All Best Picture Winners, Ranked: The 2000s

Are the 1990s my favorite decade for movies? I’ve always considered myself partial to the 1930s, but in writing these posts, I’ve discovered that the 1990s are the only decade in which I’ve actually seen every single Best Picture winner. With the dawn on the new millennium, sadly, my enthusiasm for the Oscars started to wane, and as I look over the list of winners for this decade, I see that every single year except 2003 brought a movie I love substantially more.

So let’s get started:

2000: Gladiator [Good]

In a lot of ways, this Russell Crowe-starring sword-and-sandal epic about a military general reduced to a slave’s status and his thirst for revenge against the tyrannical Emperor Commodus is a tighter, grittier, less sprawling, less offensive Braveheart. It certainly holds up better as entertainment, with Crowe’s Maximus a powerfully sympathetic protagonist and good supporting performances by Richard Harris, Oliver Reed, and Connie Nielsen. Joaquin Phoenix’s turn as Commodus is a bit polarizing, but having seen 2005’s Walk the Line, I have to give Phoenix credit for his astonishing range. (Movie I Love Substantially More: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.]

2001: A Beautiful Mind [Good]

Russell Crowe is back, this time playing a mathematical genius battling (and often losing to) schizophrenia. He’s quite good as John Nash, but it’s actually Paul Bettany, as Nash’s college roommate, who captures my heart and my imagination here. (Bettany hasn’t had quite the career I would have wished for him, but he’s great in everything I’ve seen him in.) Yet even though I’m putting the film in the Good tier, I haven’t felt much need to revisit it in subsequent years — unlike the Movie I Love Substantially More, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which I’ve rewatched many times.

2002: Chicago [Good, but Not for Me]

As a fan of musicals, I should eat this up, right? It does have plenty going for it: catchy songs, great choreography, and first-rate acting/singing/dancing performances from Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah. Yet the story, of an adulterous housewife (played by Renee Zellweger) with showbiz aspirations who is put on trial for murdering her lover, is so thoroughly cynical, with not even the slightest hint of any genuine sentiment as its characters use and abuse each other without conscience, that it alienates me. (Movie I Love Substantially More: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. I’m also partial to Minority Report, one of the few Tom Cruise vehicles I actually enjoy.)

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [God-Tier]

Director Peter Jackson has made some regrettable missteps since he wowed the world with his Lord of the Rings trilogy, but these three films — and I consider this award honors all three films, since they tell a single story, just as J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels did — are still the gold standard for fantasy filmmaking. Those who dislike fantasy fiction, on both page and screen, probably wish that Lost in Translation, or Mystic River, or Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (which I did love) had taken the prize. But as a long-time fan of both fantasy in general and Tolkien in particular, I love, love, love these films, even though I acknowledge their flaws (most notably the rewrite they did on the character of Faramir, played by David Wenham). Not only are they wonderful films to swim in, but they also offer a break from the harsh, acerbic tone of so many acclaimed films of this period. Heroes do exist, and it’s pure pleasure to see them so powerfully realized on screen.

2004: Million Dollar Baby [Okay]

It’s been said often that Clint Eastwood’s boxing drama is actually two films. The first two-thirds is a triumph-of-the-underdog feel-good movie, with poor girl Maggie (Hilary Swank) punching her way towards greater self-esteem and a found family (Eastwood as her coach, Morgan Freeman as his right-hand man) far more loving and supportive than her loathsome biological clan. Then the movie does a hard pivot and transforms into a dreary, depressing meditation on quality of life and the relative rightness of euthanasia. Had it continued on its original path, it would have been solidly in my Good tier. But the last third had me banging my head (metaphorically, of course) and shouting that “this was not what I signed up for!” I felt betrayed, and I still do when I think about it. A far more tonally consistent portrait of despair is this year’s Movie I Loved Substantially More (and should have won Best Picture, darn it!), Martin Scorcese’s The Aviator.

(Note: despite my dislike of the twist, I have to acknowledge Million Dollar Baby as the last Best Picture winner of the decade to feature a female protagonist. We’re heading back into No Woman’s Land; the next female-led film to win the top prize will be 2017’s The Shape of Water.)

2005: Crash [Never Seen]

Favorite Oscar-bait movies of the year: Capote and Walk the Line.

2006: The Departed [Good, but Not for Me]

Martin Scorcese is hit or miss with me. Just two years earlier he won my allegiance with The Aviator, a biopic of tormented genius billionaire Howard Hughes, and I’ve enjoyed his costume dramas The Age of Innocence (nominated for Best Picture but doomed to lose in the year of Schindler’s List), Gangs of New York (in spite of the miscast Cameron Diaz), and Hugo. But I’m far less enthralled by his movies with contemporary or near-contemporary settings, in which there’s no fascinating window into the past to make the dark, uber-gritty violence and emphasis on the baser side of human nature more palatable. Still, this drama of organized crime and police corruption in Boston is well-made and well-acted, so I can’t argue it didn’t deserve the award, especially since the Movie I Loved Substantially More, Guillermo del Toro’s dark but ultimately humanistic fairy tale Pan’s Labyrinth, didn’t have a shot.

2007: No Country for Old Men [Never Seen]

I have no interest in this film. This was, in my opinion, a rather weak year for movies, at least judging from what I’ve seen; Juno, Away from Her, and Ratatouille are probably my favorites.

2008: Slumdog Millionaire [Good, but Not for Me]

This dark but ultimately triumphant story of a young Indian Muslim man who faces down both class and religious prejudice to win a fortune and the girl of his dreams is one of those satisfying blends of grit and sentiment that I love to see win Oscars. But this film didn’t quite land with me. I couldn’t help noticing that while protagonist Jamal (Dev Patel), his older brother Salim (Madhur Mittal), and even the game-show host (Anil Kapoor) were all interesting and compelling characters, Jamal’s love interest Latika (Freida Pinto), the only female character of any significance in the film, gets no substantial development beyond her function as love interest. Love stories in which one character has a personality while the other (usually the woman) remains a shadow are a pet peeve of mine. A more satisfying romance, and the Movie I Love Substantially More, is Pixar’s WALL-E.

2009: The Hurt Locker [Good, but Not for Me]

I remember this movie being a well-made film; I admired it when I saw it, but nothing about it has stuck. This year I have three Movies I Loved Substantially More: An Education, Inglorious Basterds, and Up. Inglorious Basterds would have been my choice for Best Picture.


Book Report: Ithaca

How much do we know about Hera, wife of Zeus and queen of the gods in ancient Greek myth? If we know her at all, it’s probably best as the most cheated-on of all divinities. Unable to hold her powerful “Lord of the Thunderbolt” husband accountable, she takes out her anger on the various nymphs and mortal women he dallies with and, quite often, their offspring as well (e.g. Hercules, or Heracles as he’s known in Greek — ironically, the name means “glory of Hera”). She also helps bring about the downfall of the great city of Troy after Prince Paris snubs her in the famous beauty contest, the prize being an apple labeled “For the Fairest.” These myths paint her as a shrewish rage-a-holic, the ancient equivalent of the modern-day “Karen.”

Yet in her novel Ithaca, Claire North gives us a very different Hera, a Queen and a champion of Queens. Through her all-knowing eyes we watch Penelope, Queen of Ithaca and wife of Odysseus, cope with the encroachment of grasping, quarrelsome men eager to win her hand, along with an invasion of “pirates.” To deal with the pirates — in reality the henchmen of Andraemon, the most vicious of the suitors — she oversees the training of the women of her island into an effective fighting force. As if that were not enough to handle, she must also play host to the children of the recently murdered King Agamemnon, the slightly-out-of-his-depth Orestes and the cold, vengeful Elektra, who believe that Clytemnestra, their mother and Agamemnon’s murderer, is hiding on Ithaca (They’re right.) Hera herself plays little active role in the proceedings, but North’s decision to tell the story from her perspective proves a stroke of genius. With her sharp, wry, ultimately sympathetic voice, the queen of the gods becomes an embodiment for our rooting interest in Penelope, the women who serve her, and even Clytemnestra. Plus, I love her sense of humor. Hoot-bleeping-hoot.

If Ithaca has a fault, it might be a lack of sympathetic male representation; while this lack makes narrative sense, I can see how it might be off-putting for some readers, as the same situation would bother me if the genders were reversed. Men in this story range from despicable abusers (e.g. Andraemon) to neurotic would-be heroes (e.g. Odysseus’ son Telemachus), all of them having one trait in common: a deep and unbridled contempt for women, the natural result of the misogynistic culture in which they have been raised. Kenamon, the only male visitor to Ithaca to treat Penelope with any respect, hails from Egypt, a society far more enlightened where gender roles are concerned; he is painted sympathetically, but his role is too small to offset the impression of the male characters in general as arrogant, violent misogynists. The worst thing about them, for me, is how predictable they are. In any given situation, they will choose the cruelest, most hurtful course available to them. In many ways, Telemachus is the cruelest, since he’s the only one for whom Penelope actually cares and therefore in the position to hurt her the most deeply. Throughout the story, Penelope, a woman of wit, resourcefulness, and courage, shows herself to be up to every challenge until the end, which shows her broken by the actions of her unloving son. (For a kinder Telemachus, give Madeline Miller’s Circe a look. So many brilliant authors these days are turning their hands to fascinating feminist retellings of the old myths, and it makes me glad all over.)

Yet the menfolk create chaos, the driving force of this narrative are the bonds between women, some strong, some tenuous, some hostile. Hera observes the friendships forged by the martial training with delight; she’s far less patient with those women who withhold support from their sisters (e.g. Telemachus’ nanny Eurycleia, a poster child for internalized misogyny). Hera’s own complicated relationships with her own stepdaughters, goddesses Athena and Artemis, also come into play, a good portion of loathing with a welcome dash of understanding and even winking admiration. Best of all, each woman in this network of relationships, even with the smallest page time, is an interesting and complex figure who could easily be the heroine of her own story.

Five out of five stars.

All Best Picture Winners, Ranked: The 1990’s

1990: Dances With Wolves [Good]

I have one major gripe with this film, and it’s not “It’s not Goodfellas,” It’s that Kevin Costner, the director and star, is a poor narrator in a heavily narrated movie. When he’s simply playing Civil War veteran John Dunbar, who journeys west and ends up building a life among the Sioux, he’d decent. But he should have found a way to leave the narration to someone else (like, maybe, Graham Greene?). Still, the other major players — Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant — all give outstanding performances. The real MVP is John Barry, whose lush, sweeping score delivers an emotional punch.

1991: The Silence of the Lambs [Good]

Some movies I enjoy while I’m watching them but start to sink in my estimation as I reflect on them (case in point: 1997’s Titanic). This movie made the opposite journey. When I first watched it, I found its ice-cold tone off-putting, but since then, my respect and admiration for it has grown. While fellow nominee Beauty and the Beast and the un-nominated Fried Green Tomatoes might remain my sentimental favorites, this year’s winner hits my feminist sweet spot for being the only female-led Best Picture winner other than All About Eve to focus on its protagonist’s work life rather than her love and/or family life. In order to capture a serial killer, FBI Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) must seek help from a notorious murderer (Anthony Hopkins) imprisoned in an asylum. Hopkins’ Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter might get the bulk of the attention from fans, but the story belongs to Clarice, as she uses all her courage and resourcefulness to rescue a young woman from the serial killer’s clutches. If you enjoy a smart nail-biter with super-high stakes, this Best Picture winner is for you.

1992: Unforgiven [Good]

William Munny (Clint Eastwood), a mercenary with a dark past, is hired to avenge a prostitute’s murder and defend the women of a bordello from the bullying minions of powerful “Little Bill” Daggett (Gene Hackman); Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris offer stalwart support. A much grittier vision of the Old West than Dances With Wolves, it’s a disturbing meditation on violence and redemption.

1993: Schindler’s List [God-Tier]

Steven Spielberg’s best film (thus far) remains, after thirty years, among the top five finest pieces of film making to emerge in my lifetime. I’m one of those strange folk who has seen this film more than once; I’ve used it to teach Film Analysis to my students, and each time I show it I feel its impact afresh. How can I keep doing that to myself? It is, without question, a dark and disturbing film, a chilling glimpse into the horrors of the Holocaust, a lesson in what happens when human beings are reduced to livestock. Yet it offers a glimmer of hope, symbolized by the tiny flame on the melted-down candle at the opening. The story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German businessman who transforms from a self-involved profiteer of slave labor into a protector of his Jewish workforce, it highlights the power of empathy to change and save lives. Neeson, at this point in this career a brilliant actor, brings cunning and charisma to his complicated role, and Ben Kingsley (as Schindler’s manager and mentor) and Ralph Fiennes (as a mad, monstrous Nazi commandant) give faultless supporting performances. Once you’ve seen it, it will not leave your mind.

1994: Forrest Gump [Okay]

This frequently disparaged Best Picture winner is far from terrible, though it’s nowhere near as good as fellow nominee The Shawshank Redemption. Tom Hanks and (especially) Gary Sinise are quite good, Alan Silvestri’s score is lovely, and many scenes are genuinely moving. But the parts are stronger than the whole, which may be why the movie gets far less attention these days than Shawshank or Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. (Gary Sinise would have been a fine choice to win Best Supporting Actor, but that went to the equally-deserving Martin Landau for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood.)

1995: Braveheart [Aged Like Milk]

Treating it as a joke when the vicious King Edward Longshanks (Patrick MacGoohan, who’s quite good) hurls his homosexual son’s lover from a tower window to his death would not, and should not, be acceptable today. Yet even omitting this off-putting homophobia from the equation, Mel Gibson’s overblown, historically inaccurate vanity project just isn’t very good, though MacGoohan and a number of other supporting players give a good account of themselves. One of the most notable examples of the Academy’s preference for male-led projects over female-driven ones is their choosing this film to honor with the Best Picture award rather than Ang Lee’s and Emma Thompson’s exquisite screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, which has aged like fine wine. The charming Babe would also have been a better choice.

1996: The English Patient [Personal Favorite]

Of all the winners I’ve placed in this tier up to this point, this one is my guiltiest pleasure. Backlash to its win began almost immediately, even before Seinfeld stepped in to make it fashionable to loathe it. Although I’m hardly ashamed to hold an opposite opinion to any character played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, I realize this movie has notable flaws, and I’d even acknowledge that the Coen brothers’ Fargo would have been a better choice for Best Picture. But I still find myself swept away by this unpopular winner whenever I watch it, thanks largely to its cinematography, its score (courtesy of underrated Gabriel Yared), and the two characters played by Kristin Scott Thomas and Juliette Binoche, in whose fates I find myself invested.

1997: Titanic [Okay to Good]

My husband says it best: the movie really picks up once the ship hits the iceberg. Everything involving the sinking is top-level film-making, and it’s hard not to feel the tragedy as the massive ocean liner disappears beneath the waves while the surviving passengers watch from their lifeboats. The cast also includes some memorable figures, especially Kathy Bates’ Molly Brown, Victor Garber’s doomed shipbuilder Mr. Andrews, and Jonathan Evans-Jones’ bandleader Wallace Hartley, who provides perhaps the film’s most genuinely poignant moment when he tells his fellow musicians what a privilege it’s been to play with them that night. (Evans-Jones is primarily a musician, not an actor, but his is the face that stays with me.) Yet the bulk of the movie is taken up by the rather shallow and clumsy romance between Kate Winslet’s discontented patrician and Leonardo diCaprio’s starving artist. Both excellent performers, Winslet and diCaprio give it their all, but they fight a losing battle against the cliche-ridden screenplay. Both have gone on to do much better work and win Oscars of their own.

1998: Shakespeare in Love [Good]

Everyone said the Best Picture Oscar this year was Saving Private Ryan‘s to lose, but then Miramax mogul and all-around garbage human being Harvey Weinstein spread some money around among Academy voters, and this historical-speculation romantic comedy walked away with the prize. So runs the prevailing narrative, at any rate. Yet while Steven Spielberg’s World War II drama is a powerful film, I find this winner charming, with strong performances from Joseph Fiennes as struggling young playwright William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Rush as a theater manager who has trouble keeping up, Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth (earning an Oscar that should have been hers for Mrs. Brown the year before), and a host of awesome British character actors as Shakespeare’s company of players. Ben Affleck, as a popular actor whose ego Shakespeare must stroke, is the weak link, feeling more like a LARP-er who wandered onto the set. But while it’s become popular lately to dislike Gwyneth Paltrow, here I like both her and the character she plays. (Cate Blanchett’s performance in Elizabeth should have won Best Actress, though.)

1999: American Beauty [Good, but Not for Me]

A lot of first-rate craftsmanship went into this drama of a disaffected suburbanite (Kevin Spacey) stricken with lust for his daughter’s cheerleader friend. But “White Male Malaise: The Movie” failed to resonate with me, as I couldn’t find a single character with whom to sympathize, except maybe the catatonic neighbor played by Allison Janney, clearly a victim of abuse and neglect. Most irksome was the movie’s insistence on demonizing Spacey’s wife (Annette Bening) for, among other things, playing Broadway show tunes — disparaged by Spacey as “Lawrence Welk s**t” — at dinner. Sorry, movie, but if I want White Male Malaise, I’ll just play “It’s Quiet Uptown” from Hamilton. 1999 wasn’t the best year for Oscar-bait films. It’ll be more remembered for The Phantom Menace and Stanley Kubrick’s sudden passing…

Ranking Best Picture Winners: The 1980s

It’s become clear that I won’t manage to finish this blog series before March 12, the date of this year’s Oscars. I still have a good many years to get through. But I’ll keep it going till I’ve brought my rankings up to the present, because hey, it’s fun.

1980: Ordinary People [Good]

Fans of Martin Scorcese resent this film’s winning Best Picture in the same year that Raging Bull was nominated, but Robert Redford’s directorial debut is nonetheless a well-acted, well-crafted, and thought-provoking family drama which eschews sentimentality. Timothy Hutton plays Conrad Jarrett, whose survivor’s guilt after his brother’s death has driven him to attempt suicide and who now is striving, with the aid of sympathetic psychiatrist Judd Hirsch, to escape the burden of his mother’s (Mary Tyler Moore) icy hatred. Moore’s Beth Jarrett ranks with Gladys Cooper’s nasty Mrs. Vale from 1942’s Now, Voyager among Cinema’s Most Toxic Parents, and Donald Sutherland also turns in an effective performance as the paterfamilias torn between his loyalty to his wife and his love for his suffering son. A smart, tasteful melodrama for grown-ups.

1981: Chariots of Fire [Personal Favorite]

This winner is often dismissed as “boring.” When my husband and I watched it together, he found the lack of conflict disappointing, and I can’t say he’s wrong; there is no central tension, no clearly identifiable antagonist. Instead, it’s more of a snapshot of a time and place, Britain the years 1919 through 1924, when the fabled roar of the Twenties was muted as the country was trying to move out of the shadow of a devastating war. It concerns two track athletes as they train for the 1924 Olympics, Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a Jewish Oxford student who confronts anti-Semitism with a determination to “run [the bigots] off their feet,” and Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a Scots missionary who puts this work on hold to train and must deal with his family’s disappointment. Both actors turn in admirable performances, as does Ian Holm, as Abrahams’ coach and mentor. But here again is a case where my love of Masterpiece Theatre and my interest in 19th and early 20th century British history sell me on a movie that not everyone is going to like.

1982: Gandhi [Okay]

So I’m a Masterpiece Theatre fan who loves historical dramas; if that predilection sold me on Chariots of Fire, just why didn’t this one click with me? The fact that it’s at least an hour longer than 1981’s winner might have something to do with it. Ben Kingsley is not to blame; his performance is flawless, and his Best Actor Oscar deserved. But in the years that have elapsed between my first and only viewing of the film and now, what I remember most about it is its ponderous pace. I wonder if I might feel differently if I saw it again.

1983: Terms of Endearment [Good, but Not for Me]

Finally, the streak of male-dominated Best Picture winners comes to an end. Ironically enough, if I’d had the deciding vote, the award would have gone to yet another male-dominated film, The Right Stuff. James L. Brooks’ mother (Shirley MacLaine) – daughter (Debra Winger) comedy-drama should have been a slam-dunk for me, yet I found their characters shallow, self-absorbed, and regrettably unengaging. The last half, in which Winger battles cancer, picks up a bit, but the first hour struck me as a cast of narcissists knocking against each other, and I couldn’t find a reason why I’d want to spend time with them. I suspect Brooks’ style just isn’t to my taste; I’ve seen three of his films — this one, Broadcast News, and As Good as It Gets — and of these, only Broadcast News sorta-kinda landed with me.

1984: Amadeus [God-Tier]

In every way but one (the lack of a sympathetic female figure I can root for), this movie seems to have been designed for me, a feast for my historical-drama-loving eyes, ears, and heart. It tells the story of Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), court composer to Emperor Joseph II, who enjoys a life of prestige in late 1700s Vienna until a brash young genius named Mozart (Tom Hulce) comes to town. Salieri is all too aware of both Mozart’s gifts and his own lack of them; as this awareness becomes torture, he sets out to destroy the “obscene child.” A sharp and insightful study of the nature of genius, the movie is brilliantly acted all around, with Abraham earning a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the haunted mediocrity. Also, it follows the “show, don’t tell” principle when it comes to Mozart’s gifts, as it’s scored entirely with the wunderkind’s compositions.

1985: Out of Africa [Okay]

This was the year I fell in love with Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple, seeing it three times in the theater between late 1985 and early 1986. I didn’t see Out of Africa until some months later, and I finally knew enough to be legitimately angry that it took Best Picture away from Spielberg’s film. Out of Africa should have worked for me, as it’s one of the few highly-regarded movies to tell the story of a female creative, author Karen Blixen, a.k.a. Isak Dinesen (Meryl Streep), and the years she spends running a farm in Africa and her doomed love affair with a British adventurer (Robert Redford). The raw material for greatness is there. But like Gandhi, it suffers from pacing issues, particularly in its last third, when it becomes increasingly episodic. The Color Purple is also a lengthy film, with a runtime of two hours and thirty-four minutes, yet I felt invested in every minute of it and afterwards felt the delicious melancholy that comes from having followed a beautifully made historical drama to its end. Out of Africa, however, lost me as it began to ramble, and by the end I felt only relief that it didn’t go on any longer. One point in its favor: a stunning John Barry score.

1986: Platoon [Good, but Not for Me]

This movie deserves credit for putting Willem Dafoe, one of the most consistently awesome actors working in Hollywood, on the map. He and Tom Berenger play sergeants, Dafoe a wise mentor and Berenger a psychotic bully, who contend for the soul of a G.I. (the problematic Charlie Sheen) in Vietnam. Of director Oliver Stone’s oeuvre, I find this film the most palatable, for Stone’s greatest weakness is his tendency to show female characters as either sex objects, whiny wet-blanket wives (e.g. Sissy Spacek in JFK), or soulless harridans (e.g. Cameron Diaz in Any Given Sunday), and Platoon evades this flaw by including no notable female characters whatsoever. But my revulsion for Sheen — whose real-life doings have made it impossible for me to watch him in anything except maybe Eight Men Out, where his role is small — outweighs my admiration for Dafoe, so I won’t be revisiting this movie anytime soon.

1987: The Last Emperor [Never Seen]

At some point I do need to sit down and watch Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic biopic of Chinese Emperor Pu Yi (played as an adult by the charismatic John Lone). But I agree with those critics who note that, for full impact, this movie should have been made in Chinese rather than in English.

1988: Rain Man [Good]

Neither Tom Cruise nor Dustin Hoffman is among my favorite actors — again, real-life doings are a factor — but I have to give credit where it’s due: they both give strong performance here, as an upwardly mobile young man and the autistic brother he never knew he had, whose care he must take over. The movie itself is a smart, moving dramedy. It always makes me smile to see a heartwarming film take the top prize over its “edgier” competitors.

1989: Driving Miss Daisy [Uhhhh…]

This is among the more controversial Best Picture winners of the decade. I admit I was charmed by it when I first saw it, thanks largely to the engaging performances of Jessica Tandy (as the title character, an upper-middle-class Southern lady who also happens to be Jewish) and Morgan Freeman (as her African-American chauffeur). But time hasn’t been kind to this film, as critics have observed that Freeman’s character is only really seen and understood in relation to Tandy’s, which creates an awkward-to-21st-century-eyes dynamic. Is Miss Daisy, the white woman, the best person through whose eyes to witness the gradual fall of Jim Crow in the South, from the late 1940s to the then-present? Is her perspective a valid one, and what do we learn from seeing her story told? These questions offer me food for thought. My main issue with the movie these days is that it seems, in my memory, a little too glossy, a little too “pretty,” for the time and place in which it’s set.