The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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knives
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#26 Post by knives » Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:45 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:34 pm
I think you forget I’m one of the few people who doesn’t mind the Broadway Melody, and In Old Arizona is okay for what it is too, so that’s 2/4 (the Patriot being lost and all)

Other than the Roman Spring of Mrs Stone and the Rose Tattoo, there was no worse Williams adaptation in this era (though I still need to watch Summer and Smoke). Brooks later redeemed himself with Sweet Bird of Youth though
I actually really like Broadway Melody too. See edit above.
For Williams I would say I prefer Cat over Period of Adjustment, The Fugitive Kind, and This Property is Condemned as well putting it at about the middle of the pack.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#27 Post by domino harvey » Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:01 pm

I think it’s about as good as the Fugitive Kind, but I like This Property is Condemned more than you. I completely forgot Period of Adjustment was Williams!

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knives
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#28 Post by knives » Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:16 pm

Honestly Cat, Streetcar, and Property are all about the same for me and it's a threadbare judgement call on order.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#29 Post by movielocke » Thu Apr 04, 2019 3:35 pm

Having now watched Vice I'm once again caught up on BP nominations -- solid, loved the scariness of the final monologue, which sort of points out that you can't do a biopic of him that's not farcical and undercutting because if you took him seriously you'd turn him into a hero, as demonstrated in the finale. Very clever way to end the film.

Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, and A Star is Born were clearly the top nominees this past year for me, and I think the Spike Lee joint is the best of that lot.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#30 Post by domino harvey » Thu Apr 04, 2019 4:20 pm

movielocke wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 3:35 pm
Very clever
I though you said you watched Vice?

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knives
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#31 Post by knives » Sat Apr 06, 2019 11:43 pm

Smilin' Through
If I see a better film in the next month that would be nothing short of a miracle. While not without its eccentricities or familiarity, this is essentially built on the framework of Maugham's The Circle after all, the way this film peruses quality is attractive and engaging as with the best of films. The film begins in medias res and at first blush comes across as a stiff and awkward film with Howard in bad makeup. Fortunately when preliminaries are done the story shifts to a lived in world that doesn't know if it's a comedy of manners or a high point melodrama. The title is a small indicator that gains tremendous weight as the film moves on not unlike Mike Leigh naming a film Vera Drake. That mastery of tone is the film's best asset as it navigates real emotional damage with a romance that is as sweet as a cake. A huge part of this success is with Shearer who has never been better. She, as well as the other actors, give the characters a sense of real life so that their words and actions come across as improvised. There are so many moments of little touches that give life to the proceedings. The movie feels like it has broached reality and I can't think of a bigger compliment for now. Near the end the film looks like it will pull a dues ex machina to make Howard capable of forgiveness, but fortunately it waits a few scenes more which is part of what I mean by reality.

Alibi
While this has a couple of good moments West delivers for the most part a fairly generic early sound shoot 'em up with bland heroes, villains, and camera work. I am curious what the silent version may have looked like though as the most effective scenes are essentially shot like a silent film.

Miracle on 34th Street
I'm absolutely disgusted with this movie which has a moral that is supposed to be cute, but really is quite dangerous. Removed from what degree I am sympathetic to the film though it is a fair amount of fun. Gwenn gives a charming performance and Natalie Wood is already a supernatural talent.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#32 Post by dustybooks » Sun Apr 07, 2019 3:36 pm

I remember thinking Smilin' Through was outrageous in a very fun manner, and also that it's one of the only times I've found Leslie Howard engaging, at least in the scenes when he isn't hiding underneath the old-age makeup. I am very, perhaps ridiculously, fond of Norma Shearer and I agree it's one of her better roles, and the young-love stuff... what can I say, it got to me!

I'm also note-for-note with you on finding Miracle on 34th Street surprisingly daft as an adult despite my very fond childhood memories of it, though Gwenn as usual is delightful. (Still, I can't look at him anymore without thinking of the incompetent but frighteningly duplicitous hitman he played so memorably in Foreign Correspondent.)

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#33 Post by domino harvey » Sun Apr 07, 2019 3:44 pm

I think Gwenn’s terrific in the bizarre leading role Fox gave him after his success here, in 1948’s Apartment for Peggy, which is a film that quite convincingly argues in favor of suicide for the first half of the movie and then gradually introduces arguments against it for the second half. Literally never seen any Hollywood film like it, truly a “How did this get made?” feat

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knives
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#34 Post by knives » Sun Apr 07, 2019 4:02 pm

I'll have to try to pencil that in.

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The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#35 Post by movielocke » Sun Apr 07, 2019 4:10 pm

I did rewatch Around the world in 80 days and that was a bad idea.
At first, the film isn’t horrible, just middlin' for the first hour, but then you realize it has only been an hour--not tw--and the dawning realization of torture begins to set in.

It is one of dullest and slowest “chase” films ever made, if anything the film gets slower after Inspector Fix is on the case!

The best part are some of the beautiful travelogue imagery, which belongs in a travelogue, not a narrative, and even those parts are badly edited as well.
Last edited by movielocke on Tue Apr 09, 2019 2:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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dustybooks
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#36 Post by dustybooks » Sun Apr 07, 2019 4:36 pm

I would say the best part -- really, the only redeeming part -- of 80 Days is the closing title sequence. The charitable part of me feels it may be a film that could only be understood, even as a curiosity, in its original lavish theatrical setting. But even that's a stretch, as whatever one's surroundings there's still the matter of, y'know, sitting through all three hours of it.

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movielocke
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#37 Post by movielocke » Sun Apr 07, 2019 9:01 pm

dustybooks wrote:I would say the best part -- really, the only redeeming part -- of 80 Days is the closing title sequence. The charitable part of me feels it may be a film that could only be understood, even as a curiosity, in its original lavish theatrical setting. But even that's a stretch, as whatever one's surroundings there's still the matter of, y'know, sitting through all three hours of it.
Hah I agree that the end credits are the best part of the film!

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#38 Post by movielocke » Tue Apr 09, 2019 2:13 pm

The Sting is another film I hadn't seen since high school, and I remembered precisely one scene: Paul Newman walking into a poker game on a train and stating "Sorry I'm late, I had to take a shit."

Only the line is "crap," not shit, though I think my remembered line is a better line.

The film is a perfectly fine entertainment and star vehicle. but with such a fluffy underworld it has absolutely zero stakes, the title is functionally a spoiler, the assassination/hunt-of-Redford subplot is incredibly badly integrated into the overall film, and the whole thing is surprisingly bright and chipper, which in some ways works for a con man story.

It's very fun and quite entertaining, but it does not seem to hold up to the higher regard I held it in.

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knives
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#39 Post by knives » Tue Apr 09, 2019 2:58 pm

That was late Hill's whole vibe and I think it works spectacularly here. It's a way of viewing the past completely rose coloured. That's become a bit of a negative in recent years, but Hill does it so entertainingly I don't even want to impose today onto it.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#40 Post by movielocke » Tue Apr 09, 2019 3:36 pm

knives wrote:That was late Hill's whole vibe and I think it works spectacularly here. It's a way of viewing the past completely rose coloured. That's become a bit of a negative in recent years, but Hill does it so entertainingly I don't even want to impose today onto it.
Agreed, it’s a total lark and I’m on board with it completely, but I probably bumped it from ranking in the twenties to ranking more in the thirties, no longer in danger of making the list for me.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#41 Post by movielocke » Tue Apr 09, 2019 3:49 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Tue Apr 02, 2019 10:24 am
Just did a quick tally of the winners and it wasn't too hard to get to 20... but my initial listing of movies I felt strongly enough to list only went to 22, so not exactly a heartbreaking process. There's prob another handful of movies on top of that which are "okay," but the nominees lists will be much harder to winnow down than the winners!

As far as revisiting, for whatever reasons On the Waterfront and the Lost Weekend have been mentally bookmarked in recent years as winners that I wasn't enthused about but still want to reassess, so I'll hopefully get to those.

knives, we are absolutely not doing a Worst Winners/Nominees list, because that kind of thing is antithetical to the purpose of these lists, buuuuuuut if we were, Cavalcade would be a competitive contender for the worst winner of all time
I just did my own quick tally of the winners, and I agree it is not hard to get to a list of 20, 25 would probably get me to everything I want to include, but that's not hard cuts to make.

The nominees lists will definitely be much more challenging to get down to 20, but I haven't tried to make any preliminary lists there yet.

I also did a quick tally of BP winners I've bought on bluray but never watched and it came to 27! Many (like Gladiator) are upgrades I did when Best Buy and WB were doing their upgrade program, and a good amount are films I bought a year or two after they won but have never seen since their original theatrical, but there are definitely a majority that are like Bridge on the River Kwai, excitedly bought the bluray intending to watch it 'soon' and then it sat on the shelf ever since. So I've decided to prioritize some of these dust collecting bricks for this challenge.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#42 Post by knives » Tue Apr 09, 2019 5:08 pm

A Star is Born (dir. Cooper)
In all honesty if the film ended with the duet that would have been enough to make this one of the best of the last year which is not something I thought I would ever say. As an act of emotional catharsis and just an attempt to drown in humanity it is vital and necessary in a way that is hard for me to say. I suppose it is a well duh that the performances here are amazing, but hell the obvious should be said. Even smaller performers like Clay as Ally's father feel so fully formed from the word go that exposition and history become unnecessary. While that duet was a great culmination of a great thing that's hard to reach after the film doesn't suddenly become bad or anything. It is still great, but a less immediately satisfactory sort. It's a slow burn paying off what's been established in an at times painful way. I'd say those last thirty minutes reach the same level if in reverse of those first forty.

I get some of the criticisms of the film, but that seems to me mostly a reversion to the mean given how much the previous two versions de-emphasized Maine's involvement even though that is the inception point to the first film getting made. Cooper also adds a lot making Maine's perspective worthwhile. Depression, self medication, suicide these are all issues that are under-served and hidden in today's society in a way that makes it hard to get help. Cooper's naked depiction of his character's resistance of his basest instinct and failure on that account is a necessary and beautiful plea. Gaga strikes me as still being the film's cornerstone though. She really loves him and cares for him pushing for that comeback to the last minute as a core of empathy. She (as well as Elliott) is exactly what he needs and yet even in their perfection they aren't enough because it takes just one act of pettiness to bring a life down. That's another painful truth the film reaches for in just the right way.

Sons and Lovers
It's quite bizarre how so far in my experience Cardiff's directorial career has matched up to Ford's. In this case we're presented with a very modern tale that comes across as a sequel to How Green Was My Valley with the shields of nostalgia blown off the situation. That potential for attachment to a more innocent version of the character is also what keeps this sufferable. There's so many English bores about arty working class chaps and their penis succeeding as a result of patronage made in this era. The idea of encountering another one and finding it alright let alone an intelligent work is quite unexpected yet that is what Cardiff and his team do. The film is rather like Miriam, his girlfriend, in that while clearly in love with him it is also open about his ability to frustrate and how immature his youthful rages are. This man is still a child, this lover still a son.

This narrative contra to character maturity is never more clear than with the female characters. Usually they're totally absent or else merely tools for the men. Here is different to the point where the most compelling parts of the story function with them as main characters. Part of this is just the overall well put together characterization (Howard may not actually be the lead, but he plays as if he were) o that the full complexity of all characters is felt in each individual action. In a conversation with Stockwell Sears' point of view is so clear that she is not merely his girlfriend, but a person dealing with their own serious growing pains. Perhaps the best compliment cum explanation of this effect of characterization is to call this film, in essence, a proto-Davies venture.

The film is also just incredibly pretty featuring some of Freddie Francis' best work.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#43 Post by domino harvey » Wed Apr 10, 2019 1:55 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:34 pm
(though I still need to watch Summer and Smoke)
Update: I watched this and loved it, def a top tier Williams adaptation. I also watched Blythe Danner and Frank Langella in the 70s TV adaptation of Eccentricities of a Nightingale, which is the completely rewritten second version of Summer and Smoke that keeps the basic characters and setting but changes much of the story and meaning. Was such a strange double feature, it was like watching alternate universe versions of the same story... Summer and Smoke was better though!

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#44 Post by knives » Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:21 pm

dustybooks wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:16 pm
I actually like Separate Tables, mostly because I find some of the performances moving, though I think it's really hurt (as is the play) by the substitution of sexual harassment for a gay liaison, and it's pretty tragic that the former was considered more acceptable/forgivable than the latter! Have not seen Auntie Mame or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof yet and hate both Gigi and The Defiant Ones.
This summary of Separate Tables is about right. Immediately from Ratigan's credit it's clear this is an utterly bizarre metaphor for being a gay man in the UK. It's a metaphor that doesn't work either despite the actor's best efforts. It doesn't help either that Mann is in the forced droppiness mode of so much of '50s cinema. I think Niven got his oscar just because he was the only actor able to sustain a smile.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#45 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:30 pm

Niven’s win is a good look at the problems with the early decades of acting categories, because Niven’s role is clearly a supporting one, but at this time big marquee stars did not deign to be run in supporting so Niven got in and won for this role (he also campaigned shamelessly and infamously admitted to voting for himself). I believe until Hopkins won it was the shortest Best Actor-winning perf by a wide margin, and is still the second

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#46 Post by knives » Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:43 pm

I was speaking for the performance and not the category which will probably always mean different things for different generations.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#47 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Apr 15, 2019 6:56 am

To coincide with this project, Rebecca is under discussion at the film club. Come share your thoughts, even if they only amount to a line or two or a quick observation.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#48 Post by knives » Wed Apr 17, 2019 11:58 am

Today's post is brought to you by unpopular opinions.
Sayonara
What in the name of all that is good and bad is Brando doing here? He almost single handedly sinks what would otherwise be the best Logan movie I've seen so far. It's a beautiful epic that gets at the heart of why concepts of race are stupid, that's actually the benefit to the Montalban casting though it is not as powerful as the similar casting in Kazan's America America, and shows miscegenation as the only act of healing. This is all wonderfully dressed up in a delicious cloak of melodrama where everything is at its highest point. Except Brando of course. A stick hitting mud could be better understood than him. The actual Japanese dialog sounds more like English then his noises. It genuinely upset me that one jerk is ruining what is otherwise such a good and important movie. I wish they had just made this about the Red Buttons character instead if just to get away from the only imperfect part of this affecting film.

Cavalcade
Woot! I'm finally done with all of the BPWs up to the most recent nominee. Maybe it's because of this reason for celebration, but I'm in the mood to be the first person since Bunuel to call this a good movie. Not merely Lloyd's best either, but a genuinely enjoyable and intelligent film which is far superior to Coward's similarly themed This Happy Breed. That's not to say the film is a great one. It is a little stiff and is never focused enough to be dramatic while also never acidic enough for its satire to sting. The downstairs stuff is also hurt a bit by cartoon acting with the oldest generation (Una O'Connor was never exactly endowed with the Lubitsch touch). So this defense isn't exactly spirited, but stuff like the Graingers really comes together in their upperclass stupidity to be an effectively hilarious poke that doesn't ruin the emotional validity that the film tries to balance the satire with. Even the underclass stuff which would be done a lot better in the '50s and '60s works toward a sort of tragedy of errors that smartly gets at how the then current structures were an active harm that would be near impossible to separate from society.

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#49 Post by domino harvey » Wed Apr 17, 2019 12:03 pm

No

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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#50 Post by domino harvey » Wed Apr 17, 2019 12:08 pm

In all seriousness though, I completely forgot Buñuel listed Cavalcade on his best films ballot! All I have to say about Sayonara is it caused one of the scant few chuckles in My Geisha when Bob Cummings is told “Sayonara” by a geisha and he replies back, “Marlonbrando”

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