I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dances with Wolves, 1990

Rated PG-13

I’ve seen this award-winning film three times now and I know I’ll see it again. It’s a long one, but it’s worth it; I consider it a classic. The film tells the saga of Civil War Union soldier Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) who becomes disillusioned with war and in an attempt at suicide, inadvertently helps the Union soldiers win the battle. Now a promoted hero, he requests to be repositioned out west. The commanding officer (intoxicated and crazy) sends him to a post in the middle of nowhere. Dunbar eventually realizes it has been abandoned, but learns to take care of and live off of the land making the frontier his new peaceful home. We can tell he prefers the solitary life as he is a pensive man, taking notes in his journal daily, but he does make a friend in the hesitant but devoted neighborhood wolf. He also encounters members of the nearby Sioux tribe and after a slow introduction due to their language barrier and preconceived prejudices, he becomes a trusted friend of theirs. Romance is perfectly intertwined with the drama in this film when he falls in love with the only white woman in their tribe (a woman they’ve taken care of since she was an orphaned child played by Mary McDonnell who I recognize as the First Lady in “Independence Day”). Dunbar is accepted into their community and given his new appropriate name: Dances with Wolves.

Kevin Costner, co-producer/director/lead actor, could not have been more perfect for this role. Unfortunately, he lost the Best Actor award to Jeremy Irons in “Reversal of Fortune”, and to be fair… I didn’t see that movie, but I thought Costner was fantastic. One can tell this must’ve been a passion project for him; the attention to detail is impressive. I enjoyed watching the “making of” special feature on the DVD almost as much as the film itself. I learned that Costner did a majority of his own stunts, specifically during the scenes of the buffalo migration. It made me appreciate the filming of that scene even more; the cinematography had already impressed me.

I was first shown this film in fifth grade at my Catholic school… the last time I checked, fifth graders weren’t thirteen. Although I remembered a few scenes, I can guarantee you that most fifth-graders aren’t capable of understanding and appreciating this film at that age regardless if they learn about the Civil War in their history curriculum. For example, three things stuck out in my mind: a Sioux man scalping a white man (I covered my eyes then… turns out they didn’t show it); a fast-forwarded sex scene; and the line “Put that in your book” (the man taking Dunbar to his new post is annoyed that he is always writing in a journal, so when he loudly passes gas one evening, he says that hysterical line).

Two questions: What’s up with Stands with a Fist’s hair? Every woman in the tribe’s hair is nicely braided and hers is out of control. I’m sure the messiness was intentional… an unbridled sexiness of sorts, but I just wanted to yell, “Girlfriend needs a comb, y’all!”
And why is that picture of Costner on the movie poster? This poster quite possibly wins the “worst movie poster ever” award for its irrelevance. It’s a lame close-up and he doesn’t even look like that in the film! When you buy the DVD now, here’s what it looks like:

The genre this film was placed in is Western (although some disagree) which makes it only the second Western to win Best Picture in Oscar history (after “Cimarron” sixty years earlier). Its competitors included “Awakenings” (didn’t see), “Ghost” (good), “GoodFellas” (eh), and “The Godfather, Part III” (awful). It won seven awards from its astounding twelve nominations even though it was not the highest-grossing film that year… “Ghost” was. Another popular movie that came out this year was another one of my faves and a permanent resident of pop-culture, “Pretty Woman”.


Nobody can dislike the scene when Dunbar is trying to find the word for “buffalo” in order to communicate to Kicking Bird… it’s a fabulous game of charades. TATANKA!


You should try to learn from and accept people who are different from you.

Travel to what’s left of the frontier and marvel in the beauty God made.

We all need time away (from people, schedules, and technology) to “regroup” and/or reflect about the persons we are and who we want to be. Take time to take a deep cleansing breath.

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