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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Mike's Favorite Best Picture Winners of Ever

A lot of people, like (O)PP's own H-Bomb, will tell you that Oscar day is awesome.  An equal number of movie nuts - generally the type who have no life and spend too much time on the internet, like myself - will tell you that the Oscars are generally a narrow-minded ego-fest of BS.  No one can say who's right (I am), but one thing we can all agree on is that the Oscars have honored some great movies at times.

So, since I'm pretty awesome and you like reading, I thought I'd shine a quick spotlight on thirteen of my favorite winners of the Academy's Award for Best Picture.  (HINT: Chicago's not here, because it's the worst.)

It Happened One Night (1934) - Though I still prefer non-winner The Thin Man - nothing beats a bit of Powell and Loy - I can't argue against the first film to sweep the top 5 Oscar categories.  Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable provide a classic romantic comedy gem, and their journey through the film (which actually lasts several nights) is packed with entertaining banter between the two.  The infamous hitchhiking scene is worth the price of admission alone.

Rebecca (1940) - The only Alfred Hitchcock film to win Best Picture, which is one of the greatest proofs that these awards were already meaningless fifty years ago.  Rebecca is a fascinating tale with an old mansion, murder, ghosts of the past, and Judith Anderson's iconic evil chaimbermaid.  Anderson was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for the film, as were leads Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier.  All lost out, though Fontaine would win the next year for Hitchcock's Suspicion.

Casablanca (1943) - This is a film that needs no introduction.  It's widely considered the greatest screenplay ever written - which it also won an Oscar for - and the slew of iconic lines that still resonate nearly 70 years later are proof that it's never lost its punch.  There are jaded folks who can claim to not like this movie, but I challenge them thoroughly.  This is Hollywood magic at its best.

All About Eve (1950) - Filled with some of the best performances ever put on screen, All About Eve is a Hollywood soap opera that pulls no punches.  George Sanders - who also co-starred in Rebecca - won Best Supporting Actor as the vile critic Addison DeWitt, and gives one of my favorite performances ever.  The film also boasted four nominations for its actresses - Bette Davis & Anne Baxter for Lead, Thelma Ritter & Celeste Holm for Supporting - though none of them won as rumors of vote splitting still run rampant today.

Marty (1955) - A sentimental favorite of mine.  Ernest Borgnine stars as the title character, a mid-30s New York City butcher who finds himself in a surprise relationship with a mid-30's school teacher (Betsy Blair) despite his romantic shortcomings.  Borgnine would also win Best Actor, beating an all-star lineup of nominees that included James Cagney, Frank Sinatra, James Dean, and Spencer Tracy.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) - I haven't seen this epic in years, but I still have vivd memories of the finale.  War-time spectacle at its very best, with star Alec Guiness and director David Lean winning two more of the film's seven oscars.  Plus there're explosions, man.

The French Connection (1971) - I don't know what was wrong with the '60s either, though I probably could have interchanged Lawrence of Arabia with Kwai.  But when 1971 - notorious to many as the year when Hollywood got violent - rolled around it was William Friedkin and Gene Hackman leading the pack with wins in the director and actor categories.  The first R-rated film to win Best Picture (though X-rated Midnight Cowboy had won two years earlier).

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) - The second film to sweep the top five categories (after It Happened One Night).  I'm not entirely wild about this film - I always seem to nitpick a little when I watch it - but I always look back on it favorably when I think about it.  The supporting cast that includes genre favorites like Christopher Lloyd, Brad Dourif and Michael Berryman (plus the always underrated Vincent Schiavelli) helps the film immensly, and the leads are worth their accolades.

Rocky (1976) - Yeah, I know.  There were a lot of amazing films this year, including runners-up Taxi Driver and Network.'s friggin' Rocky, man.  The ultimate underdog.  Dude lost his friggin' title match, a Best Picture win isn't even close to fair compensation for that.  (Yes...I think beating the fictional Apollo Creed is a bigger achievement than winning an Oscar.  There, I said it.)

Ordinary People (1980) - Yeah, I know again.  The nerds want me to say The Empire Strikes Back (which wasn't even nominated) should have won, the cinephiles want me to say Raging Bull should have won, and the dark side of myself wants me to say The Elephant Man should have won.  But Ordinary People isn't bad, folks.  Timothy Hutton's performance is as good as advertised, and the film feels a lot more genuine than most Oscar dramas.  Some have written this off as an average Hollywood drama, but I beg to differ.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - The third and final - thus far - film to sweep the top five categories, and coincidentally I love them all.  The closest thing to a horror film to ever win Best Picture, but there's more than my bias toward the macabre that makes me fond of this one.  Ted Levine's performance as Buffalo Bill was severley under-recognized, too...probably because he keeps his talents tucked away.  (ZING!)

American Beauty (1999) - A personal favorite of mine in regard to all cinema, this is probably the film from my lifetime that I've rooted for most loudly at Oscar time.  I really believe that this film took the Oscars in a new direction and kind of re-wrote Hollywood's expectations for what an Oscar winner can be.  Nearly became the fourth to sweep the top five, but Hillary Swank had to go and mess things up for Annete Benning.  I can accept that, because Boys Don't Cry.  (DOUBLE ZING!)

No Country for Old Men (2007) - I was pretty fond of Juno and Michael Clayton at the time of these awards - still am, too - but the Coens needed to have a Best Picture winner in their filmography.  I really enjoy the film, and feel it could be more timeless than the other nominees thanks to the great acting of Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and Oscar-Winner Javier Bardem.  Time will tell the tale for No Country for Old Men.

NOW - If The Social Network were to win tonight, I have a feeling it would join these films on my list, because I'm quite fond of that one (and of 127 Hours, too, but let's be real folks).  But, all signs point toward The King's Speech looking better on the Academy's mantle down the road, and thus I imagine that film will take home a statue for its mantle tonight.

Doesn't matter anyway, none of those films hold a candle to Carl Weathers.


Emily C said...

Great list The Mike! I especially love It Happened One Night and Rebecca, although I'm with you when I prefer The Thin Man to It Happened One Night. Powell and Loy are probably my favorite on-screen couple of all time. One of my personal favorite Oscar winners was You Can't Take It With You which won best picture in 1939.

The Mike said...

Ahh, I've been wanting to watch You Can't Take it With You forever! I saw parts of it once and love Capra, but have never given it a full viewing. Actually, I almost listed it anyway.

Many thanks!