Thursday, 23 February 2012

My secret shame - the "Best Picture" Oscar movies I've never seen

Film 2012 on BBC One last night included one of those standard “outrageous Oscar injustices” items. Having heard it all before, I wasn’t much interested, but I was disconcerted to realise how many Best Picture Oscar winners I have somehow managed to avoid watching all the way through, no matter how many times they’re shown on TV. I've never been a film buff, but I used to consider myself a fan: given my record of scrimshanking when it comes to big movies, I may not even qualify as a fan any longer.

There are only three misses before 1988 – Cavalcade (1933), Gigi (1958) and Ghandi (1982). I’ll try to catch the first some time – just an oversight – but I’ve tried to watch Gigi several times and, despite the presence of Leslie Caron's pout, I find the central theme revolting (it seems to involve teaching your daughter to be a prostitute, far as I can tell). Apart from that, I’ve never been much interested in stories involving sexual shenanigans in Paris I read Blazac's Cousin Bette for the first time last year, and found it repellently sordid); the thought of having to listen to Maurice Chevalier singing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” yet again is a turn-off; and I have always found Louis Jourdan’s charm elusive, to put it mildly. As for Ghandi, I must have caught bits of it a dozen times, and it always makes my eyes glaze over within two minutes – it seems to be a particularly plodding example of liberal hagiography, a genre I’ve never been too keen on.

When we get to 1986, it really starts to go wrong. Partly, I suppose it’s because my personal and professional lives got busy right around then. But I’ve had plenty of chances to catch up with all of these films over the years, and have somehow managed to resist the temptation.

Here’s the post 1986 list:

Platoon (1986)
The Last Emperor (1987)
Driving Miss Daisy (1988)
Dances With Wolves (1990)
Schindler’s List (1993)
Forrest Gump (1994)
The English Patient (1996)
Million Dollar Baby (2006)
The Hurt Locker (2009)

Here are my (mostly pathetic) excuses:

Platoon: I just couldn’t see the point of hearing yet again how awful the Vietnam War was – I’ve got the message, thank you. (One of my favourite Naked Gun scenes is the one where Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley exit a date movie, arm in arm, laughing, and the camera pans up to reveal they’ve just enjoyed Platoon).

The Last Emperor – too big, too long, too glossy-looking.

Driving Miss Daisy – I suppose I should have watched it, but I could never summon up the least interest.

Dances With Wolves – white man all bad, red man all good. Sorry, but I never really got over having to sit through Little Big Man and Soldier Blue: as with Vitenam, I really have got the message!

Schindler’s List – I’ve tried, God knows I’ve tried, mainly because I loved the novel and consider Oskar Schindler a great man, but the film always makes me feel queasy, somehow. I got through half of it last year and just felt manipulated, but not in a pleasant Hollywoody way. 

Forrest Gump – I’d seen Rain Man, and that felt like enough. (And now I wouldn't be able to watch Tom Hanks and his bleeding "box of chocklits" without remembering Ben Stiller's immortal dialogue as Simple Jack in Tropic Thunder: "Goodbye mama, now you can have ice cream in heaven! I'll see you again tonight when I go to bed in my head movies. But this head movie makes my eyes rain!")

The English Patient – not with a gun to my head. I have no idea why I feel this way!

Million Dollar Baby – despite being directed by Clint Eastwood, this one passed me by completely. Did anybody out there see it? If so, why?

The Hurt Locker – I’m sure it’s a fine film, but I’ve been suffering from Iraq War syndrome for some time now. I managed about half an hour, and will catch up with it eventually, I promise.

There, I’ve got a guilty secret off my chest.

If you feel like checking your own score of shame, you can find a complete list of Best Picture Oscars winners here. And The Artist doesn't win on Sunday, I shall be most upset.


  1. Reading your blogs over the years I would have thought you were a film buff...
    I also tend to approach the big oscar winner a bit late,or usually never,and in the case of Sunset Boulevard which I bought and watched last night,very late indeed.It was however worth the wait.

  2. Very interesting list. I have only seen "Platoon", I am ashamed to say. Very flawed [well, Charlie Sheen for a start]. Many years later "Tropic Thunder" completely killed it off. I love war films, but because of Stiller& Co I can't watch American ones anymore.

    Three comments about the Oscars:

    1. They are increasingly about frocks and trinkets and screaming media interviews with not very interesting people { ie Daniel Radcliffe and the rest of the Harry Potter brats].

    2. The four Bitish screen actors [Mason, Finney,Burton and O'Toole] amassed 18 nominations between them but no wins. Deborah Kerr had six nominations, no wins. So the whole thing is a crock.

    3. I haven't seen any of this year's nominations inc "The Artist", but I have a feeling that the Oscar will be poached by "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" [or, "Terribly Long & Awfully Sentimental", as the Spectator has re-dubbed it]. It has 9/11, Tom Hanks, a central character with Asperger's ["Extremely Tiresome & Incredibly Hard To Take"] and Max von Sydow who Hollywood are seemingly desperate to honour at age 82 [see Henry Fonda]. All classic indicators.

  3. I envy you catching up with "Sunset Boulevard" this late - possibly the best movie script of all time, I reckon.

    I suspect the Oscars have always been pretty damned trivial, SDG, but after the success of "The Queen" and "The King's Speech", I think we have to absolve them of any lingering anti-Britishness.

    I haven't seen "Terribly Long and Awfully Sentimental", but I've heard it described as the worst-reviewed film ever to be nominated for Best Picture, so I'm hoping the old farts who make up the Academy would be too embarrassed to vote for it, even with Tom Hanks playing a character with Hamburger's. I think Christopher Plummer is in line for the Oscar for Still Being Alive this year, but I guess Max will cop a lifetime achievement one some time (weirdly, he doesn't look that much older than he did in his late 50s, early 60s Ingmar Bergman artistic heyday).

    If "The Artist" doesn't win, I shall be turning down my own Lifetime Achivement award, which I believe I'm in line for next year.

  4. In that case a brand new copy of Sunset Boulevard will be winging its way to you in the next month-unless of course you already have a copy?

  5. I should be more careful when writing 'copy'in conjunction with dvd's.
    Its simply that I've found a pefectly above board shop,in a busy upmarket mall which from time to time has some real treasures on sale which the Great Unwashed seem to pass over in favour of the usual type of Hollywood blockbuster,and that suits me just fine.

  6. Looking over the list of Oscar winning films in the link, I seem to have been on a bit of a run between 1950 and 1974 with 100% but hit a very rocky patch after Godfather Part II, rather like Coppola I suppose, possibly because very little after that classic looked like being much cop in comparison. Most of the films I really enjoy, like Dirty Harry, would never trouble the scorers. This year however, I've seen three of the best film/actor nominations and would find it genuinely difficult to decide between The Artist, Tinker etc and The Descendants, for either category. I think The Artist just shades it for originality.

    Which reminds me that it"s at least 3 months since I last saw either The Lady Vanishes or The 39 Steps so I must hunt out the free DVDs that the Sunday Times gave away a few years ago...

  7. A footnote on "Schindler's List". When I lived In Singapore in the 90s people used to come down from Kuala Lumpur to see the film because the Malaysian authorities banned it. It was adjudged to be an Israeli-financed piece of Jewish propaganda which distorted history. Which I thought was a pretty reasonable point of view so I gave it a miss at the time and went off to see "Dumb and Dumber" instead. This was not banned by Malaysia and rightly so.

  8. Re Oscars. Well done on the "Artist". Thank God, my own powers of forecasting are as crap as ever. Saw "Ransom" with Mel Gibson last night. An excellent recommendation. Lots of claret at the end - just the ticket! Cheered me up a treat.