Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pentecost (2011)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Film, Live Action - Peter McDonald and Eimear O'Kane

For the second consecutive year, Ireland has produced an Academy Award nominated short film about a young boy navigating his way through Catholicism.  Yet there is little else in common between last year's offering, "The Confession," and this year's "Pentecost."  "The Confession" was one of the darkest, most depressing short films I have seen in a long time, while "Pentecost" is a fun, joyful short about a young altar boy who has one shot at redemption after spectacularly ruining the mass service.  Like many young Irish boys, his mind is always on the football pitch, and it is this distraction that is the source of his troubles in church.

The story of "Pentecost" is thin, and it lacks the cleverness of some of its fellow nominees, especially "Time Freak."  Yet it is a sweet story, and the use of "Ode to Joy" as the musical cue is inspired.  "Pentecost" is very forgettable, but I enjoyed it while I watched it.  Though it isn't as memorable as "The Confession," I'd watch "Pentecost" a thousand times before I would watch "The Confession" again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

RoboCop (1987)

2 Nominations, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Film Editing - Frank J. Urioste
Nomination: Best Sound - Michael J. Kohut, Carlos Delarios, Aaron Rochin, and Robert Wald

Special Achievement Academy Award (Non-Competitive): Sound Effects Editing - Stephen Hunter Flick and John Pospisil

The 1980's was a significant period in the history of action films, as the genre grew dramatically in response to the birth of the blockbuster in the 1970's and the increasing technological abilities of special effects artists.  Several talented young filmmakers worked in the genre, and though much of the output was schlock, the decade produced some of the best action films yet made.

Though I am a fan of action films - the more explosions the better - I am still catching up on many of the finest offerings from the 80's, which I missed due to my parents' questionable belief that R-rated action films weren't appropriate for a child who still had to stand on his tiptoes to get on roller-coasters and who cried when Webster burned down his family's apartment with a science kit.  Due to the even more questionable belief held by Hollywood that many of these action films should be remade, I've had the motivation to dive in to the originals in advance of their mutant offspring's appearance.

I didn't have high hopes for RoboCop, since I came of age during the Showgirls-Hollow Man Paul Verhoeven era, missing the Total Recall-Basic Instinct era.  I also was exposed to the rightfully aborted RoboCop: The Animted Series as a child, the awfulness of which was far more damaging to a four-year old than its slightly less cartoonish counterpart would have been.  Thus I was pleasantly surprised that RoboCop was not completely atrocious.

This isn't to say that I found RoboCop to be a good movie.  The film is terribly paced, dragging on way too long without any consequence.  When the newly robotized protagonist is introduced far too late into the film, his lack of humanity makes him completely uninteresting.  The point of the film, of course, is that though RoboCop is no longer alive, he still has the slightest glimmer of a soul under the machinery.  Yet this glimmer is not enough to sustain interest in the character as he seeks revenge.  It's hard to invest much emotion into questioning whether a mostly-dead robot can get revenge on an equally soulless criminal acting without much motivation. 

The film suffers due to its inadequacies in plotting and character development, but there are interesting aspects to the film as well.  The film expresses some type of political view, though it is hard to discern whether its anti-authoritarian, authoritarian, anti-union, or anarchist; I'm sure more than a few theses have been written about it.  The filmmakers made a half-hearted attempt to pose some questions about the ethics associated with policing, but these quickly fall by the wayside.  The fake newscasts are great, and Kurtwood Smith chews the scenery with aplomb.  The film's technical work, which was what the Academy recognized, is very impressive, and both of the nominations and the special award were well deserved.  Kohut, Delarios, Rochin, and Wald probably deserved the Oscar for Best Sound, and likely would have won if not for The Last Emperor dominating the year's technical categories.

Once the movie moves on from its slow ending, it moves breezily along.  Even with its faults, its enjoyable enough to watch, and it's certainly better than its animated spin-off. 

Remaining: 3163 films, 874 Oscars, 5440 nominations

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pigskin Parade (1936)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Stuart Erwin

I was curious to watch Pigskin Parade when I saw it on the schedule for Turner Classic Movies, mostly due to the fact that it was a football movie released in 1936, and thus it was one of the earliest movies about the sport (though it was beaten to the punch by Harold Lloyd in The Freshman and the Marx Brothers in Horse Feathers). As an Oscar completist, the film is notable to me due to Stuart Erwin's nomination for supporting actor, the first year the award was given. Soon after the film begun, I realized that it was notable for something far more significant: it is the feature film debut of a very young (14 years old at the time of the release) Judy Garland.

Pigskin Parade is the rare combination of sports film and musical. While it is no Damn Yankees, it is an easy film to like, telling the story of the football program of the tiny - and fictional - Texas State University, who mistakenly receives an invitation from the then mighty Yale University football team to play each other in an exhibition game. Texas State, led by their coach (played by Jack Haley, who would appear again with Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz), is severely overmatched, and the disparity between the two teams grows even greater when their quarterback is injured. Enter Stuart Erwin, a farm boy who impresses the team with his ability to throw watermelons, and his younger sister, played by Garland.

The plot is simple, and there's little to surprise audiences in the film in terms of the story. Yet Pigskin Parade is a fun and charming film, due almost entirely to the cast. Haley and Erwin, along with Betty Grable and Patsy Kelly, form the core of the cast, and the performances are all solid, if a bit hokey. Then, of course, there is Judy Garland. I was hardly surprised that Garland stole every scene she was in, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Every line is delivered at maximum volume and with dramatics, and at times Garland's performance was all too similar to something William Shatner would have turned in. But even with a somewhat histrionic performance, it is the rare performer who can steal every scene she is in, particularly when acting with an experienced and talented cast, and perhaps only Garland had the talent to do so in her early teen years.

Garland's best moments in the film, unsurprisingly, are those in which she sings. Showing little of the sweet innocence she would show just a few years later in The Wizard of Oz, she instead sounds like the powerhouse she would become later on, belting out every note with perfect intonation. Her singing's not subtle, but Judy never was when she was at her best.

If for no reason other than the historic first feature film appearance of Judy Garland, Pigskin Parade would be worth watching. With the addition of a fun story and a good cast, it is well worth investing time in.

Remaining: 3164 films, 874 Oscars, 5442 nominations

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Gruffalo (2009)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Film, Animated - Jakob Schuh and Max Lang

I was well into my teen years when Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's children book The Gruffalo was published, and since I do not yet have any children, I was unaware of the mega-selling and much-loved book, which has sold over ten million copies. As is often the case with films that are adapted from childhood works, so much of one's appreciation for the adaptation is affected by the individual's feelings toward the source material, and those who grew up on The Gruffalo responded with great enthusiasm for Jakob Schuh and Max Lang's short film. Having no such feelings myself, I didn't have the same reaction and attachment to the film that so many have had to the film, which became a favorite of various awards voters and viewers, particularly in the UK.

"The Gruffalo" tells the story of a quick-witted mouse, who makes up a story to survive as he travels through the woods. Of course, as with any morality tale, the mouse's license with the truth is confronted, and he must use his wits to deal with the consequences. It is a very sweet film, and the wonderful cast provides voice work perfectly suited to the characters. The film's run time is a bit bloated at 27 minutes, and it's easy to find several minutes that could have been cut to improve pacing.

"The Gruffalo" is a well made animated short film, and it was well deserving of its Academy Award nomination. I feel it would have benefitted from a few nips and tucks, though perhaps if I had a strong attachment to the source material, I would have greater enjoyment of each moment. A great deal of care was put into the making of this film, and I imagine Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler are quite happy with the filmic adaptation of their story.

Remaining: 3165 films, 874 Oscars, 5443 nominations

Monday, April 2, 2012

Time Freak (2011)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Film, Live Action - Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey

After watching about 30 seconds of "Time Freak," I had a moment like the one that hit Anton Ego in Ratatouille, as I was suddenly transported back to my days in film school. The short film, though much more slickly produced than those that I saw during my undergraduate years, has many of the characteristics of a student short film, namely a cast that looks more like friends of the filmmakers than professional actors. Upon this realization, my interest in the film began to wane - most student short films aren't very good - and I checked my watch to see how much time remained, a bad sign for any film, but particularly insulting for a short.

A few moments after my rush to judgment, as the premise of "Time Freak" made itself clear, I forgot all about my premature dismissal and found myself loving the film. The short is the story of a neurotic young inventor who discovers the secrets of time travel, but instead of surveying ancient Rome or exploring the future, first decides to correct a series of recent mistakes in his life. Like the best comedic shorts, the filmmakers take a simple premise and turn it on its head. In "Time Freak," time travel is presented not in the usual mode of science fiction, but instead in an approach that Woody Allen might take.

The film exhibits impressive comedic timing, and the film moves along at a brisk pace with clever editing and excellent performances from the cast. "Time Freak," like the previous year's Oscar winner in the category "God of Love," is a perfect demonstration of the wonderful comedy that can come only from a well-crafted short film.

Remaining: 3166 films, 874 Oscars, 5444 nominations

Marines in the Making (1942)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Subject, One-Reel - Pete Smith

Pete Smith was a unique figure in the history of the cinema, one whose legacy would likely have all but vanished if not for the programmers at Turner Classic Movies, who squeeze "Pete Smith Specialties" into the schedule more often than TBS airs The Shawshank Redemption. Smith produced scores of non-fiction short films for MGM, and his films became known for Smith's occasionally wry, often corny, and always amusing narration.

Though Smith is probably best remembered for his films on sports and household mores, two subjects in which his humor worked best, he also made some exceptional military-themed films during World War II. Most of the military-themed short films made during the war years are nearly unwatchable now, as even the best of the bunch employ a Polyanna-esque tone and political simplicity that is foreign to modern day sensibilities. While Smith's war films are still very much of their time and thus the tone is still quite dated, the gently biting humor in the narration gives the films a lasting quality.

"Marines in the Making" is one of the strongest of Smith's military-themed films. The film is a brief look at the training of Marines shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the short is quite entertaining, as opposed to most short films of the time that served as little more than commercials for war bonds. In his narration Smith cracks harmless jokes about the Marines during their training, and the comparisons between the training of Marines and football players gives this short a unique spin. Some of Smith's narration is far from politically correct and offensive to modern ears, but at the time was indicative of national sentiment.

As is generally the case with Smith's films, "Marines in the Making" doesn't push the boundaries of the short film, and the content is quite straightforward and not terribly exciting on its own. Yet Smith's trademark style of narration and willingness to inject humor where others dared not combine to make "Marines in the Making" one of the more watchable and lasting of the military-themed shorts produced during World War II.

Remaining: 3167 films, 874 Oscars, 5445 nominations

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beginners (2010)

1 Nomination, 1 Win

Win: Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Christopher Plummer

The Academy is well known for giving de facto "lifetime achievement awards," in which an older performer is thought to have received an award more for his or her career body of work than a particular role. This usually happens in a year when there is no clear cut winner in a category, and popular sentiment shifts behind a nominee whose "time has come." This year's example of this phenomenon is Christopher Plummer, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Beginners.

Beginners tells the dual stories of a man (played by Ewan McGregor) dealing with his father's transition to living openly as a homosexual and coping with his father's death. The man is emotionally stunted, and his father's newfound acceptance of himself leaves him lost as he struggles to figure out who he is. The film avoids the easy cliches associated with such a story, and I was glad to see that McGregor's character had little if any problem with his father's homosexuality; rather, he seems perplexed that his father is now showing emotions and happiness that he can barely understand.

Where the film struggles is the coping plotline. These scenes are robbed of the vibrancy of Plummer's character, and McGregor walks around with a blank look on his face. I spent most of these scenes waiting for the narrative to shift back to Plummer's scenes.

Plummer turns in a nice performance in Beginners, and it is easy to see why he attracted the attention of the Academy. He's a living legend, and in Beginners he shows a side of himself unseen in previous roles. Yet I thought the screenplay did not give Plummer the opportunity to create a multifaceted character, and thus his performance feels a bit shallow. His Oscar win was by no means an outrage, but my vote would have gone to Nick Nolte's scene-stealing turn in Warrior or Jonah Hill's breakout role in Moneyball.

Beginners is a film worth watching, but I suspect I will have forgotten about it almost entirely within a few months. Plummer's performance is the highlight, and even though he likely won the award for his body of work more than this particular performance, I'm glad that he will add Oscar gold to his mantle.

Remaining: 3168 films, 874 Oscars, 5446 nominations

Thoughts from the 84th Academy Awards

The biggest night of the year for the Every Oscar Ever project has come and gone, and though much of the night went as expected (The Artist winning the big awards and Hugo cleaning up on the technical side), there were also some surprises (Meryl Streep winning her first Oscar since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister). My favorite moments of the telecast were Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis's presentation, Michel Hazanavicius's Billy Wilder shout-out, and Christopher Plummer's dignified acceptance speech. Billy Crystal was solid, if unremarkable, though I still would have liked to have seen Eddie Murphy as host, if he allowed himself to be the real Eddie and not the family-friendly Eddie of recent years.

2011 was a year with many very good films, but few if any masterpieces. My favorites of the year were Tree of Life, The Descendants, and A Better Life, and there were many more I found exceptional, if flawed. Moneyball was far better than I expected, Hugo was stellar in its first half but wandering in the second, and Bridesmaids and Midnight in Paris were two of the most enjoyable films of the year. The most fun I had in a theater all year was at The Muppets, and I'm still sad that "Man or Muppet" was not performed at this year's Oscar show.

15 films were awarded Academy Awards tonight, nine of which I have seen (I have seen Beginners, but have not yet posted my review of the film). The six remaining films (The Iron Lady, Saving Face, The Shore, Undefeated, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and A Separation) received seven awards, raising my total unseen count to 875 Oscars.

Each year's Academy Awards encourages me to see many more great films, but also makes the task of the Every Oscar Ever Project even more difficult. I'm looking forward to watching the remaining nominated films of this year as they are released on DVD, and hope to make significant progress in the Every Oscar Ever project before the 85th Academy Award nominations are announced.

Remaining: 3169 films, 875 Oscars, 5447 nominations

Puss in Boots (2011)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Animated Feature Film - Chris Miller

I have never been much of a fan of the Shrek series of films. Though both of the first two films had their moments, I find the films to be one-dimensional and one-note, and lacking the timeless quality of the films of Dreamworks Animation's biggest rival, PIXAR. The one part of the films that I have loved since his arrival in Shrek 2 is the character of Puss in Boots, voiced in a bit of perfect casting by Antonio Banderas. The character's combination of dashing Don Juan and helpless house cat make for a perfect supporting character, and Puss breathes life into what I often find to be dull, hackneyed scenes.

I was both excited and concerned when I heard Dreamworks was making a feature length Puss in Boots film. Even the best characters often become annoying and nearly unwatchable when stretched out into a feature-length film (see: 75% of Saturday Night Live inspired films), as the jokes that sustain a character for a few scenes often wear thin when stretched out over an entire movie. After viewing Puss in Boots, nominated for an Oscar this year for Best Animated Film against the far superior Rango, I was sad to find that my concerns were well founded.

Puss in Boots briefly tells the story of Puss's childhood with best friend Humpty Dumpty, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, and how he brought shame to his home and became a cat permanently on the run. Puss meets up with Humpty and Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), and is given a chance to redeem himself. The film follow's Puss's journey for redemption as he - in a play from the Shrek playbook - encounters other fairy-tale characters along the way.

The central problem with Puss in Boots is that the central character is just not very interesting. He's a parody of the "Latin lover" ideal, an idea that works well in small doses, but doesn't make for a well-rounded protagonist. His backstory is shallow, and because he shows so little interest in redeeming himself until the opportunity is given to him, his goal doesn't feel immediate or essential. The villains (voiced by Bill Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) are unthreatening and uninteresting, and the romantic subplot falls flat. Galifianakis is very good as the sidekick Humpty Dumpty, and I have a feeling that he'll be doing voice work in animated films for a long time.

Puss in Boots is a missed opportunity to take a wonderful character and build a film around him, but the result is a disappointing film that reminds me of much of the output of Dreamworks Animation.

Remaining: 3169 films, 868 Oscars, 5447 nominations

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

1 Nomination, Wins TBD

Nomination: Best Documentary, Short Subjects - Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

When I first moved to Washington, D.C. almost four years ago, I was unaware of the significance of the cherry blossom tree to the city. I was vaguely aware of their existence, but did not recognize the level of importance the cherry blossoms play in the city's identity. The trees came from Japan as a gift in 1912 to recognize the friendship between the two nations, with even more coming in 1965. Each year there is a festival held in Washington to celebrate the blooming of the trees, attracting over 700,000 visitors to D.C. each year.

Yet the importance of the cherry blossom trees is dwarfed by the role they play in Japan, especially in the Miyagi Prefecture, and that significance is the subject of Lucy Walker's beautiful short film "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom." The Miyagi Prefecture was where the tsunami caused by the March 11, 2011 earthquake off the coast of Japan hit land. At its impact point in Miyagi, the tsunami was over ten meters in height, and the amount of damage it caused cannot be overstated. Walker's film begins with an amateur video shot as the tsunami hit land, and the word harrowing does not even begin to describe the video. The water continues to rush further and further inland, against all logic, annihilating everything it rushes over.

The footage is terrifying, and when it is over, Walker looks at what has happened to the region now that the water has receded. Interviews with survivors of the tsunami, images of what the region looks like now, and scenes of the cleanup combine to show just how significant the damage of the tsunami has been. The amount of perspective shown by the film would be impressive under any circumstances, but is all the more remarkable considering that the film was released less than a year after the tsunami.

Yet as expertly as the film shows the effects of the tsunami, this is not what the film is about. Instead, it is about the rebirth of the region, as symbolized by the cherry blossom. The film takes a meditative, poetic look at the cherry blossom and what it represents, framing the rebuilding of the prefecture through the lifecycle of the cherry blossom. This sounds a little hokey, but I assure you it is not. The film's opening footage gives it a grounding, so there is enough of a foundation to support the film when it takes on a more allegorical look at the recovery.

Short documentaries focusing on the aftermath of a destructive event are nothing new; almost every year the Academy nominates at least one. This film's novel approach to the subject is what makes it unique and special, and the film shows hope in what seems like a hopeless situation. Lucy Walker has been one of the most talented documentarians of the last decade, making such standouts as Waste Land and Devil's Playground. I hope she returns to the documentary short form, as she has a strong voice and talent for the form.

Remaining: 3170 films, 868 Oscars, 5448 nominations

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Masters of Disaster (1986)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Documentary, Short Subjects - Sonya Friedman

"The Masters of Disaster" is a documentary short subject that tells the story of an unlikely youth chess team from Indianapolis who went on surprise the chess world with their success. The team, made up of young African Americans with no previous experience and led by their devoted teacher, went on to win the United States elementary school chess championship.

Sonya Friedman and her team did an admirable job in crafting "The Masters of Disaster." Because of the nature of the story behind the short film, it would have been very easy for the filmmakers to turn in a piece of cheeseball filmmaking, obsessing on the circumstances of each of the young students on the team. Instead, the filmmakers recognize the enormity of the achievement of the students without overly focusing on their backgrounds.

The amount of material the filmmakers pack into its running time is impressive. Several of the young students, as well as their teacher, are profiled, and the film follows the students to an international tournament. The final moments of the tournament are captured by the filmmakers without comment, and the finale is emotional and sincere without a trace of manipulation.

"The Masters of Disaster" isn't a brilliant film, and its straightforward narrative style is very much of its time and comes across as dated. Yet what the film lacks in style it makes up for in sincerity, and the filmmakers exhibit great maturity in allowing the story to speak for itself without overhyping the circumstances, and what results is a well made and touching film.

Once again, thanks go out to the Shirlington Branch of the Arlington Virginia Public Library ( for helping me track down this short movie through their interlibrary loan system.

Remaining: 3171 films, 868 Oscars, 5449 nominations

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sometimes a Great Notion (1970)

2 Nominations, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Richard Jaeckel
Nomination Best Music, Original Song - "All His Children" by Henry Mancini, Alan Bergman, and Marilyn Bergman

Sometimes a Great Notion (alternatively known as Never Give an Inch), has the makings of a classic John Steinbeck story: conflicts between half-brothers, a father and his sons, and between a labor union and mill owners. The film is based on a novel by Ken Kesey (of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest fame), a famously impenetrable book that was significantly simplified for the film. Sometimes... is a bit uneven and the film has tonal issues, but it is an occasionally brilliant film with a typically ferocious performance from Paul Newman.

The tonal issues of Sometimes... begin from the very opening of the film, as "All His Children," the Academy Award nominated song plays over the opening. The song is an upbeat, jangly tune out of sync with the rest of the film. The film then meanders awhile before finding its central conflicts, the battle between two brothers. The film is ostensibly about the Stamper family's conflict with the local striking labor union, but this conflict is a backdrop to the more localized drama of the Stamper brothers. Paul Newman and Richard Jaeckel, and to a lesser extent Michael Sarrazin, are each compelling in their parts, and no one plays a patriarch like Henry Fonda.

The film is best known for its emotional and haunting climactic scene, which Newman both directs and acts without relent. There are many outstanding actors who act as if they were in a vacuum, failing to elevate the performances of those around them; Newman, however, always rose the talents of those he worked with. Sometimes a Great Notion is no exception, and the whole cast ups their game in their scenes with Newman, especially in the climax.

Sometimes... could have been much more, and the screenplay (written by John Gay) could have benefitted by digging a bit deeper into the conflicts of the Stamper family, giving the characters greater depth. Though it doesn't live up to its potential, it is still a carefully crafted and worthwhile film, and is a minor classic in the Paul Newman canon.

Remaining: 3172 films, 868 Oscars, 5450 nominations

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Teddy the Rough Rider (1940)

1 Nomination, 1 Win

Win: Best Short Subject, Two-Reel - Warner Bros.

When I was in middle school, I used to take every opportunity possible to complete class assignments by making short films. Instead of a report about the Gettysburg Address, for example, I made a short movie recreating President Lincoln's speech in my living room. Instead of writing about Louis Leakey's work in developing our understanding of human evolution, I made a silly short film showing one of my 12 year old friends dressed Leakey digging a hole in my backyard. Little did I know that if we had made these films back in 1940, with only a bit more care we might have been able to win an Academy Award. At least, that's the lesson I learned from watching "Teddy the Rough Rider," the 1940 short that won the Academy Award for Best Two-Reel Short Subject.

"Teddy the Rough Rider" is one of those short subject biopics from the first half of the 20th century that attempts to tell the life story of a great individual through a series of short (usually less than 30 second) scenes representing key moments in the individual's life. These scenes almost always come across as goofy, as the short film just isn't the right medium for a biography. "Teddy the Rough Rider" is particularly silly, with Sidney Blackmer's Teddy Roosevelt spouting off several of his famous quotes in scenes representing key moments in Roosevelt's life, yet showing no depth of character or any subtlety whatsoever. The script was written by Charles L. Tedford, who wrote dozens of scripts for shorts, but it really comes across as only slightly better than the scripts I wrote for my ridiculous middle school films.

Aside from his constant squint, Blackmer's portrayal of Roosevelt is capable, and the resemblance is striking. He cannot be faulted for the lack of depth in his portrayal, as the script is incredibly shallow and ludicrous. Still, his performance is a bit manic, and though Roosevelt was certainly an energetic individual, the short could have benefited from Blackmer holding back a bit more.

I was excited to see "Teddy the Rough Rider" on Turner Classic Movies, as I have long been interested in the life of Theodore Roosevelt, but I was greatly disappointed, and I am baffled as to how this won an Academy Award.

Remaining: 3173 films, 868 Oscars, 5452 nominations

Calgary Stampede (1948)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Subject, Two-Reel - Gordon Hollingshead

This year's 30 Days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies has centered around the theme of Destinations, and the network has curated films around a variety of locations. As part of the collection of films taking place in Canada, the network aired the 1948 short film "Calgary Stampede," which documents the Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo and exhibition held in some form since 1886.

"Calgary Stampede" is a short travelogue, documenting the various events of the Stampede. It's a straightforward travelogue, but does an excellent job presenting the events of the Stampede. The film is beautifully shot, and the visuals of the events of the Stampede are impressive for its time. The film would of course look very different if made today, but the film was ahead of its time in its technical competence, and successfully takes the viewer into the world of the Calgary Stampede, the goal of every travelogue.

"Calgary Stampede" is a well made, admirable travelogue, and it is a wonderful thing to have such a competent recording of the Calgary Stampede 64 years later.

Remaining: 3174 films, 869 Oscars, 5453 nominations

Main Street Today (1944)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Subject, Two-Reel - Jerry Bresler

"Main Street Today" is one of the many short films produced during World War II that was made to encourage American citizens to support the war effort in some way, whether through enlistment, buying war bonds, or displaying greater patriotism. "Main Street Today" tells the story of a town that has grown upset at the government's request to add an additional shift at the factory, before one individual reminds the town of its patriotic duty.

Films such as "Main Street Today" are quite dated, and it is difficult to imagine a time in which these films could be effective. They tend to come across as quite naive and a bit ridiculous. Yet so many of these films were made that they must have been effective to some degree. "Main Street Today" isn't one of my favorites of the type, as it comes across as especially corny and over-the-top.

I will likely never understand the appeal of films such as "Main Street Today," since I was born several generations after the generation that it was made for. While there is a certain charm in these shorts, I'm afraid they're just not my cup of tea.

Remaining: 3175 films, 869 Oscars, 5454 nominations

School in the Mailbox (1947)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Documentary, Short Subjects - Australian News and Information Bureau

Getting an education online seems to be a modern day convention, but the 1947 short film "School in the Mailbox" proves that the concept of distance learning goes back over half a century. The short film details Australia's efforts to educate the nation's youth who live far from city centers. In the days before broadband internet and mobile phone access, it was a difficult challenge for the Australian government to education children who lived in the most remote parts of the island, but the country set up a system using correspondence and radio broadcasts to teach children everywhere.

"School in the Mailbox" describes this system in a straightforward, less than thoughtful manner. The film is very much a promotional tool, and doesn't offer any analysis of the effectiveness of the system, nor does it personalize it by introducing us in a meaningful way to the children of the program. The program seems worthwhile and was clearly quite resourceful, but there just wasn't much of an effort to challenge the viewer or ask questions about the program. The film thus serves as an interesting historic artifact, but this isn't much more than a promotion for a program of the past.

You can watch "School in the Mailbox" at the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation at

Remaining: 3176 films, 869 Oscars, 5455 nominations

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011)

1 Nomination, Wins TBD

Nomination: Best Short Film, Animated - William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg

If the guardians of printed literature ever wished to make a commercial to fight back against Kindles, iPads, and other e-readers, they couldn't do much better than to just show the lovely animated short "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore."

"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" is a silent short film that tells the story of the joy one man finds in his books. The animation is a combination of mediums, and appears simple while being both beautiful and sophisticated. The filmmakers employ some creative, wonderful devices to tell the story, particularly the Humpty Dumpty flipbook, which give the film a charming lightness to counter the underlying melancholy of the film, resulting in a perfect tone.

"The Fantastic..." is the first of the nominated animated shorts that I have seen this year, so I can't say where it ranks with the other nominees, but it is a wonderful film and I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it ends up being my favorite animated short of the year.

You can watch "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" at the website of Moonbot Studios:

Remaining: 3177 films, 869 Oscars, 5456 nominations

The Happiest Millionaire (1967)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Costume Design - Bill Thomas

Of the thousands of films remaining to view for the Every Oscar Ever project, a nearly three hour musical family film that flopped at the box office and was nominated for a single award wasn't too high on my viewing list. I likely would have waited a long time to view the film, if not for the fact that it was a childhood favorite of my wife, who regularly sings "Fortuosity" and "Let's Have A Drink On It," and who asked to view it while we celebrated her birthday. So before watching such esteemed films as Gandhi, On Golden Pond, or Judgment at Nuremberg, I sat down to watch The Happiest Millionaire.

The film tells the story of the family of Anthony Biddle (played by Fred MacMurray), a real-life eccentric Philadelphia millionaire known for his talents in boxing, training soldiers for combat, and promoting Christianity. The film's extremely loose plot centers around the arrival of an Irish butler, played by Tommy Steele, and the engagement of Biddle's daughter Cordy, played by Lesley Ann Warren. Much of the film moves along with little plot development, and it's easy to imagine that when Walt Disney Pictures cut the film's running time, not much was sacrificed in the way of narrative or character development. The film's central conflict is that the family of Cordy's fiance, particularly his mother (the legendary Geraldine Page), does not approve of the eccentric Biddles, and the young couple must work to overcome the gulf between the two families. This is a classic plot, seen in films such as La Cage aux Folles and The Birdcage, and nothing happens that is terribly surprising or unique.

Yet despite the film's lack of creativity, there are moments of real joy in it that make it obvious to me why my wife loved the film so much as a child. Tommy Steele is impossibly likeable in the film, and his performance of a few songs, particularly "Let's Have A Drink On It," are classic Disney numbers. The songs were written by the famed Sherman Brothers, and while not every song is a gem, there are plenty of winners, and Steele was perhaps the second best match for the Sherman Brothers style, trailing only Dick Van Dyke.

I'll never understand the deep love for this film held by my wife, as it's impossible to explain the deep love of childhood favorites to those who come to the films later in life, which is why my wife will never understand my dedication to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Yet I can still see the charm in The Happiest Millionaire, and if the viewer is able to look past the wandering plot and over-the-top performances by several of the film's leads, there is a lot to love in The Happiest Millionaire.

Remaining: 3178 films, 869 Oscars, 5457 nominations

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

3 Nominations, Wins TBD

Nomination: Best Achievement in Sound Editing - Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
Nomination: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing - Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Peter J. Devlin
Nomination: Best Achievement in Visual Effects - Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew E. Butler, and John Frazier

The Every Oscar Ever Project has given me the opportunity to watch wonderful films that I would have otherwise never seen: insightful documentary shorts, foreign films that shed light on places and issues completely new to me, and hundreds of older films that have been largely forgotten by all but the most devoted fans. Yet I have also been forced to spend far too many hours watching films that have managed to sneak a nomination or two, usually in the technical categories, that are truly awful. In their infinite wisdom, the Academy has chosen to bestow nominations on all three films in the Transformers series, forcing me to watch 448 minute of mindless dreck. The last time I enjoyed a Michael Bay film I was 14 years old, a fact I am embarrassed to admit since the average 14 year old is far too sophisticated for the idiocy of Michael Bay's movies. What surprises me most is not that the Academy nominated these films - the technical achievements are actually quite stunning - but that any Academy members, all of whom are presumably older than 14 years old, could sit through these films.

There isn't much to say about the Transformers movies in terms of plot, character development, theme, or anything so trifling. Not only are the narratives moronic, but Bay neglects to put any real heart or emotion into the films. In his earlier films with Jerry Bruckheimer, Bay was, if anything, guilty of laying on the emotion too thickly. Once he began to work without Bruckheimer, Bay seems to have thrown all emotion out the window, and has replaced it with bigger effects and broader humor. Though the narrative suffers, if Bay's goal was to focus less on story and more on the visuals, he has succeeded. The visual effects in Dark of the Moon are quite possibly the most impressive and most detailed effects ever put on screen. During the film's biggest set pieces, the amount of visual stimulation Bay packs into each frame is completely overwhelming, as the eye can only focus on so much, but the effects team deserves to be commended for the enormity of their accomplishment. Transformers has raised the stakes as to what can be put on screen.

Yet despite the technical brilliance of the visual effects, I was left feeling hollow by the visual wizardry. Visual effects in service of a good story can be magical, but visual effects in service of a silly plot populated by hollow characters are little more than expensive magic tricks. Because the Carly Spencer character (played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) is one of the least interesting leading characters I have ever seen in a film, I didn't care at all what danger she was in, no matter how beautifully rendered the robot attacking her. In films such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II and Hugo, the drama created by the story was so significant that the effects had much more weight and significance; though they weren't as impressive, they were far more important.

If the teams responsible for the visual effects, sound mixing, and sound editing in Transformers win Academy Awards, it will be well deserved, as the film is a technical marvel. But these achievements are not created in a vacuum, and since they should exist only in service of the story, it would be a shame to see rewards given to a film that dispensed with the need for anything as trivial as plot or characters.

Remaining: 3179 films, 869 Oscars, 5458 nominations

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Margin Call (2011)

1 Nomination, Wins TBD

Nomination: Best Writing, Original Screenplay - J.C. Chandor

Margin Call surprised many with its Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, as the film had not been the recipient of much Oscar buzz. Yet the film's nomination should not be terribly surprising, as it is a sharp, well-paced film about a timely issue, starring some of Hollywood's finest - in other words, total Oscar bait.

J.C. Chandor's screenplay for Margin Call is quite strong in some regards: its dialogue is sharp, it moves along at a perfect clip, and, most of all, tells a story of very complex financial machinations in an understandable and entertaining manner. This is no small feat, as the film could have easily been weighed down by the complexities of the financial transaction that is at the center of the film's narrative.

Yet for all that it does well, the script is not perfect. The film is the story of a difficult decision that must be made by the top executive of a financial institution, but the executive is not the protagonist of the film - he does not appear until the second half of the film. As a result of this structure, the film's major characters move along like chess pieces under Chandor's control, existing only to allow for the decision the film hinges on. This means that none of the film's major characters make any real choices, and thus there is little drama in any of their actions. Nearly the entire film thus feels like the first act of a larger story, which it very much is. Just when the major decision is made, instead of the second act beginning and the audience seeing the drama that follows from the decision, we instead see almost nothing before we move to the third act. The film feels much more like a two act play than a traditional film. While I do not mind films employing variations to the three act structure (my favorite film of the year, Tree of Life, completely eschews the concept), in Margin Call it creates an unsatisfying lack of weight to the character's decisions.

The other aspect of the script that I thought was weak was the extended metaphor of Kevin Spacey's dog. It's not a terrible metaphor, but it is heavy-handed and clumsy, and the film would have been better off without it.

Despite its odd structure, Margin Call is an enjoyable movie, and deserves credit for being the first narrative film to successfully respond to the financial meltdown.

Remaining: 3180 films, 869 Oscars, 5461 nominations

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

84th Academy Award Nominations Released

Today is the second biggest day of the year for the Every Oscar Ever Project, as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences released the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards. The nominations, which can be viewed here, consist of many of the expected films (Hugo with 11 nominations, The Artist with 10), and a few surprises (a Best Actor nomination for Demian Bichir for A Better Life, Margin Call scoring a Best Original Screenplay nom). Most significantly for Every Oscar Ever, the nominations offers a list of movies that I now must add to my list of movies to see. Here is a list of the movies that I have seen and that I have not yet seen, along with the number of nominations it received.

The Descendants (5)
The Artist (10)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (3)
Moneyball (6)
My Week With Marilyn (2)
Warrior (1)
The Help (4)
Bridesmaids (2)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (1)
Rango (1)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (3)
Hugo (11)
Midnight in Paris (4)
The Tree of Life (3)
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (1)
The Muppets (1)
Drive (1)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (1)
The Ides of March (1)

Not Yet Seen:
A Better Life (1)
Beginners (1)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2)
Albert Nobbs (3)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (5)
The Iron Lady (2)
A Cat in Paris (1)
Chico & Rita (1)
Puss in Boots (1)
War Horse (6)
Anonymous (1)
Jane Eyre (1)
W.E. (1)
Hell and Back Again (1)
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (1)
Pina (1)
Undefeated (1)
"The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement" (1)
"God is the Bigger Elvis" (1)
"Incident in New Baghdad" (1)
"Saving Face" (1)
"The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" (1)
Bullhead (1)
Footnote (1)
In Darkness (1)
Monsieur Lazhar (1)
A Separation (2)
The Adventures of Tintin (1)
Rio (1)
"Dimance/Sunday" (1)
"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" (1)
"La Luna" (1)
"A Morning Stroll" (1)
"Wild Life" (1)
"Pentecost" (1)
"Raju" (1)
"The Shore" (1)
"Time Freak" (1)
"Tuba Atlantic" (1)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (3)
Real Steel (1)
Margin Call (1)

That's 42 films and 58 nominations to add to the Every Oscar Ever Project, putting me at 3183 films remaining, and 5462 nominations. This means I have 5 more films to watch than when I started, and 10 less nominations. It's a bit discouraging, and this means I am going to have to increase significantly the number of movies I watch next year in order to make forward progress.

Remaining: 3181 films, 869 Oscars, 5462 nominations

Monday, January 23, 2012

Carmen Jones (1954)

2 Nominations, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Actress in a Leading Role - Dorothy Dandridge
Nomination: Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture - Herschel Burke Gilbert

Just a year after Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge first appeared together in Bright Road, which was Belafonte's first film appearance and Dandridge's first leading role, the two reunited in a highly ambitious film, Carmen Jones. The film was an adaptation of the 1943 Broadway musical of the same name, itself an adaptation of the Georges Bizet opera Carmen. The 1954 film, directed by the great Otto Preminger, featured an all African-American cast, and in addition to Belafonte and Dandridge also featured an early performance from Pearl Bailey.

Carmen Jones is a frustrating movie to watch. For everything in the film that is unique and brave, there is something equally insipid or hackneyed. The music of Bizet instantly feels relevant and alive in the more modern setting of the film, yet all of the electricity of the music evaporates the moment that singing begins. Not only are the lyrics severely lacking, but the leads of the film are overdubbed by more classically trained singers, and its impossible to focus on anything but the poor overdubbing during these scenes. Additionally, Preminger, known for his strong visuals - his Anatomy of a Murder is one of the most visually creative films of its time - completely misses the mark here. The film ranges from poorly lit interiors to oversaturated exteriors. Carmen Jones would have likely benefited from the black-and-white treatment, which might have given the film a more timeless quality.

Though Harry Belafonte is a legend, and speaking of him negatively is practically heresy, he was completely miscast in this film. Though he had won a Tony Award, Belafonte was largely new to acting at the time of Carmen Jones, and he is out of his weight class on this film. He delivers his lines with little conviction, and his character degrades into little more than a mealy, unthreatening prop. A stronger actor in the role could have electrified the film, but Belafonte shrinks into the background. Belafonte is a dignified, graceful man, and he's unconvincing as a jealous, angry, and broken man.

The highlight of the film is Dorothy Dandridge, who unlike Belafonte, completely shines in one of her first starring roles. I have heard quite a bit of hype surrounding Ms. Dandridge since the mid-1990's, but before Carmen Jones had not seen any films starring Dandridge. After watching this film, I am beginning to understand the respect that many hold for Dandridge, and am anxious to see her other films. She is full of energy, and completely commands each scene she is in from the very start, despite working with several actors who had no business appearing on screen with her. Due to her untimely death and a lack of bravery on the part of the studios in finding her suitable roles, Dandridge was never able to capitalize off of the promise she demonstrated in Carmen Jones, and thus this film offers the best opportunity to understand why so many hold Dorothy Dandridge in such high regard.

Though Carmen Jones is a severely flawed film, it is absolutely worth watching. Aside from the opportunity to watch Dorothy Dandridge at her finest hour, it is notable for its bravery during the final days of the Breen Code and its historical significance. The film could have been much, much more, but it is absolutely worth watching despite its flaws.

Remaining: 3141 films, 869 Oscars, 5404 nominations

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Een Griekse tragedie (1985)

1 Nomination, 1 Win

Win: Best Short Film, Animated - Linda Van Tulden and Willem Thijssen

In a year in which the breakthrough "Luxo Jr." and the wildly dark "The Frog, the Dog, and the Devil" were both nominated for Best Animated Short, it seems inconceivable that "Een Griekse tragedie" could win the Academy Award. This isn't to say there's anything wrong with the film; it's a cute little short about three Grecian statues holding up the ruins of an ancient building as it crumbles.

Yet despite a strong premise, the story doesn't go anywhere surprising. The best animated comedy shorts take a funny premise, and push the humor further and further in increasingly creative situations. "Een Griekse tragedie," however, is pretty much a one note joke.

On a purely visual level, "Een Griekse tragedie" features pleasant animation, but is nowhere near as exciting as the kinetic, energetic animation of "The Frog, the Dog, and the Devil" or the revolutionary computer animation of "Luxo Jr."

"Een Griekse tragedie" is an enjoyable little film, but it is hard to fathom how it won the Academy Award over two far superior shorts.

Remaining: 3142 films, 869 Oscars, 5406 nominations

The Frog, the Dog, and the Devil (1986)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Film, Animated - Hugh MacDonald and Martin Townsend

Typically, alcoholism is a subject dealt with more often in documentary shorts than animated shorts, but "The Frog, the Dog, and the Devil" is not a typical animated short. The short tells the story of a drunkard going through alcohol withdrawal, as personified by the Devil. Director Bob Stenhouse takes what could be a dark subject and makes it a funny madcap romp.

The short is full of imaginative animation that is used to advance the dark humor, and quickly dispels the notion that cartoons are meant for children. The website NZ On Screen points out that New Zealand is legendary for its alcoholism - John Flatt told a committee of the British House of Lords in 1838 that the country's natives referred to the Europeans living in the country as a "nation of drunkards - and Stenhouse's short plays with this stereotype.

"The Frog, the Dog, and the Devil" isn't my favorite of the nominees; though I haven't yet seen the winning "Een Griekse tragedie," Pixar's debut short "Luxo Jr." is one of the finest animated shorts ever made. Still, it's an excellent short film, and succeeds in turning a dark subject matter into a fun short.

The film can be viewed at:

Remaining: 3143 films, 870 Oscars, 5407 nominations

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Second Chorus (1940)

2 Nominations, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Music, Original Song - "Love of My Life" by Artie Shaw and Johnny Mercer
Nomination: Best Music, Score - Artie Shaw

Fred Astaire called Second Chorus the worst film he ever made, and though I haven't seen every film made by Mr. Astaire, I cannot disagree with his judgment.

The plot of the film is a classic Astaire setup: two young musicians (Astaire and Burgess Meredith) are in a college band made up of musicians who have intentionally failed to graduate year after year in order to stay in the band, and both young men fall for the same girl. It's a silly premise, made all the sillier by the fact that the men are supposed to have failed to graduate for seven years, yet Astaire was 41 years old at the time of the film's release. As the object of their affection - played by Paulette Goddard - leaves to work for Artie Shaw's band, the two men take turns sabotaging each other in pursuit of the girl and a spot in Shaw's band. Most of the film consists of scenes of the two attempting to outwit each other, and while the scenes are humorous, they don't add up to much.

The highlight of the movie, as the Academy recognized, was the film's wonderful music. Jazz great Artie Shaw provided a swinging jazz score, a perfect complement to Astaire's dancing. Unfortunately, Astaire hardly dances in the film, wasting a great opportunity for a marriage between two legends. Both of the film's Oscar nominations were for the film's music, for the score as well as for the song "Love of My Life" by Shaw and the equally legendary Johnny Mercer. While Shaw and Mercer would have had a good shot at winning Oscar gold in most other years, they were forced to go up against Tin Pan Alley for score and Pinocchio's "When You Wish Upon A Star" for song. Shaw and Mercer never had a shot.

Second Chorus is a silly little movie, and Artie Shaw's music is definitely the highlight of the film. While the movie is far from bad, its hollow script and lack of character and plot development make it completely forgettable.

Remaining: 3144 films, 870 Oscars, 5408 nominations

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snows of Aorangi (1958)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects

The 1950's saw a wave of interest in mountaineering. Mount Everest's summit was reached for the first time in 1953, and K2 was conquered just over a year later in 1954. Aorangi or Aoraki, the Maori name for the mountain better known as Mount Cook, had first been climbed in 1894, but this route was not repeated until 1955, seven years after Sir Edmund Hillary first climbed the mountain.

It was against this backdrop that New Zealand's National Film Unit commissioned photographer Brian Brake to create a tourism promotional film, featuring the beauty of Aorangi. The film, just under twenty minutes long, is a very straightforward look at the mountain, and is made up of gorgeous landscape shots of the mountain. The narration is nothing special, but it was easy to ignore as I focused on the beauty of the images. The short is perhaps best remembered for its long shots of skiers descending down the mountain, and this rhythmic sequence made me run to Expedia to look up July in New Zealand.

It is easy to write off "Snows of Aorangi" as a dated travelogue, and the film is undoubtedly more of a historical artifact than a vibrant piece of filmmaking. Yet films like this were the predecessor to the IMAX films of today that explore worlds such as the depths of the ocean and outer space. For a film like "Snows of Aorangi" to have been filmed in 1958 is just as impressive as these modern films. What could have been a simple promotional film is instead a visually captivating historical record of a mountain at a time when it represented one of the most exciting places on the planet.

Thanks to the great website NZ On Screen, "Snows of Aorangi" can be viewed online at

Remaining: 3145 films, 870 Oscars, 5410 nominations

The Defiant Ones (1958)

9 Nominations, 2 Wins

Win: Best Cinematography, Black-and-White - Sam Leavitt

Win: Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, Written Directly for the Screen - Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith

Nomination: Best Picture - Stanley Kramer

Nomination: Best Actor in a Leading Role - Tony Curtis

Nomination: Best Actor in a Leading Role - Sidney Poitier

Nomination: Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Theodore Bikel

Nomination: Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Cara Williams

Nomination: Best Director - Stanley Kramer

Nomination: Best Film Editing - Frederic Knudtson
Despite loving classic films, my knowledge of both Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier's work is sadly lacking, having only seen one film starring each man (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Some Like It Hot). After watching Poitier present Morgan Freeman with the lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, I decided I was due for an education in Poitier, and Turner Classic Movies obliged by showing The Defiant Ones as part of its Martin Luther King Jr. Day lineup of films.

The Defiant Ones has a simple premise, with an opening similar to The Fugitive. A prisoner transport bus crashes, allowing the prisoners to run free. What makes it special is that two prisoners, played by Poitier and Curtis, are handcuffed together, and the two men, each uncomfortable with the other's race, must work together in order to have a chance at escape. Set in the south in the 1950's, the premise offers the opportunity to examine a host of issues related to racial-based prejudice.

Instead of a melodramatic series of dialogues showing the characters' attitudes toward race, the device most often used in films such as this, the filmmakers instead show the character's developments through expertly crafted scenes. Particularly impressive is the sequence in which, shortly after they escape, the two men must wordlessly work together to cross a rushing river. Of course, scenes such as this would not be interesting to watch if performed by actors who were not compelling. Poitier and Curtis are both outstanding, and well deserving of their acting nominations. They play off each other expertly, and it is difficult to imagine better casting, even considering that Marlon Brando was originally slated to play Curtis's part. The two could have been quite a successful ongoing screen duo, and it is a shame they did not work together more.

The film features strong supporting performances from nominees Theodore Bikel and Cara Williams, as well as a nice featured role for Lon Chaney, Jr. I am a bit surprised Bikel was able to score a nomination, based on his limited screen time, and think Chaney was a more logical choice for the nomination. Cara Williams also had limited screen time, but she steals the few scenes that she appears in.

Despite being a film that is very much of its time, The Defiant Ones has hardly aged in the 50 plus years since its release and still feels vital. Though the film obviously carries a message of racial acceptance, it does not rely solely on its message, and Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob's Smith fine script is full of excellent character development. The Defiant Ones would have likely been a good film even without two outstanding lead performances, but with Poitier and Curtis, it is obvious why this film has stood the test of time.

Remaining: 3146 films, 870 Oscars, 5411 nominations

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

More Posts on the Way

After a stretch in which I was watching and writing about Oscar nominated and winning movies ever week, I took a break to help plan a wedding, get married, honeymoon, and settle into married life with my amazing wife. Then the holidays came around, and the Every Oscar Ever project took a backseat. I managed to see a few Oscar movies during that stretch, but the project went largely ignored for a few months.

As Oscar season gears up and Turner Classic Movies's "31 Days of Oscar" approaches, I've found myself missing the Every Oscar Ever project, and I'm ready to dive back in. Tonight I'll be firing up The Defiant Ones, and Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt is working its way toward the top of my Netflix queue, so there will be plenty to write about in the near future.

While I haven't seen many Oscar movies over the past six months or so, I will update my numbers as a result of watching Total Recall, Harry and the Hendersons, True Grit (John Wayne, not Jeff Bridges), Poster Girl, and Alice in Wonderland. With the exception of Alice in Wonderland, which I was largely unimpressed by, I enjoyed each of these films, and strongly recommend the documentary short Poster Girl.

Remaining: 3147 films, 872 Oscars, 5420 nominations