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Oscar History

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Oscar Horrors: Kathy Bates in Misery

"A miracle of a performance." -Mike

"Horrible, unwatchable performance." -Patryk

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A Year with Kate: Adam's Rib (1949)

Episode 26 of 52: In which Tracy and Hepburn's best comedy shows that love, life, and law are a circus.

How are we already halfway through this series? How are we already halfway through this year? 2014 is going by faster than KHep’s dialog in Morning Glory. (See what I did there?) We’ve already covered one debut, an Oscar win, a masterpiece,  a massive failure, an equally massive comeback, cinema chemistry history, racist history, communist history, and some odd miscellany, and we haven’t even gotten to the bulk of Kate’s Oscar nominations yet. Plus, in yet another moment of perfect symmetry, the 26th film is the pinnacle Tracy/Hepburn collaboration and a major milestone in Kate's career: Adam's Rib.

A woebegone wife attempts to shoot her husband when she finds him in the arms of his mistress. It’s the stuff that Law & Order episodes are made of. It’s also the prologue to this Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon courtroom comedy about two married lawyers (Spencer and Kate) arguing the opposite sides of a criminal case. He’s a law-enforcing Assistant DA, she’s a proto-feminist private attorney, but at the end of the day they’re just “Pinky” to each other. Side note: only Kate and Spencer could use such a saccharine sobriquet as “Pinky” and make it sound alternately endearing and weirdly sexy. Observe:

D'awww. Watch all the way through to see them duck offscreen for some Hays Code-appropriate fooling around at the end of it.

Tearing ourselves away from adorable antics of Adam and Amanda, you would notice that director George Cukor assembled a stellar supporting cast. David Wayne plays the possibly-gay-possibly-predatory neighbor/songwriter, Tom Ewell plays the cheating husband, Jean Hagan plays his mistress, and Judy Holliday plays the weepy wife Doris, a scene-stealing “screen test” role that deservedly landed her the lead in Born Yesterday (and her eventual contentious Oscar win). This is a good cast. And this is a complicated movie.

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Citizen Peeta

JA from MNPP here, with that there the first teaser for Mockingjay, the third Hunger Games film and the first half of the two-part finale. (What convolutions our sentences must take in this new world of franchise logic.) If you ask me Donald Sutherland would already have a couple of golden boys (I mean even some nominations, at least!) on his mantle, I love him that much, so highlighting his sparkling sneering performance as President Snow in this video seems wise to me, and makes my extremities tingle. And I love Josh Hutcherson playing the role of "Kept Boy" up in there -- because my wiring is strange I immediately thought of Burt Reynolds in Citizen Ruth, of all things, with that young boy he always had beside him. Now that would take the Hunger Games to a whole new level of complications, eh? Katniss storms the Capitol and finds Peeta massaging oil into Snow's shoulder-blades? Be brave, Francis Lawrence!


Tues Top Ten: Movie Dragons

The Podcast didn't help. The more I linger on How To Train Your Dragon 2 the less love I realize I have for it. This is not to say that it's not worth seeing -- it's good. I just wanted it to be great since I hold the original in such high esteem. The animation is truly impressive and some sequences provoke awe in a way that nothing else in the theater does at the moment outside of a few scenes in Godzilla. But plotwise the third act just doesn't work for me. I don't like the alpha-male 'you have no choice to obey' conceit... which feels like a betrayal of the first movie's very particular and atypical action movie triumphs. But I still want to see it again for reasons of DRAGONS!!!

So for today's list...

(Disclaimer: I did not see The Desolation of Smaug and have no plans to)

10 The Eborsisk in Willow (1988)
Around the web you can find a few references to this two-headed dragon (which was done with puppetry - puppets are the best) that label it a 'homage' to Siskel & Ebert, then very much the power duo of film critics. But that's rewriting history. At the time it was a diss since George Lucas was no fan of theirs. Willow is a lot of fun across the board except those stupid thumbelina sized people, the 'comic relief'. 

09 Falkor in The Never Ending Story (1984)
I don't remember this movie well at all. In fact, just about the only thing I remember was that I was really in love with it when I was much younger. But now I don't remember why. But it brought me joy then so I figured I owed it to him. And to whoever thought up a dog-like "luckdragon", more cuddly than fearsome, long before the cat-like Toothless, I salute you. 

8 more mythological beasties after the jump

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I have to...

...dispose of some evidence. I mean, I have to... I... something came up. I'm just busy, okay? It's better for you if you don't know too much. 



Filming Dance in "Test"

One of this year's best indies Test is about a young understudy dancer in San Francisco. Though it's only made a teensy bit of money in a microscopic theatrical run (that's happening to more and more indies) at one point it climbed to the top 15 on iTunes' indie chart.

TEST's dance troupe at rehearsal

It's a topic for another time perhaps but I wonder how far we are away from box office reports that include money from On Demand and iTunes now that so many films hit all three venues at once or in quick succession?

The following are unused excerpts (edited for length) from my Towleroad interview last week with Chris Mason Johnson the director. I thought they were well suited to you cinephile savvy musical-friendly nuts anyway. It's rare that we get such attentively filmed and beautiful dancing onscreen so I had to ask him about the camerawork and how his history as a dancer played into the movie.

Chris Mason Johnson with his prizes from "OutFest"Nathaniel: Test is your second movie and it feels confident.

CHRIS MASON JOHNSON: Well after The New Twenty (2008) -- making movies is a combination of a hugely difficult set of skills. In the old days all the famous directors we know from the classic era, they apprenticed forever. I think Robert Altman did 11 TV movies before his first feature. In our culture it's this crazy kind of 'come out of the door fully formed and go to Sundance' mythology. It's bullshit. TV is the new Hollywood in a way -  people can learn their craft there.

Why the long break between your two movies?

I tried to get something much more commercial off the ground. It was the classic story of waiting on money. Almost getting going, etcetera. It was such a demoralizing experience because you have no power. At a certain point I said 'Screw it. I know how to make movies and I'm going to do something small and personal.' 

Dance gives the familiar backdrop [the AIDS crisis in the 80s] such a fresh angle. 

It's just as much about dance as it is about anything else. In terms of the dance, I did a fun thing with the dance climax scene where the understudy goes on. That's been the über dance narrative from 42nd street through The Red Shoes through The Turning Point through Black Swan. That's always the story and I wanted to do that again but I wanted to do it how I'd experienced it. I'd gone on multiple times, one time with Barysynikov, one time in New York and you prove yourself and it's amazing. And then you go back to work the next day, the person gets better, and you're watching it again.

It's very different than the Broadway version where you become a star. So I put the dance in the middle of the movie. That's always the climax of those movies but I put it smack in the middle which is a different kind of structure. 

As an aficionado of musicals, I have to tell you that it was hugely refreshing to see a complete dance number that didn't cut every second to a new angle or stay with closeups. That makes me so crazy. You pulled the camera back. Thank you!

It makes me crazy, too. In terms of the overall style we wanted to hit this perfect balance where real dancers would like it and it was real dancing but also just fun for an audience. We knew we wanted to do really exciting contemporary dance. In terms of framing there's this happy medium where you frame the full body and you respect the space but you also cut enough and move the camera enough for dynamics. Otherwise it would be inert. Pina did a genius job of that. I loved that.

For me the moving camera is like a moving body is in choreography so I love playing with that. 

The cinematography is beautiful which surprised me. That's a craft that's hit & miss with indies.

This was $200,000 [budget]. In some sense people really only understand indies on that microbudget level if they look microbudget: down and dirty and gritty. Everyone gets that mode. When you get something that looks really polished and cinematic, it's harder for people to make sense of it on a microbudget. My cinematographer's name is Daniel Marks. It's his first feature out of AFI but I've known him for ten years. He's just super talented. The script was not dialogue based so we planned it as images. I really love an image based cinema and that's not the dominant strain in America.  I'm really happy with the way it looks.

Even though you've said you'd like to move toward TV, I hope you're planning to continue with dance. TV needs more dance that's not reality show competitions.

The question is did Smash ruin the theater for network? From the powers that be point of view 'Oh we tried it, it didn't work!'

Have you seen Test yet, readers? Do you love the trope of the understudy who goes on?


Curio: Uneek Dolls

Alexa here. It was an empty dollhouse that inspired Debbie Ritter to start making clothespin dolls. Over time, inspired by history, literature, and old movies, she's designed hundreds of different miniature caricature dolls; her etsy shop currently stocks over 600.  Her clever classic film dolls have been catching my eye for awhile now; I really admire her ability to paint a caricature on the end of a clothespin.  And the fact that she has a Bette Davis obsession doesn't hurt either. And, she does custom orders!

Bette, Joan, Tippi, Edith Head (!) and more after the jump...  

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YNMS³: The Good Lie, The Drop and The Judge

That Birdman teaser was so mesmerizing that my brain had no room for other new trailers. I was putting my fingers in my ears lalalaicanthearyou when new trailers arrived to maintain the high. High expectations much? (yikes). But it's time to come down from that teasing cloud and do a quick scan of what we've missed this past week.

Reese & Corey in The Good Lie. Is this an offensive "white savior to unfortunate blacks" movie?

Herewith three trailers that have dropped with Tom Hardy as a bartender in trouble, Reese Witherspoon as a job counsellor (?) to Sudanese refugees, and two acclaimed Roberts, Duvall and Downey Jr, squaring off as an estranged father/son who are brought together by a funeral and then a murder investigation. The trailers and brief Yes No Maybe So breakdowns are after the jump...

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