Tuesday, January 20, 2009

FAINTHEART (Best Pictures From the Outside In #13)

Since we've got a whole slew of new readers (thanks for joining us!) a little explanation. This is the 13th episode of the series "Best Pictures From the Outside In" in which Mike (GoatDog's Movies), Nathaniel (The Film Experience) and Nick (Nick's Flick Picks) compare Best Picture winners from either end of Oscar's timeline. We started by pitting the first (Wings, 1927) and the last (No Country For Old Men, 2007) against each other. In each subsequent episode we move one step forward in time and one step backward. We might throw in an extra episode pitting this year's winner (will it be The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Slumdog Millionaire?) against... something. Eventually the series will end in the middle in the 1960s arguing about the comparative merits of In the Heat of the Night (1967) and Oliver! (1968). By the time that episode rolls around maybe nobody will be asking for "more".

Season 1: Episodes 1 thru 12

And now Season 2 kicks off with Episode 13...

Rebecca (1940) vs. Braveheart (1995)


Nathaniel: First, readers, an apology. It's been a long time since the last installment of this series and it's entirely my fault. While Nick and Mike were undoubtedly on their horses in blue war paint, ready for battle, I was stubbornly holed up in my room. A strained analogy: this Best Picture twofer is rather like the sprawling Manderlay estate in Hitchcock's Rebecca and I'm like the new Mrs. de Winter (Joan Fontaine). I was feeling overwhelmed. I am trying to get used to my surrounding in the East Wing (Rebecca -remarkably I'd never seen it!). The West Wing (Braveheart) I was avoiding like the plague. But the plot and this entires series requires that one move freely about in both wings of Oscar's mansion. So I finally walked into Braveheart again. I walked in slow motion according to the visual grammar of the movie, and am ready for battle. And there ends my analogy and apology.

...now if only Mel Gibson would apologize to me.

Nick: I DON'T THINK HE'S GOING TO APOLOGIZE!! BUT I WILL, IN ADVANCE! BECAUSE!! IF WE'RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT BRAVEHEART! I SHOULD WARN YOU!! I CAN ONLY TALK LIKE THIS!!! THE MOVIE IS CONTAGIOUS!! IT MAKES ME UNDULY EXCLAMATORY!!! WILLIAM WALLACE IS THE KING MIDAS OF YELLING! EVERYTHING HE TOUCHES TURNS TO YELLING!!! FREEEEEEDOM!!!!!

Nathaniel: Would you like a lozenge?

Perhaps a gag.

Nick: YES, THANKS!! DO YOU ALSO HAVE A CUDGEL AND SOME BAGPIPES THAT I CAN BORROW?! AND PERHAPS A SMOCK WITH A FLEUR DE LIS ON IT! IN CASE I NEED TO LOOK LIKE I'M FROM FRANCE!!!

Nathaniel: Where is Mike?

Has Mel Gibson stabbed him? slit his throat? set him aflame? bludgeoned him to death? None would surprise. Has there ever been a more violence-loving mainstream auteur in Hollywood? Inarguably this is the bloodiest film to ever snag Hollywood's top prize. Even Gladiator (a more appropriate film to go full title boogie into barbarism) wasn't as interested in death blows. It's impossible to look at Braveheart now (for me at least) and not see it as an unfortunate positive reinforcement for Mel's wild eyed sadism... it's like a warm up before the lovingly detailed torture of Jesus or the inventive brutalizations of huge swaths of Mayan extras.

Braveheart is not for the Faintheart

It's interesting to see him paired with Hitchcock though, since Hitchcock himself has a sadistic reputation.

Mike: I just have one word to say about your brutal, Longshanks-style ambush of Braveheart while I was away... FREEEEEEEEE--OK, maybe a few words. Yes, it's unnecessarily sadistically bloody. Yes, it's so historically inaccurate I won't believe anything in it, even if I see corroboration from other sources. Yes, it's puerile and adolescent and downright stupid about sex and politics and ideology and the incredible, unanswerable strategic power of a well-timed cock-waving. Yes, Mel's completely wrong for the part, making its intentional anachronisms blend with its unintentional anachronism into a sort of aggressively loud milkshake. (Which Longshanks wants to drink up.) And yes, Mel is no director, and whatever majesty the film achieves can be ascribed to cinematographer John Toll (but not to editor Steven Rosenblum or composer James Horner, who should both have been drawn and quartered for their work here).

But I like it.

It's never boring, for one, even though it is way too long. I like its fumbling efforts to be about something, not just FREEEEEEDOMMMMMMMM!!!! and bleeding head wounds but also about mythmaking. I like that Mel was reaching back to the era of widescreen Cinemascope historical epics that made up in energy what they lacked in brains. Yeah, it would have been better with Charlton Heston in front of the camera and Anthony Mann behind it, but if we compare it to its modern equivalent, Gladiator, it comes out on top for me, because you know Mel would have brought in ten thousand extras and a dozen rhinoceri (rhinoceroses?) instead of settling for a CGI Colosseum and a couple green-screened tigers.

Nick: Well-played, Goatdog. You write like A WARRIOR-POET! (I am attempting to modulate myself.) I can get behind that whole last paragraph, except that Russell > Mel is already enough to tip me back into Gladiator's camp in this particularly low-riding Best Picture square-off. And though Gladiator is stultifying whenever nobody's shooting an arrow or being chained to someone else, and Braveheart does have it beat for palpable, physical heft, Gladiator doesn't leave the bad, coercively BLOODLUSTY TASTE IN MY MOUTH that Braveheart does.

I also remember how wowed lots of people were by the muddy, immersive, rough-and-tumble quality of all the Braveheart battle sequences when the film came out, before Saving Private Ryan opened three years later and pretty much rewrote the book.

Nathaniel: Points in Saving Private Ryan's favor: It didn't really feel like Spielberg was actually enjoying the carnage. He was just revealing how horrific war is for the most part (which harkens back to that scene we all loved when we covered All Quiet on the Western Front -- violent death is terrifying, shocking and wasteful... even if you're a soldier and you know it's part of the drill). Both of those films feel human when they're dealing with death. With Braveheart I can only anthropomorphize because it feels like a rabid dog to me. I see it stumbling around, foaming at the mouth, looking for something to kill. It's so over the top that it plays like a parody of an epic rather than an epic. But the size of its fanbase is such that I shouldn't reveal how truly terrible I think this movie is...

Mad Max Mel

But I'm glad Mike defended it. It's fresh perspective for me. It's true that it's not "boring" and I'd never thought before to give Mel credit for his mad commitment to everything, not just the slow-motion button. But Mike is right that as a director he is.

Committed.

Bring out the rhinoceri!!!

Nick: Speaking of the crazy-ass shit that can happen when YOUR FIRST WIFE COMPLETELY F***ING DIES and you don't know how to channel all your emotions about it... who's going to address the ghost in the room? I think she just floated past me. I hope I haven't been tricked into wearing one of her dresses.

Nathaniel: You can wear any dress you like so long as we can get out of these kilts.

Mike?

[two weeks pass]

Mike: I must apologize for my lengthy absence; I dozed off during the first hour of Rebecca and only woke up recently. I've never been able to get into this film, from its college-years status as the movie I rented the most times without watching (seven), to my two or three viewings since I finally managed to get it into my DVD player (although I guess it was a VCR way back then). Why does it take so damned long to get going? It certainly looks great, although only Hitchcock would think of shooting almost all the exteriors and a handful of interiors against rear-projection. The end product feels like it's actually taking place inside that elaborate model we see during Fontaine's famous prologue soliloquy. As she later says about Monte Carlo, "I think it's rather artificial."

I guess that's just Hitchcock for you, but this feels closer to the boring Rope end of his experiments with enclosed spaces and farther from the exciting Rear Window end. And the leads don't help: Olivier outside of Shakespeare continues to elude me, Fontaine's slack-lipped, stuttering, hunched-shoulders conceit of youthful naivete grates on me, and only Judith Anderson really seems to be on whatever wavelength Hitchcock is going for.

Nick: I don't think I've disagreed with Mike twice at one time, ever. Certainly not in this series. So I'm feeling a little shaky right now; my lip is trembling like Joan Fontaine's and my shoulder is sort of hunched as I type this, while my face turns into a soft-focus mask of despair, and I go prowling around my high-ceilinged hallways, looking for answers. Which is all to say that I like Rebecca, a lot, and I especially like the first hour or so. I love the unease that Hitchcock builds into Joan's growing acquaintance with Maxim de Winter and into Joan's relationship with the woman she "accompanies," and how that woman can't help admiring her success at "snaring" Maxim. The estate is so gloriously designed and photographed; it may be artificial, but it's one hell of a shimmering, satin tapestry. The whole thing just feels so gossamer, but in a creepy and palpably cold way. It gets the du Maurier blend of dread, camp, and romanticism just right.

Admittedly, I like the second half a bit less, though it helps that I always, always forget all the big twists, so I get suckered by the narrative. I appreciate the continuity with Hitchcock's gamboling, picaresque thrillers of the 30s, full of improbable kooks who know just enough to be dangerous. But Rebecca does start to feel a bit gassy and over-crowded, and Olivier's performance gets a little stuck.

Nathaniel - you'd never seen Rebecca before, right? Break the tie!

[three weeks pass]

Nathaniel: "Last night I dreamed of Manderlay again"... or, to be more specific, last night I nightmared of Rebecca again. That is to say, would we ever wrap up this particular BPFTOI ? And this time it's all my fault! In a very peculiar way the movie has become Rebecca DeWinter to me and, like you Nick, I've gone all pinched as if I'm playing Fontaine. I'm totally the second Mrs de Winter ... and the original intimidates me.

In the long line of psycho screen lesbians, isn't Mrs. Danvers the top?

It's now been over a month since I've seen the movie and it feels like a ghost to me just like Rebecca. I don't love her/it as much as Mrs. Danvers does (my god, who could?) but I am semi-fond. So rather than playing tiebreaker I play mediator. There's a lot of good stuff here, but there's also too much clunkiness (Hitchcock loves exposition but that boathouse sequence!) for me to accept its lauded place in the Hitchcock canon (his one and only Best Picture winner? Argh).

That said can we talk about Mrs. Danvers for a minute. That negligee sequence!

Did you ever see anything so delicate? Look... you can see my hand through it.

I love that it works as a reflection of the movies inimitable creepy/gossamer quality you mentioned (who could ever put those together? Hitchcock that's who) but it's also so subversively Queer. It's now vying for the top spot in the annals of all time best barely sublimated gay desire scene (Red River's famous "ever had a good swiss watch?" sequence now has formidable competition). Judith Anderson does a fantastic job of actualizing this woman who isn't self-actualized at all. I just loved her. This isn't a new reaction of course since the character is so iconic but, DAMN! Sure Mrs. Danvers is but one blip in a long chronological line of psycho screen lesbians but I guess I'm more than okay with uncharitable portrayals of gay characters when they're done with such style, creativity and craft and not when they're just blandly reflective of their director's "issues" with the same [cough Braveheart cough]

Nick: Anderson is indeed great, and even if, for me, the second half of the film trails a little vaguely after a fascinating set-up, I love that Hitchcock hands the whole end of the movie to Mrs. Danvers, making her all but synonymous with that funereal mansion and bringing them both down together in a giant blaze of neurotic ardor. I love the tension between smallness (hers is a supporting role, after all, and not a deeply contextualized one) and hugeness (the wide angles, the whole estate, the end of everything, the screen filled with smoke). I also love that Hitchcock knows that if you direct a movie carefully, the audience can often detect the heartbeat of the whole film in the fate of a single character. It's as though we zoom in on one persona/relationship, between the already-dead and the soon-to-be-dead woman, and we suddenly see the whole canvas in a different way.

Gibson finds it impossible to delve into his movies like this. In fact, he's always racing out of them toward some larger concept that ultimately has little to do with what he's made a film about. It's "freedom" in this case, even though he's helpless for almost three hours at stitching the battlefield stuff to the halls-of-power stuff in any meaningful way, or at proposing any particular notion of what "freedom" means for these characters, or this film. (Gibson pulled a similarly open-ended non-sequitur with those looming ships at the end of Apocalypto; happily, for him, Christ's Resurrection at the end of The Passion lent some credence to his preferred style of conclusion.) If you have to ditch your own movie and chase an empty slogan in order to finish it, you probably haven't -- you know -- directed it very well. Or told a coherent story, though I like Mike's idea that he's at least gestured toward a myth in a robust, unembarrassed way. Plus, as we've all covered, he does succeed in dicing and stabbing and defenestrating the hell out of a whole lotta people. Maybe FREEEEEEEDOM's just another word for no one left to kill.

*

Rebecca (1940) was nominated for 11 Oscars and won 2 (Picture & Cinematography) Braveheart (1995) was nominated for 10 Oscars and won 5 (including Picture & Cinematography)

Now is your chance to YELL, readers. Are you slathering on warpaint to punish us for our treatment of Mr. Gibson? Where do you fall on our Rebecca scale of love / like / can't get into?

57 comments:

BeRightBack said...

DON'T INSULT 'ROPE'! I LOVE IT! TALK ABOUT QUEER HITCH'COCK'! AMIRIGHT?!

(this shouting thing is...ADDICTIVE!)

NATHANIEL R said...

berightback -- i love ROPE too but i didn't want to lose the thread by defending it ;)

JA said...

I've never seen Braveheart so I have nothing to say there, but Rebecca is a film I didn't much like for a long time but recently, the last time I watched it actually, I fell in love with it. I don't know what clicked into place, I'd seen it probably four or five times before and always felt sort of tepid towards it (save Mrs. Danvers, because there is no correct response other than total instant adoration of that lady), but man the last time I watched it everything just suddenly felt right for the first time. I'd had trouble with Fontaine mainly; I guess I just had trouble dealing with a Hitchcock heroine that's so wholly pathetic for such a long time in the narrative, and I've never been crazy for Joan Fontaine (don't get me started on Suspicion, ugh) anyway... yet again, I don't know if I reached a different understanding of what was happening because of being older or whatever but her performance suddenly seemed perfect. Instead of Fontaine just seeming weak - which was how I always felt, that beyond the weakness of the character Fontaine herself just was swallowed whole by the film - that there was life and spark to the performance under that; an inner life only hinted at that suddenly brought the character to life. Funny how time can change one's perceptions on a film like that sometimes, though.

NATHANIEL R said...

that's especially true of films made for adults... i.e. films made before the 1980s ;) I'm SURE that some classics I saw when i was younger i should revisit.

but Mrs. Danvers. wowza.

Cal said...

I haven't seen Braveheart and not much of what you guys said is encouraging me to!Rebecca, however, is one of my favourite films -- my second favourite Hitchcock after Rear Window.

I love how it all builds up to the crazy finale. Everything's just simmering in the first act, and although I'd never really call Hitch restrained, he definitely gets a lot wilder as it goes on. Everything just ended up coming together in fabulous OTT style with that showdown where we learn what happened to Rebecca. Plus the whole Manderlay setting is sinister, like it's possessed, and so the end feels kinda self-destructive. Like the house can't take any more.

NATHANIEL R said...

like a Monster House thing?

BGK said...

Wow ... this is the first time I really disagree with some of what's been written. First off, Braveheart is my least favorite Oscar-winning film of the past 20 years. I find Mel unconvincing in the lead role (he's playing Lethal Weapon in period detail), and without stronger lead casting, the rest of the films struggles to keep a balance against this deficit, which it tries to do with a decent last act and the near-manic use of violence as entertainment. And, BTW, I'm still laughing about the entries in all caps. As for Rebecca, it is one of my all-time favorite films from the 1940s, one of my favorite Hitchcock films and a movie I watch at least once a year, and it continues to dazzle me in so many ways: Hitchock using Fontaine's own insecurities as an actress to best advantage playing an insecure woman, Anderson's total commitment to the role without straying into caricature, and the use of the house itself to dwarf and oppress the story. If you've never seen Rebecca on a big screen, please do so, because the effect is different than watching it on TV, no matter how large the TV set. And the scene where Fontaine visits Rebecca's room (known in the article as "the neglige scene") is a knockout. If the room was too over-the-top, the unscene Rebecca will be seen as a kook by the audience and Fontaine; too understated, and Rebecca's memory is not that intimidating. Instead it's brilliant, with Anderson and Fontaine at their best. I show this scene in one of my classes and it never fails to score. As always, though, thanks for leading the discussion. I do love this series.

Benji said...

I rewatched Braveheart recently and hated it. It is totally ridiculous, I cannot understand why people like it. So William Wallace impregnated the Queen of England and fathered the next king? I'm going to puke...

I love Rebecca, on the other hand, for all the reasons mentioned beforehand. The whole mood of the film and Judith Anderson are great. Joan Fontaine figures kind of ok here as the masochistic Mrs., as this tendency of hers was still new and interesting. In Suspicion, though, it is quite tiresome.
There is even a German/Austrian musical of Rebecca that is supposed to come to Broadway some time. I hope they translate it well, cos it is good!

Michael said...

Some thoughts on REBECCA...

- I think it's wrong to criticise Hitch for the studio-constructed look. Very few, very very few films of that time escape this look, particularly dialogue-heavy films like REBECCA. They didn't call them soundstages for no reason.

- Hitchcock didn't want to adapt the script in such a linear fashion, but Selznick had more clout in that producer/director relationship at this stage. I'm inclined to think Hitch was onto something there, and his instincts were pretty solid even if I didn't agree.

- Franz Waxman did a brilliant job at scoring the film, and giving the unseen character of a Rebecca a presence. It was possibly the best work he ever did in a film, and sadly the sound mixing fidelity of the era was not as kind to the eerie details of his orchestrations as more recent reconstructions have been.

The opinionated australian

Iggy said...

I must be quite simple-minded because I've been laughing picturing in my mind Nick yelling and then moving Fontaine-like, lol.

Rebecca isn't my favourite Hitchcock, but I really like it. Well, now I think about it no Olivier picture is in my favourites. Probably it's just me that I don't get into his acting style. Mrs. Danvers on the other hand is one of those characters/performances that make a movie worth watching it time and again.

I've never re-watched Braveheart, though, why would one do? As far as I can remember it's true it wasn't boring, but it was one of those pictures you forget you have seen it the following day. Why does the AMPAS like actors when they become directors even if they were... mediocre?

Back to simple-mindedness (?). Right now I'm watching "W"(TF) on TV, really WTF is this? At least, I'm glad to see this isn't getting movie theatre screens instead of much worthier movies.

cal roth said...

I just LOVE Braveheart. It's not exactly good, but I love it anyway, passionately. Its energy and fury is so... fullerian?

The Passion of the Christ is a masterpiece.

Cal said...

Haha. Yeah kind of like Monster House. At least it seemed to swallow everything.

Film School said...

Long post but entertaining...and insightful! Well done. You have a new fan from the New York Film School.

The Jack said...

Maybe it's because I'm English, but I love "Braveheart". Even though the film is rabidly anti-English, it has a truly loyal fanbase in this country, and I don't know anyone who doesn't like it. I don't know how people feel about it in America (if they even think about it at all), but in Britain, I'd say it is probably one of the nation's favorite films.

I've never really understood why some people dislike it so much. Sure it's historically inaccurate, but who cares? As a film, it works, and it's certainly very well made, the music is extremely emotive, etc. Certainly not deserving of the look of disgust and horror Meryl Streep afforded it when it won Best Picture.

Kent said...

What of Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier?

It's true that Judith Anderson steals the film away from them, but I would like to hear your opinions on these two performances as well.

Guy said...

Nick nails the problem when he refers to Gibson's inability to "delve" into his films -- he's constantly looking out, never looking in. He gets so distracted/excited by the physicality of events that he never goes into the whys.

Of course, that's talking "Braveheart" fat too seriously, so I'll just say what I really think: WORST! BEST!! PICTURE!!! EVER!!!!

(Wow, that shouting DOES feel good. Thanks, Nick.)

As for "Rebecca," I haven't seen it since I was in short pants, so I can't really say much ... but I loved it then.

Guy said...

* that should read: "that's TAKING "Braveheart" FAR too seriously."

My spontaneous shuddering at the mere recollection of the film clearly affected my typing.

Dan said...

I know this is irrelevant, but I just saw Brazil, and I LOVE IT! I'd just like to know anyone's opinion about it because no one i know has seen it yet.

Nate said...

"Certainly not deserving of the look of disgust and horror Meryl Streep afforded it when it won Best Picture."

I would very much like to see a screengrab of that moment.

goatdog said...

So many comments! A few things:

--Braveheart is so far from being the worst Best Picture ever--may I remind you of Cavalcade, Cimmaron, The Greatest Show on Earth, and (horror of horrors) Around the World in Eighty Days.

--Aside from the queer angle, which does make it at least watchable, there's nothing to Rope except a really obvious stunt--hey, it's time to change reels, let's run the camera into someone's back!

--I'm glad to see some support of Braveheart, but (alluding to something Nathaniel said off-thread) there's obviously a lot more enemies of Mel than there are Mel fanboys around. I'm proud to stand with the Brits (apparently) in their non-hatred.

--I am not criticizing Hitchcock for the studio constructed look. I know most films were shot on soundstages. But not all of Hitchcock's films look so utterly artificial. There are quite a few INTERIOR shots that were done with rear projection, something that Hitchcock could have avoided. It's a level of fakeness that's absent from other studio productions. Maybe he was going for that, but I don't like it.

ajnrules said...

If I remember correctly, Rebecca was Hitchcock's first film done in the studio system, so it's possible that he was still trying to get his feet wet within the confines of said system.

Anyways, it's been years since I watched both movies, so my memories are a bit fuzzy. I definitely remember being haunted by Rebecca's second half, especially with the destruction of Manderley, but that may be because I'm pyrophobic. I do note that the title screen you guys had in the animated gif is the different than the one I had when I was collecting the title screens.

As for Braveheart, it's been over ten years since I saw it. I remember finding the battle scenes quite delightful, but the rest of the film was rather lackluster. I do note with a touch of sadness that Patrick McGoohan, King Longshanks himself, passed away just last week.

The next entry will have How Green Was My Valley. Hopefully that won't take as long to get through.

Luis said...

I saw "Braveheart" when it opened and I don't remember a second of it. That's how impressed I was. "Rebecca" is another story: yes, Judith Anderson rules and Olivier's so understated in it, his Maxim is a bore, but don't you dare touch Joan Fontaine! I love her performance in this movie and she was robbed for her Oscar here (the Academy knows it, therefore they gave her one for "Suspicion" the following year). Speaking of her work as the new Mrs. De Winter, I've never seen any actor (dead or alive, male or female) playing "in love" so convincingly as Fontaine in "Rebecca". That image of her has been haunting me since the first time I saw this movie.

Kelsy said...

I haven't seen either of these films, but Yay! the series is back!

Kamikaze Camel said...

I haven't seen Braveheart, although it is perhaps my brother's favourite film. Hmmm. I do really like Rebecca though. Was an interesting Best Picture choice, surely.

cal roth said...

Yeah, goatdog. I'm gonna stand with Gibson all the way. I don't think Braveheart is a great picture, but is better than Crash, Terms of Endearment, Rocky and other embarassing BP winners.

You take Gibson's politics too serious: the reason why he is a fne directors has nothing to do with it. He's a director with a rare sense of energy and action, like William Friedkin, or some some Sidney Lumet. He makes you feel every scene: sometimes is pure shouting (Braveheart), sometimes is emotion (The Passion).

He is not a genius like Wog Kar-Wai or Arnaud Desplechin or Clint Eastwood, but I like his work very much, even when it is far from perfection.

Guy said...

"May I remind you of "Cavalcade," "Cimarron," "The Greatest Show on Earth," and (horror of horrors) "Around the World in Eighty Days."

I confess I haven't seen "Cavalcade." The other three, I think, are all marginally more entertaining than "Braveheart," though I'm certainly not saying they have much to recommend them.

NATHANIEL R said...

i am reminded but i still Braveheart the nadir. grrrr

Emma said...

Rebecca all the way for me. Joan Fontaine is amazing.

Serena said...

I agree with what has been said about Braveheart, but Rebecca is my favourite Hitchcock (and that's saying something). I personally think that Fontaine is very, very good in it (and I'm no fan of hers, I think she's horrible in Suspicion). I love the look and feel of the movie, and most of all, I love Judith Anderson's divine performance. As much as I love The Philadelphia Story and The Great Dictator, I have no problems with the best picture Oscar this film won.

NATHANIEL R said...

Serena -wow. it's so hard to be someone's favorite Hitchcock. there are so many beauties to choose from.

Perhaps I should give this another spin.

And also, to everyone, I find it super interesting that Joan Fontaine is such a divisive movie star. But I actually haven't seen much of her work.

where would you suggest I look for something great and something terrible? (bring on the division!)

Guy said...

Yay, Nat is on the Braveheart = Worst BP Ever train.

If Nick would just pipe in his agreement then it could become solid gold, incontrovertible fact ;)

Kamikaze Camel said...

Terms of Endearment is faaar from an embarrassment of any kind. Except of riches, perhaps.

NATHANIEL R said...

yeah, i love ToE too. it's paired with The Greatest Show on Earth in this series... and I can't wait to watch ToE again

Tim said...

I don't like to admit it (who would?), but I'm honestly quite a fan of Mel Gibson the director, and I think the Braveheart battle sequences are the very best thing he's ever done. Better even than Saving Private Ryan's Normandy, if I'm being honest with myself.

Certainly, the film's narrative is a wreck, and Mel's Scottish accent reaches almost Costnerian heights of unbelievability sometimes. But I love about the film - yes, I'm afraid it is love - how earthy and physical the whole thing is. A lot of that is surely John Toll, a great DP doing the absolute best work of his career, but I think a lot of it is Gibson's gonzo commitment to the material.

Yeah, it's a surfaces-only movie, and it's almost certainly true that the movie's representation of violence is morally indefensible, but to me those are both part of the appeal. I agree with everything Nick and Nathaniel said about the violence, in fact, I just find myself 180 degrees around in my appreciation for it.

(If I were to rank the Best Pictures, I suspect it would end up in the low 40s).

As for Rebecca: yuck. The only Hitchcock film that I'd rather pretend he didn't make, which is easy to do given that it's really a Selznick film, as directed - indifferently - by Hitch. Take out Mrs. Danvers (a magnificent, if retrograde, villain) and there's nothing in here that I care to watch.

billybil said...

This is the first "Outside In" I've had the pleasure of reading and I loved it. You guys are rather amusing, it is true.

I realize Mel Gibson has turned himself into a pariah and it is a shame. I don't think we should forget there was a time when he was a gorgeous movie star with charm and a mischievious twinkle that rightfully put him toward the top of matinee idols.

BRAVEHEART is a mess - a glorious mess in its energy, audacity, and extremity. Would you prefer BABE? Or APOLLO 13? Or SENSE AND SENSIBILITY? Or THE POSTMAN? Each of those 4 certainly have their merits but do any of them rival BRAVEHEART for its creative "vision"?

I refused to see BRAVEHEART for a long time based on what I'd heard about it. When I did finally see it (on the small screen, unfortunately) I found it visceral, annoying, and ridiculous (but simultaneously very exciting and entertaining).

I remember being totally amazed when BRAVEHEART took best picture - thinking the more traditional big scale approach of APOLLO 13 or the tasteful Englishness of SENSE AND SENSITILITY would take it. Maybe that year the academy was just feeling rather outrageous.

Billy D said...

No dildo Nat? I'm disappointed! I'm going to have to buy this now, aren't I? Rebecca's not my favorite Hitchcock either (North by Northwest, Vertigo, Strangers, etc. etc. have it beaten by a mile) and YES YES YES to "I don't understand Olivier outside of Shakespeare!"

Marshall said...

I can see no legitimate beef against James Horner's score, even if I personally came to hate it as my high school (Go Highlanders!) would beat it to death playing it on the morning announcements TV show.

cal roth said...

James L. Brooks should hide forever because his chick flick (nothing against good chick flicks, like the marvelous Letter From an Unkown Woman aka Joan Fontaine's best performance) won the Oscar over... The Right Stuff. Please, that is what I call a huge embarassment. Crash-BBM league.

cal roth said...

I second every single word written by billybil on Braveheart. (But BP was The Bridges of Madison County. From the nominees, Sense and Sensibility).

cal roth said...

Olivier is magnificent in Wyler's Carrie. Have you seen it? Highly recommended.

Anonymous said...

Gentlemen, I've been loving the series so far! Glad you all found time just before the Oscar nominations to provide us with this update in the series.

I like that you avoided background politics when discussing these winners (i.e. Crash v. BBM in 2005), but with two movies that have homo, er, issues, shall we say--- why avoid dealing with Mel's apparent problems while taking on Hitch's?

Ryan

billybil said...

I really like what JA wrote about the innner life in Fontaine's performance in REBECCA - something I do think exists in fleeting moments! Unfortunately I think many of us have trouble recalling it because it was so often overwhelmed by the requirements of the script. I remember wanting to slap the character numerous times while watching the film and I fault the character as originally conceived and written for this, not Fontaine.

I do agree, this is not one of Olivier's finer moments - he seems so obvious in his tortured, secretive suavity.

And, of course, I find Anderson fascinating and rich with unspoken feelings but (I can hear the outcries now) even she seems a little obvious to me - extremely well played but so predictible after the first scene.

I profoundly agree with Tim that REBECCA is more a Selznick film than a Hitchcock film and that sums up a lot of its appeal and also its failings. (Selznick never seemed to go for complexity when he could go for blatancy, did he?)

What I find most impressive in REBECCA is the cinematography and the art direction. Those are the aspects of the film that I still recall so well (I remember really wanting to visit and wander the halls of Manderley -- even if I had to face Mrs. Danvers there!!).

I also think the basic premise of the story - this wonderful "haunting" by the first wife and how that bitch is slowly revealed - is a very exciting story-telling device. I just wish Fontaine's character had been less wimpy, that someone more "real" had played the husband and that Mrs. Danvers had been allowed more "exposure". Did any of you ever really care about Mr. DeWinter's pain? I didn't.

Anyway - I guess, for me, REBECCA would still win over BRAVEHEART as a best picture because it is so consistently evocative and does have memorable cinematic moments whereas BRAVEHEART is simply a gory roller coaster ride.

billybil said...

Bridges of Madison County as best picture?

Hmmm - very interesting. I'll have to think about that.

cal roth - are you, perhaps, a fan of Meryl? Or is it Clint?

NATHANIEL R said...

billybil agreed on the "haunting" and I was thinking as i watched it that the novel must really be something (i haven't read it. tsk tsk) but I think both Selznick and Hitchcock are amazing so I don't really mind the push and pull creatively.

and though i didn't speak up about it in the post, I actually liked how completely sealed off Olivier's performance was. It read as so actorly entitled which reads completely right for the entitled aspects of the man and his unknowability anyway. I really think the movie is all about the posession of the house anyway. Mr de Winter is totally secondary to me ;)

cal roth said...

I'm a big fan of the clint, but that has nothing to do with it. I love Clint but Changeling sucks...

cal roth said...

Rebecca's plot is sais to be a plagium from Carolina Nabuco's "A Sucessora". Just find the wikipedia article.

I've read Nabuco's novel and they're too similar, except for the crime subplot.

Serena said...

Nathaniel, if you want to see good work by Joan Fontaine I would recommend Letter from an Unknown Woman, which is also a very good movie. Then again, I'm a bit of a fan of Max Ophüls. For something terrible, I'm not sure if you mentioned whether you had already seen Suspicion or not, but I think she's terrible in that. Yeah, there is something to be said about a favourite Hitch. I have to say that I'm well aware that most Hitchcock fans prefer other movies like Rear Window and Vertigo (which I do like, a lot, as I love Hitch in general). I don't really know why I think of Rebecca as my favourite, but the heart loves what it loves.

NATHANIEL R said...

so true. my heart used to tell me NOTORIOUS was my favorite. then my heart dumped Notorious for REAR WINDOW and the past few years PSYCHO has demanded I make it an honest movie but declaring my love publicly every opportunity I get. so it's now my favorite.

Cal said...

Yeah, definitely go for Letter From an Unknown Woman. It's gorgeous and she's wonderful. Only ignore the fact she plays a 13 year-old in it at one point.

cal roth said...

Joan Fontaine is just... perfect as 13 yo girl? She sold me that in a moment, and I couldn't think twice about how the whole thing was so absurd! The performance is brilliant. And the movie, too, the best by Max Ophuls along with Le Plaisir and and Lola Montes.

But... I hate her in The Emperor Waltz, damn! Fontaine is like Angelina Jolie (!): sometimes perfect, sometimes awful, never mediocre.

BGK said...

As for Fontaine, a low point from earlier in her career is A Damsel in Distress. This was the first film Fred Astaire made after seven with Ginger Rogers, and the memory of Ginger lingers when Joan tries to dance. Her inexperience shows. But I do like her in The Constant Nymph. The movie can be contrived, and talk about fake sets -- there are times when she and her sister are running across hills that look less convincing than a grade-school earth science project. But she glows in this movie and definitely elevates the somtimes-cliched material.

Dave said...

I can't believe that people are yet to challenge whomever it was asserted that all of Britain loves Braveheart. This is strictly untrue. Maybe you were all seeing through it, but I can't let it rest without saying something. (Still, it's not like it's Gibson's worst film.)

As for Joan Fontaine (I prefer Olivia, if you want to introduce the crashingly obvious comparison point), she's rather smashing in the underseen The Constant Nymph, for which she was also nominated. (BGK beat me to it.) Ooh, and Jane Eyre, which never gets mentioned.

P.S. L-O-V-E this series, ecstatic it's back.

NicksFlickPicks said...

Yes to Joan Fontaine in Letter from an Unknown Woman (though I also like her quite a bit here, and I usually... don't like her).

Yes to Rebecca being all about the house.

Yes to Braveheart being the worst of the Best Pictures we've covered so far in the recent time frame. When you look at the earlier winners, I think Cavalcade is probably worse and Cimarron is about comparable, although if you hold Braveheart to the standards of possibility of its moment, it might be a worse 1995 movie than Cimarron is a 1931 movie.

Whatever, it's bad. And I'm all for any of the other four nominees beating it, especially Babe. But I do think Oscar has done even worse. You'll have to keep reading, though, cuz I'm not spilling the beans yet about what film(s) I have in mind.

Neel Mehta said...

We might throw in an extra episode pitting this year's winner (will it be The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Slumdog Millionaire?) against... something.

If it's Benjamin Button, you could always use the Best Production winner of 1927, Sunrise.

If Slumdog Millionaire wins, do a three-way for the final installment. Having it and Oliver! double up on In the Heat of the Night makes a certain kind of sense.

billybil said...

Nathaniel R, "actorly entitled" is a wonderful way of describing Olivier's performance and I really do get the way it suited the role. But gosh, I just wish the performer could have provided that sense of entitlement as well as real vulnerability at the end.

I have a brilliant idea! How about if all of you recast REBECCA with current actors (I bet we'd see more sympathetic, complex actors proposed as Mr. DeWinter!). How about Daniel Day-Lewis? Or maybe Ralph Fiennes?

I can't seem to get too excited about someone to replace Fontaine? Help me out here, folks!

But just think of all the possible Mrs. Danvers!! Meryl anyone? Susan Sarandon? Just don't say Glenn Close!!

Luis said...

Did anyone see the photo on Vanity Fair with Jennifer Jason Leigh as Danvers and Keira Knightley as Mrs. de Winter (ugh)? I think one part was right but the other...

Silencio said...

I like Rebecca, but something about it did seem too tame for me. I feel like I should have lost more of...something...when the house burnt down.

And say what you will about Braveheart, but I know when that last scene came...which everyone yelling and charging at the seemingly insurmountable opposition...I teared up. I was moved. That's all I'm sayin.