Evelyn: Things can’t always be the same. Or people.
So I have watched this film every year around Passover for as long as I can remember. I love it dearly. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen at the Castro Theatre here in San Francisco yesterday in gorgeous restoration (it’s a shame my DVD screencaps below aren’t from the restoration; they pale in comparison to what I saw projected yesterday). The Ten Commandments was the highest grossing film of 1956 and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning one: Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Color Cinematography, Best Color Art Director, Best Color Costume Design, Best Special Effects (won) and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were: Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I and winner Around the World in Eighty Days.
It took A LOT of searching to find this movie. It is not available on DVD in the United States (click here if you want to try to do something about that). While probably not as well-known as Citizen Kane, I think this film is just as much a masterpiece Welles’ more famous film, though probably less universally approachable. I’m going to talk a little later about some of the production (and the headaches it caused). The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, though it went home empty-handed: Best B&W Art Direction, Best B&W Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress Agnes Moorehead and Best Picture. The other nominees for Best Picture that year were 49th Parallel, Kings Row, The Pied Piper, The Pride of the Yankees, Random Harvest, The Talk of the Town, Wake Island, Yankee Doodle Dandy and winner Mrs. Miniver.
When I first netflixed this film I watched it three times before sending it back – twice back-to-back and then a third time the next morning. I was completely blown away with how wonderful it was, from start to finish. I know a lot of people consider Some Like It Hot to be Billy Wilder’s best film and as much as I like that one, I have to disagree and go with Sunset Blvd. It is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning three for black-and-white Art Direction, Best Writing – story and screenplay and Best Score. For Best Picture it was up against Father of the Bride, King Solomon’s Mines, Born Yesterday and lost to All About Eve. All About Eve wound up winning six Oscars in all. Another tight race that year was Best Actress, Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. was up against Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in All About Eve, but all three lost to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday. Having watched all three of those films within a few days of each other it is my belief that, although Holliday’s performance was stunning, the other three women spilt the vote so severely that Holliday won by default. I’ll say it up front, I enjoyed All About Eve, but I deeply love Sunset Blvd. and think it is by and far the greater of the two films.
Beware: there be spoilers after the cut.