1952 will close out the Special Features for Book Two — and I won’t be posting another until after Book Three is published in Summer 2014.
So here is my final act of contrition until the days of summer guilt are here! That’s good, because I’m tired of genuflecting…
We’re still doing the Lost Six: Best Documentary (Feature, Short); Best Short Subject (One-Reel, Two-Reel); Best Sound; and Best Editing.
Actually, this Oscar makes a considerable amount of good sense — a helluva lot more than The Greatest Show on Earth being named Best Picture this year! If High Noon is famous for anything, the editing is that very reason. The story largely takes place in real time, with the clocks in both movie time and audience time occurring in close approximation. The tension is exquisite, especially in an audience in the movie theater (thanks to the revival house that the Balboa Theater became in my late adolescence!). Everything is edited to a whisker’s perfection. Bravo, Academy, for recognizing this one.
I’m not quite as clear why this one is here — not a movie that is known for the quality of its editing, but rather for Shirley Booth’s recreation of her stage role. Burt Lancaster had one of his first stabs at being a Serious Actor here, and he’s not bad, if a little too Serious. The visual look and pace of the movie isn’t particularly distinguished, so I suspect this was the Academy bowing to Serious Theatre again.
Welcome to a paean to aircraft carriers. The action sequences are decent, using real combat footage taken in color, which I suspect is the source of the nomination. Other than that, Flat Top isn’t a particularly distinguished film.
No. Just no. You’re going to have to go a considerable distance in either direction to find a year with a less deserving Best Picture winner or nominee than this one — this defines the word stodgy. The only reason to watch The Greatest Show on Earth is for the historical footage of the real circus.
Moulin Rouge hasn’t aged well either, particularly in the editing, which doesn’t reveal much in the way of either innovation or tension. You do get to look at some legs.
The other perfectly edited movie — the one without a single second of drag or unnecessary footage, is Singin’ in the Rain, the greatest musical of all time, which should have been nominated here:
Best Documentary (Feature):
Irwin Allen produced this, years before he went on a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Rachel Carson was one of the Twentieth Century’s most important scientists, and a major contributor to the founding of the environmental movement with her book, The Silent Spring. For The Sea Around Us, we get an hour of footage of sea life. I saw this one years ago on TCM, but I can’t find any trace today. I recall the underwater camerawork being decent.
You’ve got to watch out for those dirty commies! See — now I’ve saved you from having to see The Hoaxsters. Actually, I’ve saved myself from having to see it again, which I did years ago when I was getting ready to teach the Cold War. One of the few perks that might still attract you are some of the narrators: Howard Keel, Dore Schary, Walter Pidgeon, Barry Sullivan, Robert Taylor, and James Whitmore. The other attraction is newsreel footage of major figures from FDR to Eisenhower to Hitler (which isn’t some weird double play, although the commies are double crossers…). Not really anything more than shrill warning that communism is a major hoax (which it was, but don’t we already know that?).
Navajo tells the story of a young Native American who wants nothing more to do with the school run by whites. Two teachers follow him when he runs away; he sets a trap for them. Unusual topic, and I’d like to see this one — but the documentary no longer seems to be available.
Best Documentary (Short):
Neighbours is an odd little duck, an anti-war film about two neighbours who go to war against each other over a flower that has sprung up between their houses. Live actors are used, but a process known as “pixilation” turns them into moving snapshots. This Canadian (hence the extra “u” in the title) short was edited for American release, removing a scene where the men killed the other’s families. Why this is here, since it’s fictional, is unclear. Fortunately, I can share this one with you:
The next nominee, Devil Take Us, shows up twice in our Lost Six — here, and in Best Short Subject (Two-Reel) — thus pointing out how similar this category and the short subject categories could be. The same is true of Neigbours, only in the one-reel slot. Here is a rare poster for a short:
Think of this as an early version of Red Asphalt, that infamous drivers’ ed film with footage of real accidents and corpses.
The Garden Spider is an Italian short — presumably, about a garden spider. No clue other than that — it’s unavailable. Perhaps it died when they killed the human fly in The Fly — didn’t you detect a trace of an accent from the spider about to eat David Hedison?
Man Alive! was put out by the American Cancer Society. As a cancer survivor myself, I would appreciate seeing this one — but it’s gone.
Best Short Subject (One Reel):
Light in the Window won the Oscar here for its portrayal of the art of Jan Vermeer. I’d like to see this one, and I would hope it’s in color, but some art thief has thieved it away…
Athletes of the Saddle is an awkward title — and even more awkward, I have no idea what the short is about. Jockeys? Polo? Jockeys wearing polo shirts? I’m clueless here — and no, I’m not usually clueless. You people really should stop thinking so little of me…
Desert Killer is a better title — but even so, I have no idea what this short is about. Scorpions? Rattle snakes? Gila monsters? If it’s misspelled, perhaps this is about eating too much pie after dinner…
Neighbours, as mentioned above, got a double nomination. Given that Neighbours isn’t a documentary at all, it probable belongs here instead.
Royal Scotland, like others in this category, has left no trace. Queen Elizabeth’s family films at their Scottish estates at Balmoral? Some tour of the castles of the Scottish kings? Some brand of whiskey I’ve never heard of?
Best Short Subject (Two Reel):
Disney once again won in this category with another of their True-Life Adventures. The Audubon Society and the Denver Museum of Natural History helped out with the footage. I saw it as a child. Here’s a nice bonus — Walt Disney accepting his Oscar for this short, from Jane Wyman and Ray Milland. Oddly, Disney says nothing, but Bob Hope shoots off an impromptu zinger:
Bridge of Time is a British film — I couldn’t find it, but I suspect it may be about London Bridge. Let’s hope it isn’t falling down…again.
Devil Take Us double-dipped here, as mentioned above. You just can’t trust Lucifer…
Thar She Blows! is not about pirate porn. I suspect it’s about whales, actually, but I’m reasonably certain that a character named Peg-Leg Pete does not run around naked making bad double entendres…
Believe it or not, David Lean directed this ridiculous movie about the British supposedly breaking the sound barrier — even though Chuck Yeager, an American, is actually the first man to do so. Yeager himself pointed out that if the movie’s solution to the problem was followed, every pilot and plane would be dead. Worth seeing for Lean enthusiasts, but for those of us who prefer movies not to be recipes for death, not such a good choice. The sound nomination is likely for the jet engines.
The British title is The Card. Alec Guinness in his prime, but certainly not the classic some of his other movies from that period are. Worth a watch for the cast alone, but the sound isn’t anything special. Here’s a starter peak for you:
For the Danny Kaye fans, here’s his musical turn as the writer of fairy tales:
The sound is particularly clean, making for a good nomination.
Yes, the sound is a grand effort here in the most beloved of all John Ford films. The quiet surrounding some of the dialogue is as profound as some of the visuals.
Melodrama about a comeback of a crippled singer, and not particularly truthful rendition of a real story. The sound is actually muddy (at least in the version I saw).
Again, I’m stunned at the Academy. The finest sound of the year is from Singin’ in the Rain. Obvious, isn’t it? We all know this piece, but how can I resist?
So that wraps up my omissions from V. 2, WHO Won?!? An Irreverent Look at the Oscars. I’ll be back for more irreverence and penance along about summer 2014 — until then, I’ll be back in the mancave, working on the next chapters!
If you’re interested in the more mainstream categories, please see my book! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PKK8MBY