Friday, May 6, 2022

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1950: Director

We close out the first week of 1950 with the nominees for Best Director:

George Cukor for Born Yesterday
fourth of five nominations; Golden Globes nominee

Along with Judy Holliday knowing this role, it's Cukor's gift for comedy and his understanding of people that makes this movie sing. Through his sure hand, there's believable chemistry between Holliday, William Holden, and Broderick Crawford, and even if some "comic" beats seem to just thud a moment too long, when the film focuses on the central three, it moves briskly - and it's funny!

John Huston for The Asphalt Jungle
past winner, second of five directing nominations; DGA Awards nominee, NYFCC Awards runner-up, Golden Globes nominee

A rough tenderness, even with the sleazy lawyer Emmerich. It's not a simple matter of everyone being out of their depth, it's just their time, the chickens have come home to roost. And so, the friendly German heist master, the pathetic lawyer who's feeling his second youth, the gunman who longs for his family's old land...they all come together, immigrant, rich man, poor man, each with a dream and an America they believe in. Huston fosters a sense of doom without getting maudlin.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz for All About Eve
previous winner, second of four directing nominations; DGA Awards winner, NYFCC Awards winner; Golden Globes nominee

It's his way with the camera (those glorious single-takes!), his wrangling of an ensemble (the women alone!) - who else could make this story of really very unlikable people so watchable, so entertaining, so filled with persons to root for? Obviously he knows what he's looking to hear in his own dialogue, but he also keeps things visually interesting: all our principals squished together on a staircase (the casual intimacy of real friends, and Eve's clocking it), Margo and Bill fighting on a bedroom stage set, the final mirror shot. It's a master at work.

Carol Reed for The Third Man

There's a certain cheekiness to the way he plays with shadows and angles: undeniable in their effectiveness for creating mystery and suspense, but also, thanks to music and the performance he gets from Joseph Cotten, there's a bemused, "I know this is ridiculous but Jesus I'm nervous," thing to everything. Gets that the dialogue is funny; also gets how blithely horrifying a man Harry Lime is. 

Billy Wilder for Sunset Blvd.
past winner, third of eight directing nominations; Golden Globes winner; DGA Awards nominee, NYFCC Awards second runner-up

A lot happening here, not least of them being the push-pull of whether we find Norma Desmond sad and sympathetic or psychotic and frightening. Yet I never feel...lost, or confused, or not sure of where Wilder is taking me. It's uncomfortably hilarious, throat-lumpingly romantic, somehow dismissive of and entranced by Hollywood and its mores. An incredible feat of filmmaking.

Here's how it went down back at the original ceremony, when host Fred Astaire bade previous winner Leo McCarey come to the stage:

Mankiewicz is terrific, a great pick - but my vote goes to:


We return Monday with the nominees for Best Supporting Actor: Jeff Chandler (Broken Arrow), Edmund Gwenn (Mister 880), Sam Jaffe (The Asphalt Jungle), George Sanders (All About Eve), and Erich von Stroheim (Sunset Blvd.).

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