Sunday, July 1, 2012

400 and Counting!

That's right, I've now have seen more than 400 films that have been nominated for Best Picture.  And I was able to add in another Best Picture, narrowing down that list to only two movies I haven't seen yet.  And a bunch of other reviews, but I'll start with the 82nd best picture.

Out Of Africa (1985) - Not only is the 82nd film I've seen, I have completed the 1980's and have seen every best picture from 1928 to 1992.  The last two Schindler's List (1993) and Shakespeare in Love (1998) are all that remain, until next year of course.  You may be asking why am I spending time talking about statistics and other films?  That's because this is more interesting than Out of Africa.  Talk about boring.  The cinematography was great, the musical score was wonderful, costume design was amazing.  The acting, ugh.  The script, yawn.  It goes on and on and you wonder why I should care about a Dutch woman who moves to Africa and gets stuck with a coffee plantation that ends up burning down, the processing plant that is.

I have now seen all of the films for 1985 and without a doubt the best movie was Out of Africa.  As horrible as it was, nothing else was as good.  It was a very weak year and this film had the luck to be made at the right time.  Witness will stay second only because it had some action, but was not a great cop movie.  Third is Prizzi's Honor since it had a good cast.  Fourth is A Color Purple very narrowly beating out Kiss of the Spider Woman, both lucky to be nominated.

Finding Neverland (2004) - What a surprise, another bio-pic!  This one is loosely based on J.M Barrie and his inspiration on writing Peter Pan.  The acting was good, it is an enjoyable film but if you read the real history, it wasn't as happy as an ending as the movie would imply.  The child whom Peter Pan is named for eventually committed suicide and commented that he despised the story.  The time line in the film is also wrong as to what happened in real life.  But it still is a good movie to see.

Another year completed and the best film was Million Dollar Baby.  It is a strong powerful drama and Clint Eastwood did a great job.  Second is The Aviator a great Martin Scorsese movie and great acting by Leonardo DiCaprio.  Finding Neverland is third, Ray comes fourth and Sideways is fifth only because it is the weakest of the movies this year.

Lady For A Day (1933) - The 400th movie I've seen so far on this project.  I was debating which of the movies I have on the DVR to watch for the 400th and I went with the oldest produced movie.  And it's a Frank Capra movie so it sealed the deal.  A typical Capra fairy tale type of story about a poor woman who sells apples and has a daughter she left in Europe as a baby to be raised in a convent.  She has been lying to her in letters saying how she is a wealthy socialite in New York City, but now her daughter is coming to visit with her fiancee who is from royalty.  A mobster who buys apples from her for good luck agrees to make her appear to be a wealthy socialite, spends a ton of money and eventually convinces the police, the mayor and the governor to go along.  A truly unrealistic movie, but that's what Capra was great at, the modern urban fairy tale with the happy ending.

Now that I've seen nine out of ten films nominated this year, it appears that Cavalcade is still the best picture.  Lady for a Day was good, but it doesn't crack the top five.

Dead End (1937) - A gritty drama about a dead end street in Hell's Kitchen and the conflicts that go on during one summer day.  Joel McCrea in one of the few non westerns he did and a young Humphrey Bogart play oppose each other.  McCrea is guy who never escaped from his poverty and still lives in the neighborhood.  Bogart is a gangster who got plastic surgery and comes back to see his mom and old girl friend.  His mom rejects him, his old girl friend is a diseased prostitute, not a great reunion, don't think they have a Hallmark card for that.  One notable item is that this was the first appearance of the Dead End kids who became the Bowery Boys and made a ton of movies for the next twenty years.

A great film from a great year.  1939 has been the apex of great movies from this era , which means the years leading up had great movies as well, this year is no exception.  While The Life of Emile Zola is still the best picture, and Dead End is a great movie, it falls to the bottom of the pack.  This year was so strong, so many good films, that if it came out ten or twenty years later it could have won.  The story is somewhat timeless, but it earned it's spot as one of the ten best.

One Hundred Men And A Girl (1937) - Be careful what you click if you do an Internet search for this movie.  A warmhearted musical staring a teenage Deanna Durbin and the great Adolphe Menjou as a father and daughter trying to find a venue for their orchestra.  Not much of a story, very good music and Deanna Durbin was an amazing singer.  A good film overall.

Compared to other movies from 1937, see my comments from Dead End above if you skipped to this film.  This one falls to the bottom, not because it was a musical, but because there really wasn't much meat to the film.  But they did perform some Wagner in the movie, so it is definately worthy of best picture status.

Seabiscuit (2003) - Another movie from the decade of bio-pics.  Based on the story of the famous horse who raced back in the late 1930's.  Not interested?  Neither am I.  If you love horse racing then this is a movie for you.  Otherwise it was a well done film, big budget, rather popular, but not much more than that.

And now I have seen all the films for 2003.  In fact I have completed thirty two years now as well.  And still the best picture was The Return of the King.  It was an overall award for The Lord of the Rings, but it also better film than the others.  Second would be Master and Commander a great action film reminiscent of the old swashbuckler films of yesteryear.  Third is Mystic River, a very strong drama and great acting.  Fourth is a close call, but Lost in Translation squeezes in mainly for the original quirky nature of the film.  Last is Seabiscuit mostly for the unnecessary commentary that was full of political opinion and distracted from the film, thankfully it stopped about half way through the movie, but not enough to save it from last place.