In honor of the Oscars this weekend, we decided to take a break from all of the horrible basketball we’ve been watching lately in the state of Alabama and focus on some entertainment for today’s Lunce’s List. Tim and I are very into movies and for the first time ever, I have seen all of the best picture nominees before the Oscars actually take place. I only saw four before hand last year. Probably the most I’ve ever seen before the awards actually happen is 2009 when they finally expanded from 5 to a max of 10 movies, and I had seen six.

This year’s crop is very good, but only three of the films made my top ten of the year for 2017. You can check out my full 2017 rankings here as I graded over 50 movies that I saw last year.

For what it’s worth, this is my ranking on the best picture nominees this year:

1. Call Me By Your Name
2. Dunkirk
3. Lady Bird
4. Get Out
5. Phantom Thread
6. Three Billboards
7. The Shape of Water
8. Darkest Hour
9. The Post

All of them get a thumbs up. The first four are in order and are the top tier, then 5-7 are all interchangeable depending on how I feel and middle tier, then Darkest Hour at 8, and The Post is definitely last of the nine films.

The movies I wish would have made an appearance on the Best Picture list: Blade Runner 2049, Baby Driver and Logan.

Here are my picks for all categories this year.

With all of that said, Tim asked me to go back in time and pick my favorite Best Picture winners from the Oscars. Here is the list along with some honorable mentions and some I still need to see.

1. Forrest Gump (1994)

Of my top ten movies of all-time, many were nominated for best picture, yet only one actually won the award – Forrest Gump. Granted, this movie being based in Alabama is a big reason why it’s high on my personal top ten and #1 on this list, but it was a solid movie. Here is my full top 10 for reference:

1. ET (nominated)
2. Children of Men (three nominations, but no best picture nomination)
3. The Green Mile (nominated)
4. Man on Fire (probably one of the only people who liked this movie, no nominations)
5. Wall-E (six nominations, including a best animated feature win, but no best picture nomination)
6. Saving Private Ryan (nominated)
7. Forrest Gump (won)
8. Call Me By Your Name (nominated, TBD)
9. District 9 (nominated)
10. Blade Runner 2049 (five nominations, but no best picture nomination)

I’m a huge Tom Hanks fan, and this is what really got me on the Hanks bandwagon. If you’ll notice, he’s been the lead actor in three of my favorite films: this, The Green Mile and Saving Private Ryan. I was only 7 when Forrest Gump came out, so I was still young enough that I hadn’t seen a ton of his work. I remember going to see A League of Their Own and enjoying it, but that was about it. He followed it up with Apollo 13 which was great, Saving Private Ryan and of course voicing Woody in Toy Story. Tom Hanks is arguably the greatest actor of all time, and was #2 on my list of greatest actors, only behind Leonardo DiCaprio (needless to say, I’m a fan of Catch Me If You Can).

I didn’t really know anything about Robin Wright when I saw this movie, but this movie made me a fan of hers as well, and she is one of the best actresses in the profession right now with what she has done in House of Cards.

The movie only has a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes, but that is insane. Forrest Gump was a character we hadn’t really seen before and I don’t know that we’ll ever see again. It was a complex, yet simple story. It also introduced me, at a young age, to many of the issues that America faced throughout Vietnam that I wasn’t really aware of as a kid in the 90’s. The way they were able to weave in real life events such as Vietnam along with Watergate, Ping Pong Diplomacy, the Black Panther Party and more was just amazing. This movie was done over 20 years ago, yet was able to weave a fictional character into these events seamlessly and better than movies even do now.

It was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning six of them, and deservedly so.

2. The Hurt Locker (2009)

This film won in a crazy year. It was the first time that 10 movies were nominated since cutting it down to five back in the 40’s. District 9 is actually my favorite movie from this year, but Avatar, The Blind Side, Up and Up in the Air are all great too. The Hurt Locker and District 9 were both in my top 10 of all time, but I removed The Hurt Locker to add Blade Runner 2049 this year. Even though it wasn’t my favorite, it seemed like this year was Avatar’s to lose, but Kathryn Bigelow took it to her ex-husband and won best director and best picture.

I hadn’t really seen anything that Bigelow had done before, but now I will always make sure to see whatever she does. Her last three films have been great – The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty and Detroit this past year. This was also my introduction to Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie before they joined the Avengers. I kind of knew Anthony Mackie from when he was in 8 Mile and We Are Marshall but this made both of them shoot up the charts.

This film was such an intense look at the war in Iraq and how it affects the soldiers that were fighting in it. With it following a bomb disposal unit, it gets so intense, because it sets the precedent early on that you don’t know if a bomb is going to explode or not when they go up to try and defuse it. The story with the young Iraqi boy that Jeremy Renner’s character befriends is heartbreaking and the whole overall story just opens your eyes to various aspects of the Middle East that you may never think about.

3. Spotlight (2015)

This is one of the few movies I’ve walked out of and immediately thought “that was a perfect film”. While it’s not at the top of my list, and doesn’t quite make my top 10 of all-time, Spotlight is a perfect film in every way. The Post tries to live up to what Spotlight did a few years ago, but doesn’t quite capture the same emotion that Spotlight did. I made the comment in our podcast review of The Post that I felt the emotion of the people involved in the child sex abuse scandal, but that I didn’t get the emotion of the Vietnam war in The Post. Don’t get me wrong, The Post is a timely movie that should be appreciated for what it does, but Spotlight portrays the newspaper business and the tough subjects it has to cover perfectly.

Mark Ruffalo should have won best supporting actor in 2015 for his portrayal of Michael Rezendes. The whole cast was great, but Ruffalo really stood out to me. Michael Keaton was great, Liev Schreiber was perfect as the editor of the Boston Globe, Marty Baron. Rachel McAdams was great. Everything about it was great.

4. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

This film is amazing for multiple reasons. First, for it having an outstanding cast and the Batman parallels with Michael Keaton. Second for great portrayal of the world of live theater. Then third, and most importantly to me, the cinematography.

First, the cast. This is perhaps the greatest acting I’ve ever seen in a movie. Keaton is amazing in the lead role and should have won best actor in 2014. Ed Norton and Emma Stone were both nominated and rightfully so in the supporting categories. Amy Ryan and Naomi Watts were great. Andrea Riseborough, who I really got to like in Oblivion and just starred in a Black Mirror episode, was also great. The unsung hero is Zach Galifianakis, who is actually a really good drama actor as well, and really made that known for the first time in this movie.

The portrayal of theater and everything that goes along with it – sound, stage design, live performance, theater critics and more – was phenomenal. The entirety of the movie takes place inside and around the theater that a production is being put on, and some of the strongest work is when Keaton is arguing with a theater critic. The dynamic between actors and critics is something I was able to witness first hand as my mom worked as a critic for a short time and how angry actors get when you say anything that isn’t high praise about them. It’s a crazy dynamic that is explored well between Keaton and the critic.

Finally, the way it was shot was amazing. The whole film essentially acts like it is one single shot. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki won his second of three Oscars in a row for Birdman (also won for Gravity and The Revenant). I love Lubezki because he did one of the best shot films I’ve ever seen in Children of Men, which is one of my top films of all time. He also has collaborated with Terrence Malick on a lot of projects, and cinematography is what makes Malick films in my opinion, including The Tree of Life, which I also enjoyed.

5. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

I’m glad this movie won in 2003 because the first two were both nominated but lost. I think the Lord of the Rings trilogy is not only one of the most epic book trilogies, but the most epic movie trilogy of all time. I’ll take it over any of the Star Wars trilogies by themselves (even though we aren’t done yet with the sequel trilogy), and over any superhero set of films. The Matrix is close, I didn’t hate 2 and 3 like many people did, but still not as good as Lord of the Rings.

The movies are all really long, but Peter Jackson did a good job of making them all work despite how long the story is, and in today’s day and age, the trilogy would probably be split into like 8 movies, kind of how they turned the The Hobbit from one book into three films. The cast was great, and introduced us to some names we didn’t really know before and boosted names we did know to be even bigger names.

If you haven’t seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you’re doing yourself a disservice. I can honestly take or leave The Hobbit, and I wish they would make films based on some of the lore from The Silmarillion. The strange thing is, it’s really the only thing Peter Jackson has done that I’ve liked. I’ll be interested to see what Mortal Engines is like as it already looks super bizarre, but I just couldn’t get into his version of King Kong, didn’t care much for The Hobbit films and I haven’t seen many of the things he did before Lord of the Rings.

Honorable Mentions

La La LandMoonlight (2016)
The Departed (2006)
Gladiator (2000)
Titanic (1997)
Rain Man (1988)
The Sound of Music (1965)
Ben-Hur (1959)

Ones I really want to see, but haven’t

West Side Story (1961) – I know the story well, can even sing some of the songs word for word, but have never actually seen it.

Midnight Cowboy (1969) – The only X-rated movie to win Best Picture, but considered one of the greatest movies of all time, preserved by the Library of Congress. Plus a young Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in a movie that helped make their career.

The Godfather Part I and II (1972, 1974) – I know, I know, these are considered some of the greatest films of all-time, and I’m all about the mafia as The Soporanos is one of the greatest shows ever to me, but I just haven’t seen them yet. I almost sat down and watched the full cut they did of all three movies in one, but decided I should watch them separate, just never have.

Schindler’s List (1993) – Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s on the list right after The Godfather.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) – Haven’t seen it, doesn’t matter, Saving Private Ryan should have won. It was one of the greatest films we’ll ever see, so I guess I should see what was so great about the film that beat it.

Chicago (2002) – Seen the play multiple times, but not a huge fan. I like actors in it well enough, but just haven’t cared to watch it.

Crash (2005) – I’ve heard good things.

The King’s Speech (2010) – I was really looking forward to watching this movie, but just never had the opportunity to go see it in theaters when it was out. There were a lot of good movies that year, but I do intend on watching this some day.