As awards season heats up, I want to remind you not to take things so seriously. No matter what wins Best Picture, all the other nominees, and even the snubbed favorites, continue to exist. You’ll always be able to enjoy whatever movies you liked. In fact, years from now people might laugh at the Best Picture winner. I looked back over Oscar’s history and picked out some of the more dubious winners, certainly movies that wouldn’t be on any “Best of Anything” lists today.
10) Ordinary People
Robert Redford has directed some great movies. Besides his other nominated films like Quiz Show, I also like The Horse Whisperer. Maybe we have this Best Picture winner to thank for giving him the confidence to keep stepping behind the camera, but it couldn’t have been for its own merits. I mean, a family death drama is so obvious. In the year of Raging Bull, The Elephant Man and the unnominated The Empire Strikes Back, we say no. Even though Donald Sutherland always rules.
9) Shakespeare In Love
I always thought this just got the generic costume drama award. It’s cute, and a tiny bit literate (though it’s not that highbrow to make Romeo and Juliet references), but it’s still just your standard romance. If you still have fond memories of it, just remember that it beat Saving Private Ryan and Life is Beautiful, and that Joseph Fiennes is now on a failing TV show.
8) Around The World In 80 Days
This movie makes everyone’s list of the worst Best Picture winners, so it would be irresponsible to leave it off mine. The overlong three hour Jules Verne adaptation seems an unusual choice at all. Guess it’s the costumes and the literary cred. I actually like the Jackie Chan version that came out in 2004. Samm Hung as Wong Fei-Hung and a fight on the Statue of Liberty’s head, that’s some good stuff.
7) How Green Was My Valley
In 1941, this sprawling coal miner epic must have seemed like solid Oscar bait. Back then, they might have thought that competing nominee Citizen Kane was just a technical gimmick that wouldn’t be remembered as technique moved on. They couldn’t have known that it would become the go-to study in film schools for generations. And I don’t think Citizen Kane is the most moving or emotional movie of all time either, but history and the A.F.I. have definitely spoken on this one.
I know, it’s blasphemy to say anything negative about the master, Alfred Hitchcock, but his one Best Picture winner is the one that never worked for me. It’s such a slow, boring marital drama where nothing happens. When Olivier finally reveals the big twist, it’s less of an “ah-ha!” and more of a “Why didn’t you just say so to begin with?”
I actually think Crash was a perfectly good story about ensembles intersecting and ironic things happening. I just think the idea that it “tackled” racism was preposterous. Its idea that L.A. is racist because w drive cars is childish. Also, making every story have racism in it is as unrealistic as telling a story with no racism in it. They should have just told entertaining dramatic stories and not been so proud of themselves.
4) Chariots Of Fire
Yes, I’m putting the “classic” sports movie with the landmark score on this list. Maybe I’m a product of the modern age (I’m no fan of MTV editing though), but this movie is boring. I’ll pretend that watching people run is exciting if that’s the "gripping" subject material, but it’s mainly about talking about running. Shin splints are more exciting.
3) Forrest Gump
I actually liked Forrest Gump when it first came out. It was never better than Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption or Quiz Show, which it beat (man, 1994 was a great year for movies), but it certainly seemed like a fine mainstream choice. Well, watch it again and from today’s perspective it doesn’t hold up at all. In a post 9/11 world, some not-full-retard telling strangers about how his childhood girlfriend got molested just seems creepy. Now that the presidential visual effects are nothing special, the movie’s not really about anything.
2) The English Patient
This one always pissed me off. Just make it long and put it in the desert and it’s a Best Picture, right? I resent that. I also resent that people rave about this film’s cinematography. What, they pointed the camera at the desert and it was pretty? This was probably the beginning of the end for Best Picture credibility, as most of this list was inspired by recent winners. We had to struggle to go back before the ‘90s.
1) A Beautiful Mind
This is just the most blatant case of let’s do a movie about somebody with a disease and win awards for it. Now, the real John Nash triumphed over amazing adversity and his wife was a warrior. Just don’t get all smug about how likeable his imaginary friends are and how magical the visual connections he sees in newspapers are. FYI: That’s not an enlightening perspective on schizophrenia. It’s just Oscar bait.
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