Each year, the Academy Awards celebrate the best recent cinema. But there are countless films from yesteryear that also deserve a little extra recognition. Here are five excellent films that I revisited recently. Some of them actually did win Oscars. Some of them had crew members named Oscar. In either case, they all deserve some kind of award.
Best Performance by a Mug in a Leading Role:
It Happened One Night (1934)
Director: Frank Capra
This quintessential screwball comedy was a favourite of Adolf Hitler, which is odd, considering that Clark Gable plays a hard-drinking, roguish reporter who is far removed from the self-disciplined Aryan ideal. Gable is perfectly paired with Claudette Colbert, as an equally acid-tongued heiress, and the two fall in love one insult at a time. Their cross-country adventure also offers an excellent primer on 1930s slang. Believe you me, whether you’re a dame or a mug, this classic will hit you like a Mack truck!
Special Achievement in Men’s Hairstyling:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Director: Philip Kaufman
It seems fitting that Hollywood insists on remaking a story about alien replicants over and over again. This is the best version. Donald Sutherland stars as a health inspector with a perm that looks like an angry restaurateur dumped linguini on his head. He attempts to halt an extra-terrestrial menace, which is overtaking the beautifully photographed streets of San Francisco. Jeff Goldblum co-stars as an ally of Sutherland, although no character that Goldblum has ever played seems qualified to judge who is a normal human and who is not.
Best Named Director:
Village of the Damned (1960)
Director: Wolf Rilla
The Millennial generation takes a lot of flak, but that is nothing compared to the treatment of the sinister, psychic children in this British chiller. Although the youngsters’ glowing eyes and blonde wigs may not be frightening to present-day viewers, the plot contains some startlingly contemporary elements of body horror. David Cronenberg has spent most of his career literally fleshing out these icky ideas.
Best Perfomance By an Actor Refusing to Even Attempt an English Accent:
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Long before George Clooney assembled his Monuments Men, Gregory Peck led a ragtag group of Allied commandos on a mission of destruction, rather than preservation. The middle-aged Peck is not entirely credible as the world’s greatest mountaineer. But Anthony Quinn is memorable as the Greek resistance fighter who both stares longingly at Peck and desires to kill him. Plus, even if you already know who won World War Two, the climactic moments are still suspenseful.
Best Supporting Corset:
Johnny Guitar (1954)
Director: Nicholas Ray
Frequently, the western genre confines women to bordellos and boarding houses. Here, however, Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge are far more active and threatening than the male gunslingers, who have names like “Johnny Guitar” and “The Dancing Kid.” The dialogue is also so thick with psychosexual undertones that almost every line lands like a double entendre. This undoubtedly would have been Freud’s favourite western.