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The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered (Best Picture, 1995-1996)

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.

1995

Apollo 13

Babe

Braveheart

Il Postino

Sense and Sensibility

Analysis:

Apollo 13 is a self-explanatory film title.

Everyone hears this movie and immediately thinks of the famous line. “Houston, we have a problem.” Which is not spoken the way anyone thinks it was. Think about how you remember that line being spoken. It wasn’t.

This movie is great, by the way. It doesn’t feel like a Best Picture winner, but also… if it’s my favorite film in the category, and the film that I consider to be the best in the category, then who cares, right? That’s always the argument for me with this movie. I love it, it’s great. So why not take it?

Babe is a movie about a talking pig. And somehow good enough to prevent them from ever making a film about one of the three most famous baseball players ever and calling it this.

Babe is a pig who wants to herd sheep. He learns to do so. That’ll do, pig.

I feel like everyone knows this movie, but also, I grew up with it. I have no idea what you crazy post-millennials watch.

It’s great. I completely get why they nominated it. Wouldn’t take it at all. But it’s a solid third choice for me. If for some reason the main two films fell off the list entirely and were replaced with nothing, I’d be okay taking this. Otherwise, good film. Talking animals.

Braveheart is the movie with the kilts and the blue face paint. And the ‘Freedom!’ speech. Otherwise, most people couldn’t even tell you what this is about. Right? And this movie has a king named Longshanks in it. It’s fucking nuts. Yet no one remembers the specifics.

William Wallace is a Scottish dude who watches as Longshanks basically takes over Scotland and rapes his people (sometimes literally). His wife is murdered and he swears revenge. So (and by the way, they basically took this exact story and set it during the Revolutionary War and made The Patriot. Even Gangs of New York is the same story. Murder, revenge, killing) he starts a rebellion and it grows. It’s pretty awesome. Great battle scenes. A bit far-fetched (he fucks the king’s wife!), but still awesome.

A lot of people would take this, and I’m cool with that. I might even take it on the right day. But also… I love Apollo 13. They’re both good, but Apollo 13 is casually good. I’ll just put that shit on and watch it. This, not as much. Though this has disembowelment, which is a bonus.

Il Postino does not have disembowelment. So what’s the point, really?

That’s how I vote at the Oscars. Does it have disembowelment? Then I’m not interested!

That’s why Spotlight won.

This is about an illiterate postman who meets an exiled Pablo Neruda and befriends him. And Neruda teaches him how to read so he can woo a woman he likes and then the man becomes a poet. That’s it. That’s the film.

It’s a Harvey Weinstein special. Perfectly fine film, but I think his campaigning plus the death of the film’s lead actor and some well-placed critical love helped this get as far as it did. But it immediately became a fifth choice the minute it became nominated. No one honestly takes this in this category. Or, if you do, no one thinks this is the best choice in the category. It’s just — not a good choice. We’re already gonna have Roberto Benigni on our hands, do we need this too?

Sense and Sensibility is Ang Lee directing Emma Thompson’s script of a Jane Austen classic.

How this is different from any Merchant-Ivory film or any other costume drama version of these movies, I don’t know. But people fucking love this. I see this so often as the film people would take in this category, or the film that “should have” won, and I remain baffled. It’s fine. It’s perfectly fine, and a good film. I just don’t get it as a winner. I don’t know if I’m gonna go so far and to say people are wrong, but also I wonder how much of it is people going along with a narrative that’s been untested. Doesn’t really matter. I wouldn’t take it, and this would be a fifth choice for me if it wasn’t for Il Postino. I just don’t take these movies in this category unless I like it enough and absolutely have to. Neither is the case here, and all things being equal I’d rather take the talking pig over this.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: It’s Apollo 13 vs. Braveheart for me, and I imagine for a lot of people. You wanna do Sense and Sensibility, be my guest. I’m staying out of that. That’s not for me. And while I love both of these choices, Apollo 13, as I already said, is just so much more captivating for me, despite it not seeming like a Best Picture choice as much as Braveheart does. So I’ll take Apollo 13. Cool with which way they want (and they set themselves up for it with the lack of Director nomination for Ron Howard), but I’m taking the film I like better.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  1. Braveheart
  2. Apollo 13
  3. Babe
  4. Sense and Sensibility
  5. Il Postino

Rankings (films):

  1. Apollo 13
  2. Braveheart
  3. Babe
  4. Sense and Sensibility
  5. Il Postino

My Vote: Apollo 13

Recommendations:

Braveheart is essential. What are you, nuts?

Apollo 13 is also essential. Did you not grow up with this movie on cable like I did? Do people just not watch this all the time? Because it’s watchable as hell and really good with really great actors in it. You don’t have to consider it a classic and a Best Picture choice, but you better see it as something you need to see based on just pulling up the goddamn IMDB page alone.

Babe is essential. It just is. Kids movies are very essential to all our lives, and this is one everyone needs to see. I don’t care if you’re an adult. See it. You see this right now. I’ll wait.

Sense and Sensibility – ehh. Solid film. Not something I feel is essential. It’s on you. Probably worth seeing for the cast and director, but as a film, take it or leave it. It’s better than almost all the Merchant-Ivory stuff, but unless you’re really into the story or what not, I don’t feel — actually, scratch that. I say the best versions of very famous works are, in their own way, essential. And to this point, this is the best theatrical version of this story (unless English majors really prefer other versions that I don’t know about because they were only aired on the BBC), so that makes it worth seeing in a SparkNotes kind of way. Otherwise, it’s a costume drama and a really famous novel. You know what you’re getting.

Il Postino is a moderate or even light recommend. I don’t love it, but it’s fine. Some people will really like it. I say it’s up to you. It’s not required viewing at all unless you’re deep into the Oscars. Otherwise, use your own judgment on whether you think it’s worthwhile or not.

The Last Word: Braveheart seemingly has held up as the better choice, and I can’t really argue with that. Though I prefer Apollo 13. How that would have held up as a winner I can’t quite say. But I think they were both fine choices. Seemingly they went with the better one, but that’s only because we see how it’s held up and we can all live with that and accept that as a good choice.

– – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – –

1996

The English Patient

Fargo

Jerry Maguire

Secrets & Lies

Shine

Analysis:

The English Patient.

Right though?

Ralph Fiennes crashes his plane in the desert and is badly burned. He’s cared for by Juliette Binoche and tells her his story, which involves an affair with a married woman. It’s From Here to Eternity meets Out of Africa. Big and epic and sweeping and romantic. It’s everything the Oscars salivate over.

I personally think the movie’s about thirty minutes too long and if they tightened it up without some of the subplots (Willem Dafoe losing his thumbs? The bomb defusing?) getting as much screen time as they do, this would be an incredible movie that I’d wholeheartedly support as the choice. Maybe not this year, but in general.

I’ve said for years, if they released this in the 50s, and it was a tight, 112 minute movie, this would have been a great winner. It’s got everything. But this — not something I take. I get it, and it makes sense as a winner, but who loves this to take it over Fargo? Let’s not pretend like this will be anything other than a third choice for me.

Fargo. I’m not gonna do the Minnesotan accent here. Nor will I say what I figured I’d say on the assumption that you’ve seen this.

But you have seen this, right?

I mean, it’s not as blatant as the next film, but you’ve seen this. You don’t get to me without having seen this. There’s a base level of giving a shit about movies before you get to me. You see this by the time you get to that level.

God this movie is so good.

Remember when they ignored the Coen brothers for years despite having at least four masterpieces up to and including this movie? The only movie they’ve made to this point that wasn’t 100% perfect is The Hudsucker Proxy, and it’s still THE HUDSUCKER PROXY.

This is the choice. I think history has shown us this is the choice. I’m going to take this. The next film I love dearly, but this is still the choice. The best (or worst, I guess, depending) part is that we’re not even gonna argue about this one. This is the choice.

Jerry Maguire. I refuse to believe you haven’t seen this or don’t know all about it.

What, was there a more famous moment I could have put here instead?

That’s the point. You can pick at least three really famous and iconic moments from this movie that everyone knows off the top of their head.

Somehow, this is not Cameron Crowe’s masterpiece. But it is an incredible movie that everyone loves. And as much as we’d all love to take it… it’s in the same category as Fargo. And Fargo actually has as many iconic moments as this has. Somehow. It’s a second choice no matter what I do. I can’t reason this over Fargo. I just can’t.

Secrets & Lies. I can’t really put a gif from this movie on here. Mike Leigh’s not really a “gif” friendly filmmaker.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste is a doctor who was adopted at birth. She tries to track down her birth mother. It’s Brenda Blethyn, a working class woman with a big family. And the film is about them meeting one another and entering each others’ lives.

I don’t love this movie. I generally have trouble with Mike Leigh in general, despite his films often having one or two brilliant moments in them. This movie has the cafe scene where the two meet for coffee, and it’s just one of the best acted scenes you’ve seen. Incredible. But the film — I thought it was boring. I couldn’t get into it. It’s certainly a good movie. That I can’t and won’t deny. I just can’t get into this movie or his movies in general, for the most part. This, to me, is an easy fifth choice and actually makes the category look weaker. Many people will disagree with me, and I understand that. That’s just how I feel. I would never take this. It’s just not for me.

Shine is a movie about a piano prodigy most people have never heard of. But that’s generally what good biopics do. Introduce you to people you don’t really know about and make you interested in their stories.

This is about David Helfgott, a child piano prodigy who is pushed hard by his father. So hard that he suffers a mental breakdown and is institutionalized. He’s played by three different actors, the two notable ones being Noah Taylor and Geoffrey Rush.

It’s a solid film. Though it’s one of those movies, that while generally liked, does make for a fairly weak Best Picture nominee. They do tend to be biopics. But they also are only really looked at as, “Yeah, that was fine.” Fourth choice for me, only because I would never vote for Secrets & Lies. In a category with Fargo and Jerry Maguire, I wouldn’t even glance at this movie.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: I’m taking Fargo. I’m always taking Fargo. I’d be taking Jerry Maguire if not for that. I just don’t like The English Patient enough to take it. Plus… fucking Fargo. That’s the choice.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  1. Fargo
  2. The English Patient
  3. Jerry Maguire
  4. Shine
  5. Secrets & Lies

Rankings (films):

  1. Fargo
  2. Jerry Maguire
  3. The English Patient
  4. Shine
  5. Secrets & Lies

My Vote: Fargo

Recommendations:

Fargo. Jerry Maguire. Have you not seen these already? Because I’m pretty sure you don’t make it here without having seen those. Two of the most essential movies ever made.

The English Patient is essential as a Best Picture winner. It’s a good film too. But if you want to complain about it having won, you need to see it. Plus, it’s a Best Picture winner. You should see those. This is essential, just not as much as those first two.

Shine is a solid film. Essential for Oscar buffs, otherwise a solid recommend.

Secrets & Lies is Mike Leigh. People should see one or two of his films just to get an idea of how he works. They’re not all essential, but some people really like them. See enough to get an idea of if you’re in that category. Of all his film, this one might be the most well known. That coffee scene is great. Moderate recommend. Not my favorite movie, but great central performances in it.

The Last Word: The English Patient is the kind of movie that would win Best Picture, and it’s good enough that it’s not the worst choice. But does anyone really like this as a winner? Don’t we all agree that Fargo was a far superior choice? That seems to be the takeaway from this year. Fargo was the best choice and the choice they made fits what they do, so while nobody loves it, we understand it, even if nobody thinks it was all that great.

– – – – – – – – – –

(Read more Oscar Quest articles.)

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