Directed by James Cameron
Screenplay by James Cameron
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, David Warner, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Bill Paxton and Gloria Stuart
I saw Titanic in it’s first weekend in release, on Christmas Day 1997. I distinctly remember this because I’d never seen a movie theater lobby so overrun with people before, nor had I ever been forced to sit in the third row from the front on the leftmost aisle before. Spending three-plus hours leaning back and craning my neck to the right was hardly the ideal way to see the film and yet, it did not stop me from recognizing this was a seminal moment for me in film.
And surely, given how it was such a cultural phenomenon, I’m not the only one who was captivated by Titanic. In fact, it’s fair to say the whole world was captivated by it , given it was the first film to do more than $2 billion at the global box office. Continue reading
Directed by Anthony Minghella
Screenplay by Anthony Minghella, Based on the novel by Michael Ondaatje
Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche and Willem Dafoe. Also featured were Naveen Andrews, Colin Firth and Jürgen Prochnow
To my mind it’s always been a hallmark of weak writing to reference the work of others, at least when it’s done for the explicit purpose of latching onto the credibility of the work of the other without actually having to create it organically yourself. In other words, rather than actually create something on your own, you simply reach out, grab something by somebody else, shine it up a little bit and then say, “Ta da, look at what I did.” Continue reading
Directed by Elia Kazan
Screenplay by Budd Schulberg
Starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger
Some movies can be taken on their own terms and are never more than what they are. There is no subtext, there is no commentary, there is no hidden agenda and absolutely no meanings can be read into them from the context in which they appeared or from whom they were born. On the whole, I’d say most movies are this way.
Some movies, though, can never be merely a movie because they are nothing but subtext, are rife with commentary, teem with hidden agendas and are overloaded with meaning. Continue reading
Directed by Bruce Beresford
Screenplay by Alfred Uhry, based upon his play
Starring Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, Esther Rolle and Dan Aykroyd
When The King’s Speech won Best Picture this past year at the Oscars, I was a bit beside myself over it, because I didn’t really fancy it as Best Picture. An enjoyable film? Sure. Best Picture? No.
In retrospect, though, it doesn’t make sense I would get upset about it, after all, the Academy has shown a history of honoring films just like The King’s Speech: solid, inoffensive films that are hardly loved, but more importantly, hardly hated. In other words, unlike Black Swan or The Social Network, which had a tendency to be divisive, The King’s Speech is least likely to offend voters and therefore, most likely to rise to the top. Continue reading
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Story and Screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner
Starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron
Movies, by their very nature, are artificial and could not possibly capture real life. The closet we come is documentaries, but with the constant excising of the boring bits from the filming, creative editing and the like, even the truth is manipulated and artificial. Continue reading
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains
Written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch
In some ways, working on the Best Picture Project has been a curse. Setting a goal to see each and every Best Picture winner has meant having to watch some truly awful movies, many of which were made all the more awful because I had to watch them – you cannot believe how many times I mentally found myself reliving the tenth grade experience of slogging through The Scarlet Letter. Not the first example, but probably the worst, was The Broadway Melody.
However, in other ways, this Project has been a revelation, forcing me to watch movies I’d not ordinarily watch, or films I’d tried to watch but gave up on too early, only to find out later that I’d been unjust in dismissing. This weeks entry, Casablanca, is just such a film. Continue reading
Directed by Edmund Golding
Screenplay by William A. Drake and Bela Balazs, from the play of the same name by Drake, adapted from the Novel by Vicki Baum
Starring Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery and Lionel Barrymore
Before I started The Best Picture Project Grand Hotel was never a movie I would have bothered to see. But it wouldn’t be because I was some kind of snob, because I’m not. No, it’s because I’ve already tried to see it, three times, and failed every time. I don’t remember when I first had a go at it, because who remembers those kinds of things. But I do remember the exact copy of the DVD I made the attempt with because it was still there at the video store a couple years later when I tried again and is probably still there to this day. The only reason I didn’t rent it again for this little project, and therefore finishing paying as much in rental fees as if I’d just bought the damn thing in the first place, is because Grand Hotel finally came around on TCM and DVR saved me the rental charge. Thank you, Robert Osborne. Continue reading