Tag Archives: The Greatest Show on Earth

The Best Picture Project — The Departed, dir. by Martin Scorsese (2006)

Departed234.jpgDirected by Martin Scorcese

Screenplay by William Monahan, based on the film Infernal Affairs

Starrring Leonardo Dicaprio, Matt Damno, Jack Nicholson, Vera Farmiga, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg

Martin Scorsese should have an Oscar – Martin Scorsese should have a fistful of Oscars.  A fistful in both hands.  He is a legend of cinema, with talent enough that he can hop genres and eras with relative ease, making his style fit them all, no matter how disparate then may be.  Better, he’s been consistently good for more than four decades, without the flameout in quality you get from many other so-called legends.[1]  Add to that he’s a student of film and treats it legitimately, and reverently, as art, and you can see why he should have more Oscars than he know what to do with.

But he doesn’t have more Oscars than he knows what to do with – he only has the one.  Not for directing Raging Bull or Goodfellas, but as director of The Departed.

Let me ask you a question – which is worse: Continue reading

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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 — Terms of Endearment (1983)

Terms of Endearment, 1983 film.jpgDirected 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

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The Best Picture Project – Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

Gentleman's Agreement (1947 movie poster).jpgDirected 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

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The Best Picture Project – All The King’s Men (1949)

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

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The Best Picture Project – An American in Paris (1951)

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

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