Friday, December 1, 2017

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The 1947 Retro Hollmann Awards, Part Two

We've shared the Top Ten. We've named the nominees. We've given out the first batch of prizes. Now, the final day of the 1947 Retro Hollmann Awards...which means the end of our look back at 1947. Each category is presented in the same order as at the 20th Academy Awards. Yup: we're closing out with Best Actress!

But first....

Best Actor

Nikolay Cherkasov as Tsar Ivan IV
Ivan the Terrible, Part One

2. Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street, 3. Cary Grant in The Bishop's Wife, 3. Ronald Colman in A Double Life, 5. David Niven in The Bishop's Wife

Cherkasov is exhausting and all-in as the first Tsar of All Russia. He is sweating every single moment. The most surprising moments involve his scenes with wife Anastasia - that's real love, baby, real tenderness, real sorrow. His performance is a spectacle without equal. My understanding is that this definition of "terrible" isn't so much "Ivan the Bad" as it is "Ivan the Formidable" and, fuck me, Cherkasov is formidable.

Gwenn is Santa Claus. Grant exudes a gentle, holy warmth. Colman goes nuts, with subtlety. Niven does befuddled frustration without compromising the chemistry with Loretta Young.

Original Song, Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture and more, after the jump....

Best Original Song

1. "Time After Time" from It Happened in Brooklyn
music by Jule Styne
lyrics by Sammy Cahn

2. "You Do" from Mother Wore Tights
music by Josef Myrow
lyrics by Mack Gordon

3. "Oh But I Do" from The Time, the Place and the Girl
music by Arthur Schwartz
lyrics by Leo Robin

4. "Song of the South" from Song of the South
music and lyrics by Sam Coslow and Arthur Johnston

5. "Life Can Be Beautiful" from Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman
music by Jimmy McHugh
lyrics by Harold Adamson

Best Production Design

Black Narcissus
Alfred Junge, production design

2. Ivan the Terrible, Part One, 3. Great Expectations, 4. A Matter of Life and Death, 5. The Egg and I

The convent at the center of Black Narcissus is a former house for the Old General's mistresses, long since disused and in serious disrepair. Its past is all over its walls, its present struggling to wash away the old sins. The colors are faded, but strikingly bold: there's no hiding temptation. It's a surprisingly large compound, too. A character unto itself.

Ivan the Terrible's simple sets and ornate accessories. Great Expectations' decay and opulence, sometimes side by side. A Matter of Life and Death's cold Heaven and busy Earth. The Egg and I's rundown farm and intimidating stove.

Best Cinematography

1. A Matter of Life and Death
Jack Cardiff

2. Ivan the Terrible, Part One
Andrei Moskvin / Eduard Tisse

3. Black Narcissus
Jack Cardiff

4. The Fugitive
Gabriel Figueroa

5. Great Expectations
Guy Green

Best Supporting Actor

Hume Cronyn as Captain Munsey
Brute Force

2. J. Carrol Naish in The Fugitive, 3. Marius Goring in A Matter of Life and Death, 4. Roger Livesey in A Matter of Life and Death, 5. Charles Bickford in The Farmer's Daughter

Munsey is so confident, so cool; he's not the rabid psycho of Kiss of Death or Crossfire, but a methodical sadist. Cronyn maintains this level of calm throughout, only breaking it now and then; when that happens, Jesus, you believe this little man could rip your throat out. A frightening performance, and also a fascinating one: there's an odd undercurrent of repressed sexuality, of orgasmic violence. The performance I couldn't get out of my head.

Naish's police informant is pathetic and believable. Goring allows us to see hints of an angel's pre-afterlife within a comical French fop facade. Livesey's an able advocate for mankind. Bickford, I mentioned, is the unexpected warmth we need.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Black Narcissus
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
based on the novel by Rumer Godden

2. The Bishop's Wife, 3. Nightmare Alley, 4. Ride the Pink Horse, 5. Forever Amber

Every turn of Black Narcissus had me on edge. The young general and the pretty peasant girl, the interactions among the nuns, the tension between Sister Clodagh and Mr. Dean, how her fun, girlish past informs her austere, controlled present, the unmistakable tang of desire in the air...

The magic of The Bishop's Wife. The suspense of Nightmare Alley. The weirdness of Ride the Pink Horse. The scandals of Forever Amber.

Best Editing
Ivan the Terrible, Part One
Sergei Eisenstein

2. Black Narcissus, 3. A Matter of Life and Death, 4. Nightmare Alley, 5. A Double Life

Ivan the Terrible operates like a fever dream, rapidly cutting instead of dissolving or zooming or panning, each successive shot adding more character and story beats than most other movies have in an entire scene. I'm thinking of one scene in particular: the Boyarina tries to convince Ivan's best friend to back her son for the throne while the tsar lays on his deathbed. CUT TO: one of Ivan's righthand men suddenly enters, a man known as Ivan's eyes. CUT TO: closeup - THE GUY ACTUALLY HOLDS OPEN ONE EYE. CUT TO: even closer of same. I screamed.

Black Narcissus takes its time driving nuns crazy, and also has the world's most perfect dissolve. A Matter of Life and Death moves dreamily between Heaven and Earth. Nightmare Alley speeds through its narrative without feeling rushed. A Double Life fractures a man's state of mind visually as well as narratively.

Best Picture
Ivan the Terrible, Part One
Sergei Eisenstein, producer

2. A Matter of Life and Death, 3. Black Narcissus, 4. The Bishop's Wife, 5. Miracle on 34th Street

6. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, 7. Shoeshine, 8. Nightmare Alley, 9. Forever Amber, 10. The Fugitive

A very close one, this, and if I could have a tie on Best Picture, I would do so. But no, I've decided to treat this as I would a ballot: have to check something, otherwise they'll throw it out. And while both of the top two films offer unique approaches to their respective material, Ivan the Terrible, Part One truly impresses with the way it turns its genre on its head. You know epics, you know biopics, but you've never seen a movie like it, I guarantee. Sometimes meditative but never boring, it's a truly transcendent experience.

Best Actress

Deborah Kerr as Sister Clodagh
Black Narcissus

2. Gene Tierney in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, 3. Loretta Young in The Farmer's Daughter, 4. Susan Hayward in Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman, 5. Lilli Palmer in Body and Soul

I knew while watching Black Narcissus I was seeing one of the great screen performances. Deborah Kerr's Sister Clodagh is not so much controlled as trying to be controlled, and I love the sudden panic that happens on Kerr's face whenever the unexpected happens. When you see that contrasted with her previous, carefree life pre-convent, you see a woman who's fought hard to live her current persona. Yet it's an incomplete one, and to see Kerr grasping for security without completely losing it is to watch a master at work.

Tierney's rom-com heroine, somewhere between comic genius and dramatic brilliance. Young's sincerity. Hayward's go-for-broke energy. Palmer's effortless cool.

There it is, y'all: the 1947 Retro Hollmann Awards, dominated by Best Picture Ivan the Terrible, Part One (eight awards!).

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