Monday, October 31, 2016

The Horrors of 2016

In time for Halloween, some stray thoughts on this year's horror offerings (so far)....

The Witch (dir. Robert Eggers) - Superb on every level, an instant classic. Strikes a neat compromise between how the past fewer the threat of witches and our present-day attitude toward such "hysteria" (or, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you!).

The Boy (dir. William Brent Bell) - Just a good time, with a genuinely shocking and nauseous twist - for me, anyway. And it had a great sense of humor about itself. I will say, though, modern horror flicks have a tendency to outstay their welcome, leaning on especially long climaxes.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (dir. Burr Steers) - It's fine, it's fine. Nothing to get worked up about either way.

10 Cloverfield Lane (dir. Dan Trachtenberg) - It does bank on a certain familiarity with its title, which drains some of the suspense from the proceedings. Dull when it should be claustrophobic. A thoroughly unenjoyable time - and this from a John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead fan!

The Wailing, Blair Witch, and more after the jump.....

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....

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What a Feeling: Best Original Song, 1983

I'm so glad we finally made it to Best Original Song, because the 80s was the decade for this category. The confusing rule changes, terrible winners, and "huh?" nominations of recent years have called into question the legitimacy, the necessity of Original Song. But without it, we wouldn't have the power ballads and pop hits that have defined the last 30 years of karaoke.

Here's just a sampling of nominees, not even winners: "9 to 5", "On the Road Again", "Endless Love", "Eye of the Tiger", "The Power of Love", "Footloose", "Let's Hear It For the Boy", "Somewhere Out There", "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now", "Kiss the Girl". Songs that, when played amongst friends, cause the whole party to stop for a group sing-along. And I haven't even touched the actual champions like "Say You, Say Me", "Up Where We Belong", "Take My Breath Away", "I Just Called to Say I Love You", and so on, and so forth.

1983 gave us three bona fide classics, songs that have stood the test of time, tunes that everyone - old, young, straights, gays, men, women - knows most of the words to. Two of them come from Flashdance, the third highest-grossing film of the year, whose soundtrack took the top spot of the Billboard Top 200 two weeks in a row. The other one comes from Yentl, Barbra Streisand's surprisingly great directorial debut.

Oh, and the other nominees were another tune from Yentl and one from Tender Mercies. Shall we have a listen?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Give My Regards to Broadway: Best Adapted Screenplay, 1983

I'm sick, I'm getting to this late, it's the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay.

I will say this: notice something interesting about this year? Four of the five nominees are based on stage plays, three of which are British productions. I feel like the last time a play inspired a screenplay nominee, it was The King's Speech - and since that was unproduced and subsequently rewritten for the screen, it won Original Screenplay.

Anyway, the contenders, after the jump.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Casting Coup Tuesdays: The Right Stuff

The Right Stuff
Best Picture - Nominated
Best Supporting Actor, Sam Shepard - Nominated
Best Original Score, Bill Conti - WON
Best Cinematography, Caleb Deschanel - Nominated
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Geoffrey Kirkland/Richard Lawrence/W. Stewart Campbell/Peter R. Romero/Jim Poynter/George R. Nelson - Nominated
Best Editing, Glen Farr/Lisa Fruchtman/Stephen A. Rotter/Douglas Stewart/Tom Rolf - WON
Best Sound, Mark Berger/Thomas Scott/Randy Thom/David MacMillan - WON
Best Sound Effects Editing, Jay Boekelheide - WON

May I confess: I've never been one for space? Partly related to fear of the unknown, yes, as well as a natural instinct to not purposely venture forth into places devoid of oxygen. But I also never really got the Space Race in general. Closely related as it is to the Cold War, to me it's always seemed like peacetime dick-measuring, a way to show off our superiority without dropping another atomic bomb. So we made it to the Moon, we've seen evidence of water on Mars, we can tell the difference between a planet and a sub-planet -- so bloody what? What does it all mean? What was it all for?

That said -- I do get shockingly giddy -- awestruck, heart swelling with pride -- when I watch what the men of the Mercury 5 mission accomplish in The Right Stuff. It takes a genuinely interesting subject - don't get me wrong, it is fascinating what people went through to soar among the stars - and manages to make what should have been a documentary series work within a narrative feature. Do we get to know all of the astronauts? No, but you'd be surprised how many of them we do get to know, plus the men who tried but didn't make it, plus their wives, plus the men in Washington. The ego of politics, and the politics of scientific research, ground the proceedings with realism, a certain cynicism, lest we think this was all about virtuous intentions. And, of course, they make sure to address things like holding in a colonic and pissing inside your spacesuit.

Yet there is an appropriate awe about the undertaking. Even when we're earthbound, the majesty of the sunsets... And when Chuck Yeager flies up into the clouds, the endless billowing clouds, the sun blinding us, blinding him. Actual space entry takes on an almost psychedelic look, like Heaven exploding through a kaleidoscope. Even a watering hole like Pancho Barnes' Happy Bottom Riding Club is given its due, home as it was to the beginnings of the program.

The Right Stuff is good as it is. Folly to mess with it. But let's. Because after all, this is Casting Coup Tuesday.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Who's the New Guy?: Best Director, 1983

It's the new guy versus the vets in the battle for Best Director.

Well, OK, the new guy was James L. Brooks, and while Terms of Endearment was his first film, this was hardly amateur hour: he was the writer-producer who brought us TV shows like Mary Tyler Moore and Phyllis and Taxi. He had even dipped his toes into film producing with Starting Over, which received two Oscar nominations years before.

Bruce Beresford, surprisingly enough for the director of a Texas-set, country music-concerned film like Tender Mercies, was an Australian filmmaker! He had been nominated for his Breaker Morant screenplay just three years earlier - he also has the rare honor of having directed a Best Picture-winning film (Driving Miss Daisy)...without being nominated himself.

Yates also directed Krull in 1983
Peter Yates was back making films like The Dresser in his native England, having been nominated four years earlier for directing and producing the American bicycle dramedy Breaking Away. He performed similar double-duty with The Dresser.

Mike Nichols was back in the game after more than a decade of nada, following his Oscar win for The Graduate. Silkwood was less obviously stylistic, but brought him back and served as his first collaboration with Meryl Streep. The two would later team up for Heartburn, Postcards from the Edge, and the HBO mini-series Angels in America.

And then there's Ingmar Bergman, with his own spotty record of Academy love. The most revered of Swedish filmmakers, Bergman's previous efforts had been relegated to either Foreign Film (this was the third of his films to win the category) or Original Screenplay (curiously, a common place for foreign auteurs to find their work honored - A Separation, anyone?). Fanny and Alexander proved to be his most Oscar-friendly work since Cries and Whispers in 1973, though like Scenes from a Marriage, it was a mini-series edited down to feature-length.

Beginner's luck: Brooks won. And it's interesting: he would be back twice as the producer-writer of Broadcast News and As Good As It Gets, but this proved to be his only at-bat for Directing. Good thing he got it, eh?


Friday, May 13, 2016

Everything's As If We Never Said Goodbye: Best Supporting Actress, 1983

Hello, old friends.

3 years later, but you get the idea
Like its 1993 equivalent, this is at least my second time viewing all these performances. That's thanks to Stinkylulu, who hosted a Supporting Actress Smackdown back in 2009 that I participated in. As will happen when almost ten years (!) have passed, I've warmed to some performances, cooled on others, and maintained my affection for another.

It's a great lineup, though. Cher called Silkwood her acting debut -- she appeared in two movies previously, but those who had seen them could not argue with her statement. Glenn Close was back after her Oscar-nominated film debut in The World According to Garp the year before. Amy Irving became one of the few to be nominated for both a Razzie and an Oscar for the same performance. And Alfre Woodard, who would later appear in Supporting Actress Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, garnered her first and so far only (!!!) nomination.

As for Linda about unexpected wins! Certainly, the draw of a diminutive actress playing a half-Chinese man - not a cross-dresser, not a trans character, but a man - is one ripe for an Oscar Season Narrative. Oh, and fine, she had already won the National Board of Review and Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards for this role. But holy Lord, can you imagine this happening now?

Hell, would I vote for it now? Hit the jump and find out!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Returning Champs: Best Original Score, 1983

I've always found it a challenge to write about this category - it's to be heard, to be experienced. Though I suppose there is something to be said about this category having its favorites, as many do. It's how John Williams can get a third nomination for one series - of course, he would return for a fourth (The Force Awakens), and let us not forget that Jedi was his 19th overall nod....out of 50.

Williams had won Oscars already -- but so, too, had fellow nominee Leonard Rosenman, though both of his were in the Adapted Score category (Barry Lyndon, Bound for Glory). Another two-time Oscar winner was Michael Gore, who won this category, and Original Song, just three years previously for Fame. Poor Jerry Goldsmith - the Under Fire composer only had one Oscar to console himself with!

The odd man out, clearly, was Bill Conti, who in years past had only been nominated for Best Original Song. The first time for Rocky, and yes, it is incredible that it was only nominated in Song, not Score. The second time was for the Bond flick For Your Eyes Only. The Right Stuff marked his third nomination, first Original Score nomination...and final time in the running for Oscar.

Fortunately for him, he won. Should he have? Let's investigate....

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Writin' Women: Best Original Screenplay, 1983

I know I should probably make an overall post about Original Screenplay, but let me raise a glass to the ladies. Because 2/5 of the films nominated here were written by women, and I love that.

Frances Marion
Much is made of the few nominations received by female directors - four in total, right, including winner Kathryn Bigelow? But screenplay has been much kinder, it's true! The Second Academy Awards saw two women nominated for Best Screenplay: Josephine Lovett, for the provocative Our Dancing Daughters, an original work; and Bess Meredyth, for both A Woman of Affairs and Wonder of Women, both based on novels. The very next year, Frances Marion became the first woman to actually win the Best Screenplay Oscar, for her original screenplay The Big House.

Lovett, Meredyth and Marion were solo acts - the three ladies nominated here in 1983 had partners.

Barbara Benedek was mostly a television writer, married to Peter Benedek, who would later found UTA. She had written a number of unproduced plays and other scripts, one of which Lawrence Kasdan got a hold of; they collaborated on the screenplay for The Big Chill. No surprise that she nails the insecurities of these 30-somethings so truthfully: she was a psychiatric research assistant before entering TV.

Ephron with husband Carl Bernstein
Silkwood is a woman's story - who better than Alice Arlen and Nora Ephron to script it? Perhaps writing is genetic: Ephron's parents were the writers behind Carousel and Desk Set, and before Silkwood, she had already published a book of essays and a novel, Heartburn. Her friend Arlen was likewise blessed, a female journalist whose mother was a female journalist, and whose mother before her was a female newspaper publisher. The two would later re-team for Cookie; Arlen also wrote the screenplay for Helen Hunt's directorial debut, Then She Found Me, while Ephron...well, hello? Ever hear of Julie & Julia, You've Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle....

Meanwhile, Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes were up for a teen thriller - they would be nominated again years later, but as producers for Best Picture nominee Awakenings. And Ingmar Bergman was up for a television mini-series he had whittled down to feature film length, his fifth screenplay nod.

Horton Foote won the Oscar for Tender Mercies, his first time writing an original work for the screen.  He previously won Best Adapted Screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird. Fun fact: he was nominated last year at the Primetime Emmy Awards for writing Bessie...six years after his death. Hollywood!

And should Foote have won? Find out, after the jump!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Casting Coup Tuesdays: The Dresser

The Dresser 
Best Picture - Nominated
Best Director, Peter Yates - Nominated
Best Actor, Tom Courtenay - Nominated
Best Actor, Albert Finney - Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay, Ronald Harwood - Nominated

In the years between 1943 and 2009, when the Academy had but five nominees for Best Picture, there was often a last-minute qualifying release that took nominations in the top slots - The Reader, Million Dollar Baby, The Thin Red Line. In 1983, that latecomer was an intimate British backstage dramedy, The Dresser.

Based on a hit play by Ronald Harwood, the film is centered on the relationship between an aging Shakespearean actor known only as Sir (Albert Finney) and his devoted dresser (Tom Courtenay) as they prepare for a performance during World War II. Their ensemble of actors is ancient, sirens sound throughout performances, and the theaters and towns they visit are not quite as bustling as they might have been in peace time. Naturally, this setting is also symbolic of the state of theatre, as the traditionally bombastic style of Sir and his quaint troupe will soon be on the way out - keep in mind, it was 1936 when Orson Welles produced his all-black Haiti-set production of Macbeth; the action of The Dresser takes place in 1942.

Playwright Ronald Harwood based the characters on his life, for he was a personal dresser to Sir Donald Wolfit, he of Room at the Top and Lawrence of Arabia fame. Courtenay originated the role of Norman in the West End, and was Tony-nominated for the Broadway production. YouTube this title and you'll see trailers for a number of local productions. And, most recently, BBC and Starz partnered for a telefilm with Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins in the lead roles. So a remake is not entirely out of the question.

But who would play the roles? Let's imagine....

Monday, May 9, 2016

Fresh Eyes, Old Genres: Best Cinematography, 1983

Ah, Cinematography - painting with light, they say. And certainly the artists nominated in 1983 found new ways to paint with tried-and-true subjects.

Sven Nykvist makes a dream out of the domestic drama. Don Peterman brings heat and sex to the dance-ical/musical. Caleb Deschanel gives the American epic an almost sacred feel. William A. Fraker's teen adventure is haunted by the glow of technology. And Gordon Willis, on his first nomination (you think the DP of The Godfather would have more under his belt), brings verisimilitude to the mockumentary.

Nykvist won his second Oscar here - let's talk about that and more, after the jump.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Two for One: Best Supporting Actor, 1983

It's rare enough that a single film takes up two nominations in an acting category -- but in three of them?! Thus was the case in 1983, and while The Dresser is to thank for that occurring in Best Actor, Terms of Endearment had that on lock - two nominations in Best Actress, and another two here in Best Supporting Actor.

Jack Nicholson, who won the Oscar, plays former astronaut Garrett, who we glimpse throughout before he finally starts courting Shirley MacLaine's Aurora about halfway through (maybe more?) into the film. John Lithgow, nominated the previous year for playing a transsexual in The World According to Garp, here plays a lovestruck banker in a handful of scenes. One is coarse, the other more refined; one is single, the other married; both are lovers of the leads, but there's little hope for commitment there.

Another previous nominee: Charles Durning, here playing a Nazi officer in To Be Or Not To Be. The Mel Brooks comedy actually makes some poignant observations about Nazi-occupied Poland - but one of the film's great strengths is Durning's comic doofus, a man reveling in his authority, whose indulgences are a symbol of the excesses of the party. He's also quite funny.

But there was also new blood this year! Sam Shepard was an early front-runner thanks to his quiet performance in The Right Stuff, the epic about the beginning of the American space program. Shepard plays Chuck Yeager, the first to break the sound barrier. Much of his narrative encompasses the first 30 minutes of the more than 3-hour film, though we do check back in on him from time to time.

Also among the newbies: Rip Torn, nominated for Cross Creek, in which he plays a resident of the Florida swamps, a neighbor of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings...who would base the character of the father in The Yearling on him. He has a handful of children and a wife who used to entertain in town, before he wed her and took her to the swamp. Hard living, that is.

Nicholson won, as I said, and for many it was a no-brainer. But is it a no-brainer for me? Check after the jump...

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Swedes, Texans, and Jedi: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, 1983

I love this category - it's always a great mixture of Best Picture nominees, Best Picture also-rans, period pieces, and sci-fi.

Fanny and Alexander and Yentl fill the period piece slots, and given the number of nominations they accumulated, plus the buzz at the time, I think it's safe to say each came this close to a Best Picture nomination. Return of the Jedi is the obvious sci-fi/fantasy set -- spaceships, mythical setting specific to a weird creature, the usual-usual. The Right Stuff combines the fascination with space tech -- something that would also benefit Gravity, The Martian, and Inception -- with the period trappings of the 60s.

And then there's Terms of Endearment, the extremely rare contemporary entry that I can't imagine being anything other than a coattails nod, especially since it means ignoring the specificity of The Dresser or the wonder of Krull.

Fanny and Alexander won -- let's see if it should have. After the jump.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Year of the Drunk: Best Actor, 1983

If you wanted a nomination in 1983, all you had to do was open a bottle. Of the five nominees for Best Actor, four of them are hard drinkers, whether active or reformed.

In Educating Rita, Michael Caine plays Frank Bryant, a literature professor who begins private tutoring sessions with a working-class woman. His failure as a poet has brought him to the bottle - he keeps a stash behind a copy of alcohol epic The Lost Weekend. The drink has driven his girlfriend right into the arms of one of his colleagues. Did I mention it's a comedy?

In Reuben, Reuben, Tom Conti plays another poet, Gowan McGland of Scotland, based largely on poet/womanizer/alcoholic Dylan Thomas. He comes to a small town in New England to give talks and lectures, and seduce the local bored wives. The Reuben of the title is a dog Gowan befriends; his owner is the grandfather of a much younger woman Gowan falls in love with. This is Conti's first and only nomination.

Tom Courtenay is the title character of The Dresser, whose entire life is devoted to serving a Great Shakespearean Actor - and in between breakdowns, comforts, truth-tellings, bitching, and gossip, he nips from a bottle, and is quick to replenish the supply when he runs out. Albert Finney, as the Great Shakespearean Actor, does not need to imbibe, for he is already losing his mind, and surely that's just one bit of madness too many.

In Tender Mercies, Robert Duvall plays former country music star Mac Sledge - he has hit rock bottom at the film's beginning, and is more or less forced to sober up by the widow he eventually falls in love with. It's distinct from the rest for a number of reasons: the other performances are from films based on plays (Reuben, Reuben is based on a play and a novel), whereas Tender Mercies is an original screenplay. Not only that: of the five, Duvall's the only American!

Small wonder, then, that he won.

Hollywood toasting a native son? Or was he truly deserving? My thoughts, after the jump.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Casting Coup Tuesdays: The Big Chill

The Big Chill 
Best Picture - Nominated
Best Supporting Actress, Glenn Close - Nominated
Best Original Screenplay, Barbara Benedek/Lawrence Kasdan - Nominated

Some time before eighth grade -- we were still living in the duplex, so I know it wasn't later -- The Big Chill came on AMC. Who can forget "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" playing while a sleeve was pulled over the stitches of a slashed wrist? My father identified it as a personal favorite, but was hesitant to have me watch it. I was too young, not for the sex and drugs, but for the experience of loss, regret, reunion. As my cousin Kathy would say, I had no patina. And after about ten minutes...I realized he was right.

The film takes place over one weekend. Alex (wrists and ankle played by Kevin Costner) has committed suicide, and his seven college friends reunite to mourn him, joined by his much-younger girlfriend. They look back on the past, pick it apart; they look on their present, some favorably, most with disappointment. These were college radicals, kids who protested and demonstrated and believed they were going to change things for the greater good. Only Harold, who owns the house they're staying in, seems content with his life, but his music selection is exclusively hits from the late 60s-early 70s. They're all stuck on the past, in one way or another.

I eventually watched it in college, and have revisited it once or twice in the years since. Each time I do, I pick up on something else. My feelings change, my perception shifts, and I think, "Oh, I must not have really understood it last time." Like my realization that the title was not, in fact, referring to Alex's death, but to the steady cool that comes when you're no longer young and idealistic. But I see it -- I have friends that I've known for years, friends who seem to be coasting, friends who are disappointed with where they are, friends who are doing well but want more, friends who think they were their best selves ten years ago. You're never too young for disillusionment.

Now, after all that, here's what I love about The Big Chill: it offers that introspection, but it's not so damn glum about it! Ultimately, it's about bonds and friendship, and when you get a close knit group of people together, whether it's the family God gave you or the one you formed yourself, shit gets fun. They know each other, they became themselves around each other -- they dance and get stoned and push each other's buttons and argue and make up and, yes, fuck. As Harold says, "How much sex, fun, and friendship can one man take?" It's a timeless story.

Which is why it's perfect for a Casting Coup!

Of course, the difficult thing about casting The Big Chill with today's actors is the idea of putting that story in a modern context. Timeless though the experience may be, it is a movie that's tied to the experiences of the 60s and 70s. Frankly, the 90s and 00s were neither idealistic nor radical in the same way. But, you's fun. So we're doing it.

Monday, May 2, 2016

1983: An Introduction

The year was 1983.

The Cold War entered its 38th year (unofficially, though, for how does one keep track of an undeclared event?). Ronald Reagan was still in his first term, and while 1982 had witnessed an unemployment high unseen since the Depression, it began it's decline this year -- slowly, but surely. People were pensive about nuclear war, nuclear waste, nuclear meltdowns, with apocalyptic visions of the future taking over the airwaves. M*A*S*H ended, The Thorn Birds was our new obsession, and the end of the year brought the greatest gift we could ever receive: the music video for Thriller.

And at the movies? That comes after the jump.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Coming in May

It's been too quiet for too long (not counting my And Then There Were None casting which you should take a peek at). Fret not -- we're back in business starting in May!

Throughout the month, we're traveling back to the 80s for a retrospective of the 1983 Oscars! Followed, of course, by own picks of the year, at the Retro Hollmann Awards.

The fun begins May 2nd.

Casting Coup Tuesdays will also return that month, as I re-cast all five 1983 Best Picture nominees! Join me, won't you?

May 3rd
The Big Chill

May 10th
The Dresser

May 17th
The Right Stuff

May 24th
Tender Mercies

May 31st
Terms of Endearment

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Casting Coup Tuesday: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None is one of Agatha Christie's most famous works -- I reckon Murder on the Orient Express and Witness for the Prosecution are the only other ones as immediately recognizable. It has been the basis for two stage plays, a mini-series, multiple films, and infinite spoof episodes on television (even Family Guy did a season premiere called "And Then There Were Fewer").
The 1945 film version
The plot: ten strangers are invited to an island by a mysterious U.N. Owen. A recording is played during dinner, accusing each of them of various crimes. Then they start dropping off one by one, their deaths aligning with a nursery rhyme called...well that depends on the latest publication. Current editions have it as "Ten Little Soldier Boys" ... for years it was "Ten Little Indians" ... first editions have it as "Ten Little N---ers", and that was quickly amended.

There are three famous film versions, all of which take their queue from Agatha's own stage adaptation. The 1945 version features an all-star cast that includes Academy Award Winners Barry Fitzgerald and Walter Huston, and Academy Award Nominees Mischa Auer, Roland Young and Judith Anderson. It adheres closely to the original work -- they're all English, they're on an island. The next two films would not.

The 1974 film version
In 1965, things got groovy and international. The new ensemble of ten came from everywhere -- a Bond Girl, an American pop star, an Israeli beauty queen -- but still a majority English, all gathered in a castle atop the Swiss Alps. The same producers remade the picture, practically word-for-word, in 1974, moving to a hotel in Iraq! The ensemble comes from Italy, Germany (2), Austria, France (2), the United Kingdom (3), Argentina.

The 2015 BBC version
Last year, the BBC presented a three-part mini-series that brought things back to the art deco island. It, too, was a starry cast that included Toby Stephens and Charles Dance, and focused much more on the effects of war. But frankly, I've always liked the idea of an international who's who getting bumped off one by one. And so I've used that approach when casting my own Ten Little...People.

After the jump...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Oscar 2015: What Will Win, What Should Win

The 88th Annual Academy Awards are tonight! It's basically New Year's Eve for me and many others, a sentiment expressed many times by The Film Experience, but also texted to me by friends and said out loud by co-workers.

I've told you what I'd want to win in a perfect world -- let's talk about what I think will win in the actual one.

BEST PICTURE: The Revenant
My personal rankings for the nominees:
1. Spotlight (*****)
2. Brooklyn (*****)
3. The Revenant (****)
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (****)
5. Bridge of Spies (****)
6. The Martian (*** 1/2)
7. The Big Short (***)
8. Room (**)

Complete predictions, and rankings, after the jump...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Best Picture, Some Surprises: 2015 Hollmann Awards, Day Three

At last -- the final round of Hollmann Awards! Let's get to it!

5. Tangerine
Sean Baker/Chris Bergoch
Quotable, dirty, hilarious. A great odyssey spanning Hollywood, with all the characters you really do see on the streets -- the trans prostitutes, the old men with bizarre stories, the Armenian cabbies, the shady guys who hang out at donut shops. It works as a Christmas movie, a buddy film, a drama about the immigrant experience.

4. The Throne
Jo Chul-hyun/Lee Song-won/Oh Seung-hyun

Takes a much-contested bit of history -- was Prince Sado sentenced to die because he went crazy, or was he the target of a court conspiracy -- and turns it into a story of fathers and sons, of legacies that are expected to endure, of the terrible expectations of royal life and the consequences that come of disappointing those. And, yes, it also addresses the unrest in the Joseon royal court. Sympathetic to all...and honey, with this group, that's not always easy.

3. Girlhood
Céline Sciamma

Surprising developments, subtle layering, and a completely non-judgmental look at these girls and their gangs. Kudos for those few and far between, yet vital and impactful, sequences that establish the patriarchal system that these seemingly independent women have given themselves over to. Props, too, for the gradual way in which our heroine becomes a part of that system, neither "male" nor "female", but someone with her own agency. Complicated, but easy to understand.

2. Grandma
Paul Weitz

Hilarious, biting, intelligent. Avoids dialogue that's too clever -- and when it is, that's part of the joke ("solipsist!"). Not a false note. Sees every side of a conversation, and even if the film is decidedly pro-choice, the argument it makes for one character not supporting that is...well, it's understandable. And human.

1. Spotlight
Tom McCarthy/Josh Singer

Can I just say, it would be so easy for each of these characters to become similar  -- journalist, victim, advocate, co-conspirator/part of the problem -- but each person is an individual. That's what this screenplay excels at -- making us appreciate the individuals, putting a face, a name, a personality to the cipher of "abuse victim" or "corrupted clergyman". It even allows us to look at our heroes' shortcomings, as they face their own denial...and their tendency to look at human tragedies as "scoops".

Score, Actress, Best Picture, and more after the jump

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dig Them Threads -- and That Sound: 2015 Hollmann Awards, Day Two

It's Day Two of the Hollmann Awards! Yesterday, we saw Mad Max: Fury Road go home with two awards, with Best Picture nominees Tangerine and Spotlight also making their mommas proud. Today: Best Director, Best Actor, and more...starting with Best Ensemble.

(By the way -- if anyone knows the names of the casting director/sound department/makeup department of the Korean films The Beauty Inside/Northern Limit Line/The Throne, do drop me a line so that I may give the credit where it's due)

5. Straight Outta Compton
Victoria Thomas/Cindy Tolan
A great mix of knowns, unknowns, and familiar faces, anchored by the lead trio -- O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell. In choosing between acting ability or biographical resemblance, the filmmakers score a coup with an ensemble that can be both. And bless Paul Giamatti, who fits right in.

4. Tangerine

Sean Baker/Chris Bergoch
First of all, the chemistry between Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor is perfection, the kind of comic sparring that made iconic films out of It Happened One Night, or anything with Abbott and Costello. But they're joined by a game supporting cast, starting with Mickey O'Hagan as Kiki's "real fish" rival, all the way down to Clu Gulager's cameo as a taxi passenger.

3. The Beauty Inside

Give it props for casting 123 different people and pulling off the conceit that they are, indeed, all one person. Everyone has electric chemistry with Han Hyo-ju, one of the most natural actresses you've ever seen in a fantasy-romance. And a special shout-out to Shin Dong-mi, hilarious as Han's boss.

2. Brooklyn

Fiona Weir
The mark of a great ensemble: you can easily imagine each of these characters living lives outside the movie. Whether it's the girls of the boarding house, Jessica Paré's department store floor manager, or the Irish gossip back home.

1. Spotlight

Kerry Barden/Paul Schnee
A generous ensemble -- like true journalists, the A-List actor -- Ruffalo, McAdams, Keaton -- cede entire scenes over to the character actors making up the witnesses, victims, priests, cops, officials. But it is all about the newsmen (and women) at the center, working as a team...a true ensemble.

Best Costume Design and more, after the jump....

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Men of Spotlight, the Look of Mad Max: 2015 Hollmann Awards, Day One

Here we are! It's February 2016, but we're officially starting the Hollmann Awards of 2015! For the next three days, I'll give you my picks for the best of the year in eighteen different categories.

Today: Makeup, Supporting Actor, Visual Effects, Original Song, Cinematography, and Editing!

5. Carol
Jerry DeCarlo, hair department head
Patricia Regan, makeup department head

 Therese's makeup tutorial. Carol's blonde locks and sophisticated lips. Abby's whole thing.

4. The Throne

Prince Sado's progressively sallow skin, sunken eyes, and cracked lips as he slowly starves to death. The wizened white slowly taking over King Jeongjo's beard and hair. The careful hairstyles of the ladies of the court.

3. What We Do in the Shadows
Don Brooker, special makeup effects/prosthetics designer
Roger Murray, makeup effects designer
Dannelle Satherley, hair designer

The vampire ball.  The lifeless complexions, spattered with blood. The varying hairstyles and facial hair denoting the location and era of a vampire's "turn." And then there's Petyr.

2. The Revenant
Graham Johnston, makeup department head
Sian Grigg/Duncan Jarman, key makeup and prosthetics for Leonardo DiCaprio
Audrey Doyle, key makeup and prosthetics for Tom Hardy
Adrien Morot, special effects makeup department head
Robert Pandini, hair department head
Kathryn L. Blondell, hair stylist for Leonardo DiCaprio

Hugh's gaping wounds following a bear attack. Fitzgerald's surviving patch from a past scalping attempt. The matted, bloody, snotty, icy beards and untamed hair of the pioneers.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Lesley Vanderwalt, makeup/hair designer
Damian Martin, prosthetics supervisor
Elka Wardega, senior prosthetics make artist

Immortan Joe's diseased self and flowing locks. Max's parched lips and sunburnt face. Furiosa's war-like patch of black. The scarred, pale, skeleton-like War Boys. The sand blown features of the Vuvalini.

Best Supporting Actor and more after the jump!