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Entries in Oscars (60s) (124)

Monday
Mar202017

Feud: Bette and Joan. "Mommie Dearest"

Previously
Ch. 1 "Pilot"
Ch. 2 "The Other Woman" 

Feud's writing team is nothing if not devoted to playing to a single theme per episode. All but a couple of scenes in chapter 3 of Feud are devoted to the notion of mothering (though Victor Buono's more generous notion of "legacy" might have been a smarter move for retroactive potency). Or at least the show spends this hour playing with our pre-conceptions of the mothering skills of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. That's evident in the way it pulls the episode title from the infamous Christina Crawford memoir that damned Joan forever in the public eye as a psychopath and child abuser. In one of the earliest scenes we even get a potent reminder of this memoir as Joan pretends she's not going to send Christina a card congratulating her on the opening of a play until she reads reviews, but then signs the card "Mommie Dearest," as soon as two of her other children are out of sight.

I know what you think of my mothering...

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Monday
Mar202017

The Furniture: Thoroughly Modern Millie

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...

Thoroughly Modern Millie opened 50 years ago this week, in the spring between San Francisco’s Human Be-In and the Summer of Love. None of 1967’s Best Picture nominees, immortalized as the birth of the New Hollywood in Mark Harris’s Pictures at a Revolution, had yet opened, but there was already something in the air.

Director George Roy Hill capitalized on this countercultural moment with an extravagant show of concentrated nostalgia. Thoroughly Modern Millie leaps back to the Roaring 20s, America’s last moment of liberated sexuality and conspicuous consumption before the Great Depression. Its flamboyant, frenetic ode to the flappers and their world was a big hit, making more than $34 million and landing 10th at the yearly box office. The film was nominated for seven Oscars including Art Direction-Set Decoration.

Yet its portrayal is not without contradictions...

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Monday
Mar062017

The Furniture: A Scenery Buffet for the Battling Burtons

Editor's Note: "The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. We strongly suggest going forward that you click on the images to see them in their more detailed large glory. Many older films were of course designed for giant screens, not thinking of their eventual home as phones or small TV set. 

by Daniel Walber

 Franco Zeffirelli is not a man of subtle tastes. When he’s lucky, his opulent excesses achieve camp status. But when he’s not, it rolls over the audience like an 18-wheeler full of circus elephants. This has generally been the rule for his theatrical productions, some of which have nonetheless become war horse mainstays at major opera companies.

And so it may come as something of a surprise that the director’s overzealous artistic passion actually works quite brilliantly in his film version of The Taming of the Shrew, which opened 50 years ago this week. It turns out that his style is perfect for the frenetic madness of William Shakespeare’s screamiest comedy, heightened to a fever pitch by the deafening roars of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

The setting is Renaissance Padua, introduced by way of a delightfully pastoral matte painting. Not content simply with a city in the rain, Zeffirelli showcases a rainbow. Two-dimensional sheep mingle with their three-dimensional, breathing brethren...

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Wednesday
Jan182017

The Smackdown Returns: Which Years Should We Cover?

Last year's Supporting Actress Smackdown season was way too short with only two episodes so we're starting much earlier this year and aiming for at least 5 or 6 from spring to summer.

Stitch & Bitch with Supporting Actress Shortlists February through August!

Friday February 17th - Best Supporting Actress 2016
Nominees TBA. Since the smackdown is normally a retrospective we will probably approach this 'in-the-moment' event differently but we're still brainstorming.

Friday March 31st Best Supporting Actress 1963  
We've been promising this year forever so we are going to force ourselves through it which should be easier than its been since its only three films! The nominees: Margaret Rutherford in The VIPs, Lilia Skalia in Lilies of the Field and three of Albert Finney's co-stars in Tom Jones: Diane Cilento, Joyce Redman, and '60s Oscar fixture Dame Edith Evans

But what shall we do for April through August (finale)? You get four choices come after the jump...

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Thursday
Dec082016

Kirk Douglas Centennial: Spartacus (1960)

Here's Eric to continue our mini Kirk Douglas fest. The actor turns 100 tomorrow

The story goes that Kirk Douglas was so disappointed that William Wyler didn’t cast him as the lead in 1959’s Ben-Hur that he optioned Howard Fast’s similarly-themed novel Spartacus for his chance to conquer the Roman Empire...  

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Thursday
Dec082016

Exactly How Rare / Precious is "La La Land"?

With La La Land opening tomorrow (go see it) we must discuss it's already combed over reception from film critics and awards pundits and the like. When La La Land took the Best Picture prize from the NYFCC last week, certain pockets of people were outraged. Suddenly it was a "safe" movie, middlebrow, something utterly and completely common. 'Boy meets girls. Boy loses girl. UGH Romantic Dramas, am I right?!' Awards season backlash and contrarianism is a real thing though people try to pretend it's not each and every year and consider their motives solely pure. I know I've been guilty of it myself. I trust exactly no one in the entire talking-about-movies ecosphere who claims they haven't. Awards season is like politics; It affects everyone, even or especially those who rage against it and claim it to be meaningless to them. File that type under "the lady doth protest too much".

Naturally I was quick to jump to La La Land's defense whenever this happened. This was not because I love it (which I do...but keeping it 100 it's not a Moulin Rouge! level masterwork or anything) or even because I am a die hard warrior for the musical form. No, I bristle solely because this stance is ridiculous. La La Land is absolutely the furthest thing from a "safe" or common movie. And how uncommon it is, after further research, was stunning even to me!

Some lists before the revelation... 

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Monday
Nov142016

The Furniture: How Subtly Is Paris Burning? (Not Very)

"The Furniture" our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber

This week marks 50 years since the release of Is Paris Burning? (not to be confused with documentary classic Paris is Burning) an epic that hasn’t quite stood the test of time. In the tradition of The Longest Day, it harnesses a cast of thousands to tell the story of a single, crucial moment of World War Two: The liberation of Paris. French stars like Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon take roles in the Resistance, while the likes of Kirk Douglas and Glenn Ford play American generals. There are cameos from Simone Signoret, George Chakiris and Anthony Perkins, to name only a few.

 

Directed by René Clément with a script by Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola, you’d think it would be more popular. Still, it’s worth revisiting, and not only for its two Oscar nominations (art direction and cinematography).The film’s visual ambition is often astonishing. Its commitment to accuracy caused at least one unlucky Parisian passerby that the Wehrmacht had actually returned. Everything is bold, nothing subtle.

Production designer Willy Holt, an American who mostly worked in France, later worked on Julia and Au revoir les enfants. Art director Marc Frederix designed for films as disparate as Moonraker and Love and Death, while his colleague Pierre Gufroy won an Oscar for Roman Polanski’s Tess. Clearly, the talented group was more than up to the task of winding back the clock 20 years on one of the world’s most recognizable cities.

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