Inspired by PiperTJ’s post last week, RBR is going to attempt to fill those long days between football and no football with some talk about movies, TV, and music. There will be no real structure or rules. I will start it out with movies and the most inane aspect of American culture!
Unfortunately, the 89th Self-Congratulatory Ceremony for Pretending takes place Sunday night and millions will be watching. I certainly don’t want to endorse anyone to watch this dreck of rich elitists slobbering all over each other. But if that’s your thing, more power to ya!
A BRIEF HISTORY OF “BEST PICTURE”
The big award at the Oscars is “Best Picture”. However, “Best” is not always the most appropriate adjective in this instance. There have been so many misfires over the years and decades. Even the very first Oscars in 1927 neglected to even nominate the phenomenal “Metropolis”, which still influences people today.
That tradition continues today. Just this past year, the one-viewing-and-done "Spotlight" won over the fantastic “Mad Max: Fury Road” (my choice), “The Martian”, “The Revenant”, “Room” and others. Below are a few of the most egregious mistakes of the Academy. Although I will admit sometimes they get it right. Other times, it is the best of a wanting lot.
I don’t want to tl;dr you with an entire history of the award, so I will try to cut it down to trends. If you are not interested in the history, skip down to 2016 for my picks.
COMING OUT PARTY
1939 (12th) was probably the big arrival for the Oscars in the public’s eyes. “Gone with the Wind” defeated “The Wizard of Oz” as well as a few other memorable flicks such as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “Of Mice and Men” just to name a few.
Then 1941 happened when something called "How Green Was My Valley" beat out "Citizen Kane"!!! “The Maltese Falcon” and “Sergeant York” were also nominated but lost as well. Many have speculated over the years that this was when studio hijinks managed to get a foothold in the Academy Awards, a place it still occupies. They also tend to hold grudges over certain people (Alfred Hitchcock, no wins) and gush over others (Meryl Streep).
In 1956, silly slapstick “Around the World in 80 Days” won over classics like “Giant”, “The King and I”, and “The Ten Commandments”. #gshs (grandpa shakes his head)
GOTTA SING! GOTTA DANCE!
The 1958 win for the forgettable “Gigi” ushered in an era musicals and big budget adventure films taking the top prize.
1959 Ben-Hur (big budget adventure)
1961 West Side Story (musical)
1962 Lawrence of Arabia (big budget adventure)
1963 Tom Jones (big budget adventure)
1964 My Fair Lady (musical)
1965 The Sound of Music (musical)
DOWN & DIRTY
The family friendly song & dance era was followed by a nice string of gritty winners:
1967 In the Heat of the Night
1969 Midnight Cowboy
1971 The French Connection
1972 The Godfather
1973 The Sting
1974 The Godfather Part II
1975 One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
1977 Annie Hall
1978 The Deer Hunter
I highly recommend all of these films. Only “Oliver!” in 1968 broke up this nice run. And then...
THE UGLY 80s
Hollywood really got their smug on, devouring some real mush of over-emoting.
- 1979: “Kramer vs. Kramer” toilet water won over “Apocalypse Now” and a personal favorite “Breaking Away”.
- 1980: Nauseating melodrama "Ordinary People" takes the prize over "Raging Bull" (They robbed you. They're miserable because their mothers take it up their ***ing ***). “Coal Miner's Daughter” and “The Elephant Man” were also runner-ups.
- 1981: “Chariots of Fire” over “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
- 1982: “Gandhi” over “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Tootsie”
- 1983: Melodrama wins the day again with the soapy “Terms of Endearment” beating epic “The Right Stuff”. Do you see the pattern here?
- 1989: Sometimes the Academy likes to give out lifetime achievement awards. That is what they did for Jessica Tandy by handing “Driving Miss Daisy” a “Best Picture” statue. It's a cute movie but C'MON! Either “Dead Poets Society” or “Field of Dreams” would've been a better choice. Hey... Dad? You wanna have a catch? [Is it dusty in here?]
SHOCKERS OF THE 90s
- 1990: I really like “Dances with Wolves” but it was a bit of a surprise win. However, the Academy did not like the violence of “Goodfellas”.
- 1991: They changed their tune REAL fast by awarding “The Silence of the Lambs” top honors a year later.
- 1992: Despite his politically leanings, Clint Eastwood took home his first statue as a director of “Unforgiven”.
- 1995: Mel Gibson followed suit with a win for “Braveheart”.
THE HOITY TOITY ERA
All you need are British accents and a bunch of old costumes.
- 1996: Excruciatingly boring “The English Patient” won over “Fargo” and to a lesser degree “Jerry Maguire”. “Sling Blade” wasn’t even nominated!
- 1997: The silly side-stories and boring love-triangle of “Titanic" was so blatant that a three-year old could’ve figured it out. We were just there to see the boat sink. The far superior "L.A. Confidential" and “Good Will Hunting" were bridesmaids.
- 1998: "Shakespeare in Love" wins. I get the feeling the Academy voted for this one because they were so proud of themselves for catching all the references and inside jokes. "Saving Private Ryan" just didn’t live up to their standards, I guess.
From this point to today, the winner of Best Picture has been all over the place. Seldom was the winner worthy.
- 2002: “Chicago”. Awful. The best film of the year, “Adaptation.”, wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture.
- 2003: I know some of you LOTR nerds are going to roast me over this but “Lost in Translation” was out and out robbed. So was Bill Murray’s outstanding performance. When it comes to “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and the other two LOTR movies, I agree with Kevin Smith (NSFW).
- 2005: “Crash” No words.
- 2010: "The King's Speech" WHY?! This nonsense beat out "The Social Network", “Inception”, “True Grit”, “127 Hours”, and “Black Swan”. Inexcusable.
- 2011: “The Artist” was gimmicky but there really wasn’t much else worthy. This was a bad year for movies. Too many franchise sequels.
- 2012: I really think Hollywood has some puppydog feelings for Ben Affleck because he is involved in a lot of mediocrity that gets lauded by the community. "Argo" was entertaining but a below-average production value with actors in bad costumes and wigs. So in what universe did “Argo” defeat the outstandingly gripping "Zero Dark Thirty"? Maybe they thought they were voting for “Fargo” since they screwed that up.
- 2014: “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” was entertaining but a bit talky and contrived. Tell me how did “American Sniper” not just leave you in shambles? Honestly, I think the Academy does not want to give Clint Eastwood too many awards. That is how they roll.
- 2015: “Spotlight” See above.
Many critics have decried the lacking in this year’s fare. There are still too many stupid superhero sequels for the sheep to flock to. But alas, someone has to win.
La La Land - Predicted winner. Hollywood just LOVES this kinda of soulless nostalgic schmaltz. But it’s A-list actors dancing!
Manchester By The Sea
Hell or High Water
*My Pick: “Deadpool”, not nominated. Ridiculous choice, right? First off, I am no fanboy. I had never heard of Deadpool before this movie came out. However, every time it comes on cable, I have to stop what I am doing and watch it. Great action, Excellent dialogue and an entertaining unpredictable storyline.
Damien Chazelle (La La Land) - The Best Director winner almost always goes to the Best Picture winner.
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Denis Villenueve (Arrival)
*My Pick: Mel Gibson.
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) - Hollywood seems to be in love with Ben’s whiny-voiced kid brother too.
Denzel Washington (Fences)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
*My Pick: Is it a cop-out to say nobody? Yes, it probably is but I am doing it anyway. A lame year for male lead actors.
Emma Stone (La La Land) - The new Hollywood crush.
Natalie Portman (Jackie) - Portman has a shot but she just won one a couple of years ago.
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Meryl Streep (Flo Foster Jenkins)
*My Pick: Isabelle Huppert; Not nominated: Kim Tae-ri “The Handmaiden”
Best Supporting Actor
(The biggest surprises usually come from supporting role categories, where the Academy tends to make political statements.)
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) - I became a fan of Ali back when he did a show called “The 4400” when his first name was still Mahershalalhashbaz. He was good in this film but not great nor captivating. But he’ll still win.
Dev Patel (Lion)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
*My Pick: The Dude, I mean, Jeff Bridges is turning in an excellent second stage to his career. Shoulda won for “True Grit”, but that twit Colin Firth took it for playing a stuttttering King. Bravo.
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis (Fences) - Predicted winner.
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
*My Pick: Molly Shannon “Other People", not nominated (the Academy HATES SNL alum). Funny, sad, heartbreaking and REAL.
Best Animated Feature
Kubo and the Two Strings
It was announced Sunday morning that Bill Paxton is dead at 61 due to complications from surgery. What were your favorite roles for him? Here are mine:
- One False Move
- Weird Science
- Apollo 13
- Big Love
- A Simple Plan
- Hatfields & McCoys (2012 TV Mini-Series)