With the Oscars only days away, I've decided to take this opportunity to announce to anyone who still reads this blog that I am, in fact, still alive, and will be back writing fairly regularly at some point, once I've decided the new direction I want to take this blog in. So, right before the Oscars, I've found myself thinking about various movie awards, and all the esteem, ridiculousness, politics, and taboo that comes with them. In this post, I will mostly be addressing the esteem, ridiculousness, and taboo, leaving out the politics, which is arguably the very worst part.
So, what is this post, exactly? Well you see, I've had a realization as I looked through previous Oscar winners, and for whatever reason, among the snobby film crowd, once a movie wins the highest honor it becomes something of a pariah. To many of these people, to put a Best Picture winner at the top of your year-end countdown is like saying you have no opinion on film that couldn't be summed up with the words "for your consideration". It's as if you've just looked up what everyone else said was good, and decided to crown the most popular critical choice.
To some people, liking things that no-one else likes and hating things just for being popular is the way to go. I don't quite understand this, apart from people wanting to separate themselves from the mainstream and build up their own identity of sorts (which is somewhat understandable). Regardless, this is a phenomenon hard for me to wholly ignore, as it seems once a movie achieves commercial and critical acclaim, film buffs will have none of it... with the exception of a few select movies. For whatever reason, there are some that have slipped through the cracks, and are still acceptable for movie geeks of the highest decree to love and admire.
So now, before I bore you all to tears, here is my list of the top 10 Best Picture winners that are still cool for movie buffs to like. And a picture of a trophy.
10. All About Eve - 1950
One of the better movies of the '50s, with one of the best collective casts ever, and a timeless subject that still resonates today. I think it's the fact that this is the kind of movie that doesn't feel like something that you can only like from a nostalgic point of view that makes it hold up so well with people. It's not just a great movie, but it's also one that people outside of the film crowd may not have heard of, which makes it great, as well as slightly underground.
9. Schindler's List - 1993
For a lot of people, this is one of the all-time greats, and often makes its way onto lists of the top 10 ever made. The fact that it's a historical epic with a deeply personal subject to a lot of people certainly helps. Being one of the only (I don't recall any others) Best Picture winners centered around the Holocaust, there is something about this movie that makes it winning the Oscar not deter people at all for liking it. Maybe they'd just feel bad if they didn't like it, I don't know, but this is still an enormously popular and well-respected movie among the film crowd.
8. No Country For Old Men - 2007
The fact that There Will Be Blood is quite possibly my favorite movie of all-time doesn't change how much I personally love this movie. Maybe it shouldn't have won (as I believe many others still feel as well) but this was a great movie, and remarkably stripped-down for a Best Picture winner. It was one of those years where the independently-made movie won over the epics (There Will Be Blood, Atonement) and it still stands as one of those movies that it's cool to like, because it was the kind of underdog that was refreshing to see win. Not to mention the fact that it's easily one of the best movies of the past 10 years.
7. Midnight Cowboy - 1969
Anyone seeing the original X-rating might go into this movie expecting some kind of porno (as I oh-so naively did on first viewing), which makes the fact that this movie won something of a shocker. It was the best movie of the year, it had two fantastic lead performances, and was fairly extreme for a mainstream movie of the time. It would've been like if A Clockwork Orange had won Best Picture over The French Connection. No movie with an X (or NC-17) rating before, nor after, has won Best Picture. So there's that.
6. The Apartment - 1960
When I recall the greatest movies of the '60s, this one rarely comes to mind. Maybe that's why it's still so cool for people to like this movie - it's managed to stay well-regarded and highly-acclaimed, yet somehow has slipped through the cracks of public consciousness. It's a great movie with a good sense of humor and excellent blend of dark topics. It's held up really well, and much like All About Eve, people still don't seem totally familiar with it a lot of the time.
5. On The Waterfront - 1954
There is nothing you can do to criticize someone for liking this movie. It's pretty much the perfect '50s movie, with amazing performances all around, and one of the greatest Brando characters of all-time. In fact, you'd practically have to be insane not to like this movie.
4. Amadeus - 1984
Generally speaking, historical costume dramas that win major awards are forgotten almost instantly. That is somewhat the case with Amadeus, but the incredible performances (especially by Abraham, who went on to with the Oscar for his role) and unconventional nature of this biopic make it one of the more well-regarded films of its variety.
3. The Lost Weekend - 1945
One of the most raw Best Picture winners to this day, and it was made nearly 70 years ago. Billy Wilder's first of two Best Picture winners (the other being The Apartment) and easily my favorite of the two. Most people don't know this movie, and it still seems to rarely find its way near the top of lists. It's one of those great movies that the people who do see it love, but very few have actually seen it.
2. The Silence Of The Lambs - 1991
You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't consider this one of the best Best Picture winners ever. Being one of only 3 movies in history to win the big 5 Oscars, the acclaim from this movie is all over the place. Yet, somehow, nobody ever scoffs at someone when they talk about how great this movie is. It's just one of those movies that seems almost immune to criticism. One of the worst things you'll ever hear said about it is that it's not as good as people say. And even among movie people, this seems to be the case.
1. American Beauty - 1999
When you talk about this movie around non-movie people, you will almost always get one of these two basic responses: "I've never seen that" or "I didn't like that". What is better for a movie person than to love a movie that Average Joe can't stand? It's perfect, because they can look down at these people as being totally uninformed and idiotic for not loving this fantastic movie. Most Best Picture winners seem to have more of a wide-spread appeal, but this movie doesn't seem to have that. To the uninitiated, this is not a good movie at all, but once you put on your celluloid robe and don your wizard cap of filminess (or whatever you choose to wear during your ascension ceremony), this becomes one of the greatest movies you've ever seen. It's cool to like, because you can almost instantly tell if the person you're addressing about it is a fellow film buff or not.
Well, these are my thoughts, at least. Tell me if you disagree, agree, don't care, or just want to know why I use the word "just" so much.