For the last two posts in the series, I have posted films that were featured at the Cleveland International Film Festival. These films rarely (if ever!) get a wide release.
So, these three films will be films that DID receive a very wide release AND won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
1 Gone With the Wind
I said in my introductory post that I would post films that were culturally or artistically important, even if I did not like them very much.
This is one of those films.
Gone With the Wind is, for my money, bloated. The music is incredibly annoying, the racial stereotypes are very disturbing and problematic, and it’s overly (overly!) sentimental. It also goes downhill completely when Scarlett marries Rhett. Some of these problems are the problems of the book. Others are the fault of the film.
Even with these problems, it is still one of the most successful films of all time. The heart of the story is a love triangle set against the backdrop of the Old South during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
It is also important because it shows the path that cinema could have taken. David O Selznick, the producer of Gone With the Wind, conceived of film as a verbal medium, similar to theater. Theater is a medium of the spoken word, and has been since it’s inception by the ancient Greeks. Selznick thought of film in much the same way. This is why there are so many moments in Gone With the Wind when Scarlett speaks in soliloquies to express her opinions. In the following years, Selznick’s vision of film would fade away. Film becomes a visual medium. A director tries to give the audience information not in words, but in images. He will use the composition or the type of shot to eliminate unnecessary words.
For that reason, above all, I encourage everyone to see Gone With the Wind. Watch it, and see the road not taken.
2 All About Eve
In 1998, when Titanic was nominated for 14 Oscars, it tied the record for the most Oscar nominations. This is the first film to receive fourteen nominations.
All About Eve tells the story of a girl, Eve Harrington, who plots to supplant her stage idol. The original trailer and poster advertised it as a film about women and their men. It’s also more than that. It’s a mediation on age, the role of women in society, the theater, and ambition. The screenplay is incredibly thoughtful and the performances are wonderful. It’s also told mostly through the eyes of the women involved and manages to be both witty and dramatic.
3 Silence of the Lambs
Ironically, this film is mostly remembered for Anthony Hopkins’ brilliant, chilling portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lector. However, the real protagonist of the film is Clarisse Starling, the young FBI agent.
Clarisse Starling spends most of the film surrounded by men, who range from paternal to patronizing to simply creepy. There are some wonderful scenes of quiet menace. David O Selznick would have demanded that Clarisse have monologues about how she feels threatened by the men in the film. Johnathan Demme, in contrasts, surrounds Jodie Foster with men, and then films her squirming. The film also hints at the connection between the treatment of Agent Starling and the monster of the serial killer.
The film is thrilling and suspenseful without being overly graphic, and Hannibal Lector is truly unforgettable.