Monday, July 4, 2016

2016: We're Halfway Through

We are halfway through 2016, and I have watched 45 film so far. My goal was 50, but there you go.

Here's how I'm feeling:

Hate It
Maybe boring, maybe poorly-made, but in any case, frustrated and angered me.

10 Cloverfield Lane (dir. Dan Trachtenberg)
Mother's Day (dir. Garry Marshall)
Mountains May Depart (dir. Jia Zhangke)
SORI: Voice from the Heart (dir. Lee Ho-Jae)

Not Very Good
Generally incompetent, yet does not inspire passion either way.

The Angry Birds Movie (dir. Clay Kaytis/Fergal Reilly)
Dirty Grandpa (dir. Dan Mazer)
Eddie the Eagle (dir. Dexter Fletcher)
Race (dir. Stephen Hopkins)

Guilty Pleasures 
I had a good time, but I don't know who else would (other than my roommate).

The Boy (dir. William Brent Bell)
London Has Fallen (dir. Babak Najafi)

Like It 
I enjoyed myself while watching, perhaps I'll watch again when it hits television.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder)
The Boss (dir. Ben Falcone)
Cemetery of Splendour (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Deadpool (dir. Tim Miller)
The Infiltrator (dir. Brad Furman)
Kung Fu Panda 3 (dir. Alessandro Carloni/Jennifer Yuh)
Love & Friendship (dir. Whit Stillman)
Me Before You (dir. Thea Sharrock)
Money Monster (dir. Jodie Foster)
Spirits' Homecoming (dir. Cho Jung-Rae)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (dir. Glenn Ficarra/John Requa)
X-Men: Apocalypse (dir. Bryan Singer)

Love It 
The movies I would re-watch, maybe even buy, and which I return to in my thoughts more than once.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (dir. Michael Bay)
Everybody Wants Some!! (dir. Richard Linklater)
Eye in the Sky (dir. Gavin Hood)
Finding Dory (dir. Andrew Stanton)
The Jungle Book (dir. Jon Favreau)
Like for Likes (dir. Park Hyun-Jin)
A Melody to Remember (dir. Lee Han)
The Mermaid (dir. Stephen Chow)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (dir. Kirk Jones)
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (dir. Nicholas Stoller)
The Nice Guys (dir. Shane Black)

Gotta Have It 
Drop what you're doing right now and watch this.

Dongju: Portrait of a Poet (dir. Lee Joon-Ik)
The Final Master (dir. Xu Haofeng)
Green Room (dir. Jeremy Saulnier)
Hail, Caesar! (dir. The Coen Brothers)
How To Be Single (dir. Christian Ditter)
The Lobster (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
The Neon Demon (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
Seoul Searching (dir. Benson Lee)
The Wailing (dir. Na Hong-Jin)
The Witch (dir. Robert Eggers)
Zootopia (dir. Byron Howard/Rich Moore)

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Casting Coup Tuesday: Terms of Endearment

Terms of Endearment 
Best Picture - WON 
Best Director, James L. Brooks - WON 
Best Actress, Shirley MacLaine - WON 
Best Actress, Debra Winger - Nominated
Best Supporting Actor, John Lithgow - Nominated
Best Supporting Actor, Jack Nicholson - WON
Best Adapted Screenplay, James L. Brooks - WON 
Best Original Score, Michael Gore - Nominated
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Polly Platt/Harold Michelson/Tom Pedigo/Anthony Mondell - Nominated
Best Film Editing, Richard Marks - Nominated
Best Sound, Donald O. Mitchell/Rick Kline/Kevin O'Connell/Jim Alexander - Nominated

And now 1983 comes to an official close, as we re-cast the Best Picture Oscar winner, Terms of Endearment. After the jump.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The 1983 Retro Hollmann Awards

Took a lot to get all my thoughts and other elements organized - plus I forgot my charger at work for a few days - but now we're back on.

As mentioned, 61 films were watched during this Retro tribute to 1983. And many of them had elements worth reading - so many, in fact, that a good half of those films screened are nominees here.

I had hoped to do this in three parts, but due to time running out...all 18 categories will be announced within this single post. Beginning with two that were not in play at that year's Oscars, Best Ensemble and Best Makeup.

Best Ensemble
The Big Chill
Wallis "Wally" Nicita, casting director
2. Fanny and Alexander; 3. Flashdance; 4. A Christmas Story; 5. Streamers

The cast of The Big Chill really feels like a solid group of friends with 20 years of history together. Likewise, Fanny and Alexander feels like a genuine family unit, Flashdance feels like a makeshift family, A Christmas Story feels like a family in a small town, and Streamers...Streamers is just great, man.

Best Makeup

City of the Living Dead
Franco Rufini, makeup artist/special effects makeup
Luciano Vito, hair stylist
2. The Hunger 3. The Evil Dead 4. Fanny and Alexander 5. Krull

Krull boasts a wizened seer, dirty vagabonds, and an actual cyclops. Fanny and Alexander is my hat-tip to those difficult hairstyles of the early 20th-century, and the pale sweat of mortal illness. The remaining honorees are of the horror genre: the gallons of blood and rotting Deadites of The Evil Dead, the mummified corpses, sickly Susan Sarandon, and glamour queen beauty of Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger. But above all the rest? City of the Living Dead, with its decayed corpses, disembowelments, guts spewed out the mouth, brains ripped from skulls. Great fun.

For the remaining 16 awards, run past the jump.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

1983: So, How'd I Do?

The Retro Hollmann Awards will come, but until then...why not take a look at the 61 movies I watched for 1983?

Amin, the Rise and Fall
The Big Chill
Children of Nagasaki
A Christmas Story
City of the Living Dead
Cross Creek
The Dead Zone
The Dresser
Educating Rita
The Evil Dead
Falasha: Exile of the Black Jews
Fanny and Alexander
Fire and Ice
Gorky Park
Heart Like a Wheel
The Hunger
The King of Comedy
Max Dugan Returns
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
Mr. Mom
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
Mother Lode
Never Say Never Again
The Osterman Weekend
The Pirates of Penzance
Return of the Jedi
Reuben, Reuben
Revenge of the Ninja
The Right Stuff
Risky Business
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Star 80
Staying Alive
Strange Brew
Strange Invaders
Sudden Impact
Tender Mercies
Terms of Endearment
To Be Or Not To Be
Trading Places
Under Fire
Valley Girl
The Year of Living Dangerously

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Casting Coup Tuesdays: Tender Mercies

Tender Mercies
Best Picture - nominated
Best Director, Bruce Beresford - nominated
Best Actor, Robert Duvall - WON
Best Original Screenplay, Horton Foote - WON
Best Original Song, "Over You" - nominated

Tender Mercies is unusual, even considering the number of unassuming, reflective movies that came out in the 1980s. It's quieter than most, there's no obvious climax, most things are left unsaid. There's only one "big" moment, and it belongs to Betty Buckley, in one of her three scenes. There are plenty of big moments that don't involve caterwauling or screaming, but they happen within. The characters may be in or around show business, but they don't make a business of showing, at all.

In many ways, it's a beautiful film, and not because of the Texas landscape. Good God, decidedly not! The beauty lies in its little moments: a flyer posted for a fan's band, a game of catch, a couple gardening together, a lullaby sung privately, away from us. And best of all, it introduces a recovering alcoholic, without having to show them falling off the wagon. I've always felt that twist, while believable, is often used as a crutch. Horton Foote needs no such crutch to keep his story in motion.

Could such a film be made today? If so, what would it look like? Allow me to speculate.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Best Picture, 1983

Our month-long celebration of the year 1983 nears its end. Beginning Wednesday, I'll begin naming my honorees in 18 categories for the Retro Hollmann Awards. But before I do - let's end the actual Oscar coverage the way all Oscars end, with Best Picture of the Year.

And what do all five nominees have in common? They are about people who need each other. Friends, lovers, business partners, researchers, family. These are stories of people who cannot survive without one another, for a whom a life without their community is a hollow existence. It's a sentiment at the core of The Big Chill - Glenn Close's Sarah believes she was at her best when she was with this formerly tight-knit group of college friends, and when one member of their group objects to the idea, Kevin Kline's wittily and sincerely observes, "How much love, sex, fun and friendship can a person take?" (It also became the movie's tagline)

Similarly is The Right Stuff about a family created out of circumstance. Only seven men are chosen to be the first Americans in space - they are each other's navigators, engineers, safety officers, communications liaisons. They depend on each other to make it back home, and they aren't home, their wives are keeping each other company.

The Dresser also has co-workers who depend on each other, in this case a little too much. Sir, the noted Shakespearean actor, not only depends on Norman to get him dressed and ready for each performance, he also depends on him to help maintain his sanity. Norman, himself dependent on the bottle, needs Sir just as much - he needs someone who needs him, he's dependent on dependency.

Just as wrapped around each other are Aurora and Emma, the mother-daughter duo at the heart of Terms of Endearment. Even though Aurora pursues her own romance, even though Emma moves out of state twice-over, even though they don't seem to get along for a good half of the movie -- they need each other. They constantly talk on the phone, they know everything about each other (even sex things!), one is the anchor for the other.

And then we come to the couple that saves each other. Mac Sledge is a former country-western star, a drunk. Rosa Lee is a widow, a single mother, making it on her own in a ramshackle motel/gas station. But when they meet, she gets him sober, he builds a life for her and her son, and they take care of the surrounding land to allow for a farm. And Rosa Lee thanks God for these Tender Mercies.

It's a strong lineup. Terms of Endearment came out on top, but maybe I have a thing or two to say about that. Maybe I'll say it after the jump.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Real Women: Best Actress, 1983

I found the Best Actress nominees of 1983 difficult to write about, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's because what they all have in common is that they all did so well, so subtly well, so realistically. No matter the genre, no matter the circumstances of the character or the plot, all five performances were of people who exist in the real world: your mother, your sister, your neighbor, your co-worker. That's the story of 1983. Stories about people.

Three of those people are mothers - indeed, none of them seem to have a career outside of it! Jane Alexander is a mom struggling to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Shirley MacLaine is a mother who cannot fathom her daughter's decisions, and isn't shy about saying so. Debra Winger is her daughter, but also a mother of three making the best of things in a marriage that has more than its share of ups and downs.

The other two are young women you underestimate at your own peril. Meryl Streep may seem like a mess - she's consistently tardy, she flashes co-workers, she chews gum on the job -- but she's the lone voice speaking out against what could be corporate corruption. And Julie Walters is under-educated, with a coarse manner of speaking, but when she sets out to better herself, she reveals an unpolished wisdom.

Shirley MacLaine won the Oscar -- which only seems fair. After all, she had been nominated in this category four previous times, with a fifth nod in Best Documentary for The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir. Meryl Streep was just coming off her second win for Sophie's Choice the year before, where she had defeated An Officer and a Gentleman's Debra Winger. Jane Alexander had been nominated thrice previously - she, too, had lost to Streep, when both were up for Kramer vs. Kramer. And Julie Walters was making her film debut.

But here's what I think....