It’s almost Oscar time again. I have to admit, when Oscar night rolls around again, it makes me nostalgic for some aspects of my pre-parenting life. (Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t take anything in the world for stuff like Parker handing me a birthday card me made himself yesterday, or playing on the floor with Dylan and hearing him laugh.) Time was, by the time the awards rolled around, I would usually have seem most or all of the nominated performances and films. If I went to an Oscar party and joined the Oscar pool, I’d make a decent score and even win on occasion.
Now, if I’ve seen one or two nominated films or performances, I count myself lucky. That’s because getting to a movie nowadays requires slightly less planning than the Normandy invasion. Maybe more. If it isn’t available on Netflix, chances are I won’t see it.
But I have seen lots of movies over the years. And after seeing this list of the 10 best Oscar Best Pictures of all time, I thought it might be fun to compile a list of my own.
Love it or hate it, I’ll put GWTW on the list if only because it inspired this.
Did I ever mention that my nickname for a while in college was “Margo Channing”? No really. I think I just channeled her when I needed a persona with a bit more confidence than I had at the time.
The first musical I was ever in, not counting my second grade production of “The Wizard of Oz” (I played the lead, but that’s another story for another time). Now, “Somewhere,” is one of the songs I occasionally sing to Parker at bedtime.
The costumes alone are enough to justify this one (and enough to inspire Madonna), but it also includes perhaps the best “revenge song” ever written—”Just You Wait, Henry Higgins.”
I’m not sure why, but something about this movie has stayed with it ever since I first saw it. I haven’t seen it in years, and I’d probably need to watch it again to figure out what it is about this movie that’s stayed with me. But I’m kind of reluctant to watch it again. I think it’s something about what happens to the main characters, that and the feeling of hopeless confinement.
Another movie that deeply affected me when I saw it. I’m not sure what it was, again. I know I fell in love with (identified with?) Timothy Hutton’s character in this movie. The whole time I just wanted to hug him. Or have him hug me. Either would have been fine.
Twice, when I was in elementary school, I remember my whole school going to a movie. Buses were brought in, and everyone got carted off to see the movie. The first time was for The Wiz. (For years afterwards, every time there was a talent show, somebody would sing “Home.”)
The second time was for Gandhi, and I remember being deeply affected, again. I’d grown up learning about Martin Luther King Jr., and I knew his non-violent philosophy was inspired by Gandhi, but I’d never really learned much about Gandhi. After this movie, I went out and read more about Gandhi and his philosophy, and I like to think I came away with a better understanding of ahimsa, which became I adopted as part of my personal beliefs.
This one ranks as one of my top 10 favorite movies of all times. I once got into a heated argument about it with my roommate during my sophomore year of college, over who was the most tragic character: Mozart or Salieri. My roommate focused on Mozart as the more tragic of the two, because of his relationship with his father. (He was working out some of his own issues, I think.)
My thinking was that Salieri was the more tragic of the two. Here was a man given the desire to make great music, but not the ability. It was his dumb luck to be born in the same era as a musical genius like Mozart, and even dumber luck to end up in close enough proximity to Mozart to witness both his genius and his other qualities. To his way of thinking, God had implanted in him the desire to make music, but denied him the ability, and then added insult to injury by implanting musical genius in someone like Mozart, and then putting him right in Salieri’s face.
Salieri cannot admit to any responsibility for his artistic shortcomings and so must blame God for them. He insists that when he was young, God promised to grant him the gift of music. When He does not live up to this promise, He becomes Salieri’s “cunning Enemy,” whom Salieri continually tries to block. Salieri’s God proves unjust to him after, he claims, God gave Salieri the desire to serve Him through music, but then “saw to it the service was shameful in the ears of the server” and gave him the ability to recognize greatness while acknowledging his own mediocrity.
I’d be bitter too. But maybe I’m working out some of my own issues as well.
For whatever reason, Kevin Spacey was hot to me, in this film. But beyond that I wasn’t sure what it was about this film that moved me. Seeing it in the context of this list, with some of the other films, I think I have an idea.
Russell who? Yeah, I know he was supposed to be the hot shit in this film, but I could not be bothered with him. In fact, once Joaquin Phoenix showed up, I pretty much forgot about Russell. Gimme Joaquin Phoenix as the dark, brooding, conniving Commodus. Yeah, I know he’s the bad guy in this, but he can be my emperor any day.