Best Picture Winners and History

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Lew Crippen, Mar 2, 2004.

  1. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    As there have only been 76 ‘Best Picture’ awards, it is clear that not every great movie can have been given a BP award. This means that claims that a particular picture now considered great (or even considered great at the time) cannot have been recognized. That is assuming that we all believe that there are more than 76 ‘great’ movies in the English language. Plus some years such as 1939 had several deserving candidates, only one of which could win.

    On the other hand, it might be interesting to see how many of the BP winners have stood the test of time. As an attempt at understanding how films are viewed, not by one individual critic but by a consensus I compared the Oscar winners to two different lists, familiar to forum members: the Sight & Sound best picture list and the AFI 100 Best Picture list. Although there are some anomalies with this methodology, because very recent films will not have had time for proper due consideration (at least compared to films made 20+ years ago), I still found the results interesting:

    On both the S&S and AFI lists were:

    All About Eve
    Annie Hall
    Apartment, The
    Best Years of Our Lives, The
    Bridge on the River Kwai, The
    Casablanca
    Godfather Part II, The
    Godfather, The
    Gone with the Wind
    Lawrence of Arabia
    On the WaterFront
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
    Schindler's List
    Unforgiven

    rr 14 films out of a possible 75 (leaving off the last two year’s winners, but adding one for the dual winners the first year). This works out to 18.67% of the winners being universally recognized as great films (the definition of universal is to be included on both lists).

    One film was on the S&S list that was not on the AFI list:

    Sunrise.

    And 18 more films were on the AFI list only:

    All Quiet on the Western Front
    Amadeus
    Ben-Hur
    Dances with Wolves
    Deer Hunter, The
    Forrest Gump
    French Connection, The
    From Here to Eternity
    It Happened One Night
    Midnight Cowboy
    Muitny on the Bounty
    My Fair Lady
    Patton
    Platoon
    Rocky
    Silence of the Lambs, The
    Sound of Music, The
    West Side Story


    This gives us a total of 33 films which a significant number of ‘experts’ believe to be important, or great films. This means is only 44% of the winners are still considered to be films of the very first rank by one or the other of these august bodies. This is not to say that many of the films not one either list:

    All the King's Men
    American Beauty
    American in Paris, An
    Around the World in Eighty Days
    Beautiful Mind, A
    Braveheart
    Cavalcade
    Chariots of Fire
    Chicago
    Cimarron
    Driving Miss Daisy
    English Patient, The
    Gandhi
    Gentleman's Agreement
    Gigi
    Gladiator
    Going My Way
    Grand Hotel
    Great Zigfeld, The
    Greatest Show on Earth, The
    Hamlet
    How Green Was My Valley
    In the Heat of the Night
    Kramer vs. Kramer
    Last Emperor, The
    Life of Emile Zola, The
    Lost Weekend, The
    Man for All Seasons, A
    Marty
    Mrs. Miniver
    Oliver!
    Ordinary People
    Out of Africa
    Rain Man
    Rebecca
    Shapkspeare in Love
    Sting, The
    Terms of Endearment
    Titanic
    Tom Jones
    Wings
    You Can't Take It with You

    only that films such as Gladiator and The Last Emporer, even as good as their supporters believe them to be, don’t make the consensus cut of great films. It would of course be possible to find respected, individual critics who support most of the ignored films, but at this point i9n time, these winners are not on either list.

    What does this mean? I’m not sure, other than winning an Oscar is no predictor as how a film will later be considered. And I expect that it means that voting is often influenced by issues of the day, personalities and what kind of film won in the immediate, prior years.
     
  2. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    These are interesting statistics. Need a bit more time to digest.

    A very strong 14 films. Unforgiven has aged well in my eyes, for which I previously believed was a weak year ala 1996. This year still stands out, as I thought Shine was more deserving than The English Patient. I thought none of the films of that year were **** material though.
     
  3. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    Oscar winners tend to be very well crafted 'Hollywood' movies. Films that break from the Hollywood aesthetic get nominated for best picture, but typically fail to win (think films by Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Scorsese). These films end up standing the test of time because they are so much more innovative and original than 95% of the stuff that is pumped out.
     
  4. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    One note about the AFI list: it only includes movies made through 1996. As such, Oscar winners from Titanic to date wouldn't appear on it, so you can't factor them into your equation...
     
  5. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Interesting analysis Lew, though I must admit I find myself in disagreement both with films that made both lists, as well as ones that made neither.

    I do think that the Oscars are very limited, and that politics does play a role. Academy voters too often give or withhold votes based on factors other than quality.

    Then again, I also think critics have limitations, as can be seen by films like In the Heat of the Night, Rebecca, The Sting, and You Can't Take it With You missing both lists while films like All About Eve make both. [​IMG]
     
  6. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    One of the reasons I went with the two lists, was that they both presented a consensus view, not one of individual critics. Personally I think that the AFI list is not very good, as it includes a good many films that I think are actually mediocre (e.g. From Here to Eternity). Even so, I accept that it is a list that represents a consensus view of many in the industry, which ought to be more valid than any single list by an individual critic.

    However in the case of the four movies you cited, I am in agreement with the lists, as I don’t think The Sting, though enjoyable is any more than that, In the Heat of the Night has not held up so well for me (but I’m going to watch it again as a part of the AFI challenge (on my Tivo right now)), and for me Rebecca, as much as I enjoy it, is not one of Hitchcock’s best. On the other hand, I think All About Eve deserves every accolade it received then and now.

    And as I’m sure that one could find a good many critics and film historians to take positions both ways on all of these films, I find it hard to construct an analysis that would satisfy scrutiny (actually I could probably do it, but it would take way too much time).

    You are correct of course Colin. I was just a bit lazy (see my comment above). I made another minor error by a count of one, but I don’t think I’ll go back and correct the minor math, as the thread does not seem to have been of general interest.
     
  7. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Well, Lew, you and I have lots of agreements, and some disagreements about films, and this has to be one of the more major disagreements. I find the Sting to be near the top of Best Picture Winners, and All About Eve is, for me, very, very near the bottom, certainly one of the 3 least deserving IMO.
     
  8. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I know that one is Cimarron. [​IMG] And the other would be…?
     
  9. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    Gee, can I guess??

    Lesseee....boat, water, core audiences, nope...drawing a blank![​IMG]
     
  10. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    There's actually a difference between the worst 'best picture' and the least deserving 'best picture'. But All About Eve over The African Queen is one of the 3 least deserving in my opinion. As bad as Cimarron is, I'm not sure it's the least deserving, though there were far, far better pictures in 31. The Greatest Show on Earth isn't the worst best picture, but against High Noon, it's one of the least deserving. As bad as Titanic is, and as undeserving compared to L.A. Confidential, I don't think that's as big as travesty as Oliver over 2001. [​IMG]
     
  11. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Of course it would have taken write-in ballots for 2001 to have won. [​IMG]
     
  12. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    It's probably even more of a tragedy that the film wasn't even nominated. [​IMG]
     
  13. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    George,
    I must admit that some of your opinions on film are indeed unique and different.




    Crawdaddy
     
  14. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    African Queen was nominated for Best Actor, Actress, Director, and Screenplay in '51. There were actually three different writing categories back then--"Motion Picture Story," "Screenplay," and "Story and Screenplay" (quite confusing!). Roughly speaking, Screenplay appears to have been the equivalent of the modern day Adapted Screenplay award (African Queen was originally a C.S. Forestor novel), although I'm not sure what the difference was between the "Story" and "Story and Screenplay" categories.

    I like All About Eve, but I certainly think Sunset Boulevard was in a class by itself in 1950. Not sure it's one of the least deserving, though. Surely How Green Was My Valley is high up on the list in that category--nice movie, but who would possibly argue that it was more deserving than Citizen Kane?
     
  15. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Actually I just realized that error, for some reason I though All About Eve was 1951 :b

    You forgot insightful and correct. [​IMG]
     

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