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Category Archives: The Best Picture Winners

The Best Picture Winners: The English Patient (1996)

Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.
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The Best Picture Winners: Braveheart (1995)

Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.
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Review

 

The Best Picture Winners: Forrest Gump (1994)

Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.
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I have come to expect that when a film becomes universally successful both financially and critically, there will inevitably be a backlash.  These days, the label “overpraise” gets swatted at most any film that gains a universal audience and I don’t think it has hit any recent success in the way that it hit Forrest Gump.  When the film came out in July of 1994, everyone in the country went to see it.  Everyone was mimicking Forrest’s distinctive drawl, and audiences went back to see the film over and over again.  Yet, in the passing years the film has fallen out of favor with a lot of people willing to pull the film apart.

I believe that those who carp over the film aren’t looking deep enough. Forrest Gump is a portrait of our times, of the difficult things we’ve been through as a country told through the prism of a man born without the capacity to be jaded and cynical. Forrest moves like a feather on the wind from one lucky break to another carrying only the advice of his Mama, the love of his girl Jenny (who takes the low road into the hippie culture and the drug underground) and a hardbound loyalty to his friends.

Like a feather on the breeze, Forrest floats on the winds of chance. His narrow focus and lack of smarts make him a magnet for good deeds and good luck. He goes to college and becomes a football star. He goes to Vietnam and becomes a war hero. He picks up a ping pong paddle and the next thing you know, he’s competing against China’s greatest champion. He comes home and fulfills his late friend’s dream of opening a “shrimp’n bidniss”.

Along the way he is present for most of the major milestones of the last 40 years. As a boy he teaches Elvis to dance. He runs from bullies and is spotted by Bear Bryant. He ends up at the mall on Washington during the protests. He inadvertently reports the Watergate break-in. He meets presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. He ends up on The Dick Cavett Show, sitting right next to John Lennon. His travels put him in front of the tapestry of our recent history.  All the while, Forrest never seems to glance at these events with anything other than matter-of-fact. His lack of cynicism allows him a scope on the world that is pure and innocent but it also allows him a great deal of luck because he never seems to fall by the wayside.

Tom Hanks is probably the only actor who could embody Forrest’s spirit.  The greatness of his performance is that Hanks is able to remove the persona that we know from his other work and completely envelope himself in the character – he becomes the character.

And it is a character worth spending time with.  We spend time with a man we know is lacking in intelligence but is not immune to the realization of who he is (he just doesn’t express it). In the film’s most heartbreaking moment, Forrest visits his mother at her deathbed and leans forward to simply ask “What’s my destiny mama?” We’ve been present through most of his story and we’ve seen where the whims of chance carry him but he finally comes to wonder where all this will take him.  And it is only fitting that he would finally address this question to the only person whose words ever made compete sense to him.

As I revisited Forrest Gump just the other night, I was caught up again in its fantastical elements but I was also struggling to figure out where to place it.  What is this film?  Is it history?  Is it a drama?  Is it a comedy?  Is it a fable?  Is it alternate history?  My simple answer is this: it is an altering view of recent history that tries to find a new perspective on events that Americans have never really dealt with – The Kennedy Assassination, The Vietnam War, Watergate, AIDS.  It does so through a man absent of cynicism.  His actions represent the ways in which the American population over the past 50 years have tried, through goodness and luck, to rise to great heights but have often stumbled and fallen.

 

The Best Picture Winners: Schindler’s List (1993)

Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.
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Review

 

The Best Picture Winners: Unforgiven (1992)


Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.
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The Best Picture Winners: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.
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Review

 

The Best Picture Winners: Dances With Wolves (1990)


Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.
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By the dawn of the 1990s, the traditional western movie genre had been deep-sixed by the by the rising tide of political correctness.  It was no long appropriate to pit cowboys against Indians Native Americans and make heroes out of the settlers that had raped and pillaged the American landscapes.  Added to that was the movie-going public who made it clear that after the culture shock of Star Wars, there just wasn’t an interest in westerns anymore.

Enter Kevin Costner, who had made himself a star in a string of varied hits like No Way Out, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham and The Untouchables.  He was a immeasurably handsome leading man with the kind of soft-spoken pacifist demeanor that we remember from Henry Fonda.  With that, it might have surprised no one that he not only wanted to direct but that his debut would be an unapologetic, sentimental western that seemed to have political correctness written all over it.

I don’t say that to be negative.  Dances With Wolves is a splendid experience and a valiant attempt to update the western by giving light to a specific group of people that Hollywood had generally written off as stock cliches.  It is nice that someone would go to all the trouble to spend this much time dealing with the plight of the Native Americans and not sentimentalize their suffering.  Although one might be tempted to turn a crooked eye toward Costner for casting himself in the lead and giving himself the plum part.

He plays John Dunbar, a weary Union lieutenant who is order to an outpost to await his orders.  Waiting out in the desert for weeks, he carefully makes friends first with a wolf and then eventually with a nearby Sioux tribe.  What sets the film apart is that Costner and his screenwriter Michael Blake (who also wrote the book) gives equal time to the Native American characters.  They are not just background filler, but fully realized souls, not just in their sad destiny but as individuals.  By the time the movie is over, we feel that we have gotten to know them.

If I stand on one minor problem with the movie, it comes at the film’s ending.  Dunbar and his wife are separated from the Sioux Tribe with the inevitability that all will eventually perish.  Given that, why didn’t Dunbar just stay with the tribe?  If there was the be murder by the military, why not stay in the safety of numbers? It leaves an open door that leaves too many questions in my mind.

Also, I’m troubled by Costner himself.  He won two Oscars for directing and producing Dances With Wolves but his subsequent directorial efforts never reached this height again.   What happened?  What element went into Dances With Wolves that The Postman and Open Range lacked?

 

The Best Picture Winners: Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.
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Review

 

The Best Picture Winners: The Last Emperor (1987)

Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.
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Review

 

The Best Picture Winners: Platoon (1986)

Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.
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Review