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By Paul Sullivan | April 4, 2001

So Gladiator, a second rate summer movie with CGI tigers, poorly shot battle scenes and Joaquin Phoenix giving the most awkward supporting performance since Jar Jar Binks, is declared the Best Picture of the year. Of course Traffic is declared the best written, best directed and best edited film…but clearly lagged behind Gladiator in the elusive “Big Picture” department. ^ A travesty? Sure. But IS it the worst Best Picture winner ever? As one of the few people who actually has seen all the best picture winners… I’ll see how it stacks up
GLADIATOR VS… ^ Wings. Like Gladiator, designed to be state of the art popcorn fare. Unlike Gladiator does what it sets out to do. Technically spectacular. ^ WINGS WINS
The Broadway Melody. Aged horribly. Musical extravaganza that plays like the movie within the movie in Singin’ in the Rain. Tough to sit through.^ GLADIATOR WINS
All Quiet on the Western Front. Still powerful, still moving. Aged beautifully. A truly great antiwar film. ^ ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT WINS
Cimarron. Very dated western epic that is surprisingly politically correct for 1931 with positive portrayals of Jews, blacks and native Americans. Spectacular land rush sequence. ^ CIMARRON WINS
Grand Hotel. The original cast of thousands epic with a now eerie look at pre-WWII Berlin. Great Garbo. GRAND HOTEL WINS
Cavalcade. Very long and boring “spanning the generations” story. I’m sure it was impressive then. Came out the same year as the unnominated King Kong and Duck Soup. ^ GLADIATOR WINS
It Happened One Night. One of the few out and out comedies to win best picture. Not as sharp now, but Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert are still great and Gable’s introduction is hillarious. Great Capra. ^ IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT WINS
Mutiny on the Bounty. Clark Gable is a very stiff Fletcher Christian but Charles Laughton is an AWESOME Captain Bligh and the production values are amazing. ^ MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY WINS
The Great Ziegfeld. Big, silly and loud…but it’s main goal was to be eye candy entertainment and great dance numbers, which it has in spades. THE GREAT ZIEGFELD WINS
The Life of Emile Zola. A biopic that is pretty much fiction. Paul Muni’s performance didn’t age well and the courtroom stuff drags on. But the Devil’s Island sequences remain powerful. ^ THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA WINS
You Can’t Take It With You. Far from Capra’s best, but it’s worth seeing to see his first collaboration with James Stewart. His dinner scene with Jean Arthur is more entertaining than any frame in Gladiator. ^ YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU WINS
Gone With The Wind. Is it dated? Sure. Is it a spectacular epic that set the epic standard? Yup. Is Gladiator? Nope. Therefore…^ GONE WITH THE WIND WINS
Rebecca. More of a Selznick production than a Hitchcock film. The creepy atmosphere and Judith Anderson make it worth seeing. ^ REBECCA WINS
How Green Was My Valley. The film has a bad rep for beating Citizen Kane for Best Picture. It is still a fine movie with a great young Roddy McDowell. ^ HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY WINS
Mrs Miniver. A great Greer Garson performance in a film about the German Blitz of London produced during WWII. ^ MRS MINIVER WINS
Casablanca. Now that I think of it Gladiator wasn’t so bad…Yeah, it deserves to be on the same list as Casablanca….HOLY S**T! ^ CASABLANCA WINS
Going My Way. Again, it’s dated. But Bing is great and it succeeds as entertainment. Besides, I am Irish Catholic. I think criticizing Going My Way constitutes a mortal sin. ^ GOING MY WAY WINS
The Lost Weekend. VERRRRRY dated, but was daring in 1945 to portray alcoholism and Ray Milland put his back into it. ^ THE LOST WEEKEND WINS
The Best Years of our Lives. A great movie, though not as great as It’s A Wonderful Life. Daring in saying that all wasn’t happily ever after when WWII ended. ^ THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES WINS
Gentleman’s Agreement. A well meaning, at the time daring, now pretty tame look at anti semitism. Solid Gregory Peck and Celeste Holm. ^ GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT WINS
Hamlet. Olivier as Hamlet. Great moody black and white photography. Yeah…I think that’s better than Gladiator. ^ HAMLET WINS
All the King’s Men. One of the most underappreciated Best Picture winners. A classic with a great Broderick Crawford starring role. ^ ALL THE KING’S MEN WINS
All About Eve. Great dialogue and sharp performances and motivated action. That’s 3 things All About Eve has that Gladiator doesn’t. Also a young Marylin Monroe. ^ ALL ABOUT EVE WINS
An American in Paris. A silly story and a cop out ending shouldn’t blot out the Gene Kelly at the top of his game, Gershwin music and a great extended dreamsequence ending. No Singin’ in the Rain, but not shabby either. ^ AN AMERICAN IN PARIS WINS
The Greatest Show On Earth. Cecil B DeMille directed Charlton Heston in a movie about the circus. Probably the lowest point in the history of the Best Picture Oscar. ^ GLADIATOR WINS
From Here To Eternity. Dramatic and sexy for its time, it still has a great Burt Lancaster, Donna Reed and Sinatra showing when he cared he was really a great actor. ^ FROM HERE TO ETERNITY WINS
On the Waterfront. Sure, everyone behind the camera was a snitch and the film seemed to celebrate snitching…but MAN what a movie! ^ ON THE WATERFRONT WINS
Marty. Probably the lowest key Best Picture ever. Great Ernest Borgnine and a wonderful Paddy Chayevsky script. ^ MARTY WINS
Around the World in 80 Days. A long trip that has stops to have lots of celebrity cameos? Is this the Best Picture or The Cannonball Run? ^ GLADIATOR WINS
The Bridge on the River Kwai. One of the best movies about war ever made and the on screen duel of minds between Alec Guiness and Sessue Hayakawa gets better with multiple viewings. Oh yeah…it has a pretty good finale too. ^ THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI WINS
Gigi. Sure, a big dated musical…but along with Herb Alpert, Maurice Chevalier is one of my guilty pleasures. And the movie opens with “Thank Heaven For Little Girls…” easily the creepiest opening to a bright musical ever. Worth seeing for that. ^ GIGI WINS
Ben Hur. Big sweeping Roman epic that makes Gladiator look like a student film. Oh you have CGI tigers? Watch the f*****g Chariot race and suck on that, Ridley! ^ BEN-HUR WINS
The Apartment. Daring for its time in terms of sexual frankness, it’s dated….but it makes Fred MacMurray look h***y, which is worthy of Oscar. ^ THE APARTMENT WINS
West Side Story. The second greatest musical in film history…after Duck Soup. (Apologies to Newsies.) Plus it was filmed on the block which now has my apartment. ^ WEST SIDE STORY WINS
Lawrence of Arabia. A sweeping action packed epic with well defined characters and a sense of mystery…the film which all historical epics should be judged against. Not even close. ^ LAWRENCE OF ARABIA WINS
Tom Jones. Big, silly, and very very funny…Tom Jones actually tries be described like that. For Gladiator, it was unintentional. ^ TOM JONES WINS
My Fair Lady. It should have been Julie Andrews, not a dubbed over Audrey Hepburn, and musicals are NOT my genre, but this accomplishes what it sets out to do and Rex Harrison is in good form, ^ MY FAIR LADY WINS
The Sound of Music. Sure it’s corn…but haven’t you seen it like 400 times? Don’t you know the words for “Do Re Mi”? Shouldn’t that count for SOMETHING? The opening shot is amazing. ^ THE SOUND OF MUSIC WINS
A Man For All Seasons. Very powerful and brilliant movie with a mesmerizing Paul Scofield in the lead. A historical film that remains topical. A classic. ^ A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS WINS
In the Heat of the Night. A great thriller with great performances by Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. The Graduate should have won, but this is a terrific film on its own.^ IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT WINS
Oliver! Hard to sit through despite great production values. I didn’t like it as a kid and I don’t like it now. 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Producers weren’t even nominated. ^ GLADIATOR WINS
Midnight Cowboy. Ahead of its time in 1969, still powerful in 2001. Is there a better one-two acting punch in a movie than Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight? ^ MIDNIGHT COWBOY WINS
Patton. Embraced by the left and the right, George C Scott’s opening monologue was worth the Oscar by itself. ^ PATTON WINS
The French Connection. The original tough, loner, plays by his own rules cop movie. Filled with cliches, but like Gone With The Wind, the cliches all come from ripping off this movie. Brilliant Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider. ^ THE FRENCH CONNECTION WINS
The Godfather. I’ve given this some thought and I am going out on a limb here… I think The Godfather is actually a better movie than Gladiator. ^ THE GODFATHER WINS
The Sting. Great Newman and Redford and an air tight script with great comedy. Actually gets better with multiple viewings. Hard to believe that big budgeted studio productions once had such good screenplays. ^ THE STING WINS
The Godfather Part 2. Mindboggling that Coppola actually pulled off a sequel that is not only worthy of the original, but actually improves your enjoyment of the first one. Worth seeing for Fredo yelling “I’m SMAAAAT!” ^ THE GODFATHER PART 2 WINS
One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. This is my all time favorite movie. It is such an amazing emotional experience watching it, that I get goose bumps every 3 or 4 minutes. ^ ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST WINS
Rocky. Sure the franchise became silly and it had no business beating All The President’s Men, Network and Taxi Driver for Best Picture…but watch it again. It’s a terrific movie and Stallone is really really great in it. ^ ROCKY WINS
Annie Hall. Woody makes the turn from funny filmmaker to great filmmaker. One of the great comedies of all time…it’s nice to remember pre-creepy Woody Allen. ^ ANNIE HALL WINS
The Deer Hunter. Not as good as say Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now but a great cast and was the first major film to address Vietnam. ^ THE DEER HUNTER WINS
Kramer vs Kramer. One of many great films of 1979, Dustin Hoffman acts with no make up nor accents nor autistic caraciture and is overwhelming. Justin Henry as the kid holds his own with Hoffman. ^ KRAMER VS KRAMER WINS
Ordinary People. A very good movie that unfortunately for its legacy came out the same year as Raging Bull. Still a well acted and effective drama that does the impossible: It makes you hate Mary Tyler Moore. ^ ORDINARY PEOPLE WINS
Chariots of Fire. A great low key movie that deals sincerely with lots of grandiose themes. Well acted and with that great score. Great performance by Ian Holm who truthfully should be in every movie. ^ CHARIOTS OF FIRE WINS
Gandhi. Long, dull and by the numbers biopic. Lots of titles popping on the screen that read “3 Years Later.” But at the core is Ben Kingsley’s perfect performance and a few truly powerful moments. Tootsie or ET should have won. ^ GANDHI WIN
Terms of Endearment. Very manipulative from the James L Brooks school…but Shirley and Debra are great and Jack is allowed to be funny before he became a caricature. ^ TERMS OF ENDEARMENT WINS
Amadeus. One of the great films of all time…combines costume epic with comedy, tragedy and characterizations that you can relate to. ^ AMADEUS WINS
Out of Africa. A monumental snoozefest with a miscast Redford and an ending that never arrives. I haven’t seen it in a while…probably won’t. ^ GLADIATOR WINS
Platoon. Sure, it isn’t the best Vietnam movie and its heavy handedness is annoying, but technically flawless and shot and edited in a powerful manner. ^ PLATOON WINS
The Last Emperor. An intimate character movie disguised as a costume epic. Strange, quirky and with staggering visuals, it’s the most unusual epic the Oscars has ever honored. ^ THE LAST EMPEROR WINS
Rain Man. Is it hard to watch now? Yup. Is it manipluative? Yup. Did I like it the first time I saw it? Yup. Can I say that about Gladiator? Nope. ^ RAIN MAN WINS
Driving Miss Daisy. No it didn’t have Do The Right Thing’s wallop. Nor Crimes and Misdemeanor’s power nor Henry V’s scope. It’s easy to pick on it, but at the core are two great performances by Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman. ^ DRIVING MISS DAISY WINS
Dances with Wolves. The fact that this very simple PC Western beat out GoodFellas makes it a Gladiator-esque travesty. But the scenes with Graham Greene had a sincerity and reality that Crowe in his tunic never saw. Believe it or not…^ DANCES WITH WOLVES WINS
The Silence of the Lambs. An overrated thriller with tragically little screen time for Anthony Hopkins. But the scenes between Hopkins and Jodie Foster were terrific, if only too brief. ^ THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS WINS
Unforgiven. A great movie with an air tight script and an amazing group of veteran lead actors. Beautifully shot with every scene involving Gene Hackman goosebump worthy. ^ UNFORGIVEN WINS
Schindler’s List. Not a flawless film but a powerful film with great acting and astonishing restraint from Spielberg. He earned this Oscar. ^ SCHINDLER’S LIST WINS
Forrest Gump. A big sloppy mess of a manipulative mean spirited movie. Basically tells you that if you don’t take responsibility for your actions and float like a feather, then you’ll become rich, famous, meet all the Presidents, become a hero and pork your sweetheart. If you try to do anything, you’ll get killed in ‘Nam, have your legs blown off or get AIDS. A rotten movie that aged like milk. ^ GLADIATOR WINS
Braveheart. This is what Gladiator THOUGHT it was being. Sure it is cornball and kind of simplistic. Sure the Christ imagery was lame and so was the flamboyantly gay prince…but the action scenes were fast, furious and unlike Gladiator…COMPREHENSIBLE!!! ^ BRAVEHEART WINS
The English Patient. Ooof. This is the Best Picture winner that it seems like everybody hates. Has the strange morality that it is OK to sell secrets to Nazis along as you give your mistress a decent burial. It’s nice to have at least ONE likable character in your epic film.^ GLADIATOR WINS
Titanic. Tacky, corny, overblown and poorly rendered on the computer. But enough about Billy Zane. The first hour is laughable, but the sinking has moments of real suspense. The Celine song made me wretch, but Victor Garber brief performance gave it some class. It should be a tie, but Kate Winslet is sexy therefore…^ TITANTIC WINS
Shakespeare in Love. A sweet and oftent times funny romantic comedy in a good year for comedy (Life is Beautiful, The Big Lebowski, Rushmore.) Not a Best Picture caliber nor up to the technical standards of say Saving Private Ryan, it is still a sweet and clever movie in which Ben Affleck is actually properly used. ^ SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE WINS
American Beauty. A ludicrous ending, complete with a Three’s Company “I think my boy is blowing the neighbor” misunderstanding, spoils the overall punch of the film. But Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening and the kids all give great performances and cinematographer Conrad L Hall is on top of his game. ^ AMERICAN BEAUTY WINS
So let it be noted. Is it the worst? Nope ^ The Broadway Melody ^ Cavalcade ^ The Greatest Show on Earth ^ Around the World in 80 Days ^ Oliver! ^ Out of Africa ^ Forrest Gump ^ and The English Patient rank below it.
But man…let’s hope for better in 2001. Like maybe Monkey Bone
– Paul Sullivan is a producer for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and a New York based stand up comedian
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