52 Before 62 – #15 John Loves Mary (1949)

John Loves Mary poster.jpgDirected by David Butler

Screenplay by Phoebe and Henry Ephron, from the play by Norman Krasna

Starring Ronald Reagan, Patricia Neal, Jack Carson, Edward Arnold, Virginia Field, Wayne Morris, and Katharine Alexander

I’ve never seen a Ronald Reagan movie.  Yes, he was President and ‘acted’ his way through that, but that’s more a reality show than a movie these days, if we’re honest.  Anyway, what’s amazing about seeing no Reagan movies is I see a lot of movies.  Like, way more than the average person.[1]  But honestly, I’m  probably not alone in not seeing any Reagan films because I’m pretty sure even the idiots who think the man was a great president also haven’t bothered perusing his filmography.  The reason?  Because the general consensus is his movies are not worth seeing.  After all, of his entire filmography just three of those films managed Best Picture nominations, and the only one of those three even rated a mention in The New York Times Guide to the 1000 Best Movies Ever Made was Dark Victory.  Even then, that mention probably has more to do with it being a Bette Davis/Humphrey Bogart vehicle than it does for featuring an at-best-fifth-billed Ronald Reagan. Continue reading


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The Also-Rans Project – Vice (Best Picture Also-Ran 2018)

Vice (2018 film poster).pngDirected by Adam McKay

Written by Adam McKay

Starring Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, and Jesse Plemons

Here’s a fun game to play when you want to depress yourself about how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has no clue about what is, and is not, Oscar-worthy: Oscar winners vs. Oscar not-winners.




Oscar Winner Oscar Not-Winner
Writer of trashy suspense novels and creator of I Dream of Jeannie, Sidney Sheldon[1] Alfred Hitchcock
The director of Dumb and Dumber and Shallow Hal, Peter Farrelly[2] Norman Jewison
The director of Dirty Dancing, Emile Ardolino[3] Phillip Kaufman
Dean Pelson (Jim Rash) from Community[4] Sidney Lumet[5]
The director of Galaxy Quest, Dean Parisot[6] Hal Ashby
Voice of K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70s, Steven Wright[7] David Lynch, George Lucas, Michael Man, Robert Altman, Sam Peckinpah, John Boorman, and Paul Thomas Anderson

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52 Before 62 #14 – Bend of the River (1952)

Image result for frances bavier bend of the riverDirected by Anthony Man

Screenplay by Borden Chase, from the novel by

Starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Julie Adams, and Rock Hudson 

In the most famous movie involving the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart/Borden Chase/Rock Hudson quadrumvirate, Winchester 73 (1950), Hudson barely got to play a part, as much as he played a stereotype: he put on red-face makeup to play a war-like Native-American.  Of course, while Hudson would be a massive star later, he was a nobody then, so slapping on some red-face makeup was a positive step in his career. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 #13 – Consolation Marriage (1931)

ConsolationMarriagePoster.jpgDirected by Paul Sloane

Screenplay by Humphrey Pearson, story by Bill Cunningham

Starring Irene Dunne, Pat O’Brien, John Halliday, Matt Moore, Myrna Loy and Lester Vail

One advantage of this project, over and above The Best Picture Project, and The Also-Rans Project, is the flexibility it gives me to choose the movies to write about.  After all, I can write about any movie I want, as long as:

  1. I’d never seen the film around, and
  2. It had to come out before 1962.

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52 Before 62 — #12 Topper (1937)

Topper Lobby Card 2.jpgDirected by Norman Z. Mcleod

Screenplay by Jack Jevne, Eric Hatch and Eddie Moran, from the novel of the same name by Thorne Smith

Starring Cary Grant, Constance Bennett, Roland Young, and Billie Burke

The first Tim Burton movie I ever saw was Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which they showed us in school in 1986 as a reward at the end of the school year.  I was in the fifth grade.  This movie was actually a little bit controversial for some people in the school, owing to Dee Snider and Twisted Sister making an appearance.  Not that Twisted Sister did anything all that controversial themselves, just that in the mid-80s it was still very-early days in the era of men dressing overtly feminine.  There were worries some parents would raise a stink, which sort of speaks to what a different time it was where I came from in the mid-80s.  Either way, in the end we got to see the movie and as far as I know, nobody turned to a life of crime for having seen Dee Snider in a corset and fishnet stockings.

While Pee Wee’s Big Adventure was the first Tim Burton movie I ever saw, it really wasn’t demonstrably a “Tim Burton” movie in the way we know them now, as much as it was an extension of the Pee Wee Herman brand.  Sure, Burton might have brought a certain skewed perspective to the movie, but it was never really his.  And how could it be, with the stars name right there in the title? Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #11 The Informer (1935)

The Informer poster.jpgDirected by John Ford

Screenplay by Dudley Nichols, based upon the novel of the same name by Liam O’Flaherty

Starring Victor McLaglen, Margot Grahame, Wallace Ford, and Preston Foster

During the Communist witch-hunt, the rabidly anti-communist Cecil B. DeMille wanted to force the Director’s Guild to require its members to basically investigate the communist leanings of everybody who worked on their films.  This came about when allegations were made that Director Guild of America president, Joseph L. Mankiewicz had communist sympathies.  So, at a meeting of the guild, DeMille and his boys tried to run this bullshit through.  Well, after the meeting had been going a while, and after DeMille’s goons spent a good long time talking shit about Mankiewicz, John Ford decided he’d had enough and took the floor to defend Mankiewicz, famously saying:

“My name’s John Ford. I make Westerns. I don’t think there’s anyone in this room who knows more about what the American public wants than Cecil B. DeMille — and he certainly knows how to give it to them. But I don’t like you, C.B. I don’t like what you stand for, and I don’t like what you’ve been saying here tonight.”

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52 Before 62 — #10 King Solomon’s Mines (1950)

Kingsolomonsmines1950.jpgDirected by Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton

Screenplay by Helen Deutsch, from the novel by H. Rider Haggard

Starring Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Richard Carlson, Kimursi, Siriaque, and Hugo Haas

My overriding theory when it comes to film criticism is to try to find things I like in every film I see.  To be a champion for them.  If you follow me on Letterboxd.com, and you probably don’t, then you’d know I put this theory into action by giving most everything 4/5 stars.  Basically, it’s my equivalent of the “Gentleman’s C” and forms the baseline I work from.  Others may put their baseline at 2.5/5 or 3/5, and I suppose as long as everybody is grading fairly along their own chosen scale, then the movies are treated honestly, even if one man’s 3/5 is another man’s 4/5.

Why do I go with 4/5?  Because most movies are adequately-good, in one way or another, and to give anything less of a rating implies problems that just aren’t there.  The fact is, most films don’t have real problems or critical flaws.  Sure, most could be better, but at the same time, they could be a whole lot worse. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #9 Holiday (1938)

Holiday poster.jpgDirected by George Cukor

Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart and Sidney Buchman, from the play of the same name by Phillip Barry

Starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres, Henry Kolker, Edward Everett Horton and Henry Daniell

Hollywood loves a remake.  Just last year we had A Star is Born, which remade a 1974 film, which itself remade a 1954 film, which itself remade a 1937 film, and which itself basically remade another film, What Price Hollywood? (1932).[1]  If there’s one thing we all know from Hollywood, it’s there’s no profitable idea they won’t try to wring a few more dollars out of if given half a chance. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 – #8 The Far Country (1954)

Image result for the far countryDirected by Anthony Mann

Written by Borden Chase

Starring Jimmy Stewart, Walter Brennan, John McIntire, Ruth Roman, and Corinne Calvet

One of the best documentaries of the last few years was Dawson City: Frozen in Time.  That movie told the story of about 125 years in the life of Dawson City, a remote town in the Canadian north.  Dawson City’s claim to fame was that the small backwoods outpost experienced a population explosion in the Yukon Gold Rush of 1896-1899, only to see the same population fall dramatically in the immediate aftermath of that gold rush.  What’s important is that, like any other town, Dawson City liked its movies. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 – #7  Meet John Doe (1941)

Poster - Meet John Doe 01.jpgDirected by Frank Capra

Screenplay by Robert Riskin, from the story by Richard Connell

Starring Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold, and Walter Brennan

Frank Capra was inarguably the most successful director in the early years of the Oscars, at least as far as winning awards were concerned.  He won Best Director three times,[1] the first man or woman to win three awards total, was nominated for Best Director three other times,[2] and saw two of his films win Best Picture.  On top of this he led the propaganda unit of the U.S. Military during World War II, making films in the Why We Fight series, winning an Oscar for Best Feature Documentary for his troubles[3], bringing his career haul to four.  But more important than critical acclaim, and the appreciation of his peers, his films tended to be financially successful, which is the only metric Hollywood ever put any stock in. Continue reading

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