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The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered (Best Picture, 1991-1992)

The Oscar Quest began in May of 2010. I finished about fifteen months later, and wrote it up for this site. That was essentially the first thing I did on here. Five years have passed since then. I’ve grown as a person. My tastes have changed, matured (or gotten more immature, in some cases). So it feels fitting, on the five year anniversary of the site and of the Oscar Quest, to revisit it.

I want to see just how my opinions about things have changed over the past five years. I didn’t do any particular work or catch-up for this. I didn’t go back and watch all the movies again. Some I went back to see naturally, others I haven’t watched in five years. I really just want to go back and rewrite the whole thing as a more mature person, less concerned with making points about certain categories and films than with just analyzing the whole thing as objectively as I can to give people who are interested as much information as possible.

This is the more mature version of the Oscar Quest. Updated, more in-depth, as objective as possible, less hostile. You can still read the old articles, but know that those are of a certain time, and these represent the present.

1991

Beauty and the Beast

Bugsy

JFK

The Prince of Tides

The Silence of the Lambs

Analysis:

Beauty and the Beast. You’ve seen it.

Practically everyone can recite that song, line by line. This is one of Disney’s finest films. It’s the first animated film ever nominated for Best Picture. Sure, I’d love to vote for it. But I’m gonna be honest… not my favorite film in the category. The one I’ve seen the most, and a film that’s near and dear to my heart. But not my favorite. Can’t take it it, as much as I’d like to.

Bugsy is a biopic of Bugsy Siegel, the man who had the idea for Las Vegas.

That’s pretty much all you need to know. It’s a great film. Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Ben Kingsley, Harvey Keitel.

It’s a wonderful period drama that was good enough to have won Best Picture. It unfortunately came out in the wrong year. It’s a fourth choice here, through no fault of its own.

JFK. Everybody knows about this film. It’s one of those films that’s so ubiquitous, you come across it even before you get into film.

It’s Oliver Stone’s film about the assassination of JFK and the eventual trial to prove it was a conspiracy by the government. It has about every famous person you can think of, has some of the most referenced moments of all time (e.g. “back, and to the left”) and is one of the most riveting pieces of cinema that’s ever been made, whether you agree with its ideas or not.

It’s a perfect film. Incredible. I’d probably vote for it were it not for another film in this category.

The Prince of Tides is… yeah… it’s hard to hold up next to those other four. But also surprising this got the fifth spot over Thelma & Louise. (Or Boyz N the Hood!)

Barbra Streisand directed this. Nick Nolte’s sister attempts suicide, and Nolte comes into town and starts talking to her psychiatrist (Streisand), and falls in love with her while also dealing with a bunch of family shit he went through as a child.

I’m not a fan of this one. It’s fine, but it’s not for me. By far the weakest link in the category and fifth for just about everyone (especially history).

The Silence of the Lambs is a perfect film.

Clarice Starling is tasked with finding serial killer Buffalo Bill and has to use the help of Hannibal Lecter. You didn’t need that, because you’ve seen it already, because it’s so famous.

It’s absolutely perfect, and is always gonna be my vote here. I love Beauty and the Beast, but this is the choice. This is the best film in the category.

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The Reconsideration: It’s Silence of the Lambs all the way. Beauty and the Beast is great, but it’s not Silence of the Lambs. Love JFK, but not over Silence of the Lambs. There’s only one choice for me, despite there being four great films in this category.

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Rankings (category):

  1. The Silence of the Lambs
  2. JFK
  3. Beauty and the Beast
  4. Bugsy
  5. The Prince of Tides

Rankings (films):

  1. The Silence of the Lambs
  2. Beauty and the Beast
  3. JFK
  4. Bugsy
  5. The Prince of Tides

My Vote: The Silence of the Lambs

Recommendations:

The Silence of the Lambs is so essential I don’t even need to tell you how essential it is because you’ve probably already seen it.

Beauty and the Beast. What kind of animal hasn’t already seen Beauty and the Beast?

JFK is essential all around. Don’t even try to be a film buff and not see this.

Bugsy is essential. You have Warren Beatty and Barry Levinson at the top of his game. If you like all the requisite “early film buff” IMDB movies, you’ll get to this pretty quickly, because this cross lists with a lot of those. See it, it’s great, you’ll like it a lot. Trust me.

The Prince of Tides is ehh. Don’t love it, can’t really recommend it all that much. George Carlin is in it. That’s something I like about it. Otherwise, not something I think people need to see. Only really if you’re deep into the Oscars. Otherwise, whatever

The Last Word: One of the better decisions of all time. They had a nice little run in the 90s where you can’t really argue with the choices. A lot of the 90s is very cut and dry and agreed upon. Which is nice. Sure, Beauty and the Beast would have been nice, and JFK would have been cool, but neither of them would have held up as well as Silence of the Lambs has. All around terrific choice.

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1992

The Crying Game

A Few Good Men

Howards End

Scent of a Woman

Unforgiven

Analysis:

The Crying Game is a movie that, like The Sixth Sense, you pretty much knew the ending to it without having seen it. But that was growing up for me. Now, I don’t even know if this movie is even talked about enough anymore for that to happen. Which means I’m gonna be more careful in talking about it so as not to ruin it for the uninitiated.

Stephen Rea is an IRA agent who helps capture Forest Whitaker, a British soldier. They hold him and torture and interrogate him, looking for information. During his shifts with Whitaker, Rea grows pretty close to him and actually starts to like him. Eventually, things don’t end well, and Rea goes to seek out Whitaker’s girlfriend, who Whitaker made him promise to find should anything happen. So he finds the girlfriend and, rather than tell her the truth, he starts a relationship with her.

It’s a really good movie. VERY 90s, but still great. And a bit of a phenomenon because of what happens in it. Definitely the most talked about movie of the year. It won the PGA too. It had a legitimate shot at this. I wouldn’t take it, and historically it’s no more than a third choice, but it’s a very solid film all around.

A Few Good Men is just a masterpiece. Aaron Sorkin’s first script, and it still holds up.

A marine at Guantanamo isn’t performing up to his duties, so he’s hazed by his fellow marines. One of these hazing attempts ends in the marine’s death. The two who performed the hazing are put on trial for murder. Tom Cruise, a navy lawyer with a penchant for settling cases and never going to trial, is assigned to it. He starts to believe the marines’ story that they were ordered to perform the hazing by a commanding officer. Which means, bring on the trial!

One of the most famous trial movies ever made. It’s incredible. If not for Unforgiven, this would be my vote. This gets serious consideration every time, but I’m just never going to take it because it’s up against a better film. Shit happens.

Howards End is Merchant-Ivory. Oh boy.

Emma Thompson comes from a middle class family. She befriends a rich family and grows close to the aging matriarch of the family, Vanessa Redgrave. Redgrave really loves this one house that’s been in the family for generations, and none of her kids seem to appreciate it. Thompson, not coming from privilege, really does. So when Redgrave dies, she leaves the house to Thompson. Which the children of the family don’t like. So they make that piece of the will disappear. Though at the same time, one of Redgrave’s children, Anthony Hopkins, actually starts falling in love with Thompson.

It’s a decent film. I actually like this one a little bit. Don’t love it, would never take it, and hate the idea that these films always came so close to winning Best Picture, but I do appreciate it as a film. So there’s that.

Scent of a Woman. Hoo ah!

What else can you say?

Chris O’Donnell is a private school kid who is about to get in trouble because he sees some rich kids performing a prank on the dean. The dean knows he knows who did it and is threatening his scholarship if he doesn’t talk. He’s given the Thanksgiving break to think about it. On that break, he has a job ‘babysitting’ a family’s blind uncle, a retired military colonel. Pacino, the colonel, has no plans to sit at home all week and takes O’Donnell on a trip into the city and teaches him about life.

It’s fucking wonderful. I love this movie so much. It probably shouldn’t have won, especially over the competition, but it’s great. I love it and it’s a solid third choice for me. Historically it’s held up pretty well. Still shouldn’t have won, but it’s actually held up well.

Unforgiven is one of the greatest westerns ever made. The epilogue to the western genre.

Clint Eastwood is a retired gunslinger who married his redemptive woman and settled down on a farm. The way all gunslingers wish they could do. His wife is now dead and his farm is going to shit. The hogs are catching a disease and he’s not much of a farmer. One day, a young kid comes to his farm and offers him a split on a reward. Two men went into a whorehouse and sliced up one of the prostitutes. The prostitutes gathered together a bounty to put on the mens’ heads. So now a bunch of people are coming from all over to claim it. Eastwood agrees and comes into town on “one last job,” putting him at odds with Gene Hackman, the town sheriff who is trying to keep everything peaceful and quiet.

It’s a perfect film. Easily the choice this year. Not even close for anything else. This movie is a masterpiece through and through.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: It’s Unforgiven. A Few Good Men is a solid second, but a distant second. Nothing else comes close. Unforgiven wins this category every time.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category and films):

  1. Unforgiven
  2. A Few Good Men
  3. Scent of a Woman
  4. The Crying Game
  5. Howards End

My Vote: Unforgiven

Recommendations:

Unforgiven is essential all around, and if you haven’t seen it, you don’t love movies.

A Few Good Men. I mean, don’t you know how essential this is?

Scent of a Woman. Yes. You should see this. It’s amazing. Also referenced all over the place, so worthwhile for the references, if nothing else. Though there’s a lot else, so there’s that. Pacino won Best Actor for it too. Not 100% essential, but I would consider it essential.

The Crying Game is probably essential. Less so than it was ten years ago, but still probably something people should see. It’s one of those benchmarks and a big reference point for a lot of movies from the mid to late 90s and early 2000s. It’s very well made and has one of the great twists in film history. Just see it.

Howards End is essential for Oscar buffs. Otherwise it’s Merchant-Ivory. That’s on you to decide if you care enough to see those. For what it’s worth, of all the Merchant-Ivory films it’s my second favorite. We’ll get to my favorite tomorrow. But I do recommend this more than most Merchant-Ivory films (which admittedly is not a lot).

The Last Word: One of the better winners all-time. A Few Good Men maybe could have held up, and I can’t tell you how much better it could have held up than Unforgiven, but as it stands, they made one of the better decisions they’ve ever made, so I got no problems here.

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(Read more Oscar Quest articles.)

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