Sunday, January 15, 2006

In Bed With Aaron & Oscar

The blogger has been ill for some time now, in bed, mailining old movies on DVD. For you young folks, mainlining was 70s slang for injecting drugs into your veins. Some thirtysomething asked me recently what mailining was. Sheesh.

I've been watching Best Picture Oscar winners. I've seen 6 in the past three days, nearly 15 hours of film-watching. I'd rank them, in order of artistic merit:

1. On The Waterfront (1954) - A+ - Gripping, gritty, grainy tale of corruption and conscience - perhaps Brando's finest hour - what facial expressions! what body language!

2. Best Years Of Our Lives (1946) - A+ - Coming home from war ain't easy. Dead-honest portrait of three returning servicemen facing re-adjustment problems, this film's unflinching take on class, disability, and relationships is far ahead of its time.

3. The Lost Weekend (1945) - A- - A trip to hell in the skin of an alcohol addict - how low you can go..

4. Hamlet (1948) - A- - Laurence Olivier directed and starred, cut out an hour of dialogue, and made the play more immediate and urgent on film - using cinema's specific tools of close-ups, location shots, and orchestral soundtrack...

5. How Green Was My Valley (1941) - B - Childhood memories of a Welsh mining town, masterfully re-created with sympathy for the plight of desperately hungry working men devoured by the wheels of industry (the world seems more complacent today about capitalism's nastier side-effects). Lots of singing and pathos, a crippled boy and star-crossed lovers. Plucking those heart-strings.

6. Gentlemen's Agreement (1947) - B- - Gregory Peck plays a journalist who pretends to be Jewish to get a story on anti-semitism and learns what thoughtless, cruel, scared rabbits we mortals can be. Well-meaning, but often feels contrived and preachy - odd that no great film of the day looked at the plight of African Americans with equivalent scrutiny... I should also admit that I've rarely been victim to anti-semitism, growing up in post-60s Jewish New York, whereas my parents were exposed to far more of it, during the era in which this film was made.

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