Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shoulda Been A Winner Meme

I sort of tagged myself to this meme, at the request of MovieMan at The Dancing Image, which started at Filmcability. Basically, you are supposed to go through every year since the Oscars have been awarded and make your selection for what should win Best Picture. Although Filmcability and The Dancing Image decided to revoke all rules for selection, I have chosen not to do so, although, admittedly, every once in a while, I break the own rules I am about to explain. (And just to tout my record for a moment, I actually have seen every film that won Best Picture. It's a project started in high school that I tore through for a while and then slowed down. Last summer I watched Platoon and only recently watched Wings to complete the list! And, from the looks of this list, I sure don't agree with the winners very often. I also learned that I really really love David case you didn't know.)

I think of the Best Picture Oscar as an American film award. It's by no means to discredit it, but when I think "Oscar" Godard doesn't really come to mind. Neither, for that matter, does straight-up experimental film. A film like Ernie Gehr's Side/Walk/Shuttle would easily be my favorite film of 1991, but should it be the Best Picture? If it is accepted in the mainstream can is still be avant-garde? I was getting myself bogged down in a hurry, so I just decided no avant-garde. Unless I felt like I should change my mind...

Anyways, I felt like I should stick with "American" movies. I'm in the clear now, right? Unfortunately, this gets more complicated with American releases from English speaking "foreign" directors and when Hollywood produces work from foreign directors. How do I decide what is American or what isn't? I just can't keep things simple. My mind only got more twisted from here, so I finally just said forget it. If it's American-enough, I let it slide. I am sure there more more issues with release years and I may have flubbed up when this films would have been valid for Oscars in the first place, but let's overlook that for now.

Maybe in the future I'll continue this rather productive meme by selecting foreign films and experimental films from each year. That will lead my mind to a whole variety of other problems with naming them, but I'll save those matters for a later time. Now that I have bored everyone with this meandering, here is my list.

One final note...I have decided to not italicize the titles because it would take a long time to highlight each of them and select it. Oh formatting. You are such a pain sometimes. And if anyone knows how to make italics from Word/Pages transfer to Blogger, please God send me an email and let me know. :)

1927- Sunrise (FW Murnau)
1928- The Wind (Victor Sjostrom)
1929- Pandora’s Box (GW Pabst)
1930- All Quiet on the Western Front (Lewis Milestone)
1931- City Lights (Charles Chaplin)
1932- Freaks (Tod Browning)
1933- King Kong (Merian C. Cooper & Ernest Schoedsack)
1934- It Happened One Night (Frank Capra)
1935- A Night At The Opera (Sam Wood)
1936- Modern Times (Charles Chaplin)
1937- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (William Cottrell & Wilfred Jackson)
1938- The Citadel (King Vidor)
1939- The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming)
1940- His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks)
1941- Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)
1942- Casablanca (Michael Curtiz)
1943- Red Hot Riding Hood (Tex Avery)
1944- Hail The Conquering Hero (Preston Sturges)
1945- Topaz (Dave Tatsuno)
1946- It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra)
1947- Out of the Past (Jacques Torneur)
1948- Letter From An Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls)
1949- Porky in Wackyland (Robert Clampett)
1950- Rabbit of Seville (Chuck Jones)
1951- The Day The Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise)
1952- Singin’ In The Rain (Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen)
1953- Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller)
1954- Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock)
1955- The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton)
1956- The Searchers (John Ford)
1957- Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean)
1958- Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
1959- Shadows (John Cassavetes)
1960- The Apartment (Billy Wilder)
1961- Something Wild (Jack Garfein)
1962- Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean)
1963- Shock Corridor (Samuel Fuller)
1964- The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies (Ray Dennis Steckler) or Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick)
1965- Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer)
1966- Chelsea Girls (Andy Warhol & Paul Morissey)
1967- Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn)
1968- 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick)
1969- Salesman (Albert & David Maysles)
1970- Zabriskie Point (Michaelangelo Antonioni)
1971- Punishment Park (Peter Watkins)
1972- Cocksucker Blues (Robert Frank)
1973- Badlands (Terence Malick)
1974- A Woman Under The Influence (John Cassavetes)
1975- Jaws (Steven Spielberg)
1976- Carrie (Brian De Palma)
1977- Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett)
1978- Halloween (John Carpenter)
1979- Alien (Ridley Scott)
1980- Atlantic City (Louis Malle)
1981- Blow Out (Brian De Palma)
1982- The Thing (John Carpenter)
1983- Videodrome (David Cronenberg)
1984- Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch)
1985- Prizzi’s Honor (John Huston)
1986- Blue Velvet (David Lynch)
1987- The Brave Little Toaster (Jerry Rees)
1988- Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg)
1989- Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh)
1990- GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese)
1991- My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant)
1992- The Crying Game (Neil Jordan)
1993- Blue (Derek Jarman)...avant garde, I know I know...or Naked (Mike Leigh)
1994- Hoop Dreams (Steve James)
1995- Toy Story (John Lasseter)
1996- Fargo (Joel and Ethan Coen)
1997- Crash (David Cronenberg)
1998- The Thin Red Line (Terence Malick)
1999- Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick)
2000- Traffic (Steven Soderbergh)
2001- Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
2002- Spider (David Cronenberg)
2003- Elephant (Gus Van Sant)
2004- Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood) or Primer (Shane Carruth)
2005- A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
2006- Inland Empire (David Lynch) or Borat (Larry Charles)
2007- There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Wow...this took a long time to put together. Although I don't wish this kind of pain on anyone I tag the following people if they dare take up the task. And since I was working on this, you can push back my final NYFF entries to Friday and Sunday (most likely.) We'll see if I can stick to any kind of a schedule. Oh yeah, and if you wonder why I didn't select something feel free to bring it up, as I may have overlooked the films. I was using Wikipedia's pages for American films of each year so I think I got most of them, but I could always miss something. Thanks for reading!

Nathaniel R. at The Film Experience
Jeremy at Moon in the Gutter
Ibetolis at Film For The Soul
Adam at DVD Panache
Jacob W. at Mad Crazy Movie House


Unknown said...


That is all (for now)...

James Hansen said...

I battled over choosing "Eraserhead" but decided that I woudn't want it to win Best Pic. Don't know why. I only pretend to have logic. But I have to reiterate, this isn't necessarily my favorite film from every year (although most of the time it is, I suppose.) Eh. Whatever. I gave Lynch 3 Oscars...what more do you want from me??? :)

Joel Bocko said...

Great list - and kudos especially for a few I didn't pick: Letter from an Unknown Woman and The Brave Little Toaster (of which you can read my review here if you haven't already: - I also wrote up Hoop Dreams recently. That really is a great movie - one I hedged on for '94 but upon re-viewing, was very glad I chose). And while we're on the subject, I finally saw Way Down East - definitely one of Griffith's finest films (didn't care so much for Orphans of the Storm though).

Dean Treadway said...

Cheers to this list. There's an argument to be made for every one included (and that means the Ray Dennis Steckler film too--did you know that Kubrick nearly sued Steckler for "copying" his full Dr. Strangelove title?).

I found the beginning of your piece very interesting. But still, given the eccentricity of your conclusions, and your noted difficulty in figuring out what's American and what isn't, I couldn't see why you just didn't let the foreign language films in (for instance, what makes 2001 American? Director and stars? But it was crafted almost entirely in England, by English craftsmen). Technically, foreign langage films have never been excluded for running for Best Picture. Anyway...

I loved your inclusion of Rabbit of Seville as best pic. Certainly one of the greatest Bugs movies ever, along with Long Haired Hare, What's Opera Doc and Bully for Bugs. I felt that, with your inclusion of shorts, you were getting my idea more fully: if it was shown in theaters or on TV during the year of its elegibility, the film in question could be considered for Best Picture. If a true (and somewhat needed) revamping of the Oscars were to take place, such a rule would be implemented, whether a film was foreign, short, experimental, crappy-but-good, silent, B&W, color, blockbustery, arty, originally shown on TV, or anything else.

Also, regarding the "best" versus your "favorites"--both are highly subjective, and thus both are highly deserving of each years personal Oscars--it's just that simple. That said, I was surprised how few of your picks actually won the award. Maybe one or two...if that many.

Anyway, I'll be linking to your list, and will be returning to it often, as there are some things on it I haven't seen, and I so respect your opinions. Thanks for playing, and let's hope this meme goes on. As you said, it's quite productive. And very difficult!

Dean Treadway said...

It's also an interesting game in that you have to be careful you don't give you favorite directors or genres Oscars every year they produced something. Yeah, three Best Pic Oscars for lynch is quite enough. EVen David Lean or John Ford didn't do that well.

Brandon Colvin said...

Halloween over Days of Heaven for '78? That's one I would have to disagree with you on vehemently.

Anonymous said...

Let me first say that I misunderstood the "rules" first. I got the whole "American" problem, and that's so strange I don't even think the Academy themselves could give a straight answer, but I thought this was what you thought should have won out of what was nominated. Just my mistake.

I like that you opened it up, though, and this is a great list of movies. A few quibbles here and there, but I think anyone who watched all these would see a lot of great films.

James Hansen said...

So many comments! This is exciting!

Movieman- Love your BLT post (as well as Hoop Dreams.) Did you know BLT premiered at Sundance and opened in New York at Film Forum? Odd, but fitting for such a complex animated film, I think. Hoop Dreams is definitely one I want to see again soon. And yeah, Way Down East is top notch. Orphans I like, but not as much as some others.

Dean- What really happened is I came up with rules for myself before I started the list and once I got to the point where the studio system was gone, it got really complicated. I almost decided to change my mind, but decided to stick with it at that point. I agree that amid the complications, I might as well have just went all the way (especially since I was already including a couple animated shorts.)

Also, I had read about the Steckler/Kubrick battle (Steckler ended up having to change the title a little) which is why I left them as a pair. I'd take the Steckler though since I decided to celebrate trash cinema for a few years there.

Brandon- I almost picked Days of Heaven, but decided to snub Malick once. I knew that Badlands and Thin Red Line would be winners from their years, and since DoH is my least favorite of those three (they are all masterpieces) I went with The perfect horror film instead.

J. White.- Sorry if it wasn't clear. I was so busy working through the issues that I probably didn't explain it very clearly. It's probably my bad, not yours. Glad you enjoyed the list! I am guessing some of your personal quibbles involve PTA and Woody. They were strongly considered (really, all of PTA's are near the top of their years and a few of Woody's were close.) But, when push came to shove, that's how it went for me.

James Hansen said...

And just for reference, my count is that 7 of these actually won Best Pic. Not a very good ratio for the Academy. I do like a lot of the ones that won, but I guess they aren't the kind of stuff I love as much. Hoorah for personal opinions!

Thanks for all the comments everyone!

Anonymous said...

Actually, I didn't really think of Woody until you mentioned it. I'm fine with that, though; I just have a strong connection to his work for some reason, but I know a lot of people don't.

No, it was mostly just little stuff here and there... like I much prefer PSYCHO to THE APARTMENT, MAGNOLIA was far and away my favorite of 1999, and I'm just not much for Cronenberg. I respect the craft he puts into everything, but I can just never get into it (*shrug* - that's me). A good portion of these I either haven't seen, or haven't seen in a long time, so it's nice to have a resource like this.

Joel Bocko said...

I had no idea Brave Little Toaster was so high-profile on its release. In fact, I wasn't aware of its theatrical career at all, seeing it more as one of Disney's video releases (since that's what it was marketed as in the 90s, when I first discovered it). I encourage you to do a post on everyone's favorite walking, talking, dancing toaster...seems like you'd have a lot to offer on the subject (including historical context).

By the way, I have just kicked off my political/election series, which will be the focus of the next 2 weeks. I have an intro up today, and will review W. tomorrow.

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Lots of great pics here...I almost stood up and applauded here at work when I saw Depalma's BLOW-OUT on the list as well as CARRIE. Thanks for tagging will take me awhile but I will get mine posted as soon as I can.

Tony Dayoub said...

No Godfather? I mean Godfather Part II might arguably be the best American film ever?

And why leave out the foreign films? The Conformist?

And my final nitpick... though Lynch is my favorite director, I have to echo Dean's comment on how often you gave him Best Picture.

But enough from the peanut gallery. I love these lists because they tell me a lot about the person writing them, and it sure told me a lot about you. Thanks.

James Hansen said...

Thanks for the comment, Tony. These lists sure do tell you a lot about a person's taste, and I'll gladly stand by every film I picked. A couple people have mentioned me going heavy on Lynch, but I actually picked more from Cronenberg (5) than Lynch (3). Just another fun fact to bring up. And nitpick all you wish! That's the funnest thing about lists I think and it opens up discussions about films and filmmakers that may otherwise never be mentioned.

Speaking of those kinds of discussions... as far as "The Godfather" goes, the series has never resonated with me as much as with other people. I, without question, prefer the films I chose over them. I agree that the original is great (I like it significantly more than Godfather 2, which I think is relatively overrated although I still LIKE it) but even the original doesn't capture me completely. I admit that I need to watch them again (I've only seen them once or twice) but, for now, I'd make a slight argument against their revelatory status, with the qualification that I think they are very good movies.

As far as selecting foreign films goes (as I've explained a little before), I just think the Oscar is an American film award so I wanted to reflect that in this specifically Oscar list. It made it much harder for me to make the list, I assure you. It was like my Dogme mainfesto for the Oscars or something. If I were to allow foreign films, they undoubtedly would have dominated the list. I am actually planning on completely this same meme with only foreign films sometime in the coming months.

I don't wanna give all the surprises/snubs away, but "The Conformist" won't be on it. I have problems with most Bertolucci films. I think most of them (especially The Conformist) are beyond beautifully shot, the narrative content has never matched the greatness of the style for me. BEFORE THE REVOLUTION and PARTNER come the closest in my book, but still don't quite nail it.

Thanks for chiming in and giving me some things to respond to. It's what makes this worthwhile for everyone involved, I think. Thanks for getting all of this started! :)

gucci shoes said...

Cheers to this list. There's an argument to be made for every one included (and that means the Ray Dennis Steckler film too--did you know that Kubrick nearly sued Steckler for "copying" his full Dr. Strangelove title?).