Wednesday, August 27, 2014

And Then There Were Sixteen

What does a teenage Canadian singing phenomenon, killer eyebrows, disabled war vet, childhood memories during the war and a former mental patient becoming a dancer all have in common? If you said twentieth US Vice President Chester Arthur, you would technically be correct, but that wasn't the answer I was looking for. It's actually all the films I watched recently. Nope, just kidding you it really is Chester Arthur, but here are some more films I have seen lately.
Three Smart Girls (1936) – Deanna Durbin’s first movie, a comedy about three sisters trying to keep their divorced father from remarrying and get their parents back together.  Not much of a story and generally silly by today’s standards, but an enjoyable film with a young Ray Milland long before his greatest acting role, having his head attached to Rosey Greer.
So what was the best film of 1936?  No matter how you cut it, it will always end up with The Great Ziegfeld.  His influence over the previous forty years in entertainment was still strongly felt even after his death, so as a dedication film it was going to win.  And it is a very enjoyable and well-acted movie.  At a very close second is The Story of Louis Pasteur with Paul Muni in one of his greatest roles.  Inches after is Libeled Lady one of the funniest movies you will ever see.  Fourth is Dodsworth a great drama that doesn’t get shown or mentioned much but still a great movie.  Fifth is Mr. Deeds Goes to Town because there is only so low you can put a Capra movie.  The other half would include Anthony Adverse as sixth, A Tale of Two Cites seventh and San Francisco as eighth.  To be honest those three could move and swap places, they are all really good movies.  Ninth is Romeo and Juliet, not that it was bad just that there were so many other great films that year.  And tenth is Three Smart Girls, still a good movie, not as good as the others it was nominated against.
Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938) – Tyrone Power’s eyebrows and Tyrone Power with Dom Ameche showing the rise of jazz in the early twentieth century.  Lots of Irvin Berlin music including the film’s title, makes it a good musical, but not much more than a good musical.  There is the standard love story triangle but the enjoyment comes from the classic jazz.
And this too closes out another year.  For all practical purposes the decade is finished but there are still two that I hold out hope for to see.  So this is where it gets tough.  But the best film was You Can’t Take It With You, a great Capra classic and Lionel Barrymore in one of his best roles ever.  Right behind in second is Jean Renoir’s classic Grand Illusion, the first foreign language film to be nominated for best picture and one of the best films ever made.  Third is Test Pilot was a great all-star cast.  Fourth is Boys Town the sappy but great classic.  Fifth would be Jezebel carried by Bettie Davis.  And the second half goes with The Citadel in sixth, great acting by Robert Donat which helped him win best actor the next year, seventh is The Adventures of Robin Hood in all its Technicolor splendor, Pygmalion which was the non-musical My Fair Lady is eighth, ninth is Alexander’s Ragtime Band a good musical and tenth is Four Daughters a nice drama but nowhere as good as the top.
Coming Home (1978) – Talk about a depressing movie.  Strong acting roles makes it watchable but overall not that great of a movie.  Jane Fonda’s husband, Bruce Dern goes off to fight in Vietnam.  While she is volunteering at the veterans’ hospital she meets and falls in love with Jon Voight.  More of a political statement than an actual drama or war film, it has become rather forgotten as time as gone on.
To rank out 1978 is very easy at first then harder to figure which was the worst.  The Deer Hunter was the best movie and still over thirty five years later a classic movie.  While Michael Crimino gets a lot a grief for Heaven’s Gate, which is also an amazing movie, he made a strong and powerful movie with a great cast.  Clearly second is Midnight Express one of the most chilling and intense movies ever made and reminds you not to smuggle drugs out of Turkey.  Third only by default is Coming Home since it’s only slightly less bad than the last two movies nominated this year.  In fourth is An Unmarried Woman only climbing out of last place since it is a good period piece of the late 1970’s, but not that good of a movie.  Last is Heaven Can Wait which is a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan and not the original Heaven Can Wait.  It’s like I decided to remake Raiders Of The Lost Ark but called it Apocalypse Now.  I recommend avoiding the 1978 version and see the original from 1941.
Hope And Glory (1987) – A view of WWII through the eyes of an English child who has to leave the city and live with his grandparents in the country.  Less of a war drama and more of a slice of life film, it’s a well-acted film that is enjoyable and was worthy of a best picture nomination.
This is the last film I had to see no only for this year but for the decade.  Stay tuned for my rankings of the best pictures of the decade and the ranking of all fifty nominated movies.  For this year The Last Emperor was the best movie and has become somewhat of a lost classic.  I’d say that has more to do with the decade, while being one of the worst in movie history, 1987 was a stronger year, but the negative stigma of being made in the ‘80’s doesn’t help.  Second is Broadcast News a quirky comedy drama that got Albert Brooks an Oscar nomination for supporting actor.  Third is Fatal Attraction not so much as a film but for the effect it had on society even to this day.  Fourth is Hope and Glory a standard type of film from the decade but done well.  Fifth is Moonstruck, not a great movie but a popular one that everyone like.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Bradley Cooper plays a former teacher who is taken in by his parents after leaving a mental hospital after recovering from a nervous breakdown.  He is trying to see his ex-wife and tries using Jennifer Lawrence to connect with her.  She in turn is using him to compete in a dance contest.  Great acting, especially from Jennifer Lawrence and a strong cast makes this one of the better films of the year.
But is it the best film of the year?  No, but it is right now in the top three.  I would still rank Argo first, Beasts of the Southern Wild second, Silver Linings Playbook in third bumping Life of Pi to fourth.  Fifth is Les Miserables and staying far in last place is Zero Dark Thirty.

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