Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Best Pictures: Dances With Wolves & The Lost Weekend

It's been nearly six months since the last episode of the tri-blog series Best Pictures From the Outside In. At this rate we'll be done in 2021! Literally. "Stay tuned!!!" Nevertheless we're finally back with a new installment pairing 1990's Dances With Wolves & 1945's The Lost Weekend.

and comment on that discussion there.

Since those conversations are rarely about the Oscar field but just the winners, I thought I'd share a few quick words on 1990 and 1945 right here. I've noticed in my own lists over the years that the further back in time I go the more I agree with Oscar's choices. I'm guessing this is not a case of Oscar once having better taste (i.e. mine - haha) but simple math. I've seen more films from the modern era so the chance of disagreeing grows. For instance, Oscar's best picture field for 1990 was composed of...
  • Awakenings
  • Dances With Wolves
  • Ghost
  • The Godfather Part III
  • Goodfellas
Which was almost nothing like my list at the time (though I hadn't seen Goodfellas) which went like so back in the day...
  • Edward Scissorhands *winner*
  • Ghost
  • The Grifters
  • Longtime Companion
  • Postcards From the Edge
I'm not sure I could stand by the Ghost cheese 20 years later or Longtime Companion (I don't remember it well) but the other three have had staying power in my brain and in movie culture, too.

My decrepit ancient copy of Inside Oscar is filled with color markings -- I once used the book to track my film viewing. Certain years have highlight markings all over the film titles. The 40s are my weakest decade but strangely 1945 is all marked up. I'd rank the Best Picture nominees like so
  1. Mildred Pierce (Such a goodie. Watch it before the Kate Winslet remake arrives)
  2. Spellbound
  3. Anchors Aweigh
  4. The Lost Weekend
  5. The Bells of St. Marys (the first sequel nominated for Best Picture and the only BP nominee from '45 that I haven't seen. But I didn't really care for Going My Way so I'm in no rush)
I love those first three so I'm fine with Oscar's list. But is that because I've seen so little else from '45? I wonder, if I saw 100 films from each film year before my time, would my taste rarely align with Oscar's? Have you ever wondered about the same thing? A "yes" answer means hidden gems and new favorites await you in every single film year should you only start to look for them.

Now, read our boozy bender with Kevin Costner over at Nick's Flick Picks.


Michael said...

I just started reading Inside Oscar and I've been adding so many movies to my Netflix queue...

Does anyone know if 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' is worth it? Or 'The Awful Truth'?


THE AWFUL TRUTH is 100% worth your time. It is so hilarious and wonderful. One of my favorite movies ever. I haven't yet seen for whom the bell tolls.

Volvagia said...

I'd put Dances with Wolves in my ten of that year. It may not be much, but it is beautiful, and that counts for something.

Best Picture 1990:

(I Know These 7)
Miller's Crossing
Jacob's Ladder
Edward Scissorhands
Total Recall
Dances With Wolves
The Grifters
(These Probable fill ins)
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Rose said...

I actually like Bell's of St. Mary's a whole lot more than Going My Way - but that's mainly because of Ingrid Bergman. It's worth a watch for her.

Also, The Grifters is easily my win for 1990, along with Huston for Best Actress. So wonderful.

Volvagia said...

If you want to follow the Academy's rules about it (I construct myself as an IFI, meaning the first time a film is released anywhere, including festivals, is that film's year of release), it's all Blimp, all the time in 1945 (US Wide May 1945). Sticking to films genuinely released that year: Leave Her to Heaven. I don't know what else, though.


Rose, yeah. the Grifters has aged well. and it was great to begin with. Particularly Huston.

Volvagia said...

'46 is worse in comparison. Henry V, The Yearling and The Razor's Edge out, Notorious, My Darling Clementine, Brief Encounter in. '45? Anchors Aweigh out, (reward them later for On the Town), Leave Her to Heaven in. (Only a small fix needed.) Although, 2008 and 2009 are trainwrecks.
2008: Slumdog, Frost/Nixon, Ben Button, Milk, The Reader
2009: The Hurt Locker, Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, In-Glue-Rie-Ous Bast-Airds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air
Between those two years, only two nominees seriously tried to grow the medium. (Inglourious and The Hurt Locker). I'm not saying every nominee needs to re-define what type of film they're being, but of fifteen films, they only find two, as opposed to 4-6 daring, original, growth projects? Our critics really do need to be held to higher standards if this is what happens.

James T said...

Can I say something completely and weirdly off-topic? I am still waiting (when i remember it) of the winner of the last "say what" contest.

Michael said...

I can always count on you to ask the obscure questions I have answers for just sitting around in my brain collecting dust. Aside from Mildred Pierce and Lost Weekend here 3 must-see films from 1945:

- Children of Paradise
- I Know Where I'm Going
- Detour

I also recommend The Woman in Green only because it's always great to see Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes no matter how mediocre the material.

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

Oh, 1990, do NOT get me started. It marked for me the third year in a row that a really truly lousy film won Best Picture. I hated Dances With Wolves from start to finish. One of the fakest things I've ever seen. BUT all five of the nominees for Best Picture are pretty awful, other than Goodfellas. I liked Longtime Companion and The Grifters a lot.

Interesting that Ingrid Bergman was the female lead of two of the five Best Pic nominees in 1945. How often has that happened? Bells of St. Mary's is a very minor but enjoyable Xmas movie. Mildred Pierce is probably the classic of this group, but I don't hate The Lost Weekend. It's a little too earnest (same as Gentleman's Agreement), but I do have fond memories of the moment when Ray Milland finally looks up and sees the bottle stashed in the pendant lamp. Brilliant.

cal roth said...

I'll comment here, not only because this is the only blog in which I post comments, but also because Nick demands his readers to have Blogger or Open Id accounts.

Ok, I love Dances With Wolves, love it. I mean, I loved when I saw it in 1995 or 1996 (first movie I saw after I bought a new VCR, I remember!). Now I don't remember it very well.

And that makes me sad because Jeremiah JOhnson was such a magnificent masterpiece and got zero Oscar attention. It's the same movie, but Pollack's movie was so beautiful and, this one, I remember every single scene of it.

adam k. said...

The Awful Truth is a gem, yes. That was on a list of 60 films I had to watch for my MFA, and it was one of the highlights of the '30s/'40s era (there were a lot of snoozefests there, I have to say, but the romantic comedies in general were gold).

Nat, the one overlap between your list and the academy's is... GHOST???


Not the film, per se, but I love that that is true. I also loved Ghost when I was younger, especially Whoopi and that tremendously moving score. Both of those, I think, have stood the test of time, but most of the rest, sadly, has not. A big, uneven heap of clichés and supernatural hooey. I lost a lot of respect for it when I listened to Bruce Joel Rubin (the screenwriter) talk on his commentary track. Apparently, he REALLY believes in ghosts. Like, really. He didn't seem to have as much of a sense of humor about it as the film might suggest. The director I remember being lighter about it all, seeing it as pure popcorn entertainment, and was rather shocked it got the academy attention that it did.

I guess if you're coming to it as a Demi fan, you're likely to love it. I myself came to it as an early-90s Whoopi fanboy, so there you go.

The main love theme is absolutely gorgeous, though. The score nomination was well deserved.

NicksFlickPicks said...

I think 1945 and 1990 were pretty low-grade Best Picture years. Mildred Pierce has got a lot of problems, even if its stronger elements keep it durably afloat. To be honest, I think all five would be pretty embarrassing winners of Best Picture, though I guess I'd go with the amiable Anchors Aweigh. I'm a fan of Goodfellas and Ghost and seem to be the most pro-Wolves in our group, but Godfather III and Awakenings have a way of making the whole list seem flat.

I watched a lot of 1945 movies back when we meant to start this entry and wound up with this Top Ten list (by calendar year) and this Oscar ballot (by AMPAS eligibility year, which means To Have and Have Not is in!). I've recently re-screened A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and it's just phenomenal. I have literally no idea why Oscar didn't spring for it in more categories. Right up his alley and fantastically made and acted and emotionally overwhelming.

Ben said...

I kind of forgot that The Lost Weekend was a Billy Wilder movie. Funny because he's probably my favorite director. It so doesn't seem like one of his...

I remember liking (but not loving) both back when I was in my stage of trying to see as many Oscar nominees as possible. I also think Dances With Wolves was probably the first Best Picture winner I saw in the theater. Now that I know that it beat Goodfellas though. A travesty. Goodfellas and Taxi Driver are tied for my favorite Scorsese movies.

That said, I have 0 interest in watching DWW again, and only a little in seeing The Lost Weekend.


VOLVAGIA -- what is an IFI?

Volvagia said...

International Film Institute. Like AFI is American.

Glenn said...

I'm going through a phase - it's been going for a few months now, sadly - where I'm more interested in looking at films from the 1980s and 1990s than I am films of the classic eras. I'm not sure why, but I just know that recently at the video store I decided to pick up Prom Night II rather than something that would allow me to tick of another Oscar movie.

Eventually I'll get back into the classics though, just right now my mind is just not in it.

Glenn said...

Oh, I should add that the films of the '80s and '90s that I'm more interested in watching these days are more genre efforts. Not movies like Dances with Wolves.

NicksFlickPicks said...

@Glenn: Prom Night II: Hello, Mary Lou! Death by gym locker! All that pink gloop! 7th grade sleepover. Loved.

Glenn Dunks said...

Hah, the knowledge that Nick Davis has seen Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou, albeit in 7th grade, makes me feel a bit better.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Now don't be shocked but I think both of those BP slates are anaemic. I'll admit I haven't seen Anchors Aweigh or most of Awakenings, but I doubt either of those will change my life. Otherwise, out of those two selections, The Lost Weekend and Goodfellas would probably be my picks, though I find the latter wildly overpraised. In fact I don't even like it - to me it just plays as a routine colourless gangster movie with the intellectual and emotional depth of a comic book (the adolescent boys' variety).

For 1990, my ballot would retroactively include Trust, Miller's Crossing, The Grifters, The Nasty Girl and Total Recall.

1945 (one of the weaker years of a fabulous decade): Detour, The Way to the Stars, Les Enfants du paradis, Rome Open City and brief Encounter.

Though I'm pretty sure several of those weren't Oscar-eligible in their respective years.


y kant -- right you are: BRIEF ENCOUNTER, CHILDREN OF PARADISE and ROME OPEN CITY are all 1946 films for Oscar-comparative purposes (all received nominations)