Friday, September 12, 2014

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "All About Eve" (1950)

If you've been following this blog series throughout the year, you've probably deciphered by now that I'm a movie hound.  I'm sure my Oscars obsession on my Facebook page probably was another clue.  It is to me the ultimate form of entertainment, and I love seeing talent shine through on every level of the movies.  I love a good story.  I love great performances.  I even love beautiful visuals (i.e., cinematography).  I love it all.

But when one asks me what my favorite movie of all time is, I don't have an answer.  The reason is, I just can't pick ONE favorite.  I have favorites, plural.  I have 5-10 films that I would say are the greatest films I've ever seen for varying reasons.  However, only one of those films actually won Best Picture.  That would be All About Eve, written for the screen and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and based on a 1946 short story by Mary Orr called The Wisdom of Eve that was (for whatever reason) not given a title credit.  The movie set many Oscars records, some of which remain unmatched today.  It's one of the finest performance ensembles I've ever laid eyes on, the dialogue is whip-smart and the story is just brilliant.  I could gush about this film all day, but perhaps so I can get this done in less than 12 hours, we'd best start into the synopsis, so fasten your seat belts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "Platoon" (1986)

Oliver Stone is considered one of the great writers/directors of this generation by many.  He's vilified by many others.  What makes him so polarizing isn't really something that can be explained in a few sentences, but he's always been quite politically-opinionated, and sometimes his opinions aren't what the majority agree with.  For instance, he was a friend and supporter of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Ch├ívez.  He also supports Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and Wikileaks contributor Bradley/Chelsea Manning.  His films have pulled no punches in such settings and situations as Turkish prisons (Midnight Express), Presidential assassinations (JFK), musical icons (The Doors) and the war in Vietnam, which he personally knew about as Stone was a combat-experienced Vietnam vet himself.  Stone actually wrote and/or directed three films about Vietnam, and the first of those was today's blog subject, Platoon.  This would be the first time a film about Vietnam was written or directed by an actual veteran of that war, and Stone based several plot details on personal experience.  His initial screenplay was actually written way back in 1968 and sat on the proverbial back burner for many years, getting modified here and there along the way by Stone, but he pretty much gave up on this ever getting made when multiple 1970's films about Vietnam such as Apocalypse Now were huge critical and commercial successes.  Finally in the 1980's, a British producer fell in love with this and another Stone vehicle, Salvador, and offered for his production company to finance both.  The seeds were sown for what would wind up 1986's Best Picture.

Monday, September 8, 2014

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975)

The Big Five.  That's an Oscar term that exists for what are considered the five most important and coveted Academy Awards: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay (Original or Adapted).  In the 86-year history of the Oscars, 42 films have been nominated in all of these categories, giving them a shot to win The Big Five.  Only 3 films have actually succeeded, however.  1934's It Happened One Night was the first.  1991's The Silence of the Lambs was the last.  In between, the Milos Forman-directed One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest achieved this feat as well.  Based on Ken Kesey's 1962 book of the same name, Nest remains today one of the, if not the, most revered films of Jack Nicholson's career.  It also wound up a great starting point for the careers of many others.  In preparing for their roles, the actors spent weeks in an actual institution to observe patients, and in fact, the Salem, Oregon state hospital is where the movie was filmed.  There's some comedy in this film, but there's no question the movie ultimately tries, and succeeds, to make a dramatic impact on the viewer.  Let's dive in.

Friday, September 5, 2014

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "Crash" (2005)

Just about every year, there is an odds-on favorite to win Best Picture.  But you just never know.  This was never clearer than the night of the 78th Annual Academy Awards, when one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history occurred.  Brokeback Mountain, a love story involving two cowboys, was where the needle was pointing.  It had won many top prizes already, including at the Golden Globes, and its director Ang Lee had already picked up the Best Director Oscar earlier in the night.  So when Jack Nicholson opened the envelope and announced that top honors went to Crash, the audience collectively gasped.  Even Jack reacted with surprise.  There's been plenty of debate literally since that moment that continues to this day.  How could this happen?  How DID this happen?  Was the Academy scared off by a gay love story?  Was Crash the "safer" choice?  We'll discuss that more later.  First, let's dive into the synopsis of what did win Best Picture on the night of March 5, 2006.