Best Picture Marathon: the halfway mark

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Over the summer I began the giant undertaking or watching all 90 Oscar Best Picture winners in order. As of this blog post I have officially hit the halfway point after finishing The Godfather. You would think watching 45 movies wouldn’t be that hard, but planning out when to watch each movie, and having the motivation to watch them at times has been hard. Originally I wanted to finish my marathon before this year’s Oscars, but that won’t happen unless I watch two movies every day until the ceremony. There are a lot of things I have noticed about movies and the film industry during my marathon.

One trend I have noticed is that basically every decade has an overarching theme that it’s winners fall under. Many of the 40’s winners were centered around World War II. The late 50’s and early 60’s was the sweeping epic, and the 60’s had several big musical productions. The early 70’s is all about the crime drama. These themes don’t mean that every movie during that timeframe falls in the same category. Whenever yo think you can pin down how the academy is going to vote, they throw in a curveball.

I also was pleasantly surprised by several films that I did not expect to like as much as I did. The Apartment came out of nowhere for me. I had heard of it but never knew what it was about. I went into it with pretty low expectations, but It rates as one of my top movies so far in the marathon. Other movies like Gentleman’s Agreement, and It Happened one Night rank much higher on my list than I thought they would.

For every surprise there is also a dud. My Fair Lady, Around the World in 80 Days, and The Greatest Show on Earth rank towards the bottom of my list. Several movies on the list just don’t do anything for me and probably should have lost to more deserving movies.

For the most part a vast majority of the movies I have watched are somewhere in the middle. they’re good not great but not terrible movies. I think this says a lot about the Academy and the film industry as a whole between 1927 and 1972. Mostly I think it says that just because a movie was named Best Picture, doesn’t necessarily mean it was the best movie in its year. How Green was my Valley beat Citizen Kane, An American in Paris beat a Streetcar Named Desire, and The Best Years of our Lives beat It’s a Wonderful Life. Winning the ultimate prize at the Oscars doesn’t necessarily mean that it was a great movie and will always be remembered as the best movie of its year. Time has not been kind to several of the films on the list, and for good reason.

The last insight from the first half of the marathon has been how hard it is to keep politics out of my rankings. You would think it would be easy to sit down, watch a movie, and say it was a 75 out of 100. You would be wrong. The first thing I do after finishing a movie is try to give it the score I feel it deserves. The second thing I do is check my rankings list and realize that I was completely wrong. I see the list and decide there’s no way the movie I just watched is better than a movie I watched earlier, so I move it down. Then I tell myself that I have to keep it above a certain movie that I see was originally above where I was going to place the current movie. It’s very difficult to keep things straight that way and I have yet to figure out the perfect system for deciding the rating to give a movie.

Hopefully things will become easier in the second half of the marathon, but I fear as rankings become tighter it will just make it much, much harder.

Some things I am looking forward to in the second half of the marathon are obviously, more modern movies. It’s great to watch the old classics, but we’re still at the point where long movies have intermissions and have to play the overture before returning to the screen. That seems to have ended with The Godfather and I’m hoping it stays that way. Graphics and CGI will become big in the not too distant future of my marathon. Most of the movies so far are still shot on soundstages in studios. It is becoming more common for more real location filming, but the obvious studio set is still rather noticeable.

The movies I’m most excited to watch in the secon half are The Godfather II, Amadeus, Schindler’s List, and No Country for Old Men. Since finishing the marathon by the Oscars is out, I hope to finish by this summer and not drag this out for more than a year. My next post will likely be the full recap and possibly my full rankings of, by then, all 91 Best Picture Winners.

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