Monday, January 15, 2007

The Best Years Of Our Lives: When Oscar Gets It Right 02.14.00

Kramer vs. Kramer won the Best Picture Oscar in 1980. Apocalypse Now didn’t. The following year, Ordinary People TKO’ed Raging Bull. Huh? In 1998, Bulworth didn’t even garner a nomination. Oscar is well-known for his mistakes.

But he isn’t always wrong. Some years, he gets it frighteningly right. For those brilliant and sometimes unpopular choices, we salute Mr. Oscar and all the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Here are a few of my favorite years.

1931. A haunting anti-war film, All Quiet on the Western Front deserves every and all props heaped upon it. While its competitors that year were all outstanding films, they just don’t measure up. The Big House, The Divorcee, and The Love Parade are most dated. Only Disraeli has stood the test of time, yet still there is no comparison to the power and glory of All Quiet on the Western Front.

1970. Midnight Cowboy was the first major mainstream motion picture to receive an X rating by the newly appointed Motion Picture Association of America, also known as the film industry’s favorite fascists. The ensuing hoopla agitated the already agitated audiences of the late Sixties, who flocked to theaters in bell-bottomed droves. The members of the Academy wisely chose Midnight Cowboy over Anne of a Thousand Days, Hello Dolly!, Z and Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.

1978. Although Woody Allen has made better films since, Annie Hall is his only movie to win the Best Picture. As a matter of fact, it was the last comedy to win Best Picture, since apparently the ability to make people laugh is not as worthy as the ability to make people cry. Annie Hall beat The Goodbye Girl, Julia, Star Wars and The Turning Point for top honors.

1994. After twenty years of habitual dissing from the Academy, Steven Spielberg finally received his karmic reward for his best film and one of the greatest films of all time, the gut-wrenching Schindler’s List. This magnificent achievement in filmmaking went toe-to-toe against The Fugitive, In The Name Of The Father, The Piano, and The Remains of the Day. Hold on, The Fugitive?

1996. Braveheart is the greatest movie ever made for fourteen-year-old boys. It took a lot of sack for the Academy to award film’s highest honor to what is essentially a based-on-historical-fact Dungeons-and-Dragons flick. The sprawling bloody war picture cleaned up at the ceremony, most importantly winning Best Picture over Apollo 13, Babe, Il Postino, and Sense & Sensibility.

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