet, I don’t brush it off the same as I do The Searchers.  Rather, I’m apologetic of those elements to the point I’ve had to come to grips with being a massive hypocrite.) Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project — The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The Life of Emile Zola poster.jpg

Directed by William Dieterle

Screenplay by Norman Reilly Raine; Story and Screenplay by Heinz Herald and Geza Herczeg; based upon the book by Matthew Josephson

Starring Paul Muni, Gloria Holden, Gale Sondergaard and Joseph Schildkraut

The Life of Emile Zola is really two movies in one.

The first is a 25 minute seminar of a film, focusing on the professional life of writer Emile Zola.  It begins with him dirt poor in Paris, proceeds through a whirlwind medley of his greatest hits – books are published, a wife is married, fame is gotten – then settles with him into state of retirement and living off his wealth. Continue reading

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