Archive for June, 2012

Pic of the Day: “Hey, Boo.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1943

This is the last year of ten nominees. I never mentioned the number of the nominees yet. The way it had been until this point was: three the first year, no official nominees the second, then five from 1930-1932, then they went to ten from 1933 until this year (with the exception of 1934 and 1935, the two “write-in” years, which had 12 nominees). After this year, they went strictly to five, which lasted until 2009.

Outside of that, the great thing about this year is that it’s the year of Casablanca, which makes it quite easy to discuss. Two things to note about the film: first, while the film did premiere in November of 1942, it didn’t go into wide release until early 1943, which is why it counted amongst the films of 1943. (It’s basically the same as a film getting that late December limited release nowadays to qualify for Oscars, but not getting a wide release until January, only with different rules since it was 1943.) The other thing is that: while the film is a classic and one of the best films ever made, it also is a war film. The story is about Bogart, a neutral man, choosing a side in a war. So it does actually fit with the times. Oh, and, aside from Best Picture, Michael Curtiz won Best Director for the film (talked about here). Nice to see him finally get his due.

Other winners this year included Paul Lukas as Best Actor for Watch on the Rhine (talked about here), which is one of the worst Best Actor decisions of all time (it’s so bad), Jennifer Jones as Best Actress for The Song of Bernadette (talked about here), which was deserved (since Ingrid Bergman was nominated for the wrong film), Charles Coburn as Best Supporting Actor for The More the Merrier (talked about here), which, despite my love for Claude Rains as Louis Renault, is a good decision, and Katina Paxinou as Best Supporting Actress for For Whom the Bell Tolls (talked about here), which — meh. So, overall, many of the individual categories are either forgettable or not particularly memorable, yet the year remains strong simply because of the Best Picture choice. Which again shows how a good or bad Best Picture choice can make or break a year.


And the nominees were…

Casablanca (Warner Bros.)

For Whom the Bell Tolls (Paramount)

Heaven Can Wait (20th Century Fox)

The Human Comedy (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

In Which We Serve (United Artists)

Madame Curie (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

The More the Merrier (Columbia)

The Ox-Bow Incident (20th Century Fox)

The Song of Bernadette (20th Century Fox)

Watch on the Rhine (Warner Bros.) (more…)

Pic of the Day: “What’s this? Why don’t I own this? Why don’t I own this?”

There Will Be Blood - 7

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1944

And this is where we settle into routine (for the most part) for the next 65 years. From here on out (until 2009), it’s five nominees a year. Also, we’re nearing the end of the war. This is the year where the tide turned. Not to mention, this is the year where America started to tire of the war. At first it was nice: “Support the war! Support our troops!” But then, after three years and no end in sight, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t be so quick to support that message. So what happens is — they try escapism. They go for the gay musical starring the biggest star in Hollywood. Then, when that doesn’t work, they become cynical. That’s when the noir kicks in. If Double Indemnity came out in 1945, it would have won. But here, America wasn’t cynical yet.

Going My Way wins Best Picture, Best Director for Leo McCarey (talked about here), Best Actor for Bing Crosby (talked about here), and Best Supporting Actor for Barry Fitzgerald (talked about here). I support all the wins except Best Director (though that makes sense). Then, Best Actress was Ingrid Bergman for Gaslight (talked about here), which feels like a makeup Oscar for the year before this (where she should have been nominated for Casablanca). Shame that she beat Barbara Stanwyck, but — shit happens. And Best Supporting Actress was Ethel Barrymore for None But the Lonely Heart (talked about here), which is just a weak and boring decision.

So that’s 1944. Most people would (and rightfully so) say that Double Indemnity should have won here. But, when you take into account the state of the industry (and the country) at the time — it makes sense why it didn’t.


And the nominees were…

Double Indemnity (Paramount)

Gaslight (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Going My Way (Paramount)

Since You Went Away (Selznick, United Artists)

Wilson (20th Century Fox) (more…)

Pic of the Day: “That woman deserves her revenge and we deserve to die.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1945

I don’t really have much to say about 1945. It was the end of the war, and the year is actually kind of a lost year, Oscar-wise. (Fitting, I guess.) There’s not much memorable about it, which I guess is owed to a pretty weak set of Best Picture nominees (which, for the record, do not include National Velvet or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn). Though, the year is to be commended for choosing a strong, bold film such as The Lost Weekend. This film deals with a subject most of Hollywood wouldn’t go anywhere near. (And if you think that’s progressive, just wait until we get to 1947.)

Aside from Best Picture, The Lost Weekend win Best Director for Billy Wilder (talked about here), which he deserved between this and Double Indemnity the year before this, and Best Actor for Ray Milland (talked about here), which was also well-earned. Best Actress this year was Joan Crawford for Mildred Pierce (talked about here), which was well-deserved. Best Supporting Actor was James Dunn for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (talked about here), which was an amazing decision for a great performance in a terrific film. And Best Supporting Actress was Anne Revere for National Velvet (talked about here), which was so deserved.

In all, this year was actually really strong. All the winners were fantastic decisions. So it’s weird that I continue to think of this year as being weak or forgotten. I guess it’s because it gets lost on the shuffle amongst other 40s years. (Plus the nominees this year are very weak. Just because the best performances and films won doesn’t change that.) But this is actually one of the strongest years I’ve seen.


And the nominees were…

Anchors Aweigh (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

The Bells of St. Mary’s (RKO Radio)

The Lost Weekend (Paramount)

Mildred Pierce (Warner Bros.)

Spellbound (United Artists) (more…)

Pic of the Day: “Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.”

2001 A Space Odyssey - 42

Mike’s Top Tens of the Decade (1950-1959)

This has become, by far, my favorite part of this blog. These articles have introduced me to so many movies. Ones I needed to see but hadn’t, ones I’d wanted to see but never did, ones I had no idea about. They’re the perfect excuse to go out and see more things. Plus I get to uncover some real gems. I’m so excited to do these top tens lists that I’ve began starting them earlier and earlier each time. The last one, I finished with a month to spare. This one I started before that one even went up. That’s how much I love these lists.

I’ve done the 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, 1970s and 1960s already. The way I do them is — I list my favorite ten movies for each year, then put an 11-15 (or 11-20. This decade, we have all 11-20s, because it’s incredible) at the bottom, to both recommend more great films as well as make it easier on myself when I revisit these lists in the future to update them to account for the passage of time and my maturation of taste.

The other thing I do with each decade is, outside of the top 15-20, I include a “fun” list at the bottom. For the 2000s, it was the “Terrible Ten,” of films from each year that I hated. For the 90s, it was the “Films of My Childhood.” For the 80s, it was the “Awesomely 80s Movies.” For the 70s, it was the “70s Recommendations.” For the 60s, it was the “Out with the old, in with the new.” This time, I’m doing what I’m calling “Gems of the Studio System.” There were a lot of great films from the 50s, and I wanted to find a good way to describe all the extra films I included. And I noticed, while figuring out logistics for these lists, that almost all of them were films from major directors, and that a lot of them (the films) are relatively unknown (for the most part). So the idea behind the lists was to show some hidden gems that, because of the studio system and most directors making three, four pictures a year, got lost over time. (Not all of them are by famous directors, but 90% of them are.) I’ll also tell you which director did which one. I bet on more than a few you’ll go, “Really?”

Now that’s all explained, let’s get into the lists: (more…)

Pic of the Day: “If we’re going to die, I want you to know something. I was in the pharmacy a while ago. There was a really good-looking pharmacist behind the counter. Really good-looking. I went up and asked her where the cough syrup was. I didn’t even have a cough, and I almost bought it. I’m talking about a completely superfluous bottle of cough syrup, which costs like six bucks.” “Are you joking?”

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1946

A lot of people like to argue about 1946. They like to say that It’s a Wonderful Life should have won Best Picture. Bullshit. I love that film, but it shouldn’t have won at all. 1946 is a year where America was dealing with the after-effects of the war. There was no better film to reflect those sensibilities than The Best Years of Our Lives. The fact that the film is just as good as It’s a Wonderful Life also helps. I just wanted to get my opinion on that out of the way up front, so there’s no confusion.

The Best Years of Our Lives, aside from winning Best Picture, won Best Director for William Wyler (talked about here), his second, Best Actor for Frederic March (talked about here), and Best Supporting Actor for Harold Russell (talked about here). All of those decisions make perfect sense. Best Actress this year was Olivia de Havilland for To Each His Own (talked about here). That had been a long time coming for her, and despite Celia Johnson being amazing in Brief Encounter (and that film also being amazing. Not that I ever expected Hollywood to place it on this list), was deserved. And Best Supporting Actress was Anne Baxter for The Razor’s Edge (talked about here), which was not only deserved, but makes her loss for All About Eve in four years easier to take.

So, that’s 1946. You know my opinion already, so, let’s just go into this saying — whatever your opinion is, let’s just celebrate the strength of the year more than anything. Be glad the films exist, rather than argue over whether or not they should have won.


And the nominees were…

The Best Years of Our Lives (RKO Radio)

Henry V (United Artists)

It’s a Wonderful Life (RKO Radio)

The Razor’s Edge (20th Century Fox)

The Yearling (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) (more…)

Pic of the Day: “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

The Box Office Report – June 15-17

Last week, in Box Office…

After what appeared to be a tight, head-to-head matchup, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted wins the weekend with $60.3 million. Which is a lot, but not wholly unexpected, as these movies have always made a shitload of money. Just wait for Ice Age next month.

Finishing second was Prometheus, which was neck and neck with Madagascar on Friday, but ended up falling short, making $51.1 million over the weekend. Aww, how bad. This is still much higher than I was expecting. And the film deserves it, it was awesome.

Third was Snow White and the Huntsman, dropping almost 60% in its second weekend (which makes perfect sense) and pulling in $23.1 million. These are my favorite weekends, since, while the film has made $100 million already, I don’t know if they’re going to make their budget back, despite the big opening weekend. I love when that happens. Essentially all they made back in weekend one was the marketing budget (and even then, not all of it). I love that. (more…)

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1947

1947 is one of the most boring years in the history of the Oscars. It’s so weak. But, they made a solid (and bold) choice, so that makes up for it.

Gentleman’s Agreement wins Best Picture, Best Director for Elia Kazan (talked about here) and Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm (talked about here). Best Actor was Ronald Colman for A Double Life (talked about here), a veteran Oscar if there ever was one (though he did do a good job). Best Actress was Loretta Young for The Farmer’s Daughter (talked about here), one of the greatest upsets in the history of the Oscars (and a terrible decision to boot). And Best Supporting Actor was Edmund Gwenn for Miracle on 34th Street (talked about here), which — he played Santa Claus. Obviously.

See what I mean? It’s a boring year. Gentleman’s Agreement is a great film, but it’s not a very sexy choice. And none of the acting winners is particularly memorable. I mean, Gwenn is good, but otherwise — no one really remembers anything. It’s just a boring year, 1947.


And the nominees were…

The Bishop’s Wife (RKO Radio)

Crossfire (RKO Radio)

Gentleman’s Agreement (20th Century Fox)

Great Expectations (Rank-Cineguild, U-I)

Miracle on 34th Street (20th Century Fox) (more…)

Pic of the Day: “None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with ME!”

Watchmen - 10

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1948

I consider 1948 to be the single worst Best Picture decision in the history of the Academy Awards. With good reason, too. Take a look at those nominees. The fact that they went the way they did, while wholly unsurprising, is still just terrible. Maybe I make a bigger deal out of it than it is, but I feel strongly about it.

Outside of Best Picture, Hamlet also won Laurence Olivier a well-deserved Best Actor (talked about here), which was a good decision aided by a horribly weak category (the snub for Bogart in Treasure of the Sierra Madre is horrendous). Best Actress was Jane Wyman for Johnny Belinda (talked about here), which I consider to be a top five decision for all time. I love her performance so much. Best Supporting Actor was Walter Huston for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (talked about here), which he’d had coming for a good twelve years by this point. John Huston also won Best Director for the film (talked about here), which he greatly deserved. And Best Supporting Actress was Claire Trevor for Key Largo (talked about here), which, as much as I love the film, I don’t like as a decision. Though seeing the film there is nice.

So, in all, 1948 is a really strong year. And when you look at these Best Picture nominees, you’d think you couldn’t lose. And then they went with HamletHamlet? Seriously? From this field?


And the nominees were…

Hamlet (J. Arthur Rank-Two Cities Films, Universal International)

Johnny Belinda (Warner Bros.)

The Red Shoes (Rank Organisation, Powell & Pressburger, Eagle-Lion Films)

The Snake Pit (20th Century Fox)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Warner Bros.) (more…)

Pic of the Day: “Life’s funny. To a kid, time always drags. Suddenly you’re fifty. All that’s left of your childhood… fits in a rusty little box.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1949

1949 is a strange year. All the films are strong, yet there’s no clear winner amongst them. It does make sense, though, that the films aren’t particularly standout, since this was the year after the Paramount Decision was decided. So this year was the first set of films affected by it (sort of. It wouldn’t go into affect until 1950, but still, they had to be cognizant of it).

For brief recap — the Paramount Decision was basically a mandate that the studios could not own a monopoly on production, distribution and exhibition. The way things worked was — the studios were originally founded by producers, distributers and exhibitors joining together. For example: Marcus Loew (who owned Loew’s Theatres) bought Metro and Samuel Goldwyn and merged them, and then went into business with Louis B. Mayer to create MGM. As such, MGM was able to produce and distribute films and then put them into Loew’s theaters, which they owned. And by 1945, all the studios basically combined to own the majority of the major theaters in the U.S. And what they did was essentially let each other exhibit films in their theaters for nominal fees and worked together to keep out the independents. If you weren’t affiliated with a studio, it was nearly impossible to get your film shown in any significant theaters. And eventually a lawsuit was filed against this obvious monopoly, and in 1948, it was decreed that the studios had to divest of all their theaters. They could still produce and distribute their films, but the theaters had to be open market. Because what they used to do with the theaters (if they didn’t own them) was — they’d block book their films, which was essentially them saying, “So you want Mrs. Miniver? Well, if you want that, then you have to take all these other films as well.” And there would be all these B movies and minor films that the theaters would then have to rent as well. And all of that was declared illegal. This was the first major blow against the studio system and would eventually lead to its collapse in the 60s.

So now the studios no longer owned the theaters, which completely changed their production strategy. When they owned the theaters, they could pump them full of B movies and shorts and newsreels. Now, since they didn’t own the theaters, exhibitors weren’t forced into those films. So B movies started going by the wayside. At least, studio B movies. This led to the rise of the independents, which led to the rise of the drive-in feature, low budgets (like Roger Corman’s films and such), exploitation films. And then there was also the rise of television during this time as well. So all of this really started threatening the supremacy of the studios, which led to them consolidating all their power and money into those blockbusters in the 50s and 60s, which helped bring about the fall of “Old” Hollywood and the rise of New Hollywood (along with the breaking down of social taboos with films like Bonnie and Clyde). So the Paramount Decision was a huge deal for film history. (more…)

PIc of the Day: “Mr. Melon, your wife was just showing us her Klimt.” “You too, huh? She’s shown it to everybody.” “Well, she’s very proud of it.” “I’m proud of mine too. I don’t go waving it around at parties, though.” “It’s an exceptional painting.” “Oh, the painting.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1950

This year is sure a contentious one, isn’t it? I tried to think of something more to say about the year, but that’s what it seems to be about — All About Eve vs. Sunset Boulevard. Which is a good situation to be in.

All About Eve wins Best Picture, Best Director for Joseph L. Mankiewicz (talked about here) and Best Supporting Actor for George Sanders (talked about here). It’s clear which way the Academy went on this decision. I like the Supporting Actor decision, don’t mind the Best Picture decision, and hate the Best Director decision. (Carol Reed seriously deserved that so badly.) Best Actor was José Ferrer for Cyrano de Bergerac (talked about here), which is a pretty boring decision. Best Actress was Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday (talked about here), which is pretty weak considering she beat Anne Baxter and Bette Davis for All About Eve and Gloria Swanson for Sunset Boulevard. She was good, but — not as good as those other three. And Best Supporting Actress was Josephine Hull for Harvey (talked about here), which was a spirited decision.

So it’s clear that the Academy sided with All About Eve. I can’t tell which of the two (if either) has held up better over the years. Either way, it’s a good year, and when the choice is between two great films, everybody wins.


And the nominees were…

All About Eve (20th Century Fox)

Born Yesterday (Columbia)

Father of the Bride (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

King Solomon’s Mines (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Sunset Boulevard (Paramount) (more…)

Pic of the Day: “I’m going back to my dorm.” “Wait, wait! Is this real?” “Yes!” “Okay, then wait. I apologize, okay? “I have to go study.” “Erica…” “Yes?” “I’m sorry, I mean it.” “I appreciate that, but I have to go study.” “Come on, you don’t have to study, you don’t have to study, let’s just talk.” “I can’t.” “Why?” “Because it is exhausting! Dating you is like dating a StairMaster!” “All I meant is that you’re not likely to… currently. I wasn’t making a comment on your appearance, I was saying that you go to BU. I was stating a fact, that’s all. And if it seemed rude, than of course I apologize.” “I have to go study.” “You don’t have to study.” “Why do you keep saying I don’t have to study?” “Because you go to BU!”

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1951

1951 is an important year in film history. After the end of the war, the threat of Communism became very prevalent in the U.S. And a nice portion of Hollywood, especially in the 30s and 40s (before Stalin), attended communist party meetings because communism sounded like a nice alternative to the Depression. Now, with the Red Scare in full effect, Hollywood, with its loose morals and subversive tendencies, was an easy target for communist witch hunters. So in 1947, HUAC (the House of Un-American Activities) summoned members of Hollywood to Washington to investigate whether or not there were comunists among the ranks. And some people, like Walt Disney and Adolphe Menjou, were outspoken against communists and named names, while others, like Humphrey Bogart and John Huston, signed a petition to protect the first amendment and refused to.

About 40 people were called to testify. 19 of them refused to. 11 of those 19 were called before the committee. Of the 11, 10 refused to answer the question of whether or not they were or were communists on the grounds of freedom of speech and assembly. And Hollywood, under immense pressure from the government (which was the last body they wanted to piss off, with the issue of them having a monopoly on theaters, the constant issue of outside censorship, and the government never having quite been able to come after them despite definite means to do so), decided to blacklist those ten, who became known as the “Hollywood Ten.” And what happened was, the studios basically had to say they would never hire anyone who was a communist or a communist sympathizer.

So from 1947 on, the blacklist grew, and it had huge repercussions on Hollywood, notably the demise of RKO and the death of John Garfield (who was blacklisted and was under so much stress because of that, that he ended up dying of a heart attack — at 39!). Outspoken Democrats were basically pushed out, and people like Henry Fonda found it very difficult to find work on the screen and stayed on the stage until the whole thing blew over (Fonda didn’t make a feature film between 1948 and 1955). Those who refused to name names were blacklisted, and those who named names got others blacklisted. (Famously, Elia Kazan named names and as a result, wrote On the Waterfront.) And those who were blacklisted (specifically the writers) would start to use fronts to get their work up on the screen. (Dalton Trumbo wrote Roman Holiday and didn’t get credit for it until years later when the blacklist was over.) (more…)

Pic of the Day: “Hello, Beastie.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1952

Well, since I discussed HUAC and the blacklist in 1951, it’ll save me a lot of trouble here. Most people consider High Noon to be the film that should have won here, but the fact that it was clearly an allegory for standing up to HUAC made them skittish about voting for it. So that explains (sort of) what happened here.

Instead of High Noon, they went with The Greatest Show on Earth for Best Picture. Like An American in Paris the year before this — the film didn’t win anything else (major). That points to it being a compromised decision. It’s like them saying they didn’t want to vote for it either, but they had to play it safe until the heat was off. Gary Cooper did win Best Actor for High Noon, though (talked about here), which is interesting. I guess Gary Cooper transcends communism. Best Actress was Shirley Booth for Come Back, Little Sheba (talked about here), her first film, after many years on the stage. I don’t particularly like the decision (Julie Harris was so much better in The Member of the Wedding), but I can accept it. Best Supporting Actor was Anthony Quinn for Viva Zapata! (talked about here), which is acceptable. Anthony Quinn is awesome. Best Supporting Actress was Gloria Grahame for The Bad and the Beautiful (talked about here), which, while I wouldn’t have voted for it, is a nice way to show the film (which really should have been nominated for Best Picture. It’s actually the film with the most Oscar wins in history without being nominated for Best Picture) some love. And Best Director — which really points to them admitting compromise — went to John Ford for The Quiet Man (talked about here), which was actually a good decision and very well could have happened even if High Noon won Best Picture.

So, the year makes sense, even though it’s not particularly strong. And while I understand the hesitance in voting for High Noon, my big question about it is — so why not just vote for The Quiet Man then? I don’t get it.


And the nominees were…

The Greatest Show on Earth (Paramount)

High Noon (United Artists)

Ivanhoe (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Moulin Rouge (United Artists)

The Quiet Man (Republic) (more…)

Pic of the Day: “There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence.”