Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Oscar Winning Movies


It's another Thursday, and so that means it's time for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks!  This weeks theme was a very open one with so many options that I almost felt like I needed to give it a theme on top of a theme to shrink my pool a little bit or give these some connective tissue.  So, here's what I came up with.

The theme of the week is:



So, this is a pretty big pool of choices, as I mentioned, so I wanted to tighten the guidelines a bit, so I decided to chose a film from each category (one Animated Film winner, one Foreign Language Film winner and one Best Picture winner) and I chose three films that I feel are either lesser known (like, "I've never heard of that one") or semi-forgotten (like, "I didn't realize that won") or taken for granted (like, "I can't believe that beat...").

So here goes nothing.

An American in Paris
We'll start with the one taken for granted.  Back in 1951, a little film starring Gene Kelly swept in and won the Best Picture Oscar right under the nose of some really hotbed films that have gained a lot of respect from passionate cinephiles over the years; namely 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'A Place in the Sun'.  It doesn't help that the film Kelly is most famous for was famously snubbed a Best Picture nomination the following year, 'Singin' in the Rain'.  For many, 'An American in Paris' is seen as a lite winner among a stronger lineup and the wrong Kelly film to have won the gold, but regardless of the fact that I prefer 'A Streetcar Named Desire', one can't deny that 'An American in Paris' is such a languid and beautiful film, one that combines music, dance and storytelling in a fascinating and articulate way.  It's a very deserving Oscar winner and one that I wish more would give the credit it is due.

Closely Watched Trains
When someone thinks of the year 1967, a lot of films come to mind.  1967 is a pretty notable year for film and the Oscars in general, and so there are a bounty of films that come to mind.  I'm betting that 'Closely Watched Trains' isn't one of them.  It's a shame, because this beautifully composed film from Jiri Menzel actually won the Foreign Film Oscar, and it's a brilliant film to boot!  Sexuality in film and especially with regards to adolescent exploration of sexual innocence was a big thing in the 60's, and this beautiful film manages to explore it while carrying on a very politically charged sub-plot that is wholly engaging and powerfully composed.  Check this under 'films we never heard of that rightfully won the Oscar'.

Finding Nemo
And lastly, the forgotten one.  When you think of Pixar and their many Oscar winning titles, we often think of 'Wall*E' or 'Up' or 'The Incredibles' or 'Toy Story 3'.  You wanna know something funny?  'Finding Nemo' is probably my favorite Pixar film, outside of maybe 'Toy Story 3', and yet even I forgot that this won the Oscar for Animated Film.  It's such a brilliant film though, so beautifully shot (those colors) and such a beautiful tale of a father's love for his son, that it's a shame it's often forgotten about.  UGH, I just love this movie.

30 comments:

  1. I haven't seen the first new, but I'd take Finding Nemo over Up, The Incredibles, and Toy Story 3 any day. It's so sweet and funny.

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    1. I'm with you on Nemo! It's probably my favorite Pixar, and seeing the musical version at Disney World last year only made me love it more!

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  2. Interesting picks as always. I am a musical lover but not much of one of American in Paris. I admire the artistry but for some reason I've never found it as involving as many other films in the genre. I would have rather seen A Place in the Sun take the Oscar that year but this is an innovative film and not an unworthy winner.

    I had recorded Closely Watched Trains the last time it was on TCM but unfortunately something happened and it erased itself, doubly frustrating since I could have watched while it was on but decided to wait!! So now it''s back on my to see list. Grrrrr

    I'm not an animation fan so Finding Nemo is a gap that might not be filled.

    Like you I thought the choices were so broad that it would be easier if I tried to find three that had a connective thread that ran through them. So my first is prewar WWII, the second takes place during wartime and the third immediately after the war's conclusion.

    From Here to Eternity (1953)-Classic image of lovers entwined in the surf aside this is a vigorous drama of soldiers and their lives in the days leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Richly deserving of all eight of its Oscars it's strongly directed and amazingly well acted by all. Both Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed won in the supporting categories and the film should have won two more for Montgomery Clift as best actor and Deborah Kerr as best actress, both giving career best performances. Very involving and quite moving.

    Mrs. Miniver (1942)-Set in England just as war is breaking out this predates Eternity by two years. It starts out all charming country life, kindly old station masters and country club dances but by the end the nation is in the full grip of war with air raids bringing great destruction and tragedy aplenty. The film is old style Hollywood film making near its peak and designed to raise awareness of the ever rising threat Hitler posed. It ended up being released shortly after Pearl Harbor, a huge morale booster and the top earning film of the year. Beside the Best Picture Oscar it won 5 others, out of 12 nominations, including best actress and best supporting actress for Greer Garson and Teresa Wright respectively. The nominated Dame May Whitty as Lady Beldon, a real pistol, is a delightful highlight of the film. It's blatant propaganda but also highly enjoyable.

    The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)-Brilliant examination of three soldiers, one of them disabled, from different stratas in the same town who meet as they are returning from war and their problems adjusting to peace time and civilian life. Emotionally resonant, there are scenes that will just rip your heart out, this is full of humor, heartbreak, joy and pathos with a cast that even down to the smallest roles could not possibly be better. In addition to it's prize for best picture this won six others, all deserved and should have won more. Fredric March and Harold Russell won acting awards but this features career best or nearly so performances from Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo and Teresa Wright none of whom incredibly were acknowledged. A great film.

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    1. I've only seen The Best Years of Our Lives, and I love that movie so much and actually considered it for my first choice, films that are taken for granted, since so many scoff at the film winning over It's a Wonderful Life. I personally find it the better film, myself, and love that it won the Oscar. I hate that Andrews wasn't even nominated. I love that performance, and for me it was better than March, by quite a large margin actually.

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    2. I'm not as fond of Wonderful Life as many are, it's a heartwarming fable with beautiful performances but that's about it for me. Don't get me wrong I like it but compared to Best Years it's no contest for me that the right film won Best Picture.

      It is odd that Fredric March was the one who received the nod, he's good as he always was but his part doesn't have the emotional heft that Andrews does and could almost be considered supporting whereas Dana is unquestionably a lead. He wouldn't have been my choice to win that year, the likewise ignored Cary Grant in Notorious would be my pick, but he absolutely deserved a nomination. Looking back now at his line of great performances it's unbelievable that he was never nominated but the same is true of his co-star in this Myrna Loy. Even more incredible in her case really. In fact she would be my pick for the win in Best Supporting Actress in this film.

      Don't know why but I'm surprised you haven't seen From Here to Eternity.

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    3. Eternity is one of those films that has been sitting in my 'must see' pile for YEARS and yet I never find the motivation to actually watch it. I do tend to focus on a singular year at a time, and I just haven't put a lot of heft into 1953 yet...but I'll get there, for sure.

      And Andrews lack of any nomination is just gross, especially when his turn in The Ox-Bow Incident is one of the greatest Supporting turns in the history of film.

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  3. When I was younger I thought An American in Paris was boring (too many wordless musical numbers) but as I've grown older I've become more and more of a fan. The dancing is just out of this world, and it's such a unique film that I'm always glad it won Best Picture - even though it meant the Academy chose to ignore Signin' In The Rain, aka the greatest film ever made.

    I ADORE Finding Nemo. It's probably the most beautiful Pixar film to just look at, and moving and funny in equal measure. Ellen Degeneres gives one of the great voiceover performances.

    I've heard good things about Closely Watched Trains. It's on my list.

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    1. I hope you get a chance to see Closely Watched Trains. I saw it years ago, but it's stayed with me, and it has some really rich performances within it as well.

      I think age and development of cinematic taste is what helps films like An American in Paris grow in our hearts. It's such a technically beautiful and inspired film, and it takes that kind of cinematic appreciation to see that.

      So glad to see the Nemo love here :-D

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  4. Thanks for pointing out my rather embarrassing error!

    Interesting choices, wish I could comment more on them but I haven't actually seen any of them (even Finding Nemo, surely there should be a punishment for that?), but I'll make a note to see all three.

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    1. I try, with these, to highlight a mix of films that are well known and underversed, because it's nice to raise awareness of films that many may not have seen, so I hope you do get a chance to see these films!

      And no worries on the mistake, it happens to the best of us. I remembered writing a post once (I believe it was a review on Amazon) where I, quite embarrassingly, called Katharine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn sisters...and had someone call me out on it.

      OUCH!

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    2. Yeah, that's what I like about your post. I hadn't even heard of Closely Watched Trains.

      Haha. That's quite and error.

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    3. Yeah...I was quite embarrassed about that one.

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  5. I adore Finding Nemo!! I really should've included Best Animated films on my list now that I think about it. Haven't even heard of Closely Watched Trains, very cool that you highlight a lesser-known film. I went to its IMDb page and the tagline made me laugh: All it takes to make a man of a boy is a woman.

    Right on! :P

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    1. LOL, I love the clever brashness of the 60's...they just called it how they saw it!

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  6. I have never seen the foreign film but love Finding Nemo as it is the one time I can stomach Ellen Degeneres. Love American In Paris although I agree with you that Kelly should have won for Singing In The Rain. It was the 20 Min. ballet that created the Oscar for that film. At least a musical won. I would pick "All Quiet On The Western Front"-a brutal account of soldiers during WW1 and from the German perspective. Some of the shots are used today in documentaries. I pick "The Greatest Show On Earth" because it , to me, is won the worst Oscar picks ever. High Noon, The Quiet Man and Singing In The rain were all out the same year but they pick this crappola to win. Thankfully Jimmy Stewart never had to show his real face (except in a photo) since he was always dressed as a clown. My 3rd pick is Casablanca-I mean can it get any richer! Everything works in this film and there are some great lines in this film that are delivered masterfully. I fell in love with Claude Rains because of this film

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    1. Rains is one of the greatest actors there ever was, and Casablanca is one of the rare cases where a film is a legend and deserves to be so!

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    2. All Quiet on the Western Front is such a great movie and so revolutionary considering that it's so elegant at the time when movies were going through so many clunky pains so soon after the transition to sound. Of course Casablanca is almost without peer in the perfection with which all its elements fell together in just the right way.

      I agree that The Greatest Show on Earth isn't one of the better films to win the Oscar but against the absolute torture of Around the World in 80 Days which would be my choice for the worst winner it doesn't seem so bad. At least it has entertainment value it's just not award worthy.

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    3. Around the World in 80 Days is, in my opinion, one of the worst films ever made.

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    4. I still have to see that film:) I figured it was not that great even though I love David Niven so i could only pick the worst i have seen

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    5. It also has MacLaine (who plays an Indian)...it's such a messy, dumb film. LOL. Avoid it, unless you are a glutton for punishment.

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  7. Huh, I think you're the only other person I've met who's seen Closely Watched Trains. I really liked that movie too.

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    1. YAY! Someone who's seen it. I really took to it, but I love films of that nature. The 60's may be my favorite decade for film, solely for the rich foreign films.

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  8. Have only seen Nemo here. But you know how I feel about that. Awesome pick, dude! Need to get on some of these older Oscar winners.

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    1. You'll fill in those gaps over time. It's taken me many years of seeking out films I know I'm supposed to see and discovering films I had no idea I needed to see.

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  9. Finding Nemo is so great, and I do like An American in Paris, which is a lot of fun. I MUST see Closely Watched Trains!

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    1. I'm always so happy when I can highlight a movie so many haven't seen! It's such a great film.

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  10. Pixar is owning the Animated Feature category, and Finding Nemo is a superb movie (and choice as well). Closely Watched Trains sounds interesting and seems to be something I'd like to watch.

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    1. I hope you can check it out. It's a great, under appreciated film.

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  11. Haven't watch your first two.
    I remember Finding Nemo being so huge when it came out and I wasn't quite taken with it. I much prefer the other Pixar movies you named (Other than Wall-E which is on my BlindSpot).

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    1. Aww, I just love Nemo, but I have a strong connection to films about fathers, so that probably sways my feelings a bit.

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