Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ranking the Best Picture Winners: 85-81

The last thing I'm going to do to wrap up the 2012 Oscar season is repost my rankings of the 85 films to win the Best Picture Oscar (note, some lists include Sunrise - F.W. Murnau's masterpiece because in the first year, they had two best picture prizes, but it's not official, so I don't include it). Today, I'll do three posts - 85-81, 80-71 and 70-61. These 25 films range from god awful to how-the-hell-did that-win-Best-Picture (if you like musicals more than I, you may well disagree with some of these rankings). I did this once before, in the early days on the blog, but back then there were only 80 Best Picture winners, so I figured it was time to repost. I rethought the entire ranking this time, and rewrote much of it. By the end of the week, we'll be down to the top 10.

85. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
What Should Have Won: ANYTHING ELSE!!! My vote would have gone to Giant, but anything would have been better than this crap. Having said that, this was a fairly weak year, as I didn’t much care for Friendly Persuasion of The King and I either.
What Was Snubbed: John Ford’s single greatest achievement, The Searchers, was completely ignored. Alfred Hitchcock’s great The Wrong Man was also. Nicolas Ray’s drug addicted suburban nightmare Bigger Than Life should have found some love. Douglas Sirk’s wonderful melodrama won Dorothy Malone an Oscar, but should have been in the big category as well.
Review: This is the worst best picture winner of all time. It isn’t so much a movie, but a string of celebrity cameos following David Niven, and his sidekick Catinfalas, across the world. Even the terrible remake with Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan was better than this crap. I understand that the Academy wanted to go BIG, after three years of small, black and white dramas, but any of the nominees fit that bill, and while I have never been a huge fan of any of them, they are all better than this one. Most confusing of all, this isn’t even the type of thing the Academy normally goes for. Normally, they like “important” movies over blockbusters, so it stings a little that one of the only times they went the other way, was one of the times they definitely should not have.

84. Gigi (1958)
What Should Have Won: For me Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Defiant Ones are neck and neck out of the nominees.
What Was Snubbed: Alfred Hitchcock’s absolute best film was Vertigo, and Orson Welles’ made another masterpiece in Touch of Evil, but the Academy ignored them. Vincente Minnelli DID make a great film that year – called Some Came Running.
Review: Around the World in 80 Days is certainly a worse film, but out of all the Best Picture Winners, this is my least favorite. Essentially, the movie’s “happy” ending is when the hero of the movie decides not to treat the woman he loves like a whore, which was his plan for most of his running time. And old foggy Maurice Chevlier singing about “little girls” was creepy in the extreme. To me, Gigi is one of those musicals that gives musicals a bad name. You couldn’t pay me to watch this crap again.

83. Chariots of Fire (1981)
What Should Have Won: My favorite is Reds, although Raiders of the Lost Ark, Atlantic City, and hell, even On Golden Pond were better then this one.
What Was Snubbed: Body Heat is one of the best modern noirs, and should have got in. And since they nominated one Louis Malle masterpiece in Atlantic City, why not two, with My Dinner with Andre.
Review: I find Chariots of Fire ridiculously dull and boring. Even the much praised score by Vangelis has been overused so often now (in case you don’t know, it’s the music that plays in every sitcom when someone runs in slow motion) that I find it annoying. Yes, this was the rare case of the little movie that could triumph over the Hollywood behemoths. I just wish it didn’t. And on a side note, how they hell did this win costume design? They were all wearing white T-shirts and shorts! I could design these costumes after 10 minutes in Wal-Mart!

82. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
What Should Have Won: High Noon was probably the best of the nominees, but that’s not really saying much. The Quiet Man would have been a much better choice as well.
What Was Snubbed: How did they miss the genius of Singin’ in the Rain? Most of the year’s best (Forbidden Games, Umberto D., The Life of Oharu and Ikiru) were Foreign though, so they didn’t have a chance.
Review: This is the kind of “spectacle” movie that the Oscars periodically go for, and look stupid for all time because of it. Cecil B. DeMille’s circus epic has no real plot, no real characters, and simply moves from one cliché to the next. Charlton Heston made a lot of bad movies, but I’m not sure he was ever worse than he was in this film. Not even the presence of Jimmy Stewart as a sad clown or that sexual firecracker Gloria Grahame can save this utter mess of a movie. And the damn thing never ends! It just keeps going and going and going.

81. Cimmaron (1931)
What Should Have Won: The Front Page had a few problems on its own, but it was WAY better than Cimmaron.
What Was Snubbed: What wasn’t? Frankenstein, Dracula, The Public Enemy, M and best of all City Lights. 1931 was a great year, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the nominees.
Review: Cimmaron represents all that is wrong with the Academy and their choices. Yes, Cimmaron was a sweeping epic, with big stars and lots of box office. But did know one notice just how bad Richard Dix’s lead performance is (honestly, this is one of the worst performance ever to be nominated), or how inherently racist some of the movie was, or the fact that director Wesley Ruggles somehow manages to drain all the energy out of the movie? Yes, Irene Dunne is good – she always is – but this movie is a bloated mess. I found it damn hard to make it through the film in one sitting.

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