Yesterday, we looked at the Golden Globes. Today, we look at the films honored by other awards ceremonies, keeping movies and their makers in the minds of Academy members up to the moment they turned their nomination ballots in.
nominee: NYFCC second runner-up for Best Actor (James Mason)
dir: Sidney Lumet
pr: David Merrick
scr: Leon Prochnik
cin: Gerald Hirschfeld
I would not have even heard of this movie had it not been for Mason's runner-up prize, but I'm glad I did! Beau Bridges is a young gym teacher returning to the Catholic boarding school of his youth, caught in the middle of a rivalry between the due-for-retirement, uptight, cold Latin teacher headed for a breakdown (James Mason) and the softer, more nurturing, beloved-by-all English teacher (Robert Preston). The thing that has them all worried? The mounting violence - and, worse, mysterious silence regarding it - among the all-male student body. Perhaps a little long for its not-exactly shocking conclusion, it's still, to me, a chilling drama about abuse both towards and among teenagers, an age group whose own policy of omertà rivals any gang's, their development still in enough flux to be manipulated. Too good to be so forgotten! And yes, Mason is great.
Get to Know Your Rabbit
nominee: WGA Award for Best Original Comedy
dir: Brian De Palma
pr: Steven Bernhardt / Paul Gaer
scr: Jordan Crittenden
cin: John A. Alonzo
What a weird, amusing comedy. Tom Smothers is an executive sick of the corporate game who leaves it all behind to become a traveling tap-dancing magician. Orson Welles is his teacher, John Astin his former fellow exec who suffers a breakdown, Katharine Ross displays a knack for silliness as the Terrific-Looking Girl. Early De Palma is an obvious outlier in his filmography, save two sequences in Smothers' apartment: an overhead shot tracking him as he walks through the whole layout, and a kitchen sequence where each shot and reverse shot reveals duplicate couples in the next apartments - surreal, unsettling moment, both of them.
The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid
nominee: WGA Award for Best Original Drama
dir/scr: Philip Kaufman
pr: Jennings Lang / Cliff Robertson
cin: Bruce Surtees
Granted amnesty by the state of Missouri, legendary outlaw Cole Younger decides not to pursue his plan to rob the biggest bank this side of the Mississippi...until he learns former protege and publicity expert Jesse James is going full steam ahead. I guess it's a drama, though I see it more as a dry comedy, a thumb in the eye of western mythology and inherent dishonesty of government-backed American business. Who isn't a crook? Led by a charmingly funny Cliff Robertson, whose best performances tend to be under-lauded. The rain-drenched finale is a doozy. Fun ensemble work, sharp writing with unusual, always interesting side characters - one is reminded of the Coen Brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh. A rad time.
nominee: NYFCC Awards second runner-up for Best Supporting Actress (Ida Lupino)
dir: Sam Peckinpah
pr: Joe Wizan
scr: Jeb Rosebrook
cin: Lucien Ballard
Rodeo star seeks to reclaim former glory back in his hometown, alongside his rascally rodeo legend dad, big business brother, and over-it mom. Instead of the usual gunplay and death, Peckinpah gets his slo-mo out for bucking broncos and lassoed horses, emphasizing the very real violence these modern cowboys put their bodies through. It's a fine cast, and the real wonder is not how Lupino was the only one honored anywhere, but how no one else was - Robert Preston! Steve McQueen! Ben Johnson! Not narrative-heavy, instead it's driven by its lead character and the rodeo culture around him. Pretty pleasant.
Minnie and Moskowitz
nominee: 1971 NYFCC Awards runner-up for Best Actress (Gena Rowlands); WGA Award for Best Original Comedy
dir/scr: John Cassavetes
pr: Al Ruban
cin: Alric Edens / Michael D. Margulies / Arthur J. Ornitz
Minnie works at a museum and is the mistress of a temperamental family man; Moskowitz parks cars. Their unlikely romance also doesn't seem wise to me, as Minnie continues her cycle of falling in with violent, overbearing control freaks. Another punishing Cassavetes tribute to people I'd rather not spend any time with, with his actors doing their usual pitched-at-eleven screaming, when they're not "realistically" rambling and mumbling and repeating themselves. These movies drive me crazy!
nominee: BAFTA Award for Best Actress (Dorothy Tutin)
dir/pr: Ken Russell
scr: Christopher Logue
cin: Dick Bush
The life of sculptor Henri Gaudier and writer Sophie Brzeska. No one but Ken Russell could make this film crackle so, the passions of the artists built into every aspect: the cutting, the sound design, the sweeping camera moves, the anachronistic touches in the sets, the amped-up but still convincing performances. It's the wild energy of two creatives who aren't just unique artists - he of the stone, she of the paper - but manic personalities alternately enabling and soothing each other, a co-dependency that works except when it doesn't, and even then it does. The finale, a showing of various of Gaudier's work, hits you right in the heart. You can't believe someone could see what he sees in the stone, much less bring it all out.
And while we're talking titles given prestige by the organizations that recognize them, it's probably as good a time as any to mention a few flicks that did the international festival circuit:
In Competition - Cannes Film Festival, 1966
dir: Jacques Rivette
pr: Georges de Beauregard
scr: Jean Gruault / Jacques Rivette
cin: Alain Levent
A young woman is forced by her family into taking vows, tries unsuccessfully to get out of them, is subjected to different kinds of abuse at various convents. Based on a novel by Denis Diderot that was suggested by real people and events, as detailed in a lengthy preface at great pains to contextualize the film as a critique of society and corruption, not faith or necessarily religion. Competed for the Palme d'Or in 1966, it took six years to make its way to Los Angeles - and gosh, it's a lovely thing. Anna Karina's performance anchors it all, her weariness not weakness, but a beaten-down frustration. Surrounding her is a fine ensemble of actresses, within surprisingly inventive costuming and production design - you wouldn't think there could be so many variations on habits and cloisters! It's a long sit, but a good one. I watched it on Easter Sunday!
Un Certain Regard - Cannes Film Festival, 1972
dir: Masahiro Shinoda
pr: Kiyoshi Iwashita / Kinshirô Kuzui / Tadasuke Ômura
scr: Shûsaku Endô & Masahiro Shinoda
cin: Kazuo Miyagawa
The first adaptation of Endô's novel about Portuguese missionary priests proselytizing in 17th-century Japan. Interesting to see the little differences between this and the 2016 Scorsese version (a masterpiece): larger and deeper roles for women in this version; a wonderful set is the secret cave church; and while lacking the visions and conversations with Christ, this version has a certain dream quality in its photography and editing that gets us into Father Rodrigues' mental state. It ends on an entirely different note, Also of note: the apostatized priest Father Ferreira is here played by Japanese actor Tetsurō Tamba in vague whiteface, a creative choice that furthers Ferreira's adopted identity of Sawano Chūan. If questions of faith and how to best practice/honor it are your cup of tea, definitely definitely watch this film. And the remake. Watch them both, over and over again.
In Competition - Berlin International Film Festival, 1973
dir: Stig Björkman
pr: Jack Jordan
scr: Maya Angelou
cin: Andreas Bellis
A Black American singer arrives in Sweden on tour and is pulled in all directions by the people in her life and the politics of the era. Its conversations are timeless: Georgia wants to be known as an artist and performer, thinking her fame can completely sever her from politics. The Black draft dodgers hiding out in Stockholm want her to use her platform to help their cause; she wants to use it to sing, and to inure herself from any criticism that comes from her frequent dating of white men. What are the responsibilities a celebrity has to their community, to the world? Angelou's screenplay is a thoughtful examination of the two extremes, seeing dangers in both apoliticism and extremism. It's a great showcase, too, for leading lady Diana Sands (in a role I hear was originally written for Eartha Kitt) and supporting actress Minnie Gentry. Catch it on YouTube, it's a rare treat.
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