To my mind, the greatest film ever made.

To my mind, the greatest film ever made.

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 (this is the first year that there are nominees for the Globes).  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 winners.

I’m going with a top 7 again, even though only my top 5 earn nominations.  That’s because in a lot of these categories, there are more than 5 films worth mentioning.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. Sunset Blvd.  *
  2. The Third Man  *
  3. All About Eve  **
  4. The Rules of the Game
  5. Night and the City
  6. The Asphalt Jungle  *
  7. Kind Hearts and Coronets

Analysis:  Because I give the same weighted total to the BAFTA that I do to the Oscars, and because they nominate so many more films, we end up with a lot of ties in the Best Picture Consensus Awards for the final spot.  All About Eve won the Oscar, NYFC and BAFTA while Sunset Blvd. won the NBR and the Globe.
This is just about as good as it gets for a top three.  Sunset Blvd. is my #1 film of all-time, The Third Man is in the top 40 and All About Eve in the top 60.  The Top 5 are the second-best to this point, only behind 1946 and the Top 7 is the third-best (behind 1946 and 1940).  Even though in my Ealing post I kept Kind Hearts at ***.5, I have now bumped it up to ****.

  • sunset-boulevardBest Director
  1. Billy Wilder  (Sunset Blvd.)  *
  2. Carol Reed  (The Third Man)  *
  3. Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve)  **
  4. Jules Dassin  (Night and the City)
  5. John Huston  (The Asphalt Jungle)  *
  6. Henry King  (The Gunfighter)
  7. Jean Renoir  (The Rules of the Game)

Analysis:  This is one of those cases where the Directors made the rest of the Academy look stupid.  If the five nominated directors (George Cukor for Born Yesterday was the other one) had been the five nominated films, it would have been the third best year ever.  Billy Wilder becomes the first director to win three Nighthawk Awards (in only four nominations – the opposite of William Wyler, who is 0 for 7 at the Nighthawk at this point).  It’s so strange to have Henry King, a mediocre director for almost his entire career, ranked above Jean Renoir, one of the great ones, but this is King’s best direction of his career.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. All About Eve  **
  2. Night and the City
  3. Kind Hearts and Coronets
  4. The Asphalt Jungle  *
  5. Harvey
  6. In a Lonely Place
  7. Cinderella

Analysis: I’m a little surprised I have only read two sources here (Eve and Cinderella).  Eve is one of the great caustic scripts and in a lot of ways is the theatre equivalent of Sunset.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Sunset Blvd.  **
  2. The Third Man
  3. The Rules of the Game
  4. The Gunfighter  *
  5. Panic in the Streets  *
  6. No Way Out  *
  7. Winchester ’73

Analysis:  A year after no American script appeared in this category we have the single best script ever written for an American film (or, really, any film).  Wilder continues to dominate the writing, with his fifth win.  The Third Man can be confusing to people – Graham Greene conceived the script, then wrote a short story to help him write the script, then wrote the script, which, to me, qualifies as original.  Sunset won Best Story and Screenplay while Panic won Best Motion Picture Story.  No Way Out was in the former while Gunfighter was in the latter.

  • Best Actor:
  1. William Holden  (Sunset Blvd.)
  2. James Stewart  (Harvey)  *
  3. Richard Widmark  (Night and the City)
  4. Sterling Hayden  (The Asphalt Jungle)
  5. Humphrey Bogart  (In a Lonely Place)
  6. James Stewart  (Winchester ’73)
  7. Gregory Peck  (The Gunfighter)

Analysis:  Bogart earns his 8th Nighthawk nomination but is still 20 points behind Claude Rains at this point for overall points.  It’s the fifth for Stewart and the first for the rest.  Bizarrely, it’s the only Nighthawk nomination for Richard Widmark – he often ends up in my Top 10 but only this once in my Top 5; I do think this is his best performance, the one he was born for.  My #8 choice is Jose Ferrer, who won the Oscar, the first Oscar winner in this category in 8 years not to be my #1 or #2.

  • Best Actress
  1. Gloria Swanson  (Sunset Blvd.)  **
  2. Bette Davis  (All About Eve)  *
  3. Anne Baxter  (All About Eve)  *
  4. Anna Magnani  (Amore)
  5. Eleanor Parker  (Caged)  *
  6. Jane Wyman  (Stage Fright)
  7. Marlene Dietrich  (Stage Fright)

Analysis:  Those top three are the best top three in this category in film history.  And you’ll notice the actual Oscar winner doesn’t even make my top 7 (she was my #10).  That award infuriates me maybe more than any other Oscar in history – that they would overlook two of the greatest performances in history to reward Judy Holliday.  Thanks to her NBR and Globe wins, Swanson is actually the Consensus winner (barely – but that’s only because the Globes nominated Holliday twice).  Holliday is the first winner in this category that I thought was the worst of the nominees – the first time since 1945 that the Academy picked the worst in any of the acting categories.
This is almost certainly the best performance of Bette Davis’ magnificent career and yet, she still doesn’t win my award because of Swanson’s performance.  It does earn Davis her 13th Nighthawk nomination.  It’s the fourth and final one for Swanson.

  • ????????????????Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Erich von Stroheim  (Sunset Blvd.)  *
  2. Orson Welles  (The Third Man)
  3. George Sanders  (All About Eve)  **
  4. Alec Guinness  (Kind Hearts and Coronets)  *
  5. Alistair Sim  (Stage Fright)
  6. Frances L. Sullivan  (Night and the City)
  7. Herbert Lom  (Night and the City)

Analysis:  This is the sixth and final Nighthawk nomination for von Stroheim and it’s only appropriate he wins over Welles, a man who a lot of similar talents and a similar ego.  The top three are the best top three in this category in history – it pains me not to give the award to Welles and even more so to put Sanders in third place; I have no complaints about Sanders’ Oscar.  Guinness is actually on the Consensus list for Best Actor because he won the NBR, but looking at the film again, I decided Guinness, in spite of the eight characters, is really a supporting role.  This is a great year for this category – I don’t list Millard Mitchell in The Gunfighter, or the Oscar-nominated Sam Jaffe in The Asphalt Jungle.  This is the first of many nominations for Guinness (including six in this decade alone).

  • NO-nancyolson-schwabsBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Nancy Olson  (Sunset Blvd.)  *
  2. Celeste Holm  (All About Eve)  *
  3. Josephine Hull  (Harvey)  **
  4. Thelma Ritter  (All About Eve)  *
  5. Gloria Grahame  (In a Lonely Place)
  6. Hope Emerson  (Caged)  *
  7. Ellen Corby  (Caged)

Analysis:  Not nearly as strong as the other three acting categories, and yet, because of the lack of strength in other years, tied with 1946 as the best this category has produced to this date.  It’s an interesting mix of actresses – one who would be good in supporting for quite a while (Ritter), two who would be very big for a few years then basically be gone from film (Grahame, Holm) and several who won’t ever make any Nighthawk appearance (Olson, Emerson, Colby).

  • Best Editing:
  1. Sunset Blvd.
  2. The Third Man
  3. The Asphalt Jungle
  4. Night and the City
  5. The Rules of the Game
  6. The Gunfighter
  7. All About Eve

Analysis:  The theme for 1950 seems to be the best at the top – The Third Man has the best editing to date not to win my award.  As I mentioned before, if The Third Man had been Oscar eligible in 1949 it would have dominated the awards.  Instead, it ties Le Million, Rebecca, The Maltese Falcon, The Best Years of Our Lives and Great Expectations with 7 2nd place finishes.  The Oscar winner was King Solomon’s Mines, which doesn’t even make my list.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. The Third Man
  2. Sunset Blvd.
  3. Night and the City
  4. The Asphalt Jungle
  5. Winchester ’73
  6. The Rules of the Game
  7. The Gunfighter

Analysis:  Kudos to the Academy for recognizing the amazing camerawork in The Third Man.  The work in Sunset was also brilliant, but I can’t deny The Third Man its award here.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. Sunset Blvd.
  2. The Third Man
  3. Night and the City
  4. The Asphalt Jungle
  5. All About Eve
  6. The Rules of the Game
  7. Gates of the Night

Analysis:  The Academy has a tendency to honor brilliant films (ones that are better than the Best Picture winner) with a Screenplay Oscar – films like Citizen Kane, M*A*S*H, Chinatown, Pulp Fiction, Sense and Sensibility.  What makes Sunset different than those films is that it wasn’t the only Oscar the film won.  It also (deservedly) won Best Original Score (an easy choice with the amazing zither work from Anton Karas in The Third Man not nominated) and Best Art Direction (with truly amazing set work in Norma Desmond’s mansion).  At least it wasn’t just a one-Oscar film.  Franz Waxman earns his sixth and seventh (Night and the City) nominations and finally wins a Nighthawk Award.

  • Best Sound:
  1. The Third Man
  2. Night and the City
  3. Winchester ’73
  4. Sunset Blvd.
  5. The Gunfighter
  6. Rio Grande
  7. The Asphalt Jungle

Analysis:  Back to a complete disagreement with the Academy.  The only nominee on my list at all is the winner – All About Eve – which I have down in 15th place.

  • sunset-boulevard1950Best Art Direction:
  1. Sunset Blvd.
  2. The Third Man
  3. Night and the City
  4. Kind Hearts and Coronets
  5. The Rules of the Game
  6. All About Eve
  7. The Asphalt Jungle

Analysis:  Doing better with the Academy here, as usual.  The color winner, Samson and Delilah is way down at #19, but that’s still the second best for color films in the year (behind The Flame and the Arrow, my #13).

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. Destination Moon
  2. Rocketship X-M

Analysis:  Now that we have hit 1950 and we start to get far more Science-Fiction films this category will improve considerably.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. Night and the City
  2. Winchester ’73
  3. Destination Moon
  4. King Solomon’s Mines
  5. The Halls of Montezuma
  • Best Costume Design:
  1. Sunset Blvd.
  2. Kind Hearts and Coronets
  3. The Flame and the Arrow
  4. Cyrano de Bergerac
  5. The Furies
  6. Vienna Blood
  7. Samson and Delilah
  • Best Makeup
  1. Sunset Blvd.
  2. Kind Hearts and Coronets
  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Bibbidy-Bobbidi-Boo”  (Cinderella)
  2. “Mona Lisa”  (Captain Carey USA)
  3. “Work Song”  (Cinderella)
  4. “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”  (Cinderella)
  5. “So This is Love”  (Cinderella)

Analysis: A much better year for this category, thanks to the numerous songs from Cinderella.  As my musical tastes start to align a bit more with the Academy’s, I will agree with it more as the decade progresses.

  • cinderellaBest Animated Film:
  1. Cinderella

Analysis:  A near-great film, at the very top of ***.5.  Easily the best animated film since Bambi, far out-stripping the package films that Disney had done between the two.

  • LaRondePosterBest Foreign Film:
  1. La Ronde
  2. Los Olvidados

Analysis:  It should be Rashomon, with ease, but the Academy gave it the award the next year, so it gets moved.  La Ronde is a great film though (the Oscar went to the okay Walls of Malapaga).  But La Ronde is the weakest winner in the decade and this will be the weakest year in the decade (I wanted to say by far, but 1956 isn’t much better) – once Kurosawa and Bergman really come onto the scene the category will go through the roof.

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.

  • Sunset Blvd.  (765)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • All About Eve  (360)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Score
  • The Third Man  (325)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction
  • Night and the City  (325)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Sound Editing
  • The Asphalt Jungle  (195)
    • Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score
  • The Rules of the Game  (175)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay, Editing, Art Direction, Foreign Film (1939)
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets  (115)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • Harvey  (105)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Cinderella  (90)
    • Original Song, Original Song, Original Song, Original Song, Animated Film
  • In a Lonely Place  (65)
    • Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Winchester ’73  (65)
    • Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing
  • The Gunfighter  (60)
    • Original Screenplay, Sound
  • Destination Moon  (60)
    • Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Amore  (55)
    • Actress, Foreign Film (1948)
  • Panic in the Streets  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Caged  (35)
    • Actress
  • Stage Fright  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Rocketship X-M  (20)
    • Visual Effects
  • King Solomon’s Mines  (20)
    • Sound Editing
  • The Halls of Montezuma  (20)
    • Sound Editing
  • Distant Journey  (20)
    • Foreign Film (1949)
  • Cyrano de Bergerac  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • The Furies  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • The Flame and the Arrow  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • Captain Carey USA  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis:  A really good year – the first one since 1946, not just for the top awards, but trickling down through the Tech categories as well.

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • No Way Out

Analysis:  This is a film that confuses people, like the 1943 Heaven Can Wait.  That’s because there was a remake titled No Way Out that wasn’t based on this film, but rather on The Big Clock (a good 1948 film).  This is a tense racial drama with Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier and is a high-level ***.5 film.  It makes my Top 10 five times but never gets higher than 6th (Original Screenplay).  It was my #15 in a year which is stacked with great and very good films.  The best film not to appear above (since No Way Out did get a 6th) is The Baron of Arizona, a very good early Samuel Fuller film with a very good (non-campy, non-horror) performance from Vincent Price.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Born Yesterday

Analysis:  Against all reason, the winner of Best Actress at the Oscars.  And yet, less stupid than the Globes, where it won Best Actress – Comedy and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress in the Drama categories.  Overall, 5 Oscar noms, 4 Globe noms and a WGA nom, for a film that I don’t find to be any better than mid-level ***.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture
  1. Sunset Blvd.
  2. The Third Man
  3. All About Eve
  4. Night and the City
  5. The Asphalt Jungle

Analysis:  With no Rules of the Game, The Asphalt Jungle, which easily would have gotten a regular Best Picture nomination in many earlier years makes it into the mix.

  • Best Director
  1. Billy Wilder  (Sunset Blvd.)
  2. Carol Reed  (The Third Man)
  3. Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve)
  4. Jules Dassin  (Night and the City)
  5. John Huston  (The Asphalt Jungle)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. All About Eve
  2. Night and the City
  3. The Asphalt Jungle
  4. In a Lonely Place
  5. Broken Arrow

Analysis:  Broken Arrow was nominated at the Oscars for Best Screenplay.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Sunset Blvd.
  2. The Third Man
  3. The Gunfighter
  4. Panic in the Streets
  5. No Way Out
  • SunsetBoulevardWilliamHoldenBest Actor:
  1. William Holden  (Sunset Blvd.)
  2. Richard Widmark  (Night and the City)
  3. Sterling Hayden  (The Asphalt Jungle)
  4. Humphrey Bogart  (In a Lonely Place)
  5. James Stewart  (Winchester ’73)

Analysis:  Jimmy Stewart pulls of the rare feat of getting a Drama and Comedy nomination in the same year.

  • ????????????????Best Actress
  1. Gloria Swanson  (Sunset Blvd.)
  2. Bette Davis  (All About Eve)
  3. Anne Baxter  (All About Eve)
  4. Anna Magnani  (Amore)
  5. Eleanor Parker  (Caged)
  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Erich von Stroheim  (Sunset Blvd.)
  2. Orson Welles  (The Third Man)
  3. George Sanders  (All About Eve)
  4. Alistair Sim  (Stage Fright)
  5. Frances L. Sullivan  (Night and the City)

Analysis:  Sullivan was so great for a stretch, in this and Great Expectations (among others).  He barely missed out on the regular nomination, but Sim was just too good as the sardonic father in Stage Fright.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Nancy Olson  (Sunset Blvd.)
  2. Celeste Holm  (All About Eve)
  3. Thelma Ritter  (All About Eve)
  4. Gloria Grahame  (In a Lonely Place)
  5. Hope Emerson  (Caged)

Points:

  • Sunset Blvd.  (530)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • All About Eve  (335)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Night and the City  (200)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • The Asphalt Jungle  (170)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • The Third Man  (165)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • In a Lonely Place  (105)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Caged  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Gunfighter  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Panic in the Streets  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • No Way Out  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Broken Arrow  (40)
    • Adapted Screenplay
  • Winchester ’73  (35)
    • Actor
  • Amore  (35)
    • Actress
  • Stage Fright  (30)
    • Supporting Actor

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • The Baron of Arizona

Analysis:  I mentioned this film above as the best film not to appear in the awards section (because it never placed in the Top 7).  It’s available as part of Criterion’s Eclipse Series (Series 5: The First Films of Samuel Fuller).  This was before Vincent Price started being so hammy in so many horror films and he’s quite effective here.  It’s based on a true story, is very good and deserves watching.

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:
  1. The Rules of the Game
  2. Kind Hearts and Coronets
  3. Harvey
  4. Cinderella
  5. The Sin of Harold Diddlebock

Analysis:  These five films average an 87.6 – the highest since 1942.  In fact, it’s the first time since 1942 I could even fill the list in this category.

  • Best Director:
  1. Jean Renoir  (The Rules of the Game)
  2. Robert Hamer  (Kind Hearts and Coronets)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Kind Hearts and Coronets
  2. Harvey
  3. Cinderella

Analysis:  Now that we are back to feature-length Disney films, they will pop up in this category a lot, for a few reasons.  1 – they are generally well written.  2 – there aren’t a lot of strong Adapted Comedy contenders.  3 – they were almost always adapted.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Rules of the Game
  2. The Sin of Harold Diddlebock
  3. Last Holiday
  4. Adam’s Rib

Analysis:  Renoir runs away with this, but Preston Sturges pops in for one last nomination.

  • ?????????????Best Actor:
  1. James Stewart  (Harvey)
  2. Jose Ferrer  (Cyrano de Bergerac)
  3. Alec Guinness  (Last Holiday)
  4. Harold Lloyd  (The Sin of Harold Diddlebock)

Analysis:  First, I should point out that Ferrer and Stewart were both in the Drama category at the Globes.  This is the start of Guinness’ dominant run as THE comedy actor of the 50’s. – by 1953 he will have the third most Comedy acting points, behind Chaplin and Cary Grant.

  • Adams-Rib-HepburnBest Actress:
  1. Katharine Hepburn  (Adam’s Rib)
  2. Judy Holliday  (Born Yesterday)

Analysis:  Holliday was, inexplicably, nominated for Actress – Drama at the Globes as well as winning Actress – Comedy.  She’s good enough to make my list of nominees but still overrated and I’ll take Hepburn for yet another win (her fifth in five nominations).  She is now in the lead for Comedy points and will stay there until Audrey Hepburn catches her up in the late 60’s.

  • Best Supporting Actor
  1. Alec Guinness  (Kind Hearts and Coronets)
  2. Jean Renoir  (The Rules of the Game)

Analysis:  As I said, Guinness will dominate the 50’s.

  • Best Supporting Actress
  1. Josephine Hull  (Harvey)

Points:

  • The Rules of the Game  (300)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets  (235)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • Harvey  (220)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • The Sin of Harold Diddlebock  (125)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor
  • Adam’s Rib  (110)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress
  • Cinderella  (90)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay
  • Last Holiday  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actor
  • Cyrano de Bergerac  (35)
    • Actor
  • Born Yesterday  (35)
    • Actress

Analysis:  Things finally start to improve because, as I mentioned, the Ealing Comedies start to arrive.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • The Happiest Days of Your Life

Analysis:  The first in a long series.  Way down at #59, though that makes it the 9th best qualifying Comedy film.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  131

By Stars:

  • ****:  9
  • ***.5:  11
  • ***:  84
  • **.5:  23
  • **:  4
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  67.8

Analysis:  A lot more great and very good films causes a rise in average.  It’s the most films in a single year to this date.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • I’ll Get By  (Scoring of a Musical Picture)

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

  • Chance of a Lifetime  (BAFTA – British Film)
  • State Secret  (BAFTA – British Film)

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  A slight drop, down to #60.  The Academy had tremendously bad taste in the decade.  It is probably the best decade ever for films and yet the Best Picture years average at 64.  This year is a perfect example: the best film ever made, followed by the #39 film (the fourth best second-best film).  Then, we have King Solomon’s Mines.  There are 79 years in which the third-best Best Picture nominee is better than King Solomon’s Mines.  That’s followed by Born Yesterday, in the bottom 20 for the fourth-ranked BP nominee.  And we conclude with Father of the Bride, also in the bottom 20.  And that’s how we go from the second-best 1-2 combo (only behind 1941 with Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon) all the way down to #60.  If they had gone with the Director choices instead (Asphalt Jungle and Third Man instead of King Solomon’s Mines and Father of the Bride), this would rank as #3 all-time.

The Winners:  The winners from the tech categories were for the most part pretty good.  And the major winners (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Story), were either right (Sunset for Story and Screenplay) or good choices.  But this is the first year since 1941 where not a single acting category made the right choice.  And it’s the first time ever that Best Actress chose the weakest of the bunch – a massive shame in this year of all years.  The overall winners were a 4.18 and a 1.86 among the nominees.

The Nominees:  The acting choices were good – especially Actress and Supporting Actress.  But the writing nominees weren’t very good and Picture was a mess.  Best Director saves the day, with a score of 82.5 – the best year to date for the category and one of the best years in history.  The Tech categories earn a 51 – not great, but the best since 1941.  The overall score of 60.2 is better than every since 1941 except 1948.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  Sunset Blvd.  (read my reviews here and here)

So good you'd think Orson Welles directed it (he didn't, no matter what rumor you might hear).

So good you’d think Orson Welles directed it (he didn’t, no matter what rumor you might hear).

2  –  The Third Man  (dir. Carol Reed)

I know precisely when I first heard of The Third Man.  It was July 12, 1990.  It was listed as a Video Discovery in the L.A. Times and my mom clipped it out and gave it to me to look at.  The headline was “The Finest Movie Ever Made?”  As M. Flagg put it: “There are enough fine moments here to make 10 lesser films.”  It is not actually my choice for the greatest film ever made and it has the misfortune to be in the same year as Sunset Blvd. which actually is my choice for the greatest film ever made.  But it belongs on any list of contenders and that it was nominated for Best Director by the Academy but not Best Picture shows how much smarter the Directors branch was at the time (and usually still is).

The star of The Third Man is Joseph Cotton (ironic, since his relationship to Welles bears similarities to Hollis’ relationship to Harry).  It also stars Trevor Howard, one of those great British actors who never got enough credit in the States for the great work that he did (his work includes Brief Encounter, I See a Dark Stranger, Outcast of the Islands, The Heart of the Matter, Charge of the Light Brigade and Ryan’s Daughter but only one Oscar nomination).  But there’s no question that the beating heart of the film is Orson Welles and his wonderfully dastardly performance as Harry Lime, the man that has brought Cotton to Vienna, the man that Howard is chasing, the man who is thought to be dead.  So, it’s a surprise to realize that it takes over an hour before Welles actually appears.  (By the way, if you think Welles is larger than life on-screen, you should see what he was like off-screen.  There is an incredible description too long to quote here, where Michael Korda talks about chasing him around Europe with his father trying to get him to sign the contract to make this film in his book Charmed Lives.  Read it.)

The film has been moving along at a good clip.  Cotton has been brought to Vienna to work for his friend only to discover, first, that his friend is dead, and second, that his friend was apparently a crook providing bad penicillin and letting kids die.  Trying to discover what he is convinced now is his friend’s murder, Cotton also starts to fall in love with his friend’s girl.  Leaving her apartment, he sees her cat out in the street, clearly warming up to someone – which you only think about later and remember that the girl said that Harry, the dead man, is the only one the cat ever liked.  Cotton thinks he’s being followed.  He can see someone in the shadows.  He yells at him to stop following him, to reveal himself.  Then someone opens a window and the light falls perfectly on the face of Harry Lime, alive and well in the person of Orson Welles, and the wonderful zither music from Anton Karas rolls along so perfectly and what has been a very good noir film has suddenly moved into all-time great status.

Perhaps a good way to realize just how much can be gained by the talent involved is to read Graham Greene’s novella version of The Third Man and then watch the film.  There’s no question that it’s a good story, but even Greene himself didn’t think it was particularly deep (he argued that the happy ending version of the story was because it lacked the depth for a tragic ending).  But watching the film after reading it, you realize the quality of the camerawork, the importance of the music, the strength of the performances, the remarkable direction, and of course, the immense talent of Welles, not only in his first-rate performance, but also in the key speech he delivers.  It was written by Welles, of course.

3  –  All About Eve  (read my review here)

The best Foreign Film of 1939 finally makes it to the States.

The best Foreign Film of 1939 finally makes it to the States.

4  –  The Rules of the Game  (dir. Jean Renoir)

If I say to you “a country estate between the wars” there are many things you might think of.  Many would think of “Downton Abbey”.  Older readers would probably think of “Brideshead Revisited”, or, if they are more literarily inclined, Waugh novels.  Serious film fans might think of Gosford Park.  Confused readers might think of E.M. Forster, who had the houses but was before the war.

Then there is The Rules of the Game.  The Rules of the Game is different.  First of all, it is French, so the country estate has a much different feel than in all those British stories.  Second, it was made in 1939, with war breathing down the necks of the French and everyone else on the continent.  Unlike “Downton” or Remains of the Day, no one is looking back at this period and bringing it to life.  This was the life of the time and one that Renoir was absolutely skewering.  Third, it might be the very best of this kind of film.

There are two films that spring to mind when watching The Rules of the Game.  The first, for rather obvious reasons, is Smiles of a Summer Night.  It’s clear that Bergman must have gotten inspiration from Renoir’s film, from the trip into the country that makes the upper class look like such fools and the middle and lower classes just the fools that are following them.  It provides great visuals (like Bergman), strong characterization (like Bergman) and people react as their characters would, not in any need to further the plot.  This is exactly what would happen if these idiots gathered together and they look like fools, because, let’s face it, they are fools.  And I, for one, enjoy seeing the fools act so foolish without ever realizing it.

But the second is perhaps not so obvious – The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.  Now, I have already reviewed Blimp because, even though it was made 4 years after Rules, it reached the States five years earlier, and it might say something about both the British and the French that it did.  Churchill opposed the making of Blimp during the war, feeling it was bad for morale and he tried to keep it from being made.  But, when confronted by Churchill (in an anecdote related in Roger Ebert’s Great Movie review), Anton Walbrook, one of the stars of the film, said “No people in the world other than the English would have had the courage, in the midst of war, to tell the people such unvarnished truth.”  Churchill didn’t approve but the film got made.  It got released.  And by 1945, it had made it to the States (though, truncated).  The Rules of the Game could have been the same for France.  Renoir’s The Grand Illusion, made two years before, had shown the pointlessness of the Great War and the way class lines were being wiped out.  Then came this film, which completely ridiculed the upper classes and said that the lower classes weren’t much better and France couldn’t take it.  They were about to be swept up in war and they didn’t want to have all their ridiculousness paraded on the screen.  Theatre-goers hated it.  One threatened to burn the theatre down.  It was later banned, and then after the fall of Paris, burned.  It would take a reconstruction after the war (the negative had been destroyed by bombers) before the film finally made it to America in 1950.  By 1952, it made the initial Sight and Sound poll as one of the 10 greatest films ever made.  By 1962 it was #3.  By 1972 it was #2.  It has never been lower than #4 in the decades since.

5  –  Night and the City  (read my review here)

Well, it was sensational for the time.  Now it's just bad.

Well, it was sensational for the time. Now it’s just bad.

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. No Orchids for Miss Blandish
  2. Love Happy
  3. Duchess of Idaho
  4. Dark City
  5. The White Tower

No Orchids for Miss Blandish  (dir. St. John Legh Clowes)

No Orchids for Miss Blandish, a British wannabe noir film that opened in the U.K. in 1948 but didn’t make it to the States until 1950 has gotten a lot of press over its luridness and lack of morality.  It earns an entire chapter in British Crime Cinema, a 1999 collection of essays, mostly on the scandal it created when it was released without any form of censorship in the U.K..  Its standing on my list as the worst film of 1950, however, has nothing to do with any perceived lack of moral value (after all, what was scandalous in 1950 is a long way from what is scandalous now).  It entirely has to do with the fact that it’s a terrible film.

It’s a little piece of noir trash.  A young heiress is kidnapped when a diamond heist goes wrong, but she ends up falling for one of her kidnappers.  When the police come to get her she doesn’t want to go and after her (now) lover is killed, she ends up killing herself to cap off the film.  It’s lurid and melodramatic, but, as I said, no more so than any other film these days.

But then there’s the quality of the film, which is pretty much non-existent.  The film is directed badly, moves awkwardly from scene to scene and the writing is like bad imitation Chandler or Cain (Wikipedia suggests that the original novel was inspired by Cain, so perhaps no surprise there).  Not a single character in the film has any depth and the dialogue is instantly forgettable.  But what makes it all so much worse is how unbearably bad the acting is.  Just look at the scene where she is kidnapped.  It’s painful to sit through even those few minutes when they’re all just so terrible (and yet, the person who put up that clip has it as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

All of this seems to be a reminder that film noir was about so much more than crime in the shadows.  Yes, this film has the lack of morality that often was to be found in noir films.  But those were generally moral questions centering around a key character, often one who was making a choice about doing the right thing or doing the easy thing that would get him what he would want.  This is just cheap lurid melodrama and bad at that.

Points:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  Sunset Blvd.  (14)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  Sunset Blvd.  (12)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  Sunset Blvd.  (765)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  Captain Carey USA
  • 2nd Place Award:  The Third Man  (Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Editing, Original Score, Art Direction)
  • 6th Place Award:  The Gunfighter  (Director, Editing)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  All About Eve  (8)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  Sunset Blvd.  (7)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  Sunset Blvd.  (530)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  Broken Arrow
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  The Rules of the Game  /  Kind Hearts and Coronets  /  Harvey  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  The Rules of the Game  (3)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  The Rules of the Game  (300)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  Born Yesterday

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  (425)
  • Actress:  Bette Davis  (520)
  • Director:  Howard Hawks  (360)
  • Writer:  Billy Wilder  (520)
  • 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:  59  (15)  –  Sunset Blvd.  (67.3)
  • Foreign:  22  –  The Rules of the Game  (69.1)
  • Comedy:  19  (2)  –  The Rules of the Game  (66.5)
  • Western:  11  –  The Gunfighter  (74.1)
  • Musical:  10  (1)  –  Summer Stock  (61.6)
  • Crime:  9  (2)  –  The Asphalt Jungle  (62.6)
  • Suspense:  8  –  Night and the City  (73.5)
  • Mystery:  4  –  The Third Man  (78)
  • War:  4  (1)  –  Distant Journey  (70.5)
  • Adventure:  3  –  The Flame and the Arrow  (63.3)
  • Sci-Fi:  2  –  Rocketship X-M  (69)
  • Kids:  1  –  Cinderella  (87)
  • Fantasy:  1  (1)  –  Beauty and the Devil   (71)
  • Action:  0
  • Horror:  0

Analysis:  In spite of filling the Best Picture – Comedy category, the average goes down by almost a full point.  That’s because there are so many more (19 as opposed to 12) and there a lot of mediocre ones – so many they counteract the ones at the top.  It’s by far the most Comedies I’ve seen in one year since 1942.  There are four fewer Dramas than the year before, but still the second most since 1933.  Foreign is the same – down a lot from the year before, but the second most to date.  But the genre films are really blooming.  It’s the third straight year of a considerable number of Westerns and we have 2 Sci-Fi films – the first year with more than 1 since 1936 – that’s a trend that will continue from here on out as Sci-Fi will boom in the 50’s.

There are three big differences in quality.  The Westerns are way better than the year before (up eight points).  The Suspense films are also up (11 points).  But, in spite of The Asphalt Jungle, two Crime films in the bottom 5 drag those down an astounding 15 points.  Musicals only drop four points, but the 61.6 is the lowest average in the category since 1939.

The genres revert to the way they were during the war.  From 1945-1949 every year had at least 4 Dramas in the Top 10 and at least 8 in the Top 20.  Also during that stretch only 1 Comedy made the Top 10 (Passport to Pimlico in 1949) and there were never more than 2 in the Top 20.  Here, there are only 2 Dramas in the Top 10 and 6 in the Top 20, but there are 3 Comedies in the Top 10 and 4 in the Top 20.

Studio Note:

After the flood of Foreign films, the studios take a bit more of the share – over 73% of the films.  The leader is MGM with 26 (their most since 1942), but Fox has their most to date with 21.  Paramount also has 12, their most since 1942.  Columbia, on the other hand, is way down, with only 3 films, their fewest since 1937.

A year after all 8 majors have a film in the Top 20 the wealth is still spread, with 7 of the 8 making it again (everything but United Artists).  Paramount takes home its 4th Nighthawk Award for Best Picture in the last nine years (3 of them from Billy Wilder), joining UA as the only studio with 4.  But unfortunately, that’s Paramount’s only film in the Top 25.  Fox is the leader with 3 films in the Top 10 (including All About Eve, which won the Oscar) and 5 in the Top 20.

22 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):

  • Aventurera  (Gout, Mexico)
  • Beauty and the Devil  (Clair, France)
  • Dona Diabla  (Davison, Mexico)
  • Les Enfants Terribles  (Melville, France)
  • The Fall of Berlin  (Chiaureli, USSR)
  • Flowers of St. Francis  (Rossellini, Italy)
  • The King of the Neighborhood  (Solares, Mexico)
  • Life of Wu Xun  (Sun, China)
  • Los Olvidados  (Buñuel, Mexico)
  • Path of Hope  (Germi, Italy)
  • La Ronde  (Ophuls, France)
  • Rosauro Castro  (Gavaldon, Mexico)
  • Scandal  (Kurosawa, Japan)
  • Story of a Love Affair  (Antonioni, Italy)
  • Stromboli  (Rossellini, Italy)
  • Sunday in August  (Emmer, Italy)
  • This Life of Mine  (Hui, China)
  • To Joy  (Bergman, Sweden)
  • Tormento  (Matarazzo, Italy)
  • Variety Lights  (Fellini, Italy)
  • The Walls of Malapaga  (Clement, France)
  • The White-haired Girl  (Khoua, China)

Note:  There are 7 films from Italy – the most from any country since 1937.

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

  • The Rules of the Game  (1939)
  • Vienna Blood  (1942)
  • Pink String and Sealing Wax  (1945)
  • Gates of the Night  (1946)
  • The Sin of Harold Diddlebock  (1947)
  • Amore  (1948)
  • Hidden River  (1948)
  • No Orchids for Miss Blandish  (1948)
  • Les Parents Terribles  (1948)
  • Treasured Earth  (1948)
  • Bitter Rice  (1949)
  • Distant Journey  (1949)
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets  (1949)
  • The Red Danube  (1949)
  • The Rocking Horse Winner  (1949)
  • That Forsyte Woman  (1949)
  • The Third Man  (1949)

Note:  This list includes my #2, #4, #7 and three others in the Top 20, but it’s balanced out by also including the worst film of the year.  These 17 films average a 73.2.

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

  • God Needs Men  (1951)
  • The Golden Salamander  (1951)
  • La Ronde  (1951)
  • The Mudlark  (1951)
  • Seven Days to Noon  (1951)
  • So Long at the Fair  (1951)
  • Sunday in August  (1951)
  • The Wooden Horse  (1951)
  • Les Enfants Terribles  (1952)
  • The Fall of Berlin  (1952)
  • Flowers of St. Francis  (1952)
  • Los Olvidados  (1952)
  • Justice is Done  (1954)
  • Tormento  (1955)
  • Scandal  (1964)
  • Variety Lights  (1965)

Note: These films average a 71 but only two of them would have made the Top 20.  This year is definitely more competitive when going by the Academy list.  A quick note – like with Bicycle Thieves the year before, Rashomon is a tricky film.  It was originally released in 1950.  But, it won Best Foreign Film from the Academy in 1951, so I include it as if it were a 1951 film.  And, since it was nominated for Best Art Direction in 1952, I actually include it for other awards in 1952.

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