The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Monday, January 17, 2011
MIDWAY THROUGH THE CENTURY: I've picked the most impressive pictures of
2000, 1990, 1980, 1970, and 1960. Onward to the Truman era.

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1950, it gave its Best Picture award to a backstage drama called All About Eve. That one made it to my honorable mentions list, but it didn't break into the top 10:

1. Rashomon
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Kurosawa and Shinobu Hashimoto, from two stories by Ryûnosuke Akutagawa

Four versions of the same event. Each account seems to circle closer to the truth, Kane-style, but by the time it's over you'll probably doubt that you could ever arrive at the full facts.

2. Harvey
Directed by Henry Koster
Written by Mary Chase, Oscar Brodney, and Myles Connolly, from a play by Chase

"I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it."

3. Sunset Blvd.
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Wilder, Charles Brackett, and D.M. Marshman Jr.

Part jet-black comedy, part backlot noir. If they burned all the movies about making movies, this is the one I'd miss the most.

4. Where the Sidewalk Ends
Directed by Otto Preminger
Written by Ben Hecht with Victor Trivas, Frank P. Rosenberg, and Robert E. Kent, from a novel by William L. Stuart

"I didn't know a guy could hate that much. Not even you."

5. Gone to Earth
Written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Where fever dream meets fairy tale. The images of nature here are so vivid and haunting that I'm not sure if they're there to underline the characters' passions or if those passions are just a temporary extension of the landscape.

6. In a Lonely Place
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Written by Andrew Solt with Edmund H. North, from a story by Dorothy B. Hughes

This and Sunset Blvd. would make an interesting double bill.

7. Night and the City
Directed by Jules Dassin
Written by Jo Eisinger, from a novel by Gerald Kersh

Not to be confused with The Naked City, which is also by Dassin but not nearly as good.

8 House by the River
Directed by Fritz Lang
Written by Mel Dinelli, from a novel by A.P. Herbert

A low-budget Southern Gothic noir. It didn't make many waves when it came out, and Lang later said he didn't care for it. I think it's one of the best movies he made in America.

9. Stromboli
Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Written by Rossellini, Art Cohn, Sergio Amidei, G.P. Callegari, Renzo Cesana, and Félix Morlión, from a story by Rossellini

The picture that gave us Isabella Rossellini...eventually.

10. The Asphalt Jungle
Directed by John Huston
Written by Huston and Ben Maddow, from a novel by W.R. Burnett

Another film noir. By my count there's six of them in this top 10 list and two more in the runners up. So that's at least one genre that was flourishing in 1950.

Honorable mentions:

11. Los Olvidados (Luis Buñuel)
12. Rabbit of Seville (Chuck Jones)
13. Winchester '73 (Anthony Mann)
14. All About Eve (Joseph L. Manckiewicz)
15. D.O.A. (Rudolph Maté)
16. Story of a Love Affair (Michelangelo Antonioni)
17. Eaten Horizons (Wilhelm Freddie, Jørgen Roos)
18. The Hypo-Chondri-Cat (Chuck Jones)
19. Cyrano de Bergerac (Michael Gordon)
20. Devil's Doorway (Anthony Mann)

Of the films of 1950 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Beauty and the Devil, En Passant Par La Lorraine, and Last Holiday.

posted by Jesse 12:29 AM
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