Archive | best of pictures RSS feed for this section

The Best of Pictures: Argo (2012), by Josh Long

4 Mar


ARGO (2012)
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Written by: Chris Terrio
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman

Throughout the years, and especially recently, the Academy Awards have taken criticism for being self-congratulatory. A glittering gala, held for the richest people in the film industry, where they give each other golden statues for achievements. While I find this an overly cynical view of the Oscars (and of awards shows in general), I can see where the sentiment comes from, especially when class-warfare language has become so prevalent. This year, the Academy seems either unaware or unconcerned with this criticism, giving the Best Picture award to a movie about how Hollywood rescued Iranian hostages. Directed by Hollywood Insider (and Oscar winner) Ben Affleck and produced by Hollywood Insider (and Oscar winner) George Clooney.


The Best of Pictures: The Artist (2011), by Josh Long

3 Apr

Written and Directed by: Michael Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell, John Goodman

Do we remember silent film? There are lots of us cinephiles who have watched many great silents, sometimes out of genuine enjoyment, and other times out of curiosity. But the further we get from the era of Chaplin and Murnau, the less likely it seems that the casual movie-goer has ever seen a silent movie. When Michel Hazanavicius brought the genre back into the limelight with The Artist, audiences revisited their feelings about this long-lost style of filmmaking.


The Best of Pictures: The King’s Speech (2010), by Josh Long

4 Mar

Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: David Seidler
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall

In 2010, the Oscars were coming off a year with some big changes – the bump up to ten Best Picture nominations, inclusion of some big-budget crowd pleasers in addition to artsy “prestige” films, and a different kind of Best Picture; a small scale summer release about soldiers in Iraq. It seemed like maybe Oscar was moving in a new direction, the beginning of a new era. But old habits die hard, and whether it was for good or not, the Academy Awards went back to business as usual with The King’s Speech.


The Best of Pictures: Braveheart (1995), by Josh Long

28 Feb

Directed by: Mel Gibson
Written by: Randall Wallace
Starring: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Brendan Gleeson, Angus MacFadyen

Like or hate Mel Gibson, he has undoubtedly created some of the most striking and memorable images in modern American film. He was already a Hollywood icon when he began the transition into directing. Some of his beliefs have gotten him into trouble especially in recent years, but he also clearly has ideas with which the American psyche identifies. In Braveheart he presented those ideas to us as director and producer – and won Oscar gold for both 1.


The Best of Pictures: The English Patient (1996), by Josh Long

16 Nov

Written and Directed by: Anthony Minghella
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe

If you’re like me, the first thing you remember when you think of The English Patient is an episode of “Seinfeld.” In it, Elaine is forced to see the film several times, consistently hating it. Everyone around her seems dead-set on proving to her that it’s a great film until she finally explodes in the theater and yells at the screen, “Quit telling your stupid story about the stupid desert, and just die already! DIE!” Is that an overreaction? Two hours into the movie, watching it for a second time, my answer is no.


The Best of Pictures: Titanic (1997), by Josh Long

1 Jul

TITANIC (1997)
Written and directed by: James Cameron
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Gloria Stuart

James Cameron’s Titanic is a film almost as storied as the ill-fated ocean liner itself. It tied the record for most Academy Awards 1, it launched the careers of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and until Avatar, it was the highest-grossing movie of all time 2. In my own personal studies of film, I made it a point to see every film to win Best Picture, and by 2005 I had – every one but Titanic. Even into my twenties I was still holding the grudge of a fifteen-year old, furious that any movie would have the audacity to beat Star Wars at the box office. Recently, I finally caved so that I could bring my clearly invaluable opinions to you, the reader. So these are my thoughts on Titanic after seeing it for the first time, thirteen years after its theatrical release.


The Best of Pictures: Shakespeare in Love (1998), by Josh Long

2 Apr

Directed by: John Madden
Written by: Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush

For many people, the name “Shakespeare” conjures up memories of dry high school classrooms, research papers, and dull three-hour theatre experiences. Many Americans are introduced to Shakespeare too early in life to appreciate his genius, and perpetually associate him with boring homework. 1998’s Shakespeare in Love was a film that attempted to take that stodgy English sonneteer and show him as a vibrant, lovelorn poet, embroiled in an exciting world of sixteenth century entertainment.


The Best of Pictures: The Hurt Locker (2009), by Josh Long

27 Mar

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Written by: Mark Boal
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Briah Geraghty

So for those who don’t know, I’ve been writing a series on the films that have gained American film’s highest honor: the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since the Oscars themselves have caught up with me, I think it’s time to step away from the retrospectives and take a look at 2009’s winner, The Hurt Locker.


The Best of Pictures: American Beauty (1999), by Josh Long

19 Feb

Directed by: Sam Mendes
Written by: Alan Ball
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Chris Cooper, Thora Birch

1999 was a pretty heavy-hitting year for American movies. Several instant classics came out that year: The Sixth Sense, The Insider, The Matrix, Magnolia – and then there was American Beauty. A clear front-runner leading up to the ceremony, American Beauty was quite an off-beat choice for the Academy. Sure, there were a lot of great performers in it, and it was a character heavy drama, which usually got Oscar’s attention. But the storyline was anything but normal Best Picture fare. […]

The Best of Pictures: Gladiator (2000), by Josh Long

8 Dec

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: David Franzoni, John Logan, William Nicholson
Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Richard Harris

Ancient Rome is a subject that has captured the imagination of the cinema for years. The pomp and circumstance, the epic war stories, the myths and legends of the Caesars have given us many of cinema’s great films. While they remained popular into the 70s, American movies tended to shy away from Rome for much of the 80s and 90s. But Ridley Scott brought us back to the Coliseum with 2000’s Best Picture winner Gladiator. […]