Directed by William Dieterle
Screenplay by Norman Reilly Raine; Story and Screenplay by Heinz Herald and Geza Herczeg; based upon the book by Matthew Josephson
Starring Paul Muni, Gloria Holden, Gale Sondergaard and Joseph Schildkraut
The Life of Emile Zola is really two movies in one.
The first is a 25 minute seminar of a film, focusing on the professional life of writer Emile Zola. It begins with him dirt poor in Paris, proceeds through a whirlwind medley of his greatest hits – books are published, a wife is married, fame is gotten – then settles with him into state of retirement and living off his wealth. Continue reading
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Screenplay by Kurt Luedtke, from the books Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Story Teller by Judith Thurman, and Silence Will Speak by Errol Trzebinski
Starring Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and Klaus Maria Brandauer
Out of Africa is a typical 80’s movie. Not in the way that Top Gun is an 80’s movie, with all the bombast, jingoism, reductionist story-lines and bonanza box office. No, it’s an 80’s movie in the way Ordinary People and Ghandi and The Killing Fields are all 80’s moves: it’s earnest, epic, about something sort-of important, and, above-all, fairly dull.
In other words, it’s the movie the Academy typically fell in love with in the 80’s and dumped a butt-load of Oscars on.
Even as I say that, with all the weariness and disdain I can muster V just imagine me rolling my eyes when I write typically – it really comes as no surprise bloated, boring epics were the name of the game in the 80’s, as far as the Academy was concerned. Giving awards to this kind of film was just what they did. And honestly, just like this isn’t the first time I’ve said it, it probably won’t be the last I say it, either. No, what will be said here first – at least by me – is the reason I think the 80’s went the way they did.
Directed by James L. Brooks
Screenplay by James L. Brooks from the book by Larry McMurtry
Starring Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jeff Daniels and Jack Nicholson
In a way, James L Brooks is the most unappreciated man in movies, which is a funny thing to say about a guy that has three Oscars. But when you think about it, every movie he’s made of consequence since his first — and for films of consequence since his first, there’s only two — has been singled out for attention by the Academy for everybody else associated with it, particularly those who are in it. But Jim Brooks? Not so much.
Broadcast News? Three acting nominations, a Picture and Screenplay nom for Brooks, but zero wins all around. And when you think of the movie, you don’t think of it as a Brooks film — you think of it as a Holly Hunter vehicle. Or the last of the truly great William Hurt performances. Continue reading
Directed by Elia Kazan
Screenplay by Moss Hart, from the novel by Laura Z. Hobson
Starring Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Anne Revere and Celeste Holm
Throughout the long and winding road I’ve traveled for the Best Picture Project, I’ve learned more than a few things. Most prominent amongst those lessons, oh my brothers and only friends, is there is no predictability about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. At least not in the traditional sense of predictability. Continue reading
Directed by Robert Rossen
Starring Broderick Crawford, Mercedes McCambridge and John Ireland
Screenplay by Robert Rossen, based on the novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren
Down the years there have been a number of Best Picture winners that look like they were mistakes. In another post, somewhere else on this blog – but not necessarily as part of The Best Picture Project – I outlined “The Little Best Pictures”, or, those films to win Best Picture while still winning three or less Oscars. In every case the film that won Best Picture was not the winner of the most awards that year and won in so few of the important categories that their victories as Best Picture seems to be something of a mistake. All The King’s Men was one of those films. Continue reading
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Tom Hanks, Robin Wright and Gary Sinise
Screenplay by Eric Roth, from the Novel by Winston Groom
Forrest Gump is probably not the worst film to ever win Best Picture. After all, it’s hard to be the worst when films like Cavalcade, Gigi and Around the World In 80 Days all took the top prize. But just because it’s not the worst, it’s victory might just be the most egregiously wrong in Academy history.
After all, to get the crown, Gump had to overcome two other classic movies – Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption – but even taking those two out of the equation, it’s still not nearly as good as the two other movies left in the race, Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Quite simply, Forrest Gump might not be the worst to win Best Picture, but it’s easily one of the creakiest. Continue reading
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Directed by Michael Anderson
Screenplay by James Poe, John Farrow, S.J. Perelman
Based on the Novel by Jules Verne
Starring David Niven, Mario Moreno aka Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine and a whole host of cameos
For a good number of years now my first comment after seeing any movie for the first time is almost always about the length of the film and invariably this turns out to be a complaint that the movie was just too long and could have benefited from a neat little five or ten minute nip-and-tuck. Around my house my wife and kids have gotten so used to hearing me say it that by now my 13 year-old daughter has begun to say the same thing. Continue reading