Cinejabber: Best Picture, critic style

Posted by · 5:50 am · August 18th, 2012

It’s been a while, but welcome (back) to Cinejabber, your weekend space to spill whatever film-related thoughts are on your mind.

For me, it’s still the Sight & Sound poll — the gift that keeps giving. Or taking, perhaps: it’s certainly vacuumed up far too much of my free time. Just as the analyses and arguments over the Top 100 announced at the start of the month had begun to dissipate, the conversation was re-juiced when they released the full results online, cross-referencing all 846 individual Top 10 lists from the critics’ poll contributors. I already revealed my list on these pages last week again, but here it is in Sight & Sound format, with additional commentary.

Just last night, Kris was bemoaning the lack of a single vote for Sidney Lumet’s “Network.” It’s one of several high-profile (and Oscar-guzzling) American films — ranging from “Schindler’s List” to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” to “The Silence of the Lambs” — that don’t feature at all in a pile of over 2000 titles that does include such timeless classics as “Hitman,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “The Sapphires.” (Okay, I like one of those. But, well, you know.) I like these odd anomalies, a sign of a list built by unconnected individuals rather than a committee, though not everyone is equally amused.

Anyway, the absence of a once-lauded and award-showered film like “Schindler’s List” got me thinking about just how differently a critics’ poll like this and the Academy’s own list of champions reflect on cinema history. It’s hardly headline news that critics and Oscar voters rarely agree on the best film of a given year, least of all after a few decades have passed. And it has already been noted by other awards pundits just how little correlation there is between the S&S list and the Academy’s hall of fame.

Give or take “Sunrise,” the highest-ranking Best Picture winner on the poll is “The Godfather” in 21st place, while you can count the number of others in Top 250 (“The Godfather Part II,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Casablanca,” “Annie Hall,” “The Apartment,” “Gone With the Wind” and “All About Eve”) on your fingers, with change. (Compare that to 38 in the IMDb Top 250 — the only place where people still seem to rate “A Beautiful Mind” — and perhaps the Academy isn’t as out of touch with the general public as everyone says they are.) 

So, does that make those eight films the least arguable Best Picture winners of all time? Of course not. “Gone With the Wind” and “All About Eve” both beat films ranked higher than them in the S&S list (“The Wizard of Oz” and “Sunset Blvd.,” respectively). And “Lawrence of Arabia” and “The Apartment” both placed behind unnominated films from the same year. Which leaves “Annie Hall,” “Casablanca” and the two “Godfather” films as the only four Best Picture winners that the critical collective — as measured by one magazine, at any rate — truly thinks the Academy got right.

What does it all mean? Well, aside from the fact that I haven’t been sleeping well lately and have therefore had plenty of time to figure this out, not much.

What’s on your mind this weekend? Tell us below.

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