Friday, July 24, 2009

"Best Pictures From the Outside In" Returns

Many of you have been asking (publicly and privately) about the trifurcated Best Picture Oscar series that united Nick's Flick Picks, Goatdog's Blog and The Film Experience. Mike, Nick and I created the series together but the ball dropping was all me. I take full responsible for the unfortunate hiatus. Thanks for your patience.

Mrs. Miniver & Mr Schindler. World War II will change them both.

IF YOU'RE A NEW READER
the series works like so: We started in early 2008 grabbing the earliest best picture winner (Wings) and comparing it to the most recent (at the time) No Country For Old Men. Then we started working inwards from both directions of Oscar's timeline. Eventually the series will conclude in the late 60s, the halfway point of Oscar's chronology. Here's a complete index of all 15 episodes (thus far) which cover the years 1928-1942 and 1993-2007. Nick is also maintaining a tournament poll of your favorites and ours so, vote.

If you want to really dive into the discussion with us and enrich your knowledge of Hollywood's grand back catalogue, consider renting the match-ups that are on the way. In a couple of weeks we'll be pairing two of Hollywood's most iconic men, Bogie & Clint for a discussion of Casablanca (1943) and Unforgiven (1992). Then it's on to Going My Way (1944) and Silence of the Lambs (1991).

But right now...


NICK: Having watched my conspirators in pleasure show such effort and ingenuity in our last two installments to put our disparate films in dialogue with each other, I get to enjoy a ready-made Oscar juxtaposition of World War II dramas: Mrs. Miniver, the first entrant from this AMPAS-beloved genre to swipe the top prize, and Schindler's List, frequently hailed as a highpoint in the Best Picture heritage. Neither film is a battlefield picture; instead, they each focalize the magnitude of the war through the expanding consciousness of the titular character, and the subversion of her or his habits of thought and action. Both were the first movies by their pedigreed, Oscar-friendly auteurs to cop the Best Picture and Best Director trophies after multiple winless nods.

Of course there are also clear markers of dissimilarity between these films and the stories they tell. Mrs. Miniver confronts the war as a crucible of combat, thrift, and social disruption at a time of siege; Schindler's List reconstructs and scrutinizes the supremacist and genocidal ethics and terrible, sometimes enforced complicities that both inspired and drew force from the Nazi war machine. Kay Miniver is a radiant paragon of noble citizenship and domestic steadfastness; Oskar Schindler is a rake and a profiteer whose unlikely emergence as an objector and protector arrives with all kinds of vagaries and caveats attached. Mrs. Miniver was not in every respect a picture that Wyler cherished; Schindler's List was self-consciously conceived, produced, and received as the technical, cultural, and moral apotheosis of Spielberg's career...

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11 comments:

Benji said...

Yay, it is back! But surely you mean 'Going My Way' will be paired with 'Silence of the Lambs'?

You've brought up a lot of things concerning both films that made me reevaluate them, especially 'Mrs Miniver' as more than plain propaganda.
And I'm glad I'm not the only one who is displeased about the Auschwitz shower scene in 'Schindler's List'. For me, this was too much use of Hollywood melodrama in a film that did not warrant or need it, and kept it from being as great as it could have been.

NATHANIEL R said...

Benji... corrected. oops ;) no need to rush into Dances With Wolves (that's one i'm not all that eager to revisit)

Benji said...

Fair enough...

And I'm very eager to see what similarities you'll find between Hannibal Lecter and Bing Crosby. Shouldn't be too difficult ;-)

BeRightBack said...

Yaaaaay! I love this series so much.

Kent said...

No raves for Greer Garson? I thought she was fantastic. She's the entire reason why I love the film.

I'm glad you mentioned Ralph Fiennes in the piece. He's all sorts of extraordinarily evil in the film. One of the best of the 1990s, possibly all time.

I think MRS. MINIVER and SCHINDLER'S LIST were two deserving winners even though they wouldn't be my top choices. Such a shame MRS. MINIVER takes a lot of flack for winning.

NATHANIEL R said...

Kent I'm CRAZY about Greer Garson in this movie so i'm with ya. but i think it would've derailed the conversation too much for me to go on and on about her.

Janice said...

The series is back, yay!

I admit to not having seen Mrs Miniver at all, and not having seen Schindler since it came out. There were moments when I felt Spielburg's visual style was too over the top for the subject matter - like Baz Luhrmann, he just can't help going BIG at times, but unlike Baz, he knows how to tell a story. My roommate and I could barely speak for sometime afterward, and I recall as I left seeing groups of young men and women off all ages weeping. I've never been to a movie before or since that affected the entire audience so deeply.

SeanL said...

Nate, so what did you think of J&J?

Rebecca said...

I have seen Schindler's List many times, and another aspect of it that I think works really well is Goeth's relationship with his Jewish maid, Helen. She's a prisoner, and one of the 'them' he is trying to destroy, but he can't help but feel something for her. There's a horrifyingly beautiful sequence where he goes to talk to her in her quarters late at night, and comes on to her, then steps back and realizes what he is doing and takes all his rage out on her. It's intercut with a Jewish wedding in the camp, and scenes of Schindler in an opulent nightclub (the music in the nightclub is playing on the radio in Helen's room), and the combination of the three - the rage and violence, the celebration of marriage in captivity, and Schindler's life of leisure and glamour - work so well together.

Also, the music in the scene where they arrive at Auschwitz is perfect for the scene.

Marsha Mason said...

Yeah! I was worried you'd quit this right before you were going to get to the trove of good BP winners in the early 90s!

NicksFlickPicks said...

@Marsha Mason: Oh, don't worry. We'd be much more likely to quit right before the slag-heap of Best Picture winners in the mid-1930s, which we survived. But I have to say, once we start having to deal with the late-40s and the late-80s winners at the same time, things are going to get kind of grim.