Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Best Picture Retrospective: An Introduction


Should The Oscar Have Gone To That? 

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 for My Cousin Vinny?!?"

Rumors then began that presenter Jack Palance 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 that year. 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.

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 about the ultimate prize: Best Picture. How would I rank them? Do some deserve to be recognized as 'the best of that year' or of any year? Are some just really oddball choices?

As such, I started this Best Picture Winner Retrospective: from 1928's Wings to of this writing 2009's Slumdog Millionaire (to later include those that follow). 

I want to see if I can find the Best and Worst of those declared The Best. Out of the 79 available as of today, I've gotten through 61 and have made a few discoveries. Both Oliver! and Marty should be remembered, albeit perhaps for different reasons.

For now, I won't concentrate on individual years, so whether The Greatest Show on Earth deserved to win over High Noon or The Quiet Man is a question for another day. Right now what I plan to do is look at each film on its own merits, and once done then then rank them on three criteria:

Is it a good film?
Has it stood the test of time?
Is it a film I would watch again?

At the end, Three Lists: The Ten Best Best Picture Winners, The Ten Worst Best Picture Winners and a Final Ranking, updated annually.

I look forward to finding good films and condemning bad ones as well as hearing from you.

With that, let us begin.

Best Picture Retrospective

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