All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)
95th Academy Awards (2023)
Wins: We’ll see…
The most striking differences between the two cinematic adaptations of All Quiet on the Western Front stem from context. The 1930 version came out a long, long time ago. Back when World War I was called The Great War because WWII hadn’t happened yet. The “war epic” genre was not well-worn territory and there weren’t familiar tropes, in fact, All Quiet on the Western Front was the first talkie to win Oscars. On the other hand, the 2022 version is dripping with dramatic irony and historical context. It could crassly be dismissed as the latest attempt to give WWI its Saving Private Ryan, along with films like 1917 and Spielberg’s own War Horse. And it’s tempting to be dismissive of the remake for choosing the very 21st Century choice of playing up gore and omitting characterization. But that’s awfully pretentious and, like I said last time, there’s a war going on in Europe right now. This is important, come and see.
The 94th Academy Awards (2022)
There is something about winning Best Picture that makes a film impossible to watch objectively. I know that literally everything is subjective and everybody loves to have hot or interesting takes on everything, but a Best Picture win is as close a thing as we have to proof that a movie is good or important or contains some artistic merit. This is unfortunate for a movie like CODA, which I’m sure I would have been perfectly charmed by if I’d seen it in the summer of 2021, knowing very little about it. But watching it now, a year after its underdog Best Picture win, I couldn’t help but judge it against the expectations of being a Best Picture winner and feeling a little disappointed because of it. Continue reading
The Prince of Tides (1991)
The 64th Academy Awards (1992)
Out of the movies I reviewed this year for Oscar fortnight, The Prince of Tides is probably the one I knew the least about going into (despite the fact that there have been multiple Simpsons references to it). Really all I had to go off of was its poster, which was apparently good enough to also be used for the film’s Criterion Collection release, even if it’s a little misleading considering how long it takes for Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand to hook up in this movie. Also, the poster doesn’t even really tell you if this is a period piece or not, considering how ornate the movie’s title is. Thankfully, this was a great way to go into The Prince of Tides, since its tonal shifts and disarming darkness make it obvious why this movie hasn’t quite become a feelgood classic, even though it also has a lot of elements that remind you what’s great about big, bold, crowd-pleasing studio filmmaking. Continue reading
Dances with Wolves (1990)
The 63rd Academy Awards (1991)
One of the my favorite aspects of doing these Oscar retrospectives is looking back and trying to see why a particular film resonated with audiences (or at least the Academy) in its time. Why were people so into Dances with Wolves? And why did the Academy give Kevin Costner’s overbearing western epic the top prize when there was another painfully obvious choice. I’m of course referring to Goodfellas, which I would argue is among the most celebrated and quoted crime films of all time. Meanwhile, I’m not sure if Dances with Wolves would even crack a top thirty of the greatest westerns of all time.
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
The 53rd Academy Awards (1981)
Another genre that has become quite dominant at the Oscars in recent years is the musical biopic, as evidenced by the fact that even a wildly uneven one like Elvis was nominated for Best Picture this year. It’s a genre that for whatever reason continues to rake in both moviegoers and awards, despite the fact that Walk Hard quite pointedly lampooned all of the musical biopic’s various clichés in a way that probably should have made it obsolete. Obviously, this felt like a good year to finally see Coal Miner’s Daughter, since its subject Loretta Lynn passed away just a few months ago. However, it also feels appropriate to watch this movie in relation to Elvis, just because it takes such a different approach in telling a similar rags-to-riches story of a singer not always in control of their career. Continue reading
The 50th Academy Awards (1978)
I never thought the final push I’d need to watch this movie would be from a reference in a post-apocalyptic TV show about mushroom-zombies, but here we are. I am of course referring to the HBO show The Last of Us which earlier this season had a scene where a community of survivors had a movie night and what movie did they pick? Let’s just say somebody is a Richard Dreyfuss fan.
The thematic connection is clear if you’re familiar with both properties. Both that particular episode of Last of Us and The Goodbye Girl feature a child character who fears the adult they are growing attached to is going to abandon them. It’s a nice touch but conversely, I can’t imagine any child would ever want to watch this movie. Unless kids really get a kick out of Richard Dreyfuss’s flamboyant take on Shakespeare’s Richard III.
The 35th Academy Awards (1963)
From Wings to Apocalypse Now to 1917 to All Quiet On The Western Front (twice), there have been a lot of war movies nominated for Best Picture over the years. So much so that there are plenty of war movies nominated for the big prize that have been lost to time or have been replaced by subsequent Best Picture winners as the definitive retelling of a particular chapter in a godforsaken war. Both of these categories feel like they apply to The Longest Day, as it’s a film I’ve been long aware of but have never really heard anyone ever talk about. Some of this probably has to do with the fact that Saving Private Ryan has more or less become the definitive D-Day movie, though this is a bit unfair considering The Longest Day takes a very different approach from that Spielberg film, which in many ways makes it even more impressive. Continue reading