We all got it comin’

Posted by · 7:47 pm · August 22nd, 2010

What was the last truly immortal Best Picture winner?  Cases can be made for this or that throughout the years, but for my money, the last film to win the Academy’s top prize that is absolutely a film for the ages was Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven.”

And you can get the Blu-ray on Amazon for less than eight bucks.  Do it!

Anyway, nothing other than that on a lazy Sunday.  Though it inspired me to dig up Eastwood’s acceptance speech for his Best Director win back in March of 1993.  Naturally, the Academy is stingy with embeds, but have a look and listen here if you’re bored.

Oh, and here is Eastwood introducing the film at the AFI’s 40th anniversary celebration a few years ago.  And Gene Hackman winning Best Supporting Actor.  And Eastwood on Hackman’s character, Little Bill Daggett.

Sorry, I could go on forever about this one.  After the jump, a few choice selections.

Perhaps one of the film’s central conceits: the lie of America’s bravura:

And one of the cinema’s great finales:

I’ve been talking up the western quite a bit lately.  I’m thinking I’ll finally put this list of the genre’s 50 best in honor of the Coens’ latest installment later this year.

→ 76 Comments Tags: , , , | Filed in: Daily

76 responses so far

  • 1 8-23-2010 at 8:45 am

    le duff pascal said...

    Forrest Gump is one of the worst best picture winners ever ! First, it won over PULP FICTION. Second, the free spirited girl dies from AIDS ( good for her, she has a bad soul, I guess ). Third, the simpleton knows best. Smells bad. The question is : movies for the ages, not movies for the aged. When you want to find immortal movies among the winners/nominees, look in the 70ies, and there you have something else, at least most of the time. The list of nominated films and directors in the 60ies and 70ies ! Impressive ! When you think that Bennett Miller was nominated for director, preferred over David Cronenberg and his History of Violence ! Unforgiven is a masterpiece, dark, smart, profund. When NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and THERE WILL BE BLOOD fought it out to win the Best Picture Award, it was almost a dream come true. Two impressive works of creation, not some cheap biopic, a rare occurence those last years. THE PIANIST did not win best movie, and that’s another masterpiece. At least, Roman Polanski won over Rob Marshall…

  • 2 8-23-2010 at 9:03 am

    Will said...

    Brokeback…err…wait never mind… I do love American Beauty even after multiple repeated viewings, but I have to say that Annie Hall is the most recent immortal winner for me…. It’s definitely one of my all time favorites, and the most recent winner I would deem immortal…. I do think No Country could become it eventually but I feel like There Will Be Blood was a more powerful film that will be looked upon with esteem in years to come…. and the one about the cowboys… that is the one the Academy let slip away…

    OH! And Titanic was a clunker to me. Can’t stand it and can’t see why so much love for it.

  • 3 8-23-2010 at 9:26 am

    The Dude said...

    I think “The Return of the King” is destined to be an “immortal” classic, as it’s one of the few movies over the past several years that garnered critical acclaim AND was a box office smash. And despite being 7 years old, it’s still got it’s rabid fans. And I think it’s very telling that, just a few months ago, everyone got their panties in a bunch with “The Hobbit” news stories.

    On a personal level, the only BP winner from the past few decades that I have truly fallen for is “No Country for Old Men” (although I will admit that I loved “ROTK” as well). I tend to like the “2nd place” movies a lot more (i.e. “Lost in Translation,” “Sideways,” etc.).

  • 4 8-23-2010 at 9:33 am

    evelyn garver said...

    There Will Be Blood is tops for me. It has only grown in stature since 2007. It will probably be paired in film school classes [probably already has been] with Citizen Kane. As for DDL’s monumental performance, the showy scenes are always noted, but Plainview’s quieter moments are even more devastating.

  • 5 8-23-2010 at 9:38 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    The Dude: I personally doubt either “Lost in Translation” or “Sideways” came in second place in their respective years. ;)

  • 6 8-23-2010 at 10:37 am

    Kevin K. said...

    I would add in

    Schindler’s List
    The Return of the King

    I know many will disagree with those choices but these are films to me that have really aged like fine wine. They never get old and I’m always knocked out by the masterful storytelling and craftsmanship on display.

  • 7 8-23-2010 at 11:15 am

    Zac said...

    Immortal BP winners in my book:

    Million Dollar Baby
    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
    American Beauty
    Schindler’s List
    Silence of the Lambs
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    The Godfather Part II
    The Godfather
    The French Connection
    Lawrence of Arabia
    The Bridge on the River Kwai
    On the Waterfront
    Gone with the Wind

  • 8 8-23-2010 at 11:16 am

    MovieMan said...

    “Unforgiven” is unforgettable, but I’d say the last immortal one was “American Beauty,” which was the best film of the 1990s.

  • 9 8-23-2010 at 11:44 am

    JJ said...

    To me, recent times, it’s all about ‘Return of the King’ and ‘American Beauty’. I could put them in now and sit in awe.

    ‘Unforgiven’? A very, very good movie; but it wasn’t even in my Top 3 for 1992.

    And ‘No Country for Old Men’? Don’t even get me started on how in the minority I am with that one.

  • 10 8-23-2010 at 12:04 pm

    Aaron said...

    I don’t understand why American Beauty and Million Dollar Baby have such a backlash nowadays. I really love both of them dearly, and are clearly among my most favorite best picture winners in the past 20 years (along with No Country for Old Men and The Departed).

  • 11 8-23-2010 at 12:36 pm

    SJG said...

    I’m just genuinely shocked that more people haven’t really mentioned Schindler’s List as an immortal Best Picture winner. If I had to reduce all the BP winners of my life time (1987 – present) to the “immortal” ones, and rank them in terms of their immortality, I’d definitely go with:

    1. Schindler’s List
    2. The Silence of the Lambs
    3. Braveheart
    4. The Departed

    Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Honorable mentions to Unforgiven, Titanic, American Beauty, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King…. and maybe Rain Man and Dances with Wolves.

    But I feel like the only ones that will 1) still be watched in fifty years with the same intensity and fervor as they were then and are now, and 2) will continue to have an emotional and aesthetic impact on wide ranges of audiences, not just specific genre-lovers and cinephiles, are the four movies I listed above.

    I may prove to be wrong, but I tend to imagine that when I sit down one day to watch old Best Picture winners with my future grandchildren, they’re going to respond more favorably and feel more resonance with a “lesser” BP winner like Schindler’s List than with the allegedly superior Unforgiven.

  • 12 8-23-2010 at 12:40 pm

    SJG said...

    And maybe The Departed doesn’t even really deserve to be on my list either… that may just be a bias of the fact that I think it’s the best and most deserving of the winners (not necessarily of all the nominees) from the last decade.

    Actually, if anything, there are more “immortal” movies among the nominees who lost than among those that won, but I guess that’s to be expected with a ratio of four winners to five losers… a ratio that jumps considerably now that the field has moved to ten (which I think is a good move, btw).

  • 13 8-23-2010 at 12:46 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “I think that degree of affection might come from the fact that you’re fond of Westerns, Kris.”

    Unfortunate that you feel the need to explain away my conviction here, but no, it comes from the fact that I’m fond of film.

  • 14 8-23-2010 at 1:48 pm

    Sam said...

    This one is easy. The last twenty years, my immortal Best Picture winners:

    The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
    Unforgiven (1992)
    Schindler’s List (1993)
    …what a run, by the way. Three movies in a row that are classics. And…

    No Country for Old Men (2007)

    Those four films, to me, are the classics. Everything else I can take it or leave it. Most intervening years, during that span, were films that won over much better competition. I would of also included The Departed, but it was based on a remake and it wasn’t Scorsese’s best film.

    But yeah, the last Best Picture winner to be a classic is No Country for Old Men. That film is deep on so many levels. The philosophical musings of Ed Tom Bell and Anton Chigurh are great. It is a film that requires repeated viewings.

  • 15 8-23-2010 at 1:59 pm

    Sam said...

    I have to agree with Guy about Lost in Translation and Sideways being the runner-up in their respective years. 2003 had to have been Mystic River. Then, the very next year, the Academy made it up to Eastwood by awarding Million Dollar Baby (which, in my opinion, has a fabulous soundtrack and good acting; but, you could tell that Clint made that film for nominations). 2004 was Scorsese’s The Aviator.

  • 16 8-23-2010 at 2:00 pm

    DarkLayers said...

    Sorry Kris, I didn’t mean to say that “Unforgiven” is this grotesquely undeserving film that’s getting statute it doesn’t deserve as a result of niche taste or anything. Or to generally dismiss that conviction at all. My apologies, if I did. And I fully understand why it came off that way.

    I think “Unforgiven” is a tremendous work of art that will be watched in the 2040s. I’m just fascinated by variations in how people respond to widely respected works.

    For example, the Modern Library named Ulysses the best novel of the 21st century. In contrast, the Radcliffe board opted for The Great Gatsby. The latter included more popular books, genre fiction, and works by women and minorities. This differing approach might reflect a sort of populist bent, which in turn helps explain their preference for Gatsby for Ulysses. The latter is a tremendous achievement that’s influenced many subsequent high-caliber novels, but the former is more enjoyable to read, page-to-page. It still sells well. They’re both huge and deserving works of art, but might systemic variation explain why one is the novel of the century to one group and the other to another. (For what it’s worth, Gatsby was #2 on Modern Library and Ulysses was #6 on another).

    I was thinking about your favorite movie of the past decade in this context.

    But I have no desire to explain away or dismiss your love and respect for “Unforgiven.”

  • 17 8-23-2010 at 2:19 pm

    Vito said...

    Am I the only one who finds No Country for Old Men incredibly overrated? There Will Be Blood was superior in every way.

  • 18 8-23-2010 at 2:22 pm

    DarkLayers said...

    Vito, you might want to check out Slate’s movie club of 2007. Dana Stevens espoused that view quite well.

  • 19 8-24-2010 at 4:12 am

    Chris G. said...

    The last movie you would ever call immortal would probably be Crash IMO.

  • 20 8-24-2010 at 4:43 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Vito and DarkLayers: You needn’t go as far as Slate. The esteemed author of this very article isn’t on the “No Country” train.

  • 21 8-24-2010 at 8:17 pm

    Clayton said...

    No Country For Old Men, for me as well. It’s my favourite Coen Bros. film, and the only Best Picture winner in the past decade that I consider to be a great film. I do believe that There Will Be Blood has more striking cinematography, of course, but find Paul Dano’s work in the film to be borderline hackneyed at times.

    Unforgiven…I enjoy for some of its imagery, though I prefer a stoic Eastwood, myself. His character keeps going on and on about his past regrets in the film, and it grows tiresome after a while. Show, don’t tell.

  • 22 8-24-2010 at 8:23 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    That’s important to his character. In a sense, he’s trying to convince himself throughout the film that his old self is in the past, hence the repetition. By the end, we see he can’t escape it. It’s a vital part of the script and not in the least bit lazy.

  • 23 8-25-2010 at 12:43 am

    le duff pascal said...

    Forrest Gump is probably ( along with Slumdog Millionnaire ) one of the worst best picture winners of all time. The free spirited girl dies from AIDS and the simpleton is soooo happy because he is a simpleton. The movie is a bit disgusting, when you come to think of what it stands for. Crash is already long gone… It really feels like a miracle that NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN won and the movies from the Coen brothers are history already. Gladiator, A beautiful Mind, are not brilliant enough to belong there.

  • 24 8-25-2010 at 10:20 am

    The Q-Mann said...

    Here’s how I rank the best pictures from the 00’s

    1. No Country for Old Men
    2. The Hurt Locker
    3. The Departed
    4. LotR: Return of the King (would’ve been higher if it was Fellowship)
    5. Gladiator
    6. Slumdog Millionaire
    7. Million Dollar Baby
    8. Chicago
    9. Crash
    10. A Beautiful Mind

    and for the 90’s

    1. Schindler’s List
    2. Silence of the Lambs
    3. American Beauty
    4. Unforgiven
    5. Forrest Gump
    6. Braveheart
    7. Titanic
    8. Dances with Wolves
    9. Shakespeare in Love
    10. The English Patient

    So yeah, I’m on board with Schindler’s and No Country being immortal. I’d also throw Lambs and American Beauty into the conversation (I don’t get the backlash towards Beauty either) and maybe with time, The Hurt Locker…though I could be reaching a bit with that one.

  • 25 8-25-2010 at 11:35 am

    Clayton said...

    “That’s important to his character. In a sense, he’s trying to convince himself throughout the film that his old self is in the past, hence the repetition. By the end, we see he can’t escape it. It’s a vital part of the script and not in the least bit lazy.”

    Perhaps, perhaps, but I’ve seen that approach in so many films over the years that I, myself, grew a bit restless with it over the course of the film. Unforgiven may very well be Eastwood’s finest achievement as a director, but it wouldn’t come anywhere near my (theoretical) list of 100, or even 200, greatest films of all time.

    (For the record, Once Upon A Time In The West would definitely make the cut.)

    Different strokes, as they say.

  • 26 8-25-2010 at 12:12 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    It was a script written in 1976, after all. But fair enough.