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Best... What? Five Dubious Best Picture Winners of Years Past

Shakespeare_in_LoveIn the wake of this week's massively fun MamaPop thread throwdown of this week's massively unfun Academy Awards ceremony, we find ourselves looking at the awards that were... uh... awarded, and wondering if the passage of time and evolution of perspective will justify the choices that were made — or leave us pondering the time-honored question: what the hell were they thinking? As we know, the Academy is fully capable of delivering some lame-ass awards... and while we're making no accusations as such of The Hurt Locker (mostly because I haven't actually seen it yet), let's hope that five or ten years from now we're not wincing when we mention it in the same breath with the following:

1. Shakespeare in Love
First off, let's be clear: Shakespeare in Love doesn't suck. It's a perfectly serviceable period comedy with some appealing performances and the interesting twist of throwing perhaps the single most important writer in the history of the English language into the forefront of... well, the kind of comedy of errors and mistaken identity that the man himself produced by the boatload. Plus: Ben Affleck! A Ben Affleck appearance is a hallmark of many an Academy Award-worthy film. Point being... it's fine. Until you take a look at what it was up against. Life is Beautiful? Alright — THANK GOD Life Is Beautiful didn't win Best Picture. Has there ever been a more grotesque crock of steaming crap masquerading as a Best Picture candidate?

I'm sorry. What were we talking about?

Oh, right. Shakespeare in Love. Decent enough movie, but put it head-to-head against Saving Private Ryan and... man, it's just an embarrassing comparison. Remember Godzilla Versus Bambi? Guess which picture Shakespeare in Love is in this equation. And that's not even to bring up The Thin Red Line, which was also nominated and which, while not offering the broad popular appeal or star power of Speilberg's WWII opus, is perhaps the single most persuasive argument for "film as art" that I've seen in the past 15 years. 

Put it all together, and you've got a travesty of justice. Or a tapestry of justice. Of justice on film. Of Poetic Justice. Of Out for Justice. Of For Justice For All. Of... all right; I'm done.

2. American Beauty
Do you know what American Beauty is? It's The Ref, only with about 80% less fun. And that remaining 20% is all Kevin Spacey, whose dementedly gleeful performance as American Fuckup Dad is still a thing of wonder. And now that I'm thinking of it, I'll tack on an extra 10% for Annette Bening as... um... well, let's just say it: the worst woman ever. They're both pretty great. Oh, wait! Chris Cooper! The presence of Chris Cooper adds an extra 5% to ANY film, automatically.

Still: add it up, and you've got a movie that is, at best, still only 35% as much fun to watch at The Ref. Despite the fact that it's virtually the same plot: Kevin Spacey is married to an awful woman who cheats on him. Meanwhile, their children get all fucked up and weird. Hilarity may or may not ensue. But the thing is... The Ref is completely, hysterically funny. And awesome. And not even one tiny bit as wankishly, self-importantly "arty" as American Beauty. "Ooooooohhhh... let's watch the plastic bag float around in the air... it's such a wonderful metaphor for PHTHTHBBBBTTTHHHHBBBBBBBTTTTTT." Crap. Absolute, total, awful, horrifying crap. And to think that this film beat out The Cider House Rules, The Insider, The Green Mile AND - great googly moogly - The Sixth Sense for Best Picture?

THE SIXTH SENSE? The single most influential and memorable thriller of the past twenty years, and it lost to a movie that thought a plastic bag blowing in the wind was a thing of magic and beauty? No. No no no no no no no. Not in 1999, and not now. And not ever.

3. Out of Africa
Oooooooh, Meryl! Doing an accent! And falling in love with Robert Redford! And it goes ON AND ON AND ON AND ON AND ON AND ON AND ON AND ON AND ON and it refuses to fucking die - it's the Jason Voorhees of impossibly dull biopics - and her husband screws her over and there are lions and tigers and (well, okay, not tigers) and airplanes and heartbreak and bravery in the face of adversity and falling in love despite the fact that he's ROBERT REDFORD and therefore somehow not someone it's appropriate to be falling in love with and people learn and grow and then there's more wildlife and then at some point Redford actually dies (oops. spoiler. you know... twenty-five years ago) and the movie KEEPS GOING FOR ANOTHER SIX HOURS AFTERWARDS.

Is this the most boring Best Picture ever? I'm not sure, but it's certainly in contention. A movie can be many things: it can be art, it can be entertainment, it can be terrifying or funny or wrenching or unnerving or haunting or gorgeous or stupid or fun or... any of a hundred other things, but the one thing it cannot be is boring. And Out of Africa? Is dead. Boring.

Better options for Best Picture in 1985? The Color Purple - which I didn't like, but even I have to admit is a far superior film - and Witness. By god, Witness. That's it: ladies and gentlemen — Witness: the Best Picture of 1985.

4. Forrest Gump
A lot of people hate Forrest Gump. Honestly, I don't get why. Yeah, there are certain facets of "Forrest as Asperger's dude as Chance the Gardener, holy idiot blundering blissfully and impossibly successfully through a world he doesn't understand" that make me... shall we say, "uncomfortable?" Yes. Yes, we shall: uncomfortable.

That said... it's a tremendously entertaining movie, highly imaginative, and if you can remove all of the "This movie is a reflection of Reaganite America" talk that got tacked onto it at the time and that now seems, by and large, pretty much irrelevant, there's not a whole lot about it that makes it any less than enjoyable across the course of its long and meandering plot.

Having said that which I just said in the previous "that said" paragraph... there is nooooooooooo way that this should have beaten Pulp Fiction for Best Picture. Not then, not now, no way, no how. Dear Quentin: We're sorry. Because you were robbed, dude.

5. The English Patient
C'mon. Have you ever - EVER - heard anyone say, "You know what I want to do tonight? Watch The English Patient. I loooooove that movie." The answer, of course, is no — because those words have never been spoken, ever, anywhere, by anyone. Don't get me wrong: Ralph Fiennes is a fine actor (see what I did there? let's pause for a moment so that I may bask in my own cleverness) who's produced some truly badass remarkable work over the years - The Constant Gardener and In Bruges, in particular, earn him a spot in the Acting Hall of Fame - and Willem Dafoe is, more often than not, fun to watch, and Sayid from Lost(insert SQUEEEEEEE here) is in it and... whatever: I was bored silly. Which is a cardinal movie sin in my book. Unforgivable.

Let's play a game. Walk up to anyone you know - or don't know; I'm not particular - and start talking in a fake Minnesotan accent. "Aw, jeeyuz... ya didunt have ta go an' do that..." whatever: the words themselves aren't important. Do it 10 times. 8 out of those 10 times, someone will respond by saying "What the fuck are you doing?" and "Why are you trying to sound like someone out of Fargo?" The first question is yours to answer. The second? Is because you're trying to prove that Fargo was an infinitely better and more influential film in 1996 than The English Patient.

And this is before we even get to Jerry Maguire. Say what you will about Tom Cruise - go on; say it - but this is a legitimately great movie that stands up well to repeated viewings and remains, for all intents and purposes, the definitive role of Cruise's career. And beyond that: any film that can propel Cuba "Boat Trip/Snow Dogs/Radio/Norbit" Gooding, Jr. to an Academy Award is practicing some strange alchemy - and by virtue of that alone, deserves to retroactively go back and kick The English Patient off the podium.


. . . . .
TwoBusy still thinks Joe Versus the Volcano is the greatest movie ever made.






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Comments

ljpock

You really should see The Hurt Locker. Not a "feel good" movie, but think it gives a good glimpse of what the men and women who serve our country deal with out in the field.

I will have to agree though - Shakespeare in Love, cute movie, but Oscar worthy - meh...

Pinkbutterfly

Actually ... I have on more than one occasion said the words "You know what I want to do tonight? Watch The English Patient. I loooooove that movie." And then I actually DO watch the English Patient and I am thoroughly entertained. But you're right ... Fargo should have won. As with Pulp Fiction! Right on!

BaltimoreGal

The Insider was ROBBED. It's why Russell Crowe won for Gladiator the next year.

And I LOVE Joe Versus the Volcano. I quote it sometimes, like "I have no response to that" and I don't know why because no one has ever seen it so they don't get it. It should at least win for "Best Use of Abe Vigoda" if nothing else.

G.G.R

Hey! Forrest Gump is the best movie EVER! Don't you take its Oscar away!

G.G.R

Hey! Forrest Gump is the best movie EVER! Don't you take its Oscar away!

TwoBusy

@ljpock -- I will, I will. It's in my queue... it just happens to be buried behind Season 3 of Mad Men (coming out soon!!!)

@pinkbutterfly -- As I refuse to believe that such a thing is possible, I can only conclude that you are a figment of my imagination.

@BaltimoreGal -- By FAR the best-ever use of Abe Vigoda. Well, except for The Godfather, but really... this is a close second.

Does this mean I'm not the only one who finds himself singing "The Cowboy Song" from time to time? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgpl0SWviGI

*crickets*

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah

Yeah, why the hell did "Forrest Gump" win? I call shenanigans.

bd

I spent many an hour in college trying to analyze the symbolism that is ALL OVER THE F'IN PLACE in Joe vs the Volcano. Obviously, I was a pretentious English Lit major in a hippie school in the northest. May or may not have been drugs involved. I plead the 5th.

I concur with your findings.

bd

I spent many an hour in college trying to analyze the symbolism that is ALL OVER THE F'IN PLACE in Joe vs the Volcano. Obviously, I was a pretentious English Lit major in a hippie school in the northest. May or may not have been drugs involved. I plead the 5th.

I concur with your findings.

bd

I spent many an hour in college trying to analyze the symbolism that is ALL OVER THE F'IN PLACE in Joe vs the Volcano. Obviously, I was a pretentious English Lit major in a hippie school in the northest. May or may not have been drugs involved. I plead the 5th.

I concur with your findings.

bd

A lit major who cannot spell northeast. :)

cindy w

I was with you until the very end, but I have to back up Pinkbutterfly here. The English Patient is one of my top 5 favorite movies ever.

TwoBusy

@G.G.R. -- Sorry. Too late. But at least you've got all those nifty "Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory" trucker hats to remember the glory days by...

@GoonSquadSarah -- Shenanigans have been called!

@bd -- Not a thing wrong with being a Lit major at a northeastern liberal arts school. Pardon me: northestern.

TwoBusy

@cindy w -- Apparently this post is being read by multiple figments of my imagination, because such a thing is not possible. YOU ENGLISH-PATIENT LOVING PEOPLE DO NOT EXIST. At best, you're hypothetical. Like the sasquatch, for example.

Anastacia

Oh, GWENYTH PALTROW.

I'll never forgive anyone for giving that she-beast legitimacy. Even if she HAS legitimacy, which is a...legitimate (?) argument to some, Lord knows she doesn't need any more reasons to love herself.

Jessi

I too, love the English Patient, but I still think it shouldn't have won. Also, Forrest Gump sucks. It is quite possibly the most disappointed I have ever been a movie. Ever. It did not live up to the endless hype. It was sort of insulting and a little mock-y and I spent 9/10ths of the movie wanting to slap Robin Wright Penn in the mouth. Blah.

Jennie

I thought this of Titanic. What a piece of crap, I KNOW I AM THE ONLY ONE TO THINK THIS.

TwoBusy

@Jurgen Nation: Apple.

@Jessi: Stop. Undermining. My. Argument.

@Jennie: Oh my god. I forgot Titanic. I FORGOT TITANIC.

*slamming face against desk*

BaltimoreGal

TwoBusy, you are not alone. Also I am beginning to think we share a pop culture brain.
I must buy this movie ASAP. Even though I have it committed to memory.

sassystitcher

The most important reason to why Shakespeare in Love should NEVER have won - I think (and as I age, my timing in memories is occasionally off) that same year I saw a little flick called Elizabeth. Elizabeth had essentially the same cast, an infinitely better story, plenty of violence and most importantly no Gwyneth (and no Ben, I think) and adding in Cate. Cate Blanchett wins over Gwyneth in my book any day. OSCAR FAIL!

Also, whenever I think of Gwyneth's acceptance speech, for some reason all I can see now in my head is Sandra Bullock's mocking of pageant winners in Miss Congeniality. Less pink dress and less Gwyneth FTW :)

lolismum

The TITANIC. Oh the fucking TITANIC. One dimensional characters, 3+ interminable hours of bad acting, bad conversation, cliches, bad chemistry between the "lovers". Oh how I hated the Titanic. Still hate it with passion. I want those 3 hours of my life back James Cameron you self indulgent asshole.

julie

One word (and a puncuation mark) --- Oliver!

In 1986, it beat out Funny Girl and Romeo & Juliet for Best Picture, but oops... they didn't even nominate 2001: A Space Odyssey.

(Granted, a lot of us weren't even born yet, but we should still wince about that one.)

Major Bedhead

Sweet Jeebus, everyone I know *loves* The English Patient and looks at me like I have three heads when I start to describe my loathing of it.

I didn't loathe it quite as much as What Dreams May Come, but it was pretty close. And WDMC made me yell at my tv.

Apryl's Antics

I actually liked the sex scenes in "The English Patient". The rest of it was kind of unbearable.




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