Well, my predictions were right for the major awards -- not such a feat this year. But in considering upon yet another year where the actual Best Picture did not take home its prize, I found myself most startled by reflecting upon one of the several tedious and useless montages provided to us by tedious and useless Oscar-cast producer Gil Cates. Thank you Gil for giving us a show that ran just under 20 minutes over. Too bad it was possibly the most boring Oscar show ever, made more so by a couple terrible production numbers from Enchanted, but mostly due to the 80 Years of Oscar segments. But I digress.
Watching the one 80 Years of Oscar montage that went year-by-year through 79 previous Best Picture winners was actually quite fascinating. How many of those winners have held up through time. More importantly, how many of them would still be considered the best film of their respective years? Citizen Kane is regularly listed as the greatest movie ever made, and yet, the 1941 Best Picture winner was the John Ford film How Green Was My Valley, a wonderful picture, but not one which makes the top 10. When the critics lists came out in 1990 talking about the best films of the '80s, topping the consensus list was Raging Bull, but Scorsese's Jake La Motta biopic wasn't in tonight's montage because the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1980 went to Ordinary People. Scorsese made another film that rightfully would be considered one of the best of the '90s in Goodfellas. Of course, that New York mob epic lost its Best Picture competition to Dances With Wolves.
it's nothing new for people to argue about the fact that the Academy doesn't always (usually? ever?) give the award to the actual best film of the year. Certainly, the montage had other people arguing tonight about the worst ever Best Picture winner. Apparently, many think it's Titanic or Crash. Crash would easily win that head-to-head for me. Personally, The English Patient is also up there along with Driving Miss Daisy and Rain Man, maybe none of which is as heinous as the Crash win, but all three of which were far overrated and beat much worthier films that will hold up through the ages better. I mean, I have repeatedly mentioned my extreme love for Sunset Blvd, my pick for best movie ever. Well at least it lost to All About Eve, another all-time great. Or Network which certainly deserved to be the Best Picture of 1976, winning every other major category. It ultimately lost to the Best Picture prize to Rocky which, while not quite in the same league in my book, at least was a very good film and a cornerstone of sports cinema.
All of this leads me back to the only part of tonight's show that I care to reflect on: No Country For Old Men taking Best Picture from There Will Be Blood. How perfect would it have been to see Martin Scorsese hand a Best Director statue to Paul Thomas Anderson. A passing of the mantle, maybe? But instead, I get the feeling that P.T. is going to find himself having a career much like Marty's. When the lists are compiled for the Best Films of the first decade of the 21st Century, There Will Be Blood will be on it, if not at the top, very close to it. Will No Country? I doubt it.
No disrespect to The Coens. I love their film. I think it is probably the best film they've ever made in their illustrious career. Unlike a picture like Crash or Diablo Cody's win for the screenplay of Juno, I don't think No Country is in the running for Most Overrated Film of 2007 at all. It is a fantastic movie, and in almost any other year, probably would have deserved the top prize without a second thought. And yet, it is more than rare for a film like Blood to arrive in theaters; a film so complex with so many layers and elements that even those of us who praise it and rave about it and think we understand it will discover that there is so much more to it each time we repeat the viewing process.
There Will Be Blood is not just a better film than No Country For Old Men -- a film that will continue to be appreciated for years to come and likely become even more so -- it is a better film than every Oscar winner since the turn of the century and then some. The Departed, Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Chicago, A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator ... will any of these films be among the best of the '00s? The only two that have a shot, as far as I'm concerned, are The Departed and Lord of the Rings.
So congrats to the Coens, but more importantly, congrats to P.T. Anderson. So you don't have the statue ... chances are you'll get one someday, but really more importantly, we'll all be talking about your magnificent film for years to come, long after films like Juno, Michael Clayton and Atonement have been forgotten. As for No Country, we'll see for it's arguably better than most of those previous winners too ... it just doesn't drink up their milkshakes quite as well.