Friday, February 29, 2008

Top 10 Worst Oscar Best Picture Winners

In relation to my recent Top 20 Greatest Oscar Best Picture Winners, here is a list of Best Pictures that you would be better off avoiding. It's not that these are all bad--at one time the Academy thought they were the best!--but they really aren't worth your time:

(Note: This list is in chronological order)

1. The Broadway Melody of 1929 (1929): In 1929, this was probably seen as innovative and new; it's one of the first films in color and the first Oscar-winner with sound. However, the plot is predictable and uninteresting, and much of the film is like watching an overdone high school musical. It's far from timeless.

2. The Great Ziegfeld (1936): This film has great costumes, but that's about it. It is nearly 3 hours long, and about 2.5 of that is showcasing Florenz Ziegfeld's "follies," which were over-the-top musical productions with giant floats and lots of elaborate costumes and makeup. It feels like watching a 1930s-era parade on TV. Not much of a plot beyond that.

3. How Green Was My Valley (1941): In a word, boring. This is the only Best Picture winner I've seen that has actually put me to sleep. I vaguely remember it being about a mining town's hardships, with a pretentious narrator that jumped in at various times to tell us about the beauty of his green valley.

4. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952): A film filled with cliches and predictable plot devices, it's basically Charlton Heston in charge of a circus. It's painfully slow and doesn't lead up to much of an ending. Lots of circus stuff, like elephants and trapeze artists. The only redeeming quality is James Stewart as a somewhat lovable clown, but it is far from Stewart's best performance.

5. Around the World in 80 Days (1956): This lighthearted yet shallow film is somewhat fun only if you like watching long shots of various landscapes from around the globe. I think the only reason this won was not for its plot, its acting, or its directing, but because it exposed the audience to a wide variety of world cultures on the big screen in a way no one had seen before. Cute, but not great.

6. Gigi (1958): It's a musical about a teenage girl attempting to become the mistress of a wealthy Parisian moron. And not a good musical at that. It's a bit creepy having an older man checking out a teenage girl for his mistress.

7. The French Connection (1971): This police-drama has only one redeeming factor--a really cool car chase through the streets of New York. As far as plot--somewhat confusing, yet strangely predictable. As far as acting--over-the-top performance by Gene Hackman, who embodies every tough Irish cop cliche (his name is Popeye O'Doyle and he shoots everything in sight!). Rent it just for the chase scene; the rest is forgettable.

8. Driving Miss Daisy (1989): This film is about old people getting older together. It's about the friendship that forms between an elderly African-American chauffeur the even-more-elderly Southern woman who hires him. There are touching moments, and the theme of friendship is powerful, but it comes off as a bit melodramatic. Not bad, but definitely not great.

9. The English Patient (1996): Boring, boring, boring! How this film beat Secrets and Lies and Fargo is beyond me. It is incredibly slow-paced, and you basically know the ending right from the start. I am sure that if I attempted to watch it again, I could appreciate it for it's acting and character development...but I'm not sure I want to spend almost 3 hours of my life doing that.

10. Chicago (2002): Again, how this beat LOTR and The Pianist blows my mind. Maybe I just don't like many musicals (there are four on this list), but Chicago didn't capture my attention, nor do I remember it fondly. It's about sex, murder, deceit, and distorted fame, with no real solid conclusions and little depth. How is that a redeemable film? I agree that the songs and choreography were well-done. But does that make this better than any film of 2002?

Honorable Mentions: Cimarron (1931) and Cavalcade (1933) are two of the Best Picture winners I have not seen yet, but have repeatedly been placed on similar lists I've found on the internet as two of the worst Oscar winners of all-time. I'll watch them; but perhaps you shouldn't.


  1. I agree with most of this list, but I felt I had to make a comment on Chicago in particular.

    I think that it's difficult for you as a Christian Man to appreciate this film, because you probably felt really uncomfortable watching it. I'm guessing it would be hard to get past the slinky costumes and suggestive dancing. I don't know this for a fact, but that's just what I've seen be the reaction of most Christian guys I've talked to about this film.

    I, however, think it's brilliant. First of all, it's completely satirical, which is where it's depth lies. The point is how ridiculous the law system is. The blonde, selfish, show-girl want-to-be gets away with murder, while the beautiful, innocent, angelic woman gets hanged, simply because she can't play the games that every one else is. I don't think it's glorifying Roxy or what she did at all. I think we're supposed to get to the end and laugh at the reality that most of the justice system is run off of politics and loop holes. We don't get mad about it because we're not supposed to, hence the satire.

    Secondly, I love the cleverness in the musical numbers that portray what's going on in the story. My favorite is the tap dance scene as the lawyer "dances" around the truth in front of the judge and jury, eventually convincing them that Roxy is innocent. What an amazing visual! Hand in hand with that is the Circus "Razzle Dazzle Them" scene where the court house is compared to a show of glitz and glitter ("How can they see with glitter in their eyes?"), distracting everyone from the truth.

    Finally, I actually really appreciate the music and dancing in this film. Yes, it is sexual, but I am always impressed when non-musical actors take on the task of learning to sing and dance and doing it well. It's also some of the best choreography I've ever seen. Dancing should always tell a story...think of it like painting a picture with your body. The Cell Block Tango perfectly captures the raw dark emotions of the women as they describe the murders they didn't commit.

    Alright...that's my rant. :) I'm not saying that there weren't better movies that year that couldn't have won, but I do see the legitimacy of Chicago winning.


  2. Kristy-
    Thanks for your insights into Chicago! I think you're correct, it is difficult for me to appreciate a film centered around women dancing sensually. It doesn't make me uncomfortable as much as it simply doesn't seem redemptive, creative, or pointing to truth. I suppose I also compare the film to The Pianist and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and find it coming up wanting. It's not a bad film at all; the dancing and choreography are fantastic. But I imagine I would appreciate it better live on Broadway than on the big screen. Good comments!

  3. Clumping The English Patient into your list only proves how uncultured and narrow minded you really are.