Posted by: ritagone | February 27, 2013

New Movie Project: 50 Years of Best Picture Oscars

oscar-picture

Here’s my new movie project: watching the Best Picture Oscar winner for the last 50 years, starting with “West Side Story” in 1961.  I like “projects” like this, having just taken quite a while to watch 270 movies made in 2010!  I don’t even remember where I got the list of these 270 movies or if it is a complete one of every movie made that year, and I don’t care.  All I know is that once I started watching, I had this OCD-type obsession to finish the list, come what may.  Good movies and bad movies, some even horrid ones, but I made it through the list, red marked the ones I watched until the Word document was a sheet of red.  And I was smugly satisfied.  So I looked around for another venture that could amuse me and came up with the Best Picture one, because the Academy Awards were looming and on my mind.

So from time to time I’ll share with you what I’m experiencing as I watch these films on DVD or streaming them via Netflix or Amazon’s streaming video.  “West Side Story,” for example, made me laugh with its portrayal of gangs on the West Side of New York City back in the day.  Threatening?  About as scary as the boys at the local church gathering.  They dressed “cute,” their language was sassy, and the choreography led me to believe that the last thing on their minds was devastation and death.  Not an F-bomb among them.  Boy, how times have changed!  The girls were adorable, right down to cute little Natalie Wood and that amazing Puerto Rican accent she pulled out of thin Manhattan air.

And then, during the last 15 minutes of the movie, I found myself bawling.  The needless deaths, the sad, familiar elegiac music of Leonard Bernstein, Maria hovering over Tony’s lifeless body, not letting anyone, Shark, Jet, police, come near him.  And the truce, earned at a price far too high, as Jets and then Sharks carried Tony’s body away.  That still moves, 50 years later.

The second film I watched was “Lawrence of Arabia,” Best Picture of 1962 and my husband’s all-time favorite movie.  Because it’s a period film, it stands up quite well, and I must say that it is still beautiful and epic and spectacular, all the adjectives that have been used to describe it for five decades.  It’s a long one: almost four hours.  Some of the conversation scenes seem a bit tedious.  But Peter O’Toole was brilliant, Omar Sharif was amazing, and all the supporting players were magnificent.

My favorite scene was when Sharif (playing a character named Sherif) was leading Lawrence and his two young servant boys across the desert to Akkaba, along with a troop of men (this is a movie devoid of women), a journey that seemed impossible to make but which they were determined to finish.  One of the men fell off of his camel unnoticed by the rest of the troop, and by the time they saw a camel without a rider, Sherif had determined that it was too dangerous to go back to get him.  Only Lawrence wants to go back to get him, which would put him at great peril.  To go back meant to be without water on the backward journey and to attempt to come back to meet up with the troops from behind without water.  Being without water was like being without oxygen.  It was unbelievably bold and courageous of Lawrence to attempt this, but go back he did, because he felt it was the right thing to do.  He turned his camel around and re-traced their path.

And he found the man, stumbling along in the desert, near death, but going forward in the hopes that going forward might mean a rescue whereas staying where he was meant sure death.

While the encamped troops are resting, only Lawrence’s servant boys and Sherif were thinking about Lawrence’s possible return.  How did you – the viewer – know this?  Because both of them had water bags sitting by their sides as they watched and waited for Lawrence’s camel.  As he approached with his rescued man, water bags were quickly handed to him.  Without saying a word, what was communicated in this scene was hope: both Sherif and the servant boy hoped that Lawrence would return, even though the odds were against it.

This is the point in the movie where he is transformed from an English soldier wearing khakis to a desert bedouin wearing robes and pants that are more suitable to the heat and sun, an honor bestowed on him for his courage and determination.  It is a pivotal scene in the film, and it thrilled me no end.

What a powerful movie, with so many enduring messages about humanity and relationships and living with or fighting against cultural differences.

It took me a long time to watch it, and there were quite a few interruptions during the almost four hours of the length of the epic film, but it was well worth it.  I think I’ll actually pull it out and watch it once a year from now on.

And if you haven’t ever seen it  — or if you haven’t seen it in a very long time – I encourage you to rent it or buy it.  Wait for a rainy day when you have nothing on your schedule, wear soft, comfortable clothing, turn off your cell phone and your landline, stay away from your computer, pop some popcorn, and settle in for a real treat.

I’m excited already about this new movie project for 2013.  Two movies that I think deserved the title of Best Picture of their respective years were still enjoyable to watch 50 years later.

Now…on to “Tom Jones” for 1963!!

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Responses

  1. Fun reading your Ramblings today. Makes me want to watch old films.

    How have things been going with CA?

    I am off to Tai Chi. This is a busy day with the service for Laurel’s husband, then Awana and Michele’s class after that. I will let you know how the funeral/memorial service went. I think you said you probably won’t be going. I think Danny might go since he was pretty good friends with Laurel in high school.

    Sue Brantingham

  2. Rita, this is interesting, especially because it sounds like you are going to watch them in order. A few questions – Are you going to watch EVERY movie, even if you’ve seen it before? What about the one that won the Oscar in 2010 which you would have recently seen. Also, watching 50 movies should be easy for you after watching 270 from 2010. How about watching every movie ever nominated??? 🙂


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