Monday, July 30, 2018

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Day Ten: Best Picture

Meant to put this up last week, but I was struck down by an illness that kept me weak and in bed. Now, finally, the grand finale of the 1959 Oscars - Best Picture of the Year!

But soft - this ain't the end of 1959 just yet. I saw 63 films from this year (going by US release dates), so you know I have a Top Ten and some Retro Hollmann Awards on the way! Many of these films, while not up for Oscar, were nominated by other awards bodies throughout 1959, so make sure you check out every single category page, from Best Actress to Best Actor to this one, for brief thoughts on those.

And now - the nominees for Best Picture....after the jump.....
Anatomy of a Murder
produced by Otto Preminger

Notes: BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film and Best British Film, Golden Globe Nominee for Best Drama, National Board of Review Top Ten

Truth, justice, and pride - can all three be satisfied? No! Justice isn't convenient, the truth is embarrassing, and your pride is just waiting to be taken down, whether you're on trial for murder, the daughter of the victim (who have been a rapist), or even the prosecuting attorney! Conversations about what is or isn't consent still resonate. A wicked sense of humor keeps things entertaining without getting tasteless. A real lean-forward, elbows-on-knees courtroom drama.

produced by Sam Zimbalist

Notes: BAFTA Award Winner for Best Film, Golden Globe Winner for Best Drama, NYFCC Winner for Best Film; National Board of Review Top Ten

Spectacular spectacle! The chariot race, a rightfully iconic piece of action cinema, absolutely thrills - how did no one get killed? The galley sequence, where the rhythm of the slaves' rowing builds the suspense - what's happening outside? Only the drums know! The visit to the lepers, dark and haunting, a cave full of mazes, where the afflicted dare not even touch each other - spooky...and sad. Pure cinema that never sacrifices the personal - what other movie continues another hour after vengeance is satisfied, just to show the hollowness of the so-called victory?

The Diary of Anne Frank
produced by George Stevens

Notes: Cannes - In Competition, Golden Globe Nominee for Best Drama, National Board of Review Top Ten

I demote a star for two reasons: (1) I try not to give the same star rating to more than two films (doesn't always work, but I try); (2) Millie Perkins is kind of a wash as Anne Frank. But oh my, the rest of this movie works so beautifully. Everyone is always on top of one another, despite the CinemaScope. Every sound seems to shriek. There's so much hope, so much love in this movie, despite knowing from the outset what lies ahead.

The Nun's Story
produced by Henry Blanke

Notes: National Board of Review Winner for Best Film; BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film, Golden Globe Nominee for Best Drama

Admiring enough of the dedication of the brides of Christ, even while continuously highlighting how their religious servitude may be at odds with actual service in the earthly realm. Writ large in an epic-length examination of a nun, Audrey Hepburn's quiet struggle of the soul is a common one: most of us find ourselves unworthy of the values we uphold. An enriching experience, this movie.

Room at the Top
produced by John Woolf and James Woolf

Notes: BAFTA Award Winner for Best Film and Best British Film (1958); Cannes - In Competition, NYFCC Runner-Up for Best Film

It's a good movie capturing the disenchantment of the post-war generation in re-building England while still navigating the class consciousness of its society. So...why do I find it such a challenge to write or talk about it? Because it's straightforward? Because it's dreary? I don't know what it is that holds me at arm's length, but the distance is there.

Not necessarily in the conversation, but hey, they were cited as among the Best Pictures of the year somewhere:

  • The 400 Blows (Cannes - In Competition) - Specific enough in its details of adolescent alienation, rebellion, and resentment that it's also universal; uniquely sad. ***** 
  • Black Orpheus (Winner of the Cannes Palme d'Or) - A striking adaptation of the ancient Greek myth; the music intoxicates, the costumes enchant, the narrative devastates. *****  
  • But Not for Me (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Comedy) - Surprisingly level-headed, cheeky. ***
  • Compulsion (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film, Cannes - In Competition) - Fascinating throughout, but leaves the psychology of a killer first half unfinished as it goes into its anti-death penalty second half. ***
  • The Five Pennies (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Musical) - A biopic that takes its time showing the talent and the relationships, and how an artist without the art might as well be without oxygen. ****
  • Li'l Abner (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Musical) - Hilariously mean-spirited caricature of America, smarter and more carefully-crafted than its purposely hokey opener would suggest. *****
  • Look Back in Anger (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film and Best British Film) - Compellingly written, not so well cast; difficult to dismiss, so I suppose we should stick with the play. ***
  • The Magician (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film) - Funny, mysterious, sexy; a moody, haunting film the humiliating show some must put on to survive. People are awful and awfully hard to please! *****
  • The Man Who Understood Women (National Board of Review Top Ten) - Couldn't find it!
  • Middle of the Night (Cannes - In Competition, National Board of Review Top Ten) - Well-acted, but man did it protest too much on behalf of old men who want to marry young girls they treat like sexy fragile baby dolls. Gross! **
  • North by Northwest (National Board of Review Top Ten) - A blast. *****
  • On the Beach (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Drama, National Board of Review Top Ten, NYFCC Runner-Up for Best Film) - Maybe a wee long for what it is, but rarely do we get to see inevitability portrayed in a disaster film - there's no solution, no saving, just...waiting. ****
  • Operation Petticoat (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Comedy) - Absolutely too long for what it is, though it's genuinely funny. ***
  • Pillow Talk (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Comedy) - What a scream! ****
  • Porgy and Bess (Golden Globe Winner for Best Musical) - So beautifully shot and produced - the sets and costumes, my god! - that it's a shame the leads are wasted! So much to love, though, I can't write it off. ****
  • A Private's Affair (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Musical) - Burn this movie. *
  • Sapphire (BAFTA Award Winner for Best British Film, BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film) - Genuinely puzzling mystery, provocative observations about race relations and "passing" in mid-20th century England, complexity allowed to every suspect. *****
  • Say One for Me (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Musical) - Dull! **
  • Some Like It Hot (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film, Golden Globe Winner for Best Comedy, National Board of Review Top Ten) - What an oddball movie! Fortunately, it works! ****
  • Suddenly, Last Summer (National Board of Review Top Ten) - Camp as Christmas, but ultimately a very dull movie. **
  • Tiger Bay (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film and Best British Film) - A brat and a murderer befriend each other; is the movie more sympathetic to these two than it should be? It's an intriguing variation of cat and mouse, as I see it, a depiction of insidious manipulation and the perfect targets for it. ***


Due respect to the actual winner, Ben-Hur....

But my vote goes to...

produced by

When next you hear from me, I'll have my own Top Ten for the year 1959. The 63 films I'm choosing from are as follows:

The 400 Blows
Anatomy of a Murder
The Bat
The Best of Everything
The Big Circus
The Big Operator
Black Orpheus
But Not for Me
City of Fear
The Crimson Kimono
Darby O’Gill and the Little People
The Devil’s Disciple
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Five Pennies
Godzilla Raids Again
The Hanging Tree
A Hole in the Head
House on Haunted Hill
The Human Condition: No Greater Love
Imitation of Life
Ivan the Terrible, Part Two: The Boyars’ Plot
Journey to the Center of the Earth
The Last Angry Man
Li’l Abner
Look Back in Anger
The Magician
Middle of the Night
The Mummy
The Naked Road
North by Northwest
The Nun’s Story
Odds Against Tomorrow
On the Beach
Operation Petticoat
Pillow Talk
Plan 9 from Outer Space
Porgy and Bess
A Private’s Affair
Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!
Return of the Fly
Rio Bravo
Room at the Top
Say One for Me
The Shaggy Dog
Sleeping Beauty
Some Like It Hot
Suddenly, Last Summer
A Summer Place
Take a Giant Step
Teenagers from Outer Space
Tiger Bay
The Tingler
The Wasp Woman
Wild Strawberries
The Young Land
The Young Philadelphians

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