Worst Best Picture: Is Gigi Better or Worse Than Crash?

Gigi Still #1

Alex Russell

In “Worst Best Picture” we search every single Best Picture Oscar winner of all time from 1927 to present to uncover the worst of them all. Conventional wisdom says that 2005’s winner Crash is the worst winner in history. We won’t stop until we’ve tested every last one. Read the the first, our review of Crash, here. All posts should be considered to have a blanket “spoiler alert” on them. Today’s installment is the 1958 winner Gigi. Is it better than Crash?

I don’t read a lot (any?) BuzzFeed, but when they put together a ranking of all of the movies that had won the Oscar for Best Picture, Gigi came in dead last. Since the stated goal of this whole thing is to find a worse movie than Crash that has earned the award, I figured the musical from 1958 deserved some immediate attention.

Leslie Caron plays the title character, a (very) young French woman in the process of learning to be a courtesan. Her older friend Gaston (yep) is famous for being rich, or something, and the two are star-crossed if for no other reason than they seem to be the only two people they’ve each ever met that aren’t immediate blood relatives.

They never say Gigi’s exact age, but she’s absolutely supposed to be a young teenager. She spends the entire first hour of the musical in ridiculously infantilizing clothing as her aunt teaches her the finer points of accepting jewelry and living to serve a man who owns her. I point this out to say that, yeah, it’s definitely a movie about some weird sexual politics, but it’s also completely divorced from “romance.” It’s about transactions.

BuzzFeed’s wrong on this one; I’m only 20 movies into the entire 86-film roster at this point and I know this one’s not the worst. That said, it’s assuredly strange six decades years later. There’s no place in modernity for a two-hour explanation of why you don’t have to put on the red light, and if there is, there isn’t a place for it to pretend that it’s one of history’s great romances.

The Best Part: Maurice Chevalier plays a ridiculous perpetual bachelor who spends the entire movie telling everyone how awesome it is to be old and not in love. He shares a song about it with an old lover and though I’m no big musical buff, I couldn’t help but smile at “I Remember It Well.” It’s “funny for a musical” but it’s very close to “actually funny.” It’s a big improvement over the supremely strange “Thanks Heaven for Little Girls.”

The Worst Part: Poor Eva Gabor shows up for about five minutes as the “cheating mistress.” She’s sleeping with another guy — note this is “another guy” on top of someone who treats her as property — and when she is discovered it gets put in the newspaper. This in the first 20 minutes of the film, so I can say this without a spoiler: Everyone then has a bunch of literal laughs about Eva Gabor’s character’s supposed attempted suicide. The movie explains this away as just part of being a bought woman in 1900, but this movie pairs well with The Apartment as tone-deaf with suicide jokes. How many more movies with suicide jokes could there be?

Is It Better or Worse than CrashGigi is a musical, so your milage may vary based on how much you can stand a movie with 15 songs in it. Both movies certainly have roughly the same message about women: Only miraculous ones can escape the social ties that bind their respective times. They differ in that Gigi is a kind of loud, proud class warfare movie about how awful it is to be low status, and Crash thinks that status doesn’t matter at all. Everyone in Crash is awful, and that’s sorta the whole point of the world it sets up. They’re both “mean” messages, but Gigi‘s is delivered in an oblivious song with bright costumery. There is an argument that a big dumb musical about how love doesn’t matter as much as being rich is a bad movie, but it feels more like a historical oddity than the death-march against social change that is Crash.

Worst Best Picture Archives: Crash | Terms of Endearment | Forrest Gump | All About Eve | The Apartment | No Country for Old Men | Gentleman’s Agreement |12 Years a SlaveThe Last Emperor | The Silence of the Lambs | The Artist | A Man for All Seasons | Platoon | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King | The King’s Speech | Rain Man | The Departed | The Bridge on the River Kwai | Marty |

Alex Russell lives in Chicago and is set in his ways. Disagree with him about anything at readingatrecess@gmail.com or on Twitter at @alexbad.

 Image source: oscarwinningfilms.blogspot.com

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