Best Picture #69: The English Patient

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 The English Patient (1996).

Probably most notable today for being hated by Elaine in Seinfeld, The English Patient is some prime Oscar bait in the vein of Out of Africa that seemed destined to be forgotten within a few years of its release. The story of a Hungarian burn victim and his companions at the end of WWII as he tries to remember his past and finds how it intersected with theirs, it’s got all the minimal historical relevance, paint by numbers romance, and taste of exoticism that the Academy seems to lap up, wishing they were watching films from years past that were great because they came earlier and had supreme craftsmanship and ambition behind them. The English Patient isn’t a bad film in the slightest, and moments of it hint at those older films and carry a sense of adventure or real emotion, but the final product feels so calculated that it’s hard to ever really appreciate it.

The Real Best Picture:

Toss this one in the woodchipper, it was Fargo’s year.

Best Picture Winners

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