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pitt-benbutton.jpgThis year’s Best Picture Oscar is a competitive field. The media likes to paint it as a two-person or two-film race in many categories, but it may be one of those years in which many films have a chance.
Some years this happens because of an over-abundance of great films. 1939 was the probably the most amazing example, when the Best Picture list included “Gone With the Wind,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Wuthering Heights”, “Stagecoach,” and “Goodbye Mr. Chips.”
Other years the movies may not be historically outstanding but they’re in league with each other (such as 2002 with “A Beautiful Mind,” “Gosford Park,” “In the Bedroom,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and “Moulin Rouge.”)
Here are the years from my lifetime which have been the most competitive and where this year’s field rates:


2004. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” beat “Seabiscuit,” “Mystic River,” “Master and Commander: Far Side of the World” and “Lost in Translation.”
1998. “Titanic” dominated the awards but had to beat an amazing contingent which included “As Good As It Gets,” “Good Will Hunting,” “L.A. Confidential,” and “The Full Monty.”
1995. “Forrest Gump” beat out “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Quiz Show” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”
1992. “The Silence of the Lambs” out-tallied “Beauty and the Beast,” “Bugsy,” “JFK” and “The Prince of Tides.”
1990. “Driving Miss Daisy” upset “Field of Dreams,” “My Left Foot,” “Dead Poets Society” and “Born on the Fourth of July.”
1989. “Rain Man” beat “Mississippi Burning,” “Working Girl,” “Dangerous Liaisons” and “The Accidental Tourist.”
1986. “Out of Africa,” bested “The Color Purple,” “Prizzi’s Honor,” “Witness” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”
1982. “Chariots of Fire” was the surprise winner vs. “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Reds,” “On Golden Pond” and “Atlantic City.”
1968. “In the Heat of the Night” won over “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Dr. Doolittle,” “The Graduate” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
1963. “Lawrence of Arabia” won against classics “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “The Music Man” and “The Longest Day.”
As for this year, I think it’ll be a close year but not a classic year. In other words, the suspense will be on the higher side for Oscar night but we won’t be renting these on Blue-Ray for years to come. “Milk” is attractive because of its agenda and Sean Penn’s performance. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is an Oscar-esque epic but it’s not cleaning up as thought in the run-up. “Slumdog Millionaire” is an emotional choice but also the kind Oscar honors with a nomination but not a win. “Frost/Nixon” was wonderful but it lacks the epic feel which Oscar loves. “The Reader” would seem to be the last film nominated, but sometimes that momentum leads to a win. And frankly, I think “The Dark Knight” and Clint’s “Gran Torino” would be just as competitive were they in the mix this year.

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