Wednesday, December 9, 2015

SAG Award Wackiness!

Everybody's calling this morning nominations for the Screen Actors Guild Awards weird. I'm one of them. But let's be clear -- what we really mean is that few of the pre-ordained "front-runners" were included. The nominating committee, the members of which change every year, voted with their hearts, and it took everyone by surprise. For me, the system worked -- even if there are nominations that drive me absolutely crazy.

I'll get to the movies in a bit, but re: television: no Grace and Frankie and no Empire make me very skeptical of this year's committee. That's all I'm gonna say.

Ok. So.

Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Helen Mirren, Trumbo
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

I told y'all Mirren was in. Told. Y'all. In fact, I successfully called four of the nominees, missing out on McAdams. Indeed, McAdams placement gave me hope for the rest of her cast, which made the next set of nominees a shocker.

Christian Bale, The Big Short
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
Jacob Tremblay, Room

Not a Spotlight to be found, and the nods for Bale and Shannon left me shocked SHOCKED.

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Johnny Depp, Black Mass
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Here's the thing. Kristopher Tapley pointed out that, except for The Revenant, all these films screened for SAG before November. And Leo doesn't always get nominated at the SAG Awards. So the fact that they went out of their way to nominate him tells me this really could be his year, though part of me is still holding out for a Fassbender surprise.

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back

Sarah Silverman! Good for you, girl! Work that nod into something more! But everyone needs to calm down with the Mirren love. I gave you The Last Station. I put up with Hitchcock. I predicted Trumbo because why not? But I will not stand for Woman in Gold.

Beasts of No Nation
The Big Short
Straight Outta Compton

Ooh, they loved Trumbo, didn't they? I was surprised with how much I liked it, though it isn't a movie I think about often. Very very very happy about Spotlight and Straight Outta Compton. But boy does this lineup remind me of 2007 -- remember that? No Country for Old Men won against 3:10 to Yuma, American Gangster, Hairspray and Into the Wild.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Awards So Far

Derelict in my duties, I have been! I haven't talked about the National Board of Review, the New York Critics, or the Los Angeles Critics. I don't remember if I have before, but I definitely keep charts of all three.

Here's what happened:

NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEWMad Max: Fury Road won Best Picture; The Martian won Best Actor (Matt Damon), Best Director (Ridley Scott), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Drew Goddard). This immediately reminded me of my trip to South Korea, mostly because that's where I saw Mad Max, but also because the friend I was visiting at the time wound up loving The Martian so much, he saw it thrice (at least) in theaters. So that was interesting. Meanwhile, Brie Larson (Room), Sylvester Stallone (Creed), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) round out the actors; Quentin Tarantino wins Original Screenplay for The Hateful Eight.

NEW YORK FILM CRITICS CIRCLE: Carol, which I plan to see a second time this week, dominated with four wins, including Film, Director (Todd Haynes), Screenplay (Phyllis Nagy), and Cinematography (Edward Lachman). The big shocker: Michael Keaton winning Actor for Spotlight, an ensemble film full of supporting actors/actresses. Supporting Actor, instead, went to Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies (deserved); Supporting Actress to Kristen Stewart for Clouds of Sils Maria (the only movie I saw during my one week in New York City, which I visited for the first time a week before South Korea); Actress to Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn, a dream of a film, a phenomenal performance.

LOS ANGELES FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION: Spotlight may be the best movie of the year -- certainly LAFCA thought so, since, in addition to Screenplay, that's what it won. Then the rest of the categories spread the love: Mad Max: Fury Road's George Miller for Best Director, Steve Jobs' Michael Fassbender for Best Actor, 45 Years' Charlotte Rampling for Best Actress, 99 Homes' Michael Shannon for Best Supporting Actor; Ex Machina's leading lady Alicia Vikander for Best Supporting Actress.

Joe Reid pointed out on Twitter that this is the first time since 1988 all three critics' bodies split in every category. By the way, Oscar awarded Rain Man for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay that year -- total mentions by any of these groups: 0.

In the morning, another group will announce their nominees -- the Screen Actors Guild. My predictions, after the jump.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The 1965 Hollmann Awards: The End

The exciting conclusion to my year of 1965...

You've seen Brock Peters square off against Oskar Werner for Best Supporting Actor...
Listened to music ranging from Cat Ballou to Morituri...
Actively rooted for The Flight of the Phoenix, maybe...

And now it comes down to this -- the awards for Best Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Picture of 1965 -- including my Top Ten!

All below the jump...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The 1965 Hollmann Awards: Triumph for Japan, Julie Andrews Rules!

In this edition, the penultimate one, we look at Score, Actress, Production Design, and Director.


5. Morituri
Jerry Goldsmith

4. A Patch of Blue
Jerry Goldsmith

3. The Great Race
Henry Mancini

2. Thunderball
John Barry

1. Doctor Zhivago
Maurice Jarre

More, after the jump

Monday, November 16, 2015

The 1965 Hollmann Awards: Best Actor, Best Cinematography, and more!

Yes, a full month after my last post, I'm finally continuing my personal picks for the best of 1965. And best of all -- there are still two more posts after this!

Today, we take a look at Best Original Song, Best Sound, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography. And be forewarned: in at least one of these categories, not a single one of Oscar's nominees made it!

Shall we begin with a little song and dance?


5. "Recit de Cassard" from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

music by Michel Legrand
lyrics by Jacques Demy

4. "The Ballad of Cat Ballou" from Cat Ballou

music by Jerry Livingston
lyrics by Mack David

3. "Something Good" from The Sound of Music

music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers

2. "The Sweet-Heart Tree" from The Great Race

music by Henry Mancini
lyrics by Johnny Mercer

1. "I Will Wait for You" / "Duo de Guy et Genevieve" from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

music by Michel Legrand
lyrics by Jacques Demy

Best Actor and Best Cinematography below the jump.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The 1965 Hollmann Awards: Supporting Actor and More!

After much delay, the RETRO HOLLMANN AWARDS OF 1965 finally continue! Today, we remember that Martin Balsam won Best Supporting Actor, Thunderball was honored for Visual Effects, Darling's costumes (for black-and-white) and screenplay were declared the Best, and Doctor Zhivago added costumes (for color) to its cache of trophies -- and we determine who should have won, and indeed, who should have even been nominated. Unlike that ceremony, we will not be dividing craft categories between B&W and color; we will, however, guarantee 100% honesty in  our assessments.

My personal ballots:

5. Brock Peters as Rodriguez
The Pawnbroker
Leaves an impression, not just because we rarely get to see Peters in villain mode -- but because he's so damn good at it. So commanding a presence, he cannot help but dominate every scene he's in, even if it's just his voice over the phone. You can hardly blame Steiger for breaking down into tears -- Rodriguez is a son of a bitch who feels more dangerous than he already is.

4. Rod Steiger as Mr. Joyboy
The Loved One
Who knew Steiger had this in him? Creepy, ridiculous, yet somehow...not unrealistic. Mincing about yet lip-smackingly obsessed with the film's heroine, Joyboy is a creepy mama's boy, a cross between Mr. Humphries from Are You Being Served? and Francis Dolarhyde from Red Dragon. It is perhaps the most dedicated performance I've seen from Steiger.

3. John Gielgud as Sir Francis Hensley
The Loved One

A brief turn, but this is where all the heart is. Gielgud, as a somewhat absent-minded thespian facing irrelevancy, is sharp in his comic timing -- and heartbreaking in his pathos. His once-over before leaving the studio for the last time is an emotional moment, and Gielgud does not overplay his hand. And besides, he sets the plot into motion.

2. Oskar Werner as Dr. Wilhelm Schumann
Ship of Fools
From my original post: "The film's beating heart, possessing all the complications and ambiguities that the rest of the ensemble is only able to convey on the surface. Apparently it's impossible for this man not to bring out the best in all his scene partners."

1. Alec Guinness as Yevgraf
Doctor Zhivago

Another understated performance, but perhaps because he narrates and bookends the film, Guinness is more dominantly felt. He's masterful in his detached delivery, betraying some emotion on a rare occasion, and genuinely surprised by his own sentimentality. This is the performance I walked away thinking about.

Costumes, Original Screenplay, and more after the jump....

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The 1965 Hollmann Awards: Ensemble & Makeup

Over the next four days, I will share my own personal ballot for the films of 1965. Because honey, this is THE RETRO HOLLMANN AWARDS OF 1965!

In addition to the 65 films I previously listed, I watched Love Has Many Faces and The Cincinnati Kid -- I still missed out on The Hill and The Knack, but you know, c'est la vie.

We start our journey with two categories that did not exist for Oscar at the time; one of them still does not. And that one is...

5. Onibaba
A small but memorable cast of characters that you'd never want to be in the same room with -- a bunch of murderers and thieves.

4. The Flight of the Phoenix
An all-male ensemble -- and what an all-male ensemble! Even the characters killed off in the opening credits fit perfectly into this sweaty world director Robert Aldrich has established. Everyone feels essential -- even if Dan Duryea isn't given much to do, I'd still miss him.

3. The Loved One

Lynn Stalmaster
Perhaps an obvious choice for this category -- star cameos, character actors in the leads, an unusual leading lady, the immensity of Allyene Gibbons, and of course, a young Paul Williams playing even younger. All making for one surreal experience.

2. Ship of Fools

From the Spanish dance troupe to the Oscar-winning vets to the young newbies to the foreign stars, there's authenticity in every one. True, there are some performances I naturally gravitated towards, but it says something that no one truly outshined each other -- a very generous ensemble.

1. Young Cassidy

Miriam Brickman
Faces you recognize are suddenly unrecognizable -- but it's not makeup doing the trick, it's the pitch-perfect performances they're all giving! You really get the smell of the time and place, and oh, if only you could toast the way Rod Taylor toasts, or throw shade the way May Craig and May Cluskey throw it. Perfection, from the star to the extras.

Makeup after the jump....

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cinema '65: Best Picture of the Year

We're all here for Best Picture, right? Let's get on with it.

A very modern film, cheeky and bitchy, frank and real. Does it go on a little bit? Yes -- I think the holiday in Capri lasts a little longer than necessary, and while I like the ending, it feels, to me, like it kind of just stops. Maybe because narration is sprinkled throughout, until suddenly it isn't? It feels ungrateful to complain about it, though -- great performances, thrilling direction.

Doctor Zhivago
People don't talk enough about what a gas this movie is! It's not that there are great bursts of humor, but there is some wit sprinkled, no matter how dark it gets. An engaging love story, a thrilling account of war and revolution, a perfect (and consistent) bookend. Everyone's at the top of their game, from the cast to the composer to the designers.

Ship of Fools
Critics of the time dismissed this as a Grand Hotel on a boat; I, personally, can't believe that's considered a dismissal. Every member of the large ensemble gets a moment to shine; never once in its two-and-a-half-hour running time does it get dull.

The Sound of Music
Magical. Goosebumps at the first notes....tears at "Climb Ev'ry Mountain"...and everything in between, in between. It's a perfect movie that never over-sentimentalizes itself, remembering the realities of the world it inhabits and sticking them in when you least expect it. And it has one of the greatest performances in a movie-musical.

A Thousand Clowns
Though it tries to open itself up, it cannot escape its stage roots. That's not a problem in and of itself; the problem is that it's just not interesting. Despite a fine and convincing ensemble, it's a very written piece, with the sort of tiresome characters you would never even want to identify with. Director and ensemble make a valiant effort, but this is a dud.


The Academy voted for The Sound of Music....and damn it to hell, I vote for...


Because perfection is undeniable...though I confess there are two correct answers to this conundrum.

Over the next week, I'll reveal my personal picks for the year of 1965. Stay tuned....

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cinema '65: The Model and La Condesa

A pretty groovy race, this, with reigning champion Julie Andrews facing off against new discovery Julie Christie -- plus Oscar winner Simone Signoret in a semi-supporting role, Cannes-honored Samantha Eggar, and newcomer Elizabeth Hartman!

Eighty percent of this lineup was up for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama, at the Golden Globes. Eggar won there, also; the only Drama nominee not to make it in here was Maggie Smith for Othello, though she wound up in Supporting, if you recall. I still think it's interesting that Christie's Globe nom was for Darling and not Doctor Zhivago. Oh, of course, Darling was her star-making role, but the Globes were quite big on Zhivago. It's worth noting, too, that the Globes have often given two slots to one actress, and she was honored for both performances by the National Board of Review.

Julie Andrews, of course, won the Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical -- a cakewalk, really, since the competition consisted of Barbara Harris fussing about in A Thousand Clowns, Natalie Wood almost-but-not-quite-convincingly playing a fifteen-year-old in Inside Daisy Clover, and Jane Fonda ably taking on the lead in Cat Ballou -- but let us recall, it's a pre-respectability Jane Fonda. Rita Tushingham was nominated for The Knack...and How to Get It, but I did not see it and so cannot comment.

Andrews, Tushingham, and Smith (nominated for Young Cassidy) lost to Christie when they went up against her for Best British Actress at the BAFTAs -- yes, it would another three years before the Brits allowed their countrymen to compete with foreigners in single categories. The Foreign Actress lineup was something else -- Fonda for Cat Ballou, Signoret for Ship of Fools, Lila Kedrova for Zorba the Greek (she won the Supporting Actress Oscar the previous year), and the winner (!)....Patricia Neal in In Harm's Way! A worthy honoree.

In the end, Christie proved unstoppable -- in addition to all her other plaudits, she went home with the Academy Award.

But did she deserve it? Let's talk about it:

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cinema '65: The Shadow and The Sweet-Heart

One thing I don't think I've ever done is look at Original Song through the lens of the Grammy Awards -- which is crazy, because there are always chunks of time when the two go together, and not just because the music industry honors soundtracks.

In 1965, two of the nominees for Best Original Song were also up for Song of the Year...and one of them for Record of the Year. That one was "The Shadow of Your Smile" from The Sandpiper, which actually won Song of the Year over "I Will Wait for You" from The Umbrella of Cherbourg and "Yesterday" from Help!. And as you'll see, I have...thoughts...about that.

Help!, by the way, also competed against The Sandpiper and The Umbellas of Cherbourg for the Soundtrack Grammy, though it was completely shut out at the Oscars. The follow-up to Original Screenplay nominee A Hard Day's Night, Help! is a bizarre caper film in which the Beatles tour the world in an attempt to escape an Eastern cult bent on taking a sacrificial ring that somehow wound up with Ringo. Only seven of the fourteen songs on the album are in the film; none of them are "Yesterday".

In another bit of news, Tom Jones won the Award for Best New Artist! And he was quite busy in Hollywood, too, recording the title song for the James Bond flick Thunderball, as well as one of his two most popular songs, "What's New Pussycat?" from the film What's New Pussycat? -- which wound up being nominated right here!

Let's take a look at these Grammy-honored songs and their other competitors, after the jump.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cinema '65: The Artist and the Messiah

'Twas the days of the roadshow picture, when two-hour flicks had intermissions and comedies could last 3 hours. Take the family, pay the fee, spend the day gazing up at the widescreen pleasures the studios could afford to bring you. In LA, you can still get that kind of thrill from the occasional screening at the Egyptian -- South Pacific on a brand new print! Auntie Mame! Lawrence of Arabia anniversary tribute -- and when I do go, I wish others had such an opportunity, for some films are true big-screen experiences.

The five nominees for Color Cinematography are all such films -- beautiful, detailed, and awe-inspiring. Well, four of them anyway. Let's look.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Cinema '65: The Man from Tokyo

What a wacky year, this 1965! 

David Lean, according to Behind Oscar, was shocked to learn that he was among the five Academy Award nominees for Best Director -- for the Directors Guild had not included him in their end-of-year honors! That's just crazy -- how does an Oscar-winning filmmaker not get some traction for helming yet another box office hit?

Actually, the DGA nominees were, altogether, an odd bunch. Regard: the only men to make it in both shortlists were John Schlesinger (with whom we fell in love thanks to Sunday Bloody Sunday) for the very modern Darling, and Robert Wise for his family-friendly musical The Sound of Music.

Can you imagine an alternate reality where it's Sidney J. Furie and his fascinating spy thriller The Ipcress File that go down in Oscar History? What about Elliot Silverstein for the comedy-western Cat Ballou? I am surprised The Pawnbroker's Sidney Lumet did not make it in -- he was previously nominated for 12 Angry Men, after all, and the film had caused quite a stir.

At the Golden Globes, Lean, Schlesinger, and Wise were joined by beloved industry titan William Wyler, whose The Collector had netted acting honors for both leads at the Cannes Film Festival. This foursome would repeat here. A Patch of Blue director Guy Green would not be as fortunate, but hey -- he got to say he was a Golden Globe nominee.

No, instead of Furie, Silverstein, Lumet, or Green -- instead of even Stanley Kramer or Fred Coe, whose respective films, Ship of Fools and A Thousand Clowns, were both up for Best Picture -- the Directors Branch made a shocking pick with Hiroshi Teshigahara, the Japanese filmmaker behind Woman in the Dunes, an avant-garde slow-burn that must be seen to be believed.

And what do we make of this line-up? Behold, after the jump.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Cinema '65: The Brother and the Revolutionary

Sometimes the nominees for Best Supporting Actor are honest to God character actors in supporting roles, instead of character actors in leading roles (J.K. Simmons in Whiplash), or A-Listers "slumming" it in character roles (Bradley Cooper in American Hustle). The year 1965 is almost there, but Oscar will be Oscar, and so...

I always do a DDL Test with supporting actor nominees -- if Daniel Day-Lewis played it, would it still be supporting? In the case of Frank Finlay as Iago in Othello, I think not; otherwise, though, most definitely. And he'd probably win each time, too.

Everyone here was on their first nomination -- though at the time, Martin Balsam felt his nomination was also due to his being "snubbed" for Breakfast at Tiffany's. Maybe he was right -- certainly enough goodwill and excitement had built up around him, and he walked away with the Oscar.

He's better with a mustache, I think
As for the others -- Michael Dunn becomes the first Little Person (I believe) nominated for an Oscar, Ian Bannen's double duty in The Flight of the Phoenix and The Hill nets him a nod for the former, Tom Courtenay lands the first of two career nominations so far (perhaps 45 Years will change things?), and Frank Finlay is nominated, too.

After the jump.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Cinema '65: Hymns and Balalaikas!

A musical, three epics, and a drama.

Let's take some time to listen to some music, shall we?

Alex North for The Agony and the Ecstasy
It's lovely, the right mix of epic, intimate, and holy. It's your typical roadshow sound, really.

Maurice Jarre for Doctor Zhivago
Now this is how you do an epic roadshow score! "Lara's Theme" sweeps you into the romance, revealing itself in unexpected moments -- like a moon shining in the sky, a beacon showing the way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cinema '65: A Patch of Blue, A Scale of Grey

The War! It happened in black-and-white! At least, that's the way Oscar preferred looking at it, with three war films nominated in Cinematography; the other two contenders were a leading-up-to-the-War film and a social issues drama. Well, OK, I suppose they were both social issues dramas, but only one of them had Nazis.

So, what have we got? In Harm's Way, Otto Preminger's epic about Navy men and women in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. King Rat, Bryan Forbes' dark comedy about the hustle in a POW camp. Morituri, Bernhard Wicki's thriller about a saboteur aboard a German shipping boat. A Patch of Blue, Guy Green's blind girl-meets-black boy romance. Ship of Fools, Stanley Kramer's ensemble drama about humanity, baby, which went home with the Oscar.

What's happening here, Ernie?
But what do I make of all of it? Glad you asked.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Cinema '65: The Sistine Chapel and the Salzburg Gazebo

Prestige roadshow epics only, please -- this is the Art Direction-Set Decoration category.

Only Hollywood roman à clef Inside Daisy Clover could break up the whiff of Oscar Bait that permeates this category -- and by the way, lest we think otherwise, I'm a fan of Oscar Bait, and feel Daisy is easily the weakest film here. We have the Michelangelo vs. The Warrior Pope drama-dsiguised-as-an-epic The Agony and the Ecstasy, which is a surprising treat. There's the period romance and actual epic Doctor Zhivago. The intimate in tone, epic in scope Jesus biopic The Greatest Story Ever Told. And the smash musical The Sound of Music.

Zhivago won

Let's get to it, shall we?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Cinema '65: The Abbess and the Racist

A returning champ...a veteran honored...a writer...a second go-rounder...and the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I'm sure one of the surprising omissions from 1965's Supporting Actress lineup was Joan Blondell in The Cincinnati Kid. Blondell, after all, had been nominated for the Golden Globe and won at the National Board of Review. But it's not as though the eventual nominees were without love.

At the Golden Globes, Ruth Gordon, Joyce Redman, and Peggy Wood were nominated alongside the aforementioned Blondell and Thelma Ritter for Boeing Boeing.

You may have noticed...only the Academy honored Shelley Winters' work as the monster momma in A Patch of Blue. Of course, Shelley's was the winning performance, scoring a second Oscar for the actress on her third nomination -- and she would return for The Poseidon Adventure in 1972.

But obviously, the real story here is the first of many nominations for the incomparable Maggie Smith. This was her first nomination at the Oscars; the very same role got her nominated at the Golden Globes for Lead Actress in a Drama. Smith was also honored at the BAFTAs...albeit as Best British Actress for Young Cassidy. As we all know, she would soon return with 1969's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie -- and this time, she would win the Oscar.

But for now...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Cinema '65: The Spy and the Gunslinger

A comic performance dominating the year? Strange but true: Lee Marvin's role as a drunken gunman and his evil nose-less brother in the western spoof Cat Ballou won Best Actor honors from the National Board of Review, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the Berlin Film Festival -- oh, and the Academy.

It's a rare moment for an industry that famously undervalues comedy. Especially since most of the other nominees went unrecognized the rest of the year. Richard Burton -- nominated at the Oscars for Becket the year previous -- won Best British Actor at the BAFTAs...but for the next year, and winning for both The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Oskar Werner was nominated at the Golden Globes, but he was getting more attention for his supporting performance in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Rod Steiger, at least, was nominated for a Globe and won for the previous year's Berlin Film Festival -- his was the critical darling.

Then there was Laurence Olivier in blackface, which showed up nowhere else.

And what did I make of it all? After the jump, please.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cinema '65: Ann-Margret Dances, Jason Robards Marches

Ah, Adapted Score, the unusual Oscar category now relegated to history, alongside Best Choreography and Best Assistant Director. We've discussed the odd history of this category before, so like -- let's just get to it.

Cat Ballou
DeVol, adapting the music of Jerry Livingston
A surprising use of electric guitars makes Cat Ballou stand out among other westerns, western comedies, comedies... DeVol takes the central theme by David and Livingston, using it romantically, ominously, triumphantly, even dancing-ly! It's wonderfully straight-faced.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cinema '65: Kinky Sex and the Singing French

What an unusual group, these contenders for Best Original Screenplay!

Two of them are rather frank about sex: adultery, live-in loving, and homosexuality in Darling; impotence and kink in Casanova '70.

Two of them are comedies: Casanova '70, and the period ensemble screwballer Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.

Two of them are foreign-language films: Casanova '70, and the French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a romance that is completely sung-through.

Indeed, the only American one, The Train, is set (and was shot) in France -- a World War II thriller about art-thieving Nazis, the same tale that inspired The Monuments Men.

It's a bizarre group to see together -- but that's not to say it's an unwelcome group.

Take a look for yourself after the jump

Monday, August 31, 2015

Cinema '65: A POW Camp and a Suicide Hotline

The nominees for Black-and-White Art Direction-Set Decoration (hyphen city over here) consist of a war film, a social drama, a Cold War thriller, a shipboard ensemble, and The Slender Thread.

In King Rat, a POW camp in Southeast Asia, more or less permitted to run itself with little interference from the Japanese camp commandants, becomes the setting for a dark comedy survival -- not just physical, but psychological. George Segal is the king of the title, a soldier who has never been more powerful and influential than he is as a hustler and black marketeer in the camp.

A Patch of Blue follows a blind white girl who lives with her perpetually drunk grandfather and abusive, shrill, racist mother. She escapes, when she can, to the park -- where she meets and falls for a black man, a writer, who treats her with kindness -- played by Sidney Poitier. It's the annual Film with a Social Conscience, but it's by no mean the only one -- look, too, to fellow nominee Ship of Fools, about passengers on a boat heading for Germany from Vera Cruz, which explores class, race, prejudice in general, Anti-Semitism in particular, sex...the whole human experience.

Poitier also stars in The Slender Thread, playing a student (!) working at a suicide prevention center in Seattle; Anne Bancroft plays a caller who has just taken an overdose of barbiturates. If memory serves, the film plays out in real time, and is quite thrilling to experience -- and it's always a pleasant surprise to see contemporary-set films nominated in craft categories. Apparently, it takes a Poitier to bring attention to such films.

Rounding out the list is The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, one of those sophisticated, slow, highly-watchable John le Carre Cold War thrillers in which spy Richard Burton goes over the Berlin Wall to...but no. Best to just watch the whole thing unfold yourself.

The nominees, after the jump....

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cinema '65: Here We Go

And so it's happening: our look back at 1965.

Over the past few months, I've caught up with 67 films released in 1965 -- the only nominated film I missed among the regular Oscar categories (non-doc, non-short, non-foreign) was Von Ryan's Express. I've watched several Beach Party movies, four Vincent Price flicks, three Japanese films, two documentaries, two Jean Harlow biopics (both titled Harlow), and four Russ Meyer experiences. Some of the films were reviewed; most will be looked at over the next month, as we go through Oscar's nominees in fifteen categories.

Yes, fifteen. For it's 1965, and categories like Art Direction-Set Decoration and Cinematography have separate awards for Color and Black-and-White -- a practice that will be discontinued for the 1967 Oscars.

After that, of course, I will name my own picks in eighteen categories for the Retro Hollmann Awards.

Tomorrow: a look at POW dark comedy King Rat, blind-white-girl-meets-black-man romance A Patch of Blue, suicide prevention drama The Slender Thread, and more! Until then...the total list of films screened follows:

The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Awful Dr. Orloff
Beach Blanket Bingo
The Beach Girls and the Monster
Bunny Lake is Missing
Casanova ‘70
Cat Ballou
The Collector
The Defilers
Devil Doll
Die! Die! My Darling!
Die, Monster, Die
Doctor Zhivago
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors
The Eleanor Roosevelt Story
Fanny Hill
Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
The Flight of the Phoenix
Genghis Khan
Girl Happy
The Great Race
The Greatest Story Ever Told
Harlow (Carol Lynley version)
Harlow (Carroll Baker version)
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini
In Harm’s Way
Inside Daisy Clover
King Rat
Lord Jim
The Loved One
Mondo Pazzo
Murder Most Foul
The Nanny
None But the Brave
A Patch of Blue
The Pawnbroker
The Pleasure Seekers
A Rage to Live
The Sandpiper
Ship of Fools
Ski Party
The Slender Thread
The Sons of Katie Elder
The Sound of Music
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
A Thousand Clowns
Tomb of Ligeia
The Train
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
War-Gods of the Deep
What’s New Pussycat?
Who Killed Teddy Bear?
Woman in the Dunes
Young Cassidy

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Cinema '65: Beach Party and Its Kind

Guess who watched a bunch of beach movies? Me! I did!

In retrospect, it's nuts that my introduction to the world of Beach Party was the film Ski Party -- the main setting is different, the characters are different, and except for a quick gag where she plays a college professor who goes "parking" with students, no Annette Funicello. But boy oh boy what a flick! Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman disguise themselves as ladies on a college co-ed trip to a ski lodge, with Hickman almost finding love with the big man on campus! A creaky idea? Maybe, but executed with fun, real wit -- and a Lesley Gore number! There's even a scene where our heroes choose not to stay the night with some girls they've duped because "the average age of this movie's audience is 14." Fun!

Not fun? The Beach Girls and the Monster, a cheapo horror-mystery about beach bums and their disappointed parents. There aren't enough beach girls to justify that title, really, while the conversations the movie attempts to have about the Generation Gap and Changing Times are embarrassing. I don't think the mystery holds up, either. Sue Casey plays an enjoyably boozey, acid-tongued wife, though. And Frank Sinatra, Jr., contributed to the soundtrack, so that's...something. This is not a Beach Party film, but it's clearly influenced by the success of that series.

I did wind up returning to the world of Beach Party with How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, though again, it's an atypical entry; while it's the traditional Beach Party ensemble (including big dummy Jody McCrea and leather-clad dummy Harvey Lembeck), Frankie is off the beach, serving his country, canoodling with island girls on base, but convincing witch doctor Buster Keaton to send a magical pelican to keep an eye on Annette's fidelity. Such a conceit is risible, and my jaw dropped when the opening musical number revealed exactly how one stuffs a wild bikini -- 36-22-36. Blech, though catchy. Not surprisingly, this was one of the final films in the official series.

Now Beach Blanket Bingo, I can deal with. Frankie spends the entire runtime explaining why girls can't do what boys do, while Annette does exactly what she wants and teaches him a lesson in how awesome she is. Don Rickles does a whole set mocking the fact that this franchise is still going. Paul Lynde does his mincing-sneering-hating youth routine, which is always welcome. There's a sweet subplot about big dummy Jody McCrea falling in love with a mermaid. I think someone almost gets murdered? Plus there's this one extra who's clearly a genuine 60s party girl (far right in the gif), marching to the beat of her own spectacular drum. I love her. I love this movie. Except for the scene where a jealous girl tries to accuse Frankie of rape.

Girl Happy is not a Beach Party movie -- not only is it a different studio entirely, but it stars Elvis Presley! Still, it's about some young 'uns who head to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break. Elvis falls for his boss's daughter, and once you've seen Shelley Fabares in action, you will too. While she doesn't possess Ann-Margret's volcanic sexual energy, she's a natural comedienne who plays the hell out a drunken striptease scene. Girl Happy is more frank about sex than the Frankie & Annette flicks -- indeed, it's also more open to letting its women have a good time, without judgment. I like that! Yay for proud strippers!

Disappointingly enough, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was dull. From the team that brought you the Beach Party films comes another Frankie Avalon-Dwayne Hickman adventure, this time going up against mad scientist Vincent Price and his army of robot beauties. Price is game, but it's oddly listless.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

First Half of 2015

A brief look at the film year so far.

I've only seen 38 films so far this year (not counting the retrospective flicks, of course), which is fewer than I had hoped -- though, if recent conversations are any indication, far more than the average. I mean, someone told me the last movie they saw in a theater was Gravity!

These are unranked choices, but they are grouped together in ascending order of affection. Directors and commentary follow each title, except in "Shan't See It Again", a sort-of Hall of Shame -- the guilty are protected in this instance.

Shan't See It Again 
Child 44
The Con Artists
San Andreas
Seventh Son
Woman in Gold

Wish They Were Better

Fifty Shades of Grey (Sam Taylor-Johnson): Dakota Johnson a natural, goofy yet convincingly sexy, with a soundtrack that's on point; but Jamie Dornan is a wasteland, and the finale is ho-hummingly tame

Jupiter Ascending (The Wachowskis): fascinating world-building, but clearly hacked to pieces, and with a wan Mila Kunis at its center

Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow): great fun as a monsters-run-amok flick (and I consider That Death a huge plus), but script is aggressively regressive re: sexual politics

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon): surprisingly unsentimental lead a relief; in fact, most of the ensemble shines and convinces, despite suffocatingly twee conceits and sketchily-written adults

Serena (Susanne Bier): J-Law understated, intense, hypnotic; film should be a slow burn but it's actually a long sit

Guilty Pleasures

The Boy Next Door (Rob Cohen): deliciously scandalous, and it must be said: J.Lo is genuinely phenom in this

Mortdecai (David Koepp): I laughed more than once, love the song "Johanna" that plays over the end credits, and I think everyone should be aware that I am always Team Gwyneth

Positivity after the jump -- or as I like to call it, the Cold Stone Rankings.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cinema '65: Let's Talk About Sex

I have officially begun watching the films of 1965. It's an interesting moment in cinema -- studio films are now more frank about the subject of sex, but there's still an Archie Comics kind of innocence abounding; meanwhile, foreign films are offering tits, tits, tits. I'm only 17 deep in my screenings so far, but my God there's a lot of sex talk in these films!

The Pleasure Seekers, for example, is all about sex, while still protecting the virtue of its supposedly experienced (?) leads. Billed as a musical remake of Three Coins in the Fountain, Ann-Margret is the only one of the trio who gets to sing, though one of these times is with the man of her dreams, a poor doctor who's fallen in love with her. Anyway, it's a bubbly, flighty, sometimes bizarre film -- about thirty minutes in, it's suddenly decided that Pamela Tiffin is playing "the dumb one", for example -- but there's also a surprisingly deft handling of the romance between Carol Lynley and her married boss. It helps that Brian Keith is one of the more naturalistic actors to grace the screen. The idea of three women coming to Spain to seduce men, then constantly balking at the thought of sex, doesn't always gel, but at least Ann-Margret gets to boff about.

Now, as far as providing sexual shenanigans while still offering a virtuous heroine, the greatest bang (ha!) for your buck is Russ Meyer's adaptation of Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. Naive country girl Fanny never realizes that her charitable benefactress and mother figure is a madam slowly training her for the day Fanny will take customers. It's a cheeky, often hilarious movie -- I laughed out loud several times -- taking advantage of the bawdy bodice-ripping made mainstream by 1963's Tom Jones. Miriam Hopkins, a Best Actress Oscar Nominee for 1935's Becky Sharp, steals the film as the cunning yet soft-hearted madam, but let's not short shrift Leticia Roman's sweet, sincere rendering of Fanny, a character that very easily could have been frustrating to watch. She's charming in the role, never losing Fanny's sense of innocence, nor her surprising strength of character. A hero for the ages.

Meanwhile, in Italy, Marcello Mastroianni once again plays a man with sexual hangups, this time in Casanova '70. Nominated at the Academy Awards for its screenplay, the film follows a would-be sex god with an intriguing problem: he can only get it up if he's in some sort of danger. The different ways this manifests itself can be hilarious, but perhaps more laughs could have been gained with a shorter runtime -- the last third, featuring a murder plot and trial, offers a number of amusing sequences and bits of dialogue, but still begins to plod after a while. Give it points for genuine sexiness though -- I'm a great fan of Mastroianni's virginal fiancee convincing him to come to her room with the husky plea, "Disrespect me."

Speaking of Mastroianni, there's a hat-tip to his performance in 8 1/2 in the middle of What's New Pussycat? -- no surprise, as it's the screenwriting debut of one Woody Allen, who would pay homage to Fellini again and again in films like Radio Days and Stardust Memories. Now best-known for Tom Jones' titular theme song (which was Oscar-nominated), the film also deserves credit for showcasing Peter O'Toole's talent for comedy, as comfortable in Allen's verbal wordplay as he is in silly slapstick. BUT -- and keep in mind I've been watching Beach Party movies -- this has to be one of the clunkiest, most dated films I've ever seen. Peter Sellers is clearly out of control (though he does, admittedly, get a number of laughs); the rape, race, and pedophilia jokes are more squeamish than actually funny -- with the exception of O'Toole's "Don't focus on the negative" line; the film seems to made of two separate screenplays Frankenstein'd together. A disappointment.

Not a disappointment, though -- indeed, a pleasant surprise -- was A Rage to Live, a delicious melodrama in which Suzanne Pleshette becomes a nymphomaniac after her brother's friend forces himself on her. And it just causes trouble! Brett Somers calls her a slut; a rendezvous with a cabana boy basically kills her mother; she's incapable of being faithful to her husband; and her reputation even stains those with whom she is not intimate, like poor newspaperman Peter Graves! As Graves' suspicious alky wife, Bethel Leslie gets a lot of opportunities to side-eye, mutter insults, yell insults, and tipsily demand refills -- I love her, and I'm convinced it's her array of evening gloves, pearls, and posh gowns that earned the film its Oscar nomination for Costume Design. Listen closely and you'll hear the movie's theme song being played in one scene!

Don't think this is it for 1965 heat -- I still have those horny-yet-sexless Beach Party flicks to discuss! In the meantime, have y'all seen any of these films? What did you think?

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Casting Coup Tuesdays: Aladdin

In 1989, The Little Mermaid ushered in what we now know as The Disney Renaissance. This period, which continued through 1998 (Mulan), begat a series of now-classic films that changed cinematic history. The Lion King (1994) inspired a Broadway smash hit; Beauty and the Beast (1991) was the first cartoon to be nominated for Best Picture; and the 1992 film Aladdin became the first animated film to cross the 200 million dollar mark at the box office!

And it's no wonder! It's fast-paced, funny, and boasts three unforgettable songs: the show-stopping, toe-tapping "Friend Like Me", the utter blast of "Prince Ali", and the Oscar-winning love duet "A Whole New World". Robin Williams' work as the Genie is rightfully considered one of the greatest  performances in film history, voice-only or otherwise, and earned the actor a special Golden Globe, as  well as the MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance. It's unmatchable. Only a fool would attempt to replicate it.

So let's not replicate it. Let's instead imagine a different Aladdin. A live-action Aladdin.

After the jump, I mean.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Casting Coup Tuesdays: Mulan

If you've been to the movies, or if you're alive, then you're well aware of Disney's recent trend of remaking its catalogue of animated movies as live action films. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became Mirror Mirror; Sleeping Beauty was turned into the darker, more Maleficent-focused...Maleficent; Cinderella was stripped of its songs and became a sort go showcase for Cate Blanchett; The Jungle Book is on its way; and Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma "Hermione Granger" Watson, is currently shooting. Besides that, the studio has confirmed that Dumbo, somehow, is in the works, but the movie they told us to expect down the road may be the very one we want to see most.

I'm talking about Mulan.

(more after the jump)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

May and June Casting Coups!

Casting Coup Tuesdays are coming back -- and not just as part of the Retro Series either!

Disney's been on a live action kick -- so let's join them.

May 5: MULAN - announced as among the next batch of intended live action remakes




Y'all know I love me a musical. So let's revisit some classic ones.

June 2: THE WIZ - already announced as NBC's next Live Musical production

June 9: ZORBA - musical version of the Oscar-winning film, the latter of which was discussed a bit back in the day

June 16: FLOWER DRUM SONG - Original Broadway version


June 30: CALAMITY JANE - the 1953 film, which we discussed a bit last year

Oh, we'll get there when we get there.

So mark your calendars, come up with your own casts, and make sure to share all your thoughts and feelings in the comments!

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Monday, April 6, 2015

(n)Ever Too Early: Oscar Predictions

Ah, April. The Academy Awards are now a little over a month behind us, which means it's time to start speculating about next year's Academy Awards nominations. Why not? It's fun!

Hat tip to Nathaniel of The Film Experience, who began the tradition of April predictions long ago, and who's currently giving his far more thought than I am mine.

I did pretty well last year, actually -- though the fact that I made predictions after Cannes probably helped. Nevertheless, let's try it -- my predictions for eight of the Oscar categories for next year, after the jump!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

This Is It: The 1971 Retro Hollmann Awards, Part Three

It all ends today. This is the last of the Retro Hollmann Award of 1971.

Within, you will find: my favorite costumes; my full Top Ten; my lineup of Original Song, the final winner of which was not decided until three minutes before I hit PUBLISH...

And, to start us off, the prize for Best Ensemble, which has no equivalent at the Oscars, but hey -- these are the Hollmann Awards.

1. The Boy Friend
Always give props to a troupe of dancing, singing thesps, all bringing their A-Game, all on-tone, none ever better. Maybe you wouldn't think to combine the talents of Glenda Jackson, Twiggy, Tommy Tune, and Vladek Sheybal (not to mention Max Adrian, Georgina Hale, and Antonia Ellis) -- but thank goodness someone did.

4. Carnal Knowledge

Unexpected performances from Ann-Margret, Candice Bergen and Art Garfunkel; effective cameos by Carol Kane and Rita Moreno; an almost movie-stealing turn from Cynthia O'Neal; and a phenomenal Jack Nicholson at the center of it all.

5. Cold Turkey

Dick Van Dyke and Bob Newhart against type, yes -- but let's also give props to Barnard Hughes' desperate, chain-smoking doctor, Barbara Cason's snooty cigarette fiend, Simon Scott's surly tobacco exec, and Bob & Ray.

3. Dodes'ka-den

Kurosawa's cast has to run the gamut from comedy to drama, varying degrees of each, without being in different films. Nailed it. Little Hiroyuki Kawase is a real find as the beggar's son, Tomoko Yamazaki wrings your heart as the paper flower girl, and at the heart of it all -- Yoshitaka Zushi as the boy conducting a train.

2. The Last Picture Show

Ross Brown, casting director
Anarene feels like the real deal, not just because of the soon-to-be legends like Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, and Cybill Shepherd; not just due to the reliable character work of Eileen Brennan, Clu Gulager, and Ben Johnson; but also because of the work from Sharon Taggart, Joe Heathcock, Sam Bottoms, and Gary Brockette. It takes a village to make a masterpiece.

What more can I possibly give to the films of Ken Russell? Find out after the jump...