Sunday, April 12, 2020

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Movies and Memorial

This look back at 1956 is starting a week late because my father passed away. It is completely accurate to say that I would not be where I am today without him. He claimed that the first time I sat up was to get a better look at a movie on TV, and from that moment on he nurtured my passion for film. He had me watch Stripes and Young Frankenstein when I was way too young. He indulged my fascination with the Marx Brothers and Universal Monsters, often doing my makeup for my Halloween costumes referencing same. One Halloween in third grade, he took me to the local theatre to see the Lon Chaney version of The Phantom of the Opera, with live organist, instead of trick-or-treating. As I got older, he'd recommend The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (one of his favorite films of the 21st century) or Wendy & Lucy ("depressing, but real" was his review) or Wind Across the Everglades (as a Floridian, a blast for him and us to see the swamp in untouched color).

When I started this a month or so ago, I did not fully appreciate how much of my past would be part of it. Sure, The Ten Commandments, which my entire family watched annually on ABC, but I hadn't realized how many of these movies I had first seen with him: The Bad Seed, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Ladykillers, Moby Dick...and all before middle school! As a toddler, his mother had a blowup photo of The Creature Walks Among Us - large enough to scare the grandkids. He loved westerns like Stagecoach to Fury, noir like While the City Sleeps, and Bogart vehicles like The Harder They Fall. And I was excited as I watched The Searchers, knowing that once it was over, he'd be out of surgery and I could call him and tell him about how much I loved this classic of one of his favorites, John Wayne. Only 90 seconds were left in the movie when I got The Call.

I can't really dedicate The 1956 Retrospective to my dad - I was already 70% through my screenings when he died, and I know he'd rather talk b-flicks like Earth vs. the Flying Saucers than nominees like Around the World in Eighty Days or Anastasia. But in another sense, he's very much a part of my continuing affair with the movies, even in my laser-focus on the Academy Awards. He didn't like them after the one-two punch of The English Patient winning Best Picture ("boring!") and Kim Basinger winning Best Supporting Actress ("a nothing role!"), but we still watched them. He rooted for Toni Collette just based on her Oscar clip alone. He was with me when Crash won Best Picture ("is it over? can we go to bed?"). He recorded the 2010 ceremony for me when I was scheduled to work during it (I kid you not, it cut off during Best Picture, just as they said, "And the Oscar goes to..."). You could say this is all his fault.

So tomorrow, I'll carry on - watching movies, writing about movies, and telling the Academy where, in their long history, they've done wrong. Starting with Best Original Screenplay - The Bold and the Brave, JulieThe Ladykillers, The Red Balloon, and La Strada.

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