Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ranking the 90's: Oscar's Best Picture Lineups


Alright, so Josh over at The Cinematic Spectacle posted a ranking of the Best Picture Lineups of the 90's, and I thought the idea was a great one, so I copied it.  Be flattered Josh!  Anyways, this was one of those instances where the outcome was not what I expected and I'm kind of baffled at how it happened.  I want to first explain how I went about this.  I started ranking every individual film, which got to be almost exhausting because giving everything an exact order can be hard and quite frankly it always fluctuates.  So then I decided to give each film a grade (I used the same grade system as we do for the Twice a Best Actor/Actress series), and then add the grades for the collective ballot together, giving us our overall ranking.  This gives me a chance to put aside personal preference and just grade each ballot as a whole, because really this is about the entire lineup and NOT individual films.

The result was NOT what I was expecting.

Like, I'm not sure how this happened; at all.


10
1990

Awakenings
Dances With Wolves
Ghost
The Godfather Part III
Goodfellas

I expected this to rank last.  This is quite the underwhelming lineup.  Awakenings is a good film, but hardly a memorable one.  Dances With Wolves is uniformly fine, but somewhat embarrassing and offensive and dumb.  Ghost is pulpy crap, held together by a funny yet blank performance.  The Godfather Part III is not awful, but in comparison to the masterpieces that came before it, it's just not worthy of the name.  And then you have Goodfellas, that classic gangster film that is really good, but always falls short of the hype for me.

As a whole, this one got 64 points from me.

9
1998

Elizabeth
Life is Beautiful
Saving Private Ryan
Shakespeare in Love
The Thin Red Line

I just recently (yesterday) started talking about this year, since the Fisti Awards are being posted now.  I mentioned that overall I found this to be a lackluster year for film, even though I do love some films.  As a whole, this lineup is kind of representative of that.  It's strange that all that hoopla was made over a foreign film, finally, and yet it was such a cliched mess of a film.  Elizabeth is fine, but nothing memorable (outside of Blanchett's star turn).  Life is Beautiful is flamboyant and flashy and embarrassing.  Saving Private Ryan is a dull action flick that just fails to amount to much of anything.  Shakespeare in Love is actually really good, despite all the hate it gets for winning the Oscar, but at the end of the day it isn't a great movie.  The best of the lineup was The Thin Red Line, which sadly lost out.  It's a masterpiece of a film, but the rest of the lineup pales in comparison.

This one got 65 points from me.

8
1992

The Crying Game
A Few Good Men
Howard's End
Scent of a Woman
Unforgiven

This is where the collective ranking starts to hurt lineups (and films) that deserve more.  In fact, three of these films are tremendous films (well, two are tremendous and one of excellent), but two of these films are some of the absolute worst nominees of the 90's, and so it drags the whole lot down.  The Crying Game and Howard's End are both masterpieces to me.  Unforgiven, while not perfect, is also an excellent film.  BUT...Scent of a Woman and A Few Good Men are DREADFUL films.  Just, awful, awful movies.  

This got a collective score of 66 from me, despite both Howard's End and The Crying Game getting A+ grades from me (and Unforgiven got an A-).

7
1996

The English Patient
Fargo
Jerry Maguire
Secrets & Lies
Shine

Despite a bump in the lineup, and the overhyped realities of the actual Oscar winner, 1996 was a uniformly solid lineup.  The English Patient, which took home the Oscar, is a visually remarkable film with some rich performances that, in the end, feels a tad lifeless to me, but overall a respectable winner.  Fargo is a comedic masterpiece.  Jerry Maguire is lighthearted fun and a worthy Blockbuster entry.  Secrets & Lies is not Leigh's best, but it is certainly woven beautifully from start to finish (and an astonishing ensemble).  Shine is really the only bad film here, but it's bad...really bad.

My score was 71.

The next three years received the same score, so they are ranked according to the number of A's they received.

6
1994

Forrest Gump
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Pulp Fiction
Quiz Show
The Shawshank Redemption

Here is another year that is pretty solid, despite the fact that, like 1998, 1994 is such a lackluster year all the way around.  This lineup is kind of proof of that, because it is solid yet underwhelming.  Forrest Gump is such a contrived film, one that embraces every single cliche without restraint and basically is that film that everyone loves that I just don't get.  Still, with as much seething as I've done over the film over the years, even I have admitted that it is mediocre done really well.  Like, as much as the film makes me want to bang my head against a wall, it's still extremely watchable.  Four Weddings and a Funeral is fun, albeit a tad forgettable (like, this feels like the oddest Best Picture nominee of the 90's, easily).  Pulp Fiction has it's share of detractors, but the cult status is deserved.  Quiz Show seems forgettable and yet it is spectacularly made and really surprised me.  The Shawshank Redemption is one of those films that many love and many hate, but at the end of the day it is a solid film that deserves the place it has in pop culture.  This is a uniformly fine lineup that reflects that lull in film that year but isn't embarrassing at all.

The final score for this was a 72.
A's accumulated were 2 (Pulp Fiction received an A+ and The Shawshank Redemption received an A)

5
1991

Beauty and the Beast
Bugsy
JFK
The Prince of Tides
The Silence of the Lambs

This year had some real highs, structurally, and then a bitter low.  I still kind of love this lineup, simply because it feels like one of those lineups that includes everything.  There's an animated film, some biopics, a thriller, a soap opera.  Dramatics, comedy, campiness, horror.  It kind of has everything.  Not everything is great, but most of it is.  Beauty and the Beast is my favorite animated film of all time.  It's nomination here is like one of the greatest things ever.  Bugsy is good, and has some great performances, but a tad messy on the construction.  JFK may be Oliver Stone's best film.  The Prince of Tides is a mess, a pulpy, campy, shoddy mess and one that makes me recoil in nausea when I think about it.  Like, what the hell?  Then you have The Silence of the Lambs, which is one of the most revered Oscar winning films because it seems like such an out-there choice for them.  The film is still very effective today, even if I don't absolutely fawn all over it.  It's very good.

Also, this gets 72 points.
A's accumulated were 3 (Beauty and the Beast received an A+, JFK received an A- and The Silence of the Lambs received an A)

4
1997

As Good as it Gets
The Full Monty
Good Will Hunting
L.A. Confidential
Titanic

The ranking here is clearly on the strength of two films (sort of three) because two of these films are just so-so and really don't deserve to have Oscar Nominee attached to their names.  Still, the overall ballot is brought up by the fact that none of these films outright suck (like in some other years) and two of these films are masterpieces.  As Good as it Gets is decent, but cheesy.  The Full Monty is a riot, even though it doesn't age that well.  Good Will Hunting is a cliched mess of a film, but is redeemed by a very strong ensemble.  L.A. Confidential and Titanic are masterpieces, no matter how you slice it.  Titanic may be a mess and somewhat embarrassing, but it is so committed and so lovable.

Again, 72 points.
A's accumulated were 3 (The Full Monty received an A- and both L.A. Confidential and Titanic received A+'s)

The next two films also received the same score and are also separated by number of A's they received.

3
1999

American Beauty
The Cider House Rules
The Green Mile
The Insider
The Sixth Sense

This is a prime example of the strength of a film year NOT being portrayed in the actual Oscar lineup.  Like, 1999 is largely considered as the best year for film in the 90's, and quite frankly one of the best ever.  I've ever heard it compared to 1939.  Still, this lineup just feels wasted.  Sure, there are some great films here, but overall this is a weak lineup for such a strong film year.  American Beauty, which won the Oscar, is a very good film, and even though it has many detractors who tear is apart, I think that as a tonal piece of filmmaking it really is astonishing to watch and something that is very well constructed.  A very great example of a director flexing his style without clouding his film.  The Cider House Rules is a decent, if mundane film.  It's so pedestrian it hurts.  The Green Mile is kind of in the same boat.  It's decent, but so sorely underwhelming.  The Insider is a very good film, an electric one, and is the best example of Mann's ability to maintain tension, even with a premise that doesn't feel all that exciting on the outset.  The Sixth Sense is probably the biggest surprise of the 90's in that it basically reinvented the horror genre.  Three of these films feel like great representations of a year that also brought us astonishing works from Fincher, Minghella, Kubrick and Jonze.  It's a shame those weren't mirrored in the rest of the nominees.

My final score was 77.
A's accumulated were 3 (American Beauty and The Insider received A's, while The Sixth Sense walked away with an A+)

2
1993

The Fugitive
In the Name of the Father
The Piano
The Remains of the Day
Schindler's List

Another extraordinary year for film, this lineup seems just a little more solid than 1999.  The Fugitive, while seemingly a forgettable thriller, is really well made and stands the test of time.  In the Name of the Father is kind of messy and preachy and aggressive, but it hardly sucks.  And then you have a trifecta of near perfection.  The Piano and The Remains of the Day ARE perfect, actually.  Schindler's List is well regarded as one of the greatest Oscar wins of all time, and while I do consider it a perfect film, it is in that glassy perfection that I find the film flawed.  It's very clinical, almost cold.  Still, it's a towering achievement, I must admit.

Again, 77 points.
A's accumulated were 3 (The Piano and The Remains of the Day received A+'s and Schindler's List received an A-)

1
1995

Apollo 13
Babe
Braveheart
Il Postino
Sense and Sensibility

I don't know how this happened.  Like, I honestly did my math like ten times with the same result and almost contemplated changing the scores to alter this result because it doesn't make sense and yet, I guess it does.  Like, as a whole, this is a very solid lineup.  Braveheart is a shit film, and I gave it a C-, and yet it wasn't enough to bring down the uniformity of the remaining nominees.  Apollo 13 is an extremely well crafted film, a first rate dramatic thriller that surprised me so much.  Babe is a delight of a children's film that makes me smile every single time.  Il Postino has so much depth, so much heart.  Sense and Sensibility is one of the best Austen adaptations ever.  Like, four of these five films are really good, if not GREAT.  Despite the stain of Braveheart, 1995 comes out on top for me.  And I only gave ONE A+ (Sense and Sensibility), but the other three got an A, so I guess that's why this happened.  And to think, this came in TENTH for Josh!!!

The final score was an 80.

So, this took all day!  LOL, I'm not even sure I agree with this, but you can't argue with math, only taste level, so argue away my friends!  Tell me how wrong I am, debate my grading, pick apart my logic...or completely agree with me!!!

4 comments:

  1. So I have to remark on the years-1990-ho-hum-I actually like Dances With Wolves the best despite the blah blah about the native Indians. I cried when the wolf got it. Ghost is OK but Gimme Moore is an idiot. I have tried 5 times to watch all of Goodfellas-I don't get it. I want someone to bash Ray Liotta's head onto a table every time he laughed. 1998-Sorry a Thin Red Plot does not get my vote...I fell asleep in the theatre and watched it again recently and was frustrated-dislike it. I enjoyed Life Is Beautiful-I guess because my mom, who is German, was a young teen at that time and humour helped her (she survived Hamburg and Dresden bombings, helped some Jewish people and was part of the resistance against the Germans). I also loved Elizabeth. 1992-I agree with you and I even hate that title of Scent of a Woman-ick. 1996-Fargo-great! Loved the epic of The English Patient.. the rest are ok no big deal. 1994-Shawshank Redemtion is one of my all-time favourite films-all time!! Quiz Show is intelligent and holds my interest but Forest Gump..wins??? It is probably from the same people who feel Duck Dynasty is the next Citizen Kane of TV. Pulp Fiction is another winner for me too. Love the soundtrack.1991-I could not have said it better about the Prince of yawn. Beauty and Silence are great films to me. 1997 is pretty good as I enjoyed most of the films and love The Full Monty but for 1-Titanic. Don't get me started on that horrid Love Boat sinking debacle. I was really expecting Julie and Gopher to be around. Now the special effects are absolutely excellent...but that's it. I am not a Bill Paxton fan as he is flat as a pancake. I love Kate Winslet but I know too much about Titanic and Cameron centered on these 2 youngins running back into the ice water...ughhhhhh Watch A Night To Remember-A much better film. 1999-I enjoyed all these films but I agree that most are not hugely memorable except for the Sixth Sense. 1993-The Piano-amazing work-period.Schindler's List-Amazing to me and the acting-Ben Kingsley and Liam Neeson should have won all awards especially Ben Kingsley who, I think< was not even nominated. The remains of the Day-so great. The Fugitive-Really? I mean Really? I shake my head. Fun to watch and then move on. 1995-I have to say I like Braveheart despite that nothing is right and there is no way he could yell out freedom while his intestines are piled beside him..just saying. Sense & Sensibility is wonderful but my 2 favourite are Il Postino and Babe. They are beautiful and magical. In fact I dreamt I sang with my arms around the mice and we sang away in my dream. My husband, the next day wondered what song I was singing as it sounded so familiar. What can I say? Sorry for the lengthy post

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    1. Oh, but I love long comments!

      Yeah, it looks like we're kind of in agreement about the actual complete ballots and 1995 being the better of them all, despite not being amazing. Like, at least all involved are decent films. Braveheart, in my eyes, is a glorified soap opera and is ridiculously self indulgent (LOL at Mel Gibson as Jesus) but it is entertaining and isn't awful. The other four are all very good films, at times excellent.

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  2. Thanks for the link man!

    Nice list. The formula produced some interesting results. LOL, we flip-flopped our best and worst, but we still had 3 of the same years in our top 4. I love it!

    I had '90 at #9, but I did kind of love Ghost, which I had almost NO interest in seeing. Ooh, you give The Sixth Sense an A+? That's awesome! I love how well-executed that film is. Still, Shyamalan's masterpiece will always be Signs. :)

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    1. GROSS!!! Signs is awful. LOL. The Sixth Sense is such a smart, terrifying movie with incredible performances. Sadly, every film after that has been a slow decline in all departments. I still love Unbreakable though.

      This was a very cool idea though, so I'm glad you did this!

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