I keep saying "Argo" will the Oscar for Best Picture this coming Sunday and I stand by that prediction. I have not seen "Lincoln," but I know it's quite possible that it could win. But it won't. I loved "Les Miserables," but it won't win. There are some fine films nominated, but "Argo" will win. If I'm wrong, I'll wake up Monday morning comfortable in the knowledge that my life will go just fine. Some folks will be up in arms no matter what movie wins because it means a movie they adore lost and that is just unbearable.
I feel their pain. I really do. There have been movies that won Best Picture over films I felt were far more deserving. I can't speak to films honored prior to my birth, but I'm fairly well-versed in those from 1967. Some years, if a film wins Best Picture over one I would've voted for, it's no big deal. It happens. Some years, the list of nominees doesn't blow me away so I'm not as invested in the results. For example, in 2002, when "Chicago" won, I would've voted for "Gangs of New York." In 2005, "Crash" won. I hated that movie. The list of potential winners wasn't all that strong, though, so whatever. Most people believe it should've been "Brokeback Mountain," and I can't really argue with that. It's powerful and heartbreaking. I personally preferred "Good Night, and Good Luck." Some years the nominees are so strong that I'm happy with just about any possible choices as winner. In 2003, I was happy that "The Return of the King" was selected as Best Picture. It validated the entire trilogy and the vision Peter Jackson created. However, I would've voted for "Mystic River." I just liked it better.
Ah, but there are some Best Picture winners that, in my estimation, beat out far superior works. Let's start with 1967, when "In the Heat of the Night" took home the Oscar. It's a fine film, but "Bonnie and Clyde," was not only a better film, but clearly was ushering in a new kind of movie making. I think it is a no-brainer that "Bonnie and Clyde" should've won that year. I also think "E.T." should've won over "Gandhi" in 1982. Actually, if I had been a voting member of the Academy, I would've cast my ballot in favor of "Tootise." Either way, "Gandhi," while featuring a brilliant peformance by Ben Kingsley, is just a bore to me. I am a part of the camp that knows deep in our collective hearts that "Raging Bull" should've won over "Ordinary People" in 1980.
There are others: "Moonstruck" or "Broadcast News" should've won out over "The Last Emperor." "Raiders of the Lost Ark" should've beat "Chariots of Fire."
I have two major grievances for the years 1996 and 1998. In '96, "The English Patient" somehow, someway managed to wrestle away Best Picture from the Coen Brothers' masterpiece, "Fargo." In '98, "Shakespeare in Love," a nice little movie, inexplicably received the award over what is possibly the greatest war movie ever, "Saving Private Ryan." Those aren't just headscrathers. They make absolutely no sense.
But it is 1985 that is the year of what I believe to be the greatest snub in Best Picture history, at least in my lifetime. In that year, "The Color Purple" was nominated for categories that hadn't even been invented yet. Steven Spielberg's masterful adaptation of Alice Walker's novel of life for African-American women in the U.S. South in the 1930s garnered 11 nominations and walked away completely empty-handed. "Out of Africa" won Best Picture. To this day, I can think of no one I know that has seen "Out of Africa" more than once. In fact, I don't know many people who saw it even a single time. I know a mass audience does not equate to a fine work of art, but that's not my point. "The Color Purple" has endured as a classic. I watched it again just two years ago when we introduced it to the kids. I cried yet again. It's emotional impact still packs a wallop.
It's not a perfect movie. It doesn't dive as deeply into the lesbian relationship between Shug Avery and Celie, played so perfectly by Whoopi Goldberg. Maybe Spielberg wasn't the right choice as a director for a movie with such complex emotional themes, at least at that point in his career. That said, I don't think that the final result suffered. "The Color Purple" is lusciously photographed, beautifully acted, and I found the characters far more engaging and lively than those in "Out of Africa." While that movie is also beautiful to look at, I simply found the story boring and the whole thing just played like a Very Serious Movie That's Trying To Win An Oscar.
Perhaps I have the benefit of knowing that former winners like "Out of Africa" seem stuck in the time they were released. I mean, seriously. Who still talks about "Gandhi?" No one that I've conversed with recently. But the endurance of films like "E.T." and "Fargo," clearly show that sometimes the Best Picture winner is not the Best Picture of that year. Such is the case with "The Color Purple." It's the biggest snub in Oscar history and I hope it's never duplicated.