December 31, 2013

1935 - 8th Academy Awards

And so, on the eve of a new year, I present to you the new year I'll be reviewing. May our 2014 be full of happiness, movies, and five-star performances!

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and the nominees were: 
Clark Gable, Mutiny on the Bounty
Charles Laughton, Mutiny on the Bounty
Victor McLaglen, The Informer
Franchot Tone, Mutiny on the Bounty
Elisabeth Bergner, Escape Me Never
Claudette Colbert, Private Worlds
Bette Davis, Dangerous
Katharine Hepburn, Alice Adams
Miriam Hopkins, Becky Sharp
Merle Oberon, The Dark Angel

(plus a special appearance by write-in candidate)
Paul Muni, Black Fury

December 30, 2013

Myrna Loy, The Thin Man

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Bette Davis may get all the attention for the hoopla surrounding her Of Human Bondage snub, but few people talk about the fact that Myrna Loy actually scored enough write-in votes from 1934 to come in at fifth place. Now, this was a particularly peculiar time as AMPAs was still trying to get their shit together--in Oscar's first seven years, the shortlist for Best Actress ranged anywhere from three nominees to seven, before finally settling into a five-nominee structure in 1936 that hasn't changed since. Thus, had 1934's voting system been like today's, Loy would've been liked enough to have been an official nominee, and she was likely the closest she ever was to being one in this particular year. But is this a performance worthy of a nomination or one that is swept along by the Academy's love for a particular film?

December 27, 2013

Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night

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Won: Academy Award - Best Actress

Claudette Colbert really didn't want to make It Happened One Night. The first picture she had ever made was directed by Frank Capra and it ended up being a complete failure. She had initially rejected the role of Ellie Andrews, but when Capra was told by Columbia head Harry Cohn that the "French broad likes money," Capra went to Colbert with the promises of doubling her salary and getting it all filmed within a month so that she could haul her ass off for a vacation. She agreed. She was allegedly difficult to deal with throughout the entire shoot. She told her friends right after production ended that she'd "just finished making the worst picture" she'd ever made. Colbert's relationship with It Happened One Night is almost as entertaining as the picture itself, but I'll be damned if you could clock any of that off-set bitterness in her performance. Because the woman is nothing less than an utter delight in the film, and despite everyone being so enraptured by Bette Davis' work and snub that year, it was really all about Claudette Colbert the entire time.

December 24, 2013

Clark Gable, It Happened One Night

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Won: Academy Award - Best Actor

Hop onto Google Images and type in "leading man" and the first three men to pop up (ignoring the several photos of Jon Bon Jovi who I guess starred in a picture called The Leading Man...the more you know) are Leo DiCaprio, Cary Grant, and Clark Gable. I've always thought that Gable was as definitively a leading man as you could get--aside from his classic good looks, there is an air of arrogance in the smirks you see him giving in all those old Hollywood photographs of his, and reports such as his not wanting to do a crying scene as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind or his alleged unhappiness over Spencer Tracy upstaging him in San Francisco only solidifies this perception of Gable as your typical man's man. I had my qualms about Gable here as I thought it would be another William Powell situation, wherein the leading man ideal is epitomized perfectly but the performance as a whole lacks depth...

December 13, 2013

Bette Davis, Of Human Bondage

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Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage is a performance that took the cinematic world by storm in 1934. This is a performance that the folks at Life Magazine cited as "probably the best performance ever recorded on the screen by a U.S. actress." This is a performance that so impressed the people of Hollywood that when Davis was unexpectedly denied a Best Actress nomination, there was such a backlash that the Academy was forced to allow write-in votes just so she could be in contention. I wanted to give Davis the typical nominee treatment despite her work not being an official Oscar-nominated performance firstly because she ending up getting enough write-in votes that year to place third, bumping out actual nominee Grace Moore into fourth. But above all, I wanted to honor this performance in appreciation of the legendary Miss Davis--a lady who wanted nothing more at the time than to nab roles in which she could sink her teeth into, to showcase the range and talent she knew she had--the very range and talent that Warner Bros. was stifling. This was the performance that got Oscar to notice her, whether he wanted to or not, and she would continue to get him to notice her for upwards of the next quarter century.

December 5, 2013

William Powell, The Thin Man

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When analyzing William Powell in The Thin Man, the late great Roger Ebert said that Powell "is to dialogue as Fred Astaire is to dance. His delivery is so droll and insinuating, so knowing and innocent at the same time, that it hardly matters what he's saying."I think this perfectly sums up my own feelings about Powell's work as well. There is a mesmerizing quality to the way Powell speaks--his diction, his tone...all of it drips with intelligence, is assertive yet relaxed all at once, and blends so well with the dark wit that The Thin Man's screenplay offers. He is a perfect leading man in every possible way, and I'd wager that the subsequent five Thin Man sequels spawned not just from the strength of the story or the chemistry of Powell and Myrna Loy, but also because Powell is so good, so in his element, at being a charming sleuth.