Sunday, May 10, 2015

1936--The Year in Review

Charles Chaplin remains king, even after the advent of sound and after he so steadfastly refused to adhere to such progress. Even so, his newest film is resolutely improved with sonics, being adorned with his brilliantly crafted score.Yet this particular movie is actually a silent one, as labels go, just as it's also a work that looks baldly forward, vision-wise. Fritz Lang's well-informed blitz against mob rule is Chaplin's clearest competitor for the top spot, sporting some of the year's best acting with the superb Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney. Then we see the first glimpse of a glowing, gem-like shine--Sweden's Ingrid Bergman--who'd adorn filmmaking for some time to come, recreating her own debut performance for Hollywood (and in English) only a few years later. Bubbling under are works by masterful directors like Frank Capra, William Wyler, and George Stevens. Somehow mirroring the top narrative feature, experimental filmmaker Lenny Lye contributes work that's insanely ahead of its time--to the point where it would be rebooted (without note) for Apple computer commercials in the late 90s (even looking at it now, it seems absolutely nuts--it's the most brilliant movie of the year). Meanwhile, the forward-thinking FDR administration delivers one of the finest and most famous documentary shorts ever made. It should be noted that Disney and Warner Brothers (headed here by the great Tex Avery, whose catchy I Love to Singa is a fan favorite) make terrific strides this year. And I love the villainous play by the young and supremely dupicitous Bonita Granville and, yep, that boldly iconic supporting turn by Paul Robeson as he sings the only version of "Ol' Man River" that could ever really be sung. Meanwhile, both the disaster movie San Francisco and the futuristic Things to Come are instant landmarks for the special effects craft. And it should be noted that William Cameron Menzies' art direction for Things to Come would clearly influence architecture in real life for decades to come. The future, it seems, was electric in the 1936 air.  NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and they are in no way reflective of the choices made by the Oscars.

PICTURE: MODERN TIMES (US, Charles Chaplin) (2nd: Fury (US, Fritz Lang), followed by: Dodsworth (US, William Wyler); Mr Deeds Goes to Town (US, Frank Capra); Swing Time (US, George Stevens); Things to Come (UK, William Cameron Menzies and Alexander Korda);  Intermezzo (Sweden, Gustaf Molander); Show Boat (US, James Whale); The Petrified Forest (US, Archie Mayo); The Green Pastures (US, William Keighley and Marc Connelly)

ACTOR: Spencer Tracy, FURY (2nd: William Powell, My Man Godfrey, followed by: Charles Chaplin, Modern Times; Walter Huston, Dodsworth; Gary Cooper, Mr Deeds Goes to Town; Rex Ingram, The Green Pastures; Charles Laughton, Rembrandt)

ACTRESS: Ingrid Bergman, INTERMEZZO (2nd: Carole Lombard, My Man Godfrey, followed by: Sylvia Sidney, Fury; Jean Arthur, Mr Deeds Goes to Town; Irene Dunne, Theodora Goes Wild; Greta Garbo, Camille; Luise Rainer, The Great Ziegfeld) 

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Paul Robeson, SHOWBOAT (2nd: Humphrey Bogart, The Petrified Forest, followed by: Walter Brennan, Come and Get It; Mischa Auer, My Man Godfrey; Oscar Homolka, Sabotage; Akim Tamiroff, The General Died at Dawn)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Bonita Granville, THESE THREE (2nd: Alice Brady, My Man Godfrey, followed by: Gale Sondergaard, Anthony Adverse; Mary Astor, Dodsworth; Helen Morgan, Showboat; Elsa Lanchester, Rembrandt)


DIRECTOR: Charles Chaplin, MODERN TIMES (2nd: Fritz Lang, Fury, followed by: William Wyler, Dodsworth; George Stevens, Swing Time; William Cameron Menzies and Alexander Korda, Things to Come; Frank Capra, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town)

SCREENPLAY: Fritz Lang, Bartlett Cormack and Norman Krasna, FURY (2nd: Charles Chaplin, Modern Times, followed by: Lillian Hellman, These Three; Morrie Myskind and Eric Hatch, My Man Godfrey; Robert Riskind and Clarence Budington Kelland, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town; Charles Kenyon and Delmer Daves, The Petrified Forest)

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: THE PLOW THAT BROKE THE PLAINS (Pare Lorentz, US), followed by: Disorder in the Court (The Three Stooges; Preston Black) ; Night Mail (Harry Watt and Basil Wright, UK)

ANIMATED SHORT FILM: RAINBOW DANCE (Lenny Lye, US) (2nd: I Love to Singa (Tex Avery, US) (2nd: Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor (Dave Fleischer, US), followed by: The Country Cousin (Wilfred Jackson, US); Thru the Mirror (David Hand, US); Elmer Elephant (Wilfred Jackson, US)

CINEMATOGRAPHY: SWING TIME, Showboat, Modern Times, Fury, Anthony Adverse

ART DIRECTION: THINGS TO COME, Dodsworth, The Great Ziegfeld, Anthony Adverse

COSTUME DESIGN: SWING TIME, The Great Ziegfeld, Anthony Adverse, Rembrandt
ORIGINAL SCORE: Charles Chaplin, MODERN TIMES (2nd: Heinz Provost and Robert Henning, Intermezzo)


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