Best Picture Marathon: the halfway mark

Over the summer I began the giant undertaking or watching all 90 Oscar Best Picture winners in order. As of this blog post I have officially hit the halfway point after finishing The Godfather. You would think watching 45 movies wouldn’t be that hard, but planning out when to watch each movie, and having the motivation to watch them at times has been hard. Originally I wanted to finish my marathon before this year’s Oscars, but that won’t happen unless I watch two movies every day until the ceremony. There are a lot of things I have noticed about movies and the film industry during my marathon.

One trend I have noticed is that basically every decade has an overarching theme that it’s winners fall under. Many of the 40’s winners were centered around World War II. The late 50’s and early 60’s was the sweeping epic, and the 60’s had several big musical productions. The early 70’s is all about the crime drama. These themes don’t mean that every movie during that timeframe falls in the same category. Whenever yo think you can pin down how the academy is going to vote, they throw in a curveball.

I also was pleasantly surprised by several films that I did not expect to like as much as I did. The Apartment came out of nowhere for me. I had heard of it but never knew what it was about. I went into it with pretty low expectations, but It rates as one of my top movies so far in the marathon. Other movies like Gentleman’s Agreement, and It Happened one Night rank much higher on my list than I thought they would.

For every surprise there is also a dud. My Fair Lady, Around the World in 80 Days, and The Greatest Show on Earth rank towards the bottom of my list. Several movies on the list just don’t do anything for me and probably should have lost to more deserving movies.

For the most part a vast majority of the movies I have watched are somewhere in the middle. they’re good not great but not terrible movies. I think this says a lot about the Academy and the film industry as a whole between 1927 and 1972. Mostly I think it says that just because a movie was named Best Picture, doesn’t necessarily mean it was the best movie in its year. How Green was my Valley beat Citizen Kane, An American in Paris beat a Streetcar Named Desire, and The Best Years of our Lives beat It’s a Wonderful Life. Winning the ultimate prize at the Oscars doesn’t necessarily mean that it was a great movie and will always be remembered as the best movie of its year. Time has not been kind to several of the films on the list, and for good reason.

The last insight from the first half of the marathon has been how hard it is to keep politics out of my rankings. You would think it would be easy to sit down, watch a movie, and say it was a 75 out of 100. You would be wrong. The first thing I do after finishing a movie is try to give it the score I feel it deserves. The second thing I do is check my rankings list and realize that I was completely wrong. I see the list and decide there’s no way the movie I just watched is better than a movie I watched earlier, so I move it down. Then I tell myself that I have to keep it above a certain movie that I see was originally above where I was going to place the current movie. It’s very difficult to keep things straight that way and I have yet to figure out the perfect system for deciding the rating to give a movie.

Hopefully things will become easier in the second half of the marathon, but I fear as rankings become tighter it will just make it much, much harder.

Some things I am looking forward to in the second half of the marathon are obviously, more modern movies. It’s great to watch the old classics, but we’re still at the point where long movies have intermissions and have to play the overture before returning to the screen. That seems to have ended with The Godfather and I’m hoping it stays that way. Graphics and CGI will become big in the not too distant future of my marathon. Most of the movies so far are still shot on soundstages in studios. It is becoming more common for more real location filming, but the obvious studio set is still rather noticeable.

The movies I’m most excited to watch in the secon half are The Godfather II, Amadeus, Schindler’s List, and No Country for Old Men. Since finishing the marathon by the Oscars is out, I hope to finish by this summer and not drag this out for more than a year. My next post will likely be the full recap and possibly my full rankings of, by then, all 91 Best Picture Winners.

Best Picture Winners Marathon

While I’ve been home in the United States awaiting a Visa, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands over the summer and going into the fall. One idea I had to fill some of that time was to watch all 90 Oscars Best Picture winners in order from Wings to The Shape of Water. It has been easier said than done, as I’ve only made it through the first two winners as of now, but I remain committed to the idea. It has been hard to get hyped to start some movies that are nearly 90 years old, along with other things taking up some of my time while I’m home.

During my marathon I’ll still include watching the winning movies that I’ve already seen several times like the Godfather, and Titanic among many others. I feel like this will help me get in the mindset voters would have been in at the time the movie won, and give me a better understanding of winning trends, and how films have evolved over the 90 years since the first Academy Awards. Plus it gives me a chance to rewatch some of my favorite movies of all time, and some much needed breaks in between movies I have a feeling I won’t like. On that note I’m also trying to go into the marathon with an open mind and give every movie an equal chance. Yes there are movies that I’ve heard are bad, or assume I won’t like based on the subject, but I’m going to try my best not to let those biases affect the movie watching experience.

That being said I’m also really excited to finally watch several Best Picture winners that I’ve just never gotten around to watching yet. Some of the movies I’m most excited to finally watch are: Gone with the Wind (An all-time classic that I somehow haven’t seen yet), On the Waterfront (Young Brando is the man), The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia (apparently I’m a closet Alec Guinness fan as well), The french Connection (my dad was a sucker for those 60’s and 70’s crime dramas), and No Country for Old Men.

I think the hardest thing for me will be getting through the first 20 or so winners. I enjoy old movies as much as the next guy, but some of the movies on the list are so old that filmmaking was a new enough concept when they won the Oscar that they’re still pretty rough around the edges. I’ve already watched the first two on the list; Wings and the Broadway Melody, and you can already tell that editing, sound and camera work still needed some work. Theres nothing wrong with that as the industry was just in its infancy, but it will be nice to see how movies became more sophisticated over the years.

I’ll be rating each movie when I watch it, mostly just to remind myself how I felt about each movie at the time immediately after watching it, since this will probably be a long process that I hope will be done in time for the next Academy Awards in February, 2019.

What I hope to get out of this experience is mostly just a deeper appreciation for filmmaking, and how it has evolved over the last century. I, like everyone, have certain genres of movies that I tend to lean towards. I’ve always been drawn to your classic action movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, or fantasy movies like the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, and crime dramas like The Godfather. I think those are great movies and genres to love, but it does leave plenty of great movies out of what I would normally choose to watch. I hope this exercise helps me broaden my horizons and maybe open my eyes to new films and genres that I have overlooked in the past.

I’ll probably provide some updates along the way, as it is a long process. I’ll also have a post at the conclusion of this odyssey with my thoughts on the experience, and possibly my rankings of the 90 Best Picture winners.


Ranking the nine Best Picture nominees at this year’s Oscars

The 2018 Oscars are upon us and for the past couple of years now I’ve embarked on a mission to watch every movie that gets nominated for Best Picture. Usually that means Jenny is along for the ride, though I’m not sure if she always likes being apart of it just yet. My brother John is also in on it, though he lives on the other side of the planet, we always share our feelings about the movies we see and report our progress. Last year we began putting the name of every Best Picture nominee in a hat and drawing them out at random to choose our watching order. That has helped because in the past I would leave movies I was not interested in to watch near the end and almost always I would never get to them and not watch them. So here is my ranking of the nine Best Picture nominees this year.

  1. Dunkirk – The movie told a very important story from history, and made it come alive in a very real and gritty way. It almost made you feel like you were on the beach, much like Saving Private Ryan did in it’s opening scene. Christopher Nolan did a great job incorporating the element of time into the story. It was a bit confusing at first, but when I caught up it was a great addition to the movie.


2. Lady Bird – Lady Bird is probably the funniest movie I saw all year. Saoirse Ronan  may quietly be becoming one of the best actresses of her generation and she’s only 23. Directing, writing, costumes, acting and virtually every part of this movie is right on point, something I wasn’t really expecting going in.


3. The Shape of Water – One of the oddest movies of the year might be the most                      endearing. Sally Hawkins is great as the mute protagonist, and the supporting cast              helps bring this far-fetched tale to life. Guillermo del Toro masterfully directs the                entire thing and should take home Best Director.


4. Get Out – Director Jordan Peele hit the right note with Get Out. He made it scary yes,           but also managed to make an unbelievable plot (taking someone’s brain and                        putting it in another’s body) but made you feel like this type of bait and kidnapping            could really happen. Also the tone and tension of race is perfectly set for America’s            current political climate.


5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Here’s where I begin to draw the line              between movies I really liked to movies that were alright with some flaws.                            Everything in Three Billboards is powerful; the acting, story, even the sets. I do see            some major flaws in some sloppy storytelling, motivations of some characters, and            the redemption of Sam Rockwell’s racist cop. I think the director was going more for shock value with Woody Harrelson’s character’s suicide than actually the right choice for the story.


6. The Post – While a nice reminder of the importance of watchdog journalism in our             current political climate, it’s your run of the mill “hard-working reporters bring                 down shady government” movie. It just doesn’t have the same humanity as                           Spotlight, or urgency as All The President’s Men and takes a backseat to those two               movies in it’s genre. I think it was somewhat disappointing for a Steven Spielberg              movie starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and a great supporting cast. On paper this            should be a classic, but on screen it is just another movie.


7. Darkest Hour – Another take on the Dunkirk story, this follows the politics of the                  extraction rather than the soldiers on the beach as in Dunkirk. This movie is basically all about Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill. The performance is great, but that’s about all that stands out from the movie, which as a whole is pretty average.


8. Phantom Thread – This is where I draw the line between movies I liked and movies I        hated. I hated Phantom Thread. I get it was more about subtle character development and manipulation, and under the surface goings on.  I believe one of the main things a movie is supposed to be is entertaining, and Phantom Thread is one of the least entertaining movies I’ve ever watched. I know all the movie snobs out there will say “you just don’t get it”. Trust me, I got it, but bye the end I was so bored I just wanted her to murder/suicide him with the mushrooms and let it end.


9. Call Me By Your Name – I am not the audience that Call Me By Your Name was made          for and I knew that going in. That doesn’t stop be from being able to detest the                   movie. Like Phantom Thread I thought it was rather dull and boring, although more           interesting that the previous. I thought the Characters were fairly wooden and                     clashed, and their relationships were all forced, including the weird family dynamic.         Armie Hammer’s older Oliver is pretty clearly manipulating Timothee Chalamet’s               younger Elio’s feelings for him in not a very healthy way. Oliver seems to get what he         wants out of the trip, while leaving Elio to fend for himself at the end. It will                        probably go down for me as one of my least favorite movies of all-time.


Well there it is, I’m sure most people will argue that I have the rankings backwards or have no idea what I’m talking about. I’ll say that this is more of a list of my favorite nominees, not necessarily the best movies of the year. I’m no film critic and I’m not going to sit here trying to tell you that Call Me By Your Name and Phantom Thread are terrible movies, or that Dunkirk and Lady Bird are all-time masterpieces. I like what I like, and everyone else out there has a different opinion, which is great. I’ll just be rooting for Dunkirk, Lady Bird, and Shape of Water when the red carpet is rolled out.