Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Is 1929’s The Broadway Melody, as its reputation has it, the very worst film to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture? Does it actually matter? The film is a great big piece of poo, and whether or not it is slightly smellier or wetter than other pieces of poo, it will empty out […]

Whether you consider it a strength, or the movie’s most damning flaw, I think this much cannot be denied: The Godfather, Part II knows the scale of the movie it’s following, and it is hellbent on topping it. 1972’s The Godfather, adapted from Mario Puzo’s 1969 crime novel, was never supposed to be one of […]

You have perhaps heard of The Godfather. It is a three-hour movie about the Mafia, released in 1972 by a studio that had been losing money at a steady clip, directed by an up-and-coming filmmaker whose last film had been a major flop (he was hired, in large part because the desperate studio knew that […]

I do not like to start reviews with the most obvious possible statement that hundreds of people before me have already pointed out, but sometimes it doesn’t pay to be clever. And so: the 2000 ancient world epic Gladiator is quite clearly what you get when 1995’s Braveheart and 1998’s Saving Private Ryan have a […]

No reviewer of the 1958 MGM musical Gigi will ever come up with a better lede paragraph than the one Bosley Crowther wrote for his review in The New York Times, in which he affects modest shock at the astonishing list of coincidences between the film and a recent Broadway, before drily ending with the […]

We arrive now at the only time that the Oscar for Best Picture been awarded to a single piece of music. For if there’s any other explanation for how Chariots of Fire took the top prize at the Academy Awards for 1981, I’m god-damned if I know what it might be. Nomination leader and Best […]

In 1936, when the film was new, MGM sold The Great Ziegfeld as the longest talkie ever made, and at 176 minutes (185 in the roadshow version), I certainly can’t dispute that. This of course makes the film my nemesis. Further cementing that antagonism: this was the first biopic to win the Best Picture Oscar,* […]

One would be hard-pressed to overstate the importance of director-producer-writer-star Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film of Hamlet in the history of screen adaptations of William Shakespeare’s plays. It’s not necessarily a question of direct influence: despite the film’s commercial success and sizable haul of awards (both the Golden Lion and the Best Picture Oscar, a combination […]

No film has ever deserved its reputation less than How Green Was My Valley, an adaptation by Philip Dunne of Richard Llewellyn’s 1939 novel that carefully balances gooey nostalgic sentiment and troubling clarity, is one of the most beautifully-shot films of the 1940s, and represents one of the highest achievements of John Ford’s career-long fascination […]

Ask me to make a snap judgment, and I think I might very well say that 1983 is the worst single year in the history of American cinema. I’d also say that the 1983 Academy Awards, notwithstanding the gratifying overperformance of Ingmar Bergman’s monumental Fanny and Alexander (four wins on six nominations, for a subtitled […]

There’s a stock complaint about the Academy Awards that goes something to the effect of: “they don’t give Oscars for the Best Picture [Editing, Costume Design, etc.], they give Oscars for the Most Picture.” That’s usually at least a little bit true, but it becomes especially, spectacularly, in-your-face true in the case of 1956’s Around […]

On the one hand, Midnight Cowboy is exactly the kind of film that I wish they would try more often, and that they’d meet with this kind of success whenever they tried it. Here we have a film with unabashedly experimental editing, polished and tidied a bit for mainstream consumption of course; we also have […]