Friday, July 28, 2023

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The 1948 Retro Hollmann Awards - Winners!

OK, here we go. Months in the making, 75 films and 27 nominees later - my winners for the 1948 Retro Hollmann Awards.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Key Largo
Richard Brooks and John Huston
from the play by Maxwell Anderson
2. I Remember Mama; 3. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; 4. Red River; 5. Rope

Like I Remember Mama and Rope, Key Largo is adapted from a play, and you can feel that in its single-set claustrophobia - a quality which, also like Rope, Huston and Brooks embrace for the majority of the picture. They also make hay of the play's plot and blank verse format, trading a tragic, doomed-to-die (but heroically!) Spanish Civil War vet who must protect a hotel from wicked Mexicans for a gloomy but not doomy WWII vet taken surprise hostage by a mobster and his cronies. They're able to address what the American Dream looks like, the effectiveness of violence and violent men, what we value post-War - and still deliver a perfect, tight thriller from beginning to end. 

Best Visual Effects

The Red Shoes
F. George Gunn / Eugene Hague, composite photography
Ivor Beddoes / Joseph Nathanson, special painting
2. Portrait of Jennie; 3. Key Largo; 4. Deep Waters; 5. Beauty and the Beast

I find everything going on with the ballet - the layered mattes, the puppetry, the stop motion - everything is so genuinely magical and breathtaking. What is actually there, what is Victoria's Page's projection, what is the audience's projection? Not to sound reductive and pretentious but, my God, what the effects pull off in that ballet sequence...that is Art!

Best Film Editing
I Remember Mama
Robert Swink
2. Beauty and the Beast; 3. Key Largo; 4. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; 5. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Two thrillers, a fantasy, a comedy (with monsters) - it's the editors who make it work, who guarantee the thrills, the magic, the laughs all hit. And so I give the award to a two-hour-plus episodic family drama, partly because it is so difficult to make such a film hit the way I Remember Mama does. Because it does have thrills (Mama sneaking into the hospital), it does have laughs (Uncle Chris's reaction to...everything), and there is magic to be had (those transitions from narrator to story happening within the mirror!). It's the integration of effects, the right cut to close-up, the perfect dissolve, that make I Remember Mama such an effective, affecting experience. 

Best Costume Design

The Red Shoes
Hein Heckroth
2. Beauty and the Beast; 3. The Pirate; 4. The Loves of Carmen; 5. The Three Musketeers

I almost feel The Red Shoes should win just for dressing Moira Shearer in its particular pale blue and knowing how to dress her in that shade. There are ballet costumes, too, of course, as well as wardrobe that delineates between up-and-coming intellectual and established artiste, but it's mostly those blues that prove the genius of Hein Heckroth.

Best Original Song
1. The Pirate - "Be a Clown"
music and lyrics by Cole Porter
2. Romance on the High Seas - "It's Magic"
music by Jule Styne
lyrics by Sammy Cahn
3. The Pirate-"Niña"
music and lyrics by Cole Porter
4. A Foreign Affair -"Black Market"
music and lyrics by Friedrich Hollaender
5. Romance on the High Seas - "The Tourist Trade"
music by Jule Styne
lyrics by Sammy Cahn

Best Supporting Actor
Glenn Anders as George Grisby
The Lady from Shanghai
2. Oscar Homolka in I Remember Mama; 3. Thomas Gomez in Key Largo; 4. Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; 5. Everett Sloane in The Lady from Shanghai

The Lady from Shanghai has the effect of a half-remembered dream: I don't remember specifics, but images, indelible and haunting. And about 90% of those images are Glenn Anders' sweaty, grinning visage. Anders blesses George Grisby with an obsequious, light-eyed expression - Grisby is half-soused most of the time anyway - giving him the air of someone who can't help but maintain the professional's glad-handing smile that belies his words, deeds, and bizarrely rubberlike mouth movements (the drunken way he pronounces "corpse," moving his mouth around on the "o" in a full 360 as he stretches the word to five syllables). There is a fire behind those glassy eyes. An off-kilter, haunting performance.

Best Ensemble
2. Another Part of the Forest; 3. I Remember Mama; 4. Berlin Express; 5. Key Largo

There are, what, eight people in Rope? And each one fits their role perfectly. You believe the histories they have together: it's in the body language, their tones of voice, the looks they give. It's a good party group, each performer 

Best Director
Jean Cocteau
Beauty and the Beast
2. George Stevens in I Remember Mama; 3. Alfred Hitchcock for Rope; 4. John Huston for Key Largo; 5. John Huston for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

I have genuinely never seen anything like Beauty and the Beast. Over the decades, there've been many winks and nods to the production design, but the film itself - the fantastical, romantic feel of this fairy tale for adults - that's impossible to duplicate. The performances are first-rate, the sets and costumes are detailed and transporting, the effects and makeup make you believe the Truth of it. And it's all him, Cocteau, making this beautiful thing, this funny, enchanting, wonderful, waking-dream rarity.

Best Actress
Irene Dunne as Marta "Mama" Hanson
I Remember Mama
2. Judy Garland in The Pirate; 3. Doris Day in Romance on the High Seas; 4. Mady Christians in All My Sons; 5. Ann Blyth in Another Part of the Forest

The minute I Remember Mama ended, I thought, "My gosh, does it get better than Irene Dunne in this film?" That was early February. I have not stopped thinking about her performance since. The immediate sense of intimacy with every member of her family, the warmth, the listening. There's also the protectiveness, the determination: Dunne plays that interestingly, with a resolve one could not quite call "steely"...unyielding is perhaps the better word to choose. And her last scene with Uncle Chris, the scene after the tenant's exit, the scene at the end in the attic with her daughter: she is tired but she cares and she loves. It's a warm, human performance. The best of 1948.

Best Original Screenplay
A Foreign Affair
Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder and Richard L. Breen
original story by David Shaw
adaptation by Robert Harari
2. The Red Shoes; 3. Romance on the High Seas; 4. Unfaithfully Yours; 5. Berlin Express

Who can argue with A Foreign Affair, the film that directly addresses corruption and exploitation in Occupied Berlin but does so with a wink and a shimmy, the film that gives us "Madonna and Whore" as exemplified by genuinely frustrating female politician and genuinely sexy Nazi chanteuse, the film that wants to have a good time but also wants us to recognize what exactly we're doing? Such a specific year for such a specific film, yet it feels fresh, original, now.

Best Sound
Unfaithfully Yours
Roger Heman, Sr. / Arthur von Kirbach, sound
2. Easter Parade; 3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein; 4. Key Largo; 5. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Unfaithfully Yours is the most obvious sound showcase: it's about a conductor, after all, with a mid-film concert sequence where his fantasies about what to do about his wife's supposed infidelity are underscored by multiple movements. And what do these fantasies involve? Gunfire, throat-slashing, tape recordings, blood-curdling screams. When reality finally sets in and he attempts something - well, see above. Crackling, crunching destruction.  A soundscape with everything.

Best Production Design

The Amazing Mr. X
Frank Durlauf, art direction
Armor Marlowe / Clarence Steensen, set decorations
2. Key Largo; 3. I Remember Mama; 4. Beauty and the Beast; 5. Command Decision

The white, plushly-carpeted seaside home of Lynn Bari's Christine Faber feels authentic. But, of course, this is about Mr. X's house of tricks, a "home" that is all production design, the better to fool the gullible grievers who come to consult, full of curtains and random "artifacts" to convince everyone of the "authenticity" of his lies, with two-way mirrors and secret passages cleverly installed.

Best Cinematography

1. The Red Shoes
Jack Cardiff

2. Beauty and the Beast
Henri Alekan

3. The Amazing Mr. X
John Alton

4. Raw Deal
John Alton

5. I Remember Mama
Nicholas Musuraca

Best Score
1. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Frank Skinner
2. Beauty and the Beast
Georges Auric
3. The Red Shoes
Brian Easdale
4. Louisiana Story
Virgil Thomson
5. The Pirate
Cole Porter / Lennie Hayton / Conrad Salinger

Best Supporting Actress
Claire Trevor as Gaye Dawn
Key Largo
2. Ellen Corby in I Remember Mama; 3. Edith Evanson in Rope; 4. Florence Eldridge in Another Part of the Forest; 5. Marlene Dietrich in A Foreign Affair

In this, the Academy showed great wisdom - and taste! Her showcase scene, the song: she's desperate, defiant, tragic, there's a moment where you can see her feeling it - she knows she's got this - before the insecurity gets her again. Her quietness in the last third brings her anger and bitterness home - Trevor's expressions, full of hate, desiring retribution: they sit on the edge of the frame, energizing every interaction.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Beauty and the Beast
Hagop Arakelian, makeup
2. The Red Shoes; 3. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; 4. The Emperor Waltz; 5. I Remember Mama

They made people into furniture and a man into a beast without losing any necessary expressiveness. Come on. Beauty and the Beast takes it without argument.

Best Actor
Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
2. Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo; 3. Gene Kelly in The Pirate; 4. Fredric March in Another Part of the Forest; 5. Michel Simon in Panic

Do I think this is Bogart's greatest performance? I still need to see The African Queen, je suis desolée. Do I think Bogart's performance is the greatest this year? By a mile. His arc is subtly conveyed, but by the time it happens, it feels inevitable - frightening, yes, to see how him losing his grip on reality and civility, but more sad because it was...avoidable. Surely, yes, avoidable - Bogart's screen persona of rough-but-honorable works in his favor - but gosh, Bogart's put in the work to make it possible. Like Dunne above, it's the performance that once I saw, knew there could be no equal - which makes his non-nomination at the Oscars all the more insane. Whatever, I'm correcting this now!

Best Motion Picture of the Year
I Remember Mama
produced by Harriet Parsons
2. Key Largo; 3. Rope; 4. Beauty and the Beast; 5. The Pirate
6. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein; 7. Another Part of the Forest; 8. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; 9. Romance on the High Seas; 10. The Amazing Mr. X

There we have it! Leading the winners' circle - tied at three apiece - I Remember Mama and The Red Shoes. Remember, we start on 1984 on August 1st - I'm resting 'til then.

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