Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Best Picture Retrospective: An Introduction


Should The Oscar Have Gone To That? 

For better or worse, this is the face of shocking Oscar moments. You might call it the Citizen Kane of shocking Oscar moments. More shocking than the streaker interrupting David Niven. More shocking than Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White. More shocking than the tap-dance number set to the music of Saving Private Ryan. Even more shocking than Bjork's "Swannee" outfit.

When Marisa Tomei's name was announced as Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny, I think the entire world gasped. Even North Koreans probably said, "Marisa Tomei ?!? My Cousin Vinny ?!? This can't be right, right?"

Then the rumours began: Jack Palance, the whispers went, had read the wrong name. By some accounts, it was accidental. More vicious reports make it out to have been done deliberately. The Academy, so the story goes, was too embarrassed to tell them of this error, so they've kept quiet while the "real winner" went home empty-handed.

In retrospect, her win shouldn't have been that big of a surprise. There were many variables. Tomei was the only American nominee. The film was the only big hit among those nominated in the category. Finally, just maybe, the voters thought her comedic turn WAS the best out of all those costume dramas it was up against. Tomei might have been the only performance to stand out to them: who doesn't remember her bit about her 'biological clock'? It should be pointed out that out of her fellow nominees (Miranda Richardson, Judy Davis, Vanessa Redgrave, and Dame Joan Plowright) only Richardson has been nominated again since then, while Tomei has been nominated TWICE since her win.

This made me wonder: what about Best Picture? Did the winners deserve to win? Was Titanic better than L.A. Confidential? This lead me to my most recent quest: to watch every Best Picture winner available (from 1928's Wings onwards), and review them. That means going from 2009's Slumdog Millionaire to 1929's The Broadway Melody. I want to see if I can find the Best of the Best...and the Worst. Out of the 79 available as of today, I've gotten through 61. I've made a few wonderful discoveries: Oliver! and Marty should not be forgotten (though perhaps for different reasons). I've also found some true horrors. I won't reveal them now, but here are some clues:

"I want you to paint me like your French girls, Jack, wearing this...wearing only this."
"My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of choc-lates'."
"Call means everything, friend-o."

I look forward to finding good films and condemning bad ones as well as hearing from you. One can make a case for or against a particular picture. I probably will make judgments about whether it should have won, especially if the winner is a controversial choice (The Greatest Show on Earth and Shakespeare in Love come to mind). I will begin with the most recent winner and work my way back. I'm eager to make new discoveries, revisit old friends, perhaps even revise my views on certain films.

With that, let us begin.

Best Picture Retrospective

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