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Dan’s Movie Corner: Oscar Month

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I’d like to thank those who entered our inaugural Oscar content. This year, we do not have a winner to crown. The editor remains un-outguessed. Best of luck to you all next year.

Dan’s Movie Corner can resume its normal business here, where I highlight the media I enjoyed this past month.

And what a month it was.

In the month leading up to the Oscars, I make a point to watch only films that were nominated for Academy Awards, making exceptions for new releases or catch up from the previous year. It helps eliminate blind spots and mix up my viewing habits.

Two of the best films I saw this month were John Boorman’s “Hope and Glory” and Bruce Beresford’s “Tender Mercies,” both films that are as melancholy as they are beautiful and ultimately optimistic.

Boorman pulls from his own childhood for his 1987 film, telling the story of a boy growing up in London during World War II, witnessing air raids and watching his family try to survive in their own way while also growing up himself. It’s a wonderful film, and Boorman recently released a sequel, “Queen and Country,” which I will dive into soon.

“Hope and Glory” failed to turn any of its five Oscar nominations into a win, losing four to the year’s top winner, “The Last Emperor.”

Robert Duvall took home a well-deserved Best Actor trophy for “Tender Mercies,” a film that says so much and captivates so enthrallingly by saying so little.

Horton Foote also took home an Oscar for his screenplay, which director Bruce Beresford amplified with shot setups that look simple, but convey emotion and depth you can’t look away from.

Other highlights included Norman Jewison’s “Agnes of God,” staring a chain-smoking Jane Fonda and nun-cosplaying Anne Bancroft as two women sparring over a hidden pregnancy and bloody delivery. Fonda, a psychiatrist, wants the scientific answer, while Mother Bancroft hasn’t ruled out immaculate conception.

Elsewhere, I very much enjoyed 1936’s “Fury,” another masterpiece from Fritz Lang, who appeared in last month’s column.

What starts as an almost Hitchcockian “wrong man” plot turns quickly into an examination of the justice system and mob mentality that feels disturbingly current.

“Fury” was Lang’s first Hollywood film, and it came after his fleeing the Nazi regime in Germany. It’s quite clear there’s many things on his mind, but the movie never feels bogged down or preachy. The end result is quite enthralling, despite it’s studio-mandated semi-happy ending shot.

1950’s “Destination Moon” was a fascinating time capsule. The film depicts the moon landing years before it actually happened. It’s a bit slow by today’s standards (and includes an extended cameo by Woody Woodpecker to explain science), but it’s nonetheless an applaudable achievement. The film won an Oscar for its special effects and was also nominated for its art direction.