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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 — The Adventures of Robin Hood (Best Picture Nominee 1938)

Robin hood movieposter.jpgDirected by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley

Screenplay by Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I. Miller and Rowland Leigh

Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathone, Claude Rains, Alan Hale Sr., and Melville Cooper

Everybody knows the story of Robin Hood, or at least the one-sentence tag they think is the story of Robin Hood – steal from the rich and give to the poor.  Not surprising, that tag is overly-reductive, and grabs one line from the movie in an effort to summarize it, almost at random, ignoring that Robin Hood is complicated and less-interested in stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, than he is about protesting tax policy, and religious and ethnic persecution.

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The Best Picture Project — The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King.jpgDirected by Peter Jackson

Screenplay by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, from the novel by J.R.R. Tolkein

Starring Viggo Mortenson, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Dominic Monahan, Billy Boyd, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Bernard Hill, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto and Andy Serkis

In the six years I’ve been running this Project, I’ve never began with any sort of disclaimer, mostly because I’ve had nothing to disclaim.  Today, that ends:

Given The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (TLOTR:TROTK) is the third in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, it kind of makes sense that, rather than watching TLOTR:TROTK on its own, it should be seen only as part of the whole.  In other words, watching the final 1/3 of the trilogy, without taking on the first 2/3, renders any assessment of the film a bit suspect.  But, while that might make sense I have three points to make that also make perfect sense: Continue reading

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The Also Rans — Twelve O’Clock High (Best Picture Also Ran 1949)

Twelve O'Clock High poster.jpgDirected by Henry King

Screenplay by Sy Bartlett and Beirne Lay Jr., based upon their novel

Starring Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, Millard Mitchell and Dean Jagger

There’s no point in beating around this bush – Twelve O’Clock High rating a Best Picture nom seems to have more to do with the era of the film than the film itself, i.e. the nomination is more a product of its time, than a product of the film.  By that I mean that while the film is good, it’s the confluence of the subject of the film (war) coming so close in time to some other event (war) that somehow makes it more than what it is.  Make the film in the middle 1950s or middle 1960s and it comes and goes without much fuss – it becomes another John Wayne war film shunned by the Academy.  Make the film just four years after the end of WWII, and suddenly you got a Best Picture nomination on your hands.

Needless to say, it’s appropriate it didn’t win Best Picture.

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The Also Rans – Selma (2014) — Best Picture Nominee

Selma poster.jpgDirected by Ava Duvernay

Screenplay by Paul Webb

Starring David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey and more stars than there are in heaven

Selma is an important movie.  If you didn’t know it going in, you figured it right quick, and kept figuring it, because instead of being the joke fest you imagined[1], they play it straight as the soberest teetotaler.  Which is a seriously wasted opportunity because, if you ask me, the jokes practically write themselves.  All you have to do is turn on the spigot and here they come.

Still… Continue reading

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A Note On High School Graduation

Academic_Dress_of_Graduate_Students_of_University_of_Dhaka.jpg (3264×2448)

This is not my daughter.

The oldest of my children – that being my darling daughter – graduates high school this week.[1]  That’s right, loyal reader: your friend and humble narrator is old enough to have a daughter graduating high school.  And not because he got started as a teen parent, either: nope, I am legitimately old enough to have fathered an adult.[2]  And Happily, she will be a Michigan State Spartan, just like your friend and humble narrator.

Go Green!

Go White! Continue reading

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Announcing — The Also Ran’s Project

Oscar StatuettesHello, loyal readers, I’m pleased to announce that, as The Best Picture Project winds down – admittedly, it’s a slow wind-down – I’m starting a new project to carry me through the next four or five years, which is about the length of time it’s taken me to get through The Best Picture Project.

The new one?  The Also Ran’s Project.

What is The Also Ran’s Project, you ask?  Well, to answer that, I have to start with a digression.

With The Best Picture Project, my goal was to watch every Oscar winner for Best Picture and weigh in with my thoughts of them in a very uncoordinated way.  The posts came on no timetable, in no discernible order, and with no overt structure.  In essence, they were my free-form thoughts on anything that interested me about the particular movie or that the particular movie inspired in me.  The only thing that seemed a piece of them all was I decided whether that film was, or wasn’t, the Best Picture of that year.

Curiously, I was never wrong.

The Also Ran’s Project will be similar to The Best Picture Project in that I will watch an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture from every of the Oscars – particularly a nominee I haven’t seen before, so as to close in some of the blind-spots in my cinema experience.

Obviously, there will be years where I’ve seen everything nominated so there me be a time or two of improvisation, but we’ll cross those bridges when we come to that.  And much like The Best Picture Project, I’ll share my thoughts on the movie, life, and anything else that seems relevant.

Hopefully, completion of this Project will not take five years.

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19:59 — An Essay On Running

That nerd in the red is me.

That nerd in the red is me.

Regular readers won’t know this about me — because why would they — but for years I’ve been an avid runner.  I’m also an avid soccer fan and, until a couple years ago, an avid player.  Unfortunately, I’m also getting older so playing soccer at a competitive level — which is not all that competitive at all — was taking a physical toll.  In other words, I was getting more and more sore after games and it was harder to recover.

So, once soccer went away for me, I turned my attentions full on to running.  One of the things I wanted to do as a runner was break the 20 minute barrier in a 5k and when I finally did it, I wrote the following piece.  And hey, when you’re done reading this for free, why don’t you skip on over to one of the links on the right and buy something from me — buying things always makes you feel better: Continue reading

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Time to Buy — Stories Available on Smashwords

CoverFinal CoverHey there, loyal readers, two recent stories of mine were added to Smashwords.  And you know what’s great about Smashwords?  They convert everything into whatever format you want!  Kindle, PDF, whatever!

So, One is free, the other is just $0.99.  Amortized across the pair, that’s not even $0.50 per story.  When you look at it that way, what’s to stop you from buying.

Go there now!

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The Best Picture Project — The Sound of Music (1965)

Sound of music.jpgDirected by Robert Wise

Screenplay by Ernest Lehman, adapted from the stage show and book

Starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, a bunch of children and the blondest Nazi you ever saw

The Sound of Music was the second-to-last of the old-style Hollywood musicals to win Best Picture – the last being a lesser Carol Reed film, Oliver!  In fact, since the 1960s, only a single musical has won Best Picture – Chicago in 2002.  Which is strange because, in the 1960s alone you had four – West Side Story (1961), My Fair Lady (1964), The Sound of Music (1965) and Oliver! (1968).   I suppose when you think about it, the fact that the 1960s were the decade of the Best Picture musical, whereas the 1970s were the decade of the grittier Best Picture drama, is ample evidence of just what can happen when there is a changing of the guard in any establishment. Continue reading


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