Man at His Best

Esquire chops up previous Best Picture Oscar winners

And who we think (want to) will win this year.

BY editors | Feb 24, 2017 | Film & TV

Paramount/Lionsgate/CBS Films/20th Century Fox/Weinstein/Roadside Attractions/A24


2007: The Departed

Based on the Hong Kong original, Infernal Affairs. Watch these good-cop-versus-bad-cop movies consecutively and The Departed painfully slow-moving pace for the hell of it becomes more obvious. Matt Damon’s good guy character doesn't inspire committed viewing in the same way as Tony Leung’s, nor does the whole movie.

2008: No Country for Old Men

A tough toss up between Daniel Plainview with a bowling pin and Anton Chigurh with a captive bolt pistol. It's not about how much blood you spill, but how you spill it. Here, rivettingly.

2009: Slumdog Millionaire

Teenager from the Mumbai slums wins grand prize on India's Who Wants to be a Millionaire? but is later accused by police of cheating. Uneducated boy couldn’t possibly be so knowledgeable! A 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Visually dazzling and emotionally resonant…entertaining and powerful,” say critics. We don't disagree.

2010: The Hurt Locker

Ex-wife vs ex-husband. The Hurt Locker vs Avatar. Feminism was getting huge then, but get past that, and The Hurt Locker is hard-hitting and mature. What Best Picture is supposed to be.

2011: The King's Speech

Spielberg-like levels of sentimentality usually win at the Academy Awards, The King’s Speech is neither sentimental nor boring. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are brilliant actors who contribute to a stellar cinematic experience. 

2012: The Artist

In a year when reality slapped audiences with the death of Osama and Gaddafi, a tsunami in Japan, Anders Breivik, and Occupy Wall St, a safe, straightforward nostalgic hand-job was the Academy's salve. Flaws become forgivable in black and white.

2013: Argo

It went downhill after Life of Pi, a CGI desktop wallpaper, won the award for Best Cinematography. Enough said.

2014: 12 Years a Slave

Slavery is the binding issue of contemporary America. Racism resonates with international audiences. It was a tough field that year, with Hers and Gravity among the contenders but the film's quality is reflected in Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance -- forgettable in Love, Actually, searing here.

2015: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Really good. Adventurous, foolhardy, darkly comedic. The kind of movie the Oscars should reward more often. But that year, there was Boyhood, shot in 39 days, spanning 12 years, flowing seamlessly over two hours; so mind-bendingly good we'll be dissecting Boyhood into grandfatherhood.

2016: Spotlight

The veritable emotional rollercoaster experience that usually wins Best Picture. Did it deserve it? It busted the pedophilia of the priesthood and the omerta that kept it under wraps.


And here’s this year’s nomination list:

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

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Who we think will win: La La Land

Who we want to win: Manchester by the Sea

Why: Because the only cheese we like is European.