Honor roll: History films

Each of these History films has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Film:Titanic

Titanic

James Cameron

When the theatrical release of James Cameron’s Titanic was delayed from July to December of 1997, media pundits speculated that Cameron’s $200 million disaster epic would cause the director’s downfall, signal the end of the blockbuster era and sink Paramount Studios as quickly as the ill-fated luxury liner had sunk on that fateful night of April 14, 1912. Some studio executives were confident, others horrified, but the clarity of hindsight turned Cameron into an Oscar-winning genius, a shrewd businessman and one of the most successful directors in the…

Film:L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential

Curtis Hanson

In a time when it seems that every other movie makes some claim to being a film noir, L.A. Confidential is the real thing—a gritty, sordid tale of sex, scandal, betrayal, and corruption of all sorts (police, political, press—and, of course, very personal) in 1940s Hollywood. The Oscar-winning screenplay is actually based on several titles in James Ellroy’s series of chronological thriller novels (including the title volume, The Big Nowhere, and White Jazz)—a compelling blend of L.A. history and pulp fiction that has earned it…

Film:Apollo 13

Apollo 13

Ron Howard

NASA’s worst nightmare turned into one of the space agency’s most heroic moments in 1970, when the Apollo 13 crew was forced to hobble home in a disabled capsule after an explosion seriously damaged the moon-bound spacecraft. Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton play (respectively) astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise in director Ron Howard’s intense, painstakingly authentic docudrama. The Apollo 13 crew and Houston-based mission controllers race against time and heavy odds to return the damaged spacecraft safely to Earth from a distance of 205,500 miles. Using state-of-the-art special effects and ingenious filmmaking techniques, Howard and his stellar cast and crew build nail-biting tension while maintaining close fidelity to the facts. The result is a fitting tribute to the Apollo 13 mission and one of the biggest box-office hits of 1995.

Film:The Social Network

The Social Network

David Fincher

Every age has its visionaries who leave, in the wake of their genius, a changed world—but rarely without a battle over exactly what happened and who was there at the moment of creation. The Social Network explores the moment at which Facebook was invented—through the warring perspectives of the super-smart young men who each claimed to be there at its inception.

The film moves from the halls of Harvard to the cubicles of Palo Alto to capture the heady early days of a culture-changing phenomenon in the making—and the way it both pulled a group of young revolutionaries together and then split them apart. In the midst of the chaos are Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), the brilliant Harvard student who conceived a website; Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), once Zuckerberg’s close friend, who provided the seed money for the fledgling company; Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) who brought Facebook to Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists; and the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer…[more]

Film:The King's Speech

The King's Speech

Tom Hooper

After the death of his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and the scandalous abdication of King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), Bertie (Colin Firth) who has suffered from a debilitating speech impediment all his life, is suddenly crowned King George VI of England. With his country on the brink of war and in desperate need of a leader, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the future Queen Mother, arranges for her husband to see an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). After a rough start, the two delve into an unorthodox course of treatment and eventually form an unbreakable bond. With the support of Logue, his family, his government and Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall), the King will overcome his stammer and deliver a radio-address that inspires his people and unites them in battle.

Based on the true story of King George VI, The King’s Speech follows the Royal Monarch’s quest to find his voice.

Film:There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson

A sprawling epic of family, faith, power and oil, There Will Be Blood is set on the incendiary frontier of California’s turn-of-the-century petroleum boom. The story chronicles the life and times of one Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), who transforms himself from a down-and-out silver miner raising a son on his own into a self-made oil tycoon.

When Plainview gets a mysterious tip-off that there’s a little town out West where an ocean of oil is oozing out of the ground, he heads with his son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier), to take their chances in dust-worn Little Boston. In this hardscrabble town, where the main excitement centers around the holy roller church of charismatic preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), Plainview and H.W. make their lucky strike. But even as the well raises all of their fortunes, nothing will remain the same as conflicts escalate and every human value—love, hope, community, belief, ambition and even the bond between father and son—is imperiled by corruption, deception and the flow of oil.

Film:JFK

JFK

Oliver Stone

Not a John F Kennedy biopic, but a film of New Orleans’ attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation into the President’s assassination, JFK is that rarest of things, a modern Hollywood drama which credits the audience with serious intelligence and ultimately proves itself a great film. Oliver Stone’s film has the archetypal story, visual scale and substance to match; not just a gripping real-life conspiracy thriller, but a fable for the fall of the American dream (a theme further explored by the director in Nixon and Any Given Sunday). JFK

Film:The Killing Fields

The Killing Fields

Roland Joffé

This harrowing but rewarding 1984 drama concerns the real-life relationship between New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg and his Cambodian assistant Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor), the latter left at the mercy of the Khmer Rouge after Schanberg—who chose to stay after American evacuation but was booted out—failed to get him safe passage. Filmmaker Roland Joffé, previously a documentarist, made his feature debut with this account of Dith’s rocky survival in the ensuing madness of the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal campaign. The script of The Killing Fields spends some time with Schanberg’s feelings of guilt after the fact, but most of the movie is a shattering re-creation of hell on Earth. The late Haing S. Ngor—a real-life doctor who had never acted before and who lived through the events depicted by Joffé—is outstanding, and he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Oscars also went to cinematographer Chris Menges and editor Jim Clark. —Tom Keogh

Film:Gandhi

Gandhi

Richard Attenborough

Gandhi is a great subject, but is Gandhi a great film? Undoubtedly it is, not least because it is one of the last old-school epics ever made, a glorious visual treat featuring tens of thousands of extras (real people, not digital effects) and sumptuous Panavision cinematography. But a true epic is about more than just widescreen photography, it concerns itself with noble subjects too, and the life story of Mahatma Gandhi is one of the noblest of all. Both the man and the film have profound things to say about the meaning of freedom and racial harmony, as…

Film:Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire

Hugh Hudson

The come-from-behind winner of the 1981 Oscar for best picture, Chariots of Fire either strikes you as either a cold exercise in mechanical manipulation or as a tale of true determination and inspiration. The heroes are an unlikely pair of young athletes who ran for Great Britain in the 1924 Paris Olympics: devout Protestant Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a divinity student whose running makes him feel closer to God, and Jewish Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a highly competitive Cambridge student who has to surmount the institutional hurdles of class…

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