The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water

He sees me for what I am… As I am.

I always start each batch of new additions to the List with the Best Picture winner; it’s a tradition I have that just sorta happened. Knowing this, I watch each year’s Oscars and pay careful attention to the Best Picture race, as I know I’ll end up getting to the winner sooner than later (if I haven’t seen it already). I, and many others to boot, had a delightful upswing of gratitude and emotion just watching Guillermo del Toro take home not only Best Director for The Shape of Water, but Best Picture as well; the emotion going through him and what the awards meant to him was palpable in his speeches. This same swelling of emotion, the same level of heart and passion and what this film (and to an extent the cinematic medium) means to him, is also patently evident when one watches The Shape of Water; the man just loves stories, and the capabilities of the medium of cinema to tell the stories he wants to tell.

Elisa Esposito, a woman mute since childhood, works as part of the cleaning crew at a top-secret research facility in 1960s Baltimore; her only two friends in the world being Zelda, another woman on the cleaning staff who serves as a sign language interpreter for her, and Giles, her elderly next-door neighbor. This somehow ends up changing for Elisa when the facility brings in a new subject of study, known only as the Asset, which turns out to be an amphibian-like man-creature absconded from South America by Col. Richard Strickland, who intends to use the creature to potentially gain an edge in the space race with the Soviets, as well as with his superiors in the government. Happening upon the creature in its tank one day, Elisa quickly forms a bond with it, and when the higher-ups of the facility start to talk of killing the creature to dissect it, she hatches a plan with her friends to break the creature out of the facility so that it can be returned to the sea, falling in love with it along the way. Despite what the moderate length of that plot summary may have you believe, there’s really not much more to the film than that; there’s some subplots involving the supporting players, including an undercover Russian in the facility who ends up helping Elisa in her escape plan, but these subplots really don’t matter. It’s the love story at the center, as unconventional as it is, that is what matters… so why spend a shade over two hours on a love story? The director, Guillermo del Toro, would answer that question with a sincere and warm-hearted smile and say, “Why not?” Unlike some of the other Best Picture nominees of recent memory, and even a few in this past year’s roster, this is a film that isn’t meant to wow you or bowl you over with how amazing or unbelievable a film it is; it is far too simple for that. And that’s the point; this is a simple story, made into a relatively simple film, but imbued with so much passion for the story itself and the method of storytelling that it employs that one simply can’t fault del Toro for what he aims to achieve with it. Sure, the production value is extensive, washing almost everything in the film with blues and greens to evoke water and the creature itself; the score by Alexander Desplat is lovingly memorable; the acting by everyone involved, headlined by Sally Hawkins, is right on the money; and really, it’s no wonder the film, as fully crafted as it is, got as many nominations at the Oscars as it did. But all of this, all of these aspects of the film, are merely tools; tools that del Toro has made use of in a singular purpose: to tell a wonderful story, and I mean wonderful in the literal definition and breakdown of the word.

To be honest, I watched this film, and finished it, not thinking it had really done much or covered much ground, especially to win Best Picture over some of the other films in the roster (of which I’ve currently only seen two, so I couldn’t say for certain). It was after it was over, though, while I was thinking about it, that the point of it all managed to click into place in my head, and it is that point that I’ve tried to focus on and get across in this review. In addendum to that point, I believe that one going into this film shouldn’t go into it with the wrong mindset, as I seemed to have done at the outset of my viewing; this includes going into it expecting to be wowed by a film that ended up winning Best Picture. Simply put, this is not that film. This is just a story, a fantasy, as simple as it is effective, and anything more than that would be reaching at something that isn’t there. Don’t make the mistake of reaching; just appreciate this for what it is, and you’ll end up appreciating it a lot more than you otherwise might’ve.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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1001 Movies: 2018 Update

Thanks to the developer behind the iOS version of the 1001 Movies app, who is apparently in contact with the publishers of the list so he can keep the app updated each year, this year’s new additions to the 1001 List were “released” last month; after some clarification on the actual publishing order of the entries, it seems it’s safe to say that these are the films that will be added to the Book once the new version is released (in the U.K. only, as usually tends to happen with every other edition of the paperback version):

The Handmaiden (2016)
Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016)
Lady Macbeth (2016)
Lady Bird (2017)
The Shape of Water (2017)
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Mother! (2017)
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Get Out (2017)
Black Panther (2018)

As you can see, we have a small handful of 2016 films in addition to the field from 2017; and, in an apparent first, the editors added a film from this current year as well to the Book. Time will tell if they jumped the gun with Black Panther or not, as time usually ends up telling if the additions from any of the more recent years end up standing up to history, but it’s there now, so I’ll be getting to it sooner than later it seems (I actually haven’t seen Black Panther still, despite the reception it got, it being on home release for a few months now, as well as my having seen Infinity War even without previously watching the introduction to Wakanda, so my Black Panther viewing is a little more than overdue).

I held off on updating my list and the wiki’s until I could be sure about the additions and their ordering, as well as until I finished up with my current year on the Best Picture odyssey, which I now have, so both will be updated within minutes of this post. Like last year, my Best Picture run-through will take a small hiatus until I’ve gotten these new additions out of the way, which (again like last year) I’m hoping won’t kill my incentive to get through the classical films of decades past, but reinvigorate said quest by seeing some recent exemplary films instead of the lesser fare I’ve been knocking out to complete the annals of Best Picture.

Here’s to hoping, anyways. 🙂

Judging Oscar: Best Picture 1941

-Year in Summary/What Did Win-

The first Oscars to take place after America’s official entry into World War II, the 14th Academy Awards had a few firsts and other notables. John Ford became the newest member of the three-time Best Director club, and the first director to win the award in consecutive years. This was also the first time documentaries were honored with their own category, though none of them were nominated for Best Picture (and, indeed, none have ever been). Orson Welles, the wunderkind of Hollywood, also became the first person nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay for a single film, though his Citizen Kane would notably only win for the script, an award shared with Herman J. Mankiewicz. The actual Best Picture winner would turn out to be John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley, which still has probably the most Oscar-bait-sounding title of any film to win the award, in my opinion.

-Ranking the Nominees-

One Foot in Heaven

One Foot in Heaven, being one of a few films in history nominated for Best Picture and nothing else, is getting the boot immediately. I’ve said numerous times in the past in these segments that ‘nothing films’ should be nowhere near Best Picture. Well, One Foot in Heaven takes it a step further in being not just a film that does nothing to warrant a Best Picture nom, but a film that does nothing to warrant it even being made at all. Even if you’re going through the Best Picture fields like I am, you might be forgiven if you “accidentally” managed to pass this one up.

Blossoms in the Dust

-I hate to say it, but Blossoms in the Dust may actually be a worse film than the one below it in the ranking, just because of all the things it tries to do right and ends up getting wrong. Really, the only reason I’m not placing it dead last is because it’s not a nothing film; it actually tries, and it has some nice cinematography, a decent Greer Garson performance, and a true story behind it. But that’s it; everything else about this film was just incorrect filmmaking, and I’m more than a little bothered by it.

Hold Back the Dawn

-With Hold Back the Dawn, you have a film that is also a film that tries and doesn’t quite get it right, but at least it doesn’t go the full way into getting it wrong instead. Much of it, for me, was the film’s silence in the score department, and while I don’t need a swooning and fully-intensive score to feel everything a film wants me to feel, when I expect there to be at least something there, musically, during a film, and all I hear is a noticeable silence, that’s a problem for me. Hilariously enough, this somehow managed a nomination for Best Original Score, though that may have been more the result of there being two categories for scores that year at the Oscars, with a combined thirty (THIRTY. THREE-ZERO.) films nominated between them, twenty for dramatic pictures alone, so that’s more on the Academy still figuring things out in the still-somewhat-early years.

Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Here Comes Mr. Jordan won Best Adapted Screenplay, and now, even still, I cannot wrap my head around why or how that happened. The screenplay is the weakest aspect of this picture, which actually has some things going for it, but seeing as the screenplay is and should be the foundation, the skeleton upon which everything else about a film is built from, then this isn’t getting anywhere near a Best Picture win from me.

The Little Foxes

The Little Foxes broke the Oscar record for the most nominations (nine) without winning any of them. I can kinda see why; the nominations for this film seemed to be totally a preconceived notion before the film was even released. I mean, you have William Wyler directing, with Bette Davis starring, Sam Goldwyn producing, a screenplay adapted from a stage play, some black-and-white cinematography that doesn’t suck; do I need to go on? The film itself, though, only manages to get by, with a couple of standouts in the acting department and a handful of scenes that do manage to really work, but that’s about it.

How Green Was My Valley

-The winner of this award, How Green Was My Valley has things that the other nominees don’t that I was able to discern or pick up on; namely a commitment to its production (the period and setting the film takes place in) typical of a John Ford picture, as well as a voiceover narration that adds additional gravitas to the story. Other than this, though, the film ends up far too maudlin to be consistently enjoyable, and amusingly enough given the lengths of the production value, the film seems overstuffed of all the things that films, especially Academy Award winning films, were expected to have at the time. I can see this nomination, given the sheer impressiveness of the production itself, but I can’t say this should have won the award based on that alone.

Suspicion

-Probably my biggest decision in this list was whether to place Suspicion above or below How Green Was My Valley. Ultimately, I’m putting it above the actual Oscar winner for one main reason: while Green is almost without doubt the more impressive production, Suspicion is still the more entertaining picture overall, even with it being just over a mere hour-and-a-half. It was a big decision for me because I know I have the tendency to laud a film that is excellent with the technicals while falling short in the major reason people go to the movies in the first place: to be entertained, and while the award that would become Best Picture started out being called Outstanding Picture, I need to not ignore the factor of a film’s entertainment value in my ranking of films up for this award. It’s ultimately a subjective vs objective debate, and I will likely flip back and forth on such a contest in future years as the struggle of it weighs in my mind, but for this year, the subjective better time at the cinema is getting the respective bump up a slot from me.

Sergeant York

Sergeant York ended up the highest grossing picture of the year, as well as the film with the most nominations going into the ceremony. Both of these things combined would seem to make for a heck of a motion picture, but Sergeant York is content to get by with being a pretty good film and not much more; the box office of the film being a result of constant replay after the war got going, along with the film being an excellent piece of war propaganda, either intentionally or otherwise. Thing is, the film is constructed so basically, you can pretty much see everything that’s going to happen before it does, from the developments of the plot to the incidental actions of the characters; that doesn’t really mean that Sergeant York is a bad film, but it unfortunately keeps it from being a truly great one. I can see why it got the nominations it did, but I can also see why it didn’t end up winning this particular award, and while I’m okay with the nomination, I’d agree with the Academy on this one.

The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon has a lot going for it, mostly that it helped considerably to launch an entirely new genre of film, the film noir; publications years after the release of the film would cite it as the progenitor of the genre. Thus, it becomes a little difficult to judge the merits of the film in anything but hindsight; in a sense, how does The Maltese Falcon hold up in 1941, against the other films in the category, and not with the knowledge of how influential and classic it would be in the years since? That was my question during my rewatch of it for this section, and as it turns out, it still has quite a bit to offer that the films ranked lower than it up to this point pretty much don’t; solid performances, a script broken down to the last detail to ensure that nothing is extraneous (a famous claim is that Huston’s extensive notes in the script ensured that not a single line from the screenplay ended up omitted from the final cut), a new standard in chiaroscuro cinematography, and most of all, pure old-fashioned chutzpah to flaunt in the face of all the nominees of years past that settled for being a standard Hollywood film. The Maltese Falcon is not a standard Hollywood film, and for those reasons and more, it ends up being a lot better than one.

Citizen Kane

-But, for lack of a more eloquent way to put it; man, oh man, did the Academy shit the bed with this one. The 14th Academy Awards would become well known as the year that Citizen Kane failed to win Best Picture; so much so that that sentence is lifted almost verbatim off the beginning of the Wikipedia article on the ceremony. The Academy’s fear and susceptibility to the influence of William Randolph Hearst knew no limit, as almost every mention of Orson Welles or the title of Citizen Kane at the Oscars was met with boos and derision. Well, history has had the last laugh indeed; Citizen Kane is, if not the, one of the greatest films ever made, and my putting it at the top of this ranking was as much a foregone conclusion as could’ve possibly been anticipated.

-What Should’ve Been Here-

Given how generally tepid this year’s field of nominees was, it should be easy to come up with a few misses the Academy overlooked, right? Well, 1941 would seem to disagree with you; not much stands out as an obvious miss looking through the year on record. I’m a little surprised the Barbara Stanwyck picture Ball of Fire wasn’t among the Best Picture field, as it managed a few nominations otherwise. Victor Fleming had a new star-studded adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that was left off a lot of categories, but horror has never really been the Academy’s cup of tea, per se. From the 1001 list, High Sierra and Sullivan’s Travels were both released in January, which meant the Academy probably forgot about them come nomination time; possibly the same fate befell The Lady Eve, which was released in February.

-What I Would’ve Picked-

Um… Citizen Kane. I don’t even think I needed to say it.

-How Did Oscar Do?-

The field may have been as average as ever, but the failed win for Citizen Kane is a mark that the Academy will never live down. Really, I’m not sure it ever should, if the lesson is to remain as strong as it needs to be in the decades since this ceremony. You will get it right sometimes, though, Academy. Just not this year.

Blossoms in the Dust

Blossoms in the Dust

You’re trying to mend a broken heart by hitting it with a hammer.

Blossoms in the Dust, directed by Mervyn LeRoy, was the only film among the nominees of 1941 that was in Technicolor, so I had some expectations going into my viewing of it. To the film’s credit, those expectations were largely ignored as the film went on, but more because the film itself had a few problems that became looming and hard to ignore the longer the film went on. Many other reviews of this one that I’ve read have made lots of mentions of how affecting this story is, mostly because it’s a true story of a real-life woman. That it is a true story, however, shouldn’t earn the film any undue favors, especially because the actual film doesn’t do nearly enough justice to the real-life story it presents, thanks to the numerous faults in the storytelling.

Greer Garson stars as Edna Gladney, who starts off the film as a well-to-do fiancee dreaming of a double wedding with her adopted sister Charlotte. Of course, things don’t turn out as planned; for one, she is almost irresponsibly swept off her feet by wheat farmer Sam Gladney, breaking off her engagement and marrying him instead, and for another, her sister’s engagement is called off when her future in-laws discover she was adopted and thus an illegitimate child, and she kills herself out of shame. Both of these events, coupled with an eventual accident that takes the life of her own young son, have a profound effect on Edna, and lead her to take in other foundlings and illegitimate children, forming her own adoption center to find them good homes, which eventually evolves into a legislative battle she wages to have illegitimate children not forever marked as such by their birth certificates. I can say a handful of good things about Blossoms in the Dust; the Technicolor cinematography was sumptuous, and Greer Garson does a good job being sentimental and an easy character to root for. Unfortunately, these are overshadowed by the more than numerous things I could say about the film that were not so good. For instance, the film had a very odd structure about it, which seemed exacerbated by the short running time; the story almost lurched along, meandering for a short while until punctuated by bursts of plot development, which are then largely ignored as the film moves along to the next bit of meandering. I caught on to this structuring of the story a little too early into the film, and it became a nagging persistence as the film went on, as more tragic happenings and downturns in the plot kept happening and then were just as swiftly swept along and not allowed to have the impact they needed to make them worthwhile. Add to it the decisions of the plot developments themselves, which seemed to have bad thing after bad thing happen to Edna Gladney solely to make her more sympathetic as a character and to get us to weep and say ‘you pull through this, girl!’, and I was almost to the level of being insulted by the manipulation the film takes part in. As I said, Greer Garson was good, but the acting from everyone else, from Walter Pidgeon as her husband to the children and black houseworkers, was caricatured at best, and not even the saving grace of the cinematography could stop me from wondering what the hell Mervyn LeRoy and the screenwriters were doing with this picture.

Films like this one make me more than a little disconcerted, for several reasons. The main one I alluded to in the opener, that the film has so many problems with it that it doesn’t do nearly enough justice to the true story as it and many reviewers think it does. Just because the true story of the film is a rosy one and one worthy of sentiment and praise does not automatically mean the film should receive similar sentiment and accolades, because the truth of it is that this isn’t a very well put together film at all. It’s maudlin, and tugs at the heartstrings to an unnecessary and manufactured degree, and what’s most upsetting to me is that the actual true story behind the film would’ve been more than adequate at doing that on its own, without the ‘helping hand’ of Hollywood going overboard with it and thus screwing it all up. Even with it being the sole color film among the nominees, I can’t say that this really deserved its spot in the Best Picture roster, and that a film a mere hour-and-a-half long could have so many elementary issues with it made me more than a little frustrated.

Arbitrary Rating: 6/10

Suspicion

Suspicion

If you’re going to kill someone, do it simply.

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about seeing Hitchcock’s followup film to the previous year’s Best Picture winner; Rebecca set such a high and new standard for Hitch that I was quite afraid of Suspicion not being nearly up to the same level, even despite Hitch reusing his lead actress Joan Fontaine and adding in the ever-charming Cary Grant to boot. Truthfully, Suspicion is no Rebecca, but it’s still got enough of the classic Hitch charm to the filmmaking to be more than serviceable. Of course, we then run into the question of; to what degree is a film just serviceable enough to be considered one of the best pictures of the year, and while Suspicion doesn’t do enough to answer that question in regards to itself, it’s still fully entertaining enough for a watch if one is inclined to do so.

Joan Fontaine is Lina, the young daughter of the well-to-do McLaidlaws, who ends up meeting Cary Grant’s Johnnie Aysgarth on a train, then at a ranch, and again at a party, finding herself being swept off her feet by Johnnie at a rate even quicker than the film’s scant running time would necessitate. The two are married before Lina’s parents are even aware, and after a swift honeymoon, they arrive at an extravagant home Johnnie has acquired for her, seemingly out of nowhere. Over the next few weeks, it becomes apparent to Lina that Johnnie has no real income and a gambling streak, seemingly borrowing and switching around money so he can lavish both Lina and himself with various things. Of course, this lifestyle catches up to Johnnie faster than he would’ve hoped, and it’s through several odd occurrences, some involving a friend of the two known as Beaky, that Lina begins to suspect Johnnie may be trying to cash in on an insurance policy by killing her. This one seemed to be more typical of earlier Hitchcock films than the previous year’s Rebecca, in that the film was not only thrifty but saved most of its substance in the narrative for the later half or third of the picture. Really, though, I can’t stress the first point enough; man oh man, was this film quick. Barely over an hour and a half, the film spends no time at all setting itself up and barreling forward to the meat of the picture, to the point that I was concerned that the film wouldn’t be able to adequately wrap itself up with some fifteen minutes left in the running time. The film did well enough in this regard, though to the credit of my concerns, the film (an adapted screenplay) apparently has a way different ending than the book it’s based on, so the mileage may vary as to whether certain people get enough out of the ending as Hitchcock has intended.

Joan Fontaine won Best Actress at the Oscars for this role, the only such acting performance to win in a Hitchcock film. Aside from acting nervous and demure most of the time, I’m not convinced she really did enough to earn it… and to be frank, I don’t think this film did enough to earn a Best Picture nomination either. It’s not the type of picture that really goes out of its way to wow you, and it really doesn’t need to be; it works well enough on its own as a piece of entertainment, and another brick in Hitch’s building of his filmography. That it got nominated for Best Picture, to me, speaks more about the field of available pictures from 1941 than anything poor I could say about this one, and I really wouldn’t have too many poor things to say. While it’s not Best Picture material in my opinion, this is still a good film to sit down and give a spin through; it is Hitchcock, after all, and it’s hard for a Hitch film to let down a good movie fan.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

Hold Back the Dawn

Hold Back the Dawn

What do they call it, the ‘pursuit of happiness’?

With as hard as Hold Back the Dawn was for me to find (there wasn’t even a copy in my local library system; I feared I was gonna be stymied until I found a full copy on an obscure Russian video hosting site), I guess I should’ve been a little more concerned about the quality of the film itself. Here’s where I go down the same road that I’ve spoken of countless times before: this isn’t to say that Hold Back the Dawn is a bad film, but what it is is not engaging enough, especially for the story it tells. Truthfully, once I was able to track down a copy, I thought this was going to be a fairly easy watch; the charms of Charles Boyer and the demure innocence of Olivia de Havilland in a plot with just enough of a narrative hook to draw me in pretty easily seemed to be a safe enough bet. In reality, this film doesn’t fail, but neither does it do just about anything more than enough to succeed, and that seemed to bother me more in this particular case than if I had merely watched a poor film instead.

Charles Boyer, telling his story in flashback in one of the most clever and self-referential framing devices I’ve seen in classic Hollywood, is Georges Iscovescu, a European expatriate in a town on the Mexican border, struggling to find a way to enter the United States. After exhausting all the legal routes he can come up with, he spontaneously runs into an old flame who managed to succeed where he has failed; explaining how she did it, Georges learns the legal routes that have wrapped him up in red tape all unravel if a wannabe immigrant is married to an American citizen already – Georges’ former flame doing just that to get into the country, and divorcing right after. Georges, out of options, decides to do the same, and finds a potential mark in an American schoolteacher leading a field trip across the border, played by de Havilland. Of course, this being a Hollywood picture, Georges’ plan to marry the schoolteacher and divorce her after he’s in the country so he and his old flame can get together is threatened when he begins to fall for the woman, and if you know classic Hollywood and especially the Hays code, you know how this is going to turn out. Seeing the potential the premise had, I was actually looking forward to this one, and once I found a copy, I didn’t think it would be too much trouble to get through it. Honestly, it really wasn’t, but I was surprised at how lackadaisical the film was with its own story, to the point that halfway through the film I had started to lose quite a bit of interest. Most of it, I was able to identify, was the film’s conspicuous lack of a score, which when coupled with the judicious use of Boyer’s voiceover to describe his internal thoughts, made the film a touch too droll during far too much of the running time. There were also a few subplots involving the other hopeful immigrants living in the same hotel as Boyer that seemed superfluous and unnecessary at best, and indeed the film could’ve been a mite better if these had been trimmed to save the film a bit of length.

Even with the film’s framing device, Hold Back the Dawn seemed content to just meander along, barely telling the story of the central romance until it arrives at the end, calls it a day, and starts rolling the credits. This, needless to say, was not an altogether uplifting and engaging way to present a Hollywood romance, and it’s this that is the biggest problem I had with this film. Boyer is decent enough, and de Havilland does well with being pretty and demure and not much more than that, but I’d be very surprised if this managed to get into the top half of the year’s nominees for Best Picture in my regards; it’s far too blase with its presentation style to really have enough of an impact to be called one of the best pictures of the year.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

The Little Foxes

The Little Foxes

The world’s open for people like you and me.

Evidently, the Academy saw this film coming their way, with its impressive rap sheet headed by the name of Bette Davis (as well as director William Wyler), and figured it was going to get nominated for Best Picture whether it wanted to be or not. Not to discount The Little Foxes too much, because by the end of it it actually manages to be quite the affective drama, but I couldn’t help but feel that this film had itself guaranteed a slot among the ten nominees even before it was actually made. Hence, the film only just puts itself together, and really at the start of it one doesn’t really get the picture that it has anywhere to go or a final image it is leading towards at all, at least for me. Still, while I was prepared to write this off in the beginning of the running time, I have to say that it managed to succeed in its endeavor by the end. One just has to get through some of the film’s more languid patches and get to the end themselves to judge whether it ends up being worth it.

Bette Davis is Regina, the wife of successful banker Horace Giddens and sister to Ben and Oscar Hubbard, who are each wealthy enough in their own right, but both desire for more and also look down on their sister simply by the virtue of them being male inheritors and her having to marry into wealth to get it. Nevertheless, the three Hubbards scheme to increase their individual wealth by building a cotton mill in town; in order to do it, however, they need Regina to convince Horace to lend some of his money as well. When Horace, who’s been away receiving treatment for a severe heart condition, refuses to chip in, the three Hubbards each make their own schemes to get the money invested and to make their fortunes with the impending mill, some through less than legal means of doing so, and the entire family and everyone involved must come to terms with all that ends up happening in the Hubbards’ schemes to get rich. I was ready to dismiss this film completely after my first attempt to watch it; I started the film one day, and was so bored with it a mere fifteen minutes in that I had to stop and put it aside for another day. The thing with The Little Foxes is, it is absolutely one of those films that assumes before the opening credits have even started rolling that you already know everything about all the characters and their relationships and the setting everything takes place in, a type of film I’ve decried numerous times in the past whenever I encountered it on the 1001 list. There are no introductions or setting up of characters or plot points in the opening minutes of this film; it just dives right in, and unfortunately given the setting and social status of the characters, it meant that I couldn’t have given a flying arse about anybody or what was happening, which meant that the film had a largely uphill battle with me to get me to care about it over the next couple hours or so. Thankfully, it did manage to succeed, mostly because I just let the film run for a while without trying to make sense of who was what and what was why, but also because the acting from all involved was pretty damn good, and the direction and camerawork helped them along ably when things threatened to get a midge too stagnant. Davis is Davis of course, but Patricia Collinge, who plays Oscar’s wife Birdie, has a scene in the middle of the film that she absolutely steals, and Teresa Wright also does a good, if a little doe-eyed, job as Regina’s daughter Alexandra.

As good as the individual parts of this ended up being, I’m still not sold on the product they end up making as a whole. This is a shrewd little drama, and an effective one in the end, but I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling I had when it was over and I was typing up this review. I’ll put it this way: if this film had been virtually identical, but made with different people; different actors and a different director, and maybe even a different cinematographer… I don’t think it would have managed the nominations that it did. The Little Foxes secured nine noms at the Academy Awards that year, and I couldn’t help but think that a good half of them at least were from reputation rather than the people who were in charge of the nominations actually seeing this film. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be someone who passes this up, but neither is this really one to make the effort to seek out; it’s a little too superfluous in the Best Picture field, and as I said, it seems to get by on reputation rather than being a must see film that one needs to go and check out for themselves.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10