The Best Picture Project/The Also-Rans Project Crossover — Sunrise:  A Song of Two Humans (Dir. By F.W. Murnau, Best Picture Winner/Also-Ran 1927/1928)

Sunrise vintage.jpgDirected by F. W. Murnau

Written by Carl Mayer, based upon “The Excursion to Tilsit” by Hermann Sudermann

Starring George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, and Margaret Livingston

Welcome, loyal readers, to the greatest day in Best Picture Project and Also-Rans Project history.  You should stop whatever it is you’re doing right now and mark down this date on a calendar because you, dear reader, are bearing witness to a once-in-a-lifetime event.  And in the future, when your grandchildren look at you and say, “Grandpa/Grandma, what was it like when The Best Picture Project, and The Also-Rans Project, crossed-over?”, you can tell them exactly where you were when it happened, and exactly what it was like. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project — The Longest Day (Directed by Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton and Bernhard Wicki, Best Picture 1962)

Original movie poster for the film The Longest Day.jpgDirected by Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton and Bernhard Wicki

Screenplay by Cornelius Ryan, based upon his book.  Additional material by Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall and Jack Seddon

Starring Eddie Albert, Paul Anka, Richard Beymer, Red Buttons, Mel Ferrer, Henry Fonda, Jeffrey Hunter, Alexander Knox, Roddy McDowall, Sal Mineo, Robert Mitchum, Edmond O’Brien, Robert Ryan, George Segal, Rod Steiger, Tom Tryon, Robert, Gert Fröbe and Curt Jürgens

I was out with a running group the other morning, doing our weekly long run in preparation for various spring races that are approaching.  Some are training for 5ks – many for the first time, doing a version of couch-to-5k – while others are after longer distances.  Me?  I’m training for a 33-mile trail run in April, the Chicago Marathon in October, and am not at all ashamed to admit I went 17.5 miles, which might be the longest I’ve ever run at one time.  Am I bragging?  Sure, but when you run all that far in a row, you have a right. Continue reading

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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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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 Project – Zorba, The Greek (Best Picture Also-Ran 1964)

Zorba the Greek poster.jpgDirected by Michael Cacoyannis

Screenplay by Cocayannis, from the Nikos Kazantzakis novel

Starring Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates, Irene Papas and Lila Kedrova

There’s something about man-children – those irrepressible, horn-dogs – that make for popular cinema.  Sometimes they are profane and debauched, to the point of ludicrousness – The Hangover.  Other times, they are more restrained, even as they play with a free-spirit sensibility – Beginners.  And sometimes they are made by acclaimed filmmakers, with acclaimed actors, sure to be Oscar-bait – Zorba the Greek.  But also, Beginners.

There’s also something about manic-pixie-dream-girls[1] and their ability to fix brooding heroes that tends to bring people out to the theaters – think Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown or Kate Hudson in Almost Famous.  Well, in a sense, Zorba the Greek involves a proto-manic-pixie-dream-girl, only in this instance he’s also a man-child, which is probably the first time either of those two appeared onscreen together, in the form of the same character.

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The Also-Rans — Julia (Best Picture Also-Ran 1977)

Julia (1977 film).jpgDirected by Fred Zinnemann

Written by Alvin Sargent, Based upon the book ‘Pentimento’ by Lillian Hellman

Starring Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook and Maximillian Schell

Julia is two movies, masquerading as one.  No, it’s not an anthology film, in the vein of Grindhouse, with two completely distinct films shoved together to hit some artificially imposed amount of content/running time.  Nor is it an explicitly episodic film, capturing a series of events in the life of the same characters.  Rather, it’s a film of two distinct halves, telling different stories, about the same basic characters.  Which makes it sound episodic, though it’s not.  Call it an ‘Athosodic’ film.  Or an ‘Epithology’.  Either one is fine. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans – Three Coins In The Fountain (Best Picture Also-Ran 1954)

Three coins.jpgDirected by Jean Negulesco

Written by John Patrick, based on the novel ‘Coins In The Fountain’ by John H. Secondari

Starring Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters, Louis Jourdan, Rossano Brazzi and Maggie McNamara

Three Coins in the Fountain is a simple film, with no heavy themes, or pretense.  And so devoted is it to simplicity that the song playing over the opening credits – scenes of life in Rome, around Trevi Fountain – spells out the entire conceit of the film: if you make a wish and throw a coin in Trevi Fountain, you’ll have that wish granted, especially if it’s a wish for love.  Sure, the wishes that two of the three leading women in the film[1] make are not so much about finding love as returning to Rome,[2] but that hardly matters because the fountain gives all three women love anyway.[3]  One, finds it in a forbidden office-romance with an Italian law student.  Another finds it with a roguish Italian Prince.  The other finds it with an aging ex-pat writer she’s been secretary to for 15 years.

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