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Michelle Pfeiffer and Grease 2

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Entries in Raging Bull (7)

Saturday
Feb042017

22 Days til Oscar. Scorsese Trivia, Anyone?

22 is today's magic number. Two working directors, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese, are ever inching up the statistics of "Directors who've guided the most Oscar-nominated performances"with 18 and 22 performances, respectively, thus far. William Wyler and Elia Kazan are still the champs but Martin Scorsese could eventually topple Kazan's record. This year's Scorsese picture Silence didn't manage an acting nomination (it's nominated only in cinematography) though some were rooting for Issei Ogata's sly supporting role as The Inquisitor. So Scorsese's number remains 22. 

Most Performances Nominated From Their Films

  1. William Wyler (36... with 14 winners)
  2. Elia Kazan (24... with 9 winners)
  3. Martin Scorsese (22... with 5 winners)
  4. George Cukor (21 ...with 5 winners)
  5. Fred Zinneman (20 ...6 winners) 

It seems unthinkable now that the first two nominated performances Marty directed were by women, since he never again directed a female-focused picture after Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) but it's true. The Scorsese list of 8 supporting actresses, 7 lead actors, 5 supporting actors, and 2 lead actresses follows...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec112016

Boston Loves "Manchester"

The Boston Film Critics Society formed in 1980 divvying up their first year of prizes largely between Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull and Jonathan Demme's undeappreciated Melvin & Howard. (Both auteurs would reign again with the BFCS via The Departed and Silence of the Lambs). While they don't often out on stylish limbs and aren't as invested in foreign films as they once did and were, when they return to either of those impulses it's often exciting. Our absolute favorite thing they occassional do is a weirdo but "why, yes, actually!" supporting performance pick like Toni Collette for The Hours, Juliette Lewis in Conviction or Ezra Miller in Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Here's what they chose as Best for 2016 along with several trivia notes...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Apr192014

I Met Thelma Schoonmaker at the TCM Film Festival

Our coverage of the TCM's 2014 festival in Los Angeles wraps with Anne Marie on legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker

Thelma in the editing bay...

Thelma Schoonmaker is surprisingly calm. Not just calm, calming. As I sat listening to her twice at TCMFF--first at the introduction for A Matter Of Life And Death, next at an hourlong interview--I marveled at the three-time Oscar winning editor's stillness. Considering she is the preferred collaborator of Martin Scorsese, an infamously energetic director, one would think she'd need reservoirs of energy to tackle the boxing matches in Raging Bull or the tense chases in The Departed.

Schoonmaker wasn't at TCMFF to speak about herself, though...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Sep302013

Supporting Actress Smackdown '80: Eileen, Eva, Diana, Cathy, and Mary

It's the return of "Stinky Lulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown" now in its new home at The Film Experience. The year is... [cue: time travelling music] 1980.  That year's Oscar roster was a semi-surprising mix of silly comedy and warm drama with a preference for fresh as dew faces. Oscar ignored notable performances that found favor at the Globes in various ways (Beverly D’Angelo in Coal Miner’s Daughter, Lucy Arnaz in The Jazz Singer, Dolly Parton in Nine to Five and Debra Winger in Urban Cowboy) and instead honored these five...

THE NOMINEES

Eileen Brennan, Eva La Galliene, Cathy Moriarty, Diana Scarwid, and Mary Steenburgen. For each actress it was their first and only Oscar nomination... which is quite rare (as TFE readers have researched/noted. That statistic could theoretically change since Moriarty and Steenburgen still act regularly. Steenburgen was recently even seen in a Best Picture nominee (The Help, 2010) for which she shared in the SAG Best Ensemble win.)

Will Mary Steenburgen win the Smackdown like she won the Oscar? Read on!

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep252013

Introducing... Five Nominees From 1980

I've always been interested in the way characters / stars are introduced within their films. Sometimes you can feel the filmmaking underlining the moment: look here, you will love this character! Other times intros are nonchalant and the character sneaks up on you.

The Supporting Actress Nominees of 1980 ~ The Introductions

Last month I ranked the 1952 nominees by the quality of their entrances in preparation for their month-end "Smackdown". This month for the 1980 theme, to mix it up, let's just view them in order of when they show up in their movies. When moviegoers were first seeing these movies back in 1980, what did these characters promise them when they walked into the plot, already in progress?

Cathy Moriarty as "Vicki" in Raging Bull
[17 minutes until 'who's that girl'?]

Jake: Who's that girl you were just talking to.
Joey: The friend of mine I was just talking to? The blonde? Vicki.
Jake: Where's she from?
Joey: She's from the neighborhood. She's a neighbor.
Jake: What's her last name?
Joey: Vicki that's all I know. 

 We see a series of fetching closeup glimpses of Cathy Moriarty from Jake's point of view but she gets no dialogue of her own in this debut scene within her film debut. She's just an object of desire for now. She looks pleased with herself in the series of closeups Scorsese lavishes on her face and body by the pool as the dialogue from two sets of men is all about her or taking out the other men who want her. She's only 15 (Moriarty was 20) but Jake asks what her last name is, a fitting detail since he'll soon her give his own and since he's already married.

The promise here is trouble and Raging Bull has plenty of that.

Mary Steenburgen as "Lynda Dummar" in Melvin & Howard
[20 minutes in...]

Our first images of Linda are blocked by her husband Melvin who is arriving to bed late (or early since it's morning) after the film's lengthy prologue in which he meets Howard Hughes (Jason Robards in an Oscar nominated cameo) but soon he's asleep and she's waking up (on the opposite side of the bed... some nookie offscreen obviously). Noises outside have woken her and serve as another reminder of their poverty.

Oh no. Repossessed again."

She packs her bags in a rush to leave her bad luck husband. This character intro promises a sensual woman with an unlikely combination of flighty and sensible impulses and that's just the kind of memorable character we get. Of course she doesn't stay away too long since she is the film's Supporting Actress Nominee. 

Eileen Brennan as "Capt. Doreen Lewis " in Private Benjamin
[23 minutes... on the dot] 

Private Benjamin knows what it's got in Eileen Brennan's deliciously bitchy and funny Army captain and makes sure you know it too, introducing her in military style. Her entrance is shouted, saluted, and she's even blocked from view theatrically until the introducing officer steps aside to reveal her, the frown on her face mysteriously reading as a self satisfied smirk before she's even started mocking her new recruits. Which she does the first chance she gets two beats later when she sees one of them crying. 

What's the madduhr? Are yoo a widdle cwybaby?"

This entrance promises combative comedy to come and Brennan delivers. 

Eva Le Gallienne as "Grandma Pearl" in Resurrection
[23 ½ minutes]

Let me have a look at you, child!"

The legendary stage actress first appears in longshot racing out of her home to greet her granddaughter Edna (Best Actress nominee Ellen Burstyn), now disabled, who is returning to the family home to heal... in more ways than one. This first scene is as modest as the home, and tells you little about "Grams" other than that she's glad to see Edna. They then look at an old scrapbook together. Eva's voice is a marvel though, instantly betraying her stage origins, full of warmth, feeling and memory. (That's all I know for now. I'm still in the process of watching this which I have to say has been painful. Not, I hasten to add, because the movie is bad but because it's so very hard to find a good copy of it. The versions on YouTube are blurry and blown out and no other downloads seem to function well. Such a pity how Hollywood ignores its own history and lets it go unrestored, even when it's in the history books as an Oscar nominated film.)

Diana Scarwid as "Louise" in Inside Moves
[38 minutes late to the party]

Where are my four beers?"

Diana's waitress "Louise" is introduced so casually, in medium shot and profile before quickly whisking by the camera and vanishing again, that if you didn't know who Diana Scarwid is, you'd think nothing of it. The film's lasting claim to fame just wandered into frame and the movie didn't notice. Inside Moves, a strangely executed film about disabled men who form tight bonds at a local bar until one of them leaves to become a professional athlete (don't ask), doesn't even bother to introduce us. We only infer she's the new waitress from the casual concern in the bosses voice "you doin' ok?" Slowly she becomes more prominent in the narrative and eventually begins to slip out of longshots and into her own closeups. It mirrors the way that loved ones start out as strangers, sure, but it's also kind of anti-dramatic and it's a long wait to get to the Scarwid Goods.

Have you seen any of these films? There is still time to vote. We include reader votes in the Smackdown totals so send in your ballot, rating only the performances you've seen, with or without commentary, on a scale of 1 to 5 (best) hearts.  The Smackdown will take place on Monday, September 30th

Saturday
Jun292013

Release Date Shuffle: Oscar Players, Musical Wars, Franchise Heroes

I know most film blogs make a post for every teaser, release date, and every last press release. I frankly don't have the time but even if I did... why encourage Hollywood's itchy trigger fingers when they're constantly fussily rescrambling their pieces on the puzz--I'm mixing too many metaphors--  Moving on to the Release Date Switches/Announcements. We're less than 200 days away from Oscar nominations! So yes, we gotta update those charts again soon, I know.

Oscarable Switcheroos
August: Osage County has, as you now, moved to Christmas day, despite its summer friendly title. And Saving Mr Banks, the Mary Poppins related Disney flick is opting to get out in front of the Christmas crowd a bit with a December 13th bow. Meanwhile Twelve Years a Slave, from director Steve McQueen and Grace of Monaco, the new Kidman flick, both move from the Dread Oscar Eligibility Dump Week (that awful New Years week) into airier mid October. And October is getting busier and busier, really because Ridley Scott's The Counselor (just discussed) has also moved from its intended mid November start to late October.

Contrary to popular belief this does not automatically mean that the studios are less gung ho about their Oscar chances. Oscar watchers (and, yes, distributors sometimse) often forget that you don't have to open in late December to be a player. It helps to open in the last third of the year though, sure! But MANY MANY films have had good luck in September (your Argos and your American Beautys), October (your Departeds) and November (your Slumdogs and your No Countrys) among other months. 

Your Oscar calendar is currently looking like this... [Oscar Types, Superheroes and Meryl vs. Annie after the jump]

woo woo ♪ here comes the life of the Oscar partay

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb172011

Distant Relatives: Raging Bull and The Social Network

Robert here, with my series Distant Relatives, where we look at two films, (one classic, one modern) related through theme and ask what their similarities/differences can tell us about the evolution of cinema.

At what price greatness?

You may think, at first glance, that the 2010 film that has the most in common with 1980’s masterpiece Raging Bull is The Fighter. Yes they’re both about boxing and boxers, but that’s practically where the similarities end. As far as stories about misanthropes striving to do something great while sabotaging their own relationships, few come closer to Jake LaMotta than The Social Network’s Mark Zuckerberg. One immediate similarity is that they’re both real people, but for our sake here we will forget that and approach them simply as characters within their respective movies.
 
Raging Bull is the story of boxer Jake LaMotta (Robert DeNiro), his relationship with brother Joey (Joe Pesci) and wife Vicki (Cathy Moriarty) over whom his protectiveness manifests itself in more and more aggressive ways as he rises and falls from the grace of the boxing world.
 
The Social Network is the story of Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) the creation of Facebook, and how the process dissolved his relationship with his best friend and was fueled, in part, by his contempt for rowers Tyler and Cameron Winklefoss (but really everyone).

Did you poke my wife?


We start off with two socially awkward characters though their awkwardness manifests itself in different ways. LaMotta seems unable to do anything without the assistance of his brother, not score matches, not find the favor of women. Zuckerberg meanwhile is very capable, but his non-existant social graces don’t allow him any awareness of anyone in the room but himself. Added to this awkwardness is a good helping of narcissism, though LaMotta might wait until you know him better before aggressively insisting on his own greatness. Zuckerberg would probably tell you up front. And topping all of this is a strong dose of jealousy.
 
In an odd way, perhaps it's that jealousy that helps buoy both to the top. LaMotta's jealousy manifests itself in the constant suspicion that his wife is sleeping around. The thought of his opponents with his wife certainly doesn’t hurt him (though it does them) in the boxing ring. Would the world championship LaMotta wins be possible without this factor motivating him to throw punches? In the case of Zuckerberg, we can be pretty sure that his disdain for the Winklevii and rowers in general isn’t the only reason he starts Facebook, but notice how he doesn’t commit to (with the intention of stealing?) their project until they reveal that they row crew. In fact the entire quest against crew begins in the film’s opening scene where a casual remark by his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Erica about liking guys who row crew should be easily dismissed, but Zuckerberg carries it well into the argument, eventually sarcastically spewing “and I’m sorry I don’t own a rowboat.” How much does this anti-crew bias, perhaps a feeling of inadequacy compared to his girlfriends preference of world class Olympic athletes, fuel Zuckerberg? And how much is he fueled by jealousy toward his best friend Eduardo’s impending acceptance into one of Harvard’s Final Clubs?
 
Eventually it destroys his relationships, another thing he shares with Jake LaMotta. LaMotta’s raging jealousy destroys his ties with his brother and his wife. The self-centeredness that pushes both of these men toward greatness also burdens them with a set of blinders, unable to care for their relationships with the people they care for.

Cracking some eggs


There is another tie here. Boxing and cyber enterepeneurship may be vastly different professions but they’re professions that neither LaMotta nor Zuckerberg can separate from their personal lives. LaMotta punches people for a living. It’s what he knows. And so at home, he can only express himself by punching people. Zuckerberg is a little more complicated but the connection is still present. In creating Facebook, Zuckerberg has invented a reality where the intimacy of friendship is a secondary thought and “friends” are treated more like an audience for one’s self-promotion. So it goes in Zuckerberg’s life. He’s less interested in mature relationships with actual friends than being surrounded by individuals who are in perpetual awe of his greatness.
 
Much like our discussion of Charles Kane and Daniel Plainview earier, the differences between these two men are found in the consequences or perceived consequences of their actions. LaMotta gets it worse, losing his title, becoming a fat joke, jailtime. Yet at the very end, we can’t know how triumphant he is in his own mind. When he says “I’m the boss, I’m the boss, I’m the boss,” is he just trying to convince himself? When Zuckerberg declares  “I'm the CEO... bitch” he may also be trying to convince himself of his own greatness, but he pays a far lesser price for his self-superiority. Lawsuits sure, a drop in the bucket (he doesn’t care about money) and the loss of his friends like LaMotta, but no jailtime, no scandalous encoutners with underage girls like LaMotta (that’s for another member of the Facebook team.)
 
As an audience we love tales of the rise to and fall from glory, a little abnormal psychology to remind us that greatness requires sacrifices too great (and of too many values) not to appreciate the mundanity of our lives. But why sets the modern film apart is how many people may in fact noting trading places with Zuckerberg, the world's youngest billionaire. Truth is, The Social Network is not a tale of rise and fall but just a tale of rise (with consequences of course). As an audience perhaps we no longer expect the fall or demand the fall or realize since the true story of Mr. Zuckerberg is still ongoing there may very well not be one.
 
In both cases, LaMotta and Zuckerberg, we can look at the success and ask according to our own standards "was it worth it?" In the twenty years between these films it may not have become easy to answer "yes" but it's gotten easier.