And often, the Academy gets it right…

Posted by · 10:53 am · July 30th, 2008

United Artists' Midnight CowboyAs much as I rant about some of the bizarre choices made by the Academy, let’s be fair…there are times when they are right on the money.

The AMPAS allowed for an embracing of the New American cinema with their awards for Best Picture and Best Director for “Midnight Cowboy” in 1969, and only they had the courage (and the smarts) to recognize that “The Godfather Part II” was a superior film to the first in handing it the same two trophies. They had awarded “The Godfather” Best Picture two years earlier, but much of the precursor circuit (and all of the critics groups) largely ignored the sequel, opting instead for films such as “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and “Chinatown,” among others.

The five awards betsowed on “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1975 are among the group’s best choices ever, in particular the honors for actor Jack Nicholson and director Milos Forman.

Though far too often dismissed as a chick flick, “Terms of Endearment” was a marvelous slice of life that the Academy embraced with five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Director. By the way, is it not odd that first time winner James L. Brooks has never again been nominated in the directing category again, despite two Best Picture nominees in “Broadcast News” and “As Good As It Gets?”

I remember cheering loudly the many wins for “Amadeus,” “Out of Africa” and “Platoon” three years in a row, and though I believe “Goodfellas” is a better film, I was pleased to see a western, “Dances with Wolves,” win seven Oscars.

No arguments from me between 1991 and 1993, with “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Unforgiven,” and “Schindler’s List” all most deserving winners. And though I prefer “Pulp Fiction,” I understand why “Forrest Gump” took the top prize in 1994.

Bravo, too, to the Academy for honoring “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” a bonafide movie masterpiece, and again the following year for “Million Dollar Baby.”

So you see, for all my bitching (and we all do it…come on), I concede that the Academy does, from time to time, nail the best.

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6 responses so far

  • 1 7-30-2008 at 11:24 am

    Mr. Gittes said...

    Return of the King is a bonafide masterpiece…cringe. Then so is The Dark Knight!

    So Oliver Stone received a best director win for Born on the Fourth of July but the film itself failed to win best pic? Very frustrating. I’ve always believed(usually) that he or she that wins best director should also have their film, the film that was “best directed,” also win best pic. Traffic and Saving Private Ryan come to mind, but there’s also the example of United 93. Greengrass was nominated for best director, yet, film was not nominated for best picture…the horror.

  • 2 7-30-2008 at 12:04 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I don’t dislike Terms of Endearment, but I have a problem with it beating The Right Stuff. (Not to mention Fanny and Alexander for Best Director… not that THAT would ever happen.)

    Agree that Midnight Cowboy was one of their best, and bravest, calls ever. I would put The Lost Weekend, The Apartment, Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter and The Departed in that group too.

    And one of my favourite upsets ever was Juliette Binoche beating Lauren Bacall… one of those rare instances where the Academy actually looked at the work and ignored the consensus. Ditto last year’s Dreamgirls “snub.”

  • 3 7-30-2008 at 12:38 pm

    Joel said...

    Yes, John, I agree with a lot of your comments, except about “Dances with Wolves”. I’m not trying to criticize the movie TOO much, but I was a tad bored at times. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good film, but it wasn’t perfect and “GoodFellas” deserved it all the way.

    Ones I completely agree with: “Lord of the Rings 3” was the best film of 2003 (yes, I said it), “Silence of the Lambs” (absolute masterpiece right there; can’t believe Siskel didn’t like it), “Forrest Gump”, “The Godfather” (embarrassingly, I haven’t seen either of the others; don’t shoot me).

    Others I agree with (and that no one mentioned): A Beautiful Mind (barely beat Fellowship in my mind), No Country for Old Men, Saving Private Ryan (for director, definitely; shoulda won picture), Titanic (I’m sorry, but I love this movie; big, majestic, James Cameron’s best film not in a series…), Million Dollar Baby, Gladiator, Braveheart.

    Those are just a few. Some others as well that I can’t think of.

    One I DON’T agree with: Chicago (way overrated), among others that again I can’t think of.

  • 4 7-30-2008 at 1:28 pm

    Joseph Number 1 said...

    I can hardly think of a time where I vehemently DISAGREED with them. I’ve seen 50 Best Picture winners and I haven’t disliked a single one… even ones I’m not too fond of like “The Best Years of Our Lives” or “Braveheart.” In the 90s especially their choices were top-notch.

    And nothing against the excellent “Midnight Cowboy,” but “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Z” would have been excellent choices as well.

    For my money “Schindler’s List” and “The Return of the King” have been their absolute best choices for the top prize, and kudos to them for awarding “Dances with Wolves” over “GoodFellas” in 1990.

    Even if I disagree with them quite a bit on which particular picture they award the top prize, their final choice honestly never bothered me once. Even “Crash,” a film I haven’t seen since 2005 but made an excellent impression the first time I saw it. I think people give the Academy too much flack.

  • 5 7-30-2008 at 2:22 pm

    Chad said...

    I definitely have vehemently disagreed with them before. Particularly the last decade.

    American Beauty is a slighty above average melodrama with an all too self-aware lead performance. (My Pick- Three Kings)

    Gladiator is pretty great. (My Pick- Dancer in the Dark)

    A Beautiful Mind is a flaccid biopic with only a few mildly interesting ideas about schizophrenia and a solid lead performance. (My Pick- Y tu Mama Tambien)

    Chicago is an adaptation of a boring stage show with an appalling performance by Queen Latifah but some fantastic choreography. (My Pick- Punch-Drunk Love)

    The Return of the King is redundant and self-indulgent. (My Pick- Elephant)

    Million Dollar Baby is a professionally made and acted film but nothing to really get excited about. (My Pick- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

    Crash is a joke. Vaudeville for the 21st Century. (My Pick- The New World)

    The Departed is a mess, cobbled together as if Scorsese can only fleetingly remember how to stage scenes and cut them together effectively. (My Pick- United 93)

    I know I sound like a grouch or a contrarian but I truly do love the Oscars and film. That’s why I visit this site so much.

  • 6 7-31-2008 at 1:49 pm

    Zac said...

    The 1976 ceremony just might the only time when any of the 5 nominees for the year 1975 could’ve won Best Picture and I would’ve been happy with any of them.

    More often than not, the Academy gets it right and even when I don’t think they do (SIL over SPR, Crash over BBM and Munich), I can understand why they picked the “lesser” movie for Best Picture.