Saturday, March 03, 2018

You Can Do Better Than That

With the Academy Awards close at hand, here's a list that purports to be the best Oscar-winning films of the past forty years.  (Why just forty?)

Here goes:

10.  Spotlight
9.  Dances With Wolves
8.  Terms Of Endearment
7.  Million Dollar Baby
6.  Forrest Gump
5.  Braveheart
4.  Gladiator
3.  The Hurt Locker
2.  The Silence Of The Lambs
1.  Schindler's List

Not that impressive a list.  Spotlight was okay, but not great.  Dances With Wolves was interesting, though a bit much.  Terms Of Endearment and Million Dollar Baby aren't even good.  Forrest Gump is a different sort of film, and a lot of fun until it runs out of steam about two-thirds in.  Braveheart is okay.  Gladiator I don't really go for. The Hurt Locker is pretty good (though I don't know if I'd want to see it again).  The Silence Of The Lambs has a memorable performance by Anthony Hopkins, but I've never understood its reputation.  Schindler's List should definitely make the list.

To be fair, there's only so much to choose from.  The Academy sometimes picks decent films, but rarely chooses the best film of the year.


Anonymous Lawrence King said...

Have you see this list, which ranks all 89? Maybe you've blogged about it before.

All 89 Best Picture Oscar Winners Ranked

Ross Douthat critiqued this list, arguing that it's mostly right about pre-1980 movies but quite wrongheaded about recent ones. "For instance, the belief that American Beauty and The Artist (rewatched by nobody since its win) are better movies than Gladiator and Amadeus is ... not correct."

And then there's this awesome graph, showing how big-budget movies used to win fairly often, but for the past twelve years only low-budget movies win. One commenter on this thread says this is not because movies have changed, but because the Academy has changed: "In many of the past 12 years there have been big grossers that could have won. Avatar, Lincoln, Gravity, La La Land. But they didn't, because the Academy has gone indie."

2:03 PM, March 03, 2018  
Blogger New England Guy said...

Which ones would I see again.

I liked Braveheart but never thought of it as an Oscar movie. Whaddaya know
Schindlers List is great of course
and I thought Terms of Endearment was kind of a likeable soap opera.

I have fallen asleep during and thus never have really seen Dances With Wolves, Forrest Gump and The Hurt Locker.

Silence of the Lambs kept my interest but it seemed like TV murder show episode

The other 3 just never looked interesting though I'll probably check out Spotlight for the local angle at some point

3:38 PM, March 03, 2018  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

I agree that Silence of the Lambs hardly seems like an Oscar winner. It was good (not great, and not deserving of dozens of sequels), but it didn't seem like Oscar stuff.

But I tend to often dislike Oscar-type movies. I detested Terms of Endearment, although I was young at the time and might appreciate it more now. Lady Bird, for example, sounds like a movie I would now enjoy (based on what I've read), but when I was younger I would have found it boring.

I still find it incomprehensible that The Return of the King won best picture. As a Tolkien fan, I detest it for the violence it does to Tolkien's story. So it's hard for me to evaluate it as a movie without reference to the book. But when I try, all I can think about is wooden acting (Aragorn), saccharine and overprecious acting (Arwen), and ridiculous acting (Sam, Pippin), and lots of CGI.

3:50 PM, March 03, 2018  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

The folks at this blog will hardly be surprised that I've seen very few of the 89 winners. Counting ... aha, I've seen 22 of them.

But even reducing my meager list to those made in the last 40 years, I can name six (Driving Miss Daisy, Amadeus, Ordinary People, The King's Speech, Unforgiven) that are better than several of the movies on the list LAGuy quoted.

4:01 PM, March 03, 2018  
Blogger LAGuy said...

There didn't used to be a split between well-regarded movies and popular movies. Back in the studio days, there wasn't much of a separate market for art films (and not one really recognized for Oscars except for best foreign film). Movies made for adults were the A pictures of the time, while the stuff that's the most popular today--especially superhero and sci fi movies--used to be low-budget B pictures that got no Oscar recognition. So the hits of those days (sometimes with plenty of spectacle, but even then these award-winning epics were directed by and starred major names) were generally thought to be the best films.

Things have changed for a number of reasons, but one is TV, which kept a lot of adults at home. Once that happened, serving the young (think teenager taste) became the thing that kept Hollywood in the black.

By the way, most of the nominees for Best Picture this year made decent money. Dunkirk and Get Out (especially considering the latter's low budget) are blockbusters. The Post, Darkest Hour, The Shape Of Water and Three Billboards are all solid worldwide hits. Lady Bird, which cost $10 million, has made about $50 million domestic. They may not be Thor-sized numbers, but these films brought out an fair-sized audience.

5:18 PM, March 03, 2018  

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