Thursday, March 26, 2015

Best Picture of 1996

In sharp contrast to the last year of review, this one has gone from first review to verdict in under two weeks. I haven't managed that in a very long time. I can't guarantee this will last, but let's continue to ride the wave, shall we? Here now are my thoughts on these five fine films.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1996 are:
  • The English Patient
  • Fargo
  • Jerry Maguire
  • Secrets and Lies
  • Shine
Interestingly, four of these pictures are independent movies, produced outside of the studio system. That correlates well with the fact that many of them were helmed by writer/directors. I don't have official statistics at hand, but I suspect it's relatively unusual for 80% of the nominees to fit that category. Additionally, all five pictures feature some brilliant ensemble acting, so all in all, it's a tough bunch to separate.

I genuinely liked each of these films so there's no sense in naming a least favourite. But in order to make my way to a most favourite, I suppose I have to eliminate something first. That honour goes to Shine, but as I said, it's not because I didn't like it. I just didn't like it as much as I liked the others. I saw both The English Patient and Secrets and Lies when they were first released, and I don't think early-20s me appreciated them then as much as pushing-40 me did the second time around. Nonetheless, they too will be set aside for the purposes of this verdict.

Now that I've unpatriotically excluded the Australian and British films, I'm left with two American films, either of which could easily stand as my favourite. As I entered into this year of review, I fully expected that Jerry Maguire would win out, based on my prior fondness for the polished, inspirational and fun movie. And while that fondness has not diminished, the quirkiness of Fargo just tickled my fancy a tad more this time around, along with its fantastic cast and captivating story. Hence, Fargo officially becomes my favourite Best Picture nominee from 1996.
Best Picture of 1996
Academy's choice:

The English Patient

Matt's choice:


Your choice:

Chime in with your favourite in the poll above or the comments below. Next up, we again move to a year that has been chosen exclusively due to the convenience of a local screening. The TCM Classic Film Festival has just begun here in Los Angeles and there are numerous Best Picture nominees on offer. The current plan is to attend a screening of The Apartment this weekend at the world-famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre, with Shirley MacLaine in attendance, so 1960 will be our next year of review.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1960 are:
  • The Alamo
  • The Apartment
  • Elmer Gantry
  • Sons and Lovers
  • The Sundowners
Of course, this is all dependent on me getting in to the screening. Since I don't want to fork out the hundreds and hundreds of dollars for a festival pass, I'll be taking a chance on buying an individual ticket on the day of the screening. So don't be surprised if the next year of review ends up being something else entirely...


  1. See that. You spend time as a New Yawker and a Los Angelino and the British and Australian candidates sink to the bottom of the list. Just kidding. I996 was a tough year to rank.

    I personally didn't find it an overwhelmingly great year. My favorite film was Lone Star and it didn't make it. Talk about an independent film - John Sayles is one of the indie stalwarts. I wasn't enamored with Jerry Maguire, and probably am in the low minority that just didn't care for the "show me the money" scene. The English Patient was a finely crafted film that I had no desire to re-watch. Shine was very well done and introduced me to Geoffrey Rush who has had a distinguished career since.

    Fargo has always finished near or at the top of most lists of Coen Brothers films. I would put it around 5th. It had great acting and writing, but was a bit distasteful at times.

    Secrets and Lies was the most emotionally satisfying for me and has improved with age. It's my pick for best of 1996.