Selecting the ten worst winners of the ‘Best Picture’ Oscar is a whole lot tougher than choosing the ten best. Why? Because I have not always bothered to see a lot of the rubbishy ones. Only recently I sat through several of those I had avoided like the plague for decades and, having done so, I can now fully appreciate why I avoided them. A few of the very early winners, such as Wings (1927/28), All Quiet on the Western Front (1929/30) and It Happened One Night (1934), are nothing special, but they are at least watchable. Others of that era have been described as woeful by critics who have actually seen them. I refer to the likes of Cavalcade (1932/33) and Cimarron (1930/31). Unfortunately, I have not seen either picture and I must restrict my choices to movies I am familiar with. Here are my picks for the worst Best Pictures:
No 10 BEN-HUR (1959)
Even the poster is rubbish ‘The entertainment experience of a lifetime’, my eye! This 212 minute ‘plod’ is dull beyond belief, a dour, religious ‘revenge’ film whose entire reason for being appears to be the grossly overlong chariot race at the end. And just to make it doubly dull it has the services of the wooden Mr. Heston in almost every scene! The only positive in the whole thing is Stephen Boyd as Massala, yet he received no recognition whatsoever. Chuck, on the other hand, was gifted a Best Actor Oscar. He should have handed it back. Hugh Griffith also picked up a Supporting Actor statuette – for doing absolutely nothing! At least he was honest enough to say so.
No 9 THE ARTIST (2011)
Frankly, I cannot understand why this picture was even made, much less be voted the Best Picture of 2011. A black and white, silent movie in 2011! Why? It is the only one of my selections that I have not watched all the way through. I gave it an hour and switched it off. Tiresome and unexceptional.
No 8 THE DEER HUNTER (1978)
I have seen this trashy war film only once and I hated it. I especially could not stomach the depiction of the Vietnamese as psychopathic morons. As for Christopher Walken, why is he lionized as an actor? He appears to specialise in playing weirdos in every picture he’s in and it is the same performance again and again. The movie is monumentally over-rated and so is Mr. Walken. Platoon is a great Vietnam War film. The Deer Hunter is not.
No 7 WEST SIDE STORY (1961)
I love a good musical and Hollywood has made some wonderful ones over the years. This is definitely not one of them. I do not like stories that make something special out of lousy hoodlum gangs. To present a musical about them is even worse. The gang members are played (mostly) by gay Broadway dancers, the leads by cream puffs like George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn who would both be hard-pressed to scare the skin off a rice pudding. The tunes and choreography are only so-so and the story is dressed up Romeo & Juliet. Street gangs are low-lifes whether in Verona or New York City.
No 6 MARTY (1955)
How in the world did this little ‘nothing’ of a movie win Best Picture? It defies belief. I watched it recently and it was a complete ‘non-event’, a black and white little feature about an ordinary guy meeting an ordinary girl and getting to like her. Terrific. It was well-acted with a nice script, but surely there was something worthier churned out that year.
No 5 AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956)
Mike Todd produced an overlong, overblown travelogue and stuffed it with scores of name actors in cameos. The result? A big pile of nothing. The star was David Niven, a one-dimensional actor who could no more carry a major motion picture than Liberace could win the World Heavyweight boxing title. Then they gave him Mexico’s funniest man – Cantinflas – who was incredibly unfunny! Shirley MacLaine even played an Indian princess. Not a Red indian – an Indian from India! The picture is a yawn from go to whoa.
No 4 THE GREAT ZIEGFELD (1936)
No 3 THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952)
I wrote a lengthy piece on this rotten movie recently, so I will not repeat it here, except to say that I have always hated circuses and circus movies; I have always had no time for CB DeMille as a director, and I cannot abide Charlton Heston. This movie combines all three of those factors and tosses in Jimmy Stewart in full clown make-up throughout! Enough said.
No 2 THE BROADWAY MELODY (1928/29)
I suppose The Broadway Melody does have the excuse that it was only the second ‘talkie’ ever made, but it is so bad. God only knows what anyone saw in the romantic male lead Charles King. THe guy could not act, could not sing or dance and was about as good-looking as a wart hog. He must have known somebody. Bessie Love was not much better. Anita Page was quite a ‘looker’, however. Benito Mussolini evidently thought so because he asked her to be his wife several times. She ignored him. The movie is actually worth watching just to see how amateurish the chubby chorus girls are.
No 1 GOING MY WAY (1944)
I finally decided on Going My Way as the worst of all ‘Best Pictures’ because it lacked the excuse that The Broadway Melody enjoyed. ‘Talkies’ had been around for nearly 20 years by the time this Bing Crosby vehicle came along. Religious cinema-goers liked it back in ’44; Catholic cinema-goers loved it and Crosby fans probably went into raptures over it, but I am none of those. It is pure schmaltz from beginning to end, complete with a bunch of the most nauseating ‘dead-end kids’ ever to front a camera. Bing sings and philosophizes far too much in a film that defies its title. It doesn’t go anywhere. Just to rub salt in an already open wound, the Hollywood crowd (unbelievably) voted Crosby Best Actor as well! Gimme a break.