Sunday, April 21, 2013

The End Of The First Year

Somehow I have seen all of the best pictures that were nominated for production for 1928.  But as you move towards seeing 450 movies it was bound to happen.  I've also seen the nominees for best picture in unique and artistic production as well, the only year they had that category.  I will cover all of them in my assessment of 1928.  As well as a few more films that closed out some more years.

The Racket (1928) - A Howard Hughes production about a police captain who is honest is sent out to the "sticks" when he stands up to the local mob boss.  Very well done, well acted and covering topics that were self censored years later by Hollywood.  The quality is amazing, they have fixed the film so that 85 years later it still looks almost new.  A great film that could be made today.

Here is the part that I have been dreading for sometime, which movie is the best of 1928.  I'll start with the nominees for unique and artistic production where you had Sunrise a classic that won by F.W. Murnau, Chang: A Drama Of The Wilderness about villagers in Siam dealing with elephants and just life in general and King Vidor's The Crowd.  Of those three, all amazing films I think The Crowd should have won but was badly edited by the studio, especially the ending.  For the best produced films Wings was the best movie, the main reason is the airplane footage was terrific.  Second would be The Racket for it's gritty portrait of crime in the 1920's and third Seventh Heaven, still a great movie.

Three Coins In The Fountain (1954) - Romantic film of the 1950's, very stylish in the way it was filmed and well acted although most of the actors and actresses were not major stars.  A story of three young women who are working in Italy and the romances they find themselves in.  Cinematography is incredible, the music was very nice, the story was good.

This makes four out of five for this year and On The Waterfront is still the best film of the year.  I would put this movie third after The Caine Mutiny since the story was better than I though it would be, but not as good as the other two above it.

Winter's Bone (2010) - Should you make a movie if information you find out at the end of the movie meant you didn't have to watch the entire film to understand what it means?  Here is an example, if I told you in The Godfather in the opening wedding scene that Michael Corleone would kill Carlo the groom at the end of the film would it make sense to you?  Winter's Bone is the opposite of this.  This film could have been done in twelve minutes.  There is one reason that saves this film and it was the incredible acting performance of Jennifer Lawrence.  Otherwise there was no reason to make this film.

This being the eight film of ten for the year it is clearly down in the bottom of the pack.  Not as bad as 127 Hours but pretty close.  Inception is still my lead for the best film of the year and it may just stay that way.

Wake Island (1942) - A somewhat fictionalized account of the battle of Wake Island mainly since the battle was still going on while the film was being made.  Right after Pearl Harbor Japan started attacking Marines stationed on Wake Island.  The film shows the brave soldiers as they defend the island.  This is another WWII film made during the war so it is more propaganda than showing an entertaining movie.  Nevertheless it is still a good film even if it didn't get all the fact correct.

This closes out 1942 another great year of movies.  This is going to be a tough year but Mrs. Miniver was the best film of the year.  Now it gets very difficult but the rest in order would be Kings Row, Ronald Reagan in one of his finest roles; The Talk Of The Town, great acting performances; Random Harvest, Greer Garson in a another great film and Ronald Coleman; Pride Of The Yankees, could be higher and has Gary Cooper but does have the yuckies the worst team in baseball which dropped it at least two places; Yankee Doodle Dandy one of James Cagney's most well know roles; The Magnificent Ambersons another great Orson Wells film but not his best; The Pied Piper a rather good WWII film, but not as good as Mrs. Miniver; Wake Island, see review above and 49th Parallel which wasn't that good, but still better than some year's best pictures.

Barry Lyndon (1975) - My 446th film and an epic Stanley Kubrick movie.  Ryan O'Neal is an Irish man who falls into military fame and nobility but not very well acted.  You could have got at least a dozen better actors.  It looks as beautiful as any other Kubrick film, but drags on a bit long.  Think O Lucky Man! but based in the 18th century.

And this too closes out 1975, a very interesting year for movies.  The 1970's besides the 1930's is one of the best decades of Hollywood movies.  One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is clearly the best film since it is historically only one of three to sweep all the major awards of best picture, director, actor, actress and screenplay.  That and it is one of the most powerful films you will ever see.  Second is Dog Day Afternoon another amazing drama that is so well done.  Continuing with amazing dramas you have Nashville as the third best, a great Robert Altman movie with an all star cast.  Jaws falls into fourth only because what it lead to for the 1980's.  It was a great action film but because it was one of the first "blockbuster" movies it set the pattern that Hollywood started to follow after Heaven's Gate and almost ruined Hollywood.  Not that Jaws is a bad film, but what it did to the movie industry, even if accidental, causes it to be in fourth.  And Barry Lyndon is fifth, not one of Kubrik's best but still a good film that was worthy of being nominated.

Friday, April 5, 2013

If Your Doctor Gets Amnesia, Does That Mean You Don't Have To Pay The Bill?

Too bad Alfred Hitchcock didn't tackle that problem in Spellbound but he did raise other important issues like wild psychedelic dreams twenty years before everyone started taking acid.  And a bunch of other films as I shorten my list of nominated movies.

Spellbound (1945) - Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck are psychoanalysts in a Vermont mental hospital and you find out rather quickly that Gregory Peck is an imposter and doesn't know who he is.  A bit of twists and turns and a wild dream scene designed by Salvador Dali even without dripping clocks is still good.  Typical Hitchcock mystery with twists and turns but still a classic, not his best, but not his worst.

At this point seeing four out of five for this year, The Lost Weekend still stands as the best so far.  It is a great gritty drama and has more attack bats than the other films nominated that year.  Although Joan Crawford does give a good challenge to the attack bat, I'll wait until I see The Bells Of St. Mary's to properly rank everything.

Chocolat (2000) - A nice film about a worldly woman who comes to a small French town with her daughter in the late 1950's.  The town is very rigid and traditional and she opens a chocolate shop and puts the town on its head during the Easter holiday.  Very good acting, the story moves well and to be honest it was much better than I though it would be.  It's a very enjoyable movie.

This now closes out 2000 and the best picture of the year was the Oscar winner Gladiator.  It was overall the best produced movie.  The acting was good, could have been better.  The cinematography was great, the battle scenes were great.  A complete movie compared to it's competition.  Second would be Chocolat since it was also a good film but didn't have the epic like quality of Gladiator.  Third is Traffic since it took chances you don't see in other movies, like the different story lines in different color shades.  Fourth is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon mainly since it was a foreign film and it is rare for them to be nominated for best picture.  Fifth is Erin Brockovich mainly since it is good film but not as good as the other four.

Seventh Heaven (1927) - A silent classic from the first year of best picture nominees.  Starring a young Janet Gaynor who won best actress and Charles Farrell as a sewer cleaner who saves Janet Gaynor from her abusive sister and pretends she is his wife to keep her from being arrested.  Have I mentioned that Europe is not better than us lately?  As you can guess they have to pretend until the police come but start to build a relationship.  Just at the point when they are going to fall in love, WWI starts.  So he goes off, she takes care of the house and he comes back after being left for dead but only ends up blind and finds his way back home to be with her.  Trust me, it's better than my description.

There is one more film to see for the first year and I know it's not going to make this any easier.  Both Wings and Seventh Heaven are amazing films.  Maybe the Racket will help push one of these to the top, or be better than the other two nominees.  Since I have it on tape and will be seeing it soon I will be able to close out the first year.

The Lives Of A Bengal Lancer (1935) - A classic action film with Gary Cooper as an English Army officer in India out in the northwest frontier fighting rebels.  Lots of shooting, great explosions or as good as you could get in 1935 and a bit of comedy makes this a great overall film.

This puts me at eleven out of twelve since it was one of two years where they nominated twelve movies.  And while this was a great film, Mutiny On The Bounty is still the best of all of them.  I can see why they nominated so many films, so many of them were really good, this one is definately in the top five for the year.

Bad Girl (1932) - A pre code classic staring James Dunn years before his Oscar in A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and Sally Eilers as two wise cracking people who end up falling in love and try to deal with married life.  Since each of the are so stubborn they always make mountains out of molehills of everything.  But of course love conquers all so you know they'll turn out alright.

This now closes out 1932 and it was a strong year.  While it can be challenged but Grand Hotel is the best picture because it is so rare to see so many stars in one film from this era.  And such great acting from all of them.  I want to say there is a three way tie for second, but I can't cop out again like I did with 1939 so I will have to go with The Champ since it has such lasting power and one of the most powerfully moving endings with Jackie Cooper loosing it, try and not get choked up.  Third and only by a razor edge would be Five Star Final from the amazing acting of Edward G. Robinson.  And the last of this tie for fourth is Arrowsmith as a great John Ford film with Ronald Colman in one of his finest roles.  Bad Girl is in fifth, the top of the bottom half, but the hill slopes down very steep at this point putting One Hour With You at sixth, Shanghai Express at seventh and last The Smiling Lieutenant.

Imitation Of Life (1934) - The original one that was nominated staring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers.  A nice story about a widow who ends up hiring Louise Beavers as a housekeeper since she is doing door to door sales of maple syrup and trying to raise a small daughter.  She trades room and board for Louise Beavers and a place for her daughter to live too.  Claudette Colbert eventually risks it all to open a pancake shop using Louise Beavers' family recipe and they become moderately successful.  That is until the great Ned Sparks tells them to package the mix to make even more money.  She does and becomes the pancake queen, a rather cool title I may add.  Mix in issues of race relations, mother and daughter falling for the same guy and you have a movie with some good ups and downs.

This now puts me at eleven out of twelve as well being the other year to have twelve films.  While it will be a difficult task to rank all of them, this one does sit near the top, maybe a bit closer to the middle.  It is also the third film that Claudette Colbert was in, the other two Cleopatra and the so far leading best picture It Happened One Night.

Wilson (1944) - A very, very fictionalized account of the life of Woodrow Wilson.  A major flop when it came out, which is not surprising since people still remembered how horrible his presidency was twenty five years later.  It's like if someone made a movie about Pol Pot and only talked about how much he loved farming and wanted to get the community to become more involved in growing their own food and ignore that whole killing field thing.  It's long, boring and a complete waste of time.  Probably the worst film of the decade.  Unless you're a mental patient like me who has to see every film nominated, don't see it, you'll be happy that you didn't waste the two and half hours of your life.

But seeing my 441th film has helped me finish out 1944.  I will have to say of the four films that were worth being nominated, obviously excluding Wilson, Since You Went Away should have won best picture over Going My Way.  I understand that WWII was going on and Going My Way is a comforting movie, but so is Since You Went Away.  And Lionel Barrymore has a bit part in there, how can you compete with that?  Going My Way is in my opinion the second best film of the year.  For third it does get tough again between Gaslight and Double Indemnity, each of them having major influence on society.  I will have to flip a movie reel and say Double Indemnity takes third because it influenced so many other film noir directors.  Gaslight has become part of our popular culture and even 70 years later if you say you are gas lighting someone, they know what you mean.  Very few movies have that distinction.  And last is Wilson, proving once again that the people who pick the movies sometimes really get it wrong.