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.

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)

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

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

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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)

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.

Say true: Behold, Roland Deschain of Gilead. And I say thankee-sai.


And, as rumored, Matthew McConaughey is signed on as the mysterious Man in Black. Entertainment Weekly as well as King, Elba, and McConaughey all confirm the news.

Filming on the first of what will hopefully be many The Dark Tower films begins in South Africa in seven weeks and Sony Pictures is aiming for a Jan. 13, 2017 release date.

If you’re unfamiliar with the seven novels by Stephen King, you’re weird. But I’ll be helpful and republish EW’s description:

For those who haven’t turned the pages of The Dark Tower books, they tell the story of the fallen land of Mid-World through the eyes of Roland Deschain, a sort of frontiersman knight whose primary weapon is not a sword but a pair of revolvers. He’s on a quest to save his decaying world by reaching the tower that stands at the nexus point in time and space.

The man in black – a devil who goes by many names, but mostly Walter Padick or Walter O’Dim – is an ageless deceiver and sorcerer who also seeks to reach the tower and rule over its seemingly infinite kingdoms.

To complete his journey, Roland must call on help from our world, drawing a junkie named Eddie, an amputee named Susannah, and a young boy named Jake into his realm to be part of his ka-tet – the term for a group brought together by destiny. Their yellow brick road is one of the six invisible beams that hold Roland’s world together – and lead directly to the tower itself.

Other details are still under wraps, but the article suggests the films will not necessarily follow the order of the books (likely for cinematic as well as budgetary reasons). Furthermore, rumors are already swirling as to the companion television series following the flashback storyline of book four’s Wizard and Glass–but the series’s future development will likely depend on the success of the first film.

Whatever. It’s Idris Elba, man. IDRIS ELBA!

Mamo 438: Oscars So What?


Mamo’s annual Oscar night party is here! As usual, we scatter a series of short minisodes across the evening, collected here in omnibus format – it’s like watching the show with us in real time, only without the 4 hour exhaustion factor, or any farting. Joined by a veritable galaxy of guest stars, it’s the one night of Mamo you don’t want to miss! Except that you did miss it, if you’re downloading this and listening to it after the fact. Well done genius.

George Kennedy. 1925-2016

Prolific character actor, George Kennedy, who has over 150 film and TV credits, has passed on. Doing yeoman’s work in TV westerns, sitcoms, cop shows, at the beginning of the medium before catching a big break as one of the (several) villains in Stanley Donen’s Charade, Kennedy followed that with guest spots on bigger TV westerns such as Gunsmoke, The Virginian and Bonanza. Significant parts in high profile films like The Dirty Dozen and Cool Hand Luke (where he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar) cemented his prolific career playing toughs, bosses, side-kicks and walk-ons. Kennedy also starred in the Airport disaster movies, which Zucker, Abrams, Zucker parodied with Airplane! and despite not being in either of those spoofs, ZAZ did cast him as Frank Drebin’s boss in the Naked Gun! series, where he was was a perfect fit, with such a familiar face from so much TV work.

The Wrap has more.

2016 Independent Spirit Award Winner


Wo The Oscars are tonight. Yawn. Here are all of the winners from last night’s Independent Spirit Awards. #NotCompletelyWhiteButMostly

We always dig on the Spirit Awards around here, it’s sort of our bread and butter of award shows. Independent Cinema regognizes the following as outstanding achievements in the various categories…

Best Feature
Beasts of No Nation

Best Director
Sean Baker, Tangerine
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Todd Haynes, Carol
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
David Robert Mitchell, It Follows

Best Screenplay
Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa
Donald Margulies, The End of the Tour
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight
S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk

Best First Feature
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
James White
Manos Sucias
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best First Screenplay
Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jonas Carpignano, Mediterranea
Emma Donoghue, Room
Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, The Mend

Best Male Lead
Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: The Light Between Oceans

Derek Cianfrance has quite a number of fans in these parts, particularly for his break-out arthouse hit, Blue Valentine and his more complex, if flawed, followup, The Place Beyond the Pines. His films aim for a kind of heightened misery at the cause of circumstance, and how his characters tackle these emotional challenges.

In adapting M.L. Steadman’s book, The Light Between Oceans he looks to continue in this vein. The story of a couple, played by Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, who find a baby girl washed up to their lighthouse home, only to discover many years down the road, the mother of the child, played here by Rachel Weisz continuing her phase of crying a lot on screen (see also, The Lobster and Youth, shows up and forces a dilemma on the non-biological parents who have raised the child for 4 years or more.

The gorgeous cinematography and camerawork here (see trailer below) by Adam Arkapaw (True Detective, Macbeth, Animal Kingdom) looks very much in the style of Emmanuel Lubezki, that I hereby will be referring this film henceforth to, The Tree of Strife.

The film comes out in September 2016.