List: ‘Best Picture’ Oscar versus ‘Significant Cultural Value’

After skipping this years Academy Awards last weekend, but nonetheless reading a lot about them online the next day, I started thinking about how much I enjoyed Spotlight (it’s fantastic), but also how much we will be talking about the film in 5 years or so. The Oscars have the reputation amongst, well, everyone, that in the past decade (or three) of getting the Best Picture so utterly wrong. Now this argument may be extended all the way to the inception of Best Picture in the 1920s, and the primary question about the futility of ranking of art is: By what criteria makes any one movie the best one of the year? Not so easy, but films that resonate, have been lifted into significance over time, and otherwise tickle the popular culture in interesting ways.

Will all due respect to The Dew Over podcast, which had guests (including myself) on a panel re-assess each year (one per episode) of the past several deacades, typically -but not always- in the context of the 5 or so Academy nominations for Best Picture, I took some time to consider the innovation value, cultural imprint, the overall ‘force of contribution’ to the medium of film for any film released in that year, from any country. (This is, obviously, as I see it, of course, not by any ‘scientific or consensus metric.)

I took a look at 1980 up until 2011. These dates were chosen because they constitute my main personal time consuming movies, as well as me living during their release. I was 6 in 1980, and my parents started taking me to movies often (weekly) at about that time, especially to films that were inappropriate for my age, but I digress. I have omitted the last few years due to the need for a little time and space for things to percolate in the culture. Feel free to discuss in the comments section (Obvious Disclaimer: Clearly this is more a fun exercise than a definitive one — because that ultimately is a futile effort, there is so MUCH content in this art-form we call film to really pin anything down, but us humans like our reach to exceed our grasp.)

The format is simple. I list the film awarded by the Academy for Best Picture, then I list what I believe is the ‘best representative’ of that year (yes it is slanted towards American cinema, sue me) and I list a ‘dark horse’ choice to keep things interesting.

1980
The Best Picture Oscar – Ordinary People
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE SHINING
Dark Horse Pick – The Empire Strikes Back (Also: Raging Bull)

1981
The Best Picture Oscar – Chariots of Fire
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
Dark Horse Pick – Excalibur

1982
The Best Picture Oscar – Gandhi
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BLADE RUNNER
Dark Horse Pick – Fitzcarraldo

1983
The Best Picture Oscar – Terms of Endearment
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – RETURN OF THE JEDI (Star Wars)
Dark Horse Pick – Tender Mercies (Also: The Right Stuff)

1984
The Best Picture Oscar – Amadeus
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – AMADEUS
Dark Horse Pick – Paris, Texas

1985
The Best Picture Oscar – Out of Africa
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BRAZIL
Dark Horse Pick – Back To The Future

1986
The Best Picture Oscar – Platoon
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BLUE VELVET
Dark Horse Pick – The Mosquito Coast

1987
The Best Picture Oscar – The Last Emperor
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FULL METAL JACKET
Dark Horse Pick – Broadcast News

1988
The Best Picture Oscar – Rain Man
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
Dark Horse Pick – Grave of The Fireflies

1989
The Best Picture Oscar – Driving Miss Daisy
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – DO THE RIGHT THING
Dark Horse Pick – The Killer

1990
The Best Picture Oscar – Dances With Wolves
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – GOODFELLAS
Dark Horse Pick – The Sheltering Sky

1991
The Best Picture Oscar – The Silence of the Lambs
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THELMA AND LOUISE
Dark Horse Pick – Barton Fink

1992
The Best Picture Oscar – Unforgiven
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – UNFORGIVEN
Dark Horse Pick – Raise The Red Lantern

1993
The Best Picture Oscar – Schindler’s List
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – NAKED
Dark Horse Pick – The Piano

1994
The Best Picture Oscar – Forrest Gump
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – PULP FICTION
Dark Horse Pick – Chungking Express

1995
The Best Picture Oscar – Brave Heart
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – SAFE
Dark Horse Pick – 12 Monkeys

1996
The Best Picture Oscar – The English Patient
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FARGO
Dark Horse Pick – Trainspotting (Also: Crash)

1997
The Best Picture Oscar – Titanic
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE ICE STORM
Dark Horse Pick – Princess Mononoke

1998
The Best Picture Oscar – Shakespeare In Love
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – OUT OF SIGHT
Dark Horse Pick – The Big Lebowski

1999
The Best Picture Oscar – American Beauty
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FIGHT CLUB
Dark Horse Pick – Eyes Wide Shut

2000
The Best Picture Oscar – Gladiator
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
Dark Horse Pick – Memento

2001
The Best Picture Oscar – A Beautiful Mind
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (LORD OF THE RINGS)
Dark Horse Pick – Mulholland Drive

2002
The Best Picture Oscar – Chicago
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Dark Horse Pick – City of God

2003
The Best Picture Oscar – Return of the King (Lord of the Rings)
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – MASTER & COMMANDER
Dark Horse Pick – Lost In Translation

2004
The Best Picture Oscar – Million Dollar Baby
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Dark Horse Pick – Birth

2005
The Best Picture Oscar – Crash
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Dark Horse Pick – Cache

2006
The Best Picture Oscar – The Departed
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE PRESTIGE
Dark Horse Pick – Children of Men

2007
The Best Picture Oscar – No Country For Old Men
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – ZODIAC
Dark Horse Pick – There Will Be Blood

2008
The Best Picture Oscar – Slumdog Millionaire
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – MAN ON WIRE
Dark Horse Pick – Synecdoche, New York

2009
The Best Picture Oscar – The Hurt Locker
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Dark Horse Pick – Enter The Void (Also: A Serious Man)

2010
The Best Picture Oscar – The King’s Speech
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Dark Horse Pick – Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Also: Melancholia)

2011
The Best Picture Oscar – The Artist
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – TREE OF LIFE
Dark Horse Pick – We Need To Talk About Kevin

Please chime in with something obvious wrong, or a key title(s) I missed for each year.

Roy Batty @ 0

A happy birthday, literally, to Nexus-6 replicant Roy Batty, who on this day in 2016, came into existence (however that is done) in the fictional universe of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (which, by the way, is currently getting a sequel with Dennis Villeneuve at the helm.)

Or as they say in future Los Angeles, happy Incept-Date, Fucker.

David Fincher’s Seven @ 20.

True story: I went out for my very first date with my wife back in September 1995 to see a movie where Morgan Freeman and the up and coming movie star, Brad Pitt, track down a serial killer. My wife whispered in my ear that the opening credits was a remix of Nine Inch Nail’s Closer, and we lost our minds during the ‘Sloth’ sequence. To this day, I actually consider Seven to be a good date movie with the right person.

Also, as an opening credits nerd, this film had one of the most influential credit sequences in the past several decades. If you go see the Whitey Bulger movie, Black Mass, you will see that designers are still doing this sort of thing, even today.

The sequence where Morgan Freeman peruses the library is one of my favourite things ever put on film. Happy birthday to one of the most meticulous and weirdly dark pop-culture hits films ever made.

Tom Hanks did a thing with Carly Rae Jepsen.

TomHanksCarly

I‘m not sure how it happened, I’m not sure why it happened… but whatever the case, watching Tom Hanks strolling down the street while dancing and singing bubblegum pop music is a glorious sight to see.

Carly Rae Jepsen, best known for her unavoidable, silly, and admittedly catchy “Call Me Maybe,” enlisted Hanks to mouth the words to her latest music video, “I Really Like You,” and, well… you just have to check it out for yourself.

I’m not really sure what I just watched (although she said the video is inspired by her love of Wes Anderson), I’m not sure why Justin Bieber showed up at the end in a big-puffy coat, and I’m not sure how in the hell she got the Hanks in the first place–but I’m glad she did.

Film Studies Job Interview: Select One Film From Each Decade

interview

Let’s play make-believe.

One day, you arrive home from your deadbeat career to discover a mysterious letter postmarked from a prestigious local high school. In the envelope stands a job opportunity:

“Dearest you, after searching the world high and low for a Film Studies teacher, we have been flat-out astonished by your breadth of knowledge concerning the history of cinema as demonstrated in your comments on various movie blogs around the interwebs. We welcome you to apply for this instructional position for the upcoming school year. All my love, Principal Smith.”

Folded neatly with the letter is the application. It isn’t concerned with your education, your past employment, or your involvement in criminal enterprises. Instead, it asks only that you select one film from each decade that you will view in class for the students to dissect, study, and discuss.

The application stresses is does not have to be the so-called best film of that decade, but you’ll be expected to defend your choices come interview time.

So, ladies and gentlemen, if you dare… fill out your application in the comments.

1910s:
1920s:
1930s:
1940s:
1950s:
1960s:
1970s:
1980s:
1990s:
2000s:
2010s:

Trailer: Clouds of Sils Maria

Currently competing for the Palm D’or at this years Cannes, Olivier Assayas’s aging actress drama The Clouds of Sils Maria features the varied all-female cast of Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and ChloĆ« Grace-Moretz. Over his career, Assayas has experimented in a variety of genres and tones, and I have yet to see a bad film by him. I don’t expect this one to break that trend.

Maria Enders (Binoche) has a successful acting career and a loyal assistant Valentine (Stewart) but when a young actress (Moretz) interprets a role in a new movie ā€“ the same role which made Enders famous ā€“ her world starts to crumble. Haunted by her past life, she withdraws herself along with her assistant to the Swiss town of Sils Maria.

Trailer: The Drop

It’s tough to watch the trailer for The Drop and not feel pangs of sadness knowing that it’ll be the last time we see James Gandolfini in a new film. Beyond the sadness, their is definitely excitement though, because the movie looks great.

Written by Dennis Lehane as an original screenplay (rather than an adaptation of his novels like Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River, and Shutter Island), the film follows the story of a loner bartender name Bob (played by Tom Hardy) and his cousin Marv (Gandolfini) as they get mixed up in a gangster’s money laundering and “the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood’s past.”

The Drop opens up in North America on September 19, 2014.

Blind Spots: The Goonies

bs-The-Goonies

When I posted on Facebook and Twitter that I was currently watching The Goonies for the first time, the incredulity was palpable. I’m not particularly well-versed in the ’80s films that my generation considers essential, but for some reason, this one has been coming up more and more often lately, so I bit the bullet even though I didn’t expect to get a lot out of it. For some reason ’80s movies often rub me the wrong way, or at least I have trouble buying into their particular brand of goofiness. The fact that several friends who didn’t watch the film until they were adults reported not really caring for it didn’t help.

Well, I don’t know if it was those low expectations, or my overall positive frame of mind this year, or if I just have a huge soft spot for adventure films, but I pretty much loved this. The set-up of the kids’ families about to be kicked out of their homes had me a little confused at first (who’s moving? why? how will money help?), but once I realized that it’s basically a McGuffin, I was fine. The rest of the plot, following a group of kids following an old treasure map to try to find pirate treasure is right up my alley, and the backstory was just enough to give the story stakes – if they don’t find the treasure, they lose their homes; it’s more than just fun and games, though of course it is that as well. It’s like Indiana Jones meets Home Alone, what with the bumbling criminals always one step behind the kids.

Would you like to know more…?