Winner: From Here to Eternity
– Julius Caesar
– Roman Holiday
– The Robe
Julius Caesar ** out of ****
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Starring: Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud, Deborah Kerr
Wins (1): Art Direction (B&W)
Nominations (5): Picture, Actor (Brando), Drama/Comedy Score, Cinematography (B&W)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
This one’s tough to watch. I’m not what you would call a Shakespeare kind of guy and that may have something to do with my dislike for this Julius Caesar, but I found this film painstakingly difficult to sit through from beginning to end. Nobody could make two hours seem like an eternity like William Shakespeare. It has a great cast and a more than capable director in Joseph L. Mankiewicz, but nothing can save the film from its own dry, boring words. These were before the days when people started getting creative with Shakespeare and I guess a virtually straight adaptation is worthy enough for a Best Picture nomination. What’s more interesting than the film itself is the supposed drama that took place during the filming of the Julius Caesar between Marlon Brando (Mark Antony) and James Mason (Brutus), which apparently had to do with the amount of screen time director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, was giving to either actor. A documentary on the making of Julius Caesar is something I can get on board with. Sign me up for that one. At any rate, it’s not in the least bit an entertaining film and, as mentioned earlier, tests one’s patience to its very end. Despite the cast and direction, Julius Caesar was not nominated for Director and only received a Best Actor nomination for Marlon Brando. It received other nominations for Drama/Comedy Score and Cinematography (B&W), but won only the Oscar Art Direction (B&W).
Director: Henry Koster
Starring: Gina Kaus, Albert Maltz, Philip Dunne
Wins (2): Art Direction (Color), Costume Design (Color),
Nominations (5): Picture, Actor (Burton), Cinematography (Color),
Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Fast forward about one hundred years and you might stumble upon this old yarn about a Roman soldier, named Marcellus (Richard Burton), who finds himself in love with the same woman as the Emperor Caligula and, more importantly, is put in charge of the soldiers in charge of putting to death Jesus Christ. As previously mentioned, Marcellus is in love with Diana (Jean Simmons), a woman who is pledged to marry Caligula. Diana’s feelings are reciprocated, conveniently setting up a forbidden love storyline to go along with the main story of this little piece of fiction. Marcellus goes to Jerusalem on the very same day as Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city. Jesus is arrested and Marcellus is put in charge of the crucifixion. By some manner of events, Marcellus obtains possession of Jesus’ robe, which he feels is putting some sort of curse on him since he has been haunted with visions and nightmares since the crucifixion of Jesus. The thing is that the robe actually does have powers. Marcellus’ curiosity gets the better of him and he becomes friends with some Christians, including Justus and Peter, which puts him in a very negative possession amongst his fellow Romans. Put on trial, Marcellus admits to Caligula that he is a Christian; something that was as good as signing your own death wish. Richard Burton was nominated for Best Actor and the film won for Best Art Direction and Costume Design (Color) while also being nominated for Cinematography. The Robe isn’t a bad film and certainly not deserving of its rotten tomatometer score. It takes some liberties here and there, but all in all is a good-hearted film with some interesting parallels to history.
Director: George Stevens
Starring: Alan Ladd, Brandon deWilde, Jack Palance, Van Heflin
Wins (1): Cinematography (Color)
Nominations (6): Picture, Director, S. Actor (deWilde), S. Actor (Palance), Screenplay
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
It’s on every Best Western list and depending on the length of that list, it might go on mine. However, I’m not in agreement with many who think that Shane is this great Western. Yes, it’s good and does all and is all that a true Western should be, but I don’t hold it in as high a regard as most. Alan Ladd is Shane, a drifter cowboy who’s very good at shooting a pistol and who comes across the property of Joe (Van Heflin), his wife and their son. Shane agrees to help them out on their land for the time being. Shane quickly becomes acquainted with the town bully, Ryker, who pretty much runs the town with his family of goons. As is the case with many soft-spoken cowboy protagonists, Shane comes into town looking innocent and puny and avoids fights and doesn’t mind looking like a wimp at first. Of course, that changes when Shane reaches his tipping point and takes out the gang leader in front of his friends. Shane comes to a showdown with a hired cowboy, named Jack Wilson (Jack Palance), whom he knows from his past. It’s a fine film with only a few very minor drawbacks. However, the degree of annoyance on the part of the young boy in this film is enough to drive anyone crazy. I was shocked to learn that, along with Jack Palance, Brandon deWilde, the tyke who plays the young boy, received a Supporting Actor nomination. That’s baffling to me. George Stevens (A Place in the Sun, Giant, The Diary of Anne Frank), gets the Director nomination while the film was also nominated for Original Screenplay and won its only Oscar for Cinematography (Color).
Director: Fred ZInnemann
Starring: Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancaster, Donna Reed
Wins (8): Picture, Director, S. Actor (Sinatra), S. Actress (Reed), Screenplay, Sound, Cinematography (B&W), Film Edit
Nominations (13): Actor (Clift), Actor (Lancaster), Actress (Kerr), Drama/Comedy Score, Costume Design (B&W)
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
I’ve mentioned this several times in the last few posts, but it’s fascinating to finally be able to compare my own opinions after watching these old films to the hype that has surrounded them for so long. Several of the films regarded as some of the greats I don’t necessarily find equally as great. From Here To Eternity might be one of the main films thought of as one of the best that I don’t actually find all that awesome Of course, it’s a wonderfully made film with a truly outstanding cast. However, there really is not much to it. There’s a lot going on in this film, which takes place at the Schofield Barracks on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra and Burt Lancaster are officers in the barracks, Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed the love interests and Ernest Borgnine an antagonistic fellow officer. Most of the film centers on the affair between Lancaster and Kerr (including that legendary make-out session on the beach with the crashing waves) and Clift’s character refusing to join the boxing team. Quite frankly, it’s just a little boring for my taste. Its redeeming factor is the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor at the end, which basically puts into perspective everything that happened leading up to this point. This ending reminds me of the finale of Magnolia. Fred Zinnemann won his first Oscar for Best Director (he had 7 total nominations). The film received nominations in every acting category with Supporting wins for Sinatra and Reed. From Here To Eternity also won for Original Screenplay, Sound, Cinematography (B&W) and Film Editing. It’s the only film (from 1940 and on) to receive nominations in every acting category while winning Best Picture, Director, Editing and Screenplay. The Academy went ape over this film and it’s obvious that the people loved it. I can begin to understand how a film relating to Pearl Harbor would generate an interest just 12 years after the incident itself. Also, that cast is incredible, but 60 years later, it’s doesn’t resonate with me all that much.
SHOULD HAVE WON
Director: William Wyler
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert
Wins (3): Actress (Hepburn), Story, Costume Design (B&W)
Nominations (10): Picture, Director, S. Actor (Albert), Screenplay, Art Direction (B&W), Cinematography (B&W), Film Edit
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
This was a close one, but when it comes right down to it, Roman Holiday is the film that I enjoyed most out of what was a pretty mediocre year for Best Picture nominees. What I really appreciate about this film is its ending. (Interesting side note: the finest moments in both Roman Holiday and From Here To Eternity are their endings.) For 1953, Roman Holiday didn’t exactly have that Hollywood ending that is so often seen in romantic comedies. Audrey Hepburn plays, Ann, a princess of some country who is on tour of European cities where she is surrounding by her entourage and security at all times and is met with press at each city. It is in her stop in Rome where she decides that she’s had enough of being suppressed and escapes her room for a night out in the city. After far too many drinks, she passes out on a bench where Joe (Gregory Peck), an American journalist with the best of intentions, takes her to his place to rest. Ann misses her press conference the next morning where, coincidently, Joe is supposed to be at as well. Joe puts two and two together; the news that the Princess has missed her press conference and the fact that her doppelganger is sleeping in his apartment. He uses this opportunity as leverage for a great story; hiring his photographer friend to take pictures of the two of them on a day out in Rome. The film doesn’t miss any opportunity to photograph the sites and landmarks of Rome, which sort of gets old, especially given that it’s not that impressive in black and white. Ann thinks that Joe is sincere, but Joe plans to sell the photographs. Fortunately for her, their time together has meant something to Joe, who decides against selling the incriminating photographs. Instead, he shows up the next morning at the press conference where dozens of press members are in attendance. In front of the crowd, Ann and Joe exchange a million words in the course of a seemingly quick, press-conference-like exchange of questions and answers. It is the ending that makes the film, I think. Sure, their chemistry is great, but the very quick relationship they have developed, they realize, isn’t as big as the reality that they both live in. Roman Holiday won Audrey Hepburn the Best Actress Oscar while Peck was left out of the nominations altogether. Eddie Albert as the photographer and the butt of many verbal and physical jokes was nominated for Supporting. William Wyler received a Directing nomination and the film itself took home the Oscar for Best Story, which is basically one of two Original Screenplay awards given. Roman Holiday was nominated for Film Editing, Art Direction and Cinematography (B&W) and Edith Head won the Oscar for Costume Design.