by John Walters

Best Picture Rewind

Scheider, shark

We have dire fears not of Vladimir Putin’s “invincible”weapon, but rather that Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will win Best Picture on Sunday night at the 90th Oscars. It’s the most manipulative, disingenuous, unrealistic (they place the cop in the same hospital room as the man he tried to murder not long before?) piece of tripe we’ve seen since Zombeavers—beavers who are zombies—but at least that was fun.

Oscar will get it wrong on Sunday night, but it’s hardly the first time. Some years you know that Oscar got it wrong as it happened; others it takes a few years to appreciate. It would be wonderful, but also unrealistic, if the Academy put a five-year waiting period on Best Picture to see how films matured or simply aged. Hindsight here really is 20/20.

Shot on location in…North Carolina. Arggghh!

With that in mind, the MH staff is going to review the past 42 years of Best Picture winners. We’ll tell you what won and then add our (inexpert) opinion as to what should have. To be a Best Picture, a film should have a show-it-again quality even though you can recite much of the dialogue by heart; and it helps if the film comes off as truly original as opposed to derivative, a la The Post.

With that in mind, let’s begin:


Winner: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

MH Pick: Jaws

Spielberg’s problem here is that Hollywood had never experienced the “summer blockbuster film” phenomenon—much less Spielberg— yet. Immensely entertaining but also a wonderfully crafted film.


Winner: Rocky

MH: Rocky

It’s difficult to pass on All The President’s Men, but no one who saw the film in a theater will forget the feeling they had during the film’s final 10 minutes. Yo, Adrian!


Winner: Annie Hall

MH: Annie Hall

Put your light sabers down, Star Wars fans. It’s an excellent franchise and an entertaining film, but as Siskel & Ebert pointed out, it’s basically a Western in outer space. As for the winner, La di da, la di da, la la…


Winner: The Deer Hunter

MH: Animal House

Two comedies in as many years? Sure, why not. Did we surrender when the Nazis bombed Pearl Harbor?


Winner: Kramer vs. Kramer

MH: Apocalypse Now

Okay, so AN is basically The Heart of Darkness, but we think by this point in the Seventies Hollywood was just tired of giving Francis Ford Coppola the statuette.


Winner: Ordinary People

MH: Raging Bull

Not all boxing films end with the crowd cheering

The easiest call for any year. When did Hollywood go full milquetoast? In the end of the Jimmy Carter era, with this film and the winner the year before focusing on domestic situations. Get a therapist, Oscar! And leave us out of it.


Winner: Chariots of Fire

MH: Raiders of the Lost Ark or Gallipoli

Brits running on a beach. We get it. Gallipoli, starring a young Mel Gibson, is the superior World War I film and Raiders was simply the most entertaining movie since Rocky.


Winner: Gandhi

MH: Tootsie

Is it over yet? Great humans do not always equate to captivating films. Our resistance to this film is not passive. Meanwhile, Dustin Hoffman had quite a run in the Eighties, and this is one of two films in which he was better than he’d been in K v. K. In the conversation: Sophie’s Choice and My Favorite Year.


Winner: Terms Of Endearment

MH: A Christmas Story

A charming story, expertly told. What’s wrong with that?

Go ahead and laugh; which film have you seen half a dozen times and would be happy to see yet again? We even think Risky Business, perhaps the smartest teen comedy of them all, deserved the nod.


Winner: Amadeus

MH: Amadeus

So many bad films were released this year, as most of the Eighties would be a fallow period for quality cinema. We’ll go with this pick due to the two outstanding performances (Tom Hulce went from kid who did it on the football field in Animal House to Best Actor to where-is-he-now?). Wouldn’t have minded seeing This Is Spinal Tap win, though. It birthed the mockumentary genre.


Winner: Out Of Africa

MH: Anything Else (but we’ll go with The Breakfast Club)

Has there ever been a more honest and insightful screenplay written for and about teens?  John Hughes had to die before Oscar gave him his moment on stage a few years back, but this movie stays with you. Demented and sad, but sociable.


Winner: Platoon

MH: Platoon

“I AM reality.”


Winner: The Last Emperor

MH: Broadcast News

This is one of the picks about which we are most certain. BN may have been the smartest, most self-aware film of the Eighties. The kind of film you would’ve seen in the golden age of Hollywood, and yet just cynical enough to fit in with modern times.


Winner: Rain Man

MH: Rain Man


Winner: Driving Miss Daisy

MH: Do The Right Thing

It’s fascinating that DTRT and When Harry Met Sally were released in the same year. Either would’ve deservedly won Best Picture although they depict two completely different versions of New York City. Neither were even nominated, though you’ve seen them both and enjoyed both more than the winner.


Winner: Dances With Wolves

MH: GoodFellas

The Academy screws Martin Scorcese (and Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci) for a second time in 11 years. Another no-brainer call.


Winner: The Silence of the Lambs

MH: The Silence of the Lambs

Few characters are more memorable than Hannibal Lecter, M.D.

You picked the wrong year to be released, Thelma and Louise.


Winner: Unforgiven

MH: Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot Unforgiven

We’re trying to tackle this the way the NFL does further review. There needs to be clear and indisputable evidence. We’d probably vote for A Few Good Men or even A River Runs Through It, but we’ll let Clint Eastwood’s film stand.


Winner: Schindler’s List

MH: Schindler’s List

As much as we want to put Groundhog Day here, we’re going to let it go.


Winner: Forrest Gump

MH: The Shawshank Redemption

Easily the most difficult year of the past quarter century. If you want to run with Pulp Fiction, which is superior to most of the films on this list, go right ahead. We’ll take Shawshank, narrowly. Gump isn’t bad, even if it can get corny at times. It’s just that this was an incredibly worthy field, arguably the best of our lifetimes.


Winner: Braveheart

MH: Braveheart


Winner: The English Patient

MH: Fargo

Elaine Benes was correct. We also love Jerry Maguire or Trainspotting here.


Winner: Titanic

MH: Good Will Hunting

We know, we know. We don’t loathe Titanic the way some people do, we just love how what probably seemed like an unmarketable concept—an asexual love story between a budding genius and a middle-aged psychologist—turned out so well. And if you want to vote for Boogie Nights or L.A. Confidential, we’d support those, too.


Winner: Shakespeare In Love

MH: Saving Private Ryan

The second film in as many years in which Matt Damon’s character has a slew of brothers that we’ll never meet or never existed.

Maybe Oscar felt it had already lauded Tom Hanks enough for one decade. Or He couldn’t get past the D-Day horror scene. Or, like too many of us, He had a huge crush on Gwyneth. Or Harvey W. paid for it to happen. This is one of Oscar’s major flubs, and we actually liked SIL.


Winner: American Beauty

MH: The Matrix

The Matrix really is real, Neo. A prophetic and yet stylish film. Will your grandchildren just be batteries for an A.I. machine? It wasn’t even nominated.


Winner: Gladiator

MH: Almost Famous

Actually, we were entertained. This is a tough call, but we’ll stick with it.


Winner: A Beautiful Mind

MH: Mulholland Drive

In a pretty weak year, we’ll go with David Lynch’s bizarre glimpse at Hollywood noir.


Winner: Chicago

MH: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Of the three, this was the best Hobbit film. And Andy Serkis deserved at least a Best Supporting Actor nomination, which he did not receive.


Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

MH: Lost In Translation

Another Coppola gets screwed.


Winner: Million Dollar Baby

MH: Million Dollar Baby

We really did not like this film, but what would you replace it with here? Sideways? We’ll stick with it, but we never quite understood the love. Is it okay if we just put in a Clint Eastwood film from another year that we liked better (Gran Torino)?


Winner: Crash

MH: Brokeback Mountain

Hot Dude Ranch

Hollywood’s navel-gazing indulgence pick. We halfway think this is why La La Land did not win last year.


Winner: The Departed

MH: Pan’s Labyrinth

There’s just too many cell phones in this film. We’re fans of The Departed, and maybe what isn’t fair is we’re judging it against Scorcese’s snubbed films. If The Shape of Water wins Sunday, know that Pan’s is Guillermo del Toro’s better movie.


Winner: No Country For Old Men

MH: No Country For Old Men

The best field of this century, as There Will Be Blood is better than most BP winners. Atonement and Michael Clayton were fantastic as well. Hollywood made growed-up, smart films this year.


Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

MH: Slumdog Millionaire


Winner: The Hurt Locker

MH: Inglourious Basterds or The Hangover

This is an extremely tough call. THL is the best Iraq War film, while IB has three scenes that are so adroitly written and staged that they more than compensate for the fact that Tarantino just strung the film together with big scenes as opposed to the film having any fluidity. But that’s what he do.

As for The Hangover,  it’s the smartest comedy since the original Austin Powers film and it’s the rare comedy where the story holds up from beginning to end. Also, it’s a truly original idea well-executed. Even after you know what happened to Doug, you can watch this film over and hangover. Wasn’t even nominated. Shame on you, Oscar.


Winner: The King’s Speech

MH: The Social Network

The opening scene of Aaron Sorkin’s film is dialogue porn. And “The Crown” is better than KS.


Winner: The Artist

MH: Midnight In Paris or Moneyball

They screwed Sorkin two years in a row. And Oscar has a restraining order out on Woody Allen now.


Winner: Argo

MH: Argo


Winner: 12 Years A Slave

MH: 12 Years A Slave

You remember what Ellen Degeneres said about this film in her monologue, right?


Winner: Birdman

MH: Whiplash or The Great Beauty

A film actor on Broadway or a music student in Carnegie Hall? We’ll take the latter. What if Good Will Hunting had had a sadistic mentor? Here you go. Love the dinner scene.

As for The Great Beauty, it won Best Foreign Film. If you have not seen it, you’re in for a treat.


Winner: Spotlight

MH: The Big Short

Spotlight was more earnest and it was easier for Hollywood to condemn the Catholic church than Wall Street. But the latter film crackled with creativity and wit. Not an easy story to tell and yet Adam McKay managed to convey the gravity and the ridiculousness of the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the crash. We’ll also listen to cries for Mad Max: Fury Road. This was the best year since 2007.


Winner: Moonlight

MH: La La Land

Yeah, it falls apart some in the second half, but it’s so exhilarating and magical during the meet-cute stage, and the final song is heartbreaking. Or maybe we’re just not socially conscious enough.


Winner: Three Billboards*

MH: Call Me By Your Name

*Projected winner

Dunkirk or The Shape Of Water might win as a compromise vote. We don’t see CMBYN winning, for a number of reasons, not excluding a damaged peach. CoCo, which will win for animation, was as good as anything on the list of nominated films. Three Billboards has a cast of very talented and well-liked actors (Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage) in a film whose popularity flat-out confounds us.


Okay, your turn. What did we miss?









9 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. 2001: I’ll tell you who has a beautiful mind, Baz Luhrmann, that’s who. Moulin Rouge should’ve won in 2001 and given another statue every year since. We re-watched it last Sunday night, and my daughter asked me how many times I’ve seen it. Let’s see…after it came out on DVD, every day for at least 8 months, then maybe once a week for the next 8, then at least twice a year since. I’d try to add that up but that would be about as fun as watching Russell Crowe twitch, so no. The best movie of this year is The Greatest Showman. YES IT IS. Yell all your complaints into your pillow, haters, cuz I am not listening to your noise! I’ve watched Pan’s Labyrinth twice and I still don’t get it. No one even sings in it or anything.

  2. Also I remember being so bored when I saw Out of Africa, I started parroting every line Meryl Streep said, in the accent, just to have something to do. I didn’t realize I was doing it so loudly until a lady yelled at me to shut up and then I felt ashamed. The only movie that I’d argue gives Broadcast News a run for best of ’87 is Overboard. Wait, what year did Cocktail come out? COCKTAIL!! I made my oldest watch that with me a year or so ago, and I was happily quoting Coughlin’s law along with it when she turned to me and grumped, “Why have you seen this more than once?”

    • “Over-bored” describes my condition while watching The English Patient, Out of Africa, The Last Emperor, Gandhi, Kramer vs. Kramer, Ordinary People, Million Dollar Baby….

  3. There were & still are 2 things I loved in ‘Out of Africa’ – Meryl Streep intoning “I onnnce haad a faaarrrm in AFFFRICAAAAA” (come on, don’t you say it to the screen every time you see her on screen in ANY thing? Just me then) & the airflight scene. I saw that film in an old movie theatre, not one of the sterile multiplexes. It had a HUGE screen & a very large auditorium. When Redford banks the plane around the, er, plains of Africa & the musical score crescendoed, the hairs on the back of my neck tingled & I burst into tears. Other than that, the only thing I remember in that movie is that poor Meryl’s character got VD from her shit husband. 🙂

    That ‘Shakespeare in Love’ got the Oscar over “Saving Private Ryan’ is probably one of THE biggest Oscar travesties. I liked SIL but SPR? It’s a CLASSIC! Hollywood was just jealous of Speilberg.

    Gallipoli was a far better movie than ‘Chariots of Fire’ but hey, I like a good slo-mo beach shot of Brits in all-white get-ups running along the beach to a swelling musical score as much as the next gal, but the other movie has a very young Mel Gibson & inevitable ‘war is hell’ historical tragedy. Plus, who can listen to Adagio in G Minor by Albinoni & not burst into tears to this day? (Again, just me?)

    I’m so glad you’re back, Katie! We missed you. 🙂

  4. What I enjoyed about your list was that many of the movies you selected were something that if a person was given a choice between those two to watch over and over again they’d chose your choice.

    I’m no film critic, I have no idea what to look for. I’ll watch the Fast franchise more than any of the best picture nominees because i enjoy being entertained.

    I do find it funny that when it comes to the Emmys usually the show that people watch the most or talk about the most usually wins the award, but in movies that sometimes happens.

    Susie B – can we call you Soupie B

  5. Aw thanks, Susie! If I told you where I’ve been, you’d never believe it. Let’s just say orange isn’t the new black.

  6. I don’t see as many movies as the intrepid MH staff does, but I like their take, with the exception of Ghandi. Tootsie tried to #BeTheChange, but Ghandi was the real deal.

  7. Hey … John’s on the road, so here are my Oscar picks:

    The question I asked myself as I scanned the Oscar nominees for Best Picture: will GET OUT be judged as ahead of its time, or simply a three-and-a-half-star horror film with four-star themes?

    The Academy voters for Best Picture will say the former. The movie will win, it will be a memorable speech, with the producers, director, and stars on stage genuinely shocked to have won Hollywood’s greatest honor. Great television. Inspiring. But again, we’ll have to wait to see if it truly began something in this creative field. Or a part of several momentous somethings, #MeToo, WONDER WOMAN and BLACK PANTHER included.

    If it is, GET OUT deserves the prize.

    Still, in the here and now, the most engrossing and technically imaginative movie I saw this past year was DUNKIRK. It must be experienced on an IMAX screen. In that setting, you feel like you are actually in the spitfire, trying to rescue the human dots on the beach, and lighting up enemy planes with machine gun fire. We’ve seen war movies before as good and probably better – there is nothing new in the story. War is hell and boys at war are basically walking meat waiting to be ground up. But the way DUNKIRK is presented – three different timelines, an hour, a day, a week – and the aerial footage adds something new to the genre.

    More movies like this need to be made – it’s why we go see films on the big screen, instead of on our iPhone screen. So, it’s my vote for Best picture. It won’t win. It’s GET OUT’s year.

    And here are my predictions for the rest. I’m better at predicting the technical categories than the big ones, mostly because I think the technical ones are just as big a deal:

    Sound mixing: DUNKIRK
    The mix is actually a character in this movie, and probably the star. The moment you see the enemy plane in the sky, a ticking clock soundtrack kicks in. Then the sound drops out just as the last bomb almost hits one of the main characters early in the movie – and when a certain pilot is flying without fuel at the end. It also has not one but TWO ships sinking. That’s hard to mix.

    Sound editing: DUNKIRK
    Just masterfully done, sound editors. Kudos. You cut the sh-t out of this movie. In conjunction with the sound mixers, at some point, you all must have realized you had something special when the soundtrack was dropped in on a track alongside everything you did to make this work.

    Documentary feature: LAST MAN IN ALEPPO
    I want all five of these nominees to win, because so rarely do these films make any money. You really have to love the craft of documentary filmmaking to start the journey.

    Makeup: DARKEST HOUR
    Nice work on Gary Oldman. He’s used to sitting in a makeup chair for long stretches (See: HANNIBAL and DRACULA), but still, masterfully done.

    Costume Design: PHANTOM THREAD
    They’ll give Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie at least one Oscar.

    Cinematography: BLADE RUNNER 2049.
    Don’t fuck this up, Academy. You need to give Roger Deakins at least one win.

    Production Design: BLADE RUNNER 2049
    BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a sequel, so it had a spectacular world in which to base this on. But there was also pressure to improve on that world, and they did so spectacularly.

    Original song: “Remember Me,” from COCO
    Dart throw.

    Original score: DUNKIRK
    The ticking clock sets a spooky tone. There is no hope. You are just waiting for your turn to die.

    Documentary short subject: HEROIN(e)
    Again, I want them all to win. The budget is tighter on these than on full-length docs, and few ever see them.

    Short film, live action: THE SILENT CHILD
    This one I had heard of before I saw the list on nominees, which is a very good sign.

    Film editing: DUNKIRK
    It’s not only a well-cut movie in general, with crispy edits on land, sea and air, but the editing was crucial because the timeline is not linear at all. It has to make sense without a narrator explaining where we are, and what time in the rescue mission we are. And it does.

    Visual effects: BLADE RUNNER 2049
    Child, please.

    Animated feature: COCO
    Another dart throw.

    Foreign language film: A FANTASTIC WOMAN
    THE SQUARE could nab this one as well. Nothing really stands out this year.

    Adapted screenplay: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
    Now we are getting to the categories where the creatives are awarded consolation prizes for not winning Best Picture.

    Original screenplay: LADY BIRD
    You see? This one was almost a perfect coming-of-ager. Note that this may be the most competitive of all the categories. Each of the scripts nominated would have produced magic with any serviceable director. THREE BILLBOARDS could also take this one.

    Actress in a supporting role: Allison Janney, I TONYA.
    The easiest category to handicap. Just give it to her and watch the other nominees force smiles as Janney thanks all of them.

    Actor in a supporting role: Sam Rockwell, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
    Good group this year (isn’t it always?), with Willem Dafoe a real challenger.

    Actress in a leading role: Margot Robbie, I TONYA
    Going with my heart and not my head on this one. Frances McDormand is the favorite.

    Actor in the leading role: Daniel Kaluuya, GET OUT
    AND. HERE. WE. GO.

    Director: Jordan Peele, GET OUT
    Christopher Nolan had the greater challenge with all those moving parts. It’s been said that the hardest thing to shoot is anything on water (Ask Spielberg, with JAWS), and a bulk of this movie is on the unpredictable sea. Plus, his aerial stuff was innovative in an industry always looking for the next innovation. But they’ll give Nolan a director Oscar later. We’re snowballing here.

    Best picture: GET OUT
    It’s a progressive time in the movie business, and a long time coming. Women in Hollywood are rallying around each other and speaking up, bonded by their shitty experiences with shitty men in power. One of their own directed WONDER WOMAN, a solid film with an amazing actress as the lead, and it is inspiring a generation. And months later, Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER is crushing it at the box office. Men and women of color are now putting together tent-poles with major financial implications for studios too, and proving they can produce box office hits. Maybe that’s the secret for this era of motion pictures – produce a genre film (horror, comic book) that stays within the boundaries of that genre, while pushing racial and gender boundaries.

    The same, but different. Good on you for figuring it out, Jordan Peele.

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