A Century of Film

Costume Design

Costumes have been important since the early days of cinema.  Imagine what some of the classic silent films like Intolerance or Hunchback of Notre Dame would have looked like without good costumes.  But once Technicolor arrived and things could really pop on-screen costumes went to a whole new level.  So it’s completely ridiculous that the Academy waited until 1948 before giving out an award for the category; they missed out entirely on the career of one of film’s greatest designers in Adrian and missed the chance to heap another award on Gone with the Wind (even if my own award goes to Wizard of Oz).

But, the Academy did finally come around in 1948 even if other awards groups would take much longer.  Since then, they’ve often done a good job (read the note after my Top 5) and think of some of the costumes through history that have made a film so memorable, from the brilliant work in Amadeus to the green dress in Atonement.

My Top 5 Costumes in Film History:

  1. Amadeus
  2. Dangerous Liaisons
  3. Barry Lyndon
  4. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  5. Marie Antoinette

This is the rare category where I don’t have to spend any time debating what my #1 pick is all-time.  It’s interesting that all five of these films won the Oscar (as, of course, they all deserved to) but all five of them lost at the BAFTAs which I find to be really strange. (more…)

A Century of Film

Adapted Screenplay

It didn’t take long for screenwriters to realize that what had been successful in other mediums could be successful in film as well.  After all, what is probably the first great film, A Trip to the Moon, came from H.G. Wells before Melies visualized it. (more…)

A Century of Film

Original Screenplay

It’s a bit difficult to write the history of original screenplays on film.  First of all, it’s been hard to determine, a lot of times, over the years, if a film truly is original or not.  When the old oscars.org site existed they listed films by a source author which was really helpful for determining if something was adapted or not but not perfect as sometimes the “source” was just a screen story or an idea.  There were also occasions where they didn’t list anything, the same way that sometimes the IMDb or Wikipedia don’t list a source material and I end up considering something original until someone points out that it’s not. (more…)

A Century of Film


Film History Through 1929

I’m certainly not going to discuss all of film history through 1929.  That has been done in numerous books in far more detail than I could ever discuss here.  There are some important dates that should not be ignored like 1912 (the release of Richard III, the oldest surviving feature-length film), 1915 (the release of The Birth of a Nation), the formation of the major studios (remember that what you think of as major may not meet that definition – it’s the five studios that both distributed films and owned theaters to which they could distribute the films and those were Fox, MGM, Warners, Paramount and RKO Radio, the last of which began releasing films in 1929, thus cementing the status of the five majors) and the double whammy of the introduction of sound with The Jazz Singer and the inception of the Academy Awards. (more…)

A Century of Film


RKO


The Studio

A first note that the picture of the logo above, as always, comes from here and again there is an excellent piece on the history of the logo.

“[David] Sarnoff and Boston financier Joseph Kennedy created RKO back in 1928.  They merged several film companies into a fully integrated major, RKO-Radio Pictures, with RCA providing the sound, and the new studio immediately took off.  In 1930, its second full year of operation RKO pulled in profits of nearly $3.5 million.  But business had been so good during the talkie boom that it was impossible for a major studio not to make money.  Only when the Depression hit in 1931 did Sarnoff realize how inefficiently the studio was being run.  He was impressed when Selznick looked him up in New York to pitch his unit-production scheme. … David Selznick, at age twenty-nine, became RKO’s ‘vice president in charge of production’.”  (The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era, Thomas Schatz, p 127-28) (more…)

If you don’t know what is being said in this scene you are sadly deficient when it comes to the greatest Comedy film ever made.

A Century of Film


Comedies


The Genre

“As America’s principal purveyor of entertainment, Hollywood packaged comedy in many forms.  In 1929, Variety surveyed the major studios and classified production trends into seven categories.  Comedy was divided into two – comedy drama and comedy.  The types subsumed under comedy drama consisted of society, rural, city, mystery, college, and domestic, and the types under comedy consisted of farce and action-adventure.  A quarter of all the films produced by the majors in 1929 could be classified as comedies of one sort or another.  Although comic types metamorphosed into the sophisticated, low-life, anarchistic, sentimental, folksy, screwball, populist, or romantic, the production trend remained a key component of every studio’s roster.”  (Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939, Tino Balio, p 256) (more…)

A Century of Film


DreamWorks


The Studio

It’s not as well known as the UA story but it’s in a similar vein.  In fact, everything I looked at before writing this piece referenced the founding of United Artists and the way four major players in Hollywood came together to form their own studio.  The big difference was that those were three stars and a director.  Here, it was a director, a man who had been mostly running a studio and a man who hadn’t done so well with films but had made himself a billionaire through music. (more…)

A Century of Film

Editing

The very first films didn’t have editing.  But it didn’t take long for a filmmaker such as George Milies to discover how important editing was – his entire concept of special effects was built around what could be done with editing.  When films started to come out at feature length, it was the D.W. Griffith films that showed how editing could craft a great picture, followed just a few years later by the masterful work in the Sergei Eisenstein films. (more…)

A Century of Film


1994


The Films

Each film will have the following information:

  • Line 1:  the title, as it appeared on oscars.org for the first three parts of the list
  • Line 2:  alternate titles, including original language title if applicable; if a title on the alternate list is in bold, it means it’s the title I generally use, including on the full ranking at the bottom
  • Line 3:  U.S. release date (BoxOfficeMojo as primary source, IMDb as secondary, any other source if available – my list is based on the Oscar list which was based on L.A. release date, so some BOM release dates may be from 1993), length (as listed on the IMDb), MPAA rating, genre (my decision unless I wasn’t able to see it, in which case I go with the IMDb), U.S. distributor (if available / applicable), original country (if not the U.S. with original language in parenthesis if not English)
  • Line 4:  director, as listed on the IMDB – for the list and the next two lines, I use just the first initial and last name for space and time considerations and I list it as listed on the IMDb which is why certain Asian names might not fit listings for how they appear elsewhere
  • Line 5:  writers, as listed on the IMDB with source in parenthesis following if applicable
  • Line 6:  primary actors as listed on the IMDB; because I can’t remember who all the people are in a film, I generally go with the first three names as listed on the IMDb, but because the IMDb goes by credit order (which is sometimes in appearance or alphabetical order), sometimes that might not be the main people
  • Line 7:  my review of the film – these reviews were written over the course of a year and many reference specific events that often ironically happened around the time I wrote that specific review
  • Line 8:  my rating (four star scale), metacritic rating (with link), Rotten Tomatoes rating (with link), Ebert rating (with link), IMDb voter rating with total number of voters in parenthesis following (IMDb rating and votes pulled on 9 October 2019); if any of those parts aren’t there it means that film isn’t listed with that particular group
  • Line 9:  the U.S. box office gross followed by the world box office gross, all from Box Office Mojo unless noted; if the box office is in bold that means that some of that money was mine
  • there will also be a poster for some films; because I didn’t want to overwhelm with over 300 posters or have to track them all down (the ones I use I got from IMPAwards) or have the page, which is already quite long (over 30,000 words) take a long time to load, the posters are selective, based mostly on them actually being visually interesting as opposed to just a picture of one or two main actors – there is no connection between quality of the film and the choice of whether or not there is a poster

(more…)

A Century of Film


1994


The Awards

A quick note about the BAFTAs.  Their eligibility is based on the release of films in Britain so some Oscar eligible films are eligible in 1995 instead.  If they earn nominations or win awards in 1995, it will be a note after the BAFTA list in that category.

A second quick note about the Consensus awards because there are awards listed down below that are not taken into consideration for the Consensus awards.  Except for Director (see note below), I don’t consider festivals, critics runner-up, the Indie Spirits or my own Nighthawk Awards when I calculate the Consensus awards. (more…)