GREAT FILMS & TRASH TALK
Oscar Madness Results: The Championship
The last movies standing: FORREST GUMP and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. Both feature main characters undertaking epic journeys. For one character, it is a journey through history, around the globe, and—on foot—across a continent. For the other, it is a journey he takes over decades and almost solely within the confines of a prison—but really, within himself. Still, only one could complete the journey into Oscar Madness history as the films squared off for the first time since 1994’s Oscar race.
FORREST was slightly ahead early in play. But soon, SHAWSHANK managed to open up a small lead. As the vote totals passed 700 and then 800, SHAWSHANK’s advantage stayed stable but narrow: between just 30 and 40 votes. After several hours, that lead began widening to just under 60. It wasn’t until the early evening that SHAWSHANK showed signs of breaking out, ratcheting up its lead to a nearly 10-point spread. A definite advantage, but narrower than the margins by which SHAWSHANK beat PULP FICTION, MARY POPPINS, and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.
GUMP tried to remain competitive. But as far and as fast as Forrest’s legs could take him, it wasn’t enough to help him catch up to SHAWSHANK. The Best Picture nominee kept expanding its lead slowly and steadily (not unlike carving a tunnel with a rock hammer). Though the last few minutes saw a surge of votes for GUMP, its rival escaped with the lead—and the title—winning 56%-44%.
By two points, this was the narrowest margin of victory SHAWSANK enjoyed in the tournament—proving that redemption is always possible, but not always easy.
It was a thrilling end to the Madness, which saw 5 rounds, 32 films, and 29,801 votes counted.
Thanks to all of you who voted and put your movie-love where it belongs: on the court.
GREAT FILMS & TRASH TALK
Oscar Madness Results: The Final Four
At the very top of the mountain—even Paramount’s—there’s only room for one. Yesterday, two of the studio’s most celebrated films battled it out, as the story of a man who never lost his innocence faced off against the story of a man who lost his soul.
It’s been a long road for THE GODFATHER PART II, whose path to the Final Four led through classics ROCKY and THE APARTMENT. A tale of two protagonists (Young Vito and his son, Michael), the family/crime saga charts a course from self-determination to power, and from power to political entanglement and moral ruin. By comparison, FORREST GUMP is far more wide-eyed: history-by-happenstance. In a surprise victory, GUMP dethroned GODFATHER II 55%-45%.
In the process, GUMP took out the tournament’s last movie made before 1990. And having now outhustled 15 of its peers, GUMP also took the title of Best Best Picture (or Bestest Picture) and will now head to tomorrow’s Championship.
Meanwhile, on the opposing side of the bracket, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST faced THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION—two films that traveled two very different paths into the hearts of their fans. When released in 1991, BEAUTY was an instant classic—mainly because of its masterful craft, music, and storytelling, but also because of its connection to the Disney animated classics of long ago.
SHAWSHANK faced a harder journey. (Not as hard as crawling to freedom through 500 yards of foulness in a sewer pipe, but still.) Released in 1994 to limited box office and with an inscrutable title, SHAWSHANK was largely lost in that awards season’s mano a mano of PULP FICTION and FORREST GUMP. But over the years, SHAWSHANK’s following grew. And it grew both wider and deeper. It is not overstatement to compare it to IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and even CITIZEN KANE: all three are among the best, most-loved movies ever made that no one saw when they first came out.
Throughout the tournament, BEAUTY has been a surprisingly strong competitor, even factoring in how deeply fans love it. But even though Beast is no savage, he was finally tamed like one. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION bested the animated hit 69%-31%.
…Which brings us to the Championship. It’s a 1994 grudge match as Best Picture nominee THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION gets its own shot at redemption against that year’s Best Picture winner and highest-grossing blockbuster, FORREST GUMP. Both films are about journeys, but only one will blaze a trail to Oscar Madness glory. Which one will it be? That’s up to you. Vote now.
GREAT FILMS & TRASH TALK
Oscar Madness Results: The Elite 8
Dirtier than the DOZEN. More magnificent than the SEVEN. They are the Elite 8, and yesterday, they delivered the most intense round of play yet.
5,650 votes were cast, the most of any single day in the tournament by far. With 24 movies eliminated since the Madness began last week, the field that remained through this morning reveals the interesting turns the tournament has taken:
- At the start, seven decades were represented, but only three made it to the Elite 8.
- Of the eight films that competed yesterday, six were from the 1990s, with two from the same year (1994).
- The other two films (GONE WITH THE WIND and THE GODFATHER PART II) competed against each other. This means that in the Elite 8, only one contest matched up movies from different eras. It also means that only two eras will be represented in the Final Four—and the prospect of the Championship coming down to a ‘90s showdown becomes a definite possibility.
Although AMERICAN BEAUTY has won by decisive margins in its other two contests, its faceoff with FORREST GUMP revealed its limitations. AMERICAN BEAUTY’s defense just wasn’t enough against the star power and broad appeal of the box office and awards season juggernaut.
Still, they made for an interesting pair: GUMP is a feel-good saga, an uplifting story of one simple man and those he gathers along the way. And it allows a certain darkness in, but not all the way in. AMERICAN BEAUTY is a savage satire of the American suburban family. It is mostly acidic, but ultimately strives for transcendence. One is a portrait of how we wish we were. The other would be a snapshot of how we probably are, but the picture is distorted by dark comedy, making the truth go down more easily.
GUMP bested AMERICAN BEAUTY 71%-29%. This margin isn’t far from what we’ve seen throughout the tournament, but is the only one of its kind in the Elite 8. The other three were all closer—not a complete surprise as the roster of movies has narrowed to the real powerhouse players.
Tomorrow won’t be another day for GONE WITH THE WIND. The epic was taken out (and Classic Hollywood along with it) by THE GODFATHER PART II, which won 59%-41%. 1994’s PULP FICTION won’t get a chance to settle up with that year’s Best Picture Winner FORREST GUMP, but fellow nominee THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION still might. The cons-vs.-ex-cons match-up broke in SHAWSHANK’s favor, 57%-43%.
The toughest match proved to be between Martin Scorsese’s GOODFELLAS and Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. In what may have been the tournament’s biggest upset to date, BEAUTY edged out GOODFELLAS—which had been a favorite to reach the Final Four—53%-47%. The relatively narrow margin shows the tough challenge the films—and their supporters—faced. In fact, voter-fan Peter Iacangelo solved his dilemma by commenting that he was supporting FIGHT CLUB. (Of course, we don’t talk about that. That’s the first rule. And the second.)
This is the same spread that separated BEAUTY from UP in Round 1. Fun fact—if you’re BEAUTY.
Today marks the Final Four. On one side of the bracket, it’s THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION vs. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST—two uplifting tales that both show us how opening our hearts is the key to freeing ourselves from any prison. And they’ll pound each other mercilessly for a shot at representing Best Picture Nominees in the Championship.
On the other side, two of Paramount Pictures’ most landmark achievements will square off when FORREST GUMP faces THE GODFATHER PART II. Continents will be crossed, decades will be spanned, but which will bring the Championship within reach: Forrest’s legs or the Corleones’ muscle?
It’s your last day to vote for a Best Picture vs. a Best Picture, and for a Nominee vs. a Nominee. Vote now—and prepare for the Championship match!
GREAT FILMS & TRASH TALK
Oscar Madness Sweet 16 Results: Day 4
For two of yesterday’s contenders, the last day of the Sweet 16 was definitely sweet. And for the other two, it was anything but.
MARY POPPINS. She’s practically perfect in every way—except on offense. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION put an end to the Disney classic’s hope of (chimney)sweeping the Nominees’ side of the bracket. When MARY POPPINS faced its last opponent, ERIN BROCKOVICH, Walt’s passion project won largely on the strength of its magic and its fans’ sense of nostalgia. In fact, as an embodiment of imagination—and escapism—Mary Poppins might have been a more suitable pin-up for Andy Dufresne’s prison cell than Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, or Raquel Welch.
But MARY POPPINS’s sense of wonder faced a strong adversary in SHAWSHANK’s emphasis on hope. Frank Darabont’s drama paces itself in developing this theme. And that slow build gives it a vital assist as the theme becomes an overwhelming force in the final act.
One element the movies have in common is a strong backcourt. While Julie Andrews and Tim Robbins are effective centers for their films, they get critical support from Dick Van Dyke and Morgan Freeman. Van Dyke’s Bert and Freeman’s Red frame the action by talking directly to us. Bert and Red also serve as the eyes we see the world through—which gives us even more reverence for the main characters.
But as uplifting as both films are—SHAWSHANK with Andy’s dignity and hope, MARY with imagination and her umbrella—only one can advance. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION dropped the rock-hammer on MARY POPPINS, defeating it 77%-23%.
Elsewhere, PULP FICTION stayed in character as it took on THE COLOR PURPLE. As the films faced off, they provided a contrast in playing styles. The earlier movie is the first attempt by a blockbuster filmmaker to get beyond the popcorn. The second is the sophomore effort of a true indie director, and one that is obsessed with pop culture. References to movies, music, and television may not be the totality of PULP FICTION, but they are definitely the patty in its Royale-with-cheese.
Steven Spielberg followed THE COLOR PURPLE with EMPIRE OF THE SUN, and was seen as having finally come into his own as a “serious” filmmaker with SCHINDLER’S LIST. While Quentin Tarantino followed PULP FICTION with JACKIE BROWN (more emotional and mature), the KILL BILLs (more raucous), and 2009’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (a combination of the two), none are more iconic of his career or of the indie scene than PULP FICTION.
Also, while THE COLOR PURPLE is a much-revered movie, it’s never had the large cult that its rival enjoys. All of this surely helped propel PULP FICTION into the next round. PULP bested PURPLE 83%-17%, the tournament’s widest margin to date.
It’s on to the Elite 8 as some of the tournament’s biggest vote-getters now take on each other. Can BEAUTY AND THE BEAST beat GOODFELLAS, or is that just magical thinking? Who will come out on top as sagas clash when GONE WITH THE WIND faces THE GODFATHER PART II? And when AMERICAN BEAUTY and FORREST GUMP face off, can the subversive dark comedy continue its streak, or will GUMP run (Forrest, run!) over its opponent? Meanwhile, for the first time in the tournament, two Best Picture rivals from the same year return for a rematch. Which will win—PULP FICTION or THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION?The Elite 8 comes down to just one day… so vote now!
GREAT FILMS & TRASH TALK
Oscar Madness Sweet 16 Results: Day 3
The Sweet 16 continued as the ensemble piece CRASH took on AMERICAN BEAUTY for a slot in the Elite 8. Both films won multiple Oscars and were directed by first-timers who would each go on to make other acclaimed dramas (as well as major contributions to the James Bond franchise).
The films are different in scale—one is set against the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, while the other, set in the suburbs, focuses on a (thermo)nuclear family and just a few members of its extended circle. But both are about the fault-lines and fissures running beneath well-developed, well-manicured facades. And both feature characters trying to reconcile the irreconcilable: for the characters of Paul Haggis’s CRASH, their better angels are complicated by prejudices coming to the surface; for the Burnham family of Sam Mendes’s AMERICAN BEAUTY, it’s the desires to conform and to defy that are pitted against each other.
The contest between the two films proved that sometimes, there’s so much beauty in the world… but CRASH just couldn’t take it. It felt the impact of AMERICAN BEAUTY’s offense, which defeated it 72%-28%.
In the day’s other contest, THE SOUND OF MUSIC went head-to-head with FORREST GUMP. These movies tell personal stories whose main characters are on the periphery of major world and history-shaping events. So while both are innocent at heart, there’s more than a little darkness on their edges.
Tunes are critical to both, as well. THE SOUND OF MUSIC is based on a 1959 Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein. While FORREST GUMP is not based on a Broadway show, it is only a matter of time before one is based on it. Instead, the film uses a compilation of popular songs to treat Forrest’s story like it’s America’s diary. The film features about 50 songs, mostly from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Its 2-disc soundtrack held the #2 spot on the Billboard charts for seven weeks. In fact, Billboard listed the soundtrack as #88 on the top 100 pop albums of the decade. (It ranked just one notch below Meat Loaf’s “Bat out of Hell II: Back into Hell,” proving once again the power of the sequel.)
We can only hope that the next time THE SOUND OF MUSIC and FORREST GUMP meet, it’s in a mash-up of “Edelweiss” and “People Are Strange.” For now, however, the hills are alive with the sound of FORREST GUMP fans cheering. GUMP bested MUSIC 70%-30%.
Today, Best Picture nominees take another step toward glory as PULP FICTION faces THE COLOR PURPLE and MARY POPPINS braves THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. Cool criminals, inspirational women, and creative uses for a rock hammer are all on tap as we get closer to the Elite 8.
GREAT FILMS & TRASH TALK
Oscar Madness Sweet 16 Results: Day 2
Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson—for putting up a valiant defense against one of the most popular movies ever made by one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time. The Sweet 16 continued as Mike Nichols’s THE GRADUATE went head-to-head with Martin Scorsese’s GOODFELLAS. Both films feature young men making questionable life choices. And both are wildly exuberant, but more than tinged with uncertainty and regret.
Nichols and Scorsese began their directing careers around the same time. THE GRADUATE, Nichols’s sophomore effort was released just weeks after the premiere of Scorsese’s feature debut, WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR. While THE GRADUATE has 23 years on its opponent, the film will always feel like an upstart. And yesterday, it got schooled it like one, as GOODFELLAS defeated it with 65% of the votes.
Elsewhere in the tournament, it was an upset when BEAUTY AND THE BEAST faced off against IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and bested it 57%-43%. Both are love stories: BEAUTY is in love with love, while LIFE romanticizes friendship, the everyman, and small-town America. And while both are classics, WONDERFUL LIFE’s standing as a beloved family film and holiday tradition gives it a deep bench that made it a favorite to at least reach the Elite 8.
BEAUTY may have gotten a boost from its recent 3D conversion, which put the movie back in the public eye. It makes you wonder if WONDERFUL LIFE—or other black-and-white classics—could also take advantage of this tech. Sure, 3D may not do much for the Bedford Falls Building & Loan, but imagine a fully immersive Xanadu, Rick’s Café Americain, or Bates Motel. (Or just about any environment shot by James Wong Howe, John Alton, Stanley Cortez, and other masters of noir cinematography...)
A tantalizing prospect or the greatest sacrilege since colorization? You decide! What we know right now is this: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE entered the Sweet 16 planning to make Belle and the Beast two more angels waiting for their wings, but the animation milestone lassoed the moon—and its rival.
Today marks Day 3 of the Sweet 16. And “sweet” is the operative word as two much-loved movies face off with THE SOUND OF MUSIC vs. FORREST GUMP. An edgier match-up pits CRASH against AMERICAN BEAUTY. One examines the tensions that can divide us from the people we live among. The other does the same for the people we live with.
Two winners to pick. One day to vote. Cast your ballots now!
GREAT FILMS & TRASH TALK
Oscar Madness Sweet 16 Results: Day 1
The Sweet 16 began as THE APARTMENT faced an uphill battle against THE GODFATHER PART II. Both are movies that imagine the high cost of ambition, and both are stories that are masterfully told. Still, with GODFATHER II’s 81%-19% victory, THE APARTMENT was taken out like Hyman Roth at a Miami International arrivals gate.
This tough loss comes as a double-blow for actress Shirley MacLaine, who delivered an early breakthrough performance as Jack Lemmon’s love interest in the 1960 satire, and who just yesterday watched baby brother Warren Beatty’s BONNIE AND CLYDE also get eliminated. But when you’re up against the muscle and the cunning of the Corleone squad, that’s the way it crumbles,
The day’s other match-up saw a true clash of icons as Clint Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN took the court against David O. Selznick’s epic production of GONE WITH THE WIND. Though it’s hard to imagine the man who brought us “Go ahead, make my day” facing off against a belle who chirps “Fiddle-dee-dee!”, both films take a hard look at the issue of change. By the end of WIND’s nearly four-hour running time, Scarlett O’Hara has had to adjust to a world in which she has lost her family, her home, her love, and even her world itself. On a more intimate scale, UNFORGIVEN’s William Munny wrestles with the retirement of the no-good, no-account killer he used to be—or so he thought.
It’s a tough call as to which struggle is ultimately more tragic, but easy to see which film will move on to the Elite 8. The Southern-set saga beat the (anti-)Western 72%-28%—a smaller margin, but still decisive.
The Sweet 16 continues as two young dreamers each tries to find his way—but in very different worlds (THE GRADUATE vs. GOODFELLAS), and as two much-loved family films try to break each other mercilessly (IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE vs. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST).
The road to glory goes on. Vote now!
GREAT FILMS & TRASH TALK
Oscar Madness Results: Day 4
Round 1 comes to an end with a total of 3,662 votes.
BONNIE AND CLYDE. They’re young, they’re in love, and they kill people. But that didn’t help them get the drop on PULP FICTION. Both films were revolutionary for their times, epitomized a new kind of cool, and honored debts to film history. BONNIE AND CLYDE revitalized the tradition of the Warner Bros. gangster dramas of Hollywood’s Golden Age, while PULP FICTION revitalized John Travolta.
The earlier film helped topple the Production Code and usher in the MPAA with its graphic violence and Dede Allen’s intense editing. Ironically, Arthur Penn’s film is most famous for its gory, staccato climax, but it couldn’t finish strong against PULP FICTION, the film that redefined neo-noir (and like BONNIE AND CLYDE before it, the dorm room poster). Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION struck down upon its rival with great vengeance and fuuurious anger, defeating it 80%-20%, and making BONNIE AND CLYDE the first New Hollywood icon in the tournament to fall.
One of PULP FICTION’s rivals for Best Picture of 1994, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION also made its tournament debut, facing off against BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. The main characters of both films are all trapped men—just trapped by different needs and different institutions.
But while BROKEBACK won Oscars for its writing, its score, and its director Ang Lee, SHAWSHANK tunneled right through its defense. The prison drama and basic cable staple sent its powerful, groundbreaking opponent riding off into the sunset 77%-23%.
BROKEBACK and SHAWSHANK were both made from adapted screenplays, but the real literary showdown was between THE COLOR PURPLE and THE GRAPES OF WRATH. PURPLE is based on Alice Walker’s novel; WRATH is drawn from John Steinbeck’s. Both novels won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. Both films balance the epic and the intimate with stunning cinematography and by focusing a national tragedy through the eyes of a multigenerational family.
Steven Spielberg’s drama was the blockbuster filmmaker’s first foray into more "grown-up" fare. It was rewarded with 11 Academy Award nominations—though not one for Directing. It did not bring home any statuettes.
Set against the Great Depression, John Ford’s WRATH earned fewer nominations (7) but won two Oscars. It was one of two John Ford efforts to be denied the Best Picture prize that year. (The other was THE LONG VOYAGE HOME, which Ford also produced.) Luckily for Ford, WRATH earned him an Oscar for Directing, which saved him from the taunts of "Aiiiirball…!" that would have surely followed him out of the Biltmore Hotel’s Oscar ceremony.
PURPLE and WRATH are both literary and cinematic giants, but in the end, PURPLE cut its rival down to size with 62% of the votes.
The day’s last contest also features films drawn from other sources: children’s books and real life. Two terms we don’t often get to use together are "Mary Poppins" and "merciless drubbing." But that’s what the nanny handed out when Disney’s classic—and Julie Andrews’s big-screen debut—MARY POPPINS took on the Steven Soderbergh drama ERIN BROCKOVICH.
Both films earned Oscars for their leading ladies. And both title characters are champs at looking out for their charges. Through grace and imagination, Mary changed the lives of the Banks children. Through grit and smarts, Brockovich transformed the lives of over 630 people poisoned by a large utility company. But the differences between the films are stark: ERIN BROCKOVICH is based on a true story that we wish were fiction. MARY POPPINS is a fantasy that we wish could be true.
In the end, voter-fans preferred a spoonful of sugar to Chromium-6 69% to 31%.
Today sees the first match-ups of the Sweet 16. In one contest, the gangster saga THE GODFATHER PART II returns to take on the corporate satire THE APARTMENT. One is a story of loyalty, honor, ambition, betrayal, sacrifice, and moral compromise. The other has Al Pacino.
Also in the Sweet 16, one of the biggest movie stars of all time takes on one of the biggest epics ever made. It’s UNFORGIVEN vs. GONE WITH THE WIND. Does Clint have the firepower to pull it off—or will this match-up be Will Munny’s punishment for all his many sins?
Vote now and decide!
GREAT FILMS & TRASH TALK
Oscar Madness Results: Day 3
For the third straight day, the total number of votes cast continued to climb—3,702—and with one exception, newer films beat older films.
FORREST GUMP and RAIN MAN helped prove that Oscar Madness is like a box of chocolates: you have to make smart picks, and winding up with cherry nougat means you did it wrong. Both films were Best Picture winners as well as the #1 grossing movies of their respective years. Both films are about journeys: one across America, the other through recent(ish) American history. Both feature indelible leading performances by two of the most acclaimed actors of their times.
But only RAIN MAN also has Tom Cruise in an undervalued performance that showed the star’s acting chops. And only RAIN MAN has a score by then-newcomer Hans Zimmer that helped define movie music for the next decade.
Now if only RAIN MAN had FORREST GUMP’s conditioning. Pre-tournament, Gump ran for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours, while Raymond "Rain Man" Babbitt’s dad let him drive slow on the driveway on Saturdays. Like Lt. Dan Taylor, FORREST GUMP had a destiny: to beat RAIN MAN 81%-19%. It also racked up 966 votes, the most of any individual film so far.
Definitely 966 votes. Definitely.
It was the melting pot of Los Angeles vs. the powder keg of Sparta, Mississippi as CRASH faced IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. CRASH won 55%-45% in one of the tournament’s closest matches to date. Both films take a hard look at racism (and also spawned television shows), but not necessarily from the same angle. NIGHT’s focus on the Sidney Poitier/Rod Steiger partnership and their investigation is a counterpoint to CRASH’s ensemble format.
By the time NIGHT was released in 1967, Poitier had already become the first African- American to win an Oscar for a leading role. The film brought home 5 Oscars, including one for its editor, Hal Ashby, who later directed HAROLD AND MAUDE, SHAMPOO, and others. Though Poitier was not nominated, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT—and his contributions to it—will always remain a high mark of ‘60s cinema. And we’ll always call him MISTER Tibbs.
Meanwhile, THE SOUND OF MUSIC is no longer one of CHICAGO’s favorite things. Sweet overtook salty as the Julie Andrews musical bested the Bob Fosse adaptation 65%-35%. Still, you have to give CHICAGO credit. It faced an uphill fight in 2002, as the movie musical had long become a novelty. But in 1965, the musical was still a viable genre (even if no longer in its heyday). Also, CHICAGO was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won 6, compared to MUSIC’s 5 and 5.
But a year after its release, THE SOUND OF MUSIC became the biggest box office hit of all time. And while it may not be as timely as CHICAGO (these days can seem less about quiet courage than about the quest for notoriety), THE SOUND OF MUSIC has remained a fan and sing-along favorite for nearly a half-century. Even so, while CHICAGO won’t advance to the next round, it retains the title of Most Razzle Dazzle.
KRAMER VS. KRAMER proved the old adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" when divorced parents Ted and Joanna Kramer teamed up to challenge the intact—but just as broken—Burnham family of AMERICAN BEAUTY. But the house divided soon fell, despite KRAMER VS. KRAMER’S Oscars for Best Picture, Directing, Writing, Actress in a Supporting Role, and Actor—and its standing as the highest grossing film of 1979. (It beat out what would be seen today as the more blockbustery ALIEN, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, and THE MUPPET MOVIE).
Then again, AMERICAN BEAUTY also won 5 Oscars (subbing out Actress in a Supporting Role for Cinematography) and boasted a healthy box office. Sam Mendes’s directorial debut beat the Kramers 67%-33%. In so doing, it officially denied fans the long-hoped for grudge match of KRAMER VS. KRAMER VS. GOODFELLAS. Now we’ll never get to see how Joe Pesci handles it when you try to eat ice cream instead of the Salisbury steak he made for you.
Our next batch of match-ups ends Round 1 with movies that represent courage (THE COLOR PURPLE vs. THE GRAPES OF WRATH), cool (BONNIE AND CLYDE vs. PULP FICTION), male bonding (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION vs. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN), and two very different takes on female empowerment (ERIN BROCKOVICH vs. MARY POPPINS).
Vote now, and then brace yourself for Round 2…
…the Sweet 16!
GREAT FILMS & TRASH TALK
Oscar Madness Results: Day 2
Round 1 continued as two American institutions went head-to-head: baseball and Jimmy Stewart. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE defeated FIELD OF DREAMS 80%-20%. The loss wasn’t a shock as Capra’s 1946 classic is one of the most beloved movies of all time.
Still, the margin was larger than expected given that FIELD OF DREAMS can be viewed as SON OF CAPRA. Both films in this match-up are about everyday men challenged by their dreams, their duties, supernatural intervention, predatory capitalism, and the need for do-it-yourself home renovations.
But IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has a deep bench that makes it hard for newer films to beat. It’s had time to mature into a true classic. Seeing it again has become a certified holiday tradition. And it has come to embody a more innocent time—unlike its challenger, which must stay content to dream of one.
Facing off against Martin Scorsese’s GOODFELLAS, Ang Lee’s CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON may have had the moves, but it didn’t have the muscle. The film couldn’t fend off the rat-a-tat-tat offense of its opponent—despite TIGER’s visuals and the plea of voter-fan Sam Simms. The organized-crime classic beat the Best Foreign Language Film 82%-18%.
But TIGER leaves the tournament with honor. It has 10 Oscar nominations to GOODFELLAS’s 6, and has 4 Academy Awards to its rival’s 1 (Joe Pesci, Supporting Actor). Both films are authentic recreations of their periods. And both execute the challenging play of being a tragedy and also a great time.
Proving that misery loves company, THE GRADUATE and LOST IN TRANSLATION—both about deep alienation—can now add a rivalry to all they share. They follow protagonists gravitating toward older, broken characters. They were nominees for Best Picture. They each won one Oscar: Mike Nichols for Director; director Sofia Coppola for her screenplay.
And both have ties to the "New Hollywood" of the 1960s and ‘70s. Nichols was one of that era’s most prominent directors; Coppola is the daughter of another. One of Sofia‘s signatures is the driving use of previously released songs. This style, also used massively in the ‘80s, originated with THE GRADUATE’s Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack.
45 years later, THE GRADUATE’s Ben Braddock might be considering plastics less as a career path than as material for a joint replacement. But he schooled the upstart 64%-36%—although this was among the day’s narrower victories.
The narrowest victory of all came when two of Disney’s modern masterpieces faced off. Fans of the Mouse House were a house divided, choosing between UP and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.
While both films are relatively recent, their contest still represents old school vs. the new guard. BEAUTY helped reanimate not only Disney’s tradition of 2D cell animation, but also its tradition of the animated musical. 18 years later, UP became Disney/Pixar’s first 3D venture. And it continued Pixar’s work of freeing animated features from the movie-musical format.
UP took home the Oscar for Animated Feature Film. BEAUTY won Oscars for Original Score and Original Song. But even more significant is BEAUTY’s nomination for Best Picture, the first-ever for an animated film. In the tournament’s closest match so far, BEAUTY took down UP 53%-47%, proving what a tough choice the fans faced.
In each match up, fans chose the older film (or to put it more kindly, the more classic of the two classics). Will that pattern hold as CRASH faces IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT? As AMERICAN BEAUTY takes on KRAMER VS. KRAMER? Can CHICAGO silence THE SOUND OF MUSIC? And while RAIN MAN is an excellent driver, can he penetrate the defense of FORREST GUMP?
Vote now and find out tomorrow!
GREAT FILMS & TRASH TALK
Oscar Madness Results: Day 1
The Corleone family took the head off another stallion on the first day of the tournament—this time, the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa. With five sequels under his championship belt, no one could accuse ROCKY of having a glass jaw. But unfortunately for the eternal underdog, it seems that THE GODFATHER PART II—the first sequel ever to win Best Picture—brought a gun to a prizefight. THE GODFATHER PART II bested ROCKY 80%-20%, proving once again that it is better to be feared than loved.
In fact, THE GODFATHER PART II not only received more votes than any other movie, but also received more votes than any other individual match-up. Has the first juggernaut of the tournament already shown its face?
It didn’t happen for IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, which was evicted from the tournament by THE APARTMENT. The combination of Frank Capra, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert (showing some leg, no less) drives this screwball classic, but it couldn’t outperform Billy Wilder’s darker, more dramatic comedy. Edgy beat zany 68%-32%.
Even so, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT remains a hall-of-famer. It’s the first movie to win the Big 5 at the Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay. In the 77 years since, only two other films have repeated the feat. Do you know which ones they are?
Yesterday also marked a showdown between two very different Westerns—both directed by movie stars—as Kevin Costner’s DANCES WITH WOLVES took on Clint Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN. Released in 1990, DANCES WITH WOLVES was the decade’s first major Western to take a good long look at the genre itself. This became an important trend in the ‘90s (one that includes the dark, anti-mythic UNFORGIVEN).
But in the end, DANCES WITH WOLVES’s influence, emotion, and grandeur weren’t enough to keep Clint from adding another notch to the handle of his Spencer rifle. UNFORGIVEN defeated DANCES WITH WOLVES 63%-37%
Frankly, Rhett Butler may not give a damn, but he sure gave James Cameron hell as GONE WITH THE WIND sunk TITANIC 58%-42%. Still, the 1997 blockbuster leads the 1939 classic in terms of Oscars (TITANIC’s 14 nominations and 11 wins for TITANIC vs. GONE WITH THE WIND’s 13 nominations, 8 wins, and 2 special awards) and went down by the narrowest margin of any of the four match-ups.
The first day of the tournament has already raised some unexpected questions. Based on the first three contests, could the electorate be leaning toward darker fare? And will THE GODFATHER PART II’s strong showing remain an outlier? 835 votes is a high bar, but then again, the movies on the Nominees side of the bracket all have something to prove.
Today’s brackets, like yesterdays, also pit like against like: nostalgic Americana (FIELD OF DREAMS vs. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE), modern animated classics (UP vs. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST), stories of alienated young adults searching for themselves (THE GRADUATE vs. LOST IN TRANSLATION), and two films that explore the question of honor among bad-asses (GOODFELLAS vs. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON). These match-ups could go either way, so if you’re looking for some guidance, here’s a word of advice: Plastics.
Not an Oscar Race. An Oscar Tournament.
In honor of March Madness, we've created our own Oscar-themed tournament pitting 32 legendary movies against each other and we're inviting YOU to determine which one reigns supreme.
As you'll see in the bracket above, 16 Best Picture winners and 16 Best Picture nominees will battle it out in the competition over the next couple weeks. And in every match, you choose the winner.
Can FORREST GUMP go the distance against Clint Eastwood? Can THE GRADUATE find the path to victory? Will GOODFELLAS give DANCES WITH WOLVES a taste of payback?
Visit Facebook.com/TheAcademy every day to vote for your favorite in that day's matchups and check back here for updates and analysis of all the action.
Let the Madness begin!