Best Picture Oscar 1998

5 Best Pictures in Our Collection That I Would Re-Oscar and Why

After months spent batting around names as gilded as Theron and DiCaprio, Hollywood released its 2016 Oscar nominations on January 14. The present, pressing matter of who should win on February 28 and why, I leave to the pundits in the mainstream media. They've made Oscar season something of a horse race (case in point), and they've made me a pundit on the past.

For with Oscar season comes that inevitable nostalgia for older Oscar-winning fare. In fact, last January I began to sort out the best Oscar-winning performances of the past. This year I’m asking the same question but of Best Picture winners: which would I re-award or, say, re-Oscar because they simply can’t be beat? Here are five in chronological order, and why they could be golden to you, too.

Oscar: 1981 Best Picture
Reason to Re-Oscar: Mary Tyler Moore plays the icy matriarch of a suburban Chicago family broken by tragedy. The Jarretts’ favored first son is dead, taken by a boat accident that spared their second son (Timothy Hutton, also re-Oscar-worthy). Drowning in survivor’s guilt, Hutton's Conrad is suicidal in the face of his aloof mom and affectionate dad (Donald Sutherland). The family’s reckoning with loss, pain and each other culminates in a quiet, extraordinary scene between mother and father that lays bare not just what they did, but who they are as parents and as people.

Oscar: 1992 Best Picture
Reason to Re-Oscar: Is it a thriller, a horror, a drama or a romance? Jonathan Demme's film defies easy categorization, just like the caged cannibal at its center. Forensic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) once ate a man's liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti, yet he ultimately helps FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) hunt down a serial killer. The movie's investigative passages teem with dread and suspense, but it's the four lengthy interrogation scenes between Lecter and Starling that transfix you. Those facial close-ups in which the two characters speak directly to the camera (when speaking to each other) hold a mirror to both the virtuous and depraved elements of society who live among us, some caged, some not.

Oscar: 1998 Best Picture
Reason to Re-Oscar: Eleven Oscars and nearly twenty years later, James Cameron's tale of young love made ageless by disaster has not lost its luster. I happen to think it never will. As epics go, Titanic is simple and earnest in its storytelling, but it's scaled to accommodate every outpouring of emotion among actors and audience, lovers and haters, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) alike.

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