62. Dances With Wolves (1990)
Ah, Kevin Costner. I remember (vaguely) the days when you were an important player in Hollywood. Haven’t seen this one in a while but I remember it being…watchable? I’ll put it here for now.
61. Rain Man (1988)
Like Dances with Wolves, watchable, but—also like Dances with Wolves—pretty awards-bait-y. Though Dustin Hoffman won his second Best Actor Oscar for this, the consensus now seems to be that Tom Cruise gives the better performance.
Man, 1995 was a weak year for Best Picture nominees. Braveheart’s not that great, but what was supposed to win instead? Apollo 13? Sense and Sensibility? Il Postino? Babe? To be clear: I like those other nominees just fine, but none of them really screams “Best Picture.” I chalk Braveheart’s win up to the Bigness Factor. The Rule of the Bigness Factor states that little movies (romantic comedies, indie films, etc.), even if they’re successful and universally well-liked, are nearly always steamrolled by bigger ones (historical dramas, epics, etc.). Which is why Erin Brockovich never stood a chance against Gladiator, Lost in Translation never stood a chance against LOTR, Fargo never stood a chance against The English Patient, To Kill a Mockingbird never stood a chance against Lawrence of Arabia, etc. There are some exceptions to this Rule (Shakespeare in Love, Marty, The Artist, Annie Hall).
I’m noticing that many of Oscar’s “manly” Best Picture winners fall into this low-middle range for me. Like Braveheart, Rocky isn’t exactly a chore to sit through, and its triumph-of-the-underdog narrative is a reliable one. Still, at least three of the other 1976 Best Picture nominees (Taxi Driver, All the President’s Men, Network) are better movies.
My memory of this one is sketchy. But it stars Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Montgomery Clift, and Frank Sinatra, so it can’t be that bad, right? Note to self: revisit.
This WWII-era melodrama is a bit hard to swallow in spots, and it has the subtlety of a sledgehammer (it ends with a scene in which English parishioners sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” for heaven’s sake). On the plus side: performances are good all round, and I find it impossible to resist Teresa Wright in anything, so there’s that.
Another social problem picture, this one about the trial and execution of Sir Thomas More. It’s really a showcase for Paul Scofield’s admittedly excellent performance, for which he won both a Tony and an Oscar.
The best thing that can be said about this gritty action thriller is that it captures the grime and the sleaze of 1970s New York City better than just about any other movie with the exceptions of Taxi Driver and Shaft. As a piece of cinema, it’s pretty slight. Fun fact: at a neat 103 minutes, it’s one of the shortest movies ever to win Best Picture.