As we inch towards the end of the 1940s, cinema seems to spin it’s wheels.With the exception of a few great films – The Red Shoes and The Search in particular, the year was dominated by bloated Westerns and leaden historical epics like Joan of Arc and The Three Musketeers. It makes for a strange amalgamation of films, a lot of which, to be frank, aren’t all that good.
There also wasn’t a whole lot happening culturally that was that significant. It is worth mentioning that Hamlet is the first non-Hollywood production to have won Best Picture though, as it is relevant too to note that Jane Wyman was the first actress to win Best Actress without any lines of dialogue for her moving turn in Johnny Belinda.
Otherwise there’s not much else for me to say about this year of Oscar nominees. There were no new categories, and the overall calibre of films was, as I said above, pretty average. So hey, let’s just jump straight into the ones that are worth watching.
Five Films to Watch
The Search really surprised me. There were so many World War II films around this era, but this film focuses less on the war than the affect it had on bystanders. The story about a boy escaping an orphanage trying to find his mother after the end of the war who he was separated from in a concentration camp is moving, tender and beautifully put together. I was a m.e.s.s. by the end, and can’t really recommend it highly enough.
The Red Shoes really entered our cultural canon upon it’s release and has been an inspiring work for many modern films. It’s not hard to see why. It’s beautifully shot, capturing the intensity and the challenges of creative and artistic expression, and the complexities of the psyche. It’s beautiful to watch, and just about rips your heart out at the end.
There’s a long history of films set in psychiatric wards, and The Snake Pit is a compelling, if flawed addition to the sub-genre. It’s brought to life by the stellar performance of Olivia de Havilland, and is an intriguing look at memory, trauma and mental health.
I’m not the biggest fan of westerns. A lot of them can be hyper-masculine and promote toxic attitudes towards women and people of colour. A good western can be damn good though, and Red River is a good western. The story of a man driven to tyranical behaviour due to the harshness of circumstance and the powerplay that ensues with his adopted son is powerful and affecting.
Johnny Belinda was another surprise for me. The story of a deaf woman being raped and having to fight to keep her baby sounds horribly depressing and manipulative, but it’s a powerful film grounded in a stunning performance from Jane Wyman. Plus the cinematography is A+.
For previous years, check out the Oscars Project tag.