Best Picture #43: Patton

Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Patton (1970).

An epic war film following an odd but brilliant military leader with a singular determination and little respect for the politics of his superiors to whom he brings numerous victories, before being thrown aside as soon as he was no longer convenient for them and later dying at a young age in a motor accident. No, it isn’t Lawrence of Arabia, and any comparison to what I consider one of the greatest films ever made would not be favorable for Patton, but many of Patton’s strengths are the same, with its sweeping visuals, perfectly matched score, and stupendous casting choices, and it is also a great film. George C. Scott is one of those castings so perfect, where his persona and that of his character play off of each other brilliantly, that he almost seems to be Patton more than Patton himself was, even going so far as to stand against the American institutions he was a part of and refuse to accept his Best Actor Oscar. At face value, Patton is a propaganda film, though a very good one as quality of filmmaking is concerned, and indeed, like most war movies, it probably inspired some towards militarism but, for all it and the actual Patton did to participate in the propagation of American imperialism, both the man and the movie offered damning critiques that should inspire consideration of how things continue to be done. It’s been nearly 80 years since Patton compared both Democrats and Republicans to Nazis. I wonder what he would think today.

The Real Best Picture:

All due respect to Five Easy Pieces but it’s Patton by a landslide. The ‘70s were the best decade for Best Picture winners by an incredible margin and they started off strong.

Best Picture Winners

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