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solid snake said on March 27th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

What about Chariots of Fire, anyone even remember what that film was about?

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Shakespeare in Love was a very fine movie. I really don’t get the attacks on it, especially since Saving Private Ryan isn’t without its flaws as well.

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I’ve always found the “Shakespeare in Love” backlash inexplicable.

I can understand liking Private Ryan more. Over twenty years, I’ve come to terms with the fact that the consensus is that Beauty and The Beast justly lost to Silence of the Lambs in 1991.

But Shakespeare in Love just *isn’t* an “otherwise undistinguished romantic comedy”. It featured a very good cast (highlighted by delightfully fun supporting performances by Dench, Rush, and Affleck). It had a clever premise with top notch technical execution. And it had an exceedingly well constructed screenplay by Tom Stoppard, a strong candidate for most accomplished playwright of the last 50 years (him or Albee), with some very interesting commentary on gender relations and the artistic process.

Bridget Jones’ Diary was an “undistinguished romantic comedy”. Shakespeare in Love is, no matter what your personal taste, a distinguished (and to my tastes a very good) movie.

I also think you are overrating Wall-E (the second half is not going to age well IMHO), but I love the opening hour enough not to complain.

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Citizen Kane: hindsight is super easy on this one, but Kane is complex. And ground breaking, and ahead of its time. It has so much packed in it, I can’t fault the Academy for not universally noticing its awesomeness the first time round. The fact that it was even nominated kind of surprises me.

Shakespeare in Love: this a great movie about the love and art and the immortality of the written word (or cinema, in a metaphorical manner). Tom Stoppard’s script is brilliant, the acting top notch, and the performances spot on. The performances scenes in the Globe are some of the most energetic “live” performances I have ever seen – the intensity of the production of “Romeo and Juliet” matches the powerful intensity of the love between Shakespeare and Viola. The intertextual play between Shakespeare’s plays and the drama presented is deep and rich. It ably demonstrates the power and emotion packed into Shakespeare’s plays without the language barrier. It doesn’t feature the bravura opening of “Private Ryan,” or a lot of men showing their emotions in a manly way, but “Shakespeare in Love” resonates in a far deeper and more universal way than a war movie, which however good it is (and it is *very* good) is speaking of a limited experience, particularly in this day and age. Loss still resonates, and confusion, but “Pvt Ryan” has little to it beyond outstanding craft and Tom Hanks looking sad. Very entertaining, but what is it “saying” that hasn’t been said by other war movies? The good of the many outweighs the good of the few? Spielberg very rightly won the best director Oscar, but it doesn’t mean that he directed the best picture.

And calling “Shakespeare in Love” “an otherwise undistinguished romantic comedy”. That is just silly. Jennifer Aniston and Matthew McConaughey star in those, and Tom Stoppard doesn’t write the script. Undistinguished romantic comedies are about two unlikely characters who fall in love. But “Shakespeare in Love” is about love itself and succeeds very effectively at considering love and showing it and its effects.

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Hollywood has never respected horror as a genre

Hollywood has never respected any film that doesn’t have an excessive dramatic element.

This is also why comedy classics like Airplane!, Spaceballs and The Blues Brothers also get ignored.

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Cespinarve said on March 27th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

God, I’ve never watched more than ten minutes of Shakespeare in love without turning it off in boredom. Take Shakespeare’s most over and badly done play (R&J), and, ignoring that it is is a play about young people who are MORONS who fall and love and die. Because they’re MORONS who can’t live apart for more than a couple days without coming up with really stupid plan, god they have no sense of scale. I hate that play. Anyways “ignoring that it is is a play about young people who” (etc), choose to base an equally boring love story around it. That. Is. Stupid.

And you know what, it beat out The Truman Show. Debate Jim Carrey’s acting all you like, but I have seen more debate brought up over The Truman Show than SIL. In fact, the only time SIL ever comes up is when people are discussing past best pictures. MAYBE THAT’S A HINT?

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What about 1994, when Forest Gump beat out both Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption?

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Tenken347 said on March 27th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Honestly, I just don’t think Shakespear in Love is a very good movie. Some solid moments notwithstanding (it’s actually my favorite thing that Ben Aflec has ever done), I really don’t understand how it could beat out the movies it did, including the far superior Elizabeth, which featured the same setting and at least one of the same actors in a film that revolved around at least one of the same themes (duty before love).

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sgt pepper said on March 27th, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Hating on R&J because it’s not realistic is stupid. It’s not supposed to be realistic (though if you think the unrealistic part is that teenagers are morons who do stupid things and make stupid plans, then I don’t think you know many teenagers). The dramatic tension is real, the characters and wordplay are fun, the language is beautiful. He writes Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting as a sonnet, fer chrissakes, and it’s a brilliant one at that.

And I think you could make a case that Private Ryan is a slightly better movie, but not far superior.

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I hosted an Oscar party in 1998 when I was in college, and there were a lot of cheers when Shakespeare in Love won. I was a bit baffled by this when Saving Private Ryan seems so superior in every concievable way.

And then I realized that there were a bunch of theater people, and they all loved SiL because it validated What It Is That We (They) Do. Theater is Important is practically the theme of the movie, and it clearly struck a nerve with the artsy crowd. Then I realized that, by extension, it must have struck a similar nerve with the members of the Academy.

This led to one of my Rules for Oscar Prediction: Movies that validate art tend to do well. (See: Pollack, and this may even explain The Greatest Show on Earth.)

Contrast this with The Truman Show (my pick for Best Picture that year, even over Pvt. Ryan, which didn’t even get nominated. But that movie had a much less positive view of art: an egomanical artist imposing his vision on the world around him to create his masterpiece.

(I just realized that Ed Harris played the same character in Truman Show as in Pollack…)

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Dances with Wolves beating Goodfellas was the biggest misscarriage of Oscars justice in my lifetime. Dances was not a terrible movie, but Goodfellas was superb.

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This list is perplexing. Kane‘s loss in ’41 is truly egregious, and I’ll give you ’52, but there’s no way the other three years are even remotely competitive with the outrageousness of Dances With Wolves (which is actually a supremely shitty movie in every way) over Goodfellas, Ordinary People over Raging Bull, Gump over Pulp Fiction (never mind Gump winning anything at all), or even Going My Way over Double Indemnity.

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Yeah, any list of Best Picture Mistakes that doesn’t include Dances With Wolves is itself a kind of Best Picture Mistake.

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Ok, maybe I need to go re-watch WALL-E, because I honestly do not get why people are making such a big deal over it. It’s excellently made and cute, but for my money The Incredibles is still Pixar’s best stand-alone film to date.

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When WALL-E wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture in 2008, that sealed it for me that it will be many, many years before an animated film picks up Best Picture. Because WALL-E is one of the most astonishingly proficient animated films ever made, and probably the most Academy-friendly of their entire output. Sometimes I suspect the 10-movie field was largely to give Pixar the nomination slot they all feel it deserves even though Pixar would never get a 5-slot nomination, let alone an actual win.

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@DJA: That’s why it was just “five”, and not “top five”. :) I actually did consider Going My Way, but it seemed like ’56 was a case of a weaker film not just beating out a stronger film, but beating out several stronger films, so I prioritized it. 1998 seemed to me to be a famous case, one that was very controversial even at the time, and I felt like I had to include it (although wow, there’s a lot of ‘SiL’ love around here.) And 2008 was the one I particularly wanted to talk about. Although that said, everything I said about WALL-E and Slumdog Millionaire also applies in the exact same way to Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump, so you can get my feelings on that year simply by doing a brief search-and-replace. :)

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I’m in the “Shakespeare In Love” camp; “Saving Private Ryan” was an astonishing twenty-five minutes of D-Day followed by two hours of pretty dull stuff (and William Goldman’s evisceration of the film’s climactic scene in an essay as amazing criticism). I’m also not that enamored of WALL-E; it’s a great first half followed by a very humdrum second half. The second the humans show up, the film becomes ordinary.

But then, I’m also one who has never once thought that Goodfellas was robbed.

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Aussiesmurf said on March 27th, 2011 at 8:53 pm

The greatest injustice for mine will still be 1994, simply because (IMHO) the film that won was so markedly inferior to ALL FOUR of the other nominees (Shawshank Redemption, Quiz Show, Pulp Fiction, Four Weddings and a Funeral).

I think that people fall into the trap of thinking that because Saving Private Ryan was (arguably) better-directed than Shakespeare in Love, its a better picture. It was easily apparent that Shakespeare in Love had a FAR better script, better acting, better set design, better costumes and better art direction.

I still remember my favourite quote “The only true critic is time.”

What about Gandhi beating E.T.?
What about Annie Hall beating Star Wars?

And Chariots of Fire was the best movie of 1981.

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I’m sorry but have we forgotten the Titanic incident with Cameron beating out LA Confidential, a much more entertaining and compelling film?

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2005. Crash, the most worthless piece of dreck to ever win an Oscar, beats Brokeback fucking Mountain. Nothing else comes close in Oscar robberies.

RE: Shakespeare In Love – I was one of those who cheered when it won. No slight on Saving Private Ryan, which is a fine movie, but it’s a fine movie with a stupid ending that weakens the film as a whole, whereas Shakespeare ends perfectly and as it should.

RE: Dances With Wolves – people gotta stop hating on it because it beat Goodfellas. Yes, Goodfellas is the superior film of the two, but Dances With Wolves is, straight-up, a pretty damned good movie. Seriously, people tend to forget how ambitious it was: it’s a three-hour Western (and this was made when the Western was stone dead as a genre – there would be no Unforgiven or Tombstone without Dances), where the majority of the dialogue is Lakota, where the U.S. Army are the bad guys. Everybody assumed it would flop, and instead it was a deserved critical and commercial success. I don’t think it’s appropriate for this list, because of the contenders that year it was the only other movie that deserved to win other than Goodfellas – remember, the other contenders for Best Picture that year were Ghost, Awakenings and The Godfather Part III.

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Fred Davis said on March 27th, 2011 at 9:46 pm

and, ignoring that it is is a play about young people who are MORONS who fall and love and die.

One young person, one child – remember that Juliet is supposed to be about 14 and romeo 16-18. Like Lolita, it is often mistaken for a charming love story, but that is because most lecturers of English Literature are creepy old men in abominable sweater vests.

WALL-E needed more emus. If the second half had been about emus, THEN it would have been an instant and everlasting classic. A lack of sufficient emus has ruined many an otherwise great work.

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Goodfellas was a disgusting glorification of the Mafia that I couldn’t sit through. Dances With Wolves was a disgusting glorification of Kevin Costner that contained absolutely no surprises from beginning to end – you could film Costner reading the “Mighty Whitey” page from tvtropes.org and get as much out of it.

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@aussiesmurf: Ghandi/E.T. and Annie Hall/Star Wars are along the lines of the Jaws/OFOTCN comparison I mentioned in the opening. While I might have a favorite, it’s hard to argue that Annie Hall isn’t a deserving movie, ditto with Ghandi.

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I agree with MGK about 2005 in the sense that Crash is terrible. I don’t think Brokeback’s exactly brilliant, but it’s a solid film with a really excellent lead performance that wouldn’t be embarrassing to have the words “Best Picture” in front of it. It’s just hard for me to really get behind anything with an Annie Proulx background.

Great critical reevaluation of Dances with Wolves, though – people take it out of context to tear it down, and that’s only gotten worse post-Avatar.

Gandhi over E.T. (and Missing! People forget how awesome Costa Gavras is) is disappointing, but not really that much of a surprise. I think it’s more disappointing that at least Star Wars and Jaws can say they were beaten by genuine classics, while E.T. lost to a decent-enough movie that’s almost prototypical Oscar bait. And Jaws in particular was in one of the greatest Best Picture fields ever.

Here’s a bad one no one remembers: 1955. Marty wins a weak field in a year where Lola Montes, Night of the Hunter, The Phenix City Story, and Rebel Without a Cause aren’t nominated. Only two of the Best Picture nominees were also nominated for Best Director – weird year.

I was with this list (except not a huge Saving Private Ryan fan, but I get the rationale there) until the projected future adoration of Wall-E. I just don’t think it’s got that kind of heft. The big injustice in 2008, to me, was Happy-Go-Lucky and particularly Sally Hawkins not getting nominated.

Does anyone laugh just a bit whenever David Fincher tries a new Oscar bait scam and fails to win his Best Director award for it? I’m usually not the schadenfreude type, but there’s something satisfying in seeing naked, undignified hunger go unrewarded.

Here’s one that’s probably not going to come to any satisfying consensus: what’s the greatest Best Picture winner? I feel like these discussions always veer towards the snubs or mistakes.

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THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH was viewed as DeMille’s last hurrah, he was known to be in declining health, the Academy decided to give him a nice parting gift. Lousy movie, but nice gesture.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS co$t lot$ and lot$ of money and put $everal hundred O$car voter$ on $alary.

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Look, someone’s got to say it: Saving Private Ryan is, like Forrest Gump, entirely about telling male Baby Boomers that they’re special.

Ryan symbolizes the Baby Boomers, the younger generation for whose benefit all this bloodshed is taking place. At the end, dying symbol-of-the-American-spirit Tom Hanks tells him to “Earn it”, which he does by being “a good man.” That’s it. The entire damn movie is just Spielberg and everyone his age trying to tell themselves that they earned their allowance from dad.

You’ll notice that’s also the exact plot of Field of Dreams, but there are other forms of male-Boomer-validation movie out there. American Beauty and The Big Chill are two obvious examples.

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Ryan symbolizes the Baby Boomers

Saying that someone who would have have to have been born in the 1920s symbolizes the Baby Boomers seems like a bit of a stretch.

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It’s not that Shakespeare In Love is a bad film, though personally I have never had a desire to watch since the first viewing. It was well directed, cleverish script, good actors.

And it’s not just that it was up against Saving Private Ryan. Though personally I think Ryan should of won. I think it redefined the war movie genre, both visually and in storytelling, and it had great performances. Having said that, Spielberg getting the directing Oscar was at least a deserving victory for it.

But, it wasn’t just up against Saving Private Ryan! It was also up against Life is Beautiful, The Thin Red Line and Elizabeth. All pretty amazing movies.

And the admittedly charming, but ultimately, fairly shallow story about how ol’ Will got busy with a blonde cross dresser beat them all.

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“Saying that someone who would have have to have been born in the 1920s symbolizes the Baby Boomers seems like a bit of a stretch.”

It’s symbolism, though.

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Steve, from the internet said on March 28th, 2011 at 5:29 am

Romeo and Juliet is a Shakespearian tragedy. The entire point of the play is that too much feeling and not enough thinking makes them act like MORONS, thus causing all sorts of death and problems.

Dances with Wolves was overlong, but it had some genuinely affecting moments and an epic scope. I still remember the scene where Nero Wolfe shoots himself off camera.
Maybe it gets vilified as part of a Waterworld/Postman Costner backlash, or for being Avatar before Avatar was, and it could probably have used an edit (with the three hour version as the Director’s Cut), but it’s a good movie. Maybe not the greatest movie ever made, but it doesn’t deserve the hate.

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For those who argue against “Shakespeare In Love”: I agree that compared to Saving Private Ryan that SiL is weak tea. But compared to other Best Picture winners – especially Crash and Greatest Show, hell even Last Emperor which was BORING AS HELL – Shakespeare In Love is quality stuff.

For me the biggest quibble for 2008 wasn’t WALL-E getting snubbed for Best Picture, it was Dark Knight. While the political statement underlying the film is still polarizing, in terms of acting, setting, pacing, plot, and overall theme DK was the Best Picture that year. And I’m not being biased in favor of comic book movies: I’m comparing Dark Knight to works like Heat, L.A. Confidential, Point Blank, etc.

It’d be nice if the Academy had a “Do-Over” Award every 20 years to redress such grievances as Edward G. Robinson never getting an acting Oscar (Double Indemnity would be an easy give), Citizen Kane getting Best Picture, and Star Wars getting it over Annie Hall (’cause in hindsight, Annie Hall wasn’t Woody’s best work, while Star Wars was F-CKING STAR WARS). In a smarter world, we’d hold off on giving out Oscar for 3-4 years so we can let the test of time weed out the quality stuff over the overhyped crap.

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I’m going to stick up for Slumdog Millionaire here. It may not be as good as WALL*E (which, Pixar or no, does indeed have a few problems) but it is pretty darn good, far more fun and watchable than a lot of Best Picture winners (Crash, anyone?)

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MGK: People don’t hate Dances With Wolves because it beat GoodFellas; we hate it because it’s a ponderous movie that exists to validate and soothe white guilt and because it makes the story of the Sioux all about a guilty white guy. Beating GoodFellas is just what makes it a Best Picture mistake.

Also, whoever said GoodFellas glorifies the mob must have switched channels after, what, 15 minutes?

Another good contender: 1999, when American Beauty wins for showing us that the suburbs are, like, phoney. Not a great list of nominees that year (although The Insider was decent), but Being John Malkovich and Election weren’t even nominated.

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Hellzapoppin’ is great. I wish more people could see it. It’s out on DVD in the UK for anyone interested.

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Kid Kyoto said on March 28th, 2011 at 11:51 am

What no Glad I Ate Her? Ignores history and geography (a desert between Germany and Spain?) and basic cinemtography to give us fast cuts and fights that make no sense.

@PaulW, how about make all best picture awards tentative until they are finalized 10 years later? So what was the real best picture of 2001?

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Die Macher said on March 28th, 2011 at 11:54 am

Five movies that would have been more legitimate Best Picture winners than “American Beauty” in 1999:

Fight Club
The Iron Giant
The Sixth Sense
Being John Malkovich
The Matrix

And I’m sure there’s more.

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Die Macher said on March 28th, 2011 at 11:58 am

For 2001, I’d say Memento.

For top-5 consideration I’ll submit Ghost World, Amelie, Fellowship of the Ring, Gosford Park, The Others, The Royal Tennenbaums, and The Princess & the Warrior.

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No love for “The Maltese Falcon”? Sure, it’s no Kane, but it’s still far more of a classic than “How Green Is My Valley”, and I’m surprised you didn’t mention it in the 1941 section.

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@Kid Kyoto, the Best Picture of 2001 was Fellowship of the Ring. 2002 was The Two Towers. It’s just Hollywood was waiting for Return of the King to give the whole trilogy the big awards, which is a huge shame.

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I’ll throw my vote in for those who favour “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan”; the latter is a technical marvel (Spielberg’s Oscar was certainly deserved), but I don’t find the story especially interesting. SiL has an amazing screenplay and great acting. I admit that I belong squarely to its primary target demographic, Lit nerds who understand all the references, but whatever.

For 2005, everybody always brings up “Brokeback Mountain” as the deserved winner, and it was certainly the other contender, but for my money both “Munich” and “Good Night, and Good Luck” were better films.

1994 often gets cited, but I think 1994’s slate is just an example of an incredibly strong Best Picture lineup; certainly, the best in my lifetime. Any of “Gump”, “Shawshank”, or “Pulp Fiction” could have won and won deservedly. They’re all enduring classics.

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I should also note that cineastes often complain that the Academy ignores comedy, then complain about “Shakespeare in Love”, which is the only film primarily classified as a comedy to win in, what, the last 30+ years? (“Chicago” is clearly also a comedy if you’re dividing films along a comedy/drama binary, but everybody just calls it a musical)

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Tim O'Neil said on March 28th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

What about 1995, when Braveheart beat Babe? I still watch Babe every couple years or so and it’s still one of the greatest movies ever made – Braveheart is OK but seems in retrospect very juvenile.

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Die Macher said on March 28th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I’d like to cast a vote for both Shakespeare in Love AND Saving Private Ryan as being somewhat overrated.

Movies from 1998 that I think are more worthy include:
-Henry Fool (Hal Hartley)
-Last Night (Don McKellar)
-Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons)
-The Red Violin (Francois Girard)
-Dark City (Alex Proyas)
-The Truman Show (Peter Weir)

And I guess Elizabeth, The Big Lebowski, Out of Sight, Zero Effect, The Big One…

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Military history is one of my interests, and the depiction D-Day, as well as the overall aesthetic and technical accomplishment of Saving Private Ryan, are high water marks in film history, but Shakespeare in Love is still the better film, because it works so well from beginning to end and has all its cylinders firing throughout (acting, script, direction, etc.). It’s also touching in a far more convincing and genuine way.

Also, I can’t believe The Godfather Part III was nominated Best Picture.

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In their own ways, both Shakespeare in Love and Saving Private Ryan are worthy and flawed movies. Life is Beautiful is out of their league.

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I’ll back that up instead of pretentiously leaving it out there. The first half is as touching a romance as Shakespeare, with a comedic brilliance that Shakespeare only approaches in moments, and the second half approaches war from the completely opposite direction from Ryan, and not only does it have wonderful characterization, it manages to take the fucking Holocaust and insert moments of comedy that don’t feel inappropriate or offensive.

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Honestly, for 1998 I’d give it to Rushmore. (Speaking of which, the real mistake that year was Bill Murray’s lack of a nomination.)

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lilacsigil said on March 29th, 2011 at 7:04 am

I think a lot of the Shakespeare in Love backlash is actually about the horrendously wrong Best Actress trophy for Gwyneth Paltrow, who was most certainly the weak link in the movie (not that she was terrible, just not as good as everyone else). It was a fine, frothy, touching, literate ensemble comedy and really a terrific movie that is aging well.

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Bah. “Slumdog Millionaire” is a shamelessly dull, uninspired take on poverty in India, essentially a modernised version of the original ‘Aladdin’ fairytale, set in Mumbai and with a gameshow rather than a djinn.

Artistically, it’s well-filmed and well-performed. In terms of theme, plot, dialogue and overall purpose, it’s so much bum-fluff.

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Die Macher said on March 29th, 2011 at 10:30 am

Did dev just say that “Shakespeare in Love” is at the same level as, or even surpasses, actual Shakespeare? …???…

“comedic brilliance that Shakespeare only approaches in moments”… most casual dis of pillar of English literature EVER! My goodness me.

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Unless you are actually a part of the Hollywood system, why should any of the Academy’s decisions matter to you? Do you need the personal validation? The Academy Awards are BY Hollywood, FOR Hollywood, it ain’t the People’s Choice Awards. The Oscars don’t tell us as much about the state of cinema from year to year as they do tell us how Hollywood feels about itself from year to year.

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Did dev just say that “Shakespeare in Love” is at the same level as, or even surpasses, actual Shakespeare? …???…

No. He said that Life is Beautiful “is as touching a romance as Shakespeare [in Love], with a comedic brilliance that Shakespeare [in Love] only approaches in moments”.

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I, Wildman said on March 29th, 2011 at 1:03 pm

My favorite bit of trivia regarding “Hellzapoppin'” was that it’s sole Oscar nod was for Best Original Song… and it was for a song that didn’t even appear in the movie.

Unsung film, truly.

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Die Macher said on March 29th, 2011 at 1:25 pm

@skemono (cause I don’t know how to do the cool quote thing…)

My mistake, I did not join dev’s two posts together correctly in my mind the first time I read them. Oops. Apologies, dev!

Was reading an article on Bernard Herrmann the other day… with all the amazing scores he did (Day the Earth Stood Still, Citizen Kane, Psycho, Taxi Driver, etc) he only won 1 Oscar! There’s some Academy mistakes for you.

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No problem, glad skemono was there to clear that up. I probably could have been clearer in all kinds of ways, too.

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Although a core pillar of geek society, “Star Wars” did not deserve a Best Film Oscar. The acting is awful in some places and the dialogue trite.

Awesome SFX though.

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Sage Bilderback said on March 30th, 2011 at 10:25 pm

I’m going to go ahead and stick up for Slumdog Millionaire as deserving the win in 2008. You know, since Taken wasn’t nominated.

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