Thursday, March 30, 2006


My 10 Worst List

Since we are nearing the end, I thought I'd go ahead and unveil my own list of the 10 Worst Best Picture Winners. I didn't want to do it any earlier to avoid looking like I was trying to influence the outcome. Since the final verdict is approaching, I figured I'd go ahead — especially since the announcement post threatens to be very long and I didn't want to clutter it up with my choices. So, here are the ones I voted for:

1. The Broadway Melody: I've actually seen (or endured in many cases) all 78 best picture winners and the second winner ever still holds the title for the worst for me. It's the creakiest and most dated of musicals. I know musicals were a relatively new genre once pictures could talk, but listening to this dialogue, you almost wish movies had stayed silent.

2. Cimarron: Another early winner that's as dusty as the Oklahoma land rush it depicts. The acting is staid, even from the great Irene Dunne, and it's just unbearable.

3. Gentleman's Agreement: I think it was Jack Warner who once said, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union." While its message against anti-Semitism is certainly worthwhile,it's executed in the most stilted way and is one of the earliest examples of a film depicting discrimination where the hero is a white guy who isn't part of the oppressed group. What's even worse: this wasn't even the best film concerning anti-Semitism that the Academy nominated that year — Crossfire was much better.

4. Around the World in 80 Days: Cameos galore, globe hopping — what's not to love? Actually just about everything.

5. The Greatest Show on Earth: Cecil B. DeMille's circus epic is somewhat contradictory. It is truly terrible, but so much so that it's almost like a car wreck you just can't help but gawk at. The movie's one plus: James Stewart hidden beneath clown makeup in an unusual enigmatic performance.

6. Gladiator: Ugh. How did this mess manage to win? I can't remember what critic wrote it but I've always loved the line about Russell Crowe's Oscar-winning performance that asked why a Spaniard fighting for the Romans had an Australian accent. I think the answer is simple: Nothing in this movie mattered. You can almost excuse the Academy for some of its early awful winners, but by the year 2000, they should have known better.

7. The Deer Hunter: I just rewatched this within the past few months and boy was it worse than I remembered. It's overlong, borderline racist and xenophobic and it's a miracle the actors managed to give good performances when there is no character depth to choose from. Ostensibly about Vietnam, there is really only one sequence of actual combat before it delves into its Russian roulette metaphor. There are lots of scenes that seem to make no sense or go nowhere — you see Meryl Streep's character abused early by her father, but that seems to go nowhere. I'm still not clear about the conflict between John Cazale and John Savage over Savage's bride. (BLOGGER'S NOTE: An anonymous poster caught my original goof when I called John Savage John Heard. That's what I get for doing these thing in a sleepy haze in the middle of the night). The entire film is just a mess and its attempts to elicit emotional responses usually fail — by the time the survivors start singing "God Bless America" around the dinner table, instead of being touched I felt more like laughing out loud.

8. Ben-Hur: Sort of an earlier template for Gladiator — except Russell Crowe, who didn't deserve his win, can at least act while the win by the stiff Charlton Heston makes the journey through this overlong tripe nearly unbearable. A great chariot race does not a best picture make.

9. Braveheart: Mel Gibson's epic portrayal of the story of William Wallace is undermined by needless homophobia and a choppy pace. Maybe it would have played better in Aramaic.

10. Platoon: Oliver Stone's first swipe at the monkey on his back is nearly unwatchable now. It does score points for at least actually depicting combat in Vietnam, but by framing it in the most simplistic of good versus evil metaphors as exemplified by Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger and laying on top of that obvious and trite voiceover narration by Charlie Sheen, it just looks silly now.

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Re. your 'Deer Hunter' comments (which you're obviously fully entitled to have): I do agree with your point of seemingly abandoned storylines (the brief appearance of Meryl Streep's abusive father, and then...nothing), but I've got to ask - have I, after several viewings of this film, just not realized that John Heard is in this, or do you actually mean John Savage? Perhaps you should check the cast list before posting.
You are correct. I goofed. I will correct my original post. Thanks for the catch.
My favorite bad moment in Deer Hunter occurs when De Niro visits Savage in the vets' hospital and tells him he has to go back to the world outside the hospital. Savage keeps saying no, De Niro keeps saying yes, and when De Niro simply begins pushing the wheelchair out of the hospital, Savage utters the immortal line, "Do what your heart tells you." Truly awful stuff.--Herman Scobie
I agree with you Herman. I just rewatched it in the past six months and that's when I realized how awful it really was.
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