The Academy Award for Best Picture
The Academy Awards presentation will be broadcast Sunday evening, March 7, on ABC. There’s a lot of buzz this year about there being ten movies nominated for Best Picture. In fact, there always seems to be a lot of buzz about the Best Picture Oscar. One critic will say that comedies never win. Then Shakespeare in Love comes along. Another critic will say that musicals can’t win. Surprise! Chicago grabs the award.
Dramas do have a decided advantage. Epic style movies in any category – historical, fantasy, crime, war, romance or any combination thereof – have an even better chance. Just out of curiosity, I randomly chose titles from each decade, then divided them into my own categories. The variety is surprising.
You Can’t Take It With You (1938) – Classic Frank Capra comedy still emulated today. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl. Did I mention girl, played by Jean Arthur, has eccentric, quirky family while boy, played by James Stewart, has rich, reserved family? This hilarious movie had me laughing until I cried at the fancy restaurant scene. A must-see.
Annie Hall (1977) – Did I mention the girl, this time Diane Keaton, is eccentric and quirky and the boy, Woody Allen, is reserved? Where have we seen that before? An Allen classic and his biggest hit.
An American in Paris (1951) – Gene Kelly stars as an ex-GI living in Paris after the war. And how can he resist the lovely French girl played by Leslie Caron?
West Side Story (1961) – Romeo and Juliet updated and re-imagined in an urban setting. Incredibly beautiful score, great choreography and direction, and strong performances by Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn.
Wings (1927/1928) – The very first Best Picture and the only silent one. This movie set during World War I tells the story of two friends, both pilots, and how the war affects them. Charles Rogers and Richard Arlen are the leads, with Clara Bow as the girl they both love.
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) – Alec Guinness won the Best Actor award for his strong, moving performance as a British colonel held as a prisoner of war in WWII. Based on a true story, this is a movie worth seeing.
Cimarron (1930/1931) – The story of one family during the early years of Oklahoma settlement. Richard Dix stars, along with the wonderful Irene Dunne.
How Green Was My Valley (1941) – Set in a Welsh village in the early 1900s, this beautiful film relates the story of the Morgan family. Roddy McDowall, Maureen O’Hara, Donald Crisp, Sara Allgood, and Walter Pidgeon star.
The Last Emperor (1987) – Based on the true story of Pu Yi, the final emperor of China, and how war and revolution changed his life. John Lone, Joan Chen, and Peter O’Toole star.
Titanic (1997) – The famous ship may get the title role, but it’s the romance that brought the audiences to the theater over and over again. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio star – but I’ll bet you already knew that.
The French Connection (1971) – Narcotics cops discover a major drug-smuggling connection between New York and France. Includes one of the great car chase scenes in the movies. Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider star.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling tracks down a serial killer with the help of another serial killer – Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins star – and I’ll bet you already knew that, too.
No Country for Old Men (2007) – When hunter Llewelyn Moss finds dead bodies and a lot of cash, he decides not to tell authorities and keeps the money for himself – and sets off an incredible wave of violence as another man tries to track him down. Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and Tommy Lee Jones star in this Coen Brothers movie.
Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) – To research an article on anti-Semitism, journalist Phil Green pretends to be Jewish – and learns the depth and deception of bigotry around him. Gregory Peck, John Garfield, Dorothy McGuire and Celeste Holm give outstanding performances.
In the Heat of the Night (1967) – While technically a mystery, this movie is really more about bigotry and racism in the Deep South. Sidney Poitier stars as Detective Virgil Tibbs, initially a suspect and finally a co-investigator into the murder of a man in a small Mississippi town. Rod Steiger won an Oscar for his role as Police Chief Gillespie.
Real People, Real Lives
Chariots of Fire (1981) – The young men who participated in the 1924 Olympics are the focus of this movie about faith, patriotism, and commitment. Ian Charleson plays Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who refuses to run a race on Sunday. Ben Cross plays Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs for the love of athletics – and to prove himself above the prejudice toward him.
A Beautiful Mind (2001) – Based on the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr., a brilliant economist and mathematician and how his life was affected by schizophrenia. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly star.
This year we again have a wide variety of movies. Comedy, drama, war, real people, science fiction. Which one do you think will take the prize?