Academy Awards - If It Were Upto Me
Faithful readers will recollect the series last year where I ranked the Best Picture winners at Academy awards in order of my preference. Expanding on that theme, this year with the awards a few days away, I thought I should go year-by-year and give my opinion on the film that won the Best picture award, the film that truly deserved to win and also the film that I would have crowned were it up to me. Not having seen all the films ever produced, it is quite likely that some of my selections reflect a view which may change over the years as I watch more movies from the classic era. But till then, this remains my opinion and mine alone. The selection varies from those films which were nominated along with the winning one as well as those which were not even deemed worthy of nomination. Such films are in italics.
Should Have Won: Wings
If It Were Up To Me: Circus
Wings was a fantastic achievement in cinema with remarkable special effects for that era and an engaging story as well. However, Chaplin with Circus did something which only he could: make you laugh as your heart is breaking.
Won: Broadway Melody
Should Have Won: Steamboat Bill Jr.
If It Were Up To Me: Steamboat Bill Jr.
For its first ‘talkie’ winner of best picture, the academy choose a melodrama which looks terribly outdated today. But how can you not acknowledge Buster Keaton’s brilliant masterpiece?
Won: All Quite On The Western Front
Should Have Won: All Quite On The Western Front
If It Were Up To Me: All Quite On The Western Front
No arguments regarding this one. A truly exceptional movie about WWI as seen from the German viewpoint.
Should Have Won: City Lights
If It Were Up To Me: City Lights
What were they thinking in making
Won: Grand Hotel
Should Have Won: Grand Hotel
If It Were Up To Me: Grand Hotel
They got this one right. Grand Hotel was a fascinating character study and a worthy winner.
Should Have Won: King Kong
If It Were Up To Me: Duck Soup
Another one they should take back. King Kong was just brilliant in its execution and a watershed for “monster movies”. The special effects were breathtaking and if any movie deserved to win that year, it was this one which failed to get nominated! However, if I was handing out the trophy, I will not look beyond Groucho,
Won: It Happened One Night
Should Have Won: It Happened One Night
If It Were Up To Me: It Happened One Night
Once again, no arguments here. A smart and sophisticated road comedy, which is delight to this day.
Won: Mutiny On The Bounty
Should Have Won: Mutiny On The Bounty
If It Were Up To Me: Top Hat
Mutiny On The Bounty deserved to win with Charles Laughton giving a chilling performance as ‘Captain Bligh’. However, I am partial to Fred Astaire floating on air and so would have voted for Top Hat.
Won: The Great Ziegfeld
Should Have Won: Modern Times
If It Were Up To Me: Modern Times
I can understand why the academy fell in love with The Great Ziegfeld and its lavish production. But how can you not nominate Modern Times? Yes, I favor Chaplin films but this was a masterpiece of a satire on the way the world was changing.
Won: The Life Of Emil Zola
Should Have Won: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
If It Were Up To Me: The Life Of Emil Zola
I agree with their choice but the deserving film of the year was the first full feature length animated film by Walt Disney and which to this day is one of the great cinema experiences of all time. However I felt that The Life Of Emil Zola was a more complete film with good structure and excellent acting.
Won: You Can’t Take It With You
Should Have Won: Grand Illusion (
If It Were Up To Me: You Can’t Take It With You
I love Capra, Stewart and Arthur. So no complaints from me here. However, Jean Renoir’s film was a great achievement in story telling.
Won: Gone With The Wind
Should Have Won: Gone With The Wind
If It Were Up To Me: The Wizard Of Oz
Gone With The Wind is one of the most grand productions of all time and deserves its rank as an all time great. But how can anyone not love the one film which I consider our true heritage?
Should Have Won: The Grapes Of Wrath
If It Were Up To Me: The Philadelphia Story
Tough one to go against the ‘Master of Suspense’, but The Grapes Of Wrath is quite simply one of the greatest films of all time period. However, I can listen to Grant Hepburn and Stewart go at it for hours at a stretch and for everyday of my life.
Won: How Green Was My Valley
Should Have Won: Citizen Kane
If It Were Up To Me: Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane did not win an academy award! Need I explain?
Won: Mrs. Miniver
Should Have Won: Yankee Doodle Dandy
If It Were Up To Me: Yankee Doodle Dandy
I guess due to US involvement in WWII, it was inevitable that a film like Mrs. Miniver would win. But how about James Cagny and a performance of a lifetime?
Should Have Won:
If It Were Up To Me: Shadow Of A Doubt
Yes I know it is
Won: Going My Way
Should Have Won: Double Indemnity
If It Were Up To Me: Double Indemnity
Has there ever been a better noir film that this Billy Wilder masterpiece? Going My Way has no chance.
Won: The Lost Weekend
Should Have Won: The Lost Weekend
If It Were Up To Me: Spellbound
Ray Milland gave a terrific performance that sustains The Lost Weekend. However, I’ve always liked Spellbound for its dream sequences that only Dali can design and Hitchcock can execute.
Won: The Best Years Of Our Lives
Should Have Won: The Best Years Of Our Lives
If It Were Up To Me: It’s A Wonderful Life
What a great movie The Best Years Of Our Lives is! But come on, it’s ‘George Bailey’, the ‘richest man that ever lived’.
Won: Gentleman’s Agreement
Should Have Won: Gentleman’s Agreement
If It Were Up To Me: Gentleman’s Agreement
No arguments from me. A seminal film confronting racism and a very good one at that.
Should Have Won: The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
If It Were Up To Me: The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
I only have one question. Did the people who voted ever see The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre? I mean seriously, who will pick Olivier over Bogart?
Won: All The Kings Men
Should Have Won: Third Man
If It Were Up To Me: Third Man
No doubt that the best film of the year was not even nominated. Joseph Cotton and an explosive cameo by the one and only Orsen Wells and the cuckoo clock.
Won: All About Eve
Should Have Won: All About Eve
If It Were Up To Me: Sunset Boulevard
All About Eve remains the best written movie to win the award. But there is something chilling about Gloria Swanson looking at us and saying “It’s the pictures that got small”. What a moment in cinema.
Won: An American In
Should Have Won: A Streetcar Named Desire
If It Were Up To Me: Strangers On A Train
I agree that An American In Paris was more joyous and colorful. But has anyone ever lit up the screen like Brando as ‘Stanley Kowalski’? Well someone has, Brando as ‘Terry Malloy’. But more on that later. My choice would have been one of Hitchcock’s greatest character studies of two men that have a chance encounter leading to tragic consequences.
Won: The Greatest Show On Earth
Should Have Won: High Noon
If It Were Up To Me: High Noon
High Noon remains the ‘crown jewel’ of American ‘western’ genre. There are few greater heroes than ‘Will Kane’ and the film itself is a fascinating character study of love, hate, loyalty, betrayal, heroism and cowardice. Compared to this, The Greatest Show On Earth is a study of boredom.
Won: From Here To Eternity
Should Have Won:
If It Were Up To Me: Tokyo Story (
Academy was not too kind to International pictures back then the way it is nowadays. Ozu is one the greatest story tellers and Tokyo Story is his best effort. It is a land mark film in terms of how simplicity can win you over.
Won: On The Waterfront
Should Have Won: On The Waterfront
If It Were Up To Me: On The Waterfront
The greatest screen performance of all time with Brando as ‘Terry Malloy’, the great anti-hero of our times. It is a film which doesn’t just knock at a person’s door of conscience, but rather breaks it down.
Should Have Won: Marty
If It Were Up To Me: Marty
Marty is one of the sweetest films to win the best picture award. I mean how could you not love Borgnine’s character that may look ugly but has a heart of gold.
Won: Around The World In 80 Days
Should Have Won: The Searchers
If It Were Up To Me: The Searchers
Of all the hare-brained decisions that Academy has ever made, this one takes the cake. Not only did Around The World In 80 Days not deserve to win, how it even got nominated is beyond my understanding. Plus, how did The Searchers not get nominated? How can we say 100 years from now that John Ford’s masterpiece is not a best picture winner?
Won: Bridge On The River Kwai
Should Have Won: Bridge On The River Kwai
If It Were Up To Me: Paths Of Glory
Bridge On The River Kwai is a splendid war film with keen insight into the psychology of three individuals as all of them go mad in one way or the other. But for pure heartbreaking image of what war can do and how important it is to maintain our humanity during difficult times, one has just to watch Kubrik’s Paths Of Glory.
Should Have Won: Vertigo
If It Were Up To Me: Vertigo
Gigi is a cute film which may help pass time on a rainy afternoon. Vertigo is genius at work which mere mortals can only aspire to reach.
Should Have Won: Ben-Hur
If It Were Up To Me: North By North West
Ben-Hur is an epic in true sense, complete with elaborate sets, larger-than-life action scenes and over-the-top acting. In short, everything what
Won: The Apartment
Should Have Won: Psycho
If It Were Up To Me: The Apartment
For the third year in a row, Hitchcock delivered a great film which should have at least been nominated, if not won. However, I actually agree with the academy’s decision to elect The Apartment. Once again Billy Wilder manages to brilliantly showcase the comedy and tragedy that is life.
Should Have Won:
If It Were Up To Me: West Side Story
West Side Story has some of the best choreography to be captured on film, though it also had mediocre acting and screenplay. It is a sad reflection on 1961 or the fact that I have not seen enough films from that year that I have to agree with the academy.
Should Have Won:
If It Were Up To Me: To Kill A Mockingbird
As far as sprawling epics go, it doesn’t get better than the David Lean masterpiece. A deserving choice if there ever was one. But there is something about ‘Atticus Finch’ that evokes a feeling saying, “Yes we can be good, all it takes is a little effort on everybody’s part”. What a great film To Kill A Mockingbird is!
Won: Tom Jones
Should Have Won: 8 ½ (
If It Were Up To Me: The Birds
No, no a thousand times no. 8 ½ is a film which on surface appears to be something which even Fellini, its director, did not take seriously. But as you peel the layers there is a strange nostalgia and melancholy which stays with you for a long time. I however, stick with my favorite director and a film which strikes fear in the hearts of many as they look up in the skies.
Won: My Fair Lady
Should Have Won: Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Learned To Love The Bomb
If It Were Up To Me: A Hard Days Night
It’s so unfair. Any of the three films above would have been a worthy winner. My Fair Lady remains one of the few films that make you smile anytime to watch it. Dr. Strangelove is the greatest satire on war which should be a compulsory viewing for all the leaders of the world. A Hard Days Night is so infectious in its joy that generations to come will marvel at the phenomenon that was ‘The Beatles’.
Won: The Sound Of Music
Should Have Won: The Sound Of Music
If It Were Up To Me: The Sound Of Music
This is it. My Favorite film of all time. Not only did I want it to win for 1965, I want it to be voted as the greatest of them all. Well at least I can do so.
Won: A Man For All Seasons
Should Have Won: The Good The Bad And The Ugly
If It Were Up To Me: The Good The Bad And The Ugly
The best I can say about the winning film is that it is boring. Sergio Leone’s movie can be called anything but. Outrageous it its execution of the climax, it is a spaghetti western for the ages and a reminder that before he became a legendary director, Clint Eastwood used to wear tights and ride a horse.
Won: In The Heat Of The Night
Should Have Won: The Graduate
If It Were Up To Me: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
This was a great year for films and for Sidney Poitier who starred in the winning film about racism in the south a one mans fight to earn respect. I mean how can you not applaud when he glares and says, “The call me Mr. Tibbs”? The Graduate was a better film though, with its portrayal of confused youth and manipulative adults. Poitier was back in my favorite film of the year which included outstanding performances by Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. That speech at the dinner table by
Should Have Won: 2001: A Space Odyssey
If It Were Up To Me: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Oliver! is a delight and the best adaptation of the beloved masterpiece by Dickens. Kubrick’s film is beyond description. A movie which requires multiple viewing to have a full impact, it remains one of the few genuine art pieces which should be enshrined in a museum.
Won: Midnight Cowboy
Should Have Won: Easy Rider
If It Were Up To Me: Easy Rider
Both of these films share a similarity about disenchanted young men seeking peace of mind and a place in the society but who encounter nothing but tragedy. Whilst Midnight Cowboy was a grim look at urban
Should Have Won: Patton
If It Were Up To Me: Patton
No arguments here. George C. Scott is outstanding in the role of a lifetime.
Won: The French Connection
Should Have Won: A Clockwork
If It Were Up To Me: A Clockwork Orange
The French Connection is a cop film which may distract you from time to time. Kubrick’s movie will make you watch in a hypnotic trance as the violence unfolds amidst the melody of Beethoven.
Won: The Godfather
Should Have Won: The Godfather
If It Were Up To Me: The Godfather
There had never been a more complete film than this and there never has been one since. Enough said.
Won: The Sting
Should Have Won: American Graffiti
If It Were Up To Me: American Graffiti
The Sting is a great heist film feature the legends Newman and
Won: The Godfather Part II
Should Have Won: The Godfather Part II
If It Were Up To Me: The Godfather Part II
Well, it’s the continuation of the same story, what else should I say?
Won: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
Should Have Won: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
If It Were Up To Me: Jaws
Jaws was perhaps the first indication of what a great film maker Spielberg was going to become. The suspense, much like Hitchcock’s style, was in the unseen. Of course once the big fish made its appearance, all bets were off.
Should Have Won: Network
If It Were Up To Me: Rocky
Rocky is the greatest folk hero of all time - an underdog who knows his limitations and who just wants to do his best. Network was a realistic look at what goes on behind the scenes in the world of broadcast news. A right choice nevertheless as Rocky makes you cheer for him from the first frame right till the end.
Won: Annie Hall
Should Have Won: Star Wars
If It Were Up To Me: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
I am the biggest Woody Allen fan and love Annie Hall. However Star Wars exploded into our imagination and that faraway galaxy has captivated us for 30 years. Having said that, Spielberg’s film was a reminder that mankind’s greatest paranoia is the fear of the unknown, even if that unknown wants to be your friend.
Won: Deer Hunter
Should Have Won: Deer Hunter
If It Were Up To Me: Deer Hunter
This was a fantastic look at how for some people war does not necessary end when the bombs stop exploding. It is a life changing experience which haunts you forever.
Won: Kramer vs. Kramer
Should Have Won: Apocalypse Now
If It Were Up To Me:
How the fantastic Apocalypse Now did not win will remain one of those unanswered mysteries of life. However, for me, Woody’s tribute to the city he loves is one of my all time favorites.
Won: Ordinary People
Should Have Won: Raging Bull
If It Were Up To Me: Ordinary People
I agree with academy’s choice. Ordinary People is a gut-wrenching look at a family falling apart. But Raging Bull is something special and Scorsese’s greatest film to date.
Won: Chariots Of Fire
Should Have Won: Raider Of The Lost Arc
If It Were Up To Me: Chariots Of Fire
Right from the opening notes of Vangelis’s theme for the film, Chariots Of Fire is a great experience and one of the best sports movies ever made which deals with the fact that there are some things more important than winning. Having said that, Spielberg’s film is a rip-roaring adventure which is a benchmark for adventure movies.
Should Have Won: Gandhi
If It Were Up To Me: ET: The Extra Terrestrial
To bring ‘The Mahatma’ to screen was a formidable task and the film makers succeeded with flying colors. But ET is one of those moments in life which everyone deserves to experience, not just kids. It is to date, Spielberg’s most noble achievements.
Won: Terms Of Endearment
Should Have Won: The Right Stuff
If It Were Up To Me: The Right Stuff
The Right Stuff tells a story of the early years of the US space program and the sacrifice of those brave pilots, so that some day man may aim for the stars.
Should Have Won: Amadeus
If It Were Up To Me: This Is Spinal Tap
Amadeus is the story of Mozart and his divine music. This Is Spinal Tap urges us to pump up the volume to 11, no matter what the settings on the stereo. Rolling-on-the-floor hilarious, it is one of the funniest movies of all time.
Should Have Won: The Color Purple
If It Were Up To Me: The Color Purple
Once again, there are a lot of similarities in the two films, both of which deal with a woman who struggles to form her own identity in the world and overcomes every adversity life can throw at her. However, Spielberg’s film was superior in terms of pure emotional impact.
Should Have Won: Hannah And Her Sisters
If It Were Up To Me: Hannah And Her Sisters
Oh, what a lovely film Hannah And Her Sisters is. Every scene is a delight and though the intensity of Platoon appealed to the voters, Woody’s movie can win over the most ardent critic.
Won: The Last Emperor
Should Have Won: The Last Emperor
If It Were Up To Me: Moonstruck
Bertolucci’s movie is a masterpiece, no doubt about that. But there is something extremely charming and romantic about Moonstruck which makes you love it quite a lot.
Should Have Won: Rain Man
If It Were Up To Me: Grave Of The Fireflies (
Of all the war films ever made, an animated film from
Won: Driving Miss Daisy
Should Have Won: Do The Right Thing
If It Were Up To Me: Field Of Dreams
Whilst Driving Miss Daisy was a sweet film, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing was in-your-face movie about racial tensions and one hot summers night when everything boils over. It is a great film which shows the reality of urban
Won: Dances With Wolves
Should Have Won: Dances With Wolves
If It Were Up To Me: Dances With Wolves
Kevin Costner’s epic film about the great western frontier during the civil war is slow in its pace but mesmerizing it its execution.
Won: The Silence Of The Lambs
Should Have Won: JFK
If It Were Up To Me: Beauty And The Beast
Another year with all great films. The Silence Of The Lambs is a fantastic movie but JFK is Oliver Stone’s greatest achievement. The viewer is put right in the middle of the great American tragedy of 1963 and though it runs for over 200 minutes, each and every moment is more gripping that the previous one. However, I cannot go against what is not only the only animated film to be nominated for best picture, but also my favorite fairy tale of all time.
Should Have Won: Unforgiven
If It Were Up To Me: Scent Of A Woman
Once again, any one of the nominated films could have won and I do feel that Clint Eastwood’s ‘western’ about a retired outlaw who goes back for one last shot at redemption is a poetic masterpiece. But what won me over that year was Al Pacino and his winning performance as a blind man who knows about a few facts of life.
Won: Schindler’s List
Should Have Won: Schindler’s List
If It Were Up To Me: Schindler’s List
Hey, it’s Schindler’s List. What else could they have done?
Won: Forrest Gump
Should Have Won: Forrest Gump
If It Were Up To Me: Pulp Fiction
I love Forrest Gump and consider it an American treasure. But Quentin Tarentino’s 2nd film has become a pop culture phenomenon which I suspect will be studied for a long time to come. It was a landmark film which shows that violence can be as intoxicating as a romantic scene and criminals can sometimes have more interesting things to say than honest people.
Should Have Won: Apollo 13
If It Were Up To Me: Apollo 13
Mel Gibson’s film about the Scottish freedom fighter is a very good movie. However, with Apollo 13, Ron Howard takes the viewer and puts him right in the midst of what is undoubtedly NASA’s ‘finest hour’.
Won: The English Patient
Should Have Won:
If It Were Up To Me: Jerry Maguire
Should Have Won: Titanic
If It Were Up To Me: Contact
In my article last year , I had named Titanic as the greatest film to win the best picture award and with good cause. It is virtuoso film making of the highest order and deserves all the accolades it has had over the years. But what Carl Sagan did with his book and Robert Zemekis captured on screen was to open up a universe which is not as vast as we imagine. All it takes is a little bit of faith and we can cruise the galaxies.
Won: Shakespeare In Love
Should Have Won: Saving Private Ryan
If It Were Up To Me: Saving Private Ryan
As much as I enjoyed Shakespeare In Love, I cannot imagine any other film winning that year than Saving Private Ryan. Right from the opening shot of D-day landing on
Won: American Beauty
Should Have Won: Matrix
If It Were Up To Me: Matrix
Very few movies can be called ‘trendsetters’. Matrix belongs to that exclusive group. Fantastic dialogue, breathtaking action sequences and deep philosophical overtones made a cult classic which will thrill generations to come.
Should Have Won: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (
If It Were Up To Me: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (
Gladiator was fashioned as an epic, but if there was ever a movie which plays like poetry, whose elegance supersedes everything ever captured on film, than it is Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The sheer brilliance of it all leaves you speechless and elevates the viewer to a state of sublime. The best film of the year and a great way to launch the millennium.
Won: A Beautiful Mind
Should Have Won: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
If It Were Up To Me: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
I envy all those who are yet to see The Lord Of The Rings and wish that I could go back in time and experience it all over again. I had never seen anything like it before and it is unlikely that I will ever again. Although the academy rewarded the series two years later, I will always feel that The Fellowship Of The Ring was robbed.
Should Have Won: City Of
If It Were Up To Me: Whale Rider (
Although Chicago was a delight to watch, City Of God was an explosive movie which took the viewer to the streets of Rio de Genero and the kids who have to fight to survive. It played like a breath of fresh air and launched Fernando Mirelas as a director to be watched. However, Whale Rider was a gem which stays with you forever. A heart warming tale of living your dreams, no matter what the obstacles. A lovely film!
Won:The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
Should Have Won: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
If It Were Up To Me: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
I consider it a privilege to have seen the trilogy and experience a once in a lifetime feeling.
Won: Million Dollar Baby
Should Have Won: Million Dollar Baby
If It Were Up To Me: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece was a triumph of story telling which deserved to win. My favorite film of the year was one of those inspired pieces of film that has a life changing effect on the viewer. A bitter sweet look at love and loss, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is perhaps the greatest love story that I have seen.
Should Have Won: Crash
If It Were Up To Me: Crash
Crash is a great film which was underappreciated by many but richly deserved its success. A fantastic movie on racial stereotyping and how a simple misunderstanding can lead to tragedy. Should be a compulsory viewing for all teenagers.
Won: The Departed
Should Have Won: Letters From
If It Were Up To Me: Rang De Basanti (India)
For the second time in 3 years Scorsese and Eastwood went against each other and this time the former won, though Letters From Iwo Jima was an outstanding attempt at telling a story from the ‘enemy’s’ viewpoint. However, even though it was an Indian film, without a wide international audience, Rang De Basanti remains the best movie that I saw last year.
So this is it. I will be back next year for analysis of Academy Awards 2007.