Amph Most Overrated Best Pictures Winners: "The English Patient"

Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by Nevermind, Feb 24, 2012.

  1. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    How Green Was My Valley (1941)

    "It's got beautiful cinematography, John Ford as the director, and a three-hankie plot about a Welsh mining ­village. Those are the pluses. The minuses: ­mismatched accents and the still-outrageous fact that it beat Citizen Kane."

    "Golddiggers of 1940" would have beat "Citizen Kane" because Hearst had so decided. Not HGWNV's fault. However, it's not my favorite Ford. It was prepped for William Wyler and I can't help wondering what he would have made of it.

    My reaction to it in the old "Book v. Movie" thread:

    Next: "How Green Was My Valley" novel (1939) by Richard Llewellyn v. movie of the same name directed by John Ford (1941).

    "Read the novel after I saw the film. The film is good, but the novel represents several problems in adaptation. It's a very long, complex family novel, with numerous characters and incidents. The other problem: the novel, told in the first person, is extraordinarily poetic in style and content. It tells the story of a large Welsh family of miners at the end of the century. Llewellyn himself wasn't Welsh (though his grandfather was) and Welsh people have used this to indicate this book is inauthentic. Nationalism is a curious thing. It's a great book, and be damned to them.

    The movie has good things: the cinematography (which is black & white); Maureen O'Hara and Anna Lee as Angharad and Bronwen; and some of the incidents. It has some of the book in it, but a good many things are missing.

    The movie has bad things, too: most notably Walter Pigeon, cruelly miscast as the Rev. Mr. Gruffydd. In the book, there is an incident where a small girl is raped and murdered. Mr. Gruffydd rallies the villagers, hunts down the guilty man, and when satisfied that he's guilty, turns him over to the father and brother of the murdered child (they kill him). You never get the impression that the lightweight Pigeon would ever be capable of that kind of tough-mindedness.

    The other problem is that John Ford Irishizes the Welsh. The family is loud, proud and sentimental, instead of the reserved, tough and pained family of Llewellyn's book. Not all Celts are alike, and he doesn't get these ones right. The script sentimentalizes the story as it goes. Unfortunately.

    The neutral things: Roddy McDowell (he never changes, though he should be in his early 20's when the book ends), and the rest of the male cast (Donald Crisp is at least 20 years too old for the part of Huw's father)

    The movie seems good until you read the book, and then it seems mediocre at best. The stoic power of Huw's description of his father's death in the book doesn't come across in the movie, nor does his mother's bitter and shocking reaction.

    The book, by a mile."


  2. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    While I concur with your assessment that Citizen Kane couldn't possibly win - as outlined in the excellent documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane, Hearst was hellbent on killing it dead - there's still the unbelievable fact that it beat The Maltese Falcon, for which there is no excuse. Not to mention it still baffles me as to how Sergeant York could win editing but not best picture.
  3. Havac Former Moderator

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    I saw this list yesterday. The writer appears to have "overrated" confused with "there was another film that year I'd have rather had win." Which is another thing entirely.
  4. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    If Citizen Kane had actually won, people would be saying it was overrated, too chilly, too intellectual, not the best movie ever made, etc. They'd be grousing about CK beating The Maltese Falcon. All this to say that CK is kind of the ultimate Oscar-grubbing movie and actually not nearly as great as everyone says it is.
  5. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    I disagree vehemently and I suggest you take your opinion and not do anything with it because I can't actually get worked up about these things.
  6. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Well, since it's an opinion that would require time travel to verify, I can hold to it with no fear whatsoever that I'll ever be forced to recant! My favorite kind of opinion! I firmly believe that if Citizen Kane had won Best Picture that it's critical afterlife would have been very short! Prove me wrong! :p
  7. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    Well, there's a solid counterargument in the fact that the popularity of Citizen Kane is due to 1950s French auteur theorists elevating it to critical darling status, after which American critics who were proponents of the theory - led by Roger Ebert - revitalized its popularity here in the western hemisphere. The French really wouldn't have cared about whether or not it won an Oscar when they became fans, as they saw it several years ex post facto since it had been banned by the Vichy government.

    Now, you could also argue that the French only liked it because of its obscurity, but those same New Wave advocates were also fans of The Maltese Falcon, which at the time of its release was a critical and financial success (unlike Kane because, again, of W.R. Hearst) to that point that Warner Bros was originally considering a sequel. So, I think that even in a universe where Citizen Kane won best picture, it'd still be well remembered.
  8. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    The French auteurs love Ford, too.
  9. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    That's a good argument. Though I do think that having won Best Picture at the Oscars would actually have counted against it somewhat with most of the New Wave theorists. But, given its cynical attitude and its legitimate technical achievements, probably you're right and even if it had won Best Picture, the other qualities would have still spoken sufficiently to the New Wave in France that it would have been picked up by them.

    But I still think that it wouldn't be consistently called the best movie ever made if it had won Best Picture. That fact that it didn't is a big part of its appeal, I think. Everybody likes an underdog and every critic loves the paradoxical thrill of being able to say that the best movie of all time wasn't even the best movie of its year. I mean, everyone still does that. Everybody's out to find a movie that didn't get a lot of plaudits or awards and then claim it's actually "the best movie I've ever seen." People who like to talk about art love to do that. "Yes, Starry Night is Van Gogh's most famous, but his best is actually The Potato Eaters" or "Abbey Road is the critical favorite, but actually it pales in comparison to Revolver" or "Vertigo wasn't even nominated for Best Picture, but it's actually the best movie of the decade." I think that just the knowledge that a movie as "great" as CK didn't win BP is enough to push it up over, for instance, The Godfather, which did win Best Picture and is at least as good as CK, but never gets the top slot in those movie polls. I think if Cabaret had beaten The Godfather at the Oscars, which it very nearly did, then The Godfather would be the one being called "best movie ever made." Or consider GoodFellas, which everybody loves because it lost to Dances with Wolves at the Oscars; Dances with Wolves is actually the better movie, but GoodFellas has a tremendous amount of cachet for losing, cachet that it wouldn't have, I think, if it had won. Look at Crash, which is now reviled by a ton of people, but a good portion of the people who now say they loathe had to have loved it at the time or else how was it so popular? The one reason Crash is a hated movie now is that it won Best Picture. I really do think it changes the lens on a movie in a lot of ways. If Crash hadn't won Best Picture, we might have forgotten about it by now, but we certainly wouldn't still be offended by its very existence, which is what a lot of people still are to this day. God, I'm in a mood to just talk and talk and talk tonight. I'd better go to bed before I say something (else) that I'll have to back away from in the morning. :p
  10. corran2 Force Ghost

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    I have not seen "How Green Was My Valley." I doubt it is a better movie then Citizen Kane or The Maltese Falcon. Citizen Kane is a fantastic film, everyone gets hung up on the innovation, but the story is what draws me in, Charles Foster Kane is a complex character with a tragic life, and his story seems real to me.

    However, The Maltese Falcon is the best film of 1941. It is THE film noir. It is THE Humphrey Bogart performance(sorry Rick and Dobbs). It makes a legitimate case for the best film of the 40's.
  11. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    GoodFellas lost to Dances with Wolves? Awesome, another reason to disapprove of White Man: The Superior Indian.:p

    [image=http://cdn-www.cracked.com/phpimages/photoshop/9/4/3/26943_slide.jpg]
  12. corran2 Force Ghost

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    Yes, I also find it a little crazy that anyone would consider Dances with Wolves better then Goodfellas. Nothing wrong with Dances, but Goodfellas is a masterpiece of acting, directing, and editing. Go watch the Copacabana scene in twenty years, it will still be as special as it was then.
  13. JohnWesleyDowney Force Ghost

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    Dances with Wolves, one of the numerous templates for Avatar.

    Edgar Rice Borrough's John Carter on Mars is another.

    Dances with Wolves beat Scorcese's Goodfellas for the same reason Robert Redford's Ordinary People
    beat Scorcese's Raging Bull. Actors, who make up the bulk of Academy membership, always vote for
    "actor's projects." They vote for one of their own when one of their own is producing or directing.
  14. The_Four_Dot_Elipsis Force Ghost

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    How is it overrated exactly? All people have done in living memory is bitch about how Kane lost out. It's not rated at all by anyone, despite being a fine film in its own right.
  15. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    I don't buy that CK is overated, nor that its failure at the Oscars caused its reputation. It's a damn good movie. Maybe you were disappointed when you first saw it because of the hype. That's doesn't make it bad or overated, it just means you expected too much.
  16. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    I'm thinking this is one of those "Such-and-such film shouldn't have won" picks Havac mentioned.

    ... Hoo boy, the inevitable Annie Hall listing is going to get ugly.
  17. The_Four_Dot_Elipsis Force Ghost

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    Perhaps a more fun exercise will be predicting what they'll complain about.

    I'll assume that 1941 is the first "Overrated" BP winner because these people probably haven't got the wherewithal to watch The Great Ziegfeld (and fair enough, too).

    Going My Way over Double Indemnity
    Hamlet over The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
    All About Eve over Sunset Blvd.
    An American in Paris over A Streetcar Named Desire
    The Greatest Show on Earth over High Noon
    West Side Story over Judgement at Nuremberg
    My Fair Lady over Dr. Strangelove
    In the Heat of the Night over Bonnie and Clyde OR The Graduate
    Oliver! over the un-nominated 2001: A Space Odyssey
    The French Connection over A Clockwork Orange
    Rocky over basically any of its co-nominees, save Bound for Glory
    Kramer vs. Kramer over Apocalypse Now
    Ordinary People over Raging Bull
    Gandhi over E.T.
    Driving Miss Daisy over the un-nominated Do the Right Thing
    Dances With Wolves over GoodFellas
    Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction
    The English Patient over Fargo
    Titanic over L.A. Confidential
    Shakespeare in Love over any of its co-nominees
    A Beautiful Mind over The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
    Million Dollar Baby over The Aviator
    Crash over Brokeback Mountain
    The King's Speech over The Social Network

    And by the time we get to it, The Artist over The Tree of Life or some such.

    That's pretty much the way these things go. I'll be impressed if they pull anything else out of the hat. Some which bamboozle me that no one else complains about are things like Chariots of Fire over Raiders of the Lost Ark or Out of Africa over The Color Purple.
  18. Havac Former Moderator

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    There are four you missed.
  19. The_Four_Dot_Elipsis Force Ghost

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    There are plenty I missed - in fact, arguments could be made for each and every year. I've even seen people argue that To Kill a Mockingbird deserved it more than Lawrence of Arabia or that Cabaret deserved it more than The Godfather, or that The Crying Game should have beaten Unforgiven.

    It's an idiotic, pointless exercise. I don't enjoy Zodiac less than Juno, but guess which one was more feted by AMPAS?

    It frequently is, though...

    There's a selection of Best Picture winners that have retained their spot on the pedestal. David Lean's two winners, All Quiet on the Western Front, On the Waterfront... there's no way that Kane would lose any stock had it won Best Picture. Instead, AMPAS would probably be scorned less if they had that win in the tank. The only films that are truly disadvantaged by their BP win are either slight films or films built specifically to win that award, like the winners for, say, 1996 and 1998.
  20. Havac Former Moderator

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    I meant that you named fourteen out of the eighteen list picks.:p
  21. The_Four_Dot_Elipsis Force Ghost

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    Oh, right.

    See. Utterly predictable. And I mentioned one I missed in passing anyway.

    Oh wait, it's Entertainment Weekly. Critical thought need not apply.
  22. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Ordinary People is a better movie than Raging Bull. If you want to get outraged, get outraged about Redford beating Scorsese to the Director Oscar. Now, that was stupid. But just the movies head to head? I'd have given the award to Ordinary People too (I am, it should be said, no actor :p )

    GoodFellas is visceral, sure, but there's nothing in it that Scorsese hadn't already done better elsewhere. And then for good measure, he did the exact same movie again a little later and called it Casino. These are still fun movies to watch, but let's not pretend that just because Joe Pesci is unhinged and Scorsese is having a lot of fun, that they're masterpieces of cinema. Both GoodFellas and Casino could use substantial tightening up (Casino quite a bit more than GoodFellas) and they both could have benefited from being less on the nose. Someone ages ago said they wished that Scorsese had flipped De Niro and Pesci in Casino and let them play the opposite parts; I kind of agree. GoodFellas and Casino are both very good, because how could they not be? But one wishes that a little more risk would be taken than just essentially remaking Raging Bull twice (again, Casino is far and away the more egregious of the two, but the principle is the same in GoodFellas.)

    Also, I've watched CK . . . five times? It's not a bad movie. It's a very good one; it technical achievements are amazing and I think Moorehead, Cotten and Welles are all solidly great in their performances. But it's just a movie to admire and not to love and I don't think a movie that you can't unabashedly love should be routinely called the best movie of all time. CK is only overrated because people consistently call it the best of all time. I can come up with dozens of movies that are better. I don't mind it being called a very good movie or even a great one. But to call it the best of all time is sheer folly. And I think, to slightly mirror Downey's point about actors loving movies because they're directed by actors, that it's really the sort of Platonic ideal that Welles represented at the time, the sort of young, cerebral, passionate, promising director. He's basiit tacally the iconic "flamboyant young director touched by genius." And, of course, Gregg Toland did most of the work, but never mind that. Welles had vision and I think most people consider Kane the best movie ever made just because it's Welles' best and his first and they love what he seems to represent. (It's actually not Welles' best; F for Fake is far superior in every way, including technical achievement; that's right, F for Fake is even more visionary, more technically accomplished and far more emotionally engaging than CK; the reason you've never even heard of F for Fake is that by the time it came along, everyone had already enshrined CK as some kind of untouchable Ideal of filmmaking and once those kind of decisions get made, there's no backing down).

    I guess the point I'm trying to make is that it takes more than being a great movie to be "considered" a great movie and most of those other reasons actually have nothing to do with the movie's quality or lack thereof. Film criticism is subject to the same tendency toward fads as just about everything else. These constant evocations of CK as "best film of all time" prove less about the movie itself and more about the tendency of the people who put together these lists and awards to engage in groupthink.

    Twenty movies at least twice as good as Citizen Kane:

    8 1/2
    American Beauty
    Chinatown
    Casablanca
    La Dolce Vita
    Duck Soup
    Gone with the Wind
    The Godfather, Part II
    High & Low
    M
    The Maltese Falcon
    Memento
    Notorious
    Once Upon a Time in the West
    Se7en
    The Shop on Main Street
    The Sweet Smell of Success
    Taxi Driver
    The Third Man
    Vertigo

    I'm just getting started. That list was thinking for five minutes off the top of my head.
  23. The_Four_Dot_Elipsis Force Ghost

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    I can reel off the name of 20 films as well and call them better than Citizen Kane, but I'm not sure that it proves anything at all.

    And... no, F for Fake certainly isn't better than Kane. Chimes at Midnight is, though.
  24. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    Twice as good? Based on what criteria?
  25. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Over at They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, which is as good an aggregrator I've yet found of movie rankings on lists of the best movies of all time, CK is still in the number one spot and has been since at least 2006. As I understand the way they have compiled all the rankings over there (from over 3500 different movie lists), what this means is that CK has been called the greatest film ever made much more often than any other film. I'd love to know a straight up comparison to the other movies. You know, something like Citizen Kane is chosen as the number one movie at a two to one margin to any other movie or something like that. But Vertigo is apparently the number two pick and I can't even remember a list that had it at number one. I think it's fair to say that the cultural consensus is Citizen Kane as, to quote Roger Ebert, "the official greatest film of all time." And that said cultural consensus is complete nonsense. The Godfather is at number five on this list, meaning that it has been cited as the greatest film of all time at a rate substantially lower than CK. I'm not saying there aren't people who think The Godfather is the best of all time; KW used to post in every thread where TG was mentioned, "The best there has ever been or ever will be." I'm talking about the position of "best film of all time as chosen by the culture of film as a whole." And that is definitely CK and not the Godfather or any other equally worthy film.

    EDIT: As to what my list proves and the criteria . . . the only possible criteria I can have: my personal experiences watching the films. The list proves that I liked them all a hell of a lot better than I liked CK, that they were all far more emotionally involving, that they were all much better written, that they were just better movies. . . heck, this isn't rocket science. We know what makes a movie good and what makes a movie great. Level of artistry, the writing, the direction, the soul, etc. I know a great movie when I see it and I know an awful one when I see it. I mean, I guess one thing I can say that is more specific is as relates to the ending. I mean, the ending to CK is just dunderheaded, isn't it? I mean, his sled? Seriously? I mean, I don't see why an ending that frigging awful doesn't automatically knock the movie down to at least number two status. :p I mean, defend that as a satisfying ending. As compared to, say, Chinatown or Memento or Gone with the Wind. There's no sense of poetry, there's no sense that this is the ending that the story demands, no sense of closure, just a stupid twist for the sake of a twist. I mean, Chinatown's ending is explicating something about life as a whole; Gone with the Wind's ending brings the story full circle and puts us right back where we started; The Godfather's ending is the ending of a character arc; Casablanca's ending . . . I've got to shut up. :p CK's ending is that we find out a completely unimportant detail out of a character's life that doesn't actually shed any light whatsoever on the movie we've just seen.

    EDIT 2: I should say that I'm aware that this sort of anti-narrative stance of the film is part of the reason that post-modernists love it and part of the reason it was so beloved of the French New Wave. It's a movie without the general trappings of a narrative. It opens with a death, proceeds in flashback, has no climax and offers no real insights into its central character. It keeps the audience at arms length from Kane and purposely subverts the rules of narrative. But, while I enjoy some post-modern messing around, I still think that this influence has been mostly pernicious and that a story does still need to give you both char