Directed 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, 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
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Screenplay by Kurt Luedtke, from the books Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Story Teller by Judith Thurman, and Silence Will Speak by Errol Trzebinski
Starring Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and Klaus Maria Brandauer
Out of Africa is a typical 80’s movie. Not in the way that Top Gun is an 80’s movie, with all the bombast, jingoism, reductionist story-lines and bonanza box office. No, it’s an 80’s movie in the way Ordinary People and Ghandi and The Killing Fields are all 80’s moves: it’s earnest, epic, about something sort-of important, and, above-all, fairly dull.
In other words, it’s the movie the Academy typically fell in love with in the 80’s and dumped a butt-load of Oscars on.
Even as I say that, with all the weariness and disdain I can muster V just imagine me rolling my eyes when I write typically – it really comes as no surprise bloated, boring epics were the name of the game in the 80’s, as far as the Academy was concerned. Giving awards to this kind of film was just what they did. And honestly, just like this isn’t the first time I’ve said it, it probably won’t be the last I say it, either. No, what will be said here first – at least by me – is the reason I think the 80’s went the way they did.
Directed by James L. Brooks
Screenplay by James L. Brooks from the book by Larry McMurtry
Starring Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jeff Daniels and Jack Nicholson
In a way, James L Brooks is the most unappreciated man in movies, which is a funny thing to say about a guy that has three Oscars. But when you think about it, every movie he’s made of consequence since his first — and for films of consequence since his first, there’s only two — has been singled out for attention by the Academy for everybody else associated with it, particularly those who are in it. But Jim Brooks? Not so much.
Broadcast News? Three acting nominations, a Picture and Screenplay nom for Brooks, but zero wins all around. And when you think of the movie, you don’t think of it as a Brooks film — you think of it as a Holly Hunter vehicle. Or the last of the truly great William Hurt performances. Continue reading
Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by John Ridley, based upon the memoir by Solomon Northup
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofer, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt
When Argo won Best Picture of 2012, I had the distinct thought that AMPAS finally got it right. That after all the years of giving the Oscar to the wrong film – anybody want to talk about Crash? – and despite the slight backlash against Argo for its changes to the story to make it more cinematic, AMPAS stood strong and did the right thing.
Directed by Elia Kazan
Screenplay by Moss Hart, from the novel by Laura Z. Hobson
Starring Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Anne Revere and Celeste Holm
Throughout the long and winding road I’ve traveled for the Best Picture Project, I’ve learned more than a few things. Most prominent amongst those lessons, oh my brothers and only friends, is there is no predictability about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. At least not in the traditional sense of predictability. Continue reading
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Screenplay by Fredric M. Frank & Barré Lyndon & Theodore St. John, story by Fredric M. Frank & Theodore St. John & Frank Cavett
Starring Charlton Heston,
It’s a fact: sit around and talk to anybody about the Oscars long enough and eventually you’ll get around to arguing over which was the worst Best Picture Winner – that I s, which was the worst film to win in a given year. Inevitably, people in my generation, or at least those with no sense of history, will make strong arguments for Crash, Shakespeare in Love or maybe Titanic being the worst choices in recent memory. Those with any real sense of history will instead bandy about two other choices:
- Citizen Kane, one of which is arguably the greatest film of all time, being bested by How Green Was My Valley, a film that isn’t even one of the five best films by its own director – for John Ford, his best films obviously include The Grapes of Wrath, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, and one of about ten other films not named How Green Was My Valley.
- The Greatest Show On Earth winning Best Picture over Ford’s own The Quiet Man and a little Gary Cooper movie called High Noon.
Dir. by Robert Benton
Screenplay by Robert Benton, from the novel by Avery Corman
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Jane Alexander and Justin Henry
Of all the movies I’ve watched over the long, long duration of this project, Kramer vs. Kramer is probably the one I most anticipated getting into, because it’s a triple-threat of things that interest me: Continue reading