Coming Up or Going Down

Fortunately this dismal summer of film is almost over.  In the midst of sequels and other things that go boom, there has been little of note or consequence other than the pleasant if not great foodie movie, “The Hundred Foot Journey”.  Once we get past Labor Day weekend, it is on to the Oscar race of September through December.  I would like to report that there is anything on the horizon that truly piques my interest, but unfortunately at present I am only looking forward to four films: Into The Woods, Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Mr. Turner, and Big Eyes. I will leave it to my partner in crime to state what looks good from his side of the aisle.  

INTO THE WOODS

Film version of the hit Sondheim musical. Will it get “Disneyfied” or keep to the darker themes of what comes after “Happily Every After”.

 
DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY

Three films is one: Him, Her, and Them … Variations on a theme of a marriage facing a challenge.

 
MR. TURNER

Bio of painter J. W. Turner. Star Timothy Spall won Best Actor at Cannes this year

Fishing Boats

 

BIG EYES

Keene Big Eyes

There is no trailer as yet, but the luminous Amy Adams is once more in the race. Will this film finally bring her the awards she so richly deserves?

 

Now for some of the trailers for the highly touted but just not my cup of tea.

FOXCATCHER

 

GONE GIRL

 

WHIPLASH

 

FURY

 

BIRDMAN

 

Listen Up Philip

 

NIGHTCRAWLER

 

INTERSTELLAR

 

There will be more as we get farther into the season.

Film Sing A Long

If you have ever watched raw film before it has been orchestrated, you can’t help but notice how dull it often seems without the theme music that brings the action to life.  At times these themes acquire lyrics and become great hit songs often with lyrics in more than one language depending on the source of the film.  Over the past several decades I have acquired many favorite themes.  So let’s sample a few:

Black Orpheus is a 1959 Brazilian film with a wonderful orchestration and a theme song in both Portuguese (Manhã De Carnaval!) and English (Day In The Life of A Fool)

Thomas Crown Affair is from 1968 and this time the theme written by the wonderful Michele LeGrand that yields a great song is in both French (Moulins de Mon Coeur) and English (Windmills of Your Mind).

 

Then there are the themes that never result in songs but become hits on their own:

1959 A Summer Place

1966 A Man and a Woman

Forty or fifty years after these films and their themes became hits, you don’t often hear film themes become hit songs even as they continue to add impact to ever more exciting films.

Historical Firsts

CasablancaOscar

I would like to thank the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for scheduling this year’s ceremony on my birthday.   I have mentioned before that I was raised in areas in and around Los Angeles with close connections to the technical side of the motion picture industry that led to brief  brushes with celebrities.  You will not be surprised that this started literally on hour one of my life.

Due to the war shortages, it seemed inappropriate to continue holding banquet ceremonies at a fancy hotel.  Therefore, the Academy Awards ceremonies were permanently switched to theater settings starting on Thursday, March 2, 1944.  For the first time the 16th Awards ceremony was held at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  Sid Grauman had placed a red carpet in front of his theater from the curb to the entrance, so this may have been the first time that movie stars walked “The Red Carpet” on their way into the awards.

As it had been since the second ceremony, the event was covered by local radio. but for the first time network radio broadcast overseas to World War II American GI’s.  Jack Benny was the host for this ceremony and the special war-time broadcast.  Also for the first time, winners for the best supporting actors and actresses categories received statuettes rather than plaques. Because of the war, all statuettes were made out of plaster rather than bronze. These were later replaced by the standard gold statue.

So what else of monumental importance happened on this day?  For the answer to that you need to go about ten miles down the road from Grauman’s Chinese to the Methodist Hospital then located at 2826 South Hope Street in Los Angeles. The hospital rooms were said to include:

“many modern conveniences – radio is wired to every bed so that all that is necessary for entertainment is to plug one in.”

At about 4:18 pm a lady had given birth to a baby girl and having gotten that rapidly out of the way as her family always did,  she plugged in one of those radios for the Oscar broadcast. Since she was a very good singer, she rocked the baby and sang the best song nominees. This child would never ever hear a “regulation lullaby” from this decidedly non-regulation woman.  Other infants got Rock A Bye Baby and I got The Great American Songbook.

As it turned out on Thursday, March 2, 1944,  “You’ll Never Know” from Hello Frisco Hello received the Academy Award for Best Song, The Best Picture Oscar went to Casablanca,  while my parents got me.  I don’t clearly remember the event, but it is inescapable that not counting in-utero, the first song I ever heard in my life was probably “You’ll Never Know”.  Even stranger, this has always been one of my favorite standards and I didn’t learn until much later that it was played for my birth.  This adds new meaning to the lyrics of “Children Will Listen”.

Unfortunately, none of the songs from Casablanca were eligible for an award since none of them were original to the movie.   So there you have it.  In any trivia contest I will always have the answer to

1.  What year did Graumann’s Chinese first host The Academy Awards?
2.  When were the Oscars first broadcast overseas?
3.  Who was the Master of Ceremonies for the 16th Oscar broadcast?
4.  What were the Best Picture and Best Song of 1943?

Should my age or the date of my arrival on the planet happen to slip your mind, you can look up the broadcast date for the 16th  awards ceremony for The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Ask me my age and I will tell you, “The body is the same age as Casablanca’s Oscar, but I’m only 36.”  This tends to confuse people except those who know me.  Find when you became the most “You” and stay there.  My body was born in 1944.  I became me in 1980.

On Sunday Oscar will be 86.  My body will be 70 and I am still 36.  Pour the champagne.  I will be watching.

And The Award Goes To

The annual head to head has come due even though we must now wait until March 2 for the result.  A special thank you to the Academy for scheduling this present on my birthday.

Best Picture: 12 Years A Slave
This year has not been one of “Great” movies, so I have to go with a well done “Important” one.

Best Director: Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave)

This should actually be a tie with Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) as they are such totally different films.  One a huge cast, a major look at history, and a gut wrenching story.  The other the master of special effect and modern techniques to deliver an intense life and death performance from a two character play.

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
For the first time I actually don’t care who wins in this category.  Di Caprio is way overdue and delivers a non-stop tour de force of vulgar excess, but  I almost expect McConaughey to win and if he does I’ll be really, really grouchy.  Weight loss:  Done –  Changing types of roles:  Done – Difficult Subject:  Done – The only difference has been the non-stop hype from the promotion machine in a year with easily equal performances (Grump) …

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Have to agree on this one.  Cate bares the soul of a woman so tied to her own sense of entitlement that her failure to receive what she thinks she is due brings her to insanity.  Blanchette actually makes the audience pity a woman who suffers from a complete lack of empathy.

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
The other four nominees might as well stay home or come to applaud graciously.  Unfortunately Jake Gyllenhaal wasn’t nominated, but as great as he was in Prisoners, he wouldn’t have won either.  Just start engraving the statue for Leto now.

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
This is a difficult category and I would love to see June Squibb from Nebraska take this home, I have to go with the beautiful Lupita Nyong’o for her poignant portrayal and fierce performance that tears at the audience with the truth of slavery.

That takes care of the major awards, none of which are among my favorite films of the year which happens to have been:  Prisoners, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Saving Mr. Banks.  

Prisoners-Movie-Trailer Saving-Mr-Banks3 Iside Llewyn

Mounting the Soap Box:  If the movie didn’t come out in November or December, it might as well forget receiving nominations.  It could be the second coming of the World’s Greatest Film and the short term memory Academy voting system and the back loaded schedule would doom it to the pile of films that hope to become classics some day after being among the annually forgotten.  The average family can no longer hope to see potentially award winning movies in the theater before the awards ceremony for one simple reason:  The Cost.  Assuming a family of four, trying to see ten movies in 60 days and the bill comes to:  $700 to a $1000.

End result is that movie prices continue to rise.  Concession prices continue to rise.  Theater attendance by a percentage of the audience goes down while global profits get bigger.  TV screens get larger and more and more people stay home to watch cable.  What used to be a cultural group experience on almost a weekly basis, has now become the rare, expensive experience for the young or the few.

And the Winner is…

By David Blank

It’s that time again – Awards Season. With the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards now given out,  it is safe to make educated guesses for the Oscars.

Best Picture: American Hustle
Everything just clicked – the plot, the cast, and the overall entertainment value. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence should work together with Director David O. Russell every year.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
The special effects give it the edge. And once again, a beautiful starlet will go home with star George Clooney on Oscar night thinking this is her year!

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
The amazing transformation and weight loss pay off! I cannot believe how much this guy is willing to suffer for his craft.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
An amazing performance in a wonderful movie.  I would have nominated the film as well, if I were a voting member of the Academy – Woody Allen allegations from his children and Mia aside.

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Another great physical transformation. I’m giving awards to two of my favorite three physical transformations of the year, with apologies to number three, Christian Bale.

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
To me, the hardest category this year. But Lupita Nyongo won me over with her great fashion sense at the Golden Globes (photo below)! And 12 Years a Slave can’t go home empty-handed.

We’ll find out how close I am on March 2nd…

Note to my blog co-host, Jamie: Remember – this won’t be fun if we agree on all 6!
Image

Saving Mr. Banks – Honor Thy Father

saving-mr-banks Travers

 

I’m finally getting around to viewing all of the likely Best Picture nominees now that some  have condescended to descend on Tacoma.  There is no way I’ll see them all before the nominations since the year-end crowding now favored by Hollywood makes this impossible for anyone outside of LA or NY.  That rant finished, let’s get on to Saving Mr. Banks.

There is a biblical injunction to Honor Thy Father and Mother.  Many people take this as an order that benefits the parents when actually it is something you do for yourself.  We all get bruised by childhood in some fashion but until we are able to let go of those injuries however minor or severe, we can’t get on to the business of being our own adult selves.  That message comes across loud and clear in Saving Mr. Banks.  Is there a lot of revisionist history going on?  Are the messier parts of the lives concerned given a sprinkle of pixie dust?  Hey!  It’s Disney!   Naturally that happens.  Even more, Saving Mr. Banks is a lovely story with an ending that will have you tearing up through a smile courtesy of a well constructed script brought to life by excellent actors.

Tom Hanks as Uncle Walt points to the name of his sometimes brutal father, Elias Disney, enshrined in a window at Disneyland honored as the publisher of his midwest newspaper.  Emma Thompson as P. L.Travers remembers her alcoholic but imaginative and loving father and inserts that imagination into the Mary Poppins’ stories.  Thompson is particularly effective as the crabby, opinionated, and very prickly Travers and will probably be rewarded with a well deserved nomination if only for letting us view a whole person through what could have been a one note harangue.

If you love Mary Poppins, she is here.  If you love Walt Disney, he is here.  If you are at least equally fond of reality, you might want to read The Sydney Morning Herald article about the film or additionally Mary Poppins, She Wrote:  The Life of P. L. Travers by Valerie Lawson on which the film is based.  In addition, I would recommend Walt Disney:  An American Original by Bob Thomas