Monday, February 28, 2005

Best Pictures

I've seen about half of the seventy-some Best Pictures. Some really don't age well, e.g. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) I'm sure was a moving film in its day but now seems very ordinary. I've not seen Mrs. Miniver (1942) but I've heard the same of it. Around the World in 80 Days (1956) is fun for spotting the cameos (Noel Coward! Hermione Gingold!) but rather dull and rather studio-bound. The Apartment, oft cited as a classic and the last best-picture winner to be entirely in black-and-white, I didn't care for at all. It is interesting to see Fred McMurray playing a cad. Marty (1955) started as a t.v. drama (Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand were in it) and on the big-screen seems small.

The French Connection (1971) looks simply ugly. Maybe it was a bad transfer, but it was very drab when I watched it. And I did not care about the characters in the slightest. The chase under the elevated is a must-see however. Annie Hall (1977) I simply don't get. Diane Keaton's appeal has always been lost on me. Funny moment though when they're in line at the cinema and the blowhard in front of them is quoting Marshall McLuhan and Woody Allen pulls out McLuhan to rebut the man. The Sting (1973) has its moments but didn't do much for me.

Terms of Endearment (1983) I hated. Jack Nicholson gets an Oscar for playing the same loony-toon character he's been doing for thirty-years. Shirley McLaine is smothering and we wish Debra Winger would just die so we can all go home. And who thought up John Lithgow as a randy bank manager in the Hawkeye State? The Last Emperor (1987) is long and tedious. I once looked up the obituary of Pu-yi in the New York Times and found only a few grafs. The obit conceded what a dull, boring man he was. In that respect, Bertolucci nailed it.

Titanic (1997) is a spectacular achievement in special effects and production design. But with a script that could have flowed from the pen of Marx, and I don't mean Groucho, one is grateful for the plunge into the cold water. If only it could have happened about two and a half hours earlier. Neat to see Gloria Stuart, however. How Green Was My Valley (1941) and Rebecca (1940) didn't work for me, but Dame Judith Anderson's Mrs. Danvers in the latter must be seen so one can allude to her. A Beautiful Mind (2001) is one of those mistakes I'd wager the Academy will regret in a few decades and rank up there with The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), unseen by me but oft regarded as the worst best picture.

Now for best pictures I liked. My favorite used to be My Fair Lady but its star has been fading in my eyes. There are good moments, e.g. Higgins's "Why Can't the English?", the "Ascot Gavotte" number, when Higgins sings of his triumph at the ball, and Alfred Doolittle's "Get Me to the Church on Time" but there's no spark, no chemistry at all between Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. Alfred Hyde-White is wonderful as Pickering, though. Amadeus (1984) also seems less impressive with time. My current favorite must be Shakespeare in Love (1998). A wonderfully funny, dramatic, romantic allusive film. Simply marvelous.


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