Movies with Michael: Best Picture Winners
Our January movie resolution is coming to an end. With Oscars just around the corner, I thought it was time to turn to Academy Awards past for some of best Best Picture winners you may not have seen, but really should.
What better place to start, then the very beginning. I want to highlight the first Best Picture winner –William Wellman’s Wings from 1927. A love triangle between “It” girl Clara Bow, Charles Rogers, and Richard Arlen plays out with the exploits of War War I fighter aces as the backdrop. One of the easiest introductions to silent film you could have. A true Hollywood blockbuster filled with thrilling practical dog fights and scale that impresses even today. You’ll be shocked at how wildly entertaining it still is. Wings was considered a lost film for decades, but fortunately, you can now stream it for free on Tubi or pick up the Blu-ray.
A Man for All Seasons
Jumping forward four decades, we have Fred Zinnemann’s A Man for All Seasons. This is a dramatization Sir Thomas More’s attempt to navigate Henry VIII’s divorce. Now I know what you’re thinking, “This sounds like one of those boring stuffy costume dramas that you think of when you think of a boring Oscar movie,” but that couldn’t be farther from the truth though and its all thanks to the writing and Paul Scofield’s performance. I describe it as an action movie of words. You can’t help but hang on every word out of Scofield’s mouth because you know what the consequences of those words can be. The wordplay is thrilling. A Man for All Seasons can be rented on most digital services and its also available on Blu-ray.
The musical biopic has become all the rage with Oscar votes the last couple of decades, but I don’t think anything tops Miloš Forman’s Amadeus from 1984. Its called Amadeus, but this is really the story of two men- composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his resentful contemporary Antonio Salieri. Its F. Murray Abraham’s portrayal of the latter that catapults this one for me. On certain days if you ask me, “Hey Michael, what’s your favorite performance of all time?” I’d say its Abraham as Salieri; a yearning, pathetic, and desperate man who is very talented, but so long as Mozart is around, he’ll never be the most talented man in the room. On top of that, you have lavish production design, a fascinating delve into creation, and, of course, the music of Mozart. Amadeus is available to rent on most digital services and, as usual, its also available on Blu-ray. I’m really holding out hope for a UHD of this one, though.
Lawrence of Arabia
Up next is arguably the greatest film epic of all time —Lawrence of Arabia. A decade ago, I would have never considered putting this movie an a on list of Best Picture winners that people may not have seen, but then I asked everyone in the newsroom who had seen it and only one person said they had. So, on the list it goes. The story T.E. Lawrence made a star out of Peter O’Toole and for good reason. Its not just one of the greatest screen introductions of all time, but just one the greatest film performances. The scope of his performance matches the epic scope of the British influenced conflict between the Arabs and the Turks. We will likely never see a movie of this ambition again, so you owe to yourself to watch it in the nicest quality possible. You can stream it on the Criterion channel or rent in on most digital services, but this is really one you’ll to see in 4K on Ultra High-Definition Disc.