Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Favorite Oscar Winners

The Oscars are tonight. My only stake in the proceedings is whether or not Argo wins Best Picture, as it is the only nominee that I have watched (though I have read "Life of Pi").

Everyone no doubt has a personal list of favorite movies, but chances are that list would look different if you restricted it to just the Oscar winners for Best Picture. Below are my top favorite Oscar Best Pictures, and needless to say, these are "must watch" movies.

The French Connection (1971) - When you listen to the director's commentary track for this movie, you'll hear William Friedkin say he'd never shoot a car chase like this again. This harrowing chase scene, in which Gene Hackman's character chases an elevated NYC train, is the very definition of intense. But so is the rest of the movie! The "good guy" (Hackman's Popeye Doyle) is angry, dark, and profoundly imperfect, and that adds immeasurably to this thrilling movie.

Chariots of Fire (1981) - A friend of mine urged me to check this movie out back in the 1980s, and I was glad that he did. Chariots is a great movie. The movie has grown up with me too: when I watched it as a pre-high-schooler, I marveled at the athletic sequences, but as an adult, I am now caught up in the drama between the two Olympic runners, and their quest for faith, integrity and victory.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - Silence is a psychological procedural, an examination of process, as practiced by the young Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster). Foster's acting is strong and vivid. The moment when she stares into the camera, pondering "first principles" is wondrous. Anthony Hopkins' exquisite Hannibal Lecter is one cinema's premiere bad guys.

Titanic (1997) - Someone derided me once when I announced that this was one of my favorites, and my argument that it is one of the most successful movies of all time fell on deaf ears. It's too bad, because that person is missing out on the best romantic adventure movie of all time. Everything in the movie builds up to the spectacle and emotion of that final scene, and when you hear Rose blowing that whistle in the dark, I dare you not to be moved.

No Country for Old Men (2007) - It's a measure of supreme talent that the people who made "No Country", the famed Coen brothers, also made "The Big Lebowski" (another must watch). "No Country" is a meditation on greed, mortality and evil like no other. Tommy Lee Jones' character is bone weary, in stark contrast to the cold ruthlessness of the bounty hunter played by Javier Bardem.