Category Archives: The Also Ran’s Project

The Also-Ran’s Project – The Hustler (Best Picture Also-Ran 1961)

Hustler 1961 original release movie poster.jpgDirected by Robert Rossen

Screenplay by Robert Rossen and Sidney Carroll, based upon the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis

Starring Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Piper Laurie and Jackie Gleason

There’s a pretty phenomenal performance in The Hustler and it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of.  In the grand story of movie history – or at least the history of film I created in my own head – it’s assumed the Academy shafted Paul Newman out of his rightful Oscar in 1961 by giving it to Maximillian Schell for what is essentially a supporting performance in Judgment at Nuremberg.  This is not to say Schell was not Oscar-worthy, because I recall him being very good in an otherwise painfully-earnest film, it’s just he was not the Leading Actor in that film.  That was actually Spencer Tracy, followed by Burt Lancaster and Richard Widmark. Continue reading

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The Also-Ran’s Project – Tess (Best Picture Also-Ran 1980)

TessPoster.jpgDirected by Roman Polanski

Written by Gerard Brach, John Blowjohn and Roman Polanski, based upon the novel of the same name by Thomas Hardy

Starring Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth and Leigh Lawson

There’s one thing I want to make absolutely clear right from the start: Though Tess was directed by Roman Polanski, I will not be discussing Roman Polanski’s guilty plea in 1977 to the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse, in the course of this post.  I will not take sides on that issue, nor will I make moral judgments about it. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project – Atlantic City (Best Picture Also-Ran 1981)

Atlantic City (1980 film).jpgDirected by Louis Malle

Written by John Guare

Starring Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon and Michel Piccoli

Dateline – Atlantic City.  An aging mob-adjacent man (Lancaster) finds himself embroiled with a thief trying to make a drug sale, and the thief’s estranged wife (Sarandon).  When the wife’s life is threatened, the complacent man must take action.

In one sense, the movie is just a simple story about people from the lower classes trying to make good, in any way they can.  In another, it’s about the transition between the old Atlantic City and the new, the metaphorical changing of the guard, and the expected growing pains everybody feels. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project — Harry And Tonto (Best Screenplay Also-Ran 1974)

Related imageDirected by Paul Mazursky

Written by Paul Mazursky and Josh Greenfeld

Starring Art Carney, Ellen Burstyn, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Melanie Mayron, Josh Mostel, Larry Hagman and Chief Dan George

Art Carney was basically a television actor – that was his career and he made a good one out of it.  He did something like 76 episodes of The Morey Amsterdam Show in the late 1940s, 39 episodes of The Honeymooners, 180ish episodes of The Jackie Gleason Show spread across it’s two incarnations in the late-50s and the late-60s, not to mention a ton of TV movies.  He was so clearly a TV actor that when he starred in Harry and Tonto he was making just his third movie, after a cameo in A Guide For The Married Man (1967) and a small part The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964).  Imagine that – a well-traveled actor of 55 being a movie novice.

I used to think it was a big deal that a television actor won an Oscar because in the past, those two mediums just did not mix – you could be a success in one, or the other, but there was little crossover between them.  And where there was, it didn’t seem to matter in terms of the box office, or ratings, because one did not reflect the other.  After all, a big star like Jimmy Stewart could transition to TV, only to see his projects fail for low ratings, while TV stars like Jackie Gleason could hardly gain traction on the big-screen. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project — Amarcord (Best Director Also-Ran 1975)

Amarcord.jpgDirected by Federico Fellini

Written by Federico Fellini and Tonino Guerra

Starring Bruno Zanin, Magali Noel, Pupella Maggio and Armando Brancia

I don’t ‘get’ Fellini.  As others might struggle to ‘get’ Kubrick, or Bergman, or some other director who you’ve been told is important, I don’t ‘get’ Fellini.  I don’t relate to him at all and his films fail to connect with me on any level: emotional, visceral, or as pure filmmaking.  Others might see him as god-like, while I see him as a head-scratcher.

To be fair, I’ve only see one other Fellini film in it’s entirety – that being La Dolce Vita – so it’s not like I’ve done a deep dive on his oeuvre and decided he’s not the  filmmaker for me.  That said, I only made it to the end of La Dolce Vita because I felt like I had to.  That because it was a ‘historical’ and ‘important’ film I was required to finish what I started and, if I didn’t like it, or get it, that was on me for being a philistine. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project – La Cage Aux Folles (Best Director Also-Ran 1979)

La Cage aux Folles (film).jpgDirected by Edouard Molinaro

Screenplay by Francis Veber, Édouard Molinaro, Marcello Danon, and Jean Poiret, based on the play by Jean Poiret

Starring Ugo Tognazzi and Michel Serrault

The further back into Academy Awards I delve, the easier it is to find films to include in this project – that is, it’s easier it is to find a Best Picture loser I haven’t seen before.  Which is to be expected, given people tend to be more interested in things contemporary to their own lives, and not so much on things before.  So, my knowledge of films since the mid-70s is much deeper than my knowledge of those films from before then. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project – Funny Girl (Best Picture Also-Ran 1968)

FunnyGirlPoster.jpgDirected by William Wyler

Written by Isobel Lennart, based on the stage-musical by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill

Starring Barbara Streisand, Omar Sharif, Kay Medford and Walter Pidgeon

Twice there has been a tie at the Oscars in the acting categories.  That’s just two ties in nearly 90 years of awards, during which time there were four acting Oscars for all but 8 of those years.[1]  Or, less than 1% of the awards resulted in a tie.  And really, one of those ties wasn’t even a tie, but was close enough that under the rules at the time, it was considered a tie. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project – The King and I (Best Picture Also-Ran 1956)

Original movie poster for the film The King and I.jpgDirected by Walter Lang

Screenplay by Ernest Lehman, based upon the musical of the same name by Rodgers and Hammerstein, which was based upon the novel, ‘Anna and the King of Siam’ by Margaret Landon

Starring Yul Brynner, Deborah Kerr and Rita Moreno

I watch three movies at least once per year: The Shining, It’s A Wonderful Life, and Gone With The Wind.  And with Gone With The Wind, I’ve read the book multiple times, too – more times than I’ve read The Shining.  Which is actually a pretty big commitment to make when you remember Gone With The Wind the book is somewhere between 800 and 1000 pages, depending upon your copy. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project — The Yearling (Best Picture Also-Ran 1946)

Original movie poster for the film The Yearling.jpgDirected by Clarence Brown

Screenplay by Paul Osborn, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Starring Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman, Claude Jarman Jr., Clem Bevans, Margaret Wycherly, Forrest Tucker, Chill Wills and Henry Travers

A small farm in 1870’s Florida.  A small family – mom, dad, son – struggling to eke out a small existence.  While they might not have a dirt floor in their cabin, they’re not all that prosperous, having to haul water up from a creek when they want to do the washing.

In the middle of this, a baby deer drops into their lives.  The son, eager for a pet, adopts it right away.  Mom, is a bit circumspect.  And while the deer is accepted into the family, the second it starts to get too old to contain, and begins eating their crops right out of the field, threating the family with starvation, hard choices have to be made. Continue reading

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The Also-Ran’s Project — Airport – Dir. By George Seaton (Best Picture Also Ran 1970)

Airport film.jpgDirected by George Seaton

Screenplay by George Seaton, based upon the novel by Arthur Hailey

Starring Burt Lancaster, George Kennedy, Dean Martin, Jacquline Bissett, Helen Hayes, Maureen Stapleton, Van Heflin and Barry Nelson

Back in the days before I was a cord-cutter, and before the channel stopped playing movies sans commercial breaks, I watched a lot of the IFC channel.  To date it, this was back in the Matt Singer/Allison Wilmore days, both of whom have gone on to do other things, including the excellent Filmspotting SVU podcast.

Anyway, part of what I enjoyed about IFC was it’s eclecticism.  Where else would you find blackspoitation classics like Foxy Brown and Coffy, rubbing shoulders with modern TV classics like Arrested Development?  The other part I loved about IFC was it’s array of documentaries.  I’m pretty sure that’s where I first saw This Film Is Not Yet Rated, and also The Bus Movie.[1]  And it’s where I was first introduced to Jon Ronson’s documentary, Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, which I love so much I bought the blu-ray of Full Metal Jacket, which I already had on DVD, simply because it has that doc on it. Continue reading

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