Friday, July 10, 2015

Academy Award Best Pictures 1928-2014

So I have now watched every Academy Award winning Best Picture, 1928 thru 2014. My initial thought upon completion: eighty-seven films are a hell of a lot of movies.

I wonder who else out there has actually taken the time to watch ALL of the Best Pictures? I would be interested to compare notes. Of course, my friend Mike insists that I should have seen all of the nominees, and not just the winners. But even rounding-down the nominees to five every year, which was not always the case, that is more than 435 nominees! He hasn't seen all of them either, so I think I'm okay just watching the winners for now...!

Looking over the list of winners, there doesn't seem to be any overall trend. Besides the biographical dramas, which are the majority, sometimes there are comedies (so-called) and musicals. Each genre is represented, such as Westerns, crime dramas, sports dramas, and histories. There are mostly large-scale epics (such as Amadeus and Ben-Hur), but there are some "small" personal dramas such as Marty and Kramer vs Kramer. 

One thing I did notice watching a film or so a week for more than a year, is Hollywood's tradition of giving themselves a pat on the back. Perhaps because Best Picture is the one Academy Award that all Academy members can vote on, it is not unlikely to see films that are technically brilliant but dull (Birdman, The Artist) or somehow about the process of making art in the first place (Birdman and The Artist again, but also Chicago, Shakespeare in Love, Amadeus, All About Eve, The Great Ziegfield, etc etc).

Is each of these Best Picture actually the best film of its year? In the end, every year has at least four losers. So the winning film was, if nothing else, the right film at the right time. Each film somehow spoke to the members of the Academy as an example of the zeitgeist. For example, two of the most famous Oscar "snubs" were How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane in 1941, and Crash over Brokeback Mountain in 2005. Were the wrong films chosen? Maybe. Just like a popularity contest, sometimes the Best is popular, but sometimes it isn't.

So here is the whole list, from 1928 through 2014. How many have YOU seen? Think about it, and then join me next week to review some of my Best of the Best lists, such as Films I Will Never Watch Again!

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