Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Pride of the Yankees (1942)


Academy Awards, USA 1943

Winner
Oscar
Best Film Editing
Daniel Mandell
Nominee
Oscar
Best Picture
Samuel Goldwyn Productions
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Gary Cooper
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Teresa Wright
Best Writing, Original Story
Paul Gallico
Best Writing, Screenplay
Herman J. Mankiewicz
Jo Swerling
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
Rudolph Maté
Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White
Perry Ferguson
Howard Bristol
Best Sound, Recording
Thomas T. Moulton (Samuel Goldwyn SSD)
Best Effects, Special Effects
Jack Cosgrove (photographic)
Ray Binger (photographic)
Thomas T. Moulton (sound)
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
Leigh Harline

RKO Radio Pictures
Directed by Sam Wood
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, MGM/Fox)

Gary Cooper is famous baseball player Lou Gehrig in this Hollywood biopic. He's really a mama's boy, reluctant to go against her wishes to become an engineer like his uncle. However, when she needs a hospital stay he secretly signs with the Yankees organization to pay for it. He makes his way through the minor league, telling dear old mom he is away at school, until getting called up to the big leagues. He soon convinces his fellow players, and family, that he was meant to be a baseball player. After a long, amazing career, he begins to suffer from the disease that will soon kill him, and be named after him. Cooper's wide-eyed, naive portrayal of Gehrig is simply too much to overcome in this predictable, cliched story. 

The Hospital (1971)


Academy Awards, USA 1972

Winner
Oscar
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced
Paddy Chayefsky
Nominee
Oscar
Best Actor in a Leading Role
George C. Scott

United Artists
Directed by Arthur Hiller
My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Twilight Time)

George C. Scott is a doctor going through a middle age crisis at a large urban hospital. Separated from his wife and adult children, his work is the only thing holding him together, and now that is falling apart as well. The hospital is in complete disarray, with mistakes leading to not only patient deaths, but doctors and nurses are beginning to die as well. Contemplating suicide, he meets Diana Rigg, the daughter of a recently admitted patient. She openly flirts with him, sparking a lively debate about his supposed impotence, which is addressed later that night. She also causes him to re-examine the meaning of his life by offering to take him along to a remote Indian village in Mexico to start over. He almost accepts, but ultimately has guilt about his responsibility to the hospital. Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay is brilliant: a scathing satire of modern medicine, a deep reflection on life. They could only make these kind of films in the 70s. 

A Place in the Sun (1951)


Academy Awards, USA 1952

Winner
Oscar
Best Director
George Stevens
Best Writing, Screenplay
Michael Wilson
Harry Brown
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
William C. Mellor
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White
Edith Head
Best Film Editing
William Hornbeck
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
Franz Waxman
Nominee
Oscar
Best Picture
George Stevens
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Montgomery Clift
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Shelley Winters

Paramount
Directed by George Stevens
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Paramount)

Montgomery Clift hits up his rich uncle for a job in his women's fashion manufacturing business. As one of the only male employees, he soon strikes up a forbidden romance with factory worker Shelley Winters. Meanwhile, he has his eye on socialite Elizabeth Taylor, and they start an intense romance after meeting at one of his uncle's swanky parties. However, he can't give up Winters, and when she tells him she's pregnant, he finds himself torn between two worlds. He tries to talk Winters into an abortion, but they can't find a willing doctor. When she insists that he marries her, and to expose his double life to Taylor and family, he concocts a plan to murder her. It does not go well. Good mix of melodrama and suspense, but one has to wonder what a director like Hitchcock, who was clearly an inspiration, would have done with this material. Clift, Winters and Taylor are all excellent. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Canyon Passage (1946)


Academy Awards, USA 1947

Nominee
Oscar
Best Music, Original Song
Hoagy Carmichael (music)
Jack Brooks (lyrics)
For the song "Ole Buttermilk Sky". 

Universal
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Universal)

Dana Andrews is a no-nonsense store owner in a frontier Oregon town with ambitions to expand his freight company. He is engaged to a pretty country girl, but really in in love with the more outgoing Susan Hayward. She is engaged to his best friend, a poker player deep in debt. Meanwhile, Andrews is hounded by a burly Ward Bond, whom Andrews believes he saw murder two miners. They finally tee off in a memorable bar fight. His best friend gets into more trouble when his debts lead to murder. He is arrested, tried and sentenced to hang. Meanwhile, Indians attack the town and Andrews uses the opportunity to bust his friend out of jail. The various plot lines are resolved in satisfactory, if a bit predictable, ways, with everyone ending up with the right person. Folk singer Hoagy Carmichael is both a character and commentator.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

D-Day Remembered (1994)


Academy Awards, USA 1995

Nominee
Oscar
Best Documentary, Features
Charles Guggenheim

PBS
Directed by Charles Guggenheim
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, The National WWII Museum)

David McCullough narrates a straightforward account of D-Day. We see the secret preparations in England, the voyage across the Channel, and of course the battle on the beaches of Normandy. Moving, factual, if brief.  It consists almost entirely of historical footage, spiced up with some sound effects which place you in the moment.

The Texas Rangers (1936)


Academy Awards, USA 1937

Nominee
Oscar
Best Sound, Recording
Franklin Hansen (Paramount SSD)         

Paramount
Directed by King Vidor
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Universal)

A trio of outlaws have a successful scheme robbing stagecoaches, with one of them posing as the driver. They are eventually surrounded one night but manage to escape, only to get separated. The two remaining friends plan to carry on robbing stagecoaches, but it goes awry when a Texas Ranger rides shotgun. Impressed, they join the Rangers themselves, but quickly realize the inside information will allow them to continue to as outlaws. They find their old friend rustling cattle across a river and let him in on the deal. However, their conscience eventually gets the best of the two Rangers, turning them against each other. Enjoyable western with Fred MacMurray, Lloyd Nolan and Jack Oakie well cast as the three outlaws. Surprisingly violent for 1936.

Royal Wedding (1951)


Academy Awards, USA 1952

Nominee
Oscar
Best Music, Original Song
Burton Lane (music)
Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics)
For the song "Too Late Now" 

MGM
Directed by Stanley Donen
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Warner Brothers)

Fred Astaire and Jane Powell are a brother and sister act with a successful Broadway show. Inspired by the upcoming royal wedding, they take it to London. Jane meets Peter Lawford, a young playboy Lord, while Fred falls for dancer Sarah Churchill, who turns out to be engaged. While they sort out their various romantic problems, there are numerous breaks for songs and dances, including Fred's famous dance on the ceiling of a revolving set. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman (1974)


Academy Awards, USA 1975

Nominee
Oscar
Best Documentary, Features
Judy Collins
Jill Godmilow

Rocky Mountain Films
Directed by Jill Godmilow and Judy Collins
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Wildflower)

Antonia Brico struggles to gain acceptance as a classical conductor in a male-dominated profession. Modern interviews are intertwined with her past, showing her beginnings as a piano prodigy. She eventually finds success as a conductor, overcoming the bias against her. In the present, she teaches and still conducts in Denver. She has many good stories to tell, and her name-drops are astounding. 

Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern (1995)


Academy Awards, USA 1996

Nominee
Oscar
Best Documentary, Features
Steven Ascher
Jeanne Jordan

Artistic License Films
Directed by Jeanne Jordan and Steven Ascher
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Wellspring)

A farming family in Iowa falls more and more in debt. The aging couple decides to sell everything but the house and land, which they give to their grown son, and retire to town. A simple story that often feels like a home movie, with the filmmaker's own family the subject. I noticed a thank you to Ross McElwee in the credits, and this owes quite a bit more than camera equipment to him. The attempt to demonize the bank falls flat. 

Two for the Road (1967)


Academy Awards, USA 1968

Nominee
Oscar
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen
Frederic Raphael

Twentieth Century-Fox Film
Directed by Stanley Donen
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Twilight Time)

Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney are an unhappy couple traveling by car through France. In flashbacks, they recall their happier times together and we learn how they met. In another flashback, they travel with an annoying American couple and their even more annoying spoiled child. Back the present, they both have affairs, hers is more serious than his, but manage to stay together. A rather unpleasant story of a self-absorbed couple, told in a non-linear fashion, which really adds nothing to the story except confusion. It does however, give Audrey a reason to model fashion trends.