1934 Endy Awards

For the end of the year episode of The George Sanders Show a few weeks ago, we did a 1933 year in review, with awards and top 5s and reviews of a couple of films from that year. We had so much fun with it that we’re planning to do the same thing this year, for 1984. In the meantime, I figure I’ll go through the rest of the years ending in ‘4’ that I can reasonably give awards to, starting now with 1934. In the Endy Awards Index you can find entries for 201119321939196419571994, and 1933, along with a bunch of much older, less good award posts. Eligibility is determined by imdb date and by whether or not I’ve seen the movie in question. Nominees are listed in alphabetical order and the winners are bolded. And the Endy goes to. . .

Atalante,L'

Best Picture:

1. L’Atalante
2. Man of Aran
3. No Greater Glory
4. The Scarlet Empress
5. Twentieth Century

Best Director:

1. Jean Vigo, L’Atalante
2. Robert Flaherty, Man of Aran
3. Frank Borzage, No Greater Glory
4. Josef von Sternberg, The Scarlet Empress
5. Howard Hawks, Twentieth Century

Vigo was a winner in 1933 for his short film Zéro de conduite. This is a posthumous Endy as the immensely talented young director died of tuberculosis shortly after L’Atalante was released.

Best Actor:

1. Clark Gable, It Happened One Night
2. WC Fields, It’s a Gift
3. Will Rogers, Judge Priest
4. William Powell, The Thin Man
5. John Barrymore, Twentieth Century

Best Actress:

1. Ruan Lingyu, The Goddess
2. Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night
3. Marlene Dietrich, The Scarlet Empress
4. Myrna Loy, The Thin Man
5. Carole Lombard, Twentieth Century

Colbert also starred in John M. Stahl’s acclaimed Imitation of Life this year, but I haven’t seen it yet (it just missed the cut for an Unseen Film nomination) and Cecil B. DeMille’s Cleopatra, which I have seen. Dietrich and Loy both won Endys in 1932, Loy in the Supporting Actress category. This was Lombard’s for a long time, and then I saw The Goddess.

Supporting Actor:

1. Michel Simon, L’Atalante
2. Boris Karloff, The Black Cat
3. Stepin Fetchit, Judge Priest
4. Peter Lorre, The Man Who Knew Too Much
5. Sam Jaffe, The Scarlet Empress

Supporting Actress:

1. Anne Dvorak, Heat Lightning
2. Glenda Farrell, Heat Lightning
3. Louise Dresser, The Scarlet Empress
4. Chôko Iida, The Story of Floating Weeds
5. Yoshiko Tsubouchi, The Story of Floating Weeds

A kind of a make-up Endy for Glenda Farrell as this is the third year in a row she has been nominated in this category, losing to Myrna Loy in 1932 and Ginger Rogers in 1933. The nomination for Stepin Fetchit is highly controversial, of course, as picketers protest that the star actor puts his comic gifts to use perpetuating horribly demeaning stereotypes, while supporters argue that Fetchit’s persona is in fact subversive of those same stereotypes. The Endy ultimately goes to Karloff because the Endy Committee are cowards.

Original Screenplay:

1. Jean Vigo & Albert Riéra, L’Atalante
2. Robert Riskin, It Happened One Night
3. Charles Bennett & DB Wyndham-Lewis, The Man Who Knew Too Much
4. King Vidor, Elizabeth Hill & Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Our Daily Bread
5. Yasujiro Ozu & Tadao Ikeda, A Story of Floating Weeds

Adapted Screenplay:

1. Irvin S. Cobb, Dudley Nichols & Lamar Trotti, Judge Priest
2. Jo Sewerling, No Greater Glory
3. Eleanor McGeary, The Scarlet Empress
4. Albert Hackett & Frances Goodrich, The Thin Man
5. Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur, Twentieth Century

1934 is the breakthrough year for the screwball comedy, and three of the best examples of the genre see their screenplays nominated, with wins in both categories. This is the first (but surely not the last) win for Ben Hecht, who was nominated in 1932 for Scarface and 1933 for Hallelujah, I’m a Bum.

Non-English Language Film:

1. L’Atalante (Jean Vigo)
2. The Goddess (Wu Yonggang)
3. Liliom (Fritz Lang)
4. A Story of Floating Weeds (Yasujiro Ozu)
5. Street Without End (Mikio Naruse)

Short Film:

1. The Goddess of Spring (Wilfred Jackson)
2. The Grasshopper and the Ants (Wilfred Jackson)
3. The Big Bad Wolf (Burt Gillett)

Unseen Film:

1. Chapaev (Georgi & Sergei Vasilyev)
3. Le grand jeu (Jacques Feyder)

Film Editing:

1. L’Atalante
2. The Gay Divorcee
3. Man of Aran
4. The Man Who Knew Too Much
5. Our Daily Bread

Cinematography:

1. Boris Kaufman, L’Atalante
2. John J. Mescall, The Black Cat
3. Robert Flaherty, Man of Aran
4. Bert Glennon, The Scarlet Empress
5. Inokai Suketaro, Street Without End

Original Score:

1. Dames
2. The Gay Divorcee
3. Liliom
4. Our Daily Bread
5. The Scarlet Empress

Original Song:

1. “I Only Have Eyes For You”, Dames
2. “The Continental”, The Gay Divorcee

Soundtrack:

1. The Black Cat
2. Dames
3. The Gay Divorcee
4. The Merry Widow

Art Direction:

1. L’Atalante
2. The Black Cat
3. Cleopatra
4. The Merry Widow
5. The Scarlet Empress

Costume Design:

1. Cleopatra
2. The Goddess
3. Les misérables
4. The Scarlet Empress
5. The Thin Man

Make-up:

1. The Black Cat
2. Cleopatra
3. The Scarlet Empress

Sound Mixing:

1. Dames
2. Man of Aran
3. The Merry Widow
4. The Scarlet Empress
5. Twentieth Century

Sound Editing:

1. Dames
2. The Gay Divorcee
3. The Lost Patrol
4. The Merry Widow
5. No Greater Glory

Visual Effects:

1. The Black Cat
2. Cleopatra
3. Liliom

Lupin III and The Castle of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1979)

The first Lupin III TV series, based on the manga series by the oddly pseudonymed Monkey Punch, ran in 23 episodes from the fall of 1971 to the spring of 1972, when it was abruptly cancelled. About half the episodes were directed by Masaaki Osumi, the rest by the team of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, who would go on to form Studio Ghibli 15 or so years later. The series follows the adventures of master thief Lupin III, the grandson of French literary icon Arsene Lupin (he’s contemporary with and holds about the same cultural status as Sherlock Holmes). Alternating between sophisticated cool and wild bursts of gleeful anarchy, the animated version of Lupin III brings to mind the Monkey King as played by Alain Delon. Each episode follows a particular caper as he and his colleagues, Jigen Daisuke, a ice cool sharpshooter, and Goemon Ishikawa, an anachronistic samurai armed with a sword that can cut through anything, pursue a heist or mystery of some type, usually pitting them against an even worse gang of criminals. They occupy the gray area between the law and the truly villainous, what distinguishes them from evil is not just their sense of honor, but their sense of humor. Floating through the series is a mysterious woman named Fujiko Mine, always teasing and manipulating Lupin with her seductive red hair and mountainous bosom (her name literally means “mountain peaks of Fuji”) as she competes with him for whatever loot serves as the episode’s MacGuffin.

It’s all a great deal of fun, and the early episodes in particular seem shockingly contemporary, with relatively shocking acts of violence and sexual suggestiveness. About halfway through the series though, things become a bit tamer. Rather than seducing the ladies, Lupin begins rescuing damsels in distress. Rather than a dark woman leading Lupin toward destruction, Fujiko becomes a side element, a nice girl who just wants to help out the team. Early in the series she is a Hawksian woman, independent-minded and as ruthlessly capable in every way, if not more so, than the men she uses. But later she becomes just another sidekick, the marginalized love interest. What had been radical gets domesticated as Lupin becomes a goofy scamp rather than the kind of cold-blooded thief who would sit in a jail cell for a year as part of a plan to punish the Inspector who caught him (and himself for allowing himself to be caught). Wikipedia, unsourced naturally, claims that Osumi was fired by the studio “for refusing to adapt the sophisticated series for a children’s audience” which seems about right. It seems like Miyazaki and Takahata were called on to make the series more conventional, and while their version is still a highly entertaining adventure show, it lacks that cutting edge that made the early run of episodes so exciting.

After the show was cancelled, Miyazaki continued odd jobs in television throughout the 1970s. Lupin III was brought back for another, more successful series in 1977, which ran 155 episodes through 1980. A Lupin III feature film was made, followed by another. This second film was Miyazaki’s first as a feature film director (he left Isao Takahata’s production of an Anne of Green Gables TV series, which I very much want to see, to make the movie). I haven’t seen any of this second Lupin III series, but Miyazaki’s film, The Castle of Cagliostro, is consistent with the tamer, lighter tone of the latter half of the first series.

Lupin and Jigen find themselves on the trail of master counterfeiters in the small European country of Cagliostro, where they quite literally must rescue a princess who has been locked in a tower by an evil Count. Packed with intricate suspense sequences as Lupin breaks into the eponymous castle and uncovers its mysteries, the film is Miyazaki’s most generic in construction, with only a few of his signature peaceful moments (as the master thief charms the childlike princess, the reveal of the Castle’s final mystery) and a distinct lack of abstract philosophizing. Note though that as with pretty much every other Miyazaki feature, it is the overwhelming force of nature that powers the film’s conclusion. Much to the film’s detriment, Jigen and eventually Goemon get almost nothing to do. Fujiko shows up for awhile too, now a short haired blonde with no apparent skills or appeal aside from a large arsenal of weaponry and a hideous camouflage jumpsuit, and has very little role in the story, though she does take control of a TV camera in homage to one of the better episodes from late in the show’s run, though she ends up looking dangerously like April O’Neil, girl reporter, from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.

Distinguishing Cagliostro from a mere extended TV episode though is the attention to detail in the depiction of the setting, inspired by old Arsene Lupin stories as well as an unfinished feature from 1952: beautiful moss-covered ruins, a vast dungeon filled with the remains of 400 years worth of curious adventurers, ancient aqueducts, trap doors and steeply-pitched roofs for our hero to improbably traverse. Compared with the lackluster animation in efforts put forth in the late 1960s and 70s by the Walt Disney company (the mud grey of The Rescuers or the sketchy, half-finished look of The Aristocats, for example), the film is a revelation. One of my favorite things about Japanese animation (I don’t recall seeing it in earlier forms, but it was probably there) is the way character details change with their distance from the “camera”, with figures becoming more and less abstract. With Lupin, his features become less cartoony as we get a closer look at him (in the TV show we repeatedly get to see how hairy the backs of his hands are as his sideburned face turns more monkey than man). Compare this to, say, the hero in Disney’s Robin Hood: a cartoon fox who remains a cartoon fox regardless of angle or depth. The Japanese style had a subtle way of creating the illusion of depth in a two dimensional world (beyond the simple dedication Miyazaki would show to developing a truly detailed and realistic background setting) while Disney was locked in the flat, planar style they pioneered 40 years earlier, made cheap with xerography.

After the success of The Castle of Cagliostro, Miyazaki worked on another TV series, the phenomenal-sounding Sherlock Hound. He also wrote a manga, which became the foundation of his next feature film, 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. That second film, it seems to me, is the more foundational one to his later work. While occasionally he-ll return to the purer adventure style of Cagliostro (most notably in Porco Rosso), Nausicaä‘s fusion of adventure with myth, fairy tale and contemplative eco-philosophy will recur in almost all his films.

Tsui Hark

Tsui Hark

Reviews:

The Butterfly Murders (Tsui, 79) – May 31, 2013
Shanghai Blues (Tsui, 84) – Aug 28, 2014
Working Class (Tsui, 85) – Dec 07, 2013
Peking Opera Blues (Tsui, 86) – Nov 22, 2013
A Better Tomorrow (Woo, 86) – Jun 26, 2015
A Better Tomorrow II (Woo, 87) – Nov 21, 2013

The Big Heat (To et al, 88) – Jan 09, 2015
The Killer (Woo, 89) – Aug 24, 2015
A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon (Tsui, 89) – Oct 21, 2014
Just Heroes (Woo & Ma, 89) – Aug 16, 2015
Swordsman and Swordsman 2
(Ching et al, 90 and Ching, 92) – Sep 26, 2012
Once Upon a Time in China (Tsui, 91) – Jan 16, 2017
Once Upon a Time in China II (Tsui, 92) – Jan 17, 2017

New Dragon Gate Inn (Lee, 92) – Apr 24, 2014
Green Snake (Tsui, 93) – Oct 25, 2013
The Lovers (Tsui, 94) – Apr 04, 2014
The Blade (Tsui, 95) – Mar 19, 2014
Love in the Time of Twilight (Tsui, 95) – Apr 04, 2014
Zu Warriors (Tsui, 01) – May 30, 2013

Seven Swords (Tsui, 05) – Mar 11, 2014
The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (Tsui, 11) – Oct 29, 2014
Young Detective Dee and the Rise of the Sea Dragon (Tsui, 13) – Feb 27, 2014
The Taking of Tiger Mountain (Tsui, 14) – Jan 14, 2015
Sword Master (Yee, 16) – Dec 9, 2016
Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back (Tsui, 17) – Feb 7, 2017

Podcasts:

Iron Monkey (Yuen, 93) – Jan 23, 2016

Capsules:

We’re Going to Eat You (Tsui, 80) – Jun 08, 2013
Dangerous Encounters – First Kind (Tsui, 80) – Jun 25, 2013
Dangerous Encounters – First Kind (Tsui, 80) – Jan 20, 2017
All the Wrong Clues for the Right Solution (Tsui, 81) – Nov 27, 2013
Aces Go Places III: Our Man from Bond Street (Tsui, 84) – Dec 04, 2013
The Banquet (Tsui et al, 91) – Dec 13, 2013

Twin Dragons (Tsui & Lam, 92) – Apr 14, 2015
The East is Red (Ching & Lee, 93) – Jun 22, 2015
Once Upon a Time in China III (Tsui, 93) – Jan 18, 2017
Burning Paradise in Hell (Lam, 94) – Nov 22, 2016
The Chinese Feast (Tsui, 95) – Jun 04, 2013
Black Mask (Lee, 96) – Mar 22, 2016
Shanghai Grand (Poon, 96) – Mar 20, 2016

Double Team (Tsui, 97) – Apr 04, 2014
Knock Off (Tsui, 98) – Apr 07, 2014
Time and Tide (Tsui, 00) – Mar 25, 2014
Time and Tide (Tsui, 00) – Sep 05, 2016
Triangle (Lam, Tsui & To, 07) – Mar 09, 2013
Missing (Tsui, 08) – Jan 25, 2017
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (Tsui, 2010) – Apr 24, 2014

List:

Tsui Hark Movies

This Week in Rankings

I’ve watched a few movies since the last rankings update, but I spent a lot more time caught up in the Super Bowl run of the Seattle Seahawks. My TV was tuned to the NFL network for two weeks and I watched the game itself three or four times, along with various NFL highlights productions. I’m still trying to decide if I can include these things on my Best of 2014 lists. And with the Winter Olympics on-going now, there’s been a lot more sports-watching than movie-writing at here The End. I did write about Hellzapoppin’ though, which is probably the best movie I’ve seen so far this year.

I have a new episode of They Shot Pictures that should be posted anytime now, on FW Murnau, and we’re starting the research for my next one, on Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, which should come out sometime in early March. We’ve had two episodes of The George Sanders Show recently, on Her and The Doll and on The Train and Emperor of the North. We’ll be recording our Oscar episode of George Sanders next weekend, and in conjunction with that I’ll be posting my Endy Award nominees and winners for 2013.

These are the movies I’ve watched and rewatched over the last few weeks, and where they place on my year-by-year rankings, with links to my comments at letterboxd.

The Doll (Ernst Lubitsch) – 2, 1919
Phantom (FW Murnau) – 10, 1922
Tartuffe (FW Murnau) – 4, 1925
Faust (FW Murnau) – 2, 1926
City Girl (FW Murnau) – 4, 1930

Hellzapoppin’ (HC Potter) – 4, 1941
The Train (John Frankenheimer) – 11, 1964
Emperor of the North (Robert Aldrich) – 13, 1973
The Longest Yard (Robert Aldrich) – 28, 1974
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki) – 14, 1984
Castle in the Sky (Hayao Miyazaki) – 17, 1986

Red Flag (Alex Karpovsky) – 52, 2012
Jack Reacher (Christopher McQuarrie) – 62, 2012
Her (Spike Jonze) – 18, 2013
The Lone Ranger (Gore Verbinski) – 34, 2013
American Hustle (David O. Russell) – 42, 2013

On Hellzapoppin’

Sign me up for the “Hellzapoppin’ is the Greatest Thing Ever” club.

I thought Busby Berkeley’s 1943 The Gang’s All Here was the glorious endpoint of the 1930s Hollywood/backstage musical form. But here Olsen & Johnson’s deconstructo ad absurdum anticipates Berkeley’s delirium by two years. While Berkeley plays it relatively straight, allowing the looney excess of his Technicolor musical sequences to finally overwhelm the bounds of their plot (and thus their apparent reason for existing), the zaniness of Carmen Miranda ultimately triumphing over the pale fragility of Alice Faye, Hellzapoppin’ takes the musical apart piece by piece, mocking and discarding every constituent element of genre and film form itself, giving their own film (or rather, the plotline Universal actually insisted Olsen & Johnson include when adapting their stage show) the MST3K treatment (“Not another movie with a show in it” one of them sighs in regards to the show within the movie within the movie of their show) and leaving behind nothing but a smoking wreck of dancing girls and random surreality. It makes Gang’s look like just another staid expression of a bankrupt corporate convention, like it starred Jeannette MacDonald or something.

This is the film I imagine many ex-vaudvillians wanted to make upon their arrival in Hollywood. Ole Olsen & Chic Johnson, though, don’t merely serve as sideline agents of chaos as the neutered Marx Brothers do in their MGM films, instead they’re the ringmasters, with the silly triteness of the imposed love story put in its proper place. Buster Keaton might have accomplished this in Free and Easy or Speak Easily but was too lazy, too powerless or too drunk (or some combination thereof) to make the destruction of pallid entertainment the centerpiece of his film, content to let the screenwriting Elisha Cook’s of the world have their soul-crushing way with cinema. WC Fields might have come the closest, in moving his muttering asides to the center of his escalatingly bizarre stories, but I haven’t seen enough of his work to say for sure.

I have never seen Olsen or Johnson in anything before, so I have no idea if this is typical for them. I’ve seen a couple of director HC Potter’s other films, neither of which seem remotely like this one: while amiable, the Cary Grant vehicle Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse never reaches the absurd heights it seems destined for (instead settling for a drawn-out, much less fun variation on Keaton’s One Week) and The Shopworn Angel is a very solid, undermentioned World War I melodrama with Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart, most memorable for the performances of those two great actors. The supporting cast of Hellzapoppin’ does include some familiar faces: Martha Raye (almost as volcanic as her performance in Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux) as a man-hungry actress; Mischa Auer as her target, an apparent refugee from Lubitsch’s continental comedies; and Shemp Howard as the greatest depiction of a movie theatre projectionist in the history of film (yes, even better than Sherlock Jr, which would make a great double feature with this, with Chuck Jones’s Duck Amuck played in-between). There are some terrific musical sequences, including a water ballet that anticipates George Sidney’s work with Esther Williams (as in the sublime weird Jupiter’s Darling), another poolside number that brings to mind Jane Russell’s celebration of the male body in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and a remarkable all-black Lindy Hop number that builds from an impromptu jam session to some of the most exuberant and physically exhausting group choreography I’ve ever seen on film.

Apparently due to copyright issues stemming from the stage production, the film is not in print on DVD in the US. Appropriately so, as something this subversive should only exist in a kind of samizdat form, something those on the margins sneak around on gray market DVDs, or pass from download to download in the more piratical corners of cinephilia. I, of course, rented it at Scarecrow Video, which has two copies available.