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Before I go on to talk about fantastic actress Shirley MacLaine, I wanted to let you know about a wonderful event happening on Wednesday, March 21st — Casablanca will be re-released in select theaters around the country. As you already know, Casablanca is, in my opinion, the best film to ever win Best Picture, which of course makes it one of the best films to ever be created. And now the chance to watch this film on the big screen is here! So if you’re available March 21st, make sure you don’t miss this fantastic event. Just go here for more details and to see which theaters are showing Casablanca.

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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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