Sunday, July 12, 2015

Forties Flicks

I have recently closed a gap in my Oscar-film viewing experience, specifically, I have now watched all of the Oscar-winning Best Pictures from the 1940s. This should have long since been accomplished, but hey! Spilt milk! Now it has. (If only I weren't always getting distracted from my projects by other projects. So many projects I have! So many...)

Anyway, the 1940s winners are fun; they include, among other things, one of my favorite all-time films and one of my mom's favorite all-time films. But I will point out one not-as-fun thing, which is that after you have watched half a dozen of the flicks in a month period you start to get really sick of the opening credits, which all blend together. Laaa! Dramatic music! Black and white! Studio presents! This music sounds the same as the last three movies! Sweeping crescendo!  Ugh. Boring.A girl can hardly wait to get to a decade where someone makes a bold move in how to start a picture.

The 1940s Academy Award movies themselves, though, are a great bunch. Here's my ranking, from my favorite to my not-as-favorite:

Top Tier: Simply the best!
Casablanca (1943)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Next Tier: I still really like them and recognize greatness here.
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Going My Way (1944)
Hamlet (1948)
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)

Third Tier: I can still order my third tier, unlike the U.S. News law school rankings
The Lost Weekend (1945) and Rebecca (1940)
All the King's Men (1949)
How Green Was My Valley (1941)

How does your ranking of these ten films compare?

Now for a few thoughts:

Casablanca is not just my top film of the 1940s but one of my top five of all time; it has been for years. It's astounding and I love it and if you watch it after being alive in the English-speaking world for any length of time you will probably recognize a billion quotes from it. Actually, Hamlet kind of has that going for it, too. Hamlet, naturally, is great, but Ophelia is super crazy and the film really does start to drag just a bit somewhere in Act III...

As for underrated gems, The Best Years of Our Lives and Gentleman's Agreement really should get more buzz than they do. They are so prescient, socially relevant, thoughtful, and still entertaining. Going My Way, on the other hand, IS more on people's radar, I think, what with the Bing Crosby factor and all, but I can't say that before I watched it as an adult I really knew much about it besides its star. It's full of neat little bits, though, and well worth a watch. Perhaps my favorite undiscovered gem is Mrs. Miniver. Whatever you're picturing when you hear that there's a film called Mrs. Miniver from the early 1940s is probably not at all accurate. Also, it had one of the best depictions of a non-native speaker trying to use the English language I've ever seen on film, and it features a most awesome cat.

About the others: I grew up watching or not really paying attention to Rebecca because my mom adores it but when I finally read the book and sat down to watch the film all the way through I was not as impressed as I'd hoped to be. (The book, especially, left me sorely disappointed; you just want to punch every character in the face. At least the movies has cool visual stuff going for it.) The Lost Weekend was all right; I actually didn't read that book of How Green Was My Valley, but I suspect both are better than their film versions. All the King's Men was. While I did feel plunged into the hot air of Louisiana and its politics, some of the performances were kind of cliche and the whole thing almost feels perfunctory.

Next up, I'll watch whatever I've missed/forgotten in the 1950s, my other weirdly gappy Oscar decade.