List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)
(Note – The 1001 Movies book just went through its yearly update. So I have had to adjust my number down by one)
First I need to say, wow. I am hot off the heels of watching this and… wow.
The more I see of Billy Wilder’s, the more I move towards him becoming my favourite director of all time. Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, Double Indemnity, The Apartment the list just goes on and on. I don’t think I he’ll get to the level of admiration that I have for Miyazaki but he’s damned impressive nonetheless.
When I went into watching this I pretty much knew everything about the story of this film. It’s one of those really important Code era movies that pushed the envelope when it came to the role of alcohol in a feature film. It is also the case where, thanks to the autobiographical nature of the source material, you know that there will be a quasi-happy ending.
To be honest I expected the worst of the ending. I hate it when films of this era pull an ending out of their arse just to suit the whims of the censors. The thing is, it didn’t ring false at all. During his 3-4 day bender, Don (Ray Milland in one of the best performances I have ever seen) reaches rock bottom. He steals, he ends up in an alcoholic ward, he hallucinates a mouse being savaged by a (plastic) bat. He even reaches the point of desperation where taking his own life becomes the only foreseeable way out.
In many ways, a film like this is as applicable (if not more applicable) to life as we know it now. Emotionally it still has that punch, it’s just that if it were to be made today there would need to be more of a visceral shock factor to make sure it has the same impact. No longer can a powerhouse performance be weighty enough, one he’d probably have to vomit blood or be punched by a hooker.
A film like The Lost Weekend goes to prove that whilst, yes, sometimes the Oscars can be a little bit weird in who they give Best Picture to (who were they kidding with Tom Jones) they can still award it to an absolute cracker.