Sunday, September 30, 2018

1952 Alternate Oscars

My choices are noted with a ★. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ.

Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show On Earth is the first best picture winner not to make my top ten since 1936's The Great Ziegfeld (although I was rather generous with a couple of winners in between).

As a semi-documentary of what kids might have once felt about the circus, The Greatest Show on Earth is actually pretty good. I know I myself really enjoyed the circus when I was ten. But I'm not ten anymore. (Neither, apparently, are most ten year olds these days, judging by the demise of Barnum & Bailey. But that's a subject for another time.)

If you're wondering, the other best picture winners so far that failed to crack my top ten are The Broadway Melody (1928-29), Cimarron (1930-31) and Cavalcade (1932-33). There will no doubt be others in the future. We'll see.

My pick for best picture, Singin' In The Rain, is a serious contender for the best musical of all time. It's also a great comedy and a great romance. That it's also a nifty history of Hollywood's transition from silent films to talkies is a bonus.

Certainly it's the best movie Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor and Jean Hagen ever made.

I almost gave my best actor award to John Wayne for The Quiet Man but Takashi Shimura's poignant portrayal of a dying bureaucrat determined to give his wasted life meaning is one of the most moving performances in the history of cinema. He's a worthy winner — Takashi Shimura was Akira Kurosawa's go-to guy, appearing in 21 of the director's thirty films, more than any other actor. In 1954, he starred in the action masterpiece, Seven Samurai, playing the role Yul Brenner would tackle in the English-language remake, The Magnificent Seven. Versatile actor.

John Wayne fans need not despair, however — the Duke will hoist the trophy a little later in the decade, guaranteed.

On the other hand, if you think Gary Cooper deserves an alternate Oscar, I'm pretty sure this is your last chance to vote for him ...

Sunday, September 23, 2018

1951 Alternate Oscars

My choices are noted with a ★. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔.

My favorite movie of 1951 is actually The Thing From Another World — Katie-Bar-The-Door and I have seen it a hundred times — closely followed by The African Queen. But apparently neither of those movies connects with modern audiences the way they used to. Pity.

So I went with the equally excellent Strangers on a Train, the first time I've recognized Alfred Hitchcock with top honors despite five previous nominations. He's overdue.

I'm sure most of you will go with Vivien Leigh for best actress, as did the Academy, but I prefer Katharine Hepburn here. The African Queen was the beginning of Hepburn's third act and one of the greatest performances of her extraordinary career. Plus she wrote a beloved behind-the-scenes memoir about the experience.

But that's just my take on it. You must do what you must do.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

1950 Alternate Oscars

My choices are noted with a ★. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ.

Anne Baxter was nominated as a lead actress but it's really a supporting performance. Having already won a supporting actress Oscar for The Razor's Edge, she figured being nominated as a lead actress, even in a losing effort, would be a bigger boost to her career than a second supporting win. But we here at the Monkey don't care about that sort of thing. I've nominated her as a supporting actress.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

1949 Alternate Oscars

My choices are noted with a ★. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔.

Of 1949's Oscar-eligible movies, I would have gone with The Heiress but I prefer a couple of British movies which I have placed here — The Third Man and the hilariously droll Kind Hearts and Coronets.

If you haven't seen Kind Hearts and Coronets — a comedy about a man (Dennis Price) who can't climb the family tree so he chops it down — you really should look for it. Alec Guinness plays eight parts in that one, including Lady Agatha D'Ascoyne.

In the category of best actor, Broderick Crawford represents a philosophical conundrum for me. On the one hand, he is, as alternate Oscar guru Danny Peary put it, "arguably the worst actor ever to win a Best Actor Academy Award." On the other hand, his (extremely) limited range perfectly fit the part, he was ferocious in it and the movie wouldn't have worked without him. Is that worthy of a nomination? I've gone back and forth. Yesterday he was in, today he's out.

On the other hand, Dean Jagger was a pretty good actor and I didn't nominate him either. To me, he isn't even the best supporting actor in Twelve O'Clock High, much less of the entire year. But maybe his performance as a World War II veteran feeling nostalgic about the best years of his life struck a chord with audiences who were beginning to realize that peace and prosperity, for all their charms, could be pretty damn dull.

I didn't nominate the best director winner, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, either. I like Mankiewicz, especially for his work on All About Eve in 1950, but while I think A Letter to Three Wives is a nice picture, well worth seeing, ten or fifteen other movies squeeze it out of my annual list.

But I could be wrong.

Well, that's the way it goes with alternate Oscars — they're often just as screwed up as the Oscars themselves. But the exercise helps me focus on what I truly value and why, and after all, this all about me, right?

Sunday, September 2, 2018

1948 Alternate Oscars

A long, long time ago, I promised myself that if anyone ever came up to me and said, "Can you stake a fellow American to a meal," I'd give him twenty bucks. But no one ever has, and anyway, $20 doesn't go nearly as far as it used to.

Also, play the video to hear Alfonso Bedoya's actual line from The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre:

As always, my choices are noted with a ★. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ.