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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Top 10 Worst Best Picture Winners

Let’s face it, the Oscar for “Best Picture” rarely goes to the actual best picture of any given year. Since the inception of the Academy Awards in 1928, there have been a number of doozies that walked away with the industry’s most prestigious award – some sub-par films, some average, some just not very good at all. In light of this thinking, I have compiled my own list – “The Top 10 Worst Best Picture Winners of All-Time”
Take a look at this past year, for instance. “The Hurt Locker” won the highest honor and I wouldn’t even put that in my Top 15 films of the year. However, it was sort of a weak year for great films and because of that, I excluded it from this list. I know everyone says “Ordinary People” (1980) and “Dances with Wolves” (1990) were undeserving of winning “Best Picture” – that “Raging Bull” (1980) and “Goodfellas” (two phenomenal films by Martin Scorsese) were the better films. This is probably true and I would agree with this sentiment. However, I could not include the films of Robert Redford and Kevin Costner on this particular Top 10 List because, quite frankly, I think they are both 4-star films in their own right. Is “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) a better film than Coppola’s masterpiece that is “Apocalypse Now”? I certainly don’t think so. However, “Kramer vs. Kramer” won and I love the movie, so this too is also omitted.
I desperately wanted to include “Titanic” (1997) on this list. It’s not a very good film and has not aged well at all (even though it’s only been 13 years). I find the film manipulative on many levels and the script is downright hokey and poor. However, I understand why it won and it was, at the time, a great cinematic achievement on a technical level. On top of this, there were not many other films that stood out in 1997, so sadly, I could not include the over-hyped “Titanic” on this prestigious list. I don’t think “A Beautiful Mind” (2001) is a very good movie at all. The guy-with-a-disease does make for great Oscar bait, but there wasn’t much to admire in this histrionic film. And really – there wasn’t much to pick from during that anemic year for films, so I couldn’t even include this either!
A “Best Picture” Oscar winner should be an instant classic. It should stand the test of time. It should be a film that, years and decades from its release, will be remembered and looked at as a testament to its time. Some “Best Picture” winners that encapsulate this tenet are: “Gone with the Wind” (1939), “The Godfather” films (1972, 1974), “Schindler’s List” (1993), “Unforgiven” (1991), “From Here to Eternity” (1953) and “On the Waterfront” (1954). In any case, look it over, tell me what you think – and enjoy!
The English Patient
I actually like this film, but given the other notable films of that year, I had to put this on the list. I mean, come on…who actually fell in love with this movie and can watch it over and over? It certainly has the looks of a “Best Picture” winner. It’s grand and epic in scope – Oscar loves that, I know. But with films like “Fargo,” “Secrets and Lies,” “Breaking the Waves,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “Sling Blade,” (my personal #1 film for 1996) and “Big Night,” I sadly had to include this. Elaine Benes from “Seinfeld” had this film pegged – she was at least honest enough to admit her displeasure of this film – and was alienated by everyone (including her current boyfriend) for her candor.
There have been a number of musicals to win for “Best Picture” (“Oliver!,” “The Sound of Music,” “My Fair Lady”), but this is an average-at-best MGM musical that no one really remembers today. It’s overlong and there is hardly any dancing in the film, if any. The passage of time also shows “Touch of Evil,” “Vertigo,” “Mon Oncle,” “The Defiant Ones” and “A Night to Remember” as being much stronger films. I mean, really…what film class is breaking down and analyzing “Gigi” over classics by Orson Welles and Jacques Tati from that same year?
Chariots of Fire
Another example of a good film that, for some reason, got away with the grand prize. I would think most people look at this movie and think how slow and boring this is. How engaging can a movie about running be to begin with? I know it’s considered by many to be a classic “sports” film, but, like golf and billiards, running is not a sport. I think Warren Beatty’s “Reds” was a masterpiece of a film. Also, released in 1981 and remembered with much greater fondness than the scintillating “Chariots of Fire” are “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “On Golden Pond,” and the extraordinary “Das Boot.”
Forrest Gump
Run, Forrest, run! For 15 minutes of film, just run! I know, I know, it’s a modern, American classic, right? You laughed, you cried, it had great music and Tom Hanks was amazing. Whatever. I did like it though. It was hard not to like. The visual effects of putting Forrest next to a whole slew of notable 20th century figures was cool (but really, how many times could you do it?) and the love story at the core of the movie is sweet and touching. But 1994 was actually a great year for film. I couldn’t even put this movie in my Top 15 with other great achievements like: “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Quiz Show,” “Il Postino,” “Hoop Dreams,” the masterful “Natural Born Killers,” Krzysztof’s “Red” and yes, even “Pulp Fiction” which is over-rated in its own right, but still, a better choice than this schmaltzy, calculating, and poorly edited film. For Academy voters, this was the easy, safe pick for that year. Yeah, Forrest…keep running!
The Departed
The year of the “Long Overdue” award masking as “Best Picture” and “Best Director” respectively. I love Martin Scorsese and am a huge fan of so many of his films, but this had no business winning the top two awards of the night, let alone have the honor of being nominated. If any film actually stood out that year, Scorsese would have gone home empty-handed once again. But alas, no such film existed. Here, the thinking was, “Well, he’s made some brilliant films in the past, but because there was stiff competition those years, he just never won the big one. Let’s give him his Oscar now.” Nicholson is over-the-top (shocker), Wahlberg (who I actually like) was a disaster and really, it doesn’t even measure up to the original 2002 film “Infernal Affairs.” The Departed was up again Babel, Little Miss Sunshine (which should have won in JFrater’s opinion), The Queen, and Letters from Iwo Jima.

The movie is downright dull and overlong. There’s no way around it. It made for a boring play and here it is a boring and stilted British movie. The film follows a pair of British aristocrats over the span of three decades and the turbulent times in which they live (1899-1933). There have been some terrific British films over the years. This is not one of them. If I wanted to see how World War I, the death of Queen Victoria, & the sinking of the Titanic affected society, I could watch a special on the History channel and be more entertained. Some excellent films that were snubbed in lieu of this snoozefest were: “King Kong,” “I am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang,” “Little Women” and “She Done Him Wrong” (yes, even at 66 minutes…it leaves much more of an impact than the siesta that is “Cavalcade”).
How Green Was My Valley
I am not sure how this film beat out a film that changed the face of motion pictures as we know it (“Citizen Kane”), but it did. I’m not one of those people who think that “Citizen Kane” is the end-all-and-be-all, but come on…it changed the way we view and create cinema. John Ford was a terrific filmmaker, but this is another lackluster, tedious film whose only claim to fame is that it bested Orson Welles’ magnum opus. The movie centers on the sorrowful lives of coal miners and is better suited for viewing in a college class on sociology or labor relations than as a piece of entertainment. Other worthy films that were released this year besides “Citizen Kane”: “Suspicion,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “Little Foxes,” and yes, even Disney’s “Dumbo” is the greater work.
Driving Miss Daisy
This is a sweet film with some very touching moments. Morgan Freeman is outstanding here as is Jessica Tandy (who won a “Best Actress” Oscar here). But “Best Picture”? Do you really look back to 1989 and think back on this as being the year’s Best Picture?! If you are saying, “Yes” as you read this now, I’m calling you a liar. The film’s director wasn’t even recognized as a “Best Director” nominee. This was a year where voters wanted to feel good about themselves by selecting a movie that (haphazardly) shows the evils of racism. On that level, I felt the film to be a bit insulting, to be honest. It treats its viewers like idiots, thinking we had no idea how poorly blacks were treated in the South in 1948 and that yes, racism is bad. Thank you. It ranks so high on the list for these reasons and because it indefensibly beat out such grand triumphs of film such as: “Cinema Paradiso,” “Dead Poet’s Society,” “Born on the 4th of July,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Sex, Lies and Videotape.”
Around the World in 80 Days
On any list like this one, this film you will most surely find. For all of its impressive locations and cast of actors, this is another long (3+ hours), tedious, uninteresting film. It is outdated, to be sure, with no sense of adventure or wonder to it at all (unlike the Jules Verne story that it is based on). Watch it now – tell me it doesn’t feel like you’re watching some homemade travel videos – or even those archaic educational videos you used to watch in the 6th grade. How this won “Best Picture,” I have no idea – but with cameos by more than 40 of Hollywood’s stars at the time, my thinking is that there were so many people associated with this film in one way or another, that enough votes went its way. “The Searchers,” “The Ten Commandments, “Giant” and “Anastasia” would have been much more admirable picks – all films that when we watch them today, over 50 years later, still entertain and engage us.
This one was a travesty. I’ll start by saying that I did see it on Broadway years ago and loved it. It was great, sexy entertainment filled with wonderful choreography. And unlike some Broadway musicals that made successful transitions to the world of film, this just plays as silly entertainment geared to the “Glee” demographic. It plays more like the failed musical adaptations such as “Rent” and “Phantom of the Opera” than it does the ones which actually encapsulate the essence of what made the musicals great in the first place (like “West Side Story” or “An American in Paris”). The songs are great, sure – it’s a great musical. But when you leave it to a Hollywood cast who are there for box-office power and not their singing chops (John C. Reilly, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere), the songs fall flat. It was a weak year for good movies, but no one is ever going to look back at 2002 and think, “Oh, ‘Chicago’ was the best movie that year!” “Chicago” isn’t a good movie that beat out the more deserving…it is a poor, glitz-over-substance film that beat out the more deserving. Those films would be: “Adaptation,” “Talk to Her,” “Gangs of New York,” “Frida” and “The Pianist.”


Top 10 Comedy Teams of All Time

Comedy seems to work best when done in groups. This is not just true of older comedy routines – most modern television comedy hits are such due to the supporting actors. For example, Will and Grace would never have survived were it not for the character of Karen Walker. This list looks at ten of the most prolific and most well known comedy teams. It is perhaps a little light on the British comedy duos such as the Goons – but do feel free to name them all in the comments.

Amos and Andy
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Voiced by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, performing on the radio from 1928 all the way 1960. This sketch comedy act was based on turn of the century black minstrel acts, and the two voice artists depicted black people as poor, lower class menial workers, who eventually move from Georgia to Chicago and become taxi drivers.
At least once, in 1931, when the Pittsburgh Courier took up the article of a black preacher who considered the show racially offensive (since the two voice artists were white). They tried to get a million names on a petition, in order to get the show canceled, but few people would sign it, not out of racial fear as much as out of enjoyment of the show. The black leads are always shown to be very simple-minded, but very polite and good-natured, and smarter than the average white man. They also thrived on malaprops, which are incorrect uses of a language. One of George “Kingfish” Stevens’s (played by Gosden) best such lines is, “Heck, naw, I ain’t gawn let my kids use no ‘cyclopedia! They kin walk to school like I did!”
This was subsequently blamed on Yogi Berra, who, never to be outdone, said, “I didn’t say half the stuff I said.”

Frick and Frack
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Werner Groebli and Hans Mauch, respectively. They were comedic figure skaters, both from Basel, Switzerland, and performed all over the world in lederhosen and traditional German “Oktoberfest” garb.
They performed in a few films, beginning with Lady, Let’s Dance, in 1944. They never performed in the Olympics, but a lot of Olympic figure skaters think they would have been shoe-ins for gold medals.
“Frick and Frack” has become a household phrase in English, due to their popularity from the 1930s to the 1950s. Some of the stunts they performed defy belief, most notably Frack’s rubber legs, which were twisting, collapsing legs while skating in a spread-eagle.
Frick’s signature move was a cantilever spread-eagle, which he invented.

The Smothers Brothers
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Tommy Smothers always plays the slower buffoon to Dick Smothers’s straight man. Tommy’s signature line was “Mom always liked you best!” after which they would argue over whether that were true or not. When their mother died, they never performed this routine again.
They are accomplished guitar players, and Tommy is a master of the yo-yo. They have the distinction of being the longest-lived comedy team in American history, having performed for about 52 years.
During the late 1960s, they had their own show, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” which was extremely controversial (and funny) because of their peace advocacy. They regularly poked fun at the Vietnam War, President Nixon, and racism. The show lasted an amazing 2 years, 1967 to 1969, before being canceled for what CBS was forced to call “Anti-American Peace Propaganda.” Ah, the ’60s.

Cheech and Chong
The hippies and counter-culturalists found their idols in the weed-smoking surrealists Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. They broke up in 1985, but reunited in 2008 much to everyone’s delight.
They made a number of films from 1978 through the 1980s, all having heavily to do with drug use, the free love of hippies, etc. Arguably their best work is the 1983 film Still Smokin’, in which they travel to Amsterdam, Netherlands, for a film festival about Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. When the latter two stars don’t show up, Cheech and Chong save the day with their own live stage performance. One of the best bits is Chong as “the old man in the park,” and the duo as “Ralph and Herbie the dogs.”

Abbott and Costello
Bud Abbott played the straight man to Lou Costello, and even if they had only done one routine during their entire career, “Who’s on First?” would net them the #6 spot. They had already rehearsed it to perfection, but had not had a chance to perform it on stage.
The first televised performance of it was at the Steel Pier, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. They had a few sheets of material written by someone else, and they didn’t think much of it, so Abbot asked Costello, “You wanna do Baseball?” “Yeah, let’s do it.” And they walked out and made history.
It had been many times since before the radio days of burlesque vaudeville, with the simple gag of Who and What being proper nouns. Abbott and Costello were the first to hone it into its modern form of a baseball team’s names. They copyrighted it, and performed it several times in different films. None of this mentions the host of other outstanding performances to their credit.


Top 10 Greatest Historical Warriors

In this list we see a combination of two of my favorite things – ancient (well mostly) history and warriors. While most of these warrior groups come from ancient history – one or two come close to modern history. They all, undoubtedly, belong on this list. Please mention other groups who might be considered for a future list in the comments.
The Aztecs were famous soldiers and ruthless in battle. They were usually dressed like animals like the eagle or the jaguar. They used pretty primitive weapons like clubs and bows but used them with great effectiveness. The “Shorn Ones” (Cuachicqueh) were the greatest warriors and as soon as the enemy came they swore they would not take another step back. They were eventually defeated by the Spaniards with much more modern weapons but they were a great empire in large part due to their great warriors.
Mongol Warriors
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The Mongols were considered barbarians and savages. They dominated Europe and Asia and were most famous for riding on horseback lead by one of the greatest military commanders in history, Genghis Kahn. They were highly disciplined and masters with using the bow and arrow on horse back. They used a composite bow that could rip through armor and were also pretty good with lances and scimitars. They were masters of psychological warfare and intimidation, and built one of the largest empires the world has ever seen.
A mamluk was a slave soldier who converted to Islam and served the Muslim caliphs and the Ayyubid sultans during the Middle Ages. Over time, they became a powerful military caste often defeating the Crusaders. On more than one occasion, they seized power for themselves; for example, ruling Egypt in the Mamluk Sultanate from 1250–1517. After mamluks had converted to Islam, many were trained as cavalry soldiers. Mamluks had to follow the dictates of furusiyya, a code that included values such as courage and generosity, and also cavalry tactics, horsemanship, archery and treatment of wounds, etc.
Roman Legion
The backbone of the Roman army that led to an empire that was unrivaled in terms of size and power. They were usually heavy infantry with armor and a shield modeled after the ancient Greeks. They were masters of the sword and spear combination going along with a shield. They were made up of the wealthiest soldiers that could afford to make the best weapons and armor. They were disciplined, well-armed, and had great strategy which lasted beyond their empire.
The apaches were like the ninjas of America. They would sneak up behind you and slit your throat without you even knowing. They used primitive weapons made mostly of wood and bone. They were also the greatest knife fighters the world has ever seen and were pretty good with the tomahawk and throwing ax. They terrorized the southwest United States and even the military had trouble beating them. They were great hit and run fighters and their descendants teach modern day special fighters how to fight in hand to hand combat.

The samurai were the knights of Japan and the masters of the katana. They were heavily armed soldiers covered in armor and willing to die for their masters. They wielded the sharpest sword the world has ever seen and it could easily slice a man in two. They were also masters of the yumi (bow) and were some of the best shots of the ancient world. They were like professional soldiers and were harshly trained and fought knowing their honor was on the line. Due to their violent habits, peasants soon rose up against them and the ninja was born.
The ninja were the masters of stealth and sabotage. They were originally peasants trained to defeat marauding samurai, but the eventually became the legendary assassins that most people think of today. They are known for using a Kanata like sword, blowgun, ninja stars, and kusarigama which would be my weapon of choice. They are known for being stealthy shadow warriors of the night. They greatly feared for their ability to kill and just disappear. They were also great martial artists and underwent rigorous training.
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Vikings – the terror of Europe. The most feared warrior of the ancient world. They terrorized Europe with their raids and pillaging. They were ferocious in battle and used weapons that suited their stature. They were big and mean and used their axes, swords, and spears expertly in the conquering of cities. Even their religion was about war and they believed when you died in battle you fought once again in a never ending battle. They were all you would want in a soldier and proved it on the battlefield by destroying all in their paths. On the flip-side, they were also incredibly good traders so they also brought much good to Europe.
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You thought they would be number one didn’t you? The Spartan culture was all about war and training men for war their entire lives. They had a saying: “come back with the shield or on top of it” which means don’t come back unless you are victorious. They were some of the toughest soldiers the world had ever seen and have become infamous for their last stand at the battle of Thermopylae. They were masters of the shield and spear combination that was later copied by many other armies.
Knights were great warriors clad in full body armor on horseback. The warrior of feudal Europe, the protector of kings. They were the richest, most trained warriors, and had the armor, weapons, and horses to get the job done. They were among the toughest soldiers in history to kill because of their armor. They were highly effective soldiers that had trained almost their entire lives (due to boys of the day wanting to grow up to be one) and became the tank of the ancient world. The reason they are listed as item 1 – instead of Spartans (which most people would have expected) is that knights were also expected to behave in a moral manner and from the fact that most did, we have the term chivalrous which comes from old French chevalier meaning “knight”. The knight was the perfect example of a warrior and a gentleman.


Top 10 Soccer Club Rivalries of all Time

Football (or soccer to many), the beautiful game, can become a matter of life & death for some clubs & its supporters. Cultural, as well as regional, differences contribute to the fierceness of these clashes & performances of players in such matches decide whether they will be eternally loved or hated. A mistake or a moment of magic can create history, but can also result in brawls, fights, clashes & riots. Here are the 10 most fierce & important rivalries in the world of football. Have I missed any? Feel free to add your own.
Corinthians vs Palmeiras
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Derby Paulista is a name that is known among the traditional São Paulo soccer clubs, Sport Club Corinthians Paulista and Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras. It is the rivalry between two football clubs still active in the oldest city of São Paulo. The Derby Paulista is among the 10 greatest classics of the world. Corinthians and Palmeiras have already decided state championships (Campeonato Paulista), regional (Torneio Rio-São Paulo), national (Campeonato Brasileiro) and wave to the end of continental competition (Libertadores Cup of America). No other classic has decided so many major championships.
A big rivalry in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, SE Palmeiras and Corinthians have always drawn a lot of attention when they face off against each other. There have been books written and movies shot about this rivalry, including a version of Romeo and Juliet where Palmeiras and Corinthians take the place of the Montagues and Capulets.
Nacional vs Penarol
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One of football’s classic derbies, since the late 19th century, the Uruguayan Clásico is the confrontation between the two greatest teams of Montevideo: Nacional and Peñarol. Both teams have played a big part in developing South American football, and are respected in the Americas and worldwide, despite their recent lack of international success. Together they make up 8 Copa Libertadores and 6 Intercontinental Cups.
The 0-0 draw of 14 April, 1990, was not for lacking a good fight, 22 red cards, 11 each side, (Nacional-9 field players and 2 bench players). The match ended at 85′ for the rule of less than 7 players. Then the 1-1 match of 26 November, 2000, ended in another confrontation with several boxing and karate kicks and chops, in which 9 players had to spend a month in jail, along with one of the coaches. Two editions of the match were played abroad, one in La Plata (Argentina) in 1960, the other in La Coruña (Spain) in 2005, due to the risk of local crowd interruption & brawling.
Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray
Fenerbahçe SK versus Galatasaray SK is a Turkish football rivalry involving two of the most successful clubs in the Süper Lig. It is also a local derby, one of many involving Istanbul clubs. The rivalry is more than a century in existence, and has developed into an intense and often bitter one, traditionally attracting large attendances. Both clubs compete against each other for the title of the most successful football club in Turkey, as well as the greatest Turkish sports club overall. Their football departments have always been the most attractive among their fans, but the rivalry also extends into other team sports such as basketball, volleyball, athletics, rowing. Galatasaray SK is the more successful of the two, having won 68 official titles compared to Fenerbahçe SK’s 66 titles. Fenerbahe SK is the most successful in their head-to-head fixtures, while Galatasaray SK boasts of their achievement in winning the 2000 UEFA Cup Final and the 2000 UEFA Super Cup, being the only Turkish side to have won them so far.
Internazionale vs Milan
Inter Milan
Derby della Madonnina, or the Milan Derby as it is sometimes known, is a football match between the Italian clubs Associazione Calcio Milan and Football Club Internazionale Milano. It is a hotly contested local derby and is one of the most followed derbies in the football world. Along with the Rome and Turin derbies, it is widely considered one of the major cross-town derbies in the Serie A, so much so that only selected referees may officiate whenever these teams meet. It is a biannual fixture in the Italian football league Serie A; however, the derby has also taken place in the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Champions League. It is the only derby in Europe played by two teams which have been champions of Europe and the world. It is called “Derby della Madonnina” in honor of one of the main sights of the city of Milan, the statue of the Virgin Mary on the top of the Duomo, which is usually called “Madonnina”.
Liverpool vs Manchester United
The history between Liverpool and Manchester United is one of the most significant sporting rivalries in football, sometimes referred to as the North West derby. Both clubs hail from the North West of England, they are also the two most successful teams in England, and between them they have won 115 honors. With Manchester United’s victory in the Premier League season 2008-09, the two clubs are tied with 18 league titles in England. Despite Liverpool’s success in England, they have failed to win the Premier League, since its founding in 1992. Winning the League Cup in 2010, Manchester United set a new English record of 33 domestic honors – moving one clear of the Merseysiders for the first time. As well as competing on the football pitch, both teams are also two of the biggest-earning, and widely-supported, football clubs in the world. The rivalry has extended to the players as well.
Internazionale vs Juventus
Derby Ditalia
The name Derby d’Italia (Italian for “Derby of Italy”) was coined back in 1967, by the famous Italian sports journalist Gianni Brera, as the biannual football fixture in Italian football between Internazionale of Milan and Juventus of Turin. The name was also given to this fixture as Inter and Juventus were (as in 1967) the two teams with the highest number of international (the first) and national (the latter) honors.
The matchup between Juventus and Inter is one of the most intense derby matches in Italy, between two teams not from the same city. The two teams are also ranked first and second in wins and goals in Serie A history. The match features two clubs who have never been relegated from the Serie A (prior to the Calciopoli scandal in which Juventus were forcefully relegated for their role in it).
Boca Juniors vs River Plate
Superclásico is the name used to describe the football match in Argentina between Buenos Aires rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate. It derives from the Spanish usage of “clásico” to mean derby, with the prefix “super” used as the two clubs are the most popular and successful clubs in Argentine football. Due to their huge fan bases (Boca has 40% of the Argentine population and River 33%), and remarkable success, the enmity encompasses a major part of the country’s populace. Known worldwide for the passion of the fans, the stands of both teams are loaded with passionate songs (often based on popular Argentine rock band tunes) against their rivals, fireworks, flags and rolls of paper, and sometimes end in riots between the most ardent supporters of both sides, or against the police. Tourists from around the globe come to Argentina to watch the match, sometimes even with packages that include a ticket to the Superclásico.
The Superclásico is known worldwide as one of the fiercest and most important derbies. In April 2004, the English newspaper, The Observer, put the Superclásico at the top of their list of “50 sporting things you must do before you die”, saying that “Derby day in Buenos Aires makes the Old Firm game look like a primary school kick-about.”
Celtic vs Rangers
One of the biggest and most intense derbies in the world, the Old Firm derby between Scottish teams Celtic and Rangers, is more than a football match – it pits religion, politics and opposing social attitudes against each other. Both clubs play in Glasgow, Scotland, and the match is one of the oldest derbies in the world, dating back to 1888. The Old Firm derby is also one of the most contested matches in the world, with over 370 games having been played. The matches are played at either Ibrox Stadium with 51,000 fans, or Celtic Park in front of 60,000. In some cases, the match is played at Hampden Park, if the tie happens to be a Scottish Cup or Scottish League Cup final or semi-final. Both teams have won many titles, but currently Rangers are ahead of Celtic with 53 league titles to 42. The most recent Old Firm ended Celtic 2-1 Rangers.
This rivalry is considered by many to be one of the most fervent in the world, with amazing atmospheres and loud chanting, it is easy to understand why it is. Millions tune in to the Old Firm derby across the globe. Rangers are considered a Protestant club with Unionist and loyalist supporters, while Celtic are considered a Catholic club with Republican and Nationalist supporters. It has long had connections with the political conflict in Northern Ireland, with thousands of fans from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland making the trip to Scotland for these matches. There is even violence in Northern Ireland following Old Firm games. Indeed, the rivalry between the two clubs is so great that only five players have ever moved between clubs. In 1980, around 9,000 fans fought an on-pitch battle in the aftermath of Celtic’s 1-0 victory in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden. This remains the worst invasion onto a football pitch ever reported. The Old Firm rivalry fuels many assaults and many deaths on Old Firm Derby days; an activist group that monitors sectarian activity in Glasgow has reported that on Old Firm weekends, admissions to hospital emergency rooms increase nine fold over normal levels, and journalist Franklin Foer noted that in the period from 1996 to 2003, eight deaths in Glasgow were directly linked to Old Firm matches, and hundreds and thousands of assaults.
Lazio vs Roma
The Derby della Capitale (English: Derby of the capital) is the local football derby in Rome, Italy, between the two major teams of the city, Lazio and Roma. It is considered to be the fiercest derby in the country ahead of the other major local derbies, Derby della Madonnina (Milan derby) and Derby della Mole (Turin derby), and one of the greatest and hotly contested capital derbies in Europe. The derby has been historically marked by massive crowds, excitement, violence and – recently – racist banners in the crowd.
Some extreme incidents in particular have left their mark on the history of this fixture. In 1979, Lazio fan Vincenzo Paparelli was hit in the eye and killed by a flare fired by a Roma fan from the opposite end of the stadium, becoming the first fatality in Italian football due to violence. In 2004 an unprecedented event occurred when the Roma ultras forced the game to be suspended after spreading false rumors among the crowd that a child had been killed by the police prior to the beginning of the game. In the recent derby, in December 2009, the referee stopped play for some seven minutes, just 13 minutes into the first half, due to fireworks being thrown onto the pitch. The derby on March 21, 2004, was abandoned four minutes into the second half, with the score tied at 0–0, when a riot broke out in the stands and the president of the Italian Football League, Adriano Galliani, ordered referee Roberto Rosetti to suspend the match. After the match was postponed a prolonged battle among fans and between fans and police ensued, with stands being set on fire and people fleeing the stadium, eventually resulting in over 13 arrests and over 170 injured among the police alone.
Real Madrid vs Barca
Barcelona Madrid
The rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, in Spain, is generally considered to be the biggest in football, and is similar in context to Celtic – Rangers. From the start the clubs were seen as representatives of two rival regions in Spain, Catalonia and Castile respectively, as well as the two cities themselves. In the 1950s, the rivalry was intensified further when the clubs disputed the signing of Alfredo Di Stéfano, who finally played for Real Madrid and was key in the subsequent success achieved by the club.
As Barcelona and Real Madrid are the two biggest, and most successful, clubs in Spain, the rivalry impacts the league championship on an almost annual basis. The flash-points of this rivalry are the twice-a-season clásicos, which draw vast audiences from around the world. Real has won more La Liga and Champions League titles than Barça, but Barça has won more Spanish Cups, Cup Winners Cups and UEFA Cups. Also Barça became the first Spanish team to win the treble (2008–2009). In 2009, they won six competitions, becoming the first team to win all competitions they entered in a calendar year. The rivalry has also been strengthened throughout time by Real Madrid and Barcelona top players who have defected to their arch-rival. Notable Barcelona players who have later played for Real Madrid include Bernd Schuster (1988), Michael Laudrup (1994) and Luís Figo (2000). Luis Enrique switched from Real Madrid to Barcelona in 1996 and went on to captain the Blaugrana.
A 2007 survey by the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas determined that Real Madrid was the team with the largest following in Spain with 32.8% of football fans, while Barcelona had 25.7%. The next team, Valencia CF, was 5.3%. Barcelona in turn seems to be the most popular team in Europe. According to a survey made by SPORT+MARKT in 2009, Barcelona have about 44.2 million supporters throughout Europe, which is about 2.9 million more than the number of Real Madrid supporters.


Top 10 Traitors in US History

Black’s Law Dictionary defines “treason” as ”attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which one owes allegiance, either by making war against the state or by materially supporting its enemies”. Submitted here are ten people who did their level best to see that America couldn’t celebrate her official 234th birthday this week. And yes, this list is “too American.”
Jane Fonda
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During the height of the Vietnam war in 1972, film starlet Jane Fonda visited North Vietnam and shilled for the North Vietnamese government, screeching that American prisoners of war (POWs) were being treated humanely. She then went on to condemn all US soldiers as “war criminals”. On hearing that many POWs claimed to have been tortured, Fonda denounced them as “liars”. She encountered no legal or professional repercussions upon her return to the US, but claims to deeply regret her actions today. How nice for her.
Adam Yahiye Gadahn
An American-born convert to Islam, Adam Yahiye Gadahn (aka, “Azzam the American”) threatened a terrorist attack on Los Angeles in a 2005 Al Qaeda video. As a full-on member of their “media committee”, Gadahn served Al Qaeda as translator, video producer, cultural interpreter and spokesman. His zeal in their propaganda was cartoonish in its intensity, but all too real. After Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri endorsed the videos—some of which referred to the United States as “enemy soil”–the Justice Department indicted Gadahn, the first American accused of treason since World War Two. It is widely believed that “Azzam the American” is now “Azzam the Dead American”; following reports that he was killed by a Predator drone in January 2008.
Aldrich Ames
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Aldrich Ames began working for the CIA during high school, and did so until he was discovered to be a Soviet double agent in 1994. He specialized in selling the identities of CIA agents, placed within the KGB, to the KGB. In true cloak-and-dagger fashion, Ames would mark a blue postal drop box with a piece of chalk whenever he needed to contact his KGB handlers. The damage he caused US intelligence efforts can’t really be known, but conservative estimates indicate that he exposed over 100 agents, and was directly responsible for at least 10 deaths. A thorough accounting of his finances revealed that he and his wife made over $4.6 million over the course of their espionage career. Ames explained the full extent of his activities as part of a plea bargain to mitigate his wife’s sentence (how gallant). As a result, Ames was sentenced to life in prison, while his wife received 63 months.
Tokyo Rose
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“Tokyo Rose” is a collective nickname applied to not one, but several sultry-voiced women who worked for Radio Tokyo during World War 2. In between popular songs, these sirens cooed Japanese propaganda designed to make American soldiers nostalgic and homesick. UCLA grad Iva Toguri D’Aquino was the most infamous. An American citizen of Japanese descent, she worked as a Radio Tokyo announcer from 1943-1945. Immediately after the war, D’Aquino was arrested, but released without being charged. Authorities reopened her case with a vengeance in 1948, and she was promptly convicted of treason in 1949. D’Aquino served six years in prison. Throughout her trial she denied any disloyalty to the US, and prosecutors didn’t present a single radio broadcast as evidence against her. In fact, critical testimony against her was later found to be false and coerced, to the extent that President Gerald Ford pardoned D’Aquino in 1977.
Aaron Burr
Yes, an American Vice President was also one of its greatest traitors. Fresh off his duel with Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr noticed his political career was now as dead as Hamilton was. So he looked fondly on the Louisiana territory, with its disputed borders, and residents toying with secessionist notions. Burr believed a small army could steal Louisiana away, so he contacted Britain’s ambassador, offering to help Britain take the territory. In return, Burr wanted money and ships. But he also needed a general. So Burr sent the infamous “Cipher Letter” to General James Wilkinson, Commander-in-Chief of the US Army, detailing the plot and requesting his services. However, Wilkinson believed the plan would fail, and ratted him out to President Thomas Jefferson. Thus, on December 9, 1806, the US Army seized most of Burr’s boats and supplies. But Burr knew it was REALLY over when he saw a New Orleans newspaper article with a verbatim copy of the Cipher Letter to Britain. Burr appeared in court and was not initially indicted, but fled when asked to appear a second time. After recapture, he was found not guilty, due to a very precise Supreme Court reading of the Constitution’s definition of treason. He then fled to Europe but returned after four years, finding work as an attorney.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were the first American civilians executed under Section 2 of the Espionage Act. Charges related to passing atomic bomb secrets to Russian agents (the data came from Ethel’s brother, who worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos). Their legal prosecution was the “Trial of the Century” (prior to O.J., at least), and many felt the couple were unfairly convicted. However, recently declassified cables from the Soviet Union’s VENONA project, now support testimony that Julius was, indeed, a courier and recruiter for the USSR. In fact, Morton Sobell, who was tried along with the Rosenbergs (and served 17 years in prison), admitted in 2008 that yes, he was a spy, and that Julius Rosenberg handed atomic bomb information to the Soviets.
Robert Hanssen
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Robert Hanssen is a former FBI agent who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services against the United States for 22 years (1979 to 2001). During his espionage career Hanssen compromised scores of investigations and operations, including the surveillance of suspected mole Felix Bloch, and completed an eavesdropping tunnel directly under the Soviet Embassy decoding room. At one time, he even became responsible for apprehending himself, and he passed some of that off to Aldrich Ames (above). Worse, however, were his leaks to the USSR of every KGB agent contacting the FBI— conveniently identifying detected double-agents and prospective defectors alike. The FBI was so flummoxed at finding Hanssen, they had to buy the information to put him away (most of which they already had). Cash and Hanssen’s carelessness eventually led to his capture, and in 2001 he pled guilty to 13 counts of espionage in the United States. He was then sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole, and can be found in America’s “Supermax” prison, where he remains in his cell, alone, 23 hours a day. Many have described his activities as “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history.”
Nidal Malik Hasan
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Nidal Malik Hasan was a U.S. Army Major, and the sole suspect in a shooting at the Fort Hood military base, only weeks before he would have deployed to Afghanistan. Prior to the shooting, Hasan had repeatedly expressed extremist views, most of which had been communicated to his superiors and the FBI. The Feds had even monitored his e-mails to Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, also known as the “Bin Laden of the Internet”. Sadly, political correctness and a slow-moving investigation prevented the Army from taking action before Hasan murdered 13 people and wounded 30 others. Oddly, the Pentagon never mentions Hasan’s Islamism in its entire 86-page review of the incident. Never mind that during the attack, he was not in uniform, but dressed in traditional Muslim clothing, and was shooting unarmed victims while shouting “Allah Ackbar”. Hasan currently resides under heavy guard at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Houston, Texas, reportedly a paraplegic.
John Walker, Jr.
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In 1967, Navy communications officer John Walker, Jr. snuck into the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., and offered to sell secrets. He then handed over settings for the KL-47 cipher machine, which decoded sensitive US Navy messages. His motivations were purely financial, and he proved to be a screaming bargain: over the next 17 years, Walker gave the KGB the locations of all American nuclear submarines, as well as the procedures the US would follow to launch nuclear missiles at the Soviet Union in the event of war. The Soviets also learned the locations of underwater microphones tracking Soviet nuclear submarines. Moreover, KGB agents learned every American troop and air movement to Vietnam from 1971-1973, and they passed this on to their allies, including the planned sites and times for U.S. airstrikes against North Vietnam. According to Vitaly Yurchenko, a KGB defector, “It was the greatest case in KGB history. We deciphered millions of your messages. If there had been a war, we would have won it.”
Benedict Arnold
His name is synonymous with disloyalty. During the American Revolutionary War, Arnold began the war in the Continental Army, but later defected to the British Army. While still a general on the American side, he became Commander of the West Point fort in New York, and offered to surrender it to the British. After the plot came to light, in September 1780, Arnold joined the British Army as a brigadier general, with a sizable pension and £6,000 signing bonus. Many believe that he was frustrated at being passed over for promotion, sickened by others taking credit for his achievements, and tired of (groundless) accusations that he exacted private property for the use of the army . In fact, Congressional investigations later found Arnold had spent much of his own money on the American war effort. Much like Aaron Burr (above) Arnold’s plan unraveled due to an intercepted document: when American forces captured British Major John André carrying papers revealing the proposed surrender of West Point, Arnold fled to a British ship docked on the Hudson river, narrowly escaping the forces of one highly pissed off George Washington. Britain quickly secured Arnold’s services, and he led British raids in Virginia, New London and Groton, Connecticut, before the war ended with the American victory at Yorktown. Arnold died in London, and monuments to him there are ambiguous at best.


Top 10 Biggest Travesties of the Oscars

Every year the Oscars come and go. Almost every year there is at least one or two controversial picks. This list looks at ten of the worst travesties relating to the Academy Awards. Undoubtedly, some will disagree with a number of the entries and will want to add their own – feel free to do so in the comments.
The Travesty: The Long, Expensive Campaigns for Nominations
It has long since become atrociously farcical how much lobbying goes into each nomination. The biggest campaigns always revolved around Best Picture, Director and the acting categories. And in order to keep a name in the Academy’s flowing cup freshly remember’d (Henry V, thank you), the respective producers lobby, lobby, lobby and shell out inordinate sums of money to get some attention. But, what about the small-budget work? The Independent films are more and more frequently snubbed in various categories these days, because they don’t have the funds to keep up with the blockbuster campaigns.
The Oscar season once lasted from about December to February, but now, a campaign better begin in summer if it hopes to hold its ground and sway opinion. Welcome to politics. Money wins.
Michael Moore
The Travesty: Michael Moore Wins Best Documentary (2003)
Moore should have won Best Documentary for Sicko (2008). He probably didn’t win because of the moronic scene he made in 2003 when he won for Bowling for Columbine. He told everyone he would slam President Bush, but no one believed him. Right or wrong, the Oscars was not the place for it. It was similar to the (in)famous Black Panther salute of the 1968 Olympic Games. Moore was soundly booed out of the building, and Steve Martin saved the day with a great joke.
Regardless, Bowling for Columbine is not a documentary. It tells one side of the story, the liberal side, and should never have even been nominated. It was, and it won, because it was by far the most popular blockbuster of documentaries in recent history. It held its own with The Lord of the Rings: The Towers at the box office. Why? Because it’s deliberately inflammatory. The proper political argument has always been one that considers all sides (the U. S. has two, Conservative and Liberal). Moore’s film only enunciates the liberal side. It does not, therefore, properly document anything.
Forrest Gump
The Travesty: Forrest Gump Wins Best Picture (1995)
Forrest Gump was the feel-good movie of 1994. It’s got “heartwarming” moments by the bucketload. And it must have caught the Academy in a heartwarming mood, because it distracted them from its lack of a plot. It’s a series of happy, sad, humorous and endearing vignettes about the life of a mentally handicapped man, who somehow manages to be present at every single pop-culture event of the latter half of the 20th Century. That stretches the suspension of disbelief past the breaking point. The Best Picture of 1994 should have been a close race between Pulp Fiction (which does have a plot, albeit out of order) and Quiz Show.
Ralph Fiennes
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The Travesty: Ralph Fiennes Loses Best Supporting Actor (1994)
Some of the Academy’s voting panel have recently admitted that they should have voted for Fiennes’s horrific, odious portrayal of Amon Goeth. Once again (see entry #1), the Academy made the mistake of rewarding someone for a long, distinguished body of work, instead of giving the award to the year’s best performance. Tommy Lee Jones, who won for The Fugitive, is certainly superb as Deputy U. S. Marshal Samuel Gerard, but Fiennes is superlative in a performance that goes against his own nature as a human being. He succeeds in acting as if he does not understand why anyone would care about Jews. He is walking death in this film.
Ten Commandments
The Travesty: The Ten Commandments Loses Best Picture (1957)
One of the worst films ever to win Best Picture somehow managed to steal it from one of the best never to win it. The Ten Commandments does what no one thought possible at the time (even now, it’s regarded with a sense of awe since DeMille had no computers). It won the Oscar for special effects, but that’s all, and it lost Best Picture to Around the World in 80 Days. In terms of storyline, it’s usually a good bet to wager on the Bible. It has a lot of good stories, whether or not you believe them.
The story of the Exodus may be the most epic, and that’s saying a lot coming from the Bible. DeMille et al. pulled it off with awesome verve and pacing. The film is not overlong at 3 hours 40 minutes, because it persistently holds the audience enraptured with its scale and photography. People put their hands over their mouths in theaters across the country when the Red Sea parted. Right up to the last moment, they thought they would have to be cheated out of seeing it.

Saving Private Ryan
The Travesty: Saving Private Ryan Loses Best Picture (1999)
It lost to Shakespeare in Love, which is a great film in all respects. The final production of Romeo and Juliet, in the Globe Theater, is the best inkling on film of what it might have been like to see a Shakespeare play in Shakespeare’s day. But face it, no film has revolutionized its genre as vehemently, as fearlessly, as Saving Private Ryan for the war film. It was not until 1998 that a director managed to overpower the censors in order to show combat for what it is. This is, in terms of realism, the first war film to tell the truth. All the other great war films lied, inasmuch as they shielded the audience’s eyes to the reality of a 7.92mm bullet going through some poor, nameless private’s abdomen from the side: guts everywhere and the poor guy’s screaming for his mama.
This film takes the uninitiated audience closer to combat reality than any other, and in its wake, we now have a slew of honest war films like Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, The Thin Red Line, The Hurt Locker, to name a few. We even have a still-popular WWII first-person shooter video game genre because of this film. Saving Private Ryan was the first to get it right, and it certainly set the bar high, with a perfect, simple storyline, set against an epic historical backdrop. Even Rambo IV took a new lead from it, showing Rambo’s carnage the way it always should have been.
It’s not fair to say that times had changed by 1998, and the MPAA had become more liberal. They still considered rating it NC-17 (which used to be X). This would have been the first time in history that a film were given such a rating for any reason other than sex. Spielberg finally changed their minds by tracking them down to a conference room and explaining that the MPAA had been lying to the world for 100 years, and the time of Victorian sensibilities had long since passed. Now was the time to tell the truth about Omaha Beach.
Peter O’Toole
The Travesty: The Many Nominations of Peter O’Toole
Talk about the luck of the Irish. O’Toole is probably the finest actor alive today (and this lister is a huge fan of Daniel Day-Lewis). He holds the record for most acting nominations without a win, eight, all in the lead category. Granted, that category is a horse race every year, and he went up against some of the truly indelible performances, from the 1960s to the present. Gregory Peck deserved the win for To Kill a Mockingbird, but what about Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady? It’s a musical and he can’t manage more than a 4-note range in his singing voice. As a result, he did sprechenstimme, as the Germans would call it, “singing speech.” His acting is just fine, but there’s something glaringly absent in the film without the main character singing his songs.
Then the Academy shamed itself in 1969, when it gave the award to Cliff Robertson, an American, instead of O’Toole, from the U. K. O’Toole put forth the performance of a lifetime as King Henry II, the second time, after Becket, and the result was poetry in motion and speech. It sounds like Shakespeare, but it comes out like common conversation. It may be his best work. But then there’s Venus (2007), in which he plays a fictitious old man who’s obsessed with a 16-year-old girl. The award went to Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin, a real person. When it comes to acting, the fictitious characters have always been much more difficult to portray than real people. Whitaker had the real Amin’s performances in newsreels to impersonate. O’Toole had no one but himself.
The Academy should have done one of two things that year: either not nominated him at all, or given him the win. This lister believes that of the 5 nominated performances, O’Toole’s is truly the best. It was consummate understatement throughout, instead of the flashy bravura Whitaker put forth. Bravura routinely wins.
Stanley Kubrick
The Travesty: Stanley Kubrick Never Won Best Director
Like the next entry, Kubrick directed some of cinema’s absolute masterpieces, films that have stood the test of time and remain utter genius in all regards. He was nominated for 4 of them, and never won. He won an Oscar for his help with the adapted screenplay of Full Metal Jacket, but as a director, four of his finest efforts were evidently misunderstood. That is the certainly the case for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Some critics slammed it as incomprehensible. Others heralded it as the awakening of modern cinema. For whatever reason, it somehow managed to lose Best Director to Carol Reed, for the musical Oliver! That film is a fine work of drama, and perhaps deserved the Best Picture award. But as a director, Reed did nothing new. It’s still a musical, a good one, but nothing groundbreaking or innovative in any way (except that Oliver Twist does not have such a happy ending). Kubrick, however, landed all the technical aspects of a film with the same excellence in 2001, and also opened a multitude of new doors into science fiction drama, and filmmaking in general.
Then there’s Dr. Strangelove, easily one of the finest comedies in film history, because Kubrick had the nerve to poke fun at nuclear holocaust at the same time as the Cuban Missile Crisis. And that doesn’t mention just how sidesplittingly funny every single scene is. His idea for the war room was a giant, green roundtable, so it would be like the generals and politicians were playing poker with the world’s fate. He came up with the line, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!” Then, consider that every performance is pitch-perfect, every scene is honed down to a razor’s edge of timing and appearance.
He should have been nominated for his directing of Paths of Glory, and perhaps Spartacus.
Alfred Hitchcock
The Travesty: Alfred Hitchcock Never Won Best Director
Hitchcock is a byword, now, for suspense. He was nominated as director 5 times, for Rebecca, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Rear Window and Psycho. He lost all five, and was not even nominated for the now-renowned classics Vertigo, North by Northwest and The Birds. The Academy finally honored him with the Irving Thalberg lifetime achievement award, for which he walked on stage, said, “Thank you,” and walked off.
As a result of this and other oversights, the lifetime achievement awards, like the Irving Thalberg and the Jean Hersholt, have become thought of as apologies to great actors, directors, etc, who deserved a competitive win or two and never got one. Psycho, as one example, deserved the win for director over the other four nominees (look them up), because after viewing all 5 performances, Hitchcock’s is the only standout in terms of gutsiness and innovation. The main character dies 30 minutes into the film! And what a death scene! In age of ridiculous gore, Psycho still scares and shocks.
John Wayne
John Wayne
The Travesty: John Wayne Wins Best Actor (1970)
In the annals of acting awards, no honor has been so universally denounced, scorned, mocked or ridiculed as John Wayne’s lead win for his performance as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. His portrayal has been called “hammy,” “over the top” and “mischaracterized,” among others, because he very obviously, even obscenely, comes out of character several times in the film, ceasing to be Rooster, and reverting to John Wayne. He shotguns his dialogue for a change, instead of…pausing every few words in a real…laconic delivery of his words! (his exclamation point). But his shotgun delivery tramples all over many of the other actors’ cue lines immediately before his.
He is trying his best to pull off a Spencer Tracy or a Laurence Olivier, and he fails miserably. In his defense, however, he put forth some outstanding performances in his career, in Sands of Iwo Jima and The Shootist, to name two. The Academy decided, and even admitted afterward, that it was time to honor his career with an Oscar. Thus the award went to his body of work, not his performance, whereas the other five nominated performances were all much better for that year. Any one of them is a valid choice, but this lister prefers Richard Burton’s as Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days, the most regal, fearless, authoritative performance in film to date. As a result of the Academy’s decision, Burton lost once again, and eventually died without one, though he might have deserved two (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold). The Academy has been accused of denying many deserved wins and nominations throughout the 1960s and 1970s from British actors, in order to honor more Americans.