Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Longest 'Best Picture' Titles

tues top ten: for the list maker in me and the list lover in you
UPDATE: oops. LotR was messed up. Fixed below.

Jonathan's fun movie facts post led me to this indirectly. But on a dull train ride last week I whipped up this absolutely crucial list. Your life isn't complete without knowing the answer to the following question:

...What Are the Ten Longest Titles of Best Picture Nominees?

10. It's a six-way tie for 10th place: The wordy names being One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), Meredith Wilson's The Music Man (1962). Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) --Perhaps we should just hand 10th place to 80 Days since it's the most long winded of these six films, clocking in at 3 hours. Hey, it takes a long time to shove in all those celebrity cameos, people. The Player was an hour faster with the same task but Michael Anderson is no Robert Altman.

09. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
I've never seen this film. In my defense there's not an actress in it (well not one with more than a walk-on from the looks of the cast list) and since I'm first and foremost driven by actressing... Well, that's my excuse. Side note: While attending that junket for Elegy last week Dennis Hopper listed this as one of the five best/most important movies ever. He was caught off guard by the question and answering on the fly but still... that's high praise from a man who has been in classics ranging from Rebel Without a Cause and Easy Rider to Blue Velvet.

08. Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind (2004) Oh, wait. Riiiiight. (sigh) the Oscars suck.

08. I am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932) The tag line of this drama about a wrongly imprisoned man is even a mouthful "Six sticks of dynamite that blasted his way to freedom... and awoke America's conscience!"


07. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
By now you've probably read that Paul Newman, our Butch, has limited time left here on earth. That fills me with such sadness... just as I have been digging back into his filmography. What an actor and what a star he's been for multiple decades. Few people ever have had such a long and deserved run.

---> Elijah Wood has seen too much. He is terrified to watch all of the Rings movies back to back.

06 and 05 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003 --see previous post) take these spots. I bet you thought they'd come in first. I know I did when I got curious about title length. Incidentally, Return... is also one of the very longest Oscar winners at 201 minutes. I believe ---someone correct me if I'm wrong -- that it's the 4th longest Best Picture ever. Only Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia and Ben-Hur have numbed more asses. The last Rings film is even one minute longer than The Godfather Part II, currently the fifth longest sit.

03 (tie)
The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming (1966)
I didn't realize this was a comedy until I was writing up this post. No matter how many films I see, huge gaps remain. Has anyone reading seen this? No on speaks of it. So if you have, do.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
Tim Robey of the Daily Telegraph is like a one man army proselytizing this film's greatness. He even convinced Nick to raise his letter grade considerably. That's persuasion. Perhaps I too should give it another spin. I did crazy enjoy Paul Bettany the first time through and liked the movie as a whole. As for the title... I realize it's lifted from the novels but I think it's awkward at best and unintentionally funny at worst.


02 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) oops. I had this one too low. Perhaps I was appreciating its brevity (length) in the face of Return of the King

01 Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Not only does this classic comedy have the longest title ever from a best picture nominee, it has one of the best period. Ever. Don'cha think?

I can do without most ":" subtitle situations... but wouldn't it be great if more titles were this creative, funny and movie-descriptive? Remember when that Nicolas Cage romantic comedy was called Cop Gives Waitress 2 Million Dollar Tip which was a fun "ripped from the tabloids" descriptive title and then it became the utterly generic sounding It Could Happen to You, a title which could fit only hmmm two hundred thousand other movies with ease. zzz.

So, here's to short movies with long titles like Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb. It's easy to sit through them and it's fun to say their names aloud.
*

20 comments:

Deborah said...

I agree that generic titles are a plague upon filmgoers. Every time I hear people saying they hate a title like "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" I think, 'Are you crazy?' You'll never confuse it with another movie, which you can't say about "It Can Happen To You."

I saw The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming in the theater as a child. I remember it as mildly amusing with a lot of fun Alan Arkin antics. I had actually recorded this to watch it again with my son, but the hard drive on my DVR crashed and I lost about 40 saved movies, including this one. On the bright side, it cleared a lot of space for the Olympics.

See Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I mean, sure, no actresses, but Humphrey Bogart in what may well be his most complex and intricate portrayal. And Walter Huston. So great.

goatdog said...

I know I saw The Russians Are Coming... because I have it checked off in my copy of The Academy Awards Handbook, but that and Alan Arkin are all I remember about it.

The Master and Commander double title irritates me the way all those Pirates of the Caribbean titles irritate me: you don't put a compound title in until the SECOND film in a series. Unless you already have one, of course--LOTR films are excused here. Plus, with Master and Commander, they combined titles of two books, but didn't necessarily limit the script to the events of those two. Why not just call it Master and Commander OR The Far Side of the World? Both perfectly good titles.

Hayden said...

The Russians are Coming (x2) is a really great piece of 60's entertainment, and Arkin is superb.

kent said...

The Russians Are Coming... is a fine political comedy with Arkin giving an amusing turn.

But Nathaniel, you must see The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, even if there isn't an actress in sight. The film can be masterful and it features one of Bogart's greatest performances. He was robbed of a nomination.

Runs Like A Gay said...

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming is certainly a fun way to waste a couple of hours and a few of the cast put in fine performances (in my opinion Alan Arkin mug a bit). It robbed Blow Up of that fifth nomination though.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a masterpiece. Make no excuses - put it on your netflix queue now.

Bing147vg said...

Ya, see Sierra Madre NOW, easilly Bogart's finest hour and it really isn't even close. As for Russians Are Coming, its on TCM fairly often, keep a look out. Its a fun enough movie, Arkin and the whole cast actually are quite good, though it isn't a great film. A fun one though and a decent way to spend a couple hours.

whitney said...

I love that picture for Lord of the Rings. That sums up all three movies right there.

Carl said...

Just so you know, "Russians" is about a Soviet submarine that runs aground on the east coast of the U.S., and Alan Arkin leads the landing party looking for help. Much fun-poking at America's Red hysteria ensues.

I probably have to get "Treasure" right after I pick up "Vertigo", cuz Nathaniel said so (goodness, I am classic-deficient).

Peter said...

I don't get it - is this based on number of characters? If so "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" should be #2 with 49. Master and Commander and Russians are Coming would be tied for #3 with 47.

Or am I missing something? Sorry to be a nitpicker but I get irrationally bothered by these things sometimes.

NATHANIEL R said...

hmmm i ran them through character counts to arrive at the number. not sure why your numbers are coming out differently... i may have screwed up the LOTR because I kept rejiggering the post. ?

Anonymous said...

"The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, as performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton, directed by the Marquis de Sade" - title from memory so forgive me if it's not 100%. Came out in the 1970s. Got to be a winner.

Neel Mehta said...

I love that picture for Lord of the Rings. That sums up all three movies right there.

Oh, good. You just saved me 12 hours.

Janice said...

Count me with Peter as one of the confused - isn't "I am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" a longer title than "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" - or are you not counting the "am" and "a's" in Chain Gang?

The Russians are Coming was nommed and Blow Up wasn't? Damn Academy.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Janice, Butch Cassidy has 34 characters to Chain Gang's 33. Or I think those are the numbers Word threw at me.

Also, in my humble opinion, Treasure of Sierra Madre is a tad overrated. Bogart is great though.

NATHANIEL R said...

i was doing the characters with spaces count

Chain Gang -33
Butch -34
Two Towers -37
Return of king -45
Master and Commander & The Russians are coming -47 (so yeah, i did make a mistake there)
Lotr: Fellowship -49 (I BLAME LORD OF THE RINGS ;)

Dr Strangelove -67

NATHANIEL R said...

i fixed.

but yeah it's characters with spaces count.

Anonymous said...

I recently resaw "The Russians Are Coming" on tv, and it stands up very well as a comedy. It's just a comedy now, but at the time it was daring. There was lots of commie hysteria in the USA, and to make a comedy and a satire and even show Russians as just people was daring. To show the US inhabitants as hysterical gossipers with guns tempted fate even more.

That's probably why it made it onto the Best Picture list, as a statement that filmmakers can make anything they want, even making fun of what was considered deadly serious by many.

And yes, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is one of the greatest movies ever.

Anonymous said...

Nope, you forgot "The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France."

Anonymous said...

"The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France" is the longest, with 16 words.

NATHANIEL R said...

anonymous... i'm going by the ACADEMY'S official records which show The Music Man as "Meredith Wilson's Music Man" for example but they list Henry V and Henry V and not that super long title ... at least on the official database.

I guess IMDB lists it differently