Category Archives: Academy Awards

Oscars 2013: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

It’s easy to be cynical about an awards show that’s basically an over long, overly expensive way for Hollywood to congratulate itself. But no matter what, I look forward to the Oscars every year. It’s like my Super Bowl. So instead of complaining and mocking, I will instead present some of my favorite things about this year’s ceremony (After the Jump):

Seth MacFarlene Makes Me Laugh

For those of you that know me, making me laugh is not necessarily the hardest thing in the world. However, I came into this expecting to hate MacFarlene’s hosting job. However, I need to learn not to underestimate one of the hardest working people in show business. The verdict on him has been split, but MacFarlene killed it in his monologue, with some zingers that were a bit too edgy for the bordering-on-PC crowd (come on guys, are you really offended by a Mel Gibson joke?). MacFarlene maintained and a high energy and self-deprecating mood throughout the show. Also a big hit for me was the boob song. I laughed. A lot of people found it sexist. So either a lot of people are way too sensitive, or I’m just sexist.

James Bond Tribute

Outside technical categories, 007 has never been a favorite of Oscar voters. However, the series is becoming harder to ignore in recent years. Maybe to compensate for the egregious snub of Javier Bardem, the Oscars paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of James Bond. The clip show was fine and maybe not necessary, but getting to see Shirley Bassey belt out the classic “Goldfinger” theme was a treat. I really do wish they also could have brought Nancy Sinatra and Paul McCartney to sing “You Only Live Twice” and “To Live and Let Die,” respectively.

Surprise Wins

Winners have been pretty predictable the past few years, and there were certainly some sure things tonight. However, this was the first ceremony where I felt that a majority categories were completely up  for grabs. Ang Lee looked just as shocked as everyone else when he was called up to the stage for directing “Life of Pi.” Not to mention, there was even a tie tonight. Also, “Django Unchained” surprisingly stole a few categories. Speaking of “Django Unchained”…

Django Unchained Gets Some Love

I expected “Django Unchained” to walk home empty handed. Instead, Christoph Waltz is now 2 for 2, and Tarantino got his first Oscar since “Pulp Fiction.” Waltz was truly the lead in “Django Unchained,” but had he actually been nominated there he surely would have lost to Daniel-Day Lewis. I do hope he shares that statue with the unfortunately snubbed Leonard DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, who I think both deserved that award just a little bit more (I’m not complaining, though). As for Tarantino, this win is perhaps an apology for the fact that “Inglourious Basterds” lost to Mark Boal’s script for “The Hurt Locker” in the same category three years ago. With Boal nominated this year for “Zero Dark Thirty,” Quentin got his own little taste of vengeance.

Jennifer Lawrence

No one was surprised when the 22-year-old won for “Silver Linings Playbook.” However, no one could have foreseen her tripping on her dress to be more memorable than her speech. Lawrence, per usual, handled it with grace and good humor. Then backstage, she lit up a stuffy press conference by confessing “I just took a shot.” She is the rare movie star who doesn’t seem like a PR spewing machine. She’s the rare celebrity who’s not afraid to say what she means, and always manages to be the more likable for it. Oh, and yes, she acted the hell out of that movie.

Daniel Day-Lewis the Comedian

Of course Daniel Day-Lewis won for his convincing transformation into Abraham Lincoln. When he went up to accept his award, he suddenly took his serious face off with some great jokes. The best might have been the one about Meryl Streep originally auditioning for the part of Lincoln. I’m not sure if this whole speech was genuine, or if Daniel Day-Lewis was just method acting for a future George Carlin biopic.*

Ben Affleck’s Speech

I liked “Argo” a lot, but I don’t think it deserved to win Best Picture. However, Affleck’s speech made it worth it. Here is someone who’s career nearly ended 10 years ago (2003: the year of “Gigli” and “Daredevil”). After he slowed down, Affleck delivered a speech that was humble, moving, and inspirational. Affleck has come a long way, but to me he will always be the guy with the best lines in “Mallrats.”

Jack Nicholson Has No Idea Where He Is

Nicholson is a staple of the Oscars. Granted, the man is getting old, but I don’t think he knew why Michelle Obama was suddenly on a giant screen above him. I almost expected him to shout, “go Lakers!”

Russell Crowe Sings

Quite simply put, this was by far the funniest moment of the night. Please let this man host next year. And please make him sing the entire ceremony while reading off all of his Tweets.

Basically his entire Twitter feed.

*Or Richard Pryor, if Daniel Day-Lewis actually decides to be a real life Kirk Lazarus.

The Oscars: Who Will Win

Best Picture

Who knew that Ben Affleck’s Oscar snub would be the best possible thing for him? Ever since his name was not included on the Best Director list, Hollywood has rallied around “Argo.” Lately, I have been rooting for Affleck, because I love a good redemption story. However, the fact that Affleck still doesn’t have an Oscar isn’t as bad, considering Scorsese just won his first one less than a decade ago. Affleck is still young and he has a long career of Oscar nominations ahead of him. But that won’t stop the Academy. “Argo” is a good, old-fashioned thriller about Hollywood. And if Hollywood loves anything, it’s congratulating themselves. Expect “Argo” to be the first film since “Driving Miss Daisy” to win Best Picture without a nominated director to accompany it.

Best Director

“Life of Pi” was lauded nearly across the board for its visuals. “Amour” is a critical favorite and Haneke could score a surprise win from that. But I doubt it. Spielberg certainly doesn’t need any more praise heaped his way. However, that won’t stop Spielberg from winning this year for bringing an era to life with precise detail. This will be Steven Spielberg‘s third win for Best Director. I don’t think it will be long until he gets a fourth and ties John Ford’s record.

Best Actor

There are some fine performances in this category. Any other year, Bradley Cooper would have walked away with the award. But when Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated, no one can compete.

Best Actress

This race started off as a duel between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence. For a while, I thought Chastain had it in the bag for her challenging and commanding performance in Zero Dark Thirty. There is a slight chance that veteran Emmanuelle Riva could score a late-in-life sympathy vote. This race though seems like a clear victory for Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence may only be 22, but she is one of the most likable stars working today and her performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” was so good that she even took Robert De Niro to school.

Best Supporting Actor: 

Tommy Lee Jones held his own against Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” which is no easy task. Alan Arkin was a joy to watch in “Argo” as always, but he just won a few years ago. Seeing Christoph Waltz win again would be great, not only because he’s a terrific actor but also because that guy can rock any stage he steps on. This is the toughest race to call, but I think I’m going to have to settle with Robert De Niro in “Silver Linings Playbook.” There’s nothing wrong with honoring a good, heartfelt comeback.

Best Supporting Actress

No analysis needed. Anne Hathaway (for “Les Mis,” not “The Dark Knight Rises,” in case you were confused) has this one in the bag.

And the rest:

Best Original Screenplay: Zero Dark Thirty
Best Adapted Screenplay: Argo
Best Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
Best Foreign Film: Amour
Best Editing: Argo
Best Cinematography: Life of Pi
Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi
Best Costume Design: Les Miserables
Best Production Design: Les Miserables
Best Makeup: Les Miserables
Best Original Score: Lincoln
Best Original Song: Skyfall
Best Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
Best Sound Editing: Argo
Best Documentary Short: Open Heart
Best Animated Short: The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare
Best Live Action Short: Asad

Oscars 2013: Who Should Win

Best Picture: Django Unchained

I probably don’t need to bring this one up again. But this is my blog so back off! Anyway, Quentin Tarantino continues to push the form forward more and more as others try to resist change. More than anything, “Django” was the most interesting, and often the funniest, film of the year. By embracing inaccuracy, it provided a more accurate satire of backwards southern nobility than any serious historical film could ever dream up. The fact that “Django” both balanced a somber condemnation of slavery with farce on the level of “Blazing Saddles” is still a marvel to me. As the Academy voters grow younger and younger, one day they will embrace Tarantino for the master he is, and his films for the masterpieces they almost always are.

Best Director: Michael Haneke (Amour)

Maybe “Amour” went on a little too long for my taste, but I cannot overlook Haneke’s haunting work. Sometimes, the emotions behind “Amour” are too overwhelming for me to even think about. Haneke presented aging and old age in such a removed way that it actually draws us closer to the characters. By stepping back, all of the small details and actions are allowed to unfold.

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoneix (The Master)

Phoenix was the unsung hero of cinema in 2012. After his surreal performance art hoax that culminated in the documentary “I’m Not Here,” Phoenix shows why he is secretly one of the best actors working today, in a performance that could define his career. As self-destructive outsider Freddie Quell, Phoenix had to take on the task of both being the observer and the weirdest guy in the room. He roams around with slouched posture, almost resembling an alcoholic caveman. And in a film so dark and difficult to interpret, he provided some very overlooked comic relief. If you didn’t laugh at that fart, then you’re not human.

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

As Tiffany, Jennifer Lawrence is masterful at controlling the character’s turbulent mood swings, and channeling all of the right emotion at the right time. That is why the most unforgettable scenes of this film, including one that takes place outside a movie theater on Halloween, and one in which Lawrence basically gets to dig in to Robert De Niro, revolve around her outstanding performance.

Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

I was tempted to put Christoph Waltz here for his eloquence and being able to basically be a living embodiment of Tarantino dialogue. However, it wasn’t until I watched Robert De Niro’s return to form in “Silver Linings Playbook” that I realized how much I missed his presence on screen. Unlike his classic performances in “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” De Niro, while tough, actually provides some of the film’s most moving moments. While he manages to steal the spotlight from the two fantastic leads every time he asks that someone hold the remote, he never tries to dominate the screen. In that, he does what every supporting actor should. Only someone with as much experience and talent as De Niro could strike that perfect balance.

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

While I never reviewed, anyone who knows me knows that I wasn’t necessarily taken by “Les Miserables.” However, I have just as many good things to say about Hathaway’s performance as I do bad things to say about the film.* In just one scene, she combined acting and singing in a way I’ve never seen before. My biggest complaint about musicals is that big musical numbers can often distract from the emotional core of a scene. However, this was not the case for Hathaway’s big solo. After she finished singing “I Dreamed A Dream,” my only thought was, “Anne Hathaway just won the Oscar.” I stand by that thought.

Best Original Screenplay: Django Unchained

Yes, I’m giving out more “Django” love. Tarantino really does belong near the top of the greatest screenwriters of all time. Some would think that he would have never been able to top his early career Oscar win. However, he keeps getting more and more ambitious with every film. Besides twisting history, “Django Unchained” hits a perfect balance of hilarious absurdity and dead serious historical social commentary. Plus, now that Tarantino has figured out how to write for Christoph Waltz, he was able to create one of his best characters ever. Some scenes might feel like they go on for so long, but I always felt like I could keep watching and listening. Also, Quentin is a man so gifted and knowledgeable that he knows how to create violence that is sometimes silly and other times realistic (listen to his recent Fresh Air interview. He also talks about his mom dating Wilt Chamberlain. Seriously.).

Best Adapated Screenplay: Argo

I was tempted to give this one to “Silver Linings Playbook.” But as well written as that one is, I think it is overwhelmingly a triumph of acting. While “Argo” mostly could have done without the backstory of Mendez’s son (“I just wanna go home and read to my son!” should be a new movie trope), the rest of the film is a classic thriller. The Hollywood scenes are fun and self-referential, but the film also splits equal time with the seriousness of the hostage crisis. “Argo” serves as a study of the fascinating politics of both the U.S. government and the film industry. Mainly, “Argo” delivers the most memorable line of dialogue written in any film this year: “Argo f**k yourself.”

Seth MacFarlane to Host the Oscars

This morning, it was announced that Seth MacFarlane will be hosting this year’s Oscars. While my thoughts on MacFarlane are always a little mixed*, for once I can say that the Academy made a smart choice.

I like MacFarlane as a person, and have a lot of respect for him. I cannot even fathom how he has three shows on television and still has time to write and direct a feature film. Also, he did a fine job hosting “SNL” this season, because the guy just looked like he had a blast being there.

In recent years, the Academy has seemed to have trouble figuring out what kind of host they want. With MacFarlane, they get it all: he can sing show tunes, dance around, do impressions, and tell jokes. While he connects primarily with a younger audience, he will also keep the older voters and guests entertained with his Sinatra-like singing.

I can now anticipate that the show will be less of a drag to watch this year. MacFarlane will certainly be more lively than James Franco, and fresher than Billy Crystal. Maybe this will open some doors and in the future we will get other multi-talented hosts such as Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon (who had to back out from hosting duties). Still, I am going to take this time to complain, because this is the Oscars, and the Oscars always come with something to complain about. Can the Academy ever get a host who will be sharp, funny, and a little provocative in the same way that Jon Stewart was? Could someone like Louis C.K. or Patton Oswalt ever host? Only in my wildest dreams.

People Who Could Make Great Hosts in the Future: John Mulaney, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, Donald Glover, Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, Neil Patrick Harris

*On the one hand, Seth MacFarlane created “Family Guy,” which had three of the best seasons of any animated show ever. On the other hand, Seth MacFarlane also ruined “Family Guy.” And again, on the other hand, he created “American Dad,” a show which is consistently underrated.

Here’s MacFarlane’s Spot-On Ryan Lochte Impression:

One of my favorite “Family Guy” moments ever. I can only imagine this is how MacFarlane felt upon hearing the good news:

This Ad Just Set Back The Anti-Piracy Movement By A Decade

The piracy debate is a tough one, and it would take me too long to fully explain my stance. So instead, here’s a great way to make people not want to go to the movies. Reminding people that going to the movies is paying for an experience is very noble, but why pick “Battleship,” a movie based on a board game? Maybe this weekend’s “Hunger Games,” which broke box office records, could have worked. Or some kind of appeal to the great movies of the past, I’m sure the Academy Awards has more than enough montages to lend. Seriously, “Battleship” is the last thing to make me want to buy a movie ticket and some over-buttered popcorn.

Oscars 2012 Wrap Up: Let the Dog Speak

And now, I conclude my incessant takeover of your Social Media newsfeeds with my very last blog post of awards season. As predicted, “The Artist” took home the top prize and a few more. Most surprisingly, Meryl Streep beat out Viola Davis for Best Actress, because apparently people were outraged that she only won two. Most disappointingly, George Clooney lost Best Actor to Jean Dujardin. I have respect for Mr. Dujardin and he gave a great performance, but his transformation was nothing like Clooney’s.

For now, Clooney will just have to live with the fact that he’s George Clooney.

The Oscars can be called many things: lavish, glorious, and a waste of time and money. It would be great if it could be called entertaining, hasty, and innovative instead. To be fair to Billy Crystal, he is not the world’s worst host, but a very safe choice. However, he has already stirred up some controversy for putting on black face in order to play Sammy Davis Jr. during the show’s introduction. The highlight though was when he tried to read people’s thoughts. It was a simple idea that was pulled off with perfect execution.

Like the host, this year’s ceremony certainly wasn’t terrible. It was something that could be considered even worse than terrible: it was meh. Nothing very memorable happened, and many of the winners and nominees will not stand the test of time. How is it that both “50/50″ and “Young Adult” were totally shut out? How is it that “War Horse” walked home empty handed? The real Oscar winners are the ones that stand the test of time, and I have a feeling that some years down the road, “The Artist” will feel artificial. This is not to say that I didn’t like “The Artist,” as my review will show. I just feel that its achievements will seem less impressive in the future. It will just be another silent movie. A very entertaining one at that, and one that manages to fall apart towards its ending.

Should we stop valuing movies just because they win awards? Probably. Awards don’t mean everything, especially when they are only voted on by a small group of old white men who probably ask their grandchildren if they should open every email in their spam folders. However, no matter how little the Oscars mean, I will never stop watching them. They unite everyone, from all walks of life, to come together  and root for movies that they may or may not have seen. If they tune in, they could actually learn something. The most moving part of tonight’s ceremony for me was the Best Editing category, in which each editor got to speak about the methods behind their madness. If the Oscars want to win everyone back, this is what they should be like: less of a night of politically driven competition, and more of a night of film education and enlightenment. With a good host. I vote for Zach Galifianakis.

Three More Things:
1) After last year’s Oscars, I declared Natalie Portman as my future wife. Now, that honor will have to go to Emma Stone.
2) Next time I watch “Community,” I will smile, knowing that Dean Pelton is an Oscar winner.
3) For anyone who tried out my Oscars Drinking Game, I hope you are still alive.

It is also important to know that the guy in this image is the cinematographer of “Hugo”:

Thank you as always to FilmDrunk, the source of just about every funny image I get.

The Oscars: The Drinking Game

Given my age, I cannot officially endorse any drinking of any sort. So I will say that this game is for the 21+ readers out there (or if you are overseas, 12+ most likely). If you’re underage, then I guess you’ll just have to have a fun night with grape juice or something. Use your imagination. Many people have made Oscar drinking games in the past, but I would like to think that mine is at least slightly original. Here are the cues to drink. Feel free to add in any of your own: 

  • Billy Crystal makes a joke about how old Christopher Plummer is. 
  • Sean Penn addresses a humanitarian crisis.
  • A montage honoring old movies.
  • A montage honoring a bunch of movies that came out in the past year that nobody liked but still get a mention at the Oscars anyway. 
  • In their acceptance speech, an award winner tells their kids watching at home to “go to bed.” 
  • Someone makes a joke about George Clooney.
  • George Clooney says something really funny and charming.
  • George Clooney makes a reference to a humanitarian crisis or a political cause in his acceptance speech.
  • Someone makes a joke about Meryl Streep.
  • Someone appears on stage in a “War Horse” costume.
  • A dance number dedicated to silent movies.
  • Someone makes a joke about how many movies Ryan Gosling has been in this year.
  • Sean Penn goes on stage saying the previous joke about Ryan Gosling wasn’t funny, and that he is a talented and valued actor.
  • A nominee mouths something at the camera, or makes a Jim Halpert face
  • Two talented actors get on stage and perform a terrible bit of scripted publicity for their upcoming movie.
  • Someone makes a joke about the amount of Jews in the room. 
  • Someone makes a joke about Republicans, to which the entire audience cheers.
  • Fox News runs a new story about liberal bias in Hollywood the next day (this one is for the morning after). 

The Oscars: Who Will Win

Best Picture: The Artist

            Thanks to a strange new voting system, there are nine Best Picture nominees this year. “War Horse” might have won in a different year, and “Hugo” merits much consideration for transforming 3D into a viable art form. This year, the nostalgia of “The Artist” has been contagious in various awards ceremonies. Look for it to be the second silent movie ever to win Best Picture.              

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)

            With just a few rare exceptions, the Best Picture and Best Director choices go to the same movie. Hazanavicius will be victorious along with his movie for bringing the art of silence to typically noisy 21st century movie theaters. Plus, he already picked up the Directors Guild of America Award. So far, only 6 directors who have this honor have not gone on to win the Oscar. Hazanavicius will not be a part of this statistic.

Best Actor: George Clooney (The Descendants)
            Jean Dujardin could capitalize off of the success of “The Artist” and the SAG Award he won. However, George Clooney shed his A-list persona for the most vulnerable and human performance of his career. For that, he will pick up his first ever Best Actor trophy.

Best Actress: Viola Davis (The Help)

            Meryl Streep seems like the obvious pick here. She has already won two Oscars, but some claim that isn’t enough. The weak reception of “The Iron Lady” overall will hurt her chances of winning. Instead, Viola Davis, who has swept the precursors, will pick up her first Oscar.

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

            Christopher Plummer has an iconic acting career that has lasted over 60 years. It is perplexing that he has not won an Oscar to this day. Consider his win for “Beginners” to be a long overdue Lifetime Achievement Award.

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help)

            She has won just about every other award she was nominated for her performance in “The Help.” This win is basically a shoo-in.

And the Rest:

Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Editing: The Artist
Cinematography: The Tree of Life
Costume Design: The Artist
Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Art Direction: Hugo
Documentary: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Foreign Film: A Seperation
Animated Feature: Rango
Makeup: Albert Nobbs
Original Score: The Artist
Original Song: Man or Muppet
Sound Editing: Hugo
Sound Mixing: Hugo
Animated Short Film: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Live Action Short Film: The Shore
Documentary Short Subject: Saving Face

Horrible Decisions: The Ten Best Movies That Weren’t Nominated For Best Picture

As I get older, I feel that I get more and more pessimistic about award ceremonies, especially the Oscars. Unlike sports-related competitions, the Oscars are not about which movie is best, but rather which movie had the most lavish ad campaign. The recent revelation that Academy voters are none too diverse certainly did not help. To think that some of the most revered movies of all time weren’t even nominated. They are the bold outsiders. Some were completely overlooked, others were just too damn “hip.” Many on the proceeding list would be chosen by many, and a few I exclusively would have chosen had I been a voter. I present with you the ten best movies that deserved a Best Picture nomination, arranged by year of release:

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

“Singin’ in the Rain” is more than just an old-fashioned Hollywood musical: it is about the movies themselves. Think of it as “The Artist” without the Act Three problems. As someone who puts musical just slightly above romantic comedies starring Ashton Kutcher, it is hard not to fall under the spell of “Singin’ in the Rain,” from “Good Morning” to the titular musical number. “Singin’ in the Rain” is about why movies needed sound, and it’s also about why we need the movies in general. The Oscars have a reputation for awarding musicals that became stale with time, so why didn’t it nominate one that has become an everlasting part of popular culture?

Rear Window (1954)

Most of Hitchcock’s best movies were dissed by the Oscars. Even “Psycho” and “Vertigo” didn’t make the Best Picture shortlist. His “Rear Window” is his most entertaining, most satisfying movie. “Rear Window” is the master in his absolute element. It crams as many stories as it can into one movie without actually cramming them in. “Rear Window” is suspenseful in any scene, even if it is just a couple seen fighting through a window, and not Grace Kelly running from the murderer. On top of that, it displays Hitchcock’s genius black comedy. In the scene in which a husband and wife have difficulty moving a mattress into their apartment, Hitchcock switched the headsets feeding instructions to the two actors, so they would move in the wrong directions, and create a brief sigh of slapstick relief. Oscar winners should be influential in any year, and I can’t even count the amount of sitcoms who have knocked off this plot.

The Searchers (1956)

It seems unbelievable that John Ford’s greatest movie didn’t get a single Oscar nomination, and the winner for Best Picture that year was “Around the World in 80 Days” (which was later remade into a movie with Jackie Chan). For the time, “The Searchers” was a change of pace from the typical Western, and Oscars are all about tradition and stability rather than change. Monument Valley has never looked this stunning, and John Wayne never felt as racist and as human in any other role of his career. “The Searchers” would not only fo on to inspire future westerns. Without it, there would be no “Taxi Driver,” “Saving Private Ryan,” or even “Star Wars.” “The Searchers” figured out that the western hero (or in this case, anti-hero) can exist in anytime, in any place, but will always remain an outsider.

Touch of Evil (1958)

Yet another masterpiece that went totally unnoticed by the Academy. “Touch of Evil” will leave you in a speechless state of thrill from the moment the camera first pans through a busy street, to a bomb going off. You know it’s going to happen, but the best part is that you don’t know when. “Touch of Evil” contains some of Orson Welles’s best work as both an actor and a director, and it was the last truly great film noir of the classic era. Its greatness cannot be dampened by the fact that it includes Charlton Heston playing a Mexican.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

It is actually understandable why “Once Upon a Time in the West” was a flop when it first came out. Paramount chopped down its epic running time for its US release, and American audiences were not treated to the masterpiece they deserved to see. I will argue that “Once Upon a Time in the West” is better than any western either John Ford or Howard Hawks ever made. Its opening conveys so much without saying a single word. For its regard for silence, sweeping score, and the pure scope of it all, “Once Upon a Time in the West” will be one of the greatest movie viewing experiences you’ll ever have. It even has Henry Fonda, doing a flawless job going against-type, ruthlessly shooting a child in the face. Tom Joad, no more.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Oscar voters had no interest in taking a trip into another dimension. Their loss. “2001: A Space Odyssey” is essential viewing not just for any film buff, but for any human being. Stanley Kubrick probably knew that this movie wouldn’t answer the question of what the meaning of life is in one simple word. I like to think that Kubrick truly knew and hid it in any frame of this movie, and after a certain number of viewings, maybe it can be found. But until that happens, let the jaw dropping visuals unfold before you. After the credits roll and the star baby has faded, you might cry, you might throw a fit, or you could do anything else in between. Best Picture seems to be about the movies with mass appeal. It’s about time to pick a nominee that not everyone can get behind.

Easy Rider (1969)

Understandably, the Academy wasn’t too pleased with a movie about hippies taking over. The motorcycle riding outlaws of “Easy Rider” was the New Wave coming in to save Hollywood from a crumbling studio system. The rednecks, meanwhile, were the cranky old voters, minus the shotguns. “Easy Rider” proved that filmmakers no longer needed the system; all they needed was a story, a camera, and maybe a good weed hookup. This movie broke ground in so many ways, perhaps most memorably for its soundtrack, which started off with Steppenwolf’s attention-grabbing “Born to Be Wild.” The messy, handheld camerawork actually adds to the movie. Never has imperfection seemed so perfect. But most importantly of all, “Easy Rider” includes a very high Jack Nicholson talking about aliens. It is just as good as it sounds.

Animal House (1978)

This might not be the pick you were expecting, but “Animal House” really deserved the love. Unfortunately, Best Picture is never kind to comedy but had this one been nominated, it would have set a great precedent. Think of some of the funniest things in the movie. Could you ever watch them and not laugh? The most important question here may be as to why John Belushi himself didn’t get a nomination. The dining hall scene, in which he takes at least one of every food item (and takes bites of some, and leaves them behind), is the model for quiet, subtle comic brilliance. Comedies suffer when they are over-analyzed, so just watch this clip and you’ll understand:

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Hollywood loves message movies, but for some reason they only enjoy the preachy ones. “Crash” won in 2005 for informing the world that racism is bad, and it makes a few rich white people living in L.A. feel sad. Sixteen years earlier, Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” was released amidst a storm of controversy. It earned ecstatic praise from critics, but it barely made a ripple at the Oscars. To this day, it remains the most provocative, daring, and funny movie about racism that I have ever seen. The best part about it is that it is not necessarily about racism, but a movie about situations in which race may or may not have been the ultimate cause of them. Of course, the Oscars want definitive answers, not ambiguous ones. And especially not ones with this much energy pumping through them.

Children of Men (2006)

Some movies that earn respect over time might take over two decades to do so. “Children of Men” elevated itself in just a few years. “Children of Men” is the most realistic portrayal of a dystopian future ever to be put on film. It strikes so many emotional chords and in the end, it is a movie about life, not death. It also has some cinematography that is downright groundbreaking, with the camera moving at the nonstop and unpredictable pace that mankind’s fate is headed in. The world may very likely be approaching the future “Children of Men.” But until now “Children of Men” is your’s for the darkest futuristic road movie you’ll get to see.

And a Few More: Night of the Hunter, Pan’s Labyrinth, Kill Bill (1&2), Rosemary’s Baby, The Wild Bunch, Being John Malkovich, Fight Club, Magnolia, Blade Runner

Horrible Decisions: The Ten Best Movies That Didn’t Win Best Picture

Every once in a while, I ponder why the Oscars even exist, and why I should care. Sure, they have no monumental impact on the world, but for me, the Oscars are a little like Super Bowl, just a little less dramatic. Voters have a bad habit of picking the wrong winner, year after year. Sometimes, the real winner is obvious. Other times, people won’t realize it until 50 years later. Click after the jump for my list of the ten best movies that should have won Best Picture (sorted by year of release):

Citizen Kane (1941)

“Citizen Kane” may not be my favorite movie of all time. However, the claim that it is the greatest movie ever made is completely warranted. There is something about revolutionary movies that causes the Academy to not reward them Best Picture. Instead, “How Green Was My Valley” won that year, giving people the only possible reason to ever hate John Ford. To this day, Orson Welles’s experiments with the camera, and his radically non-linear story-telling, are as fresh today as they were in 1941. Without “Citizen Kane,” the most revered filmmakers of our time would not have made some of their best work. The snub of “Citizen Kane” set the unfortunate precedent for voters to choose safe, comfortable stories over those that actually had an impact on the artform or were actually, well, good. It really is time for the Academy to stop letting old white people choose all of the winners.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

“I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.” It’s hard to believe this classic was passed over for Best Picture, especially when John Huston took the Best Director trophy for this film. “Hamlet” ended up being the winner in 1948. No disrespect to the Bard or Laurence Olivier, but “Hamlet” adaptations seem to come and go every few years. “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is something that could never be repeated. Sure, that beheading at the end looks really fake, but Humphrey Bogart gave one of the best, most despicable performances of his career. Maybe the Academy just couldn’t deal with a protagonist this reprehensible. 

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

“The French Connection” took home the gold in 1971. It was certainly a daring choice back then, and the car chase scene still goes pretty unmatched. However, that movie has lost some of its luster in the sea of cop thrillers that have been made ever since. Over 40 years later, “A Clockwork Orange” is as intriguing and audacious as it was the day it first came out. It would still create a stir if it was released today. The Academy never honors movies like “A Clockwork Orange,” but they would be a lot cooler if they did.

Taxi Driver/All the Presiden’t Men/Network (1976)

Some people called 1939 the banner year for movies. The real banner year was 1976. That year’s Best Picture winner, “Rocky,” is a classic in many ways. It’s a nice movie, it’s about the underdog overcoming the odds. I like that idea, I always root for the underdog. However, when the Best Picture category also includes Martin Scorsese’s unflinching masterpiece “Taxi Driver,” the seamless political thriller “All the President’s Men,” and the still relevant to this day satire of “Network,” you’ll realize that you were rooting for the wrong underdog.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

1979 was the rare year that the Academy chose a small, socially aware drama over a big epic for Best Picture. “Kramer vs. Kramer” was the first movie to handle divorce so honestly. The big catch is that it beat “Apocalypse Now.” “Kramer vs. Kramer” is a very good movie, but “Apocalypse Now” is the kind of magnum opus that only comes around every once in a while. Upon its initial release, Francis Ford Coppola’s meditative take on Vietnam was not regarded as the masterpiece it is today. The film was likely still recovering from all of the bad press revolving around its infamously disastrous shoot. Claims of the film’s greatness are undisputed today. With the passing of time always changing perception, perhaps an award like Best Picture is pretty useless. How do we know what will be the true Best Picture years down the road?

Raging Bull (1980)

Hailed by many as one of the greatest movies of all time, “Raging Bull” probably suffered from boxing movie fatigue at the time (thanks for that one, “Rocky”). There is no way that anyone could not admire this movie. Everything from its boxing sequences, which are as violent as they are beautiful, and the performance by Robert De Niro, a monster in everyman’s clothes, is a cinematic achievement. “Ordinary People” might have won the gold, but only “Raging Bull” would end up on most critics’ lists of the best movies ever made.

Goodfellas (1990)

I have not seen “Dances With Wolves,” so I cannot make fun of it as much as I would like to. One day, my cousin described a movie starring Kevin Costner as “reeking of Costner.” I’d like to think “Dances With Wolves” is the same way. But I digress. 1990 saw a safe, politically correct big frontier movie sweep the Oscars while Martin Scorsese’s shocking, hilarious, and radically different “Goodfellas” took a backseat. Scorsese’s mob classic got the last laugh though: when’s the last time you saw someone incessantly quoting “Dances With Wolves”?

Pulp Fiction (1994)

1994 was the year that “Forrest Gump” won basically every award in its path. It is certainly a hard movie to dislike. However, that year also included “Pulp Fiction.” One movie was a heartwarming story about a mentally challenged man overcoming the odds and finding love. The other revived the career of John Travolta, re-wrote every rule of writing a screenplay, and inspired a million knockoffs that could never match it. The battle between “Forrest Gump” and “Pulp Fiction” is the classic battle between the safety of traditional Hollywood, and the radical change of New Hollywood. “Forrest Gump” might have won the Oscar, but more people have a “Pulp Fiction” poster hung up on their wall.

Choosing one scene to represent this movie is nearly impossible. This one makes me happiest.

Fargo (1996)

There is no way a movie like “Fargo” could ever win Best Picture. Yet, it could. Sure, its totally snarky. Sure, its intensely violent. Sure, a guy ends up in a wood chipper. But in the end, it has one of the most moving and affirming touches of life you’ll get to see in a movie, shared in such a brief moment. Movies like this should be winning Best Picture more often.

The Social Network (2010)

And the final, most recent, perhaps most infuriating case of Old Hollywood pretending they can stop New Hollywood with a naked golden man. “The King’s Speech” is a fantastic movie that tells a moving story and has some pitch perfect performances. But it wasn’t “The Social Network,” which became the first movie to so accurately pin the Internet Age. “The Social Network” itself is about a group of guys who fought the system and toar down age-old institutions. That is probably what the Academy was so afraid of, and why they passed up another movie that is already being hailed as a modern masterpiece. Hell, many other choices would have been better than “The King’s Speech” that year. Might I remind you that “Black Swan” was also nominated.

And a Few More: L.A. Confidential (beaten by “Titanic”), “Inglourious Basterds” (beaten by “The Hurt Locker”), “Saving Private Ryan” (beaten by “Shakespeare in Love”)