I was tracking this beautiful buck… Slipped away.

The Deer Hunter (1978)   A first-time’s-the-charm movie? There’s an undeniable visceral impact to Michael Cimino’s Best Picture Oscar winner, but unlike – say – the subsequent year’s also-Vietnam War Best Picture Oscar nominee Apocalypse Now, it’s somewhat diminished by subsequent viewings. The Deer Hunter’s an often affecting, beautifully photographed mood piece – I think I’m supposed to say “elegiac” – but there’s also a quality whereby it’s simply overly impressed with itself (you might say the same thing about Cimino’s subsequent box-office disaster). The film’s also a strange blend of maturity and pulp, macho and interrogation thereof. If you’ve

I suppose that, thirty years from now, Peter O’Toole and I will still be appearing on talk shows, plugging for our first Oscar.

And the Oscar Should Have Gone to… The 1969 Contenders Ranked   “The greatest decade in the history of the human race and….” Obviously, that statement came from someone stoned mightily out of his gourd, but the shadow cast by the ’60s is nevertheless a very long one. And however much it was by design (Tavistock, CIA, NASA bringing up the rear, whomsoever) or happenstance, it came to a very pronounced, curtailed fizzle in its last year, not least thanks to some prolific, Hollywood-shaking murders. Whether these were legit either – meaning happened, as reported, or happened, owing to MKUltra

Colonel, do you suppose we could have a cup of tea?

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)   It goes without saying that The Bridge on the River Kwai is a masterpiece, one of two David Lean pictures no one, but no one, is going to bad mouth. Except that there are a few dissenting voices, and a few dissenting voices that have problems with the ending, and with what, it seems, the picture is trying to say. I’ve always thought The Bridge on the River Kwai quite remarkable, and like the best of the director when working on an epic canvas, a wholly immersive experience that impresses anew each

All the religions in the world rolled into one, and we’re gods and goddesses.

All About Eve (1950)   Joseph L Mankiewicz’s Best Picture Oscar winner commonly finds itself in the upper echelons of all-time great lists (it was 37 on the Time Out cinema centennial poll) Such lofty status is richly deserved. Mankiewicz’s directorial career didn’t always strike gold – he would eventually be assailed by the 1963 Cleopatra, before even more eventually recovering with Sleuth – but All About Eve stands resplendently unalloyed on all fronts and every bit as trenchant as ever it was. There’s been some suggestion that, however conniving Anne Baxter is as Eve, she’s no match for the

Cinderella just told Prince Charming to take a flying leap!

You Can’t Take It with You (1938)   Frank Capra won the Best Picture Oscar – and Best Director – for this unfettered, undiluted belly flop into wholemeal sentiment. Unsurprisingly, it’s something of a lumpy ride, to put it mildly. That You Can’t Take It with You plays better than the later winner Going My Way – a treacly Bing Crosby vehicle – is mostly down to a sliver of a dramatic spine and several engaging performances, not least from James Stewart and Jean Arthur. A number of Capra’s films are rightly celebrated as timeless classics, but You Can’t Take

I despise your masquerade, the dishonest way you pose yourself.

The Godfather Part II (1974)   The popular consensus is that The Godfather Part II is the only sequel to eclipse the original in quality. Indeed, a sequel that didn’t, Scream 2, laid this out amongst its various pithy rules. Albeit, it played fast and loose with its definitions. While I’d agree that several of those proposed (Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day) couldn’t equal the first instalment, disqualifying The Empire Strikes Back – “Not a sequel, part of a trilogy, completely planned” – is nonsense, and there are a number of others besides that immediately spring to mind (Star Trek

When was the last time you picked your feet?

The French Connection (1971)   As a piece of filmmaking, repeat visits fail to dent The French Connection’s standing in the least. It remains a vital, verité feast, pared to the bone for maximum tension and impact. It does, however, take a slight knock for what can only be read as the remorseless cynicism of its director. William Friedkin’s a cold fish, and his appropriation of the stylistic trappings of Z – and one of its actors – is both a kick in the crime genre’s pants and evidence that, like his protagonist Popeye Doyle, he’s willing to do whatever

Crisis or no, nothing should interfere with tea.

Around the World in 80 Days (1956)   Around the World in 80 Days gets a bad rap. You’ll even hear it cited as one of the all-time worst Best Picture Oscar winners. Which is patently absurd, if you’ve ever had the misfortune to endure A Beautiful Mind. Or Nomadland. Or Oliver! It is, however, undeniably guilty of spectacle-first filmmaking, not so much due to the eager procession of cameos littering every port of call made by Phileas Fogg as the idea that simply visiting said port and lingering there, dramatically engaged or more probably not, would be sufficient. Perhaps it was, in some cases,

We are equally glad to be rid of him, are we not?

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)   Sometimes, just sometimes, Oscar gets it right. Lawrence of Arabia isn’t only on a whole other level to its fellow Best Picture nominees that year, but also to most films – of that or any year. As a piece of mesmerising, wholly immersive filmmaking, it’s the zenith of the artform. If Oscar got it wrong in any conspicuous categories that year, it was rewarding Gregory Peck over Peter O’Toole – who would remain ever the bridesmaid, or Florence of Arabia, as Noël Coward wittily described him – and Horton Foote over Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson for

I’ve seen nothing, I should have stayed home and found out what was really going on.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)   Something of a surprise, in that a movie made immediately subsequent to the concerted propaganda onslaught of WWII should be as open as it is to the lasting effects of conflict on those involved. There’s undoubtedly a degree of rhetoric in The Best Years of Our Lives, both in terms of boosting the prospects for veterans and extolling a “just” war, but William Wyler’s film (yet another Sam Goldwyn awards darling) treads its terrain with frequent care and attention, and it’s easy to see why this appeared on Oliver Stone’s All-Time Top 10