Monday, October 3, 2022

1946: The Early Worms

The year is 1946, and things are getting interesting. Around the world, of course, the war that's kept all continents occupied since 1939 has finally ended. More wars will come in its wake, some direct responses to those "peace" treaties. In the movie world, long-delayed flicks are finally seeing the light of day, whether they be imports like the British drama Henry V or just long-held studio fare like the Barbara Stanwyck vehicle My Reputation - both filmed in 1944.

I watched 67 films from 1946, including the 36 Academy Award nominees. Traditionally, I've done an overview of those films and their respective categories over two weeks, then presented the rest of the films screened. This time around, I'll do something I haven't done in a while: this first week, I'm reviewing all the films - all but the five Best Picture nominees - in order of release, before deep-diving into their individual, nominated elements. Because, hell, just like any other year, these films' releases weren't separated by Oscar Time and Everything Else - winners came out alongside footnotes. We wanna see the full context, don't we?

Of course, because nationwide releases weren't quite a thing back then, that means some of the films of 1946 had their first US releases before 1946. How so? Well, remember, to get an Oscar nomination, you have to play a week in Los Angeles. You don't have to be released in Los Angeles first, though, and so New York, Chicago, Baltimore, they debuted many a film well before 1946. I'm beginning 1946 with nine such films, films with no known LA release date that I could find, but with initial US releases in 1945.

Beginning with....

Monday, September 26, 2022

October Coming Attractions: 1946

After a brief respite, we are coming back in October with a look at the films of 1946. I don't believe I've mentioned it outright on the blog yet - though I did in an episode of Screen Drafts - but I've dedicated 2022 to years featuring a Best Picture nominee adapted from Shakespeare. In 1935, there was A Midsummer Night's Dream (which won Cinematography and Editing and was also nominated for Assistant Director); in 1936, Romeo and Juliet (also nominated for Actress, Supporting Actor, and Art Direction). 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The 1936 Retro Hollmann Awards: And the Winners Are...

Meant to have this done on Thursday and Friday, but a fever struck, so instead, we're getting a Sunday Special. If you haven't, familiarize yourself with the full list of nominees, the unranked Top Ten, and the complete lineup of films screened. Then come back here and see my personal picks in 18 categories, starting with...

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The 1936 Retro Nominees Are...

I've written a lot about these films by now. You've seen my write-ups of Oscar's nominees, you've seen the Top Ten, you've seen the full list of 71 films screened. Only 31 of those films are named here. In 18 categories, these are the nominees for the 1936 Retro Hollmann Awards:

Monday, August 22, 2022

My Top Ten of 1936

Yes, a day late, but I needed time to consider everything! It was difficult to narrow it down, and I had to sacrifice such treasures as Ah, Wilderness!The Green Pastures, and Rose Marie. But I think I ended with a satisfying Top Ten of 1936.

In alphabetical order:

Friday, August 19, 2022

1936: The Films

On Sunday, I deliver my Top Ten; on Monday, my nominees for the 1936 Retro Hollmann Awards. To review, here are the 71 films screened:

Read the writing, watch the movies, attend to the Sabbath, and be back here Sunday!

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Thursday, August 18, 2022

1936: What's Left?

Well, I managed to come up with a theme to tie in all the other non-nominated films I saw from 1936. That just leaves this final group of five.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

1936: The Play's The Thing

Before the screen, we had the stage. Scripts and stars, all ready to go - it's a no-brainer to bring them direct from the proscenium to the soundstage. And yet, because they are different mediums, and because studios have staff to be paid, the transition is rarely so direct - even when it's a Shakespeare adaptation. Here are seven films, some of which are practically word-for-word as they appeared on Broadway, most of them...not.

Monday, August 15, 2022

1936: Double Features

Now that we've looked at the 1936 Best Picture nominees, let's discuss some non-nominated films. Here are ten that I think would make great double features with those nominees:

Sunday, August 14, 2022

1936: Best Picture

Let's begin this Best Picture talk with a movie that got zero nominations - Ah, Wilderness!. Based upon Eugene O'Neill's only comedy, the film follows a small-town family in 1906, primarily the second son (Eric Linden), a high school senior whose new discoveries in art, intellectualism, and women irritate everyone around him, and the father (Lionel Barrymore), a newspaperman who leads his family patiently. Timeless observations about teen pretensions, familial annoyances, enabling between relatives, and the suspension of time during the Fourth of July. Fine performances, terrific sets and costumes. And it got nothing.

Maybe it was timing. Depending on where you check, it either qualified for the 8th Academy Awards or the 9th Academy Awards. IMDb lists it as a Christmas 1935 release in New York City. Because Academy rules stipulate a film must play one week in LA to be considered, it's possible it did not make it to Los Angeles until January 1936 or later - thus why it shows up on the 1936 Reminder List available at And The Oscar Goes To. But, too, maybe members of the nominating committee were bristling against its history-making Oscar campaign. Never before had a studio had the chutzpah to put out ads begging for awards, but leave it to MGM to lead the charge. 

If indeed it was 1935, then while the Ah, Wilderness! campaign was unsuccessful, Leo still got a trophy when Mutiny on the Bounty won. If it was 1936...Leo still got a trophy when The Great Ziegfeld won. I guess the Academy felt Leo was ready to receive after all!

Including MGM's winning showbiz epic, here are the ten nominees for Best Picture...starting from my tenth favorite and finishing on my winning pick:

Friday, August 12, 2022

1936: Actress

Used to be, the Academy Awards were a celebratory evening of dinner and dancing. The winners were announced to the press in advance and the awards were distributed close to the end of the evening. The 9th ceremony was held at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, and it is this ceremony that gets the showcase treatment when you visit the hotel's historic corridor:

My sister took that photo during her visit last weekend. You can see Cecil B. DeMille, Henry Fonda, Walt Disney. And on the lefthand side, the table on the dance floor draped in white, the figure wearing white - is that year's Best Actress Oscar winner, Luise Rainer. She almost didn't make it, preferring to spend the evening at home with her husband, playwright Clifford Odets. Indeed, all her rivals were at the ceremony already when news of her win trickled up from the press room. Inside Oscar reports that Gladys George, silent film star nominated for her big comeback turn in Valiant is the Word for Carrie, was inconsolable. It also reports that studio brass got on the horn and demanded Rainer get her ass down there so she could accept the Oscar in front of the cameras. And so:

Rainer's is a long and interesting life. German by birth, she became a stage star under the tutelage of Max Reinhardt (he who gave us 1935's A Midsummer Night's Dream). Emigrating to the United States as Hitler rose to power, she took the leading lady part in Escapade, starring...William Powell! Indeed, she was cast as a replacement for his frequent co-star Myrna Loy. She credited Powell with championing her in early Hollywood, teaching her how to adjust her talents for the camera. That partnership led directly to their reteaming in The Great Ziegfeld, with Myrna Loy appearing as the woman who replaces Rainer in Ziegfeld's life. Following a second consecutive win for The Good Earth, Rainer soon became disillusioned with Hollywood and MGM, feeling Louis B. Mayer did not have the same taste as recently-deceased Irving Thalberg. Her film credits end at 1941, and she appeared sporadically in television for the next sixty years. For a while, she was the oldest living Oscar winner, passing away in 2014 at the age of 104! And she was still giving interviews!

Does her performance hold up? Let's talk:

Thursday, August 11, 2022

1936: Actor

Even with the addition of two categories for supporting actors, there were still some complaints from the acting branch after the 9th Academy Awards. W.C. Fields complained about the Academy's tendency to favor drama over comedy in the acting categories - yes, an issue even just nine years into their run, and one that is frequently brought up today. Just as much, in fact, as the tendency to award biopic performances. The Film Experience's Nathaniel Rogers just tweeted last week:
I replied that I blame Paul Muni. In 1936, he finally triumphed after three nominations (and one write-in), being named Best Actor for The Story of Louis Pasteur

And sure, he wasn't the first performer to win for playing a real person (that was George Arliss in Disraeli), but his Pasteur certainly set the template for burying a hot actor under makeup, letting them go nuts on an accent, and emphasizing the importance of the subject. The fact that his win this year was immediately followed by a nomination for The Life of Emile Zola, the 1937 Best Picture winner, further cements the Muni Method as the best way to impress the Academy into at least a nomination.

All that said, though...was it an undeserved win? Let's look at the lineup:

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

1936: Supporting Actress

Yesterday, we discussed - briefly - the origins of the supporting categories. Today, we discuss the greatest thing to come out of that process: the Best Supporting Actress category. Blogs have been dedicated to it, hours of online debate have been spent on it, great careers have been honored in it. It is, in my opinion, the best category at the Oscars.

Just as its male counterpart established its habit of honoring industry veterans with long CVs, the first Best Supporting Actress race established its traditional mix of old hands, newcomers, youths, and matriarchs. Broadway vet Beulah Bondi had been in films since reprising her stage role for the 1931 screen adaptation of Street Scene; frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if that performance also added to the formation of this category and her being among its first honorees. Alice Brady started in films in 1915, took a ten-year break to focus on stage work (during which she originated the lead role of Lavinia in Mourning Becomes Electra), and came back to play moms in 1933. Future Nancy Drew star Bonita Granville was a child star, making her debut at age 10 in 1932's Westward Passage. The two first-timers were hardly newbies. Sixty-year-old Maria Ouspenskaya was an experienced stage performer and acting teacher who brought the Stanislavski Method to the United States, while 36-year-old Gale Sondergaard had been on Broadway since 1928. Anthony Adverse was her movie debut, clearly an auspicious one: she became the first Best Supporting Actress winner.

Deservedly so? That's what we're here to discuss:

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

1936: Supporting Actor

This is where it all started.

After 1935's Best Actor race had three nominees from the same film, and in the wake of Actors Guild protests against the ceremony, the Academy set a definite field of five for its directing, writing, and acting categories...and added two to the latter. Those two are Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Finally, the performers perennially below the title were finally getting their due! 

While recent years have seen the category go to either marquee names "slumming" it in character parts or lead actors campaigning as supporting to better their chances of winning (Kaluuya, Pitt, Ali, arguably Rockwell), the inaugural category is a who's who of 1930s supporting stars. Mischa Auer has twelve credits in 1936, including Oscar-nominated films That Girl from Paris, Three Smart Girls and Winterset; not all the roles have names, and some are even uncredited. Akim Tamiroff has seven credits, many of them not so much supporting as they are cameos, as in Anthony Adverse and The Story of Louis Pasteur. Stuart Erwin was a sometimes-leading man (we nominated him in Leading Actor at the 1931-32 Retro Hollmann Awards for Make Me a Star), but most of his six 1936 credits have him second- or third-billed - his nomination comes from a film where he's top-billed, but it's an ensemble flick and he's only ten minutes of it. Basil Rathbone was still three years away from Sherlock Holmes, but he appears in two Best Picture nominees (Romeo and Juliet, A Tale of Two Cities) and the Technicolor marvel The Garden of Allah.

And then there's Walter Brennan. 

Brennan had been working as an extra and stand-in since 1925. Sometimes he'd get a featured part - a line of dialogue here, a reaction shot there. He credits the growth of his parts to the fact that he was kicked in the face during one of those appearances, resulting in several lost teeth and a sudden aged appearance, being cast as old codgers at the age of 40. In 1935, he did 24 feature films, most of them uncredited, but among them is Barbary Coast, where he gives the film's best performance as Old Atrocity. It's the role that changed his career: in 1936, five of his six credits are major supporting parts, including parts in nominated films Banjo on My Knee, Fury, and These Three. Back in 1936, a committee of 50 decided the nominees, but all guild members could vote...including members of the Extras Union. It is believed their support led to Brennan's triumph as the first Best Supporting Actor winner - he was, after all, the extra who made it.

But maybe it wasn't just support from comrades-in-arms that led to that win. Maybe the performance itself is genuinely deserving. Let's discuss, shall we?:

Monday, August 8, 2022

1936: Director

The second week of 1936 begins! Last week, we talked some nominees, specifically ones for Dance Direction, Original Song, Score, and the Writing Awards. This week starts with the nominees for Best Director.

In only its ninth year, Oscar showed it couldn't stop repeating itself. Already, two-time winners in this category were made up of Frank Borzage (1927/28, 1931/32), Lewis Milestone (1927/28, 1929/30), and Frank Lloyd (1928/29, 1932/33). Another Frank joined the ranks: having already won for It Happened One Night in 1934, Capra won his second Academy Award for directing Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Capra, by the way, was also the Academy president at the time, had expanded categories to appease the actors union, and was one of the newly-formed 50-person nominating committee allowing certain representatives of certain branches to decide the full lineup. But I'm sure the win wasn't all political - Capra's much-admired to this day, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town was popular with critics (Graham Greene himself gave it a favorable review) and audiences (it was Capra's most profitable film up to the time, #7 at the int'l box office).

My thoughts on Capra's work, as well as that of his fellow nominees, after the jump:

Thursday, August 4, 2022

1936: Writing Awards

The dance and music categories are done. We move on to the writing awards. One is Original Story, which honored the original concepts dreamed up by writers, not all of whom would get to translate their stories into script form. The other is Screenplay, honoring authors of scripts that were either based on pre-existing works, such as novels, plays, and short stories, or working off of one of the aforementioned Original Stories.

In 1936, the story of both categories was a single film. Pierre Collings and Sheridan Gibney were nominated both for their concept of how to depict the life of Louis Pasteur for film and for their script executing that idea. They won both. It was the first and last time either man would be nominated. Collings died of pneumonia in 1937, six months after winning his Oscars; it is believed he pawned one of them out of desperation, a nervous breakdown and descent into alcoholism having kept him from work. Gibney would later be blacklisted, though he served as president of the Writers Guild - twice!

Their winning work and the nominees they went up against after the jump.

1936: Dance Direction

The short-lived category of Dance Direction was inaugurated for the 1935 Academy Awards. They continued through into the 1936 ceremony, and that is what we discuss today. 

At this time, a committee of 50 decided the nominees in each category. While most categories kept their limit to five nominees, for some reason - possibly a tie or compromise? - Dance Direction's lineup was seven-wide.  That's one tic more than Original Song, which suggests to me that this committee liked a musical number.

The nominees:

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

1936: Score

We've sung some songs, now for music without words. Two things to note about the 1936 nominees for Best Score.

The first thing is that only one of them comes from a Best Picture nominee - and no surprise, that movie, Anthony Adverse, wound up winning. But I looked back at the recent years of this category and found that, while it may be more open to non-Best Picture nominees than other categories, 2015 is the last time only one Best Picture nominee made the cut...that was Bridge of Spies, and it lost to The Hateful Eight. There's never been any time when a Best Picture nominee was not also up for Score; the closest you can come is 1972 (when The Godfather's nomination was rescinded) and 1979, but to count those you'd have to ignore the Best Adaptation/Musical Score, and we don't do that here.

The second thing is that the actual composer is not the nominee. Instead, the head of the studio's music department gets all the honor, and that's how things were until 1938. This year, 1936, saw Max Steiner in the interesting position of having two scores nominated, but himself only nominated for one of them. His score for The Charge of the Light Brigade was his first for Warner Bros., but because it was Warner Bros., Leo F. Forbstein got the nomination; his score for The Garden of Allah, however, was with the independent Selznick International, and so he could get the full glory.

Have a listen to the winner Anthony Adverse, both Steiner scores, and more, after the jump:

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

1936: Original Song

After an initial toe-dip into the pool of 1936, we dive right in with our look at Best Original Song. It was only the third time the award was given out, but already, history was repeating itself. The inaugural award was given to "The Continental" from the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers vehicle The Gay Divorcée; two years later, it was another Fred & Ginger show that took home the prize. The winning song, plus the five other tunes it triumphed over, after the jump:

Monday, August 1, 2022

1936: The Beginning

Of the 40 feature films nominated at the 9th Academy Awards, I watched 39. The one outlier is General Spanky, a Civil War-set comedy starring the cast of Our Gang. It was not a lack of opportunity that prevented my seeing the film, but rather the terrible taste the film's opening five minutes left in my mouth, one that turned more bitter as I researched the film (opening with a joke calling Buckwheat, a five-year-old Black child, a racial slur genuinely horrified me).

Anyway, that's one movie we won't talk about. The 39 others are all up for discussion, and we'll start with these six:

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The 1935 Retro Hollmann Awards: Part Two

Six down, twelve to go! After yesterday's spreading-of-the-wealth, the 1935 Retro Hollmann Awards conclude today with Music Awards, Writing Awards, Lead Acting, Production Design, Cinematography, Editing, Sound, Director, and Best Picture of the Year! Remember to reacquaint yourself with the complete roster of nominees and the Top Ten.

Now, on with the show:

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The 1935 Retro Hollmann Awards: Part One

We wrap up the 1935 retrospective this week with the 1935 Retro Hollmann Awards. You've seen the full slate of nominees, you know the Top Ten - now on with the awards!

Well, six of them, at least. Back in 1935, the Academy Awards were not yet ten years old, they had a lot of growing to do. It would be another year before they added supporting categories, another four before a competitive special effects category, another 13 before Best Costume Design, another 46 before Best Makeup...and Best Ensemble still does not exist, though the Screen Actors Guild has awarded it since 1995. The Hollmann Awards, even the retro ones, honor all categories, but to respect the tradition and the time period, these six categories get their own post. And it's this one!

We begin with Best Ensemble...

Friday, July 1, 2022

The 1935 Retro Hollmann Awards Nominees!

Twelve days delayed, but here they are - the nominees for the 1935 Retro Hollmann Awards! For context, these were the 74 films screened:

The 39 Steps
$1,000 a Minute
Alice Adams
All the King's Horses
Anna Karenina
Barbary Coast
Becky Sharp
The Big Broadcast of 1936
Black Fury
The Bride of Frankenstein
Broadway Hostess
Broadway Melody of 1936
The Call of the Wild
Captain Blood
Cardinal Richelieu
Charlie Chan in Egypt
Charlie Chan in Paris
Charlie Chan in Shanghai
Charlie Chan's Secret
China Seas
The Clairvoyant
Clive of India
Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment
The Crusades
Curly Top
Dante's Inferno
The Dark Angel
David Copperfield
The Devil is a Woman
Escape Me Never
Folies Bergère de Paris
"G" Men
The Gay Deception
The Glass Key
Go Into Your Dance
Gold Diggers of 1935
I Dream Too Much
The Informer
King of Burlesque
Last Days of Pompeii
Lives of a Bengal Lancer
Love Me Forever
Mad Love
Man on the Flying Trapeze
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Mark of the Vampire
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Les Miserables
Moscow Laughs
Mutiny on the Bounty
Mysterious Mr. Wong
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Naughty Marietta
A Night at the Opera
Night Life of the Gods
Peter Ibbetson
Private Worlds
The Raven
Red Salute
Ruggles of Red Gap
Sanders of the River
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Scoundrel
Sylvia Scarlett
Thanks a Million
Top Hat
The Wandering Jew
Werewolf of London

Check out the Top Ten, while you're at it. And now - the nominees:

Saturday, June 18, 2022

My Top Ten of 1935

The Academy offered a Top Twelve, and while I toyed with doing so as well, I found that I was having a harder time deciding #11 and #12 than I did #'s 1-10. So let us keep it simple, keep it to a Top Ten, and apologize to the titles I considered for those extra two spots: Call of the Wild, The Crusades, The Devil is a Woman, Gold Diggers of 1935, The Last Days of Pompeii, and Les Misérables.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Monday, June 13, 2022

1935: Marxes and Marxists

What I do when I do these, is I watch all the Oscar nominees available to me, then watch a handful of other filsm released in the United States and qualifying for Oscar contention in the year we're covering. For the films of 1935, these were the first twelve to fit the bill:

Sunday, June 12, 2022

1935: Best Picture

Mutiny on the Bounty was the biggest hit at the box office. It had the most nominations going into the 8th Academy Awards. It should be no surprise that it won - certainly when you see its name under a list of Best Picture titles, you go, "Well, of course, that sounds correct." And yet it came close to not winning - indeed, The Informer seemed to be the favorite that night, despite not being as big a hit. A sigh of relief, I'm sure, when they eventually won the Big Prize:

It was the last time a film would win Best Picture and nothing else.

Twelve films were nominated that year, and so I've decided to do something different from my usual summary-star rating-big reveal at end. I'm gonna rank 'em. Before I do, let's meet the twelve nominees:
  • Alice Adams - A working-class girl is thwarted and embarrassed in her attempts to move up socially by her gauche family and unstable father. Also nominated for Best Actress.
  • Broadway Melody of 1936 - Young producer stages a new Broadway show, but the leading role is desired by both his high school sweetheart and his financier; meanwhile, a gossip columnist tries to knock him down. Won Best Dance Direction, also nominated for Best Original Story.
  • Captain Blood - After treating a rebel against King James II, an Irish doctor is exiled as a slave to Jamaica where he captures a Spanish galleon and becomes the most feared pirate in the Caribbean. Also nominated for Best Sound Recording; a write-in candidate for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Score.
  • David Copperfield - A gentle orphan discovers life and love. Also nominated for Best Film Editing (Robert Kern) and Best Assistant Director (Joseph M. Newman).
  • The Informer - An Irish rebel informs on his friend, then feels doom closing in. Won Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, and Best Score, also nominated for Best Film Editing (George Hively).
  • The Lives of a Bengal Lancer - Three British soldiers on the Northwest Frontier of India struggle against the enemy - and themselves. Won Best Assistant Director (Clem Beauchamp / Paul Wing), also nominated for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction (Hans Dreier/Roland Anderson), Best Film Editing (Ellsworth Hoagland), and Best Sound Recording.
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream - Two couples and a troupe of actors encounter mischievous fairies in the woods. Won Best Cinematography (Hal Mohr, as a write-in) and Best Film Editing (Ralph Dawson), also nominated for Best Assistant Director (Sherry Shourds).
  • Les Misérables - An ex-convict who failed to report for parole is hounded for decades by a relentless policeman. Also nominated for Best Cinematography (Gregg Toland), Best Film Editing (Barbara McLean), and Best Assistant Director (Erin Stacey).
  • Mutiny on the Bounty - First mate Fletcher Christian leads a revolt against his sadistic commander, Captain William Bligh. Won Best Picture, also nominated for Best Director, Best Actor (thrice), Best Screenplay, Best Score, and Best Film Editing (Margaret Booth).
  • Naughty Marietta - Escaping a prearranged marriage, a French princess sheds her identity and escapes to colonial New Orleans, where she finds unexpected love. Won Best Sound Recording.
  • Ruggles of Red Gap - An English valet brought to the American west assimilates into American life.
  • Top Hat - An American dancer romances a model who mistakes him for her best friend's husband. Also nominated for Best Original Song, Best Art Direction, and Best Dance Direction.
And now, starting with my #12 pick...:

Saturday, June 11, 2022

1935: Actress

The New York Critics gave their Best Actress award to Greta Garbo for Anna Karenina. She was not nominated at the Academy Awards (which I think is fine, she's weirdly too self-consciously Garbo in that film), something which surely surprised everyone once they realized a number of ties in the voting process led to six official nominees. No write-ins received enough votes to be mentioned. All there were to mention were these six:

Friday, June 10, 2022

1935: Actor

StinkyLulu, if you don't know, is one of the greatest voices on the internet. His Supporting Actress Smackdown series was, as you can tell, extremely influential not just on me, but on how Oscar races and individual categories were and are discussed. And if it wasn't for this specific category, Best Actor 1935, such work as he has done in that regard would not have been possible.

From the 1st Academy Awards through to the 8th, there were only two acting categories: Best Actor and Best Actress. The supporting categories would not be introduced until the next year honoring the films of 1936, and it is generally assumed and accepted that the three-peat of Mutiny on the Bounty is the reason why. Franchot Tone was certainly a leading man in films at the time, but neither his character in the film nor his status against his co-stars (1934 Best Actor winner Clark Gable and 1932-33 Best Actor winner Charles Laughton) would have made his Best Actor nomination a given in a world where supporting is an option. Personally, I feel any nomination for this guy is a stretch, but we'll get into that. In fact...let's:

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

1935: Writing & Directing

We're doing all the nominees for both the writing awards as well as Best Director today. It made sense to me: there are only six movies to discuss. See, at the time, ballots were supposed to be limited to three nominees per category - categories made up of seven, six, or twelve were the result of ties in the voting stage. Nowadays, there are rules to prevent that from happening, just as the Academy no longer allows write-in candidates. With the exception of said write-ins - the FBI propaganda thriller "G" Men in Original Story, Captain Blood in both Screenplay and Director - the writing and directing nominees kept it to three per, with Screenplay and Director lining up perfectly.

There weren't as many "precursors" back in this time, mostly just the New York Film Critics Circle. Like the Academy, they named John Ford the Best Director of the year for The Informer, but they did cite another filmmaker as runner-up, an already notable British director whose latest works were enough to achieve breakthrough success in the United States: Alfred Hitchcock, for The Man Who Knew Too Much and The 39 Steps. It would be another five years before he came to Hollywood and was formally welcomed into the club of Academy Award Nominees, with Rebecca. But that's a story for another day.

Beginning with Best Original Story, the nominees are:

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

1935: Music

Times were different then. Generally true, but also very much a fact with regards to Oscars Past. In the early days of the Academy Awards, it was not the individual craftsman whose contributions were recognized, but his boss...unless he was the boss, in which follow.

A long way to say that for Best Original Score, no matter the composer, the nomination itself went to the head of the music department. Meanwhile, Best Original Song was, as it is now, the domain of the actual songwriters.

As mentioned the other day, the Academy accepted write-in candidates for all categories, with the results of all voting announced during the show. Despite not receiving an official nomination, write-ins guaranteed a third-place spot to Captain Blood. Composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold would win three years later - legitimately when the rules changed - for The Adventures of Robin Hood, but department head Leo F. Forbstein got the honors for the Captain Blood write-in. Let's listen.

How groovy! But not an official nominee. Those would be after the jump:

Monday, June 6, 2022

1935: Dance Direction

In 1927, The Jazz Singer made sound - and the movie musical - into big business, receiving an Honorary Award at the First Academy Awards in 1929. In 1930, The Broadway Melody became the first musical to win the Best Picture Oscar at the Second Academy Awards. In 1934, Best Original Song was introduced as a category. And in 1935, the domination of the movie musical was further recognized with a brand new category: Best Dance Direction.

The category was short-lived - it was only given out thrice - but it's stuck in the minds of Oscar Heads for decades, often misremembered as a Best Choreography category. It's understandable, of course, but the difference is cinematic: beyond the steps, the great dance directors conceived of numbers that went beyond the proscenium, taking full advantage of edits, cinematography, dubbing, to make for the most transcendent musical experiences since Ziegfeld's tableaux.

There were seven nominees this first year, most of them cited for two musical numbers - sometimes from two different films, sometimes two numbers from one. And yes, we've video. Let us entertain you:

Sunday, June 5, 2022

1935: An Introduction

It's only been one week since we closed the books on 1950 but, here we are, ready to journey through the films of 1935! A year where the short-lived category of Best Dance Direction was introduced (bring it back!), one winner wasn't even nominated (huh?), and the number of nominees per category could be anywhere from three (as with Best Song) to twelve (as with Best Picture)...

Saturday, May 28, 2022

The 1950 Retro Hollmann Awards: Part One

Following are the first nine categories of the 1950 Retro Hollmann Awards - including Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Reacquaint yourself with the full slate of nominees, take a look at the Top Ten, place your bets - and then come right back here and proceed...

Friday, May 27, 2022

Coming in June: 1935!

The 1950 Retro Hollmann Awards begin tomorrow, but now's as good a time as any to discuss the plan for June....after the jump.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Top Ten of 1950

Our Honorable Mentions: The Asphalt Jungle, Catskill Honeymoon, Champagne for CaesarLast Holiday, Night and the City, Stage Fright, and Winchester '73.

The top ten, in alphabetical order:

Saturday, May 21, 2022

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

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 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: