How Green Was My Valley

It’s never going to get the full credit it deserves.

On one hand, this is a superbly-crafted tale of life among the coalminers of South Wales, achingly beautiful and emotional.

On the other, it’s the film which beat Citizen Kane at the Oscars, so it usually leads off discussions of Best Picture winners which some people think don’t deserve the honor.

Nonsense, that distinction belongs to junk like The Bore of the Rings or Shakespeare in Love.

This John Ford flick can stand on its own merits, and they’re many.

Approach it with an open mind, and discover for yourself.

Moonlight

An Oscar winner like no other.

It had to overcome a major snafu at the awards show before actually netting Best Picture, but none of that kerfuffle dims the sweep and power of what director Barry Jenkins put onscreen.

Playing out over three timelines, the film follows a young Black man coming to terms with his sexuality while overcoming every hurdle thrown his way.

Raw and emotional, it’s an intimate, extremely well-acted story.

Dodging easy sentiment, it instead embraces a more-realistic view of life, where good and evil can exist at the same time, and often in the same people.

 

The Silence of the Lambs

Three decades and no one has touched it.

The first horror film to take Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and one of only three movies to win the top five Oscars, this remains a cinematic touchstone.

There was almost a version of this with original casting choices Michelle Pfeiffer, Sean Connery, and Gene Hackman in place of Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Scott Glenn.

I love that trio, but the cast we got knocked it out of the park.

Foster, in particular, soars as a detective-in-training who may be small in stature, but is tough as they come.

 

In the Heat of the Night

“They call me Mister Tibbs!”

Sidney Poitier ain’t taking no crap from nobody in this still-searing murder mystery set in a small Southern town drenched in hate and racism.

Rod Steiger took home the Best Actor Oscar, while the film won five awards including Best Picture in a tough year in which all-timers Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke, and The Graduate were in the mix.

But it’s Poitier, unleashing righteous fury, who really rules this film.

When he slapped the town’s rich, racist plantation owner, it sent shockwaves across the nation, forever cementing his status as a cinematic badass.

From Here to Eternity

More than just a roll in the surf.

One of the biggest Oscar winners ever (and deservedly so), this tale of military life right before the attack on Pearl Harbor is best known for Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr gettin’ frisky on the beach.

It’s a potent mix of sudsy soap opera and dark drama, as an all-star cast deals with remarkably mature subject matter for a film released in 1953 (even if censors forced some cuts from the novel).

Nearly 70 years later, it still roars with vibrant life in every scene.

Head back to paradise, and witness cinematic greatness.