Tag Archives: Movies

The Also Rans — The Exorcist (Best Picture Also Ran 1973)

A man with a hat on his head, holding a suitcase, arrives in a house building in วthe night, with the film's slogan above him while the film's title, credits and billing underneath him.Directed by William Friedkin

Screenplay by William Peter Blatty, based upon his novel

Starring Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow, Lee J. Cob and Jack MacGowran

Confession is an appropriate place to start this entry, given the heavily Catholic tone of The Exorcist, so here goes: I’ve seen The Exorcist before.

See, when I started this Project – The Also Ran’s – I had the idea I’d use it to see Best Picture nominees I’d not seen before as a way to force new viewing experiences on myself.  Given I’d already seen many of the Best Pictures, that made the Best Picture Project as much about revisiting films as it was about discovery.  By definition then, The Also Rans was explicitly meant to be about discovery because it excluded movies I’d already seen.  Moreover, it would also give me a unique look at the workings of prior generations, in that by looking at what lost, I might find something very instructive.

But while this is my aim, here I am throwing the rule away and using this project as an excuse to re-visit The Exorcist.  Why?  Because it’s my Project, so it’s my rules to break.  Also, because with The Exorcist, any viewing will be a discovery.

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The Best Picture Project — Cimarron (1931)

Cimarron (1931 film) poster.jpgDirected by Wesley Ruggles

Screenplay by Howard Estabrook, based upon the novel by Edna Ferber

Starring Richard Dix and Irene Dunne

Here we are friends – after these many, long years together, with you diligently consuming every entry of The Best Picture Project, and me, less-diligently, producing them, we’ve reached the end of the road, where it all comes to an end.  And coming here almost feels bittersweet, like somebody should cue Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, or Boyz II Men’s End of the Road, to play us out.  And don’t worry about neither being appropriate for this occasion, because they’re hardly appropriate for the other occasion for which they are most associated – high school graduations.   If they work there, why not here?

But I digress. 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 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 Best Picture Project — Terms of Endearment (1983)

Terms of Endearment, 1983 film.jpgDirected 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

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The Best Picture Project — 12 Years A Slave (2013)

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.

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The Best Picture Project — Shakespeare in Love (1998)

 Directed by John Madden

 Screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman

 Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Collin Firth, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench  and Tom Wilkinson

The essential question with Shakespeare in Love is this:  By winning the Oscar for Best Picture, did it deprive, i.e. rob, Saving Private Ryan of it’s just reward?  Yes, there are other questions we can ask, and other rabbit holes we can dive down – plot summary, anybody? But all of those other questions and discussions will pale in comparison to the big one.

Was Saving Private Ryan robbed?

The short answer?  No. Continue reading

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