Saturday, July 7, 2012

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 1990

It was a dark and stormy mid-afternoon when I saw it. Even after I had it in my hands my eyes still wouldn't believe it actually happened - I had finally found a copy of the elusive Dances With Wolves.

As if I had swindled a child in an alley, or bought a Cabbage Patch Kid out of the trunk of someones car (true story), I have a slight guilty conscience for where said film was found (I'll give you one guess).

Ultimately, I live for a good deal, and a sweet four pack Best Picture DVD collection speaks to my soul. You can't beat $11 for Rocky, Platoon, The Silence of the Lambs, and the best picture of 1990.

After an anticipation building, one month endurance test, the expectations were riding so high this flick could only be a letdown. However, it delivered exactly what the film advertised: there is definitely a wolf, some mild dancing, but mostly just epic enjoyable movie time. This is definitely one of those you won't regret spending three hours on a Sunday watching.

Simply, the wait was worth it, because this Western is fantastic even after 22 years.

Dances With Wolves is Costner's Titanic; a large scale passion project, that, just like Cameron, payed off with tons of Oscar gold. Some epics impact with visuals alone, but if it can impress visually and have a solid, exciting story, then we're getting somewhere!

Within the first several moments we are swept away into the intensity of a Civil War battle; soldiers are dying, and our guy, Lieutenant Dunbar (Costner), is laying wounded on a gurney in the ramshackle medical tent about to get his leg cut off due to gangrene. Gross, I know.

Dunbar didn't feel like losing his leg, so muscling all his strength, headed back to his post, and lead his Union soldiers to victory after a stunning heroic/mad man horse ride between the battle.

Impressing a general, Dunbar's leg is attended to by an experienced surgeon. With his leg saved, Dunbar was granted the right to choose his next post. He sets his eyes on the Western frontier, and the rest is history.

Once he heads out West, Dunbar gains the respect of the local Native tribe and while he begins to appreciate their culture, he too falls in love with a member of their tribe. Somewhat surprisingly, a white woman (Mary McDonnell) was brought into the tribe as a child, and after summoning her long forgotten English, becomes the communicator that bridges the gap between the two languages. She was herself an outsider at one time, making her connection with Dunbar that much stronger.

It wouldn't be a true epic without some sort of romance. These historical set love stories are the most intensely satisfy, often times tragic, and could be my fatal flaw, because I love them all (See also: Out Of Africa, Moulin Rouge, Titanic, Dr. Zhivago, etc, etc.). 

Per the movies listed above, we know that eye popping scenery set the stage for all the lovey-doveyness and make a solid story that much better. The sprawling South Dakota landscape is prime for masterful shots of wide open landscapes and, in a quite beautiful scene, capturing herds of Buffalo running in the night mist.

Costner did many a thing right, and his high caliber movie was rewarded with seven Academy Awards for all the categories it deserved, including, Director, Cinematography, and Score. Notice no acting wins, but Costner's monotone narration explains that loss no questions asked.

I think this is the year that all the cool kids drop their jaw and are flabbergasted about Costner with Dances With Wolves beating Scorsese with Goodfellas. Even though I have never seen Goodfellas, I will still praise that this is the year the Cowboys rightfully beat the Gangsters. That's probably the only time you'll ever hear that-Gangsters are scary and are not often pitted in battles against people on horseback.

Note this one as a classic that needs to be seen. Someone probably should kindly ask the one guy who has had his copy of Dances With Wolves from Netflix sitting on a table for five months to please send it back, or watch it first and then send it back, but please do so soon, others would like the opportunity to watch and enjoy a fantastic twenty year old movie.

 Next up: Something no where near a sprawling epic treat - just terrifying; The Silence Of The Lambs.

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