Tonight are the Oscars. This is a reminder that this is your last chance to join this year's Oscar Game.
I will try live-tweeting the show, but I find that I am not very good at it. When I try to be funny, I come off as snarky which I do not think is very charitable. But I will give it a go.
For today's Sunday Best, I thought we would look at the movies that were nominated for Best Picture that should have won but did not.
This is not always as easy to decide. Personal preference plays a huge role here and I want to be as objective as possible. Here were some guiding principles:
1. If I had not seen the winner for Best Picture in a particular year, I could not say another movie was deserving. For example, in 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark was nominated for Best Picture. It lost to Chariots of Fire. I want to say that Raiders should have won, but I have not seen Chariots, so I cannot make that call.
2. There must be a significant difference in quality from the winner to the nominee. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and The Wizard of Oz both lost to Gone with the Wind. The Shawshank Redemption lost to Forrest Gump. While I think those nominated movies are better than the winner, I have to grant that the quality of the winners is such that it is a respectable win and should not be categorized as a "mistake."
3. Focus on timelessness. One of the worst trends in Oscar voting is to give the award to a movie that will be forgotten quickly. The award really should go to a movie whose quality is such that it will still be remembered and admired years later. This is admittedly a harder standard to apply to more recent films, but the fact that most people don't remember off the top of their heads the last few Best Picture winners is proof of this bad trend.
So here are the Top Ten Best Picture Mistakes
1980 - WINNER: Ordinary People
SHOULD HAVE WON: The Elephant Man
This is one of the tougher ones because Ordinary People is an excellent film and is an example of how to tell a good story with adequate restraint by director Robert Redford. But The Elephant Man is clearly a better film with its use of the black and white, special effects makeup, and the outstanding performances.
2009 - WINNER: The Hurt Locker
SHOULD HAVE WON: Up
This is an easy call. The Hurt Locker is an overrated drag of a film that does a few things well, but is highly forgettable. Up is an amazing piece of animated film making. It is not only beautiful to watch but reminds us how visual storytelling can move us so deeply. Not to mention, that amazing score that adapts to every single emotional state is one of the most affective I have ever encountered. Everyone I know who has seen Up mentions how emotional it is. Very few even remember The Hurt Locker.
1973 - WINNER: The Sting
SHOULD HAVE WON: American Graffiti
This is also one that is a bit of a closer call. The Sting is fine movie with some good action and not bad writing. But American Graffiti, is much more influential and timeless. Though both films are period pieces, Graffiti, feels much more relevant to the American experience. It is funny and moving and it actual shows that George Lucas knew how to be subtle with his storytelling. It's ensemble/ fractured narrative is mimicked now in most television shows, which is why the movie is not stuck in the era in which it was made.
2014 - WINNER: Birdman
SHOULD HAVE WON: American Sniper
Birdman is a bold directing experiment, which is why I can understand why some Academy voters were taken with it. But it has no lasting significance. It's the flavor of the month which excites the palate with its uniqueness, but leaves no linger desire to experience again. American Sniper is, to my mind, Clint Eastwood's best film he has directed. It is the film of a young and hungry director, which shows that Eastwood still hasn't lost a trick.
2002 - WINNER: Chicago
SHOULD HAVE WON: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
While the Academy did end up honoring the series with The Return of the King, it is clear that The Two Towers is better than Chicago. Not only are they diametrically opposed in theme, but the movie cannot capture the essence of the live show. The movie is not without merit, but it is ultimately hollow, while The Two Towers is heavy with artistic merit.
1986 - WINNER: Platoon
SHOULD HAVE WON: The Mission
Both films deal with the ugliness of violence and war. But Platoon is a highly overrated film that is nihilistic at its heart and strips too much of the humanity from its soldiers until only the ugliness remains. The Mission also shows us the ugliness of the world but it shows us the beautiful courage and conscience that stands up to those powers. Also it has one of the greatest scores ever written that perfectly accentuates the beautiful performances and cinematography.
1999 - WINNER: American Beauty
SHOULD HAVE WON: The Green Mile
When I first saw American Beauty, I thought it was very good. As I've gotten older, the creepiness of its central story has worn on me. I know that the film ultimately makes the case that the main character's obsession is creepy, but it is way too indulgent in his fantasies. On top of this, the movie is about filming ugliness in a beautiful way. It attempts a redemptive move at the end and its success is going to be subjective to the viewer. The Green Mile, is one that has only increased in esteem with audiences. It is beautifully shot and it still has an emotional wallop. When you finish the film, you feel like you went on deep, tragic emotional journey.
1979 - WINNER: Kramer vs. Kramer
SHOULD HAVE WON: Apocalypse Now
This one may be tinged by my absolute disgust for Kramer vs. Kramer. The mother abandons her child. There is no compelling case after that. The fact that the movie tells me that we should even consider that she should get custody is, frankly, insulting. The performances are great, but I cannot get over that obstacle. Apocalypse Now is dark, nihilistic, and violent. But Francis Ford Coppola mesmerizes with his film as if placing you in a trance for a few hours. You feel absolutely transported by this movie and it is a relief to return to the real world, hoping that that its insights into human nature are not all true.
1977 - WINNER: Annie Hall
SHOULD HAVE WON: Star Wars
I literally cannot fathom why Woody Allen has a career. His movies are terrible. They are neurotic, nihilistic, and indulgent. I could forgive these, as I do with Apocalypse Now, if they had any artistic merit. But they do not. Compare the first few seconds of Annie Hall where Woody Allen narcissistically lectures you right through the camera against a blank backdrop to the first few seconds of Star Wars. Star Wars might be the most popular film ever made and part of the reason is that it is a true masterpiece. I would never use "masterpiece" to describe anything by Allen.
1998 - WINNER: Shakespeare in Love
SHOULD HAVE WON: Saving Private Ryan
This is the one that most people remember as the great upset. Shakespeare has its moments, but it is mostly a forgettable period piece. Saving Private Ryan is considered by many as THE war movie. Even excepting that the first 20 minutes are some of Spielberg's best work in his amazing cannon of films. The rest of the movie is a fantastic work of art. While the last battle goes on a bit too long, you are so emotionally attached to the story that you are on the edge of your seat. I can still, over 20 years later, be completely caught up in every part of this movie no matter how many times I have seen it.