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Staff Selections: Best Best Pictures

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The Frida Cinema is proud to present Best Best Pictures, a month-long series featuring our staff members’ picks for Best Picture Award winners! Spanning nearly 70 years of Oscars history, the films selected reflect the evolution of filmmaking as an art as much as they do the tastes of the times they were released in. As such, it only seemed appropriate to round up the Frida gang  and get their thoughts on their picks. Enjoy each of our selections, all carefully chosen for your consideration!

Trevor Dillon, Programming Director

The Silence of the Lambs (1991):

My pick for our Best Best Pictures series is Jonathan Demme’s horror/thriller (let’s not argue about it… I’m tired) masterpiece The Silence of the Lambs. It’s a movie that, weirdly, I only watched for the first time during the lockdown period of 2020. Cooped up in my apartment between doing drive-ins for The Frida, I, like many people, consumed dangerous amounts of media, but this was one of the few that made me sit up on my couch and really pay attention.

I had heard about the Oscar sweep, Hopkins’ iconic performance as Hannibal Lecter, Demme’s untouchable close-ups, “Goodbye Horses”, Tak Fujimoto’s photography, etc., but in a movie littered with great performances, the film absolutely belongs to Jodie Foster and her tightrope performance as Clarice Starling. Switching so effortlessly between blind courage and confidence into moments of true terror is not only a tall task, but the film lives and dies on her eyes. If we don’t believe her, the movie doesn’t work. So here’s to Ms. Foster!

If you think the movie isn’t going to be thrilling because it’s “old”, first off… it came out in the year I was born… so calm down. But also, you are wrong. The Silence of the Lambs stands toe-to-toe with any classic or modern chiller ever made.

Jill Georgieff, Volunteer Coordinator

Chicago (2002):

Chicago won six Academy Awards including Best Picture for good reason! The movie is based on the hit Broadway musical of the same name and tells the story of two women on death row who become celebrities in the 1920s. Bold colors, dazzling costumes and creative cinematography are only some of the things that make this movie stand out. What makes Chicago so fun is its glitz and glam treatment of the “women in prison” exploitation film genre. A little bit of razzle-dazzle in the big pen. It’ll have you singing “He had it comin” as you walk out the theater.

Bekah Phillips, Graphic Design & Social Media Marketing

It Happened One Night (1934):

Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night was the very first film in Academy Award history to win the “Big Five” (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Writing), but in my opinion it did something far more important: it (arguably) gave birth to the romantic comedy, and just about every trope in the genre we’ve come to know and love. With oodles of quippy dialogue, an irresistibly charming Clark Gable, and an inimitably witty Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night is an absolutely scrumptious film that leaves me with a stupid grin plastered on my face after every watch.

Garrett Cruz, Box Office Manager

Gladiator (2000):

For my Best Picture winner I chose Gladiator. That was the first time I recognized the correlation between being able to see a movie and then seeing it recognized by a larger public. Before that I don’t know if it was something that I just hadn’t noticed or maybe didn’t care to notice. Either way, how could I forget my first encounter with the hunk of a man (in this case, leatherclad too) that is Russell Crowe? Without Gladiator we wouldn’t have gotten all of Crowe’s memorable performances or this timeline’s version of MF Doom donning Crowe’s gladiator helmet. Nor would we have gotten Nick Cave’s impossibly bonkers but equally unforgettable scripted sequel! There does happen to a sequel in the works, also helmed by Ridley Scott with Paul Mescal set to star.

The time of ancient historical epics seems like a bygone era, especially an era in which sword and sandal movies had a chance at winning an Oscar. Thankfully, historical epics are still around and contending for an Oscar such as last years RRR, which proved that hunky men are still in vogue, albeit not for Best Picture. But I demand my hunky men be not just sweaty but in leather and dirt! In lieu of leather and dirt I will, however, accept two hunky men.

Martin Nguyen, Box Office Manager

On the Waterfront (1954):

Reggie Peralta, Staff Writer/Blog Editor

Midnight Cowboy (1969):

The first time I watched John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy, I spent the rest of the day in a funk. I remember going out afterwards to Sam’s Club for some errand or other and just being unable to shake off the overwhelming feeling of depression and dejection that the film had cast over me. I blame that blasted Harry Nilsson song (already familiar to me through recurring airplay on oldies radio but elevated to even greater melancholic heights by the alternate version used in the movie) for the most part, but the downbeat story and unsympathetic urban atmosphere certainly cement the loneliness at the heart of the film. 

This great sadness is earned, however, by the relationship between the good-natured Joe Buck and the street-smart “Ratso” Rizzo, played by Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman respectively. While both are shown to have experienced hardship and adversity in their lives, they are nevertheless determined to do well for themselves, even if their ideas of “well” aren’t what society — whether high or low — might have in mind. There’s humor and, yes, love in their interactions (the dumb, earnest pride with which Joe declares “Me!” after asking Rizzo to guess who he’s supposed to be had me dying of laughter on my most recent viewing), and they make that initial sense of sadness – of being moved – not only bearable, but precious as well.


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