What we see in our final decade is that the Academy is trying, they are trying to be more relevant. They tripped over themselves with Green Book (possibly a result of preferential ballots, in which if everyone differs too much on their first choice but not their third choice, the third choice pulls ahead), but the road from ultra-baity King’s Speech to Shape of Water and Parasite shows a voting board who might not be going full-populist, but is at least attempting to find consensus with the public on what a Best Picture should be, looking beyond their previously narrow choices, aiming for the Pulp Fictions instead of the Forrest Gumps. This does feel like it was set back a bit by having this year’s nominees be eight bleak, joyless festival darlings that feel like fewer people have seen them than ever, but we’ll see how they do in the 2020s.
Meanwhile Disney keeps buying things and laying off the redundant employees, which isn’t good for film as an industry or medium, but I don’t know what to do about that except make “Empire of Joy” jokes.
Here, At The End of All Things
And here we are at the end of the journey, our hot air balloon landed in London, crying “Yo Adrian, we did it,” toasting the defeat of Sauron while nearby hobbits get excited over a large pumpkin, understanding Yancey Cravat’s pain that no fresh frontiers remain, but knowing we’ll always have Paris, and [come up with a clever It Happened One Night reference before we publish].
That’s 93 Best Pictures watched, 58 for the first time, only three I dreaded rewatching. Plus 73 Box Office Champs, some old favourites, some new surprises, some truly terrible. Three extras I watched that weren’t on the list, but if I was going to be covering the sequels, I may as well have context (Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1). And 12 that I skipped. Four because of too much blackface (The Jazz Singer, The Singing Fool, Whoopee, The Kid From Spain I assume), four because I knew them well enough for a quick write-up, given the other Box Office Champ was more interesting to discuss (Home Alone, Saving Private Ryan, Spider-Man 3, Transformers: Age of Extinction), and four because fuck them that’s why (Cinerama Holiday, Cleopatra (1963), How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Hunger Games: Catching Fire).
That was… a little mean to Hunger Games, they got some stray fire there, but you see my overall point.
How to say farewell to the project? How else? Statistical analysis, baby!
What’s the Best Decade?
Based on my rankings (see below, way below), and my spreadsheet grading said rankings, we can now figure out which decade had the highest quality of Best Pictures. Points are awarded for where a film lands between #1 and #93, then are averaged over the decade. Yes, I was born fun at parties.
Drum roll please…
10. The 20s. Average score: 4/10. This isn’t entirely fair, the 20s only have three movies to average out, so Wings and Sunrise could only do so much with The Broadway Melody dragging their average down like an anchor made of neutron star.
9. The 80s. Average score: 4.6/10. The 80s were trying to hard to split themselves off from popular blockbusters, and embraced some dull, basic stuff as a result.
8. The 50s. Average score: 4.9/10. A few legit classics, a few questionable choices, the 50s were all over the map. Oh, the 50s, you did love being wrong about things.
7. The 40s. Average score: 4.9/10. The tie-breaker goes to the 40s for having more top ten movies (ie. any). The 40s had two very high highs, but a whole bunch of low lows.
6. The 30s. Average score: 5.3/10. See above. Two I consider enduring classics, but also Cavalcade, Hollywood and the Academy had some learnin’ to do. The OG rom-com boosts the score, the OG Musician Biopic drags it down.
5. The 60s Average score: 5.7/10. Like musicals? This decade is lousy with ’em, but they’re not of consistent quality. But the dawn of New Hollywood couldn’t erase Tom Jones and A Man For All Seasons.
4. The 90s. Average score: 6.4/10. The Academy tried to find themselves in the 90s, and sadly kept finding themselves at Harvey Weinstein’s house. Steven Spielberg is doing some heavy lifting here, as is the fact the Academy seemed to start valuing entertainment factor in their choices.
3. The 2000s. Average score: 6.5/10. Some auteurs got their due for high quality projects, and also Crash happened, so #3 is all you get, 00s.
2. The 70s Average score: 7.2/10. The early years of New Hollywood naturally deliver some all-time bangers. But some of those were Jaws and Star Wars and the Academy tried to push too hard the other way and well that’s how the 80s happened.
1. The 2010s. Average score: 7.6/10. Okay I see it too, I’ve spent nine posts taking shots at Rotten Tomatoes for recency bias, and here I am saying the most recent decade was the best one. Well… I stand by my assessment of Argo, 12 Years a Slave, and Spotlight, so the numbers are what they are. And say what you like about The Artist, nobody makes a hobby out of the worst thing that ever happened to them, so yeah I think it’s better than The Deer Hunter.
I also feel I can safely declare that The Worst Year in Cinema, based on the only two metrics I’ve been tracking (Oscar gold and box office triumph) is 1933, Cavalcade and Roman Scandals. But man 1966 (A Man For All Seasons and Hawaii, which as a reminder earned at best half of what the prior few champs managed) gave it a run for its money. It came down to which Best Picture was most boring and which Box Office Champ was most racist. Wait, wait… ’33 and ’66… what was ’99 again… American Beauty and Phantom Menace. Hm. I see. Might… might be a bad omen for 2032, if the planet still supports life by then… Unless… no, ’55 had some flaws but ’44 and ’88 are fine, just fine. So I’m standing by the theory that some horrible monster awakens under Hollywood every 33 years, Pennywise-style.
My Personal Rankings
I was going to end this by capsule reviewing each one, but there are 93 of them and these posts are already super long, so if you require justification for these rankings, I don’t know, go back and re-read the old posts?
A thing I love is when someone makes an Endgame-style end credit montage for the cast of a popular franchise. It’d be neat to do one for all the Best Pictures, in my ranking order, but I don’t have those video editing skills right now so that’s out. Anyway here they are, with the new ones flagged if you just want to know where they fit. Maybe read them slowly and play that video I linked in the background?
93. Cavalcade (1933)
92. The Broadway Melody (1929)
91. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
90. The Lost Weekend (1945)
89. From Here To Eternity (1953)
88. All the King’s Men (1949)
87. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
86. Mrs. Miniver (1942)
85. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
84. Crash (2005)
83. Ben-Hur (1959)
82. Tom Jones (1963)
81. A Man For All Seasons (1966)
80. Chariots of Fire (1981)
79. Dances With Wolves (1990)
78. The English Patient (1996)
77. Amadeus (1984)
76. Oliver! (1968)
75. The Deer Hunter (1978)
74. Out of Africa (1985)
73. Around The World in 80 Days (1956)
72. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
71. Gandhi (1982)
70. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
69. Gigi (1958)
68. Terms of Endearment (1983)
67. An American in Paris (1951)
66. The Last Emperor (1987)
65. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
64. Grand Hotel (1932)
63. Braveheart (1995)
62. The King’s Speech (2010)
61. Green Book (2018)
60. You Can’t Take It With You (1938)
59. Marty (1955)
58. Patton (1970)
57. American Beauty (1999)
56. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
55. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
54. Gladiator (2000)
53. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
52. My Fair Lady (1964)
51. Hamlet (1948)
50. The Sound of Music (1965)
49. West Side Story (1961)
48. Chicago (2002)
47. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
46. Wings (1928)
45. Gone With the Wind (1939)
44. Annie Hall (1977)
43, The Artist (2011)
42. Rebecca (1940)
41. Going My Way (1945)
40. Unforgiven (1992)
39. Rain Man (1988)
38. Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)
37. The French Connection (1971)
36. Cimarron (1931)
35. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
34. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
33. Titanic (1997)
32. Moonlight (2016)
31. Ordinary People (1980)
30. Forrest Gump (1994)
29. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
28. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
27. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
26. Birdman (2014)
25. The Departed (2006)
24. Parasite (2019)
23. Platoon (1986)
22. The Hurt Locker (2009)
21. Rocky (1976)
20. The Sting (1973)
19. No Country For Old Men (2007)
18. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
17. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
16. In The Heat of the Night (1967)
15. The Apartment (1960)
14. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
13. All About Eve (1950)
12. The Shape of Water (2017)
11. On The Waterfront (1954)
10. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
9. Argo (2012)
8. Spotlight (2015)
7. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
6. Schindler’s List (1993)
5. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
4. The Godfather Part II (1974)
3. It Happened One Night (1934)
2. The Godfather (1972)
1. Casablanca (1943)
Well that was a fun project. Really carried me through to the end of quarantine–what’s that? Still going? I can’t watch Godzilla vs Kong on IMAX yet? Damn it. Well… see you in a few days as we look at the Oscars in 2020. Dementia, deafness, financial struggles, racism in law enforcement, get ready to laugh, people!