Saturday, January 11, 2014

1934 - The Thin Man

Happy New Year, everyone! Things are definitely getting exciting in this year's Oscar race. I've managed to catch a few more contenders (although I still have plenty left to see), all potential Best Picture nominees:

American Hustle is a fun romp and should see itself mentioned several times when the nominations are announced this coming Thursday morning. Along with a likely Best Director nomination, David O. Russell will probably garner nods for a few of his actors, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence, particularly, both of whom have Oscars on their mantles from previous Russell films.

August: Osage County is another ensemble acting feast. Meryl Streep seems assured of yet another nomination, and Julia Roberts could receive her first nomination since her Erin Brockovich win well over a decade ago.

12 Years a Slave is to slavery what Schindler's List is to the Holocaust, and knowing the Academy's penchant for epic tragedies of this nature, I expect many nominations for Steve McQueen's beautiful film. In fact, its beauty makes it a real contender in several of the technical categories, too.

Lastly, Philomena may scrape in to the Best Picture list, but it's screenplay has a far better shot, as does its star Judi Dench, who delivers a brilliant performance from start to finish.

It seems unlikely that I'll manage another post before the Oscar nominations are announced, but at the very least, I'll try to get my nomination predictions posted by Wednesday night. Let's see how much of a fool I make of myself this year.

Time now to take a look at another Best Picture nominee from the 1934 race...

The Thin Man
W.S. Van Dyke
Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich
(based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett)
William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O'Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, Minna Gombell
Academy Awards:
4 nominations
0 wins

Former detective Nick Charles (Powell) is approached by inventor's daughter Dorothy Wynant (O'Sullivan) to investigate the disappearance of her father. With the aid of his wealthy wife Nora (Loy) and his trusty dog Asta, Nick reluctantly comes out of retirement, partly for a lark and partly because he can't bear to see the police screw up the investigation.

As a detective story, there's nothing too extraordinary about the plot. Granted, there are some clever twists and turns, but it's relatively brief, rather straightforward and includes the stereotypical detective-invites-all-the-suspects-to-dinner-to-reveal-the-real-culprit conclusion. You might even say that The Thin Man has elements of a procedural TV show if it weren't for the fact that television didn't exist when it was produced.

Nonetheless, this picture is overflowing with charm. The murder mystery merely serves as a backdrop for the light-hearted antics and wry, caustic wit of its leading players. William Powell (pictured) is particularly charismatic with his biting sarcasm and devil-may-care attitude. And although the constant charm perhaps works to the detriment of a few dramatic moments, which aren't clearly executed (then again, that may just be my modern viewer sensibilities), the overall entertaining tone of the film made me crave more. Luckily, there are five sequels for me to feast on.

Powell steals the show, despite some occasional hammy moments, including several scenes which he ends by sporting a gaping open-mouthed expression. I also felt slightly concerned about his possible alcoholism, but he nonetheless scores plenty of laughs from his drunken behaviour, so ... all's well that ends well?


  1. The Thin Man was an endearing crowd-pleaser that led to all those sequels. It has held up well all these years, primarily due to the great chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy. The drunky scenes were probably no big deal back then, but today seem perhaps a little excessive. This one should easily make the top portion of the many nominees for 1934.

    I'll make this short to allow for my fearless Oscar Nomination picks. A very competitive year, so I've posted some alternates, but as always they don't count towards my annual goal of 80%. Hope you get to post yours before morning, Matt.

    .1. 12 Years a Slave
    2 American Hustle
    3. Gravity
    4. Captain Phillips
    5. The Wolf of Wall Street
    6. Nebraska
    7. Dallas Buyers Club
    8. Her
    9. Inside Llewyn Davis
    10. Saving Mr. Banks
    Alternate: Philomena

    1. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
    2. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
    3. David O. Russell, American Hustle
    4. Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
    5. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
    Alternates: Alexander Payne, Nebraska, Spike Jonze, Her

    1. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
    2. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
    3. Bruce Dern, Nebraska
    4. Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
    5. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
    Alternates: Robert Redford, All is Lost, Christian Bale, American Hustle

    1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
    2. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
    3. Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
    4. Judi Dench, Philomena
    5. Amy Adams, American Hustle
    Alternates: Meryl Streep, August: Osage County, Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color

    Supporting Actor
    1. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
    2. Michael Fassbender, 12 years a Slave
    3. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
    4. Daniel Bruhl, Rush
    5. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
    Alternates: James Gandolfini, Enough Said, Will Forte, Nebraska

    Supporting Actress
    1. Lupita Nyong'0, 12 Years a Slave
    2. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
    3. June Squibb, Nebraska
    4. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
    5. Oprah Winfrey, The Butler
    Alternates: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine, Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station

  2. After a LOT of back and forth, tweaking here and there, I've ended up matching your predictions 100%. Some of them are ranked slightly differently, though. Earlier today, I had a few alternate options in there, including a couple of wild cards, but I've chickened out in the end and just gone the safe route. We'll see, I guess...

    Best Actress was particularly painful to settle. I absolutely LOVED Streep in August: Osage County, and resisted removing her from that list. But Adams' Globes win is just too hard to ignore.

    I also felt the posthumous angle would get Gandolfini over the line, but American Hustle's momentum (especially after I'd conceded that Adams would get her nomination) made me insert Cooper instead.

    And my gut has been telling me for some time that Oprah isn't going to get a nomination but everyone still has her on their prediction list, so my head took over and gave her Sally Hawkins' spot.

    I also had left off Dallas Buyers Club from the Best Picture list ... until I watched it tonight. So I took out Philomena (which I also really, really enjoyed) to make room.

    We'll know soon if any of those last-minute changes were smart...

  3. I just read your Oscar Predictions entry and will post on it after the nominations are announced. Good job. I had to try cram in 4 movies that opened in Melbourne FL this past Friday. I managed to see Nebraska, Her and August: Osage County. I couldn't get to Inside Llewyn Davis yet. After seeing Osage, I began to doubt my Amy Adams pick. Streep (and Roberts as well) give us a powerful dose of "acting." Although Adams Globe win was after The Academy's nomination vote was over, it's hard to deny that American Hustle is this year's darling.

    Overall, trying to get into the mind of the AMPAS voters this year, always a difficult chore, seems to yield polar competition. Will the Academy elders help secure nominations for Saving Mr. Banks, Philomena, Nebraska, Redford, Streep and Winfrey? Will the increasing youth membership look to Wolf, DiCaprio, Hustle and its four actors?

    As for the other big contenders: 12 Years a Slave, Gravity; Captain Phillips, loads of nominations are pretty well assured. We'll talk about them post nominations. To be continued in an hour or so....