Friday, March 24, 2017

A Thousand Clowns (1965)

Not to ruin the title reveal within the movie, but I had no idea what this was about or what it referred to before watching. It's all the little versions of yourself that live in all of us and how they're all a little crazy.

Unemployed writer Murray Burns has no interest in selling out by getting a job that he scorns. He'd much rather live a bohemian lifestyle laughing at life itself. Unfortunately social services is threatening to take away his nephew ward unless he gets his act together.

Clever, funny, and heartfelt, this was a memorable one.

38 to go...

Room at the Top (1959)

Room at the Top was surprisingly provocative for a movie from the Production Code era, but judging from the British accents I'm guessing that's simply because it's not a Hollywood movie. I'm not aware, off the top of my head, of other foreign best picture nominees from the era that were graced with a nomination without being subject to the same regulations.

Our protagonist is a rather unlikeable fellow dividing his amorous attentions between the young, innocent, and rich Susan and the older, married Alice. He starts off with Alice just being on the side while he bides his time in pursuit of Susan. Then he falls in love with Alice and things get... complicated.

A very engaging and entertaining film, but the main character is just too much of a scoundrel, but, worse, in that 1950s way where the creators don't realize it.

39 to go...

The Emigrants (1972)

This film had long eluded me. The more than three-year gap since I had sought out past best picture nominees was largely due to my inability to find a copy of The Emigrants. Well, time has proved to be my greatest ally. When I started looking around again, it was now available to rent it on Amazon. Other films I'd missed are now online as well, so I'm hoping to make another run to catch 'em all.

The Emigrants is over three hours long and almost entirely in Swedish, but I still found it rather captivating. The first half is our main family struggling to make a go of it in Sweden. The third quarter is the miserable voyage by ship to American and the final portion is by train, paddleboat, and foot to their new home in Minnesota. The story is set in the 1840s and 1850s and struck home for me as I have ancestors who no doubt went through a very similar journey, just two decades later and from Norway.

[Note: I've finally joined all other lists' reckoning--including the Academy's--by removing the three nominees in the alternate best picture category from 1929 no longer recognized as having he same standing as the others. I'd already seen two of the three anyway, and will still try to see the third, but it does affect my counting].

40 to go...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

She Done Him Wrong (1933)

This movie was a little odd - boring and interesting at the same time. The plot is minimal and only really emerges in the final third of this 64 minute film. Though it does serve as a portrait of lower Manhattan in the 1890s. Definitely lacking in the soon to follow Hays Code purity, subtle and not-so-subtle references abound to prostitution and casual sex. This includes the classic Mae West line, delivered to a 29-year-old Cary Grant, "Why don't you come up sometime and see me?"

I found West annoying, but probably mostly due to her resemblance to poor imitations of her unique accent. I suppose it's not an accent exactly, but not sure what else to call it - it's the Mae West accent. That in itself almost makes this worth watching.

42 to go...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (1927)

Chang is a pseudo-documentary filmed in southeast Asia.  I can imagine it would have been very captivating to audiences of the time as it shows natives living with and battling with countless wild creatures.  Many scenes are obviously staged, so I have to add the "pseudo" tag, but it does show the men capturing and killing tigers, leopards, lizards, snakes, etc.

There's no real story to speak of.  Basically they kill off the dangerous predators then capture some elephants (which they call changs).  At just 69 minutes, it's one of the shortest best picture nominees and probably worth a watch if you can handle the animal cruelty.

43 to go...

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

This was Orson Welles's followup to Citizen Kane and I have to suspect that's why it received the attention it did from the academy. It was also based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I had pretty high hopes going in, especially as it has taken a long time for this movie to become available. Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed. The protagonist is an unredeemable brat, but I could live with that if something truly compelling was happening to those around him. Other than an underdeveloped unrequited romance of his mother's, there's really nothing to latch on to. A very forgettable film.

44 to go...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Watch on the Rhine (1943)

With this title and knowing it was a WWII movie, I was surprised to find it is set in Washington D.C. Bette Davis plays the proud wife of an anti-fascist German man who, along with their three children, has been on the move for several years dodging the Nazis. They come to D.C. to visit the family she hasn’t seen in 17 years.

This movie had a really solid script by Dashiell Hammett, but the words were given over to what I would call very clunky acting from everyone outside of Bette Davis and Oscar winner Paul Lukas. So while I enjoyed the story, it was hard to get too immersed in it.

45 to go…