Tuesday, February 1, 2011

30 Days of Oscar - Day 5: Citizen Kane

Movie: Citizen Kane
Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Orson Welles), Best Actor (Orson Welles), Best Original Screenplay, Sound, Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction, Original Score
Wins: The only win was for Original Screenplay for Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz.  The other categories were mostly beaten by How Green Was My Valley (Picture and John Ford for Directing) and Sergeant York (Gary Cooper)

This was the first time I've seen Citizen Kane and I'm not sure another movie could have more mixed expectations than this.  Some people love it (Hatter) while others think it fine, but nothing special (Dylan).  However, for a movie that's been talked about and talked about, and emulated, and copied, and cited to death, it holds up pretty darn well.  I'm surprised by how well.  I wouldn't say I've watched a lot of movies of that era, but probably 30-40 of the ones that have stood the test of time, and it's easy to see how many different techniques that Citizen Kane used to terrific effect - particularly flashbacks, aging make-up, playing with size, shadow, etc.  I'm sure there's a colorized version of this out there somewhere, but I'm not sure it would do anything to improve the movie, if anything, all of the fancy cinematography might be lost.

The story of Charles Foster Kane (go read the Wiki summary if you want all the details), Orsen Welles wanted to comment on social classes, rich/poor, power and corruption, love and loneliness.  Cliches were created to describe some of the themes that Citizen Kane explores.  And since I'm not old enough to have seen this BEFORE all the movies that used similar themes or told similar stories, I feel I'm not in a great position to comment on whether or not the originality of the movie was in fact novel a the time, or just a great movie exploring more common ideas in new ways.  Either way, it's a terrific movie.  Yes, there were moments when it did drag a bit (mostly when his second wife was whining about singing opera), but Welles' acting ability, particularly when he's a young whippersnapper taking over the faux New York Enquirer, is extremely engaging.  Overall, it's a very good movie, but I don't think it necessarily belongs on all the Top lists it makes. 

Also, just to add my own thoughts to the "Citizen Kane/The Social Network" conversation, I think there are obvious comparisons - a young man finding huge wealth from his own work on building an empire.  However, that's about where it ends.  If anything CK is a warning for the real Zuckerberg that money and power won't buy happiness (though given his frugal and philanthropic lifestyle, he doesn't really need the warning).  As for TSN being this generation's CK, I could see that being more true - in the sense that CK took the media of its time and built a moral tale around one of its heroes.  TSN took Facebook (today's equivalent of newspapers, a bit of a reach, but close enough) and showed a story about the trouble with morals.  I don't think TSN does as complete a job of story-telling, but it's definitely a start.  Most "fairy-tales", which both could be called, usually end with a wedding or a death, so CK succeeds, and TSN didn't quite get there. 


David Bishop said...

As an artistic work, Citizen Kane is a masterpiece. The way it plays with narrative, the cinematography, and it's powerful thematic content all work extremely well. There's a shot that will always stay with me: After Susan leaves him, we see Kane in a hallway of mirrors in which his image is reflected to infinity. It highlights the isolation and shattered nature of Kane.

Then, there's Kane as a technical work. There is a seemingly endless amount of tech developed for this film. There are as many special effects shots in Citizen Kane as there are in Star Wars. For instance, to keep characters in the foreground and background in focus simultaneously, Orson Wells shot the characters separately and superimposed the images to create the normally unseen effect.

Citizen Kane is a brilliant movie, and it only gets better with each viewing. It's enjoyable the first time around, but upon dissection and analysis, one begins to understand why it's ranked so highly amongst movie lovers.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's an impressive film, one of the most technically astounding pieces of cinema ever crafted.

That being said, ever time I watch it I'm always surprised at how entertaining the film is. The dialogue is peppered with tons of humor, the characters are engaging and the storytelling gripping.

Jess said...

David - You said it perfectly. It's a beautifully crafted film and I can only see it getting better with repeat viewings.

James - I think all the amazing dialogue would only improve with repeat viewing also.

Fletch said...

"I think there are obvious comparisons"

...and that's all I was saying. :D

And that's all I'm saying.

Mrs. Thuro's Mom said...

I just don't get it. I was so bored watching this! I guess I'm just not enough of a film geek to get it. I can't imagine watching it again. It was painful enough the first time.