15 Things I Learned By Watching Every Oscar-Winning Best Picture Film

Feb 21st, 2015 | By | Category: Featured Article

Gone With The Wind

by Rick Alcantara

1. Tom Hanks is the modern-day equivalent of Jimmy Stewart. Almost everything he touches turns to gold, including Forrest Gump (1995 Best Picture winner).

2. Hollywood was far from politically correct in the 30’s – from Cimarron’s overtly racist portrayals of Native Americans and African Americans to The Broadway Melody’s mocking of a stutterer.

3. Wings (1927-28), the first Best Picture film,  is a cinematographic masterpiece. The film featured incredible aerial battle scenes produced without the benefit of CGI.

4. If Robert DiNero (The Godfather) and Harold Russell (Best Years of Our Lives) are among the gold standards for Best Supporting Actor, then Anthony Quinn’s performance in 1956’s Lust for Life was downright pedestrian.

5. Lionel Barrymore was a true chameleon. From stealing the show as lovable ‘Grandpa’ in the 1939 Best Picture You Can’t Take it With You to his unforgettable depiction of the despicable Henry Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life, Barrymore created indelible characters.

6. The heyday of Hollywood (1940), saw Best Picture nominations for Gone With the Wind (winner), Of Mice and Men, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Wizard of Oz and Goodbye Mr. Chips.

7. Multiple nominations can lead to multiple disappointments. In 1942, Hal B Wallis had three films nominated for Best Picture and Orson Welles had two. Both directors lost to Daryl F.  Zanuck’s classic How Green is My Valley. The film featured the acting debut of a very young Roddy McDowell.

8. Underdogs have a special place in American film-goers hearts. From Ernest Borgnine’s title role as Marty (1956) to Sylvestor Stallone’s depiction of a ham-and-egger boxer in Rocky (1977), to Tom Hanks amazing portrayal of Forrest Gump (1995), we love the hardworking guy/gal who overcomes great odds to succeed.

9. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. We see no finer example of this than Willie Stark’s transformation from a backwoods lawyer into a corrupt, brutal politician in the 1950 Best Picture All the King’s Men.

10. Great costume design can create lasting memories. Who can forget the other-world characters in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the urchins and aristocrats in Oliver or Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love? Equally memorable was the attire adorning the casts of Amadeus, Braveheart and Gone with the Wind.

11. Frank Capra and John Ford directed some of the most memorable films in American film history. Capra took Best Director and Best Picture honors for It Happened One Night (1935) and You Can’t Take it With You (1939). Ford took duel honors for The Grapes of Wrath (1941) and How Green Was My Valley (1942).

12. The best director doesn’t always win. Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger all missed out when Leo McCarey won for his 1944 Best Picture Going My Way.

13. Good guys don’t always finish first. In fact, they often die tragically. Sergeant Elias is abandoned by his own troops in Platoon (1986). William Wallace gets sold out to the English in Braveheart (1995). Hamlet (1948) dies at the hands of his own family.

14. Throw someone’s name in the title and you’ll improve your chances of winning. Twenty of the 86 Best Picture films include an individual’s name (e.g., Gandhi, Driving Miss Daisy, Tom Jones, Annie Hall, The Great Ziegfeld).

15. After all tomorrow is another day!

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    One Comment to “15 Things I Learned By Watching Every Oscar-Winning Best Picture Film”

    1. Paula DuPont says:

      Nicely done, Rick! It makes me want to see all the movies too. It just seems like a daunting time commitment. I’ll be anxious to see who wins tomorrow night. Ive seen a few of the contenders.

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