AFI's 100 Top American Films, Part II

Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2007 09:09 am
from Roger Ebert's website:

The 10 Worst Oscar Winners Ever

Jim Emerson / March 2, 2006

Last year at this time, the British (or, as the president would say, "Great British") magazine Empire published a list of what its editors considered to be the ten worst movies ever to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Top o' the tally was Mel Gibson's "Braveheart." This year, the folks at Premiere magazine, always up on the latest Tinseltown trends (especially when it comes to making lists), have published their own list of worst picture Oscar winners. And there is some overlap.

According to a press release, Premiere's choices include: "Chicago," "My Fair Lady," "American Beauty," "Oliver!," "Around The World In 80 Days," "The Greatest Show On Earth" and "The Great Ziegfield."

Empire's most unworthy picks were: "Braveheart," "A Beautiful Mind," "The Greatest Show on Earth," "Ordinary People," "Forrest Gump," "Terms of Endearment," "Around the World in 80 Days," "Cavalcade," "Rocky" and "How Green Was My Valley."

I'd say the musicals on Premiere's list are, as motion pictures, about as embarrassing as, well, "Cavalcade" -- with the surprising exception of Carol Reed's "Oliver!," which remains engaging and watchable, even though it's not anywhere close to being the Best Picture of 1968. But the only reason "Oliver!" won that year was because "Bonnie and Clyde" and "The Graduate" and "In the Heat of the Night" (winner) were nominated the year before and the uptight, squaresville Academy was getting a wee bit nervous in a "traditional family values" kind of way (as if Dickens supported traditional family values).

So, in 1968, the year of "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Rosemary's Baby," "Once Upon a Time in the West," "Petulia," "The Producers," "Faces," "if...," "Night of the Living Dead," "Head," "Bullitt" (and those are only some of the eligible English language pictures), the nominees for Best Picture were, ahem: "Funny Girl," "The Lion in Winter," "Rachel, Rachel," "Romeo and Juliet" and "Oliver!" You couldn't imagine a safer, more conservative slate -- especially in the radical pop culture year of 1968. The next year, "Easy Rider" and the MPAA Ratings would shake everything up and "Midnight Cowboy" -- an X-rated film that hasn't aged well -- would win the Oscar for Best Picture.

The Empire list doesn't seem to be so much about the pictures that won as the pictures that didn't. By any standard, John Ford's "How Green Was My Valley" is a gorgeous, superlatively made movie -- it's just not "Citizen Kane," which history confirms should have been named Best Picture of 1941. Likewise, Robert Redford's "Ordinary People" is an extraordinarily well-directed, and well-acted, picture about white, suburban, emotionally repressed characters (hence the title). But, no, it's not as sensuously thrilling a slice of cinema as "Raging Bull" -- or "Tess" or "The Shining" or "Altered States."

No question in my mind that the funny-turned-maudlin "Terms of Endearment" doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same category with "The Right Stuff" or "Tender Mercies" -- two polar-opposite pictures that both deserved the Oscar more than that unwieldy but perfectly cast tragi-weepedy. (That's my own word but you can use it if you want.)

But as Empire's Patrick Peters wrote: "Critical worth is almost irrelevant where bestowing the Best Picture award is concerned. The Oscars aren't about quality. They're peer group nods of approval and, as a result, there has been a surfeit of unworthy Best Pictures and, rest assured, there will be many more to come."

Here's hoping this is not one of those year
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Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2007 09:18 am
Even though I probably have a sentimental spot in my heart for "Oliver!" because of a first exposure to the London production LP, before it even hit Broadway, at a friends house when I live in the Hollywood Hills during college days, "The Lion in Winter" should have won. Well, okay, there were martinis and a joint, but I was young! BTW, I might be embarrassed name dropping but the friend happened to be Walter Strom, the head of MGM production. Smoking a joint? Noooooo. Embarrassed Very Happy
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Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2007 09:21 am
Actually, "2001" should have been nominated and won but the Academy had a really serious bias against sci-fi films and Kubrick.
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Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2007 09:34 am
The most interesting part of the article is how much space the writer uses to discuss 1967 and 1968. Those were exciting years for movies. "Bonnie and Clyde", "2001", "If", "The Graduate", "The Producers" are all movies that had a bigger influence on me than movies made since then. "If" was probably the only significant film directed by Lindsay Anderson. In the 1970's I went to see him receive a special award at the Chicago Film Festival. It was a real thrill for me.
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Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2007 11:26 am
American films that won the best picture Oscar and that are not included in the latest AFI 100 list:

The Broadway Melody
All Quiet on the Western Front*
Grand Hotel
Mutiny on the Bounty*
The Great Ziegfeld
The Life of Emile Zola
You Can't Take it With You
How Green Was My Valley
Mrs. Miniver
Going My Way
The Lost Weekend
Gentleman's Agreement
All the King's Men
An American in Paris*
The Greatest Show on Earth
From Here to Eternity*
Around the World in Eighty Days
My Fair Lady
The Sting
Kramer v. Kramer
Ordinary People
Terms of Endearment
Out of Africa
The Last Emperor
Rain Man
Driving Miss Daisy
Dances With Wolves*
The English Patient
American Beauty
A Beautiful Mind
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Million Dollar Baby
The Departed

*Appeared on the 1997 list
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Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2007 11:46 am
AFI has announced that the 100 years, 100 Movies special will now be presented annually. If you are a member, there's an analysis of the modern decades from the '60's to the 90's. Their intro:

LORD OF THE RINGS and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN had not yet been created in 1996 when AFI selected the 100 greatest American movies of all time. Will those movies--and your favorites--edge out the competition to win a coveted spot on AFI's newest list?

A lot can change in a decade. Just take a look at the evolution of film and how our attitudes have changed over the 40 years since AFI began.
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