• Babe

    Babe

    ★★★½

    I'm generally not in the habit of tracking down talking pig movies, but the Best Picture project has taken me to some unusual places, and as talking pig movies go this one is perfectly fine.

    This website is full of gushing reviews for this heartwarming children's flick, a typical reaction to movies of this ilk (although its cumulative review score here is actually pretty low), and I'm thinking it was just that kind of reaction that garnered it an Oscar…

  • American Sniper

    American Sniper

    What’s the difference between glorifying someone who decides to kill people for reasons that make sense only to them and glorifying someone who's paid by the U.S. military to do so? The fact that in the latter case, the government says it’s OK to kill certain people in a particular situation? That’s a distinction, but it's not enough of one for me. As a director, Clint Eastwood has rarely made bad movies, and this is a quality film as well,…

  • America, America

    America, America

    Any list of essential films about the immigrant experience, particularly that of emigrating to the United States, should include this title. Filmmaker Elia Kazan's recollection of his uncle's journey from Anatolia to New York City in the early years of the 20th century is not rose-colored or gauzy, but feels real and immediate. It captures well the all-consuming compulsion to start a new life in a seemingly better place.

    To the young Greek man at the center of the story,…

  • Selma

    Selma

    Even though the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most important figures in American history, the definitive film (or better yet, miniseries) about the martyred civil rights leader remains to be made. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay never intended this to be that movie — it’s focused not on King, but his movement’s three protest marches in Alabama in 1965. But for a quality motion picture with a searing performance by David Oyelowo as King, this surely deserved…

  • Madame Curie

    Madame Curie

    ★★½

    She BLINDED him! With SCIENCE! But truthfully, they blinded each other, Madame Curie and her husband, Pierre. While they do fall in love, I guess, and marry and raise a family, none of that can compare with their passion for the chemical element radium. RADIUM! They must separate it from barium, because then it will be separate from barium and by itself and there it will be, after years spent boiling down huge vats of gooey pitchblende and pouring the…

  • The Imitation Game

    The Imitation Game

    The Academy Award nominations for Best Picture in 2015 went to not one, not two, but three movies that seemed tailor-made to garner just such an honor. Oscar bait ran amok that year. I rank this biopic about Britain's WWII Enigma code-breaking Alan Turing as the most memorable of the three bait-iest titles, but only because I can recall more about it than I do of "The Theory of Everything" (not a lot) and "Selma" (virtually nothing). And if that’s…

  • The Diary of Anne Frank

    The Diary of Anne Frank

    ★★★

    It would be unseemly to say that I enjoyed watching this film, given its subject matter, based on a true story about a Jewish teenager who was killed in the Holocaust (along with almost her entire family) after hiding in an attic in Amsterdam for more than two years. I didn't enjoy watching it, because who does? But this was a really hard watch for me, and not for the reasons that should be critically acceptable.

    Yes, the movie is…

  • The Full Monty

    The Full Monty

    ★★★½

    What does a male provider do when he can't provide anymore? Strip!

    That's the plot of this British comedy in its entirety, but I'm OK with that. The movie is short and sweet. When you've embarked on the Best Picture project, watching all the movies that have ever received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, you have to sit through a lot of ponderously themed films that take their time getting through their three-hour running time. But not here.

    And…

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    “And the Oscar for angriest movie of the year goes to ….” The righteous fury that rises out of the ashes of injustice, or in this case justice denied, is palpable in “Three Billboards.” The awkward title refers to the only avenue the mother of a daughter left raped and burned to death feels she has left to find the girl’s killer, calling attention to the local police chief’s inability to solve the crime on three billboards. As the mother,…

  • Oliver!

    Oliver!

    ★★★

    Despite the fact that 1968 was one of the most tempestuous, radical years in American history, this was the movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture from that year. Of course, points like this are always kind of bogus; it takes a long time for a film to get made and released, so unless a movie is especially prescient there's going to be something of a cultural time delay. And Hollywood did eventually catch up to the 1960s. But…

  • Get Out

    Get Out

    Horror films don’t typically get much attention from the Academy Awards. The titles are genre product made on the cheap, programmed to deliver chills and thrills at predictable points, and everyone goes home happy. “Get Out,” however, pushes buttons, and had the good fortune to have the trump administration as its real-world backdrop to help with the pushing. The film’s timeliness, more than anything, was responsible for the movie’s four Oscar nominations, with writer/director Jordan Peele winning for Best Original…

  • Call Me by Your Name

    Call Me by Your Name

    It was a distinct pleasure to watch filmmaker James Ivory, 89 at the time, finally receive his first Oscar, for Best Adapted Screenplay on this project, after decades of crafting high-quality motion pictures with producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. But Oscars aren’t always awarded for a recipient’s best work. “Call Me My Your Name” is a minor effort, probably most notable for what it says about today, when a gay romance doesn’t even raise eyebrows. We’ve come…