Wednesday, July 26, 2017

1986: An Additional 10

Ten more flicks from the year '86. Wokka-wokka.

'Round Midnight
dir: Bertrand Tavernier
scr: David Rayfiel/Bertrand Tavernier
Oscar Winner: Best Original Score
Oscar Nominee: Best Actor (Dexter Gordon)
A quiet study of two men: one an alcoholic jazz great knowing his last days are creeping in on him, the other a French fan who offers him a burst of energy. It's great to see this kind of story taking place between friends, instead of the May-December romance this kind of plot usually describes. It's a little long for what it is, but Gordon is magnetic.

[Captain Kirk, Ferris Bueller, and Mark Twain after the jump...]

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

1986: Another 10

Another week, another ten films screened from the year 1986 - it's happening all month long, and on into the next. Journey with me...

My Beautiful Laundrette
dir: Stephen Frears
scr: Hanif Kureishi
Oscar Nominee: Best Original Screenplay
Raises the biggest question I've faced so far: would I rather spit champagne into Gordon Warnecke's mouth, or have Daniel Day-Lewis spit it into mine? I'd accept either, as I would a copy of the idiosyncratic score.

[nine more after the jump]

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

1986: The Next 10

Last week, we started our journey through the films of 1986. This week, we continue with another group of 10 flicks, in order of viewing.

Big Trouble in Little China
dir: John Carpenter
scr: Gary Goldman/David Z. Weinstein, adaptation by W.D. Richter

Fun spin on the traditional White Male Action Star, with Kurt Russell bumbling along while his "sidekick" Dennis Dun kicks ass and gets the girl. A blast to watch, very quotable, and a great showcase for Asian-American actors like Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong, and more.

[the remaining nine after the jump]

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

1986: The First 10

We'll see how long this lasts, but I will try to keep track of every movie I'm watching for 1986 as I see them! So here: the first ten movies I watched, in order of viewing.

Top Gun
dir: Tony Scott
scr: Jim Cash/Jack Epps, Jr., from the article "Top Guns" by Ehud Yonay
Oscar Winner: Best Original Song ("Take My Breath Away")
Oscar Nominee: Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing

Sweaty, sexy, with a real feel for the competitive camaraderie between men. A visual feast that had me practically licking the screen, and I'm not just talking about the locker room scenes: Jeffrey Kimball's amber waves of plane are enchanting.

[the remaining nine after the jump]

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017: We're Halfway There

So now the year is officially half-over, and I have seen but 37 films so far. The movies I'm saddest to have missed before the end of June? Battle of Memories (dir. Leste Chen), Raw (dir. Julia Ducournau), and Prevenge (dir. Alice Lowe), and I'm hoping to catch up with Okja (dir. Bong Joon Ho) and The Bad Batch (dir. Ana Lily Amirpour) in early July.

That said...here are the 38 movies I saw, broken up into several categories.

Barely Remember
But what I do remember is...
  • Burning Sands (dir. Gerard McMurray) - The chick who plays the Whataburger employee the pledges run a train on is the standout.
  • Fifty Shades Darker (dir. James Foley) - That Zayn/Swifty song is oddly placed
If You Can't Say Anything Nice...
Zip ze lips, as my French teacher would say.
  • All Eyez on Me (dir. Benny Boom)
  • The Devotion of Suspect X (dir. Alec Su)
  • It Comes at Night (dir. Trey Edward Shults)
  • New Trial (dir. Kim Tae-yun)
  • XXX: Return of Xander Cage (dir. D.J. Caruso)

The rest of the 31, after the jump...

Friday, June 30, 2017

Part Two: The 1980 Retro Hollmann Awards

The second and final day of the 1980 Retro Hollmann Awards. Can Raging Bull maintain its status as the most-winning flick of the year? Let's find out...

Best Makeup & Hairstyling  

The Elephant Man
Christopher Tucker, makeup creator/designer
Wally Schneiderman, makeup supervisor
Paula Gillespie / Stephanie Kaye, hairdressers

2. Popeye; 3. Raging Bull; 4. Altered States; 5. Kagemusha

It's easy to award the transformation of John Hurt into John Merrick for The Elephant Man. So I will!

In second place, intense forearms, unflattering hair buns, and other recreations of cartoon icons in Popeye. In third, blood, broken noses, and 15 years in Raging Bull. In fourth, primitive man and a mass of God knows what in Altered States. In fifth, blood, ghost-white faces, and salt-and-pepper doublng in Kagemusha.

Best Original Song, Best Actress, Best Picture, and more...after the jump.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Part One: The 1980 Retro Hollmann Awards

The first day of the 1980 Retro Hollmann Awards. I have ordered the categories the same way they came in the original Oscar telecast of March 31, 1981. Just nine categories for today, starting with Best Ensemble (not an Oscar category, but...look, just read on).

Best Ensemble
Fame
Howard Feuer / Jeremy Ritzer, casting directors

2. The Blues Brothers; 3. Raging Bull; 4. Airplane; 5. Breaker Morant

What other film could win this category but Fame? I knew I would nominate it when I saw the students, by turns friendly and vicious, with unexpected chemistry and vulnerability in star-making roles (Barry Miller, hello!). But then came the teachers, each fully realized, demanding but not heartless, with their own backstories (Anne Meara, hello!). But what gives it the win - the equal attention in the development of the parents, some pushy, some distant, some not understanding why their kid wants to perform but backing them 100 percent anyway (Eddie Barth, hello!).

In second place, the comic geniuses and genuine music legends of The Blues Brothers. In third, the family and "the Family" crossing paths, and each other, in Raging Bull. In fourth, the mix of comic talents and seasoned dramatic actors to harness Airplane!'s absurdity. In fifth, the three accused, their attorney, and the powers closing in around them in Breaker Morant.

Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and more after the jump....

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

1980 Retro Hollmann Awards Nominees

A total number of 65 films were screened for the 1980 retrospective - including 22 Oscar nominees, eleven Razzie nominees and five Oscar-Razzie nominees (overlap is not uncommon). And so the moment has come: the nominees for the 1980 Retro Hollmann Awards.

I present the 18 categories in the order in which I figured out my lineup:

BEST SCORE

American Gigolo
Giorgio Moroder


The Elephant Man
John Morris


Mad Max
Brian May


Somewhere in Time
John Barry


The Stunt Man
Dominic Frontiere

The remaining categories, after the jump...

Monday, June 26, 2017

1980 Top Ten

After 65 films, 10 Oscar categories, and five re-castings, I am ready to divvy out the awards for 1980....in due time. The nominees tomorrow, the awards later on in the week.

Until then, my personal top ten of the year. The complete list of films screened follows at the end. How many have you seen?

American Gigolo
Dir/Scr: Paul Schrader
Cin: John Bailey

Neon noir with a special hatred for Beverly Hills, a place where the wealthy surround themselves with beauty, until it becomes inconvenient. The clothes, the sets, the attitude, all influenced how we see this decade. Genuine suspense, and a strong and sexy performance from Richard Gere at its center.

The remaining nine, after the jump...

Friday, June 23, 2017

Casting Coup: Tess

NOMINATIONS
Best Picture, Claude Berri/Timothy Burrill
Best Director, Roman Polanski
Best Music - Original Score, Philippe Sarde
Best Cinematography, Geoffrey Unsworth/Ghislain Cloquet - WON
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Pierre Guffroy/Jack Stephens - WON
Best Costume Design, Anthony Powell - WON

It's the last day of Casting Coup Week! Starting Monday, we start wrapping up 1980 with a Top Ten, Retro Hollmann Awards Nominations, then two days of the awards proper.

Before we get into all that, though, let's talk about Tess, baby. It's only the third cinematic adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel, the previous two going back to the silent era. Even TV versions are scarce - one in 1960 for ITV (with Geraldine McEwan!), one in 1998 for LWT (with Justine Waddell!), and one in 2008 for BBC (with Gemma Arterton!).

Perhaps it's the subject matter: Hardy's story takes to task the rich for exploiting the poor, religious institutions for their hypocrisy, patriarchal society for its subjugation of women, and the justice system for its treatment of domestic abuse and rape victims. Now that I've written it all out, I'm surprised there isn't a new version of Tess in the works right now - it is, unfortunately, timeless.

And if they were to make a new version right now - who might they hire to fill the many roles? I have a few suggestions....

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Casting Coup: Raging Bull

NOMINATIONS
Best Picture, Irwin Winkler/Robert Chartoff
Best Director, Martin Scorsese
Best Actor, Robert De Niro - WON
Best Supporting Actor, Joe Pesci
Best Supporting Actress, Cathy Moriarty
Best Cinematography, Michael Chapman
Best Film Editing, Thelma Schoonmaker - WON
Best Sound, Donald O. Mitchell/Bill Nicholson/David J. Kimball/Les Lazarowitz

I trust I do not need to go into my love of Raging Bull again - after all, of the ten categories we covered for the 1980 Oscars flashback, I voted for it in all five categories it was up for. Scorsese has always been concerned with the practiced peacocking of American masculinity and virility; what could be better than a sports drama set in the world of boxing, where fighting prowess makes you a winner?

The cast assembled for Raging Bull was raw. Flawlessly so. No one is ever going to match that. So I'm not even gonna try - the best I can do is offer the best people for the job now. And here they are. I think.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Casting Coup: Ordinary People

NOMINATIONS
Best Picture, Ronald L. Schwary - WON
Best Director, Robert Redford - WON
Best Actress, Mary Tyler Moore
Best Supporting Actor, Judd Hirsch
Best Supporting Actor, Timothy Hutton - WON
Best Adapted Screenplay, Alvin Sargent - WON

So, when I first started this project, I was still working, and when I announced I was going to watch Ordinary People one night, the reactions were decidedly split. My mentor and friend - let's call him Slim Daddy - was thoroughly in the pro camp, a man who believed every actor in the movie should have been nominated, and who was the right age for identifying with Conrad when it came out. He loved Mary Tyler Moore's performance.

Another camp was formed by the Kanye Fan - my generation, the one that grew up with the internet and could major in film studies. He didn't think Ordinary People was a bad movie, just not very cinematic, said if they made it today, it would be a Lifetime movie. It's fine. It doesn't go deep. It's melodrama.

Glory be, I may be a Raging Bull voter, but Ordinary People has stood the test of time because it skirts melodrama, it goes deep, it's better than fine. It's a story of the privileged, yes, but that's only in social class - there's no privilege in the way these people process death and grief. These are characters any actor kill to play - the mother both monstrous and mourning, the father stepping on eggshells, the son racked with guilt over both his actions and inactions. And those are just the leads!

It's a wonderful film - but could the magic ever be recaptured? Maybe if they had the right cast...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Casting Coup: The Elephant Man

NOMINATIONS
Best Picture, Jonathan Sanger
Best Director, David Lynch
Best Actor, John Hurt
Best Adapted Screenplay, Christopher De Vore/Eric Bergren/David Lynch
Best Music - Original Score, John Morris
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Stuart Craig/Robert Cartwright/Hugh Scaife
Best Film Editing, Anne V. Coates
Best Costume Design, Patricia Norris

The Elephant Man is inspired by the true story of Joseph Merrick (called John in Treves' memoir), a curiosity of Victorian London who went from the sideshow to stardom when eminent surgeon Frederick Treves took an interest in his unique case and moved him into London Hospital. It is a life that has inspired books, television specials, social studies (Ashley Montagu's, for example), even primetime animation.


And, of course, it has inspired dramatists. Bernard Pomerance's Broadway play debuted in 1979, won three Tony Awards including Best Play, was adapted for a 1982 ABC TV movie, and has been revived on the stage twice more. On stage, the role has been played by David Bowie, Bruce Davison, Mark Hamill, Billy Crudup, and Bradley Cooper, the latter two getting Tony nominations for their efforts. Pomerance was famously peeved about the film The Elephant Man, which had no relation at all to his play and probably hurt the film sales for it. And worse yet, if anyone were to finally adapt Pomerance's Elephant Man for cinemas, you know it would be reported as a remake of this version.

Of course, we today are not imagining a cinematic adaptation of Pomerance's work, but a remake of David Lynch's Oscar-nominated classic. Still. There's precedent for multiple versions of the story. Here's ours.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Casting Coup: Coal Miner's Daughter

NOMINATIONS
Best Picture, Bernard Schwartz
Best Actress, Sissy Spacek - WON
Best Adapted Screenplay, Thomas Rickman
Best Cinematography, Ralf D. Bode
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, John W. Corso/John M. Dwyer
Best Film Editing, Arthur Schmidt
Best Sound, Richard Portman/Roger Heman Jr./James R. Alexander

At the heart of Coal Miner's Daughter is a love story. Loretta Webb was only 15 (she claimed even younger) when she married 21-year-old Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn - she was only 16 when he whisked her away from her family and hometown of Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, to Custer, Washington, where they knew absolutely nobody. All throughout their marriage, which lasted until his death in 1996, Doo was an alcoholic, a womanizer, sometimes violent. But he also bought Loretta her first guitar, booked her first gigs, drove her all over the United States to get her music on the radio.

The marriage of Loretta and Doo is the main attraction of Coal Miner's Daughter, beautifully acted by native Texans Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. It just doesn't work without that particular chemistry. The rest of the film is anchored in their alternating affection and tension - the friendship of Loretta and Patsy Cline isn't just of mutual respect between two artists, but two successful women who know from men problems (Patsy's ex-husband tried to quell her singing career). And of course, stepping out with an older man would certainly effect the relationship a 15-year-old has with her parents, to say nothing of actually moving clear across the country.

Casting director Michael Chinich (who also did The Blues Brothers and Melvin and Howard the same year), director Michael Apted, and Loretta Lynn herself assembled a fine ensemble to embody this unique conflict/blessing. But if they were to do this film today, what might that group look like? I know who I'd gather...

After the jump, of course.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Best Picture of the Year, 1980

The moment has come - I present to you, the Best Picture nominees of 1980:

Coal Miner's Daughter
***
A conventional biopic - rise, semi-fall, recovery, immortality - though well-written and -acted enough that we forgive the familiarities. Sissy Spacek deserved her Oscar, but most notable, to me: the design! I'm talking the sets, costumes, sound, the hair! Detailed and authentic. Entertaining overall.

The rest of the lineup after the jump....

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Raging Winner: Actor, 1980

In The Elephant Man, John Hurt is John Merrick, a real-life Victorian-era personality whose unique deformity made him into a celebrity. This was Hurt's second and final nomination.

In The Great Santini, Robert Duvall is Bull Meechum, a fighter pilot between wars who makes his home a new battlefield, pushing his oldest son to "man up". This was Duvall's third nomination, still three years away from his first (and so far only) win.

In Raging Bull, Robert De Niro is Jake La Motta, the championship boxer whose life hit a unique series of highs and lows, including a long time as an uber-plus-size club owner and comic. This was his fourth nomination - and resulted in his second win:


In The Stunt Man, Peter O'Toole is Eli Cross, a megalomaniacal director whose on-set tactics and off-set personality make him appear dangerously mad. But is it all just one big joke? O'Toole famously never won, despite eight nominations; this was his sixth.

In Tribute, Jack Lemmon is Scottie Templeton, a Broadway press agent who tries to repair his relationship with his son when he learns he may be dying. This was the seventh of eight nominations for Lemmon, who had already won twice before.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fame from Nine to Five: Original Song, 1980

And now, a special musical break with the nominees for Best Original Song. "Fame" was the winner this year - though Dolly still got a moment:


The nominees, in reverse order of how I'd rank them (that means bottom's up):


"People Alone" from The Competition
music by Lalo Schifrin
lyrics by Will Jennings
*
Schifrin's fifth of six Oscar nominations, first and only time in Original Song
Jennings' first nomination; later won this category for An Officer and a Gentleman and Titanic


"On the Road Again" from Honeysuckle Rose
music and lyrics by Willie Nelson
***
first and only nomination


"Fame" from Fame
music by Michael Gore
lyrics by Dean Pitchford
***
Gore's second Oscar in one night; later nominated for Terms of Endearment's score
Pitchford's first Oscar nom and only win; nominated thrice more here, two of them for Footloose


"Out Here on My Own" from Fame
music by Michael Gore
lyrics by Lesley Gore
****
Lesley Gore's first and only nomination


"9 to 5" from Nine to Five
music and lyrics by Dolly Parton
*****
first nomination; nominated again for Transamerica 25 years later


Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Actor: Robert De Niro (Raging Bull), Robert Duvall (The Great Santini), John Hurt (The Elephant Man), Jack Lemmon (Tribute), and Peter O'Toole (The Stunt Man).

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

People Who Read People: Adapted Screenplay, 1980

Though I pride myself on being a reader, I'm reminded of how little I know, how little I've read, every time I look at the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay. And what's fascinating about this lineup is how many options each nominee offers!

For instance, Breaker Morant. The true story of three Australian lieutenants in the Boer War, courtmartialed for executing prisoners - and murdering a civilian. The film itself is mainly adapted from a hit 1978 stage play by Kenneth G. Ross, but also tips a hat to the non-fiction book The Breaker by Kit Denton - even though Ross and the production had just won a lawsuit against Denton for claiming to be the film's source. Why two credits, then? Girl, I don't know.

The Elephant Man, another true story, is likewise adapted from multiple sources. Following the true story of famously deformed Victorian personality Joseph "John" Merrick, the film's main inspiration is the memoir by Merrick's physician, Dr. Frederick Treves - yet it also takes from the anthropologist Ashley Montagu, the man appointed by UNESCO to investigate The Race Question. It bears no relation to the stage play of the same name, which was contemporaneously running on Broadway, a fact that stuck in the craw of the show's producers.

Ordinary People is straightforward, based as it is on Judith Guest's debut novel about a family dealing with the aftermath the death of one son and attempted suicide of the other. No confusion there, especially as it became a critically-acclaimed bestseller. But I do want to point out: it was later adapted into a stage play by Nancy Gilsenan. Mind, that was after the film won its Oscars - including this one.


Coal Miner's Daughter comes from the same-titled autobiography by Loretta Lynn (co-authored with George Vecsey), following the life and sometimes tribulations of the First Lady of Country Music. Loretta remained very hands-on, hand-picking Sissy Spacek to play her - and it doesn't end there! Last year, it was announced that Coal Miner's Daughter was heading to Broadway, and once again Ms. Lynn picked the new her: Zooey Deschanel.

The Stunt Man is the only nominee to stay away from the stage - for now. Based on Paul Brodeur's novel, the film follows a fugitive who hides out on a movie set, only to discover the director may be a greater threat to his physical and mental well-being than any cop. Don't expect to see this on 42nd Street any time soon - the flick is pure cinema.

And do those screenplays do their sources justice? Read on...

Monday, June 12, 2017

Melvin's Mary and Others: Supporting Actress, 1980

It's the first-timers club, an entire category full of nominees who have never before had the honor - and, even more strange, would never be so honored again!

The winner was Mary Steenburgen, as the supportive-then-frustrated housewife in Melvin and Howard. Surprisingly, this is her only nomination so far, though I for one think she should have been up for Cross Creek three years later.


You might think Eva Le Gallienne, 81 years old, is the overdue one - but her film work was minimal. Her medium was The Theatre, and she did it all: acting, directing, even translating the works of Chekhov and Ibsen. Her sage grandmother in Resurrection earned her her first and only Oscar nod.

More overdue: Eileen Brennan. Her ball-busting sergeant in Private Benjamin was her first and only nomination, though she won an Emmy reprising the role for the television series. She previously appeared in Best Picture winner The Sting and Best Picture nominee The Last Picture Show.

Not so overdue: Cathy Moriarty. Girl was just starting out - 20 years old, making her film debut as Jake La Motta's child bride in Raging Bull. Apparently, Joe Pesci had seen her picture on the wall of a bar, where she had won a beauty contest. This was Moriarty's first, and so far only, nomination.

And then there's Diana Scarwid, a woman among men as the waitress in Inside Moves. A busy year for her, as she was also in Honeysuckle Rose and the Emmy-winning TV movie Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (not to be confused with the exploitation fictionalization, Guyana: Cult of the Damned).

Supporting Actress has always been one of my favorite categories, and I will always tip my cap to StinkyLulu's Brian Herrera for helping to fuel that - indeed, he weighed in on this very lineup at The Film Experience, where Nathaniel Rogers has revived the Supporting Actress Smackdowns! Take a look at that. I did not participate at the time, of course, as I'd seen absolutely none of these movies until a month ago. If I had...here's what I might have said......

Friday, June 9, 2017

Extra-Ordinary Achievements: Director, 1980

Our first week of the 1980 Oscars endeth here, with the nominees for Best Director. And here started a new trend, too: bankable pretty boy actors finally winning an Oscar for hiding their looks...behind the camera.


Robert Redford wasn't the first actor-director to win this category, but you wouldn't exactly lump Woody Allen in with him, Warren Beatty, Kevin Costner, and Mel Gibson, would you? It is still Redford's only competitive Oscar win, though he'd later be nominated as director and producer for Quiz Show - can you believe his acting has only gotten him one nod?

David Lynch was the unexpected choice for The Elephant Man, a decision made by executive producer Mel Brooks (!) after seeing his only other feature, 1977's Eraserhead. Some tsk-tsked at Lynch going mainstream, but boy is that a loose definition for what he gave us. Lynch would later be nominated twice more, for Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr.

Roman Polanski was back with his first film since fleeing the United States following sexual assault charges. Tess, and adaptation of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, was a project he originally envisioned for his wife, Sharon Tate, before she was brutally murdered by the Manson Family. The film is dedicated to her. Polanski was previously nominated for Chinatown and would later win for The Pianist.

Martin Scorsese had already given the world Taxi Driver, yet Raging Bull marks his first Oscar nomination. It wouldn't be the last: seven more Best Director nods would follow over the years, with only one them resulting in a win: The Departed. He should have been up for Silence this year, but who am I?

Two years after it was shot, The Stunt Man finally came to cinemas; seven years before that, director Richard Rush started the ball rolling. More on that when we get to Adapted Screenplay, but for his troubles, Rush got two Oscar nods, critical raves, and cult cinema status.

But what did he get from me? That's after the jump.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

From Coal to Gold: Actress, 1980

What an unusual and varied slate this Best Actress lineup is!

In Coal Miner's Daughter, previous nominee Sissy Spacek plays country star Loretta Lynn in a biopic that charts the singer-songwriter's life from her humble beginnings in Kentucky to eventual fame, fortune, exhaustion, and recovery. That was good enough for a win!


In Gloria, previous nominee Gena Rowlands plays a former gun moll trying to smuggle a mouthy six-year-old to safety after his family is murdered - by the very men she used to hang around with.

In Ordinary People, Mary Tyler Moore plays a wife and mother grieving the death of her firstborn, favorite son - by ignoring it and shutting out the people around her.

In Private Benjamin, previous winner Goldie Hawn plays a spoiled rich girl who enlists in the army following a surprise widowhood - and winds up discovering who she really is along the way.

And in Resurrection, previous winner and frequent nominee Ellen Burstyn plays a young woman who returns to her childhood hometown following a tragic accident that awoke within her a miraculous gift - she can heal with the touch of her hand.

Those are the roles - but how were the performances? Let's talk, after the jump.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Fame Game: Original Score, 1980

And now, a special musical break with the nominees for Best Original Score. Michael Gore was the winner this year.



The nominees, in the reverse order of how I'd rank them (that mean's bottoms up):

Altered States
John Corigliano
**
first nomination; won for The Red Violin

Fame
Michael Gore
***
also won Best Original Song, where he had two nominations; later nominated for Terms of Endearment

Tess
Philippe Sarde
****
first and only nomination

The Empire Strikes Back
John Williams
****
15 previous nominations, three previous wins; another 35 nominations and two wins to follow

And finally, my vote for the win goes to....

The Elephant Man
John Morris
*****
second nomination following Best Original Song for Blazing Saddles

Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Actress: Ellen Burstyn (Resurrection), Goldie Hawn (Private Benjamin), Mary Tyler Moore (Ordinary People), Gena Rowlands (Gloria), Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner's Daughter).

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Melvin and Howard Get a Win: Original Screenplay, 1980

Yesterday, we started our journey through 1980 with the nominees for Best Supporting Actor. Today, the nominees for Best Original Screenplay: three fictional, two true-ish. Let's meet the writers, shall we?



The Film: Brubaker
The Plot: The new warden of a small prison farm in Arkansas tries to clean it up of corruption after initially posing as an inmate.
The Writers: W.D. Richter, who later worked on Big Trouble in Little China and Home for the Holidays. Story by Richter and Arthur A. Ross, who wrote Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Great Race. First and only nominations for both men.

The Film: Fame
The Plot: A chronicle of the lives of several teenagers who attend a New York high school for students gifted in the performing arts.
The Writer: Christopher Gore, a playwright known for back-to-back musical flops (and now cult status, of course) Via Galactica and Nefertiti. It is his only film credit, but he was later Emmy-nominated for the animated short Faeries - and, of course, Fame became a six-season series.

The Film: Melvin and Howard
The Plot: The story of hard-luck Melvin E. Dummar, who claimed to have received a will naming him an heir to the fortune of Howard Hughes.
The Writer: Bo Goldman, a previous winner in Best Adapted Screenplay for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; he would later be nominated in that same category for Scent of a Woman. A total of three nominations, with this one resulting in his second Oscar.

The Film: Mon oncle d'Amérique
The Plot: The intersecting stories of three people who face difficult choices in life-changing situations are used to illustrate the theories espoused by Henri Lebroit about human behavior and the relationship between the self and society.
The Writer: Jean Gruault, known for his contributions to the French New Wave: Paris Belongs to UsJules & Jim, Les Caribiniers, etc. This marked the first of three collaborations with director Alain Resnais, followed by the musical Life is a Bed of Roses and Love Unto Death.

The FilmPrivate Benjamin
The Plot: A sheltered young high society woman joins the United States Army on a whim and finds herself in a more difficult situation than she ever suspected.
The Writers: Nancy Meyers, who would later be best-known as the auteur behind comedies like Something's Gotta Give and It's Complicated. Charles Shyer, her then-husband, who collaborated with her on a number of film and television projects, including Baby Boom and the Father of the Bride remakes. Harvey Miller (not pictured), making his film debut after years of writing for Gomer Pyle, USMC, Love American Style, and The Odd Couple. All three also produced.

That's the class of 1980. And now...let's talk about the work.

No Ordinary Performers: Supporting Actor, 1980

We begin the 1980 Oscars Retrospective the way many an Oscar ceremony has begun: with Best Supporting Actor.


In The Great Santini, Michael O'Keefe makes his film debut as a high school senior who alternately loves and hates his hard-ass marine father - both a result of him just wanting that affection from his father in return. O'Keefe also appears in the comedy classic Caddyshack this year!

(The Golden Globes nominated Scott Wilson for The Ninth Configuration instead of O'Keefe - Wilson is also bordering on co-lead in said film, but Glory Osky, it is a great performance)

In Melvin and Howard, Jason Robards plays a dusty old man who identifies himself as the billionaire Howard Hughes, picked up by noted failure Melvin. Is he lying, crazy, or the real deal? This is Robards' third Oscar nomination in this category - his previous two nods resulted in back-to-back wins.

In Ordinary People, Timothy Hutton makes his film debut as a teenager grieving the loss of his older brother, recovering from his suicide attempt, and exploring a new romance. Judd Hirsch plays his therapist, who refuses to let the patient slide into easy answers or self-pity. Hirsch later won an Emmy for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Taxi this same year.

In Raging Bull, Joe Pesci is the brother of Jake La Motta, a former boxer trying to maintain his connections in the mob, while being a good brother...and brother-in-law. It's the first of two Pesci nominations, the second resulting in a win.

Those are the men and their characters - buy what of the performances? After the jump...

Friday, June 2, 2017

June is 1980 Month!

It's a brand new month, and guess what that means? It's time for another Oscar Retrospective, followed by a new edition of the Retro Hollmann Awards! This time around, the year in question is 1980!


What makes this year unique is that I had never seen any of the Best Picture nominees before. Not a one. Coal Miner's Daughter? Missed it. Raging Bull? Passed me by. Tess? Never met her. Ordinary People? Look, you get the idea. This year was a chance for me to fill in some significant gaps in my movie knowledge.

And fill them I did! Not only did I finally watch The Elephant Man and The Blue Lagoon - I also included non-Oscar'd titles like The Blues Brothers and Popeye and American Gigolo. In the end, I watched 59 titles total - and still have a few more to go, as a VHS of Tribute is on its way, and the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles is playing Honeysuckle Rose next Sunday.

The Oscar Retrospective begins Monday, when we look back at the nominees for Best Supporting Actor. If you want to get in on the discussion, here's what's going down:

WEEK ONE
Best Supporting Actor (The Great Santini, Melvin and HowardOrdinary People, Raging Bull)
Best Original Screenplay (Brubaker, FameMelvin and Howard, Mon oncle d'Amérique, Private Benjamin)
Best Score (Altered States, The Elephant Man, The Empire Strikes Back, Fame, Tess)
Best Actress (Coal Miner's Daughter, Gloria, Ordinary PeoplePrivate BenjaminResurrection)
Best Director (The Elephant ManOrdinary People, Raging Bull, The Stunt ManTess)

WEEK TWO
Best Supporting Actress (Inside Moves, Melvin and Howard, Private Benjamin, Raging BullResurrection)
Best Adapted Screenplay ('Breaker' Morant, Coal Miner's Daughter, The Elephant ManOrdinary People, The Stunt Man)
Best Original Song (The CompetitionFame, Honeysuckle RoseNine to Five)
Best Actor (The Great Santini, The Elephant ManRaging Bull, The Stunt Man, Tribute)
Best Picture (Coal Miner's Daughter, The Elephant Man, Ordinary People, Raging Bull, Tess)

WEEK THREE
Casting Coup Week: Re-Casting the Best Picture Nominees of 1980

WEEK FOUR
Top Ten
Retro Hollmann Awards Nominees
Complete List of Movies Seen
The 1980 Retro Hollmann Awards

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Too-Early Oscar Predictions

Every year at The Film Experience, Nathaniel Rogers predicts the Oscar contenders a year in advance - he calls them his April Foolish Predictions, and they are always exciting, thought-provoking, and fun. While I missed last year, I usually try to play along with Nathaniel, and the rest of the Oscar blogosphere, with some early bird predictions of my own. Mine may not be as thorough as Nathaniel's (he even predicts foreign film!), but I'd be disappointed if I didn't join in the fun!

The contenders for next year's Oscars may be....

Best Picture

Anywhere between five and ten films can be nominated in this category. If five there be:

Dunkirk
The Greatest Showman
The Post
Untouchable
Wonderstruck

Keeping in mind that Untouchable is currently slated for a 2018 release date - but since they've already been filming for some time, I wouldn't be surprised if they moved it to November/December. Remember when Crazy Heart was a Spring 2010 release, then suddenly became a late 2009 contender, and eventually, winner?

[the rest after the jump]

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The 1976 Retro Hollmann Awards

February's gone - let us end our look at the year 1976.

We're going out with a bang, Googie.
We talked to my parents about their memories, my mother sounded off on Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor, many took an interest in Best Adapted Screenplay (thanks to Nathaniel of The Film Experience for linking, truly unexpected!), and of course, we talked Best Picture.

But those were Oscar's picks. What of my own? The full list of the 61 films eligible have been named already; now it's time to talk my personal favorites of 40 years ago.

These are the Retro Hollmann Awards of 1976.

Best Adapted Screenplay
All the President's Men
William Goldman
from the book by Carl Bernstein / Bob Woodward

2. The Man Who Fell to Earth (Paul Mayersberg); 3. Carrie (Lawrence D. Cohen); 4. Buffalo Bill and the Indians (Robert Altman / Alan Rudolph); 5. The Shootist (Scott Hale / Miles Hood Swarthout)

Of All the President's Men, I said already that "there's a lot of information...But every detail is clear, the suspense is genuine, and each character vividly realized." The Man Who Fell to Earth's gradual meting-out of information, its slide from possibilities to a squander of them, is haunting. Carrie is earnest and completely its own, so you can buy into its crazy. Buffalo Bill and the Indians is a typical Altman: wincingly funny. The Shootist may be cynical about progress, but it doesn't let its hero off scot-free - a complex heart-tugger.

17 more categories, plus the full top ten, after the jump...

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oscar Predictions of 2017 for 2016

BEST PICTURE: La La Land Moonlight, holy shit
BEST DIRECTOR: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
BEST ACTOR: Denzel Washington, Fences
BEST ACTRESS: Emma Stone, La La Land
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Dev Patel, Lion Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Viola Davis, Fences
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Manchester by the Sea
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Moonlight
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: La La Land
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "How Far I'll Go", Moana "City of Stars", La La Land
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: La La Land
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hail, Caesar! La La Land
BEST EDITING: La La Land Hacksaw Ridge
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Jackie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: Suicide Squad
BEST SOUND MIXING: La La Land Hacksaw Ridge
BEST SOUND EDITING: Hacksaw Ridge Arrival
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: The Jungle Book
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Zootopia
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: A Man Called Ove The Salesman
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: I Am Not Your Negro O.J.: Made in America
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: "Extremis" "The White Helmets"
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: "Ennemis intérieurs" "Sing"
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: "Piper"

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The Bicentennial Best Picture

The moment you've all been waiting for. Well, the moment you would have been waiting for 40 years ago. Before we see who the Academy honors as the Best Picture of 2016 tonight, let's take a trip back to 1977, and the Best Picture of 1976:


The nominees, after the jump.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Bicentennial Actor

With two nominations here, Network becomes the rare film to get five acting nods (Mrs. Miniver, All About EveFrom Here to Eternity, On the WaterfrontTom Jones, Bonnie and Clyde are the others). Sylvester Stallone is the first since Charlie Chaplin to be up for both Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay without a co-writer! Giancarlo Giannini is only the third male actor ever nominated for a foreign language performance - funnily enough, the second was fellow nominee Robert De Niro (The Godfather: Part II). And all three were in Italian!

Oh, and of course, Peter Finch becomes the first posthumous acting winner:


The nominees after the jump.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Bicentennial Actress

Back when I did the 1971 Retrospective, I compared all of that year's nominees to the corresponding Oscar Year - 2014. And I haven't really done that, mostly because I don't find a lot of parallels. But in this category? Honey, this category is always dependable.

If you want a Gallic beauty who surprises even herself with her reaction to a disrupted home life, watch Isabelle Huppert in Elle...or Marie-Christine Barrault in Cousin cousine.


If you want a devoted lover, quiet yet strong, more steel-willed than she seems, who knows what she wants when she knows it, and adores the man who is her other half, watch Ruth Negga in Loving...or Talia Shire in Rocky.


If you want a lady of status that men don't know what to expect from, who is primarily obsessed with crafting a narrative with a specific audience in mind, watch Natalie Portman in Jackie...or Faye Dunaway in Network.


If you want someone whose dreams and fears have way too much influence on her life, yet finds a breakthrough with the help of a new man in her life, watch Emma Stone in La La Land...or Liv Ullmann in Face to Face.


If you want an underestimated force, mocked by people around her, striving to be adored, who absolutely slays when she hits a stage, watch Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins...or Sissy Spacek in Carrie.


But who will really be this year's Faye Dunaway?:


And who will be this year's...not Faye Dunaway? The nominees, after the jump.

The Bicentennial Director

History was made on nomination morning. Once again, a bunch of white men were up for Best Director. But for the first time ever, a woman's touch was finally felt in the category. That was the Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller, up for her study of an asshole in fascist Italy, Seven Beauties, which she also wrote. Wertmüller came from the theatre, where she met her future muse Giancarlo Giannini; they not only collaborated on Seven Beauties, but also Swept Away, The Seduction of Mimi, and Love and Anarchy. Her entry into film was be as assistant director on Fellini's 8 1/2.

Wertmüller broke through the boys' club, though it would be another 33 years before a woman actually won the damn thing. But that's not to dismiss the actual winner of the 1976 Oscar:


I mean, have you seen Rocky? It's pretty freeking great.

Anyway, the nominees, after the jump.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Bicentennial Production Design

Can we just give a standing ovation to the 1976 Academy for giving the award to a contemporary movie?


They had a Western, a period drama about the theatre, a period drama about the Golden Age of Hollywood, a sci-fi flick. And instead of all that, they went for the movie about newsrooms and living rooms and government offices, all from events that took place just 2-4 years previously. It does not happen often. Even this current Oscar year, the closest we'll get is La La Land, the design of which is a fantasy idea of Hollywood.

Anyway. The 1976 nominees after the jump.

The Bicentennial Original Screenplay

Spoiler alert: I love Paddy Chayefsky. I love that he was the first screenwriter to win three Academy Awards. I love that he wrote in multiple genres, in every format possible, that he was stylized yet human, serious and hilarious. The Hospital - not a fan, regrettably. But this win was well-earned!


Paddy was up against his fellow Americans and two European films - France's Cousin cousin, and Italy's Seven Beauties. A different time indeed - from 1945-1980, a 35-year period, 38 foreign language films were nominated for Best Original Screenplay! That's at least one a year, and then some. After that, though, it starts to get more scarce - a Life is Beautiful here, a Barbarian Invasions there - until A Separation becomes the most recent foreign language nominee in this category...and that was already five years ago.

(It should be noted - 2006 was an unusual year, with the multilingual Babel, the Japanese-language Letters from Iwo Jima, and the Spanish-language Pan's Labyrinth all in competition. Another outlier, considering recent history, is 2002, where Y Tu Mamá También was nominated, and Talk to Her won.)

What will the future bring? Maybe more like this year's Oscars, where foreign writers are nominated for English-language works, such as The Lobster's Greek filmmakers Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou. But I do hope that, eventually, we can get back to an international lineup.

And now, the nominees of 1976.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Bicentennial Adapted Score

Did you know that this is a category that still technically exists? Yeah. According to official Academy Rules, Best Original Musical can be activated if it is determined that there are enough quality-level films to qualify. All they have to do is have at least five original songs that propel the narrative, not just incidental or "poppy" songs.

Now, it didn't used to be that way. Back when this was Adapted Score, all you had to do was arrange previously-written work, or the songs within your original musical, into an instrumental score. Which, like, if that rule was still in place, the number of studios that would squeeze an extra nomination out of that would be nuts. Think of Into the Woods, Pitch Perfect, Les Miserables, Black Swan, True Grit - they all would have been nominated here, you know it. Though the fact that they couldn't open up this rule for La La Land, Sing Street, and Moana makes me wonder if anyone knows this rule exists anymore.

Anyway. The 1976 nominees included arrangements of Woody Guthrie songs; arrangements of Paul Williams songs; and Paul Williams. The folk hero took the prize...sort of:


Actually, it was Leonard Rosenman, his second Oscar in a row, as he points out, having won the previous year for Barry Lyndon; he would eventually be nominated for his original score for Cross Creek.

The nominees for Best Adapted Score:

The Bicentennial Song

It is incredible that the category of Best Original Song has lasted as long as it has. It is possibly the most expendable category at the Oscars. I know people who think the ceremony runs too long always suggest moving the Short Categories to the Governors Awards, but at least those serve as calling-cards for obscurer filmmakers.

But Original Song? It is not like it was in the 1930s, when musicals were as common as romantic-comedies and a song was as much a part of the studio package as a leading lady and a happy ending. When was the last time the winner even played on the radio? Outside of a dance remix? You know Justin Timberlake isn't going home with the Oscar this year!

Still, it makes for an entertaining category, a fun diversion during the ceremony, and a chance for Neil Diamond to accidentally call Ayn Rand a nominated songwriter:


(It's kind of bad form for Diamond to openly root for Barbra, but very gracious of her to cede the mic to Paul Williams)

So, consider this a musical break - the nominees, with video, after the jump.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Bicentennial Supporting Actor

Our journey through the 1976 Oscars continues. We've talked Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Dramatic Score, and Supporting Actress. Now we're back to acting...with the Best Supporting Actor nominees.

If we look at the other awards ceremonies that we now call The Precursors, we see that, then as now, this race was over from the start. Oh sure - Marathon Man's Laurence Olivier won the Golden Globe for his role as the Nazi who comes out of seclusion for the sake of diamonds, but they're always a little perverse, aren't they? BAFTA had different qualifying dates for Network and Rocky, and so neither film was nominated at that event until a year later - and even then, the former's Ned Beatty and the latter's Burgess Meredith and Burt Young were left out in the cold.

No, friends, only one nominee in this category was also nominated for the BAFTA Award and Golden Globe, and had already won the National Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle awards. And that man wound up winning the Oscar:


And as if all that weren't enough, Jason Robards wound up winning the year after, too, for Julia! But we'll get to that when we cover 1977. Until then, a closer look at this year's nominees


Monday, February 13, 2017

The Bicentennial Adapted Screenplay

I've always been partial to this category, even over Original Screenplay. It's fascinating to know what works have inspired others to create, or how someone else's story or characters can plant a seed that morphs into something new and exciting. Think the Socialist novel Oil! focusing in on the father instead of the son to become There Will Be Blood; think the Jane Austen classic Emma becoming the modern comedy of manners Clueless; think the impossibility of JFK working as well it does, coming from two books and mountains of speculative reports, pamphlets, and rumors.

And so in 1976, cinema is made out of a non-fiction account of a recent crime, a singer's autobiography, an erotic memoir, fan fiction, and a non-fiction account of a past crime. The recent crime won:


The nominees, after the jump.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Bicentennial Cinematography

It's all-star lineup of Cinematographers for 1976, with three former winners and two previous nominees - and many of them faced off against each other before.

Just the year before, in fact, Haskell Wexler's co-DP'ing of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest faced off against Robert Surtees' solo work on The Hindenburg. Both had won previously, but they both settled for bridesmaid status - John Alcott's work for Barry Lyndon went home with the Oscar. Surtees already had three to his name, and Wexler already had one. Soon to be two:


In 1973, Surtees was once again up for the award, this time for Best Picture Oscar Winner The Sting. His competition? The Sting's only real rival for the Big Prize, The Exorcist, photographed by Mr. Owen Roizman. They lost to Sven Nykvist's Cries and Whispers, which made it the second time they'd both competed and lost - in 1971, Roizman was up for the first time in his career for The French Connection, while Surtees had a two-for-one special in The Last Picture and Summer of '42. The Oscar went to Oswald Morris for Fiddler on the Roof.

Ernest Laszlo met none of these men on the battlefield when he won for Ship of Fools. And indeed, he didn't meet them the year after, either: his Fantastic Voyage work was nominated in the Color category, while Wexler's winning work for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won in the Black-and-White category. By the following ceremony, there was no separation, so that the black-and-white In Cold Blood competed with Surtees' work on both Doctor Dolittle and The Graduate, as well as first-time nominee Richard H. Kline for Camelot.

What I'm saying is, some categories tend to have the same names batted around. It's probably why the Class of 2016 is such a breath of fresh air - Rodrigo Prieto is the one previous nominee of the bunch, and his only other nomination was 11 years ago.

The nominees and rankings of 1976, after the jump.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Bicentennial Score

Original Score looks wonky as hell in 1976, and that's for a very good reason: Best Picture was populated by minimalism. All the President's Men has a moody score that doesn't kick in for thirty minutes; Network does not have a score at all. Bound for Glory uses its score sparingly, and even so, it's all Woody Guthrie songs - therefore, it has no business being here. Only Taxi Driver and Rocky could boast traditional scores, noticeable scores, scores that would go down in history as two of the most iconic of all time. No wonder both found themselves nominated right here!


Haha, just kidding. Bill Conti's Rocky score was left out in the dust, just as Ludwig Goransson's for Creed would be 39 years later. And baby, I don't know why that is. It couldn't be the bombast - Obsession isn't exactly about subtlety, you know? It couldn't be that its theme is mostly within the context of original song "Gonna Fly Now" - The Omen made it in both categories, after all. It couldn't be its unabashed Americana - The Outlaw Josey Wales is filled with fifes and drums and patriotic-sounding...ah, but wait. There was an irony there, given the central conflict between the titular outlaw and his country, both North and South.

But then one remembers that Bernard Herrmann had died the year before, Christmas Eve 1975. And Herrmann was a man who'd been under-appreciated by the Academy. Oh sure - three previous nominations, with one resulting in a win, but that was it. And not one of those movies was Psycho or Vertigo or Beneath the 12-Mile Reef or Jason and the Argonauts.  Thus he gets in twice - including one for Obsession, a riff on his Vertigo theme.

As for the other three slots? Goldsmith was a frequent presence at the Academy Awards, having been nominated for A Patch of Blue, Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, and oh so many more. Hell, he'd be nominated another eight times after this, including for Under Fire, which he lost to...Bill Conti. But only one of those nominations would result in a win. This very one:


And then there were Lalo Schifrin, his third nomination for a disaster epic that was, for a time, catnip in this category; and Jerry Fielding, on his third final nod following The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs.

Let's listen...after the jump.


Monday, February 6, 2017

The Bicentennial Supporting Actress

So begins our descent into the madness of 1976...with the best category in almost every Oscar year, Best Supporting Actress.

Rare as it is now, there were times in the past when a supporting actress category was undeniably full of actual supporting actresses, no debate about it. Nowadays, people can't decide what category Viola Davis belongs in (I have my opinion, but I confess it's a borderline case) - or they give the prize to the damn lead of the movie - or have the audacity to say, "But they were only in the minutes of the movie!", as though a supporting role should take up half the runtime. Wasn't always the case. Time was, when you only had to show up for six minutes to make this happen:


Beatrice Straight's Network performance, as the wronged wife of  is the shortest win in Academy history. The bulk of it is one scene, where she reacts to husband William Holden leaving her for Faye Dunaway. But one look and there's no arguing that she earned her place on the ballot.

The other nominees this year weren't much longer. Jane Alexander, as someone who could make the connection between the Watergate break-in and All the President's Men, has two scenes and a total of 5 minutes and 40 seconds. Lee Grant gets twelve minutes for the almost three-hour Voyage of the Damned, as one of many Jews bound away from Nazi Germany towards Cuba. Jodie Foster's iconic teenage prostitute in Taxi Driver barely passes the 15-minute mark; Piper Laurie's fanatically religious matriarch is the closest to a co-lead as we get, taking up 20 minutes of Carrie.

Yes, these were true supporting performances, and in such disparate films. Voyage is an all-star disaster movie with a social conscious (and a terrible bore), All the President's MenNetwork and Taxi Driver are bleak depictions of America Now, and Carrie is a female-focused horror movie. Not too many of those getting Oscar traction, now are there?

(Personally, too, I think Talia Shire should have been campaigned as Supporting for Rocky, and part of me believes she could have won the category and given the movie its only acting triumph. We'll never know for sure)

The nominees after the jump...

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Mom and Dad: Spirits of '76

As usual in my retrospectives, I will go through the nominees in 13 different Oscar categories. That's nothing new. But something has changed: my parents will be joining in the fun, ranking the movies, and sometimes adding their own commentary.

I think this was 3 or 4 years ago?
Mom and Dad are celebrating 38 years of marriage this May, and have been together since high school. The story of how they met is a legendary one in my family: he was on the wrestling team, Mom saw him during practice, and without even knowing his name, announced to her mother that she saw the boy she was going to marry. Sometimes, you know. Both are retired: Dad was a firefighter, Mom worked at a Jewish pre-school.

They had four children together, including me, the youngest and only boy. My father, too, is an only son, born in Puerto Rico to German immigrants, with two older sisters and one younger one. My mother was born in Pensacola, FL, on her older brother's birthday; she is also the third of four kids, and grew up all over the place.

From Dad, I got my sense of humor; from Mom, my practicality. From both, my love of movies and books and music, as they were always in steady supply growing up. I once watched A Clockwork Orange after they forbade it; when they found out, instead of punishment or a scolding, we discussed its merits. While other parents may hope for their children to choose a practical career path, mine not only defended my majoring in film - it was their idea in the first place. Mom occasionally sends me texts - or, more often, handwritten letters - that include her reviews of the cinema's latest offerings, while Dad and I discuss older films he caught on TV or On Demand. And their tastes run the gamut from The Man Who Shot to Liberty Valance to The Other Guys to Trail of the Screaming Forehead.

So it was only natural that I wanted to learn about their own experience with the movies, especially in regards to their youth. And what better year to ask them about than 1976?


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

The 2016 Hollmann Awards

The Oscar nominations are tomorrow...and so now is as good a time as any to present my own awards for the best in 2016 cinema. These are the Hollmann Awards.

Best Supporting Actress

Jiang Wenli as Master Zou, the Madame
The Final Master

2. Viola Davis, Fences; 3. Song Jia, The Final Master; 4. Jena Malone, The Neon Demon
5. Lupita Nyong'o, Queen of Katwe

Lupita Nyong'o, expressing disapproval with the little "hmms" she makes, giving those looks children the world over know too well - yet in her eyes, there's guarded hope. Jena Malone, deadpanning her way through an off-kilter performance that boasts three jaw-dropping moments for her. Song Jia, the mysterious wife who enters into a marriage as a transaction, suddenly finding a strength and love for her husband she didn't count on possessing. Viola Davis, breaking our hearts and reflecting every hard-working woman out there who stood to the side so her man could feel like a Man.

But my favorite supporting actress performance this year came from Jiang Wenli, as a smirking, cruel, calculating gang boss who hides behind the cloak of "continuing my husband's name" - while consolidating power for her own ends. She is strong, she is cunning, she is a force to be reckoned with. And Jiang plays her like a cat with a bowl of cream.

(the rest of the awards are after the jump)