best film:  Rashomon from Kurosawa.  Rashomon is a masterpiece on at least two levels: the use of deep focus photography combined with character blocking compositions (that’s one– which rivals Citizen Kane– which is funny because Kane is also the film the subjective, unreliable narration, flashback structure is compared to) – and that aspect of Rashomon is probably overlooked because of the shock wave sent from the film’s audacious formal storytelling structure.

At the 8 minute mark we get the famous shot of the sun, I’ve made the mistake of attributing this to Malick (it’s a s reoccurring trait of Malick’s), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (and I’m not sure he’s seen the work of Kurosawa or Malick) but a stunner here—another shot of it hitting the sun at 31 minutes, formal work- and it’s not just a beautiful shot of course, but stresses the extreme heat, raised stakes and drama of the fateful day in the film

avant-garde in its innovative construction and Kurosawa’s compositions—yet thoroughly engaging

And just after that at 79 minutes the frame in the rain with the wood blocking the top half- gorgeous work- wall art in a museum quality and there are at least a dozen these in an 88 minute film

the use of deep focus photography combined with character blocking compositions

 

most underrated:   La Ronde from Ophuls. Ophuls’ important period of work after returning to Europe from Hollywood begins with this film and it is completely underrated by the TSPDT consensus. They can’t find a spot for it in the top 1000 (they have it at #1295). I’ve got it easily in the top 500 (#318) so there’s a healthy disconnect here. The vignettes in the film are woven in a tremendous pattern and the first one, especially, features some of the best camera movement to date in cinema’s history.

from Ophuls’ La Ronde – The vignettes in the film are woven in a tremendous pattern and the first one, especially, features some of the best camera movement to date in cinema’s history.

 

most overrated:  Rare for me with his work– but I do think John Ford’s Wagon Master is a tad overrated at #549 on TSPDT. I’ve only seen it once, which is never enough for an auteur of Ford’s stature—but for me now I’d have it well outside the top 1000.

gem I want to spotlight:  Gun Crazy from Joseph H. Lewis is a near masterpiece that I don’t think many cinephiles have seen. The narrative zips by, the sexualized fixation/fetishizing of violence/gun is an interesting layer to the film, and Lewis’ decision to shoot the entire robbery from the back of the car in a dazzling three and a half minute long-take may be the single greatest highlight from cinema in 1950.

Lewis’ decision to shoot the entire robbery from the back of the car…

… may just be the singular cinematic highlight of 1950

trends and notables:

  • A very strong top 10- if you have a year where The Asphalt Jungle is #10 and you can’t find room for Stromboli—that’s a good year
  • The depth is there as well- 1950 marks the most films in the archives to date for any one single year (44 total films)—and for just the second time there are over 40 films (1948 being the other). We’d stay pretty steady over 40 films for the rest of the art form’s short history (pandemic year 2020 remains to be seen)
  • Mentioned above in the “underrated” section but 1950 marks Ophuls starting to work in France- which is far and away his most artistically rich period. He started his career in Germany where he was born, worked in the US from 1947-1949—but it is from 1950-1955 (dies young at age 54 in 1957) where he does his best work—four of his best five films (ending MS, MP, MP, MP)
  • Anthony Mann starts his stretch of westerns after getting his start in film noir—these are part of the famous “psychological westerns’ that would become a trend in the 1950’s (before revisionism in the 1960’s). Jimmy Stewart is a big part of these for sure- Winchester 73’ is the first of eight collaborations between the two. Most know Stewart for his Hitchcock and Capra collaborations- but he actually made more films with Mann
  • An incredible 20 archiveable films in the last 17 years for Ford which is astounding and with two in 1948 and two in 1950 that’s 5 in 3 years
  • 1950 marks the first of four auteur/muse collaborations between Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman (Stromboli)— their partnership would make more scandal headlines than box office—but it was certainly a great stretch of work for both – it adds a second movement to both of their careers after an astonishing 1940’s for each

breathtakingly beautiful composition from Rossellini’s Stromboli

  • It is not his debut or his first archiveable film—but it has been twenty years since 1930’s L’Age d’Or—so 1950 is a big year for Luis Bunuel with Los Olvidados (and an important year for realism as Bunuel starts to question the form and riff on the subgenre/movement)– for the next 25-30 years starting in 1950 he’d be one of the greatest auteurs working

Los Olividados is Bunuel’s best work to date in 1950– he’s playing with the neorealism genre

  • The debut film for Antonioni- Story of a Love Affair– the first archiveable film as well for Jean-Pierre Melville- Les Enfants Terribles.
  • There is a long list of actors in 1950 making their first archiveable films. There is no actor more important than Marlon Brando—a true debut in The Men from Zinnemann (if you get to be the lead actor in a Zinnemann film in 1950 for your actual debut you’ve caught some people’s eyes prior). Marilyn Monroe makes her first two appearances in the archives (in two top 10 films of the year nonetheless)—small roles in both All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle (neither a true debut—but she certainly turns your head in both). Others making their first stint in the archives are the great Sidney Poitier (No Way Out), Simone Signoret (La Ronde), (Jack Palance (Panic in the Streets), Charlton Heston (Dark City) and Tony Curtis (Winchester 73’)

the sublime finale in All About Eve

best performance male:  By a slight edge I’m going to give the best male performance of the year to William Holden in Sunset Boulevard. He’s a historically underrated actor and his Joe Gillis character is as complex as he’d ever play in his career. His sardonic voice-over from the afterlife is hard to top. If it were on a per-minute basis I’d be very tempted to give the best performance of the year to Mifune in Rashômon who absolutely explodes off the screen at you. Other deserving actors this year are Sterling Hayden—in his career best work in The Asphalt Jungle, and stalwarts Jimmy Stewart and Bogart in Winchester ’73 and in A Lonely Place respectively. These two all-time greats that are impossible to keep off this short list every year it seems.

the justifiably famous opening of Sunset Boulevard— and the introduction of the narrator

best performance female:  Bette Davis’ work in All About Eve is ever so slightly superior to Gloria Swanson (both in iconic career-defining roles) in Sunset Boulevard.  This is Davis’ crowning achievement and with the hindsight of history, neither Swanson nor All About Eve co-star Anne Baxter (also getting a mention here) can overshadow her brilliance. I’d probably throw Gloria Grahame in third between Swanson and Baxter actually for her work opposite Bogart in In A Lonely Place. She is calm, measured in her performance….and kudos to her for not getting blown off the screen by Bogart’s ticking time bomb character.

…you could do no wrong picking Bette Davis or Gloria Swanson (here) for some of the best  acting of 1950

 

top 10

  1. Rashomon
  2. Sunset Boulevard
  3. Los Olvidados
  4. La Ronde
  5. All About Eve
  6. Gun Crazy
  7. In A Lonely Place
  8. Orpheus
  9. Winchester ’73
  10. The Asphalt Jungle

 

Cocteau’s shining moment on celluloid…

… from 1950’s Orpheus

 

Archives, Directors, and Grades

All About Eve– Mankiewicz MS
Annie Get Your Gun- Sidney R
Black Hand- Thorpe R
Born to Be Bad- N. Ray R
Born Yesterday- Cukor R
Broken Arrow- Daves R
Cinderella – Geronimi, W. Jackson,  Luske R
Cyrano de Bergerac- Gordon R
Dark City- Dieterle
Father of the Bride- Minnelli R
Gun Crazy- Joe Lewis MS
Harvey- Koster R
In a Lonely Place- N. Ray MS
King Solomon’s Mines- Bennett, Marton R
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye- Douglas
La Ronde- Ophuls MS
Les Enfants Terribles- Melville
Los Olvidados- Bunuel MP
Madeleine- Lean R
Night and the City-Dassin
No Man of Her Own- Leisen
No Way Out – Mankiewicz R
Orpheus- Cocteau MS
Panic in the Streets- Kazan R
Rashomon– Kurosawa MP
Rio Grande- Ford R
Scandal – Kurosawa R
Stars in My Crown – Tourneur R
Story of a Love Affair – Antonioni R
Stromboli- Rossellini HR
Sunset Boulevard- Wilder MP
The Asphalt Jungle- J. Huston HR/MS
The Baron of Arizona– Fuller R
The Breaking Point- Curtiz R
The Flowers of St. Francis- Rossellini HR
The Furies- A. Mann R/HR
The Gunfighter- H. King HR
The Lawless- Losey
The Men- Zinnemann R
Treasure Island – Haskin R
Union Station- Mate
Wagon Master- Ford R
Where the Sidewalk Ends – Preminger R
Winchester 73′- A. Mann MS

 

 

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-See- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives