Hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day! This year, the Academy chose The Bridge on the River Kwai — and I will be the first to admit they chose wisely. But since we all like to argue so much, let’s see what they passed over before you agree with us…[he said, as he sat back to wait for the arguments for a bunch of other classic films…]
Here is part of what I had to say in v. 3 of WHO Won?!? An Irreverent Look at the Oscars, 1953-1963:
“The Bridge on the River Kwai is about obsession – male obsession in particular. Not sexual obsession, but rather the monomaniacal way in which men can focus on a goal, often excluding any consideration of the consequences (although the same mindset often applies to sex for some men). Here, the Japanese under Sessue Hayakawa force Alec Guinness and his captured British POWs to build a bridge; Guinness soon becomes devoted to the project, not realizing he is actively supporting the enemy until the bridge has been completed. William Holden plays an American helping an equally obsessed Jack Hawkins and his British commando unit in their quest to blow up the bridge before the Japanese can use it. The Bridge on the River Kwai had an enormous impact on the movie industry, pushing it even more towards huge expensive epics, turning David Lean into a major director who never again made a small film, and giving Alec Guinness a major boost to his career. More importantly, the movie raises moral issues while simultaneously presenting dramatic and exciting tension for the audience, in a film that continues to enthrall audiences to the present day. ”
The other official nominees were Henry Fonda opposed by a bunch of pissed off jurors in 12 Angry Men, Lana Turner soaping it up with a bunch of screwed-up and screwing small town folk in Peyton Place, Marlon Brando confronting prejudice in Japan in Sayonara, and Billy Wilder setting Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich loose on Tyrone Power in Witness for the Prosecution.
The Academy ignored two major classics, Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war masterpiece, Paths of Glory, and Federico Fellini’s endlessly fascinating meditation on love’s illusions in Nights of Cabiria, as well as these potential choices: Joanne Woodward going for the triple crown in The Three Faces of Eve, Elizabeth Taylor going mad in Raintree County, Robert Mitchum going for Deborah Kerr’s habit in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Rock Hudson saying goodbye to Jennifer Jones in A Farewell to Arms, Fellini’s early paean to lost youth in I vitelloni, Fred Astaire going for Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, James Cagney doing Lon Chaney in Man of a Thousand Faces, Henry Fonda training Anthony Perkins in The Tin Star, Sophia Loren getting wet with Alan Ladd in Boy on a Dolphin, Frank Sinatra getting cut up in The Joker Is Wild, Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr missing a meeting in An Affair to Remember, Gene Kelly dancing again in Les Girls, Fred Astaire being a cad in Pal Joey, Robert Mitchum fighting a German sub in The Enemy Below, Jimmy Stewart talking to a fly as he flies in The Spirit of St. Louis, Fred Astaire going for Cyd Charisse in Silk Stockings, Tony Curtis desperately trying to impress Burt Lancaster in The Sweet Smell of Success, Andy Griffith going bad (for once) in A Face in the Crowd, Grant Williams getting small in The Incredible Shrinking Man, Jayne Mansfield going for Tony Randall (?!) in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, Elvis in his best dance number in Jailhouse Rock, Ray Harryhausen’s Ymir in Twenty Million Miles to Earth, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn getting a computer in Desk Set, and Robert Bresson going minimalist in A Man Escaped.
Feel free to add other choices, but for foreign films, please use the AMERICAN release date, as that is how the Academy runs things.
As always, I have much more to say in my book:http://www.amazon.com/WHO-Irreverent-Look-Oscars-Volume/dp/069232318X
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