Friday, November 27, 2009

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) (2nd time)

Biography of Loretta Lynn, a country and western singer that came from poverty to fame. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Actress: Sissy Spacek (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Art Direction
Best Editing
Best Sound

Hmmm... biopics are hard to talk about. This one was different because (even the 2nd time around after a couple of years) I still don't know much about Loretta Lynn, so I didn't really make a comparison. Was this good or bad? I dunno. What I can say it that my face lighted everytime Beverly D'Angelo, who plays Patsy Cline appeared on screen, maybe because I obviously know who Patsy was...
Some Oscar nominations are worthy, some not. I'm sure they could've found a more interesting film to give the BP nomination to, but Coal Miner's Daughter is a well made movie. The screenplay is ok, the direction subtle but good, very nice cinematography & mostly good acting. Sissy won everything she could that year (too much if you'd ask me) and I'll write about her performance on the other blog; it's a tricky one, with a couple of great moments, but flat on many points. Tommy Lee Jones was ok and Beverly deserved a supporting nomination (very subjective opinion). However, at the end of it... what was the big story that deserved so much to be told?...
My rating for the film: 7/10. Better than most biopics and enjoyable. But again: what was so interesting?!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The biopic of the famous French writer and his involvement in fighting the injustice of the Dreyfuss Affair. [imdb]

Nominated for 10 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: William Dieterle
Best Actor: Paul Muni
Best Supporting Actor: Joseph Schildkraut (WINNER)
Best Writing, Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Writing, Original Story
Best Assistant Director
Best Music, Score
Best Art Direction
Best Sound

I had interrupted my Best Picture series for like 3 months, mainly because I knew this one was next :P It's such an unexciting movie, but I admit it was a much easier watch after 40 minutes or so. The Life of Emile Zola is the 10th Best Picture winner. And I think it's safe to say the film is far from being deserving. From the list of nominees, I could easily point out The Awful Truth, The Good Earth and especially A Star Is Born as being far more worthy of the title.
Paul Muni's performance is very confusing to me. He's awful as a young Zola, but creates a rather believable old Zola and I often forgot that it was a 40 year old man under makeup. Anyway, definitely not worthy of a win. Schildkraut gives the best performance, but his screentime is so limited that I am surprised he won the Oscar; he has very little dialogue but gives the (only) realistic portrayal of the movie. The screenplay is very thin except for the monogue in the court scene (the only entertaining scenes in the movie), the direction is ignorable and the film itself rather flat.
My rating for the film: 4/10. I noticed this movie was on a special Best Picture dvd next to Amadeus and Casablanca, and 2 others. I felt like screaming. How can you put this next to a classic like Casablanca? Ridiculous. Is this the best they could find from the 30s?!
PS: The 11th BP winner, You Can't Take It with You (1938) had already been mentioned on this blog, before I started this series. You can click here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gentleman's Agreement (1947)

A reporter pretends to be Jewish in order to cover a story on anti-Semitism, and personally discovers the true depths of bigotry and hatred. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Elia Kazan (WINNER)
Best Actor: Gregory Peck
Best Actress: Dorothy McGuire
Best Supporting Actress: Celeste Holm (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Revere
Best Writing, Screenplay
Best Editing

I'm a bit ashamed I hadn't seen this Oscar winner until now! One can argue that the movie is dated, but the idea behind it, its essence is still valid. It's a movie about putting yourself in the shoes of a discriminated minority! And even though it sounds cheesy, the movie was better and more captivating than I expected.
The subject itself is the highlight of this film, so its succes is mostly due to the material. Also, good performances help: all the nominees give ok performances + John Garfield + a very very young Dean Stockwell :) Celeste Holm's Oscar win might be deserved, but I would've liked a better ending for the character's storyline. It was cut too abruptly. And Anne Revere is great and dependable playing Peck's mother. The direction is good, but a bit too subtle for my taste. The film does slow down in the last 20 minutes and risks major cheesyness with a lot of good-intended speeches, but fortunately it doesn't totally rulen the dynamic from the first part.
My rating for the film: 8/10. I would've given it more had it not been the unnecessary dinner scene between Garfield's and McGuire's characters. But a nice movie and really important for that era.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Possessed (1947)

A woman is found wandering Los Angeles, unable to say anything other than "David". Admitted to hospital she is coaxed into recounting her recent life. [wiki]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Joan Crawford

There was a funny comment on the imdb forum saying: Possessed by Van Heflin??? :)) because he wasn't the most attractive of men. In a way I agree, but he does manage to create a masculine, intriguing character. Anyway, the movie's not about him. Actually, the movie is about too many things, that's the problem.
It starts great and the first 10-15 minutes are incredibly well executed. The direction is fine throughout the film and the camera work from the beginning: creative & memorable. Even Joan does a fine job for the first half. But then the screenplay just keeps getting messier, with no way out. Until the last moment it's actually hard to understand what actually possesses her: the man, the dead woman (no spoiler) or her disease? As the 2nd part really goes down-the-hill, so does Joan's performance. She's subtle, fascinating in the beginning, but for the last moments she opts for B-movie horror type of performance, with lots of overacting and strange gestures! Is that really how schizophrenia looks like? I doubt it! A performance that will be hard to rate on my other blog (I'll have to watch it again anyway, to count the screentime).
My rating for the film: 4/10. For the stupidity of the last 30 minutes and the pathetic ending. But the direction had soooo much potential! Cliche movie that could've done more.