A few years ago, I was in a book club in which we read old books of the Christian faith. One such book was On the Incarnation by Athanasius, a direct influence on Augustine. While the book was less than memorable, this edition’s introduction by C.S. Lewis, written in 1944, has stayed in my memory. He wrote that he’s skeptical of anything new for having not yet withstood the test of time.
This year’s front-runner for the Academy Awards is The Social Network. But while I wouldn’t have a problem if Aaron Sorkin won for Best Screenplay, and I’d be pleasantly surprised if Trent Reznor’s score wins the award, I felt relieved when Fresh Air’s movie critic, David Bianculli, ranked the film low on his Top Ten list of 2010. “I just don’t think it captured the zeitgeist of the time like everybody thinks,” he stated. So I’m not the only one who doesn’t share the world’s opinion that the film is nothing short of a masterpiece.
In light of Lewis’s skepticism of modern books, I question if any contemporary film can be known as a classic in its own time. Most classics first have to be surpassed by a newer generation and then survive, or transcend, to become classics.
Thus, I question the relevancy of the Best Picture Oscar. How well have previous winners withstood the test of time? Can anyone debate that My Fair Lady was a better film than Dr. Strangelove? Ordinary People over Raging Bull? Kramer vs. Kramer over Apocalypse Now?
I love C.S. Lewis’s quote because I agree that brilliance can be a flash in the pan. As Oscar season approaches (ceremony to be held February 27, 2011), I have decided to count down spend the next five weeks reviewing one Best Picture winner from each decade, starting with the golden age of cinema, the 1970s. For each decade, I will select the one I believe is the most endurable classic. My criteria will be a mix of the subject matter and the style. My list is:
1970s The Godfather (runner up: Annie Hall)
1980s Platoon (runner up: Amadeus)
1990s The Silence of the Lambs (runner up: Schindler’s List)
2000s No Country for Old Men (runner up: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King)
The complete list of Oscar winners can be found here. I look forward to your comments, especially if you don’t agree with my selections.
Next week: The 1970’s: The Godfather