Category Archives: Classic Movie Project

What was the Worst Best Picture Winner of All-Time?

As you’ve been reading throughout the week, I asked quizzo regulars Mike Minion, Junior, and Koob to submit their favorite and least favorite movies that won the Best Picture Award. They’ve all three agreed on Casablanca as one of the five best films to win Best Picture. (I disagree, btw. I think it’s way overrated.) There is also one film they all agreed was one of the worst: Dances With Wolves. All three of them hated this film. Of course, part of the reason they all hated it is that it’s a bad movie that knocked off one of the greatest films of all time. Here are their comments, as well as the one Best Picture winner Mike Minion refuses to watch.

Junior: This movie was the one which made Kevin Costner think he could do anything. I would have liked it a lot more if Costner wasn’t in it,  but he was EVERYWHERE!  Too earnest and self-conscious and self-satisfied.
Better Choice:  GoodFellas

Koob: This movie was just long, slow, and boring and it beat out Goodfellas which is one of my favorite movies of all time and probably my favorite Scorsese movie.
Mike: When Kevin Costner cares about a subject, he can make a decent movie. He likes baseball, so Bull Durham and Field of Dreams are pretty good. Apparently, he doesn’t care for oceans, the US Postal Service or Native Americans, as Waterworld, The Postman and Dances with Wolves are not. Three hours of Kevin Costner being “earnest” is about 173 minutes too long. To quote Lisa Simpson, “Poor Mr. Costner, he tries SO hard.” Even worse: it beat out Goodfellas for the award.
As for the movie that Mike won’t watch, because he’s ridiculously stubborn so principled: The only Best Picture I haven’t seen is Titanic, and I never will. I have seen the You-Tube version: The Titanic in 5 Seconds. Now, THAT I like. But when you take an engrossing tale of tragedy, heroism, cowardice, nobility and fate and ruin it with a sappy and impossible love story (steerage passengers did NOT look like Leo DiCaprio; they had bad teeth and smelled like yesterday’s catch), I just can’t get on board.
My take on Mike and Titanic: You had Gigi in your top 5, so who knows what you’ll like. Who knows? You might love Titanic. Personally, I don’t like it, but I don’t hate it either. Everything other than the dumbass love story is pretty awesome. But the love story is incredibly cliche and obnoxious.

Koob’s Worst Best Pics

Here’s Koob’s worst four Best Picture winners. Believe it or not, I’ve only seen one of them. It was Shakespeare in Love. I liked it, but it wasn’t great. Winner pics coming later this afternoon. Of course all three guys hated the same film. I’ll post it a little later today as well.
Ordinary People. Not a terrible movie and it was actually very well acted.  Timothy Hutton won a deserving Best Supporting Actor Oscar and Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland were both great as his parents.  It’s more on this list because it beat out Raging Bull which is a far superior movie.
Driving Miss Daisy – This was a pretty weak year for Best Picture noms.  Once again, not a terrible movie, and very well acted, but pretty cliche and forgettable when all is said and done.
Shakespeare in Love – A pretty forgettable romantic comedy with some good acting performances and some genuinely funny moments, but this was probably the biggest Oscar robbery of all time when this movie won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan.
Million Dollar Baby. This might come as a surprise to some people, but I just did not like this movie at all.  I thought it was a pretty good underdog story with the gritty Hillary Swank convincing the crotchety Clint Eastwood to become her boxing trainer up until the last third of the movie which I don’t want to spoil in case you haven’t seen it, but it just seemed to be one of those plot twists that was manipulative just for the sake of being manipulative and making people cry.  At least this movie finally got Morgan Freeman a much deserved Oscar.

Junior’s Worst Best Pics

On Monday, Junior gave us his best Best Picture movies. Today we’re getting his worst. Junior was kind enough to not only post his worst Best Pics, but also provide a film that was nominated that year that should have won. The only ones I’ve seen are Crash and Last Emperor. Crash I commented about on Mike’s, and Last Emperor, I saw it a while ago and don’t really remember much about it. So obviously I didn’t think it was very good.

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH.
Betty Hutton really grates on the nerves. Typical back-stage drama boredom with a circus theme. Embarrassing.

Better Choices: High Noon or The Quiet Man

THE LAST EMPEROR. Overlong and tedious. And it won everything it was nominated for…go figure. This was one of those films that the Academy honors to feel good about itself. High honors for high art. Yawn!!

Better Choices: Broadcast News or Fatal Attraction

CRASH. Even Jack Nicholson was surprised when he opened the envelope to announce the winner. The Academy is not brave enough to award a movie with a major gay theme. Crash was about self-involved Los Angelinos acting like idiots…..hey, wait a minute……..

Better Choices: Brokeback Mountain or Good Night, and Good Luck

The Worst of the Best:

OLIVER! Kids. English kids. Orphaned English kids. Dancing orphaned English kids. Singing and dancing orphaned English kids. Overblown production numbers. Bad English accents from authentic English performers. Cloying. Sickening attempts at pathos. Unsuccessful attempts at comedy. Well, it was 1968 and the Academy was definitely on a bad LSD trip when they awarded this piece of tripe.

Better Choices: The Lion in Winter or Romeo and Juliet

The Worst Best Picture Winners, According to Mike Minion

You already saw what Mike thought were the best Best Pictures ever. Now it’s time for his worst. There is one film that all three of our reviewers thought was one of the 5 worst. I’ll save that as one final post. There are two more that both Junior and Mike agree on. Junior’s reviews coming tommorrow. Here are films Mike loves to hate. His reviews are first. My two cents is 2nd.

GONE WITH THE WIND. I can’t think of a protagonist in any movie I loathe more than Scarlett O’Hara. She’d be a perfect guest for a special episode of the Dr. Phil show. If she could swear, Jerry Springer. But how can you have a movie about a love story when no SANE person could possibly fall in love with the romantic lead? In the history of cinema, no character ever made a better final choice than Rhett Butler. Oh yeah, it’s racist and stupid too.
JGT’s Take: Got it for a Christmas present a couple of years ago, but still haven’t seen it. Pretty sure I’ll hate it if I ever watch it. Not my kind of film.

OLIVER! Take one of Dickens bleakest novels (which weren’t a batch a sunshine and daisies to start) and turn the staving, exploited orphans into dancing, singing, smiling, lovable urchins. Who’s f***ing brilliant idea was that? But, it was 1968 and the whole country was stoned, so what the hell. P.S. Exclamation point? Really?
JGT’s Take. Never seen it. Never will. Hate almost all musicals.

CRASH. I can accept a lot of improbable things when I see a movie; after all, that’s part of the fun. But the plot of Crash goes way past improbable into the realm of “you’ve GOT to be kidding”. Not only that, but a better-acted, funnier, more-realistic, and well-scripted version of this piece of junk was made in 1991: Grand Canyon. Maybe they thought no one would notice. Who knows? Plus, it was a coward’s choice: Brokeback Mountain was one of the other nominees, and Good Night, and Good Luck hit too close to home.
JGT’s Take. I thought this movie was good. Maybe not Best Picture good, but I rather enjoyed it. I thought Matt Dillon was great and so was Terrence Howard. This movie and American Beauty have both been savaged by people, but I’ll take either one over Gladiator and The Departed, which both had flashes of brilliance but absolutely mind numbingly stupid endings. I have seen a lot of Best Pictures that were worse than Crash. That said, I did like Good Night, and Good Luck better.

FORREST GUMP. Now, I don’t really think this is a bad movie. It’s just that I think that it was the worst of the nominees, and I can’t understand how it won. The other films nominated in 1994? Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, and The Shawshank Redemption. Not only were the other nominees better, but Jenny is a close second to Scarlett O’Hara in the “Who’s the most unlovable love interest” race. If Forrest only had 5 more points of IQ, he’d have dumped her ass when she played Blowing in the Wind naked and wondered why no one was interested in her music.

JGT’s Take. Yes and no. Forrest Gump is actually a very good movie, but not nearly as good as Shawshank Redemption. It is obviously not one of the worst 5 films to win Best Pic, but perhaps one of the worst 5 choices to win.

Vote: What was the Best Best Picture Winner of All-Time

Mike, Koob, and Junior have spoken. Now tell us which of there picks you thought was the best Best Picture winner…or fill in your own next to other.

Bonus! The Best Best Picture Winners According to Koob

Koob’s Best Pic resume isn’t quite as impressive as Junior and Mike’s but it is pretty damn good. He’s seen 63 out of 83. So I thought it would be pretty fun to throw in his two cents. So w/o seeing Mike or Junior’s he threw in his Top and Bottom 5, and the results were interesting. He agreed with both Mike and Junior on Casablanca, and agreed with Mike on Godfather. Here are his other three best.

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. This is my favorite film of all time, so of course it has to be on my list of the five greatest best picture winners.  Jack Nicholson’s best role hands down.  Perfect from start to finish with one of the best endings of all time.  Look for appearances from Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd as some of the mental patients.

JGT’s Take: I also love this film. The baseball scene is one of my favorite film scenes of all time.

THE GODFATHER PART II. I rank this slightly ahead of The Godfather, but just barely.  I go back and forth on this all the time, but I give the slight edge to Part II because of the way it masterfully tells both the story of Vito Corleone’s journey from Italy and rise to power, along with Michael Corleone’s transformation from a man doing whatever it takes to protect his family to a a cold-blooded and ruthless overlord who drives his family apart.  The betrayal of Michael by Fredo and it’s subsequent aftermath are some of the most heartbreaking and chilling scenes ever caught on film.
JGT’S take: As I stated earlier, I like this one a little bit better than the first one. (Here’s my review of it from a couple of years ago. Needless to say, after since rewatching Godfather I, I get the Marines scene at the end now.) They’re both brilliant, but the second one just covers so much ground in so little time, and ties together so brilliantly and heartbreakingly at the end.
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS . Choosing the 5th movie was hard as there are many deserving candidates, but in my own humble opinion, this movie gets the edge simply because Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in this movie may be the best performance ever captured on film.  Ted Levine is also scarily convincing as the serial killer Buffalo Bill, but he was completely overlooked by the Academy.  I guess they were afraid to award such a creepy performance.
JGT’s Take. I am not a horror film fan. I don’t like spending my free time making myself scared. If I wanted to do that I would just walk 12 blocks south of my house at night time. That said, this is a really well done film that I enjoyed when it came out. Buffalo Bill has haunted my nightmares ever since. Another good reason not to watch horror films.

The Best Best Picture Winners of All-Time, According to Junior

Junior and Mike Minion agreed on two films, meaning there were three films that he loved that did not make Mike’s Top 5. I have not seen any of these three films, but I do have Mutiny on the Bounty on DVR and plan on watching it in the next week. I will review it after watching. Interesting to note that both Mike and Junior had Marlon Brando Best Actor films included. Here are Junior’s picks:

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.A Best Picture doesn’t have to be a sweeping epic to be worthy of accolades. This was a fun movie with a great script and lots of memorable scenes. I like movies from the ’30s that take place in contemporary times which are just as much escapist fare now as they were then. This solidified Frank Capra’s reputation and moved him along to a long and successful career.

MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. Two consecutive Best Actor winners (1933′s Charles Laughton in ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII’ and 1934′s Clark Gable in ‘It Happened One Night’) team up for the best screen version of “Mutiny on the Bounty”. Laughton and Gable played magnificently against each other. All of the production values were great and holds up remarkably well after 76 years.

ON THE WATERFRONT. Very authentic look at the rough lives of dock workers and their corrupt boss and one guy’s turmoil as he is torn between his loyalties. Terrific work by Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, Karl Malden, Lee. J. Cobb and Eva Marie Saint, all of whom were nominated for Oscars (Brando and Saint won). Brando gives his famous ‘I coulda been a contender’ speech in this film. The music score supports the film perfectly.

The Best Best Picture Films Ever, According to Mike Minion

You may have read Mike and Junior’s shared Oscar favorites last week. They both thought that Casablanca and Rocky deserved to be in the Top 5 Best Picture winners of all time. The three below are three of Mike’s Top 5 favorites. Keep in mind, Mike will be hosting an Oscar quiz tonight at the Westbury at 9 p.m.

THE GODFATHER. Greed, love, duplicity, murder, ambition, and cannolis: this film has it all. Great quotes, a wonderful roman a clef (which ties into another Best Picture winner: see footnote below**), and a stellar performance by Al Pacino in his first big role combine to make this a nearly perfect film.

JGT’s Take: No argument here. Brilliant film. That said, I think I like part II a little bit better (it also won Best Pic.)

PATTON: The opposite of Rocky, this film is big in every way. In an era full of larger-than-life characters, Patton was the largest. George C. Scott captures the essence of the man beautifully (check out You-Tube for some of Patton’s real-life speeches) and makes him accessible and more human at the same time. One of the greatest performances ever. Fun fact: Scott won, but declined to accept the Ocsar for Best Actor.

JGT’s Take: Embarrassed to say this: never seen it. I know. I know. Trust me, it’s on the short list.

GIGI: I can’t come up with any rational reason why I like this movie, so I’m not gonna try. More to the point, I’m not sure I want to know. It’s a corny musical (which generally annoys me) with a terrible social message (which REALLY annoys me) and worst of all, it’s set in France (which… well, you get the point). But for some reason, I really, really like this movie. Sue me.

JGT’s Take: Not embarrassed to say, I’ve never seen this. Mike encouraged me to DVR it, which I did. Will I actually ever sit down and watch it, or will it perpetually take up 7% of my DVR space? Only time will tell.

**It has been suggested that the character of Johnny Fontane was based on Frank Sinatra. The role he asks his Godfather to help him get is the fictional version of Maggio in From Here to Eternity, which won an Oscar for Best Picture and several others, including a Best Supporting Actor for Sinatra. This is much clearer in the book than the movie, but it’s hard not to make the connection in either case.

The Best Oscar Winners of All-Time

Thought it would be fun to have a couple of guys who have seen EVERY single Best Picture winner to chime in on what the best and worst of them were. I had them each submit 5 of their favorites and five of their worst. We start with the best. These are the two films they both picked. I’ll post the other films they picked a little later today, and  I’ll post the worst films on Monday.

About the writers: Junior is a regular at Mike Minion’s Westbury quiz, and a HUGE movie buff. He has seen pretty much every Hollywood film ever made, including every film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Mike Minion has also seen every Best Picture winner except one, which he will explain later. They came back with separate lists, but they agreed on two films being one in the Top 5, and three films made both of their lists for Bottom Five. I then chimed in because, well, it’s my website, damnit. Here are the two films they agreed were among the 5 best:

CASABLANCA. Junior’s take: One of the most iconic movies ever. Loads of memorable lines: “Here’s looking at you, kid,” “Round up the usual suspects,” “Louie, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” etc. A great cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains, Dooley Wilson, etc. Withstands the test of time. Warner Bros. has a great history and this is one of their best efforts. Could be one of the most quoted films of all time. The screenplay won an Oscar, too. A true classic.

Mike’s Take: So many movies seem dated and stale 5 years after their release. But Casablanca holds up incredibly well. The dialogue is witty and sharp and the love story is one for the ages. Great side characters (especially Claude Rains) help make this tale of a man “torn between love and virtue” one of my favorites.

JGT’s Take: I reviewed it a while back. I thought it was pretty good, but a bit overrated. (Continue reading below)

Continue reading

Classic Movie Project: Marty


A couple of years ago, I started reviewing classic movies I had never seen as an inspiration to catch up on my movie viewing. I was going pretty good for a while but then fell off the tracks. Well, it’s time to get back in gear. I saw that Marty was gonna be on Turner Classics a few days ago, so I decided to watch. Here’s my review:

I think most people would agree, this is a very nice movie. Which strikes me as a bit strange, since most of the characters in this movie are anything but nice. In fact, most of them are incredibly selfish jerks. The brutal honesty of this film is somewhat astounding, and every character is absorbed with their own self interest. I’m not saying it isn’t real, but anyone who tells you that the world wasn’t a cruel place back in the “good ol’ days” should watch Marty.

Let’s start with Marty’s mother, who says she wants him to marry so she doesn’t look bad for having a bachelor son. Then, when Marty does find a girl, she tries to screw it up so her son won’t leave her lonely. She really wants her cake and eat it too. Then comes Marty’s best friend Ange, who refers to Marty’s girl as a dog and then, instead of being happy for his lonely buddy for finding a girl, gets mad because Marty blows him off for that girl. Some friend. Then there is Marty’s cousin Tommy, who ignores Marty’s pleas for advice so that he can carry on a fight with his wife Virginia (played by the impossibly gorgeous Karen Steele. Yowsas!) Then there is Tommy’s mother, who seems to exist to make everyone around her miserable.

And finally, there is Marty himself. Now before you get all riled up, I liked Marty a lot, and for the most part he was a stand up guy. But he was also quite passive aggressive and a bit immature. When Clara refuses to kiss him, he yells “Alright! Alright! I’ll take ya home!”, trying to make her feel bad for not kissing him. (Also, Marty, a quick piece of advice, never tell a girl you’ve considered suicide while on a first date.)

Now, you probably think that I’m being some sort of contrarian jerk who is trying to rip a great film. I’m not. In fact, just the opposite. I thought the darkness of the movie, and the selfishness and brusqueness of the characters, is in fact what made it so good. Yes, there were some very warm scenes, but they would not have been so poignant if they didn’t take place in an atmosphere of duplicity and shameless self interest. It goes without saying that we root for Marty throughout, not because he’s so sweet but because he’s so real. He is trying to balance his own self-interest with the interests of those around him, while at times getting so caught up in his own problems that he becomes a little selfish himself. We can all relate. If he had been more one dimensional (completely selfless and inscrutable at all times), this film would not have been nearly as good.

I am a big fan of good “Day in the Life” films, and this is one of those. Getting a peek at the Bronx in 1955 is a heck of a lot of fun. This was an excellent film, and I have no problem giving it a high mark. GRADE: B. (Grades are in comparison to other great films, not to all films in general.)

RELATED: Variety’s 1955 review.

Johnny Goodtimes Reviews Road House


I just saw Road House for the first time. Road House is not one of the greatest films I have ever seen, but it is certainly one of the most amazing films I’ve ever seen. It is one of those rare films that is so unintentionally insane that you wonder if maybe it wasn’t unintentional.

Patrick Swayze is Dalton, a big time bouncer with a Zen approach who is hired to come to clean up a crazy bar in a small town called Jasper. It has all the makings of a “flashy big city guy moves to small town and slowly falls in love with the folksy ways of the natives, while learning a little something about himself along the way” kind of film. It isn’t. It is, again, sheer insanity, a film whose eccentricities keep you glued to the screen. There is a blind musician, a bad guy who hits the brakes on his dirtbike just long enough to laugh maniacally, boots with razor blade tips, and boobs. Lots of boobs. But don’t worry, ladies, the director (Penn State grad Rowdy Herrington) wanted to make a film that appealed to all audiences, so there are lots of scenes with a chiselled Patrick Swayze with his shirt off, including an awkwardly long scene of a greased down Swayze doing yoga in the yard while “The Bad Guy” Brad Wesley watches from his house across the lake. (Swayze and his arch enemy lived across a small lake from each other.)

One thing the town of Jasper is short on is an effective police force. Despite numerous knife fights at the Double Deuce, no officer ever makes an appearance. Despite several explosions, there are no investigations. When a Bigfoot truck destroys an auto dealer, there are no questions asked by the local authorities. Even after Dalton (spoiler alert) kills a man with his bare hands, no police show up to ask him any questions. Jasper truly is a vigilante town. 

It is also a small town with a hot doctor. Needless to say, despite their apparent differences, the hot blonde doctor who wears short skirts to work and the tough guy bouncer fall in love. Or at least lust, despite the pain she must have been the morning after (spoiler alert!) having sex against a jagged stone wall. The love story endures its ups and downs, as the doctor doesn’t really approve of her boyfriend ripping another mans jugular vein out of his neck (women can be like that). But after Dalton proves his love by killing several men by more traditional means, she falls in love with him all over again. Love can be funny sometimes. 

The film also had one of my favorite taglines ever: The dancing’s over. Now it gets dirty. I am not making that up. Another interesting note is that two of the stars of the film also starred in the Big Lebowksi. Sam Elliot, who starred as Wade in Road House, was the Stranger in Lebowski, while Ben Gazzara (Brad) starred as Jackie Treehorn in Lebowski

The writing in the film is delightfully awful, and one has to wonder if some of the writers maybe one day moved on to writing for Silk Stockings. If you have not seen this film, it qualifies as a MUST SEE. I am giving it a B+, so brilliantly bad that it’s great.
PREVIOUSLY: JGT reviews 12 Angry Men.

Midnight Express


The movie Midnight Express was on TV Monday night, and I got sucked in. It had probably been ten years since I had seen it last, and it certainly holds up. One thing I wondered: “How did the star Brad Davis not become a Hollywood superstar?” He looked like a young Brad Pitt and was a terrific actor. He had a bit part in Chariots of Fire, but that was pretty much it for his film career until he died of AIDS in 1991. (Another interesting fact: he was a descendant of Jefferson Davis.) Here is a good article written about his widow in the NY Times in 1997, which explains that his career was done in by drugs and alcohol.

Midnight Express was about a young American named Billy Hayes who made the bad decision to try to smuggle hash out of Turkey. He wrote a book, which was turned into the great 1978 film, thought there were some discrepancies. For instance, Billy Hayes never bit out anybody’s tongue, and the story is that that scene so horrified the cast they refused to shoot it, and the director and the two actors were the only two on set when that scene was shot. Another thing which upset both Hayes and critics was how horribly Turks were depicted in the film. All of the Turkish characters were borderline evil. Anyways, as I said before, it’s a great film, one I highly recommend, and I also recommend watching the interview with Billy Hayes above. Part two of that interview is right here.

What War Movie Should Johnny Watch?


Ok, so I still need to watch Princess Bride, but I think I can do so tomorrow. So I wanna see if I can watch a war movie over the holiday. (If not, I’ll try to watch it next week). Above are 7 of the many war movies I have never seen, and want you guys to vote for which one I should watch for the first time.

12 Angry Men

12-angry-men.jpg
Great film. Highly recommended. Reminded me of my jury experience last year, though our discussion was much more civil and our jury was a bit more diverse. But the movie did a great job of pointing out what an amazing process the whole thing is. I loved that we learned so much about each man, and I didn’t realize until the end what we didn’t learn about them. Made the movie even better. It was astounding how many conclusions we could draw about 12 different characters in just 96 minutes. Fonda was terrific, even though his character at times was almost a little too idealistic to believe at times. I loved how the camera got tighter and tighter as the film progressed, increasing the tension and sense of claustrophobia that one feels after a full day in the jury room. Lee J. Cobb’s performance as the angry and tortured Juror #3 was terrific, making him a source of both enmity and pity. Interesting fact: Jack Klugman is the only juror who is still alive. The director of the film, Sidney Lumet, is still alive as well (And it’s pronounced Luh-met, not Lue-may.) I give this one a B+. See this movie if you haven’t already. Barring a last minute comeback, looks like Princess Bride will be next.