Best Picture Winners Part 30 (of 87): Bridge on the River Kwai

botrk1957Title: Bridge on the River Kwai
Year: 1957
Starring: Alex Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins
Director: David Lean
Runtime: 2 hrs 21 mins

Is It Any Good?: Absolute brilliance! This seems like it was the beginning of the period in which every winner was a huge epic more or less. There’s a scale to it. Most of the pictures in this year were based on Broadway, or books. This too was based on literature, however the nature of the material means it needed to go big or go home. It went home alright…with 7 Oscars including a well deserved Best Picture snag for Alec Guinness, the force is strong with that guy! Likewise his counterpart as it were for the duration of the film played by Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa received a nomination for every award imaginable, and deservedly so. Not only does his turn as Saito transcend this picture by making you hate him every way possible, but he’s so good that his branch of the ending is somewhat disheartening. Man, this is a great flick! Check it out if you never have, it is certainly one worth watching and a deserving winner…despite my feeling that one of this years other films is an absolute masterwork.

Memorable Quote: Colonel Saito: Do not speak to me of rules. This is war! This is not a game of cricket!

Competition:Stiff. Like there’s some cinematic greatness here. Let’s start with old reliable Marlon Brando who stars in Sayonara which takes place during the Korean War as an American soldier (Red Buttons) falls in love with a Japanese maiden. Since inter-racial marriage was frowned upon our soldier is facing a court martial. Marlon Brando continues to own the 1950’s, Red Buttons is great and Miyoshi Umeki has her American coming out party. The latter two were even nominated for Oscars though neither one. Peyton Place is a 50’s stereotype. Lana Turner is given a vehicle here, and director Mark Robson subsequently drives that vehicle over a smaltzy cliff. Overly melodramatic this whole thing comes off as a soap opera rather than an Oscar caliber film. Third up is Witness for the Persecution. Billy Wilder directs this adaptation of an Agatha Christie play. In it we get Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton (and his “bride” Else Lancaster) in a grippin and suspenseful courtroom drama. Last up we have one of the greatest films ever produced. 12 Angry Men takes place when a young Puerto Rican boy us on trial for the murder of his father. This looks like a pretty cut and dry conviction. You see 111 or the 12 jurors believe the youth guilty, for one reason or another. The lone hold out is Peter Fonda’s juror #8. This is one of cinema’s finest of all moments, and the power of Sidney Lumet’s camera (despite this being his feature debut) and Peter Fonda’s powerhouse performance make it as such.

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