Saturday, February 8, 2020

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930), 1917 (2019)

In the trenches in All Quiet on the Western Front

There is a lot of criticism of a lot of the early Best Picture Academy Award choices, but the 1930 Best Picture choice of All Quiet on the Western Front is a decision that has stood the test of time. Even prickly alternative Oscar writer Danny Peary thinks the Academy got this one right.

The film is of course based on the anti-war novel by Erich Maria Remarque and depicts a group of young soldiers excitedly joining the German army during World War I only to find their dreams of heroism brings them mostly horror and death. I don't think that there were any war films like this in the early talkie era and one can only imagine the impact the sounds of warfare had on audiences of the time.

Read the book...see the movie.. then.go do something to make the world a better place.

Corporal Schofield (George Mackay) tries to get a message
 to the front in 1917

All Quiet on the Western front was only ten years removed from the end of World War I and this year we have another Oscar contender one-hundred years removed from the event. The film is 1917 and is director Sam Mendes's recount of stories passed down from his grandfather Alfred Mendes about the Great War.

The story depicts about soldiers in the British Army who have to get a message to company commanders to cancel an attack that aerial surveillance has discovered to be a set-up from the enemy. 1917 follows these soldiers (Schofield and Blake) as they try to make it to the front in time. The film is noted for being shot in one take and that is a most impressive technical trick. The set design is really stunning. I may watch this whole film again and just try to catch everything that is going on in the background! There has been some criticism that the movie is made for the video game generation. Maybe a little. I can see 1917 on Nintendo being a thing...But  it's still an impressive work and the latest Awards Watch post has 1917 as winning Best Director and Best Picture. Roger Deakins should be a shoo-in for the Cinematography Award and the picture may clean up on many other technical award categories. Except editing, of course. We'll see on February 9th.

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