Sunday, August 28, 2011

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The 1964 Hollmann Awards, Part One: The Technicals!

We've made it to the first part of my 1964 Hollmann Awards! First up are the technical awards, but let's ease our way into it with some familiar faces:


5. Zulu
Generals, commanders, privates, missionaries, doctors, Englishmen, Welshmen, Afrikaaners, Zulus. They each have a face, a name, a personality, a dream. Remarkably thorough work from all the actors, it's all too easy to imagine them away from the battlefield.

4. Topkapi
A group of criminal and misfits that charms, alarms and disarms. This international group is made up of the most unlikely people; the chemistry they share is surprising and infectious. The credits roll, and one wishes that a whole series of heist films starring this sextet were available.

3. The World of Henry Orient
Marion Dougherty, casting director
Well, the girls are just so mischievous and full of life that you have to love them. Add in Tom Bosley's guilty father, Angela Lansbury's cold mother, Phyllis Thaxter's warm mother, Paula Prentiss's virginal adulteress, Bibi Osterwald's hilarious boarder, and Peter Sellers' pretentious, paranoid, passionate Henry Orient himself, and that's a recipe for a good time.

2. The Night of the Iguana
The drunken ex-minister. The blunt widow. The buttoned-up butch. The kind artist. The horny teenager. The naive bus driver. The sensual cabana boys. The dying poet. The ill tourist. No matter how fleeting their role, how limited their screentime, they each make an indelible impression.

1. The Best Man
It's surprising how much we really get to know and understand this vast array if characters in so short a time. Mabel Cantwell is more of a schemer than her pretty looks and wide eyes suggest. The President is a huckster who loves a fighter and despises idiots. Cantwell's brother is proud of his brother, but clearly envious. Sue Ellen Gamadge is a real pistol who knows how to play everyone to her own liking. Even sideliners like Claypoole and Anderson are real people.

do click on the album covers...

5. The World of Henry Orient
Elmer Bernstein
Mischievous and young for the children, the music swells as it joins them in their games. Bernstein also gets to have fun with Henry Orient's avant-garde, atonal symphony performance. And let's not forget the groovy, "older" music at the end ushering the girls into adulthood.

4. Mary Poppins
Richard M. and Robert S. Sherman with Irwin Kostal
Kostal arranges the Shermans' immortal work into beautiful incidental music. The accordions of "feed the Birds" following Mr. Banks to his doom, the kazoo announcing the arrival of tap-dancing penguins, the one-man band of Dick Van Dyke, all have an unmistakable and permanent place in American cinema, music, and childhood.

3. The Pink Panther
Henry Mancini
As I said before, Mancini's work is sexy, mysterious and fun. Whether it's the titular tune or "It Had Better Be Tonight", whether making us feel the sensual thrills of a snowy night or the comic hi-jinks of a slapstick car chase, Mancini manages to adapt his work for all moods and situations.

2. Goldfinger
John Barry
The most famous score in the Bond franchise, Goldfinger just wouldn't be as thrilling without Barry's contributions. The raid on Ft. Knox in particular boasts music that raises goosebumps, soaring with Pussy Galore's Flying Circus before punctuating each diabolical execution of Goldfinger's nefarious plan. It's masterful.

1. 7 Faces of Dr. Lao
Leigh Harline
Magical. Playing on the Oriental themes offered by the presence of a Dr. Lao, Harline offers a whimsical, beautiful score that manages to be both amusing and moving. When Dr. Lao gives his great speech about what it truly means to be in his circus, it's Harline's work that finally moves us to tears. Incredible.


5. Dr. Strangelove
John Cox, sound supervisor
Leslie Hodgson, sound editor
John Aldred, dubbing mixer
The hum of the plane, the rat-a-tat of the guns, the rush of the cold air as Slim Pickens rides down, that final, delayed BOOM.

4. Zulu
Rusty Coppleman, sound editor
Claude Hitchcock/J.B. Smith, sound recordists
This movie is all about what you hear. We may not see the Zulu marching to the camp, but we hear it...slowly...inexorably...

3. Strait-Jacket
Charles J. Rice, sound supervisor
Lambert Day, sound
Chop goes the axe, jingle-jangle goes the bracelet, and the echoing song of "Lucy Harbin took an axe..." Eerie, effective stuff.

2. Fail-Safe
William Swift, sound mixer
Jack Fitzstephens, sound editor
It's the silences that really get you here, especially as we enter the quiet, tortured mind of General Black ("the matador..."). Those final sound cues at the end leave you haunted.

1. Goldfinger
Gordon McCallum and Dudley Messenger, sound recordists
Harry Miller and Norman Wanstall, dubbing editors
Ft. Knox hums, two bodies sizzle, the gas sprays, the wind outside the depressurized plane howls, a sniper's bullet ricochets, the time bomb ticks menacingly. It's a symphony of sound!


3. Godzilla vs. Mothra
Eiji Tsuburaya, director of special effects
Sadamasa Arikawa, director of special effects photography

The egg is quite impressive in a number of shots, even though much of the time it's a matte painting! Most impressive, though, are the twin fairies hanging around, running hither and thither around the full-grown heroes and villains of the story.

2. 7 Faces of Dr. Lao
Paul B. Byrd, Wah Chang, Jim Danforth, Robert R. Hoag and Ralph Rodine, special visual effects

Merlin appears and vanishes before our very eyes! A fish grows into a full-grown sea monster targeting the drunken henchman of the richest man in town! And Dr. Lao lights his pipe...using his thumb! Marvel!

1. Mary Poppins
Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycett and Robert A. Mattey, special effects

To know that Dick Van Dyke isn't really with those penguins in that chalk painting is to have your entire world crumble. It looks like they're right there, the two worlds seamlessly integrated, with nary a thread of clothing breaking the dimensional space. Wonderful.


5. Dr. Strangelove
Anthony Harvey
Hits all the right beats, both in comedy and suspense.

4. Fail-Safe
Ralph Rosenblum
The initial dream sequence is haunting, the final smash zooms tragic. All throughout, Rosenblum's working his way from one to the other, ratcheting up the growing dread as the finale grows more inevitable.

3. From Russia with Love
2. Goldfinger
Peter Hunt
Hunt changed the rules with his quick-cutting, get to it style. His one-two punch of From Russia with Love and Goldfinger is one of the best I can think of, certainly. He knows his craft well, so that while he's keeping the story at a breakneck pace, we never lose a moment of the action. Goldfinger is a step up from From Russia with Love, proving that Hunt is a wizard.

1. The Naked Kiss
Jerome Thoms
Thoms' work is the first thing one notices in this film, as our heroine beats off her attacker in a jarring, shocking display of animal violence. Oh, by God, Samuel Fuller is a genius, but Thoms right there with him, crafting that desperate opener that sets the tone for the rest of the film. His effectively creepy presentation of the children's song is a classic, but it's in that scene two-thirds in that he really shows us what he can do. We don't see anything, but we know what's happening, and the off-kilter cutting puts us right in Kelly's head. The stuff of nightmares.


5. Masque of the Red Death
Laura Nightingale, costume supervisor
You know, they may not have been made especially for the film, but Nightingale executes their use well. A Bacchanalian masque is cool enough, but Vincent Price's awesome costumes are the real selling point. So devilishly sparkly!

4. What a Way to Go!
Edith Head, Miss MacLaine's gowns
Moss Mabry, men's wardrobe
Mabry suits up most of the blokes, though Dick Van Dyke gets to wear the most bumpkin'd fishing outfit you've ever seen. Oh, but those gowns! An exercise in the ridiculous pulled off wonderfully by Ms. Head! Surely the dresses "painted" by Paul Newman's artist are the highlight, though it's hard to beat her all-pink number.

3. The World of Henry Orient
Ann Roth, costume designer
The one with the psychiatrist, jet-setting parents, and obsession with Henry Orient is already wearing a magnificent fur coat, while her friend's innocence is told by her younger, more girlish costumes. The wardrobe changes as they mature, meaning we get character through costume! How much do I want Henry's silk pajamas, by the way? And doesn't Angela Lansbury look divine?

2. My Fair Lady
Cecil Beaton, costume designer
It's absolutely breathtaking, no expense spared. Beaton takes great care with the Ascot and Embassy scenes so that Hepburn is at her loveliest, a far cry from those wild, layered, ugly rags worn by her in Tottingham Court Road. Henry Higgins was the first time I saw someone dressed like I wanted to be. Stellar work.

1. The Night of the Iguana
Dorothy Jeakins, costume designer
Maxine is in her element, so she'll wear a loose shirt and leggings if she wants; it's loose and comfortable, just the way she likes it. Ms. Fellowes keeps her belt tightened around her gray dress, a lonely spinster, shutting herself away from human warmth. Hannah Jelkes, dressed in sensible, loose-fitting white, comes in looking like an angel -- she will certainly save one soul tonight. And Charlotte is very jail-bait. If the film was silent, we'd still know the whole story through Jeakins' designs. That's a winner, baby.


5. The Fall of the Roman Empire
Veniero Colasanti/John Moore, production designers/set decorators
One must only glance at the massive Roman Forum set to be impressed, but I am also a fan of Alec Guinness's room.  Rich in period detail, one begins to understand the excesses that led to that titular fall.

4. Dr. Strangelove
Ken Adam, production designer
Peter Murton, art director
A cinematic atrocity is when a legendary masterpiece is snubbed in its deserving categories. That bomber is cramped to all hell, but still a functional set. That war room is suitably chilling and impressive, Big Board and all. And surrounding insane General Ripper is a normal base: Mandrake's bank of computers, maps of the world around the office, a Coca-Cola machine in just the right place.

3. The World of Henry Orient
James Sullivan, production designer
Jan Scott, art director
Ken Krausgill, set decorator
Henry Orient's penthouse is decked out in animal print - he is a dog, after all. The Boyds' apartment is all smooth surfaces, cold colors - what do you expect from an unloving mother and an absent father? The Gilberts' apartment is more lived in, more chaotic, but clearly loving - what can you expect from a pair of supportive moms? It's New York as you've dreamed it, but still subtly coded.

2. Goldfinger
Ken Adam, production designer
Peter Murton, art director
The interior of Ft. Knox is completely made up, and it looks like the richest bank in the United States: a vault, bars, tons of gold bricks. Goldfinger's lounge where his pool table, floor, and wall become presentation pieces for his diabolical plan is impressive -- I want that! Actually, everything Goldfinger works wonderfully, with every item in his house, car and plane having some touch of gold in there. And dare we forget the Aston Martin DB5, complete with passenger ejector seat?

1. What a Way to Go!
Ted Haworth/Jack Martin Smith, art directors
Stuart A. Reiss/Walter M. Scott, set decorators
So over the top and ostentatious, it works! No expense was spared in this parable of Louisa May's quartet of wealthy husbands, and the end result is as tacky, sickening and goddam FABULOUS as a Ross Hunter spectacle! Chandeliers hanging over candelabras! A groovy private plane! A club called Caulfilower Ear decorated with a cauliflower ear! And when it comes to Hollywood too much-ness, listen to Kay Thompson: Think Pink!


5. Mary Poppins
Edward Colman
Those silhouetted chimney sweeps are iconic. The vaseline'd Bird Woman brings tears to the eyes. The dark streets of London make the runaway children all the more in danger. But, most importantly, it's that cinematography that makes the visual effects work so well, so extra kudos.

4. My Fair Lady
Harry Stradling, Jr.
The subtle thing I love the most: how everything gets an almost misty sheen when a character is smitten. Same effect is also put to good use in early morning sequences, as though the camera is just as sleepy as the characters. It's almost imperceptible, but it's there!

3. The Night of the Iguana
Gabriel Figueora
How does Sue Lyon always seem to find herself in the shade, even in broad daylight? Is it because she's up to no good? No sheen or lighting trick covers the weariness of Richard Burton's defrocked minister, as Figueroa unmercifully reveals every last tortured line in his face. And that night! Sweaty and beautiful, with Gardner's ocean menage a trois beautifully lit by the moon.

2. Dr. Strangelove
Gilbert Taylor
Again, iconic work befitting a masterpiece. Lit with all the grim seriousness of a thriller, it's straight faced shadows help bring the absurdity to light. The cramped jet, the imposing war room, Sterling Hayden's face -- we'll remember these danger zones for years.

1. Zulu
Stephen Dade
What? Awarding the color film that's almost completely in daylight? Say what you will, but Dade's work is effective. We feel the oppressive heat of the sun without risking a flat image. The night is appropriately, believably black, but we still follow the action. Thrilling.

1 comment:

TomS said...

Walter, a nice recap, and a good way to recognize movies that are dear to you. I am in full agreement with your assessments (and awards) for "Mary Poppins" and "Goldfinger". I have not seen "Henry Orient" in centuries! On your enthusiastic recommendation, I'll give it another look.