Wednesday, August 21, 2019


This is my choice (choices) for Best Picture for the year 1955.  My criteria is that I can only use films that are on the 1001 list. To make it a little easier on myself, I am using the rules of the first Academy Award and name a winner for Best Picture (won by Wings for 1927-1928) and Best and Unique and Artistic Picture (won by Sunrise from 1927-1928).

Twenty! 1001 movie to choose from for this year. Tough choices 

And the nominees on the entries from every edition of 1001 Movie You Must See Before You Die are...
Artists and Models
Guys and Dolls
Peter Panchali
Bad Day at Black Rock
The Mad Masters
Hill 24 Doesn't Answer
The Ladykillers
Bob the Gambler
Kiss Me Deadly
The Man From Laramie
Rebel Without a Cause
The Phenix City Story
Smiles of a Summer Night
Night and Fog
The Night of the Hunter
Lola Montes
The Man with the Golden Arm

And the winner for the Best Picture of 1955 is…Rebel Without a Cause

Rebel Without a Cause

Nicholas Ray's mid-50's drama about alienated youth still packs a punch if you can look past the fact that a lot of what might have been needed in the picture would have never made it past the 1955 censors. But it's still a gripping film and the themes ring true. 

Of course, it is also noted as the defining role of the too brief career of James Dean. James plays Jim Stark, a student who seems more like someone trying to find himself than a rebel. But he's a complex character, aided by Dean's charisma and somewhat surprising empathy he shows for those around him. 

But equally strong is Sal Mineo, whose Plato is clearly meant to be homosexual as much as a 50's movie could portray one. How did the scene when Plato is lovingly hugging Jim's jacket get past the censors? I'm glad it did, it's a great moment! 

The third youth is the girl, Natalie Wood, who has also has a father that can't relate to her and only seems to begin to find herself when she is around Jim. I didn't think her story is as well developed as the other two, but I certainly still have an affection for this trio who all died too soon in real life.

Ray wanted the ending to resemble a Greek tragedy and Plato's demise achieves that in my book.

Rebel Without a Cause

And the Award for Unique and Artistic Picture of 1955 is...Bad Day at Black Rock

Bad Day at Black Rock

The basic plot: An outsider named Macready takes a train into a Western town called Black Rock, circa 1945 to find a Japanese man named Komoko, but everyone he meets in the town is hostile and seems to be harboring a dark secret.

Bad Day at Black Rock is a very difficult film to pigeonhole. It looks like a Western. The few Black Rock residents we see are mostly dressed like cowboys. The chief power in the town is a man called Reno Smith, a Western name if I ever heard one. But its 1945, Not 1885! The town seems so slight that it reminded me of the fake town the townspeople built in Blazing Saddles to fool Slim Pickens. And Macready (played by Spencer Tracy) is wearing a suit, sort of like he jumped out of an episode of Mad Men. It also has a film noir flavor, with the mysterious town harboring a great secret But since it’s in glaring Technicolor it can’t be film noir! It’s also a talky film with a lot of action or is it an action film with a lot talk? The cast is top notch. Tracy as the one-armed hero, Robert Ryan and Ernest Borgnine as the heavies determined to do what is necessary to take care of Macready. Also look for character actor extraordinaire Walter Brennan as the good hearted doctor/mortician. Another example of the ying and yang of this movie. It can also be viewed as an existential theatrical piece (as someone else pointed out, it's sort of like Sartre’s No Exit). I mean twelve people live in this town and there’s only one girl! Overall, I like the fact that I can’t easily place this movie. It’s bugging me. But it’s well acted and well done. It's existential nature makes me put in the artistic category, but it could easily fit into the other Best Picture category as well.

Bad Day at Black Rock

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