The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1995

1995 is one of the strangest years in recent Academy history. Because seemingly, Apollo 13 was the film this year. It won all the major precursors — the PGA, the DGA (this is one of the only 6 times in history where the DGA and Oscar winner differed), SAG — and yet was almost completely shut out here. Must have been a real interesting race, that’s for sure.

Aside from this category, Braveheart also wins Best Director for Mel Gibson (talked about here), which is a good decision by virtue of the fact that Ron Howard wasn’t even nominated in the category. Then Best Actor was Nicolas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas (talked about here), a decision I love. (It was him or Anthony Hopkins, and Hopkins had one already.) Best Actress was Susan Sarandon for Dead Man Walking (talked about here). I don’t like this decision, I felt Elisabeth Shue was much better in Leaving Las Vegas, but Sarandon was going to win one anyway, so this was as good a time as any. Best Supporting Actor was Kevin Spacey for The Usual Suspects (talked about here). I can’t be objective on this category, so I just say good for him. And Best Supporting Actress was Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite (talked about here), which was a perfect decision. She was amazing in that movie.

But this category — I wonder what it is that led to such a drastic change in voting. Was it that Braveheart was more emotional for the voters? Actually, what I bet it was is that people saw Apollo 13 as more of a populist film without any heart, whereas the Academy can never turn down an actor-director. (By the way, I also see this category as directly responsible for what happened in 2001.)


And the nominees were…

Apollo 13 (Universal, Imagine Entertainment)

Babe (Universal)

Braveheart (Paramount, Icon)

Il Postino (Miramax)

Sense and Sensibility (Columbia)

Apollo 13 — This film is a staple of my childhood. It’s one of those movies I saw in pieces so many times that I never actually saw the complete version until I was in my 20s.

The film is about the Apollo 13 mission. You know — men, going to the moon, “Houston, we have a problem.” The first part of the film shows the men (Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Gary Sinise, though later Sinise is replaced by Kevin Bacon because they think he has the measles) training to go and leaving on their mission. Then the accident happens, and the rest of the film is the men, and mission control (led by Ed Harris as well as Gary Sinise) working to simulate what the men have to work with and try to find a way to patch up the ship and get them home. It’s such a great film. It’s one of those movies you can just watch all the way through, no matter when you turn it on.

I truly believe the reason this film didn’t win this award is because it suffers from “Spielberg syndrome.” That is — it’s a great film, but it’s just mainstream enough to where the Academy doesn’t like it, because the film not only is a great piece of cinema, but it’s meant to appeal to everyone and make a lot of money. And I think that is something the Academy doesn’t like. Well, that is to say, they like it, but they like it when it meets their credentials. Like Titanic. That’s great cinema and meant to be mainstream, but it also has the love story, it makes you cry — it has those Academy tells. This film doesn’t. And I think that’s why they didn’t go for it.

I, however, think this film is better than Braveheart. But that’s just me.

Babe — What a sweet and innocent film. It’s impossible to hate this movie.

In a way, this film is kind of like War Horse. Okay, maybe not. But a little bit.

The film begins with Babe being separated from his (her? I think it’s a he, right?) mother, who is sent to become bacon. And then he is won at a fair by Farmer Hoggett (the great James Cromwell). And Babe is taken to Hoggett’s farm and put in the sheep pen (great movie pun, the sheep matriarch is named “Maa”). And while there, Babe decides to be a sheepdog. Babe, of course, is really only there so they can eat him, but Farmer Hoggett finds a soft spot for him and decides to let him live. And then Babe trains to be a sheepdog, and is even entered in the sheepdog competition, which of course he wins, which leads to the film’s great line, “That’ll do, pig.” It’s so great.

This is undeniably a great film. It’s a pure family film, and a great film for all time. However — I don’t know if it should have won here. It didn’t need to. Even though I do kind of like it better than Braveheart, I think Braveheart was a better choice here. Still think Apollo 13 was best, though.

Braveheart — I am puzzled by this film’s lasting reception. It’s not that I dislike it. Far from it. I think it’s an amazing film. But the way people talk about this, you’d think it was a slam dunk Best Picture winner in the vein of Gone With the Wind or Lawrence of Arabia. What I see when I see this movie is a great film that deserved many Oscar nominations, but nothing that really warranted a win. To me, there are far too many moments in this film that either don’t work or feel like Mel Gibson having fun with it (the mooning? Really?).

The film, in case you don’t know (but judging how many people seemed surprised in college when I told them I’d never watched this film all the way through, I’d imagine everyone has seen this), is about William Wallace. He’s a Scotsman who is living peacefully, despite the country being conquered by England. And one day, his village is invaded by English soldiers and his wife is almost raped. He kills a bunch of soldiers and gets away, but she is caught and publicly executed. This pisses him off, and he goes on a rampage against the English. It’s kind of like The Punisher, only if the Punisher were Scottish and wore a kilt. Wallace gets a band of rebels and they go and start attacking the Brits (now that I think about it, The Patriot is almost the exact same movie. Huh…), and then there’s a whole subplot where he fucks a French princess, and there’s a whole bunch of stuff. Most people remember him in the blue face paint and giving the “Freedom!” speedh.  But eventually he is caught and disemboweled. Quel dommage.

It’s a great film. I just think there are enough questionable elements in it to preclude it from being an automatic Best Picture winner. As it stands, it’s not a horrible choice (see: 1996), but to me, it’s not an ideal one. But I can live with it. I still say Apollo 13 is better.

Il Postino — I love seeing this here. This tells me two things: Miramax knocking off Best Picture nominees is like Meryl Streep knocking off Oscar nominations. Anything the names are attached to immediately becomes by default a contender.

This film is about an illiterate Italian postman who very much wants to woo a waitress in his village. However, he feels too uneducated to make a move. But one day, while delivering the mail, he sees that the renowned poet Pablo Neruda is vacationing in the village. So he makes friends with him, and Neruda teaches him how to write poetry. And the two strike up a friendship, and the postman woos the girl, and everything seems happy. And then Neruda leaves and comes back, and finds out the man has died, killed by soldiers during a protest. It’s one of those films that you just know will be eaten up by the Academy. A film with a very simple story (all that really happens in the film is the dude meets the poet and uses the poetry to woo the girl), and then, “Oh, yeah, he died. How sad,” and it totally happens off-screen, so the Academy can think fondly of the performance and get the death aspect. They love that shit.

The film itself is good, but it shouldn’t have been nominated for Best Picture. (Personally, I say Leaving Las Vegas was so much better.) A sad note about this film is that its star, Massimo Troisi, was suffering from heart problems during filming, and delayed getting surgery until after filming. And the day after they wrapped, he died of a heart attack. It’s actually quite sad. (Though I can’t help but feel that helped the campaign for this film.) I still say it shouldn’t have been nominated, and that it only was because the Weinsteins are Oscar whisperers. I don’t think anyone would have voted for this over any of the other four films. So, because of that, I don’t mind it being here. But it’s clearly a #5 in terms of how much of a chance it had to win.

Sense and Sensibility — I hate these films. I really do. The fact that this came so close to a Best Picture win amazes me. In 1995. If there’s one thing I’ve openly disliked during this entire Quest, it’s those period costume dramas like this. Too often are they automatically included with the best films of the year. It just feels like because they’re British, have costumes, and are based on classy literature, that automatically are they seen as something great. And when I watch them, 8 times out of 10, the films bore me to death. There’s nothing remotely interesting about them. It must be that people are imprinting their recollections of the books onto the films, because that’s the only way I ended up liking some of these.

This film is about the Dashwood sisters. It’s based on Jane Austen, so it’s about women getting married. Emma Thompson plays Elinor, the older sister who is in danger of becoming an old maid. Kate Winslet plays Marianne, the impetuous younger sister. And basically they go about society, manners and shit, and there are men and stuff. Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant — it’s all pointless. There are manners, 18th century problems, and both women end up getting married, one happier than the other.

I really didn’t like this film. It looked good, but was like watching paint dry. I never like these movies, and this will be my #5. That’s just how it is with me. Never gonna like this stuff.

My Thoughts: As if it weren’t already clear, Apollo 13 is my vote. I just felt Braveheart had too many questionable elements for me to vote for it as Best Picture. To me, Apollo 13 has no real flaws. It’s probably not an ideal winner, but to me it’s the best film in the category, so that’s my vote. I don’t mind the decision (because in terms of this category, Braveheart was definitely second best), but I can’t vote for it.

My Vote: Apollo 13

Should Have Won: Apollo 13 (and, if Sense and Sensibility was really the probable winner, then yes, Braveheart)

Is the result acceptable?: Yes. It seems as though Sense and Sensibility was the favorite all the way through the race, and honestly, I’d have taken almost any of these other nominees over that. So, that being the case, yes, this is acceptable. Against just Apollo 13 — yeah, it’s still acceptable. It’s not a bad choice. Just not my preferred choice.

Ones I suggest you see: I’ll make this easy. You need to see Apollo 13. If you don’t, you’re dead to me.

You need to see Braveheart. If you don’t, you’re dead to the world.

You need to see Babe. Because what’s wrong with you if you don’t?

Il Postino is a good film, but a weak nominee. Still, it’s good. It’s worth a watch. Meh.

Sense and Sensibility — I don’t like it, but other people do. So I’ll mention it. I definitely don’t recommend it, though.


5) Sense and Sensibility

4) Il Postino

3) Babe

2) Braveheart

1) Apollo 13

One response

  1. My rankings are:
    1. Apollo 13 (by a mile)
    2. Babe
    3. Sense and Sensibility
    4. Braveheart (good but highly overrated)
    5. Il Postino

    September 9, 2013 at 10:05 am

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