Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mrs. Miniver

William Wyler, 1942, bw (8.2*)
Best Picture (AA)
This was the first William Wyler film to win best picture after a slew of nominations. He would eventually be nominated for director 13 times, with 12 best picture nominations, by far the most for one director. Mrs. Miniver is a beautiful woman, played by Greer Garson, in a beautiful film about a small coastal town in England at the onset of World War II. Garson won best actress for this, the middle of five straight nominations. She was only 33 but played the mother of a now adult son, and became the top box-office draw because of this role.

We see the pastoral village setting in the beginning as the town is getting ready for an annual garden festival with awards eagerly sought by the locals for the best rose, the best crysanthemum, and down the line. When the war starts, we see how the entire town responds. Mr. Miniver is played by Oscar®-nominee (actor) Walter Pidgeon in perhaps his finest performance, and he reeks gentility and proper British mettle in doing the right thing for king and country, so he becomes a member of the civilian guard, eventually taking his boat to Dunkirk. His son, now 18, joins the army and pilot school, as England is under attack from the air almost daily. His young bride, Teresa Wright, won a best supporting Oscar®. We get to see the early part of the war from the point of view of civilians, and the effect on them, we don’t spend time with soldiers at the battle front. That seems to be Wyler’s point as a filmmaker: war affects innocent civilians as well as brave soldiers – all are changed, no one can simply hope for it all to pass.

Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives, the Best Picture of 1946, did this brilliantly and cynically, and remains my favorite anti-war film. Mrs. Miniver was filmed as the war began, and showed a pro-war propagandistic tone, as a scene with a downed German pilot made it clear that they were bent on destruction and had to be met with the same kind of determined force in return. Seven Oscars®, including actress, director, screenplay, and picture.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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