Directed by Bong Joon-Ho
Screenplay by Bong Joon-Ho, story by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin-won
Starring Song Kang Ho, Lee Sun-Kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun and Jang Hye-jin
The Oscars sure are an eclectic bunch. Usually when you describe somebody eclectic it refers to their tastes, specifically to mean varied tastes. That they like serious drama as much as they like camp. That they like arty films as much as they like populist films. That they like John Wayne as much as they like the anti-John Wayne. Basically, it’s meant to say a person who likes both sweet and savory.
But when applied to the Oscars, the meaning should be more along the lines of having a lack of taste. Or, rather, a lack of knowing what taste they have. After all, some years the Best Picture goes to an artier film like Moonlight. Other years it’s deadly serious films like Spotlight or 12 Years a Salve. Then in other years still, middle-brow junk masquerading as high art wins the big prize, like Crash and Green Book. It’s all just so…erratic. Continue reading
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Screenplay by Calder Wilingham and Dale Wasserman, based upon the novel by Edwin Marshall
Starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine, James Donald, Frank Thring, and Janet Leigh
When Kirk Douglas died a couple weeks ago it was almost literally the final expiration of old-style Hollywood stardom. That’s what happens, I guess, when you live to 103 — whether you like it or not, your death is literally the end of something.
Douglas made his name in films from the late-1940’s onward, just before the ‘method’ style of acting came into vogue and the traditional notions of who could be, and who could not be, a movie star gave way to a system dominated more by unique faces and character actors. In other words, the age when guys with a sense of stylization to their acting stopped winning Oscars — see e.g. Laurence Olivier — and guys with a touch of naturalism started winning. Guys like Ernest Borgnine. Continue reading
Well, it’s that time of year again for the Oscars, my loyal readers. That one event we wait for all year. Like Christmas – second Christmas. Only without any gifts and double the disappointment. And while I’m a bit late to turning my ballot in, timeliness means nothing. It’s not like the Academy actually registers my vote for anything anyway, so who cares if I get my picks out now, or next year. Still, in the spirit of adding to the discourse and nothing more, here’s my Oscar picks for 2019:
Directed by Allan Dwan
Written by Julien Josephson and Walter Ferris, from the book of the same name by Johanna Spyri
Starring Shirley Temple, Jean Herscholt, Arthur Treacher, Mary Nash, Marcia Mae Jones, and Sidney Blackmer
Shirley Temple is probably the proto-child actor. Her, or Jackie Coogan. One of the other. But really, just Shirley Temple, if only because she set the standard for how a child actor’s career tends to go. Get in the business almost at birth, make it big at a young age, only to see that career stall irretrievably at the brink of adult hood, when puberty turns the cute little kid into something the general public can’t handle, i.e. sexual. Continue reading
Directed by Daniel Mann
Written by John Michael Hayes and Charles Schnee, based upon the novel by John O’Hara
Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey, and Eddie Fisher
Elizabeth Taylor is a rare thing in Hollywood history – a kid actor who grew up to have an adult career. Most only fade away before then, or just drift into fitful employment – looking at you Henry Thomas. Some, though, carry the fame forward. Sure, the life of, and demands of, being an actress probably warped Taylor immeasurably – how else would you possibly explain her eight marriages – and probably led to her struggles with addition. But somehow, she managed to come out of that as well as one probably could. Continue reading
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Written by Charles Bracket, Richard L. Breen and Walter Reisch
Starring Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotton, Jean Peters and Michael Showalter
Marilyn Monroe is a legendary figure. I won’t say she’s legendary as an actress, because that’s never really what people think about when they think about her. She’s really legendary for her sex appeal, and as a sex symbol.
On the one hand, it’s fair she’s a legendary sex symbol – you only need to look at her, and her onscreen qualities, to get a sense of the heat she generates. On the other hand, it’s unfair she isn’t also venerated for her acting. After all, being a screen presence is not an easy thing to do – lots of charismatic people come across as stiff when the camera points at them but no more. More than that, it’s hard to come across as convincingly sexy on film, which Monroe can do. Having presence, and the wherewithal to be convincingly sexy, are skills a good actress possesses. Continue reading
Directed by Henry King
Screenplay by George Seaton, based upon the novel of the same name by Franz Werfel
Starring Jennifer Jones, William Eythe, Gladys Cooper, Vincent Price, Lee J. Cobb, and Charles Bickford
In cinema circles as of late, you hear a lot of complaining about how Hollywood doesn’t make films like they used to anymore. These days it’s mostly in relation to how movies have become nothing but overhyped theme park rides – specifically, Marvel theme park rides. And that movies for thinking adults just aren’t in Hollywood’s wheelhouse any longer. If we’re honest, this is probably a complaint that’s been going on for the entire life of cinema, as one generation is always intent on sneering at the generations that follow it, arguing they are somehow doing things ‘wrong’. But I digress. Continue reading
Directed by Carol Reed
Written by R.C. Sherriff, based upon the novel of the same name by F.L. Green
Starring James Mason, Kathleen Ryan, Robert Newton and Cyril Cusack
Believe it or not, it’s not always easy watching the movies in this series. No, I don’t mean in terms of availability, like I’m out here picking movies that are basically unavailable and so it’s hard to watch them. As if there is any sense to that.
No, I mean they’re difficult to watch in terms of hearing a film defined as ‘classic’, only to learn it actually doesn’t live up to the hype. That instead of being rapt by this supposed-classic, I’m bored silly and constantly looking at your phone and counting the minutes until it’s over. And at the end, you wonder if you just missed something about the film and it’s truly a classic, or if everybody else simply drank the Kool-Aid and you’re the only sane one left. Continue reading
Directed by Delmer Daves
Screenplay by Halsted Wells, based on the short story by Elmore Leonard
Starring Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, Felicia Farr, Richard Jaeckel, Henry Jones, and Robert Emhardt
A courtly outlaw, Ben Wade (Glenn Ford), robs a stagecoach in rural Arizona. In the robbery, the stage driver winds up dead. When a posse is formed to catch the outlaw, a local rancher, Dan Evans (Van Heflin), agrees to join. Only, after the outlaw is caught and it’s decided to take him to a neighboring town to be put on the train to Yuma, the posse chickens out. Bluntly, they fear Wade’s gang will kill them. The only one who sticks is Evans, who really needs the $200 he’s being offered for the job. The question is: will Wade make it to the train, or will Evans be killed before finishing the job? Continue reading
Directed by Victor Seastrom
Screenplay By Victor Seastrom and Carey Wilson, from the play by Leonid Andreyev
Starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert, Marc McDermott, Ruth King, and Tully Marshall
First, a disclaimer: silent films are a big ask, and putting one into this series and expecting you to watch it is not something done lightly. The problem with silent films is they are very much like puppies and babies, in that they need constant attention. Unlike puppies and babies, though, they lack the essential cute and cuddliness that make the constant attention worthwhile. Sure, a silent movie might be good, and that’s something. But the only way you’ll know it’s good is through that constant attention. Even then, that may not be enough.