Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Best Picture Project – Ben Hur (1959)

File:Benh.jpgDirected by William Wyler

Screenplay by Karl Tunberg

Based upon the novel by Lew Wallace

Starring Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd and Hugh Griffith

There were lots of ways to approach my take on Ben-Hur.  I could have dwelt on the fact that it won 11 Academy Awards and was the all-time king of the big winners for nearly four decades, until Titanic, and later The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King joined the club.  I could have posited why it was the Biblical epic, Ben-Hur, that won a Best Picture Oscar and be largely forgotten outside the chariot race while The Ten Commandments could become an Easter staple without being able to manage even a Best Picture nomination.  Or I could have gone ahead and really broke down the movie and talked about how, after the chariot race and vengeance has been achieved for Ben-Hur, the film loses it’s way, dramatically, and tries to foist a Biblical parable on us – Ben-Hur somehow stumbles on the crucifixion of Christ – in order to get to the end of the film.  Maybe, just maybe, we could talk about whether Charlton Heston is the worst Best Actor ever, or if the title should go to Broderick Crawford or Ray Milland – incidentally, my vote would be with Milland who, even his director thought, wasn’t good enough. Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project – The Hurt Locker (2009)

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Written by Mark Boal

Starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie

 With Guy Pearce, David Morse, Ralph Fiennes and Evangeline Lilly

 The only thing that matters to The Best Picture Project, at least when it comes to The Hurt Locker, isn’t whether the movie was good – because it was – or what the story was about or if the acting was believable or any of that.  The only thing that matters is that, by virtue of winning Best Picture and Best Director for Kathryn Bigelow – the first time a woman won Best Director and only the fourth or so to win Best Picture – all other story lines are irrelevant.  The only one that matters anymore is the trivia question. Continue reading

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Order in the Court: Worst On-Screen Lawyers

 Being a lawyer I’m a bit sensitive to the way lawyers are perceived.  If it is Republicans blaming us for the ills of the healthcare industry – I still don’t see the causal link – then it’s movies and TV making us all out as blood-sucking ambulance chasers – a la Ian Holm in The Sweet Hereafter.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  I have a sense of humor.  My favorite attorney ever is Barry Zuckerkorn from Arrested Development, who’s greatest and most effective act for his client is the ability to recognize that the incriminating photo found on his client’s cell phone is not a map of Iraq but actually is a picture of a man’s scrotum, therefore holding off the charges of treason until another day.

No, what I don’t have much of a sense of humor about, though, are those times when a lawyer in a film is actually lionized by the public, for his great grandstanding gestures, or even his nobility, when he should really be vilified for his utter incompetence.

What follows, then, are Nine of the Worst On-Screen Lawyers.  Some are a bit more obvious to understand, others might take a trained legal mind to spot the Worst-ness: Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project – The Apartment (1960)

Directed by Billy Wilder

Screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond

Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley Maclaine, Ray Walston and Fred MacMurray

There’s a terrible habit with the Academy to bestow awards on actors and filmmakers for the wrong film, making up for past slights or losses. Bette Davis took the award for Dangerous the year after she wasn’t even nominated for Of Human Bondage and lost as a write-in candidate.  Henry Fonda couldn’t win with Tom Joad or even get a nomination as Frank, in Once Upon a Time In The West, but could go home victorious for dreck like On Golden Pond.  Paul Newman couldn’t get love for Fast Eddie Felson until 20 years too late, with the lesser film The Color of Money.  Martin Scorcese could lose for four strong films that would be the crown-jewel of any other career  – Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Aviator – and yet win somehow he won Best Picture and Best Director for the good, yet lesser, The Departed. Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project – Cavalcade (1933)

 Cavalcade (1933)

Directed by Frank Lloyd

Based on the play by Noel Coward

It’s kind of a cliché when people say things like, “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to,” as if somehow in the good-old days everything was better. Unfortunately, in the good-old present we know that most things in the past were kind of crap and bad for you: lead paint, chemical run-off in rivers and groundwater, asbestos in schools. This is never more true that with the Best Picture winner of 1933, Cavalcade, because honestly, if this movie is a good example of what the Academy thought a Best Picture winner ought to be – and now, after seeing three of the first six, I’d say it is – then I’m only too happy they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Continue reading

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