I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Friday, August 5, 2011

All the King's Men, 1949

Not Rated

This Oscar winner was adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel based on the real-life politician Senator Huey Long, known as “The Kingfish”, and the dangers of a populist dictatorship and corruption of power (although the movie claims to be just a fictionalized account inspired by the book). I was completely unfamiliar with the story/movie although the title rang a bell; I was thinking of the remake done in 2006 (rated PG-13).  I first watched this original movie but after looking at the cast of the remake (Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins), I immediately Netflix’d it to compare. So I will blog about the original film with a sprinkling of comments about the remake. Reportedly, the director of the remake never saw the original film, and adapted his screenplay solely from the novel. I don’t buy it. [I just got word from a reputable source that it is true; my friend's husband worked as an exectuive producer on the re-make.]

The story follows Willie Stark, who is a backwoods small-town lawyer/politician who loves to throw the word “hick” around. He eventually gains enough popularity (with the hicks) to get voted in as governor but starts to lose his principles along the way. As a citizen, he believes the people in office are “stealing” their money, keeping too much in their pockets and not shelling it out where it is deserved (i.e. roads and schools). In charming his public, he winds up charming himself and becomes very hoity-toity. He understands his new power (of persuasion) and uses it to entice or force people to do his dirty work. He starts to rely on the bribe and the threat. Politics after all is dirty work, right? He turns into a real sleaze and ends up cheating on his wife and then cheats on his girlfriend; this isn’t really even part of the plot, but it’s obvious. There’s a great line in both films when the girlfriend goes to Stark’s right hand man, Jack, to complain about his “two-timing”; he shoots back, “He's two-timing Lucy [his wife], so there's another kind of arithmetic for you.”

The remake clarified some things and confused me about others. I was unaware that the criminal at the end was the doctor (the man Starks had just signed a deal with and brother of Jack’s old flame). I don’t know now if I wasn’t paying clear enough attention or what, but the remake made it perfectly clear. I’m still a little confused (from both films) as to how exactly Judge Stanton was being blackmailed by Stark, but I’m not surprised… that stuff usually goes over my head. I also didn’t get from the first movie that either Sadie Burke or Tiny Duffy (both part of Stark’s entourage) tipped off the doctor about Stark’s involvement with his sister. Overall, I preferred the remake. It was more dramatic, perhaps because it was in color with actors I recognized. But interestingly, the older version has a higher rating at imdb.com.

I won’t give away the ending in case you want to see either film. But I thought the final scene in the re-make was done creatively. It was filmed in black and white, perhaps as a nod to the original film, except for the last five seconds or so. It was dramatic and impressive, much more so than the original’s final scene.

This film was up against “Battleground”, “The Heiress”, “A Letter to Three Wives”, and “Twelve O’Clock High”, none of which I’ve even heard of. Supposedly though, this was the front runner. It also won awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.


Willie was hung-over (perhaps still drunk) the morning after finding out his initial position is the race was a ruse. He stands up in front of a crowd to announce he’ll still run because he’s in it to provide for and protect the hicks, dammit.


Stand up for what you believe in. If you feel strong enough that there is an injustice, do something about it. (That lesson really just comes from the beginning of the film.)

Beware of silver-tongued politicians.

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