Saturday, February 28, 2009

February Movie Watching

I saw four feature films theatrically this month. '09 is off to a slow start but there were two gems in February: Fanboys and Coraline. Fanboys is struggling critically and commercially-- I think the "we've had it with Star Wars" contingent is the majority among critics these days, evidenced last year by the unnecessarily lambasted Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Although I liked Fanboys I can accept the notion that we seriously have to move on. Coraline was the best of the contemporary stop-action animation movies I've seen. I don't think that great classic has happened yet (Nightmare Before Christmas is holding that slot until the real one comes along), but it'll come: and it'll be the first Pixar-buster for the Animation Oscar. I also saw New in Town and She's Just not that Into You and my only excuse is that both were free screenings.

On TCM, I watch the odd The Human Comedy. It was this strange bird... just sketches from the life of an idyllic town meant to boost moral during WWII. It was long and a bit boring but had this unusual dreamlike quality about it, and therefore is impossible to dismiss. I'd recommend a look, but I know it's not a great classic. It was nominated for Best Picture in 1943 and I would have probably put it on my ballot then too. I noticed when I looked it up that I have now seen all of the Best Picture nominees of 1943. On a side note, the 1943 radio broadcast of the Oscars has been posted on the Internet Archive (link). It's less than an hour and really wild to listen to, especially since Casablanca was the surprise (!) winner and Jack Benny had to scramble to find someone to accept the award.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Oscar Trivia Friday!: Final Answers

Here are the answers to last week's Oscar trivia.

Thus another Awards season comes to a close for One Line Review.

1. Match the description of the Oscar apparel with the celebrity who wore it:

Charlton Heston __D__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Angelina Jolie __C__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Ashley Judd __A__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Diane Keaton __F__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Julianne Moore __E__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Gwyneth Paltrow __B__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Naomi Watts __G__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Reese Witherspoon __H__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

(A.) “Groomed to look like a cross between Ava Gardner and Hedy Lamarr, [she] took the prize for the most skin, in a fly-away, slit-up-or-down- to-there (take your pick) white number in which she was so secure and sassy, she wins the Babe-a-licious Award.” (San Francisco Examiner, 1997 Oscars)

(B.) “[Her] pink Ralph Lauren seemed to swim around her lithe frame and project sweetness and light.” (The Complete Book of Oscar Fashion, 1999 Oscars)

(C.) “[She] seemed to be going for a necrophiliac-chic look with her chalk-white skin, jet-black, waist-length hair extensions and long, loose black sleeves.” (New York Post, 2000 Oscars)

(D.) “The best toupee he’s ever had.” (Joan Rivers, 2001 Oscars)

(E.) “With her fiery red hair and creamy complexion, [she] is probably the only one who could pull off this shade without looking like a refugee from St. Patrick’s Day.” (Entertainment Weekly, 2003 Oscars)

(F.) “Menswear-inspired ensembles made [her] a fashion trendsetter… three decades ago. (Entertainment Weekly, 2004 Oscars)

(G.) “Did Kong get ahold of this frock? There’s a fine line between artfully deconstructed couture and shredded toilet paper.” (Entertainment Weekly, 2006 Oscars)

(H.) “[She] completed her eye-opening run through awards season with this deep purple flounce, and sent a million blondes running to cut bangs during the commercial break.” (Entertainment Weekly, 2007 Oscars)

2. At last year’s Oscars who said: “I started the red carpet segment of the Oscars in 1979— and to show you how good I was, every thirty years they invite me back,” and, just before signing off, made the embarrassing gaffe of referring to Best Supporting Actor front-runner Javier Bardem as “Xavier” Bardem? (4 points)

(A.) Army Archerd

(B.) Katie Couric

√(C.) Regis Philbin

(D.) Joan Rivers

3. This year, the Oscar presenters have been kept secret, however, which former host let it slip (while promoting his current film to Access Hollywood) that he will be presenting with Tina Fey? (4 points)

(A.) Ernest Borgnine

√(B.) Steve Martin

(C.) Bill Murray

(D.) Adam Sandler

4. Name any two actors or actresses nominated for the first time this year.

There were nine first-time nominees: Richard Jenkins for THE VISITOR, Frank Langella for FROST/NIXON, Mickey Rourke for THE WRESTLER, Josh Brolin for MILK, Michael Shannon for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, Anne Hathaway for RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, Melissa Leo for FROZEN RIVER, Viola Davis for DOUBT, TARAJI P. HENSON for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Best Picture 25 Years Ago: "Terms of Endearment" (1983)-- A Review

James L. Brooks's Terms of Endearment is the sentimental journey of a widowed mother who informs her daughter that she "isn't special enough to overcome a bad marriage." It begins, briefly, with Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) worrying irrationally about her newborn girl, flashes quickly to her arrival home following her husband's premature death with little Emma in tow, and soon thereafter arrives at the aforementioned moment in which she expresses her doubts about Emma (Debra Winger)'s choice of husband-- Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels).

The film excels at covering long stretches of time without any uncinematic titles or awkward montages. We follow not only Emma's marriage, children, and home life; but Flap's career as a teacher, as well as her mother's loneliness and eventual adventures with her next-door neighbor, former astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). The plot is natural and although it follows for the most part average human experiences it does so just enough off-center to make them original (yes, you may have gone on a date with your next door neighbor after years of ignoring them, but did they drive their car with their feet for fun during it?). That the last third comes a bit out of left field and goes unabashedly for the heart is both the film's weakness and strength and it's palatability is individual to the viewer. Without the end, however, we'd never know just what each of the characters was capable of, and, therefore, in many ways, it's the perfect way to wrap the story. Helping to hold the film together is the memorable theme that plays throughout the score (a now oft-played piece of movie music). Although it seems ever-present, there are many other effective pieces of music throughout, which are expertly placed to stave off lulls.



Its hard not to point out the genuine appeal of Terms of Endearment. The characters are interesting, their problems are ours, and the performances are rich. When Shirley MacLaine triumphantly exclaimed "I deserve this!" as she won her Oscar, she surely meant for career effort in addition to her performance of Aurora. However, this was no pity Oscar. Her repressed, overbearing Aurora manages to be unchanging yet understanding to all around her. The scenes between MacLaine and Nicholson are the most entertaining to watch, these two people who come together for no good reason and who don't belong together, save the fact that they're both barely holding together their individual lives at the moment they hook up. Nicholson is gleeful as Garrett and his occasional off-the-wall expressions and deliverly, which have not always worked for him in every role, serve Emmett well.

There are certain recurring motifs that add cinematic depth to Terms of Endearment : Emma's Broadway show tunes, the aspect of physical distance between the characters, and the telephone conversations. Emma's Broadway songs, which are strictly a part of the first thirty-odd minutes of the film, show her freedom from her mother, but are dropped when it becomes clear that Emma will always need Aurora. Physical distances have a stronger meaning: that Flap and Emma travel apart also represents their crumbling marriage; Emma's distance from her mother goes from the furthest extreme to the closest by the film's end as her need for her returns; Aurora and Garrett meet at the fence between their yards and once the physical distance was breached, they could never really be apart. The phone conversations (upward of ten throughout the movie) strike a rhythm of extreme ups and downs, each is either made due to some particular happiness or because of some crisis. Side quibble: the frequent lack of audio filtering when off-screen phone dialogue is being spoken (and yet this "mistake" can be used to argue that in Terms these conversations are more important than in other movies that use them to just move the plot along).

The screenplay is filled with memorable lines and telling moments. Although not widespread, there is a lot of humor as well. The humor serves as an example of how natural the movie comes across-- life isn't filled with a string of non-stop laughs, but there are many along the way. The conflict between the characters is never over-the-top, never off putting. The film is dated only in its lack of minorities on screen, which is rarely, if ever, an issue anymore.

Terms of Endearment (1983): A perfect case of taking all the norms of filmmaking and of life experience, throwing them just off-center, lining up all the right talent, and creating a satisfying, memorable movie experience.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

81st Annual Academy Awards: The Final Tally

Ten feature-length films join the list of Oscar-winners this year, as follows:

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE— 8 Oscars

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
— 3 Oscars

THE DARK KNIGHT
— 2 Oscars
MILK
— 2 Oscars



DEPARTURES— 1 Oscar
THE DUCHESS— 1 Oscar
MAN ON WIRE— 1 Oscar
THE READER— 1 Oscar
VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA— 1 Oscar
WALL•E— 1 Oscar


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

81st Annual Academy Awards: Interesting Facts

With the Awards over, here are some statistics about the winners:


Slumdog Millionaire is the 11th film to win Best Picture without receiving any acting nominations. The other 10 are: Wings, All Quiet on the Western Front, Grand Hotel, An American in Paris, The Greatest Show on Earth, Around the World in 80 Days, Gigi, The Last Emperor, Braveheart and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

• Sean Penn is the ninth actor to win two Best (Lead) Actor Oscars, following: Spencer Tracy, Frederic March, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, and last year's Daniel Day-Lewis.

• Heath Ledger is the second posthumous winner in acting following Peter Finch for Network.

• Woody Allen has tied Elia Kazan as the director responsible for the most wins in the Best Supporting Actress category-- with four each [Allen: Dianne Wiest in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Dianne Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite (1995), and Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008); Kazan: Celeste Holm in Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Kim Hunter in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront (1954), and Jo Van Fleet in East of Eden (1955)].

• Japan won three of the eight awards for foreign-language film in the pre-1956 Oscars ceremonies when the award was an honorary award; this year, Departures becomes the first Japanese film to win a competive award for Best Foreign-language film.

• This is the first year since the 2004/05 (Million Dollar Baby) Oscars that Entertainment Weekly correctly predicted 6/6 of the top awards-- the last three years they were off by one (the incorrect predictions were-- 2005: Best Picture, Brokeback Mountain/ 2006: Eddie Murphy, Best Supporting Actor/ 2007: Julie Christie, Best Actress)

• The least amount of feature films (ten) took home Oscars since 2003 (nine).

• This year's Oscars had the ceremonies' third-smallest audience (36.3 million) in forty years, following 2003 (33 million viewers) and 2008 (32 million).

Monday, February 23, 2009

81st Annual Academy Awards: A Review

The 81st Annual Academy Awards was a mixed bag of new ideas that frequently fumbled at the goal line. Hugh Jackman was enthusiastic, but I think the evening proved that, despite Jackman's general success, the host should always be a comedian.

Despite his non-comedian status, I give Hugh Jackman credit for scoring with his few scripted quips, like when he said he was contractually obligued to mention Brad Pitt & Anjelina Jolie five times during the show or saying that Meryl Streep’s fifteen nominations leave suspicions of steroid use. Laughed too when Jackman sat on Frank Langella’s lap and said something like, I know you do theater, but that’s a bit much… But the Baz Luhrmann musical number was torture (and done under the slim-as-slim guise that “the musicals are back” because Mamma Mia did well in the UK) and the opening number, despite a standing ovation, was the usual nonsense. Within it, the lyrics about not seeing The Reader were pretty funny and the Anne Hathaway bit worked pretty well, but I would have much preferred a funny monologue from Jon Stewart. And I miss coming back from comercial and having the host make a joke about something that just transpired.

In fact the whole show was low on humor. The two funniest moments were Steve Martin/Tina Fey presenting the screenplay Oscar and Robert DeNiro’s comment about Sean Penn only getting straight roles up to now. The presenters in general weren’t that funny. The Ben Stiller/Natalie Portman and Jack Black/Jennifer Aniston bits were just too obvious. Humor is a critical element on a three-and-a-half-hour show: it was gravely missing this year. Yet on the other hand, Stiller's continuation of the “humor” over the serious part of his presenting came off as rude—it's not SNL after all, this is that person’s big moment— you have to know when to get to business.

The set was very nice and made the show look special. I thought that having the orchestra onstage was a nice touch and what they played, gave an old Hollywood vibe. Unfortunately, the orchestra continuing to play while the presenters were talking was, to quote Christian Bale, distracting.

Liked the idea very much of having five previous winners give the award in the acting categories. This was easily the best and most successfully executed "new idea." Unfortunately it can’t be repeated every year and work as well. I wish there were more “old timers” – however, the oldest ones seemed to have some trouble with the teleprompter, so maybe it was for the best. But a Sidney Poitier or Jack Nicholson, or a Jane Fonda or Julie Andrews, would have bumped things up. One odd little moment occured when Michael Douglas addressed Frank Langella saying Langella's Nixon erased all other previous ones from memory-- and who is standing right next to Michael Douglas?-- Anthony Hopkins! I also liked the clips of the past winners— glad that Hattie McDaniel wasn’t the only b&w clip as it has seemed in years past.

The "2008 movie yearbook" was a really good idea but where was Chuck Workman when you needed him? The animation reel seemed light (where was Waltz with Bashir?); the documentary reel was smart with the clips of the documentarians—but what were the movies about?; the comedy reel/bit was amusing (Seth Rogan and James Franco), but not as brilliantly funny as it should have been; the action package was a mess-- there was no rhythm to it; the romance reel probably came off best, although I spent half of it wondering if they were gonna skip Milk (they got it in there). Queen Latifah's singing during the "In Memorium" was very nice, but again, another fumble, when the TV audience was subjected to canted looks at the screens displaying the clips onstage.

Memorable speeches? Sean Penn; the Milk screenwriter; the guy who said “Dōmo arigatō, Mr. Roboto”; and Man on Wire’s Philippe Petit’s antics. So, basically, not a lot. Did like the Woody Allen story in Penelope Cruz's speech and the Kate Winslet's father's "whistle," as well. However, I didn’t find Heath Ledger's family's speech to be as touching as I would have expected—and was Robert Downey, Jr. caught napping during it? The best thing about Jerry Lewis’s speech was it's brevity. Little controversy unless you want to count the Milk speeches or the cutting to Angelina Jolie during Jennifer Aniston's appearance onstage.

Best dressed— probably Penelope Cruz, with Natalie Portman as runner-up. No major fashion disasters, except for maybe Philip Seymour Hoffman’s ski cap, although, supposedly his hair is funky for a movie he's shooting. It seems that the suggestion to presenters to skip the red carpet (so their appearance onstage would be a surprise) was ignored by quite a few people: Ben Kingsley, Sophia Loren, Natalie Portman, Kevin Kline, to name a few.

The show seemed long as always, even when it clocked in at a lean 3 hours 29 minutes. Toward the end, when the orchestra played bits from the best scores, it practically lulled me to sleep. Note to the Academy: bump this segment up earlier in the show! Part of the length issue had to do with the fact that there were no surprises among the winners—unless you want to count Sound Mixing and Foreign Language Film.

The producers of this year’s show really tried their best, but it’s just impossible to escape the formula and give out all the awards at the same time. I think, for example, setting up the “craft” awards worked, but ultimately, it wasn’t much different then it is every year: “Art Direction is when….”

One of my favorite additions to the show was running sneak previews of several 2009 movies over the end credits-- I really, really hope this becomes a tradition. It would be a cool way to promote movies who are willing to “premiere” just a few tantalizing moments— I, for example, loved that they showed a few seconds from Woody Allen’s upcoming Whatever Works.

All in all a very good show, but never great and I think on the whole I'd give last year’s show with Jon Stewart a slightly better grade than this year, despite all the "newness" and changes. I liked Hugh Jackman and he clearly has an appeal to the considerable number of female viewers, but I hope he leaves this at a one-shot gig.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

81st Annual Academy Awards


What film title will be placed on the Hollywood/Highland Oscar Best Picture placard for 2008? Following the awards, click on this link for the full list of winners.

Click here for the official Oscar ballot-- link on the bottom of the page.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Last Year's Oscar-winning Best Picture: "No Country For Old Men"

No Country For Old Men is a stark genre piece with the unmistakable quality of auteurs Joel & Ethan Coen. The film is an admirable experiment in shaking audience expectations. It keeps enough expected motifs and set pieces to give it a suspense thriller identity, but the narrative is purposefully derailed along the journey.

The set-up is concise and the three main characters defined immediately: a local Texas man comes upon a drug deal gone wrong and sees an opportunity to run off with the $2 million left behind-- a hired killer is after him, and the town sheriff is behind the two of them. Although he's a supporting character to the action, Tommy Lee Jones' Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is the audience's connection to reality. As Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) reaps havock, Sheriff Bell represents normalcy. His opening narration is a comment on acceptance of life and also to an extent the experience of watching movies ("OK, I'll be a part of this world"). It's as if the Coens, knowing how off-the-wall their material can be, decided that this time around they'd put in someone to represent us (or at least identified it in the source material). Again, with Bell we have a well-known filmic device to hold onto, until the final moments when even he, spinning a tale about a dream he had about his father, enters Coen territory. It's been frequently said the the greatest movies all comment at least in some small way on the movies themselves. This is one of the strengths of No Country for Old Men, and the Coen's style. Their films seem to dare us to reject them: their originality almost always changes our opinion.



The creation of Anton Chigurh in all his glory, from speech pattern to bad haircut, is so inspired as to instantly place him in cinema history. He's unforgettable. What makes him that much more frightening, is, after seeing him stalking his prey-- almost a spectre in his movement and manners-- we also see that he's human, when at one point he must tend to real life flesh and blood wounds.



Another memorable aspect of the production of No Country for Old Men is its sound design-- and it's ability to draw attention to itself. There's the flipping of Chigurh's coin, the squeeking of the suitcase in the air duct, the unscrewing of the lightbulb in the hotel shootout, the thump of the air gun as it punches out a door's lock cylinder, the shattering of glass as a result of explosions and crashes. If you've seen the movie, a list like this brings each of those sounds to life. The effect is not a showy one, it's just another "clue" to the audience that No Country is not typical, plus serves to remind us that we are watching a movie.

No Country for Old Men, perhaps goes overboard in its rejection of the norms of the suspense thriller. The final confrontation is not the one the audience is expecting, which would have been fine if that aspect of the story had been further developed, i.e. the characterization and storyline of Kelly MacDonald's "Carla Jean Moss." Even an experimental film narrative must provide satisfaction and I don't think the audience is satisfied by the fate of any of the charcters or the way the story closes. There's a major "I don't get it" factor if you will.

But despite this overall cloud, it's the kind of movie you feel compelled to watch again, perhaps hoping this time to find that missing piece. Just like the way that RKO studio's tampering of The Magnificent Ambersons seems to somehow fit the movie's own theme of loss, so too does No Country For Old Men's obscurity serve it's own theme of the randomness of the world-- it's imperfection turn's back on itself.

No Country For Old Men (2007): An experimental narrative that toys with audience expectations while providing compelling devices of the suspense thriller, yet whose fulfilment can best be described by its own tagline, "There are no clean getaways."

One Line Review Ranks...

80 Years of Oscar's Best Picture Winners (1927-2007):


















1. Casablanca— 1943
2. Annie Hall— 1977
3. The Godfather— 1972
4. Lawrence of Arabia— 1962
5. All About Eve— 1950
6. The Godfather, Part II— 1974
7. The Best Years of Our Lives— 1946
8. The Bridge on the River Kwai— 1957
9. West Side Story— 1961
10. Schindler’s List— 1993


The Apartment— 1960 (****)
Unforgiven— 1992 (****)
On the Waterfront— 1954 (****)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest— 1975 (****)
Amadeus— 1984 (****)
Terms of Endearment— 1983 (****)
Dances With Wolves— 1990 (****)
It Happened One Night— 1934 (****)
Kramer vs. Kramer— 1979 (****)
All Quiet on the Western Front— 1930 (****)
Hamlet— 1948 (****)
American Beauty— 1999 (*** 1/2)
Gone With the Wind— 1939 (*** 1/2)
Midnight Cowboy— 1969 (*** 1/2)
The Sound of Music— 1965 (*** 1/2)
The Departed— 2006 (*** 1/2)
Platoon— 1986 (*** 1/2)
Chicago— 2002 (*** 1/2)
You Can’t Take It With You— 1938 (*** 1/2)
Patton— 1970 (*** 1/2)
The Last Emperor— 1987 (*** 1/2)
Mutiny on the Bounty— 1935 (*** 1/2)
The French Connection— 1971 (*** 1/2)
Driving Miss Daisy— 1989 (*** 1/2)
Titanic— 1997 (***)
Rocky— 1976 (***)
In the Heat of the Night— 1967 (***)
A Man for All Seasons— 1966 (***)
The Life of Emile Zola— 1937 (***)
Gladiator— 2000 (***)
My Fair Lady— 1964 (***)
From Here To Eternity— 1953 (***)
The Deer Hunter— 1978 (***)
Rebecca— 1940 (***)
No Country For Old Men— 2007 (***)
Out of Africa— 1985 (***)
Marty— 1955 (***)
Going My Way— 1944 (***)
Shakespeare in Love— 1998 (***)
Rain Man— 1988 (***)
The Silence of the Lambs— 1991 (***)
The English Patient— 1996 (***)
All the King’s Men— 1949 (***)
Oliver!— 1968 (***)
Gandhi— 1982 (***)
How Green Was My Valley— 1941 (***)
Forrest Gump— 1994 (** 1/2)
The Lord of the Rings: The ROTK— 2003 (** 1/2)
Grand Hotel— 1932 (** 1/2)
Wings— 1927 (** 1/2)
Gentlemen’s Agreement— 1947 (** 1/2)
Million Dollar Baby— 2004 (** 1/2)
The Lost Weekend— 1945 (** 1/2)
Mrs. Miniver— 1942 (** 1/2)
Ordinary People— 1980 (** 1/2)
The Sting— 1973 (** 1/2)
Braveheart— 1995 (** 1/2)
Crash— 2005 (** 1/2)
Ben-Hur— 1959 (** 1/2)
The Greatest Show on Earth— 1952 (** 1/2)
Cavalcade— 1933 (** 1/2)
Tom Jones— 1963 (** 1/2)
An American in Paris— 1951 (** 1/2)
Chariots of Fire— 1981 (** 1/2)
The Broadway Melody— 1929 (**)
The Great Ziegfeld— 1936 (**)
Around the World in 80 Days— 1956 (**)
Gigi— 1958 (**)
A Beautiful Mind— 2001 (**)
Cimarron— 1931 (**)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oscar Trivia Friday!

The final dose of Oscar trivia. You can post guesses in the comments--I'll reveal the final answers in next Friday's entry. No prizes!!! Just for fun!

1. Match the description of the Oscar apparel with the celebrity who wore it:

Charlton Heston _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Angelina Jolie _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Ashley Judd _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Diane Keaton _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Julianne Moore _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Gwyneth Paltrow _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Naomi Watts _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Reese Witherspoon _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

(A.) “Groomed to look like a cross between Ava Gardner and Hedy Lamarr, [she] took the prize for the most skin, in a fly-away, slit-up-or-down- to-there (take your pick) white number in which she was so secure and sassy, she wins the Babe-a-licious Award.” (San Francisco Examiner, 1997 Oscars)

(B.) “[Her] pink Ralph Lauren seemed to swim around her lithe frame and project sweetness and light.” (The Complete Book of Oscar Fashion, 1999 Oscars)

(C.) “[She] seemed to be going for a necrophiliac-chic look with her chalk-white skin, jet-black, waist-length hair extensions and long, loose black sleeves.” (New York Post, 2000 Oscars)

(D.) “The best toupee he’s ever had.” (Joan Rivers, 2001 Oscars)

(E.) “With her fiery red hair and creamy complexion, [she] is probably the only one who could pull off this shade without looking like a refugee from St. Patrick’s Day.” (Entertainment Weekly, 2003 Oscars)

(F.) “Menswear-inspired ensembles made [her] a fashion trendsetter… three decades ago. (Entertainment Weekly, 2004 Oscars)

(G.) “Did Kong get ahold of this frock? There’s a fine line between artfully deconstructed couture and shredded toilet paper.” (Entertainment Weekly, 2006 Oscars)

(H.) “[She] completed her eye-opening run through awards season with this deep purple flounce, and sent a million blondes running to cut bangs during the commercial break.” (Entertainment Weekly, 2007 Oscars)

2. At last year’s Oscars who said: “I started the red carpet segment of the Oscars in 1979— and to show you how good I was, every thirty years they invite me back,” and, just before signing off, made the embarrassing gaffe of referring to Best Supporting Actor front-runner Javier Bardem as “Xavier” Bardem? (4 points)

(A.) Army Archerd

(B.) Katie Couric

(C.) Regis Philbin

(D.) Joan Rivers

3. This year, the Oscar presenters have been kept secret, however, which former host let it slip (while promoting his current film to Access Hollywood) that he will be presenting with Tina Fey? (4 points)

(A.) Ernest Borgnine

(B.) Steve Martin

(C.) Bill Murray

(D.) Adam Sandler

4. Name any two actors or actresses nominated for the first time this year.

Answers to last Friday's Trivia:

1. Match the Oscar winner and a quote from their speech:

Ingrid Bergman for Gaslight (1944) __F__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl (1968) __C__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Jack Nicholson for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) _G_ (A, B, C, D,=2 0E, F, G, or H)

Ben Kingsley for Gandhi (1982) __A__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Michael Douglas for Wall Street (1987) __H__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Cate Blanchett for The Aviator (2005) __D__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

George Clooney for Syriana (2006) __E__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Forrest Whittaker for The Last King of Scotland (2007) __B__ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

(A.) “This is an Oscar for vision, for courage, and for acting, and for peace.”

(B.) “… and God, God who believes in us all, who’s given me this moment in this lifetime that I will hopefully carry to the end of my lifetime into the next lifetime.”

(C.) “I’m very honored to be in such magnificent company as Katharine Hepburn.”

(D.) “Thank you to the Academy, who know Katharine Hepburn so well and are so intimately acquainted with her work, this is an indescribable surprise and honor.”

(E.) “We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood, every once in a while I think. It’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talk[ed] about AIDS when it just being whispered. And we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular… This Academy, this group of people, gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud to be a part of this Academy, proud to be a part of this community, and proud to be out of touch.”

(F.) “I’ve never been happier than with my work here in Hollywood and I thank you very much for my Oscar.”

(G.) “I guess this proves there are as many nuts in the Academy as anywhere else.”

(H.) “…in particular to my father, who I don’t think ever missed one of my college productions, for his continued support, and for helping a son step out of a shadow. I’ll be eternally grateful to you dad for that.”

2. Who among the following never appeared at the Academy Awards?

(A.) Woody Allen

(B.) Marlon Brando

(C.) Katharine Hepburn

√(D.) Orson Welles

3. Which is false about the first year of the Academy Awards?

(A.) There was no secret envelope and the winners were announced on the back page of the Academy Bulletin months before the ceremony.

(B.) There were no Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress categories.

(C.) Charles Chaplin was given the first non-competitive individual achievement award, for “versatility and genius in writing, acting, directing, and producing The Circus (his current film).

√(D.) No ceremony was held: the recipients received their statuettes by courier.

4. Last year, Michael Clayton was the only film nominated for more than one acting Oscar; very rarely has just a single film alone been up for multiple acting Oscars, with all other films getting just one nomination. What was the last movie year in Oscar History for which there was only one multiple nominee for acting?

√(A.) 1935 (the multiple nominee was Mutiny on the Bounty)

(B.) 1946 (the multiple nominee was The Best Years of Our Lives)

(C.) 1951 (the multiple nominee was A Streetcar Named Desire)

(D.) 1957 (the multiple nominee was Peyton Place)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Oscars that were: the 2007 Oscars, Plus a Review of "There Will Be Blood"

The 2007 Oscars legitimized 1980s-90s upstarts Joel & Ethan Coen (who's FARGO only managed Actress and Screenplay) with an awards sweep; gave a rare Oscar for a foreign-language performance to Marion Cotillard (her surprise win explained after-the-fact: there was a major under-the-radar publicity campaign being run for her); and gave Daniel Day-Lewis a second Oscar, solidifying the world's belief that he is one of the screen's greatest actors.

The film that was getting the most attention was NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, but had it not been for NO COUNTRY, THERE WILL BE BLOOD would easily have been the Best Picture front runner; the Coens were "due," however, so there wasn't even a whisper of an upset. And certainly, NO COUNTRY received the lion's share of the Best Film awards, but time will tell whether BLOOD will overtake it in the "critical" long run.

JUNO was another highly discussed film (and Best Picture nominee) and had Ellen Page pulled off a surprise Best Actress win, it would have solidified its heir-apparent status to LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE [Diablo COdy's win just wasn't enough]. Instead, what seems to have happened is the "little movie" and the "foreign film" both of which have always been slighted by Oscar have morphed into the runaway success story of 2008's SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. The other little-movie-that could of 2007, ONCE, was given a shot in the arm, when couple and film co-stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, stole the show with their win of Best Song.

ATONEMENT ran a successful Oscar campaign in terms of reaping nominations, but only managed a Best Score win. The film seems to have lasted in memory more for a green dress than anything else. Plus, it has the dubious distinction of being one of the ten worst-rated Best Picture nominees of all-time in Leonard Maltin's annual guide (with a ** rating). And for better or worse, Maltin's ratings have a great deal of historical influence.

The shut-out of the year was Sean Penn's INTO THE WILD. Although it got some attention, it was left out of Picture/Director categories and received no Oscars. Early front runner AMERICAN GANGSTER was shut out of Picture/Director as well. Additionally, Sideny Lumet's first hit in years, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD received no nominations.

The Oscars frequently share-the-wealth, but of interest was the fact that only one movie managed multiple acting nominations: MICHAEL CLAYTON-- all others received just one acting nomination. The last time that this happened was movie year 1935 (with MUTINY ON THE COUNTY, the only multiple acting nominee)!

Veterans Hal Holbrook and Ruby Dee scored their first Oscar nominations and Julie Christie was easily the front-runner for Best Actress (it would have been her second Oscar).

This awards year will also be noted for the fact that all four acting winners-- Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Javier Bardem, and Tilda Swinton-- are all non-Americans. The last time that happened was the 1964 Oscars (Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews, Peter Ustinov, and Lila Kerdrova).

What loomed large over the Oscars though was the writer's strike, ending just-in-the-nick-of-time for the Oscars, but spoiling the entire awards season (including the cancelling of the Golden Globes ceremony). The Vanity Fair Oscar party, the au currant place to be after the Oscars, was cancelled as well.

THE CEREMONY was hosted by Jon Stewart, who, barring a major success from Hugh Jackman this year, just may become the go-to guy for the Oscars. He ran the show reminiscent of the old Johnny Carson Oscars, with equal parts humor and class. The show itself was marred only by few genuine “moments” (although there were some). It was Stewart himself (at Gil Cates' request) who engineered the best speech of the night by bringing out slighted ONCE singer-songwriter Markéta Irglová to speak after she’d been cut off unjustly. Both “parts” of the ONCE Best Song acceptances were the highlight of the show. “Make art” said Glen Hansard; “no matter how far out your dreams are, it's possible,” said Markéta Irglová. And the performing of “Falling Slowly” was so charming: love that Glen Hansard used the damaged guitar from the film. The acting winners though all each had a clippable moment: Daniel Day-Lewis kneeling before presenter "Queen" Helen Mirren; Marion Cotillard's exuberant take on Los Angeles being a city of angels; Javier Bardem's speaking in Spanish to his mother (in the audience); and Tilda Swinton's odd jokes about her agent's behind resembling Oscar and something about George Clooney's wearing his Batman costume "with the nipples." Additionally, the use of old Oscar footage (which dated back to the 1939/40 ceremony and Hattie McDaniel) was well played and gave the show the sense of history it always seems to be missing, plus the last vestige of Alfred Hitchcock-honoring occured with art director Robert Boyle receipt of his Honorary Oscar. The Coen borthers speech(es) were cocky and mostly pointless, but, then again, it would have been worse if they suddenly weren’t themselves, just to please “Oscar.”

There Will Be Blood was the also-ran at the 2007 Oscars. Based on the novel by Upton Sinclair, it tells the tale of an "oilman" whose ambitions replace his own sense of humanity. The film starts out in 1898, eventually shuttles to 1911 (where most of the story takes place) and offers a twenty-odd minute coda in 1927-29. We follow the oilman's path in which he has several opportunities to "make good" but who can only see truth in the oil itself, until there is none of it left. Daniel Day-Lewis plays oilman Daniel Plainview and our introduction of him sets up the tone of the piece and provides valuable information about the man.

As the film opens, the audience is struck by it's most unusual score. Reminiscent of the opening music of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, it too creates a sense of the otherworldly. Daniel is almost instantly branded a sinister man, and we come to compare him to the devil himself at various intervals in the movie. In this wordless opener, Daniel is seen digging for silver/gold, by himself. He has an accident and must pull himself out of the hole to reap the benefits of his discovery. Thus the film offers the two main character traits of Daniel: his go-it-alone dislike of his fellow man, and his boundless drive.

We elapse four years and see that Daniel has realized he needs help to reach his goals. Throughout the film we see Daniel's frequent "necessity" in bringing in others (very few at a time) to help him. Daniel strikes oil, then that strange musical score kicks in, with its sense of evil. We see, from above, through an overhead shot, a great pool of oil, it's blackness frightening. Soon thereafter, disaster strikes again.

When we hear the music for the third time-- it's when Daniel (now accompanied by his "son" H. W.-- actually an orphan) finds another rich deposit of oil. When nothing immediate happens there is an eerie sense that this time there will be a series of calamities-- and there is.

Daniel Day-Lewis and local preacher Paul Dano are the whole show in a nearly two-person story. A few important characters come in and out along the way but it is these two who we follow most closely. Both Day-Lewis and Dano give hearty, bold performances. The command of the screen tips to Day-Lewis's favor, but then again, his character is the dominant one anyway.

The film is filled with unforgettable scenes of Daniel's rage against humanity. His dismissal of man is complete when he runs across Dano's Eli-- who Daniel knows to be a false prophet. His early dismissal of Eli's mass is both a blasphemy and a confirmation that man is to be manipulated (and can be) by the stronger among us: "one goddamn helluva show" compliments Daniel.

The epic scale of the film does not overtake its small cast of characters. It's about the charcters; the land, the oil, the rural life is just the background. But it's an often barren landscape and certainly a remote one, which fits with the piece as a whole.

The final sequence of the film has a certain redundancy... the audience could have guessed at this turn of events or an approximation thereof. However, on the surface we have audience-pleasing dialogue, rich with memorable one-liners, and, structurally, various comeuppances to offer a complete (if openended) finale, to forgive the extra length.

On the whole, the movie has a cold detachment. It could be argued that it's coldness is fitting per Daniel's character, but that's far too simplistic. We watch Daniel and Eli as if under a microscope. The storyline is superfluous to the raw character study. The third main character, H.W., has an interesting trajectory but its all in the purpose to show us more of what Daniel is like. This can be said of the brother character, that shows up in the third act, as well.

There Will Be Blood is rich in motifs and deliberate in filmic devices of framing, editing, pace; so much so that it seems endlessly worthy of study. Like a Hitchcock film, it's entertainment value (ponderous as it might be compared to Hitchcock's suspense) will make it a favorite of all future film scholars. It is a movie for which everyone will want to have an opinion, none of whom will dismiss it outright. It's the kind of movie you might buy stock in for its longevity.




There Will Be Blood (2007): An atmospheric if cold character study that holds the attention if not the heart.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This Month on TCM: 1949s Best Picture— All the King's Men

On Friday, February 27, TCM is showing Oscar-winner All the King's Men. One of the more obscure winners for Best Picture, the film won the top honors from the Academy but only three Oscars total (the other two, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress).

All the King's Men is based on the Pultizer Prize-winning book by Robert Penn Warren. Make no mistake, the story of Willie Stark is lifted from the life of Louisiana Governor Huey Long— there is one parallel after the next in the Long-to-Stark comparison, with only Long's Senate tenure left out.

All the King's Men, produced and directed by Robert Rossen, runs a dense 109 minutes. Packed into the story is the complete rise of a small town yokel from nobody to Governor and how his political ambitions affect his family and colleagues. Broderick Crawford's Willie Stark is a complete characterization-- he's a lowbrow, crass and impulsive mover-and-shaker, who's very methods transform him from a man of the people to an island unto himself. Crawford and the scripting smartly show Stark in his early scenes already possessing the traits of a hardheaded loudmouth-- when his son appears to have been beaten up for handing out leaflets in his father's behalf, Willie practically beats him again to get the story out of him--setting him up perfectly for his later transformation. The power of Crawford's take on Stark is not in how he changes over time, but rather the ambiguity of his character: his methods are clearly misguided, but his motives are not always selfish.

The film is peopled with compeling minor characters as well. Jack Burden (played by John Ireland) is the newspaper columnist that quits his paper for idealistic reasons and has rejected his stepfather's wealth to join up with Stark; Anne Stanton (Joanne Dru) is the rich girl who sees a possible Governor's wife opportunity as Stark's girlfriend; Adam Stanton (Sheppard Strudwick) is the doctor who makes a deal with the devil for the important construction of a new hospital; Tom Stark (John Derek) is Willie's son, who won't allow his father to run his life; and Sadie Burke (Mercedes McCambridge) is the mercenary political manager who goes where the action is. McCambridge's Sadie is even allowed a purely character scene, when she looks at a photo of beauty Anne and then at herself in the mirror and remarks on the difference between the two in the looks department. Mercedes McCambride was making her screen debut in All the King's Men, but she had a background in Broadway and on radio; Broderick Crawford, too, had a background in Broadway, and although this was far from his screen debut, it was certainly his first "important" film. McCambridge and Crawford excell, the other cast members, although serviceable, hardly seem to be in the same movie.

Although the film sends the message that the ends don't justify the means, it doesn't delve deeply enough into the rich gray area that Stark supplies. Despite the way Crawford plays the role, Willie is so outrightly condemned that the gray turns to black-and-white by film's end. It might have been better to show some of the possible positive results that would have inevitably come from Willie's doubledealings, rather than such a complete demonization of him, barely pausing during his early "honest man" idealogical opening. Additionally, we're not really quite sure what drives him, outside of the accumulation of power.

All the King's Men is never necessarily dull, but it's main detraction is that it does seem to lack spark: scenes with staying power, for example. Perhaps this is why the movie remains so obscure. Generally speaking there are moments in classic films, particularly Best Pictures, that everyone has seen before they actually see the movie-- those endlessly clipped movie highlights. They don't exist for All the King's Men, because the movie offers no real electrifying moments.

On the plus side, the film doesn't date, due, unfortunately, to the recycling of the ills of politics in real life. And, although there doesn't seem to be many actual Willie Starks around per se, such aspects of political life as campaign financing remain just as corrupting to today's politicians as to Stark-- the film even goes so far as to suggest that maybe he could have remained the honest man were it not for this one critical component of all campaigns.

One other criticism of the film-- it's techniques are terribly dated: the frequent low angle shots of Willie, the endless montages and string of newspaper headlines, and the use of a "reporter" as a storyteller. Although all of these characterisitics can be found in Citizen Kane, they are used as familiar devices to allow for the films more revolutionary touches. In All the King's Men these techniques are the key elements to the structure.


All the King's Men (1949): Superior work by lead Broderick Crawford in always timely tale of political corruption, nonetheless lacks memorable dramatic moments and offers a weak supporting cast, save Mercedes McCambridge in a solid screen debut.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Academy Preps for the 81st Oscars

Was at Hollywood and Highland this past weekend and took a few shots on how the front of the Kodak looks, as AMPAS preps for the Oscars. Inside of a week to the Oscars!







Monday, February 16, 2009

My Predictions: The 81st Annual Academy Awards

We're less than a week away from the big night. Here are my predictions for the winners in the big categories:

Best Picture: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Best Director: Danny Boyle for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke for THE WRESTLER
Best Actress: Kate Winslet for THE READER
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger for THE DARK KNIGHT
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz for VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA

I think SLUMDOG will capture a lot of the other Oscars it's up for: Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Score, Song. I see BENJAMIN BUTTON having four chances at not becoming the biggest loser of all-time: Adapted Screenplay, Make-Up, Supporting Actress (Taraji P. Henson-- my second guess for this category), or Visual Effects. I think it will get at least Make-Up and Visual Effects.

THE DARK KNIGHT is likelt to get the two sound awards: that makes three Oscars total with Ledger-- not a bad haul. It could take Cinematography and Editing away from SLUMDOG: that would give them 5 each.

There are at least two Oscar pool spoilers this year: Costume Design (AUSTRALIA?); Art Direction (CHANGELING?), in addition to the who-knows-what Doc, Foreign, and short subjects crap shoot.

And, as always, Best Animated Feature is a slam-dunk: WALL-E.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New Criterion Slate

Criterion's newest DVD releases include their second foray into John Huston country: Wise Blood. Plus, Peter Yates's The Friends of Eddie Coyle and 3 Films by Shohei Imamura.

Link to Criterion's upcoming releases.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The "Turn off Your Cell Phones" of 100 Years Ago

What was the big gripe at the movies 100 years ago? It's answered in D. W. Griffith's now-century-old short film Those Awful Hats.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Oscar Trivia Friday!

More Oscar trivia, leading us up to the big night. You can post guesses in the comments--I'll reveal the answers in the subsequent Friday entry. No prizes!!! Just for fun!

1. Match the Oscar winner and a quote from their speech:

Ingrid Bergman for Gaslight (1944) _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl (1968) _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Jack Nicholson for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) __ (A, B, C, D,=2 0E, F, G, or H)

Ben Kingsley for Gandhi (1982) _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Michael Douglas for Wall Street (1987) _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Cate Blanchett for The Aviator (2005) _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

George Clooney for Syriana (2006) _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

Forrest Whittaker for The Last King of Scotland (2007) _____ (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H)

(A.) “This is an Oscar for vision, for courage, and for acting, and for peace.”

(B.) “… and God, God who believes in us all, who’s given me this moment in this lifetime that I will hopefully carry to the end of my lifetime into the next lifetime.”

(C.) “I’m very honored to be in such magnificent company as Katharine Hepburn.”

(D.) “Thank you to the Academy, who know Katharine Hepburn so well and are so intimately acquainted with her work, this is an indescribable surprise and honor.”

(E.) “We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood, every once in a while I think. It’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talk[ed] about AIDS when it just being whispered. And we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular… This Academy, this group of people, gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud to be a part of this Academy, proud to be a part of this community, and proud to be out of touch.”

(F.) “I’ve never been happier than with my work here in Hollywood and I thank you very much for my Oscar.”

(G.) “I guess this proves there are as many nuts in the Academy as anywhere else.”

(H.) “…in particular to my father, who I don’t think ever missed one of my college productions, for his continued support, and for helping a son step out of a shadow. I’ll be eternally grateful to you dad for that.”

2. Who among the following never appeared at the Academy Awards?

(A.) Woody Allen

(B.) Marlon Brando

(C.) Katharine Hepburn

(D.) Orson Welles

3. Which is false about the first year of the Academy Awards?

(A.) There was no secret envelope and the winners were announced on the back page of the Academy Bulletin months before the ceremony.

(B.) There were no Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress categories.

(C.) Charles Chaplin was given the first non-competitive individual achievement award, for “versatility and genius in writing, acting, directing, and producing The Circus (his current film).

(D.) No ceremony was held: the recipients received their statuettes by courier.

4. Last year, Michael Clayton was the only film nominated for more than one acting Oscar; very rarely has just a single film alone been up for multiple acting Oscars, with all other films getting just one nomination. What was the last movie year in Oscar History for which there was only one multiple nominee for acting?

(A.) 1935 (the multiple nominee was Mutiny on the Bounty)

(B.) 1946 (the multiple nominee was The Best Years of Our Lives)

(C.) 1951 (the multiple nominee was A Streetcar Named Desire)

(D.) 1957 (the multiple nominee was Peyton Place)

Answers to last Friday's Trivia:

1. Which four of the following movies won the Oscar for Best Picture:

(A.) Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

√(B.) Ben-Hur (1959)

√(C.) Rocky (1976)

(D.) Star Wars (1977)

√(E.) The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

(F.) Saving Private Ryan (1998)

(G.) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

√(H.) Chicago (2002)

2. Which is the only false statement about the following Oscar winners for Best Picture?

(A.) Best Picture winner The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) was written by then-blacklisted writers Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, but credited to original novelist Pierre Boulle, who neither read nor spoke English.

√(B.) Best Picture winner The Godfather (1972) featured at least one cast member from every subsequent Best Picture winner of the 1970s.

(C.) Best Picture The Last Emperor (1987) was the first Western production allowed inside China’s Forbidden City.

(D.) Best Picture The Silence of the Lambs (1991) was the first Best Picture out on home video at the time of its win.

3. How many science-fiction films have won the Oscar for Best Picture?

√(A.) None

(B.) One— 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

(C.) Two— 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

(D.) Three— Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Alien (1979), and Blade Runner (1982)

4. Amadeus (1984), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Braveheart (1995), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) are the only Best Pictures to date to have won in what category, first given for films of 1981? (4 points)

√(A.) Make-Up

(B.) Casting

(C.) Sound/Sound Recording

(D.) Adapted Screenplay

Thursday, February 12, 2009

One Year Until the Winter 2010 Olympics: Vancouver

Believe it or not, the Winter Olympics are just one year away.

As stated on the official website: "The 2010 Olympic Torch Relay, proudly presented by Coca-Cola and RBC, will connect Canadians in every province and territory, throughout a 45,000-kilometre journey, over approximately 100 days, and involving 12,000 torchbearers. The journey of the flame will culminate at BC Place on February 12, 2010 with the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron, signalling the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games."

Wikipedia link: The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Always loved the winter games... looking forward to it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

100 Days Until "Terminator Salvation"/ All Four Terminator Movie Trailers

One of the summer movies I'm especially looking forward to is Terminator Salvation. And now we're at T-100 (pun intended!).









Below all four trailers (versions thereof):







Link to Terminator Salvation Official Trailer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Top Ten 1910s/20s Films on My Movie Radar

I've seen more silent films that I care to admit, yet, of course, there are still some I'd like to see. Two of the most exciting releases this past year were the Abel Gance silents J'ACCUSE and LA ROUE. I watched J'ACCUSE on TCM, but didn't quite get to LA ROUE. I thereby didn't see any of the silent films-to-see on my list from last year! But, I'm switching it from silent to 10s/20s and so one slot will be open as I move I FLUNKED BUT... (1930) to the 30s list. Here are the 1910s/20s films on my movie radar:

Quo Vadis?— 1912

The Squaw Man— 1914

Hamlet— 1921

The Wildcat— 1921

La Roue— 1922

When Knighthood Was in Flower— 1922

Children's Faces— 1925

Smouldering Fires— 1925

Mother— 1926

Chang— 1927

Monday, February 9, 2009

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" Edges Out "Match Point"; "Whatever Works" Picked Up By Sony

Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona has finally outgrossed his Match Point, making it the biggest Allen-grosser since Hannah and Her Sisters. See box office mojo report. I've been watching the numbers on this one since it opened big (August blog entry): it'll be worth a few more years of creative control for Woody.







In other news, now we know why there has yet to be a release date for the new Woody Allen film (starring Larry David), as noted in this Variety article.

I'll be happy if it's a spring release because I can't wait, however there is something about the Fall that warrents a new Woody Allen.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Funny "Mad Men" Parody, "Mad Libs Men"

Came across this very funny concept (at collegehumor.com)-- using Mad Men actor look-a-likes and basing the dialogue around Mad Libs. A stretch, yes, but, funny is funny.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oscar Producers Talk with "USA Today"

There was an interesting article from a week or so ago, regarding this years Oscarcast. In case you didn't catch it, here's the link: USA Today Oscar article.

I'm happy about several things, as stated by the producers: (1.) Less "canned" clip reels (2.) That they are making it a celebration of ALL movies of the last year (I've been saying this for years!) (3.) They want a "party" atmosphere. (Although that sounds a little too like Allan Carr, and we know how the 89/90 Oscars turned out.)

The oddest thing in it was Bill Condon's comment that the 1968 show represents the "gold standard." Well, when did he see it last? 1968? When he was what, fifteen years old?

Anyway, I'm actually looking forward to this year's Oscars more than usual as a result of this article. Even a catastrophe would be a welcome sight.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Oscar Trivia Friday!

More Oscar trivia, leading us up to the big night. You can post guesses in the comments--I'll reveal the answers in the subsequent Friday entry. No prizes!!! Just for fun!

1. Which four of the following movies won the Oscar for Best Picture:

(A.) Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

(B.) Ben-Hur (1959)

(C.) Rocky (1976)

(D.) Star Wars (1977)

(E.) The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

(F.) Saving Private Ryan (1998)

(G.) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

(H.) Chicago (2002)

2. Which is the only false statement about the following Oscar winners for Best Picture?

(A.) Best Picture winner The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) was written by then-blacklisted writers Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, but credited to original novelist Pierre Boulle, who neither read nor spoke English.

(B.) Best Picture winner The Godfather (1972) featured at least one cast member from every subsequent Best Picture winner of the 1970s.

(C.) Best Picture The Last Emperor (1987) was the first Western production allowed inside China’s Forbidden City.

(D.) Best Picture The Silence of the Lambs (1991) was the first Best Picture out on home video at the time of its win.

3. How many science-fiction films have won the Oscar for Best Picture?

(A.) None

(B.) One— 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

(C.) Two— 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

(D.) Three— Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Alien (1979), and Blade Runner (1982)

4. Amadeus (1984), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Braveheart (1995), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) are the only Best Pictures to date to have won in what category, first given for films of 1981? (4 points)

(A.) Make-Up

(B.) Casting

(C.) Sound/Sound Recording

(D.) Adapted Screenplay

Answers to last Friday's Trivia:

1. What happened for the first time at an Oscar ceremony at the 18th Annual Academy Awards (1946)?

√ (A.) The best songs were performed, including “Accentuate the Positive,” “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” and winner “It Might As Well Be Spring.”

(B.) The show was televised. [That was 1966]

(C.) Billy Crystal hosted. [That was 1990!]

(D.) The wrong name was read when presenter Charles Boyer announced Ingrid Bergman as the winner (Joan Crawford had really won)— it was immediately cleared up. [Never happened.]

2. Who forgot to mention the real-life person they portrayed in their Oscar-winning performance, telling reporters backstage: “I didn’t acknowledge her, shamefully…. And I’ve said so many things about her and so many things to her that she knows the esteem in which I hold her.”?

√ (A.) Julia Roberts— Erin Brockovich

(B.) Jennifer Connelly— Alicia Nash

(C.) Reese Witherspoon— June Carter

(D.) Helen Mirren— Queen Elizabeth II

3. Which of the following never happened at the Oscars?

(A.) In 1932, Walt Disney received a special award for the creation of Mickey Mouse.

(B.) In 1941, Best Supporting Actress winner Jane Darwell said of her Oscar that “awards are nice but she’d rather have a job,” prompting 20th Century Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck to call her the next day with a co-starring role in an upcoming movie.

√(C.) In 1951, Marilyn Monroe, presenting the Best Sound Oscar, was so nervous that she fainted on stage and had to be revived by host Fred Astaire. [Although she was so nervous at presenting that she never appeared again at an Oscar ceremony.]

(D.) In 1961, when no one claimed the Bes t Song Oscar, presenter Jayne Meadows took it with her and displayed it on I’ve Got a Secret before sending it off to the winner.

4. Three of the following actors showed up bald at the Oscars, their heads shaved for a film they were currently making-- which is the only one who didn't?

(A.) Bette Davis in 1955 [Bald for The Virgin Queen]

√ (B.) Jack Lemmon in 1974

(C.) Tommy Lee Jones in 1994 [Bald for Cobb]

(D.) Jack Nicholson in 2007 [Bald for The Bucket List]

5. Who was the first person to present an Oscar to themselves?

(A.) Hal Mohr, a surprise write-in winner, presenting Best Cinematography in 1936.

√ (B.) Walt Disney, presenting Best Cartoon Short Subject in 1937.

(C.) F. Scott Fitzgerald, presenting Best Motion Picture Story in 1938.

(D.) Hattie McDaniel, presenting Best Supporting Actress in 1939.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Catch Up on Late Critics' Picks: North Texas and Iowa


I haven't posted yet on a few of the later critics groups, as follows:

North Texas Film Critics who picked SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE as Best Film. Link.

Iowa Film Critics who picked SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE as Best Film. Link.

Still no word on the Houston Film Critics. When it happens, I'll attach the link.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Movies I'm Most Looking Forward to: 2009

There are a lot of promising releases this year... I kind of expected the recent union strikes to have ruined 2009, but it doesn't seem so.

The decade-end years seem to be among the best in movies: 1919, 1939, 1959, 1969, 1989, 1999 for sure, with 1929, 1949, and 1979 at least being better-than average. 1999 gave us AMERICAN BEAUTY, AMERICAN PIE, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, BOYS DON'T CRY, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, ELECTION, FIGHT CLUB, GALAXY QUEST, THE INSIDER, MAGNOLIA, THE MATRIX, OFFICE SPACE, THE SIXTH SENSE, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, TOY STORY 2... and I could go on. Now, unfortunately '09 is off to a really bad start, however, here are the ten films I've got high hopes for....

1. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS: I know Tarantino is just poised to "go too far" one of these days, but I've liked all of his movies and I'll be the first one in line for this one.

2. TERMINATOR SALVATION: I'm a big fan of the franchise... just hoping they get it right a fourth time (and yes, I do like the 3rd one).

3. BRUNO: Poised to be the funniest film of the year.

4. AVATAR: Basically this movie is in a four-way-tie with the above two movies; Cameron's big push for 3-D.

5. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: If it's good, it'll be great.

6. STAR TREK: Never a fan of the franchise at all, but J.J. Abrahms trailer has ramped up my expectations (unlike the WOLVERINE trailer which moved that film from "must see" to "must I?")

7. SHERLOCK HOLMES: I bet it'll be good despite the age of the source material (although there's a comic in between); and Robert Downey, Jr. is an interesting choice (Jude Law, the safer bet as Watson).

8. MONSTERS VS. ALIENS: Really looks fun... a welcome relief for grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles the world round.

9. JULIE AND JULIA: The still photo of Meryl Streep as Julia Child is priceless.

10. THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX: I really liked THE DARJEELING LIMITED-- stock in Wes Anderson is up.

Some "will most probably see" titles include: WATCHMEN, UP, HARRY POTTER, THE WOLF MAN, THE A-TEAM, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123, SHUTTER ISLAND (Scorsese), and A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Slumdog" Nabs DGA Award for Danny Boyle


With Danny Boyle's win of Best Director at the DGA Awards, it's Oscar outlook for Best Picture is a virtual lock. Link to DGA website.

There are several awards which are a sure thing for SLUMDOG, including Best Score, Best Song, and Best Cinematography.

BENJAMIN BUTTON, SLUMDOG's competition, seems to have just one sure thing (Best Visual Effects) and little else to hope for. Not that BUTTON couldn't get a few surprise wins-- but it seems less and less likely that Best Pciture will be one of them.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Best Superbowl XLIII (2009) Ads

This year's Superbowl ads were pretty lackluster. I offer my favorite five (relative to the pack), below:


#1. AUDI: The most original and interesting concept; thought this one really worked.

#2. CAREERBUILDER.COM: Love the, "Hey Dummy."

#3. CASH4GOLD: Yes, a little sad, but I really laughed... "Goodbye old friend."

#4. HULU: Not genius, but amusing.

#5. COCA-COLA: A nice ad.



I think all the movie trailers came off well, STAR TREK perhaps the best; and for ones that were premiered (I least this is the first time I've seen it), I thought G.I. JOE came off strongest. Of the TV promos, I liked the Leno ad.

see all the Superbowl commercials at this link.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Millvina Dean, the Last Titanic Survivor, Turns 97 Tomorrow

The Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912 (the ship fully sank in the early hours of April 15) and according to the NEW YORK TIMES headline which followed, there were 866 survivors. With the death of Barbara Dainton in October 2007, only one survivor remains. Millvina Dean, who was just two months old at the time of the sinking, is the last remaining survivor, and is 97 years old tomorrow. She was the youngest person onboard (and naturally has no recollection of the sinking), and boarded the ship with her parents and brother as a third-class passenger, en route to relocate to Wichita, Kansas from England. Her mother and brother survived, but her father perished.

Because her father died as a result of the sinking, Millvina Dean has never seen James Cameron's film in its entirety [she's reportedly seen several scenes featured on television]. In fact out of the six Titanic survivors alive when the film was released in 1997, only two are known to have seen the Cameron film: Eleanor Johnson Shuman (who was at the Chicago premiere where she met James Cameron; she saw the movie a few times) and Michel Navratil (who watched it at home a few years after it came out, with his family).



Surely, in three years' time on the 100th anniversary of the sinking, the movie will get a re-release. And perhaps Cameron, a big fan of current 3-D technology, will give it a bump up to 3-D for its re-release.

RMS Titanic link on wikipedia.

TITANIC (1997) link at wikipedia.

Millvina Dean link at wikipedia.

A link to a youtube home video of her at an interview in 1998.

Link to Encyclopedia Titanica message boards re: Titanic survivors who saw the Cameron film.