Cinema that was invented in the last decade of 19th century, flourished in the 20th century and for the most part,it was the most popular and in a way the most creative art format, borrowing from other art forms. After the invention of television, and the production of TV films in the second half of the last century, and later on the internet media and the new age of digitalism and online streaming or stealing of the movies, at least over the past couple of decades, Cinema has lost its glory. At the same time, while in the first half or most of the 20th century, Cinema was heavily in the hands of story tellers, photographers, and actors, who were all led by the filmmaker or the creator, in the last few decades of the past century and more so in the present 21st century, it is dominated by digital special effects and out of reality. So cinema as an art format has greatly transformed to a technical/digital industry. Along the many efforts across the globe to save this modern art against the box office sales pressure and capital demand, this site hopes to contribute a small part in this endeavor!
Cinema initially sprang from photography, so that later on and to this day, it is called “motion picture” or “movies”, while the term “film” could be used for both cinema and photography. In the beginning, cinema was simply, pictures in motion with no other adding arts or technology, such as sound, music, or else, but acting. That is why for the first few decades since the birth of cinema, the movies were “silent” and this art form had to rely basically on the power of imagery with all its cinematographic components and the filmmakers like painters on canvas had to do whatever they could to create a powerful moving picture on the screen in addition to silent acting without talk. In this endeavor, some relied on set design, the use of light and shadows, like the German expressionists, and some relied on editing like Eisenstein, and some relied mostly on acting and sensible realism like Chaplin. At the time and even today, it is easier to rate and rank a silent film, as there were no white noise of sound or talk and all were imagery and picture in motion to measure. Due to simplicity, originality and the role of these pure ingredients, the silent films are still on the top of many best films of all time, such as the works of Serge Eisenstein, Fritz Lang, D.W.Griffith, and Charles Chaplin.
The sound brought theatrical acting to the cinema despite strong oppositions of silent films’ actors who were great action actors, specially in comedy. While 1920’s were still dominated by the silent movies, the 1930’s were the era of infiltration of theatrical acting to cinema that lasted for several decades until the recent domination of special effects and interception of digitalism into cinema. Orson Welles, Humphrey Bogart, Catharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh, James Dean and Marlon Brando were such actors who stemmed from theatre or acted as such. This continued to the modern era so that the newer actors such as Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Leonardo DiCaprio continued with such legacy. The theatrical acting while added rich flavor to the story telling and content through dialogues to the cinema, in many instances became very close to theatrical plays and robbed the cinematic experience and presentation, and limited the filmmakers in showing their talents. This is somewhat parallel to the digital cinema nowadays, where digitalism and special effects have totally stolen the rich cinematic creation.
Evaluation, rating and ranking movies, is not a matter of personal taste, likeness, or even a collective voting of majority, as the majority could be wrong and do not consider all the components of a film, with a delicate consideration of the differential factors. In other words, the role of camera, acting and editing are not the same and do not carry the similar weights as special effect. Unfortunately this has not been done closely in most rating and ranking of the motion pictures and the best lists, or awards such as Oscar. Beyond the different components of a film, that somewhat and singularly are recognized as in awards for script, acting, editing, directing, etc., the following factors in ranking the best films are essential. (Of course based on the following criteria, the earlier a film, the higher the rank would be, except the films that in addition to these factors, they have the “best impression” that could go beyond the time boundary. This is certainly very rare and on our list could include only a few rare films such as “The Battleship Potemkin”, “Man with a movie camera” and “Metropolis”, but these films are still frontiers in the time frame and only a few ranks above the other films made before them.
- Originality: No matter how well a film has been made today, if it is a copy of an original work, or an adaptation in one form or another, it would put it out of any best rank. An original work, even if not well done to perfection, it is still original and a creation that needs to be considered. Of course the earlier films fairly take on a lot of credits from this factor, but this may encourage the true filmmakers not to be copiers or followers but original and creative!
- Technicality: This factor should cover all the technical aspects of filmmaking from the story and script to the all works of camera, acting, editing, special effects, etc. The originality and proper application of each technique or component need to be considered in ranking.
- Impact Factor/Significance: This is the factor influencing other films, urging them to copy and experience the original work in part or in whole. This factor is not only the influence that an original work has on the industry, but on people in general and other forms of art and aspects of life as well. In conjunction with the influence that a film could have on other films or else, the significance of the film on cinema as a whole and on the history of this art medium is important and will be counted on.
- Survival: This shows how long a work, no matter how great, it will be remembered and looks fresh for years to come, specially in the eyes of the true cinema patriots.
Throughout this site, in writing on films and ranking them, the above factors will be delicately considered, though no evaluation or ranking could be rightful. Such comprehensive evaluation and ranking will hopefully encourage others to take on such or similar process in ranking and awarding, and avoiding a single factor such as the content of the story for political or trend of the time reasons!
If D.W.Griffith founded Hollywood and is the father of American Cinema, Walt Disney is the father of animation pictures and as everyone knows now the founder of Disney studio and any Disney theme parks and more. All these started by Walt Disney with a life risk taking adventure in 1937 in making “Snow white and the seven dwarfs”, the first full-length animation feature. Although the film was directed by David Hand and a few others and written by quite a few more, the mastermind behind the first animation feature that has so many re-releases and has been the gold standard of all feature animations, has been Walt Disney himself who deserves an introduction, despite being well known to all.
The Man behind all Animations:
Born in December (5, 1901), died in December (15, 1966) and released his and the first feature animation in December (21, 1937), Walt Disney is the founder of cartoons and family entertainment. Despite not being a filmmaker, he stands beside D.W.Griffith and Charlie Chaplin in American Cinema. He holds the record for the most academy awards of 22 Oscars from 59 nominations. Born in Chicago with an early interest in drawing, started a job as a commercial illustrator at 18, he moved to California in the early 1920s and set up the Disney Brothers Studio with his brother Roy. He developed the character of Mickey Mouse in 1928, his first highly popular success, in short animation, a predecessor for his masterpiece, Snow white and the seven dwarfs in 1937. But his adventures and creation of feature animation did not stop there, but continued for years to come in his life time with “Fantasia” and “Pinocchio” both in 1940, “Dumbo” in 1941, “Bambi” in 1942, “Cinderella” and “Treasure island” in 1950, “Alice in Wonderland” in 1951, “The story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men” in 1952, “Peter Pan” in 1953, and finally “Mary Poppins” in 1964, two years before his final farewell.
Disney in 1955 expanded his ideas and visions beyond the feature animations and developed the first Disneyland for children and family to live and experience through his cartoons. Later on this vision, though more commercialized developed into Disney World and beyond, not only in the United States but across the globe. Walt Disney created “Donald Duck” character in 1941 shortly after US entered the World War II to promote war bonds and later on produced several other war propaganda productions. Disney who was a heavy smoker, finally died from lung cancer on December 15, 1966, was cremated and his ashes were interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Disney who did not wish his legacy stop after his final farewell, dedicated 45% of his estate to a charitable trust, mostly for the progress of visual and performing arts and construction of such school that later on became “California Institute of the Arts” in Valencia, California, home also to the “Six Flags Magic Mountain Theme Park” an expansion of Disneyland theme parks. Although Disney has been accused, mostly after his death of racism and propaganda of American idealism, he is believed by the billions of the viewers around the world as a creator of fun and fantasy for children, who do not need to know prematurely the ugly truth of the world!
A Feature Animation Frontier:
Based on a 19th century folklore story of the German Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, Snow white and the seven dwarfs started the film genre of feature animation. In fact most of the Brothers Grimm’s folklore stories have been converted to feature animations on the silver screen including “Cinderella”, “The Frog Prince”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “Rapunzel”, “Sleeping beauty” in addition to their “Snow White”.
Snow white, a lonely princess living with her stepmother, a wicked Queen who fears that Snow White’s beauty surpasses her own, forcing her to work as a maid, asking her magic mirror daily “who is the fairest one of all”. For several years the mirror that always answering that the Queen was to please her, one day, it tells the Queen that Snow White is now the fairest in the land. The jealous Queen orders execution of the Snow White, but the Huntsman cannot bring himself to kill the Snow White, and urges her to flee into the woods and never look back. Lost and frightened, the princess finds a cottage in the woods and enters. When the residents of the cottage, the seven dwarfs, named Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey, returning home from their work in a mine, they are surprised to find their home span and clean, suspecting an intruder has invaded their cottage. The dwarfs find Snow White upstairs, asleep across three of their beds. Snow White awakes to find the dwarfs at her bedside and introduces herself, and all of the dwarfs eventually welcome her into their home after they learn she can cook and clean well.
Meanwhile, the Queen discovers that Snow White is still alive when the mirror again answers that Snow White is the fairest in the land. Using a potion to disguise herself as an old hag, the Queen creates a poisoned apple that will put whoever eats it into the “Sleeping Death”, a curse that can only be broken by “love’s first kiss”, but dismisses that Snow White will be buried alive. The Queen goes to the cottage while the dwarfs are away, faking a heart attack, the Queen tricks Snow White to take her into the cottage to rest. The Queen fools Snow White into biting into the poisoned apple under the pretense that it is a magic apple that grants wishes. As Snow White falls asleep the Queen proclaims that she is now the fairest of the land. As the dwarfs return home, the Queen leaves the cottage and in a chase, she is trapped on a cliff where a lightning strikes and she falls to her death. The dwarfs return to their cottage and find Snow White seemingly dead. Unwilling to bury her out of sight in the ground, they instead place her in a glass coffin trimmed with gold, so together with the woodland creatures to watch over her. A year later, a prince, who had previously met and fallen in love with Snow White, learns of her eternal sleep and visits her coffin. Saddened by her apparent death, he kisses her, which breaks the spell and awakens her. The dwarfs and animals all rejoice as the Prince takes Snow White to his castle.
From a folk story to a great feature film:
“Snow white and the seven dwarfs” did not only animate (put life into) the folk story of “Snow White”, and presented it to millions of viewers at the time and later billions worldwide, this classic was more than that. Although there was already a silent film version of the Snow White earlier in 1916, it was the feature animation of Disney that brought the story to life on silver screen. From the start Disney wanted not to focus only on Snow White, but also on the characters of the seven dwarfs, so he named them one by one, unlike the original story. Each dwarf and their name define their personalities and roles in the story. For example, the leader of them is “Doc” a pompous and self-confident; and the other six could be easily identified in their characters by their names, Grumpy, Bashful, Sleepy, Happy, Sneezy, and Dopey. The last character, Dopey who was replaced in the original draft, happened to be the most successful and loved one of all. Disney also moved from the original script being comic to one more sensible, melodrama while still carrying some comic qualities.
From the beginning, Disney’s goal was to enliven imaginations and fantasy for all, the filmmakers such as himself and even the audience. While he believed that is only possible in the context of animation, he did not want it all to be totally fairy tale and unbelievable. So he encouraged his crew to watch real films that he used as influences in his works, such as “Romeo and Juliet”(1936) which he borrowed the concept of the glass coffin, “Nosferau”(1922) and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”(1919) that he borrowed the terror and the wickedness of the Queen, and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1931) that Snow White fleeing through the forest and the Queen’s transformation into a witch were all inspired by in the film.
In addition to the numerous re-releases of the film and its influence on all other animations by Disney, his studio and else, the film and its characters was the first to impact not only on the screen, but off the screen on merchandise and fashion. It was the great box office hit of the time and still one of the top commercial success with its sound track being the first of a film to be released on phonograph for the public sale. While nobody believed him at the time and the film was labeled “Disney’s Folly”, he created all the story first in his mind, then acted it out, then believing a significant work would be only possible by a team work, he used many artists to create this masterpiece. One way to encourage his cartoonist to make a feature length animation film not boring and watchable for almost an hour and a half, Disney offered them $5 for each gag they could create, that was quite a sum for the time. While physical gags or slab comedy was hard to create in real films and not every actors were like Chaplin or Keaton to do so, Disney could achieve a lot of these in animation, started earlier in his short Mickey Mouse films, then with the Snow white and the seven dwarfs.
While in many films at the time and later on for years to this day, the wickedness was depicted in ugly façade, Disney’s Snow white and the seven dwarfs’ was revolutionary in portraying the wicked Queen in fact beautiful in appearance. The film, is not only an animated feature, but a musical one with a great emphasis on its sound track and songs to convey the story and the characters. So from the outset, the animators and the composers had to work together to create the dynamic and synchronized scenes. So some 25 songs were initially written that Disney picked eight in the final version of the film. Drawing by hands frame by frame at the time when there was no easy and fast digital creation, adding the music and creating sounds all naturally to the frames by innovative measures, was quite an achievement for all contributors of the film and above all Walt Disney himself. All these that seem to have been achieved over many years, happened with dedications, talents and team work only in three years.
A few years before Snow white and the seven dwarfs, the film industry had been evolved into colors from black and white, so the final hard task of many chemists and coloring artists, at the time of non-digitalism was to custom make over thousands shades of colors into millions of frames. Paying close attention to the detail of color shades specially the face make-ups and the shadows on the walls, would surprise even today’s viewers that all these had done by hands frame by frame. The new technique of multi-playing camera shooting at the time used to create allusion of movements, such as falling the Queen off the cliff was evolutionary.
At the premier, while Disney and his crew sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting to see the audience reaction, there were laughter, different emotions, cries when Snow White died, joy when she came back to life with the kiss of the prince and finally standing ovation at the end. There was a kind of emotional reaction that one expected from a real melodrama film and not the first animation feature. When the little Shirley Temple presented the academy award to Walt Disney a year later for the film, calling him “Dad of Snow White”, that was a special moment in the film history on its own. The film, one of the rare events in the history of cinema, a masterpiece also being a smash hit at the box office, was speedily dubbed into more than 20 languages worldwide.
While in debt and short of fund to finish the film, after the release not all the debts and loans were paid off, the profit of the film made possible to build the great Disney Studios and later on the developments of Disneyland, Disney World and more feature animations for years to come. Finally the ideal of Disney to dip into the world of fantasy, imagination and dreams of children that deep down still exists inside any adult proved right.
In closing remarks “Snow white and the seven dwarfs” one more time will be redefined based on the following criteria:
- Originality: “Snow white and the seven dwarfs” is original in being the first feature animation. Not only that, the film was the first animation to combine melodrama, comedy, musical and more synergistically together. The film was also original in a multi-field artistic teamwork from Disney as the creator to writers, animators, composers, color artists, camera men, and more to create a masterpiece unseen before its time.
- Technicality: The technicality of “Snow white and the seven dwarfs” is in its so many and multi-layered technical achievements detailed above that will be a repetition in this conclusion. There were not just the techniques in the film but the inventions to be followed in later animations and more.
- Impact Factor: “Snow white and the seven dwarfs” has had such impact factor so to have numerous re-releases over years to this day, and many influences over the future animations and else. Snow White made possible more feature animations by Disney and others and created a film genre on its own right. Finally the children of all ages had their own film genre to watch for hours.
- Survival: “Snow white and the seven dwarfs” has survived well to this day that even its original version when watched by the children of our time, it could not be recognized to have been made exactly 80 years ago at the era of their grandparents. The survival of the film is moreover in the legacy that it left behind for all animation features to be evaluated by.
“Pépé le Moko” is the only masterpiece of the French filmmaker, Julien Duvivier whom, the great French director, Jean Renoir has called “a great technician, rigorist and a poet”. The film is a great classic example of “poetic realism” of 1930’s and has often been considered an early predecessor of “Film Noir”. The English author, Graham Greene, who was twice in 1966 and 1967 shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in literature and wrote the script for the “The Third Man” has claimed Pépé le Moko as “one of the most exciting and moving films I can remember seeing…it succeeds raising the thriller to a poetic level”. This great early classic that unfairly has been missed from many lists of great films, despite its undoubted direct and indirect impacts, admittedly and none on many future films and filmmakers, will be revived here into the memories of film lovers, students of cinema and filmmakers.
A Classic unlike any:
“Pépé le Moko” is a unique classic that when it is seen today for the first time would surprise the viewer of how many times, it has been adapted directly and indirectly in the future films, even some popular classics. Due to the significance of the film and its impact on many other films and filmmakers, it will be reviewed from its four important following aspects (or 4 Ss: Stage, Story, Script, and Screen creation):
- The Stage:
The stage of the film is not in studios, but the town of Casbah in Algeria, a town unlike others, that on its own is the best ready made studio for any thriller or action films. This place Pépé, a jewelry thief at large and the main protagonist of the film played by Jean Gabin, calls it home and it is his hide out from the French law and the police. Casbah is mysterious, of a high and a low sections, like a vast staircases where terraces descend stepwise to the sea. Its dark winding narrow streets twist and overlap to form a jumble of mazes perfect for a thriller. This multicultural town homes people of many nations, from Africans, to Arabs, Chinese, Gypsies, Spaniards, other Europeans and stateless. Pépé hides among these people who many have a similar situation, hence help and protect him form the French law. The crowded cafes, bazars, houses with roofs on top of each other is the best refuge haven for Pépé and his allies, in the best natural film stage. There are even natural shades, silhouettes, dim day and night lights and else that the camera and cinematography need for thrills and actions. Casbah naturally begs for a story and script like Pépé le Moko, and so makes it a winner at the start.
- The Story:
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“The Grand illusion is story of people like you and me, thrown into this terrible adventure that we call war.” These are the words of the French creator of the film, the great Jean Renoir, years after in the re-release of the film. In relation to the story and content of the film that held through beyond the world war I, that the film is about, into the horrible world war II, Vietnam, Korean and now Gulf wars, Renoir continues to proclaim “The question that we ask our agonized world today closely resembles the question that Spaak (the screen writer), myself and many others, put to ourselves when working on The Grand Illusion…that things are as relevant today as it was at the time.”
“We should all be grateful for.” that is what Martin Scorsese comments on the film, and “If I had to save only one film in the world, it would be Grand Illusion” claims Orson Wells, the creator of Citizen Kane. What has made “The Grand Illusion” such an icon of cinema? The film, one of the masterpieces of French Cinema by one of the frontiers of the French film art, Jean Renoir, is a film about world war I, but without any war or killing scenes that is customary in such genre. Instead the film’s theme is the class distinction and relationship among humans at the time of war in a prison camp. Through such story plot, Renoir two years before the start of another world war, conveys his anti-war message that humanity goes beyond territorial and economic conflicts, race and nations. The film truly depicts that the ordinary men or soldiers are not in fact at war, and that still connect as humans with common interests. But before discussing further about the film, lets see who was its creator.
Jean Renoir: A Born Artist
Jean Renoir was the second son of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the renowned French painter, while his older brother was a stage and film actor. He was mainly raised by his nanny, Gabrielle Renard who introduced him to puppet shows and “She taught me to see the face behind the mask and the fraud behind the flourishes. She taught me to detest the cliché.” During the World War I, Renoir was serving in the French cavalry, and was injured by receiving a bullet in his leg, that led him to serve as a reconnaissance pilot. His leg injury left him with a permanent limp, but allowed him to discover the cinema, and the works of D.W.Griffith and Charlie Chaplin. After making several silent films, in the mid 1930’s when Germany and Nazis were preparing Europe and the whole world for a full fledge war, and Spain was burning for freedom from right wings and dictatorship, he like many other intellectuals joined the popular front to fight and resist fascism that was on rising.
As the artist needed the right social and historical circumstances to create, Renoir made his first masterpiece “La grand Illusion” in 1937 with great acclaim, then shortly after at the brink of second world war in 1939, his second masterpiece “The Rules of the Game”. Both of his great films were seized by France occupying German armies and banned until the end of the war. Both films have been regarded one of the best films ever made collectively by the world most renowned critics, film historians and filmmakers alike. After the war in 1940, Renoir moved to the United States and Hollywood, where he could not create as he did at home. In 1975, Renoir was granted the lifetime achievement award by Academy Award and the rank of commander in the Legion d’honneur by the French government. He died on February 12, 1979 in Bevelry Hills, but his body was returned to his homeland, France and was buried beside his family.
The Great Illusions:
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It was 1936, in the midst of the great economic depression, unemployment and poverty all across the western world, particularly the United States. Chaplin after making two other great films, “Circus” in 1928 and “City Lights” in 1931, takes a break and travels Europe, where he observes not only the impact of the great depression, unemployment and poverty, but the inception of other major events. Spain was fighting for socialism and democracy, and Germany was preparing to take his lost power in the first world war back by empowering his Nazi’s party and his leader, Adolf Hitler. When Chaplin returned to Hollywood and created “Modern Times” in 1936, the civil war in Spain between the social democratic republicans who held the government for almost a year (the first such in Europe out of Russia) and the rightists or phalanges had already started. At the same time Hitler, the head of the Nazi party, the largest elected party in German’s history, targeted his nation’s economy towards war and achieved a staggering reduction in the country’s unemployment of 6 millions in 1933 to 1 million in 1936. He withdrew from the league of nations and the world disarmament conference that was created after the World War I, signed the Anglo-German Naval Agreement with Britain, ordered Goring to implement a four year plan to prepare Germany for war, and assisted the dictator Franco of Spain to defeat the socialists and republicans against a universal attack against the growth of socialism.
Chaplin who had already shown his keen and critical eyes in observing the world in his earlier films such as “The Kid” and “The Gold Rush” through his comedy, knew that this time he needs to go farther. Before making the impossible “The Great Dictator” in 1940 and mocking Hitler right in the middle of World War II (a task that nobody else dared to do), he decided to show the world the slavery of labor by capitalism that would soon take the world to the brink of war. This warning was well achieved in “Modern Times” through laughter and tears, the unique style of Chaplin. A glance through the films made in 1930s, even the acclaimed ones such as “Grand Hotel”, “Cimarron”, “Frankenstein”, “Cavalcade”, “Scarface”, “Baby face”, Duck soup”, “42nd Street”, “L’Atlante”, “The 39 steps”, “The informer”, “The Bride of Frankenstein”, “A night at the opera”, “Top hat”, “The Great Ziegfeld”, “Camille”, “Swing time”,…one wonders what other filmmakers were doing at the gravest time of all in the modern history! No one portrayed the great depression, unemployment and poverty all over the western world and at the center in the United States of America, no one alerted the world of the inception of the second world war in Europe and burning of Spain for freedom. Obviously no one, how great they were in entertaining people, did not feel the duty and responsibility of using the film medium to enlighten and inform people of what is happening in real. Therefore this is a proof that Chaplin was not only the greatest of all in his own art of comedy, acting, directing, composing,…but the greatest in having such duty and responsibility carrying such mission single handedly on his shoulder for the rest of the world of cinema. He was the only one able to dare and to make “Modern times” and later on “The Great dictator”, and nobody could even touch him or hurt him for depiction of the dark reality, as he was Charlie and made everyone laugh even reportedly Hitler when he watched his own mockery, and made everyone cry at the same time and above all think!
Chaplin the Legend of World Cinema:
Whatever could be said and have been said about Chaplin does not yet deserve what he has done for the art of filmmaking. Federico Fellini, the great Italian director has called Chaplin “a sort of Adam, from whom we are all descended”. The great French filmmaker, Jacques Tati has said about Chaplin “Without him I would never have made a film”. René Clair, another major French director has praised Chaplin “He inspired practically every filmmaker”. Billy Wilder, the great American Filmmaker commemorated him as “Chaplin not only wrote the scripts, he directed , acted in, and composed the music scores,…Chaplin, up to the moment he started writing dialogue, was an absolutely unique genius. He was a God.” Vittorio De Sica, the maker of “The Bicycle thieves” and a great actor has called himself the successor of Chaplin and how much he was influenced by him.
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Rottentomatoes.com is a website ranking movies based on aggregate of film reviews. Since the website accumulates and aggregates the film reviews, it is a popular and relied one for measuring the quality of films. At the same time, this website is a window that through it one can see how film reviews are, many without sufficient or no research into the film, its subject, and else, but solely based on personal preference. In the following, first the 100 greatest films of all time on this website by aggregate of the film reviews will be discussed. Since the website is mostly relied on the number of reviews than the number of 100% positive reviews, then the films with higher reviews (that are mostly modern era films as they are more reviewers now than in the past), will get a higher ranking. But films with 100% positive reviews if they have lower number of reviews, such as old films as you will see, they will get lower rankings and many great films do not appear on this list of the greatest 100 films of all time, but some mediocre recent years films with more number of reviews appear in the list.
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Historically Oscar or Academy Awards has ignored many great films and has recognized bad or mediocre films for political or trend of time reasons. For a list of great unrecognized films, you can read the article on Academy Awards on this site, as the list is too long to be repeated here. Also historically Academy Awards have followed the footsteps of Golden Globe by awarding almost the same films that the younger sister has done it more than a month before. This year as everyone knows, the Golden Globe at this sensitive era of political adversary in America against the whole world, has done the worst of all time. The unrealistic and flawed in making fairy tale of “La La Land” wins a record of 7 awards, while more realistic films representing the current era or the American society such as “Hell or high water”, “Moonlight”, and “Nocturnal Animals” are ignored.
As Maurice Druon, the writer of the French resistance anthem in 1943, in his historical monument “The Accursed Kings” in comparison with the British empire writes for USA “history is far too short for them to really know and understand cultures with millennia under their feet”. This matter of fact was written long before this century and what is now happening to the world all scripted by USA. So if Hollywood as Modris Eksteins discloses in his “Rites of Spring” does not intend to be a mutual corporate in the war crimes by promoting and rewarding elite arts and fairy tales at this important point in history by not portraying “working parties digging or repairing trenches repeatedly uncovered corpses in all stages of decay or mutilation”, she needs to change her attitude in nominating and rewarding real pieces of cinematic art in the matter of fact direction.
At this time in history that as Niall Ferguson analyses in his “Colossus: The Rise and Fall of American Empire”, that USA more and more is striving hard to create “new world order” and “spread of democracy”, and provision of “economic stability”, Hollywood and so Academy Awards have a strong and influential public role to disclose such and intervene by promoting and rewarding the right films in the direction for the commons and not a few elites. Hollywood as representative of America on silver screen and Academy Awards as the awarding agency, need more than ever to enlighten people and even the politicians that as Francis Fukuyama in his book “The end of history and the last man” announces the New American Liberal Capitalism “could well corrode from within in a welter of dissatisfaction. It is not then ‘external’ threats-religious fundamentalism for example-which need to be guarded against but the will-to-superiority of the elite few who find their ambitions thwarted in a Western order which threats everyone as equals.”
Now looking at the nominations of the 89th Academy Awards, one anticipates that Oscar repeats the similar wrongdoing as the Golden Globe and as it has been done in its past. Cinema could easily portray the history, politics, the society and any era of time in anywhere or the whole world, and could be the most influential in enlightening audience or reflecting people’s voice. Some great films in the past have done so, such as “Born on the fourth of July”, “The grapes of wrath”, “The great dictator”, “Deer hunter”, “Apocalypse now” and else. The past year although we did not witness similar great films, still there are films deserving recognition than “La La Land”. The world is going to watch the Oscar ceremony on February 26, 2017 and will judge Hollywood who will admire itself in its glory ignoring the world around her, or recognizing the films that portraying our time better while deserving some recognition cinematically as well. Here we make some suggestions among the nominations for a better recognition at this time of empire striking back in America.
Suggesting Best Picture:
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“King Kong” directed by Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack is an original adaptation of a story by Copper and Edgar Wallace. The film is the first in a genre of its own kind with remakes in 1976 and 2005. Although the film was not the first genre of man against beasts, but the first one with a pre-historic giant ape, a prototype for later years films such as Jurassic park film series. The film is also the first classic to portray the affection between the beast and the man (Ann Darrow, the leading female protagonist acted by Fay Wray), while majority of other humans out of fear, attacking and finally murdering King Kong in a frenzy.
A Gigantic undertaking:
King Kong was not the first film on a jungle beast, as films such as “Beasts in the Jungle” of 1913 showing fights of man with lions, tigers, and other animals; “Tarzan of the Apes” of 1918, “The Lost World” of 1925; and “Ingagi” of 1930 (showing man and the jungle gorillas’ in fight and even intimacy) had already captured the silver screen and the box office, as the last film was one of the highest-grossing movies of the 1930s at over $4 million. In fact “Ingagi” was influential in the writing and production of King Kong.
Merian Copper, the principal writer and director of King Kong, had been long fascinated with gorillas and other jungle beasts since his childhood. Later on he developed the storyline of the encounter of some adventurist documentary makers with a giant gorilla in a remote island and presented it to the Paramount Studios in the first years of the Great Depression. But he was rejected due to its high cost of sending the film crews to Africa. Then he submitted his project to RKO in 1931 that was accepted, though the cost of travelling the film crew to Africa was still a setback. While Cooper immediately was in the process of making “The Most Dangerous game”, a story about a big game hunter, co-directed with his friend Ernest Schoedsack, they built a jungle stage in the studio. Afterwards when he achieved the similar jungle set in the studio in the film “Creation” about an island of dinosaurs, he realized that he could do the same with King Kong and spare the high travel cost.
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“All Quiet on the Western Front” of Lewis Milestone is a prototype antiwar film, adapted from the same name novel by “Erich Maria Remarque”. Although the film won the best direction at the second Academy Awards and not the best picture, is on the list of 100 best American film of the American Film Institute and is considered one of the best American epic films. In 1990, the film was also selected and preserved by the United States Library of Congress’ National Film Registry as being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It could be easily said that this film is the frontier all antiwar movies, and all such films in later years have been one way or another influenced by “All Quiet on the Western Front”. Before discussing this classic prototype antiwar film, its creator, “Lewis Milestone” deserves a brief mention.
An antiwar man:
Milestone (1895-1980) born in Moldova of Russia to a Jewish family, moved to US in 1912 at age of 17. He enlisted in the US signal Corps, where he worked as an assistant director on army training film during the world war I and gathered some experience in war film making later on. After the first world war, he also worked as an assistant director in Hollywood until Howard Hughes promoted to the rank of director and he helped him with some of the aviation scenes of his “Hell’s Angles” film. This antiwar man made three films during the second world war, but ironically was blacklisted under the suspicion of sympathizing communism in Hollywood among many other greats. So he decided to leave US for Europe until late 1950’s when he returned to make “Ocean’s 11” with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, then “Mutiny on the Bounty” with Marlon Brando. Lewis Milestone’s final request before he died in 1980 was for Universal Studios to restore “All Quiet on the Western Front” that had been cut short everywhere in the world to its original length. That request would eventually be granted nearly two decades later, so that the current popular version today is that restored version.
“Yeah, generals…need war”:
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