5. Gladiator (2000)
The only thing ‘epic’ about this venture is the vastness of its preposterousness. Russell Crowe grins and gurns his way through an array of bad accents and lurid emotional churning. Both less exciting than Ben Hur and less impressive than Spartacus, Crowe is somewhat out of his depth and even his commendable, natural Aussie surliness cannot mask his ultimately floppy centre. Joaquin Phoenix is impossibly wrong as the sister-hungry Commodus (a name which conjures images of Imperial incontinence), not to mention the strange digitally enhanced performance of the expired Oliver Reed. This is an oddly sinister film in which the hero is a barbarian invader, his mentor a slave trader and the arch-villain an incestuous psychopath. So, sure, what’s not to like? It looks great and Ridley Scott builds worlds like other people cook sausages, but even the stunning and innovative CGI-fired set design isn’t enough to save the chewy, anti-climactic script.
Cringe with me:
4. West Side Story (1961)
Gang violence never had it so good. I’m sorry, I know this film is a lot of fun and one sequence in particular – the scene around the song ‘America’ – is stunningly iconic, but, it cannot possibly have been the best film of 1961. In fact, I can assure you it wasn’t. West Side Story was up against Robert Rossen’s The Hustler. It is a travesty that this soft pedalled, misleading flash and dazzle twirl-fest was allowed anywhere near the same category as the classic movie depicting the compelling self-destruction of Paul Newman’s ‘Fast’ Eddie. So why does Hollywood do this to us? Why does it punish us for believing in a meritocracy? Not only is West Side Story a second-rate film, it is a botched one. Robert Wise was only brought in to direct once Jerome Robbins (who directed the Broadway incarnation of the tale) was fired for his over-meticulous preparations. His scenes remain far more energetic than those forged by Wise, a filmmaker way outside his comfort zone.
Ah, but here’s that great scene anyway!:
3. Chicago (2002)
Another musical – a genre that should be banned from the Oscars along with racist snuff movies and sex trade animation – and an even less inspiring one. Overblown and arriving on the scene with heat-guided glitterbombs and noxious wig glue, this is one winner that even the infamously shameless Academy now seems to be a little embarrassed about. Admittedly, the film is well-executed and some stand-out performances (notably that of the blinking mesamorph Richard Gere!) make it a passable entertainment – but the very best film produced in the year 2002? A Beautiful Mind, Training Day, Monster’s Ball are over-burdened with the kind of credibility that Chicago would collapse under. A joke only goes so far and no-one’s laughing now. If an alien race had invaded Earth on the day that Chicago won Best Picture then annihilation would have been a sweet release from global human shame.
Catherine Zeta Jones is, at least, good in it:
2. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
It takes a cruel man to deny Jessica Tandy a little glory, but I am afraid that cruel man has to be me. In fact, it is hard to have any intense feeling about a film so gentle and so harmless as this. It feels a little sour to gripe about the success of such a quaint old picture – something akin to the inappropriateness of not giving up your seat on the bus to a pensioner. This inoffensive political dandelion is too cosy to be the best of anything. However, my completely flawed alternative winner would have been the mawkishly inspiring Field of Dreams. Equally as harmless, Costner’s generational extravaganza is at least exciting and one of the few films that deals with father / son relationships in an inventive way. If you were going for a more earnest choice, both Born on the Fourth of July and My Left Foot were credible, challenging entries. Driving Miss Daisy is an afternoon nap of a movie.
A funny, alternative version of the film:
1. The English Patient (1996)
It’s just so damn boring – the kind of self-important twaddle that periodically performs the ritual of self-burial on behalf of the British film industry. Watching this film was without doubt one of the worst experiences of my life – a life I already regret but now one that is forever tainted by recurring memories of tedious Saharan nose-picking. The film is so earnest and so persistent in pushing its horridness that I left the cinema with sand in my eyes and a scorched heart. The film, aptly, suffers from a particularly English illness for which it should be operated on in an MSRA infested English hospital and the procedure botched by an overworked, underpaid English doctor.
A great spoof from Adam and Joe:
Mr P Cabrelli