It’s officially Oscar week, and the many hopefuls looking to take home a golden statue are getting prepped for the 89th Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday (26th February), live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. To celebrate the starry and sparkly occasion, we tasked the Filmoria team with selecting their most favourite Oscar-winning film.
As long as their pick has attained an Academy Award in any single category, it qualifies, so there are simply tons of titles to choose from. We also devised our very own alternative version of the Oscars, entitled The Isaacs (because, you know, Oscar Isaac…) which you can read here. Our winners are loads better than the ones the Academy will select this weekend; trust.
But without further ado, let’s crack on with the list. We’ll see you all in your finest threads upon the red carpet!
Sarah Buddery – Jaws (1975)
Oscar Wins: Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Editing
As my all-time favourite film, I will pretty much use any excuse to talk about Jaws when the opportunity presents itself. Whilst it was disgracefully snubbed in the Best Director category for Steven Spielberg, and picked up a nomination for Best Picture but lost on the night to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, it managed to take home awards for its iconic score from John Williams, plus further technical awards in the Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing categories.
Whilst I’m of the very biased opinion that Jaws should’ve taken home every single Academy Award that year, including the ones it wasn’t nominated for or eligible for, it’s success and longevity stretches far beyond the Academy Awards it did and didn’t receive. Many will attribute Jaws as the first “summer blockbuster”, now a cinema sweet-spot for the biggest and most bombastic blockbuster movie releases. It was a film that proved genuine terror could be created by the things unseen, perhaps even more so than the things seen; a serendipitous side effect of the slightly unreliable mechanical shark! It’s a simple enough story of man versus beast, but the stand-out performances from the three leads, the technical precision of the editing and sound, the unforgettable score, and the accomplished direction of the then very young Steven Spielberg help to elevate it to masterpiece status.
Martin White – Schindler’s List (1993)
Oscar Wins: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Editing
When instantly thinking of an Oscar-winning film that completely took my breath away, there’s no question that I have to go for one that physically and emotionally destroys me and shatters my heart into a billion pieces. It has to be Schindler’s List -a film inspired by true events, showing the devastating effects and causes that one such event has caused. In this case, the devastating horrors of the second world war holocaust bought to vivid life by Steven Spielberg in his most personal film.
Set in Nazi Occupied Poland, the film stars Liam Neeson in his best performance that’s never been equalled in my personal opinion as Oskar Schindler; a greedy German businessman and entrepreneur who feels compelled to turn his factory into a refuge for Jews after seeing how badly persecuted they were by his German comrades. Schindler manages to save the lives of 1,100 hundred Jews in the end, a sure fine example that in a world full of pure evil, good wills always triumph. Saving Private Ryan may be another World War II film from Spielberg to garner a truckload of awards, but Schindler’s List is the finer of the two as it strikes so much more tragically closer to home.
Scott Allden – Fargo (1996)
Oscar Wins: Best Leading Actress, Best Original Screenplay
Joel and Ethan Coen’s influential black comedy thriller Fargo, one that has long been one of my personal favourites, is also my favourite Oscar winning film of all time, receiving two at the 1997 ceremony. It’s a modern American classic – beautifully bridging an idiosyncratic dark humour, with a troubling and desperate tale of greed, lies and deception.
What always captivates me is how the film is presented. This bleak, cold, distant and almost isolated backdrop in the upper reaches of North America. Filled with a spectrum characters, connected through a chain of events that spiral beyond control. Its strongest suit, aside from its superb photography and direction, is the manner in how Fargo‘s players connect and weave into their ultimate place. An attribute to the stellar script penned by the Coen brothers. The majority of the characters are flawed, disturbed or just downright wrong. With their befitting fates met with embarrassment or shame, but not without being humbled.
Without delving into plot detail. It is as stated before a tale of greed, demonstrated through one man’s desire to further himself financially by potential risking the love and safety of those close to him. And is essentially a walking time bomb when things go awry. However what is magnificent about this simple central plot, is how oddly hilarious it is too. The Coen directing duo tether the more shocking or tenser sequences of the film with bumbling hilarity, unusual physical violence and exquisite comedic timing. And the fact that they are few and far between, makes these moments all the more potent and memorable. There’s no other film like Fargo, and by right there should never be. Truly unique and in touching distance of near-perfection – it’s a film that could be widely considered one of the greatest films to have not clinched the Best Picture accolade at the Academy awards.
Ria Amber Tesia – My Fair Lady (1964)
Oscar Wins: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score
One of my favourite films which also happens to be a multi Oscar-winner (a whopping eight Academy Awards in total) is My Fair Lady. The 1964 musical set in Edwardian London sees Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) bet a friend that he can teach Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) to speak proper. Eliza’s journey, from wide-eyed provincial flower-seller, to elegant lady in waiting, is heart-warming and beautiful. There are many things I love about this film. From the sublime Audrey Hepburn to sumptuous costumes galore courtesy of the great Sir Cecil Beaton, this film is a sheer pleasure to watch. Yes, Hepburn’s Cockney accent is, admittedly “inspired”, but her performance otherwise is near faultless. I will never fully understand Hepburn’s attraction to Rex Harrison (hey, different folks, different strokes, I’m not judging). Perhaps it’s the authoritative figure in charge, that Hepburn digs…
There are many highlights, including a melodious soundtrack which still puts a smile on my face and makes me want to skip around my lounge. ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ continues being one of my favourite tunes of all time, whilst ‘Wouldn’t It Be Loverly’ is another earworm that’ll take days to leave your brain. Harry Stradling’s top notch cinematography gives the film a lovely warm ambience too – what’s not to love? This film is a Sunday afternoon favourite, or if you’re having a duvet day, or just… whenever you want to relax and enjoy an excellent piece of cinematic genius. Because watching Hepburn’s Eliza makes the world a better place.
Chris Haydon – Annie Hall (1977)
Oscar Wins: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actress, Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen is one of the greatest and most prolific artists to ever work in cinema. He’s also amongst the finest writers to grace the medium, and to this day, there have been few screenplays quite so meticulously observed than his Annie Hall. Whilst personally speaking, Manhattan (1979) is one’s favourite film from the Brooklyn auteur, that film was only nominated for Academy Awards as opposed to winning them. His 1977 masterpiece however, took home four, including Best Picture, and that all important Screenplay gong.
Annie Hall‘s longevity – and ultimately brilliance – lies in Allen’s candid and disarmingly human approach to connection. At its essence, the film is essentially a romantic comedy, but the coy choice to retell narrative in slapdash memory gives our protagonist Alvy Singer (Allen) the opportunity to convolute proceedings. We see, learn, and adapt to his way of thinking; our story scripted around a rude, selfish, destructive, and intolerant comedian, who cannot fathom why his relationship with the titular Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) broke down one year ago. The interplay dialogue between the two leads – who were very much in a real relationship during production – is as fragrant and honest as the singular characterisation. The cinematography atop New York’s urban metropolis ensures location is an equal to those within it, and the many subtle references to Allen’s beloved Ingmar Bergman, from slight editing choices, to the absence of background music throughout, gives the film an unprecedented texture.
Funnily enough, Allen – ever the pessimist – actually thinks Annie Hall is one of his weaker films. He feels as though the fixation on his swirling relationship with Keaton is the only thing audiences were interested in, and now that chapter of his life is firmly shut, the film no longer has validity. Considering it is universally renowned for being everyone’s favourite film of his, one thinks he might have the wrong end of the stick…