Ace in the Hole
An American in Paris (winner)
David and Bathsheba
Go for Broke!
With some years, the vast majority of the movies I’ve seen hit one or two categories and not another. That’s clearly the case for 1951, which appears to be an under-viewed year for me. I can’t say I love all of the nominations here, but I at least like most of them. The problem is that most of the 1951 movies I like are adapted screenplays. The two that I think would be worth adding here are the brilliant The Lavender Hill Mob and the surprisingly effective Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. It’s probably fair to suggest that I’m putting David and Bathsheba last because I’m an apostate and this is a Biblical epic. That’s fair, but I don’t think it’s true. There are some big-budget Biblical stories I’ve enjoyed. I think the biggest problem for me is that this just isn’t that good of a story. If you want to promote the idea of Christianity as a good and moral system, a story where everybody gets punished except for the guy who transgresses probably isn’t your best choice. This felt like an excuse for big sets and costumes.
3. Go for Broke! is a really interesting nomination, one that demonstrates that while Oscar does a lot of posturing, it actually does sometimes manage to be socially ahead of its time. This is a movie about racism, and specifically about the racism that occurred (and was still occurring) against Japanese Americans. That’s the most interesting thing about it; it’s otherwise a pretty bog-standard war movie. Our main characters shift from being an anti-Asian racist to being less of one is expected, but not really that believable. Still, it’s not bad.
2. The Well is another film about racism, and one that is in many ways a lot more interesting because it comes across as being a lot more real than Go for Broke! The biggest issue with this film is that it feels like two films inexpertly joined together. The first part deals with racism, and that seems to completely ignored once we get to the third act and a little girl having fallen down a well. It’s not a perfect film by any stretch, but it’s a good one, and I’m happy I got a chance to see it.
1. There’s clearly only one choice both from the nominations and from the 1951 films in general, and that’s Ace in the Hole. This is one of those unique films that was interesting when it was made and seems more and more relevant every year since it was made. Like Network and Nightcrawler, this is an incisive indictment of the news industry, one that is both fascinating and terrifying with its implications. It’s a brilliant, hard-hitting script, one of the best of its decade and clearly the best of its year. It should have won in a walk.