Saturday, February 28, 2009

FotM: The Lost Weekend - Best Pic 1945

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Originally uploaded by jimmyporter
In 1945 the Academy Awards were hosted by Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre; the best picture nominations for that year were films that are now considered classics - The Lost Weekend, Anchors Aweigh, The Bell’s of St. Mary’s, Mildred Pierce, & Spellbound. That year Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend walked home with the Oscar.

The thing about Wilder’s films that fascinates me is that his films transcend time. Though visually Wilder’s movies are obviously set in a specific era, they remain fresh and current because his stories and themes are not rooted in the time period; instead, the stories are rooted in universal concepts, concepts that are not rooted to one time period. The reason The Lost Weekend won best picture, the reason it remains a great film to this day is because it deals with an issue that is still in society today – alcohol addiction.

When Wilder made The Lost Weekend it was so realistic for the time that Paramount briefly shelved it because they were afraid of the reaction it would received, in fact as they were filming Wilder had to keep sending pieces of the script for review as he shot. It is actually an amazing thing that The Lost Weekend was even finished, much less a best picture winner.

What is so controversial about The Lost Weekend is merely the fact that it brings addiction, and the conspiracies so many people were using to hide it to the surface. Wilder has the lead character become so completely desolate that being as high as rock bottom would be a relief; this is a movie that shows hopelessness, despair, and the emotional trauma that the addicted person and those closest to them go through – it is a vicious, painful, shocking cycle that cannot end unless the addicted party can manage to face what they have become and why. This movie does not pretend; many of the themes reflected in The Lost Weekend are the same themes that someone like Darren Aronofsky later goes on to address in Requiem for a Dream, but Aronofsky and the filmmakers like him are able to be so blunt about an issue like addiction because of the inroads started for them by pioneers like Wilder.

While The Lost Weekend is an incredibly real, stark film it is only the first in a series of films where Wilder pushes the envelope of societal convention and taboos. I really think that The Lost Weekend prepared Wilder for two of his most biting films - Sunset Blvd. and Ace In The Hole - these are films that were highly controversial and two of his most relevant. Throughout his entire career Wilder was not afraid of replicating the controversy he created in The Lost Weekend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember watching all of those for film history classes. I still like Sunset Boulevard a little better though since I think that was his best work.