Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Shoo-In and the Shocker: Actress, 1947

Best Actress 1947 is one of the best Oscar stories to read about. It encompasses everything: campaigns creating narratives, one nominee steamrolling the circuit, a surprise twist, confidence becoming graciousness...jesus, no one could have guessed the outcome!

According to Mason Wiley and Damien Bona's essential Inside Oscar, the man we have to thank for this story is Henry Rogers, a publicist and Oscar strategist who was behind the campaigns for Olivia de Havilland in 1946 and Joan Crawford in 1945 - both resulting in wins. He offered his services to Rosalind Russell for Mourning Becomes Electra, a nearly three-hour drama based on the classic Eugene O'Neill play that Russell herself didn't enjoy. He orchestrated a campaign that led many to consider the other four also-rans - especially Susan Hayward, whose nomination was the most unexpected of the lineup, and Loretta Young, who even Variety mistakenly reported was up for The Bishop's Wife instead of The Farmer's Daughter. Russell received plaudits from USC, UCLA, even the PTA - and being named Best Actress at the Golden Globes didn't hurt, either.

This was the first year the Academy scrambled up the order of awards, instead of giving out "the technicals" first and "the majors" last. This meant changes like Best Actor coming in the middle of the show, and Best Film Editing being one of the final three awards. It also meant the last award of the night wasn't Best Picture, but Best Actress. And boy, did that decision pay off.

Legend has it Russell had already half-risen from her seat when Fredric March opened the envelope. Audience members were already quietly exiting. March even started to say, "Ros--" when he suddenly did a double-take. The award for Best Actress goes to....


Russell turned her anticipatory rise to leading the standing ovation that greeted the stunned Young, who was visibly shaking when she eventually left the stage...but not before planting a big kiss on Oscar. A shocking win closing out the Oscars - when was the last time that happened?

But was it deserved? My take on the nominees, after the jump...

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Maybe It's Me, But....

Thor: Ragnarok's abrasively absurdist/jocular tone is annoying, condescending - we're the fun one, we can take the piss, check out this soft-spoken polite rock monster, Loki's such a twat, haw-haw-haw. Marvel films already feel like filler; this one's an aside within a footnote. Cate Blanchett's villain and her whole plot are approached with shrugging obligation. But boy oh boy, the score by Mark Mothersbaugh is one of the best of the year, the one element that truly grounds the fun in emotional resonance. (dir: Taika Waititi, scr:  Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher L. Yost, based on the comics by Stan Lee & Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby)

The latest from Denzel and Julia Roberts after the jump....

Repeat Offenders: Musical Score, 1947

We're presenting two categories in a single post today, both very song-and-dance-oriented.

The first is a companion to Best Dramatic or Comedy Score called Best Musical Score, sometimes known as Best Adapted Score, also referred to as Best Adapted and/or Original Song Score. It's gone through a lot of name changes just to honor the work of orchestrators and arrangers. Currently, the category is known as Best Original Musical Score, and can be activated at any time should a studio and/or the music branch deem it necessary. I don't know why they don't: even if it were just a field of three, last year could have had a lineup of La La Land, Moana, and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

I digress, and I make the point a lot anyway. Toss this broken record aside and get to the nominees already...after the jump....

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Psycho Killer, Santa's Sleigh, Fa-fa-fa-fa...: Supporting Actor, 1947

What a lineup, this year's Best Supporting Actors, not a dud in the bunch! History is made! Movie debuts honored! And Santa Claus goes home a winner!

The skinny on the nominees and their performances, after the jump.

1947, Part Seven: Final Four

The final films screened for our look back at 1947....

Mother Wore Tights (#3 at the box office)
dir: Walter Lang
scr: Lamar Trotti, based on the memoir by Miriam Young
Oscar Winner: Best Musical Score (Alfred Newman)
Oscar Nominee: Best Original Song ("You Do"), Best Cinematography (Color)

A woman looks back at her vaudeville parents' lives and their sometimes strained relationship with her older sister. The musical numbers are wow, the kind that have you dancing in your seat and trying to sing along even though you've never heard them before. I loved Betty Grable and Dan Dailey! I was sobbing by the end, tears and awful noises and everything. And the costumes! It has it all!

The A-bomb and more, after the jump....

Monday, November 20, 2017

Christmas Miracles, Anti-Semitic Crimes: Screenplay, 1947

Here we have the nominees for Best Screenplay, separate from Original Screenplay and Motion Picture Story for reasons we covered in our post on the latter.

Four of the five nominees for Best Picture are represented here: Crossfire, written by one-time nominee John Paxton, and covering similar thematic ground as Gentleman's Agreement, written by Tony-winner/Pulitzer Prize winner/two-time Oscar nominee Moss Hart. There's Great Expectations, adapted by director David Lean (his third of eleven nominations), former cinematographer Ronald Neame (his third of three nominations), and producer Anthony Havelock-Allan (his second of three nominations). The family-friendly comedy Miracle on 34th Street is here, the only original work, whose source material was a Motion Picture story; director George Seaton wrote the screenplay, received his second of five nominations....and won his first of two Oscars!

The outlier - and outlier it indeed is - is Boomerang!, adapted from a Reader's Digest article by Richard Murphy, who would later be nominated for Story and Screenplay for The Desert Rats. Unlike its competitors, it was not nominated anywhere else, and personally, I feel the only thing that keeps it relevant and available today isn't its nomination, but its status as an Elia Kazan picture. That's just me, though.

Let's talk turkey, shall we? After the jump, of course...

My Funny Valentine: Motion Picture Story, 1947

Ah, the writers! We're talking all writers, all the time today, beginning with Motion Picture Story. Story comes before the Screenplay - I believe it's a scenario or a treatment, something for the eventual screenwriter to work with. Although these are original stories, these are considered separate from Original Screenplay if they are the work of different writers. This also means that there is no Adapted category, but just Screenplay, denoting works based on either previously published material...or an original story not written by the credited screenplay author.

Following? Wonderful.

Many of these writers are here for the first and only time, but there are three with some Oscar history. Smash-Up's Frank Cavett already had an Oscar for the Screenplay to Going My Way, and won again for the Motion Picture Story of The Greatest Show on Earth; this is his second of three nominations. Dorothy Parker (yes, that Dorothy Parker) was previously nominated for co-writing the Screenplay to the original A Star is Born. And first-timer Valentine Davies would be back for the Motion Picture Story of It Happens Every Spring, the Story and Screenplay for The Glenn Miller Story, and the Documentary Short "The House Without a Name". Guess winning the Oscar this year really paid off!

So what do we have? A feel-good semi-musical Christmas tale; another feel-good Christmas tale; a vicious noir; an addiction drama; some French flick I didn't see. Let's talk, after the jump.