I hadn’t seen this movie until last weekend. I have no idea why I waited so long to see it. I mean, it has a stellar cast and Clint Eastwood is a favorite of mine (as a writer and a director). It’s also based on Dennis Lehane novel (who also wrote the novels on which Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone were based), with a screenplay written by Brian Helgeland (who shares an Oscar with Curtis Hanson for their on L.A. Confidential). Despite all of that, it took me nearly a decade to actually watch the film. Boy was it worth the wait. It’s probably one of the most tense films I’d ever seen. It was nominated for six Oscars winning two: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress Marcia Gay Harden, Best Supporting Actor Tim Robbins (won), Best Actor Sean Penn (won), Best Director and Best Picture. Incidentally, this was the first time Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor had come from the same film since 1959’s Ben-Hur. The other films up for Best Picture that year were Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Seabiscuit and winner The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
It’s hard to write about any film that was nominated for Best Picture in 1943 since the winner that year is almost universally thought to be one of, if not the greatest film of all time – Casablanca. That being said, there were some other really great films that came out in 1943. I decided to go with one of my favorite recently discovered classic comedies, George Stevens’ The More the Merrier. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning one: Best Writing – Original Story, Best Writing – Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor Charles Coburn (won), Best Actress Jean Arthur, Best Director and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were: For Whom the Bell Tolls, Heaven Can Wait, The Human Comedy, In Which We Serve, Madame Curie, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Song of Bernadette, Watch on the Rhine and winner Casablanca.
I thought it would be fitting to follow up my in memorium Sidney Lumet post with a more prolonged discussion of one of his greatest masterpieces. Like I said in that earlier post, I saw 12 Angry Men for the first time on PBS a few years ago. I couldn’t believe I’d never seen it before. Part of what makes this an undisputed masterpiece is how timeless it feels. Yes, it’s filmed in black and white, but it feels as fresh as if it were filmed today. Amazing, considering it was Lumet’s first feature film. The only other directorial debut I can think of that is equally as amazing is Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. Surprisingly this film was only nominated for three Academy Awards and lost them all to The Bridge on the River Kwai (something tells me François Truffaut was not happy with the Academy’s decision that year; read his book The Films in My Life and you’ll see why I think this). The awards it was up for were Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture. The other films up for Best Picture that year were Peyton Place, Sayonara, Witness For The Prosecution and winner The Bridge on the River Kwai. Regardless of its Academy history, the film is ranked #7 on IMDb’s user-generation Top 250 and is generally considered one of the greatest films ever made.
I remember distinctly the first time I saw this film: it was about two days before I was moving away from San Francisco (that story is a whole other kettle of fish) and it came on PBS and I decided I would watch it. I was blown away. At that point I think I’d only seen about 8 other Woody Allen films (I’ve seen 31 now) and I just loved this film to pieces. I rewatched it again Saturday as part of TCM’s The Essentials and I fell in love with it all over again. Woody Allen won his only sole Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for this film (his only other writing win was for Annie Hall, which he shared with Marshall Brickman). The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning three: Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Supporting Actor Michael Caine (won), Best Supporting Actress Dianne Wiest (won), Best Original Screenplay (won), Best Director, Best Picture. The films also nominated for Best Picture that year were Children of a Lesser God, The Mission, A Room with a View and winner Platoon.
This was a film I’d meant to watch for a while because it was Vivien Leigh’s last screen appearance. Then it disappeared off of Instant Netflix and I kind of forgot I wanted to watch it. Luckily for me, TCM showed the film last week as part of its 31 Days of Oscar and boy am I glad that they did. I absolutely loved it. I think it might be one of the finest examples of interlocking storylines I’ve ever seen. Plus, the set decoration and cinematography were to die for. Some of the crispest B&W cinematography I’ve seen in a while. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning two: Best B&W Art Direction (won), Best Cinematography (won), Best B&W Costume Design, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress Simone Signoret, Best Supporting Actor Michael Dunn, Best Actor Oskar Werner and Best Picture. The other films up for Best Picture that year were Darling, Doctor Zhivago, A Thousand Clowns and winner The Sound of Music.
I think it’s important to first point out that this film is based on a true story. Journalist Charles Horman was one of the victims of the Chilean coup of 1973 led by General Augusto Pinochet, that deposed the socialist president, Salvador Allende. The coup was, in part, secretly backed by the United States government. The book on which this film was based came out in 1978 and this film was released in 1982, but the classified documents that prove that the events depicted in both are true were not released until 1999. I find this whole back story insanely interesting and if you’d like to read more about it, the Wikipedia article on Horman has a lot of information and links to further reading. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning one: Best Adapted Screenplay (won), Best Actress Sissy Spacek, Best Actor Jack Lemmon and Best Picture. Strangely, Costa-Gavras was not nominated for Best Director (Wolfgang Petersen got nominated for Das Boot, while the film was not up for Best Picture). The other nominees for Best Picture that year were E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, Tootsie, The Verdict and winner Gandhi.
Billy Wilder has got to be one of the most masterful and varied directors of all time. He has written and directed some of the greatest films of all time. Although he made films in a variety of genres, two of his greatest achievements were in the film-noir genre: 1950’s Sunset Blvd. and 1944’s Double Indemnity. I watched this film for the first time in November (also known as Noirvember) and I was blown away by how wonderful it was. Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson is perhaps the greatest of all femme fatales. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, but failed to win a single award: Best Sound, Best Score, Best B&W Cinematography, Best Screenplay. Best Actress Barbra Stanwyck, Best Director and Best Picture. It was up against Gaslight, Since You Went Away, Wilson and winner Going My Way. I think Going My Way‘s win is a testament to its star Bing Crosby’s popularity. It’s a film that, other than Crosby’s performance, has not aged well; whereas the popularity and critical acclaim for Double Indemnity has continued to grow throughout the decades. In fact, the film found its way on to several of the American Film Institute’s 100 years… series: 100 Years…100 Movies #38 (1998), 100 Years…100 Thrills #24 (2001), 100 Years…100 Passions #84 (2002), 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains: Phyllis Dietrichson, villain #8 (2003), 100 Years…100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) #29 (2007).
I saw The Piano for the first time about a year ago after I’d seen Campion’s most recent film Bright Star, which I unabashedly love, and decided I needed to see her “masterpiece.” While I liked Bright Star more, I think it’s mostly because of the sentiments expressed in the latter. I definitely think The Piano is one of the best films I have ever seen and Holly Hunter gives a show-stopping performance. The film won the Palme d’Or and Best Performance prizes at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. Jane Campion became only the second woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning three: Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay (won), Best Supporting Actress Anna Paquin (won), Best Actress Holly Hunter (won), Best Director and Best Picture. It was up against The Fugitive, In The Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day and winner Schindler’s List.
I remember seeing this film in theaters when it first came out and being completely swept away by its stark, simple beauty. It’s a film that is unrelenting from the beginning and doesn’t let up until the credits role. While Philip Seymour Hoffman is really the center of the film in a powerhouse performance as Truman Capote, it’s a wonderful ensemble filled with some of the greatest working character actors of modern cinema. It was nominated for five Oscars, winning one: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress Catherine Keener, Best Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman (won), Best Director and Best Picture. It was up against Brokeback Mountain, Good Night, and Good Luck., Munich and winner Crash.
A lot of quality classic films that revolve around Christmas unfairly get overlooked as simply a seasonal film, worth pulling out in December only. This is something I hate to see, because a lot of these classic films are such wonderful, timeless films that deserve much more attention than they often receive. Case in point: The Bishop’s Wife. At the time of its release it was nominated for multiple Oscars and widely revered, now it’s mostly only talked about at Christmastime. I suppose by writing about it in December, I’m doing exactly the same thing. Oh well. I love this film. For the longest time it was my favorite Cary Grant film (it’s still in my Top 5) and is endlessly watchable. Like I said earlier, it was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one: Best Sound (won), Best Score, Best Film Editing and Best Picture. It was up against Crossfire, Great Expectations, Miracle on 34th Street (another Christmas-themed film) and winner Gentleman’s Agreement.