Sunday, September 12, 2010

1949: All the King's Men

And yet another depressing, disturbing film takes the Oscar.  This one tells the story of Willie Stark, a self-educated small-town lawyer-turned-politician, and his rise to power.  He starts with good ideas (and perhaps even good intentions) about how to reform his state and help the poor.  After a couple of failed campaigns, in which he is beaten down by more powerful political figures, he gains enough support to become elected governor.  Stark keeps his promises to build more schools and better roads and such, but he does so using graft and blackmail and other dirty, corrupt methods that he earlier condemned.  The story is told through the eyes of Jack Burden, who is initially intrigued by Willie and becomes his right hand man, supporting him until he discovers that Willie has stolen his girlfriend and wants to destroy her uncle.

While the film was well made from a technical standpoint, I didn't like it.  The beginning was very confusing, and it took me a long time to figure out if the story was about Willie or Jack.  Then, once I figured that out, I really didn't like the direction the story went.  The message of the film is disturbing, but I'm sure that was intentional, so I guess the filmmakers succeeded in making their point.  I think the shots were framed very well, and I like the way the camera angles were adjusted ever so slightly to give viewers a different impression of the characters, especially the low angles of Willie when he starts to gain power.  Broderick Crawford won an Oscar for his thoroughly convincing portrayal of Willie Stark, and John Ireland was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the tormented Jack Burden.  The film told its story well; I just didn't particularly like the story.  Part of it is that corruption, and a lot of times politics in general, really irritates me.  If you like watching dishonest people justify their corruption by pretending to be honest, this is the film for you.

Next up: All About Eve, another film about dishonest people pretending to be honest

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