This week saw the Academy Awards dole out their praise on several well deserved films from 2017 and the people who created them were honoured with a statuette or two.
Here at the library we have gathered together some of our favourite Best Picture Oscar wins from the history of the Academy Awards, as well as a few of our personal Oscar Misses…
The Silence of the Lambs (64th Academy Awards – 1991)
“Well, Clarice – have the lambs stopped screaming?”
This film is probably the closest the Academy Awards have got to awarding a horror film one of its distinguished trophies. Back in 1973 The Exorcist was nominated for Best Picture but lost out to The Sting. 18 years later a film, which can be considered a gothic horror film due to its use of horror tropes, was recognised by the Academy Awards. Adapted from the book by Thomas Harris it wasn’t the first film to feature the iconic character of Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter (that honour went to the 1986 film Manhunter, based on the novel Red Dragon), but Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal arguably surpassed Manhunter’s in its egotism and grandiosity, thoroughly suiting the film’s gothic style. Jodie Foster’s portrayal of Clarice Starling is simultaneously imbued with nervousness and strength, and provides the perfect foil to Hopkins’ arrogance as Lector. Along with great turns by Ted Levine, Anthony Heald, and Scott Glenn, The Silence of the Lambs was indeed a worthy winner.
Oscar Miss: Brad Dourif has a reputation for stealing any film he appears in, even if it’s just for a two minute role. Yet he has only ever been nominated for an Academy Award once in his entire career, his turn as Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest . His turn as Hazel Motes in Wise Blood (1979), adapted from the novel by Flannery O’Conner, is at once impassioned, eccentric, and intense and would have been a very worthy choice for a Best Actor Oscar.
Rocky (49th Academy Awards – 1976)
“If I Can Change, you can Change. EVERYBODY CAN CHANGE!”
Sylvester Stallone’s passion project and arguably his best film to date won the 1976 Academy Award for Best Picture despite fierce competition from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. A love story disguised as a sports movie, Rocky is the definitive underdog tale as it follows its titular character and his journey to becoming the heavyweight champion of the world against the cocky Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers). The first draft of the script was written in three and a half days by Stallone and he toured round several production companies, insistent that he play the lead role. Many producers were not convinced an unknown could play the lead role but fast forward over forty years and you couldn’t imagine anyone else playing it. After its success, Rocky spawned franchise of sequels, spin-offs, and video games as well as propelling Stallone into stardom.
Oscar Miss: Andrew Garfield was not even nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2010, despite delivering a killer performance as Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network! He was at least recognised in the BAFTAs and has since received his own nomination for Best Lead Actor for Hacksaw Ridge.
Casablanca (16th Academy Awards – 1943)
“Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win.”
It is one of the most quoted and at the same time mis-quoted films of all time. An epic love story, and yet so much more: a film about humanity, love, loyalty, refugees, the cost of hope. 83 years later, this classic romantic drama retains every inch of its power. It was based on the unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick’s which was inspired by Murray Burnett and Joan Allison’s European vacation in 1938 to Vienna and France. When the USA entered World War II in 1941 the studio raced to complete the patriotic film and it premiered in 1942 coinciding with the Casablanca Conference. A film of its time and yet its legacy is still strong. As film critic David Thomson said: “Casablanca is a perfect story about American mistrust of the rest of the world, about American isolation, so it was a wonderful fantasy for Americans as they got deeper into the war”
Oscar Miss: British film director Nicolas Roeg, whose career spans from the early 1960s to the present, and includes classic films such as Walkabout, Don’t Look Now, Performance, and The Man Who Fell to Earth has never been awarded an Oscar, nor even been nominated by the Academy. Any number of his films would have been worthy of an Oscar nod. His directing style has inspired many filmmakers and directors such as Danny Boyle have credited him as being a major influence on their work.
No Country for Old Men (80th Academy Awards – 2007)
“What’s the most you ever lost on a coin toss?”
No Country for Old Men won 4 awards at the 80th Academy Awards in 2008, including Best Picture. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy the Coen Brothers, also known for Fargo and The Big Lebowski amongst others, directed this dark thriller, although some may argue it is also a western. Roger Ebert described it as “a masterful evocation of time, place, character, moral choices, immoral certainties, human nature and fate”. The strong performances by Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin, and the stunning cinematography all add to this masterpiece. The limited use of music helps to build suspense throughout the film causing the viewer to feel deeply unsettled. Of the 16 minutes of music that features in this 2 hour epic, most of which appears in the end credits, the composer Carter Burwell used a range of less known instruments such as singing bowls and standing metal bells to create a minimalist sound score.
Oscar Miss: We were spoilt for choice this year with another contender battling No Country for Old Men. There will be Blood is an epic film by Paul Thomas Anderson (director of Phantom Thread) based on the California oil boom. This epic film is dark and cinematic, and features excellent performances from Paul Dano and Daniel Day-Lewis as the ruthless oilman who will so do anything to get his wealth.
West Side Story (34th Academy Awards – 1961)
“Why do you kids live like there’s a war on?”
Hate Musicals ? You obviously haven’t seen West Side Story. The central characters aren’t all that interesting despite being based on Romeo and Juliet, but the other characters are marvellous. This was recognised by the Academy – West Side Story won 10 Oscars including Best Picture, and both best supporting Actor and Actress. In fact it still holds the record for most Oscars won by a musical film. Jerome Robbins, who created the stunning choreography, was given co-director credit for his direction of the musical and dance sequences, despite being dismissed after only one third of the movie had been completed. America is one of the best musical numbers ever composed; never has a song about the reality and dreams of Puerto Rican immigrants been so catchy. It even appears on the beginning of a song on Metallica’s Black Album…
Oscar Miss: Despite being described as “the greatest leading man Hollywood had ever know” Cary Grant never won an competitive Academy Award during his prolific career, instead being bestowed an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement towards the end of his life. Yet there are a number of roles such as in The Philadelphia Story, Bringing Up Baby, or North by Northwest which showcases his breadth of talent ranging from dramatic to comedic and would have deserved Oscar recognition.
Please check our Catalogue for further resources about these films and filmmakers, and for any film titles we don’t hold in the library please search our film and television resource BOB (Box of Broadcasts).