Friday, May 05, 2006


My ballot for 10 best best pictures

I was going to do as I did with the worst survey and wait to unveil my choices a day or two before the deadline, but I figured I'd go ahead and do it now in hopes of goosing some more people into sending ballots. The details for the survey itself can be found in the thread that follows or by clicking here.Without further ado, my choices for the 10 best Oscar-winning best pictures ever.

1. Casablanca: "The Germans have outlawed miracles," Capt. Louis Renault says when someone suggests a miracle is needed. The Germans may have outlawed them, but Casablanca remains the most miraculous movie ever to emerge from the Hollywood studio system. It's even more of a feat considering that the script was still being worked on during production and that somehow the Academy recognized its greatness from the beginning. What's more to be said about this film that hasn't been said a million times. A glorious ensemble cast, perhaps the greatest collection of memorable lines ever assembled and most importantly, for me anyway, the great Claude Rains. Sure, Charles Coburn was great in The More the Merrier, but the fact that Rains lost supporting actor to him is still a crime.

2. The Godfather: One of the greatest examples ever of making a movie masterpiece out of a pulpy novel. It set the template pretty much every mob movie or story to follow (though really, I think HBO's The Sopranos owes more to GoodFellas in its depiction of the everyday life of a gangster). Another great ensemble with the starmaking performance by Al Pacino as the reluctant heir to the family business and Marlon Brando with cotton in his cheeks yet still able to avoid the campiness that afflicted much of his later work. Many argue that Part 2 was superior, but I've never been in that group. I don't think the crosscutting of Michael and young Vito ever quite meshes and instead interrupts its rhythm. No such problems in the original.

3. Annie Hall: Sigh ... remember when Woody Allen was good. Sure he sort of came back with Match Point, but he's still been running on fumes for more than a decade. However, Annie Hall was the shot heard round the film world that there was more to Allen than ingenious comedy. It's the template for the modern relationship comedy powered by Diane Keaton's incomparable creation. I think Allen has made better films (my favorite is The Purple Rose of Cairo), but I think this one is nearly as great. I'm a huge Star Wars fan (original trilogy that is) but Annie Hall was by far the right choice for 1977.

4. All About Eve: The night may be bumpy, but not the time spent watching this biting masterpiece with arguably Bette Davis' best performance and one of the great screen creations of all time in George Sanders' Addison DeWitt. Another great ensemble and lots of memorable dialogue. What does it say about the year 1950 that while All About Eve is a masterpiece it would still be my third choice for best picture that year behind Sunset Blvd. and the non-nominated The Third Man.

5. The Apartment: Shut up and deal, that's what I say. The Apartment seems to divide into two camps: Those who love it like me and those who think it's a bit overrated. (That group may have even included Billy Wilder himself, who felt its win was a makeup prize for not winning for Some Like It Hot the year before.) Perhaps I'm in a minority, but I prefer The Apartment to that one too, not only for its comedy but for its humanity. Oh, well — nobody's perfect. Whoops — mixing my movie metaphors again.

6. It Happened One Night: Let the walls of Jericho fall and enjoy Frank Capra's purest farce all over again. It was the first time a movie took the top four prizes at the Oscars — and I for one think it was most deserved. Sure, there were better screwball comedies, but that doesn't detract from how great this one is. Hard to believe how sprightly it remains at the ripe old age of 72.

7. Gone With the Wind: This movie is such a legend that I think there is an unfortunate tendency to dismiss it, avoid it or criticize it for racial stereotypes (it was depicting the Civil War — was Rhett supposed to be black?) However, it remains an amazing experience, especially if you ever get the chance to see it in a movie theater. It's astounding how much story they pack into less than four hours, especially when compared to television miniseries which have spent more than twice the time and produced less than half the results. Still, it's Vivien Leigh that alone raises the stature of this classic with my choice for the best Oscar win for best actress ever. Feel free to disagree but frankly my dear, I won't give a damn.

8. Schindler's List: The film where Steven Spielberg finally grew up. He'd tried before, but this is the one where everything clicked. There are criticisms to be sure of the closing sequence and other things, but this was one of the most emotional film experiences of my adult life. It's not a film you can go back and watch over and over again, but its images are so strong and vivid that you don't need to revisit that often. They stay with you and haunt you. While Spielberg can still make good movies, it almost seems to me that he's too eager to follow the Schindler rulebook when he makes "serious" movies, so they too turn into a formula. I hope that he finds his way to be looser with his serious efforts — when you see things such as Munich, it just feels like he's trying too hard to be serious instead of just making the movie.

9. Lawrence of Arabia: After recently writing a post about how I think David Lean lost something when his scope got too big, I still can't ignore the one epic of his that I think works. Sure, it lags in the second half and though I'm sure it's not the first biopic to do it, I always question the wisdom of telling how your main character dies at the beginning and then flashing back. When I saw Lawrence for the first time, thankfully in a theater, I knew next to nothing about T.E. Lawrence. An element of suspense is lost by letting me know he dies years later in a motorcycle wreck before his tale has actually begun. Still, the performance of Peter O'Toole is so great and the visual landscape is so sumptuous, that they are minor quibbles.

10. Amadeus: How about this for a double feature (and for admitting to a crime). I watched The Killing Fields and Amadeus on the same day at the same theater, sneaking from one showing to another. I'm grateful the timing made Amadeus the second feature, because it might have been too draining the other way around. While the film is definitely a drama, there is a comic buoyancy to it that I always find exhilarating and it's a great thing that F. Murray Abraham got his Oscar due as "the patron saint of mediocrity" even if his career since has left a lot to be desired (though he was often the best thing in awful movies such as The Bonfire of the Vanities and Tom Selleck's An Innocent Man). Of course, I don't want to slight Tom Hulce, Jeffrey Jones or Elizabeth Berridge, but this is really Abraham's show.

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It's funny, when I was trying to make up a list of all the BP's that could potentially make my Top 10, I came up with a total of 8 films. They've picked many excellent pictures, but not that many great ones.

It turns out I've only completely agreed with the Academy's choice a total of 4 times (1939, 1977, 1993, 1999) out of what was it, 78?
I think 7-8 of yours will be on my list as well, although Annie Hall didn't even make my short list. I do love "Annie Hall" but it probably isn't even in my top five Woody Allen movies.

Good list. Sorry I'm poky with my ballot, I just keep changing my mind.
Yep -- I'm waiting on your hubby's list too. I'm surprised at how many of the movies are getting at least one vote. I figured there'd be more orphans (and there still might be) on this list than there were for the worst.
I voted already, looking over your list I saw that I inexplicably missed Casablanca, so if my voting lookings weird due to that ommission, that's the reason. I'll let my vote stand as is though, plenty of others will vote for casablanca.
Hey, eddie I got my wallet stolen a few days ago and it had my password and username in it for my site so I created a look-alike at, same thing. Just to let you know.
I couldn't vote. I got a "the requested URL was not found on this server."

What about Glory? or Full Metal Jacket? or Dr. Strangelove? JFK? Patton? Terms of Endearment? The Lady Eve? Double Indemnity? The Maltese Falcon? For sheer fun, is anyone old enough to remember Captain Blood? Psycho? Notorious? A Cary Grant movie has to be somewhere on this list.

And, speaking of Terms of Endearment, how about a Best Chick Flick list?
Raenelle, while all those are worthy films, we're just picking from the Academy's choices for best picture in this survey. As for the URL, I didn't realize that every day when I changed the date on the thread to correspond with the countdown, Blogger changed the thread name. I've expanded the title of the thread, and reset all the links to avoid the date problem. Thanks for the heads up -- you are the first who mentioned there was a problem.
I need all of you to go to either or and post your top 100 films of all time by tomorrow. I will post an average and it will be grand but we have been preparing for months and I only have 4 lists. Please everyone's list counts.
i completely agree with you in regards to all about eve. sunset blvd was just awesome and the third man totally got gypped.
We don't have that much overlap, but I like your list very much too. I think the only reason I didn't feel like listing Casablanca, GWTW and It Happened One Night is that I have a bit of fatigue from watching them too much. In a few years I'll be ready to rediscover them.
My most memorable multiplex-sneaking double feature was "Excalibur" followed by "Raging Bull." Whew! I still remember the sweet exhilaration and exhaustion I felt emerging from the theatre.

Must be a zillion similar stories out there. Might make for an interesting post or even a blog-a-thon.
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