Tuesday, May 27, 2014

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "Mrs. Miniver" (1942)

World War II rears its ugly head once again in today's blog subject, the Academy Award winning Best Picture of 1942 Mrs. Miniver. Based on the 1940 novel by Jan Struther, the film shows how the life of an innocent housewife in rural England is affected by the war. Filming actually begun before America entered the war, and as time went on, scenes were rewritten to lean more pro-British, anti-German and just overall of a war-and-troops-supporting mentality. It's one of the films going into this blog series that I knew virtually nothing about, save for the fact that it won Best Picture and that Greer Garson, after winning the Best Actress Oscar for this movie, gave what is the longest speech in Academy Awards history (nearly six minutes in length) when she got up on stage to accept the award. I wish YouTube had THAT one. Actually, they do, but only a clip. The Academy archives only have about 60-65% of the speech on video, and it's in pieces so outside of the start of her speech, even they don't know where the rest of the parts fit in chronologically. I doubt the full speech exists anymore in any form. Whatever the case, tangent over. Let's take a look at the William Wyler-directed Mrs. Miniver.

Friday, May 23, 2014

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "The Apartment" (1960)

Jack Lemmon. Shirley MacLaine. Billy Wilder. Fred MacMurray. Adultery. LOTS of adultery. Seems an interesting mix, doesn't it? Especially for a film that came out in 1960. That's what we have in The Apartment, the film that was Wilder's producing/directing/writing follow-up to Some Like it Hot. Like its predecessor, it's at heart a romantic comedy, and also like its predecessor, it was a critical and commercial smash. The one thing this film did that the earlier didn't? The very reason it's part of this blog series. This one won Wilder a Best Picture Oscar. Let's visit The Apartment.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


So it's been nearly three weeks since I've written a blog for the Best Picture Showcase. The reason? My wife and I took a vacation to celebrate our anniversary. We traveled through Pennsylvania and Ohio, stopping here and there along the way before finally settling for 5 days in our ultimate planned destination of Chicago, Illinois. So I figured this was the best time there ever could be for us to tackle the 2002 Best Picture winner, the movie musical Chicago. Set in the 1920's, the film is based on the 1975 Broadway musical, which had a pretty long run but was not well-received by audiences, most likely due to the show's rather dark and cynical tone. The director and choreographer of the original stage musical was Bob Fosse, and he planned a film version but passed away in 1987 before he could bring that plan to fruition. A Broadway revival was initiated in 1996 and it is still running today, and the success of that revival renewed interest in the long-dormant plans for a film version. It was worth the wait.

Friday, May 2, 2014


"If Marty is an example of the type of material that can be gleaned, then studio story editors better spend more time at home looking at television."

That quote is from Ronald Holloway of Variety magazine in his review of Marty, the 1955 winner for Best Picture. This originally aired on television in 1953, with the teleplay written by Paddy Chayefsky. For the theatrical version, he adapted his own original source material, expanding on the characters to bring this to movie length. Several of the supporting characters who appeared in the original television version also appeared here, but the main pair of characters were played not by Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand as on TV. Instead, Ernest Borgnine was cast as Marty, with Betsy Blair portraying his love interest, Clara. Critics loved it, and audiences agreed. Let's take a look at an unlikely hero in an unlikely smash hit film, both named Marty.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979)

Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. If a movie were made today with those two names, it would automatically be considered a probable box office bonanza. In 1979, Hoffman was just starting to reach his peak and Streep was still on the rise. I guess it should come as no surprise, being the acting legends they've become, that when they worked together 35 years ago, their film was not only a critical and commercial success, but it was that year's winner for Best Picture. I speak of Kramer vs. Kramer, the story of a divorcing couple battling for custody of their son, based on a novel by Avery Corman. The film approached the subject matter in a way that matched the changing of the times, as a social and cultural shift had begun at that point where single mothers and single fathers were both considered a possibility, as opposed to the old-school view that a child absolutely needed to be raised by his mother no matter what. The film takes a look at this from both sides, not preaching one way as better than the other, and showing both parents as having strengths and weaknesses. Let's check it out.