Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Watching the Best Picture nominees - All 485 of them

I need to get this post out of my system now, because come February 28th, we'll be back to cursing the relevance of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences the way we always do. And let's not kid ourselves, the way we love to.

It's always been a love/hate relationship. Those with limited movie experience look in from the outside with sneers about how they've "not even heard of most of those films!" Egads! Pretension must be afoot! But it's the very same group that lends a surprising amount of credence to the winners, simply by virtue of caring so damn much what does and doesn't win or even get nominated. I mean, who care that The Dark Knight didn't get a Best Picture nomination. It's hardly in bad company. Far greater works of cinema have missed the cut as well, many of which never even had a fighting chance (ie, a rigorous studio campaign) to begin with.

Cinephiles, jaded curmudgeons that they are, care about the Oscars too. Most will deny this, and for a few this may be a genuine sentiment, but deep down, most hold out some hope that every once in a while the Academy will get something right. It's a rare and welcome opportunity to gloat, but more importantly, it means that some deserving film will go down in the record books, maybe even get a bump in renown. It could be a mere Best Costume Design win, but hell, us curmudgeons will take what we can get.

In the spirit of being generous though - because, after all, 'tis Oscar season - I think it's worth appreciating all the things they have gotten right. Forget whether a film is the 'best' of a year, or what else should have been nominated/won, the Academy has managed to preserve, through the time-honored format of the checklist, many many films that I'm better off for having seen, plenty of which I may never have come across without these accolades from ages past. On a smaller scale, that of the Best Picture winners, this was instrumental in my indoctrination to the world of movies. There's a real rush when you're first checking off Casablanca, On the Waterfront and Lawrence of Arabia from your to-see list.

With this in mind, I'm declaring the start of a new mission, the viewing of every last film nominated for the Best Picture award. Technically, it's a goal I've been working toward for years, and we even do regular yearly BP lineup rankings at Culturish, but over the last month I've found a surprising amount of resolve to actually do this. I've watched at least 20 nominees during the last month and what I found was that despite a few total duds, there was a handful of amazing mixed in. Yeah, I had to sit through The Robe (a contender for the bottom 10, to be sure) but I also got to see criminally overlooked films like Fanny, Decision Before Dawn, A Touch of Class and A Room at the Top. Those four alone have honestly made whatever mediocrities I've had to indulge more than worth it.

485 films are currently in the esteemed ranks of Best Picture nominees. This means that assuming the Academy holds onto its current 10 nominee stunt for just one more year, come nomination morning in 2013, we will hit (possibly surpass, again depending on the nominee count) the 500 milestone. Therefore, I declare my intent to have viewed every single film nominated for Best Picture by that very morning, date of which as yet to be determined. And I have every intent of finishing far sooner than that. There is one insurmountable hurdle in the way, the 1928 Ernst Lubitsch film, The Patriot, is considered lost. Barring that though, I'll be ready for a complete top to bottom ranking of the nominees come 2013.

So where do I stand now? To be honest, I haven't counted, and that's a number that I don't really want to see. I'd be intimidated, especially by the significant number I still have to see from the pre-1944 years where the nomination total was 10, and on two occasions as many as 12 nominees. I do know that there are many years where I have seen all nominees, probably close to 30, so my task ahead is far from impossible. There's yet to be a decade that I've seen everything from, but I'm down to three from the 2000s (Ray, Letters From Iwo Jima, and The Blindside), six from the 80s, and seven each from the 70s and 90s. Put in that perspective, I should breeze through this. But again, the 30s are starring me down, and I'm kinda petrified.

Funny enough, after all the viewing over the years to get as far as I have, I've still not seen all the Best Picture winners. The Broadway Melody, Cimarron, and The Great Ziegfeld are the final three winners I've not caught up with, the only films separating me from finishing the original list I set out to complete. I'm in no rush though. I've got nearly two years.

1 comment:

  1. Am so glad you singled out Decision Before Dawn. Considering that it was filmed in post-war-torn Germany (in this day of Green Screen backgrounds) makes it all the more intense. It also helps that the acting is so good too.