31 Days of Oscar: Cinematographer Roger Deakins

To paraphrase a common saying, writing about cinematography can be like dancing to architecture. But I’m going to give a shot, because it’s a travesty that Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, CBE has been nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar a whopping TWELVE times, and has yet to win.

With his nomination this year for his work on Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, Deakins is on a three-year streak, having also gotten the nod for Skyfall in 2013 and Prisoners in 2014. He’s been nominated for Academy Awards in two consecutive years THREE times (1997/1998, 2001/2002, 2008/2009), was once nominated twice in the same year (2008), and he’s won numerous other awards, including BAFTAs and ASC and BSC awards.

Deakins is known for his simple, naturalistic set-ups and his devotion to story over all other considerations. He likes silhouettes, fire at night, and high angles, but his shots almost never draw attention to themselves, which may be part of the reason it’s never been his year with the Academy.

He is most often associated with the Coen brothers, with whom he has worked on eleven pictures (not all Oscar-nominated). Their work has benefited greatly from his fluency with different lighting styles.

I was overwhelmed by the thought of analyzing the circumstances that have kept Deakins from the podium in the past, so I’ve chosen to spotlight briefly just a few of his amazing Oscar-nominated works. You know them, even if you’ve never heard his name. For instance…

Continue reading “31 Days of Oscar: Cinematographer Roger Deakins”

Call for posts: 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon (2015)

“Oscar and I have something in common. Oscar first came to the Hollywood scene in 1928. So did I. We’re both a little weather-beaten, but we’re still here and plan to be around for a whole lot longer.”
— John Wayne

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Hope you all like this year’s banners…I designed them 😉

Continuing an Oscars tradition – albeit a much newer one than either the legendary awards or Mr. Wayne’s impressive career – Kellee (@IrishJayHawk66) of Outspoken and Freckled, Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen, and myself, @Paula_Guthat of this blog, are back our Third Annual 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon. Update: Scroll on down to the end of the post to see the list of 2015 participants so far.

Continue reading “Call for posts: 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon (2015)”

31 Days of Oscar: Week 5 — THE MOVIES

Wow, that was a quick month. This weekend is the 5th and final installment of 31 Days of Oscar blogathon, the Second Annual celebration of the Academy Awards, hosted by myself, Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled, and Aurora of Once Upon A Screen, and held in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies31 Days of Oscar.

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Of course the 2014 ceremony is today happened on Sunday, March 2, so while you’re tuned into as we dissect the 86th version of the movie buff’s Super Bowl, check out these fabulous posts:

Margaret of The Great Katharine Hepburn tells us why Little Women (1933) is a very big deal.

Kelly of …On Popcorn & Movies recalls her experience seeing the 2011 Best Picture winner, The King’s Speech, at its first public viewing in Telluride.

Ruth of Silver Screenings writes that Paramount got its money’s worth for the $2 million it spent on Wings in Flyboys In Love and War.

Christy of Christy’s Inkwells gives us the backstory on A Man For All Seasons.

Iba of I Luv Cinema predicts who will be making the Best Pictures of the future in ‘Twas the Night Before the Academy Awards Ceremony.

I speculate wildly on how two Best Picture (and two Best Director) categories might change to the Academy Awards in Could more be more?

Aurora of Once Upon A Screen pays tribute to the “great, if underappreciated” George Stevens’ work on A Place in the Sun.

AnnMarie of Classic Movie Hub Blog analyzes You Can’t Take It With You, “a profoundly moving film that is as relevant today as it was over 75 years ago when it first hit the big screen.”

Em of The Vintage Cameo describes The Silent Inspirations of Titanic (1997), “deep-rooted images [that] would remain even in Cameron’s version nearly a century later.”

Nitrate Diva invites us to “Pick a letter and investigate” the ABCS of The Thin Man, “26 facets, factoids, and anecdotes” about this eternal favorite.

More of the Second Annual 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon:

Week 1 – SNUBS posts are here.
Week 2 – Music, Costumes, Cinematography, Writing, etc. posts are here.
Week 3 – Acting posts are here.
Week 4 – The Directors posts are here.

31 Days of Oscar: The Movies – Could more be more?

Our 31 Days of Oscar blogathon wraps up with Week 5 posts — The Movies. I’ve been thinking about the Best Picture category a lot lately, since I read Movies Silently’s Week 2 post, The Silent Oscars, in which she highlighted Academy Award categories that were lost with the advent of sound films. Near the beginning of her very informative post, she writes:

The first Academy Awards had several categories that were never repeated. The best picture award was divided in two, best production (Wings) and most artistic (Sunrise). Frankly, I think dividing best picture into art film and crowd-pleaser would be an excellent idea today but what do I know? The best director category was likewise divided into best dramatic director (Frank Borzage) and best comedic director (Lewis Milestone).

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Two winners, both alike in dignity…WINGS and SUNRISE

Such interesting ideas. What would two Best Picture and two Best Director categories look like?

Having 20 different nominated films might get complicated, so it’s quite possible the Academy would return to limiting the Best Picture categories to five each. Also there would probably be some films that get nominated for both Best Production and Most Artistic. For instance, I think last year’s Best Picture, Argo, qualified for both. Would it have gotten lost between plausible Best Production nominees Django Unchained and Silver Linings Playbook and Most Artistic shoo-in Beasts of the Southern Wild?

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Among the nominees for Best Production…SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and…21 JUMP STREET?

On the other hand, separating directors into Best Dramatic and Best Comedic categories would probably have helped Argo director Ben Affleck to get nominated the same year (that he wasn’t is still a staggering snub in my book), though I think Ang Lee still would have won. My money would have been on Playbook director David O. Russell in the Comedic category, would he have gotten into the dramatic category as well? Who else would have gotten nominated? Phil Lord and Chris Miller for 21 Jump Street possibly? It’s hilarious. Seth McFarlane for Ted? Jay Roach for The Campaign? Jason Moore for Pitch Perfect? Would these films then get nominated in a Best Production category? Or would those nominations go to effects-heavier movies?

I’m not sure, but I do know that comedy has long gotten short shrift from Oscar. And I also know the Academy has tried all sorts of tactics to increase viewership. Designating an actual category just for comedy direction places these films — and possibly their fans — at the core of the Academy Awards. Would it also alienate the base (if there is such a thing)? And, with the differentiation between drama and comedy in other categories, would it then be necessary to split up the acting and craft categories as well? The mind boggles…but it’s fun to think about.

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This post is part of the second annual 31 Days of Oscar blogathon hosted by Paula’s Cinema Club, Outspoken and Freckled, and Once Upon a Screen. For more posts featuring Oscar snubs, visit the megapost at Outspoken and Freckled, and stay tuned for more Oscar-related posts throughout the month. Our blogathon gets its inspiration from Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar, “where every movie shown is an Oscar winner or nominee.”

31 Days of Oscar: Costuming BARRY LYNDON (1975) by Jack Deth

by Jack Deth

Greetings, all and sundry!

It’s my great pleasure to accept Paula’s gracious invitation to add a different perspective to the current Oscar Blog~A~Thon and its many unique facets.

Opting for the less-discussed, though aesthetically important variant that today has been given criminally short shrift amongst the plethora of romantic comedies. Where a logo T-shirt, jeans, sandals or sneakers will suffice for the guy, while skinny jeans, a midriff top and heels works for the girl.

For this dissertation, I want to go back to the familiar stomping grounds of the 1970s and a little-known novel replete in the history of its time. The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray was adapted by that master of detailed storytelling, Stanley Kubrick, who devoted 300 days in 1973 and ’74 to splendid on-location cinematography around the estates, castles, valleys and marshes of Ireland, creating a lavish, occasionally luscious feast for the eyes.

A film about unadulterated social climbing within the strict confines of 18th-century English morals, mores and etiquette, where words, or lack of them, contain great destructive or constructive power. Enhanced and highlighted by meticulously detailed and constructed costumes.

To that end, allow me to introduce a perfect cure for a bout of the flu, or dreary rainy or snowy days, when the weather outside is far more miserable than you wish it to be, and you are in need of an opulent distraction: Barry Lyndon (1975).

Barry Lyndon-4Barry Lyndon begins with ne’er do well, Redmond Barry (quietly adequate Ryan O’Neal) trying to improve his lot in life after the death of his father in a duel, leaving Barry and his mother to scheme amongst monied families. Falling in love, being rejected and getting revenge, before running off to Ireland.


Joining the British Army to survive the French at the Battle of Minden. Before deserting and trying his luck at the gaming tables. In search of a sponsor or a titled friend.

Barry’s a very busy boy and finds himself in the employ of a minor spymaster and gambler (Hardy Kruger). Forming an alliance at the gaming tables and shady dealing with new, well-off friends and acquaintances. Working their way across Europe to placate Barry’s desire to make money the old fashioned way. Marrying it!

Barry Lyndon-2The apple of Barry’s eye is the beautiful, willowy, wealthy and widowed, Countess of Lyndon. Outwardly delicate and sedately seductive Marisa Berensen, whose gaze, occasional glare and silence carries more weight than pages of written dialogue!

She is seemingly wedded to intricate gowns constructed of rigid whispering taffeta and flattering loose silk, and even more elegant hats. Gliding about parquet floor sally ports or the polished woods of grand halls, posture perfect and temperament mild as she and Barry are wed. With her young son, Lord Bullington (Dominic Savage as an infant and child; Leon Vitale, later in life), who sees Barry for what he is and despises him. Even more so as a baby step brother, Bryan Patrick is added to the equation, upon whom Barry ridiculously and lavishly dotes.

Barry Lyndon-3I won’t go into heavy detail, but Barry does what he does. Going through paramours and the Countess’ wealth with carefree and sloppy abandon, as Lord Bullington’s anger grows. Intrigues about inheritances arise, and Barry’s mother (Marie Kean) tries to take over, bringing about a duel and ending that may seem sad, but is ironically well deserved.

Overall Consensus

Barry Lyndon-1With a slow moving, yet intricate morality play of this size, acting, is of course essential to sell the story. Yet it is costuming that seems to rise above and take center stage in cementing time and place. In a film that is essentially an opulent, lush and moody oil painting brought to life.

We’ve all heard of Mr. Kubrick’s insistence in designing camera lenses for shooting in available candle and sunlight. Also the exactly of its time Schubert-heavy piece that comprise its soundtrack. The costumers are the unsung heroines and heroes are never seen in front of the camera, but their meticulous hard work and attention to design and detail adorns the film and makes things whole.

Huge kudos to 1976 Best Costume Design Oscar winners Milena Cannonero and Ulla-Britt Sonderlund, aided by Norman and Yvonne Dahms, Gloria Barnes, and Jack Edwards, for their vision in regaling Ms. Berensen in soft tones and period pastels, while making British Redcoats even more bold and empowered on the field of battle. And to Colin and Frances Wilson, for creating minor miracles with elegant head wear.

Note: This film is available for viewing on You Tube.

Call for posts – 31 Days of Oscar

I accept this very gratefully for keeping my mouth shut for once, I think I’ll do it again.
—Jane Wyman

There’s been a lot of criticism over the years over this award, and some of that criticism has been warranted. But whether it’s warranted or not, I think it’s one hell of an honor, and I thank you.
—Jack Lemmon

I’ll tell you this about the Oscars – they’re real.
—William H. Macy

And so is this blogathon!

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For the second year in a row Kellee (@IrishJayHawk66) of Outspoken and Freckled, Paula (@Paula_Guthat) of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen bring you a mammoth blogathon event which just happens to coincide with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar.

This promises to be another February filled with fabulous tales and screen wonders – many of the stories, players and films featured on TCM all month long. In fact, the network is kicking things off this year in spectacular style on February 1st by featuring all of the Best Picture nominees from Hollywood’s “Golden Year” 1939, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary! In addition, that night, TCM premieres a new original documentary, And the Oscar Goes To….

So, in short, if you can’t take the entire month of February off work, or send your kids to your relatives, then be sure to clear your DVRs, and join the blogathon.

We are not limiting this event to classic film fare though — posts on more recent Oscar-winning or Oscar-worthy filmmaking are very welcome. We want to see and hear it all from the golden man’s more than eighty-five year history, including the 2014 nominees. Share stories about the films and players, tell us which and who deserved the nod and were ignored, or rhapsodize about which films inspire you with their music or lighting.

We are doing things a little different this year by focusing on a different Oscars topic each week.
For your consideration:

WEEK 1 – the weekend of February 1-2 – Oscar Snubs!  Let the venting kick things off!

WEEK 2 – the weekend of February 8-9 – Music, Costumes, Cinematography, Writing, etc.  You name it. If it’s not Best Acting, Direction, or Picture, it’s in!

WEEK 3 – the weekend of February 15-16 – Actors!  Lead or supporting, take center stage.

Week 4 – the weekend of February 22-23 – The Directors!  

Week 5 – the weekend of February 28-March 1 – THE MOVIES!  

We are taking turns hosting, but you can submit topics by leaving comments on any of our blogs, via twitter, or by email.  We ask that you please include the following:

  • Title and link to your blog
  • Your email address (use [at] instead of @ if leaving a blog comment)
  • Topic

It would also be great if you can include any of the event banners included above or below in this post on your blog to help us promote the event.

SO – write to your heart’s desire!  Write one post or several on each topic.  But write!  And join us, won’t you? Hollywood’s big night is only once a year.

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31 Days of Oscar update

Time for an update on the 31 Days of Oscar blogathon (full rundown at the original post). We’re a little more than a couple of weeks out from the first deadline. Publish your post and email me the link by any one of the following dates: January 31, February 7, February 14, February 21 and February 28.

The nominations were announced on Jan. 10, providing as much fodder for blog posts as any other’s, maybe more. Right away, I was aware of what I consider to be one major snub: Ben Affleck for Argo, and now that I’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty, I think Kathryn Bigelow was snubbed as well. Of course, the format of the Best Picture nominations, where 5-10 movies are tapped, virtually guarantees that there will be snubs. Is the Academy crazy, or crazy like a fox? Sounds like an idea for a blog post, speaking of which here’s some topic prompts (new ones at the end of the list):

  • Is there a film, performance or art or technical work the non-nomination of which you feel is a crime? Tell us about it.
  • Sometimes the Oscar seems to hinder, not help, someone’s career, including but not limited to the “Best Supporting Actress Curse.” Discuss.
  • Special Achievement Awards and Board of Governors’ Honorary Oscars…do you dare go there? Who should have gotten a competitive Oscar, and/or who might win an honorary Oscar the future?
  • Spotlight on sound editing and sound mixing, or any other unfairly neglected award.
  • Your favorite/the most influential Best Costume winners/nominees/should-have-beens through the years, or just focus on one.
  • Short films are often given short shrift…throw some love on your favorite.
  • Cinematography and editing vs.directing…the auteur theory, etc. Discuss, using Oscar-winning examples.
  • The Oscars still create the most hoopla, but should we be paying more attention to other awards, such as the Golden Globes or (fill in the blank)?

NEW:

  • The Academy’s rules for selection of the Best Picture dictate that any film receiving 5 percent or more of first place votes is nominated, so that a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 10 are in the running each year. This year there are 9 nominees, but there are still only 5 Best Director nods. Discuss the implications and ramifications of this set-up.
  • Judi Dench famously won a Oscar for her 6 flawless minutes in Shakespeare in Love. If there was an Oscar for cameos, who would be nominated, and who would win?
  • It’s generally accepted that actors and directors, and possibly other filmmakers, may receive an Oscar for a previous year’s, or an entire career’s, work, sometimes referred to as a “cumulative Oscar.” Do you think this is legit or totally unfair? Discuss.
  • Academy…why so serious? Certain genres are overlooked every year, generally speaking comedy, adventure, and science fiction are rarely given nods. Is this due to the overall age of the Academy, or other factor(s)?
  • Final Oscar ballots aren’t due until the Tuesday before Oscar Sunday; this year that is Feb. 19. Any answer to this question is likely to be pure speculation but: Do the other awards influence voting?
  • As reported last year, the Academy is overwhelmingly white, male and over the age of 60. Only 2% of the Academy is under the age of 40. Discuss.

If you’d like to participate, leave me a comment or email me at paula.guthat[at]gmail.com. So far our Oscar bloggers, in addition to myself, Kellee at Outspoken & Freckled, and Aurora of Once Upon A Screen are…

Fernando – Committed to Celluloid
R. A. Kerr – Silver Screenings
Ruth – Flix Chatter
Lê – Critica Retro
Kevin aka “Jack Deth”
Paddy – Caftan Woman
Vanessa – Black & White All Over
Iba – I luv cinema
Le0pard13 – It Rains, You Get Wet
Joel – Joel’s Classic Film Passion
Lindsey – The Motion Pictures
The Gal herself – One Gals’ Musings
Paul – Lasso The Movies
Ivan – Thrilling Days of Yesteryear 
Jessica – Comet Over Hollywood
Kay – Movie Star Makeover
The Lady Eve – The Lady Eve’s Reel Life
Kimberly – GlamAmor

Announcing the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon

The envelope please…

The winners, the losers, the snubs, the back stories, the gossip, the players, the games…this time it’s all about Oscar!

We’re back! Myself, Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66) of Outspoken and Freckled, and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen are hosting a new, mammoth blogathon event that coincides with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar, February 1 to March 3, 2013. It’ll be a month filled with fabulous tales and screen wonders.

But this one is not just for classic film fare; we want to see and hear it all from the golden man’s more than eighty-year history, up to and including this year’s nominees. And you don’t have to stick to just Best Picture or acting winners. Posts about nominees or winners in all the other categories…Original Screenplay, Costume Design, Cinematography, etc….are more than welcome.

The details:

Let us know what you’ll be writing about by email [paula.guthat[at]gmail.com] or leave us a comment.

Submit links to as many posts as you would like by email or by comments in time for any of the following due dates throughout the month. Submissions should include as much information about you as possible: First name, Twitter username, link(s) to your site(s) and email address.

January 31
February 7
February 14
February 21
February 28

We’ll promote entries for an entire week after each due date. If you have a preferred promotion date, please make a note of that as well.  However, we welcome all submissions by any of the dates specified. Don’t forget to include your Twitter handle if you have one.

This is the banner I created for the blogathon. We encourage you display it on your site to help promote this event and cannot wait to hear from you. Happy blogging!

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UPDATE: I have so many ideas for this blogathon, far more than I could ever tackle myself, so I offer these as topics for posts or inspiration thereof:

  • Is there a film, performance or art or technical work the non-nomination of which you feel is a crime? Tell us about it.
  • Sometimes the Oscar seems to hinder, not help, someone’s career, including but not limited to the “Best Supporting Actress Curse.” Discuss.
  • Special Achievement Awards and Board of Governors’ Honorary Oscars…do you dare go there? Who should have gotten a competitive Oscar, and/or who might win in the future?
  • Spotlight on sound editing and sound mixing, or any other unfairly neglected award.
  • Your favorite/the most influential Best Costume winners/nominees/should-have-beens through the years, or just focus on one.
  • Short films are often given short shrift…throw some love on your favorite.
  • Cinematography and editing vs.directing…the auteur theory, etc. Discuss, using Oscar-winning examples.
  • The Oscars still create the most hoopla, but should we be paying more attention to other awards, such as the Golden Globes or (fill in the blank)?

That’s all for now…I will add more when I think of them.

The Best Picture Project: THE APARTMENT (1960)

With the 2012 Oscars less than a week away, Ruth at Flix Chatter came up with an amazing idea: A bunch of bloggers each pick a past year’s Best Picture winner  and defend (or not) its merits and win-worthiness. I chose the year 1961. There’s no question that the Best Picture Oscar race that year was an interesting one. All the films in the contest had mighty talent behind and in front of the camera; some had sweeping scope, literary sources, and/or exotic locations. The eventual winner, The Apartment, relied on a deceptively simple concept and a very focused, contemporary setting to work its magic. The apartment of the title is that owned by C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon), one of thousands of workers at the bottom of the pecking order at a giant insurance company in New York City. So many people work in the company’s offices that the start and stop times of the business day are staggered, so that there isn’t too massive of a crowd trying to catch the elevators at the same time.

At some point before the movie begins, Bud had lent the key to his conveniently located residence to one of the office higher-ups. Soon the key was in high demand by married execs who needed a place to entertain their mistresses. Bud doesn’t want to rock the boat, and he does want to get ahead, so he’s agreed to every request. Not that it’s easy on him. Bud has to find something else to do between the end of the business day and 8 p.m., when his “tenants” are supposed to be out. They eat all his food, drink all his booze, and leave their dirty dishes around. It seems he’s got it made, though, when he gets promoted after the execs give him rave reviews. Called upstairs to see the sleazy vice president of personnel, Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), Bud receives a promotion, complete with an office that has a window. There is only one condition…Bud must now loan his key exclusively to Sheldrake, which Bud agrees to do. Soon after, Bud discovers that the lovely company elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) is Sheldrake’s mistress. Although Bud hasn’t quite figured it out yet, he is in love with Fran. When circumstances throw them together, his life really gets complicated.

Anonymous corporate office life, c. 1959

Billy Wilder directed and co-wrote the film and much of the time it has the trademark seriocomic vibe of another Best Picture nominee he wrote and directed, Sunset Blvd. (1950). The Apartment is both a satire of American corporate society, which seems not to have changed much since the late ’50s/early ’60s, and a charming, bittersweet romantic comedy. Wilder uses stunning wide shots of hundreds of desks or a seemingly endless park bench to emphasize the anonymity and facelessness of modern life, while using tight shots to signal the growing intimacy between Bud and Fran. His script laid the groundwork for really memorable, three-dimensional characters. The acting is uniformly great; Lemmon and MacLaine, who have some of the best chemistry ever, are perfect as two neurotics who take a while to realize they’re meant for each other. Fred MacMurray is astonishingly effective as one of the worst cads in a movie ever.

Shut up and deal: Jack Lemmon as Bud, Shirley MacLaine as Fran

The Academy recognized The Apartment with 10 Oscar nominations, of which it won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay (Written for the Screen), Art Direction, and Editing. Lemmon and MacLaine were both nominated as well, but competition was tough that year. Burt Lancaster, Trevor Howard, Laurence Olivier, and Spencer Tracy received nods for Best Actor, while MacLaine contended with Elizabeth Taylor, Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr, and Melina Mercouri. (Lancaster and Taylor were the winners. MacMurray wasn’t nominated at all, which I find inexplicable.)

In the Best Picture category, The Apartment faced formidable competition from four other excellent films, all of which were set in the past: The Alamo in 1836 Texas, Elmer Gantry in small-town America in 1927, Sons and Lovers in London and Welsh coal mines in the early 20th century, and The Sundowners in 1920s Australia. And I would argue that, The Apartment, set in contemporary New York City, deserved to win, because it has retained its relevance and has the most to say about modern American life.

The questions dealt with in The Apartment — What are you willing to give up to get ahead? Which is more important, love or money? — resonate in everyday life possibly even more today. It’s easy to see oneself in Bud, Fran or possibly even Sheldrake (though I hope not the latter). Even more people are working in offices than in 1960 and can readily relate to its situations and dilemmas. If anything, corporations are even larger and more faceless, and even more depends on a person’s ability to survive workplace politics, doublespeak and backstabbing. If, God forbid, anyone wanted to do a remake set in the 21st century, a different location, a few mobile phones, and some laptops would be all that is necessary to update it.* Yes, elevator operators and giant metal adding machines are a rare sight in 2012. But greed, manipulation, deception, and infidelity, as well as love, friendship, and generosity are all still alive and well. And the small scale and everyday setting of The Apartment makes its comedy and wisdom universal. Oscar-wise, The Apartment was a great choice.

*The location change is absolutely necessary because I don’t believe there is any way an entry-level employee could afford a place in the west Sixties, just half a block from Central Park, but I am told that wild Christmas parties still occur, though I’ve never been to one.