Oscar History

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Entries in Best Picture (185)


The Furniture: Designing Dignity in "How Green Was My Valley"

"The Furniture" our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber

Filmmaking is often an art borne of flexibility. Tim Burton built Sleepy Hollow from scratch when he couldn’t find just the right town in the real world. Vincente Minnelli was forced to make Brigadoon indoors in Hollywood, because the studio wouldn’t pay for an expensive production in Scotland. Both films are likely better for it, too.

The same is perhaps true for How Green Was My Valley, which premiered 75 years ago this week. John Ford wanted to make shoot it on location in Wales, but World War II intervened. Instead, the production team built an entire mining town in the Santa Monica Mountains. This condensed and idealized version of the setting of Richard Llewellyn’s 1939 novel is among the most emotionally resonant sets of its era.

The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Art Direction.

The design team consisted of Richard Day, Nathan H. Juran and Thomas Little, no stranger to Oscar success. They based their village on Gilfach Goch, a quintessential Welsh mining town, but they dramatically reduced the size and jammed the houses much closer to the colliery...

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Oscar Horrors: The Sixth Sense (1999)

Boo! It's time for "Oscar Horrors". Each night at 7 we'll look back on a horror-connected Oscar nomination until Halloween. Here's Deborah Lipp on Best Picture nominee The Sixth Sense.

In 1999, I started going to the movies by myself. My marriage had ended, and there were visitation weekends when my ex had the kid, I was alone, out of sorts, and determined to do something with that time that felt good. 

Going to the movies alone is great. You always get the seat you want, because there’s always a singleton somewhere, and you don’t have to engage in long discussions about what to see. You just…go.  That’s how I saw The Sixth Sense...

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Middleburg Day 1: "Lion" is a winner

By Nathaniel R

Sheila Johnson welcomes you!Salamander

Middleburg Film Festival, now in its fourth year and just an hour outside of Washington DC, is a rising festival to watch. Most of the festival's big events take place at the Salamander Resort and Spa which sits on 340 beautiful acres. The rooms are gorgeous -- I even have a nice little terrace to sit on while typing up these diaries for you. In short, this is a destination festival rather than a 'drop in for a film or two or two after work' type big city festival. Emma Stone and Damien Chazelle are coming into town for La La Land and other luminaries appear for their films, too.

The festival, which has an Oscar hopeful heavy lineup, was founded by the African-American billionaire Sheila Johnson (co-founder of BET network) who welcomed us to the opening night screening. The event was in the resort's huge ballroom and I was surprised to be very happy and pleased with the screen size and sound since non-traditional venues at regional festivals can sometimes present challenges.

 The opening night film was the lost child / adoption drama Lion. True to early buzz we've heard the movie is quite wonderful...

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"Moonlight" in Three Acts

Since Barry Jenkins' new film Moonlight is told in triptych style, we've opted to bring you our NYFF review in the same way with three of us writing it! - Editor

"Little" by Murtada Elfadl
Moonlight is a patient movie that takes its time to give us a full portrait of what goes on in a young man’s mind. Long beautifully rendered scenes provide us pivotal snippets of days in a life. The economy of the scenes mixed with the patience in storytelling means that every gesture and word counts. Barry Jenkins takes Tarell McCraney’s unproduced play "In Moonlight Black Boys Boys Look Blue" and paints it on screen, using his actors’ faces and bodies to deliver singular poetic images.

The languid melancholic tone fits the inner monologue of the main character Chiron (who is called "Little" in this first of three segments),  who is struggling to understand himself...

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What's your most vivid memory of "The Departed" and the 2006 Oscar Race? 

by Nathaniel R

Ten years ago today Martin Scorsese's smash hit The Departed opened in theaters. I remember that day well especially that beat just past this still above when the entire sold out movie theater exploded simultaneously with shock, excitement, screaming, whooping, collective chills. A master playing the audience perfectly so it's no wonder that Martin Scorsese finally won the Oscar for it. Strangely I have few other vivid memories of the movie other than the feeling that that deep line in Leonardo DiCaprio's perma-angst expression had never and would never be put to better use again. Also something about Vera Farmiga flirting in an elevator, and the movie's perfect final shot.

The Film Experience was definitely having an "off consensus" year -- we were all about Marie Antoinette, The Fountain, & Volver so the Oscars were kind of a let-down -- but at least it was one of those interesting years where the Best Picture contenders didn't hog all the nominations. In fact only 1 of the 10 leading acting contenders came from a Best Picture nominee. Strange, right?

What do you remember most about The Departed? And how comfortable were you with the 2006 Oscar's lineup. As a reminder the Best Pictures were:

  • Babel (7 noms / 1 controversial win - for the barely there Original Score) 
  • The Departed (5 noms / 4 wins including Picture)
  • Letters From Iwo Jima (4 noms / 1 win)
  • Little Miss Sunshine (4 noms / 2 wins)
  • The Queen (6 noms / 1 win)

NYFF: Manchester by the Sea

From the New York Film Festival here's Jason on the new film from Kenneth Lonergan.

The scene that we've been waiting for all during Manchester by the Sea comes pretty much where you might expect it to, that climactic slot about 3/4ths of the way in right where stories usually come to a head. And yet, and yet, the way that it comes showcases what makes Kenneth Lonergan such a fascinating writer and director. The way we get to this emotional head is typically, for this director, winding - the film is suffused with flashbacks that don't so much announce themselves as they do sneak in through the window and climb into bed beside you, surprise spooning you til sunrise. So when this climax comes where it should come, well that in itself is a surprise, but one you only notice in hindsight.

But it's more than that. Without going into specifics about what happens, what's so fascinating about this scene (and I'm using it as a microcosm for the whole film here) is how it lays there in wait in the broad daylight for its sneak attack. It just happens. And in Lonergan's hands this feels like the sweet hard mess of real life - broken boat motors and a bumped head; the moments where we catch up while our friend is bringing the car round and suddenly the world around us crumbles. Miniature hurricanes that don't announce themselves but sweep you up and slam you down without actually moving you an inch.

Manchester by the Sea is awash in such flashes, such sudden floods. Casey Affleck gives an astonishingly light performance of utter devastation. We spend the film putting together the puzzle of him only to find out the puzzle is broken and the pieces are vanishing in our hands as we gather them up. The actor makes us gather faster, and gather harder. He makes us want to sort it out alongside him. That his performance and the film are so much much funnier than you're anticipating only makes its foundation of bottomless grief all the more vertiginous - it is, like honest-to-goodness life, disorienting with drilled deep possibilities of goodness, and honesty, and pain.


Still Blissing Out Over "La La Land"

Over the weekend I wrote up an Oscar preview for Towleroad - which you can consider a companion to our current Best Picture Chart and updated Oscar predictions. Here's what I wrote about La La Land, which I realize I didn't capsule review for you at TIFF: 

This musical from the young writer/director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) won the coveted "Audience Award" at Toronto. That prize nearly always aligns with a Best Picture nomination in January. But the nomination will be the least of it - it has "winner" written all over it. La La Land is a total bliss-out, a colorful two hour romance with song and dance numbers about an aspiring actress and her jazz musician boyfriend. This is the third movie to co-star Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and their onscreen chemistry is even better this go around and it was tremendous to begin with in Crazy Stupid Love five years back.

Here's a shocking statistic for trivia buffs: If La La Land is nominated for Best Picture it will be the first original live-action musical to do so since All That Jazz (1979). The musical nominees inbetween them were either animated  (Beauty & The Beast), adaptations of pre-existing shows (Chicago) or used pre-existing music for their songs (Moulin Rouge!). If La La Land wins it will be the first original movie musical to win the Oscar since Gigi (1958).

In addition to these general notes here are a few slighter more specific ones...

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