I just found this Watch Mojo video, Top 10 Worst Best Picture Oscar-Winning Movies. I thought it would be fun, but it only annoyed me. I probably should have guessed. Because there is one thing that I thought all people who really like movies as an art form agree on: the Academy Awards are a joke. So the video implicitly gives them status as though we should be surprised that they don’t stand up to the smallest amount of scrutiny.
My favorite example of this is that All That Jazz did not get the Best Picture award. What else was nominated? Well, there were three really good films: Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, and Norma Rae. But the winner? Kramer vs Kramer. You know, the one film nominated that could have been a Movie of the Week or perhaps better, Afternoon Special. What’s particularly wonderful (awful) about the film is how the court finds in the mother’s favor. But then they tack on a happy ending where the mother just gives the kid back. It’s the worst kind of melodrama and that’s what the Academy likes!
But our friends at Watch Mojo didn’t even mention the 1980 Academy Awards. But they did get some that are notable. For example, they did mention 1942. This was the year that How Green Was My Valley won. Actually, it is not a bad film at all. Certainly Citizen Kane should have won. But the video also complains that The Maltese Falcon didn’t win. I love the film, but its candy—not important in any way. I certainly think that two other nominees, Suspicion and The Little Foxes, were more deserving of the award. But the makers of the video seem more concerned about which film is the most entertaining or at least has the best reputation.
That’s especially true for Around the World in Eighty Days. Now I’ll admit that it isn’t a great film. And one of the films up against it was Giant, which is a great film. But the video also complains because The King and I and The Ten Commandments did not win. Really?! What other than the fact that the people at Watch Mojo have heard about the films makes them better than Around the World in Eighty Days? What’s more, they seem to think that Giant is great because James Dean was in it. What idiots!
It says that ET should have beat Gandhi. That may be true. Gandhi is rather an uninspired film. But the other film they mention is Tootsie. Good God! Both the other films nominated are better than it: Missing and The Verdict.
That last example was part of a pattern. The video is quite biased toward certain filmmakers. One is Martin Scorsese. Now he is a great director, but it is notable that they didn’t mention any of his best films. And then there was Steven Spielberg. The video even said that Shakespeare in Love should have lost to Saving Private Ryan. It’s just over the top. Just because a war film is realistic does mean it was good. Give it the Academy Award for best makeup effects.
The implication throughout the video is that the Best Picture Oscar should be for the most popular film. I don’t see the point of that. We already have such an award: it’s called the “box office” and it is a cash award. What’s more, popular by what standards? A lot of really fun films were never popular because the studio killed them for one reason or another. And many films aren’t even noticed by the Academy. Orson Welles won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Othello the year the Academy didn’t even notice it.
I understand that such videos are always going to be, in some sense, silly. But they ought to try not to be boring. Anyone could have made this list—And done it better!—going through each year and seeing what films are now held in high regard. But I will admit, The English Patient is a dreadfully slow film.