Tag Archives: How Green Was My Valley

The Best Picture Project — Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight (film) poster.jpgDirected by Tom McCarthy

Written By Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer

Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci and Bryan d’Arcy James

In 1976, All The President’s Men competed for Best Picture with Network, Taxi Driver and Bound for Glory and of that group, Bound For Glory is the one I’d argue isn’t a suitable Best Picture winner.  Sure, it’s got the period look, and seems to capture the flavor of the time and place, but ultimately it’s missing that indefinable something a Best Picture winner should have.

The other three films thought – All The President’s Men, Network, Taxi Driver – are completely timeless and any of the three could have, and should have, won.  No surprise, they all lost to the flagship of the Rocky franchise, a film some people consider a ‘classic’, but is one I just don’t get.[1]

Well, while All The President’s Men didn’t win, but at least it can take solace in the fact that 40 years after it’s loss, it’s most direct offspring, Spotlight, scooped the big prize.

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The Best Picture Project — The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The Life of Emile Zola poster.jpg

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

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The Best Picture Project — Out of Africa (1985)

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.

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The Best Picture Project – The Greatest Show On Earth (1952)

Greatest.gifDirected by Cecil B. DeMille

Screenplay by Fredric M. Frank &  Barré Lyndon   &  Theodore St. John, story by Fredric M. Frank   &  Theodore St. John   & Frank Cavett

Starring Charlton Heston,

It’s a fact: sit around and talk to anybody about the Oscars long enough and eventually you’ll get around to arguing over which was the worst Best Picture Winner – that I s, which was the worst film to win in a given year.  Inevitably, people in my generation, or at least those with no sense of history, will make strong arguments for Crash, Shakespeare in Love or maybe Titanic being the worst choices in recent memory.  Those with any real sense of history will instead bandy about two other choices:

  1. Citizen Kane, one of which is arguably the greatest film of all time,  being bested by How Green Was My Valley, a film that isn’t even one of the five best films by its own director – for John Ford, his best films obviously include The Grapes of Wrath, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, and one of about ten other films not named How Green Was My Valley.
  2. The Greatest Show On Earth winning Best Picture over Ford’s own The Quiet Man and a little Gary Cooper movie called High Noon.

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The Best Picture Project – The King’s Speech (2010)

Directed by Tom Hooper

Screenplay by David Seidler

Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter and Guy Pearce

I’m torn when it comes to evaluating The King’s Speech and it’s victory in the Best Picture race.  After all, I’ve been kind to past Best Pictures winners solely because the film had an outstanding lead performance, the type of performance where the film would have failed should it have not been outstanding.  In essence, I made the tacit argument that a strong central performance which carried the burden of the film somehow justified it being seen as ‘best’.   Unfortunately, though, while I might have tacitly argued this, I never explicitly did so and so I feel comfortable hiding behind a bit of semantics. Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project – Chariots of Fire (1981)

Directed by Hugh Hudson

Screenplay by Colin Welland

Starring Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Ian Holm, Alice Krige

After I watched Chariots of Fire I didn’t know how to approach it for this project.  Should I trash it?  Should I love it?  Should I go sideways and talk about some aspect of the movie that leads me down another path onto another topic and ignore the movie altogether, which seems to be exactly what I’m doing now?  Even as I’m writing this, I’m still not quite sure how to approach it. Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project – How Green Was My Valley (1941)

Directed By John Ford

Produced By Darryl F. Zanuck

Starring Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowall and Barry Fitzgerald

Any discussion of the Best Picture for 1941 must begin with a discussion of Citizen Kane. After all, it was in 1941 that Orson Welles unleashed his masterpiece upon the world, altering the landscape of movies forever. It was nominated for 9 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but for all its accomplishments – the amazing cinematography of Gregg Toland, with those deep-focus shots, Bernard Herrmann’s lively score, Robert Wise’s magnificent editing, the elliptical telling of the tale – it won but one Oscar, for Original Screenplay, an Award that was actually hissed at the time because of some pretty intense hatred of Welles. If he hadn’t been nominated with Herman Mankiewicz, it’s doubtful it would have even won that. Continue reading

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