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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Best & Worst of Oscars Past

With the big show getting closer every minute, I thought I'd take a look back at some of my favorite (and least favorite) wins from past Oscars, warming up my capacity for pointless bitching in preparation for the anticipated bitching that I'll be doing on Monday. So, without further ado...

Best Year For Oscars: 1939 - there were ten Best Picture nominees that year (Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Ninotchka, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Of Mice and Men, Love Affair, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory) and while some have held up better than others over the past decades, any five would make a pretty impressive set of nominees. This year also finds Clark Gable, James Stewart and Laurence Olivier competing for Best Actor; Vivien Leigh, Bette Davis, Greer Garson, Greta Garbo and Irenne Dunne as the Actress nominees; and The Wizard of Oz taking Best Song for "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."

Worst Year For Oscars: 2000. I honestly can't think of a less inspiring Best Picture lineup than Gladiator, Chocolat, Erin Brockovich, Traffic and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I thought Crouching Tiger was wonderful, I liked Chocolat and Erin Brockovich for what they were (Chocolat is an enjoyable film, Brockovich is a TV movie glorified by the fact that it stars Julia Roberts), I thought Traffic was okay but didn't live up to what it was aspiring to achieve, and I hated Gladiator.

Worst Best Picture Winner: The Broadway Melody (1929). I assume that it's popularity hinged primarily on the fact that sound was still a novelty and that it was the first full-length movie musical, because there's not much else to recommend it. By the standards of any age, this is a hokey, stilted and poorly executed film.

Most Unfairly Maligned Best Picture Winner: How Green Was My Valley (1941). I am in no way suggesting that this film is better than Citizen Kane, because it's not. But Citizen Kane was never going to walk away with Best Picture. It's an outsider movie, while How Green Was My Valley is composed of exactly what the Academy loves to honor and is directed by John Ford, someone the Academy loved to honor. And, besides, How Green is a perfectly good movie. If you ranked the Picture winners from best to worst in order of quality, How Green probably wouldn't be in your top 20, but it wouldn't be in the bottom 20 either. It's a middle of the road winner that doesn't deserve the flack it gets for having beaten out a great movie that, like many great movies, was destined to be an Oscar also-ran.

Best Reason Not To Give "Oops, sorry about last time" Oscars: There are a lot of contenders for this, but I'd have to go with Russell Crowe winning for Gladiator if only because if the Academy had been patient for one year, they could have honored him for A Beautiful Mind. Admitedly, by the time that Oscar year came around, Crowe was already well on the road to being Hollywood's most publicized asshole, but I have to imagine that winning the Oscar sped the process up and that it may have been delayed by a year if he'd been passed over.

Worst Presenter: Julia Roberts presenting Best Actor in 2002, proclaiming "I love my life," before announcing Denzel Washington as winner. I don't have anything against Julia Roberts (in fact, I kind of like her and probably saw everything she made from My Best Friend's Wedding to Ocean's Eleven in the theater, and yes that includes The Mexican and Stepmom), but goddamn not everything has to be about you.

Best Montgage: Tie. I loved last year's montage of Foreign Film winners, and I'd be remiss if I didn't include 2002's montage of New York on film.

Worst Montage: Last year's tribute to writers writing... just what the hell was that, anyway?

Worst Nomination of the 21st Century: Taylor Hackford, Best Director for Ray. Ray is a film that suceeds on the strength of its performances despite the fact that it is an absolute mess of a movie. Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind), Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), Bill Condon (Kinsey) - any one of these directors would have been more deserving of the spot.

Worst Win of the 21st Century: Jennifer Hudson, Best Supporting Actress for Dreamgirls. She's good, I won't deny it, but this is a case where the character won the award and not the actor. Any actor could have been nominated playing this role, it's an "Oscar role" if ever there was one.

Best Oscar Rule: Whatever rule it is that allows past nominee Sally Kirkland to bring her crazy ass to the show every year.

Best Reason To Visit YouTube: Words cannot properly describe the mesmerizing trainwreck that is the Rob Lowe-Snow White number. If you've never seen it, seek it out. You won't regret it.

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