Thursday Movie Picks #32: Oscar-Winning Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I’ve been seeing posts on the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog, but I haven’t been able to participate. Well until now that is.

The rules are simple simple:
Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it, one of each. Today’s topic is…

OscarWinningMovies

The Oscar-winning movies can include winners of Best Picture, Best Animated Film and Best Foreign Film, but I ended up sticking with the main Best Picture winners. As I was thinking of doing a Top 10 list on this topic, you could say that these films would make my Top 5.

So, here are my picks of three films that deserve all the accolades they’ve received and I don’t hesitate calling each of them a masterpiece.

Casablanca (1942)

ThursdayPicks_Casablanca

Oscar Facts: Won 3 Oscars out of 6 nominations

I had the good fortune of finally seeing Casablanca for the first time two years ago (as I documented here), as part of TCM Theatrical re-release. Robert Osborne, the longtime TCM host, introduced the film and gave some background, which is cool. Unfortunately, he also spoiled the plot – I think he just assumed everyone had seen the film. But even with that snafu, I was so engrossed in the story right from the start. It’s got everything you could want in a movie – intrigue, romance, humor, great music, exotic setting, etc. But most importantly, at the heart of it is the engaging and unforgettable love story, beautifully-realized by Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman. There’s really so much to appreciate in this film that I can’t possibly write in a paragraph or two.

The world will always welcome lovers ♬ As time goes by ♪

 The world will always welcome beautiful stories, too and that’s why Casablanca will always stand the test of time.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959)

Oscar Facts: Won 11 Oscars out of 12 nominations

ThursdayPicks_BenHur

Here’s another Hollywood epic that shall stand the test of time. This is one of the first American films I saw as a young girl with my late mother and it made a huge impression to me then. I was in awe of the visual grandeur and all the epic action scenes, especially the chariot race. I have re-watched it countless times since and even with the technological advancement of movie-making, few scenes from today’s movies could match the intensity and the panoramic spectacle of the chariot scene, it’s 40-min of pure adrenaline rush that I wish I could witness on the big screen one day.

But visuals alone doesn’t make a movie and the personal redemptive story of Judah Ben-Hur is just as riveting. I love that it tells the story of Christ through the eyes of the protagonist and how an encounter with Him ultimately transforms his life in a profound way. It’s truly as epic as a film could get, a feast for the eyes as well as for the soul. Though it’s 3.5-hours long, it’s so well-worth your time and I know it’s one that I appreciate more and more every time I watch it. Both Charlton Heston in the title role and Stephen Boyd as friend-turned-foe Messala are superb, with a supporting cast

But this is truly William Wyler‘s towering achievement. He’s considered by his peers as a master craftsman of cinema, and rightly so. I just read on IMDb that Wyler was an assistant director on the 1925 version of Ben-Hur, who knew he’d go on to surpass that film in so many ways three decades later.

Gladiator (2000)

Oscar Facts: Won 5 Oscars out of 12 nominations

ThursdayPicks_Gladiator

I have dedicated a post for Ridley Scott’s magnum opus a few years ago and even today he still can’t reclaim the glory of this Roman epic. I’m going to self-plagiarize myself here as I still carry a torch for this film and each repeat viewing reminds me just spectacular it is. Gladiator is a visceral spectacle that offers a thrilling blend of intellect and physical strength.  Massively entertaining and memorable, it lived up to the promise of Maximus himself: “I will give them something they have never seen before.“ Oh yes, we’re definitely entertained.

I LOVE that both the hero and the villain are equally-matched in terms of how intensely they’re portrayed on screen. Both Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix gave tremendous performances, culminating to a thrilling and emotional finale worth cheering for. Like the two films I mentioned above, this film ticks all the right boxes to be considered a classic. Visually and emotionally satisfying, it also boasts one of the greatest soundtracks ever by Hans Zimmer. It’s the soundtrack that’s been copied many times over but never surpassed.

BONUS PICK:

Gone with the Wind (1939)

GWTW_OakTreeI just had to include this film as it’s also one of my earliest intro to Hollywood films and even eight decades later, this film is still being talked about. I’d call it a monumental classic, showing the best and absolute worst of American history during the civil war era. Some people didn’t care for the melodrama and it seems overindulgent at times thanks to producer David O. Selznick‘s constant meddling, but few films are as beautifully-shot and wonderfully-acted as this one. There are just too many iconic scenes and dialog from this film, some of them I have highlighted here on its 75th anniversary. Whether you’d end up liking it or not, this is one of those cinematic gems every film fan should be compelled to check out.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen these films?

The Ten Best Actress Of All Time Relay Race

Remember the Ten Best Actors of All Time Relay Race I did back in March? Well, The King of Blog Series Nostra @ at My Film Views is at it again, this time with the female counterparts of the race.

Here are the entries from the other participants so far in the Actresses Relay Race:

My Filmviews » The Velvet Cafe » Martin Teller » The Movie Review Warehouse » Benefits of a Classical Education » Just Another Movie Blog » Film Actually

If you’re curious to see where the Top 10 Best Actor’s race is at right now, check out Nostra’s Update
Well, I’m honored to receive the baton from my pal Dan @ Public Transportation Snob. And here are the original rules of the Best Actresses of All Time Relay Race from Nostra:

“I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actresses of all time. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actress (that is an obligation) and add his/her own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actress. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actresses. It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well!”

Here is the current list of 10 actresses as it stands now:

Cate Blanchett

Katharine Hepburn

Julianne Moore

Barbara Stanwyck

Meryl Streep

Kate Winslet

Viola Davis

Juliette Binoche

Judy Garland

Ingrid Bergman

……


Now, picking who I’d like to add is easy and since the one actress I thought of right away is already on the list (hint: the only Aussie on the list), the second one I had in mind happens to be one of her co-stars. Of course, with the fun of choosing who to add comes the arduous task of having to remove one from the list. But hey, that’s what a race is all about right? So with a heavy heart, I choose to remove…

Judy Garland

I’m truly sorry to have to remove a classic actress but between her and Barbara Stanwyck whose work I have not seen, I’m afraid I have to choose miss Garland. Yes I know, most of you probably will cry foul at me for not having seen The Wizard of Oz, but it’s one of those classics that have eluded me to this day and frankly, I don’t know if I will ever see it. Interestingly enough, the 1937 original of A Star Is Born, is said to have been modeled after Stanwyck’s rise to stardom (per IMDb trivia) and Garland was nominated for an Oscar in the 1954 remake. In any case, I have no doubt Judy Garland is a great actress with a wonderful voice and an iconic role, but again, there’s only room for ten, so that’s that.

Now, the easy part.

The actress I think deserves to be on this list is…

Judi Dench

Ok, I didn’t plan on replacing a ‘Judy’ with another one with an ‘i’ but as I’m thinking of a best actress of ALL TIME, my mind just keeps going back to the Dame. She may be petite at 5’1″ but there is nothing diminutive about the 78-year-old English thespian. With six Oscar nominations and one win, plus twice as many BAFTA awards for her work in both TV and films, she is a force to be reckoned with. Not many actress, even of her caliber, could nab an Oscar for only being on screen for 8 minutes! But she did it in Shakespeare in Love in 1998.

I first saw her in Goldeneye as M [the first woman in that role, best casting ever!] but after seeing her in about 16 films, I realize that she’s as outstanding in period dramas as she is in an action thriller as those Bond films. I absolutely LOVE her performance as Queen Victoria in Her Majesty Mrs. Brown, and she often steal scenes even in brief parts, i.e. Pride & Prejudice as the high-and-mighty Lady Catherine de Bourg, the more lowly Mrs. Fairfax in Jane Eyre and also as a curmudgeonly grandmother with a secret in Chocolat. She shines even in so-so films like Nine and My Week with Marilyn, and often is one of the best things about the film.

I wish I could say that I have seen her stage performance as she’s as celebrated as a stage performer as she is a film actress, if not more so. She’s been nominated and won the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award as well as other prestigious theater honor for her stage work. I hope she will last a while in this *race* as I do believe she’s one of THE best actress in the business with 100 titles under her belt!


Who’s next?

I’d like Anna from Defiant Success to continue the relay, who’s well-versed in classic and contemporary cinema. I’m curious to see what she’ll do with the list 🙂


So, what do you think of my decision? Agree/disagree? Well, let’s hear it!

Great Expectations. Seeing CASABLANCA for the first time

Tonight I have a date with Rick and Ilsa… the most famous movie couple from the classic of all classics, Casablanca. Turner Classic Movies is bringing the 1942 film to almost 500 movie theaters nationwide as part of a 70th Anniversary event, so a few of my blog friends will be seeing it too on the same time.

I knew about the movie Casablanca long before I knew it was the capital city of Morocco. I love the song ‘As Time Goes By’ (though I first heard it in Sleepless in Seattle), and I could even recite all the famous quotes:

“We’ll always have Paris.”

“Here’s to looking at you kid.”

“Play it again Sam.”
(though this line apparently was NOT uttered in the movie)

Recently I saw this one in Tumblr… “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine,”  which is perhaps my favorite as it’s packed with so much emotion even in that one single line.

Now, I don’t know how this film has eluded me for so long as I LOVE the story of unrequited love and the whole tortured soul hero wrestling between love and virtue. This will also mark the first time I’d ever seen Humphrey Bogart in anything. Yes I have never seen ANY of his films before, even though my mother has said a few times that Humphrey Bogart is my dad’s all time favorite actor. Some even called my dad ‘Bogey’ at times, perhaps when he was working in the film industry back in the 50s and 60s. I have only seen Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound so far and was really enthralled by her beauty and grace, so I’m looking forward to seeing her in something else.

So it seems that this film has everything going for it that I can’t possibly not fall head over heels in love with it the moment I walked out of the theater… I mean, it not only won Oscar’s Best Picture in 1943, but has been repeatedly voted as the most romantic American movie of all time. If people were asked to name one of the most famous movie from Hollywood Golden Age, no doubt most of them will say Casablanca. So you see, the thing is, my expectation for this movie is now so ginormous that I’m a bit worried the movie simply can’t meet it. What if I’m [gasp] disappointed … find it boring, or worse, pointless? [wince]

I know a lot of you who adore this movie are surely thinking, ‘Ruth, not even possible, there’s a reason this movie stands the test of time…”  Trust me, I really want to like, no love this movie and concur with its cemented iconic film status. Well, perhaps the best way is not to think too much about it and watch this tonight as if I had never heard about this film before… we’ll see how that goes 😀

I’ll just leave you with this absolutely gorgeous behind the scene photo of cinematographer Arthur Edeson filming the airport farewell scene with Bogart and Bergman…


… and also Max Steiner’s brilliant score from the film:


So who still hasn’t seen this film? I’m also curious if you’ve ever been in my shoes about another classic film.

Weekend Roundup & Musings on Hitchcock’s SPELLBOUND

Happy Monday everybody! Hope everyone had a nice weekend and get to watch a lot of movies, unlike yours truly here who only get to see ONE film the entire weekend. But the film is one I had been wanting to see for a long time, well ever since I saw Roman Holiday and fell for the ridiculously gorgeous creature named Gregory Peck and I made a vow that I have to see every film he’s in before I die. Well, it’s been slow going and with this one, I’m killing two birds with one stone as I also want to catch up with Hitchcock’s classics. So far I’ve seen three The Birds (when I was young so my memory of it is a bit hazy), To Catch a Thief (meh), and North by Northwest (ok, now I get what the fuss is about). So basically, Hitchcock has been a hit and miss for me, so I really don’t know what to expect with this one, but I loved it!

A female psychiatrist protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory.

Ok so the subject matter doesn’t scream ‘must see’ for me normally, though I don’t mind a good psycho thriller once in a while. But once Peck entered the screen I was practically hyperventilating (ask my hubby Ivan, he..he…) but before you accuse me of loving this film only on account of him (well you’d be half right), I also like the beautiful Ingrid Bergman’s performance as Constance, the shrink who risks her career out of her love for an amnesiac patient.

Despite the slow pace, the film keeps me engaged throughout. Even the parts at the hospital where it was just Constance surrounded by her all-male colleagues, it’s quite amusing to see how they treat her. They’re respectful enough by calling her doctor, but how one of the doctors speak to her would be considered sexual harassment nowadays!

The unconventional relationship between Bergman’s and Peck’s character is the core of the story, and despite the strange coincidence of their meet-up, I totally bought their romance. Yes at times I feel like Constance needs a little slap to bring her back to her senses for sheltering a man she only knew by his initial J.B., especially after what her good friend & mentor Dr. Brulov told her. But there’s such an undeniable earnestness about Peck’s portrayal that I probably would’ve done the exact same thing!

The film is masterfully-directed by Hitchcock, no wonder it’s nominated for an Oscar. There’s a plethora of mystery and suspense that delightfully surprises. The trick is in the camera angles that made the viewer feel like we’re witnessing the action firsthand… like that scene of seeing through a glass of milk as it’s being drank by the protagonist. There is one really creepy scene of Peck’s character in Brulov’s house that reminds me of some clips/images I’ve seen of Psycho. We’re also treated to a plethora of iconic visuals, which is to be expected from Hitchcock, especially in the dream sequence designed by Salvador Dalí himself.

As for Gregory Peck, well after seeing this one, I think I have a serious crush on this classic actor. Hollywood is full of tall, dark and handsome like Cary Grant, Lawrence Olivier, Clark Gable, etc. but there is something about Peck that is so incredibly charming and um, spellbinding… ehm. His cheekbones and soulful eyes alone could inspire me to write an entire poem (if I could write one that is), and then there’s the deep voice that complements his dashing good looks perfectly.

That scene when Constance visited him in his bedroom, and he looked up at her and smiled, that was a huge swoon moment… [yowza!!] Peck and Bergman shared such an incredible chemistry in the film, and like most classic romances, I love how clean and honorable their relationship was, something totally lost in today’s movies. I might buy this film just to watch that scene over and over!! Ok, I have a LOT of his films to catch up on. Definitely To Kill a Mockingbird to see his Oscar-winning performance, but I also want to see him in David & Bathsheba, The Big Country, and Capt. Horatio Hornblower. What else would you recommend??

Well, back to the film, I highly recommend Spellbound if you haven’t seen it. It’s a classic mystery thriller with a heart, and also boast one of the most tense and satisfying ending. Again, the camera angle in that scene is just brilliant and no doubt has been numerously copied in contemporary films to date.


Well, what did you see this weekend? If you’ve seen this film, do share your thoughts on Spellbound and/or recommend a must-see Gregory Peck film for yours truly 😀