This Week in Rankings

My watches and rewatches from the past week, with each film’s rank on The Big List.

In Old Arizona – 14, 1928
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang – 7, 1932
Captain Blood -12, 1935
A Star is Born – 13, 1937
The Devil and Miss Jones – 21, 1941
The More the Merrier – 13, 1943
Objective: Burma! – 9, 1945
The House on 92nd Street –  22, 1945
All the King’s Men – 29, 1949

Along the Great Divide – 18, 1951
The House on Telegraph Hill – 27, 1951
The Bad and the Beautiful – 13, 1952
Marty – 32, 1955
Gigi – 17, 1958
Oliver! – 17, 1968
Midnight Cowboy – 14, 1969


Now that the Oscars are done with, it’s past time I release a best Films of 2011 list.  This is even more preliminary than usual this year, as I haven’t had much chance to see new movies and I missed the Vancouver Film festival for the first time in several years.  Thus, I’ve only seen 24 films from 2011 so far, but that will change and this list will be updated as it does.  I’ve included links to reviews of the films I’ve written about.  Eventually there will be something for everything, but that’s a long-term project.

2. Drive
3. The Muppets
4. Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown
5. Hugo
8. The Adventures of Tintin
9. Winnie the Pooh
11. Moneyball
12. Super 8
13. The Guard
14. Thor
15. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
16. Fragments: Surviving Pieces of Lost Films
17. Attack the Block
18. Don’t Expect Too Much
19. The Adjustment Bureau
20. Page One: Inside the New York Times
21. Cedar Rapids
22. Rango
23. Captain America

Oscarfever! 2012: Predictions and Endy Award Winners

It’s once again time for my annual highly mediocre, guaranteed to finish in the top 5 but definitely not win your pool Oscar Predictions.  As always, my guess are paired with my own personal award for each category, The Endy.  The Endys follow different rules than the Oscars because only actual 2011 films are eligible, which excludes such luminaries as Certified Copy, Meek’s Cutoff, Carlos, Mysteries of Lisbon, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and many others which all first saw release in 2010.  This year was an unusually light one for me movie-wise, as the Best of the Year list (to be posted this evening) will attest, and some of the Endy categories (I haven’t seen any 2011 foreign language films!) are a bit lacking.

Best Picture:
Endy: The Tree of Life
Oscar: The Artist
Best Director:
Endy: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Oscar: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Endy: Brendan Gleeson, The Guard
Oscar: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Endy: Marion Cotillard, Midnight in Paris
Oscar: Viola Davis, The Help
Supporting Actor:
Endy: Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life
Oscar: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Supporting Actress:
Endy: Helen McCrory, Hugo
Oscar: Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Original Screenplay:
Endy: Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller, The Muppets
Oscar: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Adapted Screenplay:
Endy: Craig Schultz & Stephan Pastis, Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown
Oscar: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants
Foreign Language Film:
Endy: NA
Oscar: A Separation
Documentary Feature:
Endy: Fragments: Surviving Pieces of Lost Films
Oscar: Paradise Lost 3
Animated Feature:
Endy: Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown
Oscar: Rango
Film Editing:
Endy: The Tree of Life
Oscar: The Artist
Endy: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Oscar: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Art Direction:
Endy: Hugo
Oscar: Hugo
Costume Design:
Endy: Midnight in Paris
Oscar: The Artist
Endy: Super 8
Oscar: The Iron Lady
Sound Mixing:
Endy: The Tree of Life
Oscar: Hugo
Sound Editing:
Endy: Drive
Oscar: War Horse
Visual Effects:
Endy: Hugo
Oscar: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Original Score:
Endy: Alexandre Desplat, The Tree of Life
Oscar: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Original Song:
Endy: “Man or Muppet”, The Muppets
Oscar: “Man or Muppet”, The Muppets
Documentary Short:
Oscar: Saving Face
Animated Short:
Oscar: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Live Action Short:
Oscar: The Shore
Endy: The Tree of Life

Oscarfever! 2012: Best Picture Lists

In honor of tomorrow’s big show, here’s a couple big Oscar-related lists for the day.  First, I’ve ranked all 76 of the Best Picture winners I’ve seen:
1. Casablanca   
2. Annie Hall
3. Sunrise
4. All About Eve
5. An American in Paris
6. Gone With the Wind
7. My Fair Lady
8. Unforgiven
9. The Godfather Part II
10. Lawrence of Arabia
11. Amadeus
12. On the Waterfront
13. The French Connection
14. The Godfather
15. It Happened One Night
16. The Best Years of Our Lives
17. Rebecca
18. All Quiet on the Western Front
19. The Apartment
20. How Green Was My Valley
21. The English Patient
22. The Departed
23. West Side Story
24. Patton
25. Wings
26. Gigi
27. The Sting
28. No Country for Old Men
29. Going My Way
30. Out of Africa
31. Mutiny on the Bounty
32. Hamlet
33. Midnight Cowboy
34. The Bridge on the River Kwai
35. The Silence of the Lambs
36. Platoon
37. The Return of the King
38. The Last Emperor
39. Schindler’s List
40. The Deer Hunter
41. All the King’s Men
42. Rocky
43. The Hurt Locker
44. Titanic
45. Marty
46. Ordinary People
47. Ben-Hur
48. You Can’t Take It With You
49. In the Heat of the Night
50. Slumdog Millionaire
51. Terms of Endearment
52. Shakespeare in Love
53. Braveheart
54. The Broadway Melody
55. Oliver!
56. Grand Hotel
57. Dances with Wolves
58. A Man for All Seasons
59. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
60. The King’s Speech
61. Kramer vs. Kramer
62. American Beauty
63. Gandhi
64. The Lost Weekend
65. Cimarron
66. Forrest Gump
67. Million Dollar Baby
68. Chariots of Fire
69. The Sound of Music
70. Rain Man
71. Gladiator
72. Cavalcade
73. A Beautiful Mind
74. Gentlemen’s Agreement
75. Driving Miss Daisy
76. Crash

 The seven winners I haven’t seen yet are: The Great Ziegfeld, The Life of Emile Zola
Mrs. Miniver, The Greatest Show on Earth, Around the World in 80 Days, Tom Jones,  and Chicago.

Second, a list of all the actual winners in chronological order, followed in parentheses by the actual nominee I would have picked (limited of course by the films I’ve seen) and my personal choice as Best Picture.  I’m following as best I can the Oscar eligibility rules for Hollywood films (foreign film release dates are too complicated, so for the sake of this exercise, let’s just assume that films have been released simultaneously in all parts of the world).  

Looking at this list, it’s reassuring how many great movies have been nominated for Best Picture, even if the eventual winners were lackluster.  18 times my favorite of the year was one of the nominees, with my favorite winning six times (Sunrise, Casablanca, All About Eve, An American in Paris, Annie Hall and Unforgiven).  If The Tree of Life pulls off a huge upset tomorrow, it’ll be the seventh.

27/28: Sunrise/Wings (Sunrise, Sunrise)
28/29: The Broadway Melody (The Broadway Melody, The Docks of New York)
29/30: All Quiet on the Western Front (All Quiet on the Western Front, The Man with a Movie Camera)
30/31: Cimarron (The Front Page, City Lights)
31/32: Grand Hotel (Shanghai Express, Trouble in Paradise)
32/33: Cavalcade (42nd Street, Duck Soup)
1934: It Happened One Night (The Thin Man, L’Atalante)
1935: Mutiny on the Bounty (Top Hat, Top Hat)
1936: The Great Ziegfeld (Dodsworth, Swing Time)
1937: The Life of Emile Zola (The Awful Truth, Make Way For Tomorrow)
1938: You Can’t Take It with You (The Adventures of Robin Hood, Bringing Up Baby)
1939: Gone with the Wind (Stagecoach, The Rules of the Game)
1940: Rebecca (The Philadelphia Story, The Shop Around the Corner)
1941: How Green Was My Valley (Citizen Kane, Citizen Kane)
1942: Mrs. Miniver (The Magnificent Ambersons, Cat People)
1943: Casablanca (Casablanca, Casablanca)
1944: Going My Way (Double Indemnity, A Canterbury Tale)
1945: The Lost Weekend (The Bells of St. Mary’s, Children of Paradise)
1946: The Best Years of Our Lives (It’s a Wonderful Life, The Big Sleep)
1947: Gentlemen’s Agreement (Crossfire, Black Narcissus)
1948: Hamlet (The Red Shoes, The Red Shoes)
1949: All the King’s Men (A Letter to Three Wives, The Third Man)
1950: All About Eve (All About Eve, All About Eve)
1951: An American in Paris (An American in Paris, An American in Paris)
1952: The Greatest Show on Earth (The Quiet Man, Singin’ in the Rain)
1953: From Here to Eternity (Roman Holiday, Ugetsu)
1954: On the Waterfront (On the Waterfront, Seven Samurai)
1955: Marty (Mister Roberts, Night of the Hunter)
1956: Around the World in 80 Days (The Ten Commandments, The Searchers)
1957: The Bridge on the River Kwai (Witness for the Prosecution, Funny Face)
1958: Gigi (Gigi, Vertigo)
1959: Ben-Hur (Anatomy of a Murder, North by Northwest)
1960: The Apartment (The Apartment, Psycho)
1961: West Side Story (West Side Story, A Woman is a Woman)
1962: Lawrence of Arabia (Lawrence of Arabia, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance)
1963: Tom Jones (How the West Was Won, The Birds)
1964: My Fair Lady (Dr. Strangelove, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)
1965: The Sound of Music (Dr. Zhivago, Pierrot le fou)
1966: A Man for All Seasons (A Man for All Seasons, Au hasard Balthazar)
1967: In the Heat of the Night (Bonnie & Clyde, Playtime)
1968: Oliver! (The Lion in Winter, Once Upon a Time in the West)
1969: Midnight Cowboy (Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, A Touch of Zen)
1970: Patton (Patton, Claire’s Knee)
1971: The French Connection (The French Connection, Two-Lane Blacktop)
1972: The Godfather (Cabaret, Cabaret)
1973: The Sting (The Sting, F for Fake)
1974: The Godfather Part II (Chinatown, Celine & Julie Go Boating)
1975: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Jaws, Jaws)
1976: Rocky (Taxi Driver, Taxi Driver)
1977: Annie Hall (Annie Hall, Annie Hall)
1978: The Deer Hunter (The Deer Hunter, Days of Heaven)
1979: Kramer vs. Kramer (All that Jazz, Manhattan)
1980: Ordinary People (Raging Bull, The Empire Strikes Back)
1981: Chariots of Fire (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Raiders of the Lost Ark)
1982: Gandhi (The Verdict, Fitzcarraldo)
1983: Terms of Endearment (The Right Stuff, Sans soleil)
1984: Amadeus (Amadeus, Stranger than Paradise)
1985: Out of Africa (Out of Africa, Ran)
1986: Platoon (Hannah and her Sisters, Hannah and Her Sisters)
1987: The Last Emperor (Broadcast News, The Princess Bride)
1988: Rain Man (Dangerous Liaisons, Dangerous Liaisons)
1989: Driving Miss Daisy (Field of Dreams, Do the Right Thing)
1990: Dances with Wolves (Goodfellas, Miller’s Crossing)
1991: Silence of the Lambs (JFK, Slacker)
1992: Unforgiven (Unforgiven, Unforgiven)
1993: Schindler’s List (In the Name of the Father, Three Colors: Blue)
1994: Forrest Gump (Pulp Fiction, Chungking Express)
1995: Braveheart (Sense & Sensibility, Dead Man)
1996: The English Patient (The English Patient, Transpotting)
1997: Titanic (Titanic, Boogie Nights)
1998: Shakespeare in Love (The Thin Red Line, The Big Lebowski)
1999: American Beauty (The Insider, Eyes Wide Shut)
2000: Gladiator (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
2001: A Beautiful Mind (The Fellowship of the Ring, Millennium Mambo)
2002: Chicago (The Two Towers, Punch-Drunk Love)
2003: Return of the King (Master and Commander, Kill Bill Vol. 1)
2004: Million Dollar Baby (The Aviator, 2046)
2005: Crash (Munich, The New World)
2006: The Departed (The Departed, The Wind that Shakes the Barley)
2007: No Country for Old Men (There Will Be Blood, I’m Not There)
2008: Slumdog Millionaire (Milk, WALL-E)
2009: The Hurt Locker (Inglourious Basterds, Inglourious Basterds)
2010: The King’s Speech (True Grit, Certified Copy)
2011: ??? ?????? (The Tree of Life, The Tree of Life)

This Week in Rankings

Where the movies I’ve watched and rewatched over the last week line up on The Big List.
The Floorwalker – 3, 1916
The Rink – 2, 1916
Bardelys the Magnificent – 3, 1926
Cimarron – 16, 1931
Cavalcade – 27, 1933
Comrade X – 14, 1940
Once Upon a Honeymoon – 5, 1942
Cimarron – 19, 1960
Cedar Rapids – 2011
The Adventures of Tintin – 2011
The Guard – 2011
Winnie the Pooh – 2011

On The Adventures of Tintin

I really enjoyed this and I’m not sure why it doesn’t seem to be as popular as it should.  I fear it’s because Tintin isn’t a typical Hollywood hero in that he doesn’t have some kind of psychological crisis he overcomes through his adventure.  Capt. Haddock has his addiction arc, but not a whole lot of melodrama is wrung out of that, and Tintin’s relation to it is simple disapproval.  Tintin doesn’t have a “character” that “develops” in the way we’re used to seeing, even kids’ movies invariably have some lame redemption or parental anxiety story grafted onto them.

This is, I think, why it hearkens back to the first Indiana Jones film as much as in Spielberg’s brilliantly designed action set pieces.  Raiders of the Lost Ark doesn’t have character to speak of: Indiana Jones and Marion are types out of 40s Hollywood (the first a combination of Bogart and Flynn, the second a classic Hawksian woman) and their rudimentary romance merely serves to break up the action sequences.  They don’t develop, they are entertainment devices that are run through a plot in the manner of classic serials and adventure films.

This, then, is the truly old fashioned Spielberg film of 2011, not the thoroughly modernist War Horse.  The two films make an interesting pair, as inevitably happens when Spielberg releases two films in the same year, always opposing versions of himself (Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park in 1993, Munich and War of the Worlds in 2005, Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can in 2002, Amistad and The Lost World in 1997, Always and The Last Crusade in 1989).  In almost every one of those years, I prefer the Genre Spielberg to the Prestige Spielberg.  2005 is pretty close: both Munich and WotW are very good movies with really awful scenes near the end.  War Horse has more greatness in it (the last hour or so), but also more terribleness (the first hour or so).  Tintin is consistently good throughout, but it feels like it’s missing something.

It’s the work of a master, with beautifully conceived and executed action sequences and it is always entertaining.  Formally, the film is a wonder, not just in managing to (barely) overcome the inherent uncanny valley issues of its medium.  Spielberg creates some of the most clever and beautiful dissolves seen in years, and there’s a visual motif of reflective surfaces (mirrors, glass, water, etc) that is unmatched in any animation I’ve seen.  To what end I’m not sure: why is Tintin hounded by so many distortions of reality?  Is it merely because it looks really cool?  I think so, and that gets to what I think the film is missing.  It’s a well-told story that is all surface; it lacks the inspiration, the edge, the danger of genius.  It’s a more accomplished film than something like Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Carribean films, but I prefer the crazy energy of those films, the willingness to go completely off the rails to risk making a great movie.  War Horse comes close to that, Tintin plays it safe.


1. The Cook in Trouble – A trick film from Georges Méliès, much less ambitious in scope than his epics of the previous two years, with only one set (albeit a lovely one) and no real narrative to speak of.  It’s more a fun diversion than anything revolutionary.  A cook is mean to a beggar asking for food.  The beggar is a wizard in disguise who curses the cook, inflicting him with demons that terrorize him, jumping in and out of his pots and crawling out of his oven in a devilish swirl of stop action photographic effects.

This Week in Rankings

Watches and rewatches from last week, and where each film currently places on The Big List.
Grand Hotel – 35, 1932
State Fair – 17, 1933
The Great Garrick – 24, 1937
Merrily We Live – 10, 1938
The Great Waltz – 12, 1938
Second Fiddle – 31, 1939
That Uncertain Feeling – 21, 1941
A Song to Remember – 23, 1945
On the Town – 9, 1949
It’s Always Fair Weather – 11, 1955
Lust for Life – 17, 1956
Ice Station Zebra – 18, 1968

Mysteries of Lisbon – 2, 2010

The Laurel & Hardy Project #5: Slipping Wives

This is the first real showcase in the series for Stan Laurel.  He was pretty good in Duck Soup, but he and Oliver Hardy were together in almost every scene there and in was their interactions that made it work.  They both appear in this film, and again have some great comic moments together, but Laurel is also given a solo showcase where he gets to display the physical comedy talents that made him a star in the first place.

The film is a star vehicle for Priscilla Dean, a major star at Universal in the late-teens and early 20s who had faded into two reelers for Roach by 1927.  Laurel and Hardy are the next billed, followed by Herbert Rawlinson, an actor whose career began before World War I and ended with Ed Wood in the 1950s.  It’s a fairly typical farce scenario where Priscilla hires Laurel’s paint salesman to help her make her husband (Rawlinson) jealous. Hardy plays the butler who takes an immediate dislike to Laurel.  Most of the comedy is built around Laurel mistaken a family friend for the husband, and thus doing all his flirting when the husband isn’t looking.  The highlight scene for Laurel is when he’s asked about his latest novel (he’s posing as a famous author) and he demonstrates the story of Samson and Delilah.  Laurel started out in British music halls (he was for a time Charlie Chaplin’s understudy, when Chaplin toured America for the first time, Laurel was part of his troupe) and he here gets to display a Chaplinesque pantomime skill, an ability I didn’t know he had before watching these movies.  I assumed his genius was more for the construction of anarchic comedy sequence, slow burns to chaos, but he shows here a real talent for the more balletic forms of comedy as well.