Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sh!#ting on the Classics: My Oscar Fantasy

The dream is always the same.  Lynn Collins from John Carter begins to slowly unzip my pants. She asks me if I want my Oscar polished.

Have I ever mentioned that I call my penis “Oscar?”

All kidding aside, I finally took a long, hard look at Oscar… uh, er… I finally sat down and puzzled out the Academy Awards, year by year, and reached the same conclusion that I reached weeks ago.  The Academy almost always gets it wrong. In the 84 years that AMPAS has been giving out the shimmering gold dudes, I estimate that they have only ever honored the right film about ten times.

A miserable record, to be sure.
What follows is a list of some well-intentioned films, some good films, and some truly bad films ON THE LEFT -- and a list of 84 terrific, life-changing films ON THE RIGHT. Because I am RIGHT.  Here is what things would look like IF I RAN THE ZOO.

NOTE: I am indebted to Danny Perry and his wonderful, woefully out-of-print book Alternate Oscars for the inspiration for this column. We don’t often match in our choices, and Perry’s book stops in 1991, but it is a great read and well worth your time. Amazon sells used copies for pennies!

          Actual Oscar Winner             My Oscar Fantasy Pick

2011 - The Artist                                 Hugo

2010 - The King's Speech                  Inception

2009 - The Hurt Locker                    Inglourious Basterds
2008 - Slumdog Millionaire             Milk

2007 - No Country for Old Men     The Assassination of Jesse James… (NEN)

2006 - The Departed                       Children of Men (NEN)

2005 - Crash                                   Good Night and Good Luck

2004 - Million Dollar Baby            Sideways

2003 - The Lord of the Rings: TROTK     Master and Commander: The Far Side…

2002 - Chicago                               Catch Me If You Can (NEN)

2001 - A Beautiful Mind                 The Royal Tenenbaums

2000 - Gladiator                           O Brother, Where Art Thou? (NEN)

1999 - American Beauty                The Insider

1998 - Shakespeare in Love          The Big Lebowski* (NEN)

1997 - Titanic                              L.A. Confidential

1996 - The English Patient         Fargo

1995 - Braveheart                     Dead Man Walking (NEN)

1994 - Forrest Gump                Quiz Show

1993 - Schindler’s List             Schindler’s List

1992 - Unforgiven                   Glengarry Glen Ross (NEN)

1991 - The Silence of the Lambs     The Silence of the Lambs

1990 - Dances With Wolves       Goodfellas

1989 - Driving Miss Daisy       Do the Right Thing (NEN)

1988 - Rain Man                      A Fish Called Wanda (NEN)

1987 - The Last Emperor*      House of Games (NEN)

1986 - Platoon                       Hannah and Her Sisters

1985 - Out of Africa              Brazil (NEN)

1984 – Amadeus*                Once Upon a Time in America (NEN)

1983 - Terms of Endearment     The Right Stuff

1982 – Gandhi*                  Blade Runner (NEN)

1981 - Chariots of Fire*      Atlantic City

1980 - Ordinary People       Raging Bull

1979 - Kramer vs. Kramer*    Apocalypse Now

1978 - The Deer Hunter     Straight Time (NEN)

1977 - Annie Hall              Annie Hall

1976 – Rocky*                 Network

1975 - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest*    Jaws/Nashville (TIE!)

1974 - The Godfather Part II     Chinatown*

1973 - The Sting                The Exorcist*

1972 - The Godfather        The Godfather

1971 - The French Connection     The French Connection  

1970 - Patton                      M*A*S*H

1969 - Midnight Cowboy*    Once Upon a Time in the West (NEN)

1968 - Oliver!*                    2001: A Space Odyssey (NEN)  

1967 - In the Heat of the Night     The Graduate*

1966 - A Man for All Seasons     Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?

1965 - The Sound of Music         The Great Race (NEN)

1964 - My Fair Lady                 A Hard Day’s Night (NEN)

1963 - Tom Jones                      The Haunting (NEN)

1962 - Lawrence of Arabia       To Kill a Mockingbird

1961 - West Side Story              La Dolce Vita (NEN)

1960 - The Apartment              Psycho (NEN)

1959 - Ben-Hur                       Some Like It Hot (NEN)

1958 - Gigi                            Touch of Evil (NEN)

1957 - The Bridge on the River Kwai     12 Angry Men

1956 - Around the World in 80 Days     The Searchers (NEN)

1955 – Marty                         Rebel Without a Cause (NEN)

1954 - On the Waterfront       Rear Window (NEN)

1953 - From Here to Eternity     From Here to Eternity

1952 - The Greatest Show on Earth     Singing in the Rain (NEN)

1951 - An American in Paris       The African Queen (NEN)

1950 - All About Eve                  The Third Man (NEN)

1949 - All the Kings Men          White Heat (NEN)

1948 - Hamlet                         The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

1947 - Gentleman's Agreement     Miracle on 34th Street

1946 - The Best Years of Our Lives     It’s A Wonderful Life

1945 - The Lost Weekend          The Lost Weekend

1944 - Going My Way              Double Indemnity

1943 - Casablanca                  Casablanca

1942 - Mrs. Miniver              Sullivan’s Travels (NEN)

1941 - How Green Was My Valley     Citizen Kane

1940 - Rebecca                     His Girl Friday (NEN)

1939 - Gone with the Wind     The Wizard of Oz

1938 - You Can't Take It with You     The Adventures of Robin Hood

1937 - The Life of Emile Zola     Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (NEN)

1936 - The Great Ziegfeld           Swing Time (NEN)

1935 - Mutiny on the Bounty     The Bride of Frankenstein (NEN)

1934 - It Happened One Night     It Happened One Night

1932/1933 - Cavalcade              King Kong /Duck Soup* (TIE! Both NEN)

1931/1932 - Grand Hotel           Scarface, or The Shame of a Nation* (NEN)

1930/1931 - Cimarron               City Lights (NEN)

1929/1930 - All Quiet on the Western Front     All Quiet on the Western Front

1928/1929 - The Broadway Melody     The Wind (NEN)

1927/1928 – Wings                   The Last Command

(NEN) = Not Even Nominated!
* = Available on Netflix Instant Streaming as of 5-22-12

THE END OF THE ROAD: Well, F-heads, Shitting on the Classics is about to reach its predestined end. My original plan was for this column to run for a year because I anticipated running out of films. Most classic films are actually quite good—THEY ARE CLASSICS FOR A REASON.

There are roughly five columns left. Time to suggest films that deserve to be the target of my questionable wit and metaphoric fecal matter. Please make some suggestions in the comments section below.

NOT TO WORRY: I would like to take a few weeks off and then return with A NEW COLUMN.  (Something snappy. Something peppy. No more of this lover’s lament crap.) Trust me; everybody’s going to LOVE it.


  1. Great column, JB. It’s amazing to see how many great films weren’t even nominated: Singing in the Rain; Rear Window; Once Upon a Time in the West; Blade Runner and The Assassination of Jesse James particularly stand out to me as huge omissions.

    One slight quibble though, in your original article you said No Country for Old Men winning was a correct decision (I disagreed and said I thought The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford deserved to win that year), so I was just wondering what made you change your opinion on the matter?

  2. Funny you should mention that, Stuart. It was your original quibble with the original column that made me rethink my original position.

    Well done, sir!

  3. Minor quible, no Akira Kurosawa.

    As for suggestions for Shitting on the Classics, I know the term "classic" is questionable (or not) on this movie but I would like you to do "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" because I finally saw this movie a couple years ago and other than a couple of the musical numbers and Tim Curry's performance, what is the big deal?

    1. Re: TRHPS, I completely agree. I don't see why people love it so much.

    2. I hate to say things like "You had to be there" but it's sort of true. There is a window in a person's development where RHPS fits right into a place you need it to fit. If you watch it after you've found something else, the movie won't work for you. The community aspect was also a big part of the experience, and the midnight showings have mostly faded these days.

  4. Oh, boy.

    Many of my sources for all the films released in a given year (this week's column was quite the research project!) either failed to list foreign films at all or switched schizophrenically between listing them the year of their release in their country of origin AND/OR the year of their release in the United States. Very confusing and annoying.

    You bring up an excellent point, Shannon. The next time I revise this column, I believe I will give the 1954 Best Picture Oscar to The Seven Samurai. Suck it, Hitchcock.

  5. I'll have to go with There Will Be Blood for 2007, the fact that not one Paul Thomas Anderson movie has won is a travesty.

  6. Since 'Shitting on the Classics' is going away, how about taking a dump on a James Bond movie that is universally or mostly considered a good one? No point lashing at "Moonraker," "A View To A Kill" or "Die Another Day" (they stew in their own gravy of cheese). But maybe JB harbors a deep antipathy for "Goldfinger" or a seething hatred for "The Spy Who Loved Me" that would put him at odds with the rest of humanity. And yes, even if all the Bond movies are essentually the same, it's the execution of a predictable formula that can separate a "Living Daylights" from a "Quantum of Solace." Plus, in shitting on a particularly good Bond movie, JB would have an excuse to write about how he feels about all the others.
    Just a thought. :-)

    Other suggestions for the last few columns:

    "Ultraviolet" and "Equilibrium": in a genre (futuristic dystopian action) that's pretty easy to make at least passably entertaining these two stand out as just goofy-bad. Milla Jovovich or Christian Bale, pick your poison (or go for the two-fer).

    Places in the Heart (1984): just a reminder that Oscar bait was alive and well-meaning in the early 80's, taking nomination spots from more deserving titles that weren't even nominated. Nothing against Robert Benton ("Kramer vs. Kramer") or Sally Field, but my God is this movie such a prototype for the types of flicks Harvey Weinstein & Co. turned into a cottage industry. It's a dead horse the outgoing column beat to death, but its understandable given its such fertile ground for discussion.

    A Woody Allen movie everybody loves: it's easy to overlook the Woodsman's more sinful cinematic transgressions (the Dreamworks period, most of his international flicks before "Midnight in Paris," the pretentious Bergman-esque vanity projects, etc.). But how about cutting "Manhattan" to ribbons? Or taking a steaming dump of radioactive poop on "Husbands and Wives"? The man's filmography is so varied it's possible JB hates something most everybody else likes.

    A movie starring Sam Rockwell that even his presence couldn't save: i.e. Charlie's Angels, except it's not a classic except in the anals of camp.