Greed, for lack of a better word, is bad.

Greed is, for lack of a better word, bad.

You can read more about this year in film here.  The Best Picture race is discussed here, with reviews of all the nominees.  First there are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom – it might be eligible in a different year.  Films in red won the Oscar in that category (or Globe, in the Globes section).  Films in blue were nominated (the Globes still didn’t have nominees).  Films with an asterisk (*) were Consensus nominees (a scale I put together based on the various awards) while those with a double asterisk (**) were the Consensus winner.

Now that we have hit 1948, I will probably do more discussion in the major categories.  That’s because we’ve hit the BAFTAs and we’ve hit the first guild awards (DGA, WGA) and we get to what I call “Consensus” awards – what the various groups decided at the time.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  **
  2. Hamlet  *
  3. Red River
  4. Force of Evil
  5. Day of Wrath

Analysis: Not a great top 5.  For only the second time since 1937 I don’t have five **** films – Day of Wrath is ***.5.  And deciding on that fifth film wasn’t easy either.  There’s a glut of solid high-level ***.5 films that I considered in that fifth spot.  I re-watched Day of Wrath, Macbeth and Letter from an Unknown Woman and also considered Fanny and The Snake Pit, with The Eagle Has Two Heads, which used to be in the top 5, also in the mix.  In the end, Day of Wrath ended up as the strongest on my list, a couple of points ahead of any of the others.  With the start of the BAFTAs we get Hamlet, the first film to win the Oscar and the BAFTA.  But, because Treasure is nominated for both and wins the NYFC and Globe, Hamlet becomes the first film to win multiple Best Picture awards and not be the Consensus winner.  In fact, it will take until 1969 before another film wins the Oscar and BAFTA and loses the Consensus.

 

  • If you get advice from your son and you both win Oscars, that was good advice.

    If you get advice from your son and you both win Oscars, that was good advice.

    Best Director

  1. John Huston  (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)  **
  2. Laurence Olivier  (Hamlet)  *
  3. Howard Hawks  (Red River)  *
  4. Abraham Polonsky  (Force of Evil)
  5. Orson Welles  (MacBeth)

Analysis: This one was easier than Best Picture to pick the 5th choice, but still not easy.  Although the next director on my list wasn’t for any of the films mentioned above, but Fred Zinnemann, and not for his Oscar-nominated The Search, but for his under-appreciated Act of Violence.  Like with the Academy, this is Huston’s only Nighthawk win for Best Director, though he has many more nominations on the way.  This is the 7th and final nomination for Hawks and gives him, for a couple of years anyway, the overall lead in director points.  Huston easily wins the Consensus, partially because he sweeps the Oscar, Globe and NYFC, and partially because the NBR winner (Paisan) and initial DGA winner (A Letter to Three Wives) are both 1949 eligible films.  The BAFTAs won’t start a Best Director award until the late 60’s.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  **
  2. Hamlet
  3. Force of Evil
  4. Fanny
  5. Day of Wrath

Analysis: Huston easily wins for transforming a rather hard to read novel into a straightforward brilliant film – he also easily wins the Consensus; Treasure wins the Oscar, WGA and NBR – the only film to win the Oscar, WGA and a critics award until 1969.  He was, after all, the consummate adapter, perhaps the best to ever work in film.  What Olivier does with Hamlet is impressive, mostly because of how much he cuts and yet still leaves the story so well intact.  This is one of those years where there were far more worthy adaptations – my full list has 19 films.  My full Original Screenplay list has the five listed below.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Red River  *
  2. The Search  **
  3. The Naked City  *
  4. Act of Violence
  5. A Foreign Affair  *

Analysis:  The Academy finally cut back to two categories and still didn’t make it any clearer.  The Search won the Oscar for Original Story and was also nominated for Screenplay.  A Foreign Affair was nominated for Screenplay.  The weak group allows Billy Wilder to earn what is already his 7th Nighthawk nomination for writing, breaking his tie with Chaplin and moving into first place on his own.  He will hold on to that for decades.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Humphrey Bogart  (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)  *
  2. Laurence Olivier  (Hamlet)  **
  3. John Wayne  (Red River)
  4. James Stewart  (Rope)
  5. Orson Welles  (Macbeth)

Analysis:  As good a Hamlet as Olivier is, this is all about Bogie in what is probably his best performance ever.  Yet, he was passed over at the Oscars for several subpar performances (Clifton Webb, Dan Dailey).  This moves Bogart within 25 points of Rains for 1st place, but it’ll take until 1954 before Bogie actually takes the crown.  I’m willing to bet this is the only time I’ll have two major Shakespeare characters facing off in this category.  What a damn shame though, that of my five nominees, the only one not to win an acting Oscar was Welles.  My #6 and #7 slots are both Montgomery Clift – first his Oscar-nominated performance in The Search, followed by Red River.  Bogie, incidentally, became the first person to wins a critics award (NBR) and fail to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

  • Best Actress
  1. Olivia de Havilland  (The Snake Pit)  **
  2. Jane Wyman  (Johnny Belinda)  *
  3. Orane Demazis  (Fanny)
  4. Ingrid Bergman  (Joan of Arc)  *
  5. Edwige Feuillère  (The Eagle has Two Heads)

Analysis:  We have a woman who goes crazy, one who is deaf-mute and is raped, one who is abandoned (pregnant) by her lover, one who talks to God and one who falls in love with her assassin.  Not a year of fun roles.

  • Huston, Walter (Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The)_NRFPT_03Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Walter Huston  (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)  **
  2. Charles Bickford  (Johnny Belinda)  *
  3. Timothy Holt  (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)
  4. Jose Ferrer  (Joan of Arc)  *
  5. Peter Lorre  (Casbah)

Analysis:  Huston wins this by a mile.  I feel bad for Holt, who is quite good, but has to be on-screen with Bogie and Huston in two magnificent performances.  Thomas Gomez again ends up just off the list, in 6th place for Force of Evil (see the full review below).  Lorre is by far the best thing about Casbah, which had already been made twice before – this is by far the weakest version though Lorre makes it worth watching.

  • johnnybelindaBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Agnes Moorehead  (Johnny Belinda)  *
  2. Claire Trevor  (Key Largo)  *
  3. Jean Simmons  (Hamlet)  *
  4. Angela Lansbury  (State of the Union)
  5. Barbara Bel Geddes  (I Remember Mama)  *

Analysis:  It’s a very weak year and in a good year like 1946 or 1950 I doubt any of these performances would be nominated.

  • Best Editing:
  1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  2. Red River
  3. The Naked City
  4. Hamlet
  5. The Lady from Shanghai

Analysis: For once I don’t completely disagree with the Academy in this category.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  2. Hamlet
  3. Red River
  4. The Red Shoes
  5. Macbeth

Analysis:  This category, on the other hand, the Academy completely chunked.  Only one film in my top 24 was nominated – The Naked City (my #12) which won the black-and-white Oscar.  All five of these cinematographers are earning their first Nighthawk nominations.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  2. Hamlet
  3. Red River
  4. The Red Shoes
  5. 3 Godfathers

Analysis:  Not so here, where Max Steiner takes home his fourth Nighthawk Award.  He now has three times as many points as anyone other than Chaplin.

  • Best Sound:
  1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  2. Red River
  3. The Red Shoes
  4. The Naked City
  5. The Snake Pit

Analysis:  At least the Oscar winner makes my nominee list – it’s the only Oscar nominee to make my entire list of 14 films.

  • laurence olivier & eileen herlie - hamlet 1948Best Art Direction:
  1. Hamlet
  2. The Red Shoes
  3. Macbeth
  4. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  5. A Letter from an Unknown Woman

Analysis: Well, they got this one right, with their two Oscars going to my top two films.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. none
  • Best Sound Editing
  1. none
  • Best Costume Design:
  1. Hamlet
  2. The Red Shoes
  3. The Three Musketeers
  4. Joan of Arc
  5. Letter from an Unknown Woman

Analysis:  This is the first year for the category and they didn’t do a bad job.  This category, of course, will be overwhelmingly dominated by Edith Head, who will be nominated every year through 1966, but here nomination here was for The Emperor Waltz, which is #16 on my list.

  • Best Makeup
  1. The Red Shoes
  2. The Eagle has Two Heads
  • Best Original Song:
  1. “A Couple of Swells”  (Easter Parade)
  2. “Buttons and Bows”  (The Paleface)
  3. “Steppin Out With My Baby”  (Easter Parade)
  4. “Melody Time”  (Melody Time)

Analysis:  At least they gave the Oscar to the best of the nominated songs, though it was a terrible year for nominated songs at the Academy.

  • melodytimeBest Animated Film:
  1. Melody Time

Analysis:  Melody Time is far from great, but it manages ***.5 from me and that’s good enough to make the list.

  • germanyyearzeroBest Foreign Film:
  1. Germany Year Zero
  2. Fallen Angel
  3. The Eagle Has Two Heads
  4. Amore
  5. Monsieur Vincent

Analysis:  Germany Year Zero and Fallen Angel are both low-level **** films while the other three are all ***.5 films.  It’s the second of three straight wins for Italy and Roberto Rossellini’s only win.

By Film:

note:  They’re in points order.  You get twice as many points for a win as for a nomination.  Hopefully your math skills will let you figure out the system.

  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (640)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction
  • Hamlet  (345)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Red River  (305)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound
  • Force of Evil  (135)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay
  • Day of Wrath  (130)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Foreign Film (1943)
  • Macbeth  (125)
    • Director, Actor, Cinematography, Art Direction
  • Johnny Belinda  (125)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • The Red Shoes  (125)
    • Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • Fanny  (95)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Foreign Film (1932)
  • The Snake Pit (90)
    • Actress, Sound
  • The Naked City  (85)
    • Original Screenplay, Editing, Sound
  • Joan of Arc  (80)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor, Costume Design
  • The Eagle Has Two Heads  (65)
    • Actress, Makeup, Foreign Film
  • Melody Time  (50)
    • Animated Film, Original Song
  • Act of Violence  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Search  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • A Foreign Affair  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Rope (35)
    • Actor
  • Letter from an Unknown Woman  (35)
    • Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Casbah  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • State of the Union  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • Key Largo  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • I Remember Mama  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • Easter Parade  (30)
    • Original Song, Original Song
  • The Lady from Shanghai  (25)
    • Cinematography
  • 3 Godfathers  (25)
    • Original Score
  • Monsieur Vincent  (20)
    • Foreign Film
  • Cesar  (20)
    • Foreign Film (1936)
  • The Three Musketeers  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • The Paleface  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis:  There are three big films here, and then there is everything else.  That’s isn’t the awards – there is a 5 point gap between those top three films and anything else.  But there are a lot of mid-to-low-level ***.5 films in the mix with a few nominations, films well worth seeing, like Letter from an Unknown Woman, Act of Violence, The Search and Fanny.

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • All My Sons

Analysis:  An under-appreciated film version of one of Arthur Miller’s lesser known plays, with strong performances from Burt Lancaster and Edward G. Robinson.  It’s good enough to earn ***.5, but can’t make even the Top 10 on any of my lists.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Sitting Pretty

Analysis:  After two very deserved Oscar nominations, Clifton Webb was nominated for this lightweight fare as Mr. Belvedere.  Yes, he was nominated for playing Mr. Belvedere and Bogie wasn’t nominated for playing Fred C. Dobbs.  This film also earned two WGA noms.  It ends up 66th on my list, though Webb will end up on the Best Actor (Comedy) list more to a lack of competition than anything else.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture
  1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  2. Hamlet
  3. Red River
  4. Force of Evil
  5. Day of Wrath

Analysis:  As with many of the categories below, the same as the regular Nighthawk Awards above.  Why are there two films in red?  Well, the Globes did actually pick two Best Picture winners, though they were Treasure and Johnny Belinda.  But Hamlet won Best Foreign Film (the Globes didn’t require it to be in a foreign language), and since those films aren’t generally eligible for their Picture award, I put it in red.

  • Best Director
  1. John Huston  (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)
  2. Laurence Olivier  (Hamlet)
  3. Howard Hawks  (Red River)
  4. Abraham Polonsky  (Force of Evil)
  5. Orson Welles  (MacBeth)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  2. Hamlet
  3. Force of Evil
  4. Fanny
  5. Day of Wrath
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Red River
  2. The Search
  3. The Naked City
  4. Act of Violence
  5. A Foreign Affair
  • bogartBest Actor:
  1. Humphrey Bogart  (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)
  2. Laurence Olivier  (Hamlet)
  3. John Wayne  (Red River)
  4. James Stewart  (Rope)
  5. Orson Welles  (Macbeth)

Analysis:  Unlike with the regular awards, Bogie does take the crown away from Claude Rains here; he’s now up to 400 points.  He’ll keep that I think until all the way until the late 80’s when Nicholson will pass him.

  • snake-pit-de-havilandBest Actress
  1. Olivia de Havilland  (The Snake Pit)
  2. Jane Wyman  (Johnny Belinda)
  3. Orane Demazis  (Fanny)
  4. Ingrid Bergman  (Joan of Arc)
  5. Edwige Feuillère  (The Eagle has Two Heads)

Analysis:  In only a decade, Bergman moves into a tie with Janet Gaynor for 2nd place with 315 points (a long, long way behind Bette Davis).

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Walter Huston  (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)
  2. Charles Bickford  (Johnny Belinda)
  3. Timothy Holt  (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)
  4. Jose Ferrer  (Joan of Arc)
  5. Thomas Gomez  (Force of Evil)

Analysis:  Gomez makes it on the list here for a very fine performance – see more below in the film review.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Agnes Moorehead  (Johnny Belinda)
  2. Claire Trevor  (Key Largo)
  3. Jean Simmons  (Hamlet)
  4. Barbara Bel Geddes  (I Remember Mama)
  5. Ellen Corby  (I Remember Mama)  **

Analysis:  For the record, Corby won the Consensus by winning the Globe and earning an Oscar nom; I consider her and Bel Geddes at almost a draw.

Points:

  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (430)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Red River  (205)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor
  • Hamlet  (210)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Force of Evil  (165)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • Johnny Belinda  (125)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Day of Wrath  (90)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay
  • Macbeth  (80)
    • Director, Actor
  • Fanny  (75)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actress
  • The Snake Pit (70)
    • Actress
  • Joan of Arc  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • I Remember Mama  (60)
    • Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Naked City  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Act of Violence  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Search  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • A Foreign Affair  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Rope (35)
    • Actor
  • The Eagle Has Two Heads  (35)
    • Actress
  • Key Largo  (30)
    • Supporting Actress

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Letter from an Unknown Woman

Analysis:  A very good film, my #9 of the year, and one I even considered for Best Picture.  But with everything above it a Drama, it can’t make it any category.

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:
  1. Melody Time
  2. State of the Union

Analysis: Weaker than 1947, though not as bad as 1946.

  • Best Director:
  1. Michael Powell  (The Red Shoes)

Analysis:  I mentioned in my Best Picture review that my estimation of this film has gone up over the years, but still not enough to rate it at ***.5.  But the direction is good enough to earn a spot, and as its the only film in the category, Powell wins by default.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. State of the Union
  2. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. none

Analysis:  As I said above, a weak year for Original Screenplay.

  • Three Nighthawk Comedy winners in one photo.

    Three Nighthawk Comedy winners in one photo.

    Best Actor:

  1. Spencer Tracy  (State of the Union)
  2. Clifton Webb  (Sitting Pretty)

Analysis:  Not one of Tracy’s better performances, but Webb barely qualifies on my list and Dan Dailey, who somehow earned an Oscar nomination doesn’t even do that.

  • Best Actress:
  1. Katharine Hepburn  (State of the Union)
  • Best Supporting Actor
  1. Peter Lorre  (Casbah)

Analysis:  This is like von Stroheim’s performance in The Great Gabbo.  You forget it’s a Musical because his performance doesn’t have any singing, but he’s so much better than the rest of the film.  Lorre is by far the best thing and I’m not sure he ever sings in the film.

  • Best Supporting Actress
  1. Angela Lansbury  (State of the Union)

By Film:  State of the Union is a solidly enough acted film and it earns ***.5 (barely), so it really crushes other films here, but more due a lack of competition than because of the strength of the film.

  • State of the Union  (330)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Melody Time  (100)
    • Picture
  • The Red Shoes  (90)
    • Director
  • Casbah  (60)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House  (40)
    • Picture
  • Sitting Pretty  (35)
    • Actor
  • It Happened on Fifth Avenue  (40)
    • Original Screenplay

Analysis:  A slightly weaker year than 1947.  Still waiting for 1950 for the Comedy / Musical section to recover completely.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • The Three Musketeers

Analysis:  Quite enjoyable.  Surprisingly Gene Kelly makes one of the best D’Artangans of all-time because he’s so athletic and can bounce all over the place while fighting.  It looks pretty good as well.  It’s just not on an awards level in any major category.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  104

By Stars:

  • ****:  4
  • ***.5:  15
  • ***:  64
  • **.5:  21
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  68.2

Analysis:  The average drops half a point because of fewer **** and ***.5 films, though there is nothing worse than a **.5.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • none

Other Awards Films I Have Not Seen  (in points order):

  • Another Part of the Forest  (WGA – Drama, Problem)
  • Four Steps in the Clouds  (BAFTA – Picture)
  • Small Voice  (aka The Hideout)  (BAFTA – British Picture)
  • The Mating of Millie  (WGA – Comedy)
  • Miss Tatlock’s Millions  (WGA – Comedy)

note:  In the first year of the WGA, I’m missing four nominees.  In the sixty four years that follow I am only missing five more.  Sadly, I’m not as lucky with the Brits, where I’m missing a good 20 films in the 50’s.

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  A slight drop from the previous two years, but very slight (1947 ranks 34th, 1946 ranks 35th, 1948 ranks 36th).  And the lowest ranked film is #350, so they didn’t chose anything egregiously bad.  It will take until 1972 to have a full five that all rank above 350 again.

The Winners: The Academy chose better winners in 1948 than in any over the 20 previous years.  In every single category they chose either my #1 or #2 choice among the nominees, and in the Tech categories, it was usually #1.  This earns it a 1.40, the best score since 1927-28, when there were far fewer nominees and categories.  This includes 12 #1s, the most to date and the first time I fully agree with Supporting Actor since 1937.  And it wasn’t just choosing the best of the nominees either.  The overall winners rank at 2.76, the best score to date (the next closest is a 3.82 for 1939) and in every one of the major categories the Academy went with either my #1 or #2.  In fact, the only category in which they didn’t chose one of my Top 5 was Black-and-White Cinematography.

The Nominees: As I said, they chose well overall.  The Picture-Director-Screenplay earns a 69.7, the highest score since 1939.  The acting earns an 80, the highest since 1944.  The tech categories earn a 49, the highest since 1941.  The overall score is 62.9, the highest since 1941.  The best is the female acting – Actress earns a high-to-date of 93.3 and Supporting Actress earns a perfect 100.  The only low point is Actor, which earns a 55.9, the worst since 1932.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (read my review here)

2  –  Hamlet (read my reviews here and here)

Hawks conquers yet another genre.

Hawks conquers yet another genre.

3  –  Red River  (dir. Howard Hawks)

I will start with what so many people dislike: the end of the film.  If you haven’t seen Red River, maybe you stop reading.  But if you care enough about film to read this and have never seen Red River what the hell is wrong with you?

Anyway, we have had the long history between Matt, the young rancher played so well by Montgomery Clift and Tom, the older father figure played by John Wayne.  Tom raised Matt after Matt’s family was killed in the same raid that killed Tom’s love and he is promised a part ownership of the ranch and all the cattle.  The price of cattle is dropping in Texas, so they forge a trail up to Kansas where they can sell the beef for a good price.  Along the way, Tom basically goes insane, threatening to hang men who desert, threatening to kill Matt when he won’t let him do that.  It’s a great performance from John Wayne (John Ford, who had already made several films with Wayne, reportedly upon saying the film said “I never knew the big son-of-a-bitch could act.”) and a very good performance from Montgomery Clift, the actor’s studio going right up against Hollywood bombast.

After Matt has managed to save the cattle from some bad ideas from Tom and has sold them for a good price, Tom arrives in town, and not only do they have the history, but now they also have a girl to fight about as well.  And so now comes a bare-fisted brawl between the two men, beating each other as much as they can.  And then, the girl comes along, tells them how much they both should be ashamed and pretty much ends the fight and ends the film.  Many people dislike the ending, disliked the forced feel of it (originally, a dying Tom was brought back to Texas to die).

But in many ways, this is the right ending because it heads into the future.  Matt isn’t just the younger, more liberal Clift and a new way of approaching acting.  He is the future and this is progress.  Instead of the traditional Western ending, where there is a shoot-out and where one of them has to die, we actually have a somewhat civilized solution.  Yes, they fight.  But then they come to an agreement (albeit, one forced upon them) and there is peace, and hope (and with the girl involved maybe even love) in the future.  There is something to be said for that and it took Hawks, over the objections of his writer, to come up with that.

Totally a misleading poster, but a great film.  This is why you always listen to Marty.

Totally a misleading poster, but a great film. This is why you always listen to Marty.

4  –  Force of Evil  (dir. Abraham Polonsky)

This is the downside to being obsessed with awards.  Force of Evil was nominated for absolutely nothing.  Its director, Abraham Polonsky, didn’t have much of a career as a director (he was a writer first and then blacklisted after he started directing).  So I didn’t see this film in my long awards hunt, or even in my Great Director search or even when I checked off all the films from Oscar-nominated directors.  But, thanks to one Oscar winning director, I found it.

There is a great documentary that you should see if you love film called A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies.  It gives a great sense of our film past and Scorsese, a man who is not only quite possibly the greatest director who ever lived, but a man who passionately loves movies, is the perfect host.  I made a checklist when I watched that years ago (that was how I found The Phenix City Story, a film written by Daniel Mainwaring) and though it took me until 2012, I finally watched Force of Evil, checking it off that list.

Force of Evil is one of those really great noir films.  You could call it noir because it’s in black-and-white, it’s got a grubby, urban feel, it’s about crime.  But really it’s noir because there are no clearly defined lines to separate black and white.  Everyone is dirty.  The main source of dirt is John Garfield, playing a lawyer who works for the mob and is in the process of gathering the smaller numbers men in the city into working for his outfit.  One of those is run by his brother.  A bit less dirty, but nonetheless not fully clean, is Thomas Gomez, playing the older brother.  He has run a fairly honest numbers game for years, but he knows that the very work he does takes money away from people who need it and no matter how fairly he does his business, it can never be fully clean.  And now he’s bring dragged by his brother, first through suggestion, then through the intervention of the law, and finally through threats, and eventually both of them are so mired in the muck that nothing can bleach them out again.  Garfield is solid, but is really Gomez who is the force here.  He is the brother who sacrificed his future for his younger brother, only to watch him wash up with the mob and play dirty with his own family.  There is a great speech, when Gomez realizes his business is through and he comes clean about precisely how much dirt he has been wallowing in for years and how much he has always known it, no matter what he might have said.  A year after earning an Oscar nomination, this should have earned him another one (he just misses my list and ends up on my Drama list).

So, if you haven’t seen Force of Evil, whether because you haven’t gotten to it yet or because you never thought about it, what with its lack of awards and such, don’t pass it by anymore.  It’s well worth watching.  And if you don’t trust in my judgement, well, trust in Marty’s.

It's Bergman before Bergman was Bergman.  Except in Danish.

It’s Bergman before Bergman was Bergman. Except in Danish.

5  –  Day of Wrath  (dir. Carl Th. Dreyer)

The top three films for this year have remained unchanged since I saw Red River back in the mid-90’s.  It’s been Treasure, Hamlet and Red River, in that order, for some 20 years now.  But the fourth spot was finally (securely) won out by Force of Evil when I finally got around to seeing it.  The fifth spot, as I said above, was a much harder choice and involved re-watching several films.  In the end, it was this bleak, religiously heavy film that ended up making its way to top of the list (or, bottom of the list, if you just consider the Top 5).

Day of Wrath is not a light film and it is not for those who dislike bleak films, who dislike films with heavy religious overtones, who dislike black-and-white films, who dislike films in a Foreign language or those who are searching for a happy ending.

So who is this film for?  It is for those who love film and love for film to make them think.  It is the story of Anne.  Anne is married to a minister who is much older.  She endures a mother-in-law who dislikes her and remembers how Anne’s mother was accused of witchcraft.  Anne is the same age as her stepson and when he returns to the house, there is an instant attraction, fueled by Anne’s lack of love for her husband.  What unfolds after this, I will not discuss, but it brings into question our place in the world, the way we interact with other people, how we sometimes do what is right for the wrong reasons and something do what is wrong, perhaps for the right reasons.  It deals with God and why God does what God does and how that can affect us, and what happens when we make requests of God.

The film is very well made, intelligently written, well filmed (and, like so many of Dreyer’s films, looks great in the Criterion DVD) and is part of a larger whole of Dreyer’s work and how they deal with God (carried forward in his next film, Ordet).  It was his first film since his brilliant Vampyr and showed the path forward that he would take in his last few films, films that are bleak but never boring.

Talk about lack of consistency.  Decide, Wellman, are you good or do you suck?

Talk about lack of consistency. Decide, Wellman, are you good or do you suck?

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. The Iron Curtain
  2. The Boy with Green Hair
  3. Secret Beyond the Door
  4. The Bride Goes Wild
  5. Homecoming

note:  I don’t like including a Fritz Lang film (Secret) while the Harvard Film Archive is doing a complete retrospective on him, especially since he is such a brilliant director.  But, it’s a mediocre film (low **.5) and in 1948, that makes it one of the five worst films I’ve seen.

In 1942, William Wellman was in this same spot for Roxie Hart, his terrible adaptation of the story that was much better made in 2002 as Chicago.  And, here he is again in the bottom slot with a relentlessly mediocre film about the Cold War in its early stages.  You would think that Wellman just isn’t a very good director, but in between he made two different films that earned Nighthawk Awards for Best Picture (The Ox-Bow Incident and The Story of G.I. Joe) and in 1937 he won the Nighthawk Award for Best Picture for A Star is Born.  What he is, is a maddeningly inconsistent director whose melodrama can sometimes be great and sometimes be just bad.

This film doesn’t quite reach the level of being bad.  It’s a very low-level **.5, but still I didn’t give it **.  It is actually the film of the 104 from this year that I saw the most recent, watching it just before writing the list when it aired on TCM recently.  It is full proof that even dramatic real-life events can be made into a boring film.

The first step to a boring film is to hire a fairly boring actor.  Dana Andrews could occasionally be good (The Ox-Bow Incident, The Best Years of Our Lives), but not often.  Here he plays Igor Gouzenko, a real-life GRU cipher working at the Soviet embassy in Canada who, knowing about the Soviet spy network, and coming to terms with the reality of the atomic bomb, defected in 1945 after the end of the war.  The Soviets, of course, weren’t real keen on letting him go.  Yet, somehow the direction and the writing leaves the whole story completely flat.  You never really get much of a sense of suspense and since Andrews (and Gene Tierney, as his wife) doesn’t really do much in the way of acting, that doesn’t help.  But the really flat acting belongs to June Havoc, as the Russian woman assigned to try and seduce him as a test of his loyalty.  She is so bad and the scene is so ridiculous, that even if it happened, it stretches credulity.  And Wellman just couldn’t bring enough to it to bring it off properly.  He has a lot of films that are easy to find and are well worth seeing.  This one was difficult to find and there’s a reason for it.  Feel free to skip it.  After all, it’s the worst film I’ve seen from 1948.

Points:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (11)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (9)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (640)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  Easter Parade
  • 2nd Place Award:  Hamlet  (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Cinematography, Original Score)
  • 6th Place Award:  Act of Violence  (Director, Editing, Cinematography)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (430)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  I Remember Mama
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  State of the Union  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  State of the Union  (3)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  State of the Union  (330)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  Sitting Pretty

Note:  * means a Nighthawk record up to this point; ** ties a Nighthawk record

Progressive Leaders:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Wizard of Oz  (18)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  The Wizard of Oz  (14)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  The Wizard of Oz  (795)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards without winning Best Picture:  Frankenstein  /  The Magnificent Ambersons  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Best Picture Nomination:  Captain Blood  /  Henry V  (10)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Nighthawk Award:  My Man Godfrey (11)
  • Actor:  Claude Rains  (395)
  • Actress:  Bette Davis  (485)
  • Director:  Howard Hawks  (360)
  • Writer:  Billy Wilder  (400)
  • Cinematographer:  Arthur Edeson  /  Gregg Toland  (200)
  • Composer:  Max Steiner  (450)
  • Foreign Film:  Jean Renoir  (200)

Breakdown by Genre  (Foreign in parenthesis, best film in genre following, avg. score is afterwards, in parenthesis):

  • Drama:  38 (12)  –  Hamlet  (70.2)
  • Foreign:  16  –  Day of Wrath  (71.9)
  • Comedy:  15  (1)  –  State of the Union  (64.3)
  • Western:  12  –  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (72.8)
  • Musical:  12  (1)  –  The Red Shoes  (65)
  • Crime:  8  (1)  –  Force of Evil  (70)
  • Suspense:  5  –  Act of Violence  (70)
  • Mystery:  5  –  The Lady from Shanghai  (68.4)
  • Adventure:  4  –  The Three Musketeers  (60.5)
  • War:  3  (1)  –  Command Decision  (60.7)
  • Kids:  1  –  Melody Time  (77)
  • Fantasy:  1  –  The Boy with Green Hair  (52)
  • Action:  0
  • Horror:  0
  • Sci-Fi:  0

Analysis:  There’s a big drop in Dramas; the 38 are the lowest number since 1943 as well as the lowest percentage of total films since 1943.  The biggest leap though is Westerns – the 12 I’ve seen from 1948 are the most I’ve seen to date.  What’s more, the average is the highest since 1939 (when there were only four and one of them was Stagecoach).  Crime films and Musicals both have their highest averages since 1943 but War films (the few I have seen) have their lowest average to date.

Studio Note:

The majors again only account for about 3/4 of the films I’ve seen, thanks to the influx of Foreign and British films.  Universal drops from its big high in 1947 to a more normal amount of 8 while Paramount continues to have fewer and fewer (6, the fewest I’ve seen from the studio since 1929).  But MGM bounces back up to 16 (the most since 1944) and Fox is up to 19 (the most to date).  The MGM films, however, are better than usual (67.3 average, the best since 1940) while the Fox films are not (63.9, the lowest since 1942).  I’ve only seen 8 Warners films, but those 8 include Treasure, Rope and Key Largo, so they average a 73.3, the studio’s highest average to date and the second highest for any studio in the 40’s (behind RKO’s 1941 and Universal’s 1947).

Treasure also gives Warners it’s second Nighthawk Award for Best Picture (both of which starred Bogie).  MGM earns two Top 20 films.  What might be most surprising is that Republic Pictures, not known for quality films, actually earns a Top 10 film with Macbeth.

19 Films Eligible for Best Foreign Film (alphabetical, with director and country in parenthesis – red are ****, blue are ***.5 – both those colors qualify for my Best Foreign Film Award – an asterisk means it won the Oscar):

  • Amore  (Rossellini, Italy)
  • The Ballad of Berlin  (Stemmle, West Germany)
  • Chandralekha  (Vasan, India)
  • Drunken Angel  (Kurosawa, Japan)
  • The Eagle Has Two Heads  (Cocteau, France)
  • Esquina, bahan  (Galindo, Mexico)
  • Germany Year Zero  (Rossellini, Italy)
  • A Hen in the Wind  (Ozu, Japan)
  • Hidden River  (Fernandez, Mexico)
  • Kampen om tungtvannet  (Dreville, France)
  • Maclovia  (Fernandez, Mexico)
  • Monsieur Vincent  (Cloche, France)  *
  • Night is My Future  (Bergman, Sweden)
  • Les Parents Terribles  (Cocteau, France)
  • Port of Call  (Bergman, Sweden)
  • Sorrows of the Forbidden City  (Zhu, China)
  • Spring in a Small Town  (Fei, China)
  • La Terra Trema  (Visconti, Italy)
  • Treasured Earth  (Ban, USSR)
  • Los Tres Huastecos  (Rodriguez, Mexico)

Note:  The 19 films are the most since 1933.  France again leads with 4 films, but there are also 4 from Mexico (a new high).

Films Eligible in This Year But Originally Released in a Different Calendar Year:

  • Fanny  (1932)
  • Cesar  (1936)
  • Day of Wrath  (1943)
  • The Murderers Among Us  (1946)
  • Pastoral Symphony  (1946)
  • Angelina  (1947)
  • Antoine et Anoinette  (1947)
  • An Ideal Husband  (1947)
  • The Lady from Shanghai  (1947)
  • Quai des Orfevres  (1947)
  • Secret Beyond the Door  (1947)
  • They Made Me a Fugitive  (1947)

Note: Here we have my #5 film, my #6 film (Fanny) and two others in my Top 20.

Films Released This Year Originally But Eligible in a Different Year:

  • Adventures of Don Juan  (1949)
  • Against the Wind  (1949)
  • The Fallen Idol  (1949)
  • Germany Year Zero  (1949)
  • The Last Stage  (1949)
  • Quartet  (1949)
  • Saraband for Dead Lovers  (1949)
  • They Live By Night  (1949)
  • Wake of the Red Witch  (1949)
  • Amore  (1950)
  • Hidden River  (1950)
  • Les Parents Terribles  (1950)
  • No Orchids for Miss Blandish  (1950)
  • Treasured Earth  (1950)
  • Oliver Twist  (1951)
  • Once a Jolly Swagman  (1951)
  • Scott of the Antarctic  (1951)
  • The Ballad of Berlin  (1952)
  • Los Tres Huastecos  (1953)
  • Night is My Future  (1963)
  • Port of Call  (1963)
  • Drunken Angel  (1965)
  • La Terra Trema  (1966)
  • A Hen in the Wind  (1975)
  • Sorrows of the Forbidden City  (2008)

Note:  Germany Year Zero would have been the #4 film in 1948, but ends up instead as the #6 film in 1949.  But Drunken Angel, which would have been the #5 film in 1948, ends up the #4 film in 1965.  Luck of the draw.  But Oliver Twist is really unlucky, moving from a really weak year to a really really strong year.

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