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Entries in Oscars (60s) (114)

Wednesday
Sep072016

Shock Corridor (1963)

1963 is our "year of the month". Here's Sean Donovan on Shock Corridor

In Robert Polito’s Criterion Collection essay on Samuel Fuller’s 1963 film Shock Corridor, the firebrand filmmaker Fuller is quoted saying “it is not the headline that counts, but how hard you shout it.” This spirit of loud, unabashed aggression perfectly epitomizes Shock Corridor, a singular, strange entry in the cinema of 1963. The film follows an ambitious journalist Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) who gets himself committed to a mental hospital (after faking incestuous urges in a meeting with psychiatrists) to crack a mysterious murder case from the inside-out, hoping to get the secrets from the inmates on their own level. If it sounds like the makings of a sleazy pulp fiction novel, that’s exactly what is.

Shock Corridor is pure b-movie Hollywood gutter trash, but with Samuel Fuller at the helm, it becomes something fascinatingly independent and bizarre... 

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Monday
Sep052016

The Furniture: Comedy by Design in Come Blow Your Horn

1963 is our "Year of the Month" for September. So we'll be celebrating its films randomly throughout the month. Here's Daniel Walber...

Once upon a time, there were two production design categories at the Oscars. From 1945 through 1956, and again from 1959 through 1966, color films and black and white films competed separately. The Academy nominated ten films every year after 1950, creating a whole lot more room for variety.

This especially benefited comedy, a genre that has since fallen out of favor with Oscar. And while Come Blow Your Horn might not be the funniest of the 1960s, it is certainly one of the most deserving nominees of the era. Adapted by Norman Lear from a Neil Simon play, this Frank Sinatra vehicle stages most of its antics in one of cinema’s most luxurious apartments, the work of art directors Roland Anderson (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and Hal Pereira (Vertigo) and set decorators Sam Comer (Rear Window) and James W. Payne (The Sting).

Sinatra plays Alan Baker, a salesman for his family’s plastic fruit business. His boss and father, Harry (Lee J. Cobb), is perpetually enraged by his son’s libertine Manhattan lifestyle. Harry and his wife Sophie, played by Yiddish theater legend Molly Picon, live a quiet life in Yonkers with their much younger son, Buddy (Tony Bill). But when Buddy runs away from home to live large with Alan, all hell breaks loose.

Alan's apartment in question is a spotless and opulent apotheosis of mid-century design. The open living room makes the place seem enormous...

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Thursday
Aug252016

One Week Left to Watch ___________ 

It's a massacre of available older streaming titles this month although there aren't very many major titles among them. [Disclaimer: Netflix hasn't announced yet so all of these titles are Amazon Prime but bear in mind that the Amazon Prime titles are not "official". They don't ever publish that list much to the frustration of their customers! So this info gathered from users about expiration notices they've seen on their personal watch lists. Sometimes it changes abruptly.

Let's play our game where we freeze frame them at very random places and see what pops up. Okay? Okay.

Mrs Doyle: I'd like to see that file.
Police Inspector: I'd be very happy to show it to you. 

Crime of Passion (1957)
My god Barbara Stanwyck's voice. It gets me every time. Everything sounds so subliminally erotic. In this one she's married to a detective but bored into ambitious dangerous action.

Five more after the jump...

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Monday
Aug222016

The Furniture: Fantastic Voyage's Absurd Anatomy

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

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Richard Fleischer’s Fantastic Voyage, as absurd and beautiful a film as Hollywood has ever made. It’s also a testament to what live action science fiction used to be like, before digital technology gave directors the tools to make every fantasy look realistic.

Inspired by the arms races of the Cold War, it chronicles a submarine trip into the tumorous brain of a brilliant scientist. The mission is to eliminate his cancer with a tiny laser, save his life, and preserve his miniaturization knowledge for the USA. It’s utterly ridiculous. Isaac Asimov, alarmed by the script’s plot holes, demanded the right to fix all of its problems for his novelization.

Of course, that might classify him as a bit of a fuddy-duddy. Trips into the body wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if they were realistic. If anything, they’d probably gross out the audience. 

Pixar understood this, creating an entirely new organ system for Inside Out. Fleischer’s team for Fantastic Voyage also prioritized the striking over the reasonable.

Much of this success is, of course, due to the production design...

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Wednesday
Aug102016

Judy by the Numbers: "Judgment at Nuremberg"

Apologies, gentle Judy fans. While I intended to bring you the usual dose of morning Garland sunshine, I failed in meeting either the requirement for sunshine or the morning deadline. In this case, however, that’s probably for the best. Considering the subject of this film, it is probably better that you have a cup of coffee and a bite to eat before you sit down to watch it. This week, I’m breaking with tradition slightly. While Judy Garland does not sing any numbers in Judgment at Nuremberg, this is a performance and a movie that must be seen.

The Movie: Judgment at Nuremberg (UA, 1961)
The Writer: Abby Mann (screenplay)
The Cast: Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster, Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Judy Garland, directed by Stanley Kramer

The Story: When Stanley Kramer decided to adapt Abby Mann’s dramatization of the Nuremberg trials, Judy Garland was not his first choice for Irene Hoffman, the woman accused of miscegenation under Nazi law. However, after seeing Garland in concert, Kramer was impressed by her emotional range, and agreed to take a risk on the star who hadn’t made a film in over half a decade.

The risk paid off. Judy Garland’s performance, though only 18 minutes long, remains one of the most devastating of the film. While Irene is only one example of the many ways unjust laws persecuted and destroyed lives in Nazi Germany, Judy’s short performance elevates Irene from symbol to human being. Framed in closeup, Judy plays Irene’s grief in many keys: dignified mourning, frustrated confusion, disdain, defensiveness, fear, until it builds to a crescendo of anger and and injustice that almost renders her speechless.

This would be Judy’s only foray into “legitimate” drama (as opposed to the musicals and melodramas of her past), and it stands as a testament to her what might have been. Judy would receive her second and final Academy Award nomination for this performance (losing this time to Rita Moreno in West Side Story). But while Judy’s career in films was waning, her star was about to rise on a new medium: television.

Select Previous Highlights:  
“Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” (1938), "Over the Rainbow" (1939), "For Me and My Gal" (1942), "The Trolley Song" (1944), "On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe" (1946), "I Don't Care" (1949), "Get Happy" (1950), "The Man That Got Away" (1954)

Monday
Jul252016

Marni Nixon (1930-2016)

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that Marni Nixon, beloved voice of Hollywood's supersized musicals of the 50s and 60s has died of breast cancer at 86. It was a long and good and musical life, if never celebrated enough by the culture she gave so much to. It had been our long held dream to see her given an Honorary Oscar which must now be a dream unfulfilled. Because I don't have the words today, I thought I'd share a piece I wrote ten years ago on how special Marni Nixon was to me, a baby cinephile growing up with musicals as my favorite form of cinematic bliss.

Marni Nixon is my Kathy Selden
by Nathaniel R 

Toward the end of Singin' in the Rain (1952), which chronicles Hollywood's seismic shift from silent films to sound production, a hilariously dim and screechy movie star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) gets her comeuppance. She has cruelly locked the sweet voiced Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) into a contract to provide her a suitable movie voice. Lamont is after self-preservation: she can't make sound movies with her own unappealing voice, but she also cruelly takes pleasure in preventing Kathy from pursuing stardom. At a live performance Kathy stands behind a curtain, her dreams in tatters, as she sings for Lina. But Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) pulls the curtain on the act in progress, rescuing his new girl from obscurity and dooming his former co-star to a fast fade.

Singin' in the Rain is many things: a true musical masterpiece, a stellar romantic comedy, and the best movie Hollywood ever made about Hollywood (give or take Sunset Blvd). It's a completely absorbing viewing experience but for this: Every time I see it my mind drifts away to Marni Nixon during this particular scene. Kathy's story isn't exactly Marni's. Marni wasn't forced into submission as the silents were dying. But she was the songbird woman behind the curtain for beloved movie musicals and she was born in 1930 as the silents were emitting their death rattle (Hollywood studios had halted silent film production by 1929. Only a few emerged in movie houses of 30s). Marni Nixon was to be a famous voice but not a famous face ...just like the almost-fate of the fictional Kathy Selden.

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