Tuesday, May 19, 2015

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952)

I've seen a lot of lists and heard a lot of opinions over the years as to what people consider to be the Best and Worst of all time as far as movies that have won the Best Picture Academy Award.  The films that most often seem to get mentioned in the Worst argument are a couple that we've covered here in the blog series already, as well as today's featured film, 1952's The Greatest Show on Earth.  This isn't people necessarily saying it's a bad movie (although many do say that), but looking at other nominees for Best Picture, it's people wondering what the Academy was thinking giving this one the nod over those others.  The IMDB website has this with the fourth-lowest average user rating (6.7 out of 10.0).  It's a film I never had a yearning to see, so I hadn't done so until now.  I went in with an open mind and hoped for the best.  It certainly isn't lacking for star power, and this isn't even taking into account the many uncredited cameo appearances.  The question is, should it have won Best Picture?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1929-30)

We haven't done one of the very early Best Picture winners for awhile, so let's tackle one today.  All Quiet on the Western Front was the winner of the third top Oscar in its history, becoming in fact the second war-themed film to do so.  Whereas many of the earliest Best Picture winners don't necessarily still resonate in modern times, this film does.  There isn't a war film that's been made in the last 85 years that isn't influenced by this one.  Based on Erich Maria Remarque's 1929 novel of the same name, All Quiet was directed by Lewis Milestone and produced by Carl Laemmle Jr. for Universal Studios.  Part of what makes this movie so memorable is that it was released in the Pre-Code era, prior to the censorship guidelines often referred to as the Hays Production Code.  The characters are all German, and since this was set during World War I, we know from our history books that this was the losing side.  Milestone made the characters seem as American as possible so the audience can relate (for instance, they don't speak German, they speak English).  This worked, as you feel absolute sympathy and empathy for the characters.  The only people that didn't seem to enjoy the movie were...well, Germany's Nazi Party.  They would storm theaters and ultimately got the film banned in that country.

Monday, May 11, 2015

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "How Green Was My Valley" (1941)

1941 saw the release of a film considered today one of the greatest of all time.  It ranks at or near #1 of many lists by guilds, bloggers, magazines...you name it, they love it.  Iconic images and lines from the movie are still today often influential, quoted, even lampooned.  Giant facial posters.  Evil media magnates.  Rosebud.  I speak, of course, about Citizen Kane, and if you were to ask most people today, from the everyday movie fan to some renowned national movie critics, that's the film I should be blogging about in regards to 1941 and the Best Picture Showcase.  Yet we aren't.  We're discussing How Green Was My Valley, which in besting Kane is looked back on as either the biggest Best Picture surprise in history or the most egregious Best Picture snubbing (to Kane) in history.  Probably both, actually.  Perhaps Hollywood voted with their hearts instead of their heads.  Perhaps Hollywood was tired of Kane director Orson Welles proverbially biting the hand that fed him.  Or, perhaps, just maybe How Green Was My Valley really is that good a film to deserve the Oscar after all.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "Terms of Endearment" (1983)

Today, many of them are called "chick flicks", but the old term was "tearjerker", a sad movie meant to bring out the tissues.  The 1980's and early 1990's were full of them, and they all pretty much employed the same ingredients to create the tearjerker formula:

* family, usually mother-daughter, often tenuous or estranged
* tragic and/or forbidden romance
* divorce
* death of major character, almost always female
* bittersweet humor

Hey, whatever works, right?  In fairness, a lot of these films are actually still pretty good today, but one in particular reached the ultimate plateau in winning Best Picture.  That would be 1983's Terms of Endearment, adapted from Larry McMurtry's book of the same name.  The screen version was written, directed and produced by James L. Brooks, and was well-liked by just about everyone including Bette Davis, who was often critical of modern films in her later years.  Grab the tissues, here we go!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "The Sound of Music" (1965)

This is one of those movies that everybody has heard of, whether or not they've actually seen it. But everyone can picture Julie Andrews spinning in circles, and everyone's heard of the opening song line, "The hills are alive with the sound of music." That may be literally all that some people know about the film, but so be it. That means it left an impression on pop culture. We're celebrating this year the 50th Anniversary of The Sound of Music. A super new Blu-Ray release with hours of extras, both new and old. A special segment that aired during this year's Oscars telecast. The film just a couple weeks ago played in theaters. I'm sure there will be several TV airings to come later in the year as well. It's a film beloved by many, including my wife and my parents. And it took many revisions over a period of nearly 20 years for the movie to hit theaters for the first time...