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EW Ranks the Top Ten Worst Best Picture Wins

February 19, 2011 3 comments

It’s no doubt that “The Social Network” is the unanimous choice for Best Picture by this country’s critics. Entertainment Weekly’s own Lisa Schwarzbaum and Owen Gleiberman were united for the first time in years by both placing the film at the top of their lists. Therefore, it’s hard not to chuckle at the timing of this article: less than two weeks before “The King’s Speech” takes the home the gold at this year’s event.

I know. I’m such an opportunist. But let’s be serious. The 2011 Best Picture will eventually make it to this list. Just a matter of time. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the past. This is a really good list. I’d almost like to make one of my own, except it would probably mirror this one quite a bit. Here’s the list:

10. “Forrest Gump” over “Pulp Fiction”
9. “The Last Emperor” over “Broadcast News,” “Fatal Attraction” or “Moonstruck”
8. “Around the World in Eighty Days” over “Giant”
7. “Gandhi” over “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”
6. “The English Patient” over “Fargo” or “Jerry Maguire”
5. “Dances with Wolves” over “Goodfellas”
4. “Chariots of Fire” over “Reds”
3. “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan”
2. “How Green Was My Valley” over “Citizen Kane”
1. “Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain”

The only one on this list that I really cannot concur with is “The Last Emperor.” While it’s certainly not an amazing film, neither was any of its competition. None of the other three films listed are any more deserving of the prize. 1987 on the whole was a pretty horrible year for cinema. My favorite was “Full Metal Jacket,” but even that film I have a difficult time calling Best Picture-worthy. Also, while the excruciatingly long and uneventful “Gandhi” was a shameful choice, “E.T.” would not be my pick from the nominees. For as much of a Spielberg whore as I am, his cuddly alien movie is not one of my favorites. Personally, I would have picked Sydney Pollack’s in-the-moment comedy, “Tootsie.”

My equivalent list would probably look like this:

10. “Chariots of Fire” over “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
9. “The Sting” over “A Clockwork Orange” or “The Last Picture Show”
8. “Going My Way” over “Double Indemnity”
7. “Titanic” over “L.A. Confidential”
6. “Dances with Wolves” over “Goodfellas”
5. “How Green Was My Valley” over “Citizen Kane”
4. “Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain” or “Munich”
3. “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan,” or even “The Thin Red Line”
2. “Rocky” over “Taxi Driver,” “All the President’s Men” or “Network”
1. “In the Heat of the Night” over “Bonnie and Clyde” or “The Graduate”

Masterpieces like “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Taxi Driver” losing out to works of pure mediocrity like “Rocky” and “In the Heat of the Night” are enough to make eyes roll. I still also remember watching Harvey Weinstein and his entourage taking the stage in 1999, not being able to move for twenty minutes, my blood boiling with rage. Same in 2006 with the ridiculous Paul Haggis. It’s enough to make one cry.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the “test of time” question, not many films earn it to the same extent as “Citizen Kane,” “Double Indemnity,” or even after 20 or 30 years, “Goodfellas” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” These films are considered works of art by critics, industry and audiences alike while their competition has faded into the video store walls.

Give it a year and expect to find “The King’s Speech” up on this list. Maybe some day the Academy will realize that history will judge their decisions, and their hindsight is not very kind, and nor should it be, considering some of these decisions.

Check out Entertainment Weekly’s article, with a slideshow and commentary. Also, if you want to see something funny, check out this video of “Shakespeare in Love” winning Best Picture and watch Harrison Ford’s dismayed expression after reading the name. I feel for you, buddy…

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The DGA and the SAG: Now It’s Time to Vent…

February 1, 2011 1 comment

Well folks, Tom Hooper has just won the DGA and the cast he directed took home Best Ensemble at the SAG. Coupled with the PGA win last week, “The King’s Speech” has now emerged as not only the frontrunner, but pretty much the inevitable winner of the Best Picture award at the Oscars. As this film has picked up speed in the last few weeks, I’ve tried to keep an open mind. I’ve tried to tell myself that this kind of healthy competition will make for a better Oscars and would make “The Social Network”‘s eventual victory all the more sweet. However, now that the race has shifted from a neck and neck dogfight to a potential sweep for “The King’s Speech,” it has become impossible to suppress my rage.

This situation is, more or less, a travesty for American cinema. For the last half of the previous decade, the AMPAS showed that they had the potential to change with the times. By awarding films like “The Departed,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “The Hurt Locker,” the Academy has proven that they have the ability to not only award phenomenal films, but ones that represent a shift in the balance of power. These are films that show a new Hollywood, emerging from the ashes, making art for a new generation and ultimately changing movies for the better. With “The Social Network,” the AMPAS were given an opportunity to crystalize this new reputation by awarding not only the best movie of the year, but one that is an absolute game-changer in the world of filmmaking. Instead, they are willing to flush it all down the drain.

“The King’s Speech” is not a bad film. It is simply a good film. It has good acting, good writing, good direction, good production quality and good music. In case you haven’t noticed, “good” is the key word, here. I don’t think there is a single aspect of this film that achieves a level of “greatness.” It is an iconic example of middle-of-the-road filmmaking, directed straight at a block of people yearning for that warm and fuzzy feeling in their stomachs. It’s “triumph of the human spirit” pornography. More than anything else, however, it is straight-up Oscar fodder, and they are eating it up, hook, line and sinker. They’re all too willing to vote their souls away for a chance to award this heart-warming work of mediocrity.

“The Social Network” is the best film of the year. Even if people’s opinions cannot agree with or grasp this concept, the title still pretty much remains the same. Never in history has a film garnered so much recognition and awards. Never has the population of this nation’s film critics solidified so strong and unanimous an opinion about a single film. However, it’s more than just a critical tally or mantlepiece full of statues. This is a film that resonates so strongly with this societal climate, much in the same way did “Network” in 1976, “Bonnie and Clyde” in 1967, and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in 1939. When looking down the road, it is a film that will be remembered, not only for it’s cultural impact, but for the flawless nature of its filmmaking prowess. And since I am one such person who can actually make this statement from a position of age and experience (I started college only a year after “The Facebook” was created, back when it was just a college thing), this is, in fact, the movie that defines my generation.

The Academy Award is called that for one reason: it is awarded upon the voted decision of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It’s their award and they can technically do whatever they want with it. However, I really have to ask just what the hell is wrong with these people? Are they really that much an organization of pure saps? Are they really that cynical that they would deliberately snub the frontrunner for an inferior underdog just because their sick of the unanimous praise? Have they really not gotten tired of having Harvey Weinstein’s lips wrapped around their you-know-whats?Can they really not look beyond four weeks from now and consider what history will judge as the more educated and lasting decision? Most importantly, has the Academy really gone back to its old ways? God, let us hope not.

So is the race over? The answer is no. Even when things get to their bleakest point of flat-out certainty, the race is never over until the last envelope is opened. However, it’s really not looking good for David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece. With the combined weight of the SAG, PGA, and DGA, anyone who has spent any time in the industry of awards prognostication would be a fool to not call it for “The King’s Speech.” After all, the actors and producers, put together, make up nearly half of the Academy’s voting block. Hope is not lost, completely, but I would now peg “The Social Network”‘s chances at around twenty to twenty-five percent.

At points like these, one can only find comfort by constantly reminding themselves of the most important lesson the awards season has ever taught us: as many fantastic films have won the Oscar for Best Picture, there are exponentially more amazing films that have lost it. “The Social Network” may soon join the ranks of films like “Fargo” and “Saving Private Ryan,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Goodfellas,” “Raging Bull” and “Apocalypse Now,” “Taxi Driver” and “All the President’s Men,” “Chinatown,” and “Jaws,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” and “The Graduate,” “Vertigo” and “Rear Window,” “Double Indemnity,” and, yes, “Citizen Kane.” Coupled with the movies I mentioned previously in this article, this is not exactly bad company to be kept with. However, if you listen very closely, you can clearly hear Orson Welles rolling over in his grave, that after seventy years of history, lessons have yet to be learned.