Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
1951: A Place in the Sun (George Stevens)
Goddamn, Shelley Winters is annoying in this movie! Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s have a quick discussion.
I first saw this one in the same theater in Paris, on Rue Mouffetard, where I saw You Only Live Once and The Blue Angel. It wasn’t even that great a theater, but for some reason almost every time I went there I saw something that became a favorite. I wonder if others experience this phenomenon as well. Even when I was living in Los Angeles, it happened. With some theaters I visited, I almost always disliked the movie I saw, while other theaters were almost batting a 1,000. This theater on Mouffetard still holds one of the best records for me.
If I had to boil down my reasons for loving this one as much as I do, I would say almost all of it has to do with Montgomery Clift’s vulnerability meeting Elizabeth Taylor’s staggering beauty. Paired with a doomed romance story (it’s based on Theodore Dreiser’s famous novel An American Tragedy), A Place in the Sun becomes an incredibly powerful concoction for me.
I have a thing for tragedy in general, I almost always love Clift, and Taylor’s beauty at this point in her career is about as convincing as anything I’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, the director George Stevens confidently delivers the goods. The emotions are there, and I’m along for the story from almost the first minute until the very end.
What moviemakers can learn: Some scenes can give moviemakers a crash course in Moviemaking 101. Break down and analyze how Stevens puts together the scene of Winters on the lake.
Other contenders for 1951: Like any other, this is a year where there are some things I still need to see. These include: Anthony Mann’s The Tall Target, Mikio Naruse’s Meshi (Repast) and Albert Lewin’s Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. I really like Vittorio De Sica’s Miracle in Milan, Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire, Samuel Fuller’s The Steel Helmet and Nicholas Ray’s Flying Leathernecks, but my closest runner-up is Raoul Walsh’s Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N..
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work, raising money for his next feature, Peril.