For the first time in 58-years . . . I simply don’t care. And this saddens me.
I’ve been watching the Academy Awards ceremonies for 58-years, since I was 12-years old and the 1964 broadcast of Sidney Poitier winning his Oscar for 1963’s “Lilies of the Fields.” I’ve been riveted to the show ever since. My sister and I used to watch in rapt attention. ( We were really upset the year Jack Nicholson lost for “Five Easy Pieces” ). Then, in the VCR-era, I recorded the shows. ( Probably have some regular audio cassettes around of the Oscars ). In more recent years it started getting tougher to watch for various reasons, but I was still hanging in there; taking no phone calls . . . sitting in my darkened apartment . . . eating Haagen-Dazs . . . looking at the glamour and glitz of another world. ( Think I’ll still bust out the Rum Raisin ). I remember falling off the couch one year looking at Julia Roberts’ and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ gowns or how freaking wonderfully 1940’s Marcia Gay Harden looked. ~ ( Click each foto for Oscar speeches ) ~
What I was finding is that the more the telecast tried to appeal to the masses, making compromises to gain their viewership, the less I was liking it. How many times have I seen the Academy botch their In Memoriam tribute. We don’t need musical singing accompaniment to the clips of those who passed on. Let them stand alone with just music for us to take them in. The most egregious fail the Academy made was the year they did not include Dorothy Malone in their memorial video clip montage. I still contend TCM does that type of thing better’n any one. Lastly, a fatal blow to my sensibilities was issued seeing Glenn Close attempting to twerk at some comic hack’s urging.
With this year’s nominees, I didn’t see much and don’t care about any. ( ADDENDUM: Rooting for Ariana DeBose for “West Side Story” ~ 2021 ). This got me to thinking about what Oscar-winners in the past I did care about. I’ll name my TEN favorite winners in the BEST PICTURE, BEST ACTRESS and BEST ACTOR category. And you are most welcome to leave YOUR favorites in the comment section below.
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BEST PICTURE<——- complete list
Picking my ten favorite BEST PICTURE Academy Award-winning films, I must look like I’m all over the map. I have comedy, crime drama, western, murder mystery and sword & sandal films represented. There are various reasons for picking these movies as my favorites. They’re films I could look at repeatedly. Or films that caught the cultural zeitgeist. But also ~ in general ~ the thread that runs through my choices is SCOPE. The scope of events or of a family…or of one person’s life that could be universally relatable.
GWTW ( Victor Fleming ) 1939 — What’s this doing on my list, an African-American / Puerto Rican? It’s here b’cuz I like good movies, production values and acting. Yes problematic
( content slaves? I don’t think so ) but it’s the love story for me
( Rhett loves Scarlett . . . who loves Ashley . . . who loves Melanie who — ) and watching the growth and strength our heroine gains from trials and tribulations while loving a man who is not IN love with her. No, I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies. But I know what makes a good movie, and no one can take that away from me. No one can take that away from this movie. It is epic.
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THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES ( William Wyler ) 1946 — I enjoy this movie. Military men coming home from War. We see what they face in getting back into their lives. I love the movie covering each military man’s story. I can’t describe how this movie fills my heart. If you have a chance, read a guest writer on my blog ~> Stephanie Kreps <~ whose essay speaks to my heart where my own words fail me.
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ALL ABOUT EVE ( Joseph Mankiewicz ) 1950
The most literate script, its sharp lines slice through the air with the greatest of ease…like razor blades. The acting…on every level < Chef’s kiss! >. What happens when a famed star’s protégée wants to take her place in the theater and in her life. Bette Davis reigns supreme. The venom, the vulnerable, the betrayed. This film is her crowning glory. This film is Mt. Everest. And Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm and Gary Merrill are all Sir Edmund Hillary getting to the top.
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THE GODFATHER ( Francis Ford Coppola ) 1972
The Corleone family is just like every other family. Fathers trying to leave their sons the family business. Squabbles. Raising kids. Infidelity. Murder. Coppola made us care about a crime family. This in particular caught the cultural zeitgeist and made big names of some young actors, all led by one of the greats: Brando.
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ANNIE HALL ( Woody Allen ) 1977
Maybe I’m biased b’cuz this was a great New York picture. I also think this is one of the best romantic comedies ever made. We see the entire scope of a Relationship ~ from the “meet cute” . . . to the getting to know you . . . to the loving familiarity and then the spats and fights and going one’s own way. Not wrapped up in a pretty bow by film’s end. But each person is the better for it. And we have a gem of a comedy.
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DANCES WITH WOLVES ( Kevin Costner ) 1990
This was a big undertaking by actor Costner . . . his producer and directorial debut for a big budget movie. His efforts garner the movie SEVEN Academy Awards. He truly transports us into another world. The rank, stark racism was chilling. I liken that buffalo hunt to the chariot race in “Ben-Hur” and every bit as thrilling. John Barry’s music raises things to another level. Good solid western.
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THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS ( Jonathan Demme ) 1991
The movie was terrifying. No, we weren’t in an old dark house on a black and stormy night. We weren’t in a cold Gothic castle in Transylvania. But the movie was terrifying all the same. We are in modern-day America. And we’re dealing with serial killers. One, on the loose. The other, imprisoned and whose help we need his. And who’s the protagonist? Who is us? Why, it’s little Jodie Foster, all grown up into a full-blown woman, facing evil incarnate. Jonathan Demme gave us many sleepless nights with this wonderfully crafted movie. I stay far afield from vans. Dammit he has us empathizing with a serial killer? I’m meaning the good bad flesh-eating fava bean Chianti-loving serial killer, not the bad psycho flesh pattern-making serial killer. Huh? What am I saying? The movie’s scary. The movie’s terrifying . . . horrific . . . and Demme has us transfixed. Glad his film was rewarded.
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ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED???!!!
GLADIATOR ( Jonathan Demme ) 1991
To paraphrase a new friend, this movie is historically inaccurate AF. But I shall suspend my disbelief. Why do I get chills and goosebumps. For history?? Why am I swept away by the scope, the majesty, the rousing adventure, the battles, the sword fights, the Loyalty, the Insanity of Ancient Rome. The movie brings me to tears. I wish Steve Reeves could have seen this one!
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MOONLIGHT ( Barry Jenkins ) 2016
This movie looks at the heart-wrenching scope at one young man’s life, from boyhood to manhood. And in this particular case, it focuses on the humanity on an African-American man. That’s not a thing we’ve seen much focus on in American movies. Yes, “LaLa Land”was a big lush musical the type not seen in a while and was fun. But “Moonlight” goes to the other end of the spectrum. Quieter, more intimate. I love epics. But it’s good to know an intimate look proves universal.
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PARASITE ( Bong Joon Ho ) 2019
Awmigawd I didn’t see this coming. I did not see where the plot was going in the least. What an adventure. I feel like I was a little tiny baby seeing a movie for the very first time. I cannot say a thing about this movie because anything I say will reveal something. This is so unfair to talk about a movie I cannot talk about. But out of all the movies nominated this year:( “Ford v Ferrari” “The Irishman” “JoJo Rabbit” “Joker” “Little Women” “Marriage Story” “1917” “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” ) they can’t touch “Parasite” for uniqueness. Please see the movie and let its uniqueness unfold for you.
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Page 2 for BEST ACTRESS / Page 3 for BEST ACTOR
The Godfather II
Lawrence of Arabia
West Side Story
No County for Old Men
The Silence of the Lambs
This is off the top of my head but it is representative of my tastes. I’m with you on the Awards, it was a special day every year, last year and this year it’s just another Sunday.
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Well for something off the top of your head Richard, this is a slew of classics you’ve named here. Nice. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Just another Sunday.
By the way, a really nice piece. Very thorough.
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Richard, so kind of you to say. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.
I enjoyed and appreciated your reviews on your favorite movie and actors. It is so hard to pare down Academy Award winners to just 10, but you picked some of the best. When I have talked to others about Best Movies and mention ‘The Best Years of Our Lives”, “All the King’s Men”, or “The Heiress”, the reaction is usually, “huh?”.
When I read your review on Gone With the Wind, (definitely my all time favorite), it reminded me of the panel discussion at the 2019 TCMFF, ‘The Complicated Legacy of Gone With the Wind”. It was moderated by Donald Bogle, and included Stephanie Allian, Molly Haskell, and Jacqueline Stewart (who is now one of the TCM hosts). As a white-kid-raised-in-the-burbs, I wanted to hear the discussion. Thinking it would center on the racist aspects of the movie, I was interested to know and understand, but also afraid of what Ms. Allian and Ms. Stewart might say. Donald Bogle asked the women something like ‘ what is their one sentence take away from GWTW’. Both Ms. Allian and Ms. Stewart said something to the affect that Scarlett O’Hara was the first time they had ever seen a strong woman in a movie. And they both said that (can’t remember the exact words), Scarlett and her struggles and her take charge attitude were inspiring. I realized at that moment that was it! I loved GWTW because of Scarlett, of how she did what she had to do to survive. Even though she really isn’t a likable character, one can certainly appreciate her strength and can-do attitude. I also thought how cool it was that it was a strong Scarlett that we all identified with. A great discussion!
(And yes, the love stories are great too, and not just happy endings!)
Thanks again for the great read.
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Hi there Molly!!!
Thank you so much for your full-throated response here. I really appreciate it!! You know, I was at the TCMFF the year they had that panel discussion and I avoided it like the plague. I just knew that they would put the movie down ( in a nice scholarly academic way ) and destroy my love for the movie. Boy did I make a big mistake…especially after seeing your comment on how they handled it. ( I know Know…I shouldn’t have been scared anyway because it’s all about learning, right? ) I mean, if you were a white-kid-raised-in-the-burbs, a Black-girl-from-the-projects should’ve been able to take whatever they dished out on “GWTW.”
Let me not be unafraid where movies are concerned.
And I know what you mean by blank stares. But my core friendships are understanding of my love for these old classic and are happy I’m happy…even if they can’t tell the difference between Warren William and Ricardo Cortez.
It was nice talking with you, thank you for reading my Swan Song. It’s not that I’ll totally stop watching the Oscars. But my heart and love won’t be in it.
I feel your pain, Theresa. If only we could get Bob Hope back to host the Academy Awards – or Billy Crystal, at least. The producers need to stop trying to reinvent the show and simply let it be a celebration of cinema. How hard can that be?
Now, my list of favorite Best Picture winners. Not off the top of my head, but definitely from the bottom of my heart. Without further ado…
It Happened One Night
You Can’t Take It with You
In the Heat of the Night
The Deer Hunter
Also, what you wrote about Gone with the Wind made me want to reexamine it – in a way I haven’t done in long while. The neo-Confederate elements will never sit well with me, but the next time I watch Rhett and Scarlett set fire a screen that, through the beauty of technicolor, is already smoldering, I’ll hopefully be able to more fully appreciate this unique love/hate story told in the most epic of ways.
Hi there Håvard . . .what a great list you have there.Thanks for weighing in and I really hope you give “GWTW” another chance especially on the Rhett and Scarlett tip.