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Sunset Boulevard (#110 of 12)

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Supporting Actress

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress

As was recently reported by the hive of Oscarologists over at Gold Derby, American Hustle has history on its side when it comes to the acting races, as only two of the 14 films to see their stars nominated in all four categories have walked away without a single acting Oscar (those two, for the record, were 1936’s My Man Godfrey and 1950’s Sunset Boulevard). Like Wings’ “Live and Let Die,” which her drained-out desperate housewife, Rosalyn, blasts in her living room while rocking dishwashing gloves, that bit of Gold Derby trivia should be music to the ears of Jennifer Lawrence, who, of American Hustle’s quartet of contenders, has the strongest shot of clinching a statuette on March 2. The recipient of the Golden Globe and a handful of critics’ prizes, Lawrence is still riding high on a wave of success that ushered her to last year’s Oscar podium, where she claimed Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook, another David O. Russell dramedy to score across-the-board acting bids.

Summer of ‘88: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

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Summer of ‘88: <em>Who Framed Roger Rabbit</em>
Summer of ‘88: <em>Who Framed Roger Rabbit</em>

Is there some sort of a deep political hypothesis nibbling on a carrot and overseeing the action in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I mean, the film’s plot concerns a nefarious developer, Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), who wants to dismantle Los Angeles’s electrified streetcar system and replace it with a freeway-centric suburban wasteland, and in so doing appropriate and pave over a charismatic minority neighborhood, Toontown. And could it be that the kind of meta-cinematic crossovers—from Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny going skydiving together to Donald and Daffy Duck on dueling pianos—that make this movie so entertaining and weird and such a product of the 1980s are also a utopian-type metaphor for the overcoming of the hostilities and rivalries and the competitiveness of the free market? Or am I going too far with this?

This much, at least, we know: Who Framed Roger Rabbit belongs to that category of slick and ironic and star-studded Hollywood film that takes as its subject Hollywood and moviemaking and life in Los Angeles, like A Star Is Born or Sunset Boulevard or Singin’ in the Rain, like Barton Fink or Boogie Nights or The Player. Which is to say, it’s self-conscious by default, and is always reminding you either blatantly or slightly less blatantly of other movies or shows or cartoons that you’ve seen. And yet, for me at least, the film manages to be its own thing, to be more than just a noirish, postmodern Super Friends/Justice League for anthropomorphic animal cartoon characters.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Edward Copeland’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Edward Copeland’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Edward Copeland’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Editor’s Note: In light of Sight & Sound’s film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn’t partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.

Eons ago, while still in high school, I composed a list of my all-time favorite films for the first time. The inspiration to undertake such an endeavor was prompted by the 1982 Sight & Sound poll that Roger Ebert wrote about in a mid-’80s edition of his Movie Home Companion (the 1982 Sight & Sound list can be found here). I haven’t followed Sight & Sound’s pattern and revised my own list every 10 years, but I did institute a personal rule that I’ve always adhered to since that initial teenage list: A film has to be at least 10 years old to be eligible for inclusion. Too often, people get swept up in ecstasy over a film they’ve seen for the first time and can’t fight the tendency to overrate it. Then, years later, they see that film again and wonder what the hell they were thinking. That’s why I think all films need time to age, like a fine bottle of wine, to test their taste over time. As for the distinction between “best” and “favorite,” as far I’m concerned, it’s a pointless one. Each submitted list represents someone’s subjective opinion. I hardly can claim my 10 films represent the “best” movies ever made as no one appointed me the arbiter to rule on such absolutes where none can exist.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Odie Henderson’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Odie “Odienator” Henderson’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Odie “Odienator” Henderson’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Editor’s Note: In light of Sight & Sound’s film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn’t partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.

I’m a compulsive. It’s no surprise that my list is full of movies about compulsion. Whether it’s a man who must play God in his relationship, casting his beloved in an image of his design, or a guy who can’t stop working, whoring, and drugging, I find myself drawn to depictions of people trying to find order in chaos. I’ve discovered this has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. When I dug up my 2002 list of this type, I shuffled the order and kept eight of the titles. I dropped the most emotional and the most rigorously organized movies, replacing them with films that were twice as organized and emotional. By this rationale, I’ll drop four movies in 2022 and be driven bat-shit insane looking for replacements.

This isn’t a list of my favorite movies, though two of these would appear on that list. This is a list of movies that profoundly affected me more than any others. With that said, a caveat is in order: Movie lists always inspire grouchy comments reflecting what a person felt should have been on them. Let me stop you now. You have no say in what should or shouldn’t be here because you are not me. Thank your lucky stars for that.

Oscar Prospects: The Artist

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Oscar Prospects: The Artist
Oscar Prospects: The Artist

There are still more than two months to go before 2011 closes up shop, and guys like Fincher and Spielberg deliver their latest Oscar-ready opuses, but as of now, no film this year is poised to collect more Academy Award nominations than The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius’s silent movie about the silent era that has so many great things going for it, it’s hard to organize them all in your head. In no way is this meant to imply that “great” and “Oscar” are linked, but rather that The Artist boasts an all-encompassing panache and irresistibility that, save the inevitable handful of backlashers and contrarians, is going to deeply enchant scads of people, Academy members especially. And yet, as easy as the accusation may be, the film—as some writers have already pointed out—doesn’t seem to be actively dangling the carrot. It is genuinely that good, and it unfolds in a milieu that’s bursting with an embarrassment of inherent virtues.

Set in Hollywood between the years of 1927 and 1931, when talkies began to displace silents and stars like George Valentin (Cannes Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin) found themselves dropping from A-List to extinction, The Artist offers a richly nostalgic interpretation of one of the most romanticized periods in cinema’s history, an industry smooch that’s bound to win it even more favor than its brilliant, timeless commentary on the ever-changing state of technology at large (not to mention its perfectly natural and logical inclusion of a certain stock market crash). It almost instantly drops itself into the canon of movies about making movies, and its universal accessibility—otherwise known as hater fuel—will provide voters with the characteristic reassurance that, not only would their endorsement reward something of great value, but something that, goshdarnit, people really like. It will absolutely be one of your Best Picture nominees.

New York Film Festival 2011: The Artist

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New York Film Festival 2011: <em>The Artist</em>
New York Film Festival 2011: <em>The Artist</em>

With The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius stretches a feather-light gimmick to feature-length. The writer-director’s tribute to silent movies begins with a movie buff’s tongue-in-cheek premise: What if we made a silent movie about the silent film era, where the stars all act the same way in their real lives as they do in their film-within-a-film movies?

It all begins at the end of Hollywood’s silent film era, as star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and aspiring starlet Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) meet cute and fall for each other. The rest of the movie chronicles their long journey to a happy ending while their careers careen in opposite directions as he laughs off the talkies as a fad, fading into impoverished obscurity, while she embraces the new technology and becomes one of its biggest stars.

The two mug like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, exaggerating the already extreme expressions and gestures employed by most of the stars of that era. George flashes his blindingly white grin on the red carpet like Dudley Do-Right, and Peppy’s signature move—on screen and off—is a two-fingered whistle followed by a blown kiss. But then everyone in this world overacts, even the studio head (John Goodman) who bellows things like “the public is never wrong!” and the audience members who radiate oversized emotion at a screening, some clapping their hands to their cheeks in amazement.

Tribeca Film Festival 2009: Don McKay

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Tribeca Film Festival 2009: <em>Don McKay</em>
Tribeca Film Festival 2009: <em>Don McKay</em>

Clearly a quiet and lonely man, Don McKay (Thomas Haden Church) sluggishly scrubs the paint off a high school art class’s floor, with a loser shrug affixed to his face. He’s employed in janitorial services, and this being a not-too-stirring existence, he jumps at the chance to go back to his hometown after receiving a letter from a cancer-stricken first love, Sonny (Elisabeth Shue), who beckons his return. Upon arriving at her childhood home, Don is greeted by a suspiciously tidy, anal-retentive maid, Marie (Melissa Leo), who has been Sonny’s caretaker since the cancer spread. When Don finally sees Sonny, still marvelously angelic, his eyes widen in glee as fond memories are recalled, but Don McKay is no glorious reunion story, as this town and girl he once knew belie a much deeper, far-reaching truth than the artificial welcoming party may let on.

Double Reflections: Beyond the Shadow of the Double

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Double Reflections: Beyond the Shadow of the Double
Double Reflections: Beyond the Shadow of the Double

The theme of “the double” has exerted a complex and ambiguous fascination throughout the cultural history of the last century. Arguably, every form of contemporary art has been touched by this powerful theme and its many implications. Indeed, the double is more than a theme: it is a basic figuration, an archetype whose flexible structure can express multiple meanings and associations. In a sense, the double is, appropriately, a multi-faceted mental form.

The relationship between the double and the cinema is especially intriguing: we could say that the double, born mainly in literature and poetry, has found in cinema its natural medium of expression. The reasons for that are more structural than aesthetic: in fact, in film the double is often not only a theme or a form, but also a fundamental subtext directly connected to the particular nature of the cinematic experience.

His Greatest Humiliation: William Holden

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His Greatest Humiliation: William Holden
His Greatest Humiliation: William Holden

The Film Society of Lincoln Center is in the midst of a brilliantly programmed William Holden retrospective. By presenting a series of thematic double features, it seeks to excavate the various and conflicting characteristics that made Holden a remarkable performer. His voice was like ashes and nails, rough with a staccato delivery. His physique was effortlessly perfect (apparently his only regular physical activity was standing on his hands out of the open windows of tall buildings after too many martinis). Over the course of his career, his face aged from golden toned to burnished copper but—even when deeply lined from age and hard living—he never stopped being empirically handsome. Holden was the ultimate movie star; yet this was his greatest humiliation.

William Holden: To Live Like a Human Being

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William Holden: To Live Like a Human Being
William Holden: To Live Like a Human Being

“I feel lousy about the pain that I’ve caused my wife and kids. I feel guilty and conscience-stricken, and all of those things you think sentimental, but which my generation calls simple human decency. And I miss my home, because I’m beginning to get scared shitless, because all of a sudden it’s closer to the end than the beginning, and death is suddenly a perceptible thing to me, with definable features.”—William Holden as Max Schumacher in Network

William Holden’s face, with its deep crags, blazing blue eyes, and the seriousness behind the straight-up all-American handsomeness, tells the story of the man’s life better than any biography could.