Category Old Movies

Best Picture Revisited: From Here to Eternity (1953)

The Best Picture winner of 1953, From Here to Eternity, could have been a major failure. Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra were not known for dramas. Director Fred Zinnemann had to consolidate an 800-plus-page novel into two hours, and there were many unsavory topics in James Jones’s book to work around: adultery, STDs, homosexuality. The […]

The BBC ranks American movies!

This week the BBC, in an act of international diplomacy, released a list of the 100 greatest American films ever made. As most lists of this type are, this feels like a popularity contest, with safe choices edging out the more unusual, provocative ones. But there were a few movies that really jumped out at me, […]

BEST PICTURE REVISITED: AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999)

The first time I watched American Beauty, in high school, I knew this was a movie for adults. There were clear similarities: my ordinary suburban house; my dad worked for a large corporation; I felt lonely, isolated. But even then, I sensed the broad strokes Sam Mendes and Alan Ball painted with: this wasn’t my […]

BEST PICTURE REVISITED: MY FAIR LADY (1964)

In 1964, most people couldn’t tell you who Marni Nixon was. She had dubbed Deborah Kerr in The King and I and An Affair to Remember, then Natalie Wood in West Side Story — and without screen credit. But when it came to dubbing Eliza Doolittle, Audrey Hepburn suddenly experienced the first noteworthy public backlash to not singing for […]

BEST PICTURE REVISITED: “OLIVER!” (1968)

1968 was a turning point for the movie musical. Voters had given Best Picture to three musicals so far in the sixties: West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and The Sound of Music. But then the Academy speciously nominated Doctor Doolittle, the Rex Harrison tuner that nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox and, rumor has it, was up for Best Picture […]

She’s Got the Look: Top 10 Lauren Bacall Performances

Lauren Bacall would have been 90 this September. She died two weeks ago. There have been many tributes to her as one of the last icons of the Golden Age of Hollywood, to being Humphrey Bogart’s wife, to her signature whistle line, and to even the last living name mentioned among the celebrities in Madonna’s […]

BEST PICTURE REVISITED: GIGI (1958)

Gigi was released in 1958, when the MGM unit was in decline. Musicals had changed since the Gene Kelly days; no more spontaneous dancing and dream ballets. Peter Wollan, in his BFI Film Classics guide to Singin’ in the Rain, suggests it was “McCarthyism, in the broad sense of the term—the determination to destroy all […]

The Hitchcock Comedy You’ve Never Seen

MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1941) All right, readers, I’ve finally watched all of Alfred Hitchcock’s American movies. Though I’m surprised it took this long, I never went near 1941’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith until now. Out of 53 full-length movies, this comes in at #26, the end of his first half, in a way. He’d […]

BEST PICTURE REVISITED: PATTON (1970)

Two hours into Patton, George C. Scott surveys the wounded, with the smoke of battle rolling by. “I love it,” he says as George Patton. “God help me, I do love it so. I love it more than my life.” War is all there is for this General Patton, the merciless commander of the Third […]

The Director’s Chair: David Fincher

The first trailer for David Fincher’s Gone Girl went online this morning, and despite the optimistic cover of “She,” the director’s trademark ominous sensibilities are in plain sight. Yes, David Fincher’s Gone Girl is the right billing, though Gillian Flynn obviously wrote the book. Fincher works best at reinventing pulp novels like House of Cards and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, submerging […]