Friday, February 13, 2009

That's A Wrap Top (TAWp) Nine

Welcome to the That's A Wrap TAWp Nine, where your faithful That's A Wrap editor's pick their top three favorite titles in a selected category. Together the picks combine to create VOLTRON! Well, ok, not quite as cool as robotic kitties of doom, but it's close. We combine the lists to form one super cool list of nine things that we really like.

Today's question, in honor of the upcoming Academy Awards, which past Best Picture nominees most deserved to bring home the Oscar? Hit the jump to find out our answers!

1964-Mary Poppins

I chose this not only for its visual attributes, but also for its message. Based on the book series of the same name, the story shows of the socioeconomic events of early 20th century England. Mary Poppins was beat for best picture in 1964 by My Fair Lady. Both were musicals and were up for basically the same categories. Julie Andrews did nab Best Actress for the role, but My Fair Lady took the other big crowns (Director, Cinematography, Music). I disagree on the merit of the leading men in each film. Mary Poppins has Dick Van Dyke, a gentleman’s gentleman. My Fair Lady had Rex Harrison who could barely sing himself out of a paper bag. I also chose Mary Poppins for the nostalgic impact that it has on most children who have watched it, which most cannot say for My Fair Lady.

1976-Taxi Driver

You can't talk about how film making evolved and matured in the late '70s without mentioning this American masterpiece. The ultra-violent explosion on the scene of America's greatest director was also the best script from Paul Shrader of the four times they would work together (yes, better than Raging Bull by far). Of course, the most lasting impact of the film is the career of Robert DeNiro. In the greatest performance of his career, DeNiro proved to the world he wouldn't be remembered as a young Vito Corleone. While I consider this to be the far superior film, at least the winning film, "Rocky," is one of my 25 favorite films ever, so despite being a watershed mark in American cinema, we'll stick this at number three.

1982-E.T. The Extraterrestrial

My love of this movie may have something to do with the long history I have with it. You see, it was the very first movie I saw in theaters and I've had an obsession with it my entire life(ignoring my alien-fearing period after seeing Whitley Streiber's Communion on HBO). I had E.T. bed sheets, E.T. dolls and E.T. toys. I even had an E.T. blow-up punching bag, but what kind of MONSTER would punch E.T.? Not me! Great story, excellent special effects and kids getting drunk through psychic osmosis, E.T. has it all. So why didn't it win Best Picture at the 1982 Academy Awards? Maybe because it wasn't three hours long and pretentious. Thank you Ghandi. Thanks a lot.

1987-Fatal Attraction

Michael Douglas was a man on the prowl and Glenn Close never looked more psycho in this 1987 thriller. This movie was so ground breaking in its attitude toward the power of an independent woman. It raised several questions in society during the ME ME attitude of the 1980’s. At the time when AIDS was becoming everyday lingo, promiscuity was starting to become a deadly act. And although Fatal Attraction did lose to The Last Emperor, its message can still ring true today. One could wildly assume that the male academy voters at the time chose not to vote for this movie on the fact that they were receiving a backlash from their own mistresses due to this film

1997-L.A. Confidential

One of the best crime noir pictures ever, Curtis Hanson's best film introduced the world at large to Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce and delivered one of the top two performances of Kevin Spacey's career. That these actors weren't recognized was a shame (Basinger just couldn't hold a candle to any of them) as they elevated the superb script from Hanson and Brian Helgeland. The dialogue was sharp as a knife. Though it has the feel of a film to smart for the Academy, I like to think it could have won almost any year they didn't decide to make James Cameron the king.


It takes a great director to flit between comedy, drama, shock and tenderness with such deftness that the film still feels coherent. In this case, TWO directors. Joel and Ethan Coen may have won their first statue for directing No Country For Old Men, but the deserved to get it much sooner. Fargo is manic upon first glance and it's easy to dismiss it as a comedy, but once it gets moving the sum total is greater than all the parts. Forget The English Patient, THIS should have won Best Picture.

1998-Saving Private Ryan

I don’t really need to say much about this movie. A gripping portrayal of D-Day and World War II France, Tom Hanks at his finest and Vin Disel getting killed off. This ultimate trio is a perfect combination for winning best picture. Unfortunately, Shakespeare in Love received best picture nod for 1998. I personally despised Shakespeare in Love and everything it stood for. I also have a bad experience with it as I had to endure this painful watch with an ex girlfriend who I chose not to talk to anymore.


There are Academy injustices like ignoring Randy Newman for approximately two decades before rewarding an inferior effort or giving Roberto Begnini an excuse to hop over Steven Spielberg's head (literally), but this one takes the cake. Martin Scorsese took far too long to get his due (30 years exactly), but in no case was it more egregious than in the defeat of this picture in 1990 by "Dances With Wolves."

A movie that after more than three dozen viewings over the years can still suck me in for three hours with an engaging script,a half-dozen iconic performances and the best direction in a film since the days of Kurosawa and Hitchcock. I was once channel cruising in college once at three in the morning, having not slept in nearly two days, came across this and you can be damn sure I stuck around an hour just for the scene that resolves the Lufthansa heist. To pass up one of the ten best films ever for an over-long C+ grade film (and this is a passionate Western genre fan talking)... to coin a phrase from Spider, "Why don't you go fuck yourself, Academy?"


I know what you are thinking, "Babe? Really? A talking pig movie?" And to you I say, "Shut the hell up, fool." Babe is a magnificent film with downright fantastic special effects. It doesn't take much to make animals talk(see: obnoxious afflack ads) but it takes some effort to make those animals talk convincingly. George Miller, it just so happens, isn't just awesome at making Australian post-apocalyptic biker films(he directed The Road Warrior) but also fantastically excels at guiding a family film that goes so far above the usual family film tripe. The movie also contains a superb message warning of racism and profiling against other people. Not to mention the great voice acting(Christine Cavanaugh most well known as Chuckie from Rugrats plays Babe) and the marvelous performance by James Cromwell. He sings! And dances! 1995 was a strong year for best picture nominees with both Braveheart and Apollo 13 being nominated. Though Braveheart won the award it doesn't hold a candle to the beauty, fun and heart of Babe. It was a downright criminal shame that it was denied the award.

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