Monday, January 30, 2012

Don't Mess with Israel

Saw another three films. You should be able to guess from the title that one of them was Munich. Also the original Heaven Can Wait, which is not the same as the sequel which was another film redone, I'll explain when I get to it. And not to forget Captain Blood, that's why I'm running around with a sword today, not because of my overdose of meth.

Munich (2005) - The 362nd film was also the last film I needed to see for 2005 making that the 25th year I have completed. The film is a historic drama based on the events at the 1972 Olympics when Israeli athletes were killed by terrorists and the Israeli government developing a secret opps group to kill the organizers of the attack. It's loosely based on one of the people involved with the assassinations, but it truly can't be confirmed. Like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, there is no way to disprove Chuck Berris's claim of being a CIA agent, the same is with Munich. There is no way to confirm the validity of the film, but it still was a very well done drama. It follows a team as they hunt down the terrorists throughout Europe and their cold blooded assassinations of them. Great action and once again reminding you that Israel is a country you don't want to mess with.

Now that I have seen all films from 2005 I can confirm that Crash was the best with Munich coming in as a close second, mainly since the film dragged a bit but still had a great ending. If you match Crash with Munich they both appear to be as equally good but as you go further into each film Crash just comes out slightly better. Third would be Capote, mainly due to Philip Semour Hoffman. Fourth is Brokeback Mountain and last is Good Night, and Good Luck. that is good luck trying to watch it without your eyes bleeding.

Heaven Can Wait (1943) - Here is my confusion, there is a 1978 film nominated for best picture called Heaven Can Wait but its based on Here Comes Mr. Jordan and not the original Heaven Can Wait which is a different movie. This would be like if I decided to remake Apocalypse Now but call it Raiders of the Lost Ark. Then once you find out that it was co-written, directed and produced by Warren Beatty, you realize that he is an idiot.

The Heaven Can Wait from 1943 is about a man who just died and is with Satan in his fancy art deco office making his point that he is supposed to be there. Satan is not sure and hears his life story. Turns out he was a womanizer who stole his wife from his cousin, always cheated on her, kept chasing women after she dies, salt of the earth type. And then Satan tells him that he belongs in heaven and not hell. My guess is that the screenplay wasn't written by a council of ministers or the Catholic Church. Does have Don Ameche and that old Technicolor that looks like footage from the 1939 World Fair.

A cute film, not bad, but compared to Casablanca? Nowhere in the same class.

Captain Blood (1935) - The classic swashbuckling film with Errol Flynn as Captain Blood, a mild mannered doctor who is arrested for treating a revolutionary in late 1600's England and sent to the Caribbean as a slave. This is the first half of the film, he escapes with his crew when the Spaniards attack, steal their ship and becomes a pirate. An honorable pirate who fights Basil Rathbone for the always beautiful Olivia de Havilland. You know Basil is evil because he has a French accent and a thin mustache. Great battle scenes, sword fights and not stop action. Still holds its own after all these years. But to go against Mutiny on the Bounty, another sailing film, it couldn't win. That and Mutiny on the Bounty was better.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dinner with Nck and Nora and Asta

Got around to seeing the classic comedy The Thin Man, finally. All I knew of this film previously was Asta and that's because its a common clue in crossword puzzles.

The Thin Man (1934) - The 361st film I've seen so far. Staring William Powell, Myrna Loy and a young Cesar Romero. Also has Nat Pendleton who stared in many of the Dr. Kildare films as the oaf orderly who always gets Lionel Barrymore angry at him. The film is a murder mystery, but a great comedy. Really funny throw away lines, sight gags and William Powell and Myrna Loy have great chemistry, they look and act like a married couple.

I've now seen almost half of the films nominated for 1934 and have been lucky to see three great comedies (It Happened One Night, The Thin Man and Here Comes The Navy). There are two types of comedy films, films that are relevant to their time making fun of pop culture and films that have lasting comedic value. This is one of them. Seventy five years later and you are still laughing makes it one of the top films of that year. Not good enough to beat out It Happened One Night, but definitely in the top three right now.

78% Accuracy

I guessed 7 of the 9 films that were nominated for best picture of 2011. The two that I missed are ones that nobody would of guessed, they came out of left field. So the films I picked were:

The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Midnight In Paris
War Horse

and the two that were not on my list:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Tree Of Life

Seeing how there are nine films and not the maximum of ten, leads me to believe that there won't be much competition this year for best picture. Will a 51 and 84 year drought be broken? Can Woody Allen win a fourth Oscar? Why was Albert Brooks snubbed for supporting actor?

I'll post my predictions a few hours before the award ceremony. This is because the love of my life, my beautiful wife, have a fierce competition every year when it comes to picking the Oscars. It first started as a fun competition but now has grown into civil war. The winner used to get great prizes, never mind you what they were, but it grew more into moral superiority as all marriages do. But since she does read this blog, I won't give her any clues, otherwise I might lose.

If you are reading my wonderful wife, I'll give you one clue: The Muppets have a 50-50 chance of winning best song.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Two more from the 40's

Got around to watching two more films a few days ago. It so happened that they were from the 1940's, one was the oldest film on the DVR and now all films taped in October are done. The other was three hours long and it's much easier to watch it on a Sunday than during the week. I hate splitting up a movie over two, sometimes three days. I would rather watch it in one sitting, even if I pause it, I hate waiting to the next day to finish a film.

The Little Foxes (1941) - The 359th film was an adaption of Lillian Hellman play based on a southern family in the early 20th century who is slipping financially. Terrific acting by Bettie Davis, Charles Dingle and Patricia Collinge. The story has each sibling fighting each other for power and money. The film is well done, great costumes, felt that the script was a bit dry and dragging at times. Otherwise a good film. Not as good as Citizen Kane, or How Green Was My Valley, but worthy of Oscar nominations.

Since You Went Away (1944) - Film number 360 was a standard WWII drama, kind of an American version of Mrs. Miniver. Claudette Colbert is a mother who's husband has just gone off to war and it shows how she keeps her family together. Even has the great Lionel Barrymore in a cameo piece, who's on the screen less than two minutes, but you won't forget him. Joseph Cotton, Shirley Temple, Jennifer Jones, Robert Walker and even Agnes"Endora" Moorehead. A full all-star cast. While most period films usually don't keep relevance over time, like Forest Gump, this film really makes you fell like it's 1943. I didn't live during that time, but the feeling you get from watching this movie is that you are there with them. Someone commented that this film is so good you don't want it to end, I have to agree. Even though it's three hours, it goes very fast. I would say almost as good as Going My Way, maybe even better. Still got two more films to compare to, I'll have to wait until then.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Oscar Predictions

Since whatever gets nominated I will need to watch, I guess it's a good idea to try and predict which films will be nominated for best picture. In the past I wouldn't pay attention but just going on what was advertised in late December as a big movie and not think about it until they were announced. Seeing how I am doing a blog now and my goal is to see every film nominated for best picture, I have been watching a bit more closely this year.

Since 2009 the rules have been changed allowing up to ten films that can be nominated. There will always be a minimum of five, but it doesn't have to be ten. A film needs to get a minimum of five percent to be eligible. The academy sends out ballots in late December allowing voters about two and a half weeks to vote. They take a week and a half to tabulate and will be making the announcement this year on Tuesday January 24th. Beginning of February ballots are mailed, about three weeks to get them in and at the end of the month the big show.

My guess is that there will be ten nominees this year, there appears to be enough good films out there to garner enough votes to make the threshold. I should mention that I have not seen any of these movies since I prefer to watch films in the comfort of my house as opposed to going to a movie theater. The only film I did see in the theater last year I know won't be nominated, Atlas Shrugged Part I, but I'm glad that at least it was made.

The following I am very confident will be nominated:

The Artist
The Descendants
Midnight in Paris

All of these have been nominated for other awards, The Artist and The Descendants both winning Golden Globes for best Musical/Comedy and best Drama. Hugo is Martin Scorsese so he will also get a best director nod as well. Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen so he will also get a best screenplay nod as well, not too sure if he will get a best director, but just might. Moneyball has been mentioned as one of the best films of the year, it seems like a natural fit.

The remaining films on the list are a bit of a guess:

Adventures of Tin Tin
The Help
J. Edgar
War Horse

I don't think any of these will win, but they will get enough votes to put them on the ballot. I know 50/50 is a film about someone dealing with cancer, that will tug heartstrings and get nominated. There is always a kids film on the list, seeing how Adventures of Tin Tin won the Golden Globe, seems like a good guess. The Help I'm rather confident it will get in the top ten and very confident it won't win. J. Edgar is a bio pic, usually good for a nomination, and is a Clint Eastwood film which may get him a best director possibly. I would be confident that Leonardo DiCaprio will get a best actor nomination. War Horse is a Steven Spielberg movie, so it will get a nomination based on that I believe.

In a few days I'll know how correct I am, and then try to figure out who will win.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vicki Lester? Vicki Lester. Vicki Lester!

As you can guess from the title I just watched A Star Is Born. I have an update of four films that I have just recently seen, I'll start with the 1937 classic.

A Star Is Born (1937) - This is film number 355 I have seen of the 485 nominated so far. This is the original version that was remade two times later. I haven't seen the others but I vaguely remember the 1970's one with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, I think it was a musical or probably had some singing. All I can remember was that I think it was on channel 4, Kris Kristofferson had his shirt off and I think he fell of a motorcycle. Not sure if that was in the film and don't plan to verify it any time soon. I know Babara Streisand is a talented actress and sings well, but I did see Prince of Tides and that is enough of her for a long time. Kris Kristofferson was a singer who became an actor or the other way around, but not that great ether way. He was good in Heaven's Gate except when he looks like 50 at his college graduation.

The film is a classic Hollywood success story of a girl from the mid-west going to Hollywood and becoming a star. The film is in technicolor so it has that faded retro look of old WWII films done in color. Janet Gaynor is the bright eyed young woman who wins her way into the arms of Fredrick March, a leading actor who is a massive drunk. Am I crazy or did Fredrick March look like a young Robert Duvall? Also the great Andy Devine who was a staple in many westerns and some classic John Wayne movies. And not to forget Adolphe Menjou whom I had not seen before I stated this project, but I am beginning to see in many of the films I have been watching, and he was a great actor.

This is from a very different time, a time when the media didn't cover all the mishaps of actors. The studios would pay off police and the newspapers to keep their actors from public embarrassment. Not saying this was better or worse than today, just different. Lionel Stander, mostly known for the butler on Hart to Hart in the 1980's plays the studio publicity director who has to clear these things up.

Overall it is a great movie. It's listed as a drama but it very much like a comedy with great throw away lines and funny scenes. Much better than I though it would be, but still not as good as The Life of Emile Zola, but close.

Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935) - The second film I saw was Broadway Melody of 1936, doesn't look like it was a sequel of the 1929 Best Picture, just a standard depression era film. Full of songs, dance scenes and great costumes, this was the type of movie you would go to see and forget the failings of the incompetent Roosevelt economic policies. Even though it is a musical, I was surprised to see Jack Benny as one of the lead actors, and he made it worth watching.

Just like A Star is Born, this too is from a different time. Jack Benny is a newspaper reporter who constantly is attacking Robert Taylor who is producing a new Broadway play. How does he handle this, he goes to Jack Benny's office and beats him up after each article is negatively written about him. Try and see that happen today. And how does the editor of the newspaper handle this, he gives Jack Benny a raise for being so hated. Yep, a different time.

Otherwise there isn't much plot except for making up a famous singer to fool the producer who's high school sweetheart then pretends to be. It is neat to see Buddy Ebsen tap dancing, man was he tall. Doesn't match up to Mutiny on the Bounty at all, but it does have the big musical finale that is expected.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) - How did I get stuck with another musical? Simple, I watch movies in the order that I tape them. The oldest film on the DVR after Broadway Melody of 1936 was this one. A movie from a simpler time in Oregon, when a trapper could go to town and trade his pelts for flour, molasses and a wife. The film also shows that marriage by capture is the only way to get a wife. Just kidnap the woman you want, keep her on your farm until the pass melts and when her family arrives she won't want to leave. Just like real life, except that you'll be in jail for the rest of your life.

Lavish dancing scenes, obviously from ballet dancers dressed as woodsmen, but rather comical at times. Not a great film, especially when compared to On The Waterfront, but what you would expect from the 1950's.

Bound for Glory (1976) - I jumped on the list and watched Bound for Glory right after it taped, mainly since it was the last film of 1976 that I need to see. The Woody Guthrie story as preformed by Kung Fu David Carradine and Melinda "You'll shoot your eye out" Dillon, the mom from A Christmas Story.

The film covers the late 1930's part of Woody's life, years before Arlo was born, as he leaves Texas to go to California and becomes a folk music star. You could watch this film and see that he was an artist who wanted to perform his music how he wanted. You can also see that he was an adulterer who would abandon his family and sabotage his career when things would be going good for him. Lot of well known music and does drag on pretty long, but most films of the 1970's were longer than usual.

To make a final comparison of 1976, the best picture was Network. A film that 35 years later is still relevant and such a great drama. Right up next to it in a very close second is Taxi Driver, a powerful, intense, gripping movie that is so good. Solidly in third is Rocky, a good movie that could have won other years, say 1983, but not this year. Forth is All The President's Men about Watergate and fifth would be Bound for Glory. Not because it was bad, but it went up against four really good films.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


The last of my summary posts. The 2000's is a decade where films are more professional than ever. Special effects are the best they've ever been. The movies are as good as the 90's, a bit better I would say, so it looks like there is a continuous upward trend in quality. So far the 2010's have continued the trend and there is a good chance we will catch up to the 1970's one day soon, I hope.

And here is the last of what I've seen so far. Look close, there may just be a bio-pic hidden in there.

Films I have seen - Gladiator (Best Picture), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Traffic
Films I have not seen - Chocolat
Analysis - Gladiator is a action drama in the epic style of Spartacus or other Roman era films, great fighting scenes. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is the first martial arts film to be nominated and much better than the cheesy low budget films that are common to this genre. And great special effects too. Erin Brockovich is a nice drama bio-pic based on the true story of a woman who helped a community that was effected by polluted ground water. Traffic is an attempt to be like Magnolia in telling multiple stories about the drug war, but is still a good drama. It jumps a bit too much, but very interesting in the color tinting that is used for each story line.
Verdict - Gladiator was better, it had the epic feel, looked better than the rest, but overall not a week year from what I have seen.

Films I have seen - A Beautiful Mind (Best Picture), The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!
Films I have not seen - Gosford Park, In the Bedroom
Analysis - A Beautiful Mind is a powerful drama about the life of John Nash and his bouts of insanity. The Fellowship of the Ring is the first in the Lord of the Rings series and a great fantasy film with great special effects. Moulin Rouge is a flaming cat turd that is unwatchable. Using popular music in a 1890's setting is obnoxious. Even though they used Nirvana, it is a horrible film. That is unless you are a 14 year old girl, then this is the greatest movie ever made.
Verdict - Of what I've seen, A Beautiful Mind is the best of the three, a depressing drama, but a very good film.

Films I have seen - Chicago (Best Picture), Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Two Towers, The Pianist
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Chicago is a movie version of the famous musical. If you like the musical then you liked the film. If you don't like musicals then you would rather have your toenails removed. Gangs of New York is a powerful epic by Scorsese that is one of his best. The Hours is an interesting film based on the life of Virginia Wolfe and people who are effected by her writing in two different time lines. Nice stylish film and very good acting, but since I haven't read Virginia Wolfe I don't think I appreciated it enough. The Two Towers is probably the best of the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings, same as the last one, just them further on in the journey. The Pianist is a bio-pic about Wladyslaw Szpilman and how he survived in Poland during WWII. It is a Roman Polanski film, but since he has spent some more time in jail and suffered a bit, I was able to watch this film. A more interesting subject would have been about Wilm Hosenfeld, the German officer who saved Szpilman.
Verdict - Once again Martin Scorsese was cheated out of best director and best picture. I can only guess that after 9/11 a movie such as Chicago, like Tom Jones after President Kennedy assassination, could win. I would put Gangs of New York as the best picture, The Two Towers as a very close second, The Hours, The Pianist and Chicago far last.

Films I have seen - The Return of the King (Best Picture), Lost in Translation, Master and Commander, Mystic River
Films I have not seen - Seabiscuit
Analysis - The Return of the King is the last of the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings. Lost in Translation was an interesting drama with Bill Murray playing one of his finest, or only finest, dramatic roles of a actor making a commercial in Japan and his mid-life crisis. Master and Commander is a great action film in the style of swashbuckler colonial era boating films, as if there is a genre for that? Great acting, keeps you interested all the way through. Mystic River is a powerful drama with great acting by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins of a community dealing with a murder and other skeletons in closets.
Verdict - The Return of the King was given an overall Oscar for all three of the movies and to be honest, I understand why. It wasn't the best of the trilogy but it was a very good film that deserved to win.

Films I have seen - Million Dollar Baby (Best Picture), The Aviator, Ray, Sideways
Films I have not seen - Finding Neverland
Analysis - Million Dollar Baby is a intense drama and a very depressing film about a female boxer. It is a Clint Eastwood film and his quality is generally very good, this time is no exception. The Aviator, another well done Scorsese film, is based on the life of Howard Huges. Great acting by Leonardo DiCaprio, worth watching. Ray is another bio-pic about the life of Ray Charles, great acting by Jamie Fox who won the best actor for the role. Sideways is a dramatic comedy about a man's passion for wine and his attempt to fix his life. Interesting film but not great.
Verdict - While The Aviator was very stylist and well done, Million Dollar Baby was the best overall film. It finally got Morgan Freedman his long overdue Oscar that Tom Hanks stole from him ten years earlier.

Films I have seen - Crash (Best Picture), Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night Good Luck
Films I have not seen - Munich
Analysis - Crash is a powerful movie that deals directly with racism in our society, great drama, follows the Magnolia style of jumping between multiple story lines. Brokeback Mountain is a love story about two people who can't be together because of the obligations they have in their lives, so they can only be together on vacation. Sounds like Same Time, Next Year, right? So why was this film nominated, because the the main characters are men. Otherwise from that it is just another romance film. If it was a story about a man and a woman, would it had been nominated for best picture? Capote is another bio-pic, rather popular during the early party of the decade, about Truman Capote doing research for In Cold Blood. Not a great film but perfect acting from Philip Seymour Hoffman who easily won the best actor Oscar. Good Night Good Luck was a failed attempt to show Edward R. Murrow smearing and attacking Senator Joseph McCarthy that just falls flat.
Verdict - Thankfully the academy got it right this year, Crash was the best and nothing came close of what I've seen so far. I'm rather confident that Munich won't be better, but I'll know for sure when I see it.

Films I have seen - The Departed (Best Picture), Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen
Films I have not seen - Babel
Analysis - The Departed is a exact remake, with the exception of the ending, of a Hong Kong film called Infernal Affairs. Not Scorsese's best, good acting with an all star cast though. Letters from Iwo Jima is a fascinating film about WWII but from the side of the Japanese army. Really makes you respect what a powerful enemy we were fighting back then. Little Miss Sunshine is a waste of time that goes nowhere very slowly about parents taking their child a beauty pageant. It shows just how dangerous it is to give everyone a participation trophy or play sports without points or without winner and losers, this film is not best picture worthy. The Queen is a dry drama about Queen Elizabeth during the death of Princess Diana. If you are caught up in the soap opera of the royal family, then this is a great film. If you are like any normal American and don't care what a bunch of tyrants do in another country, then this is like watching paint dry.
Verdict - While I have seen about half of Babel, I never saw the end so I will wait to give a full assessment until then. Letters to Iwo Jima was the best movie, but because it is practically a foreign film, spoken in Japanese with subtitles, it wouldn't win. And this is a shame. But the academy wanted to make it up to Martin Scorsese for missing out on Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Gangs of New York, and others and gave The Departed the Oscar. Martin Scorsese deserves an Oscar, many Oscars, but not for this film.

Films I have seen - No Country for Old Men (Best Picture), Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - No Country for Old Men is one of the best movies I have ever seen, the best of the decade. The Coen brothers nailed this one on the head. A simple, but very well acted and told story about a man who finds money after a botched drug deal and his attempt to escape with the money. Javiar Bardem is so amazing, so great as the villain in this film, just terrific. Atonement is a drama that takes place in England in the 30's and during WWII. Never gains traction even with the amazing ten minute (or something in that time frame) continuous shot of the beach at Dunkirk. Juno is a clever comedy drama about a teenager deciding to carry her baby through to term. Michael Clayton is a suspenseful drama about a lawyer who people are trying to kill or something. Too many plot twist and turns gets annoying and fast. There Will Be Blood is a great drama about an Oil Baron and his rise to power.
Verdict - No question here. Nothing, even if you combined the remaining films together twice, would come anywhere close to No Country for Old Men. Second would be There Will Be Blood. Third would be Juno. Fourth is Michael Clayton and Atonement is fifth.

Films I have seen - Slumdog Millionaire (Best Picture), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk
Films I have not seen - The Reader
Analysis - Slumdog Millionaire is a very, very depressing movie about a young man who is on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Even though he is uneducated, all of the horrible events in his life help him answer the questions. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is based on a F. Scott Fitzgerald story about a man who is born looking like an 84 year old man who gets younger as he ages. Very good acting by Brad Pitt and amazing makeup and special effects. Frost/Nixon is based on the David Frost interview of Richard Nixon after he resigned as President. A bit slow and boring at times. Milk, another bio-pic, about Harvey Milk and his assassination.
Verdict - Of the four, nothing really climbs to the top so I'll go with Slumdog Millionaire and agree with the academy. Note that this is the last year of only five nominees.

Films I have seen - The Hurt Locker (Best Picture), Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air
Films I have not seen - An Education, Precious
Analysis - The first year since 1943 when more than five films could be nominated for best picture. The Hurt Locker is a badly done war film about soldiers in Iraq dismantling bombs. Avatar is the big budget film with amazing special effects. Too bad they ran out of money and couldn't hire someone to write a screenplay. The Blind Side, another bio-pic about a homeless boy who is taken in by a loving family and taught how to play football. Not the best film you will ever see, but enjoyable and worth watching. District 9 is a sci-fi film about aliens who have landed on earth and are currently quarantined in South Africa and how their community is a ghetto. Inglourious Basterds is a horrible film with one exception, Christoph Waltz does a great acting job and earned best supporting actor. A Serious Man is a funny Coen brother's film about a physics professor dealing with his life falling apart. Up is a Pixar film that is so well done as a cartoon, you don't think of it as just a cartoon, but an interesting fantasy about a balloon trip to the lost jungles of South America. Up in the Air is a drama about a professional who fires people and his attempt to find love and happiness. If you have ever been laid off, don't watch this film. I tried to watch it right after I was laid off and got five minutes into it and had to stop. I waited until I finally got a job and it was still difficult to watch.
Verdict - The Hurt Locker was not the best film, that should have gone to A Serious Man. Maybe because No Country for Old Men won two years earlier it didn't get it, but the academy messed up in my opinion. I know there was a desire to give an Oscar to an Iraqi war film but they should have waited until a good one came along.

Films I have seen - The Kings Speech (Best Picture), 127 Hours, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3
Films I have not seen - Black Swan, The Fighter, True Grit, Winter's Bone
Analysis - The Kings Speech, don't be surprised but another bio-pic, about King George the stammer trying to learn how to give a radio address without stammering. 127 Hours is a painful film about a mountain climber who gets his right arm pinned under a rock and has to cut it off. This film could have been 25 minutes, not over 90. He gets his arm stuck and for an hour that's all there is! I feel bad for the guy losing part of his arm but at the same time you see he was a daredevil who got was coming to him. Inception is one of the finest sci-fi films that gets you thinking after it's done. The idea that dreams can be controlled and to go layers of dreams within dreams is an amazing concept. The Kids Are All Right is a film about a couple who's children seek out their birth father. The twist is that they are two women and one of them has an affair with him. Nothing great about this drama just that because it wasn't a man and a women was the only reason why it was nominated. The Social Network, get this another bio-pic, about Facebook. It was popular because there are 12 billion people on Facebook, but it was a very good film with good acting and the story flow goes good jumping back and forth with different time lines. Toy Story 3 is another Pixar film that is again so well done it's like watching a regular film but with animated actors. Even if you haven't seen the first two films you can still watch and enjoy this one.
Verdict - The Kings Speech was a great film but I really like Inception the best so far.

Monday, January 9, 2012


The 1990's was a decade that got a great jump out of the gate and then stumbled a bit before the finish line. Still much better than the 1980's but not as good as the 1970's. Various genres won as best picture during the decade making it a pot luck of films, but very enjoyable ones.

So here are the 1990's, whatever.

Films I have seen - Dances With Wolves (Best Picture), Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, Goodfellas
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Dances With Wolves is a modern western that helped make the genre popular again, at least for the first half of the 90's. A simple story about a Civil War veteran who takes an outpost in Indian territory and then leaves the army and joins their tribe. Awakenings is based on the story of a doctor who found a temporary cure to sleepy sickness, good acting. Ghost is a sappy love story but very popular even if the acting wasn't good. I didn't see it under the best circumstances so I was a bit biased when I saw it but twenty years has soften me a bit, but not much. The Godfather Part III could have been great but it just fell short. It felt rushed, needed more polish, was not at the level of the first two. Still a great movie in it's own right but if the second matched the first or even exceeded it then the third part would have to be the greatest movie ever made, and it wasn't. Goodfellas is another great Scorsese film that once again got passed by. A great gangster film in the same class as The Godfather trilogy.
Verdict - This is only the second time a western won best picture, the first since 1931. Dances With Wolves is a grand epic and was well done, even if it was a bit too long and would fall off the wheels when the VHS tape would be rewound. They had to design a special VHS case for the film. Its not the best western ever made but it was done at the right time and earned best picture. Goodfellas is a close second and a shame that it didn't win but is now a modern classic. The Godfather earns a third place nod, mostly because of the first two. Awakenings is fourth and Ghost is last.

Films I have seen - Silence of the Lambs (Best Picture), Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Silence of the Lambs is one of the most terrifying, best acted, suspenseful films ever made. The acting between Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins is so powerful, some of the finest ever. This is one of the best films ever made. Beauty and the Beast was a great Disney film, even though it was a cartoon it was a good story. This film made people realize that good movies can be animated. I have listened to this movie over three hundred times when I worked in a video store, I can still recite all the lines, unfortunately. Bugsy is a sloppy Warren Beatty film about the gangster Bugsy Malone. The guy was an animal and built a casino in Las Vegas, acting was cheesy too. JFK was Oliver Stone using every theory about President Kennedy's assassination, all of them, the serious ones and goofy ones, and put them in one movie. Does have an all star cast and got people questioning the assassination again. The Prince of Tides is a silly sappy unrealistic movie that is comical even though it isn't supposed to be. Also sends a warped message that cheating on your wife is how to save your marriage.
Verdict - Only the third and currently the last time a film swept best picture, actor, actress, director and screenplay, and rightfully so. Silence of the Lambs is the best picture of 1991 and the 1990's. Beauty and the Beast is second mainly because it helped bring animation into a new level of recognition. Third is JFK only because it was slightly better than the bottom two. It's almost a tie for worst for 1991 but Bugsy slides into fourth and The Price of Tides last.

Films I have seen - Unforgiven (Best Picture), The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Unforgiven is one of the most dramatic westerns I have ever seen. It shows what happens after the gunslinger hangs up his guns and moves on with his life. Great acting, scenery and a simple story done well. The Crying Game is a bizarre mystery that will surprise you if you don't know the story. Gets kind of bloody and little unnecessary violent at times. A Few Good Men is a strong military drama with great acting with the exception of Demi Moore. She could have been replaced with a box of laundry detergent and it would have been a better actress. Howards End is a Merchant Ivory typical production, Victorian era drama that when you have the patience is an enjoyable film to watch. Unlike Scent of a Woman which was almost unwatchable. Al Pacino won the Oscar for best actor, when he truly should have won best supporting actor for Glengary Glen Ross where he was amazing.
Verdict - When I saw the scene when Clint Eastwood fell of his horse I gasped, along with every other guy in the theater, and said to my wife who was my girlfriend at the time, "Oh my god, Clint Eastwood fell off his horse!". She didn't understand why I was so shocked. If you understand why I was shocked then you understand why this film was the best picture, if you don't then I can never explain to you why it deserved to win. I would put Howards End second, A Few Good Men third, The Crying Game fourth and Scent of a Woman fifth.

Films I have seen - The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, Remains of the Day
Films I have not seen - Schindler's List (Best Picture), The Piano
Analysis - Only the second of three years where I still have not seen the best picture. The Fugitive is a good action film taking the classic TV series and making it into one film. In the Name of the Father is a slightly gritty drama about accused IRA terrorists being sent to jail and their attempt to prove their innocence. Remains of the Day is another Merchant Ivory film that is very stylish, but can run on too long.
Verdict - Since I haven't seen Schindler's List, which I know will be very depressing, I would put The Fugitive as a temporary top film and Remains of the Day second for now.

Films I have seen - Forest Gump (Best Picture), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Forest Gump is a big budget film that is the movie equivalent of cotton candy. It's sweet but has no nutritional value and eating too much of it gets you sick to your stomach. This is a film to make Baby Boomers feel good about themselves. Lots of popular music, reenactments of famous late 20th century historic moments and a main character who is too stupid to realize anything that goes on around him. If you show this film to someone fifty years from now, unless they lived during the 1950's through to the 1980's or have a doctorate in late 20th century American popular culture, they would have no idea what this film was about. Practically every joke and cultural reference would go over their heads. It was a popular movie for its time that is becoming less and less relevant each day. Four Weddings and a Funeral was a cute romantic comedy, but not much more. Pulp Fiction helped bring back independent films and the type of film that was common during the early 1970's. Although it is criticized for being too violent, which is can be at times, and for the stories being told out of sequence, it is an amazing film. It is one of the first major films to show the villain or evil character full. Usually the villain has a bad accent and you don't know anything about them, just that they kill. Here you see them as real people having emotions. They engage in conversations about things normal people would. This film opened the door for a lot of small budget and small production companies to make moves. Granted most of them have been terrible, but a few good ones have shown up and they can thank Pulp Fiction for paving the way. Quiz Show is an attempt to do a dramatic bio-pic but just falls flat. Shawshank Redemption is one of the finest movies ever made, top 5 of all time. A simple story that is such a powerful drama and so well acted and told, it is a classic. Where Forest Gump is the movie equivalent of cotton candy, this is the movie equivalent of filet minon. And if you show this film fifty years from now, unlike Forest Gump, people will understand the story since it is timeless, and say how great this movie is. And why didn't it win best picture.
Verdict - Years ago I worked with someone in a video store who would always say that the movie that makes the most money each year should win best picture. I disagreed and said you need to separate quantity from quality. After Forest Gump won he refused to make that argument any more. Shawshank Redemption was robbed, plain and simple. It was the best picture of 1994 and I am not alone on this point, many people agree. Pulp Fiction is second because of the influence it had on the movie industry. Third is Forest Gump because it is a big budget film and had good costumes and special effects. Four Weddings and a Funeral is fourth and Quiz Show is fifth since it could have done better.

Films I have seen - Braveheart (Best Picture), Apollo 13, Babe, Sense and Sensibility
Films I have not seen - Il Postino
Analysis - Braveheart is an epic historic war action drama (enough genre's for you huh?) that is a really good movie. Great message about fighting for you land and your freedom. Apollo 13 was much better than I though it would be. The story was told well, the acting was great and it flowed very smoothly. Tom Hanks should have got his Oscar for this film and not Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Babe is a nice cute kids movie that I'm guessing was popular enough to reach the top five. Sense and Sensibility is another of the Victorian era/style dramas that was popular in the early 90's. If you like those films this was great, if you don't then it's just another boring film.
Verdict - Braveheart was the best of all of them, with Apollo edging into second for now slightly above Sense and Sensibility.

Films I have seen - The English Patient (Best Picture), Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Shine
Films I have not seen - Secrets & Lies
Analysis - This was the year of the independent film. Four of the five nominees came from, at the time, smaller production companies where normally most if not all would come from major Hollywood studios. Pulp Fiction in two years helped change this. The English Patient is a love story, bit depressing, that is a mystery that unfolds as you watch the film. Very well done with makeup, scenery, acting, screenplay and keeps you involved throughout the entire film. Fargo is another great Coen brother's film that too has great acting, storytelling and they even have the nerve to fool you in thinking it was based on a true story. These men are geniuses. Jerry Maguire, the only major studio film, is a typical love story about a man who cares so much about his work that he loses touch with the human element of life, blah, blah, blah. I'm sorry, but people who are dedicated to their careers are not as comically unbalanced as they are in the movies, this film is a joke. Shine is a interesting story, a bio-pic about David Helfgott the famous pianist and his mental illnesses that effect his life and career. A rather good film with some really good classical music.
Verdict - At the time I didn't care what won as long as it wasn't Jerry Maguire. I was happy to see independent films in competition and one of them winning. The English Patient is the best film, only edging out Fargo just slightly because it was a slightly grander film. Fargo is one of the Coen brother's best, but not their greatest. But of course even the worst Coen brother's film is still much better than most other directors good films.

Films I have seen - Titanic (Best Picture), As Good as it Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Titanic is the grand epic of the infamous ship, but told as a love story. Great special effects, great scenery, so-so acting, horrible script, but overall still a great movie. As Good as it Gets is a film that really doesn't tell much of a story, just a bunch of strange people somehow becoming interwoven in each other lives. Jack Nicholson is really good and earned best actor. Helen Hunt was good and I guess probably earned best actress. Greg Kinnear was horrible and helped drag the film down. The Full Monty is a quirky film about a bunch of unemployed factory workers who decide to make money stripping. Not much more than that. Good Will Hunting is an interesting film that was very well written, pretty good acting and was a solid film. L.A. Confidential is an attempt to be a gritty cop drama that falls flat and gets muddled at times.
Verdict - Titanic was the best film, it was bigger and grander than all the other combined. I would put Good Will Hunting in second and a three way tie for third for the remaining since none of them are that good and it is too hard to try and figure out who is slightly better or worse than one another.

Films I have seen - Elizabeth, Saving Private Ryan
Films I have not seen - Shakespeare in Love (Best Picture), Life is Beautiful, The Thin Red Line
Analysis - This is the last year where I have not seen the best picture winner, not that I don't have a good excuse. I have a copy of the movie on VHS sitting on the VCR, but since I have a DVR, that's all I ever watch. It seems to be more fun to try and watch it after I tape it. But I am getting very caught up and when the DVR gets to 70 to 75% empty, maybe I'll pop it in. Elizabeth is the historic drama of the same Queen of England, pretty neat opening scene of them burning Protestants, but gets a bit boring after that. Saving Private Ryan is a epic WWII film that has the most intense opening scene of DDay I have ever seen. Good acting but the story seemed a bit unrealistic or silly in a way. During a major battle lets pull a bunch of soldiers to risk their lives, to tell one to go home and then risk his fellow soldiers lives? Great acting by Tom Hanks who ruined it by getting two he didn't deserve years before and now gets overlooked.
Verdict - I still have to see the majority of films nominated this year, Saving Private Ryan will hold the top spot for now.

Films I have seen - American Beauty (Best Picture), The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - The secret to winning is not to put "The" in front of your film title. American Beauty is a drama about how life is frustrating and living in the suburbs is not utopia. Like a I needed a film to tell me that. Life is hard all over no matter where you live. I found this film hard to watch the first time, turned it off after about twenty minutes. I only watched it once I started my project to see all of the films that won best picture. The Cider House Rules is a drama that's not bad but never seems to become great. An orphan who could be a doctor decides to go and pick apples instead. The Green Mile is another adapted Stephen King short story about a prison in Maine. Not as good as Shawshank, but an interesting story about a healer put on death row and how he effects all around him. Very enjoyable and well acted. The Insider is a long, boring, long movie about the man who revealed that smoking is harmful to your health. He was also going to reveal that falling off a fifty story building would kill you when you land on the sidewalk, but the film didn't have enough time. The Sixth Sense is a great suspense film that you don't want to know the ending if you haven't seen it.
Verdict - None of these were really outstanding films, but none of them were really that bad either. I can see why American Beauty won and would tend to agree, but I could see why The Green Mile could have won. The Sixth Sense could have had a chance but not that strong, so it would come in third behind The Green Mile. The Cider House Rules falls safely into fourth and The Insider last.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Probably the worst decade ever for the academy. The 1980's had a few good films here and there, but most of the ones nominated were terrible. This is where you start seeing the pattern of one good film with four weak contenders. There is much speculation why films changed so much so quickly, I think the Heaven's Gate theory may be the most accurate. Heaven's Gate was Michael Cimino's epic western that became an over budget joke in the movie industry. It is even blamed for bankrupting United Artists. Afterward movies were geared more towards making money, product placement and less on how gritty is this drama, how dark can this comedy be, how much storyline and plot are needed to make this action film more than car chases and explosions. Thankfully this doesn't last forever, we just have a lost decade.

You should see Heaven's Gate sometime, it is a very good film. Take the time and watch it with no opinions and you might find it to be really enjoyable. With that here are the 1980's.

Films I have seen - Ordinary People (Best Picture), Raging Bull
Films I have not seen - Coal Miner's Daughter, The Elephant Man, Tess
Analysis - Probably the only good year of the decade, a run-over from the 1970's. Ordinary People is a strong drama about a family dealing with the death of a child, the brother who blames himself and attempted suicide, the mother dealing with losing her favorite child and the father trying to keep the remains of the family together. Raging Bull is the greatest boxing movie of all time. Robert DeNero's acting is amazing. Scorsese does such a great job, you really feel like it's 1947 and you are watching a real boxing match. It was named one of the top ten films of the 1980's right after it came out. It is classic, see it if you haven't, if you have, see it again.
Verdict -Raging Bull is one of the greatest movies ever. It kills me that Ordinary People is just as good, even better. If Raging Bull came out one year earlier or one year later it would have won, it had to go up against Ordinary People, tough luck.

Films I have seen - Chariots of Fire (Best Picture), Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reds
Films I have not seen - Atlantic City, On Golden Pond
Analysis - This is the start of a long run of bad movies being nominated. Chariots of Fire is a rather dry, simple and slightly boring film about English runners during the 1924 Olympics. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a cult action film that is fun to watch, but not seriously a best picture. Reds is a way too long, over bloated story about John Reed during the Russian Revolution. I'm not very comfortable to see people die a painful death in a movie, but in this case I can make an exception.
Verdict - Chariots of Fire was slightly better, that's all you can say.

Films I have seen - Gandhi (Best Picture), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Missing, Tootsie, The Verdict
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Here is the start of a trend of a great movie facing four other weak movies and no surprise going into Oscar night. Gandhi is a grand epic about the life of Gandhi, very well done and professional. E.T. was a popular kids movie that was heart warming but like Raiders of the Lost Ark not a serious best picture. Missing is a another Costa Gravas disaster like Z that leaves you wondering why do you even bother making a movie. Jack Lemon and Sissy Spacek are great actors and that is only reason why I can see this film even being nominated. Tootsie is a slightly funny film, Dustin Hoffman is good, but drag films are really a one joke premise. The Verdict has great acting from Paul Newman about a Lionel Hutz type of lawyer who finally does good. Not the best film but not the worst.
Verdict - Nothing was anywhere near Gandhi this year. Tootsie would be second, The Verdict third, E.T. and thankfully in last place Missing.

Films I have seen - Terms of Endearment (Best Picture), The Big Chill, The Dresser, Tender Mercies
Films I have not seen - The Right Stuff
Analysis - Another year of terrible films but somebody had to win. It's as if all the teams made the playoffs with losing records but someone was going to win the championship, right? Terms of Endearment is a sappy tearjerker that is very hard to watch, it will get on your nerves. The Big Chill is so much worse. Baby Boomers hitting their 30's and whining about it. You would think they were the only generation to grow old? A bad remake of The Return of the Secaucus 7 which really wasn't that great of a movie either. The Dresser was an attempt at a classy movie but it gets real boring fast. Tender Mercies is a bad film with one exception, Robert Duvall is amazing and really earned the best actor Oscar. Otherwise it is almost unwatchable.
Verdict - I am waiting for TCM to show The Right Stuff at the beginning of March, I hope that it is better. I remember seeing a few scenes when I was a teenager, not enough to say I saw the film, but remembering it wasn't that great. Until then it will have to be Terms of Endearment.

Films I have seen - Amadeus (Best Picture), The Killing Fields, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart, A Soldier's Story
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - This year at least had good films compared to previous years. Nothing is an all time great but pretty good competition. Amadeus is similar to Gandhi, a grand bio-pic this time about Mozart. The Killing Fields is a very powerful and depressing showing only a slight bit of what happened when Pol Pot took over Cambodia. A Passage to India is a dry but warm film about India in the 1920's. Kind of like the PBS mini series The Jewel in the Crown. Places in the Sun another depressing movie about a widow trying to grow cotton, did win Sally Field her second Oscar as best actress. A Soldier's Story is a murder mystery during WWII in an army camp amongst black soldiers.
Verdict - When Amadeus won I was too young to understand why and was frustrated. As I got older and eventually as I watched the other films I see why it won, it was better than the rest. Second place is a four way tie, all were good but none was as good as Amadeus.

Films I have seen - The Color Purple, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Prizzi's Honor, Witness
Films I have not seen - Out of Africa (Best Picture)
Analysis - This is the first year where I have not seen the best picture winner, one of very few. The Color Purple is a so-so film about poor black women in the south in the early 20th century. Kiss of the Spider Woman is about two prisons in a South American prison bonding. Prizzi's Honor is about two hit men who fall in love, a male and female mind you, this isn't Brokeback Prizzi's Honor of course. Witness is a good action cop film but rather typical of cop movies from the 1980's.
Verdict - None of what I've seen seems to be the best picture, I'll have to wait until I see Out of Africa to make a final decision. Witness would hold the top spot since of the four I've seen I actually enjoyed it.

Films I have not seen - Platoon (Best Picture), Hannah and Her Sisters, A Room with a View
Films I have not seen - Children of a Less God, The Mission
Analysis - Platoon is a good Vietnam war film but far from the best. Hannah and Her Sisters is a great Woody Allen comedy. A Room with a View is a typical Merchant Ivory film, can be boring at times, but very stylish.
Verdict - I understand why Platoon won, people's attitude about the Vietnam War began to change during the 80's so this movie was made at the right time. And until I see the remaining films it will stay in the top spot.

Films I have seen - The Last Emperor (Best Picture), Broadcast News, Fatal Attraction, Moonstruck
Films I have not seen - Hope and Glory
Analysis - Another year with a epic bio-pic, this time about Chinese Emperor Puyi. Broadcast News is a typical 1980's film, slightly funny, slightly edgy, slightly dramatic but still a safe movie. Albert Brooks is good but they don't use him to his fully comedic potential which is a waste. Fatal Attraction is a suspense movie and a public service warning about cheating on your spouse with a crazy person. Moonstruck is a romantic comedy that really doesn't take chances, another safe fuzzy friendly 1980's film.
Verdict - The Last Emperor is like Gandhi, nothing can come close and it easily won.

Films I have seen - Rain Man (Best Picture), The Accidental Tourist, Dangerous Liaisons, Mississippi Burning, Working Girl
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - This was the first year when I saw the eventual best picture in the theater before it won. Rain Man is a drama about a failing businessman finding out he has a autistic older brother and bonds with him. Dustin Hoffman earned the Oscar as best actor but very good acting from Tom Cruse, he grew tremendously as an actor during this movie. The Accidental Tourist is a boring film about a man going through a divorce and meeting someone new. A typical obnoxious Baby Boomer drama which was common during this era. Dangerous Liaisons is based on the French novel from the 18th century where it should have stayed. Mississippi Burning is a great film about FBI agents looking for three missing civil rights workers in the 1960's. Great acting all around. Working Girl is a period piece of the yuppie 80's and the Wall Street lifestyle that was shoved down mine and everyone's throat when I was in high school. I get flashbacks from watching this movie, not all good.
Verdict - Rain Man is a good drama and nothing came close. Second would be Mississippi Burning another good drama. Then Working Girl, Dangerous Liaisons and The Accidental Tourist.

Films I have seen - Driving Miss Daisy (Best Picture), Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society
Films I have not seen - Field of Dreams, My Left Foot
Analysis - Another year of weak films. Driving Miss Daisy is a simple drama about an old woman who needs a driver whom she is afraid of since he is black. Born on the Fourth of July is a loosely based bio-pic about Ronnie Kovic, a disabled Vietnam veteran. Dead Poets Society is Robin Williams doing Good Morning Vietnam but in a classroom this time.
Verdict - So far Driving Miss Daisy is the best. I did want Born on the Fourth of July to win at the time so I could have a streak of seeing best pictures before they won, but that was the only reason.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Next to the 1930's, the 1970's was one of the greatest decades for movies. Since the mid 1960's films started to move away from epics and musicals and more into dramas. Comedies were more dramatic and horror films became more intense and violent, although neither of these two had many nominees during the 70's they were a very popular part of the movie scene during the decade.

Some of the finest films ever made come from the 1970's, lets review what I've seen so far.

Films I have seen - Patton (Best Picture), Five Easy Pieces, MASH
Films I have not seen - Airport, Love Story
Analysis - Of the three films I have seen all of them are classics. Patton is one of the fines war films ever made and it flows so well you don't realize that you have already watched three hours. And you don't want it to end, the sign of a great movie. Five Easy Pieces is one of Jack Nicholas's finest acting roles. The scene when he's trying to order a side of toast at the diner is one of the most intense acting scenes that summarizes the character in one scene, all of his frustrations, anger, confusion, bitterness, fear come out in that one scene, just a great movie. MASH is a Robert Altman classic that is very funny and unlike the TV show not a political movie.
Verdict - So far, and I don't think this will change, but Patton was the best movie of 1970.

Films I have seen - The French Connection (Best Picture), A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, The Last Picture Show, Nicholas and Alexandra
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - This is a very interesting year because the films nominated represent the past, present and the future of Oscar nominees. The French Connection is a tough gritty drama which is unlike other cop movies. It is clearly a movie of it's time but does look to the future of how many action and drama films will become, at least for the next seven to ten years. A Clockwork Orange is a psychedelic violent sci-fi film that is very representative for it's time, even though the story takes place in the future. This movie would not have been made in 1961 or 1981, it is clearly a 1971 film, and a good one at that. Fiddler on the Roof is a terrific film version of the play, but it was made ten years too late. This is what you would expect in the late 50's or early 60's, not at this time. The Last Picture Show was made about 25 years too early, it is a great simple independent film that was years ahead of it's time. Films over the past 15 years have been made in this style. Nicholas and Alexandra is a grand epic that just like Fiddler on the Roof was made at least ten years too late.
Verdict - All five films are great films but The French Connection is so unique and so well done that it worked hard and truly earned it's Oscar for best picture. The Last Picture Show comes in a close second, a closer third is A Clockwork Orange, even closer fourth is Fiddler on the Roof and so close is Nicholas and Alexandra in fifth.

Films I have seen - The Godfather (Best Picture), Cabaret, Deliverance, Sounder
Films I have not seen - The Emigrants
Analysis - The Godfather is one of the finest movies ever made. If you don't believe me then you've never seen this movie. Cabaret is a drama that is a musical, a different approach from twenty years early where it would be a musical that had some drama. Won many awards and stylish is a good looking film. Deliverance still scares me about going into the back woods in the south. Fine acting cast even with Ronnie Cox being dead for half the film. Sounder is a depressing drama about sharecroppers in the south back in the 30's, but a well done drama nevertheless.
Verdict - Nothing, with maybe the exception of Citizen Kane, would ever beat The Godfather.

Films I have seen - The Sting (Best Picture), American Graffiti, The Exorcist
Films I have not seen - Cries and Whispers, A Touch of Class
Analysis - Another year that proves the 1970's were not like any other decade. The Sting is a good dramatic comedy about an elaborate con. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are great. American Graffiti is a simple George Lucas film that tells a good story. The Exorcist is one of the scariest horror films of all times and one of the only times a horror movie got nominated.
Verdict - Of what I have seen The Sting was the most professional and overall best film. That and I don't see how The Exorcist could have ever won.

Films I have seen - The Godfather Part II (Best Picture), Chinatown, Lenny, The Towering Inferno
Films I have not seen - The Conversation
Analysis - How do you improve on perfection? The Godfather Part II I believe is even better than the original and the reason is that it runs two parallel story time lines. The film covers the modern day story but also weaves in the rise of Don Carleone from him arriving in America to becoming the godfather. Chinatown is another gritty drama in the style of film noir but done as a modern toughness. Even though it is a Roman Polanski film, who should still be in jail, it is a great film. Lenny is a great bio-pic of Lenny Bruce and one of Dustin Hoffman's best performances. The Towering Inferno is a epic disaster film that was popular during the 70's. It is a bit cheesy and very out of date after 9/11, but still an entertaining film.
Verdict - Again there is practically nothing that is better than The Godfather Part II.

Films I have seen - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (Best Picture), Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, Nashville
Films I have not seen - Barry Lyndon
Analysis - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's nest was the second of three movies to sweep the major Oscar categories, the first since 1934. Enough said. Dog Day Afternoon is a intense great drama about a bank robbery. Jaws is the start of the blockbuster epic era, but still a terrifying movie that kept my parents from us going to the beach that summer. Not that I would complain about that. Nashville is another great Robert Altman film that combines the stories of many different characters into one film as they interact with one another during the Grand Ole Opry.
Verdict - All great movies, but One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest was just better than the rest.

Films I have seen - Rocky (Best Picture), All the President's Men, Network, Taxi Driver
Films I have not seen - Bound for Glory
Analysis - This is one of the few years where you say, what was the academy thinking? Rocky is an inspiring boxing movie. It is not the best boxing movie ever made, it is not the worst. It's a good movie, but not a great movie. All the President's Men as well is a good movie but not great. Although Jason Robards is great and won a best supporting Oscar. Network is one of the finest movies ever made and is still relevant today. To a certain extent it predicted the future and who knows there may be more to come. Taxi Driver is a classic, one of Scorsese's finest. There are so many great scenes, lines and such great acting.
Verdict - Network was the best picture and it was robbed, plain and simple. You could even make the same argument for Taxi Driver. This is no different than 1941, the best picture didn't win, the most popular one won.

Films I have seen - Annie Hall (Best Picture), The Goodbye Girl, Julia, Star Wars, The Turning Point
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Annie Hall is a great Woody Allen comedy, not his funniest, that would be Take The Money and Run. The Goodbye Girl is a so-so movie, feels like the late 70's when you watch it. I did see it in the theater when I was a kid, one of the first movies I remember seeing. Julia is a well done, powerful drama with Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave and Jason Robards who won the best supporting Oscar again. Star Wars was the greatest movie when I was a kid. I ate, slept, and breathed Star Wars. I had the trading cards (until my brother ate them a few years later), action figures, magazines, anything that had Star Wars on it I wanted. The Turning Point is a great movie if you love ballet and that's all it basically is.
Verdict - When I heard that Star Wars lost I was devastated. In the mind of a seven year old how could anything beat out Star Wars? As an adult and after watching these films I now understand why it lost, but the heartbreak remains. Annie Hall is the best of the bunch and I think a complement to what Woody Allen had done up to that point, in a way a early lifetime achievement award. Julia is the second best film. Star Wars is third because it meant so much and it is a great sci-fi film. The Goodbye Girl comes in fourth and The Turning Point last.

Films I have seen - The Deer Hunter (Best Picture), Heaven Can Wait, Midnight Express, An Unmarried Woman
Films I have not seen - Coming Home
Analysis - The Deer Hunter is one of the best Vietnam war films ever made and a great intense powerful film. The longest wedding scene in probably any film ever made. Heaven Can Wait is a remake of the age old story except this time is has Warren Beatty, how could it ever fail? Midnight Express will remind you not to smuggle drugs out of Turkey and never visit their prison system. An Unmarried Woman is a boring mindless film about a divorcee trying to find herself a new life in late 1970's New York City.
Verdict - This was a weak year from what I have seen so far with the exception of The Deer Hunter so it obviously deserved to win. A participation prize to Midnight Express for still being a great watchable film even today.

Films I have seen - Kramer vs. Kramer (Best Picture), All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, Norma Rae
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - The decade finished as strong as it started. Kramer vs. Kramer for it's time was a powerful movie that made people look at divorce and child custody in a different light. All That Jazz is a musical but not like a 1950's musical, so it's somewhat watchable. Apocalypse Now is as good as The Deer Hunter, a great film that only gets better over time. Breaking Away is just a great movie. Norma Rae had great acting by Sally Field who was becoming a great actress at this time and earned her first best actress Oscar.
Verdict - While Kramer vs. Kramer is a good film, it is rather dated today. I think Apocalypse Now should have won but it is rare for two war films to win back to back best pictures. Apocalypse Now was the best, then Kramer vs. Kramer, Breaking Away, Norma Rae and All That Jazz.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


The 1960's is a decade that is like the opposite of the month of March, it came in as a lamb and left like a lion. This is a decade that started with musicals and epics and ended with gritty dramas that would become the standard of 1970's cinema. Currently I have seen more films in this decade than others, 43 out of 50 and know of two others that will be aired in the next few months, so think I can offer a better analysis than other decades.

This may be shocking, but I find myself agreeing with the academy this decade, more than the previous decade at least.

Films I have seen - The Apartment (Best Picture), The Alamo, Elmer Gantry, Sons and Lovers, The Sundowners
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Another year where I have seen all the films. The Apartment is a classy comedy that is just enjoyable to watch. Also the last full black and white film to win best picture (Schindler's List 1993 had some color scenes). The Alamo is a great John Wayne western about, you got it, the Alamo. Ranks up there with Shane or The Searchers as a great western. Elmer Gantry is a great movie that doesn't get as much notice as it should. Burt Lancaster plays a flim/flam man who discovers that he can make good money being a religious speaker. Sons and Lovers based on the D.H. Lawrence novel is slow at times but Dean Stockwell is good as a young man in early 2oth century England trying to find himself and come to terms with his over protective mother. The Sundowners is about sheep shearers in Australia in the 1920's, it's about as exciting as watching sheep being sheered gets.
Verdict - The Apartment was the best film, it is a well done dramatic comedy that was just done right. I would put Elmer Gantry as a close runner up in second. The Alamo, which I personally loved, is only the third best. Sons and Lovers and The Sundowners finish up the rankings.

Films I have seen - West Side Story (Best Picture), The Guns of Navarone, The Hustler, Judgement at Nuremberg
Films I have not seen - Fanny
Analysis - West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet to music. It is rather comical thinking that gang warfare would be like this, but it is a well produced movie. The Guns of Navarone is a fictional WWII action film with cool explosions. The Hustler with Paul Newman is a good movie, not a great movie, about a two bit pool hustler trying to beat Minnesota Fats. Judgement at Nuremberg is a politically correct post WWII era courtroom movie. Excellent acting by Maximillan Schell who got the best actor, Montgomery Clift with his rebuilt face and Judy Garland in a strong dramatic role.
Verdict - As much as I dislike musicals, West Side Story is a great movie and was clearly the best picture of 1961.

Films I have seen - Lawrence of Arabia (Best Picture), The Longest Day, The Music Man, Mutiny on the Bounty, To Kill a Mockingbird
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Lawrence of Arabia is the great classic epic about T.E. Lawrence living in the middle east and fighting with the Arabs during WWI. The Longest Day is another epic about D Day with an all star cast. The Music Man is the well know play made into a movie and done well. Mutiny on the Bounty is a remake of the 1935 best picture winner but much, much longer. To Kill a Mockingbird is Gregory Peck's finest acting. I hope that one day I can have people give me as much respect as the scene when Atticus Finch is leaving the courtroom and everyone stands and looks at him in silent reverence. That scene gets me every time I see it.
Verdict - Nothing comes close to Lawrence of Arabia, it is one of the best epics of all time. To Kill a Mockingbird follows, with The Longest Day, The Music Man and Mutiny on the Bounty last.

Films I have seen - Tom Jones (Best Picture), America America, Cleopatra, How the West Was Won, Lilies of the Field
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Tom Jones is a mindless film about an attractive man who seduces women in old England. There is a great eating scene which is rather well know. America America is a terrific movie loosely based on Elia Kazan's grandfather journey to the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Cleopatra is the long over budget drawn out story about Cleopatra which is now remembered as the longest film to be nominated and one of the most expensive of its time that was a major flop. How the West Was Won is another epic western but falls short of great epic status. Lilies of the Field is a good film but does have incredible acting by Sydney Poitier who won the best actor Oscar.
Verdict - As horrible as I though Tom Jones was, I understand why it won. This was only months after President Kennedy was assassinated and in times of crisis happy go luck films will always do better. America America I though was the best of all but it didn't have any major A list celebrities so it didn't get noticed. Lilies of the Field would come in third, How the West Was Won and Cleopatra last.

Films I have seen - My Fair Lady (Best Picture), Dr. Strangelove, Zorba the Greek
Films I have not seen - Becket, Mary Poppins
Analysis - My Fair Lady is a good movie and it bothers me to say that, but even though it is musical, it's really good. I don't get Dr. Strangelove. Lots of people say this is one of the greatest films of all time. I still don't get it. I didn't find it that funny. I didn't think it was well written. It is impressive that Peter Sellers plays multiple parts. But I just don't see what is so great about this film. Zorba the Greek is just as bad. You get frustrated at how incompetent he is and then in the end the person who's life he has pretty much ruined asks him to show him how to dance. Basically the message of the movie is why bother doing something important or good, just be lazy.
Verdict - No brainer here, My Fair Lady is the best picture of 1964.

Films I have seen - The Sound of Music (Best Picture), Doctor Zhivago, Ship of Fools, A Thousand Clowns
Films I have not seen - Darling
Analysis - The Sound of Music is another classic musical that was made into a classic film. Doctor Zhivago is as cheerful as life in the Soviet Union. A good film but very depressing. Ship of Fools is not a good film. The main problem is that is supposed to take place in the 1930's but the script was clearly written knowing how the future would play out after WWII. A Thousand Clowns is an excellent movie with Jason Robards raising his nephew while trying to avoid getting a job.
Verdict - The Sound of Music is a great musical and nothing comes close to it. A Thousand Clowns is a great film I had never knew of before this project and would recommend to everyone to see at least once.

Films I have seen - A Man for All Seasons (Best Picture), The Russians are Coming, The Sand Pebbles, Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe
Films I have not seen - Alfie
Analysis - I had no idea what A Man for All Seasons was about before I saw it, I thought it was a musical. It is one of the greatest dramas ever made into a film, the best best picture of the decade. The Russians are Coming is a cute funny movie, but not best picture material. The Sand Pebbles is a drama/action film about a US gun boat in China during the 1920's when their revolution was getting started. Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe is one of the most powerful films you will ever see. Seriously it is intense. And you thought you had a bad marriage?
Verdict - Nothing was better than A Man for All Seasons. Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe could have won in a different year but not this time around.

Films I have seen - In the Heat of the Night (Best Picture), Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dollittle, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - This is the start of gritty dramas taking over the Oscars. In the Heat of the Night is a great intense film with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger both in great roles. Bonnie and Clyde is another gritty film but just not great. Doctor Dollittle is a fun kids film. The Graduate is an American classic that is still good today. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was controversial for it's time and a great film, but rather dated today.
Verdict - In the Heat of the Night was clearly the best film and set the standard for many years to come. The rest don't come close but to rank anyway, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Doctor Dollittle and finally Bonnie and Clyde.

Films I have seen - Oliver! (Best Picture), Funny Girl, Rachel Rachel, Romeo and Juliet
Films I have not seen - Lion in the Winter
Analysis - This was a very weak year, probably the weakest of the decade. Oliver is Oliver Twist as a musical, yea. Funny Girl another musical about some vaudeville singer or something, you get bored around the fifth hour and start to forget what you've watched. Rachel Rachel is a good film, would be considered a independent film today. Romeo and Juliet is in color this time as opposed to the 1936 version, but not much more can be said than that.
Verdict - Oliver wins due to the weak competition.

Films I have seen - Midnight Cowboy (Best Picture), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hello Dolly!, Z
Films I have not seen - Anne of the Thousand Days
Analysis - Midnight Cowboy is the first and only X rated film to win best picture. This is from a time when X did not necessarily mean porno, but adult content (NC-17 today). It is a very good drama, very typical of the type of movies being made around this time. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a modern western getting away from the 40's and 50's standard of Cowboys and Indians in an attempt to make westerns edgy. It should be noted that there are very few good westerns from this era and this one is no different. Hello Dolly is a cute musical, but still a musical. Z is a waste of time about a politician killed and an attempted cover up. The film dragged on and I was able to watch it in double speed since the subtitles were high enough on the screen. If you watch a movie in 45 minutes and still thing it was too long, should it have ever been made? What else do you expect from Costa Gavras, something good?
Verdict - This was an easy year, nothing comes anywhere in the same ball park as Midnight Cowboy. If you need a second place then Hello Dolly would fit. You can tell it's not a good year when I can put a musical second, but thankfully there was at least one great film.