The Also-Ran’s Project – Children of a Lesser God (Best Picture Also-Ran 1986)

Children of a Lesser God film poster.jpgDirected by Randa Haines

Written by Hesper Anderson and Mark Medoff, based upon the play by Mark Medoff

Starring Marlee Matlin, William Hurt and Piper Laurie

Unless you’re into Academy Award trivia, you probably did not know that Children of a Lesser God (1986) was the first movie directed by a woman to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture.  Other trivia?  It took nearly 50 years of Academy history to get the first directing nod for a woman – Lina Wertmuller for 1975’s Seven Beauties – and then ten years more for a movie directed by a woman to even compete for the top prize.[1]  And it would be two decades after that when a woman would actually win Best Director and her film, The Hurt Locker (2009) would Best Picture.[2]

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The Also-Ran’s Project – Hacksaw Ridge (Best Picture Also-Ran 2016)

Hacksaw Ridge poster.pngDirected by Mel Gibson

Written by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight

Starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracy, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths

Mel Gibson is apparently a despicable person for having spouted off the kind of intensely-virulent things you’re lately hearing out of the jags in Alt-Right.  That is, the kinds of things you wouldn’t think people would say out loud, even if that’s what’s in their hearts.  He’s said to regularly use derogatory terms for Jews, threatened to have a girlfriend killed, used various epithets for all peoples whose skin is not white, and has been fairly insensitive to gay people. Continue reading

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The Also-Rans Project — 42nd Street (Best Picture Also-Ran 1932/1933)

Forty-second-street-1933.jpgDirected by Lloyd Bacon

Written by Rian James and James Seymour, based upon the novel by Bradford Ropes

Starring Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Una Merkel, Ruby Keeler, Guy Kibbee, Ned Sparks and Dick Powell

Fact #1: My daughter is a student at my alma mater, Michigan State University.[1]  She lives on-campus and during her freshmen year she had no car, which meant if she wanted to come home, my wife or I had to go get her.  You get no prize for correctly guessing what my wife and I did every other weekend last year.[2]

Fact #2: I am a runner.  I run four times a week, at least 7 miles each of those days, and make my longest run on Sunday’s.  Typically, the Sunday run is in the 11-12 mile range, though as I’m training for a 34-mile trail run in April, the Sunday run has lately been closer to 20-22 miles.  Either way, on Sunday’s I run a lot and this means I’m always hungry. Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project — Moonlight (2016) Dir. By Barry Jenkins

Moonlight (2016 film).pngDirected By Barry Jenkins 2016)

Screenplay by Barry Jenkins, Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney, based upon the unproduced play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.”

Starring Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Janelle Monae, Ashton Sanders, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali.

In 1993 Marissa Tomei was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her broad, yet smart, take on a goomba’s-girlfriend in My Cousin Vinny.  It was a bit of a left-field nom, to be sure, given the film was basically comedy built on cliché, a type of film the Academy rarely has time for,[1] and she didn’t even manage a Golden Globe nom for the role.  Plus, her opposition was the type of nominees, in the types of films, that normally got academy affection – Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives, Joan Plowright in Enchanted April, Vanessa Redgrave in Howard’s End and Miranda Richardson in Damage.  No surprise that the race shaped up with Davis and Redgrave as front-runners.  Come Oscar night, though, when Jack Palance opened the envelope and read Tomei’s name as the winner, it was a literal twist-ending. Continue reading

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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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