Best Picture #59: Platoon

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 Platoon (1986).

Seven years after his father starred in the greatest Vietnam War film, Charlie Sheen took the lead in Platoon and created something that was decidedly not that. Drawing on director Oliver Stone’s experiences from his own time in Vietnam, Platoon attempts to create a depiction of the war more grounded in reality than many of the other American films about the subject which often seemed to glorify the battles and the idealism of the people who fought them, in stark contrast to the actual situation. Unfortunately, it still tries its hardest to be cinematic and loses some of the feeling that we’re seeing the truth as it gets caught up in massive explosions and outbursts from characters who seem larger than life. It makes an attempt to be a poetic reflection on the nature of the war in Vietnam but shirks the outlandish and surreal aspects that let something like Apocalypse Now or The Deer Hunter do that, while maintaining all of the facets of war films that make so many misinterpret as glorification and a reason to sign up and fight. I used to absolutely despise this film and I can’t say I really understand why I did, but I still maintain that it constantly contradicts itself and feeds into the culture it wants to dismantle.

The Real Best Picture:

One of those years where I’d be happier with anything else but The Mission edges out as my favorite of the bunch.

Best Picture Winners

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