I first saw Schindler’s List in the theater a few months into its initial run and just days before its sweep at the Oscars. When it was over, I witnessed something I’d not seen much in years of movie going. As the credits rolled and the lights came up, the audience filed out in an almost reverent silence, like mourners leaving a state funeral. Clearly, the film had the same impact on everyone else in the theater that it had on me.
There’s little to say about Return of the King that I haven’t already said about the first two installments in Peter Jackson’s trilogy of Lord of the Rings movies. To my mind, it inherits the same virtues of the previous two movies while bringing the cycle to an epic and satisfying conclusion.
It’s hard to say what was crazier: spending $200 million on a period love story with a downer ending or the backlash that started a few nano-seconds after the film cleaned up at the Academy Awards. Make no mistake, L.A. Confidential was the superior picture that got robbed of the Best Picture statue, but snubbing a superior, less commercial film has become sort of an Oscar tradition in recent years.
Just because Confidential was the better movie doesn’t mean Titanic sucked, not by a long shot. James Cameron’s epic no more deserves the constant elitist sneering and sniping it has received any more than it deserved the Best Picture award.
Silence of the Lambs was a rule breaker from the start. Contrary to convention, its primary relationship is between its diminutive female heroine and an urbane serial killer. It cleaned up at the Academy Awards despite being essentially a highbrow horror film that was released in mid-February, approximately eight months before the start of “Oscar season.” Moreover, Anthony Hopkins won Best Actor despite being on screen for about 16 minutes.
I think the last “traditional” western that Clint Eastwood starred in was the television show Rawhide. Even his own The Outlaw Josey Wales, while as close as he has come to what people normally think of as a western, had enough of Eastwood’s character-based humor to make it stand apart from the crowd.
Unforgiven is not going to change that, either. Eastwood’s first Best Picture winner is less of a western than a clear-eyed rumination on the subject of violence. Some have labeled the film “anti-violence” but even that is an over-simplification that denies the film’s depth.
Million Dollar Baby is a film that has such implicit faith in its characters that it allows them to inhabit an unvarnished reality almost completely free of Hollywood artifice. You never get the sense that you’ve seen these people in another movie, but rather that director Clint Eastwood has simply taken his camera out and pointed it at them, including one guy that looks a lot like the director.
While I’m anything but a scholar on film musicals, it was instructive for me to watch West Side Story right after viewing Singin’ in the Rain earlier in the week. This wasn’t a conscious decision on my part. I use a computer program to track my DVD collection and it has the ability to spit out randomly picked titles that I haven’t watched recently. So, purely by coincidence, I watched the two most famous musicals in American movie history back to back (except for a few episodes of Lost in between).
We live in the trenches out there. We fight. We try not to be killed, but sometimes we are. That's all.
All Quiet on the Western Front is timeless in spite of the dated style typical of early talkies. At the time (1930), the acting profession was still adjusting to film, using actors schooled in the techniques of live theater. Screenwriting was in its infancy, too, and many of the conventions are obviously adapted straight from the stage.