ReelHeartWork was started because I’m working through recovery from major surgery, because I miss talking movies and I need to stay working (stay WRITING) to keep my brain sharp. A couple of years ago, I decided to continue my film education independent of university-type studies. When you teach incredibly gifted students like I do, you can’t help but wonder if you’re doing them a disservice if they’ve seen more classics than you. So I doubled down- it’s time to get back to work and see what critics think are the greatest films of all time.
I just slogged through The English Patient, featuring Voldemort, Mr. Darcy and the Green Goblin who all seem to have an interest in The Horse Whisperer for some reason or another. Look, I would watch Willem Dafoe read from a phonebook while paint dries and grass grows…but this movie, set in a time period I openly admit to enjoying, bored the hell out of me. How in the world this beat Fargo and Jerry Maguire for Best Picture in 1996, I’ll never understand. It’s shot beautifully…but if I want to see the beauty of the desert, I’ll pop on Lawrence of Arabia. I met Ralph Fiennes at a Writers Guild screening for Grand Budapest Hotel- incredibly nice man! That said, if I wanted to hear three hours of him doing nearly-faceless raspy voice, I’d throw on the last two Harry Potters!
With The English Patient now behind me, that completes my first full decade of Best Picture winners, with all of the 90’s victors now checked off on my list. It also completes a streak of 13 straight movies from 1990 to 2003 that I’ve seen in theaters or at home. The only other time period I’ve done as well with is the 1970s, with only Deer Hunter remaining to complete that decade. If I hadn’t moved when I did, I would have been watching that next on my DVR but alas, I chose to check off The Broadway Melody (1928’s Best Picture and the oldest winner I’ve seen to date as it was only the Academy’s second year of picks), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935 with Clark Gable being a badass) and the surprisingly interesting Life of Emile Zola (1937). They’re not on as much, so I figured it was a fair trade.
My Top 5 Best Picture choices so far from the movies I’ve seen? Hrm. Let me think.
All About Eve
Probably a tie between Return of the King and Bridge on the River Kwai.
I think Return of the King has to be in there because I love the Lord of the Rings series and it had a huge impact on me. Bridge on the River Kwai was just engrossing and Sir Alec Guiness was entrancing. I couldn’t get over how dynamic his performance was. Casablanca is a great story with great performances (even if they didn’t know it at the time) and is shot so damn well. All About Eve is deliciously nasty and it’s just as relevant today as it was in 1950. The Apartment has just the best damn character work you’ll find- I want to be a mensch like Jack Lemmon in that film.
And Rocky? It’s hard not to love an underdog who fights because he wants to prove everyone wrong. That movie wasn’t about the win. It’s about going the distance. And that’s something that only gets more relevant to me as I look at increasingly scary odds for my future. One thing I know I’ll be doing soon though- I want to conquer those damn steps non-stop.
Least Bottom 5 Best Picture winners thus far?
The Broadway Melody
The English Patient
An American in Paris
Somehow Annie Hall, which I loathe, dodges the bullet here because I can appreciate it even if I don’t like it. Oliver! is the reason why people hate musicals (along with Annie and Cats probably) and the ear-grating singing from the young lead made me want to run screaming. Broadway Melody was a thin melodrama with bad comedy…but it was 1928 and they were working out the kinks of narrative storytelling with sound, so it gets a slight pass. I already spoke about The English Patient. American in Paris had some great dance numbers…but I couldn’t tell you anything beyond a few sentence about the story. That’s bad.
That leaves Crash, which is one of my least favorite films for just how ham-handed they were with the ‘EVERYONE IS RACIST!’ beat. There was no subtlety. It wasn’t clever. It was obnoxious! When high school kids pick up on it, you KNOW it’s bad. I sat through it once. I won’t be reviewing it again. Ugh.
As for the AFI Top 100, with the recent viewings of Dances With Wolves (long, but interesting), Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein (see my previous comments in an earlier blog), Patton (again, long but well acted), In The Heat of the Night (ground breaking and damn interesting to watch), my numbers have all jumped up. That puts me at 82 out of 100 on the original AFI Top 100 list and 81 out of 100 on the new Top 100 list!
I haven’t updated my 1001 Movies To See Before You Die list in a few days, but I checked out The Phantom Carriage this morning and my DVR is filled up with other movies from the list, so while my last count was 221, I’m probably at 225 by now, with another 20 movies left on the DVR to get through.
I’m not sure why I’m doing this…but I feel like this is me completing my Jedi training or something. I need to finish these lists. The 1001 Movies guide will probably never be done, but I want to see if I can crack 3/4s. Maybe there will be a book in all of this. Maybe it’s just more fodder for ReelHeartWork. All I know is it’s opening me up to new ideas and worlds.
That makes it worth the effort.
Until next time,