based on a book, classic, film, must see

Movie Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

On this day 58 years ago a novel came out that changed American literature forever; even winning a Pulitzer Prize for the author Harper Lee. Two years later the film adaption of To Kill a Mockingbird came out on Christmas Day, and much like the novel was a huge success. This is actually my mother’s favorite book and for a very long time did her best to convince me to watch the film. I eventually did, and I absolutely loved it. If you haven’t read the book or seen the film here is the spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Over the course of three years during the 1930’s Jean Louise Finch, better known as Scout (Mary Badham, nominated for an Oscar for her part) and her brother Jeremy Atticus Finch aka “Jem” (Phillip Alford) discover their (fictional) town of Maycomb, AL is not as good as it appears to be. They spend their days playing outside with their friend Dill (John Megna) and spying on their neighbor Arthur Radley aka “Boo” (Robert Duvall) who has not stepped out of his house in years; the town has multiple horrible stories on why that is. Scout and Jem live with their widowed father (whom they call by his first name by his request) Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck who won an Oscar for his part), the town lawyer who believes people should be treated fairly regardless of their background. Atticus defends many people in town and if they have little money takes in produce instead. Atticus is assigned a case where he defends Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) a black man accused of raping and beating Mayella Ewell (Collin Wilcox) a white woman. Atticus does what he can to protect Tom; including sleeping outside his cell to stop a mob from lynching him which Scout inadvertently stops when she recognizes one of the men Atticus takes produce from. However Scout and Jem face problems in school because of their father’s actions. When the trial (which Scout and Jem watch from the rafters) begins Atticus sets out to prove Tom couldn’t have committed the rape; among the evidence is Tom’s left arm is crippled, but Mayella claimed he used his left hand to chock her out. Atticus points out that Mayella’s father Bob (James Anderson) is left handed and she never went to a doctor to confirm her story of rape. Unfortunately, despite Atticus’s best efforts (including an incredible closing argument Peck shot in one take) the verdict seemed to be in before the trail began. This is about as far as I should go without spoiling the rest of the movie.

To call this an absolute classic would be an understatement. Everything from the acting, writing (which the movie follows close if not exactly like the book), cinematography and even shooting the film in black and white was nothing less than phenomenal. Peck was, and is still considered to be, one of the finest actors to ever grace the big screen and this is arguably his best known role. Atticus is often listed as one of the best fictional characters ever created, and it would be very hard to argue otherwise. Mary Badham’s performance as Scout is remarkable as she grows up; at first not understanding what is happening (often escalating to fighting or talking to Atticus), but eventually comes to terms with it. Phillip Alford is fantastic as big brother Jem as he explains what is happening to Scout as well as protecting her. Brock Peters is great as Tom Robinson and the rest of the cast is wonderful; interesting fact this was Robert Duvall’s first credited film role. The film won three Oscars: Best Actor for Gregory Peck, Best Art Direction and Best Adapted Screenplay, while it was nominated for Best Director, Cinematography, Actress in a Supporting Role, Score and Picture. It has also been on multiple American Film Institute 100 lists: Atticus Finch as the #1 hero, #17 of film scores, #2 on 100 Cheers, top 10 Courtroom Drama films at #1 #34 on the 100 movies list and finally moving up to #25 on the 10th Anniversary 100 Movies list.

I would call To Kill a Mockingbird a must watch especially if you are reading the book for school; although do not use it for a book report your teacher will know. Even if you are not, or have not, read the book the film is still an amazing work and a big recommendation from me.

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based on a book, based on true story, film

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

If you read my post about the best films to watch on the Fourth of July you would have seen this 2016 film among the list. I don’t want to call this film a surprise hit because it was very good, but I admit I did not expect the film to succeed as much as it did. Nonetheless Hidden Figures, based on the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, tells the remarkable true stories about three brilliant women and their contributions during the Space Race. As always spoilers will be ahead. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Beginning in 1961 Katherine Globe (Taraji P. Henson), a brilliant mathematician (and single mom of three girls) works at Langley Research Center as a human computer along with her friends Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), who wants to be an engineer, and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this part) a supervisor albeit unofficial. Despite all three women being incredibly smart and gifted, they are segregated because of their skin color and gender.

At this time pressures to send Americans into space continues to grow. Supervisor Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) assigns Katherine to a space task group headed by Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) to make it possible. Katherine faces a lot of discrimination from her teammates, particularly Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons), but when she solves a seemingly impossible problem Harrison includes her in on meetings and even removes the bathroom sign saying whites only after discovering she has to walk to another building to use the bathroom; also at this time Katherine falls in love and marries Lt. Col Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali). Dorothy is denied the position of supervisor, despite basically holding the job without the pay. She soon discovers IBM electronic computers are being installed and may soon replace human computers (putting many out of work). Not going to let that stand Dorothy teaches herself, and her co-workers, how the computers work and earns her place as a supervisor. Mary begins working on the space capsule heat shield and notices an immediate flaw. With the encouragement of her supervisor and her husband Levi (Aldis Hodge) she submits a request for an official engineering position and begins to work on getting her engineering degree; however the only school to make that possible is an all-white school which she must go to court for. The women also meet the astronaut that will go up into space John Glenn (Glen Powell). About as far I should go without giving away the rest of the movie.

When I first saw the trailers for Hidden figures I thought “this looks good, I hope this does well.” Boy did it exceed my expectations. Henson, Spencer and Monáe are absolutely fabulous as the trio of women who are not going to anything or anyone get in their way; not gonna lie and say I wasn’t cheering for them when I was watching the movie in theaters by silently clapping and whispering “you go girl” a lot. I was also very impressed with Costner and Ali’s performances in this film. Dunst and Parsons were as well great as they eventually released how ignorant they were being towards the woman; which probably wasn’t easy for them to admit. The writing and cinematography was excellent, but my favorite part was at the end when it is revealed just what an impact Katherine Johnson had on NASA for years after the first mission. Now the film, like others based on true stories, is not 100 percent accurate; which is why I recommend reading the book before watching the film. Hidden Figures was nominated for three Oscars: Best Supporting Actress for Spencer, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, nominated for two Golden Globes (Supporting Actress for Spencer and Best Score and winning the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for its outstanding cast (Spencer was also nominated for her role.) While I might not call this a must see right this minute, Hidden Figures is a fantastic historical drama movie and I would highly recommend watching it whenever you can.

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based on a book, classic, film, musical, must see

Classic Movie Review: The Wizard of Oz

Today I am writing my 200th blog. For those that have been around since the beginning I thank you. For those who are just starting, I thank you as well.

For my 200th blog I wanted to make it special; a movie or show I believe everyone has or should see (if you have not, it must be put on the top spot on the must watch list immediately.) While glossing over the list of movies I’ve watch one stuck out and I knew I struck gold. It was one of the first non-animated movies I remember watching as a kid, the movie that made me fall in love with musicals and arguably the most watched movie of all time (not just in my house): The Wizard of Oz. Based on the beloved 1900 children’s book by L. Frank Baum, this 1939 classic musical is considered to be one of the greatest musicals and films of all time; and I’d love to find someone who would say otherwise. If for some reason you have not seen The Wizard of Oz here is the biggest spoiler alert I could possible give. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Beginning in sepia tone Dorothy Gale (Jud Garland) and her dog Toto (Terry) lives with her Aunt Em (Clara Blandick) and Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin) on their farm in Kansas. Toto gets in trouble when he bites the mean neighbor Miss Almira Gultch (Margaret Hamilton). Dorothy tries to explain what happened to her aunt and uncle, but they and the farm hands Huck (Ray Bolger), Hickory (Jack Haley) and Zeke (Bert Lahr) are too busy working to listen to her. Gultch arrives with the sheriff’s permission to take Toto away and put him down, much to Dorothy’s sadness, but the dog escapes. Dorothy and Toto run away, but after meeting and sort of tricked by the strange but kind hearted Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan who pulls off five roles in the movie) into turning around. A tornado has formed as Dorothy races home, but is too late to get in the storm cellar. She tries to seek shelter in her room, but gets knocked out.

Waking up she sees very odd things outside her window (her home was picked up by the tornado) before landing in the colorful Land of Oz; Dorothy famously saying “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Dorothy meets the beautiful Glinda the Good Witch (Billie Burke) and the munchkins of Munckinland in the Land of Oz. They thank her for killing the Wicked Witch of the East; much to Dorothy’s horror her home crushed the witch to death leaving only her feet visible. However trouble soon arrives when the Wicked Witch of the West (Hamilton) arrives; Glinda says she’s worse than her sister. The Wicked Witch wants her sister’s magic ruby slippers, but Glinda has already given them to Dorothy; the witch promising “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too.” Dorothy wants to go home, but Glinda’s magic is not powerful enough to make it possible. Glinda says to Dorothy only The Wizard of Oz (Morgan) can help her; she must take the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard. Dorothy takes the path and soon meets three others who need help. The Scarecrow (Bolger) who desires a brain, the Tin Woodsman (Haley) who wants a heart and the Cowardly Lion (Lahr) who needs courage; Dorothy invites them all to accompany her to Oz. The four get stopped multiple times by the Wicked Witch, including a poppy field to make them sleep, but they make it to the Emerald City and eventually see the Wizard. He will only grant their requests if they bring him the Wicked Witch’s broomstick, but they will have to kill her to make that possible. About as far as I should go without spoiling the rest of the movie for those that haven’t read the book or watched it.

The Wizard of Oz is constantly listed as a movie many should watch before the age of 14, and if you have not that is absolutely fine. I remember watching the movie when I was a kid and just being completely enamored with it. The music, the characters, the story; even how it started off tan before going color. I still watch the movie today, maybe not with as much enthusiasm as when I was five but I still enjoy it.

The characters are just incredible to watch. Judy Garland shines as Dorothy Gale, considered to be the most iconic role in her career; she even won an honorary juvenile Oscar for this role along with her role in Babes in America. Bolger is so fun to watch as Scarecrow (try and find his deleted dance sequence for the “If I Only Had a Brain” number; it is great to watch.) Haley, while amazing as the Tin-man, was not the first actor cast for the part; actor Buddy Ebsen was supposed to be the Tin-man but fell ill after putting on the make-up (it was coated in aluminum powder and it got into his lungs, but thankfully lived.) Lahr is hilarious as the Lion; he might be my favorite of the Oz trio. Morgan is absolutely amazing in his five roles in the movie (Marvel, the doorman, the cabbie, the guard and the Wizard) a feet not often used in films back then or even now. Burke is lovely as Glinda. Of course I cannot forget the performance of Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch; one of the most iconic villains on-screen. I know she struggled after the film with children being frightened of her well after the movie; there is a very famous episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood where he showed that she was a person underneath the robe and green make-up. The writing, cinematography and background music are some of the best I’ve seen in film, I would appreciate this more as I got into movies.

I cannot forget the wonderful soundtrack that goes along with the movie. Scarecrow, Tin-man and the Lion each have their own songs explaining what they would do if they had their respective gifts; the Lion has an additional number saying what he’d do “If I Were the King of the Forrest”. The munchkins have a number of songs, the two most famous being “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and “Follow The Yellow Brick Road/You’re Off to See the Wizard”; Dorothy and her friends reprise the latter half song three more times with “We’re” instead of “You’re” The residents of Emerald City welcome Dorothy and her friend with a number called “The Merry Old Land of Oz” However the most famous song of all is “Over the Rainbow”. Dorothy sings this while in Kansas saying how she wished there was a place where she couldn’t get into trouble; honestly I still get goosebumps when I listen to it.

The Wizard of Oz would win two Oscars, including Best Original Song for “Over the Rainbow” as well as Best Score; the film was also nominated for Best Special Effects, art direction, cinematography in color and Best Picture. It has also been listed on multiple American Film Institute 100 best lists. Three quotes on 100 Quotes: # 4 “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”, #99 “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too” and # 23 “There’s no place like home” Two songs on the 100 songs: # 1″Over the Rainbow” and #82 “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead”, #43 on 100 Thrills, #4 villain on 100 Heroes and Villains, top 10 Fantasy film at #1, #26 on 100 Cheers, #3 on Movie Musicals, and #6 on the 100 Movie, it would slip to #10 on the 10th Anniversary list. The film inspired multiple adaptions of the book, including the Broadway production, film and TV special “The Wiz.” Allegedly five pairs of Dorothy’s ruby slippers were made; one can be seen at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C while another pair was stolen years ago and has not been seen since.

If you have not experience The Wizard of Oz, what are you waiting for? Grab your ruby slippers and get ready to travel from Kansas (or wherever you live) to the Land of Oz, but always remember “There’s no place like home.”

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based on true story, film, must see

Movie Review: Dunkirk (2017 film)

There are genres of movies I am not a big fan of (horror, spoof and really raunchy comedies for example), but one I have mixed feelings for are war films. While I liked reading about the history of past wars in school it is another thing for me to watch it on the big screen. That being said when I watched Dunkirk before the Oscars that year I immediately got the hype behind this 2017 film. As always spoilers will be ahead. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

During the Battle of France in 1940, thousands of Allied soldiers are hiding out in the town of Dunkirk. One of the soldiers, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) goes to the beach where he sees soldiers attempting to board a ship for evacuation as German planes constantly dive bomb the soldiers. Along with two other soldiers, Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (Harry Styles) the three young men try and find a way to survive the attacks and get away from Dunkirk. At the same time the Royal Navy ask civilians to borrow their ships so they may rescue the soldiers. Civilian sailor Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and friend George (Barry Keoghan) sail their ship, the Moonstone, to Dunkirk rather than have the Navy take it. On their way they pick up a soldier (Cillian Murphy) on a wrecked ship where he was the only survivor. When the soldier realizes where his rescuers are going, he demands they turn back; terrified about what happened to him. This would later prove to be costly. Meanwhile, while the two stories are taking place, three Spitfires are heading for Dunkirk but are attacked in a dog fight. When the leader perishes, pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy) takes command, despite a shattered fuel gauge, with the other pilot Collins (Jack Lowden) helping him. Keep an eye out for James d’Arcy as Colonel Winnant and Kenneth Branagh as Colonel Bolton.

I can say this with absolute certainty: Dunkirk is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. The way the movie was shot is absolutely stunning; from the beach, boats, planes to when the attacks happened. I have watched my fair share of Christopher Nolan films, yes it is mostly the Dark Knight trilogy, but I think this just might be his best film to date; I think he wanted to make the film as accurate as he possibly could. I believe this is why he cast so many young (and somewhat unknown) men along with bigger names like Hardy, Branagh and Murphy. The background music and sound was incredible; I had the movie on a mildly low volume most of the time and I could still hear the planes shooting or boats exploding. The characters, while fictional or a combination of actual soldiers, are fascinating to watch. Not much is known about them, but it doesn’t matter because the story is more important. I was actually surprised by how many young people came to see Dunkirk when it was in theaters; I’m sure some of the girls came because of Harry Styles but left learning a bit more about what happened in Dunkirk. Critics and audiences absolutely loved the film praising everything about it. The film won three Academy Awards for its sound editing, sound mixing and film editing while nominated for five others including cinematography, director and picture. I love the movie, but I have to make a tiny note for those that haven’t watch the film: put on the closed caption. It is very hard to hear the guys talking unless they are shouting, and then about five minutes later you have to turn the volume down because of shooting, exploding or alarms. Other than that Dunkirk is an absolute must-watch.

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based on a book, film, must see

Movie Review: Sense and Sensibility

I do not know why but sometimes when I watch a periodic film my thoughts are: were people really like this? The short version is yes, although maybe it is not as bad but I did not live back then so who knows. Anyway, this 1995 periodic drama based on the beloved Jane Austin novel stayed as true as it could to the 1811 novel, which helped that Emma Thompson (who was convinced to be the lead) wrote the script. It is still regarded as one of the best adaptions of Austin’s work and I would never argue with that. Spoilers ahead as usual. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Just before he dies Mr. Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) asks his son from his first marriage John Dashwood (James Fleet) to take care and provide for his second family: his wife Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones) and their three daughters: Elinor (Thompson, nominated for her part), Marianne (Kate Winslet, nominated for her part) and Margaret (Emilie Francois) as they will not inherit anything after Mr. Dashwood’s death. However John’s manipulative wife Fanny (Harriet Walter) convinces her husband to break his word to his father and not help his half-sisters. They almost immediately move into the Dashwood home forcing the girls to find a new home. Fanny has her brother Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant) move in as well. Edward and Elinor form a friendship and it seems that something more could have happened. However Fanny informs Mrs. Dashwood that Edward will be disinherited if he does not marry someone important. Having had enough Mrs. Dashwood takes her daughters and moves into a cottage provided by her cousin Sir John Middleton (Robert Hardy) and his mother in-law the ever scheming and energetic Mrs. Jennings (Elizabeth Spriggs). The Dashwood ladies also meet Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman), a longtime friend of Sir John who falls for Marianne the moment he sees her; however she does not reciprocate his feelings as he is too old. After a walk in the rain has Marianne taking a tumble she meets John Willoughby (Greg Wise) a very charming gentleman she quickly falls for and makes no attempt to hide it, much to Colonel Brandon’s chagrin (in more ways than one). Mrs. Jennings invites her daughter Charlotte (Imelda Staunton), son-in-law Mr. Palmer (Hugh Laurie) and cousin Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs) to visit where Lucy confides to Elinor her secret relationship with Edward, much to Elinor’s heartbreak but agrees to stay quiet. The elder Dashwood sisters soon have to find a way to handle their heartbreaks. About as far as I should go without giving away the rest of the movie.

I was amazed when I watched the film for the first time at not only how well it was written, but the acting. Emma Thompson is incredible as Elinor and she wrote a wonderful script; which did not surprise me when I read she won the Oscar for her screenplay (so far the only person to win Oscars for acting and writing) This was not Kate Winslet’s first film, however she gained a lot more attention with her role as the woman with her heart on her sleeve Marianne. Hugh Grant was amazing as Edward, I know a lot of Jane Austin fans thought he was “too handsome” for the part (which I almost laugh at but I have not read the book yet so what do I know), but apparently Thompson had Grant in mind when she was writing the script. Rickman is adorable as Col. Brandon, one of his most memorable roles outside the Harry Potter films. I loved the rest of the cast as well, with a special shout out to Elizabeth Spriggs as Mrs. Jennings, a character I almost wish would stop meddling, but it is so entertaining. I would call Sense and Sensibility a must see if you love periodic, drama or romantic films or any of the actors in this movies. Even if you are not it’s still a very cute movie and a great adaption of Jane Austin’s work.

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based on a book, classic, film

Movie Review: The Graduate

I have often told you guys, and I’m sure other people in your life have said “Oh you have got to watch this movie ASAP”, or “You haven’t seen this movie, why not it’s great?” No movie have I heard this more than this 1967 classic, based on the 1963 book by Charles Webb. Now don’t get me wrong I get why people like or even love The Graduate, but for me I did not like it as much as I thought I was going to. Spoilers ahead as usual. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has no idea what he is going to do in life. His parents share his accolades and at his graduation party many try to offer him advice, although it is obvious he is uncomfortable. Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) insist Benjamin drive her home after the party as her husband, Benjamin’s dad’s partner at his law firm, neglects her again. She invites Benjamin in for a drink and he soon realizes she is trying to seduce him. He tries to calmly reject her, but after his parents continue to pressure him he gives in to Mrs. Robinson’s advances. Benjamin’s parents and Mr. Robinson encourage him to spend time with Elaine (Katharine Ross), Mr. and Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, but Mrs. Robinson tells Benjamin not too. However after discovering he has more in common with Elaine rather than Mrs. Robinson, Benjamin becomes conflicted between the woman he loves and the woman he is sleeping with. About as far as I should go, but the ending is kinda famous.

I finally recorded this movie about a year or two ago because many adults I know were pestering me to watch the movie. As I stated before I get why people like the movie. The writing, acting, directing (as it won the Oscar) and cinematography are fantastic and I do not deny that for a second. Maybe it is because I already knew what was gonna happen or the story bothered me when I first heard about it; either way I did not like this movie as much as I thought (or others thought) I would. Without a doubt this might be the best roles or at least the roles most identified with the careers of Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft as well as the start of films where not a lot was left to the imagination. Many people who have watched the movie told me this was the start of more “sexy” movies. While I am positive there were real life stories not in the public eye, this might have been the star of the older women with younger men becoming more obvious, but don’t take my word for that. The Graduate has become an iconic film, it has been placed on the American Film Institution’s lists multiple times as best films, love stories, songs and at least two quotes on the best quotes of all time: “Mrs. Robinson you’re trying to seduce me” and “Plastics”. While I did not like the film too much if you were to ask me would I recommend The Graduate; while not must see without question: yes.

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classic, film, must see

Movie Review: Sunset Boulevard

While not quite a horror movie it is pretty scary and has gone down as a classic. Released in 1950 Sunset Boulevard is regarded as one of the best films of all time, as well as a very successful Broadway musical (well at least successful after Andrew Lloyd Webber got his hands on it). Spoilers ahead as always. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Joe Gillis (William Holden, nominated for an Oscar) is a screenwriter that is having strings of bad lucks after trying to sell his script to Paramount producer Sheldrake (Fred Clark) only to get rejected and criticized by script reader Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson, nominated for an Oscar). While avoiding guys trying to take his car Joe drives into what he thinks is an abandoned mansion. Joe hears a woman calling for him to come in to the house, mistaking him for someone else. He meets the woman and recognizes her: Nora Desmond (Gloria Swanson, nominated for an Oscar). She is a silent movie star who is basically forgotten about, although she doesn’t know it. Learning Joe is a writer Nora asks him to look at a script she has written for her return to film about Salome. Joe finds it horrible, but seeing an opportunity convinces Nora to hire him as a script doctor. Nora has Joe move in so she can keep an eye on him while her butler Max (Erich von Stroheim nominated for an Oscar) explains to Joe that Nora has basically refused the fact that her spotlight has faded, and any attempts to tell her has forced her to attempt suicide. Joe works with Norma on her script, but soon becomes uncomfortable with her constant need for attention; however any attempts he makes to get away she pulls him back in. About as far as I can go without spoiling the rest of the movie, but I will say this ends about as well as you think it is going to.

This was a movie I had heard about for many years prior to watching it, mostly the two famous lines by Nora Desmond. If you know movie quotes these two lines may seem familiar: “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small” when Joe tells Nora she used to be a big star (and to be fair a clue of how nuts this woman is) and finally the last scene and final line by Nora “All right Mr. DeMille I’m ready for my close-up” when Nora’s sense of reality is gone. The writing and acting are some of the best I have seen in any movie, hence why it has so many accolades. Sunset Boulevard was nominated for 11 Oscars, winning three for its writing, art/set direction and music. It is also one of very few films to have nominations for all four acting categories but not to win (and I would say it is a shame but I can’t argue with who won that year). If you have not watched Sunset Boulevard I would highly recommend it, but be prepared for crazy.

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