Ranking the Best Picture Winners, Part III

72.  Ordinary People (1980)

This movie about white middle-class malaise may not really be any worse than, say, American Beauty, but it feels more egregious, what with its repeated use of Pachelbel’s “Canon,” wistful shots of falling leaves, etc.  Haven’t seen this in twenty years or so, though, so my memory of it may be unreliable. 

71.  You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

Reviewed here.

70.  The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

I know, I know, it’s heretical to say anything bad about the LOTR trilogy.  But seriously: as, you know, a movie, is The Return of the King really that good?  Is it a movie, or is it two hours of things being thrown in your face over the sounds of blaring high-pitched music, followed by a third hour that feels like it’s being projected in slow motion?  By far the most shrill and sloppily edited entry in the series, I’ve sat through it twice and it gave me a headache each time.  Peter Jackson, whose ’90s work shows tremendous energy and panache, was given so much rope on these films—and all of his subsequent efforts—that he slowly hanged himself.  But I realize I might be alone on this one.  Mea culpa!  For the record, I do enjoy The Fellowship of the Ring quite a bit.

69.  The Broadway Melody (1929)

While it’s no Singin’ in the Rain or Swing Time, or even Gold Diggers of 1933, I found this backstage musical inoffensive and at times cute.  As early talkies go, its use of sound is also way smoother than other contemporary musicals like The Cocoanuts.  Fun fact: original prints of this film included a color sequence which has since been lost.

68.  Tom Jones (1963)

Good Lord, this one was hard to get through, chiefly because it spends two-hours-plus shoving its cheeky smugness down your throat.  Nearly every scene screams “see how bawdy and fun we’re being!?!?  Isn’t this so naughty?!?  Are you having fun at how bawdy and naughty this is!?!?  Bawdy!!”  Etc.  Also briefly discussed here.

67.  Grand Hotel (1932)

I don’t remember this making much of an impression on me when I last saw it as an undergraduate, but as I recall it has Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo, and it sports some pretty impressive camerawork, so it can’t be all bad, right?  (Right?)

66.  Hamlet (1948)

One of the drearier Shakespeare adaptations, if memory serves.  Yes, the greatness of Olivier, etc.  Still: dreary.

65.  Going My Way (1944)

Discussed here

64.  The Last Emperor (1987)

What happened to Bertolucci in the ’80s?  He brings a sensuous texture to this very long and very pretty historical drama set in early twentieth-century China, but the film has no dramatic momentum to speak of.  Things do improve whenever Peter O’Toole shows up.  Then again: why is Peter O’Toole even in this movie? 

63.  Gandhi (1982)

So this is actually not terrible.  Thoughtful, intelligent, handsomely made, if not especially deep.  

Continued here.

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