Tuesday, January 16, 2007

List of the Week: The Best Picture Oscar Winners

Getting into the spirit of the movie awards season, following last night's Golden Globes, I thought with this week's list I'd take a look at the Oscars -- specifically, the films that have won an Oscar for Best Picture. I'll italicize the ones I've seen, and make a few other notes on the way.

1928 - Wings
1928 - Sunrise
According to Wikipedia: Wings won for "Best Production," Sunrise won for "Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production." The latter Oscar was only awarded this first year, and since "Best Production" is the award that evolved into "Best Picture," most lists mention Wings as the first ever Best Picture winner, and neglect to mention Sunrise at all. I haven't seen either one of them, so this is a big waste of space right here, isn't it?
1929 - The Broadway Melody
1930 - All Quiet on the Western Front
1931 - Cimarron
1932 - Grand Hotel
This is Greta Garbo's "I want to be alone" movie. I'm interested in seeing some of the other films above, especially Wings, the only silent film to win Best Picture, F.W. Murnau's Sunrise, and the supposedly still-harrowing to this day war film All Quiet on the Western Front, but this is the first on the list I really feel I must see.
1933 - Cavalcade
1934 - It Happened One Night
The first film on the list I've seen, and one of my all-time favorites. This is sheer delight. Frank Capra directing Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert: heavenly. It's the first of only three films ever to win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay.
1935 - Mutiny on the Bounty
Clark Gable and Charles Laughton. I'd love to see this. Wikipedia trivia note: the last film to win Best Picture, and no other Oscar.
1936 - The Great Ziegfeld
I'd like to see it just for stars William Powell and Myrna Loy, who were such a fantastic pair in the Thin Man movies.
1937 - The Life of Emile Zola
1938 - You Can't Take It With You
Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart -- another one I really need to see.
1939 - Gone With the Wind
Pretty magnificent filmmaking, but you probably knew that. I've only seen it once.
1940 - Rebecca
Surprisingly, I've never seen it, and I've seen a lot of Hitchcock's work. And apparently this is the only Hitchcock film to win Best Picture, beating one of my absolute favorite movies ever, The Philadelphia Story.
1941 - How Green Was My Valley
Also known as "the film that beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture." Never seen it, though I understand it's pretty damn great.
1942 - Mrs. Miniver
1943 - Casablanca
A perfect film, from top to bottom. Just perfect. Every time I see it, or just think about it, it goes up in my already sky-high estimation.
1944 - Going My Way
I didn't even know this was the antecedent of The Bells of St. Mary's. It's got Bing Crosby singing the Oscar-winning "Swinging on a Star." I should see this.
1945 - The Lost Weekend
Billy Wilder, one of my favorite directors -- but for some reason I haven't seen it. I must.
1946 - The Best Years of Our Lives
1947 - Gentleman's Agreement
1948 - Hamlet
1949 - All the King's Men
1950 - All About Eve
I rented this once, watched about 15 minutes, got distracted by something, and never finished it. Shame on me! I need to rent it again.
1951 - An American in Paris
1952 - The Greatest Show on Earth
Often cited as one of the worst Best Picture winners.
1953 - From Here to Eternity
Can you believe I haven't seen this? What kind of a monster am I??
1954 - On the Waterfront
"I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am." Legendary.
1955 - Marty
Always wanted to see this, but haven't yet.
1956 - Around the World in 80 Days
Another frequent nominee for worst Best Picture Oscar winner.
1957 - The Bridge on the River Kwai
I didn't know this won Best Picture. Great stuff.
1958 - Gigi
1959 - Ben-Hur
Can't believe I've never seen this one, either! One of only three films to win eleven Academy Awards.
1960 - The Apartment
I had no idea this won for Best Picture. One of Billy Wilder's best, which means one of the best, period. Jack Lemmon is amazing.
1961 - West Side Story
Looks like we're at the beginning of the film era of which I am knowledgeable. I love this film, despite recognizing its weaknesses.
1962 - Lawrence of Arabia
A masterpiece. Glad I finally saw it on the big screen a few years back. True epic filmmaking.
1963 - Tom Jones
1964 - My Fair Lady
Some very nice stuff here, especially Audrey Hepburn, whom I love, but Rex Harrison's character is such a major jerk it always sours me a bit.
1965 - The Sound of Music
Watched it again over Christmas. Still love it. Good decade to be a musical at the Oscars!
1966 - A Man For All Seasons
I don't remember much at all about this film. I'd like to see it again.
1967 - In the Heat of the Night
Only seen bits and pieces of it.
1968 - Oliver!
And the string of great '60s musicals ends here. Another candidate for worst Best Picture winner. This one generates some true hatred among film fans.
1969 - Midnight Cowboy
Like to see this one again, too. I remember not being nearly as impressed with it as I'd been led to expect, but there's some great work from Voight and especially Hoffman, the tragic Ratso Rizzo.
1970 - Patton
Fantastic. Watched it again recently. One of the most brilliant opening scenes of all time. "When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend's face... you'll know what to do."
1971 - The French Connection
Need to rewatch it. I remember being underwhelmed.
1972 - The Godfather
Genius, genius, genius. One of my top three favorite films.
1973 - The Sting
Haven't seen it! I really should.
1974 - The Godfather Part II
Best sequel ever. Equal to the first, if not better.
1975 - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Second film to win the top five Oscars. Tremendous, powerful movie.
1976 - Rocky
A lot of people forget this won Best Picture. I still have a great deal of affection for it, though it's another of those mentioned as worst Best Picture winner (compounded by the fact that it beat Network and Taxi Driver).
1977 - Annie Hall
Saw it once, nearly 20 years ago. Frankly, I didn't love it. I should rewatch it.
1978 - The Deer Hunter
Powerful stuff, or it was at the time I saw it; some have told me it hasn't held up very well, though I find that hard to believe. Brilliant performances. You want to see Christopher Walken giving a great performance, before he became a pop culture icon? Watch this.
1979 - Kramer vs. Kramer
Never had any interest in seeing this. Is it worth it?
1980 - Ordinary People
I thought it was pretty boring -- plus, it beat Raging Bull (and Redford beat Scorsese for Director), which is possibly the most outrageous injustice in Oscar history.
1981 - Chariots of Fire
1982 - Gandhi
1983 - Terms of Endearment
I remember going to see this with my mom (the first movie on this list I saw in the theater in its original release). She cried like a baby. I just liked seeing Jack being Jack.
1984 - Amadeus
I wonder if this holds up. I liked it a lot at the time.
1985 - Out of Africa
1986 - Platoon
Another one I'm curious to see again, 20 years later, to see if it's stood the test of time.
1987 - The Last Emperor
1988 - Rain Man
I liked it, but thought it was pretty lightweight.
1989 - Driving Miss Daisy
The first of Morgan Freeman's "wise old black man" characters? It's good, but very lightweight.
1990 - Dances With Wolves
I loved this, but come on: this won Best Picture, and Costner Best Director, against Scorsese and Goodfellas. That's some major bullshit right there.
1991 - The Silence of the Lambs
The third film to win the top five Oscars. It was a nice, smart, gory horror movie, but I don't know if it was that good.
1992 - Unforgiven
Love this movie. I could watch it every day of the week. Great script, great performances -- and you know how much I love Westerns. Eastwood is the man. "I don't deserve this -- to die like this." "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it."
1993 - Schindler's List
The last of the Best Picture winners I've never seen. Shocking! How could I never have seen this? I don't know, I just never feel like renting three hours of depression.
1994 - Forrest Gump
I liked it, but thought it was overrated from the get-go.
1995 - Braveheart
I still like this a lot, despite Gibson's recent self-destruction. Fantastic, Kurosawa-level battle scenes (yes, I said Kurosawa!). But you can see the seeds of Gibson's messiah complex, and especially his repugnant personal beliefs (it's funny to throw gay people out of windows!), taking purchase here.
1996 - The English Patient
I'm with Elaine: hated it!
1997 - Titanic
But not nearly as much as I hated this awful, moronically-written, painfully acted, self-important, bloated piece of crap. As far as I'm concerned, this is the worst Best Picture winner. Second film to win eleven Oscars.
1998 - Shakespeare in Love
I thought it was delightful. Better than Saving Private Ryan? Not by a longshot. What a ridiculous win this was.
1999 - American Beauty
I like this one a lot more than many revisionist film fans. Got huge amounts of love at the time, but a couple years later, everyone seemed to hate it. I still think it's pretty great.
2000 - Gladiator
Hate this one. Overblown, mindless mess.
2001 - A Beautiful Mind
Liked it, didn't love it.
2002 - Chicago
Another one that was showered with praise at the time, but seems to have plummeted in stature since. I'm lukewarm on it.
2003 - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Loved the whole trilogy. Third film to win eleven Oscars. A question: used to be, The Godfather Part II was the only sequel ever to win Best Picture. Is that no longer the case, because of this film? Should it be considered a sequel, or just part three of one long story?
2004 - Million Dollar Baby
Another Eastwood triumph, though once again I have to feel sorry for Scorsese's loss. Maybe this year?
2005 - Crash
Hated it. So stupid, so smug and condescending, so self-satisfied, so empty.

If I were going to make a list of the worst Best Picture winners, they'd almost all be from the last decade, decade-and-a-half. I haven't seen enough of the classic stinkers to make a fair (unfair?) list, so I'll skip it. But I'll make a list of my favorite Best Picture winners.

1&2. The Godfather/The Godfather Part II (it's nearly impossible to separate these two, so I'm not going to try)
3. Casablanca (though it could be #1 if I did this again in a year)
4. The Apartment
5. Unforgiven
6. It Happened One Night
7. Lawrence of Arabia
8. Patton
9. The Sound of Music
10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

I could monkey around with the order a little bit, but that's about right.

Okay, now you: what are your favorites? Your least favorites? What haven't you seen that you really should? Which are the best, but still should have lost to something else? Which film am I crazy to love? Which is the one I haven't seen that I need to see most? And... go!

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