The Also-Rans Project – Separate Tables (Best Picture Also-Ran 1958)

Separate tables.jpgDirected By Delbert Mann

Written by Terrence Rattigan and John Gay, from the stage-plays by Rattigan

Starring David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, Burt Lancaster, Wendy Hiller, Rod Taylor and Gladys Cooper

Delbert Mann was a lucky sonofabitch.  He cut his teeth directing live television in the 1950s, including a 1953 episode of The Philco Television Playhouse series, about a lonely butcher, named “Marty”.  By all accounts the episode was a success, such that when the hour-long TV drama was expanded and remade as a feature film, Mann was called up to the big leagues.  Marty the film was still the unpretentious, unostentatious story of a sweet, lonely butcher looking for love, only this version won the top prize at Cannes, and the 1955 Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Actor and Screenplay. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project – Zorba, The Greek (Best Picture Also-Ran 1964)

Zorba the Greek poster.jpgDirected by Michael Cacoyannis

Screenplay by Cocayannis, from the Nikos Kazantzakis novel

Starring Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates, Irene Papas and Lila Kedrova

There’s something about man-children – those irrepressible, horn-dogs – that make for popular cinema.  Sometimes they are profane and debauched, to the point of ludicrousness – The Hangover.  Other times, they are more restrained, even as they play with a free-spirit sensibility – Beginners.  And sometimes they are made by acclaimed filmmakers, with acclaimed actors, sure to be Oscar-bait – Zorba the Greek.  But also, Beginners.

There’s also something about manic-pixie-dream-girls[1] and their ability to fix brooding heroes that tends to bring people out to the theaters – think Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown or Kate Hudson in Almost Famous.  Well, in a sense, Zorba the Greek involves a proto-manic-pixie-dream-girl, only in this instance he’s also a man-child, which is probably the first time either of those two appeared onscreen together, in the form of the same character.

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The Also-Rans — Julia (Best Picture Also-Ran 1977)

Julia (1977 film).jpgDirected by Fred Zinnemann

Written by Alvin Sargent, Based upon the book ‘Pentimento’ by Lillian Hellman

Starring Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook and Maximillian Schell

Julia is two movies, masquerading as one.  No, it’s not an anthology film, in the vein of Grindhouse, with two completely distinct films shoved together to hit some artificially imposed amount of content/running time.  Nor is it an explicitly episodic film, capturing a series of events in the life of the same characters.  Rather, it’s a film of two distinct halves, telling different stories, about the same basic characters.  Which makes it sound episodic, though it’s not.  Call it an ‘Athosodic’ film.  Or an ‘Epithology’.  Either one is fine. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans – Three Coins In The Fountain (Best Picture Also-Ran 1954)

Three coins.jpgDirected by Jean Negulesco

Written by John Patrick, based on the novel ‘Coins In The Fountain’ by John H. Secondari

Starring Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters, Louis Jourdan, Rossano Brazzi and Maggie McNamara

Three Coins in the Fountain is a simple film, with no heavy themes, or pretense.  And so devoted is it to simplicity that the song playing over the opening credits – scenes of life in Rome, around Trevi Fountain – spells out the entire conceit of the film: if you make a wish and throw a coin in Trevi Fountain, you’ll have that wish granted, especially if it’s a wish for love.  Sure, the wishes that two of the three leading women in the film[1] make are not so much about finding love as returning to Rome,[2] but that hardly matters because the fountain gives all three women love anyway.[3]  One, finds it in a forbidden office-romance with an Italian law student.  Another finds it with a roguish Italian Prince.  The other finds it with an aging ex-pat writer she’s been secretary to for 15 years.

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One Week Remaining…

front-cover-01I know you only have one week remaining to get your pre-order in for The Best Picture Project book, but that doesn’t mean you actually have to wait until the last minute — get it now!

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The Best Picture Project — Pre-Sale Now!

front-cover-01Hello, cherished readers.  As followers of this blog, you are no doubt aware of the long-running The Best Picture Project, a semi-regular series exploring every Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards from the beginning, through today.  Well, if you were wondering if there was a way you could have The Best Picture Project in book form — well, you can!  Set for release on November 17, 2017, will be The Best Picture Project.  Featuring complete re-edited content, and together for the first time ever in one place, you can pre-order the book now for the Kindle, for the low-low price of $3.99.  What a steal!  And if you’re a member of Amazon Prime or Unlimited, you won’t even have to pay that!

And wait — if you’re one who prefers their media to take physical form, there will be a paperback version available as well.  Unfortunately, that version cannot be pre-ordered, for reasons completely unknown to me.  But never fear, come November 17, 2016, you will be able to order your own copy.

Per-order now!

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The Also Rans — The Exorcist (Best Picture Also Ran 1973)

A man with a hat on his head, holding a suitcase, arrives in a house building in วthe night, with the film's slogan above him while the film's title, credits and billing underneath him.Directed by William Friedkin

Screenplay by William Peter Blatty, based upon his novel

Starring Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow, Lee J. Cob and Jack MacGowran

Confession is an appropriate place to start this entry, given the heavily Catholic tone of The Exorcist, so here goes: I’ve seen The Exorcist before.

See, when I started this Project – The Also Ran’s – I had the idea I’d use it to see Best Picture nominees I’d not seen before as a way to force new viewing experiences on myself.  Given I’d already seen many of the Best Pictures, that made the Best Picture Project as much about revisiting films as it was about discovery.  By definition then, The Also Rans was explicitly meant to be about discovery because it excluded movies I’d already seen.  Moreover, it would also give me a unique look at the workings of prior generations, in that by looking at what lost, I might find something very instructive.

But while this is my aim, here I am throwing the rule away and using this project as an excuse to re-visit The Exorcist.  Why?  Because it’s my Project, so it’s my rules to break.  Also, because with The Exorcist, any viewing will be a discovery.

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The Best Picture Project – Rankings

So, as you know, I’m doing the Best Picture Project, where I watch all 88 Oscar winners for best picture and honestly, life just isn’t fun without rankings, so follows are my rankings of the Best Picture winners, from 1 to 76, complete with links to all previous posts, with 10 being shuttled over into their own special circle of hell, The Bottom Ten.  Two others were unranked, for reasons apparent in their initial reviews.

Best Picture Rankings Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project — Cimarron (1931)

Cimarron (1931 film) poster.jpgDirected by Wesley Ruggles

Screenplay by Howard Estabrook, based upon the novel by Edna Ferber

Starring Richard Dix and Irene Dunne

Here we are friends – after these many, long years together, with you diligently consuming every entry of The Best Picture Project, and me, less-diligently, producing them, we’ve reached the end of the road, where it all comes to an end.  And coming here almost feels bittersweet, like somebody should cue Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, or Boyz II Men’s End of the Road, to play us out.  And don’t worry about neither being appropriate for this occasion, because they’re hardly appropriate for the other occasion for which they are most associated – high school graduations.   If they work there, why not here?

But I digress. Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project – Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Million Dollar Baby poster.jpgDirected by Clint Eastwood

Screenplay by Paul Haggis, based on the stories of F.X. Toole

Starring Hillary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena and Margo Martindale

Well, here we are – the penultimate entry of the Best Picture Project.  After six years of toil and misery,[1] there is but one After Cimarron?  There will be no more, forever.[2]  But that, is for another day.  On this day I bring you the entry I’d been putting off longer than the rest – Million Dollar BabyConsciously putting off longer than the rest.  And the delay?  Imposed not because I was saving it for myself, like a delicious dessert.  No, it was put off because I did not want to see it again.  Not now, not ever, and, as I put it off, I sort-of hoped I might die before I had to get to it and, in death, I’d be spared the discomfort of it.  But, given I’m only 40 and in very good health, death did not save me.  And that, dear reader, is a lesson – death is its most-cruel when we want it, but are denied.

Alas…

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