Oscars Fortnight Day 7: The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter (1978)

The 51st Academy Awards (1979)
Nominations: 9
Wins: 5

I’ve wanted to watch The Deer Hunter for a long time for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, it’s the last of John Cazale’s film roles that I hadn’t seen, and the fact that all five movies he was in went on to get a Best Picture nomination meant this was the perfect opportunity to close that blind spot. It’s also coincidentally the second time he played a character named Stan. But Cazale might not even be the most interesting person involved in this production. That honor might go to his legendary costars: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Meryl Streep. Or it could be its director, Michael Cimino, who did so well with this that he went on to spearhead one of the biggest disasters in cinema history: Heaven’s Gate. Yes, the pedigree of the creatives behind The Deer Hunter sure make it an interesting movie. But also, on a less intellectual level, I was really curious about seeing those Russian roulette scenes.

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Oscars Fortnight Day 6: Patton

Patton (1970)

The 43rd Academy Awards (1971)
Nominations: 10
Wins: 8

I have this weird memory about Patton. Well it’s either a memory or a dream. It was this time my dad took out a DVD copy of Patton, played Patton’s opening speech, and then turned off the movie. I don’t know why we didn’t watch the whole movie. Which is why I wonder if I’m misremembering this event. If not, it seems like the takeaway is my dad believed this opening scene was so well acted it was required viewing for a young film fan like myself. Even if it’s the only part of the movie I see.

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Oscars Fortnight Day 5: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967)

The 40th Academy Awards (1968)
Nominations: 10
Wins: 2

So 1968 is the Oscar year where everything changes. It’s the year where the Academy stops only nominating musicals and British period pieces (save for Doctor Dolittle) and starts nominating movies about what was happening in the culture, man. It’s an Oscar year so pivotal that Mark Harris wrote the book Pictures At A Revolution about the five Best Picture nominees in 1968 and how they reflected where Hollywood was at the time. While I had already seen The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, and In The Heat of The Night, I had never gotten around to Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, probably because I’d assumed that its depiction of ’60s-era race relations wouldn’t hold up that well. However, I was actually quite surprised how deftly this movie handles its complicated subject matter. Continue reading

Oscars Fortnight Day 4: The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music (1965)

The 38th Academy Awards (1966)
Nominations: 10
Wins: 5

Like my first film I didn’t want to watch this one either. 174 minutes? Old timey people singing in Austria? Sounds like something I’d watch in school. Hmm, would that be for History class? Choir? In my Choir class we watched Drumline. It didn’t win any Oscars, though it did get two MTV Movie Award nominations (Breakthrough Male Performance and Best Kiss).

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Oscars Fortnight Day 3: My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady (1964)

The 37th Academy Awards (1965)
Nominations: 12
Wins: 8

I’m not sure when the idea of “Oscar-y movies” started to take hold, but my guess would be the 1960s. Or at the very least, the ’60s are the first decade where you can start to see a clear pattern of the types of movies that would be lauded with Oscars. It’s a decade that was (almost infamously) eager to hand out Oscars to two specific genres — the musical and the British period piece. While some of the Best Picture winners from this decade could easily still be regarded as classics (like Lawrence of Arabia or West Side Story), the Academy’s willingness to so fervently reward these genres in retrospect feels like a bit of an overreach. Especially when far more exciting things were going on in international film, whose influence would seep its way into the more brash Hollywood films that were getting Oscars by the decade’s end. Continue reading

Oscars Fortnight Day 2: Yankee Doodle Dandy

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

The 15th Academy Awards (1943)
Nominations: 8
Wins: 3

My first pick in our Oscar countdown is a film I’ve been putting off for a long time. You know, cause it’s old. Honestly, I’ve never had much interest in seeing this movie. But it’s on the AFI Top 100 Films’s List and as a “film buff”—whatever that means in this day and age—it felt crazy to me that I’d never seen a James Cagney movie. I mean he’s a Hollywood legend! He was in a Looney Tunes toon. All the years I had to put up with boomers saying “You dirty rat!” to me. Now I finally get it. I get Cagney.

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Oscars Fortnight Day 1: Rebecca

Rebecca (1940)

The 13th Academy Awards (1941)
Nominations: 11
Wins: 2

Welcome to what could be the beginning of a beautiful tradition here at Mildly Pleased: two whole weeks of posts about Academy Award-nominated movies leading up to Hollywood’s biggest night, which is somehow in late April this year. The first feature I’d like to tell you about is 1940’s Rebecca, the second of producer David O. Selznick’s back-to-back Outstanding Production (Best Picture) wins. A year prior, Selznick had found enormous success with Gone with the Wind, setting the record for most Academy Award nominations (13) and wins (eight) at the time. This time, Rebecca won only one other award, Best Cinematography – Black and White, setting it’s own (still standing) record as the only film to win Best Picture while receiving no Academy Award for acting, directing or writing. Because how could we forget that Green Book won Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor along with the top prize?

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