The announcement of the Oscar nominations each year always seems to bring some surprises and some snubs. This year, the multiple nominations for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" made the news, as did the fact that neither Kathryn Bigelow ("Zero Dark Thirty") nor Ben Affleck (“Argo") received nods for "best director."
While I don't always agree with the Academy's choices, I'm curious to see what films they select as the best films of the year and which films end up earning that coveted gold statuette.
This year, there are nine nominations for best picture, and while my money's on "Lincoln" taking the top prize, each of the films on the list have their supporters. I have to confess I'm really behind on my movie watching and haven't had a chance to watch any of the films up for best picture yet (I'm hoping to finally catch "Les Miserables" this weekend).
However, in honor of this year's nine nominations for best picture, I thought it might be fun to list my top nine all-time favorite films. I'd also love to know what films might make your personal "best picture" list! :)
9. "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (2003)
It's hard to believe it's been a decade since "Pirates of the Caribbean" first hit theaters. Based on an amusement park ride, the movie was an unlikely blockbuster that inspired a devoted fan following. The best part of the film is undeniably Johnny Depp's now iconic performance as the quirky pirate captain Jack Sparrow, although Geoffrey Rush also steals plenty of scenes as the scheming pirate Barbossa. It's a swashbuckling adventure that brings back the fun of classic pirate films from Hollywood's golden era.
8. "Pride & Prejudice" (2005)
Jane Austen fans have debated which is the best adaptation of the author's perhaps most beloved work, but my personal favorite is this version, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. This brisk, sunny adaptation is a gorgeously shot period piece and captures the quick wit of Jane Austen's dialogue. A subtly beautiful score adds to the mood, and the excellent supporting cast includes Donald Sutherland and Judi Dench.
7. "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (2005)
While "The Chronicles of Narnia" is sometimes overlooked as a "kid's version" of the "Lord of the Rings," I think that "Narnia" has a magic all of its own. It's a story about a mysterious wardrobe that serves as a portal to the fantasy world of Narnia, a land filled with Fauns, Centaurs and other mythical creatures. The film version captures the sense of wide-eyed wonder and imagination found in the original novel, and it's a fun adventure for those who read and loved C.S. Lewis' books as children.
6. "Iron Man" (2008)
Out of all the comeback stories in Hollywood, one of the most inspiring is Robert Downey Jr.'s. After a disheartening crash and burn involving drugs and run-ins with the law, he managed to pull his life back together and turned a lesser-known superhero into a film icon. As Tony Stark/Iron Man, Downey gave us a flawed character with snarky wit and a devil-may-care bluster, the sort of superhero we hadn't really seen on film before. And the climax of the film — where Stark surprisingly reveals his own secret identity — is my favorite superhero movie ending.
5. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)
Although Harrison Ford has had a successful Hollywood career playing a variety of roles, his two most beloved performances are arguably Han Solo in the "Star Wars" series and the archeologist Indiana Jones. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is a timeless, globe-trotting adventure tale that's pure fun from start to finish. Director Steven Spielberg has always been good about finding a way to appeal to the kid in all of us, and this film remains one of his best.
4. "Casino Royale" (2006)
From its gritty, noirish opening shot in black and white, to the ending where we get to hear Daniel Craig utter the famous line "Bond — James Bond," for the first time, "Casino Royale" is a nearly flawless film that is arguably one of the best spy films ever made. Daniel Craig brought us a Bond for the modern era: he was tough and aloof, with an icy stare that communicates "this is a man you don't want to mess with." And yet, Craig's Bond could also be vulnerable — when Eva Green's tragic Vesper Lynd broke Bond's heart, she also broke ours. "Casino Royale" is a smart, elegant and stylish spy film, and it made Craig my favorite Bond.
3. "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy (2001-2003)
While it is now one of Hollywood's best-loved blockbuster sagas, the "Lord of the Rings" was actually quite a gamble. The three films were shot at once, before film makers even knew if the first one would be successful, and director Peter Jackson wasn't yet well known in Hollywood. However, the three films turned out to be a huge hit with audiences and critics, and "The Return of the King" even took home an Oscar for "best picture." The trilogy is a rich, inspiring epic with a vast scope and gorgeous cinematography that shows off the beauty of Jackson's native New Zealand. The sets, acting and costumes all set a new standard for fantasy films.
2. "Star Trek" (2009)
J.J. Abrams' daring, fast-paced reboot is my favorite of the "Star Trek" films and is one of my favorite science fiction movies, period. Although Abrams takes quite a few risks by playing around with "Star Trek" canon, he gets the most important thing right: the characters. The actors are all believable as younger versions of the famous Enterprise crew members from the original television series. This origin story breathes new life into the franchise and sets up a bold vision for the future of "Star Trek." It's a tough act to follow, but I'm very much looking forward to the sequel, "Into Darkness."
1. "Star Wars" saga (1977-2005)
This selection probably doesn't come as much of a surprise. ;) Those who know me well know how much I love "Star Wars," and while "The Empire Strikes Back" is my favorite of the six films, I tend to view them as a whole. "Star Wars" will always be special to me for nostalgic reasons; it was the film that kick-started my love for science fiction and fantasy in general, and I remember being intrigued by all the different characters (Han Solo was my hero as a kid). ;) I'm nervous about Disney's new "Star Wars" film in 2015, but excited, too. I'm always game to return to that galaxy far, far away. ;)