The Also-Ran’s Project – Secrets & Lies (Best Picture Also-Ran 1996)

Image result for secrets and lies movie posterDirected by Mike Leigh

Written by Mike Leigh

Starring Brenda Blethyn, Timothy Spall, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Claire Rushbrook, and Phyllis Logan

A few entries back I wrote about Topsy-Turvy, which was just the second Mike Leigh film I’d ever seen.  Because I had such a blind spot for him, I was under the assumption he specialized in the kind of muddy, earthy, improvisational dramas I really had no interest in.  I wouldn’t say I expected to find some sort of misery porn in his work, but that’s not far off the mark.  So I was glad when Topsy-Turvy proved a rather joyous and exuberant experience, with buoyant performances, colorful and beautiful camera work, and not a fleck of mud – either literal, or emotion – in sight.  To be fair, that movie was certainly too long, and too enamored with giving everything and everybody a chance in front of the camera, but on the whole I quite enjoyed it. Continue reading


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The Also-Ran’s Project – Anne of the Thousand Days (Best Picture/Actress/Actor Also-Ran 1969)

Original movie poster for the film Anne of the Thousand Days.jpgDirected by Charles Jarrott

Screenplay by Bridget Boland, John Hale and Richard Sokolove, from the play by Maxwell Anderson

Starring Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold, Anthony Quayle and John Colicos

Richard Burton was nominated for seven Oscars over a 25-year span, including three straight in the 1960s:

  • Best Actor 1977 – Equus
  • Best Actor 1969 – Anne of the Thousand Days
  • Best Actor 1966 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Best Actor 1965 – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
  • Best Actor 1964 – Becket
  • Best Actor 1953 – The Robe
  • Best Supporting Actor 1952 – My Cousin Rachel

You would think the closest he came to the winning was in 1966 for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which was the year’s most nominated film with 13, and which won his then-wife Elizabeth Taylor her second.  So, an Oscar for Burton has the appeal of being a good story – matching man and wife Oscars.  Alas, Burton lost to Paul Scofield for A Man for All Seasons.[1]  In Oscar history there is just one bigger acting loser than Richard Burton: only Peter O’Toole has more Oscar noms (eight), without a win.[2] Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project – Hilary and Jackie (Best Actress/Supporting Actress Also-Ran 1998)

Hilary-and-jackie-poster.jpgDirected by Anand Tucker

Screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Starring Emily Watson, Rachel Griffiths, James Frain, David Morrissey, Charles Dance, and Celia Ermie

Emily Watson had never been in a film before her breakout role in Breaking the Waves.  Perhaps being unknown helped her intense, emotional, and sexual performance land with such a wallop.  Or, it could be she’s simply a fierce actress, capable of that sort of performance day-in and day-out, and didn’t need a longer film history behind her to show it.  And there may be the truth of Emily Watson: she was a quality actress from the jump, even if the individual film itself is not. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project – The Wings of the Dove (Best Actress Also-Ran 1997)

Wings of the dove ver1.jpgDirected by Iain Softley

Screenplay by Hossein Amini, from the novel by Henry James

Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roach, Allison Elliott, Elizabeth McGovern, Charlotte Rampling and Michael Gambon

Here we are again, folks, with another installment in this series about something other than a Best Picture Also-Ran, owing to 1997 being a year in which I’ve seen all the Best Picture winners and losers.[1]  The same goes for the Best Director race, and the Best Actor and Supporting Actor/Actress Races – seen ‘em.  In fact, I’ve even seen all 10 of the movies nominated in the screenplay categories as well.[2]  I could have taken a dive into the Foreign Language Film or Documentary categories – after all, everybody could use a little more foreign exposure in their lives, and the Documentary Feature category included 4 Little Girls from Spike Lee.  But, as I enter the homestretch on this project I want to be laser-focused on what’s readily available, and so here we are with a Best Actress loser.[3]

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The Also-Rans Project – Rambling Rose (Best Actress and Supporting Actress Also-Rans 1991)

Ramblingroseposter.jpgDirected by Martha Coolidge

Screenplay by Calder Willingham, based upon his book

Starring Laura Dern, Robert Duvall, Lukas Haas, Diane Ladd, and John Heard

I sometimes wonder what it’s like growing up as the child of a famous person.  Or a rich person.  Which is obviously the greatest indication of my background that I can ever give you, because if you ever have to wonder what wealth and fame does to kids, it usually means you had neither when you were a kid.

Anyway, I have it in my head that living with a parent’s wealth and/or fame warps a person and their worldview.  When it’s fame it’s living in a world where everybody thinks your parent is great and are lauded with attention.  Just having that sort of attention shining around you can be a problem one its face, as everything you do is suddenly noticed.  Worse is if you don’t ever do anything to earn the glow yourself and have to deal with it going away. Continue reading

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The Also Rans – The Trip to Bountiful/Agnes of God (Best Actress Winner/Loser 1985)

Trip to bountiful.jpgA Trip to Bountiful

Directed by Peter Masterson

Screenplay by Horton Foote, based upon his play

Starring Geraldine Page, John Heard, Rebecca De Mornay, and Carlin Glynn

Agnes moviep.jpgAgnes of God

Directed by Norman Jewison

Screenplay by John Pielmeier, based upon his play

Starring Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, and Meg Tilly

Originally this was to be a piece about The Trip To Bountiful, based on it being a Best Adapted Screenplay lower.   At least, that would have been the ostensible angle into the film, which was just a proxy to assess the performance of Geraldine Page.  Why Geraldine Page?   Because despite being nominated for eight Oscars – four as a supporting actress, four as a lead – I had only ever seen a single one of her films.  This in spite of my own cinephile leanings, and her having worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood history – John Wayne, Paul Newman, Francis Coppola, Clint Eastwood, and Woody Allen.  What had I seen her in?  John Schlesinger’s The Day of the Locust.  And even then, I have zero memory of her in it.  So taking The Trip of Bountiful was meant to open my eyes to her a little bit. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project – Sayonara (Best Picture Also-Ran 1957)

Original movie poster for the film Sayonara.jpgDirected by Joshua Logan

Screenplay by Paul Osborn, from the novel by James Michener

Starring Marlon Brando, James Garner, Red Buttons, Miiko Taka, Patricia Owens, Ricardo Montalban, Miyoshi Umeki

In the early 1950s, two airmen (Brando and Buttons) are pulled out of Korea and reassigned to a base in Japan.  One (Brando) would rather not go, because reasons.  The other (Buttons) is happier for the change of locale, because he can finally marry his Japanese girlfriend (Umeki), even though this marriage will go against the wishes of the Air Force brass and racist US policies.  Unexpectedly, Brando falls in love with a Japanese woman as well (Miiko Taka) and decides to marry her.  Tragedy ensues as people stand up to, and buckle, under the racism invited by their decisions.  Oh, and they see a fair amount of Japanese theater along the way.

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The Also-Ran’s Project – Topsy-Turvy (Best Original Screenplay, et al, Also-Ran 1999)

Topsy Turvy.jpgDirected by Mike Leigh

Screenplay by Mike Leigh

Starring Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, Lesley Manville, Timothy Spall, Kevin McKidd, Shirley Henderson, and others

There was no reason I had to reach down to a Best Original Screenplay loser to find a 199 entry for this series.  After all, while I’ve seen everything in the 1999 Best Picture and Best Director races, there were various lead acting losers who’s films I’d not seen: Sean Penn[1] in Sweet and Lowdown; Denzel Washington in The Hurricane; Janet McTeer in Tumbleweeds; Julianne Moore in The End of the Affair; and Meryl Streep in Music of the Heart[2].

So, if I had all those options from the acting categories alone, why did I reach so far down to find Topsy-Turvy?    The short answer is Mike Leigh. Continue reading

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The Also-Ran’s Project — The Front Page (Best Picture Also-Ran 1930/31)

The Front Page (1931 film) poster.jpgDirected by Lewis Milestone

Screenplay by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, adaptation by Bartlett Cormack, additional dialog by Charles Lederer

Starring Pat O’Brien, Adolph Menjou

At the first Academy Awards[1] Lewis Milestone won Best Director for Two Arabian Knights, while Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans won Best Picture.  Unfortunately, both accomplishments are rendered somewhat to the dustbin of history with the Academy retroactively deciding Wings was Best Picture of the first Oscars, while Frank Borzage was Best Director  for 7th Heaven.

How can that be? you ask.  Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project – A Star is Born (Best Picture Also-Ran 1937)

A Star Is Born 1937 poster.jpgDirected by William Wellman

Written by William Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, and Alan Campbell

Starring Janet Gaynor, Frederic March, Adolph Menjou, Lionel Stander and Andy Devine

Esther (Janet Gaynor), dreams of making it in Hollywood, but when she arrives in California she finds success a little hard to come by.  Pluck and desire are not enough – you need luck and coincidence, too.  Fortunately, she meets movie star Norman Maine (Frederic March), who gives her career a massive assist.  In pretty short order she’s a star and married to Norman, who agrees to give up booze for her.  Things turn, though, when Esther’s fame – by now she’s renamed Vicki Lester – eclipses Norman, something his fragile ego cannot take.  He turns to booze again and quickly hits bottom.  When he realizes Vicki is willing to throw her entire career away just to do what it takes to sober him up, he swims out into the ocean and drowns.

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