Archive for February, 2012

2011 Best Picture Winner – The Artist

Other Nominated Films:
The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

When I first decided to do my Best Picture Countdown, my original plan was to take the Best Picture winner of 2011 and compare it to the #1 ranked film on my list. I didn’t expect to be handed a gift like this though, so I’m changing my original plan. Instead of doing a comparison to Casablanca, I’ve decided that it would only be fair to give The Artist its own personal moment like every other film on this list. I admit, this may not have been the case if the winning film was Hugo or The Descendants, but The Artist is different in so many ways. The Artist is the first silent film to win Best Picture since the very first winner of the award in 1929, Wings. The Artist is also the first completely black-and-white film to win Best Picture since 1960, when the award went to The Apartment. When watching some of the great silent films, I would always wonder what it would be like to see a silent film in theaters. The Artist has given us all that chance — a chance to experience the magic of cinema in the way it had begun. The story of The Artist takes place in Hollywood between the years 1927 and 1932, which, if you know your Classical Film history, is around the time that talkies started to rise and silent films began to fall. The Artist focuses on the career of fictional silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin). The film opens as Valentin is backstage during the premiere of his latest film, A Russian Affair. The crowd loves the film, and he takes the stage to bow and happily accept their accolades. After the premiere, Valentin is outside the theater posing for the adoring press, when unexpectedly, a young woman (Bérénice Bejo) bumps into him as she attempts to pick up her bag that had accidentally fallen to the ground. The two stare at each other, unsure of what to do next, when George laughs it off and the two begin posing together for the press. At one point, she kisses George on the cheek — a photo of which ends up on the front cover of Variety the next day with the headline, “Who’s That Girl?” On a bus the next day, the girl is reading the paper, keeping the front page visible for all to see in the hopes of being recognized as “that girl.”  She arrives at Kinetograph Films, the studio that produces the films of George Valentin, where she is hoping to audition as an extra.  At the audition, she sits next to The Butler (Malcolm McDowell) and shows him the front page of the paper. The Butler opens the paper in its entirety focusing on the question in the headline, “Who’s That Girl?”, and reminds her that no one knows who she is. A man then comes out of a door looking for three females who can dance, and it’s here where she shows her skills and gets the part. As she’s walking away, she looks back at The Butler and says, “The names Miller. Peppy Miller!” I don’t want to ruin the rest of the story for you, so I’m just going to stop here. When creating a silent film, it’s important that you have the right actor for the right role, especially if you’re attempting to make a silent film in today’s era of blockbuster cinema. I can honestly say that Jean Dujardin is the perfect actor for this movie. Jean has one of the most expressive faces that I’ve ever seen in any movie in any era. I remember when he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor (Motion Picture Musical or Comedy) — he showed off his expressive face by moving his ‘independent’ eyebrows in all directions. I was in awe. And that was just his eyebrows!  That being said, Jean is able to show so much emotion with just the slightest movement, and it’s amazing. I also want to comment on the music of Ludovic Bource. A silent film is never, of course, completely silent, as there is always a musical score accompanying the film. Bource was able to create a score that was, at times, festive and fun while at other times, nostalgic and romantic — a score that any silent film composer would be proud of. I expect that there will be a resurgence of silent films over the next few years. I don’t expect them all to be amazing, but that’s okay. It’s okay since it’s about time people remember and pay homage to the roots of cinema…where it all came from and how it all began. With The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius shows us just how much of a romantic he is — by channeling his love and admiration for the Vintage Hollywood Classics by creating a Modern Day Classic.  Congratulations to the 2011 Best Picture Award Winner, The Artist.


Nominated for 10 Oscars, Winner of 5
Best Achievement in Costume Design – Mark Bridges (WON)
Best Achievement in Directing – Michel Hazanavicius (WON)
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score – Ludovic Bource (WON)
Best Motion Picture of the Year – Thomas Langmann (WON)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role – Jean Dujardin (WON)
Best Achievement in Art Direction – Laurence Bennett (production designer), Robert Gould (set decorator)
Best Achievement in Cinematography – Guillaume Schiffman
Best Achievement in Film Editing – Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Bérénice Bejo
Best Writing, Original Screenplay – Michel Hazanavicius

George Valentin: Look at what you’ve become. You’ve become proud! You’ve become stupid!

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1. Casablanca (1943)

Other Nominated Films:
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Heaven Can Wait, The Human Comedy, In Which We Serve, Madame Curie, The More the Merrier, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Song of Bernadette, Watch on the Rhine

Casablanca is a unique film in many ways. For one, it only won three Academy Awards. You have films like Ben-Hur which won 11 Oscars, All About Eve which was nominated for 14 and won 6, and plenty of other films that were nominated and won more Oscars than Casablanca. Also, Casablanca is a relatively short film — the shortest of the Top 10 on this countdown (should note that Marty is the shortest film in history to win Best Picture at 90 minutes). Then, you have epic films like Ben-Hur (again), Lawrence of Arabia, Gone with the Wind, and all of them are great in their own ways. And finally, Casablanca was nominated for two acting awards, but came out empty handed. Humphrey Bogart would go on to lose to Paul Lukas in Watch on the Rhine and Claude Rains would lose to Charles Coburn in The More the MerrierCasablanca‘s storyline revolves around Rick Blaine (Bogart), a cynical American living in Casablanca in 1941. Rick runs a swank nightclub/gambling den known as “Rick’s Café Américain.” The joint attracts people of all kinds: the Vichy French, the Italians, and the Nazi’s for example. It is also a place where refugees go when trying to escape to the United States — as well as the men who are trying to catch them. Rick tries to keep neutral and detached in all matters involving the war. Petty crook Signor Ugarte (Peter Lorre) comes into Rick’s Cafe and brags to Rick about having “letters of transit” that were obtained through the murder of two German couriers. The significance of these papers is that they allow those who possess them the ability to travel freely around German-controlled Europe and into the neutral land of Portugal from where they could book passage to the United States. These papers would be considered a treasure by any refugees looking to get out of Casablanca.  Ugarte intends to sell the letters to the highest bidder at the club that night. Unfortunately, he is arrested by the local police under the command of corrupt Vichy Captain Louis Renault (Rains). Ugarte dies in custody without revealing to anyone that he had given the letters to Rick. The film really begins to move when Rick’s ex-lover and her husband arrive at the Cafe: Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). The reason for Rick’s cynical and bitter attitude lies in his past with Ilsa, and this is where I feel I should end.  For those of you who have seen Casablanca, you know that the rest is history…you know that this is the greatest love story ever told on the big screen. For those of you who have yet to see it…well…what are you waiting for? Casablanca is on seven of the American Film Institute‘s top 100 lists: #2 on Movies (although on the revised list it was bumped down to 3), #37 on Thrills, #1 on Passions, #4 on Heroes and Villains (Rick Blaine), #2 on Songs (As Time Goes By), #5, 20, 28, 32, 43, and 67 on Quotes, and #32 on Cheers. But that’s not all — in 2005, Casablanca was named one of the 100 greatest films over the last 80 years by Time.com (the films were not ranked), and in 2006, the Writers Guild of America, West voted Casablanca the best screenplay of all time in its 101 Greatest Screenplays list. I actually rented a book that contained Casablanca‘s screenplay, and I really have to say that it is truly a piece of art. I’ve read about 50 screenplays over the past few years and there are none that even come close to it. I can go on and on about how fantastic Casablanca truly is, but I think you understand what I’m saying. There’s only one way to end this piece, and that’s by giving you a fun fact. One of the most famous magazine publishers and night club owners was inspired by Casablanca. Who is it? you ask? The one and only Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Clubs.*


Winner of 3 Oscars, Nominated for 8
Best Director – Michael Curtiz (WON)
Best Picture – Warner Bros. (WON)
Best Writing, Screenplay – Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch (WON)
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Humphrey Bogart
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Claude Rains
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White – Arthur Edeson
Best Film Editing – Owen Marks
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture – Max Steiner

(#5) Rick: Here’s looking at you, kid.
(#20) Rick: Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
(#28) Ilsa: Play it, Sam. Play “As Time Goes By.”
(#32) Captain Renault: Round up the usual suspects.
(#43) Rick: We’ll always have Paris.
(#67) Rick: Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.

Source of Hugh Hefner Note: http://www.nbc.com/the-playboy-club/video/hef-on-the-history-of-the-clubs/1347658/

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2. On the Waterfront (1954)

Other Nominated Films:
The Canine Mutiny, The Country Girl, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Three Coins in the Fountain

This isn’t the first Elia Kazan film to make an appearance on this list: Gentleman’s Agreement won Best Picture in 1948 (#26 on the list). When talking about directors, I’ve primarily focused on the films they released and the impact those films had on audiences. While Kazan captivated audiences with his work behind the camera, he may be best known for the people that he put in front of the camera.  Kazan helped introduce many new and exciting actors to movie audiences including Marlon Brando, James Dean, Warren Beatty, Julie Harris, Andy Griffith, Eli Wallach and Eva Marie Saint. Always striving for cinematic realism, he was able to evoke incredible dramatic performances from his actors, directing them to 21 Oscar nominations and nine Oscar wins. But, let us move onwards! Actually, I lied. Before we move onwards, I just want to say that On the Waterfront is one of Marlon Brando’s earliest roles, and Eva Marie Saint’s very first film. Okay. Now let’s move onwards. It’s important to note that On the Waterfront is based on a number of true stories and is filmed on location around the docks of Hoboken, New Jersey.  On the Waterfront begins with Terry Molloy (Brando) luring fellow dockworker Joey Doyle (Ben Wagner) into an ambush so that he cannot testify against union boss, Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), to the Waterfront Crime Commission.  Although Terry believes that Joey will simply be intimidated into not testifying, Joey is killed instead.  Everyone knows that he was murdered on orders from Friendly but no-one is willing to talk; instead they all play “D and D” (deaf and dumb). Terry is angry about being used as a tool in Joey’s death, but he too remains silent.   However things begin to change when Terry meets Joey’s sister, Edie (Saint). Edie’s is angry and upset about her brother’s death, and she tries to shame “waterfront priest” Father Barry (Karl Malden) into action.  Soon both Edie and Father Barry are urging Terry to testify against Friendly. This is where I’ll stop since if I go on…well…things would be ruined. I wouldn’t want to do that to you all.  On the Waterfront was one of the first films I watched when compiling my list, and I knew right away that it would end up ranking high on my list. Brando gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen and Eva Marie Saint matches Brando scene for scene. Throughout my life, I’ve heard the line “I coulda been a contender” numerous times but never knew where it originated from. When I saw Brando say it …I was blown away. I never expected that line to pack such a punch in the gut, but it did. The line is so iconic that it was voted the #3 top movie quote in the American Film Institute’s Top 100, and the film itself was voted the #8 movie of all time. On the Waterfront provided producer Sam Spiegel his first win for Best Picture and Elia Kazan’s second win for Best Director.


Nominated for 12 Oscars, Winner of 8
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Marlon Brando (WON)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Eva Marie Saint (WON)
Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Black-and-White – Richard Day (WON)
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White – Boris Kaufman (WON)
Best Director – Elia Kazan (WON)
Best Film Editing – Gene Milford (WON)
Best Picture – Sam Spiegel (WON)
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Budd Schulberg (WON)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Lee J. Cobb
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Karl Malden
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Rod Steiger
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture – Leonard Bernstein

Terry: You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.

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3. Gone with the Wind (1939)

Other Nominated Films:
Dark Victory, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights

One movie won 10 Academy Awards, holding the record for most wins until 1959.  One movie is the longest film on my list, standing at a whopping 234 minutes. And one movie is the highest-grossing film of all time*.  These honors belong to the one, the only, Gone with the Wind. Although incredibly racist at times, Gone with the Wind tells an amazing story of love, loss and war so eloquently that you forget you’re watching a movie — you become so completely immersed in the film that you feel as if you are there.  I remember the first time I watched it.  I received the film from Netflix; normally every movie comes in one sleeve…not this one. Gone with the Wind came with two DVDs just for the movie itself…I was terrified, thinking it would be a daunting task. But, I went on to watch it with a few friends and I absolutely loved it. We did take an intermission though…far too long. Anywho! I will admit…I feel extremely intimidated writing about Gone with the Wind — it’s such a big movie that it’s hard even just describing the plot.  I will do my best though!  The story begins on the eve of the Civil War at Tara, a Georgia cotton plantation owned by Gerald O’Hara (Thomas Mitchell).  O’Hara’s exceptionally pretty daughter, Scarlett (Vivien Leigh), is flirting with the Tarleton brothers, Brent (Fred Crane) and Stuart (George Reeves). They are talking about the likelihood of war breaking out between the North and the South — a topic Scarlett finds extremely boring.  To keep Scarlett amused, the brothers start talking about the next ball, and then share a secret with Scarlett: Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) is going to marry his cousin Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland).  Unaware that Scarlett is secretly in love with Ashley, the brothers go on to say that the engagement announcement will take place the next day at a barbecue on Ashley’s plantation, Twelve Oaks.  It is at the barbecue when we’re first introduced to Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Rhett isn’t exactly popular amongst the party guests…he was turned out of West Point, disowned by his Charleston family, and he openly states that the South would have no chance against the North in the upcoming war. As the girls are taking their mid-afternoon naps, Scarlett sneaks away to the library to be alone with Ashley and confess her love to him.  Ashley says that he feels the same towards Scarlett, but claims that he and Melanie are more compatible. Scarlett accuses Ashley of misleading her and slaps Ashley. Ashley leaves the room, and Scarlett throws a vase at the wall in anger.  Rhett Butler suddenly pops up from the couch where he’d been resting, and reveals that he overheard the entire conversation. Scarlett is furious.  As Scarlett leaves the library, the barbecue is disrupted by some very important news: the war has begun. The men rush to enlist and the ladies all…well…they wake up from their naps (wish there was something more dramatic to add here).  As Scarlett watches Ashley kiss Melanie goodbye, Melanie’s brother Charles (Rand Brooks), who Scarlett flirted with earlier that day, asks Scarlett to marry him. Angry that Ashley rejected her, Scarlett accepts despite that fact that she does not love Charles.  They are married before he leaves to fight.  If I remember correctly, I believe I have summarized the first 20-30 minutes of the movie. It’s more than I expected to tell, but then there’s so much more to watch if you haven’t seen the movie yet. Alright, give me a few moments to catch my breath.

Okay I’m back. Gone with the Wind is such a good movie, and there’s so much I could talk about! I could talk about the wonderful acting, the fantastic script, the mesmerizing music, the beautiful scenery…but I won’t go into all of that. If you’ve seen the movie…you know all of this. So I’ll just tell you the impact the film has had on the movie industry. Gone with the Wind is one of the highest ranked movies on numerous American Film Institute Top 100 Lists: #4 in 100 Movies, #2 in 100 Passions, #1, #31, and #59 in Movie Quotes (I’ll post all three below), #2 in Film Scores, #43 in Cheers, and #4 in Epic Films. Gone with the Wind was the first film to receive more than five Oscars. On March 22, 2011, ABC aired a television special: Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time — Gone with the Wind ranked #1 for Greatest On-Screen Kiss, #1 for Greatest Line, #3 for Greatest Film Character (Scarlett O’Hara), and #1 for Best Film beating out The Wizard of Oz, The Godfather, E.T. and my #1 film on this list. I’m going to be completely honest now, I’m wiped out. I know that there’s so much more I could say about Gone with the Wind, but I think you’ll understand if I just say: Gone with the Wind will always be one of the greatest films to ever hit the big screen.

Nominated for 13 Oscars, Winner of 8
Honorary Award – William Cameron Menzies – For outstanding achievement in the use of color for the enhancement of dramatic mood in the production of Gone with the Wind
Technical Achievement Award – R.D. Musgrave – For pioneering in the use of coordinated equipment in the production Gone with the Wind
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Vivien Leigh (WON)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Hattie McDaniel (WON) [Became the first African American to be nominated for and win an Oscar]
Best Art Direction – Lyle R. Wheeler (WON)
Best Cinematography, Color – Ernest Haller, Ray Rennahan (WON)
Best Director – Victor Fleming (WON)
Best Film Editing – Hal C. Kern, James E. Newcom (WON)
Best Picture – Selznick International Pictures (WON)
Best Writing, Screenplay – Sidney Howard (WON)
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Clark Gable
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Olivia de Havilland
Best Effects, Special Effects – Jack Cosgrove (photographic), Fred Albin (sound), Arthur Johns (sound)
Best Music, Original Score – Max Steiner
Best Sound, Recording – Thomas T. Moulton (Samuel Goldwyn SSD)

(#1) Rhett Butler: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
(#31) Scarlett: After all… tomorrow is another day!
(#59) Scarlett: As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.

* — Source: http://boxofficemojo.com/alltime/adjusted.htm

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4. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Other Nominated Films:
Peyton Place, Sayonara, 12 Angry Men, Witness for the Prosecution

I said this in an earlier post, but I feel that it’s only right to say it again: Davis Lean is one of the finest directors of all time. A few posts earlier, I spoke about the magnificence of what is, according to some critics, his best film ever, Lawrence of Arabia. Now, I’m here to present what I feel is the best film David Lean ever directed: The Bridge on the River Kwai. The film focuses on a unit of British soldiers who are brought to a Japanese prison camp.  The Japanese camp commandant, Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), addresses the new prisoners, telling them that, regardless of rank, they will be required to work on the construction of a bridge over the River Kwai. British commander, Lt. Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) takes great issue with this because the Geneva Conventions state that captured officers are exempt from manual labor. The next morning, Nicholson blatantly disregards Saito’s orders and refuses to let his officers work. Saito is infuriated and threatens to have the officers shot, but Nicholson stands firm. Major Clipton (James Donald), the British medical officer, intervenes, claiming that murdering the officers will result in scandal and inquiry. Saito instead decides to leave the officers behind all day to stand and suffer in the blazing heat. In the evening, Saito sends the officers to a punishment hut.  As for Nicholson, he is beaten, then sent to solitary confinement in his own special iron box known as “the oven”.  And so the intense battle of wills begins: Saito trying to force Nicholson’s officers to build the bridge and Nicholson willing to die for what he believes in. Clearly, one man must win, but I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling you who prevails!  Saito, at first glance, acts like a mad man: he disregards proper military code and brutally tortures prisoners to get his way. All of this is because he is morally bound to commit ritual suicide if he cannot complete the bridge on time.   On the other hand, Nicholson is, well…just as mad as Saito. Nicholson, a strict militarist is compelled to respect military code even on pain of death. This conflict sets up an interesting and advanced character study of these two individuals (it’s as if they were ‘made for each other’). The actor that truly made this film complete for me was Alec Guinness. My first exposure to Alec Guinness was in the BBC mini-series Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as George Smiley. As Smiley, Guinness brought a sophisticated and calm approach to the role, and he was marvelous. Many people also know him for his role as Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars films, which is, of course, one of the most memorable films of all time. But — The Bridge on the River Kwai would have to be, hands down, the best film that Guinness has ever made. He was able to bring the character of Colonel Nicholson to life, as if everything Nicholson believed was what Guinness himself believed as well.  In fact, during the casting of the film, there was a rumor about Charles Laughton being courted for the role of Colonel Nicholson. Apparently Laughton turned down the role since he felt he wouldn’t know how to play the part convincingly because he didn’t understand the character’s motivation. After watching the completed film with Guinness as Nicholson, Laughton understood.  Guinness would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, being the lone win of his career (excluding his Honorary Award). This would also be David Lean’s first win for Best Director and Sam Spiegel’s second win for Best Picture (#1 is #2 on this list). The Bridge on the River Kwai would win seven of the eight Academy Awards it was nominated for, and was the highest grossing film in the year 1958.

Nominated for 8 Oscars, Winner of 7
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Alec Guinness (WON)
Best Cinematography – Jack Hildyard (WON)
Best Director – David Lean (WON)
Best Film Editing – Peter Taylor (WON)
Best Music, Scoring – Malcolm Arnold (WON)
Best Picture – Sam Spiegel (WON)
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium – Pierre Boulle, Carl Foreman, Michael Wilson (WON)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Sessue Hayakawa

Colonel Nicholson: What have I done?

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5. Rebecca (1940)

Other Nominated Films:
All This and Heaven Too, Foreign Correspondent, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, Kitty Foyle, The Letter, The Long Voyage Home, Our Town, The Philadelphia Story

Finally, we are at the Top 5. And I can’t see any better way to get us here than with the master, Alfred Hitchcock. I want to cherish this slot since Rebecca is the only film that Hitchcock directed to win Best Picture. What’s odd though is that, aside from Best Picture, it won Best Cinematography and nothing else, although it was nominated for nine other awards. Looking at the winners for each award, it’s actually just…bizarre. 1940 was a fantastic year for movies, there’s no denying that at all. This is a year that included The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, The Philadelphia Story, and Foreign Correspondent just to name a few. Both Hitchcock and John Ford had two films nominated for Best Picture which is something you will never see happen today. Each acting category had a winner from a different movie…which is something I’m having trouble comprehending, and the film that took home the most Oscars was The Thief of Bagdad…which wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture.  I apologize for going way too deep into the award distribution itself, but this was just a weird…weird year.  Focusing on Rebecca now…well…this is even weird in and of itself! Since the introduction of awards for actors in supporting roles, Rebecca is the only film to win Best Picture without winning any of the Academy Awards for acting, directing, and writing.  Alright. Rebecca. Finally. Joan Fontaine plays an unnamed young woman who works as a paid companion to Edythe Van Hopper (Florence Bates). While in Monte Carlo, she meets the aristocratic widower Maximilian de Winter (Laurence Olivier) and they fall in love. Within a few weeks, the two would get married and move to Maxim’s house, Manderly, located in Cornwall, England. While the majority of Maxim’s servants accept the new bride, the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), is still obsessed with the first Mrs. de Winter — Rebecca. While, in my opinion, this isn’t Hitchcock’s best film (he did also direct Psycho, North by Northwest, and so many other masterpieces), Rebecca still holds its own as one of the greatest psychological thrillers of all time. The combination of Hitchcock plus Olivier is a match made in heaven and I wish that the two worked together on more movies. Rebecca was the first of five nominations for Best Director for Hitchcock, but he would never win the award — which is preposterous. He would go on to receive the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award which is given to “Creative producers, whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production.” To end this passage, I just want to say one thing. Thank you, Alfred Hitchcock…for everything that you’ve created…for being the innovator that you are and for being so far ahead of your time…thank you.

Nominated for 11 Oscars, Winner of 2
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White – George Barnes (WON)
Best Picture – Selznick International Pictures (WON)
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Laurence Olivier
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Joan Fontaine
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Judith Anderson
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White – Lyle R. Wheeler
Best Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Best Effects, Special Effects – Jack Cosgrove (photographic), Arthur Johns (sound)
Best Film Editing – Hal C. Kern
Best Music, Original Score – Franz Waxman
Best Writing, Screenplay – Robert E. Sherwood, Joan Harrison

Mrs. Danvers: Go ahead. Jump. He never loved you, so why go on living? Jump and it will all be over…

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6. All About Eve (1960)

Other Nominated Films:
Born Yesterday, Father of the Bride, King Solomon’s Mines, Sunset Boulevard

14 Academy Award nominations. Four female acting nominations. #28 ranking on AFI’s Top 100 films. One of the first 50 films to be registered into the U.S. National Film Registry. It’s safe to say that All About Eve is one of the greatest films to ever hit the silver screen. Based on the short story The Wisdom of Eve, by Mary Orr, All About Eve begins with an awards dinner celebrating Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), one of Broadway’s brightest new stars. Attending the event is theater critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) who recounts, in a voiceover, his interpretation of how Eve rose to stardom as quickly as she did. A year earlier, the biggest star on Broadway was Margot Channing (Bette Davis). On the night of one of her performances, Margo’s close friend Karen Richards (Celeste Holm) meets Eve Harrington in the alley outside of the theater. Karen recognizes Eve since Eve has waited in that alley many nights trying to catch a glimpse of her idol (Margo) leaving the theater. Karen takes Eve backstage to meet Margo, and at that time Eve also meets Margo’s entourage — Celeste’s husband and the play’s author Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe); Margo’s boyfriend Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill) who is also a director; and Margo’s maid Birdie (Thelma Ritter).  Eve gushes on about how she’s followed Margo’s last theatrical tour and then goes on to tell about the difficult life she’s led being an orphan and losing her husband in the war. Margo takes an immediate liking to Eve and hires her as her assistant. From this point on, we witness some of the greatest acting of all time, as well as one of the most ruthless on-screen betrayals in a long time. In my opinion, All About Eve was way ahead of its time. I plan on finding and reading the script at some point because the dialogue is some of the wittiest I’ve heard in any movie. The film portrays the entertainment industry as brutal; one day you’re on top, the next day someone younger and better looking steals the spotlight from you and you are forgotten. It all depends on who has the more driving ambition, and if you can’t keep up, you’re going to get knocked out of the way. Nominated for 14 Academy Awards, All About Eve held the record for most nominations of any film until James Cameron released one of the most expensive melodramas in history, Titanic. To this day, All About Eve is the only film to receive four female acting nominations (Davis and Baxter as Best Actress, Holm and Ritter as Best Supporting Actress). All About Eve also brought us one of the earlier important roles for a certain young up-and-coming actress who would forever change the movie industry — Marilyn Monroe. I’d also like to give a shout-out to Sunset Boulevard, which was the main competition for All About Eve. Sunset Boulevard was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, exceeded only by All About Eve.


Nominated for 14 Oscars, Winner of 6
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – George Sanders (WON)
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White – Edith Head, Charles Le Maire (WON)
Best Director – Joseph K. Mankiewicz (WON)
Best Picture – 20th Century Fox (WON)
Best Sound, Recording – 20th Century-Fox Sound Dept. (WON)
Best Writing, Screenplay – Joseph K. Mankiewicz (WON)
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Anne Baxter
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Bette Davis
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Celeste Holm
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Thelma Ritter
Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Black-and-White – Lyle R. Wheeler, George W. Davis, Thomas Little, Walter M. Scott
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White – Milton R. Krasner
Best Film Editing – Barbara McLean
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture – Alfred Newman

Margo Channing: Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!

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7. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Other Nominated Films:
The Longest Day, The Music Man, Mutiny on the Bounty, To Kill a Mockingbird

Before I go on to talk about this film, I would just like to say one thing: David Lean is one of the finest directors of all time. Lean doesn’t have just one film in my Top 10, but two, one of which is ranked in my Top 5. Lawrence of Arabia is undoubtedly one of the greatest films ever made, and if that isn’t enough, it also revealed the greatness of actor Peter O’Toole to the world. The film opens with the death of Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) by a motorcycle accident. At his memorial service, reporters try to better understand who this remarkable and complicated man really was. From here, we flashback into the life of Lawrence and where his military career begins…Lawrence is a British Army lieutenant stationed in Cairo during World War I. Mr. Dryden of the Arab Bureau (Claude Rains) sends Lawrence to evaluate the progress of Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) in his revolt against the Turks. The journey is not an easy one but I won’t go into detail here so that you can see it for yourself — but I’ll continue talking about what happens next…At the end of this journey, Lawrence meets Colonel Brighton (Anthony Quayle), who tells him to be quiet, assess Faisal’s camp, and leave at once. Lawrence instead ignores Brighton’s orders and advises Faisal to attack Aqaba — and thus begins Lawrence’s exploits as he leads the Arab revolt against the Turks. Again, I don’t want to ruin the movie for you by going into any great detail here, but suffice to say that Lawrence uses guerilla warfare tactics and performs heroic feats but also experiences emotional struggles with acts of violence and his personal identityLawrence of Arabia was a huge success both critically and financially, and is still popular among viewers today. Critics have repeatedly cited the film’s impressive visuals, music and screenplay, as well as the magnificent performance of Peter O’Toole. O’Toole was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, but would wind up losing to Gregory Peck who played Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (which is also one of the best films in the history of cinema). It’s interesting to compare O’Toole’s performance as Lawrence and Peck’s performance as Finch since they’re both ranked on the American Film Institute’s 100 Heroes and Villains list; O’Toole would be ranked as the 10th Hero, while Peck would be ranked as the #1 Hero. Both excellent performances; both iconic roles; and yet both very different types of heroes.  Lawrence of Arabia would be producer Sam Spiegel’s third Academy Award for Best Picture (the first two are #4 and #2 on this list),and David Lean’s second Academy Award for Best Director (the other being #4 on this list). O’Toole would go on to be nominated for another seven Academy Awards, but would not win any – however he was the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award for his remarkable talents that “provided cinema with some of its most memorable characters.

Nominated for 10 Oscars, Winner of 7
Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Color – John Box, John Stoll, Dario Simoni (WON)
Best Cinematography, Color – Freddie Young (WON)
Best Director – David Lean (WON)
Best Film Editing – Anne V. Coates (WON)
Best Music, Score – Substantially Original – Maurice Jarre (WON)
Best Picture – Sam Spiegel (WON)
Best Sound – John Cox (Shepperton SSD) (WON)
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Peter O’Toole
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Omar Sharif
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium – Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson

Prince Feisal: But you know, Lieutenant, in the Arab city of Cordoba were two miles of public lighting in the streets when London was a village?
T.E. Lawrence: Yes, you were great.
Prince Feisal: Nine centuries ago.
T.E. Lawrence: Time to be great again, my lord.

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8. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Other Nominated Films:
Henry V, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Razor’s Edge, The Yearling

There’s so much that I could say about The Best Years of Our Lives…and that’s even before I did some background research on it. The Best Years of Our Lives focuses on the lives of three men returning home after serving in WWII — Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) , Al Stephenson (Fredric March) and Homer Parrish (Harold Russell).  The three men meet on the plane coming home from the war, share a cab ride, and become friends.  As each man tries his best to readjust to his old life, he must deal with new personal battles:  Fred Derry’s wife Marie (Virginia Mayo) wants to live a more lavish lifestyle that he simply cannot afford; Al Stephenson struggles with family life and job integrity, and starts showing signs of alcoholism; Homer Parrish, who lost both his hands in the war and now uses hook prostheses, is well aware that his appearance makes others uncomfortable.  One night, Homer goes out to avoid the awkwardness of being around his fiancée Wilma (Cathy O’Donnell) and their families after he is unable to properly hold a cup in his hooks.  That same night, Fred roams around the neighborhood, going from nightclub to nightclub in search of his wife, and Al decides to go out with his wife Milly (Myrna Loy) and daughter Peggy (Teresa Wright).  And, as luck would have it, all three end up meeting in the same bar. I won’t divulge the plot any further because I would be depriving you of some key moments that you really should witness for yourself. While I was watching the movie, I found it extraordinary that Harold Russell was so skilled with his hooks. The thought then entered my mind that it was entirely possible those hooks were real — so I looked into the life of Harold Russell, and he did lose both of his hands in the Army. Everything that I saw on-screen was completely authentic, and I was left speechless. Harold Russell wasn’t an actor — he was as real as any person could be. During the Academy Awards ceremony of 1947, Harold Russell was awarded an honorary Oscar for “bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans.” This special award was created because the Board of Governors assumed that Russell had little-to-no chance of winning a competitive award, and they wanted to salute him in some way. Little did they know however that Russell would go on to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and to this day, he is the only actor in history to win two Oscars for the same performance.

Nominated for 8 Oscars, Winner of 7
Honorary Award – Harold Russell – For bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance in The Best Years of Our Lives.
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Fredric March (WON)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Harold Russell (WON)
Best Director – William Wyler (WON)
Best Film Editing – Daniel Mandell (WON)
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture – Hugo Friedhofer (WON)
Best Picture – Samuel Goldwyn Productions (WON)
Best Writing, Screenplay – Robert E. Sherwood (WON)
Best Sound, Recording – Gordon Sawyer (Samuel Goldwyn SSD)

Fred Derry: You gotta hand it to the Navy; they sure trained that kid how to use those hooks.
Al Stephenson: They couldn’t train him to put his arms around his girl, or to stroke her hair.

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9. The Apartment (1960)

Other Nominated Films:
The Alamo, Elmer Gantry, Suns and Lovers, The Sundowners

Billy Wilder’s follow-up to Some Like It HotThe Apartment, is a witty, sardonic, and touching film about corporate politics, adultery, integrity and love. Jack Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter, a lowly office clerk who works for a New York City insurance company. When Baxter starts lending out his apartment to his philandering bosses for their romantic trysts, things start getting complicated — especially when Baxter’s big boss, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), takes notice and wants to start using the apartment himself.  Meanwhile Baxter finds himself climbing nicely up the corporate ladder, and also takes a liking to sweet elevator operator Miss Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). When Baxter finds out that Fran is Sheldrake’s girlfriend — it makes for sticky situations, romantic problems and more serious trouble (that shall remain nameless) — and ultimately Baxter must decide between his integrity and his career. The on-screen chemistry between Lemmon and MacLaine is great to watch as they’re both extremely quick with their deliveries and are just terrific when they’re together. MacMurray is pitch-perfect, playing against type, as the cheating, low-life Sheldrake. Jack Kruschen, who plays Dr. Dreyfuss, is the doctor-neighbor who mistakenly thinks Baxter is a ladies’ man and advises Baxter to “Be a mensch!” (human being). Ray Walston and David Lewis are amusing as slightly sordid office wolves. Kruschen was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, while Lemmon and MacLaine were nominated for Best Actor and Actress respectively. The Apartment would end up being a critical and a financial success, grossing $25 million at the box office. Wilder would go on to win Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay (co-written with longtime collaborator I.A.L. Diamond), joining an elite ‘club’ that consists of only four others (Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather Part II, James L. Brooks for Terms of Endearment, Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men.)  The Apartment would also end up being the last completely black-and-white film to win Best Picture (which actually could change this year…wow.)  I would also like to say one more thing before I close: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was nominated for four Oscars this year, winning none. If Psycho would have won for Best Picture (which it was not nominated for), then Psycho would have been the #2 film on my countdown.

Nominated for 10 Oscars, Winner of 5
Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Black-and-White – Alexandre Trauner, Edward G. Boyle (WON)
Best Director – Billy Wilder (WON)
Best Film Editing – Daniel Mandell (WON)
Best Picture – Billy Wilder (WON)
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen – Billy Wilder, I.A.L Diamond (WON)
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Jack Lemmon
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Jack Kruschen
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Shirley MacLaine
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White – Joseph LaShelle

C.C. Baxter: Ya know, I used to live like Robinson Crusoe; I mean, shipwrecked among 8 million people. And then one day I saw a footprint in the sand, and there you were.

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