Thursday, March 22, 2018

A to Z Challenge - Theme Reveal

theme reveal #atozchallenge 2018 blogging


That's right, I'm doing the A to Z Challenge again this year.  I know I had some severe run-ins with the A to Z Challenge Advisory Board as you may have read about here and here.  I know many of you will say, who cares.  And you're right.  Oh wait, you're not saying that about my disputes with their advisory board, you mean my blog.........this is awkward........well, when you opt to live blog, these things seem to occasionally happen.

Anyway I will ignore the distractions, hold on, sorry, again the dangers of live blogging.........and I am back.  My reveal is that this year I will be doing A to Z of Best Directors who have been nominated for and have won the Oscar for Best Director.  It will include exciting verbal banter from yours truly, additional preview clips, sock puppets, 35% less Esperanto, and no more anti-celery commentaries, I have learned to tolerate it and can eat it in small quantities.

Visit the A to Z Challenge site to learn more and maybe attempt to try blogging yourself this April.

The First Time U2 was in Russia

That's right, fifty years before they performed, Francis Gary Powers was shot down in 1960.  This is why my next review is Bridge of Spies nominated for Best Picture in 2015.  Also received nominations for Original Screenplay, Score, Sound Mixing, Production Design and winning Supporting Actor for Mark Rylance.

The film is based on the trial of communist spy Rudolf Abel in 1957 and Tom Hanks who plays James Donovan is tasked to act as his defense attorney.  A few years later after the U2 fighter jet is shot down, Donovan is used to broker a deal to trade Gary Powers for Rudolf Abel in Berlin at the time the wall was being put up.  Toss in an American college student who is arrested whom Donovan attempts to broker along with the trade, and you have the film in a nutshell.

Well acted, not very historically accurate, but then again that isn't that what poetic license is for?  Remember, this is Hollywood here.  The story co-written by the Coen brothers, so you know there are no plot holes and the story has a solid beginning, middle and ending.  That is a trademark of their skilled screenwriting.  And Stephen Spielberg directed the film, again his work is always top quality. So it is rather obvious why it was nominated for Best Picture.

This is now the fifth of the eight films nominated that year, and I would have to place this in third place.  So to catch up on the scoreboard, The Revenant is still top, Brooklyn is still second, The Martian is pushed to fourth and Max Max still last.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

90th Oscar Results

As a fan of movies, I look forward every year for the Oscars.  And trying to predict is somewhat of a science and a bit of luck.  Alright, a lot of luck.  But unlike most years, this year the winners seemed to make sense.  How did I do, follow along and see.

I'm also very glad to see that I inspired fellow movie blogger Suzanne Blazier and her Mood for Every Movie blog, to list her predictions and wish list of Oscar winners.  I encourage you to visit her page and subscribe.  She reviews movies a lot more often that I do and gives very thorough posts that are well written.

And now, on with the results.

Visual Effects
Chris - War for the Planet of the Apes
Adam - War for the Planet of the Apes
Winner - Blade Runner 2049
Chris - 0
Adam - 0

Right off the bat we're both wrong.  But this makes sense.  From what I have seen, without having seen this sequel, looks amazing.  So there goes getting a perfect score, but one that I'm not upset on getting wrong.

Sound Mixing
Chris - Dunkirk
Adam - Dunkirk
Winner - Dunkirk
Chris - 1
Adam - 1

Like I have been saying, war movies do really good in this category.  Having seen Dunkirk I can attest that the sounds of bullets, the explosions, and the airplanes, sounded incredible.

Sound Editing
Chris - The Shape of Water
Adam - The Shape of Water
Winner - Dunkirk
Chris - 1
Adam - 1

And I should have stuck through with Dunkirk.  In previous years I would do that and got burnt.  So this year, I decided to get smart and mix it up.  And look where that got me.  The lesson here is don't be smart.

Cinematography
Chris - Dunkirk
Adam - The Shape of Water
Winner - Blade Runner 2049
Chris - 1
Adam - 1

Just like visual effects, Blade Runner 2049 looks like a film with incredible cinematography.  So neither one of us moves ahead or falls behind.

Makeup & Hairstyling
Chris - Victoria & Abdul
Adam - Darkest Hour
Winner - Darkest Hour
Chris - 1
Adam - 2

There were only three films nominated, so the odds were good.  My guess paid off.

Costume Design
Chris - The Shape of Water
Adam - Victoria & Abdul
Winner - Phantom Thread
Chris - 1
Adam - 2

And so much for that.  Got lucky on the makeup and hairstyling, but not so good here.  On a positive note, Phantom Thread looks very impressive and seems to have earned the award.

Production Design
Chris - Dunkirk
Adam - The Shape of Water
Winner - The Shape of Water
Chris - 1
Adam - 3

Looking at all the nominees, it seems like anyone one of them could have won.  But I took a guess on this one and it paid off.

Film Editing
Chris - Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Adam - The Shape of Water
Winner - Dunkirk
Chris - 1
Adam - 3

And once again I get this category wrong.  But so did the wife and no one moves up or down.  But having seen Dunkirk, I can say it was edited very well and I don't feel bad about being wrong on this one.

Music Original Song
Chris - Stand Up For Something
Adam - Remember Me
Winner - Remember Me
Chris - 1
Adam - 4

And the guess paid off.  Still have no idea what it sounds like, fast forwarded through the songs.  Hey, you all know how I feel about musicals!  And if I don't know the song, I don't want to hear it.  But I got it right and moved up one more ahead of the wife.

Music Original Score
Chris - Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Adam - Dunkirk
Winner - The Shape of Water
Chris - 1
Adam - 4

So I seemed to get this confused with editing.  But having seen The Shape of Water, again I have no problem with this winning.  The music was very good and worked well with the movie.

Writing Adapted Screenplay
Chris - Call Me by Your Name
Adam - Call Me by Your Name
Winner - Call Me by Your Name
Chris - 2
Adam - 5

Called it!  The only Best Picture nominee in this category and the academy wanted to give it some recognition.

Writing Original Screenplay
Chris - Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Adam - Get Out
Winner - Get Out
Chris - 2
Adam - 6

And my prediction was right.  This was the only award that Get Out won.  This is common, like when Pulp Fiction won a screenplay award and Quentin Taranito announced that he knew it was the only award the film would win.  But it did help build his career which will do the same for Jordan Peele.

Short Film Animated
Chris - Dear Basketball
Adam - Lou
Winner - Dear Basketball
Chris - 3
Adam - 6

I will skip any commentary about Kobe Bryant getting applause in between actresses making speeches about ending sexual harassment in Hollywood.  Although I do admire how he accepted the award, professional athletes have a way of being humble and respectful when they win.  And the wife got one of the random impossible ones, moving back into the game?

Short Film Live Action
Chris - The Eleven O'Clock
Adam - The Silent Child
Winner - The Silent Child
Chris - 3
Adam - 7

And nope, moved back to up by four.  Kind of like scoring a goal and then giving one up on the ensuing face off.  I got lucky, I won't say any more than that.

Documentary Short Subject
Chris - Edith+Eddie
Adam - Traffic Stop
Winner - Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Chris - 3
Adam - 7

Let me go to the judges, my blog advisory board. I got the word traffic guessed right?  Isn't that worth anything?  What?  No?  Thanks to my advisory board for being so quick to tell me no.

Best Animated
Chris - Ferdinand
Adam - Coco
Winner - Coco
Chris - 3
Adam - 8

I think this film also won the Best Song, ahhhh, who cares.  I'm up by five, and with only four more different choices between me and the wife, I have clinched victory.

Best Documentary
Chris - Last Men in Aleppo
Adam - Faces Places
Winner - Icarus
Chris - 3
Adam - 8

Can't be upset if you make a guess and you are wrong.  I'm sure this is a good film, might get to see it one day.

Best Foreign Language
Chris - The Square
Adam - A Fantastic Woman
Winner - A Fantastic Woman
Chris - 3
Adam - 9

So I was right, this was only the second time that Chile had a nominee in this category.  I remember about five or six years ago the film No was nominated, but it lost.

Best Supporting Actress
Chris - Octavia Spencer
Adam - Allison Janney
Winner - Allison Janney
Chris - 3
Adam - 10

And it turns out that what I did see about this category was right.  And puts me up by seven.

Best Supporting Actor
Chris - Sam Rockwell
Adam - Sam Rockwell
Winner - Sam Rockwell
Chris - 4
Adam - 11

This is a well deserved Oscar for Sam Rockwell.  I haven't seen this film yet, but how he has acted in so many other films, it was his time to win.

Best Actress
Chris - Sally Hawkins
Adam - Frances McDormand
Winner - Frances McDormand
Chris - 4
Adam - 12

Again, without having seen the film, I will accept that Frances McDormand was the best choice.  Sally Hawkins should not be ignored having to carry a film without her character being able to speak is a very impressive accomplishment.

Best Actor
Chris - Gary Oldman
Adam - Gary Oldman
Winner - Gary Oldman
Chris - 5
Adam - 13

Sid Vicious wins an Oscar!  A long career that has earned him a well deserved award.  Also a really great acceptance speech.

Best Director
Chris - The Shape of Water
Adam - The Shape of Water
Winner - The Shape of Water
Chris - 6
Adam - 14

Guillermo del Toro has now joined the ranks of other great Mexican directors, who now seem to be the best in the world.  This once again proves how the best talent can come from all over the world.

Best Picture
Chris - The Shape of Water
Adam - The Shape of Water
Winner - The Shape of Water
Chris - 7
Adam - 15

It's been a few years, but the academy got it right.  I've only seen a third of the films nominated, but I am very confident that none of them will be any better than this one.  It's nice to see that even though there is politics, and favoritism and self gratification that goes into awarding the best picture, sometimes the quality of art shines through.  Of course they brought out dumb and dumber to once again try and not mess up.  I was so hoping that they would say La La Land again after they opened the envelope, but Warren Beatty did hold up the card after he announced the winner.  So there is no need to praise them for finally getting right what any six year old could do.

Oh yeah, I forgot.  I won!  Whoo-hoo!  Okay, the moment is over.  Onward to the next movie review.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Picks for the 2017 Oscars

It's time again for the annual Academy Award contest that I have with the wife every year.  I'm sure in a few years the daughter will be involved too, but for now it is the annual grudge match.  We've been doing this for at least twenty years now.  I find the more I prepare and study, the worse I do.  The wife goes on gut instinct and guesses, and usually does well.  I'm going more on that this year since I've only seen a few of the films nominated.

So this post will be my rational reasons why I choose what I did.  My next post will be the standard follow up of me carrying on about how stupid and crazy the academy is.  I'll start with the technical and work my way towards the major awards.

Visual Effects
Chris - War for the Planet of the Apes
Adam - War for the Planet of the Apes

For some reason I think this won this award for one of the previous films in this series.  Gone are the days of people putting on rubber masks to look like apes.  It also looks like a competitive category, so a lot of votes may cancel each other out.

Sound Mixing
Chris - Dunkirk
Adam - Dunkirk

War movie, so logic dictates that it should be a shoe in.  Although I think that burned me last year.  Since we both picked the same, it doesn't matter.

Sound Editing
Chris - The Shape of Water
Adam - The Shape of Water

I'm thinking this will be one of many awards this film will win during the Oscars.  And having seen the film I think this should win.  But to be honest I don't know how this is different from the previous award.

Cinematography
Chris - Dunkirk
Adam - The Shape of Water

So an opportunity for one of us to potentially move ahead.  I've seen Dunkirk and The Shape of Water, two different films.  I can see why Dunkirk could win with the beautifully shot scenes on the beach, but The Shape of Water really gave a mood with how it was filmed and I think that helped make the film that much better.

Makeup & Hairstyling
Chris - Victoria & Abdul
Adam - Darkest Hour

I've heard that Victoria & Abdul is a very stylish film that might take this award.  But I think the same for Darkest Hour.  Knowing my luck the third film in this category will probably win.

Costume Design
Chris - The Shape of Water
Adam - Victoria & Abdul

So this one I am hedging that Victoria & Abdul will win for costume design, but The Shape of Water is also a good pick too.

Production Design
Chris - Dunkirk
Adam - The Shape of Water

This is another category that can be tricky, do they look at how each film was designed or do they award it to the film that they are voting for Best Picture?  I'm betting on the later.

Film Editing
Chris - Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Adam - The Shape of Water

My theory is that the film that will win Best Picture will also win this award.  Although that hasn't been the case lately.  And I haven't been too good at picking what will win Best Picture.

Music Original Song
Chris - Stand Up For Something
Adam - Remember Me

I have never heard of any of these songs.  You could play one of them and ask me to guess which of the five nominees it is and I wouldn't know.  No idea, just a pure guess.

Music Original Score
Chris - Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Adam - Dunkirk

Again, another guess on my part.  This category is different than the previous one in that it's for music that is played throughout the movie.  I figured Dunkirk is as good as a guess as any other.

Writing Adapted Screenplay
Chris - Call Me by Your Name
Adam - Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name is this year's Moonlight.  I don't think it will win in any other category and the other four nominees are not nominated for Best Picture, while this film is.

Writing Original Screenplay
Chris - Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Adam - Get Out

This seems to be the more competitive category for screenwriting this year.  I'm guessing that Get Out will win this one since they want to award it something and it's not going to take any other category.  That and it is nice to see a horror/thriller film get nominated.  This is one of the genres that doesn't get recognized often.

Short Film Animated
Chris - Dear Basketball
Adam - Lou

And the random section of the Academy Awards now begins.  Pick a film, any film, you have a one in five chance of getting it right.

Short Film Live Action
Chris - The Eleven O'Clock
Adam - The Silent Child

It's better not to know anything and just guess.  Because if you did take the time to watch them and think about which one would win, you would be wrong.

Documentary Short Subject
Chris - Edith+Eddie
Adam - Traffic Stop

Sometimes they will show the nominees for the short films, and I foolishly watched one year.  Guess what, the worst movie got the Oscar.  So I given up.

Best Animated
Chris - Ferdinand
Adam - Coco

So I haven't seen any of these movies, but I'm sure in a few years I will become more of an expert in this category.  But for now, I picked the only movie I have heard of and was nominated for something else.

Best Documentary
Chris - Last Men in Aleppo
Adam - Faces Places

Again, no way to tell, so I guessed.  Some years it is pretty obvious.  Might be this year, but I seem to be missing it.

Best Foreign Language
Chris - The Square
Adam - A Fantastic Woman

This category has been disappointing for the past few years, mainly because I have been wrong.  My guess is that I don't think Chile has ever won a Best Foreign Language Oscar, let alone only has a few nominations, so I'm thinking this is their year.

Best Supporting Actress
Chris - Octavia Spencer
Adam - Allison Janney

The actress from I, Toyna is favored from what I read.  Okay, I did do some research, but not much.  Anyway, this might be the only Oscar from this film.  But Octavia Spencer was really good in The Shape of Water...

Best Supporting Actor
Chris - Sam Rockwell
Adam - Sam Rockwell

No matter what, Sam Rockwell is such a talented versatile actor that he is deserving of more recognition than he gets.  I'm also speculating that Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri might win a few of the major awards since it is out of the running for Best Picture, it didn't get a Best Director nod.  That pretty much nails a coffin shut on it winning Best Picture

Best Actress
Chris - Sally Hawkins
Adam - Frances McDormand

I don't think there is a clear front runner, it has been over twenty years since Frances McDormand won for Fargo.  But Sally Hawkins was really, really good too.  This might be an interesting one since the last number of years it has been noncompetitive.

Best Actor
Chris - Gary Oldman
Adam - Gary Oldman

Timothee Chalamet and Daniel Kaluuya are both newer actors and don't have much of a chance.  Daniel Day-Lewis and Denzel Washington have both won multiple Oscars before, so they don't have much of a chance.  Gary Oldman has been shut out in the past and is due this year.  And Darkest Hour will not have an opportunity to win any other major award category, so this one seems to be a lock.

Best Director
Chris - The Shape of Water
Adam - The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is one of the class of extremely talented Mexican movie directors, along with Oscar winners Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Inarritu.  Inarritu won back to back Oscars, that is epic John Ford type of action.  I remember back when being a Mexican director was considered a joke, like below.  Those days have changed and he should win easily.



Best Picture
Chris - The Shape of Water
Adam - The Shape of Water

This is one of those times you hope that the Academy doesn't do what it has done in the past, ignore the politics and social messages, and reward a really good film.  This is one of them.  This film is a perfect film.  Everything is perfect, the acting, the scenery, the cinematography, the costumes, the mood, it really helps make this film work.  But I expect to be disappointed and you'll see my follow up after the awards air this weekend.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Testaverde Touchdown of Best Pictures

Art is subjective.  And voting has a great deal of popularity ingrained in the process.  So when it comes to picking a winner for Best Picture, there have been times where people have scratched their heads wondering how did this movie win.  The most recent was Argo from a few years ago.  This post will be about Moonlight, but first let's take a stroll down memory lane so that you can understand the title of this post.


Now that I think about it, that wasn't a very cheerful memory.  So last year in my post about the annual contest the wife and I have, I presented my version of how I would have handled the situation at the end of the Oscars.  Remember you were dealing with two people not very smart.  Especially Warren Beatty who is dumb enough for both of them.  He remade Here Comes Mr. Jordan and called it Heaven Can Wait, a completely different movie.  That would be the same as remaking Raiders of the Lost Ark and calling it Apocalypse Now.

The film is a good movie, although somewhat confusing at times.  It is broken into three parts, each one is its own entity as if it were three different short films.  The first segment shows the main character, Chiron as a child being bullied by the other kids and his mother is a drug addict.  A drug dealer, Juan played by Mahershala Ali, takes a liking to Chiron and acts like a father figure to him.  The second segment shows Chiron as a teenager still being bullied.  He has a sexual encounter with one his male classmates who ends up beating him up later on after being egged on by a bully.  Chiron retaliates against the bully and is sent to jail.  The third segment shows Chiron now an adult, is a drug dealer, and seeks out his friend he had the encounter with years earlier.

This is not a bad movie, the first part is terrific.  Mahershala Ali is amazing in every scene he is in, he carries the film and is so talented.  He clearly earned the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  But he is only in the first part of the film, once he is gone the film is not really worth watching.  Naomie Harris who plays Chiron's mother, also does a great job and received a Supporting Actress nomination, but is not enough to carry the film after Mahershala Ali's character dies.

It received notoriety because the relationship involved two boys.  Just like Brokeback Mountain, if you replaced the two male characters with a male and female, would it still be considered as good as a film?  If the answer is yes, then it is a good story.  If no, then the film is not an Oscar caliber film.  In the case of Moonlight, I think this falls into the same situation.  It is a good film, but if the romantic interest of Chiron was a woman, I don't think it would be as well known.

That being said, it did win Best Picture and there was the big fiasco at the Oscars with Warren Beatty who is as dumb as soap.  But on a positive note, at least La La Land didn't win after all.  So Lion is still the best of the year, Hidden Figures second, Moonlight third and La La Land quickly moving towards ninth place but stopping at fourth for now.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

If I Wanted a Rerun, I Could Have Watched The Partridge Family

So yes, technically this is a repeat of a blog post I did last year in April during the A to Z challenge where I gave a review of Lion, 2016 nominee for Best Picture.  The film I was planning on reviewing was Lost Horizon, but at the last minute I changed my mind and talked about this great film.  But it was only in the context of the A to Z challenge and not reviewed as compared to other films nominated that year.

To bring you up to speed, the movie is based on a true story about a young boy living in Western India in the 1980's who falls asleep on an empty train one night. When he wakes up the train is traveling and he can't get off.  A few days later he is in Eastern India lost, confused and speaking a different language.  Eventually he ends up in an orphanage and is adopted by an Australian couple who raise him in Tasmania.

Twenty years later his memory is triggered and realizes that he doesn't know where he is from and what has happened to his family.  Since this was the time when Google Earth came online, he attempts to trace back the train ride to find his hometown.  He has a memory of a water tower at the train station, but not much more than that.

Watching this film, I was reminded of Salaam Bombay! the 1988 Best Foreign Language nominee from India.  Please note this is a very depressing movie, but very fascinating to watch.  The stories are parallel to Lion being filmed during the same time frame, but on different sides of the country.  Just shows you how difficult life is in India, especially if you are orphaned.

This movie means a lot to me because it is about adoption.  When I saw the film a year ago (Yes I know that I am very behind on my blogging, but I have a good excuse.  Seriously, I do!) my wife and I were in the adoption pool to become adoptive parents.  Now that we are adoptive parents (Told you I had a good reason!) this movie means so much more to me.

The acting is terrific by Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Sunny Pawar who plays Saroo as a child in his first movie debut, is amazing.  This kid is so talented and carries the first half of the movie.  He even stole the show at the Oscars last year.  I hope he continues as an actor, looking forward to see what he can do next.  And when you see photos of the real Sue Brierley, you will see how talented Nicole Kidman is.

So this makes three of the nine I have reviewed.  Let's be clear, La La Land is still last.  But Lion does edge out Hidden Figures and is the best film of the year.  Look, if the world was fair this would have won Best Picture, but at least we have such a great film that will last the test of time.  Fifty years from now you'll be able to watch this movie and remark at how great it still is.

Here is the trailer for the film.  I hope you enjoy this film as much as I did.



And if you get a chance, here is the trailer for Salaam Bombay! which you should try and find sometime.  Occasionally TCM will show it during their Imports program on Sunday nights.



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Why I'm Not Smart Enough to Work for NASA

The next film I got to see nominated for Best Picture for 2016 was Hidden Figures. A biopic based on the real life story of three NASA engineers who faced discrimination in the early 1960's for being women and black.  These women helped NASA in the early days of the space race and are part of the incredible intelligent and talented team of scientists and engineers who eventually put a man on the moon.

Now I know that I don't have what it takes to work for NASA or come close to the intelligence or skills of these three women, but I do have things in common with them.

First we must recognize Dorothy Vaughan, a brilliant mathematician and human computer, who taught herself and her coworkers, FORTRAN and headed the programming section of the Analysis and Computation Division at NASA.  It should be noted that FORTRAN is not an easy programming language to learn, according to me at least, and to do so in an era where there was no exposure to computers.  She was portrayed by Academy Award winning actress Octavia Spenser in the film and received another nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

On the right you can see me circa 1986 studying FORTRAN in high school.  Not to say that I didn't enjoy programming computers, but I didn't enjoy programming computers.  It was about this time I started to realize that being a computer programmer was not in my future.  I would get my projects done, but they were always at the last minute and consisted of days of aggravation of trying to get them to work.

Then there is Katherine Johnson who is the film's main character.  A woman so smart that she was called a human computer.   While at NASA she calculated the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths for many flights from Project Mercury, including the early NASA missions of John Glenn and Alan Shepard, and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon, through the Space Shuttle program. Her calculations were critical to the success of these missions. Johnson also performed calculations for the plans for a mission to Mars.

Here is a picture of me circa early 1990's in my Calculus 2 class.  I was working about fifty hours a week and had a part time job as well and realized that besides having no time to sleep, I didn't have time to do homework.  I would go to class forgetting everything, spend two and a half hours relearning it again, and then not having time to study or do the homework and start the cycle all over again at the next class.

And then there is Mary Jackson.  She was a mathematician and aerospace engineer at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which in 1958 was succeeded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  As seen in the movie, she was one of the first black women to attend advanced engineering classes.

And you can see me here when I was a student in engineering school back in the early nineties. You may be asking why I'm laying in the middle of the road?  Why?  When you take mechanical physics and you spend countless hours studying the text book, doing the same problems over and over again, spend all of my free time trying to learn this and then you get a 56 on the first exam.  So you double down, study even more hours, do twice as many problems, push yourself harder than ever before and then take the second test and get a 55. This is why I am laying in the road, probably somewhere on the West Side Highway, hoping that I would be run over by a garbage truck.  No such luck and I am very thankful that I was reading a great deal of Ayn Rand back then to help me get through those tough times.

So as you can see, I do have something in common with the three main characters in the film, I attempted to learn what they all did for a living and realized I wasn't smart enough.  I'm guessing this is for the best.

As for the film, it is well acted and the story flows.  Granted it is Hollywood, so they do take some liberties like the bathroom sign scene with Kevin Costner never happened.  But it is inspiring to see that even with hardships, these three women kept fighting and working as hard as they could to help NASA get our astronauts into space and back to earth safely.  I found it inspiring to see Dorthy Vaughan take the time to learn how to program the new computer and become the specialist on it knowing that it would be taking away her job, instead of fighting progress and sitting back and becoming obsolete.  Her actions not only saved her job, but those of her co-workers since they became the first computer programmers.

Only one major gripe I have with the film, and that was with Kevin Costner's character on how he wore a tie clip.  You are right by agreeing that this is a major, major problem and needs to be pointed out and discussed in full length.  But I will only cover the basics.

Not sure if this was his character who would dress like this, or him simply not knowing how to wear a tie clip.  As you can see from this chart, this is how a tie clip should be worn.
Things like this need to be pointed out.  This annoyed me to no end during the film since it is so easy to wear a tie clip properly.  As a strong supporter of tie clips, you should be wearing them more often but when you do, wear them properly.

That just leaves where does this film rank for Best Pictures.  Compared to La La Land, it, um, excuse me but I need to laugh hysterically...

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Okay, that felt better.  This is about as far above La La Land as the rockets they were firing into space.  Well, I found it funny.  Fine, it is the best of the two films I have seen so far.  Check out the trailer and see it yourself, you will enjoy the film.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Best Musical Based in Los Angeles Since Cop Rock

Now I know technically Cop Rock wasn't a movie and was just a television program.  But the style of the show is very similar to the film that is the subject of this blog post, La La Land.  Nominated for fourteen categories, tying Titanic and All About Eve, it won seven awards.  It won for Director, Actress, Cinematography, Original Score, Original Song and Production Design.  Oops, that's only six, it didn't win Best Picture.  Take that Faye Dunaway! 

Besides a very surreal Oscar ceremony, La La Land was expected to win Best Picture and was even considered possibly pulling off a sweep which has only happened three times.  And it was a musical too boot.  There is so much to point out about this film before reviewing it so I decided to hire a Quiz Master to challenge me and educate you about La La Land.  He should be arriving at any moment.  Oh, perfect timing, he's here.

Quiz Master
The first question is, how many films have won Best Picture that were musicals.  No peaking!

Wow, this will be tough, but I guess I can try and go off the top of my head.  There weren't that many had won, but if you count the 1960's and not The Great Ziegfeld which I'll consider as a bio pic and not a musical, so my guess is ten.

Quiz Master
WRONG!  The correct answer was Chicago.  Next question.  What as the last musical that won Best Picture?

Wait a moment, how can the answer be Chicago?  In fact that would be the answer for this question.  Fine, looks like you may have your answers mixed up, but I will say Chicago.

Quiz Master
WRONG!  The correct answer was Oliver.  Next question.  What was the previous Best Picture that was a musical that won before Chicago starting a thirty five year drought?

Time out.  It is clearly obvious that you are one off on each of your questions.  You are giving the answer of the next question you are asking.

Quiz Master
Is that your final answer?

I haven't answered anything.  You gave the answer, then asked the question!  This is turning to be out to be a bad idea.

Quiz Master
WRONG!  The correct answer was ten movies.  Let's total up your score, zero plus zero plus zero, hold on, carry the zero, and done.  Your final score is zero.  You're not very knowledgeable about movie musicals.

Actually, I got all of them right.  Doesn't matter, I'm not paying you for your services.  Hey, where are you going?  That doesn't belong to you.  Put it down.  I said put it down.  No, don't drop it!  I don't believe this, just leave.

Sorry about that readers, the Quiz Master was recommended to me by a reliable source so I though it would make the post more interesting.  I mean we're talking about La La Land so it needs all the help it can get.  Although it was a popular movie because Hollywood loves movies about themselves.

The film is a romantic comedy, but not that funny, but not that dramatic, and then doesn't seem to be a musical for awhile, and then someone starts singing.  Man meets woman, they don't get along, then they do, then their careers take off and they drift apart.  Add a few dance scenes and a super obnoxious musical opening that made me want to leave the theater.  And there you have La La Land.

But going into the Oscars, it was the front runner.  Why?  Three of the films from the decade, The Artist, Argo and Birdman, all about actors, had won Best Picture.  So going in it seemed obvious it would win and probably sweep.  Why it lost?  I think I'll cover that at a later time when I blog on the actual Best Picture winner.

Personally I am not a big fan of musicals and as such I wasn't too big of a fan of the movie.  But I will admit that it was done well.  Just as there are many classic musicals I wouldn't consider in my top films, but they are done perfectly and that makes it easier to watch.  La La Land is one of those films.  It's a musical but done in the style of the 1950's.

Being the first picture I am reviewing for 2016, obviously it is in first place. Ironically it's also in last place.  This will change as I review more of the films nominated.

And while you watch these clips of Cop Rock and the opening freeway dance scene from La La Land, I want to you take a moment and curb your initial thoughts of violence and any threats you may want to make towards me.  I want to encourage you to clear you mind and be at one with the stupid as these two over here have done.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Tree Grows in Kings County

Part of my new blog format has me meeting with The Academy Award Project board of directors on a regular basis.  Since they control the sponsorship and somehow have ownership of the blog, something I am still looking into, I have to go over all my proposed blog posts and get their approval.

Here is a transcript of my last meeting with them and trying to get authorization to blog about 2015 Best Picture nominee Brooklyn.

Me: Do you have to keep shining that light in my eyes.
Director 7: Fine.  Are you ready?
Me: I have been for the last twenty minutes.
Director 7: Then start.  What is the next movie?
Me: Thank you.  The next film I will be blogging about is Brooklyn.
Director 2: But weren't you born in Queens?
Me: Well, yes...
Director 1: That doesn't matter.
Director 2: Then how can he talk about a borough he didn't grow up in?
Director 4: It's about the movie Brooklyn.
Director 2: There was a movie about Brooklyn?
Director 3: There are many films about Brooklyn.
Me: Excuse me, the film is called Brooklyn.
Director 5: Is is about Brooklyn?
Me: Well, yes, most of it...
Director 2: Not many good films are made about Brooklyn.  Why would we want to hear about this one.
Director 1: It is his responsibility to blog on films nominated for Best Picture.
Director 2: I don't see him posting about Saturday Night Fever.
Me: That wasn't nominated for Best Picture.  You know The French Connection takes place in Brooklyn.
Director 2: So does Vampire in Brooklyn.
Me: Dog Day Afternoon.
Director 2: Kazaam.
Me: Ouch.  Well, okay this film is happy and cheerful.
Director 2: Like Requiem for a Dream.  Or Sophie's Choice?
Me: Wow, that's not what I was expecting to hear.  What about the classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?
Director 5: Wasn't that filmed in Los Angeles?
Director 2: And shouldn't be A Tree Grows in Kings County?
Director 1: Fine, I think we've heard enough, let's take a vote.  All in favor.  All opposed.  The board has voted five to two to allow you to do your next post on the film Kings County.
Me: The title is Brooklyn.  Oh forget it.

As you can see, meeting with the board is a very frustrating process.  Anyway, Brooklyn was nominated for three Oscars, beside Best Picture, Best Actress for Saoirse Ronan and Best Adapted Screenplay.  It takes place in the early 1950's and starts in Ireland where a young woman, played by Ronan, decides to go to America to find work.  The film shows her trials and tribulations as she becomes adjusted to American culture and her new life in Brooklyn.  She has to travel back to Ireland (don't want to spoil too much) and then has to decide will she stay in Ireland or go back to America.

Personally I loved this movie.  It is so well done.  The acting is great all around, but Saoirse Ronan is a incredibility talented actress who I look forward to seeing her in many more movies.  Most of all, the screenplay is well written.  The film moves at a steady pace and keeps you in it from start to finish.  Usually movies like this fall flat by the second act, this is one that doesn't do that thankfully.

Being the fourth film that I have seen, or half of the Best Picture nominees of 2015, I would currently rank this as the second best film of the year.  The Revenant is still the top picture and The Martian gets pushed down to third.  Mad Max is now in fourth.




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Don't Feed The Bears

Following in the order as I've seen them, the next movie up to review is the 2015 Best Picture nominee The Revenant.  It was the top nominee that year with twelve nominations and winner of three awards for cinematography, a second Oscar for Best Director for Alejandro Inarritu, two years in a row, that is an epic John Ford type of victory, and a long overdue Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Loosely based on the life of frontiersman Hugh Glass, which sounds like a Bart Simpson prank call, it tells the story of how Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is guiding fur trappers in 1823.  They are attacked by Indians and barely get away. At some point during their escape, Glass is attacked by a bear.  He barely survives and one of the trappers John Fitzgerald played by Tom Hardy who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, attempts to kill him.  He isn't successful but does kill Glass's son.  Of course he gets better, chases down Fitzgerald and ends with an epic fight.

The most exciting scene was when Leonardo DiCaprio was raped by the bear......excuse me, what, he wasn't raped?  Did you see the same film I did?  Hold on, hold on a second, thank you.  Sorry folks, but the blog's board of directors are interrupting my post.  They said that it was a fight between Leonardo DiCaprio and the bear.  There is one thing that we can agree upon, it was an epic fight. Check out this clip from the movie.



What do you mean that wasn't in the movie?  That looks a lot like Leonardo DiCaprio.  And I think I remember the bear wearing a hat.  Okay, fine, I'll look for the scene, but can I please get back to my post?  Thank you.

Anyway, this is a great movie.  The cinematography is amazing, which is why Emmanuel Lubezki won his third Oscar in a row.  The acting is fantastic, the clothing, everything.  It should have won Best Picture.  You really see how tough life was back in the early nineteenth century.  The battle scenes are so terrifying, you feel like you're in the middle of it.  And lets not forget the epic "fight" between the bear and Leonardo DiCaprio which I found and is right here for you to watch.



What, seriously?  I'm pretty sure I got the right clip.  Fine, I'll keep looking.  In the meantime I'll rank the films of 2015 that have seen.  And it is pretty obvious that this was the best of the films I've seen so far.  The Martian is second and Mad Max is now down to third.  And I think this is the right clip, if not, too bad and I'll correct it at some point.




Friday, May 19, 2017

What Happens When You Abandon the Buddy System

As Springfield Elementary third grade teacher Mrs. McConnel will tell you, the Buddy System is fullproof.



But when you abandon the buddy system, as we saw in The Martian, the film that is the subject of this post, we leave people behind.  In this case, on another planet.







Nominated for Best Picture, and a bunch of other Oscars, is based on the novel by Andy Weir.  Staring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain and a number of other talented actors and actresses, this is one of the few Science Fiction movies to be nominated for best picture.  And it was good enough to be nominated.

Not based on a true story, some point in the future a team of astronauts are on Mars when a massive storm hits.  They decide to abort the mission and fly off the planet.  They leave behind one of their astronauts, played by Matt Damon of course, since they thought he was dead.  Proof that NASA should use the buddy system.  Turns out he didn't die and has to find a way to survive on Mars while they figure a way to get back to the planet and save him.  In the meantime, since it takes years to get back to Mars, Earth years not Mars years mind you, he has to find a way to survive.  Such as growing his own food.  And creating water.

Directed by Ridley Scott, who has done a few good sci-fi films here and there, this is more of a drama that is based in science fiction.  Which is why the film works and feels somewhat realistic.  Great special effects as well.  But how did it rank for the other nominated films of 2015?

Since this is the second film I am reviewing from that year, it is now in first place with Mad Max nipping on it's heels in second place.



Monday, May 15, 2017

A Nice Drive in the Desert

As I had recently mentioned, and gentle reminders of bricks through my window from the blog's board of directors, I will do individual posts of the remaining movies I have seen.  And today is the first one I saw from 2015, Mad Max Fury Road.  There are a number of rumors floating around about the film which I can put an end to here and now.

Q: Is this a sequel to the third Mad Max movie?
A: There were only two real Mad Max movies, please don't tell me you actually saw the third one?

Q: I, um, no, what third movie?  I mean, is this film a sequel?
A: No, not really.  It is the fourth movie in the Mad Max franchise.

Q: Is it a sequel to Death of a Salesman?
A: No.

Q: Is it bigger than a bread box?
A: Were you dropped on your head as a baby?

Q: Hey, whose asking the questions here?
A: Okay, fine.

Q: Alright then, what about it being a sequel to The Grapes of Wraith?
A: Officially no, but technically, you could easily make that argument.

Q: Why are you answering questions instead of giving a review of the film?
A: Well, I actually have an answer for that question, but seeing your tone and attitude, I'm not going to answer you.

Q: Come on, please?  I'm sorry.  I want to hear your answer.
A: No.

Are they gone?  Good.  So while I have a few moments before the next question is asked I will give a review of Mad Max Fury Road.  It was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.  It won six, mainly the technical categories including one for Best Editing.  It was a surprise by many to hear when the Best Pictures were announced that it was one of the films nominated.  Or at least I was.

Well, they were right.  This is one of the best action adventure films I have seen in a long time.  The story isn't very complex, a futuristic post apocalyptic world where our main character is captured in the beginning and taken in as a blood bag for an injured warrior.  He eventually ends up with Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, who is trying to escape from the great tyrant and takes his wives.  This leads to an all out crazy chase and fight in the desert.  Then they get to their destination and decide to turn back and deal with it all over again.  I know, not a very complex script.

But the special effects, the costumes, the makeup and the overall feel of the film is terrific.  A lot of work went into making these scenes and it shows.  Don't watch this to absorb a complex drama and contemplate the meaning of life.  Watch this to see some crazy car chases and super cool explosions.

Since this is the first of the nominated films of 2015 I have seen and posted about, it is the top film.  I have seen three others and will post on them next and don't be surprised, but Mad Max will fall down in the ranking.





Q: Wait, did I make it?  I made it, right?  There's the preview below, I must have made it in time.  You only put a preview at the end of your posts.
A: Okay, you made it.  What is your question?

Q: Um, great, I forgot.  I don't believe this, but I actually forgot.  Wait, I remember now!  Is there a way for people to sign up for your blog?
A: Thank you for reminding me.  That's right, I now have a gadget installed in the upper right hand corner.  Please enter your email address and you will get automatic updates of my next rant, or diatribe or harangue.



Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Audit Time

The Board of Directors of The Academy Award Project have demanded that I produce an audit of the Best Pictures I have seen and posted about.  They didn't state directly that they would cut off my funding, so it wasn't a threat.  But I'm sure if it wasn't tied to a brick and thrown through my living room window I might have viewed it differently.  Lucky for me that I don't get offended easily and know that the board members are honorable people who were no where near my house last Thursday at 8:50 pm.

Since I've started the blog I have written about 512 films.  I have seen 520 films nominated for Best Picture and 537 films overall have been nominated and won Best Picture.  Of the eight that haven't been posted, four are from 2015 and four are from 2016.  I also have one on the DVR from 2015 that I will try and watch soon.

So stay tuned in the next few days as I will start giving reviews on additional movies.  I plan on changing my style of posting five to eight films at once every two to three months and do one at a time every few days.  This will allow me more time to replace my living room window.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A to Z Challenge - Z is for Zilch

Can't believe I actually made it through the entire A to Z Challenge.  I want to thank everyone who has been reading this blog, thank you for the wonderful comments and I plan on keeping it more active.  I don't think every day is a reality right now with work being crazy, but I can see at least two or three posts a week.  I have films I've seen that I need to review so please keep an eye out for new posts.

As for today, I have a quandary.  I've been able to find a movie for each letter of the alphabet to write about, even letter X, although I was nearly shut down by the A to Z Advisory Council.  But I am not afraid of them anymore.  What can they do to me on the last day of the challenge?

There were three films that have been nominated with the letter Z, all three are not that great.  The least worst is Zorba the Greek.  Granted Anthony Quinn was nominated for Best Actor, the film is painful to watch.  Even at the end when everything is destroyed with the tree moving attempt down the mountain you think Basil would have the normal reaction of strangling Zorba.  No, he asks him to teach him how to dance.  Stupid ending, almost as bad as the American remake of The Vanishing.

The next worst film is Zero Dark Thirty which I am still trying to figure out what was this movie about?  I've narrowed it down to a vehicle to funnel laundered drug money or some propaganda piece from a hidden office in the White House basement.  And the worst is Z by the horrible director Costa Gavras, but I apologize for being redundant there.

So that leaves me no other option to find the next best film with letter Z in the title.  Or at least one that is much better than those three.  And I found it, the 1974 science fiction disaster Zardoz.  That's right with Sean Connery running around half naked as Zed the brutal exterminator who sneaks into the Vortex to teach the immortals about death.

Am I thumbing my nose at the A to Z Advisory Council?  You bet I am.  But I can type faster than they can shut me down.  I'm going off the rails on the last day and they can't stop me.  (If there was a way to symbolize a mic drop, it would be here)




































       ATTENTION---ATTENTION---ATTENTION

This is the A to Z Advisory Council interrupting this blog since it is not following the guidelines and, hey wait where is everyone?  Did we miss the blog?  How is this my fault?  I'm the one who said we should get it to go.  Oh right, now that is just insulting.  What?  You actually like Zardoz?  Fine, we'll move on to the next blog.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A to Z Challenge - Y is for You Can't Argue with Three Oscars in Five Years

Today's film in the A to Z Challenge is the Best Picture from 1938, the Frank Capra classic You Can't Take It With You.  As you can tell from the title of the post, it was his third Best Director in five years.  It Happened One Night in 1934 and Mr. Deed Goes to Town in 1936.  He directed this classic from the popular play and it earned seven nominations, winning two for picture and director.

Staring the great Lionel Barrymore, my personal favorite actor, a young James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, and Spring Byington who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  It's a heartfelt comedy and as close as you can get to a perfect film.  The acting, the comedy, everything works so well.

The main story is Lionel Barrymore's character won't sell his house and as a result a factory can't be built.  The builder is Edward Arnold who doesn't realize that his son is love with a stenographer who happens to be Lionel Barrymore's granddaughter.  And his home is a kind of art and science community where everyone does what they like.  You can guess where this is heading where the family will be kicked out of their home, but don't forget this is a Capra movie so you know it's going to be a happy ending.

This is one of my favorite Lionel Barrymore films, he is so good as Grandpa Vanderhof, he really carries this movie.  But that can be said about him in practically every film he's in.  One of the siblings of the great Barrymore acting family, Older brother to the great John Barrymore and probably the greatest actress of the twentieth century, Ethel Barrymore.  His range is complete.  From his Oscar winning role as an alcoholic attorney in A Free Soul, to the meek office worker in Grand Hotel, all the Dr. Kildare movies, and of course Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life.  No matter what you see him in he always gives everything he's got into his role.

And don't forget that this was one year before the epic 1939 and as film critics have said that was pretty much the best year in Hollywood.  One year off is not going to be any less as good.  This is a classic you rarely see, so if you can catch it, watch and enjoy.


Friday, April 28, 2017

A to Z Challenge - X is for X Rated

Today is letter X in the A to Z Challenge.  And since there is no film that was nominated or won Best Picture with the letter X there is a film that can be used. Today's movie is the 1969 Best Picture winner Midnight Cowboy.  Now you may be asking, why Midnight Cowboy?  Well, the answer is simple, it was--


ATTENTION---ATTENTION---ATTENTION

This is the A to Z Advisory Council interrupting this blog since it is not following the guidelines and choosing a film without the letter X as the starting title which is a violation of Article XXIII Section 5 Subsection--

Me: Excuse me, but you are interrupting my blog!
A to Z: I think we made that clear in our announcement that we interrupting your blog.
Me: You have no right to do so.
A to Z: We can since you are claiming that Midnight Cowboy can be used to represent letter X.  Unless you are a bad speller.
Me: Yes, actually I am a really bad speller.
A to Z: Wow, wasn't expecting that.  Most writers don't admit to bad spelling.
Me: It's been that way my whole life.  In fact when I was in a spelling bee in the fifth grade--
A to Z: Save it for your therapist.  We are here to stop you since Midnight Cowboy is not spelled with a letter X.
Me: It can be if you put a silent one in front of it.
A to Z: If you spelled Midnight Cowboy as XMidnight Cowboy it would be pronounced as Shmidnight Cowboy.  That doesn't make any sense.
Me: Well no, but if it is a silent X you can.
A to Z: That's the dumbest thing we've ever heard of.  By that logic you could put every letter in front of a word and make then silent.  Not good enough.  The Council will now decide--
Me: You do realize that Midnight Cowboy was the first film rated X to win Best Picture.
A to Z: (mumbling in the background) Nice try, all of us here have seen the film and it wasn't a porno.
Me: You're using today's rating standards.  When the film was released in 1969 rated X meant that no one under the age of seventeen was allowed to see it. Unlike rated R where a minor could see the movie provided they were accompanied by an adult.
A to Z: Well,--
Me: In fact I have a copy of the movie poster I keep folded up in my wallet.  Let me show you.  It's here somewhere, no not there oh wait, maybe back here by my Social Security card.
A to Z: Is your Social Security card laminated?
Me: Yes it is.
A to Z: Why would you do that?
Me: Because it said Do Not Laminate on the card.  Aha, I found it!  Here it is, see for yourself.
A to Z: That's a drawing of a goat wearing roller skates.
Me: Look on the other side.
A to Z: Well, you might be right.  (Murmuring)  Fine, the A to Z Advisory Council has voted to allow you to do your blog post for today.  But no more shenanigans, we'll be watching you.

Okay, I think it's safe.  Boy, that was close.  I've heard stories of the A to Z Advisory Council but never thought that I'd have to deal with them personally. Anyway, yes Midnight Cowboy was the first rated X movie to win Best Picture so that is why I have it representing letter X today.

It was nominated for seven Oscars, winning three for Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay.  It stars Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, who were also both nominated for Best Actor but lost to John Wayne who was given a lifetime achievement Oscar for True Grit.

The film is not a porno since an X rating was given due to the adult themes within the film.  Today this would be considered a hard R or by today's standards not as shocking as it was in the late 60's.  Jon Voight comes to New York City to become a gigolo and quickly finds himself not being very successful.  He meets Dustin Hoffman who is basically a two bit con man and eventually bonds with him as he finds himself homeless and having to do work that he wasn't expecting a male prostitute has to do in New York City.  All the while Dustin Hoffman is getting sicker and they decide to go to Florida.

Besides being rather depressing and gritty, this is a very good drama.  But it symbolizes so much more.  In The Heat of the Night broke the door open from the years of musicals and epics winning Best Picture, this film slammed the door.  The year before Oliver won Best Picture, a musical.  The next musical to win was Chicago in 2002.  Midnight Cowboy is the changing point in Hollywood as well. Look at the movies made in the early 1970's, very much in the style of this film. Basically it was a game changer and it being rated X got everyone's attention that Hollywood is changing.

So, while the A to Z Advisory Council is still monitoring my post, the letter X is what people remember about Midnight Cowboy and that is why it is the movie for today.  Please watch the clip below to the end to see my favorite scene when Dustin Hoffman yells at the taxi in the road "I'm walkin' here, I'm walkin' here!"


Thursday, April 27, 2017

A to Z Challenge - W is for What Not to do When Guests Come Over

Getting to the end of the alphabet on the A to Z Challenge and today's post for letter W is the 1966 intense drama, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  It was an adaptation of the powerful Edward Albee play and was nominated for thirteen Oscars, basically in every category it was eligible and only the second film since Cimarron in 1931.

Major awards for Elizabeth Taylor for Best Actress, her second, and Sandy Dennis's only Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  Also staring Richard Burton and George Segal, this is one of the greatest dramas put on screen.  The film centers on the four characters over one evening with really no other actors.

Richard Burton is an associate professor at a small college and is marred to Elizabeth Taylor who is the College President's daughter.  Their relationship is far from healthy with them constantly throwing insulting barbs at one another.  They have over another young professor from the college with his wife to have drinks. The fighting and conflicts continue and escalate to an extreme point.  If you haven't seen it, be prepared to be uncomfortable with the tension and arguing but stick it through to the end, it is worth it.

While this could have easily won Best Picture, it did go up against probably the best film of the decade, A Man for All Seasons.  And this also hurt Richard Burton having to compete against Paul Scofield.  It was a well deserved Oscar for Elizabeth Taylor who had worked hard over the past fifteen years to become a good actress, and this film shows how good she became.

I've heard criticisms about her acting and I disagree.  While she wasn't a natural, she worked hard to perfect her craft.  Compare her in A Place in the Sun and in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and tell me she isn't a good actress.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A to Z Challenge - V is for Victory!

Letter V in the A to Z Challenge is the 1934 Best Picture nominee Viva Villa! staring Wallace Beery as Pancho Villa and also staring Fay Wray.  It is a fictionalized film about his life, but does have some good fighting scenes.

Most of the film takes place during the early twentieth century when Panco Villa was rising in power as a rebel leader in Mexico.  He is convinced to start fighting for liberty and joins up to fight against the government.  He also takes a liking to an American newspaper reporter Johnny Sykes who reports on Pancho's exploits. Eventually he is exported, comes back and is a horrible leader and steps down when he is assassinated in a revenge killing.

I'll be honest, there aren't many films that were nominated with the letter V, so I took the oldest one I could find.  And Wallace Beery was a great actor who does a good over the top version of Pancho Villa, so that alone is worth watching it.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A to Z Challenge - U is for Upended by a Horse

A to Z Challenge for today and the letter U is dedicated to the last Western to win Best Picture, 1992's Unforgiven.  Nominated for nine Oscars and winner of four including Clint Eastwood's first Oscar for Best Director and a Supporting Oscar to Gene Hackman.  This was only the third Western to win Best Picture along with Cimerron back in 1931 and only two years after Dances With Wolves won. Westerns are not often recognized by the Academy when Oscar season rolls around.

This is not your typical Western.  Westerns in the 1930's were pretty much B movies.  In the 1940's you had John Ford style Westerns, I say that because everyone was trying to make another Stagecoach, which were dramas set in nineteenth century western America.  This changed to the more popular family style Westerns of the 1950's and early 60's.  Spaghetti Westerns, Italian Westerns that ironically were filmed in Spain, became the standard during the late 60's and into the 70's.  Hollywood Westerns were not as good by comparison, with maybe an exception of Sam Peckinpah.  By the late 1970's Westerns were almost all gone, except for Clint Eastwood.

Making his start in television Westerns, Clint Eastwood went to Italy and became a star in some of the most iconic Spaghetti Westerns.  He came back to Hollywood and continued to make some great movies all through the 1970's and 80's.  When the Western became popular again in the early 90's he made this movie.  Which is not like other Clint Eastwood Westerns, hence why I came up with today's title.  I'll explain after a summary of the movie and what that means and why I knew from one scene that this was the best film of the year.

The film has a collection of great actors, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman and even an appearance by Richard Harris.  The story is after a prostitute has her face cut with a knife, the rest of the women in the brothel put a bounty on the heads of the men responsible.  A young gunslinger seeks out Will Munny, played by Clint Eastwood, since he was a fierce killer years ago.  When he finds him, he is a widower with two small children and a farm.  He is not interested in getting involved, but changes his mind in order to get the money. On the way he gets his old buddy Ned Logan, played by Morgan Freeman to come along.  They head to the town where the sheriff played by Gene Hackman is a sadistic violent man who doesn't want any killing in his town and bans any weapons.  The challenge is can they complete the assassinations without being caught.

That may sound like a standard Western movie, but this one was so different. Unlike the standard Western where the good guys wear white and the bad guys wear black, there are no real heroes.  There are villains ranging from wanting to try and be a tough guy, to outright violent killers.  The film is dark, depressing and more than that, probably much closer to reality than most other Westerns.

But there was one scene in the early part of the film that made me realize that this was the Best Picture of the year and one of the best Westerns I've ever seen. It's the scene when Clint Eastwood attempts to get on his horse and is upended and thrown to the ground.  I saw the film in the theater with my wife, in fact we were still dating at the time.  The theater had about twelve to twenty people, many other couples like us.  When Clint Eastwood hit the ground every guy in the theater gasped.

Me: (In utter shock, and whispering) Clint Eastwood fell off the horse.
Wife: Yeah.
Me: No, you don't get it.  Clint Eastwood fell off the horse.
Wife: I saw that.
Me: (getting frantic)  No, you don't understand.  Clint Eastwood fell off the horse!
Wife: So?
Me: Clint Eastwood never falls off a horse!

I'm sure the same conversation was happening with every other guy and his wife, girlfriend or date as well in the theater.  Up to that point, every Clint Eastwood Western I'd ever seen, he was the man.  As the stranger with no name in the Spaghetti Westerns through High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Pale Rider, he was the tough, cool, collected, epitome of the tough fearless gunslinger.  For my generation, he replaced John Wayne as the Western hero.  To see him take on a role where he would expose himself and fall off a horse made me realize that this was not going to be like any other Western.  And it isn't, which is why it won Best Picture.

Please note that this is a scene from later in the film (spoiler alert) and is very violent.


Monday, April 24, 2017

A to Z Challenge - T is for Take the Time to Look Over Everything in a Murder Trial

The last week of the A to Z Challenge and feeling proud of myself for making it continuously this far.  Letter T is today and the film is the classic 1957 courtroom drama 12 Angry Men.  Nominated for three Oscars, Best Picture, Best Director and Adapted Screenplay, it lost out on all three to The Bridge on the River Kwai. This film is a rarity for the 1950's, not many gripping dramas were made during this decade or didn't get as much recognition as this film.

The movie has an all star cast including Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Henry Fonda, Ed Bagley and others who are twelve jurors who have to decide beyond a reasonable doubt if a young man is guilty of murder.  The film takes place inside the juror's room and the drama is between the characters as they review the information and decide on a decision.  Everyone is in a hurry and ready to pronounce the young man guilty except for one juror who wants to make sure that they aren't rushing to judgement.

The acting is superb and the tension builds as the film moves along.  This is one of those films that is enjoyable from start to finish and is an American classic.  It also reminds us that the responsibility of a jury is to review all evidence and information gathered in the trial to ensure that the convicted get a fair trial.  And most of all that we always remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. On a side note a very good Russian remake was made fifty years later and called 12. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and follows the original rather closely but it adapted to Russian culture and is a very good film to catch sometime after you've seen the original.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

A to Z Challenge - S is for Saving the Lives of His Fellow Soldiers

Starting to get to the end of the A to Z Challenge and today's movie is the 1941 classic Sergeant York.  Based on the life of Alvin York who was one of the most decorated soldiers from WWI, this film was nominated for eleven Oscars and won two, the most notably was Gary Cooper for Best Actor.  There is actually very interesting trivia about Gary Cooper playing this role, more on that later.

The film starts with Alvin York as a young man in Tennessee and pretty much doesn't have much to be proud about except his exceptional marksmanship.  He has a life changing experience while he was going to get revenge on someone who reneged on a deal.  Basically he is struck by lightning and finds his way to a church, this changes his life.  When he is drafted for WWI he wants to become a conscientious objector but is allowed by his officers to take time to think it over. He changes his mind and ends up in Europe.

On October 8th, 1918 during the Muese-Argonne offensive, his unit is pinned down.  As the only uninjured non-commissioned officer he is sent to attack the machine gun nest from behind.  His marksmanship takes down the Germans and is able to capture an officer who he demands to surrender his men.  In total he individually captured 132 soldiers.  When asked why he risked his life, he said it was to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.  Sergeant York comes back to America as a war hero and goes back to Tennessee where he finds that land has been purchased for him to farm and a house built for him.

Before WWI Alvin York was a well known war hero but there was never a movie made about him.  He turned down many offers until in 1940 he needed money to build a bible school and finally agreed to allow his life be made into a movie under one condition.  That Gary Cooper play him in the movie.  Apparently Gary Cooper said no but Alvin York contacted him directly and made him change his mind.

When Gary Cooper won the Oscar he said it was Sergeant Alvin Cooper who won this award.  He has said it was his favorite film not because he won an Oscar but because of the background of the picture, and because he was portraying a good, sound American character.

This was a big movie seventy five years ago and should be rediscovered again.


Friday, April 21, 2017

A to Z Challenge - R is for Reciting The Gettysburg Address in a Saloon

Up to the letter R in the A to Z Challenge and I choose the classic comedy from 1935 Ruggles of Red Gap.  One of the twelve films nominated for Best Picture that year, which was the only the second year that was done and the last time ever. Staring the great actor Charles Laughton in a fish out of the water comedy that also has the classic silent screen star Zasu Pitts.

The film starts in Paris in 1908 where an American rancher who is newly self made millionaire wins the butler, played by Charles Laughton, of a Lord in a poker game.  His wife wants to bring Ruggles back with them to Washington State since it will give them an air of class.  But when they get back home and before it can be announced that Ruggles is their new manservant he is mistaken as an English Colonel.  This is only made worse by Ruggles being out of place as an English butler in a small western rural community.  He starts to get an appreciation of the American concept of freedom and decides to open his own restaurant.

The most memorial scene of the movie is where Charles Laughton recites the Gettysburg Address to a saloon of people.  In fact Charles Laughton has stated that his reading during the movie was one of the moving things to happen to him. Watch the clip below and you will understand, it is an incredible scene that you won't forget.

As well besides being a great comedy and directed by Leo McCarey who also directed Duck Soup, many films of the 1930's are not remembered for comedy. But movies are a reflection of their time and during the depression people wanted to enjoy themselves, to escape, to laugh.  That's why you would have Busby Berkeley musical numbers, or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance sequences, and some of the funniest comedies ever made.  During bad economic times many great comedies are produced.

And one last thought about Charles Laughton, who is so different in this film than other roles where he is most remembered.  His Oscar winning portrayal of  King Henry VIII is his most known.  Or Captain Bligh from Mutiny on the Bounty.  This one he is much different and shows his acting range.  It's one of my personal favorites and I hope you enjoy it too.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

A to Z Challenge - Q is for Quite a Classic for John Ford

For the A to Z Challenge for Academy Award winners and nominees, there isn't much to choose from with the letter Q.  Only four movies started with the letter Q, but your choice becomes much easier when only one of them was directed by John Ford.  So today is dedicated to The Quiet Man the 1952 Best Picture nominee, as well as being nominated for seven in total and winning two, Best Cinematography, which is obvious if you've seen this film and of course Best Director, John Ford's fourth one.

Orson Welles was once asked which film directors he most admired, he responded with "I like the old Masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford and John Ford".  And this is no different than any of his other masterpieces.  Staring John Wayne as a retired boxer who goes to Ireland and falls in love with Maureen O'Hara.  Conflict ensues with Irish customs and traditions that eventually leads to an epic fist fight and a happy ending.  I know I'm over simplifying the movie here, but the film is so beautifully shot and acted, that you will enjoy this classic no matter what.

And if you are a fan of John Wayne, like I am, you will enjoy him being John Wayne.  It's not a western, but still a great job by the Duke.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A to Z Challenge - P is for Pushing the Envelope of Independent Film

Today's post for the letter P in the A to Z Challenge is the 1994 groundbreaking film Pulp Fiction.  Revered by many, despised by few, this film helped change Hollywood and the movie industry.  Nominated for seven Academy Awards, winner of the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, it has become a modern day classic.

The film is disjointed and told out chronological order.  It involves gangsters and other characters who fall below respectability over the course of a few days in Los Angeles.  Great acting and a really good script make this film enjoyable.  It's not worth it to give a description of the stories, it's better to watch it and put the pieces together after it's over.

The significance of the film in the history of Hollywood is important because it opened the door for independent films.  Pulp Fiction was not picked up by a major studio, and those who have seen it can understand why.  But Miramax decided to distribute it and it became an instant hit.  In fact where there were very few independent or formally known as low budget movies, nominated for Best Picture, two years later four of the five films nominated were independent movies and The English Patient, an independent film, won Best Picture.

But it's more than that.  The Independent Film Channel (IFC) has claimed that Pulp Fiction was one of the most influential movies of the 1990's and most definitely benefited from the popularity.  Another item about this movie was making villains to be a full character and not flat.  Many films don't focus on the villain but the hero or protagonist.  The villain is someone who is unemotional, has no personality and usually has a bad accent.  The difference with Pulp Fiction is first you find out about the characters, their opinions, their values, get to know them and then find out that they are the villains.

Another thing I admire about Quentin Tarantino, and there are not many things I do, but is his use of music in his films.  This one is no exception.  A mix of surfer music, funk, soul, classic rock and country are so well dispersed throughout the film that they work with the scenes they are in.  The awkwardness of John Travolta and Uma Thurman at dinner is made perfect with Link Wray's Rumble being played in the background.  Or the opening with Dick Dale & His Del-Tones playing Misirlou is so powerful.  And there is no way anyone who has seen the film can ever listen to The Revels Comanche and not think of the scene in the basement of the pawnshop.

There are so many good scenes from this film, but I had to choose my favorite of Samuel Jackson doing Ezekiel 25:17.  Please note that there is a good deal of foul language and it is a violent scene if you have not seen it before or just a warning if you are offended.