When I was young and stupid, I respected the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as the final authority on a movie’s greatness. If the academy bestowed an Oscar on a movie or a performance, surely it must be the best and the brightest.
With that in mind, I decided to watch every Oscar-winning acting performance as well as every best picture. I didn’t understand the purpose of directors – did I mention I was young and stupid? — and added best director winners to my must-see list later. So, I pulled out the encyclopedia and scribbled the titles and names onto notebook paper and underlined the ones I had seen. I still have the original lists, which I amend after every Oscar telecast.
For the purpose of this blog, I’ll stick to the best picture winners. This is a guess, but at that time, I couldn’t have seen more than three: “Gone With the Wind,” “Casablanca” and “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
Not that I remember much about “The Greatest Show on Earth,” except that the clown had a deep, dark secret. When he removed his clown makeup and was revealed to be Jimmy Stewart, I thought that was his deep, dark secret and couldn’t understand why Jimmy Stewart hid his identity and pretended to be a clown. Or why he was under arrest.
Anyway, I have now seen 75 of the 83 best picture winners. No, I’m not finished and if it’s taken me all these years, it’s not like the list has been a priority. Back in college, a friend had to beg me to watch “Gandhi.”
But that was in college and as I underlined more and more movies, finishing the list became more and more of a priority.
That means I sought out more modern movies I had either missed or had avoided, which led to me watching “Braveheart” last month and subsequently shaking my head. Seriously, that nonsense was just an excuse for Mel Gibson to play a Christ figure.
I also scoured Turner Classic Movies for titles such as “Cavalcade” and “Tom Jones.”
“Cavalcade” follows wealthy Brits as they suffer through such inhumanities as wars, the sinking of the Titanic and their son dating the help’s daughter. The movie is worth watching for Diana Wynard’s epically bad – and Oscar-nominated — performance.
The 18th century British sex romp, “Tom Jones,” might have broken bawdy ground in its time, but now it looks silly. Not even Albert Finney could arouse my interest in the movie. It’s not an exaggeration to say I hated every moment of the movie.
All this seeking out and scouring leaves me with eight best pictures to watch: “Wings,” “The Broadway Melody,” “Cimarron,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “Around the World in 80 Days,” “The Sound of Music,” “Oliver!” and “Chariots of Fire.”
That’s right, I’ve avoided “The Sound of Music.” Judge me if you will, but I have no interest in watching Julie Andrews and those kids make the hills come alive with music.
I’ve also steered clear of “Oliver!,” the musical adaptation of “Oliver Twist,” for what I assume will be obvious reasons, and “Chariots of Fire.” Actually, I tried to watch “Chariots of Fire” once, but stopped when I realized it was just a bunch of men running on the beach.
Now that I’m so close, I guess I should switch from actively avoiding these movies to actively pursuing them.
That leads me to “Around the World in 80 Days.” (I’m not counting the other four because I’ve never avoided them. They were made in the 1920s or ’30s and are difficult to find.)
Turner Classic Movies will be airing “Around the World” in a couple weeks. The movie runs over three hours and is one of those star-studded sagas about a man who bets he can circumvent the world.
I don’t want to watch it, but I’m eight movies from fulfilling a childhood dream, and believe me when I say I haven’t fulfilled too many childhood dreams.
Besides, as I keep telling myself, if I can sit through “Tom Jones,” I can sit through anything.