Sunday, February 5, 2012

30 Days of Oscar Day 12: Hud

Movie: Hud
Nominations:Best Director - Martin Ritt, Best Actor - Paul Newman, Best Actress - Patricia Neal, Best Supporting Actor - Melvyn Douglas, Best Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, and Cinematography - Black and White

Wins/Snubs: Neal and Douglas won, as did Cinematography in Black and White.  I find it strange given the number of acting awards and director award that this didn't garner a Best Picture nomination.  Tom Jones won, and Lilies of the Field, America, America, Cleopatra and How the West Was Won were also nominated.  I also think Sidney Poitier deserved his Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field more than Newman did.  Douglas beat out 4 men I've never heard of in movies I've also never seen.  While Neal beat 4 actresses I know (Shirley MacClaine, Leslie Caron, Natalie Wood, and Rachel Roberts) in lesser known movies, though her role was much more of a "supporting role" though she was the lead actress in the film.  

Hud is a "modern western" which means it's a movie about the West that takes place around 1964.  I find that a strange description - Brokeback Mountain takes place around the same time an in the same place, but wouldn't be called a modern western.  Conundrums aside, Hud (Paul Newman) is an employee on his father's cattle farm in Texas.  He likes living fast and loose - crawling out of married women's homes before their husbands get home, getting drunk almost continuously, and living life.  His father (Melvyn Douglas) doesn't like him very much, and from a broad perspective, it's easy to see why.  However, like all father/son relationships it's probably more complicated than we know.  Also on the ranch is Hud's orphaned 16-year-old nephew, Lon who looks up to Hud, but respects his grandfather.  Also on the ranch is Alma (Patricia Neal) the sassy house-keeper that Hud keeps an eye on, but his hands off (mostly).  

The movie has just enough plot (the managing of the ranch) to keep us interested, but trying to really understand what makes Hud tick is at the heart of the film.  And unlike almost any film like it, we learn almost nothing, despite Hud's world being turned upside down and shaken up, he's exactly the same at the end as we meet him at the beginning.  There is some really terrific dialogue throughout the film - which is based on a book by Larry McMurtry.  The one that really hit me is when Douglas is trying to convince his grandson that perhaps Hud isn't anything special and that Lon shouldn't look up to him, Douglas says "Little by little the look of the country changes because of the men we admire."  He's not a curmudgeon, just a little defeated by having a son he doesn't really like - Lon's father is barely mentioned so Douglas isn't really making a comparison to his other dead son, just saying that he's not much of a man.  Paul Newman is almost at his best in this one, and I think there will be another of his films on tap before this series is over.  What a sexy man who was also a terrific actor. 

I'm kind of surprised this movie didn't get a nod for score or sound editing either as, like most Westerns, the music MUST set the tone.  And since the movie is in black and white, the cinematographer is even more skilled to pull amazing scenery to the foreground without the benefit of color to set it apart.  In an odd way, if this movie came out today exactly as it is, it would be Oscar-bait through and through and probably couldn't be touched.  However, instead of feeling like a movie that's trying to win Oscars, it's just thoroughly made, acted, and written, and got a nod for that.  


Buttercup said...

I'd need to see this one again. Very vague memories of it. But wasn't Paul Newman good looking!

Jess said...

Soooo good looking. Luckily he has an enormous filmography so I get to keep watching new movies and see him in different roles.