Tuesday, May 17, 2022

1950: Catskill Honeymoon (and other historical documents)

We're gonna hitchhike up to the Catskills
Get on the highway to 17
We're gonna hitchhike up to the mountains
Up to the finest resort we have seen!

A group of ladies against a painted backdrop mapping the way to Young's Gap Resort, a montage of holidayers enjoying the amenities such a vacation offers. You've seen Dirty Dancing, now experience for yourself the entertainment offerings of the Borscht Belt in Catskill Honeymoon. Less a film than a document (even the contemporaneous New York Times review notes this) of popular Yiddish acts, a niche within a niche. Musical performances range from a nice young man singing dire ballads to a female cantor smoothly transitioning between Hebrew prayers and Pagliacci; sketches touch on subjects from overpriced food to linguistic differences between Lithuanians and Galicians.

Monday, May 16, 2022

1950: Best Picture of the Year

The Academy Awards' Best Picture lineup for 1950 is full of classics, stories so undeniable that, indeed, they remade 'em again and again. 

All About Eve became the 1970 Broadway musical Applause, which not only nabbed some Tony Awards, but two Emmy nominations for the 1973 telefilm; offstage, it's been riffed on everywhere, from Anna to Showgirls. Born Yesterday was already a Broadway show, but 43 years after this film, a remake starring Melanie Griffith, Don Johnson, and John Goodman came to cinemas. Nowadays, this Father of the Bride is not as known as the 1991 remake with Steve Martin...and yet another remake is on its way with Andy Garcia. King Solomon's Mines was just the latest adaptation of the classic novel: there was one in 1937 with Paul Robeson, another one in 1985 with Richard Chamberlain, even a 2004 miniseries with Patrick Swayze...though before this, I mostly knew protagonist Allan Quatermain as Sean Connery's character in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Sunset Blvd. remains relatively untouched onscreen, despite Glenn Close attempting to get a film of her Broadway triumph off the ground - though if memory serves, the 2010 Keira Knightley vehicle London Boulevard (dig that title) is a modern riff on its themes. 

What makes these classics work so? Let's see...

Sunday, May 15, 2022

1950: Actress

More so than the Best Picture race, the Best Actress race of 1950 has divided Oscar fans and cinephiles for over 70 years. Yes, of course, Bette Davis or Gloria Swanson should have won for their immortal performances in, respectively, All About Eve and Sunset Blvd., who had the audacity to win?

OH, iconic Judy Holliday for iconic Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday? Hm...well...who else was...OH, Eve Harrington herself and the lead of women-in-prison cult classic Caged. Ahem, well, uh, in that case...hm.

An embarrassment of riches, clearly, so much so that I wrote much more about these performances than I did their male counterparts. But there's just so much to chew on, such great choices made by each performer, in such rich roles, how could I resist? See for yourself:

Friday, May 13, 2022

1950: Actor

Today we look at 1950's nominees for Best Actor. Three of these nominees first played their parts on Broadway, including the eventual winner:

Let's talk about it!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

1950: Supporting Actress

A bit of business first: somehow, I neglected to mention the non-Oscar awardage for films nominated for the Music Awards, the Writing Awards and Director. If you revisit those pages, you'll see such info.

Now, on to the business at hand: Best Supporting Actress. An exquisite lineup. For Celeste Holm, it was the last of a series of nominations; for Thelma Ritter, it was the first of many. Hope Emerson, Josephine Hull, and Nancy Olson were one-and-dones, but from that trio came the night's Oscar winner:

All five gave great performances in fine films. Emerson as the butch matron in an all-female prison, Holm as the playwright's wife and best friend to the grande dame of the stage, Hull as the worried wealthy widow whose brother's mental state is an embarrassment, Olson as the script reader who wants to be a screenwriter, Ritter as the former vaudevillian turned dresser/housekeeper/assistant who sees her position threatened by Anne Baxter! Nothin' but riches I tells ya! Let's discuss:

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

1950: Supporting Actor

And we're back, with the nominees for Best Supporting Actor. Presented by the previous tyear's Best Supporting Actress winner, All the King's Men's Mercedes McCambridge.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

1950: The Writing Awards

Until 1956, the writing awards were no simple delineation between Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay. This was a time when studios marked a difference between their screenwriters and their story department.  So: if someone came up with a story, its characters and plot and all that, but did not write the final screenplay, they were eligible for Best Motion Picture Story. If someone wrote a screenplay, with dialogue and action and INT./EXT. and all that, working off of either a play, a novel, a magazine article or a Motion Picture Story written by another, they were eligible for Best Screenplay. And if a screenwriter also wrote the original story they were working off of, they were eligible for Best Story & Screenplay.

Two-time Academy Award nominee Ruth Chatterton put it succinctly in her presentation of the Writing Awards at the 23rd Oscars:

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

1950: Some Nominees

As we tend to do, our coverage of the year that was begins with the Academy Awards. And we shall take the categories in their order of presentation at the 23rd ceremony, held March 29, 1951, at the Pantages Theatre. Today, we focus on the nominees that were up for the "craft" categories, but nowhere else: Special Effects, Costume Design, Art Direction, Sound Recording, Cinematography. We'll also look at the winner for Best Foreign Film, still an honorary award without a block of nominees at the time. 

Let us begin where the Oscars did:

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Coming This May

Big plans for next month! One big plan, anyway: a new season of retrospectives begins with The Films of 1950!

That includes the 42 films honored with wins and nominations at the 23rd Academy Awards. And here they are:

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Year Ahead: Predicting the 95th Academy Awards

A fool's errand, trying to predict the Oscars a year ahead, but here we are. Sometimes we get it right; often we get it wrong, but that's a good thing, we wouldn't want things to be so steady for 10 months, would we? Here's what I think will make it in eight of the major categories.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Oscars 2021 Predictions: Who Will Win?

It's what it says on the box! Starting with the categories where I haven't seen all the nominees...

Best Animated Short: "Robin Robin" (though look for "Bestia" to possibly spoil)
Best Documentary Short: "The Queen of Basketball"
Best Live Action Short: "The Long Goodbye"
Best Animated Feature: Encanto (it's peaking at the right time and has love outside this category)
Best Documentary Feature: Summer of Soul (or, when the revolution could not be televised)
Best International Feature: Drive My Car (tho' The Worst Person in the World is probably not far behind in votes, Drive My Car is a Best Picture/Director/Adapted Screenplay nominee, so there's a lot of love for it - this seems to be the most logical place to award it)
Best Costume Design: Cruella

And moving on to the ones I have seen...after the jump.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Oscar's Nominees Are In!

OK! The nominations are in! Compare to my predictions yesterday - to help, I've bolded the nominees in each category that I did not predict. 

But first, pour it out for the very deserving films who did not have the votes to make it today. I think especially of Passing, the best film of the year (that qualified for this year's Oscars, I mean); In the Heights, the best musical of the year; and The Green Knight.


And the Academy Award nominees are...

Monday, February 7, 2022

Predicting The Nominees, 2021 Edition

Nominations for the 94th Academy Awards are tomorrow. According to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, this was the biggest turnout of voters in the history of the awards. For many, this is a sign of a spreading of wealth, surprises, chances given to outside-the-box fare. I'm not so sure about that, but of course, we shall see.

My predicted nominees in all 23 categories after the jump...

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Spilled Blood: Films of January 2022

Two new releases, one of them already gone from cinemas with no known plans for home distribution, but I know you all have your ways...

dir: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
pr: Paul Neinstein / William Sherak / James Vanderbilt
scr: James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick, based on characters created by Kevin Williamson
cin: Brett Jutkiewicz

Good enough, I think. A moment here or there that raised my eyebrows in their concept, execution, and implications. But the basics of what one desires from a Scream film are all there: brutal kills within witty gotchas, engaging actors (for the most part), familiar faces, terrifying sound design (the BUZZ BUZZ of a mobile proves just as unsettling as a landline's ring). Watched in 4DX, which I do not recommend unless you're intrigued by getting thwacked in the back during a stabbing scene.

The Policeman's Lineage (경관의 피)
dir: Lee Kyoo-man
scr: Bae Young-ik, based on the Japanese novel Blood of the Policeman by Joh Sasaki
cin: Gang Guk-yeok

In which a young third-generation cop (Choi Woo-shik) is transferred by Internal Affairs to the unit of a veteran officer (a wonderfully restrained Cho Jin-woong) who pursues an untouchably well-connected drug lord with the help of shadow funds fed into a secret police gang. Many layers of deceit and history to navigate here, difficult to do through subtitles. The main concern seems to be whether or not it's possible to police without getting one's hands dirty, what it means to uphold the law, the necessity of grey areas, etc. Ends in a shrug: two hours guiding us through morally murky waters, only to end on a high-spirited, "Wait for the sequel!" note. Nice 80s/90s thriller vibes courtesy of the camerawork by Gang Guk-yeok (a Hollmann Award nominee for House of Hummingbird) and score by Jang Young-gyu (The Yellow SeaThe Wailing, Train to Busan).

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Monday, January 24, 2022

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Top Films of 2021

With 120 films screened, I am finally ready to present my favorite films of 2021.

Each year I present my Top Ten alphabetically, for two reasons. One is to maintain some level of suspense for the Hollmann Awards, whose Best Picture category only allows for five nominees. The other reason: I usually don't know what my ranking is until I have to choose those five. Alphabetical buys me time. 

This was a particularly difficult year to narrow down. And so, I present...my Top Eleven Films of the Year:

Thursday, January 6, 2022

The Films of 2021

I'm about to start my own Top Ten/awards of 2021. Just a review, here are the 120 films I screened - released in Los Angeles between January 1, 2021, and December 21, 2021; seen by me between January 1, 2021, and January 3, 2022: