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Entries in Oscars (20)

Monday
Mar072016

Beauty vs Beast: Man Made Woman

Jason from MNPP here, hoping y'all have by now nursed your Oscar hangovers from last week, whether literal or figurative, and are feeling at least somewhat happy about what won (or maybe what didn't win - no judgment here) this year. I go into the show as cynical as a storm cloud every year but there was a long stretch in the middle of the show, as Mad Max swept up everything in sight like one of its desert twisters, where I was making many happy noises, and that's as good as it ever gets.

But my happiest noise of all issued forth (kind of an ecstatic coo, you might call it) at the night's biggest surprise, which our friend Manuel gave good love to right after the show -- Ex Machina's out-of-nowhere win for Best Special Effects over a crowd of popular behemoths. Those gears glowing and shimmering inside Ava's mid-section were low-key, gorgeous movie magic, and there's one image in the film (of a robot's self-abuse) that I won't be forgetting any time soon.

That said it seems time to finally place the Woman against her Maker here in our "Beauty vs Beast" series; I'd have nominated both of these actors for their performances myself, so this will contest of ours have to suffice...

It's been a couple of weeks since our last edition, which faced off the Witches of Oz in honor of the release of The Witch, but I don't know about you - I still haven't stopped thinking and talking about The Witch. Anyway as for Oz it was a blow-out for her beautiful wickedness herself - The Wicked Witch of the West walked away with over 80% of your vote! Take that, goody-two-shoes Glinda. Said Yavor (sharing the sorts of factoids that make TFE great):

"Nicole Kidman says that watching the WWOTW was what first made her want to act."

Wednesday
Feb172016

HBO’s LGBT History Oscar Break: 1993 Supporting Acting Races

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions.

 Last week we looked at some of HBO’s period dramas to see how LGBT characters fared in ancient Rome, New York in the 1920s, and in the wild wild west. But now, we’re taking a two-week hiatus to play a game I like to call “Oscars What If…”

HBO has been producing great films for decades now and give or take an Elephant, they’ve been content to solely screen their made for TV movies on their network without any theatrical release. (Curiously, their documentary branch has been more eager to nab gold, understanding perhaps that statuettes can do wonders for that genre’s visibility). And, really, some years, you’re just left wondering how certain performances and films from HBO’s roster could have crashed that year’s Oscar race.

The two most obvious recent examples are Grey Gardens in 2009 and Behind the Candelabra in 2013 — the latter you’ll remember was actually eligible at the BAFTAs where Matt Damon scored a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Could they really have pushed Barrymore, Lange, Douglas, or Damon to a nomination? But those races remain much too recent, and have in themselves sparked the type of discussion in their respective comment threads that inspired me to take this detour as we focus on Oscar these weeks. And so, I went as far back as I could find a viable Oscar player which coincidentally features two also-ran nominees from this year.

More after the jump

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Monday
Nov102014

Stockholm Film Festival: Turkey's Oscar Entry Soars

Glenn has been attending the 25th Stockholm Film Festival as a member of the FIPRESCI jury. Here he is to discuss Turkey’s 2014 Oscar submission, Winter Sleep.


There’s a moment over an hour into Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep where two of the main characters finally strip away the societal niceties that their relatively comfortable existences requires of them and they reveal their true feelings about one another. Some might suggest that the scene, fraught with simmering tension and explosive drama, comes too late in the picture – it effectively kicks off the second act – and that Ceylan’s film could have easily had 20 or 30 minutes shaved from its runtime. I wouldn’t argue that these people are wrong; at 196 minutes, Winter Sleep is the one percent of film lengths of 2014 (only Lav Diaz’s Norte is a longer new release if I am remembering correctly). Still, I found the majority of Ceylan’s Palme d’Or winner to be thoroughly engaging and surprisingly scintillating given its subject matter.

The plot of Winter Sleep sounds like a parody. Perhaps a sketch from Saturday Night Light making fun of Upper West Side noddies who’ll go and watch three hours of subtitles. Or maybe it’s a Woody Allen gag. Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that Winter Sleep is about a man, a former actor and now the writer of a rather pompous newspaper column and owner of a sleepy hotel in the Anatolian hills, and several of his acquaintances discussing ethics and morals. There is his younger wife who has grown increasingly attached to a local group raising funds for the community, his sister with an alcoholic ex, a best friend, a tenant who’s late on his rent check, and various constituents that he has decided he lords over due to his wealth and status. ...more after the jump

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Friday
Nov072014

The Honoraries: Harry Belafonte and the Music of 'Beat Street'

In "The Honoraries" we're looking at the careers of this year's Honorary Oscar recipients (O'Hara, Miyazaki, Carriere) and the Jean Hersholt winner (Belafonte). Here's Glenn on a Belafonte hip-hop musical gem…

Harry Belafonte brought hip-hop culture to the world with Beat Street. This rather unassuming musical from 1984, made in the shadow of Style Wars and Wild Style, might not strike you as an important film, but it very much is for the way it influenced a lifestyle and popularized it around the globe. Belafonte was a producer on the film as well as the soundtrack (the first film to ever release two soundtracks – I have part one on vinyl!) and his influence shows. His time-tested ability to spin niche into cultural touchstones is yet again on display with this, the first mainstream film to focus on hip-hop, graffiti art and breakdancing into a hit. Giving the under-heard voice of the youth an audience.

I also just happen to think it is a wildly entertaining film, and the kind of which we rarely get.

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Monday
Nov032014

The Academy Honors 'Spider Baby' (or The Maddest Story Ever Told)

Do you think we can win an Academy Award for this?
-Carol Ohmart.

Glenn here trusting you had an enjoyably spooky Halloween weekend? On Saturday I went to a 12-hour horror marathon here in New York City, but on the night of All Hallows' Eve I attended a screening of Jack Hill’s lost laugh-out-loud horror classic Spider Baby at The Academy. Yes, the Academy. AMPAS have restored the 1967 black and white cannibal movie (with the assistance of Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino!) after being considered “abandoned property” due to rights issues. After years of being consigned to bad VHS-dub quality bootlegs, a print was discovered set for destruction (all too often, especially with public domain titles such as this) and now it has been restored in all of its beautiful, carnal, absurd glory in stunning 35mm. How was your Halloween?

The real treat was the Q&A afterwards. Moderated by William Lustig - himself a genre legend of grimy classics like Maniac and the unrelated Maniac Cop to his credit - Spider Baby director Jack Hill was a wonderfully entertaining subject. At 81 years of age he was spry and energetic, and despite admitting the inspiration for the film – subtitled “The Maddest Story Ever Told” for a reason – was marijuana, he had remarkably good memories of the film as well as his entire early career. A career that includes launching Pam Grier with Foxy Brown and Coffy, all but inventing the cheerleader flick, and turning Corman-produced flicks like The Big Doll House into huge hits.

William Lustig on the left, Jack Hill on the right. Photo Credit: Peter Dressel/The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

He described how the film was made on a budget of $50,000 over 12 days in a sticky August, with Lon Chaney needing to be shammied in between takes. It was particularly great to hear him talk vividly of the contributions of arguably the film’s two greatest assets: Actress Jill Banner, and production designer Ray Storey. The discovery of the dilapidated house used for exteriors (which is now heritage listed) and the disused car factory used for the interiors (that dumbwaiter!) When discussing Banner – who, it must be said, gives one of the all-time great performances, horror or otherwise, yes? – it was said that Marlon Brando, whom she was dating at the time of her death in a car accident in 1982, had said she was the love of his life. Old Hollywood converging with drive-in exploitation!

He ended the lengthy chat with the above quote by co-star Carol Ohmart, who was so impressed by the film she believed Oscars may have been in their future. It does riff on Hitchcock's Psycho after all. Still, I love that The Academy have chosen Hill’s film to restore. Whenever people boo and hiss about how the Oscars are just about money, it’s wise to remind them that they’re raising money for much needed cinema preservation. If enduring the Oscars (which we obsessives obviously don’t mind) so films like Spider-Baby and all the rest of their “orphan films” line-up can survive then I have no qualms supporting them.

And if you’re wanting to know, the Academy’s New York screening room is a modest affair. The walls adorned with posters – including, side by side, Wings and 12 Years a Slave – and photographs of this year’s winners, and a large statue of Oscar standing guard over the silver screen. Not sure Oscar of old would have appreciated a film like Spider Baby getting the spotlight shone upon it, but a film this great and entertaining deserves it.

Wednesday
Oct152014

A Year with Kate: Rooster Cogburn (1975)

Episode 42 of 52In which Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne star in The African Queen 2: This Time it's a Western!

Growing old in Hollywood sucks. To borrow a line from Goldie Hawn, “There are only three ages for women in Hollywood: babe, district attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy.” And while Hollywood’s ageism is well-documented and well-criticized, for some aging actors, an equally tricky problem can arise: the trouble with becoming a Legend in your own time. What happens when the legend eclipses the actor?

In 1975, Hepburn was arguably more popular than she’d ever been. This was due in no small part to her friend Garson Kanin’s unauthorized, best-selling 1972 “tell all” entitled Tracy And Hepburn: An Intimate Memoir. Though shocked by the invasion of her privacy, Kate used the public interest that the book generated to fuel her career, appearing on talk shows and even the 1974 Academy Awards (in pants, of course). As a result, in the 1970s, while Bette Davis was taking guest roles, Joan Crawford had retired, and Barbara Stanwyck "slummed" it in TV, Katharine Hepburn was as prolific as she’d ever been, starring in seven movies total. However, her popularity came at cost. Kate became in effect the curator of her own legacy, more valuable as a symbol of the past than as a well-respected thespian in the present.

Certainly, it was Katharine Hepburn the Legend that director Stuart Millar and producer Hal B. Wallis had in mind when they paired her with John Wayne in Rooster Cogburn. Five years after Wayne won his Academy Award for True Grit, Wallis’s wife Martha Hyer penned a sequel designed to play to its two stars’ greatest strengths: take the American Odyssey outline for True Grit, fill it with details from The African Queen (including more white water rapids), add a few pounds of nitroglycerin and some extra genre cliches about the death of the American West, and voila! Rooster Cogburn is born.

Westerns, Oscars, and a comparison Meryl Streep after the jump.

I have the strangest sense of deja vu.

 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug272014

A Year with Kate: Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967)

Episode 35 of 52In which Katharine Hepburn wins her second Oscar and loses Spencer Tracy.

Today is the first of many goodbyes we’ll have to say on this series. After the success of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, with critics declaring her one of the greatest screen actresses of her generation, Kate disappeared for five years to take care of her partner of three decades, Spencer Tracy. It was the longest break she’d taken since she started making movies in 1932, not even her infamous “Box Office Poison” drought had lasted longer than 3 years. But the news was bleak: Spencer Tracy was dying.

Spencer Tracy’s health started declining rapidly in 1961. By 1967, he was in such poor health that the studios considered him uninsurable. Everyone working on Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner knew that this would be his last film. As a result, when Spencer Tracy died 17 days after shooting wrapped, Stanley Kramer’s sweet dinner comedy gained new gravitas as the summation of the two decade-long partnership between Tracy and Hepburn.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner was supposed more about miscegenation and racism than it was about reuniting screen legends. Released between Loving v. Virginia and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner told the topical story of a liberal San Francisco couple (Kate and Spence) whose daughter (Katharine Houghton, Hepburn’s pretty but dull niece) announces that she’s going to marry an African American doctor (Sidney Poitier, underused). There are a host of issues--the lovebirds have only known each other two weeks and he’s over 10 years her senior--but because this is 1967, race is the main problem the Draytons are forced to chew on. Because of its topicality, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner was a smash success, earning a spot in the Box Office Top 10 and two Oscar wins.

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