The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

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reno dakota
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#201 Post by reno dakota » Fri Jan 01, 2010 11:39 pm

1959:

Anatomy of a Murder – A good, but surprisingly underwhelming, film from Preminger. While certainly too long for its own good, the narrative is rich in detail and grows more intriguing as it moves along, but its abrupt ending feels flimsy and poorly planned. I am not usually one to call for plot twists and tidy payoffs at the ends of films, but here I think the story deserves a more revelatory conclusion than Preminger delivers, particularly given the amount of labor that went into the setup. Still, the strong central performances and Preminger’s stylish direction go a long way in redeeming this deliberate exercise.

Ben-Hur – I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by this one. The main storyline is fairly involving and quickly paced for a 212-minute epic, and though Charlton Heston is not an actor with much range, he does a respectable job with the part. Also impressive are Stephen Boyd and Jack Hawkins, whose scenes with Heston are among the film’s best small-scale moments. Where the film goes wrong, I think, is in its final half-hour—with Ben-Hur’s arc more or less concluded, the shift in focus to Jesus’ final days is jarring and feels like a desperate attempt to infuse the film’s conclusion with additional depth. I appreciated the way Jesus’ storyline was woven into Ben-Hur’s early in the film—the water scene, in particular, is gracefully handled—but the final treatment of this material feels quite out of place.

The Diary of Anne Frank – A film that plays curiously like a sitcom, thanks to Stevens’ tone-deaf handling of this weighty subject-matter. The only strong performance here is Joseph Schildkraut’s, which sets the mood that the entire film should have had. The other performances are a good deal weaker, partly due to being miscast (especially Millie Perkins, who is too old for her role), but mostly due to the volume of leaden, overly expository dialogue they are forced to deliver. With a screenplay this poorly written, this project didn’t stand a chance.

The Nun’s Story – A finely crafted film driven by the quiet energy of Audrey Hepburn’s performance. It does go on too long for my liking, and at times has very little narrative heft, but Zinnemann’s sensitive direction and command of the tone of the picture are impressive departures from his usual, more heavy-handed approach. And the concluding passages, which are so delicately handled, are surprisingly moving.

Room at the Top – A decent film that has a great look about it and a few solid performances. While not a strong as the later Richardson and Schlesinger films that would explore similar themes, this tale of a social-climbing, sexually manipulative man without a moral center, works quite well for what it is. The Signoret/Harvey affair is the strongest thread in the film, and the easygoing appeal of those sequences makes much of the surrounding material feel a good deal weaker by comparison. Still, in a year of excessively long nominees, I appreciate the concise approach of this picture.

My vote: Room at the Top, which, though not great, is a more modestly scaled and evenly constructed piece of filmmaking than any of the others.


1960:

The Alamo – The Academy’s love of weakly scripted, poorly acted big-budget blockbusters lives on! This overlong mess, which must have been nominated on the strength of John Wayne’s reputation, offers nothing that is awards-worthy.

The Apartment – A real charmer with a wonderfully funny and wise performance from Jack Lemmon. It’s not often that Wilder puts this much trust in his material, stepping out of the way and letting it work without spoon-feeding it to the audience, but the results are really impressive. Here is another film that deserved to win.

Elmer Gantry – An entertaining and cutting critique of the worst of organized religion. This sprawling tale is full of period detail and fine performances—notably from Burt Lancaster as the title charlatan and Arthur Kennedy as the newspaperman who sees things for what they really are—all leading to a surprisingly effective (and fitting) conclusion.

Sons and Lovers – A finely acted and observant film that works both as a family drama and as a coming-of-age story. Wendy Hiller turns in another strong performance here, as does a nearly unrecognizable Trevor Howard, and Dean Stockwell is great in the earliest of his adult roles that I’ve seen. The look of the film is also strong and reminiscent of Ford’s How Green Was My Valley in its beautifully captured sense of time and place.

The Sundowners – Overlong and rather shallow. The film spends its first half building dramatic tensions that, it seems, will be paid off in the second half. Alas, that payoff never comes as the film instead bogs down in a series of subplots while ignoring its more interesting material—particularly the wanderlust of the Mitchum character. The performances are interesting enough, and Peter Ustinov gets a number of funny one-liners, but the whole film amounts to a lot of craft spent in service of surprisingly thin material.

My vote: The Apartment

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#202 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jan 02, 2010 12:03 am

reno dakota wrote:The Alamo – The Academy’s love of weakly scripted, poorly acted big-budget blockbusters lives on! This overlong mess, which must have been nominated on the strength of John Wayne’s reputation, offers nothing that is awards-worthy.
Peter Brown's book on the Oscars, which I think I've now recommended eighty times, lays into the Alamo's campaign and uses it as a sort of catch-all for how the nominating process worked in general. Absolutely fascinating stuff if you want the inside scoop on how the Alamo got its noms

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#203 Post by reno dakota » Sat Jan 02, 2010 1:12 am

domino harvey wrote:Peter Brown's book on the Oscars, which I think I've now recommended eighty times, lays into the Alamo's campaign and uses it as a sort of catch-all for how the nominating process worked in general. Absolutely fascinating stuff if you want the inside scoop on how the Alamo got its noms
I picked up Brown's book on your 72nd recommendation, I think, but had yet to reach his account of Wayne's bullying his way to The Alamo's nominations. I've just read it--truly disgusting stuff, but not altogether surprising. I particularly love this quote from Henry Rogers: "The Academy Awards are more of a popularity contest than a talent contest . . .". Indeed.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#204 Post by movielocke » Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:22 pm

love your thoughts on 1960, Reno, three excellent nominees, and two rather bizarre ones.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#205 Post by domino harvey » Sat Feb 27, 2010 5:21 pm

1953
From Here to Eternity
A mixed bag. The film benefits from Zinnemann leaving behind his tortuous editing predilections, but the direction is as always anemic. The film only stays afloat thanks to the performances, which sputter wildly in opposite directions. Clift and Sinatra keep the film afloat while Lancaster and Kerr are wasted-- I am totally mystified at the continued cultural consciousness of their underdeveloped b-storyline. The scene where Lancaster stands next to a calendar for several seconds is some of the best worst foreshadowing I've ever seen.

Julius Caesar It would be hard to ruin such good material (my favorite Shakespeare behind King Lear) and Mankiewicz encounters no such misfortune. The performances (save the shrill Greer Garson and Gielgud's overly tenuous Cassius) are terrific and Mason has a ball with such a showboaty role. The decision to shorten the final acts certainly helps with pacing issues and the whole thing is engaging throughout. Shakespeare still shouldn't be filmed, but this one's refusal to interpret and merely present works.

the Robe A cinematic milestone utterly lacking in anything cinematic.

Roman Holiday Wyler's charming romance takes a while to get going, but the last half of the film aches with young love and impending doom. The film's bravery with following the premise to its inevitable downbeat conclusion is applaudable. Audrey Hepburn's charms are undeniable, abandon all hope of resistance ye who view.

Shane A prestige film that fades from memory quicker than the programmers it rose above in Oscardom; or "Let's nominate a western that's barely a western again"

My Vote: Julius Caesar

Lili was nominated for six Academy Awards in 1953, including Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director. That the film, even with obvious support from the Academy, got shut out where it mattered most is depressing, as is the Band Wagon barely making a dent when two of Minnelli's worst musicals sweep both before and after. If any Oscar year needed a "RESET" button...

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#206 Post by reno dakota » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:01 pm

domino harvey wrote:If any Oscar year needed a "RESET" button...
You may want to save that "reset" button for 1956 . . . or better yet, 1955, when so many great films were ignored to make room for so many mediocre ones. I agree, though, that the 1953 slate leaves quite a lot to be desired. It was one of those years where I didn't love any of the nominees, and picking the least disappointing of the bunch was a tough call.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#207 Post by domino harvey » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:16 pm

1954 was the hardest year yet as far as choosing between a pack of losers goes, but I look forward to further disappointments! I've worked through most of 1955's Best Pics and will obviously post more thoughts on the subject when I'm finished, but in the interim I'd definitely appreciate a personal letter from every living member of the 1955 Academy explaining how or why Love is a Many Splendored Thing was more deserving of a nomination than Rebel Without a Cause

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#208 Post by knives » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:22 pm

Cortisone is a hell of a drug?

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#209 Post by reno dakota » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:36 pm

domino harvey wrote:I'd definitely appreciate a personal letter from every living member of the 1955 Academy explaining how or why Love is a Many Splendored Thing was more deserving of a nomination than Rebel Without a Cause
While you're at it, ask them to explain why the The Rose Tattoo deserved a nomination over anything.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#210 Post by movielocke » Sun Feb 28, 2010 4:56 pm

domino harvey wrote:1953
the Robe A cinematic milestone utterly lacking in anything cinematic.


yup, perfectly succinct and nailed it exactly.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#211 Post by domino harvey » Sat Mar 20, 2010 9:27 pm

1962
Lawrence of Arabia
One big whatever. The film only comes to life in that last hour when Arthur Kennedy does his damnedest to rescue this dull affair but there's only so much a master like him can do with a bit part when everything around him is swallowed up by indulgent scenics and a sloth-paced narrative.

the Longest Day Zanuck wanted to film the war so he practically staged a redux and the result is this movie. Surprisingly the film eschews almost everything found in those studio films so heartily produced by Zanuck and replaces it with a structure and narrative more akin to documentary. The film was obviously a labor of love from creators who knew the war well and the brief snippets of historical record filling the marginalia of the narrative are vivid and unforgettable-- Red Buttons' paratrooper getting snagged on the roof of a church as his fellow soldiers get plowed down below; a Scot playing the bagpipes as armory shells blast in all directions; a crippled Richard Burton slumped across from the corpse of a fearsome German official with Antichristed boots; nuns serenely walking through a crossfire; two members of the Luftwaffe mowing down miles of beach as the camera follows... the unforgettable images of the film are copious. Hell, there are recreations here that border on creation. And the cameos! I felt like a kid, yelling out the names as they trot across the screen without any Hollywood entrance-- "There's Sal Mineo! Whoa, Roddy McDowell?! Mel Ferrer?!" Film can give us stories, characters, plots and situations we'll never forget, granted. But it can also, as the Longest Day thankfully reminds, provide pure spectacle-- and spectacle of this quality is a rare treat.

the Music Man Uneven musical effort that didn't deserve a nom but still fares better than most musicals in this category. The biggest flaw is that the stage production has been transfered to film with almost every song intact, bloating the picture with transitional songs and forgettable digressions. There's a reason good films based on musicals cut out like half the songs! The film is long without the story justifying the length and would surely play a lot better with an hour chopped off. It's not very hard to see what should be cut without harming the narrative, like, say, all the loathsome period fetishization garbage. The picture also falls back on what makes the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals so deadly on film, the move from stages and backlots to location shooting (or even imitations thereof). The film thankfully begins to embrace the unreal more in the second half and its no coincidence that the film starts to work around the same time.

Shirley Jones, so sexy in Elmer Gantry, here plays the romantic lead like someone's sister and her last-minute brassiness was sorely missed during the previous 140 minutes. Buddy Hackett is thankfully used only sparingly. I liked the Buffalo Bills as a makeshift and easily distracted barbershop quartet and thought the finale was quite good, with some nice insight into the willing sliding scale of perception concerning a performer's faults on the part of an audience. The later Simpsons parody of the film is still a better musical for five minutes than this is for two and a half hours, though.

Mutiny on the Bounty This one succeeds on that most accidental of laurels: I thought it was going to be terrible and it wasn't. Exceeded expectations abound in this lovely epic that breezes by-- I've seen Best Pic nominees at half this length that felt longer. Gorgeous scenic vistas, great use of color, and most importantly, competent, queening-free performances. Brando is predictably quite good and often amusing (particularly in his nightcap and Chinese opium pipe!), but Trevor Howard steals the movie. It would have been so easy to overplay his role but he keeps his Bligh perfectly plausible-- which makes his logical misdeeds all the more terrifying!

To Kill a Mockingbird I'm glad I decided to revisit this one for the project, because it holds up better than the source material. I think I'm closer to coming to grips with the film now that I tried watching it not as an adult, which renders it poisonous, but via the uncritical eyes of a child. The simplistic melodrama of the court case is problematic if one reads this as a movie for children given the severity of the rape accusation, but the subtle as a shovel to the face dynamics of injustice are a product of immaturity and thus, perhaps in a juvenile way, the film works. However, for adults who use the picture to remember back to their childhood (a task made easy by the terrific child actors), I fear they too easily accept and embrace the simple dichotomies of the film as would a child. The easy to grasp social injustice of the film makes for a superior children's movie but a lousy adult one. It's too bad though, since it looks beautiful and the bookends of the film are well-observed in a way that would be lost on a child living their life currently.

My Vote: the Longest Day

Oddly enough, I find this year's Best Picture category to be one of the best historically. Even though I don't find even the majority of these five films worthy of nomination, their inclusion here makes sense in a way that a lot of these other odd ducks don't (I mean, really, try to picture an Oscar voter deciding that the Sundowners is one for the ages-- it can't be done). For all their flaws and missteps, these films have collectively done a rare thing for Best Picture nominees: they've remained relevant.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#212 Post by reno dakota » Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:06 am

1961:

Fanny – Better than I expected, honestly, but still a bit of a head-scratcher of a nominee. I was surprised that I didn’t despise Leslie Caron’s performance here, and the supporting players are not bad either. The narrative is a bit uneven, though, with the second half being far stronger (and more sure of itself) than the forced and irritating opening half. But a Leslie Caron vehicle that is not painful to watch is certainly a step in the right direction.

Guns of Navarone – This one was quite a surprise. The slow start and the presence of Gregory Peck had me expecting something similar to the flat and unfocused Twelve O’Clock High, but this film moves to another level once the mission gets underway. The performances here are great, the plotting and pacing are top-notch, and by the end I was delighted by how engaging, suspenseful and occasionally moving the story had become.

The Hustler – Another tremendous film from Rossen. Everything about this production is first-rate—it’s gorgeously shot, tightly edited, smoothly paced, and quietly riveting. And then there is Paul Newman, who turns in another textured, emotionally vulnerable performance in the title role. I’m not sure Newman was ever better than he is here, and the deeper the film delved into the complexities of his character, the more I loved being along for the ride.

Judgment at Nuremberg – An epic misfire. Despite being well-cast and thoughtfully constructed, nothing here works quite as well as it might have in different hands. Maximilian Schell’s shrill performance is irritatingly over-the-top, and the swirling and zooming camera-work in the courtroom sequences struck me as a desperate attempt to punch up the leaden proceedings. Thank heavens for Montgomery Clift’s (too brief) appearance and for Marlene Dietrich, who is wonderful in every one of her scenes.

West Side Story – I had a curious reaction to this film, one that I cannot recall having had with any other musical. While I liked the story and staging, and enjoyed much of the music, I did not care for many of the performances (I should confess straight away that Natalie Wood is an actress whose appeal I have never understood) or the writing outside of the musical numbers. Nonetheless, during the best of the musical numbers—particularly “Maria” and “In America”—the film was most alive and engaging.

My vote: The Hustler


1962:

Lawrence of Arabia – Spectacular (in the literal sense), but ultimately underwhelming. The desert photography and the music are enough to make the film worth seeing, but the screenplay is a liability. For one thing, the film is much too long—both times I’ve seen it, my interest in watching the story unfold was steadily outstripped by my impatience with its frustratingly limp pacing. For another, there is an odd shift in perspective (and tone) midway through the film—as the development of Lawrence moves from (largely) intimate, dialogue-driven setups that offer us Lawrence’s point of view, to more grand, action-driven sequences that inhabit a more pulled-back point of view (perhaps of the British military itself)—after which one gets the sense that Lean and Bolt are more interested in the politics of Lawrence’s campaign than they are in saying anything more about him as a character. I cannot argue with any of the performances, the level of craft on display, or the very effective final shot, but I cannot help but wonder how much better the film might have been had it not tried so hard to be epic.

The Longest Day – Impressive account of the D-Day invasion, told on a grand scale. The action set-pieces of the film’s long central passage are visceral and wonderfully staged, but the enormity of the production crowds out any hope of the smaller, character-driven moments having much impact. Many of the big names are underused (Robert Ryan gets one scene, Henry Fonda gets two) or overexposed (John Wayne gets generous screen-time, but does little with it), but several of the lesser-knowns turn in strong, appropriately scaled work. The film is long, but with so much packed into its running time, I suspect additional viewings will reveal even more of its virtues.

The Music Man – Another terrible musical gets nominated for Best Picture—by now I should not be surprised. The music is dreadful, the dance numbers are overdone, none of the performances stands out as remarkable in any way, and the film itself is about twice as long as it should have been. I realize this film has its ardent supporters, but I didn’t like a single thing about it.

Mutiny on the Bounty – I was no fan of the Lloyd version and thought this would be a painful retread, but it turned out to be nowhere near the grating experience I had expected. I appreciated the aboard-the-ship sequences early in the film, as well as the developing tension between the Brando and Trevor characters (though this pairing was not quite as compelling as the Gable/Laughton pairing in the 1935 film). However, the film is too long for its own good, and it missteps badly in its final scene. Still, I think it just slightly exceeds its reputation, though it’s definitely not a very deserving nominee.

To Kill a Mockingbird – The most emotionally resonant, consistently well-structured and well-paced nominee in the group. Lee’s novel gets kicked around quite a bit, but Foote’s screenplay does a good job of weaving the finely observed coming-of-age elements of the novel together with its more unsettling look at race relations and poverty in 1930s Alabama. Not all of this works, of course—certain parts of the courtroom scene are presented too bluntly, and the over-explanation of the meaning and significance of the film’s title is unnecessary—but the film’s flaws are dwarfed by the power of its central performances, particularly that of Gregory Peck. His Atticus Finch is the film’s greatest strength, and his performance has never once failed to move me.

My vote: To Kill a Mockingbird
Last edited by reno dakota on Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#213 Post by domino harvey » Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:20 am

reno dakota wrote:But a Leslie Caron vehicle that is not painful to watch is certainly a step in the right direction.
I used to be right where you are now, and then I saw Lili and Daddy Long Legs and could no longer make Leslie Caron jokes

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#214 Post by reno dakota » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:38 am

domino harvey wrote:I used to be right where you are now, and then I saw Lili and Daddy Long Legs and could no longer make Leslie Caron jokes
I look forward to the day when seeing her name in a cast list does not strike fear into my heart.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#215 Post by domino harvey » Mon Mar 29, 2010 4:50 pm

1955
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
Films like this are why no one takes the Oscars seriously. A bloated prestige picture that doesn't even have the gall to be bad. Inoffensive piffle masquerading as entertainment made all the more disappointing by the memory of how good the previous Jones-King collab was (the Song of Bernadette, one of the greatest films ever nommed for Best Pic). Funnily enough, the only thing I really remember liking about the film is Jones' dresses, so its win there was justified. But really, the whole thing is one big "Oh, c'mon."

Marty No frills has never seemed so basic. The appeal to this one escapes me, utterly. It's an average telefilm expanded slightly and refilmed for the cinema-- and it won? Uh, America loved TV that much in the fifties, huh? Borgnine is alright as himself but was still the weakest of the five Best Actor nominees. Between this and the Rose Tattoo, 1955 was the year of the Pity Party.

Mister Roberts And here comes the sitcom, an unfunny military comedy that looks like it was filmed over a weekend for less than catering costs. Jack Lemmon is pleasing enough, though beating out Arthur Kennedy in Trial is one of the biggest Oscar wrongs in the history of the awards. James Cagney can't seem to decide what inflection to put in his voice and Henry Fonda plays himself, again. I don't even know what else there is to say about this one other than that it is an utterly inconsequential and insubstantial nominee.

Picnic I was expecting a Peyton Place-type expose of small town America and instead got a hothouse, sexed up postcard of middle America. The film has its share of eyerolls (Don't engage in a drinking game centered around William Holden going shirtless unless you want to pass out before the third act) but I was taken over by its contradictory building up of smalls towns via Saturday Evening Post-style homilies and its simultaneous (and very mild) chastising of their inherent cliquishness. The weak link here is Novak, as always. Her role's underwritten but any other young actress could have brought more to it. Susan Strasberg is great as the brainy little sister and yes, the film garners a sympathy nom for poor ol' Arthur O'Connell.

The Rose Tattoo Tennessee Williams adaptations can be sheer hell with improper handling, and this one veers off the road far too many times over the course of the picture. The Rose Tattoo is of the few Williams plays I hadn't read before and to be honest there's even less desire now to pick it up. I don't think I hate the film to the degree that others have in this thread, but I have a lot of serious problems with it, the majority springing from Magnani's performance, which often comes across as mere grotesquery. The Academy has a long history of giving Oscars to female characters it feels sorry for, but the film treats her with a pandering puerileness that the award almost feels like an apology.

I guess what strikes me most about the film is how many superficial similarities it shares with Mann's first film, the far superior Come Back, Little Sheba. Both were directed by Mann. Both starred Burt Lancaster. Both featured James Wong Howe's cinematography. Both were adaptations of plays that netted their respective unglamorous female leads a Best Actress Oscar. Both had gamines who garnered Supporting Actress noms for merely being PYTs. But how the Rose Tattoo went all the way to Best Picture when Sheba didn't is a mystery.

My Vote: Picnic

As in 1962 (which, again, was a good year), 1955's Oscars only went two for five with Best Director noms-- clearly studio maneuvering swept in several of the eventual Best Pic noms. Going by the Directors list and not the real Best Pic noms, imagine a year when the five were: Bad Day at Black Rock, East of Eden, Marty, Picnic, and Summertime instead. Still not a banner year but certainly a step up!

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#216 Post by movielocke » Tue Mar 30, 2010 3:52 pm

reno dakota wrote:1961:
Agree in all respects about each of the 1961 films. Well said. :)
1962:

Lawrence of Arabia – Spectacular (in the literal sense), but ultimately underwhelming. The desert photography and the music are enough to make the film worth seeing, but the screenplay is a liability. For one thing, the film is much too long—both times I’ve seen it, my interest in watching the story unfold was steadily outstripped by my impatience with its frustratingly limp pacing. For another, there is an odd shift in perspective (and tone) midway through the film—as the development of Lawrence moves from (largely) intimate, dialogue-driven setups that offer us Lawrence’s point of view, to more grand, action-driven sequences that inhabit a more pulled-back point of view (perhaps of the British military itself)—after which one gets the sense that Lean and Bolt are more interested in the politics of Lawrence’s campaign than they are in saying anything more about him as a character. I cannot argue with any of the performances, the level of craft on display, or the very effective final shot, but I cannot help but wonder how much better the film might have been had it not tried so hard to be epic.
I think what you're seeing is the difference between Lawrence the man and Lawrence the myth. And the way the myth of Lawrence is brought down is by politics. He can hardly be a great white savior to the Arab people when he's so thoroughly derailed and outmaneuvered by everyone from Prince Feisal to the generals to the Arab bureau, to the Arab leaders themselves. and while his unrelenting faith and desire and belief in himself lead to all his successes in the first half, these same elements of his character--as they grow extraordinarily out of control--are what lead him to failure and setbacks again and again. Whether it's his idiotic No Prisoners moment, his rape and beating, the loss of the other boy, getting shot, etc he finds again and again that he is just a man even as his myth grows ever bigger (the Newspaper man only comes in during the second half, when the myth of Lawrence becomes the central theme being examined). What's fascinating is how the film builds him into a myth onscreen and then deconstructs him as a myth as well--and it sets up this dynamic from the opening, where he dies, as all men must, he is entombed in the presence of other mythic larger than life figures of English history, and quite explicitly the newspaper man shamelessly promotes the myth of Lawrence before using an aside to pull him back down to earth as "the most shameless exhibitionist I've ever seen." The audience is also primed a moment after this to key in on the dynamic of man/myth and to also reject the outlook that Lawrence was flawless because, "he was a very great man" as an ignorant and inaccurate one when we laugh at the fellow who shook his hand and really knows nothing else about him. From this moment, though the audience isn't really consciously aware of it, they've realized they're going to see a film that doesn't really adhere to the hagiographic conventions of biography and historical victors, they're being told in that first scene that a complex portrayal of very different aspects of how we understand Lawrence is going to be presented.

As for pacing, I do think there are some slight issues there, but I think that's mainly due to how the film was edited. Coates and Lean cut the second half of the film first, then cut the first half, they never once screened the entire film before its premiere, watching only a half at a time as there was simply not enough time in the post schedule to watch down a four hour cut.
The Longest Day – Impressive account of the D-Day invasion, told on a grand scale. The action set-pieces of the film’s long central passage are visceral and wonderfully staged, but the enormity of the production crowds out any hope of the smaller, character-driven moments having much impact. Many of the big names are underused (Robert Ryan gets one scene, Henry Fonda gets two) or overexposed (John Wayne gets generous screen-time, but does little with it), but several of the lesser-knowns turn in strong, appropriately scaled work. The film is long, but with so much packed into its running time, I suspect additional viewings will reveal even more of its virtues.
Got to agree the production scale and production design of this are really staggering and impressive. What I most remember is Richard Burton, in many ways though I think the film is something of a misfire.

disagree on Music Man, largely agree on Bounty and Mockingbird, though I think I like the latter a bit more than you (though I still would select Lawrence of Arabia ).

Domino, you're absolutely right movies like LiaMST are why the oscars have the reputation they have (hell I'll throw Rose Tattoo in there with it), and I think movies like that are inevitable in a system where nominations are to be had by studio campaigning. It self selects a lot of prestige crap and unfortunately self eliminates a lot of excellence simultaneously.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#217 Post by PillowRock » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:21 pm

movielocke wrote:As for pacing, I do think there are some slight issues there, but I think that's mainly due to how the film was edited.
It may also be related to the viewing venue / medium.

Years ago I saw it in a 70mm print of the restoration in a theater with a really big screen to immerse yourself in (and with a hit-the-bathroom-and-concession-stand intermission). In that format, Lawrence and its desert were mesmerizing and didn't feel long at all to me.

At home on DVD you don't get that kind of immersion into the film, and you feel the length of the film much more (or, at least, I do).

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domino harvey
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#218 Post by domino harvey » Sun May 23, 2010 9:05 pm

1957
the Bridge on the River Kwai
While I appreciated the nihilism of its finale, I felt this one was a deeply flawed whatever. The idea of a British military man incapable of seeing that the world of modern warfare has passed him by was done so much better by P+P's Colonel Blimp, and with a far less annoying protagonist. Christ, did the stands of Alec Guiness' character get on my nerves-- Maybe I'm too prepped by other Hollywood war films, but fifty minutes of namby-pambying about whether officers should have to work like their charges was enough to turn me into Howard Hawks. I get that the excesses of pride and personal codes &c are in play here, but three hours of that capped with a final "Whoops" is the real excess. In retrospect the best scene was when William Holden makes out with the blonde nurse on the beach because Holden took his shirt off, something he just never does! Someone explain the sustained cultural relevancy of this one, because I am mystified.

Peyton Place Maybe the best "small town undercurrent" film ever made. Even when diluted considerably from its source material, the picture is shockingly filthy and lascivious and goddamn entertaining. Hope Lange was robbed by Liberal Guilt and Arthur Kennedy's nod is still a huge shock-- I don't mean that pejoratively, as I think it's established that he's among my favorite actors; it's just that while the Oscars have a long history of nomming villains, rarely do they nom one as vulgar and irredeemable as this! The rape scene is one of the most shocking sequences to come out of the studio era and it still retains the full horror of its execution. On a side note: it's worth sitting through Russ Tamblyn's commentary for the film on the Fox DVD for his amazing story about meeting Robert Mitchum.

Sayonara The worst film I've watched for this project since the Country Girl. Brando's backwoods bizarro accent drawls around clunky dialog in the service of a simply interminable script. Self-important to the point of absurdity, this bit of driftwood preaches pseudo-racial understanding while fetishizing Japanese culture and dressing Ricardo Montalban up in Kabuki makeup. Miyoshi Umeki's Supporting Actress win is perhaps the most grievous instance of the Academy awarding a character rather than a performance in Oscar history.

12 Angry Men I'd never actually seen this before this project, and though I'm of course spoiled by having been exposed to so much of what it influenced, this still felt awful thin and slight to me. The film fails to fully excite either in the detective aspect or the social commentary aspect and thus exists in a safe, dull middle ground. Lee J Cobb is good for most of the film (until that obvious finale) and Jack Warden is always fun as Jack Warden, but most of the twelve angries are lifeless. The grandstanding and bickering grows tiresome, and the comeuppances and victories felt too coded and signaled. This is where I use "crowd pleaser" in the pejorative.

Witness For the Prosecution And of course here's a film that fully delights in its twisty plot and still doesn't come up all that much better for it. The film is fun, with typical entertaining histrionics from Laughton and absurd courtroom antics, but while I remember having goodwill for the film as it unfolded, it quickly evaporates in memory. I enjoyed watching the film, but have no desire to ever sit through it again. How a pisstake from Wilder ascended this high is a bigger mystery than any offered by the screenplay.

My Vote: Peyton Place

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#219 Post by colinr0380 » Mon May 24, 2010 2:55 pm

I like to think, raving J.G. Ballard fanboy that I am, that Empire of the Sun acts to balance, or illuminate, some of the elements of this film (Bridge On The River Kwai), similarly showing how the adults (or more properly the professional classes and officers) become wedded to the minutiae of their new lives, internalising their own circumstances until they are eventually destroyed by them. This gets set against Holden who himself is blinkered and single-minded in a more classic Hollywood way (and exists almost completely unconnected from the rest of the action) and who has his own heroic victory ironically/redemptively/stupidly taken away from him by Guiness's (ironic in itself) final act of backfiring collaboration.

I'd also recommend the fantastic opening chapter of Peter Biskind's Seeing Is Believing that tackles Twelve Angry Men as the ultimate expression of fifties values of pluralism and consensus dominating by coercion (you aren't allowed to exist outside of the circle - everyone has to act together without exception to provide a united front).
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sun Jun 06, 2010 7:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#220 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jun 05, 2010 10:59 pm

1956
Around the World in Eighty Days In the words of Krusty the Klown: "That just kept going, huh?" This merciless film proves that more is indeed less, as the picture is charmless, witless, lifeless, and endless. The cameos are joyless as well, with no merit even on a basic level of recognition. The main cast is horrible, especially the miscast Shirley MacLaine-- did any other actress of the period look less like an Indian princess? The scenics are dull and the curvature of the lenses, which I assume had some sort of exhibition purpose upon initial release, is distracting. The Saul Bass end credits are great but I'm sure you can find them on YouTube and spare yourself the ordeal leading up to them.

Friendly Persuasion A gentle film about traditional values challenged in an uphill battle against a changing world-- now here is a quintessentially '50s movie! Thus Wyler delivers a period piece thankfully devoid of period fetishization, save the intentionally alienating "thee" and "thou"s that populate the film's opening in particular. The simple pleasures the film affords, from Cooper's joyous horse race to the spat over the organ, mask the severity of war constantly growing nearer. That it all plays like a (then) modern radio sitcom is all the more telling of its then-relevancy. That said, I could definitely have done without the embarrassing side-trip into Li'l Abner territory, re: the desperate daughters. Interesting that such an American-specific film got the Palme d'Or!

Giant I don't mind some Edna Farber adaptations-- hell, I love Cimmaron, and even Mann apologists don't go that far! But this epic of nothing pushed its luck way way too much. I like many of the actors here but they play everything either too low or too high, never in the right pitch. Call it sacrilege if you must, but James Dean is laughable in his Montgomery Clift-aping "actorliness." Poor Rock Hudson is rudderless and apparently he's responsible for the audience being saddled with Elizabeth Taylor over Grace Kelly. As bad as all this is, at least I could have looked at Grace Kelly for a couple hours. The movie was already awful without it but when the tres subtle social commentary kicks in out of nowhere... well, it's like Hobbes said: "You should always save hyperbole until you really need it!"

the King and I The worst musical ever nominated for Best Picture. Overindulgent set design binds the musical spatiality cinema affords in the typical style of Fox's big budget prestige musicals, and the film is as lifeless and drab as it is shiny and ostentatious. The truly grating performance by Yul Brynner, who of course won the Best Actor oscar, doesn't help any. I haven't seen them all, so maybe there's a diamond in the roughs, but Christ if the stagebound R+H adaptations weren't the worst thing to ever happen to movie musicals.

the Ten Commandments Aww hell, I liked this one. Heston is great fun, Anne Baxter has a ball with an atypically sexy role, Robinson hams it up, and Yul Brynner is awful as always-- Anyone ever seen him in Ritt's the Sound and the Fury, quasi-romancing Joanne Woodward's "teenager" (?) in at least four different attempts at a Southern accent? I mean, granted the pic as a whole ranks among the worst films ever made, but he's like 75% of the blame. Back to DeMille, the film is pretty entertaining for populist pew-packing-- I'd rather watch it three times in a row than Around the World in 80 Days once more.

My vote: Friendly Persuasion

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#221 Post by reno dakota » Sat Jun 05, 2010 11:29 pm

domino harvey wrote: Around the World in Eighty Days In the words of Krusty the Klown: "That just kept going, huh?" This merciless film proves that more is indeed less, as the picture is charmless, witless, lifeless, and endless.
Yep. It's still the worst film I've seen specifically for this project—even worse (for me) than The Country Girl and Sayonara. While reading your comments I allowed myself to wonder what it might be like if this had been the BP nominee lost to time, instead of The Patriot. Wouldn't it be charming to muse about what a shame it was when all the known elements of Around the World in Eighty Days burned to bits in that terrible warehouse explosion?

Other than liking James Dean in Giant (there was so much awful in that film that I think I just appreciated having him around), I agree with you on all of these nominees and I'm happy to see another vote for Friendly Persuasion!

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#222 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jun 06, 2010 7:26 pm

reno dakota wrote:Yep. It's still the worst film I've seen specifically for this project—even worse (for me) than The Country Girl and Sayonara. While reading your comments I allowed myself to wonder what it might be like if this had been the BP nominee lost to time, instead of The Patriot. Wouldn't it be charming to muse about what a shame it was when all the known elements of Around the World in Eighty Days burned to bits in that terrible warehouse explosion?
This is such a wonderfully perverse thought! I guess the reason I hate it a little less than you is that it's so bad in an unoffensive way, whereas bottom of the barrel nominees like the Country Girl or the Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming make me want to throw things at the TV.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#223 Post by reno dakota » Sun Jun 06, 2010 7:32 pm

Oh no! I still have to see The Russians Are Coming and I was kind of hoping it would be good. #-o

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#224 Post by movielocke » Mon Jun 07, 2010 3:43 am

Russians are Coming is one of the very best nominees of the 1960s, and I'd consider it in the top 75 of all nominees all time.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#225 Post by PillowRock » Wed Jun 09, 2010 11:20 am

reno dakota wrote:Oh no! I still have to see The Russians Are Coming and I was kind of hoping it would be good. #-o
To quote a fictional insane emperor: "Humor is so subjective."

You know your sense of humor better than any of us do. If you read the premise and cast list of The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (with Carl Reiner and Alan Arkin as leads) and think that it sounds like something that will appeal to you, then it probably will. If it sounds to you like something that you would find unfunny / grating to watch, then it probably will be.

With this movie, I don't think there are any big surprises in either direction. I find the movie amusing / entertaining enough and would expect most people who generally like the cast members to react similarly. However, I can see that if (for example) one generally finds Carl Reiner's manic style grating or finds the obvious "Can't we all just get along" theme to be too sweet to stomach, then this movie isn't very likely to transcend that preference.

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