I just re-watched Forrest Gump and that raised in my mind, what are my top (bottom) five films to win the Oscar for Best Picture that didn’t deserve it. I know this is a subjective list, and I’m happy to entertain other possibilities, but here are my dogs as Best Picture. In order to make this list it meant I had to have seen them, and I haven’t seen everything. Consequently, films like Cimmeron didn’t make the list although I know many people who disrespect it as high quality product.
- The English Patient (1996): For sheer boredom nothing beats this overly long, overly sentimental, overly pretentious film produced by Saul Zaentz and directed by Anthony Minghella. How could this film have beaten out Fargo and Shine for Best Picture for 1996? It is a boring and oppressive tear-jerker intermixed with desert warfare and a mystery that I started to care less and less about the longer the movie went on. Before it was even half over I wanted all of the central characters to have a shoot-out and put everyone out of their misery. Worst quote, from Katharine Clifton: “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography—to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.”
- Braveheart (1994): William Wallace, Scotland’s great nationalist, being drawn and quartered while shouting “freedom” as if he was an Enlightenment political philosopher or a modern Tea Partier. Really? Give me a break! With silly and anachronistic dialogue, to say nothing of forced and truly ridiculous love interests, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart is both brutally violent and brutally long. It’s hard to believe that it beat out Apollo 13, Babe, and Il Postino for Best Picture. Worst quote, from William Wallace: “Fight and you may die. Run and you will live at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!”
- The Greatest Show on Earth (1952): Oh my, this is a mess of a melodramatic, cliché filled circus extravaganza from Cecil B. DeMille. I think it might be impossible to stay awake all the way through it. Unbelievably, this film beat out High Noon and The Quiet Man for the Best Picture Oscar for 1952. Worst quote, from the barker at the end of the film: “That’s all, ladies and gentlemen, that’s all. Come again to the greatest show on earth. Bring the children. Bring the old folks. You can shake the sawdust off your feet, but you can’t shake it outta your heart. Come again, folks. The Greatest Show on Earth. Come again.”
- Forrest Gump (1995): This Tom Hanks crowd-pleaser is so ridiculous that I don’t know where to start. How did it ever beat out Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption for Best Picture? The dialogue is clichéd and insipid. “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Please, this is fortune cookie wisdom. Nothing rises above the level of platitude. The characters are stereotypes; that’s true for essentially everyone in the movie, including the title character. The love interest is a user, coming in and out of Forrest’s life when she needs something. Then there is the success that Forrest Gump has as a football star for Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama. He doesn’t have a professional career after being an All American; instead he goes to Vietnam as a draftee. Come on, now! He receives the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, goes to China as a Ping Pong player in the early 1970s, runs across American multiple times, becomes a millionaire as a shrimper, and serves as an inspiration to millions. Sound likely to anyone? If so, I have a bridge to sell you. Worst quote, from Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does.”
- Gigi (1958): Vincente Minnelli, whom I normally like, should have been shot for this mess of a film. It offers essentially no reason to care about the characters in it, and its central message that you have to conform to be happy is nothing short of preposterous. The songs are not really memorable, and I like Broadway style musicals. “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” reminds me of pedophilia and it a turn off. The songs also seem to be shoehorned into the plot. Not that this is a problem since the plot is inane. It’s hard to believe that this beat out Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for Best Picture. Worst Quote, from Aunt Alicia: “Without knowledge of jewelry, my dear Gigi, a woman is lost.”
Well, this is my list at present. I just realized that three of my five are sequential wins in the mid-1990s. What was happening in Hollywood during that period that these films were singled out for accolades when they are not all that terrific? What do you think about these films; want to add to or amend this list?