Thursday, March 1, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks #190: Oscar-nominated movies that should have won

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. With the Academy Awards being handed out this coming Sunday, somebody came up with the brilliant idea to have the TMP take a look at movies that didn't win, but you think should have. This is a fairly easy category, I think, with the only difficulty being to make certain I haven't used the three movies I'm picking in the past year. Having checked that out, here are my selections:

Lifeboat (1944). Alfred Hitchcock earned his second nomination for Best Director. Four years earlier, he lost to John Ford and The Grapes of Wrath, so one can't really complain about that. Hitchcock would in later years go on to lose to The Lost Weekend, On the Waterfront, and The Apartment. Pretty stiff competition. But for the 1944 awards, Lifeboat and some other pretty good movies were passed over for one of the worse selections in Oscar history, the execrably saccharine Going My Way. Hitchcock did a brilliant job with his cramped sets and creating the atmosphere leading to really ugly mob justice in Lifeboat.

The Mating Season (1951). Thelma Ritter earned her second straight Best Supporting Actress nomination as the extremely blue-collar mother of aspirational engineer John Lund. Lund has married way up in the form of diplomat's daughter Gene Tierney, who has never met her mother-in-law. Due to a comedy of errors, Ritter ends up as a hired maid for a party, and then the couple's live-in maid: Lund is worried about what Tierney will think of his mother. Further complications ensue when Tierney's extremely snobbish mother (Miriam Hopkins) moves in. Ritter really has the lead if you ask me, since she makes all the action go, and as so often the case, she got the best lines and delivers them briliantly.

Honeysuckle Rose (1980). Willie Nelson plays himself more or less, a country singer married to Dyan Cannon. Nelson does an adequate job, but the nomination that deserved to win was for Best Original Song: this is the movie that introduced the song "On the Road Again", used to excellent effect in the movie. However, 1980 was an extremely strong year in the Best Original Song category. "On the Road Again" was up against two songs from Fame (the title song won); the theme from 9 to 5; and an off-the-wall choice from The Competition, a movie that's probably forgotten now. And that doesn't include the songs that probably could have been nominated, such as "Call Me" from American Gigolo, or one or another of the songs from Xanadu. If I had a vote, I'd probably have cast it for "On the Road Again".


joel65913 said...

While I like Going My Way apparently much more than you I agree it should never have won over its competition. Lifeboat would be my choice for the prize as well but I had already used it so I chose the other film that it now seems mad that Going My Way beat. If it had won I wouldn't have been too disappointed but that those two superior pictures were also rans to something that is middling is just wrong.

A big YES to Thelma Ritter and The Mating Season both are delightful and this is the picture she should have won for. She is the lead but I suppose the studio didn't want to downgrade Gene Tierney who is a second lead whereas Miriam Hopkins who is brilliant is the true supporting actress and deserved a nomination as well.

I personally don't care that much for On the Road Again but it certainly has staying power and is better than many songs that have won.

There were many films to choose from this week since the proper film rarely is awarded. It made it tough to decide on what was most deserving out of a multitude of choices.

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)-Just after the end of the First World War vet James Allen (Paul Muni) decides to ramble around the country working odd jobs before settling down. Striking up a casual acquaintance with another drifter he is implicated in a robbery and despite his innocence sentenced to several years on a Southern chain gang. Faced with intolerable conditions he manages to escape and over time build a new and successful life but fate intervenes. Powerful indictment of prison conditions and man’s inhumanity to man with brilliant work by Muni and a haunting ending. There is no way in hell this should have lost to the ponderous Cavalcade.

A Tale of Two Cities (1936)-Solid extremely well-acted version of the Dickens story of the French Revolution and some caught in its web. Handsomely mounted with Ronald Colman a strong Sydney Carton, Blanche Yurka a terrifyingly unhinged Madame De Farge and a lovely small performance by Isabel Jewell as a doomed seamstress. Again vastly superior to the corny and lumbering winner of its year-The Great Ziegfeld.

Grand Illusion (1938)-Eloquent treatise on the futility and senseless of war defies easy synopsis without sounding trite but the basic story is of two French fliers shot down during WWII and their relationship with their cultured German captor. Gripping and profound.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)-Spirited, lively, colorful and flat out fun version of the legend pulsates with vivid colors and a sense of joy. Masterfully lead by director Michael Curtiz with performances full of joie de vivre from Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, the Warner’s stock company and Olivia de Havilland but driving the entire enterprise is the perfectly cast Errol Flynn who is obviously having a great time. You will too. Either this or Grand Illusion should have emerged triumphant over the ultimate winner, the scattered and foolish You Can’t Take It With You.

Double Indemnity (1944)-Rapacious Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) ensnares hapless insurance man Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) into killing her husband in such a way that they can collect the double indemnity policy on him. As Neff’s boss and mentor Barton Krebs (Edward G. Robinson) begins to suspect foul play things spin out of control and the depths of Phyllis’s maliciousness rise to the surface. Seminal noir that is expertly written and directed by Billy Wilder and memorably performed by Stanwyck and MacMurray in huge breaks from their established personas at the time. The winner this year was the genial but flyaway Going My Way, a pleasurable watch but nothing compared to this trendsetting masterwork.

Sonia Cerca said...

I haven't seen any of these.

Ted S. (Just a Cineast) said...

"On the Road Again" is better than you're giving it credit for, although I can understand people not being a fan of Willie Nelson's singing. The thing is, the song fits the movie perfectly. One of the fun things about the Best Original Song category is that there are a lot of otherwise mediocre pictures that got Oscar-nominated: Mahogany. Endless Love. Ice Castles. And does anybody remember the movie You Light Up My Life? They sure remember the song. :-)

A lot of Going My Way's Oscars are undeserved. Alexander Knox probably should have won Best Actor for Wilson -- even though I find the hagiography nauseating, Knox is superb in the role. And Clifton Webb probably should have won Supporting Actor for Laura.

Birgit said...

I love Going My Way very much but I agree with you that Lifeboat should have won for sure. I haven’t seen The Mating Season which is now on my list to see. I haven’t seen On The Road again probably because I don’t like country music or car that much for Willie Nelson.