George Seaton: The Country Girl
William A. Wellman: The High and the Mighty
Elia Kazan: On the Waterfront (winner)
Alfred Hitchcock: Rear Window
Billy Wilder: Sabrina
This is an interesting collection of nominees, particularly when you consider that only two of these nominees had his film additionally nominated for Best Picture. While I wouldn’t choose to nominate Stanley Donen for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but it’s a hell of a spectacle. His lack of nomination is a little surprising. I would consider Edward Dmytryk’s work in The Caine Mutiny worth a look, too. I might also suggest Joseph Mankeiwicz for The Barefoot Contessa and George Cukor for A Star is Born as well. On the foreign front, though, we have three big misses: Henri-Georges Clouzot for Les Diaboliques, Akira Kurosawa for The Seven Samurai, and Kenji Mizoguchi for Sansho the Bailiff. If you want Fellini nominated for La Strada, that’s on you.
Weeding through the Nominees
4: It’s hard for me to put Billy Wilder in fourth place, but as much as I might love Sabrina, I’m not entire sure why Wilder was nominated. This is a case where the director more or less stayed out of the way of the story that he was telling and simply allowed the story to play out in front of the camera. That’s great, but it’s not something that I think is worthy of a nomination. Compare what Wilder did here—some good shots and all with what Clouzot did in his film, and the reality of Wilder’s nomination makes even less sense. Sorry, Billy. You’re one of the most versatile directors in history, but you didn’t deserve to be here.
3: I really like The Country Girl a lot, but I’m not entirely sure how much of that is due to the work of George Seaton. It may well be that Seaton was nominated for the daring move of putting Bing Crosby in a serious dramatic role. I can kind of see that, and it was a brilliant move. The whole thing works well and it’s beautifully made. It helps greatly that this is a script that works from the first page all the way to the closing credits. As good as it is and as surprising as it was, Seaton moves no higher than third.
2: Elia Kazan won this Oscar, and in a lot of years, I’d have been happy to let him have it. On the Waterfront is a gutsy film, and it’s beautifully directed. Give me a different year for this directorial performance and we can talk. It’s a hell of a gutsy film, and I can’t really fault the Academy for gracing Kazan with the statue. Kazan may well have won for one of those rare moments when the Academy decides to grow up a little and give the award to someone who goes edgy. This is an edgy film in a lot of ways. I like this nomination, and I don’t even really hate that Kazan won. He just shouldn’t have.
1: Alfred Hitchcock never won a competitive Oscar. While North by Northwest is my favorite of his movies, Rear Window was absolutely his best chance to win as a director for a specific film. This is a film that absolutely is a challenge for any director, and Hitchcock makes the whole thing work flawlessly. Having the main character trapped not only in a room but in a wheelchair and a leg cast would be a liability for most directors, but for Hitchcock, it’s not even a challenge. In fact, it’s a positive benefit. This is a film loaded with suspense and it still works perfectly. Hitch should have walked away with this no matter how much Elia Kazan could have won in other years.
Yes! I do want Fellini nominated for La strada! (And if it were up to me, he'd win ... well, maybe I'd give it to Kurosawa.)ReplyDelete
We'll disagree on Fellini in general. I haven't found much of him that I like.Delete
I've seen a lot of Fellini. La strada is my favorite.Delete
But, yeah, out of what was nominated, it should have gone to Hitchcock. Rear Window was my favorite Hitchcock for years and years, and it's still in my Top Five Hitchcock films.ReplyDelete
On the Waterfront is pretty great, though.
I guess I should admit I've never seen The Country Girl, despite my Grace Kelly obsession.
The Country Girl is pretty exceptional. I expected nothing and loved it completely.Delete
Good choice. As good as On The Waterfront is, Rear Window is a unique directorial masterpiece...and the brilliant Dial M For Murder, also released in 1954, strengthens the case that this should have been Hitchcock's year! Good shouts for The Barefoot Contessa and The Caine Mutiny.ReplyDelete
Yeah, this was one of those places where I really wanted to be clear that I liked the movie that actually won. I understand why Kazan won the Oscar, and he's far from the worst choice here.Delete
Rear Window really is something special, though. It had so much against it on paper, and it works so well.
Hard to argue against Hitchcock, although I think Kazan was a very solid pick. Kurosawa would certainly make my list of five. As for Fellini, I think La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2 are much better films, where I believe he was nominated. For me La Strada was very meh. Great analysis.ReplyDelete
Kurosawa was almost always a solid pick. Aside from Hitchcock, though, I think Clouzot put together a masterpiece with Les Diaboliques. That film works in a lot of ways specifically because of what Clouzot does with it.Delete
I've always found On the Waterfront a bit overrated. Not that it isn't a good film and worthy of acclaim and Kazan does a good job with it. But, I haven't seen it in awhile and when I watch it again I may yet again change my mind! Yes, Hitchcock should have won this award sometime. Rear Window would be on the top of my list of possibilities. That being said, Kurosawa and The Seven Samurai is gong to be at the top of my list against any competition.ReplyDelete
It's hard for me to not want to give the award to Kurosawa for pretty much every film of his I've seen. There needs to be some limits to that on my end, though. Still, had it be nominated this year, it would've been a tough call for me.Delete
You mentioned a few months ago that 1954 was a great year and, man, you were so right. I am therefore surprised to find that three of the five nominated are not even on the list. Hands down half the list movies of 54 could have been nominated for best director. My top three would be Kurosawa, Hitchcock and Kazan in that order with Clouzot a strong contender for fourth.ReplyDelete
Of the three not on the list, I recommend The Country Girl completely. Sabrina isn't bad. You can pretty safely skip The High and the Mighty.Delete