The best Best Picture winners

Out of the ninety-one Best Picture nominees since Herbert Hoover promised a chicken for every pot, only twenty-one I’ll deem good to great. Here they are in order of which I would watch right now, the only criterion.

1. All About Eve
2. Annie Hall
3. The Best Years of Our Lives
4. The Apartment
5. Lawrence of Arabia
6. The Godfather, Part II
7. Rebecca
8. The Godfather
9. In the Heat of the Night
10. On the Waterfront
11. It Happened One Night
12. No Country for Old Men
13. The Silence of the Lambs
14. All Quiet on the Western Front
15. Schindler’s List
16. Casablanca
17. How Green Was My Valley
18. Midnight Cowboy
19. The Deer Hunter
20. Moonlight
21. Spotlight
22. 12 Years a Slave

Ranking Billboard top ten singles, 1964

“‘The Sixties’ were now a reactive force — a new conservative voting bloc,” Chris O’Leary writes in Ashes to Ashes; The Songs of David Bowie 1978-2016. “…Sixties music was the perfected strain of rock ‘n’ roll, to which no music afterward could compare.” As cultural hegemon and smothering aesthetic menace to its forebears, The Sixties did not begin, as Philip Larkin wryly remarked, with the Beatles’ first LP, but the presence of the Shangri-La’s, Supremes, Dave Clark Five, the Stones, and the Beach Boys suggest the first stirrings of a revolution, akin to Mario Savio’s Free Speech Movement, coalescing at the same time in Berkeley. Continue reading

Ranking Billboard top ten singles, 1966

As the Stones shed their Beatles attachments and started writing their own kind of skewed pop, the rest of the musical world, drunk on Dylan, went chanteuse or garage rock — 1966 was the year of ? and the Mysterians and Count Five. The Lovin’ Spoonful, the Supremes issued a series of excellent singles. So did the Monkees.
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Ranking Billboard top ten singles, 1967

“Summer of Love” — a B-52’s song for me, or, better, the acid house-drenched epoch in British popular music during what was over here the Poppy Bush Interzone. I’m also influenced by Peter Fonda, the producer cleaning his teeth while pontificating to jailbait in Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey, about what The Sixties meant: “It was 1966 and early 1967. That’s all it was.” Maybe Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” written by John Phillips, selling The Scene to kids a few years younger, knew the cynicism behind the charge. Continue reading

Ranking Billboard top ten singles, 2004

Hip-hop dominated 2004’s list to an extent that American radio listeners had never seen, mostly in the form of Lil Jon or Lil Jon-produced bass-heavy hits that surprised no one in Miami who grew up here fifteen years earlier. Starting in 2005, Billboard would count iTunes sales toward singles, resulting in the last great explosion of multiplatinum certifications that lasted for the rest of the decade through 2011 or 2012 but which peaked during the start of George W. Bush’s second term. Take a look again at the hits below: Nickleback, damp emo act Hoobastank, and would-be bizzers-for-life Maroon 5 were some of the few white rock acts to get any radio traction. As if acknowledging an aberration, the late ’00s charts would correct this development, hitting a new low in 2010, as chart expert Chris Molanphy remarked in 2012.

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Ranking Billboard top ten single, 1968

Rhetorical question: will the kids know Gary Puckett & The Union Gap? I’m astounded that I find repellent every Gary Puckett & The Union Gap single I’ve heard. In a fruity warble backed by strings that make Mantovanni sound like Philip Glass, Puckett sang about young girls who won’t fuck him yet he’s sure they will if they stopped lying to themselves. Continue reading

Ranking Billboard top tens, 1969

Old-timers catching up to love beads and the new permissiveness — that’s 1969, the first full year of the Nixon presidency. From Tom Jones we expected growing pains. Diana Ross didn’t blink, turning “I’m Livin’ in Shame” into a veritable double A-side with Elvis’ “In the Ghetto” — two post-Watts singles addressing the new conservatism. Continue reading

Ranking Billboard singles, 2003

Made sense that Sean Carter scored his first hits without help in 2002-2004 when Fabolous and of course Fiddy took his Boy Butter coolness to new levels of malevolent proficiency. And they suck. He and Beyonce are so crazy in love that they forgot to arrange music commensurate with their lust; to be fair, it would take a while. Mimicking the pop mirror moves of Nelly-Kelly and Jay-Bey, male rap stars could not get over the embarrassment of writing candy-colored valentines without coaxing a female co-star into sharing the mike. In 2003, the uy raps, girl sings (Busta and Mariah Carey’s “I Know What You Want”) or vice versa (J-Lo and LL).

I’ll piss off the old-timers and state that I prefer Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow’s lament about being rich and Hollywood and in love to Stevie Nicks and Don Henley’s. Continue reading