The impact hits home to Alec Guinness in his very deserving Oscar win.

The impact hits home to Alec Guinness in his very deserving Oscar win.

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.  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.

For the first time in a while, I’m only listing 5 in each category (with one notable exception).  That’s because in this year there is such a large gap between the top 5 films and the other films and it carries over in a lot of categories.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai  **
  2. Paths of Glory
  3. 12 Angry Men  *
  4. Sweet Smell of Success
  5. Witness for the Prosecution  *

Analysis:  This is the first time since 1944 that my #5 film is a **** film but my #6 film is not (#6 is Tin Star).  There’s a six point difference between 5 and 6, the highest to this point.  That’s why I cut this year’s lists off at 5 – my top 5 here are the 5th highest to this date (behind 1946, 1950, 1940 and 1952) and they dominate my awards.  Three of these films, of course, were nominated for Best Picture.  The other two failed to earn any Oscar nominations at all.
Paths of Glory is one of the very best #2 films – on a par with The Maltese Falcon, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Third Man and Singin in the Rain.

  • the-bridge-on-the-river-kwaiBest Director
  1. David Lean  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)  **
  2. Stanley Kubrick  (Paths of Glory)
  3. Sidney Lumet  (12 Angry Men)  *
  4. Alexander MacKendrick  (Sweet Smell of Success)
  5. Billy Wilder  (Witness for the Prosecution)  *

Analysis:  Four top 20 directors and then MacKendrick.  The year before he finished 7th.  MacKendrick was quite a good director but he only made 9 films and can’t quite get into the Top 100.
Wilder earns his 7th nomination and takes 1st place in points with 450.  Lean earns his first of three wins and moves into the Top 10.  Kubrick earns his second nom (in a row), Lumet his first (of many) and MacKendrick, his only nomination.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai  **
  2. Paths of Glory
  3. 12 Angry Men  *
  4. Sweet Smell of Success
  5. Witness for the Prosecution

Analysis:  All five of the BP nominees are here, with five outstanding scripts.  This group ties 1940 for the best in this category to date.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. I Vitelloni  *
  2. The Tin Star  *
  3. The Wrong Man
  4. Woman in a Dressing Gown
  5. Battle of the River Plate

Analysis:  Only five of the top 20 films of the year are from original scripts.  This makes for the highest disparity between Adapted and Original screenplays to date (and probably the highest of all-time).  Even though I am not a huge fan of Fellini, because of the weakness of the year, I do something the Academy never did – give him Best Original Screenplay award.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Alec Guinness  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)  **
  2. Kirk Douglas  (Paths of Glory)
  3. Tony Curtis  (Sweet Smell of Success)
  4. Henry Fonda  (12 Angry Men)  *
  5. Charles Laughton  (Witness for the Prosecution)  *

Analysis:  A very strong top 5 and the category which has the best #6 finish on the year – Burt Lancaster, also from Sweet Smell of Success.  Guinness appeared in my top 10 all-time list for this category.  We also have the career best performance from Tony Curtis (it shows how good he was in that I was never a big Curtis fan and I do like Lancaster, but I go with Curtis instead).  I still find it stunning that Fonda wasn’t nominated for 12 Angry Men.  The only other Oscar nominee to even make my Top 10 is Anthony Franciosa, who comes in 10th place for A Hatful of Rain.
This is the 5th nomination (and 1st win) for Guinness but he’s still only tied for 14th in points.  It’s Fonda’s 5th nomination and he is tied for 11th.  It’s Laughton’s 7th nomination (he has 3 wins) but he’s only in 4th because Douglas earns his 8th (2 wins) and stays 10 points ahead of him in 3rd.  But Guinness will earn quite a few more nominations while the other four will only one earn one more combined (for Fonda).

  • Best Actress
  1. Joanne Woodward  (The Three Faces of Eve)  **
  2. Anna Magnani  (Wild is the Wind)  *
  3. Joanne Woodward  (No Down Payment)
  4. Marlene Dietrich  (Witness for the Prosecution)
  5. Eva Marie Saint  (A Hatful of Rain)  *
  6. Yvonne Mitchell  (Woman in a Dressing Gown)

Analysis:  A much weaker category.  Mitchell is on here because of the two performances from Woodward (she won the NBR for both films).  Saint and Dietrich were both Globe nominated and Mitchell was BAFTA nominated.
Woodward will go on to earn three more nominations – more than the other four combined (Dietrich will earn one more).  The other three Oscar nominees, come in 7th (Deborah Kerr, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison), 8th (Elizabeth Taylor, Raintree Country) and 11th (Lana Turner, Peyton Place).

  • the_Bridge_on_the_River_Kwai_1Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Sessue Hayakawa  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)  *
  2. Red Buttons  (Sayonara)  **
  3. Lee J. Cobb  (12 Angry Men)
  4. James Donald  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  5. Tony Randall  (No Down Payment)

Analysis:  Best Actor is filled with all-time actors – this group is not.  Only Cobb, earning his second of three nominations, earns any other Nighthawk nominations.  This is also a weaker group of nominees outside of Hayakawa, who is brilliant.  In 6th place is Arthur Kennedy, who was Oscar-nominated and was the best of the cast in Peyton Place.  The Tony Randall performance is hard to find but it is really an impressive dramatic performance from a usually comedic actor.

  • lanchesterBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Elsa Lanchester  (Witness for the Prosecution)  *
  2. Joanne Gilbert  (The Great Man)
  3. Miyoshi Umeki  (Sayonara)  *
  4. Vera Miles  (The Wrong Man)
  5. Hope Lange  (Peyton Place)  *

Analysis:  The weakness of the group is shown in that I mentioned above that Arthur Kennedy is the best of the cast in Peyton Place, but comes in 6th in a not particularly strong Supporting Actor category while Hope Lange does manage a nomination.  Lanchester is the only one of this five who ever earns another nomination, having also won in 1933 and been nominated in 1935.

  • Best Editing:
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Paths of Glory
  3. Sweet Smell of Success
  4. 12 Angry Men
  5. Witness for the Prosecution

Analysis:  The Academy was nominating an overblown film like Sayonara but ignoring the tight, crisp editing of Paths of Glory of 12 Angry Men.  But, they are improving with the winner.  In the first 19 years of this category the Oscar winner only finished in my top 5 five times and never won.  But, for the third time in five years I agree with the Oscar winner.  Granted, all three of those films won Best Picture as well and I also agree with those awards.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Paths of Glory
  3. Sweet Smell of Success
  4. 12 Angry Men
  5. Witness for the Prosecution

Analysis:  It would be a pain to check to be certain, but I can’t imagine in any other year that all five of my Best Picture nominees would compete against each other in six different categories.
In this year, the Academy did away with the Black and White / Color distinctions.  As it turns out, all five Oscar nominees were in Color.  Three of my five are in Black and White.  The Academy passed over these great films for Funny Face, An Affair to Remember, Sayonara and Peyton Place.  The first time it’s a combine category and it earns a 25 from me.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Raintree Country
  3. Forty Guns
  4. The Pride and the Passion
  5. Paths of Glory

Analysis:  Another category where the Academy dropped their split for the year, though since I don’t do a “Musical Score”, it’s not as big a deal to me.  The Pride and the Passion is not a particular good film but the score is good.  There’s a big drop here after my #1.

  • Best Sound:
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Paths of Glory
  3. The Tin Star
  4. The Enemy Blow
  5. Battle of the River Plate

Analysis:  Yes, even though it won 7 Oscars out of 8 nominations, Best Sound was not one of the wins for Bridge.  I understand that the Academy was obsessed with musicals in this category (they nominated Les Girls and Pal Joey) but to give the Oscar to Sayonara and not nominate Bridge?  Or any of these others?

  • Best Art Direction:
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Sweet Smell of Success
  3. Les Girls
  4. Raintree Country
  5. Paths of Glory

Analysis:  Another category where the B/W / Color split was dropped, another one where the Academy loves musicals (Funny Face and Pal Joey were also nominated) and another one where Sayonara, strangely, won the Oscar.  Although at least this time Sayonara was my #7 rather than my #13.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. The Enemy Below

Analysis:  The Academy generally chose well for the winner in this category, but in this case, it’s all about the bridge explosion.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Paths of Glory
  3. The Enemy Below
  4. Battle of the River Plate
  5. Men in War
  • Best Costume Design:
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Les Girls
  3. Raintree Country
  4. Mother India
  5. Elena and Her Men

Analysis:  Yet again, the B/W / Color split was dropped.  A weak year, especially coming off 1956, which was an extraordinary year in this category.  Not a single film here would have made the Top 7 in 1956.

  • curseBest Makeup
  1. The Curse of Frankenstein
  2. The Man of a Thousand Faces
  3. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  4. The White Reindeer
  5. Les Girls

Analysis:  The start of Hammer Horror brings some fascinating makeup work.

  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Jailhouse Rock”  (Jailhouse Rock)
  2. “Baby I Don’t Care”  (Jailhouse Rock)
  3. “Bonjour Paris”  (Funny Face)
  4. “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”  (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral)
  5. “Les Girls”  (Les Girls)

Analysis:  Jailhouse Rock brings us the first real Elvis film.  As I said in 1956, I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but there will be several years where an Elvis song is the clear winner.  For the most part, I couldn’t stand the songs the Academy was nominating in the late 50’s.

  • Best Animated Film:
  1. none

Analysis:  There were no eligible films.  Japan would have Panda and the Magic Serpent, but it wouldn’t reach the States until 1961.

  • seventhsealBest Foreign Film:
  1. The Seventh Seal
  2. Wild Strawberries
  3. Throne of Blood
  4. The Cranes are Flying
  5. Nights of Cabiria  **
  6. White Nights
  7. Aparajito
  8. The Lower Depths
  9. The Good Soldier Schweik
  10. The Crucible

note:  Films in orange were submitted to the Academy but not nominated.

Analysis:  This, of course, is the exception to the Top 5 list.  That’s because this is the best this category has ever had to offer.  Nights of Cabiria, the Oscar winner, is my #5.  Of the 30 previous years, it would have been #1 in 18 of them, in all but 4 years it would have been #2 and the only other year it would have been lower than #3 is the combined year of 1912-26.  In fact, The Good Soldier Schweik would have been #1 in 7 other years.  The second 5 here (all of which are ***.5 except White Nights, which is ****) are better than the top 5 in 20 of the previous years.  White Nights is the first film since The Last Laugh in 1912-26 to be a **** film and not be in the Top 5.
Since the Academy got it right the first year, giving the Oscar to La Strada, this is the first time where the way the Academy set up their system screws things up.  First of all, of course, they don’t nominate The Seventh Seal, one of the greatest films ever made.  Second, because of their one film per country rule, this excludes Wild Strawberries, the second best film.  Then, the country has to submit the right film.  Japan submitted Arakure, which I have never been able to track down (one of three of the 12 submitted films in this year I haven’t seen) rather than Throne of Blood, the third best film.  Then, the country has to actually submit a film, which the USSR wouldn’t do until 1963, leaving out The Cranes are Flying, the fourth best film.  At least they got the Oscar right by giving it to what was, by far, the best nominated film.  The next highest nominated film I ranked at #13 (Gates of Paris).  Overall, the five films nominated average a 75, which isn’t bad, though it’s mainly because of Nights and that there is no bad film (Best Picture averaged a 79.2 because Peyton Place is so bad).

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 Bridge on the River Kwai  (780)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Costume Design, Makeup
  • Witness for the Prosecution  (315)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography
  • Paths of Glory  (305)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Sound Editing
  • 12 Angry Men  (250)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography
  • Sweet Smell of Success  (240)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction
  • I Vitelloni  (80)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Battle of the River Plate  (80)
    • Original Screenplay, Sound, Sound Editing
  • Woman in a Dressing Gown  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress
  • The Wrong Man  (70)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress
  • The Three Faces of Eve  (70)
    • Actress
  • No Down Payment  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • The Tin Star  (60)
    • Original Screenplay, Sound
  • Sayonara  (60)
    • Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Raintree Country  (60)
    • Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • The Enemy Below  (60)
    • Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Les Girls  (55)
    • Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Original Song
  • Wild is the Wind  (35)
    • Actress
  • A Hatful of Rain  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Great Man  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • Peyton Place  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • Jailhouse Rock  (30)
    • Original Song, Original Song
  • Forty Guns  (25)
    • Original Score
  • The Pride and the Passion  (25)
    • Original Score
  • Men in War  (20)
    • Sound Editing
  • The Curse of Frankenstein  (20)
    • Makeup
  • Mother India  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • Elena and Her Men  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • The Man of a Thousand Faces  (10)
    • Makeup
  • The White Reindeer  (10)
    • Makeup
  • Funny Face  (10)
    • Original Song
  • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis:  The dominance of the Top 5 makes for an oddity: all 5 of the Best Picture nominees have over 200 points and no other film has more than 100 points.  Compare this to 1956, which had 12 films over 100 points or 1955, where one of the BP nominees didn’t reach 200 points but also had 12 films with over 100 points.

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • A Face in the Crowd

Analysis:  This is what happens when the Top 5 films dominate.  Here is my #7 film on the year, a high ***.5 film and it never finishes higher than 7th.  It does have four Top 10 finishes (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor), but that’s the best it can muster when faced with the dominant five.  My #8 (Rififi) and #9 (The Good Soldier Schweik) films also fail to earn any nominations.  Schweik will dominate in Comedy (in a weak year).  Rififi actually earns 6 Top 10 finishes and finishes in 6th place twice (Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography), but can’t break into the Top 5 at all.  I don’t know that there’s any other year where three of my Top 10 films fail to earn any nominations.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Heaven Knows Mr. Allison

Analysis:  This is a very good film and earns four Top 10 finishes from me, but can’t break into the Top 5.  It won the NYFC for Best Actress, two Oscar noms, two BAFTA noms, a Globe nom and a WGA nom.  I thought for certain this would be a terrible film like Peyton Place, which between the Oscars, Globes and Guilds earned 13 nominations, but Hope Lange earned the 5th Supporting Actress spot in a weak field (and Arthur Kennedy almost made it, finishing 6th in Supporting Actor) and a terrible film earns a nomination where a very good one did not.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Paths of Glory
  3. 12 Angry Men
  4. Sweet Smell of Success
  5. Witness for the Prosecution

Analysis:  Just the same as the list above because it’s really not a good year for Comedies or Musicals.

  • Best Director
  1. David Lean  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  2. Stanley Kubrick  (Paths of Glory)
  3. Sidney Lumet  (12 Angry Men)
  4. Alexander MacKendrick  (Sweet Smell of Success)
  5. Billy Wilder  (Witness for the Prosecution)

Analysis:  Wilder moves into a tie for 3rd place in Drama points.  This will be it for him, as basically the rest of his films will be Comedies.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Paths of Glory
  3. 12 Angry Men
  4. Sweet Smell of Success
  5. Witness for the Prosecution
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Tin Star
  2. The Wrong Man
  3. Woman in a Dressing Gown
  4. Battle of the River Plate
  5. The Man of a Thousand Faces

Analysis:  The one place where a Comedy film was on the original list.  The Man of a Thousand Faces was Oscar-nominated for Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen.

  • guinnessBest Actor:
  1. Alec Guinness  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  2. Kirk Douglas  (Paths of Glory)
  3. Tony Curtis  (Sweet Smell of Success)
  4. Henry Fonda  (12 Angry Men)
  5. Charles Laughton  (Witness for the Prosecution)

Analysis:  As neither Douglas or Laughton were much for Comedy, they are again #3 and 4 in points here.  Guinness, on the other hand, is earning only his second Drama nomination (though there will be many more to come).

  • woodwardBest Actress
  1. Joanne Woodward  (The Three Faces of Eve)
  2. Anna Magnani  (Wild is the Wind)
  3. Joanne Woodward  (No Down Payment)
  4. Marlene Dietrich  (Witness for the Prosecution)
  5. Eva Marie Saint  (A Hatful of Rain)

Analysis:  Magnani’s fifth (and final) nomination gets her into the Top 10 in Drama points.  Because I cut off the list at 5, Yvonne Mitchell doesn’t make this list even though she gets an actual Nighthawk nomination.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Sessue Hayakawa  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  2. Red Buttons  (Sayonara)
  3. Lee J. Cobb  (12 Angry Men)
  4. James Donald  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  5. Tony Randall  (No Down Payment)
  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Elsa Lanchester  (Witness for the Prosecution)
  2. Joanne Gilbert  (The Great Man)
  3. Miyoshi Umeki  (Sayonara)
  4. Vera Miles  (The Wrong Man)
  5. Hope Lange  (Peyton Place)

Points:

  • The Bridge on the River Kwai  (430)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Witness for the Prosecution  (265)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • 12 Angry Men  (200)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Paths of Glory  (170)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • Sweet Smell of Success  (170)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • The Tin Star  (80)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Wrong Man  (70)
    • Original Screenplay, Supporting Actress
  • The Three Faces of Eve  (70)
    • Actress
  • No Down Payment  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Sayonara  (60)
    • Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Battle of the River Plate  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Woman in a Dressing Gown  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Man of a Thousand Faces  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • A Hatful of Rain  (35)
    • Actress
  • Wild is the Wind  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Great Man  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • Peyton Place  (30)
    • Supporting Actress

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • A Face in the Crowd

Analysis:  Just like above, it is kept out of the major categories because of the Top 5 films.

Comedy/Musical:

  • Best Picture
  1. The Good Soldier Schweik
  2. I Vitelloni

Analysis:  Two lower-level ***.5 films.  I reviewed Schweik in my Year in Film post here.

  • Best Director
  1. Federico Fellini  (I Vitelloni)
  2. Karel Steklý  (The Good Soldier Schweik)

Analysis:  Though I think his very best films are his Dramas (Nights of Cabiria, La Strada), Fellini is mainly known for Comedies and he will soon be soaring up the points list.  On the other hand, this is the only film I’ve seen by Steklý.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Good Soldier Schweik

Analysis:  I will write more about this novel when I eventually get around to a Best Adapted Screenplay post for this year, sometime in 2019 or so.  I was originally supposed to read it for a class.  I didn’t finish it, nor did anyone else in the class.  But I kept it and years later finally finished it and really admired it.  It came close to my Top 100 Novels list and is on my Top 200 list.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. I Vitelloni
  • Frank_Sinatra2,_Pal_JoeyBest Actor:
  1. Frank Sinatra  (Pal Joey)
  2. Rudolf Hrusinski  (The Good Soldier Schweik)
  3. Fred Astaire  (Funny Face)

Analysis:  Astaire is tied for 5th in points but surprisingly this is the only time I nominate Sinatra for a Comedy or Musical.  I just think he’s a lot better as a dramatic actor.  He’s charming in Musicals, but really just going through the motions.  He puts a real effort into his acting in the Dramas.

  • Hepburn, Audrey (Funny Face)_17Best Actress
  1. Audrey Hepburn  (Funny Face)
  2. Audrey Hepburn  (Love in the Afternoon)

Analysis:  The win and nomination for Hepburn moves her all the way up to 4th place in Comedy points, behind only Katharine Hepburn, Marie Dressler and Carole Lombard.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Mickey Rooney  (Operation Mad Ball)
  2. Maurice Chevalier  (Love in the Afternoon)
  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. none

Points:

  • The Good Soldier Schweik  (260)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • I Vitelloni  (220)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay
  • Funny Face  (105)
    • Actor, Actress
  • Pal Joey  (70)
    • Actor
  • Love in the Afternoon  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Operation Mad Ball  (60)
    • Supporting Actor

Analysis:  Because I’m not a big fan of the big Musicals of the year, Les Girls, Funny Face and Pal Joey, this is a weak crop.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Les Girls

Analysis:  It is a good film, my #22 of the year and my #3 Comedy / Musical.  But I wasn’t impressed by the acting and it doesn’t earn any higher than high ***, so it gets nothing in my nominations.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  144

By Stars:

  • ****:  5
  • ***.5:  9
  • ***:  85
  • **.5:  30
  • **:  9
  • *.5:  1
  • *:  2
  • .5:  3
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  63.52

Analysis:  A slight drop from 1956 and the worst since 1934.  It has the fewest **** films since 1948 and the fewest by percentage of total films since 1929-30.  It’s the first time since 1944 that less than 10% of the films are **** or ***.5.  And there are the most **.5 films since 1934.  Not to mention the three .5 films – as many as all the years to this point combined.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • none

Other Award Nominated Films I Have Not Seen (in descending order of points total):

  • The Shiralee  (BAFTA – Picture, British Film)
  • The Birthday Present  (BAFTA – British Screenplay)
  • The Constant Husband  (BAFTA – British Screenplay – 1955)
  • Anastasia: The Czar’s Last Daughter  (BAFTA – Foreign Actress)
  • Manuela  (BAFTA – British Actor)

note:  All of these, as you notice, are BAFTA nominated films.  Of them, only The Constant Husband ever had an Oscar eligible release in the States.

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  It’s #51 overall and a rather unique year.  There is only one other year that has a film as good as The Bridge on the River Kwai and a film as bad as Peyton Place, which is 1967.  The mediocrity of Sayonara and the awfulness of Peyton Place drag down the overall ranking.  It’s also strange in that it’s one of seven years in the five BP Era in which three of the nominees fail to win an Oscar.  It was also the first, and for a long time, the only year to have a BP / Best Director 5-5 match.

The Winners:  The average winner ranks at 1.53 among the nominees, which is the third best to date.  Twelve times the Academy chose the best of its nominees, which ties for second best to date.  But that has a lot to do with the 7 Oscars for Bridge.  Overall, the rank is 3.35 among total films (4th best to date) and I agree with 8 of the Oscars, but 7 of those are from Bridge, so that is more about what I and the Academy think of Bridge, rather than an overall agreement.  But, where they do well, is that in only four categories (Original Screenplay, Sound, Art Direction, Song), does the Oscar winner fail to make my Top 5.

The Nominees:  The nominees overall are an improvement over 1956, but not great overall.  The overall score of 52.3 is a seven point improvement, but still one of the worst scores since the 30’s.  Part of it is the acting score (71.3 – the lowest since 1947) and part of it is that Picture and Director matched 5/5 and since Director in previous years has generally been a distinct improvement over Picture, there’s nothing to gain there.  Best Song is the worst category, earning a 16.7, the worst score since 1937.

Golden Globe Best Picture – Comedy / Musical:  This year ranks 47th.  No film ranks in the Top 150 but no film ranks below 250.  As is obvious from my lack of nominees in this category, there really isn’t much to go on in this year.  I have all five nominees (Pal Joey – winner, Love in the Afternoon, Silk Stockings, Don’t Go Near the Water, Les Girls) as mid-range *** films.  This makes it just one of 10 years in which no film ranks above ***, though of those ten years, this ranks the second highest (1981 is higher).

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  The Bridge on the River Kwai  (reviewed here and here)

The unluckiest film in Nighthawk Awards history.

The unluckiest film in Nighthawk Awards history.

2  –  Paths of Glory  (dir. Stanley Kubrick)

It is said “it is the tale, not he who tells it.”  So, is it the war that dictates the film?  I’ve seen hundreds of war films, many of them great.  Several of them I would classify as “anti-war” films, films that show the true folly and waste of war.  Those generally fall into two categories: Vietnam and World War I.  The Europeans have made great films that show the folly and waste in WWII (Ivan’s Childhood, The Bridge, Das Boot).  But it’s really World War I that shows what a waste this all is – the three very best anti-war films, The Grand Illusion, All Quiet on the Western Front and Paths of Glory all brilliantly make that clear.  Of course, it’s much easier to argue that World War II had a point.  Really, how do you make a film about the Great War and not have it be about the complete waste?

In spite of how easy it is to make this war seem like a waste, this is still a remarkable achievement.  It is the story of the generals who desperately want to win the war, or, barring that, desperately want to appear to be winning the war.  It is as senseless as everything else about this war was.  It begins with the ordered attempt to take a position that cannot be taken.  When that fails, as it inevitably will, it is the story of the cover-up, of the generals finding the men who can take the blame.  Three men are chosen to be accused of cowardice and will be executed.

In the middle of all of this stands one man.  His name is Colonel Dax and he is played by Kirk Douglas in one of those roles that show he could play angry better than any other actor working.  In films like Champion and The Bad and the Beautiful he had shown himself capable of anger.  But here, it is a different kind of rage – righteous anger at being forced to try to right a wrong that he knows he has no chance of righting.  He does everything he can to defend these three men, none of whom belong here (one is chosen because his commanding officer wants to cover up something, one is a social undesirable, the last is chosen at random in spite of previous citations for bravery).  He knew the attack was foolish to begin with, knew that it never had a chance.  But he does what he can in the course of the trial.  But then we come to the inevitable outcome and that’s when Douglas really stirs himself into fury.

First, he condemns the man who ordered the attack in the first place, the general who desperately wants to move up and who will actually find this to be his downfall.  But then that attack is mistaken as a career move – to knock off the general so he can move into his place.  But that just tears the top off and Douglas spews all the venom he can possibly unleash.

All of this is dark and brutal.  The film is made with exquisite care – brilliant lighting on the night shots in the trenches, a masterful use of sound during the attack, a brilliant, forceful performance from Douglas at the heart of the film.  But then comes the finale and we find both a measure of calm and a measure of extra pathos to end the film.  The men are allowing themselves some relaxation in an inn.  They drink and carouse and then find themselves listening to a young girl sinking a folk song and all is quiet and grace for a minute.  They don’t know what Dax knows, standing outside, that they are headed back into death and darkness in the war.

Watch this alongside Joyeux Noël, the French film about the Christmas truce.  In one film, you can see the common core of humanity shared by those men who were forced to fight in this war.  In this film, you can see the insanity and recklessness that sent them off to die in the first place.

3  –  12 Angry Men  (reviewed here)

Tony Curtis gives a career best performance.

Tony Curtis gives a career best performance.

4  –  Sweet Smell of Success  (dir. Alexander MacKendrick)

In Sweet Smell of Success, Tony Curtis gives the performance of a lifetime as Sidney Falco. Falco is a press agent, and one of the lowest. By lowest I don’t mean unsuccessful. I mean he is willing to do whatever he has to, whatever he can. There are no depths to which he will not sink in order to get the name of one of his clients into a popular column so that they can get the press and he can keep his business going. He will lie, he will cheat, he will blackmail, he will degrade himself and anyone else who gets in his way. There are many who would label him a cockroach. Of the two main characters in Sweet Smell of Success, he is the more sympathetic.

The man whose column he desperately wants his clients to be listed in is named J.J. Hunsecker. He is a bald caricature of the famous columnist Walter Winchell. He sits on his perch in a restaurant as the rich and famous and powerful come to him because he has the power to make or break such people with one column. He views himself as the arbiter of taste and morality.  That he has no real sense of morality never seems to cross anyone’s mind, except maybe Sidney’s.

This film is about the way the lives of the two men intersect, as Falco craves the approval of Hunsecker (approval, I might note, that can arrive in a variety of ways) and Hunsecker thinks Falco can help get rid of the jazz musician that Hunsecker’s sister is involved with (Hunsecker’s relationship with his sister veers into unhealthy territory).  In the end, this will end with one of the men being doomed and one of them being destroyed.  You can watch the film for yourself and decide which is which.

This film was a change of pace for Alexander MacKendrick.  Though he was American, he was one of the best (maybe the best) of the Ealing directors, culminating his career there with The Ladykillers.  He returned to the States and made this film, easily his best film.  But he would only make three more films, none of them noteworthy and then at the end of the sixties would move into academia for the rest of his life.  He could have been a Top 100 director and this film is evident of his talent.  Everything about this film – the direction, the script, the acting, the art direction, the cinematography – is first-rate.  Yet, like Paths of Glory, this film was passed over entirely by the Academy.  Because, why waste nominations on films of this level of quality when you can reward cinematic trash like Peyton Place with 9 nominations?

5  –  Witness for the Prosecution  (reviewed here).

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. Attack of the Crab Monsters
  2. The Vampire
  3. Rodan
  4. Guns Don’t Argue
  5. Daughter of Dr. Jekyll

note:  Four Horror films (I count Monster films as Horror films).  With three .5 films and two * films, this is the worst group of bottom 5 to date.  Roger Corman, who directed Crab Monsters, also directed Not of This Earth, the 6th worst film of the year.

Roger Corman does low-budget with low-quality.

Roger Corman does low-budget with low-quality.

Attack of the Crab Monsters  (dir. Roger Corman)

There are people who really enjoy Roger Corman films.  For the most part, that is not me (the primary exceptions are the Poe films).  I’m not certain why Ed Wood gets so lambasted as the worst director of all-time when a lot of the early Corman films aren’t that much better than the Wood films.  Maybe it’s because Corman would become so important later on (he would run American International Pictures and would become a mentor to many future directors, giving the first directing jobs to Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme and Martin Scorsese, all future Oscar winners and would launch the acting careers of Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda).

Attack of the Crab Monsters is, in many ways, just another Ed Wood film.  It has a science-fiction element (giant crab monsters have been mutated out of nuclear tests) and it continually keeps the plot moving.  It is made with actors who don’t have a shred of talent and is filled with terrible dialogue and a ridiculous story.  It also has special effects which are just pathetic and laughable.

So, is what makes this movie escape the kind of scorn heaped on Plan 9 from Outer Space the fact that Corman had a sense of humor and deliberately tried to play part of this for laughs?  After all, the great irony about Ed Wood, is that is a comedy, when Wood played his movies absolutely straight.  So that can make this camp rather than just bad filmmaking.  But just because something can be played for camp doesn’t make the total lack of quality on every level any better (at least to me).

Yes, Horror can be done with a sense of fun (Sam Raimi comes to mind).  But it would actually be when Corman would decide to play it a bit more straight and take his ideas from Poe that he would actually make films worth watching.

Points:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Bridge on the River Kwai  (15)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  The Bridge on the River Kwai  (13)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  The Bridge on the River Kwai  (780)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  Peyton Place
  • 2nd Place Award:  Paths of Glory  (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing)  *
  • 6th Place Award:  The Tin Star  (Picture, Director, Editing)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  The Bridge on the River Kwai  /  Witness for the Prosecution  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  The Bridge on the River Kwai  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  The Bridge on the River Kwai  (430)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  Peyton Place
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  Good Soldier Schweik  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  Good Soldier Schweik  /  I Vitelloni  (2)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  Good Soldier Schweik  (260)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  Operation Mad Ball

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

Note:  Paths of Glory becomes the first film to come in 2nd place 8 times.

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:  Humphrey Bogart  (475)
  • Actress:  Bette Davis  (555)
  • Director:   Billy Wilder  (450)
  • Writer:  Billy Wilder  (760)
  • Cinematographer:  Arthur Edeson  /  Gregg Toland  (200)
  • Composer:  Max Steiner  (450)
  • Foreign Film:  Akira Kurosawa  (280)

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

  • Drama:  64 (14)  –  12 Angry Men  (66.7)
  • Foreign:  32  –  The Good Soldier Schweik  (65.1)
  • Comedy:  21 (8)  –  I Vitelloni  (63.9)
  • War:  12 (1)  –  The Bridge on the River Kwai  (69.1)
  • Musical:  11 (4)  –  Les Girls  (64.6)
  • Horror:  10 (4)  –  The White Reindeer  (42.1)
  • Crime:  7 (2)  –  The Brothers Rico  (59.1)
  • Western:  5  –  The Tin Star  (70.2)
  • Sci-Fi:  4  –  X the Unknown  (43.3)
  • Adventure:  3  –  Legend of the Lost  (57)
  • Fantasy:  2  –  The Incredible Shrinking Man  (50)
  • Mystery:  1  –  Witness for the Prosecution  (92)
  • Kids:  1  –  Old Yeller  (70)
  • Action:  1  –  China Gate  (63)
  • Suspense:  0

Analysis:  The 21 Comedies are the most since 1942.  But they’re also the worst since 1951.  The 64 Dramas are the most since 1933.  It’s the first year with multiple Fantasy films since 1947.  The 32 Foreign Films tie 1949 for the most in a single year to date but have their lowest average since 1945.  The 10 Horror films are the most to date but by far the worst to date and the 12 War films are the most since 1943.  The Crime films are the most since 1950 but the worst since 1945.  The 11 Musicals, however, are the fewest since 1950.
There is only 1 Comedy in the Top 10 (and Top 20) – the fewest for each since 1951.  But there are 3 War films in the Top 10, as many as 1944 to 1956 combined.  Bridge on the River Kwai becomes the first War film since Grand Illusion to win Best Picture, and thus, the first WWII film to win.

Studio Note:  The major studios continue to drop as an overall percentage of films, down to 66.4%.  In part this is because of the death of RKO – it would release its last 11 films this year (only one of which, Run of the Arrow, have I seen).  20th Century-Fox would have the most (21) – the most by the studio I’ve seen since 1950 and the most I’ve seen by any studio since 1953.  There would be a lot more from Warners (15 – the most for me since 1941) and United Artists (14 – the most for me since 1937); this would be just the start of a massive UA increase.  There would be a great increase from independent distributors – for the first time since 1949 and only the second time since 1928, I would see at least 6 films from two films not among the majors (6 each from Allied Artists and Distributors Corporation of America), as well as 4 from Rank.  Allied Artists would provide 3 of the 6 worst films of the year and only average a 40.

While Columbia would win its 4th Best Picture in 5 years after never having won the Nighthawk before 1953 (three of which would also win the Oscar), it would be United Artists that would be truly impressive.  UA would take the next four spots, becoming the only studio to ever have 4 Nighthawk nominees for Best Picture in the same year and the first studio to have 4 Top 10 films since 1946.

41 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 was the Official selection for the Oscar, two asterisks were nominated, three asterisks won the Oscar):

  • Absolutamento Certo  (Duarte, Brazil)
  • And Quiet Flows the Don  (Gerasimov, USSR)
  • Aparajito  (Ray, India)
  • Berlin Schonhauser Corner  (Klein, East Germany)
  • The Body Snatcher  (Mendez, Mexico)
  • La Casa del angel  (Nilsson, Argentina)
  • The Confessions of Felix Krull  (Hoffmann, West Germany)
  • The Cranes are Flying  (Kalatozov, USSR)
  • The Crucible  (Rouleau, France)
  • The Devil Came at Night  (Siodmak, West Germany)  **
  • Don Quixote  (Kozintsev, USSR)
  • The Gates of Paris  (Clair, France)  **
  • The Good Soldier Schweik  (Stekly, Czechoslovakia)
  • He Who Must Die  (Dassin, France)
  • High Street  (Bardem, Spain)  *
  • I Am Waiting  (Kurahara, Japan)
  • Il Grido  (Antonioni, Italy)
  • In Soldier’s Uniform  (Feher, Hungary)
  • Kanal  (Wajda, Poland)
  • The Lagoon of Desire  (Zervos, Greece)  *
  • The Lower Depths  (Kurosawa, Japan)
  • Lust of the Vampire  (Freda, Italy)
  • A Matter of Dignity  (Cacoyannis, Greece)
  • Monpti  (Kautner, West Germany)
  • Mother India  (Khan, India)  **
  • Naya Daur  (Chopra, India)
  • Nights of Cabiria  (Fellini, Italy)  ***
  • Nine Lives  (Skouen, Norway)  **
  • Pyaasa  (Dutt, India)
  • Rio Fantasia  (Macedo, Brazil)
  • The Seventh Seal  (Bergman, Sweden)  *
  • Snow Queen  (Atamanov, USSR)
  • Three Make a Pair  (Guitry, France)
  • Throne of Blood  (Kurosawa, Japan)
  • Tizoc  (Rodriguez, Mexico)
  • Tokyo Twilight  (Ozu, Japan)
  • The Vampire  (Mendez, Mexico)
  • White Nights  (Visconti, Italy)
  • The Wide Blue Road  (Pontecorvo, Italy)
  • Wild Strawberries  (Bergman, Sweden)
  • Yellow Crow  (Gosho, Japan)

Note:  For the first time since 1949 no country has more than 5 films (Japan and Italy each have 5).  I’ve got my first film from Norway since 1949 and my first from Hungary since 1935.  India has 4 films – the first time it has had more than 2.  Kozinstev’s Don Quixote becomes the first Foreign Adventure film I’ve seen since 1947.  There are 21 Foreign Dramas (the most since 1949) and 4 Foreign War (the most to date).

Foreign Films Submitted for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars That I Haven’t Seen:

  • Denmark:  No Time for Tenderness  (dir. Hovmand)
  • Japan:  Arakure  (dir. Naruse)
  • Taiwan:  Amina  (dir. Congmei)

note:  At this point I am making a concerted effort to see as many submitted films as I can.  These are the ones I have not been able to track down.  Arakure is the most disappointing, as it was submitted over two Kurosawa films (one of them absolutely brilliant) and was directed by a major director.

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

  • The White Reindeer  (1952)
  • The White Sheik  (1952)
  • I Vitelloni  (1953)
  • The Virtuous Scandal  (1953)
  • Gold of Naples  (1954)
  • The Colditz Story  (1955)
  • The Grand Maneuver  (1955)
  • A Hero of Our Times  (1955)
  • Jedda  (1955)
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover  (1955)
  • Magic Fire  (1955)
  • Rififi  (1955)
  • Stella  (1955)
  • And God Created Woman  (1956)
  • Battle of the River Plate  (1956)
  • Carnival Night  (1956)
  • Elena and Her Men  (1956)
  • Four Bags Full  (1956)
  • The Great Man  (1956)
  • The Green Man  (1956)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame  (1956)
  • The Long Arm  (1956)
  • Mademoiselle Striptease  (1956)
  • Reach for the Sky  (1956)
  • Rodan  (1956)
  • Smiley  (1956)
  • Street of Shame  (1956)
  • A Town Like Alice  (1956)
  • The Wrong Man  (1956)
  • X, the Unknown  (1956)
  • Yield to the Night  (1956)

Note:  There are a handful of ***.5 films (The White Reindeer, I Vitelloni, Rififi, The Wrong Man), ranking between 8 and 14, but overall these films only average a 65.

Films Not Listed at Oscars.org:

  • Absolutamento Certo
  • Berlin Schonhauser Corner
  • The Body Snatcher
  • Carnival Night
  • The Good Soldier Schweik
  • A Hero of Our Times
  • I Am Waiting
  • In Soldier’s Uniform
  • Jedda
  • The Lagoon of Desire
  • Lust of the Vampire
  • A Matter of Dignity
  • Mother India
  • Naya Daur
  • Pyaasa
  • Rio Fantasia
  • Three Make a Pair
  • Time Without Pity
  • Tizoc
  • The Virtuous Scandal
  • The White Reindeer
  • Woman in a Dressing Gown
  • Yellow Crow

Note:  I use the list at Oscars.org for deciding which year films are eligible in.  For some films, however, they don’t appear in that database.  For those films, I use the IMDb.  These are the films that aren’t listed in the Oscars.org database but that end up in this year.
All but three of these films are foreign language films (the other three are English language non-American films – Jedda is from Australia while Time Without Pity and Woman in a Dressing Gown are both British films).
All but five of these films are 1957 films that never seemed to have a U.S. release – the other five are all listed above in the films from other years.  A number of these films were Golden Globe winners for Best Foreign Film (White Reindeer, Yellow Crow, Tizoc).  The Lagoon of Desire was submitted for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars (many films submitted never seem to get an actual U.S. release), but Mother India was actually nominated, which makes its exclusion strange.

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

  • Across the Bridge  (1958)
  • All at Sea  (1958)
  • Bitter Victory  (1958)
  • Blood of Dracula  (1958)
  • The Confessions of Felix Krull  (1958)
  • Hell Drivers  (1958)
  • High Street  (1958)
  • Lafayette Escandrille  (1958)
  • Lovers of Paris  (1958)
  • Night Ambush  (1958)
  • Night of the Demon  (1958)
  • Nights of Cabiria  (1958)
  • The Smallest Show on Earth  (1958)
  • The Vampire  (1958)
  • Windom’s Way  (1958)
  • Aparajito  (1959)
  • The Crucible  (1959)
  • The Devil Came at Night  (1959)
  • The Gates of Paris  (1959)
  • He Who Must Die  (1959)
  • Monpti  (1959)
  • Nine Lives  (1959)
  • The Seventh Seal  (1959)
  • Wild Strawberries  (1959)
  • An Alligator Named Daisy  (1960)
  • And Quiet Flows the Don  (1960)
  • La Casa del angel  (1960)
  • The Cranes are Flying  (1960)
  • The Snow Queen  (1960)
  • The Incredible Petrified World  (1961)
  • Don Quixote  (1962)
  • Kanal  (1962)
  • The Lower Depths  (1962)
  • Throne of Blood  (1962)
  • Il Grido  (1963)
  • White Nights  (1963)
  • Tokyo Twilight  (1972)
  • A King in New York  (1974)
  • The Wide Blue Road  (2001)

Note:  These films average a 70.6, with a lot of great Foreign films that get pushed to later years.  The average film released in 1957 is a 64.9, a big increase over the 63.5 average for films eligible in 1957.  There are Best Picture nominees in four different years on this list.

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