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Best Picture 1992

It is my quest to watch all of the Academy Award Best Picture recipients before the next ceremony.

Unforgiven (3/82)

One of the finest examples of a film having a soul. Through the writing, casting and particularly performance, Eastwood has put together a group of actors that know how to use their personality and persona to achieve more than just what is on screen.

At the heart of this is Eastwood himself, and the history he brings. Having cast such an iconic image of the western through his work with Sergio Leone and others, Eastwood is the anitithesis of a legend. He is stoic, quiet, brouding and charismatic to boot. We have seen him murder, we have seen him live his life on screen. Therefore, the character of William Munny instantly draws our attention, belief and understanding of his place in life.

The film also uses its place in Western film history and makes a defining comment on it. It is not an exaggeration to call this film the death of the Western. So many details of this film subvert and challenge our associations with the Western genre. For example, our hero not being able to mount his horse. It is hard to believe John Wayne not being able to be shot in both legs and still jump onto his horse effortlessly. Also, the very fact that our hero has killed women and children. There have been anti-heroes but none that have admitted and showed little remorse for doing so, without being on the end of their own justice and retribution.

What suprises me everytime I watch the film is its simplicity. Although detailed with comment and observation (as mentioned above) the plot is actually very thin and barely justifies the running time. For example, anything with English Bob could be removed and the film would not lose a great deal. His inclusion warns off reward collectors (which never really comes into the plot) and adds weight to Gene Hackman's sheriff, although we already have a clear picture of him from the very first scene.

Is it this simplicity that allows the film to be so rich, so ripe for reading and discussion. I believe it is.

Other films nominated in 1992 -

The Crying Game
A Few Good Men
Howard's End
Scent of a Woman

Worthy winner?
Yes - Even in a stronger year, Unforgiven would have been a worthy winner but 1992's cull is pretty weak.

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