My lack of enthusiasm for "Slumdog Millionnaire" got me thinking. Surely there have been worse pictures to win an Oscar, right? Yeah, but just barely. Here's my list, with the worst of all time ranked #1:
10) 1949--"All The King's Men." I loved this film when I was a kid, because it's story of corruption and intrigue was compelling. But I viewed it again recently (not the lugubrious re-make with Sean Penn and Jude Law a few years ago) and was shocked at how dated it was. Today we expect our politicians to be seriously flawed, and government contract money is always dirty. Moreover, Broderick Crawford's performance is so over-the-top that it's laughable in retrospect.
9) 1956--"Around The World in 80 Days." The story of a 19th century balloonist who is on the run from authorities, but still has time to vacation in exotic lands, seems such a trifle that Price-Waterhouse must have miscounted the Oscar ballots. David Niven underplays as always, and that's good, but some actor named Cantinflas ruins every scene they are in together. This is a mess, and I have no idea what Hollywood was thinking when honoring this film.
8) 1958--"Gigi." The first of a whole slew of musicals ("West Side Story," "My Fair Lady," "The Sound of Music," etc.) to win Best Picture in the following decade, this is by far the worst of the lot. If you consider Maurice Chevalier warbling "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" entertaining, well...I don't know what to say. This held no appeal for me.
7) 2003--"The Lord of the Rings: Return of the Kings." Did you ever see those dorky kids, dressed in medieval costumes, playing "Dungeons and Dragons" in the park on a Sunday afternoon? That's what I felt like when I went to see this film. I walked out as soon as Wizard Gandalf made his first appearance. Elijah Wood played the hobbit Frodo...oh, hell, I'm embarassed to just say these names out loud.
6) 1952--"The Greatest Show on Earth." Beware of talkies made by Cecil B. DeMille. This picture is hopelessly dated. It might have worked as a documentary on circus carnies, but DeMille had to inject his heavy-handed melodrama. It is hard to watch Charlton Heston and Dorothy LaMour emote. And Jimmy Stewart, for some reason, plays a circus clown.
5) 2008--"Slumdog Millionnaire." Contrived, manipulative, and predictable...Dev Patel is not the worst actor I've ever seen, but close. (See my full review of this movie in a previous post).
4) 1992--"Unforgiven." Okay, I know this is Clint Eastwood's masterpiece, and his mea culpa to his violent past in films. But, when broken down, it is little more than a conventional oater. Gene Hackman, who was nominated in a supporting role, is simply awful. And the final shootout is too stylized and fake.
3) 1983--"Terms of Endearment." Though well-acted by all, this film is too "precious" for me. It would have been an amusing romantic comedy had the writers not taken the easy way to the Academy Awards by having the young mother die of cancer. Forced and cloying, this device makes all performances just too precious for words. Even Jack Nicholson, who, by the end, is sufficiently neutered to be palatable to the soap opera lovers.
2) 1996--"The English Patient." Skewered by a classic "Seinfeld" episode this film has become an homage to self-parody. It is too long, too contrived and too weepy to be taken seriously.
1) 1939--"Gone With The Wind." I watched the first ten minutes recently, and I was dumbstruck by the light-hearted playfulness of the opening sequence. As if David O. Selznick was returning us to the happy-go-lucky days of slavery. I've never been a southern sympathizer, yet GWTW tries to induce this sentiment in the viewer. Besides this, the acting is the epitome of superficial exteriorizing.
Next post will be the 10 most deserving films that got overlooked.