It’s finally here! The 2017 movie year finally comes to a close and it only took us till March. We can officially never talk about Three Billboards or Phantom Thread again. But, to honor the awards ceremony we all love and loathe in equal measure, the Citizen Dame 5 looks at our favorite Oscar winners. As opposed to restricting our favorites to just Best Picture winners we each chose five of our favorites in any category. Feel free to share your five favorites in the comments! The Academy Awards air on ABC March 4th!
Let me tell you, my list was comprehensive. I scoured every awards ceremony from the first and picked 50 favorites. I was terrified to whittle it down to five, but I did. The five I picked here are all VERY me. I mean, they are the awards that have defined me as a person and I’m still happy the Academy listened to me….errr, made the right choice.
Best Costume Design: Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)
This 1969 costume drama about Henry VIII (Richard Burton) and Anne Boleyn (Genevieve Bujold) is one of my favorite films of all time. In my opinion it deserved FAR more than a win for its costumes. However, the outfits here are truly stunning. There are so many French hoods and bell sleeves that you’ll want to go out and buy something right then and there. There’s nothing better than Bujold’s fiery Anne bejeweled and bedazzled! (But it still deserved more!)
Best Original Score and Best Original Song: The Little Mermaid (1989)
I cheated, i know, but I can’t be expected to separate The Little Mermaid’s unforgettable score with its original songs. Sure, I think the song that won wasn’t the best song in the movie (“Poor Unfortunate Souls” forever!), but “Under the Sea” is synonymous with the film. The score itself is utterly lovely and this was a posthumous award for the late great Howard Ashman who I urge everyone to look up. Even better, search for videos of him working on the songs!
bEST actor: Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune (1991)
I’ve said it twice already but let’s say it once again: I don’t think he should have won for this role. Really, I see Irons’ win for Reversal of Fortune as an apology Oscar for not giving him the award previously with Dead Ringers (1988). It’s not to say that Reversal of Fortune isn’t good, but dammit it’s not as good as his dual performance in that Cronenberg film. Regardless, the man won and he is dapper as hell in his acceptance speech. I could easily argue he deserved a few more Oscars than he’s got, but at least we have this one!
Best picture: Titanic (1997)
Imma let you finish, but Titanic is the best movie of the decade! I absolutely adore Titanic, always have and always will. I don’t care what movie you throw at me from 1997, and I love many of them, but they couldn’t hold a candle to this thrilling throwback to Old Hollywood. James Cameron may be a moron now, but when he was on his game we got magic like this. I’ll never let go!
Best animated short film: for the birds (2001)
I had at least three Best Animated Short winners I considered for my fifth slot, but in the end I had to go with this Pixar short. (In case you were curious, the honorable mentions were Geri’s Game, The ChubbChubbs, and Boundin‘ before I realized the latter didn’t win.) For the Birds is a story of acceptance, involving a uniquely different bird having to tolerate and accept a bunch of tiny birds who are pretty much a bunch of douchebags on a wire. The short is sweet, funny, and a has a message about tolerance that doesn’t beat you over the head – or rip your feathers off.
My first memory of watching the Academy Awards was 1989. I thought FOR SURE Tom Hanks was going to win Best Actor for Big because he was CLEARLY the Best Actor. Of course, I was too young to see Rain Man, or I would have known to be mad about my other Tom’s snub. I’ve watched nearly every year since then. The only time I missed was when I was living abroad in 1999. So, yeah, I missed the controversial Shakespeare vs. Private Ryan night. I’m obsessed. For the purposes of this week’s 5, I decided to go with wins that I remember for movies I enjoyed.
Best Picture: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
I was overjoyed when Stephen Spielberg said those immortal words: “It’s a clean sweep!” The third film in my second favorite franchise went 11 for 11 and it was glorious. And when the entire cast was up on stage and a bunch of the crew and producers all together, it brought me so much joy. Yes, okay, fine, I cried.
(I’m still disappointed Sean Astin wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor, though because, damn, was he good in that movie.)
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (2008)
There was so much to love about the moment Kathryn Bigelow won her Academy Award for Best Director. Not only was her movie my favorite of the year. Not only was she the first woman to win Best Director. Not only was her award presented by Barbra Streisand. She also beat her lame ass ex-husband who directed the biggest movie of all time (up to that point). Add all those things together and this win is sheer perfection.
Plus I totally loved her dress.
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (2008)
It still hurts my heart to think of all the performances we’ve missed out on from Heath Ledger. In fact, I can’t really talk about it. Watching his parents and sister accept his Oscar just made me ugly cry. Plus he was so fucking great in that movie.
Best Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny (1992)
I hadn’t seen many of the nominated movies in 1992, but I had a few favorites. Two of them were courtroom movies, as a matter of fact. (Yes, I’m still bitter about A Few Good Men losing. Unforgiven? Are you serious?) But the best moment of the night came when Marisa Tomei won the award for her fun, funny, and endearing work over veteran actresses like Vanessa Redgrave and Joan Plowright. Afterward, the rumors floated for years that she hadn’t really won, but I think last year’s Best Picture debacle forever vindicated Tomei. I mean, come on. She deserved the win just for pretending to be attracted to Joe Pesci, am I right?
Best Original Screenplay: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting (1997)
Regardless of who or what they are now, back in 1997 Ben and Matt were two cute and totally dorky guys who wrote one of the best films of the year. They gave us one of the best performances of Robin Williams’ career, and their sheer joy in winning that night was contagious. There was jumping and cheering and laughing and it was great. I miss that Matt and Ben.
Alright, this felt like a broad topic for yours truly. There are only 89 Academy Awards ceremonies to scroll through after all. Looking through the history of cinema, here are some of my favorites. Some are fairly unsurprising, some are deep cuts…and one definitely needs a #SorryNotSorry.
Best Actor: Lee Marvin, Cat Ballou (1965)
Cat Ballou is a revisionist western which hit theaters in 1965. The film is best known for giving Lee Marvin a much deserved Oscar for Best Actor. (The movie was also nominated for script, editing, and music).
I once brought this film to school for first-grade show and tell. Yes, I’ve liked it for that long. Queen Jane Fonda kicks all the right amount of ass and hits all the right notes in her performance. However, she’s backed up by a stellar group of performers. Lee Marvin is best remembered, but Michael Callan also shines at his most handsome and charismatic. This movie may also be responsible for my childhood crush on Dwayne “Dobie Gillis” Hickman.
Best Picture: Rebecca (1940)
Laurence Olivier and George Sanders. Do I have to say anything else? Okay. Alfred Hitchcock, too. The film took home two Academy Awards for Picture as well as Best Cinematography. The movie also received an additional 11 nominations.
This picture came to me later in my film education. I started with mid to late fifties Hitch and gradually worked my way out from that period. It stands as one of my favorite entries into the director’s filmography. Everything just works on-screen. It is not only a fun viewing, but an entertaining and visually impressive thriller. Can the Master of Suspense do anything else?
Best Picture: Casablanca (1942)
This is an unoriginal choice as it’s probably on a number of lists. However, Casablanca holds an important spot in my history as a film student. I watched the film for the first time in middle school and I fell in love with it immediately. Initially, it was the romance of the Rick/Ilsa storyline which drew me to the movie. However, in my old age, I’ve developed a new appreciation for Victor; he really is a good guy and massively under-appreciated. Claude Rains is most definitely the film’s MVP. Who has not used the “I’m shocked…shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” line.
The film took home Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. It received an additional five nominations.
Best Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle, lAURA (1944)
Laura took home one Oscar for cinematography, but earned an additional four nominations. The Otto Preminger film noir is a classic entry into the sub-genre, bringing career performances from heavies like Dana Andrews, Vincent Price, and the always amazing Clifton Webb.
Laura is a fascinating and atmospheric thriller which has come to define the film noir movement as we know it.
Best Director: Damien Chazelle, lA lA lAND (2016)
I have to preface this with a #SorryNotSorry. I fell in love with this movie when I saw it opening night at the Denver Film Festival, and I’m only mildly ashamed to admit that I ugly cried almost the entire way through. This film struck a sizable chord for me as a struggling writer. I wanted to be as delightfully spunky as Emma Stone. “Here’s to the ones who dream” is about me! Anywhoo, between Stone’s performance, the adorable Ryan Gosling and the incredible beauty of the visuals La La Land is still one of my favorites. In the interest of full disclosure, I still listen to the soundtrack in my car. Nope. Not sorry.
La La Land is known in Academy Awards history for one thing: the great envelope fiasco of 2017. However, the film still won six awards at the ceremony from 14 nominations.
Best Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny (1992)
It became notorious after Rex Reed intimated that presenter Jack Palance read the wrong name (yes, Rex Reed has been a dick for that long), but Marisa Tomei’s surprising Best Supporting Actress win for My Cousin Vinny is one of my favorite Academy upsets. Not only are comedic performances rarely rewarded at the Oscars, female comedic performances are even less so. And Tomei gives a great one, finding depth and nuance in a character who could have easily been just a throwaway bit of comic relief.
Best Unique and Artistic Picture: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
It was the one and only time the Oscars gave out two versions of Best Picture (Wings won in the Outstanding Picture category that would transform into Best Picture the following year). But F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans really is in a class by itself. Moving, sentimental, gorgeously photographed, beautifully acted…the film is about a couple discovering love all over again, and it’s a fascinating work of art. It forever stands in its own category.
Best Picture: Moonlight (2016)
Yes, it was deeply satisfying to see La La Land lose at the Oscars, but losing to Moonlight? A quietly brilliant film about a gay black teenager dealing with issues of masculinity, poverty, sexuality, desire? A beautifully crafted film built off a strong cast mercifully unpopulated by big names or Meryl Streep? Wonderful.
Irving Thalberg Memorial Award: Alfred Hitchcock (1968)
In 1968, Oscar decided to finally recognize the greatest director of all time with the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award. Hitch was not exactly enthused by the accolade, limiting his acceptance speech to “Thank you…very much indeed.” He thought that it was the Academy basically stating his career was over (no worries, Hitch; you’ll go on to make Frenzy and Family Plot, both latter-day masterpieces). The award was certainly one of those times that seemed an attempt to excuse the fact that Oscar had failed to award one of Hollywood’s finest directors (despite nominating him five times). Nevertheless, at least they recognized him. Finally.
Best Director – Martin Scorsese, The Departed (2006)
Like Hitchcock, Scorsese was nominated a score of times for Best Director without having won. And while The Departed is a decidedly lesser film in Scorsese’s oeuvre, he still deserved to get that win. It was also nice that the Academy didn’t decide to throw a lifetime award at Scorsese, who is certainly not done making best pictures.