Yes, I realise La La Land has the most buzz around it with 14 nominations, and the Academy has generally resorted to self-congratulatory behaviour when it comes to choosing Best Picture. But I’m also telling you it doesn’t matter. The Golden Globes record, the hype around the return of the ‘musical’ genre, the much talked about ‘chemistry’ between the lead actors, none of the talk will last. The music and the closing montage might. In the end, it might even go on to win Best Picture, but will it remembered a decade from now? No one knows.
Here’s a list of films which were pretty good in their own right and went on to win Best Picture. But other movies from that year have enjoyed a greater legacy in the long run.
Steve McQueen’s film on a free man tricked into slavery was without doubt amazing, but only three years after it won Best Picture, the film isn’t as memorable as Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity which revolutionised the way films were shot. Both being compelling survival stories, Gravity got the snub like sci-fi movies usually do.
Ben Affleck’s third directorial venture hit it big with the audience and the critics even though his earlier films Gone Baby Gone and The Town were equally good. And during the awards season, the buzz became really strong which overshadowed many movies including Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained which was arguably a better cinematic experience.
Tom Hooper’s film was a sombre, inoffensive movie with two spectacular performances by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, but the film was hardly as provocative as David Fincher’s The Social Network. Fincher’s style and Aaron Sorkin’s verbose dialogue meant The Social Network has left an indelible mark on pop culture.
Termed ‘battle of the exes’ between Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker and James Cameron’s Avatar, Bigelow won big that night including Best Picture. However, the war-drama circling around an explosives team wasn’t anywhere near Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds which gave us colourful characters like Colonel Hans Landa and Lieutenant Aldo Raine.
Danny Boyle’s crowd-pleaser carried its momentum of sweeping award ceremonies into the Oscars and won 8 Oscars for the night. It overshadowed many great movies including Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight which didn’t even get a nomination for Best Picture.
Paul Haggis’ Crash examined the ingrained problem of racism within America and was a fine film all right, but it cheated Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture. Lee’s film which followed the love story of two homosexual cowboys stood for similar American values which the Academy wasn’t ready to embrace and that was a travesty.
Clint Eastwood is no stranger to winning Best Picture, but Million Dollar Baby even with the masterful performances from Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Eastwood was no match for Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. The movie starring a hypnotic central performance by Leonardo DiCaprio was a brave movie for its veteran director. The same cannot be said for the other veteran.
Even though Spielberg won his second Best Director for his epic war drama, he lost Best Picture to John Madden’s Shakespeare In Love starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow. After almost two decades of its release, Spielberg’s movie is considered arguably the best WWII movie ever made in Hollywood, while people hardly have any memory of the winner from that year.
Kevin Costner’s directorial venture starring himself took the top honours for that year even though it was competing with what is considered Scorsese’s best gangster movie starring electric performances from an ensemble cast including Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro. Looking back, Goodfellas is definitely the more defining film of the year along with the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing.
Oh Captain! My Captain! Robin Williams immortalised himself as John Keating, as he played a teacher using unconventional methods to inspire students of a conservative boarding school to question everything around them. However, the film directed by Peter Weir lost to Driving Miss Daisy starring Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy which explored racism as a white woman hired a black man as her driver.
At the receiving end was Mr Scorsese, as he made a film on the life of mercurial boxing champion Jake LaMotta. However, the film considered by many as his best work, lost Best Picture to Robert Redford’s directorial debut which explored the quiet disintegration of a family after the death of a young member. De Niro’s performance in Raging Bull is considered a gold-standard today, but people hardly remember Redford’s film.
Tied for the most visceral take on the Vietnam war with Oliver Stone’s Platoon, Coppolla’s Apocalypse Now lost Best Picture to the much simpler Kramer vs Kramer. Both great films in their own way, while the Marlon Brando-starrer has an iconic status today, the winner starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep isn’t remembered as often.
The best man wins? Not always.
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