February 27th, 2012

Those stupid Oscars

I won’t talk about last night’s Oscar awards here. We’ve already done that, to the dismay of some.

This post is about Oscars of yore. The other day at PJ, Chris Queen listed the Oscars’ 10 biggest blunders, and I agree with some of the choices.

For instance, I found Queen’s mistake #1, “Forrest Gump,” to be a dreadful film, so boring I walked out after a half hour or so, and I thought Sally Field preposterously young as Gump’s mother. And I agree that Queen’s #2, “Life is Beautiful” was pretty dreadful too, in a completely different way.

But I take issue with #5, Queen’s criticism of Al Pacino’s award for “Scent of a Woman.” Sure, it wasn’t Al Pacino’s finest hour. That may have been “The Godfather,” “Serpico,” or my personal Pacino favorites: “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Panic in Needle Park.”

But just because “Scent of a Woman” isn’t the very best Pacino ever doesn’t mean it’s not awfully good, and quite deserving of the honor. Yes, the movie’s got a schmaltzy plot, and Pacino comes perilously close to hammy in the role. But I think he always stops short of it. The film is really a somewhat unorthodox buddy movie, an acting tour de force between Pacino and another brilliant actor, Chris O’Donnell, whose understated performance makes the perfect foil for Pacino’s over-the-top one. Take a look at this especially dramatic scene (for those who haven’t seen the movie, Pacino’s character is blind):

And then there’s Queen’s #10, Whoopi Goldberg’s Supporting Actress Oscar for the movie “Ghost.” He thinks it “curious” that she won. I think it’s appropriate, because even though I’m not a great Whoopi fan ordinarily, I think she was absolutely brilliant in that role. I could post almost any scene of hers in that film as an example of her comic flair, but many of them are hard to find on YouTube, so I’ll post this one. It’s where Whoopi’s character finds out to her shock that she’s not just a flim-flam con artist, but has the medium’s true “gift,” because she can hear the ghost of Swayze’s character talking to her:

Looking back on former Oscar years, there’s little question in my mind what the best crop of all time was: in 1939, when “Gone With the Wind” won, its worthy competitors were “Dark Victory,” “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” “Love Affair,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Ninotchka,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Stagecoach,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Wuthering Heights.”


Not only that, but the following films were also released in 1939 (a year widely acknowledged as probably the greatest in the history of film), among others:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Babes in Arms
Beau Geste
Drums Along the Mohawk
Golden Boy
Gunga Din
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Story of Irene and Vernon Castle
The Three Muskateers
The Women
Young Mr. Lincoln

Not too shabby, eh?

14 Responses to “Those stupid Oscars”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    How disappointing that noone here yet has remarked on what was obviously the most significant item in last night’s broadcast: Angelina Jolie’s right leg:


    All this blather about good moves, great movies, bad movies, blah blah just kind of misses the real point.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    vanderleun: Jolie appeared to be a strange stick figure attempting to impersonate Jessica Rabbit and failing utterly.

  3. Gringo Says:

    One year in the Nineties, I bought an all inclusive pass and spent a week watching movies at an independent film festival. The quality of the films impressed me. The independent film makers were making films as good as or better than Hollywood films, at a fraction of the cost.

    When it comes to Hollywood, it is very true that 2012≠1939.

  4. texexec Says:

    Whoa…1939 WAS a great year for films.

    I’m scratching my head about a memory of mine, concerning “Gone with the Wind”. I remember being taken to see that movie in Atlanta of all places. We stood in line for hours and sat in about the 3rd balcony in a downtown theater. But that was during WWII (when the USA was in it) and I’m pretty sure I was 5-6 years old. Maybe it was coming back through Atlanta a second time. Surely it wasn’t the first time it was shown in Atlanta. I would think that it might have been premiered there.

  5. Steve Ducharme Says:

    How they can leave “Shakespeare In Love” off the list is a mystery to me. A cute little story but Oscar worthy? Puuulease!

  6. Steve Ducharme Says:

    @Gringo, I feel the same way about independent publishing. I’ve lost count of all the $2.99 or less books I’ve thoroughly enjoyed on Amazon. especially in Sci-fi. It’s to the point that I scoff at anything much over $7.99 unless it’s just a must read or in a series I’m hooked on.

  7. Steve Ducharme Says:

    Oh and what about Kim Bassinger for best supporting in LA Confidential? It was admittedly a weak year but I think Minni Driver for “Good Will Hunting” must have been a little stunned.

  8. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    Look at the credits on any movie in 1939 and you will see incredible talent. Many were Jews who fled Hitler. Writers, Directors and Composers who the studios knew how to use. Plus there was something about knowing you were on the cliff must have helped focus everyone. The late 30′s were also a time of increased independence of Americans after the initial mucking about of the New Deal. Wendell Willkie ran a credible campaign and people had an increased feeling of their own worth. Movies that appealed to this did well.

  9. vanderleun Says:

    Here’s next years hit: The [Con] Artist


  10. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Your list of 1939 movies was like a tip toe through the tulips. I saw almost all of them by the time I was ten. My two favorites were THE WIZARD OF OZ and DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK.

    I remember that I had to get my mother’s permission to see GONE WITH THE WIND because of Clark Gable’s cuss word. (“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”) Seems so tame today.

    They knew how to tell stories that got you involved. I was a big fan of movies and went regularly until the late sixties when things started tilting left in Hollywood.

  11. Sergey Says:

    I did not find “Forrest Gump” boring at all. But for me the film was a window into another country, strange as it is. And in many episodes it was funny, with good humor and belivable personages.

  12. betsybounds Says:

    I didn’t mind “Forrest Gump,” although I didn’t think it was really worth an Oscar. “Life Is Beautiful,” however, was quite simply an abomination.

  13. Kevin Copple Says:

    “Forrest Gump” was thoroughly enjoyable. Ya gotta watch it through so that you will know when its memorable lines are referenced by Ace of Spades and others. GWTW was a great movie, but there are plenty of corny attempts at humor and cartoonish acting even there.

  14. RandomThoughts Says:

    For the most part I’m utterly bored by the entire Oscar thing. Considering who actually votes for the winning films, it’s no wonder that for the most part they’re films I don’t bother to see: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/academy/la-et-unmasking-oscar-academy-project-html,0,7473284.htmlstory

    However, “Life is Beautiful” is one of my top five most favorite films. Defining it as a “Holocaust comedy” is no more accurate than defining Cabaret as a “Holocaust musical.”

    Then again, maybe I just have weird tastes in movies…

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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