Best of the Non-Best Pics

Oscar Sunday is almost upon us. I've still got a LOT of catching up to do before the big awards ceremony, but I must admit I'm pretty bummed that The Impossible didn't nab more nods...However, sometimes it's best to keep it in perspective that occasionally the Academy gets things wrong. So in honor of those times, I felt it was only right to spotlight some of those films that really should have taken home the top honor their year... We'll start with the most recent.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK- I still think it was a huge mistake for this film not to be dubbed the best picture of 2010. The King's Speech was admittedly a solid and good film...but there's just something far more special and unique about The Social Network. The story is far more fascinating than it should be and the pacing always keeps things exciting. Plus I'm sorry but there'a not another film so grounded in its time; so purely representative of a generation...and I don't care if anyone protests to the contrary. I think years from now this will definitely be the more memorable film.

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN - Up next are two films that lost to Shakespeare in Love. Don't get me wrong...I really do love Shakespeare in Love, but I can admit it's hardly more than a chick period piece. It is a well-made film with great performances...but to beat Saving Private Ryan and Life is Beautiful is a real tragedy. Saving Private Ryan absolutely had many things in its favor, which should have allowed for its win. For one thing, its realness and grit had never been paralleled before or since. The story was wonderful and the performances all very good. It's hard to justify a run of the mill story about a writer's muse beating out an important story of a band of soldiers risking their lives to bring one man back home to his mother...so that at least one of her sons will have survived the war.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL - This World War II tale is equally touching about a man who will go to any length necessary to preserve his son's childhood instead of exposing him to the ugliness of war. The first half of the film sets up a sweet love story with his wife, while the second shows the depths of a father's love for his son....all while adding the war on top of it. Seeing which emotions would prevail with this family was incredible. This was a powerful story on par with Saving Private Ryan and definitely better than Shakespeare in Love.

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION - Currently rated as IMDb's #1 highly rated film of all time, The Shawshank Redemption lost to the maudlin, manipulative Forest Gump. Sure that movie is memorable....but Shawshank is remarkable! I don't know that I've met a single person who doesn't like this story of an innocent man serving time for the murder of his wife and her lover. Andy's story is inspirational because you see the strength that he has in this situation, but how he influences the people around him. At times, this movie can be pretty tough to watch, but it is incredibly rewarding...and pretty iconic on its own, even if it DOESN'T have a box of chocolates in it.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD - Okay this one is more of a toughie. This film lost to Lawrence of Arabia....which was played once in my junior high school Geography class. I never once paid attention to it but was glad it was so long so that it took up quite a few class periods. So I can't really say if it was the better film...but it's certainly an unforgettable masterpiece in its own right. This film has everything going for it: fantastic performances, a haunting score, powerful story and a lot of important things to say. And it's one of the few films that really captures the essence of childhood. I really should watch Lawrence of Arabia again for a final judgment.

PSYCHO - Okay I've probably written about this film too many times to even count. But it is perfection. The most insulting thing of all....this film wasn't even nominated for best picture so it had no chance of even competing against The Apartment (tough call though if it had...) It definitely deserved a place in the nominees for Best Picture, and it was arguably the best film of the year. Why? Well just go search Psycho in the blog and you can read it all....but in short Psycho did so much for its genre and the world of film in general. It is iconic and its influence is everlasting. 

THE SEARCHERS - This film was completely snubbed by the Academy in 1957! It wasn't nominated for a single thing (and particularly in the category of cinematography this is a REAL outrage.) Instead Around the World in 80 Days took home the top prize over this far more interesting (okay...I can really only assume that because I've never seen Around the World...but come on...) story of a morally gray cowboy in search of his niece that was kidnapped years ago by Indians.....and REVENGE. Haha sorry, I just had to put that in there. The movie isn't as cheesy as that...it's very well made and probably the best performance of John Wayne's career (a variation of the old standby...but a wider variation at least.) 

HIGH NOON - The next two films both lost out to Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth...a film far more popcorn than art. High Noon's story was far more powerful than showy about a man who has to stick to his guns (pun intended :) ) even though no one will support him in doing the right thing. This film's integrity and moral convictions were powerful and inspiring....and once again the performances were top notch. I've seen The Greatest Show on Earth and I barely remember a thing about it or its performances so  it's really hard to understand why it topped this American classic. 

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN - Or this one. I feel like this has been a film that has become more and more appreciated over time....so when the Academy saw one like unto it (The Artist) they immediately rewarded it to make up for slighting the other decades ago. After all this film, like The Searchers and Psycho though beloved, wasn't even nominated for best picture. It had a lot more interesting things to say about the entertainment business than The Greatest Show on Earth...so its snub is quite puzzling. Especially when the Academy hasn't shied away from nominating musicals.

CITIZEN KANE - Well this has to be the one of the craziest. Sure this is a film that definitely took time for people to realize it's greatness...so realistically it was probably a triumph just to be nominated as many times as it was. Still...when it did win for its screenplay, you'd thiiiiink that the Academy was able to see that all around as a whole this movie was groundbreaking. Now it's true...I haven't seen How Green Was My Valley, and while I'm sure it's good I doubt it is as often assigned in Universities as required viewing. Everything about Citizen Kane is good....honestly it probably could have won every single category that exists at the Academy Awards. It's not one of my all-time favorites....but I must say that it is definitely one of the best and strongest films ever to be made.

The moral of the story? I guess if Citizen Kane can be snubbed anything can be snubbed. And that's just in terms of films! There have been just as many fine performances to be passed over as well...and really any other category too. No one is perfect...and clearly the Academy isn't either. Hopefully Sunday they can make the right choices....even if I'm not entirely sure what I think that choices should even be! 2012 was a strong year for film and the competition is pretty tough. I can only hope this year will be the same.


Johanna said...

Sarah says that Hollywood is like high school and she may be right. If so, The Oscars are the ultimate popularity contest. And just as the prettiest girl rarely gets voted in as Homecoming Queen, the Best Picture often is not, just that....the best picture.

What's really shocking is how often genius is overlooked. I saw "How Green Was My Valley" as a teen and don't remember anything about it. But I know it wasn't as fresh and as life commenting as "Citizen Kane."

I, too, have never seen "Lawrence of Arabia," but I guess I really should. It's kind of like "On The Waterfront" where I held out for a long, long time trusting that it was going to be as good as everyone said it was. Kind of like setting aside the best chocolate in the box for last, which brings me to.....

I have never gotten the love for "Forrest Gump." Maybe I should watch it again and see. But sometimes I think Hollywood likes a simple story better than something that really makes you thing, which might explain.....

"The Searchers" snub, which was breathtaking in every way. Who knew that Wayne could take his on screen persona and turn it on it's side in such a way? And the cinematography is mind blowing. Frames are set up to teach and tell the story and some are as thought out as paintings. The direction is powerful. The scene where he shoots out the Comanche's eyes and then the guy motions while Ethan explains why he did it is one of the most chilling representatives of prejudice and hate in any movie. It's worth watching for that scene alone.

Well, "Lawrence of Arabia" would have to really be a good movie to beat out the simplicity and power of "To Kill A Mockingbird." No way should "The King's Speech" have won over "The Social Network." Maybe people were confused when they voted? The pacing of that movie alone and the ability to tell the story in true Facebook style was mind blowing.

Ah, the travesty of a popularity contest.

Emily said...

What are your thoughts on Psycho vs. The Apartment?

Brady said...

1997 was a rough year. I never saw "The Full Monty" but EVERY other movie that was up that year for the Oscar lost to "Titanic." "Good Will Hunting" "As good as it gets" and my personal favorite "L.A. Confidential" all lost. I was only 18 years old, but this is when I started to realize the Oscars weren't as exciting as I had thought.

Emily said...

Oh good point! Good Will Hunting and As Good As It Gets are definitely better than Titanic. I never saw LA Confidential but I really should.

Sarah said...

It's totally a popularity contest. Mom was right in saying that I believe that Hollywood is like a perpetual high school. The thing to remember is that the cheerleaders and jocks aren't usually the ones who go on to become the doctors and scientists that really change the world. Popularity is a product of its time. Some of it is lasting, some of it just becomes dated and trite.

You are right about these missteps happening in all of the categories. Best songs are rarely the best song. For instance, in 1937, "Sweet Leilani" from Waikiki Wedding (?!) beat out "They Can't Take That Away From Me" by Gershwin. Ridiculous.

Howard said...

Sometimes you get a slew of great films all in the same year, each deserving of "Best Picture". Unfortunately, the Academy has to choose, and will always be "wrong". That's why it doesn't work to compare winners and losers from different years and try to make sense out of it.

I find it difficult to fault the Academy for choosing Titanic, but Good Will Hunting would have gotten my vote.

Johanna said...

Oh, yes. The song category...that is another one that doesn't always hold up.

I do think it's interesting how some movies don't hold up and others gain power over time. Now that's an interesting thing about art. While it is a product of it's time, the best art ages well.

The Apartment versus Psycho. Now that's hard. As you know, I'm particularly fond of "The Apartment." It parades itself as a simple romance, but it's biting commentary on how it's never worth it to sell our souls. Some might call it dated, but I like movies that reflect their times. I can't imagine offices full of people like that now, and it's fun to see life "how it was."

Psycho is brilliant movie making. Hitchcock takes risks and the ultimate compliment is how many times his vision has been copies (for good or bad) to the point where anyone seeing it for the first time may not get the same effect since water downed versions are everywhere. So perhaps it should gets points alone for changing movie making.

I just don't know how you compare and choose between Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock.