W.L.’s Best Picture Project!

Providing A Definitive List Of What Won

(And What Should Have!)


W.L.'s "Best Picture Oscar" Project Provides A Definitive List Of When The Academy Got It Right!


For almost ninety years of films that the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences has been in business, the Best Picture award has made history of great and not-so-great works!


A few years ago, my local librarian approached me about ideas for how we could bring more patrons into the library now that the library has its film license. The first idea I pitched, which she leapt on immediately, was "We should screen all of the movies that won the Best Picture Oscar." It's an ambitious idea: at that point there were eighty films that have won the Best Picture and that number is only getting larger.


So for a time, every two weeks at my library, we were screening a film that won the Best Picture and I've now reviewed all of them!  While the program went on, it occurred to me that these are the films that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences has declared are the greatest works in this medium of that year. As a cinephile and a reviewer, I thought it would be neat to have a place where I collected all of my reviews so those looking to see the films that won Best Picture can have an easy resource for it. I will update the listing every time I move those reviews into my new blog!


But even more than just this listing of the Best Picture, it is worth noting as I explore the films that won the Best Picture when the Academy got it right . . . and when they missed the boat. And while individual film reviews are not always the best place to do a comparative analysis of what is or isn't the Best Picture, this article is intended to highlight the Best Pictures that actually were and gripe about those that should have been. It will only get more in-depth every few days!  The highlighted title of each film leads the reader to the full review in my blog of that movie!


This project is now completed!  Need a good guide to the Best Picture Oscar winners throughout history (as well as my bets on the current years’ winners?), this is it!


So, that said, here are my notes on the films that won the Best Picture Oscar:


1928 Wings - Awarded as "Best Production," this was a black and white silent film.  A dismal start indeed, Wings is a World War One war story that is repetitive and reuses a ton of footage throughout the film.  Even for a silent film, the characterizations are flat and the viewer is left with a "ho-hum" feeling.  This is much more worthwhile as a historical document and it leads one to ask just how bad The Racket and Seventh Heaven had to be for this one to win!


1929 The Broadway Melody - Wow.  Shockingly bad.  This reminds viewers how far we've come as this has bad edits, unlikable characters and acting that makes one cringe at points.  Even so, the music is all right.  Not truly a musical, this does have a lot of singing and dancing.


1930 All Quiet On The Western Front - Another World War I film, this one follows a German perspective and explores the journey of young recruits as they become more disillusioned by the war.  Well-directed with an amazing sense of scope balancing an unsettling personal story, All Quiet On The Western Front deserves its accolades, establishing itself as one of the first truly worthy Best Pictures!


1931 Cimarron - One wonders how bad the other dramatic films were the year this movie came out.  A Western that is a terribly boring "epic" about westward expansion takes the form of a character study between a doting wife and her husband who continually abandons and undermines him.  Note to the Academy: any movie where the black actor plays a ceiling fan should probably be discounted from winning Best Picture!


1932 Grand Hotel - One of the best early films, this is a character study that is a bit dicey on the pacing, but is a worthy Best Picture.  With amazing performances, this is a nihilistic film where not much happens, but it is impressive how the characters collide and react.  It's like a plot-based Crash and a worthy winner of the Best Picture!


1933 Cavalcade - This beat A Farewell To Arms?!  Seriously?!  I mean, how bad could you butcher Hemingway to make a bad film?  Rather astonishingly, this meandering, washed out (on film) movie beat more timeless (and recognizable) works like Little Women for the top prize.  Very dated, this is clearly one of the films that won as a predecessor to World War II through its spread of appeasement doctrine!  Not worth hunting down.


1934 It Happened One Night - A particularly lame romantic comedy, this is an early film that baffles me for its win.  How this film beat out the Cecil B. DeMille Cleopatra or any of the other nominated films (or movies in general for the year!) is a mystery to me.  A year the Academy definitely got it wrong, this is a particularly charmless "comedy" with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert as a reporter and an heiress on the run.  Frank Capra's first Best Picture, this one did not deserve it.  At all.


1935 Mutiny On The Bounty - In a year when at least five of the nominees were adaptations, this particular one won (there were a dozen nominees this year!).  One has to ask how bad a Shakespeare adaptation or the cinematic version of Les Miserables has to be for this to win.  Filled with plot and character holes and casting that makes it difficult to keep characters straight, this is definitely a year the Academy got it wrong!


1936 The Great Ziegfeld - This very dated film beat out classics like Romeo & Juliet and A Tale Of Two Cities.  Even films like Mr. Deeds Goes To Town lost to this piece about the manager of talent in the waning days of vaudeville.  Very much a product of the times, as opposed to timeless.


1937 The Life Of Emile Zola - A legal drama preoccupied with the Dreyfus Affair, this film is not bad, but not extraordinary either.  From a cinematic tradition that is more based on stage dramas, The Life Of Emile Zola is a good character study, but also has awkward moments in terms of the film keeping on pace and having a remotely interesting visual style.  Still, the tale of the principled Zola makes for good viewing.


1938 You Can't Take It With You - A zany comedy mixes with a very predictable moral tale of putting people above profit, but this is still a pretty lackluster Capra work.  An obvious precursor to things like Monty Python's Flying Circus, this is cinematically droll and it is surprising it did as well commercially and critically.  It is hard to argue this was the best film of the year, though it was very much a sign of the times.


1939 Gone With The Wind - Beating out classics like Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, as one who is not too fond (actually, not fond at all) of this melodramatic glorification of the South, the real surprise is that this film beat The Wizard Of Oz. Long and fairly tiresome, Gone With The Wind has serious pacing issues and one suspects that its vast popularity at the time was part of what won it the Best Picture. It is entirely possible that Gone With The Wind's win established or cemented the prejudice against science fiction and fantasy films on the part of the Academy. After all, for all its pacing issues and while it might have more character issues, it is hard to argue that it utilized the film medium (especially of the time) better than The Wizard Of Oz!


1940 Rebecca - Arguably something more like a lifetime achievement award to director Alfred Hitchcock, Rebecca is a murky film that is more a study in mood than it is either original or spectacular.  After 3/4 of the film is spent establishing a classic gothic sense of mystery, the final quarter of the film simply reveals all sorts of plot twists in long, expository scenes.  Not bad, but hardly worth watching more than once.


1941 How Green Was My Valley - This is the film that beat Citizen Kane for the Best Picture Oscar. With Citizen Kane being, arguably, one of the most overrated films of all time, it's hard not to smile thinking it got its comeuppance from this movie!  How Green Was My Valley is a worthy winner with universal themes of disillusionment and the sense of a coming of age in a world at change.  Great Modernist themes and entertaining to boot!


1942 Mrs. Miniver - A surprisingly insightful film about World War II's beginning, it may seem like propaganda today, but it is balanced by a strong character study.  Beating out other nationalistic films like Yankee Doodle Dandy, this is a surprisingly strong Modernist classic that illustrates just how on the ball people were at the time when World War II was breaking out!  At the same time, this is a decent character story of young love that holds up over time.


1943 Casablanca - Arguably one of the best films of all time, it's fine to load this one up against virtually any number of films of the 1940s; it'll still be the best. Possibly the first, truly great winner of the Best Picture that I absolutely agree with. Casablanca is a story of resistance and love and survival under occupation. As one of my friends says, "It has everything: love, gunplay, music and Nazis, what more could you want?!" And I say, "Nothing more, my friend." Truly a perfect film and an absolutely deserving winner of the Best Picture or Best Production! Casablanca is truly one of the best films and a great historical document besides.


1944 Going My Way - This was the first year the Academy limited the nominees for the Best Picture to only five movies. An astonishing win, this pointless, obvious film is enough to make one wonder just how bad Wilson actually was.  This Bing Crosby vehicle is boring when it is not being distracting with obvious moralizing and trying to create the myth that simpler times have not been lost!


1945 The Lost Weekend - A winner against a small field of films I had never heard of, The Lost Weekend is an excellent character study of a man wrestling with alcoholism.  Truly timeless, it is one of the more difficult dramas to win.  Worth it, despite a few dated aspects!


1946 The Best Years Of Our Lives - A decent postwar film, this explores how people returning from war deal with life after World War II.  Despite some very specific references, the movie is close enough to perfect to have it beat the respected Shakespeare play-made-film Henry V and the more idealistic It's A Wonderful Life.  Hopefully, someday there will be a bells-and-whistles version of this on DVD or Blu Ray!


1947 Gentleman's Agreement - This is a remarkably bland, but socially-relevant assault on the prevalence of anti-Semitism in the United States.  While it has a great message and comes to appropriate conclusions, it uses the film medium quite poorly.  Beating out favorites like Miracle On 34th Street, Gentleman's Agreement is an example of a film that won arguably because it was timely more than it was timeless.


1948 Hamlet - The only Shakespeare adaptation to win the Best Picture, Hamlet is a compelling drama of revenge and justice gone awry.  Beating out the more cinematic The Treasure Of Sierra Madre, this tells a more universal story than many of the Best Picture winners.  The other nominees were hardly notable, so this is arguably a year the Academy got it right with this selection!


1949 All The King's Men - Remade in 2006, this original is one of the few Best Picture winners where the director did not carry off the Best Director prize.  It's no surprise upon seeing it, though; this mediocre political drama is nothing special in the filming and it's narrative movement goes way too fast for viewers to care about any of the protagonists.  This is a year when none of the names of nominees (save, perhaps, Twelve O'Clock High) leap out at cinephiles for being memorable films.  A very average winner.


1950 All About Eve - Very dated in its feeling, but strangely universal in the way it portrays celebrities, All About Eve is a pretty banal drama about the changing of the guard of Broadway actresses.  A very mediocre film, this seems to be a year when the pickin's were slim.


1951 An American In Paris - A very mediocre musical, this uses the film medium well, but is problematic for the way it places style over substance.  Good dances and interesting music take precedence over even a linear story and the real surprise is that it beat films like A Streetcar Named Desire.  Not worth watching more than once.


1952 The Greatest Show On Earth - This is a surprisingly good film that combines circus life with classic melodrama.  While timely in both distracting from the Korean Conflict while reinforcing very old gender roles, The Greatest Show On Earth was up against some pretty lackluster competition with Ivanhoe and The Quiet Man.  The real surprise - considering Cecil B. DeMille did NOT win the Best Director trophy - was that this film which trades more on a circus's spectacle won Best Screenplay!  Worth watching at least!


1953 From Here To Eternity - A rightful classic, this beat out the adaptation of Julius Ceasar and Shane for the top prize.  Dense and worthwhile, From Here To Eternity is very much a Modernist piece and it has a nihilistic sense to it that makes it pretty original.  This was a year the Academy got it right!


1954 On The Waterfront - Yes, it beat The Caine Mutiny, and one suspects that this film winning the Best Picture is a great argument for the times. Unions and organized labor were on the rise and the importance of that in the early fifties made it a priority. Is it a better story than The Caine Mutiny?  I think not, but those looking to get a few more jokes on The Simpons will need to see it.


1955 Marty - A very mellow character study, this film is more like a stage play than a movie.  It is hard to imagine how blasé the other films must have been and for this year, there were no recognizable films nominated (at least by the objective standards of other years' competing titles).  Still, Ernest Borgnine gives a decent performance as the awkward title character and this one is worth watching.


1956 Around The World In Eighty Days - Surprisingly smart enough to make social commentary as opposed to just presenting an action-adventure film, this beat out The Ten Commandments and The King And I.  Funny, well-acted and smart, this is a worthy adventure classic!


1957 The Bridge On The River Kwai - Beating 12 Angry Men is no small feat, but Alec Guinness's performance in Bridge On The River Kwai rivals all of the performances in the acting tour-de-force 12 Angry Men. This is actually a year that it could have gone either way and the Academy showed some wisdom by going with this film. While 12 Angry Men is legitimately great, it - like many early films - alters little from a stage production. Bridge On The River Kwai was a film and it used the scope and scale of the film medium excellently!


1958 Gigi - A great argument for not awarding the award every year, this is a remarkably obvious romantic musical.  Not surprising, it has some charms, but it is hard to see how this was ever considered wonderful.  Its competition, though, was similarly unmemorable.


1959 Ben-Hur - What does it take to beat a cinematic adaptation of The Diary Of Anne Frank?  Well, Bible stories, apparently.  This mammoth film has sea battles, chariot races and lepers, with Charlton Heston running around bare-chested for long periods of time!  Generally exciting, this film smartly retains its focus on the title character, which makes it a lot more accessible.  Uses the cinematic medium quite well.


1960 The Apartment - A very charming and actually funny romantic comedy, The Apartment succeeds and deserves its accolades, though it beat out more cinematic films like The Alamo.  Jack Lemmon is charming and this is one of the best romantic comedies I've seen; it's nice to see they were once recognized!


1961 West Side Story - A startlingly mediocre musical, especially considering some of the leads do not have great (or even good!) singing voices, the film wastes a lot of time with singing and dancing instead of keeping to any coherent narrative.  Long and dull, this musical is a surprise winner against Judgment At Nuremberg and one has to wonder what the Academy voters were thinking this year!


1962 Lawrence Of Arabia - Beautifully shot and painfully boring in terms of pacing and character development, this unsurprisingly beat the remake of Mutiny On The Bounty, but shockingly defeated To Kill A Mockingbird.  Despite decent acting, there is low character development, in favor of spectacle.  This is a year the cinematic medium was used well by the winner, but it didn't have the best overall story.


1963 Tom Jones - Arguably one of the worst Best Pictures to ever win, this is one of the least funny movies of all time.  Beating out epics like Cleopatra and How The West Was Won, this might have won only because it was a comedy that was nominated after Kennedy’s assassination and was the last film he saw.  Talk about two enduring tragedies . . .


1964 My Fair Lady - In a musical-driven year, this beat Mary Poppins.  Oddly, it also beat Dr. Strangelove and this musical is pretty bland, despite the hype that surrounds it.  A very typical rags to riches story, My Fair Lady has bad edits and long sections where nothing happens.  But it DOES have good music!


1965 The Sound Of Music - This must have been one of those years when no one bet against the winner.  Seriously, I've never even heard of A Thousand Clowns which was one of the other five nominees!  A classic musical, The Sound Of Music is only surprising in that the direction is so bad for such an otherwise great movie.  Worthwhile for all audiences and a true classic!


1966 A Man For All Seasons - An able character study in the tradition of Twelve Angry Men or historical profiles, this is a dramatically strong film focusing on one man's struggle to retain his faith in a very political world.  Well-performed and simple, A Man For All Seasons still resonates as a story of principles overcoming politics . . . in their own way.  A worthy dramatic film that deserved its wins!


1967 In The Heat Of The Night - Intense and timely, In The Heat Of The Night explores racism in the Deep South a bit monolithically.  However, it is populated by amazing performances and the movie probably deserved the Best Picture for its audacity.  It does not hold up quite as well as some might hope, though.


1968 Oliver! - Ironically, in my review of Oliver! I thought about suggesting that Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet should have been held off until it could go up against this and cream it for the top prize.  Little did I know this was the year Romeo & Juliet was produced, it was also nominated and it lost to this lame musical recreation of Dickens' Oliver Twist.  A true tragedy.  Even A Lion In Winter was better than this!


1969 Midnight Cowboy - Wow talk about your overrated films!  Midnight Cowboy is erratic in every way and falls into the category of "if he hadn't done it, someone else would have" for the stylistic aspects that were actually audacious at the time.  And, seriously, what is the obsession with movies featuring gang rape of men coming out of the late-60s, early 70s?!  While Dustin Hoffman proves yet again that he can act, this film is not one of his better ones, nor one of the better examples of the Academy's enduring judgment.  And having not yet seen it, I am now forced to wonder just how bad Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid must have been to lose to this!  This film was originally "X" for its gang rape scenes (not much nudity, actually), but it was later changed for the film's rerelease and video versions without any changes to it.


1970 Patton - Beating the antiwar film M*A*S*H, Patton also took out the human drama of Love Story for the top honor and as a character study, it is hard to argue with the movie's enduring sense of character.  Patton is arguably the role of George C. Scott's lifetime and he absolutely rocks the role.  He and Karl Malden, who costars as Patton's counterbalance, General Bradley, do amazing jobs as actors and the film is worth study for that alone (if nothing else).


1971 The French Connection - A very mediocre police drama, The French Connection has little creative in either the writing or acting to sell it over things like A Clockwork Orange, which was at the very least memorable for being disturbing.  Beating out the more nostalgic Fiddler On The Roof, The French Connection is bland and campy more than memorable.  Definitely a year the Academy went with a less-inspired choice.


1972 The Godfather - Truly a classic of American cinema, this film is still populated by characters who are largely unlikable.  As a result, it becomes very hard to care about the Mafia family in the late 1940s trying to keep control of their turf.  Still, the acting is amazing and this film is rightly one of the films everyone ought to see at least once.


1973 The Sting - A mediocre swindle movie, this beat out films like The Exorcist and American Graffiti.  While Paul Newman and Robert Redford have pretty wonderful chemistry, the movie itself is pretty blasé and only the DVD version's bonus features truly make it anything worth writing home about.  This may be a year another film was more worthy, despite how entertaining this film was.


1974 The Godfather Part II - An extension of the first film, this is mostly redundant.  Seriously, Chinatown lost to this?!  Still, Robert De Niro is exceptional in this.  But mostly, the movie drags compared to the first.


1975 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ever look at a list of nominees and figure the year a movie won Best Picture, it was just a year that the winner was so obvious no one else bothered to compete?  One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest easily defeated Jaws, a Kubrick film I've never heard of and two movies I've never heard of either.  This is definitely a year the Academy got it right as Nicholson and Fletcher's performances are absolute gold and this movie stands up over time amazingly well.  The story of a con man trying to serve his final days in prison in a mental ward, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a who's who of great comedic and character actors!


1976 Rocky - While arguably only a slightly better than average film, Rocky works as a surprisingly decent character study.  Beating films like All The President's Men and Taxi Driver, Rocky was a popular hit that beat the more critically acclaimed films.  A surprisingly well-written role for Sylvester Stallone, Rocky started a franchise and became a pop culture icon.  An interesting, if arguable, Best Picture.


1977 Annie Hall - Yes, this film beat Star Wars: A New Hope. I don't know how.  Despite Allen's decent direction, this is a movie that fails as a romantic comedy (no romance, charm, chemistry between protagonists) and breaks up the story of a relationship for moments of social commentary that have no relationship to anything else.  Diane Keaton and Woody Allen are good in their own scenes, but fail to connect in scenes they are together.  This is perhaps the best argument for how the Academy hates science fiction!


1978 The Deer Hunter - A difficult film, The Deer Hunter seems to be part of the late 70's obsession with heavy films that make one ask "why would you ever want to watch this again?!"  Violent and character intensive, this Vietnam war story takes a long time to get going and an equally long time to resolve itself.


1979 Kramer vs. Kramer - This is a very dated drama about divorce which beat the more cinematic war epic Apocalypse Now (it's about time a war epic lost!).  Beating the workplace drama Norma Rae, Kramer Vs. Kramer became another powerful performance by Dustin Hoffman, but an equally important role for Meryl Streep, who convincingly plays the antagonist in the movie.


1980 Ordinary People - Beating out David Lynch's The Elephant Man and De Niro's performance in Raging Bull, Ordinary People is a dramatic powerhouse of a film that explores the raw human drama that comes from human trauma.  This is definitely a year the Academy got it right as this was a film that can be rewatched many times at different stages of life and get something different out of it each time.  Truly a masterwork!


1981 Chariots Of Fire - This beat Raiders Of The Lost Ark?!  Astonishingly slow, Chariots Of Fire is a good film, but its win might have more to do with nationalistic feelings in relation to the Olympics and the desire to upstage the Soviets.  Much more dated than timeless, this film is not truly extraordinary in any way.


1982 Gandhi - having seen E.T. The Extraterrestrial and The Verdict, but not the other two nominees for this year, I still feel quite confident in saying that the best film won.  Enduring and smart, Gandhi is well worth the time and attention of the viewers and has more enduring qualities than Tootsie (which I also realized I've seen).  Sir Ben Kinglsey's performance alone is enough to warrant multiple viewings of this classic film.  Powerful and smart, this is one of the last, true biographies to win the award!


1983 Terms Of Endearment - A rare romance that won, this film won in a pretty soft year.  A traditional tearjerker, this has more of the '80's conceits (like the soundtrack) than many of the other, more timeless, works in this list.  What is impressive is that this beat the epic The Right Stuff for the top prize.  Worth seeing, at the very least!


1984 Amadeus - Hands down one of the best Best Pictures ever to win.  I'd never even heard of A Soldier's Story or Places In The Heart, which is in part because Amadeus stomped them!  Epic and smart, this is one of the few films (not just Best Picture winners) to explore the process of making art!  Absolutely brilliant!


1985 Out Of Africa - Sigh.  This was definitely a year the Academy got it wrong!  The creative and original Brazil was spited to present this melodramatic love story that features Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.  Redford carries his own, but he and Streep have remarkably little on-screen chemistry.  Beautifully shot, the movie does not make up for the blase characters in it.


1986 Platoon - I liked this film well-enough until I learned it beat The Mission for the top prize in 1986.  While The Mission might be more of a period piece, its conflicts about faith vs. humanity are much more enduring than the Vietnam-based war story of Platoon.  Moreover, the horrors of war have been pretty well covered in Best Picture.  Still, this is the film that proves Charlie Sheen actually CAN act and in virtually any other year, it would be a rightful winner.


1987 The Last Emperor - Wow, any of the movies this year might have been more deserving!  The Last Emperor might be beautiful to watch, but it is long and tiresome and the characters just don't pop.  There are better ways to get your modern Chinese history than this film!


1988 Rain Man - Of the choices actually nominated this year, Rain Man is an excellent choice, despite how difficult it can be to watch.  While Dangerous Liaisons might have used the film medium better, it was far more blasé as far as the story went.  That Working Girl was even nominated makes some statement about the 1980s, I'm just not sure what it is.  Dustin Hoffman's performance in this is legendary.


1989 Driving Miss Daisy - Up against heavy dramas, this lighter film actually walked off with the top prize!  Perhaps a sign of the times, Driving Miss Daisy still entertains, even if it is very simple and does not have much of an emotional resonance.  One must suspect that the directors of Born On The Fourth Of July, Dead Poets Society, Field Of Dreams, and My Left Foot are still scratching their heads on this decision!


1990 Dances With Wolves - A rightful win, this is a sweeping film which takes its time developing, yet holds the viewer's attention throughout.  Complicated and packed with human drama, this defeated the final sequel to The Godfather as well as the simple and heartwarming Ghost.  It makes a fair fight for the top prize with Awakenings, but this definitely is more of a cinematic achievement.


1991 The Silence Of The Lambs - One of the few (perhaps only!) horror movie to win the Best Picture, this is a frightening psychological horror that is light on gore, but big on the freak outs.  Powerful for its performance by Sir Anthony Hopkins, it illustrates his range and is arguably a worthy Best Picture from a much-neglected genre!


1992 Unforgiven - A decent, but somewhat average Western, this beat the articulate and enduring A Few Good Men as well as the twist-ending The Crying Game.  Possibly trading more on the novelty of Clint Eastwood directing and starring in a cowboy drama, this is a good revenge story, but not one of the best films ever.


1993 Schindler's List - Was anything even nominated against this movie?  Sure, there were other options, but they didn't have a chance.  This amazing story of struggle and survival deserves all of the praise heaped upon it.  The Piano never had a chance and seriously, The Fugitive?!  This won the top prize without any real competition for the year.


1994 Forrest Gump - Combating the audaciousness of the violent Pulp Fiction, clearly this was a year that family-friendly was a priority. Forrest Gump is a good film, but it meanders a lot. Sure, Tom Hanks was beautifully credible in the role of the simple Forrest and the story is heartwarming and the scope is big, but it's also "that kind of movie." After sixty-odd years of Best Pictures, we get "that kind of movie." Pulp Fiction was something new and there is much to debate in whether or not the Academy got it right in this year.


1995 Braveheart - Returning to violent, Mel Gibson's film beat the family-friendly Babe and Tom Hanks' attempt at a second Best Picture he starred in (Apollo 13). Talk about your movies that it's a surprise it won, it says something when the violent war epic about what it means to be free beats the fun of a talking pig or the human ingenuity of the space program. Truly, this year it came down to Braveheart and Apollo 13 and that the action and acting of Braveheart beat out the cerebral moods of Apollo 13 says something about the Academy or society at large.


1996 The English Patient - This slow-moving film beat the creative and dark Fargo and the popular Jerry Maguire; I've no idea why.  One of the worst Best Picture winners, this film is boring and troublingly slow.


1997 Titanic - Another one of the rare instances where the popular and financially successful film actually took the top prize, Titanic is a surprising winner when compared with As Good As It Gets or even Good Will Hunting.  Long - and feels long - Titanic is a very typical disaster film with a rather mediocre love story tossed in for spice.


1998 Shakespeare In Love - It was a year every film was set in the past, from Elizabeth to three movies set during wars. But the real crime, was that The Red Violin was not even nominated. Yes, I am a fan of the works of Edward Zwick and this is a fun film. But every one of the merits: plot, character, acting and spectacle, The Red Violin trumps this romantic dramedy. The Academy got it way wrong this year.


1999 American Beauty - If any movie had to beat Magnolia, American Beauty is a fine choice. What bugs me is that P.T. Anderson's masterpiece wasn't even nominated! Seriously, who remembers The Insider?! Okay, seriously, American Beauty is the Best Picture Of The Year of the ones that were nominated, hands down. Stylishly shot and thematically daring, it pulled no punches and pulled back the curtain of California suburbia. The acting is magnificent. Sure, Magnolia had more thematic depth, but it wasn't even nominated. And American Beauty is a great, rewatchable film that made the careers of a number of people.


2000 Gladiator - Stiff acting all around and a gory and pretty boring story mar this Russell Crowe epic.  Definitely a year the Academy got it wrong, Gladiator seems more like a lifetime achievement award to Ridley Scott.  Too bad; he's done other, vastly better, films.


2001 A Beautiful MindThe Fellowship Of The Ring was robbed. Far from being a great use of the medium, A Beautiful Mind excels as a character study, but not much more. Even the acting in The Fellowship Of The Ring was better than in A Beautiful Mind! Arguably, there was some pressure within the Academy to not let the first film in The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy win; that would have put pressure on the subsequent installments to win and, one supposes, the Academy wanted to keep it "fair." If that was the case, there were still better choices in 2001 (without Russell Crowe) that still could have been better choices.


2002 Chicago - Frida and The Two Towers were robbed!  This musical is a movie which tries to recreate a stage play while playing outside the limitations of a stage in a film that is sloppy, predictable and populated by largely unlikable characters.  A huge disappointment for serious cinephiles.


2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - FINALLY getting its win, the Academy proved that it could honor a film that actually used film well. Lost In Translation and Mystic River could both be performed as stage plays and not lose anything. And The Return Of The King soundly kicks Seabiscuit and Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World in both story and form, making it a truly worthy Best Picture. Complicated and visually spectacular, The Return Of The King harkens back to when filmmakers were ambitious and utilized the full greatness of the medium.


2004 Million Dollar Baby - In a year of weak nominees for Best Picture, this beat out Ray, Finding Neverland, Sideways, and the favored The Aviator.  Shut out of the entertainment awards were things like Fahrenheit 9/11 and Jersey Girl.  This was a year with a number of blockbuster sequels, but little that truly shined.  Far more average than anything else, Million Dollar Baby was socially relevant and well-cast, which is arguably how it did so well.


2005 Crash - While virtually everyone else was betting on Brokeback Mountain, I was betting on Crash. Why? Brokeback Mountain was a novelty, something that people were surprised by, but it was hardly an intrinsic or universal story. The epic on interenthic relations in the United States, Crash told a tale in a way that film had been waiting decades for. Difficult at times, Crash is also deeply human and deeply American and there's not a bad frame in it. And, at the worst, one isn't likely to fall asleep during it!


2006 The Departed - This was a tough year to call because none of the nominees seemed particularly great. In fact, there is little to say outside that. Babel wasn't any better of a Best Picture, nor were any of the other three. But this crime epic had the great cast and it won and frankly, it's hard to get excited about it now. Outside that it is Best Picture, it is hard to argue that it is as great as many of the other films on this list. This year, they could have just taken a pass on Best Picture. Well, maybe they did . . . Me? I would have picked Waitress before any of the ones that were even nominated!


2007 No Country for Old Men - At least Atonement didn't win! Seriously, the fun Juno lost to a decent film and if it had to lose, at least the detail-oriented dark Coen brothers film picked up the win. While a bit tougher on the character aspects than Juno, it probably is a more enduring film and by choosing it, the Academy went with something that was less dated than Juno is likely to appear in a few years. Also, this beat my man P.T. Anderson's There Will Be Blood and I'll weigh in on that as soon as I crack open that DVD on my shelf.


2008 Slumdog Millionaire - Okay, The Dark Knight was not even nominated and if something had to beat it for Best Picture, this is an excellent choice.  Difficult, but not entirely oppressive to watch, the story of a poor boy's struggle through life leads him to the correct answers on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?  This is one of those truly great films that deserves watching once, but is difficult to want to watch more than that.  Still, at least it beat The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button!


2009 The Hurt Locker - Okay, my favored Watchmen didn't even get nominated, but that's all right; at least the uber-predictable Avatar did not win.  This is a gritty war story that is so focused on ordinance disposal that it forgets to be in any way political about the war in Iraq.  Smart and tense, this is a keeper, even if it is difficult to watch.


2010 The King’s Speech – For the first time in a long time, there was hope that a December film would not win Best Picture!  I thought The Social Network, though no film this year beat the visual and storytelling majesty of Inception, which actually managed to get nominated!  The King’s Speech was good and followed the story of Albert, Duke Of York ascending to King despite his terrible speech impediment.  It’s an unfortunately obvious movie and lacks the depth of Inception.  Still, the Academy could have done worse.


2011 The Artist – I bet early this year on The Help, which at least had the advantage of being a legitimately great movie.  Sure, I was bummed that genre works like Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes did not manage to even get nominated.  I suspected The Artist was a novelty win and when I finally saw The Artist, I was profoundly disappointed.  Another real late entry, it’s one of the more disappointing and obvious wins in the history of the Oscars.  The black and white and silent natures of the film make it feel far more campy than original.


2012Argo – I had a secret hope that Prometheus would at least get nominated, but I was so thrilled when Argo was nominated and won (I bet early this year and won for a change)!  The tense film about the rescue of six of the hostages during the Iran Hostage Crisis was smart, well-performed and had interesting character.  It has been several years since I actually was thrilled about a film that won Best Picture, but Argo is one of the few I will likely add to my permanent collection.  Despite the controversies around the casting and liberties taken with the historical realities of the situation, this is a damned fine film.  Ben Affleck was robbed for Best Director!


201312 Years A Slave – By the numbers, Her was my pick for Best Picture and I was a little dismayed that About Time was not even nominated.  That said, when 12 Years A Slave beat Gravity and American Hustle, I was not entirely disappointed.  12 Years A Slave is a good movie, but it’s not really going to make people think, “Wow, slavery really sucked;” we should pretty much know that by now!  12 Years A Slave is engaging and heartwrenching, but it lacks the modern relevance of, for example, Crash.  But 12 Years A Slave is an acting tour de force and if it stands as the final, enduring, cinematic work on the horrors of slavery in America, it is hard to argue that it is not a worthwhile film.  There were much worse potential choices for Best Picture this year.


2014Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) – This year, I made an effort to watch all of the nominees for Best Picture (it might be the first year I succeeded well before Oscar Night!).  The movie to beat for 2014 was Cheap Thrills, but it was too small a release to get noticed by Hollywood.  It’s our loss.  So, I found myself rooting for The Grand Budapest Hotel as the best of the nominees.  It lost.  Birdman is creative and fairly well-executed, but it’s also a bit overrated; the film delves into a dark place that explores ego and mental illness more than how age and opportunity intersect.  The performances are good, but the direction and story are not as incredible as The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Wes Anderson will have his day . . .


2015Spotlight – An impressive story and decent performances make Spotlight a worthy Best Picture winner.  While The Martian was more cinematically impressive, the story of how the sexual abuse scandal within the Boston Catholic Church was exposed is an engaging and impressive story.  In fact, it was so important and worthwhile that it is unfortunate that it did not manage to bring wholesale change to one of the most powerful institutions in the world.  While the Oscar ceremony this year was charged with race-baiting and browbeating, a worthy film took home the big prize for the night.


2016 - Moonlight – This year, I only bothered to watch two of the films nominated for Best Picture and the best one won.  Moonlight might not be flawless, but it is a masterpiece of performances and character and the direction is excellent as well.  Telling to story of a young man, marginalized by ethnicity and sexual preference, Moonlight does an excellent job of exploring one life at three distinct points in order to illustrate how people go from having incredible potential to getting railroaded into a life they never wanted or expected.  Truly a wonderful realist film.


2017 - - ????


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