The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#76 Post by movielocke » Tue May 14, 2019 10:25 pm

interesting looking on the dozen or so films I've seen for these lists since april, I've mostly focused on the bottom and the top of the BP winners. rather than the muddled middle where there could actually be revisits that may change the list. I think that's because I'm most interested in the fun of revisiting some of the top films (like Casablanca), and I am most curious about what I think of the bottom films now. I wasn't really planning on that approach, thinking I'd rewatch a lot in the 20-40 range, but as I've picked and chosen what to watch any given night, those have been the two categories that have tended to win out.

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fiddlesticks
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#77 Post by fiddlesticks » Tue May 14, 2019 11:11 pm

movielocke wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 7:20 pm
Of course I also always assume everyone in this board has seen a lot more films than I have, so maybe my assumption that everyone participating has seen all 92 is wrong. :-p
Speaking for myself, by a quick count I believe I've see 60 of them, many not for many, many years. But then again, I'm not participating except in a passive manner.

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dustybooks
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#78 Post by dustybooks » Tue May 14, 2019 11:54 pm

I went through all the winners back in 2012-13 and did rank them at the time, though I don't know how passionately I can stand by those judgments now.

I also apologize for not participating more in discussions here, especially since the synergy was unusually great with my own personal projects, but I've just been insanely busy trying to catch up on some new films and getting reacquainted with the library on the Criterion Channel. I will definitely submit a list.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#79 Post by domino harvey » Wed May 15, 2019 12:24 am

In retrospect, given that we have two threads that have been around for a decade already devoted to these films, perhaps it’s not so strange people have less to say than usual. Still, props to our participants and remember that you can submit a list/lists even if you haven’t seen all or even most of the eligible films

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movielocke
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#80 Post by movielocke » Wed May 15, 2019 1:10 pm

After the moderately positive noises in this thread about Broadway Melody I decided to give it one more go.

It is terrible. The acting is atrocious, and the attempts by most of the actors to talk is just horrid, the line readings are often bad, full of awkward pauses. Makes the child actors in Skippy look like prodigies. It actually gets a bit better in the last ten minutes of the film, suggesting just how fast things were changing, that even within the few weeks of shooting they were figuring out and improving things (assuming they shot all the dialogue portions in rough continuity). the script has the occasional zinger and pre-code innuendo, twice making me actually laugh, but the delivery is so bad that it makes the script look bad but the script is merely mostly mediocre.

The titular song is of course great, the other songs are mediocre, the singers are meh, and the dancing and numbers are tepid as directed/edited/presented here.

The best part of the film is the opening ninety seconds, which is a fascinating dense and busy cacophony of sound that gets pulled down gradually as people gather to hear "The Broadway Melody".

But it is fascinating as a launching point for many musicals. I would still say Hollywood Revue is slightly better, even with some of the godawful parts, and having just seen King of Jazz last year, I think I was pretty unfair to it, as it is world's better than this, but I still rated it fairly low.

Absolutely in the bottom two of the winners list for me.

The Grand Hotel on the other hand, was slightly better than I remember. I love the opening with the phone conversations and the energy and pace of the film.

Right up until we come to a screeching halt when Garbo and Barrymore's romance takes center stage. Both actors are fine, the script is fine, the romance is fine. But the rest of the film is fun and energetic and their romance is not. So that dichotomy pulls the film down for me as I think it really doesn't work very well. But it is overall a quite good film.

Bridge on the River Kwai is such a pleasure to revisit, like Amadeus, I was also introduced to this film in middle school--in science class--it was the teacher's favorite film, and he had a whole multiweek project where we watched the film and then all had to learn about structural engineering by designing and gluing together little balsa wood pieces (like chopsticks) into a bridge. I learned triangles are strong in bridge structures.

In any event, after the project, I watched the film again on my own, and then several times in high school, but the last time being a couple viewings in college. Since unlike Lawrence of Arabia this never plays repertory, I've never got a chance to see it on the big screen, having missed the last two screenings in LA in 2002 (didn't know how to get to the theatre and had no car) and 2003 (bus driver strike).

I bought the bluray on the day it came out, and then never watched it. What's interesting is how struck I was this time by the film's cynicism, and how tightly paralleled the Saito and Nicholson are but that parallel is wrapped up in a critique of the structures of the military and military leadership. It's amazing that the film is as sympathetic to Saito as it is, and able to walk a tightrope of pretend "celebrating" Nicholson while constructing a narrative built out of criticizing the entire blasted system that creates and perpetuates him. what's impressive is that even William Holden's story is wrapped up in this theme. As a kid, I never quite registered the unfairness and levels of manipulation involved in sending him back with the commando team, so it was striking to see just how explicit the film is about all of this, particularly in some of Holden's dialogue still complaining about the stupidity of sending him back once they're in the jungle.

As the film faded for me over the years, I had kind of thought it wasn't as richly complex thematically and character wise as Lawrence of Arabia, more of a romp is what I remembered. but looking at it now, while it doesn't totally measure up to Lawrence, it is completely in the same vein and much richer than my teenage self grasped.

And I should really mention the pacing. I think this film and The Great Escape are two of the finest paced Hollywood "epics" ever done, neither feel like three hours, both fly by beautifully, all without being action dominant. Interesting that both are prison films, where the action is necessarily confined to a tightened set of spaces, maybe that means the dialogue and character development takes on characteristics of zippier dramas and comedies that are confined to a handful of sets as well, typically...

Gigi Okay, the film is more than a little gross, but I still like several parts and numbers somewhat in spite of its content, the film's coyness about Gigi's age leaves me somewhat confused, you have an actress in her mid twenties, but costumed and discussed as though she were thirteen or fourteen, but perhaps she's supposed to be sixteen? Nineteen? Twelve? hard to say, and I think deliberately so. Minelli's direction and production design of this film are incredibly, outlandishly dense and opulent. Not a favorite for me, but not the worst either, probably lands somewhere in the 60s.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#81 Post by domino harvey » Wed May 15, 2019 3:27 pm

Image

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movielocke
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#82 Post by movielocke » Wed May 15, 2019 3:39 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 3:27 pm
Image
hah!
well, how about this, I had Hollywood revue rated a 3 out of ten (roundabouts 535 overall out of all nominees in the list I made myself a few years ago), broadway melody was rated a 2 of ten (at 547 overall out of all nominees), but I have upped Broadway Melody to a 3 (still ranks as second worst winner!), so perhaps if I ever torture myself to rewatch Hollywood revue (ugh, I would have to suffer through that godawful romeo juliet scene), I would rate it lower than broadway melody?

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domino harvey
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#83 Post by domino harvey » Wed May 15, 2019 3:42 pm

I’m pretty sure screening the Romeo and Juliet skit for anyone unawares constitutes a war crime under the Geneva Convention

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knives
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#84 Post by knives » Thu May 16, 2019 8:55 am

Just that scene?

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domino harvey
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#85 Post by domino harvey » Thu May 16, 2019 8:52 pm

I mean, imagine getting punched over and over but then one of the stray punches hits your windpipe and you almost choke to death. That’s the blow you remember

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dustybooks
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#86 Post by dustybooks » Fri May 17, 2019 1:07 am

I liked the skit about Lon Chaney in Hollywood Revue... or at least I think I did. It's just about the only thing I remember about it now. I'm not a massive Broadway Melody booster either, but I did find it fun and somewhat memorable; the performances do creak a bit, but only in that distinct early-talkie way that I find oddly fascinating (I think because in an era of American cinema that broadly seems so distant and dreamlike, the awkwardness of acting in those very early sound films seems like a rude and frayed invasion of "real life"). I've only seen two of the three other surviving nominees that year but I wouldn't really advocate for either of them as a stronger choice, despite my soft spot for In Old Arizona.

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knives
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Re: The Best Picture Lists - Discussion and Defenses

#87 Post by knives » Fri May 17, 2019 12:40 pm

Random Harvest
The plot and premise to this film is so incredibly absurd that the fact it does not die under its own weight is miracle enough. That somehow it manages to skim greatness cements it as a pleasant shocker. I honestly don't know how the film convinced me in its first act which is something so bizarre it might be best to go into it blind. If I had to gander a guess I'd say it rests on the two lead who somehow manage to make the absurd mundane and the mundane extraordinary. I've dunked on Colman a lot over the years, but his tendency towards enigma works well here as a man who is never really sure of his own life. He feeds well to the shadows of the film making this seem like a noir variation of the typical soap opera romance.

Garson gives a great performance as well, but she's barely in the film much to my surprise so there's not much to say beyond it's up there with her best.

Bad Girl
The various pieces that make this work aren't terrible unique for the period. It's the doomed romance of the industrial age that would be worked and reworked up through Penny Serenade. What makes this unusually successful though is a real dedication to simplicity. There's no big act of melodrama popping up. The crying Cary Grant is no centerpiece nor is there a terrified Janet Gaynor. Instead we have ordinary problems played with an open psychology. In a way this is the movie that the few Griffith sound films were aiming.

Kings Row
This is a confusing film. It's obviously a necessary step toward Peyton Place, but its defining struggle in content also keeps it from quite working. Everyone admirably tries to make this work and in a decade they would have probably succeeded, but instead the film stops short of success and is content to be very interesting.

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