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Films to Watch in the Week Before the Awards

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  • John
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    I will post some films I recommend from the past, some of them from the deep past. The English language features were nominated for Best Picture, but didn’t necessarily win. IMHO, these are among the best of their year and era. My first recommendations are:

    In Old Arizona (1929):
    This film helped define the Classical Western genre, including the “singing cowboy” sub-genre that continued into the 1950s (Johnny Guitar comes to mind) and onto the small screen. Gene Autrey, Roy Rodgers and Tex Ritter are a few of the famous singers. From a technical aspect, it was the first “talking” film shot outdoors.

    All Quiet on the Western Front (1930):
    Adapted from the novel of the same title, this film has truly withstood the test of time. It is spectacular in its special effects for the state of the art in the first few years of sound. Its importance is in the portrayal of war, the cost of war, and what it does to its participants, their friends, and their families. One aspect I find particularly compelling are the positively clueless “armchair generals” at home in the comfort of their parlors and pubs, a phenomenon that persists to this day. The film is considered a relatively accurate portrayal of WWI within the technological limits of film making at the time.

    It’s Got Me Again (1932):
    A Best Animated Short nominee (feature animation category didn’t exist yet), this one came from the Looney Tunes studio and is an excellent example of their work prior to the Porky, Daffy and Bugs characters. The style is very similar to Disney’s with the characters, backgrounds and to some extent the plots. Looney Tunes in its early years was used as a vehicle to showcase songs that could be sold by Warner Brothers as sheet music or records. Keep in mind these were not kiddy cartoons, but were made for entertaining adults along with newsreels and a trailer or two before the main features. In addition, you may spot some racial or ethnic stereotyping. IIRC, there isn’t much of it in this one, not compared to some others from its era.

    M (1931):
    The Best Foreign Language category didn’t exist until the 1950’s but if it did for 1931, this film would probably have won. It’s a German dramatic thriller by Fritz Lang several years before he fled the Nazi regime to Hollywood. It stars Peter Lorre just before he fled the Nazi regime to Britain (and learned English there). There are cut versions of this floating about in English. The original was 117 minute run time. The best surviving one I’m aware of is 110 minutes in German with English subtitles as compared to a 93 minute chopped up English version without subtitles. This film came just before his second Dr. Mabuse movie (the two of which are also stellar).

    Stay tuned, more recommendations to come in this thread over the next few days.

    John

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    Rev Scott
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    Since comedy is generally ignored by the Academy. I will recommend these two brilliant best picture winners.

    Annie Hall, (1977) Dir: Woody Allen
    Best Picture
    Best Actress – Diane Keaton
    Best Director – Woody Allen
    Best Original Screenplay – Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman

    The Apartment, (1960) Dir: Billy Wilder
    Best Picture
    Best Director-Billy Wilder
    Best Original Screenplay – Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond
    Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (Black & White)
    Best Film Editing

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    lovelylovely
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    There are a few movies I recommend that did win BP, and that didn’t.

    Gone With The Wind, (1939) Dir: Victor Fleming
    Best Picture
    Best Director
    Best Actress
    Best Supporting Actress
    Best Adapted Screenplay
    Best Cinematography
    Best Film Editing
    Best Art Direction

    Gigi, (1958) Dir: Vincente Minnelli
    Best Picture
    Best Director
    Best Adapted Screenplay
    Best Art Direction
    Best Cinematography
    Best Costume Design
    Best Film Editing
    Best Musical Score
    Best Original Song

    The Heiress, (1949) Dir: William Wyler
    Best Actress
    Best Art Direction/Set Decoration
    Best Costume Design
    Best Score

    Sunset Boulevard, (1950) Dir: Billy Wilder
    Best Writing
    Best Art Direction/Set Decoration
    Best Music (Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture)

    Roman Holiday, (1953) Dir: William Wyler
    Best Actress
    Best Costume Design
    Best Writing

    Schindler’s List, (1993) Dir: Steven Spielberg
    Best Picture
    Best Director
    Best Adapted Screenplay
    Best Original Score
    Best Film Editing
    Best Cinematography
    Best Art Direction

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    John
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    Two more Best Picture nominees in this one:

    Shanghai Express (1932):
    Josef von Sternberg’s pre-Hays’ Code film (enforcement began in 1934), the fourth of his seven collaborations with Marlene Dietrich, and the most popular of them. Its box office gross exceeded that of the all-star Grand Hotel that won Best Picture that year (IMHO Oscar Bait expose of their contract stars). It’s a compelling narrative in the years during the Chinese Civil War that preceded WWII. Mirroring reality, occidentals of various nationalities are caught in the middle at times, including some criminal and ethically bankrupt characters. The Peking to Shanghai train provides a vehicle containing a cross-section of occidentals for the story. There are aspects of the plot and screenplay that would have been absolutely prohibited and cut after the Hays Code was implemented and enforced. The film also has some noir elements although I hesitate to classify it film-noir.

    It Happened One Night (1934):
    A classic example of the screwball comedy, this one was directed by Frank Capra and starred Clark Gable with Claudette Colbert. It was released just before the Hays Code was enforced by what eventually became the MPAA. Even so, it probably would have passed without too much modification. Although Colbert thought it her worst film, it turned out to be a box office blockbuster, and was the first film to garner the “Big Five” academy awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay). Most notable is the “hitchhiking” scene in which Colbert raises her skirt, exposing her leg including most of her thigh to get a car to stop (while Gable is hides in the bushes). If you’ve seen this gag in other films and cartoons, this is where it originated.

    La Grande Illusion (1937):
    If there were a Best Foreign Language Film category before the early 1950’s, this French film by Jean Renoir would have likely won the Oscar. Instead, it was nominated for Best Picture, losing to a Frank Capra romantic comedy that has been all but forgotten. The story is set during WWI in a German POW camp for French officers who are plotting an escape. It studies in depth various facets late 1930’s European society: social class (the aristocracy), economic class (including the nouveau riche), rising fascism, antisemitism, and war as a political solution. The latter in particular is Renoir’s La Grande Illusion which foretells the conflagration that engulfs Europe two years later. It shares some themes with “All Quiet on the Western Front.” It’s now considered a masterpiece of French Cinema and among the greatest films ever made, frequently found in the upper part of greatest world cinema lists. Orson Welles stated it is one of the two films he would take on the Ark.

    Porky in Wackyland (1938):
    Set in a Salvador Dali-esque universe, Porky goes on a hunt for the Do-Do bird (considered extinct) to collect a very large bounty. The film is about a year or so before director Robert Clampett fully defined Porky as a character (circa 1939), and it was made prior to the creation of Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and the rest of the “Looney Tunes” family. The sign at the border of Wackyland says it all: “100 nuts and a squirrel”. These cartoons were not made for kiddie entertainment, but for adults, to be shown with newsreels and a trailer or two prior to the feature film. Its style and comedy has consistently earned it a spot near the top of best short animations ever made, even though it was not nominated for a Best Short Animation award. Be forewarned there is one very brief scene in which Porky passes by numerous characters. One of them is an Al Jolson black face “Mammy” caricature. It reflects racial stereotyping of the era (sometimes cut for TV) although it’s a clear reference to one of the final scenes in the Al Jolson film, “The Jazz Singer”. Porky’s travel to Wackyland crosses Dark Africa and Darker Africa into Darkest Africa, another feature film title reference, reflecting the common Western perceptions of colonial Africa (overgrown, thick jungle filled with dangerous wild animals and uncivilized natives). I consider these quite mild compared to many other short cartoons from the same era (e.g. several scenes in Detouring America, 1939, which was nominated for an Oscar).

    There’s more forthcoming later . . .
    John

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    Riley
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    I will be trying to fit in Toni Erdmann and Elle.

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    John
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    There are a few movies I recommend that did win BP, and that didn’t.

    The Heiress, (1949) Dir: William Wyler
    . . .

    Sunset Boulevard, (1950) Dir: Billy Wilder
    . . .

    Roman Holiday, (1953) Dir: William Wyler
    . . .

    Schindler’s List, (1993) Dir: Steven Spielberg
    . . .

    All excellent!

    William Wyler was one of Hollywood’s best directors during the 1940’s and 1950’s. He hit his stride with “Wuthering Heights” in 1939. Other films you didn’t list by him are:
    * Ben-Hur (1959)
    * Mrs. Miniver (1941)
    * The Best Years of our Lives (1946)
    * Friendly Persuasion (1956)
    * Funny Girl (1968; IMO a lesser work but still excellent entertainment)

    Billy Wilder was another of Hollywood’s best directors from the same era, hitting his stride as a director in 1943 with “Five Graves to Cairo”. He did a range of genre. Other films of his you didn’t list are:
    * Double Indemnity (1944)
    * The Lost Weekend (1945)
    * Ace in the Hole (1951)
    * Stalag 17 (1953)
    * The Seven Year Itch (1955)
    * Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
    * Some Like it Hot (1959)

    Unfortunately Wyler and Wilder seemed to work best in the Studio Era. with their careers waning with advancing age as the Studio System collapsed and disappeared by the early-mid 1960’s.

    Steven Spielberg is perhaps the most successful director of the New Hollywood Era, having nearly single-handedly established the “Summer Blockbuster.” He’s also responsible for PG-13 being added to the MPAA film ratings (his recommendation to the MPAA). I won’t try to list his excellent films here. The Wikipedia entry or IMDB list of his directorial filmography, with only a few exceptions.

    John

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    John
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    As promised . . . more films . . . starting with a 1937 and continuing with the 1940 bumper crop.

    The Life of Emile Zola (1937):
    A biopic directed by William Dieterle, it was second of its genre to win a Best Picture award. The film is about Emile Zola, who was a famous French author in the late 1800’s. Late in his career, Zola takes up the cause of a French Army Officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who was wrongfully convicted in 1894 of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island (penal colony in French Guiana). Rampant antisemitism within the French military played a large part in his being railroaded by a secret trial. Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy was the real spy, an avowed antisemite, and forged the memorandum used to convict Dreyfus, to which he confessed many years later. Zola’s crusade to vindicate Dreyfus stirred immense controversy, which continued even after conclusive evidence of Dreyfus’ innocence had been found, similar to the Obama “Birthers” that continue with their claims. It’s a study in the retrenchment of government bureaucracies with refusal to admit error in order to save face at all cost to preserve an image of infallibility. If you’ve seen “J’Accuse” used, it’s the bold headline from Emile Zola’s public letter to the President of France on 13 January 1898 printed on the front page of a prominent newspaper. In it he accuses the government of having knowingly, deliberately and maliciously convicted Dreyfus of treason. Ultimately Dreyfus is restored to the military with full honors, promoted to major and eventually has command of an artillery unit, ultimately serving during WWI as a Lieutenant Colonel.

    Foreign Correspondent (1940):
    One of two Hitchcock films nominated for Best Picture. The other was Rebecca, the winner that year, and his first film in the U.S. While the latter may actually be the better film (along with some that followed these), this one is a classic Hitchcock thriller, with various twists and turns. Set on the eve of WWII, it uncannily foretells a number of events that transpire just as the film is being released while telling a fictional story about international intrigue and espionage. The plane crash remains an impressive special effects feat. While one may suspect they know the answers, Hitchcock always manages to sow enough doubt that they’re never completely certain.

    The Grapes of Wrath (1940):
    Nominated, but did not win Best Picture, it was directed by John Ford, starring Henry Fonda and John Carradine. It’s one of Ford’s record four Best Director wins, out of a mere five nominations. William Wyler won twice with a record twelve nominations, and a number of others have seven and eight nominations with only two wins. This is the film adaptation of Steinbeck’s novel published only a year prior to the film. Unlike many other film adaptations that very quickly follow a novel’s release, this one doesn’t cut excessive corners in the story (Lost Horizon and A Farewell to Arms come to mind). The ending was modified to comply with the draconian Hays Code as the very nature of the novel’s would never have gotten past them. Daryl F. Zanuck’s decided it was a film that needed to be made, unusual as he was a staunch conservative; other studios had passed on it as too controversial. Zanuck also shepherded it through the MPAA and its censors. IMHO its divergence from the novel doesn’t diminish from the power of the story. It shows with harsh realism the midwest Dust Bowl migration of over a million tenant farmers to California seeking work in its agricultural central valley during the Great Depression. The family in the film travels U.S. Hwy 66 across Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona to California (now I-44 and I-40). Many had been evicted from the land they had farmed for decades. The cause was an extended, widespread drought resulting in massive crop failures for upward of eight years in some regions. The affected area ran from Texas north across the Great Plains into Canada. These people were dirt poor and very poorly educated. Farm owners in California preyed upon them as near slave labor. It was the source of the contemptuous pejorative “Okie” even though many were not from Oklahoma, but surrounding states.

    The Great Dictator (1940):
    This is Charlie Chaplin’s stunningly brilliant satrical caricature of Hitler and Mussolini, released fourteen months before U.S. entry into WWII. The war had already started in Europe in September 1939, a year after Chaplin had started pre-production work on it and a week after Chaplin had begun filming. It was Chaplin’s first true talking film. Its 1936 predecessor, Modern Times, had very little dialog.

    Alexander Nevsky (1938):
    A Soviet film by Sergei Eisenstein (of Battleship Potemkin fame), it depicts the 13th Century Holy Roman Empire Teutonic invasion of Novgorod that was repulsed and defeated by Prince Alexander (Alexander Nevsky). Given the state of strained relations between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the film is an obvious allegory to portraying an historical defense of the Mother Russia from the evil German hordes. When the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed in August 1939, Stalin withdrew it from circulation. After Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, it was quickly put back into circulation. Of particular note is Eisenstein’s dramatic use of lighting (including shadows cast by actors and objects), camera angles and framing of close-ups. Symbolism is pervasive. It is a style of its own in contrast to typical Hollywood symbolism and lighting methods in particular. It is considered one of the best motion Pictures of the Stalin era. I’m not certain it would have garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language for political reasons, but it’s one of the films considered a “must see” for film students and ranks high on all-time best world cinema lists.

    A Wild Hare (1940):
    Released under Warner’s Merrie Melodies label instead of their Looney Tunes, this Tex Avery film defined Bugs Bunny with his shape, coloring and a distinctly refined character after a similar rabbit had been used in a number of their cartoons from 1938 to 1940 (considered by most to be “proto” Bugs). It also pits him against Elmer Fudd in the classic Fudd hunting a wabbit setup. As with all cartoon characters, Bugs’ head and body shape evolved a little over the years, but this one firmly established him. The opening lines for Elmer Fudd, “Be vewy, vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits”, and for Bugs, “Eh, what’s up Doc?” became frequent catchphrases for the two in subsequent films. Nominated for the Best Short Subject Cartoon but did not win.

    John

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    John
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    I will be trying to fit in Toni Erdmann and Elle.

    Excellent 2016 film recommendations! I’ve got a number of Verhoeven films and have been trying to find his Turkish Delight (1973) on DVD at a reasonable price. Both of yours are on my current “buy” list and will have to wait until they’re released on Blu-ray to eventually see them. There isn’t a foreign film or art house theater within 150 miles of me.

    John

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    John
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    Yet more from the past . . .

    The Maltese Falcon (1941):
    John Huston’s directorial feature film debut and one of the two breakthrough movies for Humphrey Bogart as a leading actor. Also starring in the film in a supporting role is Peter Lorre, now in Hollywood, having moved there from Britain. The other breakthrough film, also in 1941, is High Sierra. You might watch the two as a double feature. The movie is quintessential film-noir, and is considered the first major one in the classic era. The story is a gripping crime thriller. Some of the cynical edginess in the novel from which it’s adapted had to be dialed back due to Hays Code censorship. What made it into the film was on the very edge of what was allowed. It lost to How Green was My Valley, an excellent but overly sentimental film that’s not withstood the test of time as this one has.

    Suspicion (1941):
    Hitchcock firmly establishes his genius in constructing psychological thrillers with this film. It is his third Best Picture nomination in two years, with more to come in the future. This is Hitchcock’s first of four films with Cary Grant cast as leading the actor.

    The Rules of the Game (1939):
    Another film by Jean Renoir, this one on the eve of WWII, released just a few months before the war began in September 1939. It was not well received in France when first released, but has since gained considerable stature and is now considered one of the best films of world cinema. It was banned during WWII by the Nazis in occupied and Vichy France, and for a short time by France after the war. It is noted for deep focus and long shots, techniques which were innovative in 1939, and which Orson Welles used in Citizen Kane two years later (along with unique lighting and camera angles). Some of its dismal reception was the result of how poignantly it portrayed France’s class society. It depicted the morally callous behavior of the upper economic and social classes and their willful blindness to the impending war with Germany. It was a reflection of themselves, particularly the right-wing with the economically and politically powerful, they did not want to see. Originally 113 minutes, it kept being cut until it was down to 85 minutes, with the original negatives thought to have been destroyed during a 1942 allied bombing that destroyed the film lab and storage facility. Eventually enough original material was discovered in recovered boxes to reconstruct all but three minutes of the original. According to Renoir, the missing 3 minutes is a minor scene and not that significant to the story. Time has placed sufficient distance between its content and the society it reflected upon. It is the only film to place somewhere in Sight and Sound’s all-time top ten films poll since 1952, and has consistently had similar placement in other world cinema lists.

    Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt (1941):
    Directed by Friz Freleng, this one was nominated for Best Short Cartoon. Its plot centers around Longfellow’s epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha. It stars the now established Bugs Bunny, but instead of Elmer Fudd, the hunter is Hiawatha with a bow and arrow, similar to Elmer but without the speech impediment. Its bookend framework starts and ends with Bugs reading the epic poem, with everything in between consisting of the usual Bugs Bunny antics to foil the hunter. One of the last notable cartoons before U.S. entry into WWII and most of the cartoon effort being directed at home front propaganda to support the war.

    John

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    John
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    A second attempt to post this . . .

    Many of the films during the first half of the 1940’s were WWII home front propaganda or morale boosters (e.g. Mrs. Miniver). Nevertheless, films unrelated to the war continued to be produced . . .

    The Magnificent Ambersons (1942):
    I’ve deliberately not listed Citizen Kane as I presume nearly everyone reading this will have seen it already. This was Welles’ film that followed. It’s based on Booth Tarkington’s 1918 Pulitzer Prize novel of the same name, about a turn of the century independently wealthy family in Indianapolis and their financial decline with the introduction of the automobile and accelerating American industrialization. The nouveau riche capitalists and industrialists are starkly contrasted with the old money elite. It retains much of the Welles genius, in spite of substantial studio meddling. RKO, which had a history of this, cut 40 additional minutes and re-shot the entire ending. In spite of this it received another Best Picture nomination and is considered a masterpiece of Welles film making. The cuts were destroyed and work prints are considered lost. Restoration to Welles’ original intent is highly unlikely.

    For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943):
    A film adaptation of Hemingway’s 1940 novel, this one does not suffer from story gaps found in other best selling novel adaptations that quickly followed book publication during the 1930’s. Set during the Spanish Civil War in the mid-1930’s, the story on film is reasonably faithful to the novel. Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman were hand-picked by Hemingway for the leading roles. Nominated for nine academy awards including Best Picture, it only received one for Best Supporting Actress, quite understandably losing BP to Casablanca.

    Münchhausen (1943):
    Made by UFA in the middle of the war to celebrate UFA’s 25th anniversary at the behest of Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels, it’s nothing short of a major miracle that it does not contain any Nazi symbols, references, antisemitism or other racial stereotypes, or any other war propaganda. Directed by Josef von Báky, a Hungarian, the film is about the outrageously tall tales of Baron Hieronymus von Münchhausen during the 18th Century. The production used the newly created Agfacolor film for the negatives and prints. A real military aristocrat that fought for the Russian Empire against the Turkish (Ottoman) Empire in the 1730’s, he became a minor celebrity after retiring to Germany with his tall tales of his military exploits. These were substantially embellished into outrageously and obviously fictional stories and published by Rudolf Erich Raspe anonymously in the 1780’s. Since then they’ve taken on German Folk Tale status. If it served any purpose for the Propaganda Ministry, it took people’s minds and attention off of the war. Remade in 1988 by Terry Gilliam, and in 2012 for television in Germany, the original from 1943 is available on DVD having undergone excellent restoration.

    Pigs in a Polka (1943):
    One of the few wartime Merrie Melodies (or Looney Tunes) that did not contain war references. Directed by Friz Freleng, it’s the story of the Three Little Pigs set to several of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances and parodies Disney’s Three Little Pigs and Fantasia, using a culturally subversive technique with classical music that appears in later Warner Bro’s cartoons. With near zero dialog, it’s dominated by the music. None of the pigs, while resembling Porky are him and the wolf is nondescript as well. Nominated for Best Animated Short Film but did not win, losing to a blatant war propaganda cartoon.

    John

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    cathy
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    Amazing post to watch movies before the awards. Download your all these movies from torrents for free. If you want to you can find many other movies and Tv shows for free. check it out for more info. http://topfreetorrentsites.com/

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    Continuing with some WWII era . . .

    The Ox-Bow Incident (1943):
    Considered by some to be film-noir, it’s a Western adapted from the 1940 novel with some of the noir elements. It was directed by William A. Wellman, who had directed Wings in 1927, the first Best Picture winner. A prolific studio system director, AFAIK, these are his two most notable films. The movie is blessed with an all-star cast with Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Anthony Quinn and Harry Morgan the most notable among them. I hesitate to say much about the plot beyond it having a theme centered on lynch mob “justice.” Well deserving of its Best Picture nomination, it understandably lost to Casablanca.

    Double Indemnity (1944):
    Very decidedly film-noir, this Billy Wilder film is based on a novella published in eight parts in Liberty Magazine in 1943. It stars Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck as the principals with Edward G. Robinson in a supporting role as an insurance investigator. Wilder very successfully cast both MacMurray and Robinson against their typical character type, something he would repeat with MacMurray in The Apartment 16 years later. It has all the classical noir elements: crime thriller genre, flashback framework, B&W with noir lighting and cinematography, taut and snappy dialog with cynical quips, a femme fatale (Stanwyck) and a reasonably hard-boiled detective (Robinson). Quite deserving of its Best Picture nomination, it lost to “Going My Way”, a musical starring Bing Crosby, which hasn’t held up that well over time. However, this film has lasted with continued high critical acclaim and is considered one of the best examples of Hollywood’s classical film-noir alongside The Maltese Falcon (1941) and The Big Sleep (1946) (to name several).

    Ivan the Terrible Parts I and II (1944):
    An epic Stalin era Soviet film directed by Sergei Eisenstein, it has obvious WWII overtones similar to his Alexander Nevsky. Stalin greatly admired and identified himself with Tsar Ivan IV. Originally planned for three parts, Part I was released in 1944. Stalin was incensed over the portrayal of Ivan IV in Part II and it was banned until 1958, five years after Stalin’s death. Part III was canceled part way through filming with Eisenstein’s death in 1948, and Stalin had all of it destroyed. Nevertheless, the first two parts stand up very well without Part III as Part II ends without loose ends as Ivan consolidates his power over the Russian Empire with the elimination of the last of the enemies that could challenge his imperial title as Tsar of all the Russias. The impressive musical score was written by Sergei Prokofiev, one of the major symphonic composers of the 20th Century. As with Alexander Nevsky, symbolism is pervasive throughout, along with dramatic lighting, oblique camera angles, closeups, and use of shadows cast by the lighting. Optical effects with set design are used to create illusions of scale and space. Every small detail contributes to the atmosphere and mood of a scene, and they do so in clear contrast to the typical Hollywood methods. In spite of the wartime overtones, it’s a decently accurate portrayal of Ivan the Terrible’s rise and ruthless consolidation of power as Tsar of all Russias, and it’s done in a manner of film making that’s well worth studying.

    Life with Feathers (1945):
    Directed by Friz Freleng, this is the Warner Bro’s Merrie Melodies debut of Sylvester the Cat. He isn’t paired with Tweetie Pie until two years later in 1947. The bird in this one is a one-off. Even though the title is a play on “Life with Father”, a famous Broadway musical, there’s no other connection between the two. Unlike the Tweetie pairing later, the story premise in this one involves a bird trying to commit suicide by having Sylvester eat him after his marriage goes sour. Sylvester is suspicious hes poisonous and refuses. The gags throughout are all the various unsuccessful methods the bird uses to get eaten. Nominated for Best Short Animation, it lost to MGM’s Tom and Jerry “Quiet Please!”

    John

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    Moving on toward post-WWII era . . .

    Mildred Pierce (1945):
    Another classical film-noir, this one by Michael Curtiz starring Joan Crawford. Based on James M. Cain’s 1941 novel, the film diverges from the book with simplified plot and fewer characters (not unusual). In addition, it’s significantly hardened from psychological drama into a crime thriller by adding a murder, although the psychological aspect remains a key element. Along with the murder, it uses the usual film-noir narration and flashback framework and a manipulative femme fatale, albeit slightly atypical. It has a taut script delivered at a brisk pace. Nominated for Best Picture it justifiably lost to the next one on my list . . .

    The Lost Weekend (1945):
    Another Billy Wilder film, this one stars Ray Milland and Jane Wyman. It’s based on Charles R. Jackson’s 1944 novel about an alcoholic writer that finally hits bottom. Its edgy content with the topic of alcoholism pushed some of the Hays Code censorship boundaries and the novel’s homosexual overtones had to be completely eliminated in the screenplay. It has a documentary realism style with some film-noir elements. The result is a tight drama that portrays the nightmare of alcoholism with not only the alcoholic, but with their family and friends as well.

    Shoeshine (1946):
    Two years before his famous 1948 masterpiece, Bicycle Thieves, Vittorio De Sica made his first masterpiece, Shoeshine. One of the “rubble films” made within the first several years after the war ended that were set within war damaged urban areas (unavoidably or deliberately), the story is about two shoeshine boys in Allied occupied Italy who save up enough money to buy a horse, and are then wrongfully accused of stealing it. The pair are incarcerated in a juvenile facility and the story continues with the impact and effect a juvenile “prison” complete with internal prison gangs has on them, their friendship and ultimately their loyalty to each other. De Sica frequently used untrained actors, and the filming is “on location” and nearly all outdoors without sound stages, sets or fabricated props. The result is a stark realism that amplifies the film’s themes.

    Walky Talky Hawky (1946):
    Directed by Robert McKimson, it stars Foghorn Leghorn, a rooster, Henery Hawk, a juvenile chicken hawk, and Barnyard Dawg, an occasional supporting character. The setup is similar to Elmer and Bugs, Sylvester and Tweetie, or the Coyote and the Roadrunner. Henery trying to capture a chicken and Foghorn flimflams, bamboozles, bluffs, and otherwise foils Henery’s efforts. Foghorn also pesters Dawg with practical jokes and dirty tricks. In this one, Foghorn convinces the naive Henery who’s never seen a chicken that Dawg is a chicken and the mayhem ensues from there. Nominated for Best Short Animation, it lost to MGM’s Tom and Jerry “Cat Concerto” (which had its own controversy as it’s nearly identical to WB’s “Rhapsody Rabbit” with Bugs Bunny; both studios accused the other of plagiarism).

    John

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