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Rank the 2000-2016 Best Picture Winners


lydecker
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Yes, "Oscar Month" is nearly upon us so I thought a little "ranking" was in order for the Best

Picture Winners from 2000-2016.  Personally, I won't get into the fray except to say "Spotlight"

would be at the top of my list and "Crash" would not be at the bottom.  

 

Here are the 2000-2016 Best Picture winners in chronological order.  Have fun!

 

2000 Gladiator

 

2001 A Beautiful Mind

 

2002 Chicago

 

2003 The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King

 

2004 Million Dollar Baby

 

2005 Crash

 

2006 The Departed

 

2007 No Country for Old Men

 

2008 Slumdog Millionaire

 

2009 The Hurt Locker

 

2010 The King’s Speech

 

2011 The Artist

 

2012 Argo

 

2013 12 Years a Slave

 

2014 Birdman or (The Unexpected Value of Ignorance)

 

2015 Spotlight

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Here are my choices in order of preference from top to bottom. I referred to the scores I awarded them on IMDb after watching them. Even my lowest choice, Argo, gets a B+.

 

No Country for Old Men (10/10)

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (10/10)

12 Years a Slave (10/10)

Million Dollar Baby (9/10)

The Departed (9/10)

Gladiator (9/10)

The Hurt Locker (9/10)

A Beautiful Mind (8/10)

Crash (8/10)

Slumdog Millionaire (8/10)

Chicago (8/10)

The King's Speech (8/10)

The Artist (8/10)

Argo (8/10)

 

I have not yet seen Birdman  or Spotlight.

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This is a fun distraction - thanks for posting it.  Here's my ranking:

 

1. No Country for Old Men

2. The Departed

3. The Hurt Locker

4. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

5. Chicago

6. The Artist

7. Argo

8. Million Dollar Baby

9. Gladiator

10. Spotlight

11. 12 Years a Slave

12. A Beautiful Mind

13. Slumdog Millionaire

14. Birdman

15. Crash

 

But if Boyhood or Brokeback Mountain had won in their respective years, the order of this list would probably look different.  

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Having seen....most of them--unlike the "Huh, why Chicago, when Two Towers shoulda won!" crowd--I'll have a bash:

(Those not bolded, I haven't seen, but can judge from reputation.)

 

1. Chicago - I haven't seen a post-70's musical this confidently old-school focused on both its theme and the original stage show, that every time it goes into a "fantasy" musical number, I just keep seeing Cabaret's Oscar nominations...And Cabaret wasn't even as good.  (And considering that a year before, musical-illiterate fans were gushing over "Moulin Rouge will bring back the musical!", this was as karmic as a slapdown as you could wish for.  If we have Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd and Les Miz onscreen today--which were all stalled projects in the 90's--we have them because of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere, and not because of an overly made-up Jim Broadbent karaoke'ing "Smells Like Teen Spirit".)

2. LOTR: Return of the King - Partly an apology vote to recognize that, okay, maybe we did go a bit too goofy over "A Beautiful Mind" in '01 and "Fellowship of the Ring" is one of the Great Movies of the 00's after all, but if the committee had to give it to one of the "others", Viggo Mortensen and Tolkien's faux-saga resolution make it a deserving Old-School Epic runner-up to go on the list next to Amadeus and Unforgiven.

3. The Hurt Locker - The other "Huh??" Picture that millennials complain about, it became a big sympathy scapegoat with critics when it opened in a strange, under-marketed arthouse run the same week that Transformers 2 made more money than it deserved in theaters...And "Go see Hurt Locker instead of TF2!" became critics' symbolic rallying cry of the "apocalypse" between good films and commercial films.  (Remember Roger Ebert's blog column that TF2 beating THL's opening was the "final death of American culture"?...No, seriously, they were that traumatized.)  

But as a film?  Yes:  Kathy Bigelow was still a "guys' action director with (breasts)", and hadn't gone glass-ceiling chick-action yet as she had with "Zero Dark Thirty".  Every war needs a film to capture it as History--we understand the Civil War from "Glory", Vietnam from "Platoon", WWI from "Paths of Glory" and WWII from "Saving Private Ryan"--and there hasn't been a better statement of our confusion and paranoia during Iraq War II, when confused ex-weekend Army Reserve men now planted in the middle of the desert now how had to look at any villager driving a truck or holding a cellphone as a possible suicide-bomber.  If the complainers think the movie "doesn't have a plot"...well, that conjures up history, too.  ("Three Kings" did a reasonably passable job with Gulf War I, but that war doesn't seem to "count" anymore.)

4. The King's Speech - Shortening the voting period didn't stop the Miramax Bribe, but if we have to have lovably British-assembled imports with Geoffrey Rush in them, as Harvey Weinstein tries to make "Shakespeare in Love" happen two, five, or seven more times, it's not a waste of two hours.  It's a bit too "lovable" for most of the movie, until the big speech at the end reminds us who George was in English history.  But Toy Story 3 still shoulda won.

5. Argo - Three different people seem to have three different ideas of this movie:  WE thought it was Untold 70's History, Ben Affleck thought it was a movie about him, and producers voting on Best Picture thought it was the story of how Hollywood shark-producers John Goodman and Alan Arkin saved the world with their genius negotiations.  They saw a different movie than we did.  For the rest of us, the story never finds its feet until the climactic scene where they escape Customs with the story of how their movie is "really" about the Muslim Revolution, and then...of course.

6. Gladiator - It's...not really that good, is it?  It seemed amazingly good at the time--mostly because Russell Crowe was just coming off of The Insider, and his ego hadn't gone galactic yet--the CGI-recreated period details were good-looking, and a usually grumpy Oliver Reed came back at the very end of his career to end it on stealing the picture.  Although when you look at "The Patriot" doing the exact same corny plot in Revolutionary clothes, it suffers a bit.

7. The Departed

8. Spotlight

9. The Artist - I don't hate this movie just because of what happened to Martin Scorsese's "Hugo", that made grownup voters literally think it was Steven Spielberg's "Tintin" (no, really, if you asked them if they'd seen Hugo, they'd say they "hate CGI movies"), and The Artist seen as "The only movie(sic) that pays tribute to the glory days of Hollywood silents!"...I hate it like all other viewers who say "Mike, whadda you trying to prove, we've all SEEN Singin' in the Rain, who freakin' hasn't??" (Seriously, it took Jean the whole picture to figure out he could do musicals?  How about doing the rest of the movie, when Gene Kelly figured that out at the halfway point?)  Which may be a similar complaint about La La Land, but at least Jean Dujardin got Gene Kelly's insincere Don Lockwood Cheshire-grin dead-on, as few humans can.

The high ranking on the list is mostly from the fact that it at least knows what a real silent film looks like, unlike those parodies we used to see on 70's TV comedies and variety-show sketches.  Like Cathy Selden said, it was all about making faces, back then.

10. No Country For Old Men

11. Birdman - The movie that ranks so low on everyone's list because nobody saw it (raises hand), and those who did couldn't figure it out.  But make a movie about actors who don't understand their careers or the industry, and...

12. 12 Years a Slave - I remember reading some insider on the net who went to the premiere screening, and saw one woman who was acting like a typical obnoxious inattentive cellphone-tapper in the seat in front of him--He leaned over and asked her not to, and it turned out to be Madonna, who told him to mind his own business...."Slavedriver!"  That story iconically sums up in ONE WORD why this movie won, and why hundreds of white Hollywood people who self-indulgently imagined themselves "persecuted" for any particular special-snowflake reason, suddenly identified with black slaves brought from Africa, or at least the white abolitionists.  At least they didn't try to sing spirituals, while they were at it.

13. Slumdog Millionaire - The movie that created the Ten-Nomination Rule, when we all realized we were stuck with this one, because rules wouldn't allow "Wall-E" to whoop its hinder in a fair fight.  The movie that also proved that nobody really CARES about Bollywood as much as Indian-heavy London or LA are convinced the rest of us probably might.

14. Million Dollar Baby - (Or "When in doubt give it to Clint Eastwood, he's a serious guy.")

15. A Beautiful Mind - See listing on "Return of the King"...No, seriously, what did they put in the punch, that we all thought an Akiva Goldsman script was "compelling and mindbending" for those key three voting months?--And then everyone had to backpedal and say "Oh, well, Fellowship...We should wait and give it to the whole trilogy, for symbolic value."

16. Crash - Hooooo-ee.  The movie that still shortlists the Bottom Five for "Worst Picture Winner of all Time", and reminded us why there are more LA voters in the Academy than NY voters--With "Babel" and "Little Children" the next year, Crash helped coin the term "Conscience-porn", creating early-00's stories of how one tragedy brings separate-subplot rich self-satisfied yuppies together to discover how We're All Interconnected, so that contentedly isolated LA voters can pretend they understand what the NY voters went through with 9/11 without actually having anything happen to them on their safe, sun-kissed coast.  Either way, the Gay Movie loses every year, so there was no way in hell it was going to go to the cowboy one.

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1.) Slumdog Millionaire... probably the most entertaining of the bunch and the closest Hollywood ever got to Bollywood

2.) No Country for Old Men... pretty bloody, but also extremely well made and worth repeated viewings

3.) Gladiator / Chicago / The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King... sometimes the production values are so good that you do recognize these as "works of art". Yet I do struggle watching them more than once.

4.) 12 Years a Slave... not at all as bad I expected it to be. The only problem was that some of the dialogue didn't seem all that 19th century-ish

5.) The Departed... worth seeing right after you watch the 1932 version of Scarface. I can not lie. I love all of the X's.

6.) Spotlight... less innovative than All The President's Men (different topic: Watergate versus Catholic diocese but same news investigation "stuff"), but I find Mark Ruffalo more emotionally appealing than Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford were in the earlier masterpiece

7.) The King's Speech... despite some dramatic historical inaccuracies, they got the "feel" of the era right. Also a great lead performance.

8.) The Artist... I will give it credit for being different. Of course, it could have been better. The swing music fit the later thirties better than the late twenties/Depression era.

9.) The Hurt Locker / Argo... I appreciate that both of these Iraq-Iran-United States "relationship" pictures were made

10.) Crash / A Beautiful Mind / Million Dollar Baby / Birdman... I don't "hate" them. There were just  better choices those years. Although Brokeback Mountain is showing its age with its overall cautiousness, Boyhood will likely be a Criterion favorite ten years from now.

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Eric,

 

I have to say I've always been very impressed by your great ability at purple prose(for want of a better descriptive term) and how you can turn an inventive phrase which I find often places a smile upon my face while I'm reading it.

 

However, in this most recent case, as I finished up reading your opinion and personal ratings from best to worse of Oscar winning films released in this millennium,  I found myself bearing less a knowing smile upon my mug than one more representative of a person experiencing a mild state of confusion.

 

You see, after I finished reading your most recent post within this thread, I then remembered how you prefaced it with the following:

Having seen....most of them--unlike the "Huh, why Chicago, when Two Towers shoulda won!" crowd--I'll have a bash:

(Those not bolded, I haven't seen, but can judge from reputation.)

 

 

And so, as I've said, while I very often greatly enjoy how you can turn a phrase with the best of 'em, I noticed that out of the 16 films you've rated from best to worse during these years, you in fact have not seen "most" of them, as 7 out of 16 could not be considered as a majority, i.e. "most". I also noticed that you seem to have placed "most" of the films(9 of those 16) you in fact have NOT seen but appear to have taken the word of others(i.e. the various films' "reputations" as you put it) and have placed them on the bottom half ("worst" half) of your ratings list here, and in addition in many cases even supplied a sentence or two about them which seemed in defense of why you rated them lower than others.

 

And so I suppose my question here is: Do you believe that doing that, or perhaps even mentioning films you personally have never watched and to say nothing about supplying your take on them absent your personal viewing of them, and let alone placing them on such a "ratings list", is a fair thing to do?

 

(...as they say, "jus' askin'"...OH and btw...I DID once again enjoy reading your take on THE HURT LOCKER, and especially your very insightful take about what seems an underrated and almost now days forgotten film, THREE KINGS, and how it "captured the history" of the First Gulf War...I liked that film a lot)

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Just so you know, Dargo, I have seen every Best Picture winner going back to WINGS. However I haven't seen ANY for this year! Just because LA LA LAND is getting the most nods does not necessarily mean I will love it when I finally get to it.

 

I think the one problem I have with the Best Pictures of recent years is, as I mentioned below, most are enjoyable once but not a second or third time. In contrast, I have seen GONE WITH THE WIND, MIDNIGHT COWBOY, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, ANNIE HALL, GIGI, the two GODFATHER's, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, SCHINDLER'S LIST, WEST SIDE STORY and even OLIVER! and GANDHI at least three times or more. There is something about these movies that stick with you.

 

Maybe it is because we, as a society, are so limited in our attention span today, flipping TV and internet channels constantly. So many films hawked at Oscar time lately are more trendy than substantial. The movies I like usually don't win because they aren't trendy enough, such as BOYHOOD losing to BIRDMAN two years back. BOYHOOD is a fascinating experiment that doesn't get done often and probably wouldn't work as successfully as it did in most cases. I think movies like A BEAUTIFUL MIND are "nice" biographical dramas that are well crafted but depend too much on one star performance. I did watch THE KING'S SPEECH at least twice but probably won't for years since I feel twice is enough. I favor Merchant Ivory period pieces better... and also THE QUEEN. My only beef is that they tried too hard to cater to 2010 tastes by condensing a 1927-39 relationship down to a 1934-39 relationship simply because an average movie goer doesn't want to see somebody struggle with his stuttering in "real" time, more time than they have patience for.

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...I did watch THE KING'S SPEECH at least twice but probably won't for years since I feel twice is enough. I favor Merchant Ivory period pieces better... and also THE QUEEN. My only beef is that they tried too hard to cater to 2010 tastes by condensing a 1927-39 relationship down to a 1934-39 relationship simply because an average movie goer doesn't want to see somebody struggle with his stuttering in "real" time, more time than they have patience for.

 

Yeah, good point, Jl.

 

Yep, even Porky Pig doesn't seem to be as big a star as he used to be, huh!

 

LOL ;)

 

(...sorry, couldn't resist... and yeah, I do think you made some good points in your post...but I also think you might have overlooked the thought of those old classics bringing back fond memories to viewers of an older demographic and thus perhaps become more likely to be viewed over and over again by that demographic, and not just because they might somehow be "better" than the newer films...just a thought) 

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You are right, Dargo, in that I am biased against the more recent output until that rose-colored glow sets in. I guess the reason I favor SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is because they are the most like earlier Best Pics, even more so than the spoof of silent movies, THE ARTIST.

 

Lately I have been greatly enjoying many films of the 1990s, but not necessarily the award winners. I still loathe BRAVEHEART, which rivals THE DEER HUNTER as the most exasperating and exhausting saga to sit through. UNFORGIVEN is forgivable since Clint Eastwood gets straight to the point right away, but it is not HOWARD'S END... oh how I love HOWARD'S END! "It's madness when I say it, but not when you say it." Ha ha! Speaking of madness, I re-watched AMERICAN BEAUTY a few months ago, after a loooong gap. You know the scene with Wes Bentley smiling at totally bloody and dead Kevin Spacey because he looks happy in his "state"? That is how I watch the movie, with the same expression on my face. At least they got something out of their system and are at peace.

 

Probably the weakest period for me is the 1980s, the decade bracketed by ORDINARY PEOPLE and DRIVING MISS DAISY, both "good but not great" movies and, yes, I enjoyed Mary Tyler Moore and Jessica Tandy ("Hoke... you're my best friend.") I remember enjoying RAIN MAN in Italy in 1989 dubbed in Italian because it was more entertaining than with the English soundtrack.

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I noticed that out of the 16 films you've rated from best to worse during these years, you in fact have not seen "most" of them, as 7 out of 16 could not be considered as a majority, i.e. "most". I also noticed that you seem to have placed "most" of the films(9 of those 16) you in fact have NOT seen but appear to have taken the word of others(i.e. the various films' "reputations" as you put it) and have placed them on the bottom half ("worst" half) of your ratings list here, and in addition in many cases even supplied a sentence or two about them which seemed in defense of why you rated them lower than others.

 

And so I suppose my question here is: Do you believe that doing that, or perhaps even mentioning films you personally have never watched and to say nothing about supplying your take on them absent your personal viewing of them, and let alone placing them on such a "ratings list", is a fair thing to do?

 

Okay, "half".  Part of my point was, the good half, you know why the movies won on their own merit, and with Crash, A Beautiful Mind, or 12 Years a Slave, you knew that they won for silly personal zeitgeist voter reasons beyond the movie's control.

 

The "Good half" I picked won by the movie's merit, and while I still have Spotlight and No Country on my Amazon Prime queue (and mean to get to The Departed on a future library trip), I can't confidently give high points  to just on reputation, any more than you fault me for losing them a few points on no opinion.

I may not have seen those, but I can guess with safety that they were better than The Artist.  (yeesh!) 

For ex., out of respect for Scorsese, I can assume The Departed won on merit, and not because "Nobody in the world wanted to see Little Miss Sunshine get it, and given the voters' craze at the time, we're still not sure Jack Nicholson deliberately read the right title on the envelope". B)

 

Jlewis

 

Probably the weakest period for me is the 1980s, the decade bracketed by ORDINARY PEOPLE and DRIVING MISS DAISY, both "good but not great" movies and, yes, I enjoyed Mary Tyler Moore and Jessica Tandy ("Hoke... you're my best friend.") I remember enjoying RAIN MAN in Italy in 1989 dubbed in Italian because it was more entertaining than with the English soundtrack.

 

There's an interesting thread tangent:

We know Driving Miss Daisy snatched it at the last minute when we thought Oliver Stone would automatically sweep again for "Born on the 4th of July" (it's more Vietnam!), and then we got a LOOK at the wretched mess, too late.

(Whereas today, it would be more of an equally pitched battle between Daisy and "Field of Dreams", which was more of a dark-horse sleeper back then.)

 

But yeah, we weren't quite into Populism yet in the 80's, and half of them come off like "wrong" winners, considering the competition:

1980: Ordinary People

1981: Chariots of Fire

1982: Gandhi

1983: Terms of Endearment

1984: Amadeus

1985: Out of Africa

1986: Platoon

1987: The Last Emperor

1988: Rain Man

1989: Driving Miss Daisy

 

Still, no one would argue merit, except for Gandhi being forever remembered as "the E.T.-Killer", and Terms and Africa winning because "The Right Stuff" and "The Color Purple" were saddled with controversy at the time.

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You will have to forgive me, EricJ. I liked ET better than Gandhi in 1982 (seeing both in theaters), but watched Gandhi more times since because it "dates" less. I am also surprised that Chariots of Fire has improved with age. Amadeus was one I hated at the time (favoring The Killing Fields), but rather enjoy today. Although The Color Purple is still better than Out of Africa, my only problem was seeing the latter only a few years after Masterpiece Theatre ran The Flame Trees of Thika and feeling déjà vu.

 

I have the feeling you may like the ones you haven't seen. I often read reviews, but the opinions seldom match what I feel. Many critics just like the way their egos appear in print. Also the media reports hype up the "reasons" something wins or gets flubbed. My guess is that you will switch No Country For Old Men and either The Departed or Spotlight around on your list.

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Having seen....most of them--unlike the "Huh, why Chicago, when Two Towers shoulda won!" crowd--I'll have a bash:

(Those not bolded, I haven't seen, but can judge from reputation.)

 

1. Chicago - I haven't seen a post-70's musical this confidently old-school focused on both its theme and the original stage show, that every time it goes into a "fantasy" musical number, I just keep seeing Cabaret's Oscar nominations...And Cabaret wasn't even as good.  (And considering that a year before, musical-illiterate fans were gushing over "Moulin Rouge will bring back the musical!", this was as karmic as a slapdown as you could wish for.  If we have Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd and Les Miz onscreen today--which were all stalled projects in the 90's--we have them because of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere, and not because of an overly made-up Jim Broadbent karaoke'ing "Smells Like Teen Spirit".)

2. LOTR: Return of the King - Partly an apology vote to recognize that, okay, maybe we did go a bit too goofy over "A Beautiful Mind" in '01 and "Fellowship of the Ring" is one of the Great Movies of the 00's after all, but if the committee had to give it to one of the "others", Viggo Mortensen and Tolkien's faux-saga resolution make it a deserving Old-School Epic runner-up to go on the list next to Amadeus and Unforgiven.

3. The Hurt Locker - The other "Huh??" Picture that millennials complain about, it became a big sympathy scapegoat with critics when it opened in a strange, under-marketed arthouse run the same week that Transformers 2 made more money than it deserved in theaters...And "Go see Hurt Locker instead of TF2!" became critics' symbolic rallying cry of the "apocalypse" between good films and commercial films.  (Remember Roger Ebert's blog column that TF2 beating THL's opening was the "final death of American culture"?...No, seriously, they were that traumatized.)  

But as a film?  Yes:  Kathy Bigelow was still a "guys' action director with (breasts)", and hadn't gone glass-ceiling chick-action yet as she had with "Zero Dark Thirty".  Every war needs a film to capture it as History--we understand the Civil War from "Glory", Vietnam from "Platoon", WWI from "Paths of Glory" and WWII from "Saving Private Ryan"--and there hasn't been a better statement of our confusion and paranoia during Iraq War II, when confused ex-weekend Army Reserve men now planted in the middle of the desert now how had to look at any villager driving a truck or holding a cellphone as a possible suicide-bomber.  If the complainers think the movie "doesn't have a plot"...well, that conjures up history, too.  ("Three Kings" did a reasonably passable job with Gulf War I, but that war doesn't seem to "count" anymore.)

4. The King's Speech - Shortening the voting period didn't stop the Miramax Bribe, but if we have to have lovably British-assembled imports with Geoffrey Rush in them, as Harvey Weinstein tries to make "Shakespeare in Love" happen two, five, or seven more times, it's not a waste of two hours.  It's a bit too "lovable" for most of the movie, until the big speech at the end reminds us who George was in English history.  But Toy Story 3 still shoulda won.

5. Argo - Three different people seem to have three different ideas of this movie:  WE thought it was Untold 70's History, Ben Affleck thought it was a movie about him, and producers voting on Best Picture thought it was the story of how Hollywood shark-producers John Goodman and Alan Arkin saved the world with their genius negotiations.  They saw a different movie than we did.  For the rest of us, the story never finds its feet until the climactic scene where they escape Customs with the story of how their movie is "really" about the Muslim Revolution, and then...of course.

6. Gladiator - It's...not really that good, is it?  It seemed amazingly good at the time--mostly because Russell Crowe was just coming off of The Insider, and his ego hadn't gone galactic yet--the CGI-recreated period details were good-looking, and a usually grumpy Oliver Reed came back at the very end of his career to end it on stealing the picture.  Although when you look at "The Patriot" doing the exact same corny plot in Revolutionary clothes, it suffers a bit.

7. The Departed

8. Spotlight

9. The Artist - I don't hate this movie just because of what happened to Martin Scorsese's "Hugo", that made grownup voters literally think it was Steven Spielberg's "Tintin" (no, really, if you asked them if they'd seen Hugo, they'd say they "hate CGI movies"), and The Artist seen as "The only movie(sic) that pays tribute to the glory days of Hollywood silents!"...I hate it like all other viewers who say "Mike, whadda you trying to prove, we've all SEEN Singin' in the Rain, who freakin' hasn't??" (Seriously, it took Jean the whole picture to figure out he could do musicals?  How about doing the rest of the movie, when Gene Kelly figured that out at the halfway point?)  Which may be a similar complaint about La La Land, but at least Jean Dujardin got Gene Kelly's insincere Don Lockwood Cheshire-grin dead-on, as few humans can.

The high ranking on the list is mostly from the fact that it at least knows what a real silent film looks like, unlike those parodies we used to see on 70's TV comedies and variety-show sketches.  Like Cathy Selden said, it was all about making faces, back then.

10. No Country For Old Men

11. Birdman - The movie that ranks so low on everyone's list because nobody saw it (raises hand), and those who did couldn't figure it out.  But make a movie about actors who don't understand their careers or the industry, and...

12. 12 Years a Slave - I remember reading some insider on the net who went to the premiere screening, and saw one woman who was acting like a typical obnoxious inattentive cellphone-tapper in the seat in front of him--He leaned over and asked her not to, and it turned out to be Madonna, who told him to mind his own business...."Slavedriver!"  That story iconically sums up in ONE WORD why this movie won, and why hundreds of white Hollywood people who self-indulgently imagined themselves "persecuted" for any particular special-snowflake reason, suddenly identified with black slaves brought from Africa, or at least the white abolitionists.  At least they didn't try to sing spirituals, while they were at it.

13. Slumdog Millionaire - The movie that created the Ten-Nomination Rule, when we all realized we were stuck with this one, because rules wouldn't allow "Wall-E" to whoop its hinder in a fair fight.  The movie that also proved that nobody really CARES about Bollywood as much as Indian-heavy London or LA are convinced the rest of us probably might.

14. Million Dollar Baby - (Or "When in doubt give it to Clint Eastwood, he's a serious guy.")

15. A Beautiful Mind - See listing on "Return of the King"...No, seriously, what did they put in the punch, that we all thought an Akiva Goldsman script was "compelling and mindbending" for those key three voting months?--And then everyone had to backpedal and say "Oh, well, Fellowship...We should wait and give it to the whole trilogy, for symbolic value."

16. Crash - Hooooo-ee.  The movie that still shortlists the Bottom Five for "Worst Picture Winner of all Time", and reminded us why there are more LA voters in the Academy than NY voters--With "Babel" and "Little Children" the next year, Crash helped coin the term "Conscience-porn", creating early-00's stories of how one tragedy brings separate-subplot rich self-satisfied yuppies together to discover how We're All Interconnected, so that contentedly isolated LA voters can pretend they understand what the NY voters went through with 9/11 without actually having anything happen to them on their safe, sun-kissed coast.  Either way, the Gay Movie loses every year, so there was no way in hell it was going to go to the cowboy one.

 

Oh what the heck! I might as well give my input to add to your commentary. If nothing else, I will keep you amused.

 

1.) I do agree that Chicago is a well constructed movie overall with a nice dance scene in its finale. It is also a very LOUD movie that required me to cover my ears often in the theater. Also I wasn't quite sure what the time frame was. The cars looked vintage 1930 but the people behaved like early 21st century. At least Richard Gere seemed to be enjoying himself without Julia Roberts around. Surprised that Queen Latifa had such a high positioned job outside the cells for that time period.

 

2.) The Lord of the Rings installment certainly pleased its niche market. Better than the reboot of King Kong at least. A bit exhausting to sit through if you aren't into all of the battle scenes and cgi overload. Again, I only saw it once. Then again, I have not been keeping up with Star Wars franchise either.

 

3.) The Hurt Locker was most successful in the back-home scenes, such as his paranoia for bombs in the grocery store. In this way, it seemed to START going in the direction of Coming Home decades earlier. I think the production crew got a little too caught up in the battle scenes much as Spielberg did recreating D-Day. In other words, both wanted it to look as authentic as possible in the first half but weren't fussing much with the rest of the "story" as a result. I don't feel like I care about the locker being hurt any more than Private Ryan being saved.

 

4.) Already commented on the historical flaws of The King's Speech. Loved how much went into the production values. I agree with you that it strives too hard to be "lovable". The average joe seeing the trailer linked below would think it is a comedy... like Toy Story 3, but then the editors quickly turn this movie "serious" with all of the War Talk. By the way, that brief shot of soldiers listening to the radio is a scene I was always suspicious was "lifted" from a vintage WW2 Technicolor picture since they probably couldn't find enough costumes... maybe The Life and Death of Col. Blimp or something?

 

 

 

5.) Your commentary on Argo is hilarious. I don't have much opinion about it, except that the editors goofed by showing a falling down Hollywood sign two years after it had been restored. In other words, Tinsel Town wasn't suffering THAT much before working under cover for the government. However I have to praise how well they recreated history much as The King's Speech, even casting people who even resembled (slightly) the original people.

 

6.) Gladiator was a product of its time. Last year's re-boot of Ben Hur probably looked so much better thanks to the advancements in cgi overload even though it misfired with the critics. You ever notice that Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson in Braveheart both look so much healthier and Soloflex-ed than folks back in ancient Rome and the Middle Ages? I mean... it isn't as obvious as Raquel Welch's false eyelashes and flesh colored lipstick in One Million Years B.C., but you get my point.

 

7.) I think you will kinda-sorta like The Departed, except that there is way too much talk-talk-talk-talk in it. Maybe, so you don't feel guilty, get it as part of the "economy" Best of Warner Bros. 5 Film Collection Best Pictures DVD set which also includes features you like better. You might stumble upon it at Wal-Mart for under $12. Fittingly, the director loved referencing his own favorite classic Hollywood movies like Scarface. Also like Scarface and No Country For Old Men, there are a lot of DEAD men in this one. Therefore, it isn't one you will plop into your DVD player with your significant other this Valentine's Day.

 

8.) My overall "feel" of Spotlight is much the same as Argo, even though I consider it the superior film. Both show characters beating the odds in a secretive and investigative way (granted, rescuing hostages from Iran is not the same as exposing child abuse in the church as journalists), but you always know they are going to succeed anyway. Yet the endings have the same ho-hum emotional effect on me. The journalists are just doing-their-job like Ben's character returning home from another day "at the office". We are forced to respond "...but their jobs meant so-much-more".

 

9.) The Artist: I think I am at peace with it more than you are. Let it go.

 

10.) You still haven't seen No Country For Old Men? I think the only reason it is nostalgically set in 1980 (same year as Argo) is because the villain would be less successful in his actions today with all of the security cameras around. Movie historians often say that the reason westerns went in decline during the decade leading up to Heaven's Gate was because the urban cop film pretty much replaced it. This is another example of that blurring-the-lines with Tommy Lee Jones looking as exhausted as John Wayne when he too was hopscotching between the genres in his final years.

 

11.) Birdman was still moderately interesting in its long Hitchcock Rope extended takes and not without amusement. Maybe Keaton just wanted to do Beatlejuice again without all of the make-up?

 

12.) Your comments on 12 Years a Slave are probably why the Oscars became a bit too scared "white" at the next two ceremonies. A simpler logic: sometimes when a front-runner fails to score one year, another "like" effort succeeds in the next. Lincoln was also a period 19th century piece involving the issue of slavery and this might have lingered into the Oscar consciousness at this time.

 

13.) "The movie that also proved that nobody really CARES about Bollywood as much as Indian-heavy London or LA are convinced the rest of us probably might." I think the problem is that Middle America is not enough like London and LA and needs to be more accepting. Not saying that much of America is racist, but there is a lot of stubbornness against inevitable diversification and globalization. However Slumdog Millionaire is my top pick mostly because it is more fun to watch than the others. Yeah, it has a serious side too with all of the poverty on display. The pop tune "Paper Planes" by MIA played over a train scene is a nice touch since the boys are literally "flying" from car to car. The camera angles are quite wild, much like Orson Welles' Touch of Evil with all of the slanted jerks shot at ground level. Most importantly it is moving at a fast pace but not too fast that it becomes just a montage or string of post-MTV commercials. Had this movie been made a decade earlier, it would likely be considered more creative than we take it now.

 

14.) Million Dollar Baby is also one of the select Best Pictures with a depressing ending. Then again, it was soon followed by The Departed and No Country For Old Men. Yet there is less drawing me back to this one as the others.

 

15.) I like director/actor Ron Howard and can forgive the flaws in A Beautiful Mind. Not surprised that it didn't win for best Make-up (yeah, it was nominated there too) since that final scene of "aged" Jennifer Connelly was clearly not the reason she won.

 

16.) OK... let us be fair with Crash. No, it should not have won. George Bush II was president, so Hollywood was too nervous to pick that other one even if Cheney apparently watched it and didn't suffer nightmares over the cowboy bro-bonding. Yet think of Crash as a composite of Gentleman's Agreement, West Side Story ("Stick with your own kind... stick with your own kind") and In The Heat of the Night. Feel better now?

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Here's how I would rank them:

 

Movies that were the best picture of the year:  The Lord of the Rings:  the Return of the King

 

Movies I would have nominated for best picture:  The Hurt Locker

 

Movies that came close to being nominated for best picture:  12 Years a Slave

 

Movies that are perfectly enjoyable:  The Departed, Slumdog Millionaire, The Artist

 

Movies that are perfectly reasonable:  Birdman, Spotlight

 

Movies that I'm largely indifferent to:  Million Dollar Baby

 

Irritating Oscarbait (benign edition):  (tThey didn't deserve to win, and it's insulting that they gamed the Oscar voters to win, but they can be enjoyed on their own terms):  Chicago, The King's Speech, Argo

 

Irritating Oscarbait (malign edition):  (They gamed the system, and they're pernicious for doing so)  Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind

 

Special Talented but Meretricious Category:  No Country for Old Men (considerable cinematic talents, but also morally questionable in the extreme)

 

Just a bad movie:  Crash

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  • 3 weeks later...

Another take on recent Oscar winners. Not that this belongs on this thread, but it reflects tastes. Usually the film that wins Best Picture is the second or third choice on most voters' ballots and rarely the top choice. However each person's top choice tends to be more polarizing. The win by Crash and all of the criticism that film caused is what prompted some new ways of tallying votes.

 

 

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Another take on recent Oscar winners. Not that this belongs on this thread, but it reflects tastes. Usually the film that wins Best Picture is the second or third choice on most voters' ballots and rarely the top choice. However each person's top choice tends to be more polarizing. The win by Crash and all of the criticism that film caused is what prompted some new ways of tallying votes.

 

The new tally was also in response to the Slumdog Millionaire/Dark Knight/Wall-E mutiny/debacle of '08 (runoff voting was allowed to select a wider array of commercial films, including one vote allowed for an Animated Picture, ahempixar), but if we're going to whine about why "Moonlight" isn't the favorite this year, this discussion clearly isn't going anywhere.

Back in the old five-nomination days, with straight voting, the two running favorites would narrow down to the Populist favorite, and the critics' red-rovered NBOR/Critics' Favorite, which was usually chosen by the critics thinking that it might be "forgotten" next to the Populist favorite.

 

And who usually won? Let's see:

- Unforgiven vs. The Crying Game

- Schindler's List vs. The Piano

- Chicago vs. The Hours

- Amadeus vs. The Killing Fields

- Forrest Gump vs. The Shawshank Redemption

- LOTR: Return of the King vs. Mystic River

- Titanic vs. LA Confidential

 

I've actually physically WON betting pools off of people who put their hard-earned money on the belief that Killing Fields and Mystic River would be proven to be more "deserving" winners, as anointed by their critical reception, and shockingly bold topic and tone.  Yes, against freakin' AMADEUS and JACKSON-TOLKIEN.

That's why, in the five-nomination days, the non-Populist critic favorite was known as "the Sucker Bet", and you just doubled your bet down on the Populist favorite to win.  

Because real people (albeit Hollywood studio workers) were voting on them, and back in those days, they actually saw the movies.

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- Forrest Gump vs. The Shawshank Redemption

 

If your choices are supposed to be the two front-runners from each year, then this one is way off. The horse race that year was Forrest Gump vs Pulp Fiction, and it was promoted as a sort of cinematic Baby Boomer vs Gen-X face-off. It was also seen as traditional, middle-American values (Forrest Gump) versus critically acclaimed violence and profanity (Pulp Fiction), old Hollywood vs the new Hollywood, etc etc.

 

The Shawshank Redemption was the dark horse that year that many people were surprised was even nominated. It barely made a ripple at the box-office. The overwhelming love affair with it has only gradually grown over time and countless TV showings.

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If your choices are supposed to be the two front-runners from each year, then this one is way off. The horse race that year was Forrest Gump vs Pulp Fiction, and it was promoted as a sort of cinematic Baby Boomer vs Gen-X face-off. It was also seen as traditional, middle-American values (Forrest Gump) versus critically acclaimed violence and profanity (Pulp Fiction), old Hollywood vs the new Hollywood, etc etc.

 

Okay, (bows) I stand corrected, Pulp Fiction was the new-director critical-darling that year that was the acquired taste with the mass audiences.  But still.

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Okay, (bows) I stand corrected, Pulp Fiction was the new-director critical-darling that year that was the acquired taste with the mass audiences.  But still.

 

Yes, I should have stated that I agreed with your general thesis. It almost always comes down to a populist vs critical darling match-up. And I often find my favorite to have been one of the other 3+ nominees!

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If your choices are supposed to be the two front-runners from each year, then this one is way off. The horse race that year was Forrest Gump vs Pulp Fiction, and it was promoted as a sort of cinematic Baby Boomer vs Gen-X face-off. It was also seen as traditional, middle-American values (Forrest Gump) versus critically acclaimed violence and profanity (Pulp Fiction), old Hollywood vs the new Hollywood, etc etc.

 

The Shawshank Redemption was the dark horse that year that many people were surprised was even nominated. It barely made a ripple at the box-office. The overwhelming love affair with it has only gradually grown over time and countless TV showings.

 

... and popularity on imdb.com. I never understood why it is so liked there, although I do think of it as a "good" movie. (I saw all of '94's nominees in the theaters that year and actually liked that one the best, but still there were better offerings not nominated.)  Intriguingly The Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump are a lot alike, which may account for the one being unsuccessful as too similar "competition". Both were decidedly old fashioned story-telling dramas with a history spanning back to the Out of Africa/The Color Purple period (if not even further back in time), both covered a lengthy (roughly two decade) time span of American history as a backdrop, both are narrated by a main character who pretty much takes life as it is while another character (Andy, Jenny) who is not narrating is escaping from the confines of his/her life, both deal with social issues of the eras, etc. etc.

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Back in the old five-nomination days, with straight voting, the two running favorites would narrow down to the Populist favorite, and the critics' red-rovered NBOR/Critics' Favorite, which was usually chosen by the critics thinking that it might be "forgotten" next to the Populist favorite.

 

And who usually won? Let's see:

- Unforgiven vs. The Crying Game

- Schindler's List vs. The Piano

- Chicago vs. The Hours

- Amadeus vs. The Killing Fields

- Forrest Gump vs. The Shawshank Redemption

- LOTR: Return of the King vs. Mystic River

- Titanic vs. LA Confidential

 

It's already been pointed out that The Shawshank Redemption wasn't the alternative in 1994.  Unforgiven and Schindler's List won the majority of the critics groups.  I don't think The Crying Game was the 1992 alternative:  either Howard's End or The Player was.  And I think The Pianist was the alternative in 2002.  Gandhi was clearly less successful financially and more successfully critically than E.T.  One would think Out of Africa would be less successful than The Color Purple.  I don't think Chariots of Fire, Shakespeare in Love, Crash, Argo and Spotlight, to name the five most surprising choices since 1980, was either the critical or financial success.

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I think age has a lot to do with things too. Hard to believe this, but when you read vintage Film Daily spreads of 1931, Cimarron was really a critics' darling that would have swept the Golden Globes had they existed. People related to that multi-decade saga much like they would a mini-series, especially in rural areas with many older residents recalling how much change had happened in their own life times.

 

There was a period when everybody was unforgiving of the Academy for denying E.T. the top prize. Today, that movie is a relic of a different era since most alien stories of today are presented differently. Also Spielberg has plenty of other material that has eclipsed it. It spawned a lot of less stellar imitation in the eighties that has aged even faster than the original. When reissued on DVD, a new cgi-enhanced version was also offered to make the original seem even older, special effects wise.

 

I re-watched Gandhi a few weeks ago. There are a few moments that tell me that this film was shot in 1981. There's a very young and likely un-billed Daniel Day Lewis among the South African "thugs" in one scene, for one example. Candice Bergen looks out of place. Yet since the actress is a bit of a photographer enthusiast, she really enjoys her role. When you look at Gandhi in old newsreels and then Ben Kingsley, you still are impressed at just how much they got "right". Not everything. He does sound more Oxford British. Also the way they manage to duplicate all of the historical events even with the use of cars and vintage outfits still impresses.

 

Most importantly, the film is really, regardless of its faults, extremely entertaining throughout its three or more hour time frame. If you fall asleep during it, then you will likely snooze during L'Enfants du Paradis (also 190+ minutes) and the longer Gone With the Wind as well even though both have highly entertaining story lines and witty dialogue that maintains your interest.

 

The problem with the last 16 years is that not enough time has elapsed in order for us to get a better perspective. That is why I rated them as I did... according to what I am more likely to re-watch a second or third time. Maybe we need a little nostalgic "glow" to trickle in and some films will improve after I don't see them for two decades.

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One would think Out of Africa would be less successful than The Color Purple.

 

It was--BUT, there was the big last-minute stink for the last few months that the NAACP head, in the latest of a number of public tantrums, thought Alice Walker's feminist-fantasy book making Danny Glover's character the symbolic evil-incarnate male-bashing character was in fact meant to be a symbolic black-male-bashing character, and protested the movie.  While the performances and Spielberg's technicals did get a few awards, it soured voters off of Picture.

 

This just a few years after public stink ("Is The Right Stuff going to unduly influence Sen. Glenn's presidential campaign?") distracted voters out of choosing another clear-favorite winner in 1984, letting the Terms of Endearment fan faction take over.

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It was--BUT, there was the big last-minute stink for the last few months that the NAACP head, in the latest of a number of public tantrums, thought Alice Walker's feminist-fantasy book making Danny Glover's character the symbolic evil-incarnate male-bashing character was in fact meant to be a symbolic black-male-bashing character, and protested the movie.  While the performances and Spielberg's technicals did get a few awards, it soured voters off of Picture.

 

The Color Purple infamously didn't win any of its 11 nominations.

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It was--BUT, there was the big last-minute stink for the last few months that the NAACP head, in the latest of a number of public tantrums, thought Alice Walker's feminist-fantasy book making Danny Glover's character the symbolic evil-incarnate male-bashing character was in fact meant to be a symbolic black-male-bashing character, and protested the movie.  While the performances and Spielberg's technicals did get a few awards, it soured voters off of Picture.

 

This just a few years after public stink ("Is The Right Stuff going to unduly influence Sen. Glenn's presidential campaign?") distracted voters out of choosing another clear-favorite winner in 1984, letting the Terms of Endearment fan faction take over.

 

What is interesting about all of this is that only the Academy was impacted. The public didn't care. Although The Right Stuff was not a hit (and money intake may have shaped some of the decision making), The Color Purple was and Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey became instant household names overnight, even though the latter quickly became a talk show host instead of a movie star. Danny Glover then countered his role as Mel Gibson's family affectionate sidekick in Lethal Weapon right after. Not that Spielberg presented him as all that "evil", since he does help reunite the sisters in the end by going against Donald Trump in allowing Celia's sister and immigrant children back to Georgia. Therefore all of the "harm" was strictly with Academy voters and had no impact on any movies financially. Out of Africa actually out-grossed The Color Purple in Europe, especially Italy where I recall the PAL video rentals (their version of VHS) was tops for two years straight. Yet that was merely because Italians and other Europeans related more to the African saga with Meryl Streep than the other.

 

What has happened in more recent times has been a bit more sinister. When Crash defeated Brokeback Mountain, a special opinion piece was posted in Time magazine about it. Things have gotten more polarized in the last decade and this may account for so many "non offensive" choices winning Best Picture.

 

By the way, I should humorously add that The Color Purple is a very gay movie, not too far removed from Brokeback Mountain (also involving heterosexual marriage as a front) and one could also argue the two ladies kissing each other could have very well bothered some voters back then as well, despite how Spielberg "heteronormalized" the story further to suit Hollywood tastes. Fried Green Tomatoes didn't fare much better, except make Georgia the official ladies-bonding state.

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By the way, I should humorously add that The Color Purple is a very gay movie, not too far removed from Brokeback Mountain (also involving heterosexual marriage as a front) and one could also argue the two ladies kissing each other could have very well bothered some voters back then as well, despite how Spielberg "heteronormalized" the story further to suit Hollywood tastes.

 

Although given the fact that Whoops has always personally insisted on having her characters written as lesbians ever since--except for Ghost, where she was only possessed when she made out with Demi Moore--I'm not sure whether that was in Walker's original book.  (Despite Spielberg's Africaphilia putting a fantasy Amazing Stories sheen on Walker's plot, I'm afraid to read the book and find out.)

It does rather explain why she hangs around with Bruce Vilanch so much, though, and how he got her those two hosting gigs.

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