Bless the Beasts & Children (1971)

31 Days of Oscar: Bless the Beasts & Children (1970)

Bless the Beasts & Children (1971)

As soon as I saw the opening credits I knew this film had one nomination and likely didn’t win it. The title song to the film is a great one by The Carpenters and may be perceived as the kind of nomination that’s trying to get young viewers to watch the ceremony- I think it’s worthy. However, as the film progressed I really liked it. It’s the kind, in fact, that I may like more once I see it again. It’s about six misfits who become friends at a summer camp and decide to free buffaloes from a reserve. The film starts with the beginning of their mission but at key and appropriate points we backtrack so you get an introduction to a particular character then you see how they interact and understand them more. There are some quirky 70s transitions and an ending that leaves you wanting more both in a good way and a bad way but it really is timeless if you look past the details. In fact, with Goodenow’s plight of being bullied due to his perceived homosexuality (the movie brilliantly never confirms or denies it) and threatening suicide it becomes quite relevant today and other characters are as engaging in their struggle to fit in but it’s Daryl Glaser’s portrayal as the aforementioned character and Stanley Kramer’s direction that make the film succeed whatever its faults. I’m glad this is another title now available through the Warner Archive.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 1/0
Score: 7/10

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Mrs. Parkington (1944, MGM)

31 Days of Oscar: Mrs. Parkington (1944)

19. Mrs. Parkington (1944)

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 2/0
Score: 10/10

I think it was last year that TCM did a spotlight on Greer Garson and how I wish I’d seen the whole thing. They aired all 5 of her consecutive Best Actress nominations (an unparalleled achievement) back-to-back. After what I thought of Mrs. Miniver I really regretted not seeing all of them. I tried to rectify that as best I could this year. This film is also a “through the years” kind of tale but very interestingly told going from the story’s present to several other key junctures in the past. The conclusion comes swift and impactful and nobly triumphant. Another film I watched for Garson but loved entirely.

Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985, HB Filmes)

31 Days of Oscar: Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)

Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)

Despite the fact that it’s based on a novel I first became familiar with Kiss of the Spider Woman though a play version. I know that for the most part the narrative is one I enjoyed yet there were a few reasons I avoided the film version for some time.

Most of it has to do with the fact that the film in production terms and representational terms ends up in a very weird cultural limbo. Now in the interest of full disclosure: I am Brazilian so in many ways I disqualify myself but bear with me and try to understand my perspective.

The setting according to the text is always vaguely South American and surely for many reasons dictatorships were rampant on the continent for a time but the signage, location, supporting talent and director (via naturalization) are all Brazilian. It’s a muddled world wherein I see great Brazilian actors look less than stellar for the most part as they struggle with their broken English. You have late great Raul Julia doing a wonderful job but who generally gets overlooked in this film, except by the National Board of Review, and as brilliant as William Hurt is his name is Molina and he has no accent and isn’t designated as a gringo. So those factors along with Brazilians playing German in the film clips don’t ruin the film they just make suspension of disbelief a chore at times.

I’d absolutely love to see this (as I would most stories) in the languages intended whether Spanish or Portuguese and German and French.

Other than that the film is a great tale of unlikely friendship and loyalty, however, another bugaboo is there’s a line where Molina seems to indicate he’s more transgendered at heart than homosexual, so perhaps the description is not accurate. The only difference that really makes is in a public perception and social awareness. If this is looked at as William Hurt playing a transgendered man rather than crassly classifying “just another actor winning an award for playing gay” it would be better for the whole GLBT community so that people would know there are differences amongst the letters in that acronym. To continue to merely characterize the character as homosexual does a disservice to Hurt’s performance and in this day an age a community though I recognize that when the film was made there was a lack of differentiation.

But the only other issue I had was the prolonged and foreseeable ending. It truly is a good piece despite issues I had with it. That baggage was mostly my own and those things didn’t turn me off from the film.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 4/1
Score: 8/10

A Farewell to Arms (1932)

31 Days of Oscar: A Farewell to Arms (1932)

A Farewell to Arms (1932)

I will be espousing the importance of separating film from source material soon but my minor quibbles with this film are somewhat different than that. I never read the book. However, when you know something is an adaptation of Hemingway, a titan of literature whose reputation precedes him, you expect something a bit more in terms of story than what amounts to a fairly standard Hollywood tragic love story. The sound work for the era is superlative, the cinematography grand and there’s a brilliant albeit slightly lengthy montage but story-wise it lacks a little.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 4/2
Score: 7/10

The Seven Little Foys (1955)

31 Days of Oscar: The Seven Little Foys (1955)

The Seven Little Foys (1955)

This is a pretty enjoyable tale of the old vaudeville days. It takes some great classical elements and recombines them. It creates in the process an unusual family dynamic that you get accustomed to and you root for all the characters and in a sense understand all of them. Bob Hope is very good in the film and there is a showstopping dance routine where he is paired with James Cagney that is something to behold. Its writing nomination is well-earned.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 1/0
Score: 7/10

Breaking the Ice (1938)

31 Days of Oscar: Breaking the Ice (1938)

Breaking the Ice (1938)

Here’s another film where I went outside the TCM schedule to add a title. I wrote of Bobby Breen recently and this is one of his many films you can stream or save from The Internet Archive, all are in the public domain. I already knew that many of his films had an Oscar nominated song, so there was no guessing game and while the narrative of this one is better than most of his vehicles it is a little lacking in as much as there is some filler were we watch a lot of skating that really doesn’t impact the story in any great way. However, like all his films it ends well and enjoyable enough to watch and there is decent spacing and plenty of singing.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 1/0
Score: 7/10

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Short Film Saturday: Shooting Captured Insurgents (1898)

This is one that requires a bit of an intro. I pasted below the explication offered by Change Before Going Productions, the awesome YouTube channel that hosts a number of early milestones in film online:

Shooting Captured Insurgents is a hyper-realistic re-enactment filmed during the Spanish-American War, and having the purpose of bolstering sympathy for the Cuban rebels (and antagonism towards the Spanish). The United States had previously entered the conflict in early 1898 after the sinking of the USS Maine battleship in Havana harbor left 258 of the ship’s crew dead.

In the film, Spanish freedom fighters are led in front of a Spanish firing squad and then executed. The movie would play with no explanation that the footage shown was not real i.e. staged, leaving the audience to believe they had just witnessed actual deaths.

Stella Dallas (1937)

31 Days of Oscar: Stella Dallas (1937)

Stella Dallas (1937)

Barbara Stanwyck is brilliant in this. Very deserving of her Best Actress nomination and frankly the only thing that truly makes the whole film worth watching. The film hits an unusual flatness as the romance fizzles and the marriage is in name only it all feels like a lot of window dressing to the next major conflict of the film. It’s about as enjoyable as it can be but not as good as it could be.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 2/0
Score: 5/10

Tristana (1970)

31 Days of Oscar: Tristana (1970)

Tristana (1970)

This is an interesting film by Buñuel which stars Catherine Deneuve. It’s not great but the plotline is simple and accessible and the protagonist’s situation is easy to identify with. There is a pretty impressive closing montage, not to say too much.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 1/0
Score: 6/10

The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936, Warner Bros.)

31 Days of Oscar: The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936)

 The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936)

More often than not I’m leery of biopics. They tend to all fall into form in one way or another. This one, however, is an engaging tale of a scientific crusader. Perhaps what’s most intriguing is that it’s not a cradle-to-grave tale, or even all that personal; it begins in Pasteur’s career and concludes at its pinnacle. Yes, his character is shown, and some of those around him do arc, but it’s most concerned with his work, which makes it in a way far more engaging.

Score: 8/10
Oscar Nominations/Wins: 4/3