A Man for All Seasons (1966)

A Man for All Seasons (1966)

Dir. Fred Zinnemann

Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Paul Scofield), Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Bolt), Best Cinematography, Color (Ted Moore), Best Costume Design, Color (Elizabeth Haffenden, Joan Bridge)

Other Nominees: Alfie, The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming, The Sand Pebbles, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons

We return to the work of director Fred Zinneman (From Here to Eternity) for his second Oscar triumph, A Man for All Seasons. Here we find ourselves in the house of Sir Thomas More, advisor to England’s King Henry VIII and historical figure all seventh graders confuse with Thomas Cromwell (very different). Classical actor Paul Scofield reprises the role of More, which he played to great (and Tony-winning) acclaim on the New York stage, and he is joined by Wendy Miller as his wife, Alice, Leo McKern as Cromwell, Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey, Robert Shaw as the King, and youngins John Hurt and Corin Redgrave in cameos. Continue reading

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From Here to Eternity (1953)

From Here to Eternity (1953)

Dir. Fred Zinnemann

Oscars: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Best Adapted Screenplay (Daniel Taradash), Best Cinematography, Black and White (Burnett Guffey), Best Sound (John P. Livandary), Best Editing (William A. Lyon)

Other Nominees: Julius Caesar, The Robe, Roman Holiday, Shane

Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity. Too bad these two never had children together; they would have had phenomenal bone structure.

Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity. Too bad these two never had children together; they would have had phenomenal bone structure.

The promise of war hangs throughout From Here to Eternity, though we don’t see much of it. Set on a military base in Hawaii in 1941, we all know what is coming. And the filmmakers know that we know. They play a cat and mouse game with us, raising our expectations with the stakes as the film progresses. In one scene, the camera drifts past a wall calendar stating the date: December 6, 1941. The next morning, we see the planes. The film isn’t interested in showing us the war or retelling that story; it’s interested in looking at five lives on this base, how these five people are all trying to get the best for themselves, and how their circumstances make that impossible.

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Patton (1970)

Patton (1970)

Dir. Franklin J. Schaffner

Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (George C. Scott), Best Director (Franklin J. Schaffner), Best Adapted Screenplay (Francis Ford Coppola, Edmund H. North), Best Art Direction (Urie McCleary, Gil Parrondo, Antonio Mateos, Pierre-Louis Thévenet), Best Sound (Douglas O. Williams, Don J. Bassman), Best Editing (Hugh S. Fowler)

Other Nominees: Airport, Five Easy Pieces, Love Story, MASH

You might not have evern seen Patton, but you've seen this image a thousand times. George C. Scott as Gen. Patton.

Maybe you’ve never seen Patton, but you’ve seen this image a thousand times. George C. Scott as Gen. Patton.

Patton is the first bona fide masterpiece to find itself on this blog. After the bombast that was Braveheart and the quiet uneasiness that was Gentleman’s Agreement, I felt it time to tackle a film that is truly among the best in its class, and Patton is that. A long, difficult, and meticulously staged WWII epic, Patton represents career highs for director Franklin J. Schaffner and actor George C. Scott, as well as the first major success for one of its screenwriters, Francis Ford Coppola (whose mark on the film is immediately noticeable to those familiar with his work). Much about this film has already been said, and said better than I could hope to say, so I’ll keep my remarks on this film distant and appreciative: Patton is utterly unique.

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Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

Dir. Elia Kazan

Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director (Elia Kazan), Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm)

Other Nominees: The Bishop’s Wife, Crossfire, Great Expectations, Miracle on 34th Street

My beloved Celeste Holm (with Gregory Peck) in Gentleman's Agreement.

My beloved Celeste Holm (with Gregory Peck) in Gentleman’s Agreement.

Gentleman’s Agreement has been largely lost in the annals of film history; I only stumbled upon it deep in the “Classics” section of Netflix. I was curious as to why I had never heard of this film, due to its star power (Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, Celeste Holm), pedigree (screenplay by Moss Hart, directed by Kazan), and status as a Best Picture winner. I was further surprised to learn that the film was about anti-Semitism in upper- and upper-middle class American society. To me, this doesn’t seem like a fashionable topic for post-War America. Why had I never heard of this movie, and what was it?  Continue reading

Braveheart (1996)

Braveheart (1996)

Dir. Mel Gilbson

Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director (Mel Gibson), Best Cinematography (John Toll), Best Sound Editing (Lon Bender, Per Hallberg), Best Makeup (Peter Frampton, Paul Pattison, Lois Burwell)

Other nominees: Apollo 13, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility

William Wallace (Gibson) is shown entering Anatevka to negotiate Scottish independence.

In one of Braveheart‘s fabulously framed medium shots, William Wallace (Gibson) is shown entering Anatevka to negotiate Scottish independence.

I wanted to kick this series off with a film that I had not seen before and that doesn’t carry much critical baggage. Braveheart fit the bill. This historical drama from 1995 is really giving us all that we were after in the mid-90s: a bit of revolution, a bit of romance, a lot of costume, and a deluge of splintering shields. Since I’d been unfamiliar with Braveheart before this viewing, I can’t speak to the cultural hold that it has over our culture, and though it is certainly not the best film to take home AMPAS’s top statue, it is solid, and it doesn’t crumble under contemporary standards the way many late 20th century action epics do – it’s not overlong, it doesn’t utilize terrible proto-CGI, it has a cohesive narrative. Gibson’s visual style is arresting, and the narrative asserts itself quickly and firmly.  Continue reading