A Century of Film

Supporting Actor

Film has always relied on supporting performances but awards groups haven’t always recognized them right away.  It wasn’t until the 9th Academy Awards that the first supporting awards were given out.  Likewise, the BAFTAs would go through their first 20 awards without the category and no critics group would give such an award until 1957.  But eventually, of course, all the awards groups followed through and today it’s one way of celebrating great character actors although it has also been a chance for big stars to win their Oscar at last.  Supporting performances can be a role that runs through the whole film (like the way the Academy nominated Gene Hackman for I Never Sang for My Father or Al Pacino for The Godfather) or for a performance that dominates the film in spite of only being in a few scenes (like Orson Welles in The Third Man). (more…)


Revisiting Childhood Movies Part XXIII:

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

  • Director:  Mel Stuart
  • Writer:  Roald Dahl (from his novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
  • Producer:  Stan Margulies / David L. Wolper
  • Stars:  Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Award Nominations:  Oscars – Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score; Golden Globes – Best Actor – Comedy / Musical (Gene Wilder)
  • Length:  99 min
  • Genre:  Kids (Musical)
  • MPAA Rating:  G
  • Release Date:  30 June 1971
  • Box Office Gross:  $4.00 mil
  • Ebert Rating:  ****
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #76 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Makeup
  • Nighthawk Notables:  none
  • First Watched:  on television when I was young (7 or 8 or so)
  • Number of Times Watched as a Kid:  5 or so

As a Kid:  Like The Princess Bride, I was confused when watching this the first time because I hadn’t caught the beginning.  In fact, like Silver Streak, I so often didn’t catch the beginning that it took me a while before the confusion was cleared up.  That’s because I seemed to always come in when Charlie wins the ticket.  Having missed “Slugworth” talking to the other kids, I never understood why Veruca would cross her fingers in the scene where they get the Everlasting Gobstoppers.  In fact, why focus on Veruca?  Are they saying she was the only one devious enough to be willing to betray Willy Wonka like that?  I think this also explains why my brain never really connected the song “Candy Man” to this film.  I was always missing the scene where it is sung (which is right at the beginning).  But that also meant I was always missing the mother’s song as well which is fine since Veronica and I skipped it when watching it this time because, like a lot of the songs, it’s kind of underwhelming. (more…)

A Century of Film
TriStar Pictures

The Studio

Victor Kaufman is the father of TriStar Pictures.  The name came about because Kaufman convinced Columbia Pictures (where he worked), CBS and HBO to combine to form a new film production and distribution company.  In at least one sense, it was the first major film company formed in Hollywood since RKO in 1928.  The reason Columbia was involved, in spite of already producing their own films, was to form a relationship with HBO which had become extremely powerful in terms of dealing with the majors (You can read more about this and the state of the industry in the early 80’s in History of the American Cinema 10: A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood Under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980-1989, Steven Prince.  The story of the formation of TriStar begins on page 25).  By 1984, TriStar had produced its first film (The Natural), although Where the Boys Are ’84 (which was only a TriStar distribution, not a TriStar production) beat it into theaters by just over a month, debuting on 6 April 1984.  But 1984 wasn’t that profitable (“in its first year of operation Tri-Star gained only a 5 percent share of the domestic theatrical market” (Prince, p 31) and by the end of 1986, CBS has sold their shares to Columbia and Time (the parent company of HBO) had sold them half of its shares as well.  A note here on the name: it was spelled with the hyphen until 1991 and was then dropped. (more…)

A nice ensemble pic from M*A*S*H that doesn’t really have a corresponding scene in the book.

My Top 10:

  1. M*A*S*H
  2. The Twelve Chairs
  3. Women in Love
  4. Lovers and Other Strangers
  5. Patton
  6. Floating Weeds
  7. The Joke
  8. Mississippi Mermaid
  9. Where’s Poppa?
  10. Catch-22

Note:  Not a strong Top 10, although at least it has 10.  The 2-5 are the weakest as a whole since 1965 and there won’t be a weaker group until 1976.  They look even weaker because they are between two very strong years.  Patton would have been #9 in 1969. (more…)

You should definitely see the film on the left. I suggest you skip the book on the right.

I am at roughly the halfway point in this project, starting with my combined year of 1912-26 (the pre-Oscar years) and running through to the present (whenever that might happen to be), so before I get to 1970 (which isn’t quite ready yet anyway), here is a little reflection on the first half. (more…)

A Century of Film
Crime Films

The Genre:

There seems to be an idea that Gangster Films and Crime Films are interchangeable.  But to me, a Crime film is more than just a Gangster Film and the latter is just a sub-genre of the former.  The Rough Guide to Gangster Movies kind of sums up the idea right away even if they are just talking about Gangster films and not Crime films:

“Every book about gangster movies has to have a working definition of what a gangster movie actually is.  And each will disagree with the other.  For the purposes of the Rough Guide to Gangster Movies, it is one in which the gangster is the protagonist, not the supporting player or bête noir of the long-suffering cop hero.” (p 3) (more…)

Revisiting Childhood Movies Part XXII:


  • Director:  Mel Brooks
  • Writer:  Mel Brooks / Ronny Graham / Thomas Meehan
  • Producer:  Mel Brooks
  • Stars:  Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, Mel Brooks, John Candy
  • Studio:  MGM/UA
  • Award Nominations:  none
  • Length:  96 min
  • Genre:  Comedy (Parody)
  • MPAA Rating:  PG
  • Release Date:  26 June 1987
  • Box Office Gross:  $38.11 mil  (#31 – 1987)
  • Ebert Rating:  **.5
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #55 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Notables:  Best Opening, Best Line Not from The Princess Bride (“Now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.”)
  • First Watched:  on video when first released
  • Number of Times Watched as a Kid:  5 or so

As a Kid:  When I first saw this, I didn’t have that much of a knowledge of film because, hey, because I was still a kid.  But I knew Star Wars.  Good lord, did I ever know Star Wars.  So all the Star Wars references worked perfectly for me.  I even got the Wizard of Oz references (and even the Bridge on the River Kwai reference).  But to me, at the time, this was mostly a way of humorously looking at the movie that was not only a big thing in my life but had been the big thing in my life for a decade. (more…)