Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Oscar Winning Movies


Oscar is in the air. "The mood is tense!"...sort of. This week's edition of the Wandering through the Shelves Thursay Movie Picks Meme is all about "the big enchilada, ya dig?" You know, Best Picture, the last one of the night. But Oscar gives out more than one "Best Picture." Yeah, to spread it around, there's a category for Best Foreign Language Film and one for Best Animated Feature. Since it's an option and I'm doing another Best Picture post this weekend, I've decided to go ahead and spread it around myself. I'm giving you a favorite from each of the aforementioned Oscar categories, in order.


Here are my Thursday Movie Picks:

"Rain Man" (Barry Levinson, 1988)


Winner of 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Barry Levinson), Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman), and Best Original Screenplay.

Also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer).

Watching "Rain Man" for the first time in at least a decade Tuesday night, I was reminded of just how accessible this movie is and how relevant it still is today. Sure, it's a bit dated in its political correctness, or lack thereof, as far as "the Autism Spectrum" is concerned, but it gets the job done and gets it done well as far as telling a totally immersive story with stellar acting from Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, especially Hoffman. His performance is one of the finest, probably of all-time. And this movie is iconic. The Vegas sequence alone is one of the most memorable Best Picture clips in the movie montage of our collective memory. It's not flashy, it's no epic, it's just a simple American road movie with a huge heart.

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (Ang Lee, 2000)


Winner of 4 Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Foreign Language Film (Taiwan).

Also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Ang Lee), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Song ("A Love Before Time"). 

I realize that, with this pick, I am essentially picking the most "American' foreign film ever. Ang Lee had already been making movies in America and had achieved great critical success doing so, and, to this day, I'm fairly certain, this is still the highest-grossing foreign language film in American cinema history. But here's the thing: It's really that good. First, it is one of the most beautifully shot movies I've ever seen. Second, the score regularly haunts both my waking and dreaming lives, and I haven't seen nor heard it in at least five years. Finally, it represents the essence of good storytelling. It is legend, lore, myth, and epic.

"Finding Nemo" (Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, 2003)


Winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Also nominated for Best Original Screenplay (Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, and David Reynolds), Best Original Score (Thomas Newman), and Best Sound Editing. 

My wife always says that "Finding Nemo" should be required viewing for all parents with children with disabilities. Isn't that the essence of this story? I think sometimes we forget that little Nemo, that beautiful bright-orange Clownfish, has a weak, small fin. He's not as strong a swimmer as the other fish his age. His father, Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), is a worrier, an over-protector, not willing to let his little bird fly. Never has so little build up in a movie led me to rooting for characters so strongly. And the journey of the finding of Nemo is one of the most fun experiences I've had with a movie. And, finally, that it tells such a simple story and still moves me to tears every single time speaks to the love pumped into this thing by its creators in Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich and the so many others working at Pixar. This is one of the most beautifully conceived and photographed films I've ever seen...period. It is certainly the finest animated movie I've ever seen, though I'm not a huge fan of animated movies. I get happy when I watch this and think, Kids love this movie, too. 

19 comments:

  1. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon - interesting you said that it was the most "American" foreign film. I remember someone I know said, when it was released, that they don't why it was so popular in America, it wasn't quite a big deal in our part of Asia...not sure how true that is because I was quite young when it came out. So I was curious if it was successful box office wise in the other part of Asia where it was made, it wasn't in the all time top earners in China/Hong Kong/Taiwan.

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    1. I honestly think it was just really well-promoted here. Plus, the martial arts choreography, I think, is something that really resonated with American audiences. It's a beautiful movie. I'm re-watching it tonight.

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  2. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is one of the most beautiful Asian movies I ever seen that won Oscar. For me, it's a pioneer to the modern Asian cinema to get recognized by the world.
    One thing about Finding Nemo. The name 'Nemo' means nobody in Latin. So, do you think that Finding Nemo is about Finding Nobody? 'Cause for me, it seems so. But, I love it anyway---it's one of the most compelling animated feature ever made.

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    1. So true. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon started a sort of revolution in Asian cinema at the time. I love it. It's a great Oscar win.

      Finding Nemo is more about the journey itself than it is about actually finding someone. It's more about Marlin finding himself. I love it, too!

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  3. Great picks! I love all three of these. You're right about CTHD being the most "American" of the Foreign film Oscars. I'm glad that it did so well though.

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    1. Thanks! For me, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did something very special. It made me OK with reading subtitles. It introduced me, and so many other Americans, to the idea of a foreign film. I was only a teenager when I went to the theater to see it. I was, and still am, blown away by this film.

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  4. YAY, more Nemo love!!!! That makes me so happy. Such a brilliant film.

    I second Wanderer's comment about Crouching Tiger...I like what you said about it being the most American of the foreign winners...in a way I can really see that...it speaks to what American's, for at least many years, looked for in a foreign film, for sure. It was basically a very glossy American actioneer...

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    1. Yes. So glad you chose Nemo as well. Great movie! My favorite Pixar for sure (Up and Monsters, Inc. are close).

      See my reply to Brittani above. Crouching Tiger is a special Foreign Language winner.

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  5. Finding Nemo is all sorts of awesome. I loved CTHD the first time I saw it. I still like, but not quite as much as I once did. I totally agree with you calling it the most American foreign film. Good call, there. Rain Man is another excellent film. Hoffman is outstanding, as he usually is, but the fact that Cruise is so good really carries it for me. Great picks!

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    1. It so is, man! I am re-watching Crouching Tiger tonight, so we'll see how I feel about it. Haven't watched it in years. I just love Rain Man. Such a simple story, yet so powerful. Cruise almost never gets enough credit. He is a phenomenal actor and totally perfect in this role. Thanks, man!

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  6. Crouching Tiger is absolutely All-Time Favorite material for me. It's perfect. I still remember seeing it in the theater and how thrilling it was. It holds up amazingly well on rewatch, too.

    Finding Nemo is the most beautiful Pixar film, maybe one of the most beautiful films ever. The colors! SWOON. I love everything about it.

    I haven't seen Rain Man in years but I remember liking it a lot.

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    1. It certainly is one of my all-time faves as well, man. Just beautiful. Re-watching it tonight for the first time in probably 8 years.

      Agreed, no doubt, on Nemo. Beautiful blues, man.

      Rain Man is great. Simple, for a Best Picture winner, but incredibly well-acted.

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  7. CT,HD was my introduction to any film of it's type. I remember watching it on HBO or Showtime when it first premiered. I had no fucking clue as to what was going on, and I've yet to revisit it. Though it was visually stunning.

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    1. I'm giving it another go round tonight. Can't wait. It is such a great piece of visual art and is endlessly entertaining.

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  8. I wish I could comment more but I haven't seen any of these choices, I guess that is what Thursday Movie Picks are for. I've never really watched martial arts but I am guessing that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a good place to start,

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    1. You are right about that. I love all the recommendations I've gotten since I started doing this.

      Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is definitely a great place to start, I'd say, but I don't have a whole lot of knowledge of martial arts films myself. It's beautiful, so I recommend it for that alone.

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  9. Great picks. CTHD is amazing because it's modern but does such a great job at looking old. I love Nemo, especially the message behind it. Ellen as Dory is perfect! I might go a little further and say ALL parents should watch it before leaving the hospital. Parents, you can't always rescue your kids. Let them make mistakes, let them learn from them, and yes, it might be scary, but in the end, they will be ok AND be better people because of it! Rant over. You know my top Pixar is Monsters Inc, and I hate it didn't win the first ever Best Animated Feature AND it lost to Shrek, which I don't hate. It is beautiful, so colorful, the jazzy music, it's funny, Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi ... What is not to love?

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    1. Shrek beating Monsters Inc. is ridiculous. It was funny, but MI is so much better. You're right about Finding Nemo. I agree 100%.

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  10. I personally don't think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon should have been nominated for Best Picture. That year, I believe that the real Best Picture was one that wasn't nominated for it, & is one of the biggest Oscar nomination snubs. The movie that should've won Best Picture that year was Almost Famous. That movie is just extremely amazing. I would have replaced Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with Almost Famous.

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