Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Also-Rans Project — Tender Mercies, Dir. Bruce Beresford, Best Picture Also Ran 1983)

A movie poster with a large picture of a bearded man wearing a cowboy hat, suspended in the background of a photo of a much smaller scaled woman and young boy talking in a field. A tagline beside the man reads "Robert Duvall is Mac Sledge, down and out country singer. His struggle for fame was over. His fight for respect was just beginning." At the bottom, the words "Tender Mercies" appear, along with much smaller credits text. The top of the poster includes additional promotional text.Directed by Bruce Beresford

Written by Horton Foote

Starring Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, Betty Buckley, Wilfred Brimley, Ellen Barkin and Allan Hubbard

The career of Robert Duvall is a queer one.  He’s been in movies for more than 50 years, been a part of  some of the greatest movies of all time – The Godfather, Apocalypse Now – and starred in a bunch of others.  Despite this, he’s never actually been a star.  Sure, he’s had financially successful films, but those seem more a product of the individual film and not Duvall’s ability to open one.  After all, of his three most prominent leading roles – The Great Santini, The Apostle and Tender Mercies – only one made any money and that was because it had a modest budget, not because it actually made money.  And if we’re honest, the greatest part he ever played – Augustus McRae in Lonesome Dove – was in a TV miniseries, where the viewer had to pay nothing.

The truth is, Duvall is the consummate character actor, which is probably the highest compliment an actor can get.  After all, he parlayed that into a 50-year career on screen, which is the only thing that matters.

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The Also-Rans Project — 49th Parallel (aka The Invaders) (Dir. By Michael Powell, Best Picture 1942)

Image result for 49th parallel movieDirected by Michael Powell

Original Screenplay and Story by Emeric Pressburger, from a scenario by Emeric Pressburger and Rodney Ackland

Starring Eric Portman, Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard, Raymond Massey and Anton Walbrook

It’s fair to say that, outside of actual movie fans – those being people who are, in a sense, connoisseurs of cinema, rather than disinterested consumers – the names Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger probably mean very little.  Sure, they wrote and directed this entry, 49th Parallel, and other, better films, but that doesn’t mean they’re at all well-known in the wider world.  Certainly, people have all seen a Hitchcock movie or two,[1] are passingly familiar with C.B. DeMIlle,[2] and have at least heard the name John Ford.  Some of them might even know that Orson Welles directed something or other, even if they can’t remember what.  But outside of maybe hearing Martin Scorsese sing the praises of Powell and Pressburger on some random DVD extra, they are generally lesser-known, even more so than Billy Wilder, William Wyler and Michael Curtiz, who are not all that well-known themselves.[3] Continue reading

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The Gay Divorcee (Best Picture Also Ran 1934)

The Gay Divorcee movie poster.jpgDirected by Mark Sandrich

Screenplay by George Marion, Jr., Dorothy Yost and Edward Kaufman, based upon the stage musical of the same name, by Dwight Taylor

Starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Alice Brady, Edward Everett Horton and Erik Rhodes

I’ve never seen a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers pic before this entry – I was aware of their existence, in the way people with a brain are generally aware of things that existed before their time when they’re not brain-dead, but there was never more than awareness.  Maybe here or there I’ve seen a clip, or a GIF, but certainly no more.  And if we’re honest, I’m not even sure I’ve seen a Ginger Roger’s pic at all, with or without Fred Astaire, and the only Fred Astaire movies I’ve ever seen are ones he made when he was older: Ghost Story, which is more memorable for Alice Krige getting naked in it than for anything Fred Astaire did in it; and The Towering Inferno, which is not memorable for anything.

Well, with The Gay Divorcee, all that changed.

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The Also-Rans Project — Coming Home (Best Picture Also-Ran 1978)

Coming Home film poster.jpgDirected by Hal Ashby

Screenplay by Waldo Salt and Robert C. Johnson, story by Nancy Dowd

Starring Jon Voight, Jane Fonda, Bruce Dern, Penelope Milford and Robert Carradine

In 1946, the Oscar for Best Picture was won by The Best Years of Our Lives, a film about the struggles a trio of WWII vets face when adapting to civilian life again – their biggest struggle seems to be PTSD, though one of them really has problems with the fact that his hands were severed in the war.  It hit many of the expected bits, shied away from politics, and won a fistful of Oscars. Continue reading

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