Archives for January 2016

Paul Newman Birthday Appreciation Post

On the occasion of Paul Newman‘s 91st birthday, I would like to run down what is part of my essential Newman viewing (A Newman Dozen [12 plus 1]).

Some picks may be obvious, others I like because, heck I like them. Where applicable I will offer up some explanation where there may need to be one.

Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) – Early evidence of the star power to come.

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Until They Sail (1957) – sometimes I am in the mood for a sentimental tearjerker and I go to this one

Annex - Newman, Paul (Until They Sail)_NRFPT_03

The Long, Hot Summer (1958) – You can feel the heat, the pulsating searing chemistry between Newman and Woodward. Although I prefer the next title when it comes to my Southern dramas, I will still sit back and watch this one.

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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) – Ah Brick and Maggie the Cat. Might be a slightly water down version of the source material, but I am still down with it. Favorite scene? When Brick and Big Daddy are in the basement reminiscing.

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The Hustler (1961) -Fast Eddie got his Oscar 25 years later; but this is where it started.

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Paris Blues (1961) – I like the music.

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Hud (1963) – I am starting to sense a pattern in terms of the roles Mr. Newman plays …

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A New Kind of Love (1963) – I don’t know I just like this film because it is a bit of a romp. And it looked like husband and wife were having fun while making it.

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Torn Curtain (1966) -A minor Hitchcock film but still a good film in general. My lasting impressing is recounting Hitch talking about a pivotal scene where he wanted to convey to the audience just how difficult it is to kill a human hand-on-hand.

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Cool Hand Luke (1967) – No failure to communicate how awesome this film is!

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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) – As my dad said when I gave him the VHS during the Christmas of 1994, “Two fools.” And lovable fools they are…

Actors Paul Newman (R) and Robert Redford are shown in a scene from their 1969 film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" in this undated publicity photograph. Legendary film star Newman, whose brilliant blue eyes, good looks and talent made him one of Hollywood's top actors over six decades, has died, a spokesman said on September 27, 2008. He was 83 and had been battling cancer. REUTERS/Courtesy 20th Century Fox/Handout (UNITED STATES). NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. Original Filename: 2008-09-27T141316Z_01_SIN43_RTRMDNP_3_NEWMAN.JPG

 

The Sting (1973) – Redford and Newman and Hill reunited and it feels so good!

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The Verdict (1982) – When I was a kid I just remember thinking this is a “serious, adult” film. Surely is but then I had to watch it in religion class in high school (yup, religion class) as an example of a morality play.

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How’s about y’all out there in the interwebs … what are some of your favorite Newman films?

Watch the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Presser Live Now! (Live Stream)

Oscar Nomz

Happy New Year all! I just realized that this is my first post in the Year of our Lord, 2016. Which makes me happy and sad – happy because, well I have finally gotten around to it and sad, because the subject of this post is to do the recently announced 88th Academy Award nominations.

Oh the irony

When I originally outlined my notes for this post, I was looking forward to waxing poetic about why I prefer the nominations announcement to the actual ceremony. Sure it is a cool idea to celebrate and honor the collective and individual achievements in cinema. My problem has always been with singling out one above all in such a heavily politically driven process. Film appreciation is subjective in that generally, what one loves is in the eye of the beholder – one man’s Citizen Kane is another man’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. Go figure.

Recent years have been a boon for many smaller independent productions and this year has proven no different. How many people would have seen Room (by Frank director Lenny Abrahamson) or Brooklyn or Ex-Machina for that matter, if not for the buzz surrounding their potential award-worthiness? But I digress and am entering a territory that leaves me frankly exasperated.

There are a few problems afoot here – two I would like to discuss particularly in this post; I will mention the “easier” of the two first – it’s to do with the question of what it means to be awards ‘worthy.’

With each passing year, I look at the cinematic calendar, and have grown more and more accustomed to the following pattern forming …

  • Jan-Feb = Meh. The occasional film I do enjoy, but in general not much to recommend.
  • Mar-late April-ish? = It’s getting interesting. Spring has sprung and we are rapidly approaching the “summer season.” There are always a few surprises that get me in the theater. This is the warm-up for the main event …
  • May-August (mostly) = Popcorn and 3D specs time, y’all it’s blockbuster season! No further explanation necessary.
  • September can be a bit of a lull until we arrive in OCTOBER. From here on in, it is “look at me and take me seriously because I am a serious film” time. And then the rush to get the films for award consideration out by the end of the year.

Granted, this is an approximation because as studios are trying to carve out larger shares of the annual global box office, they are littering some of their potential money makers at less “conventional” times of the year (e.g. big budget Batman v. Superman is scheduled for release at the end of March).

That current aberration aside the above leads me to my first point – #1 –  we now have a situation that essentially takes the guess work out of what should be in contention for awards consideration. Sure, there are a few buzzy films that come out during the calendar (can’t predict EVERY cinematic success) but it would appear that the closer a studio gets its film out to the end of the various awards eligibility windows, the better since it is clear that these films will be foremost in the mind of those who vote.  In other words, this predictability has taken some of the fun and a lot of the mystery out of the alchemy of who gets nominated for what.

And now for #2 – the (un)surprising lack of diversity once the nominations do come out. Much like the past two national elections have proven not to be the racial panacea for a country that has a difficult time embracing the great, the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of its history, so too the awards success 12 Years a Slave two years ago and a lot of behind the scenes shuffling of the decks at the Academy has seemingly done nothing to “solve” the Academy Awards’ diversity “problem,” particularly in the acting category.

Of course, if you take the swath of world cinema over the course of the year, there are many, many folks who should be considered for accolades. In fact, this article on mic.com cites 8 worthy performances for your consideration. Now I would venture a guess that a few of these received many votes in the nominating process, but sadly not enough to make the final list. One could also initially glance at this list and (wrongly) speculate that maybe these performances did not the films themselves were largely overlooked. But alas, every one of these performances is attached to a film that has received a great share of recognition/ press from other entities, or, as in the case of Creed and Ex Machina, is honored with some love from the Academy this year. So clearly something else is going on.

And then there is the matter of the Hollywood pipeline. Doing the festival circuit has been a cold comfort for me. As it gets (relatively) cheaper to make a film, the idea is not so far fetched that any aspiring auteur with a device that can capture quality video (remember Tangerine was shot on an iPhone) can get their picture made. This commodification of quality tech will go a long way in closing this gap in the storytelling. However, there seems to be a bottleneck at some point, where the path gets rather narrow, preventing many from ascending through the ranks. Every year, it seems like it is someone else’s turn to carry the baton for a new wave of cinema …

And this is just two points that I wanted to highlight here. So where does this leave someone like me, who LOVES movies, but is a little less passionate about this side of things? Right now, I just don’t have the answers …

 

Post script: this article on deadline.com also points to the problem tremendously: among the ‘snubs’ they list is a whole demographic, not just an individual.