Rotten Tomatoes taunts me. Anything but Love, seasons one and two. Eight.
It's really difficult liking good older TV shows. It is. Season two of Night Court just came out on DVD a couple of years after season one. Amazon encourages you to "sign up and be notified" when season two of WKRP in Cincinnati becomes available; it does not suggest that this will happen any time soon. It does not even let you sign up for season four of The Muppet Show, which also has releases spaced over years, and forget about The Jim Henson Hour. That's not happening. Maverick? You're out of luck. The old Adam West Batman? Okay, it wasn't actually good, but you can't get it. Anything past season one of Murphy Brown. There was a show from forever ago on Showtime called Brothers that was really good. You Can't Do That on Television, with a pre-fame Alanis Morrisette. China Beach, with a pre-CSI Marg Helgenberger. Eerie, Indiana. You see where I'm going with this. And two seasons of Anything but Love came out two years ago, and there seems no hope for the last two seasons. You can, however, get all the Full House you can stomach, and Family Matters seems to be on at least three channels.
Marty Gold (Richard Lewis) and Hannah Miller (Jamie Lee Curtis) meet on an airplane. He's having an anxiety attack, which turns out to be what he does, and she kind of calms him down. In return, he gets her a job working for the magazine he writes for. They become best friends, though season two sees the replacement of her dad (Bruce Kirby, Bruno Kirby's father) with Robin Dulitsky (Holly Fulger), Jamie's female best friend. (She and Hannah call one another Mrs. Schmenkman, a reference from junior high school.) Hannah struggles to become a successful writer at the magazine, a thing Marty has been for simply ages, and there are of course wacky co-workers. When are there not? But also of course, there is tension between Hannah and Marty. This is not like Northern Exposure or The X-Files, however. Hannah and Marty openly acknowledge their mutual attraction from the very beginning. Hannah decides that they are going to stay friends and not sleep together. Frustratingly for all concerned, the second-season cliffhanger ends with Hannah changing her mind. And that's where the DVDs stop.
Gods, I used to love this show. Elaine and I watched it together when it played on Lifetime. I think it was the middle of the day, and I think it was summer. It's the only time I've ever regularly watched anything that played on Lifetime. And I've learned the hard way that "I used to love this show" can become a prophecy when you go to watch it again. Time changes your tastes, I have found, and of course things that are genuinely good can become dated pretty easily and more painful to watch. Even, sometimes, than things that you used to think were good and now aren't. I consider, sometimes, just not watching things again and letting nostalgia take hold. I've been disappointed before, you see.
But Anything but Love actually withstands the fifteen-year test. As in, I haven't seen it in at least fifteen years--longer, because I watched it with Elaine, who left home in 1992. Yeah, okay, some of the jokes have become dated; Marty makes a Mr. Belvedere reference at one point (seasons one and two available on DVD). There's a Liberace zinger. Then again, at one point, Catherine (Ann Magnuson) walks out with an oxygen tank, and Marty refers to her Dennis Hopper impression. People still get that. Besides, some jokes are just timeless. Maybe not good, but timeless. The episode where Robin, Hannah, and Marty are all telling their versions of how an evening ended--with a restaurant on fire--is only dated by fashion, not by humour. And, yes, even then, Catherine's outfits were bizarre.
So if you loved it then, give it another shot. Maybe the ginormous cell phone shown at one point, and of course Marty's ginormous hair, will get to you. Catherine's cordless headset with a battery the size of D's head and the range of a remote control. Hannah's obviously phone company-issue phone with the rotary dial. And, dear Gods, just about every stitch of clothing that woman puts on her body. But Brian's (Joseph Maher) tasteful tweeds and British snarkiness haven't dated, and Jules's (Richard Frank) clothes have aged reasonably well. Besides, there's a very young Courtney Thorne-Smith in one episode, not to mention a fairly young Tia Carrere. Richard Kind, even. Then again, where can't you see Richard Kind?
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The system is screwing with me again; I'll try to eliminate this as soon as possible. The review is RKO 281; the rating is 8.
William Randolph Hearst was every bit as stuffy and hypocritical as Orson Welles said he was. He opposed vice, except where it came to his young mistress, Marion Davies. Davies became the inspiration for Susan Kane in Welles's masterpiece, but he later expressed regret for how she was treated there. The real Marion Davies was a talented actress, her career hampered by her relationship with Hearst, his over-enthusiastic hyping of her, and his insistence that she appear in dramatic pictures instead of the light comedies that she did best. Sure, Davies was a drunk--the worse because of how much Hearst opposed drinking--but she did not deserve the way she is treated in Kane.
She is treated better here, where she is played by Melanie Griffith. She is, of course, still the kept woman of William Randolph Hearst (James Cromwell), who throws a party including among its guests Hollywood's newest wunderkind, Orson Welles (Liev Schreiber), and his friend, Herman Mankiewicz (Malkovich!). While there, Welles finally gets the idea for the picture he's under contract to produce. He is young and inexperienced, but he works hard to make the best picture he can. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a picture that Hearst will do anything he can to stop. (We know, of course, that he doesn't, entirely, and that Citizen Kane turns out to be one of the best movies ever made. However, that's outside the scope of the movie.) Also, Hearst is going bankrupt but trying to retain his power.
Hearst is not, here, shown as an evil figure. He's petty and domineering, not to mention, again, hypocritical. However, he really loves Marion; at least part of his anger at Welles has to do with Welles's unfair treatment of her. He left his wife for her, although he has been unable to secure a divorce. Oh, yes, he enjoys the power being a newspaper tycoon has always granted him--the other thing you know about William Randolph Hearst is "You supply the pictures, and I'll supply the war," right? The Hearst shown here, and probably the real Hearst as well, speculates about printing a photo of Roosevelt in a wheelchair, because he thinks Roosevelt's policies are dangerous.
When people of my generation think of Orson Welles, I think most of us actually hear Maurice LaMarche. Tim Burton knew this well enough that, although Welles was physically portrayed by Vincent d'Onofrio in Ed Wood, LaMarche did the voice. However, I think Schreiber does a pretty good job at the role. Welles is the only one in the story whom I think most of us can picture at all, so it matters less that Melanie Griffith doesn't actually look at all like Marion Davies. Even though she did quite a few movies, I'm not sure I've ever seen any of them. Certainly I have no mental image of her, and in my head, Hearst looks like Edward Herrmann.
As shown here, a large part of Welles's problem was arrogance. He was smart, and he was good, and he knew it. However, he was a little shy--a lot shy--on his people skills. True, there was no way diplomacy was going to make Hearst go along with Citizen Kane. However, for the betterment of his later career, a little diplomacy would have gone a long way. His career is awfully depressing to a film buff. Oh, there are highlights, but it's well-established that he spent pretty much his life from the age of twenty-six fighting the studios. Of course, probably a fair amount of the problem was that, well, he'd made one of the best films ever made by the time he was twenty-six. So there's that, too.
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Once again, much fun was had this evening as a select group of us got together and watched the eighty-first Academy Awards ceremony. This year, for some reason, our host was Hugh Jackman. I'm not saying he was a bad host, because he wasn't. He just wasn't what I, personally, look for in an Oscar host. I get that he can sing and dance, and it was interesting to learn that, though I think the musical number with Beyonce should have been taken out and replaced with, you know, full versions of the Best Original Song nominees. But what do I know?
Well, this. Gentlemen, the Oscars are a big deal. I know, I know, Robert De Niro. You've been here before. Six nominations. I get it. Two wins, even. Great! But you, too, need to check a mirror before you go onstage and straighten your tie. Now, I wouldn't say this to your face, of course; I'd rather call Sean Penn Mr. Madonna to his. But seriously. Check your tie.
Ladies, what have we said about the flesh-toned dresses? Also, Nicole Kidman had bosom feathers and Queen Latifah had arm rolls. Mostly, huge dresses were in, and several women appeared to have disassembled disco balls to make dresses out of. Also, several of you (Reese Witherspoon, I'm looking at you) had unpleasant and unnecessary black drapy things on otherwise lovely dresses. The only one I saw all evening that worked was Kate Winslet's. (Also, her dad had a great hat.)
Designers of the show, I like what you did with the multiple presenters for the acting awards. It actually made it quite personal. Some of your pairings, I wasn't as jazzed about (Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black? Really?), but I liked the arrays of past winners. However, it must have occurred to you that those of us at home want to watch the tribute, too, and swoopy camera angles of Queen Latifah when we're trying to see that, yes, that is Cyd Charisse being honoured in the background don't help that.
So here we go. We'll be using the Academy's order again, because it makes comparing between the two columns so handy.
Best Actor. Well, I knew Frank Langella wasn't going to win. I did. And I was amused by Sean Penn's acceptance speech. I liked his reference to the Academy as Commie homo-loving sons of guns. That was cute. I also liked that he acknowledged that he isn't always easy to like. But I had liked him in that movie, and even if he was, um, my third choice, at least it wasn't goddamned Brad Pitt.
Best Supporting Actor. There was absolutely no surprise. We in my living room gave him a round of applause, but it wasn't from surprise. I would, however, like to say that I think he would have deserved it even if he'd lived. It's not just as a career-capper. And you're right, Cuba Gooding, Jr. It is pretty bad for a man in this day and age to do a blackface role.
Best Actress. As for Kate Winslet, it's about damn time. Now, it's true that I'm really glad she didn't win for a couple of movies she did in the past--goddamned Titanic?--but she is a fine, talented actress, and I had this horrible mental image of her surpassing Peter O'Toole's eight nominations sans award by the time she was forty. (She's only about a year older than I.) Now, bad enough for Peter to have that; he's seventy-seven. But it only would have taken two more to tie, and she's thirty-three.
Best Supporting Actress. So let's talk, PenÚlope Cruz, because you seem to be under a serious delusion. When you talk about Woody Allen writing some of the best roles out there for women? Yeah, you're wrong. In fact, he's pretty well known for how crappy the female roles in his movies are. I'm sure you're happy to have received your award, and that's great. But have you actually seen any Woody Allen movies that you didn't star in?
Best Animated Feature. Jack Black, if you were in better animated features, maybe they'd win. But if you were in them, they wouldn't be remotely as good as WALL-E.
Best Art Direction. Benjamin Button was up against some pretty strong competition, so I don't get it.
Cinematography. No one is really surprised at Slumdog Millionaire's win, here, and neither am I. It was a really well-shot film, so well done, Anthony Dod Mantle.
Costume Design. Well done, The Duchess.
Best Director. Has anyone else noticed that Danny Boyle is kinda funny looking? I mean, he did a great job, and directing kids is never easy--and those kids all did great jobs and looked so confused up there on the stage, but funny looking.
Best Documentary Feature. Didn't I tell you the Man on Wire guy was crazy? He's crazy, right? He balanced an Oscar on his chin! Bill Maher can't do that. Also, I heard his movie wasn't any good anyway.
Documentary Short Subject. Well, so now I know what they're all about, and I still really want to see "The Witness--From the Balcony of Room 306." (It really pisses me off that the documentary shorts aren't included on the annual disc of the short subject nominees.) But "Smile Pinki" sounds really good, too.
Film Editing. This should have gone to Milk. Don't get me wrong; Slumdog Millionaire did have pretty good editing. But it should have gone to Milk.
Best Foreign Language Film. Okay, I love when winners don't really speak English. Several times since I've really gotten into watching the ceremony, there have been times when the winner was so overcome that, as Roberto Benigni said the second time he got up there, he used up all his English. And the makers of the Japanese film Okuribito got to play the fun, fun game of "Keep Your English Together Under Pressure." It was awesome.
Makeup. I, for one, am very upset, more on which anon.
Best Score. So Danny Elfman waits another year. Still, I'm told that A. R. Rahman is the biggest recording artist in the world, and he had not previously had any idea what the hell an Oscar was anyway. So that's fun.
Best Original Song. Well done, Academy, for being able to tell apart the two Slumdog songs--and, in my opinion, choosing the better one. For the curious, "Jai Ho" (no, I don't know what it means) is the one at the end, the one with the dance number.
Best Picture. Slumdog won. Shocking, isn't it?
Best Animated Short. "La Maison en petits cubes" is probably pretty good. You should still go hunting for "Oktapodi," though.
Best Live Action Short. Here's a hint, presenters. I know presenting is kind of scary, especially if you're not a big name. Steve Martin? He used to do standup in front of tens of thousands of people. He's been on SNL a lot. Heck, he's hosted before. No pressure. But if you're new, I know you've got a lot on your mind. So learn to say "Spielzeugland" before it turns out to be the winner, huh?
Sound Editing. The Dark Knight had a lot of sounds.
Sound Mixing. Apparently, the Academy deemed recreating the sounds of a crowded Indian city to be worthy of the award. So Slumdog it is, then; I cannot argue.
Visual Effects. Okay, Academy, let's have words. I am told by someone who's seen it that mostly what's effect work in Benjamin Button is the physical appearance of the character of Benjamin Button himself. That's great. Except the thing is, you cannot then turn around and win a Best Makeup award for the same damn movie. It's not right. Look at Ron Perlman. Look at Hellboy. You see how they look absolutely nothing alike? Yeah. That's makeup work. You see how Christian Bale or Robert Downey, Jr., are flying? That's special effects. Benjamin Button? Pick one.
Adapted Screenplay. One of these days, I will read the book on which Slumdog is based. That day is not today.
Original Screenplay. Harvey, wherever you are, you must be very happy. This kid came out because of you. He is an openly-gay screenwriter in Hollywood because of you. And he won an Oscar because of you. That's progress, right?
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The ceremony is tomorrow. I've crammed in all the nominee-watching I could manage--something like eight in the last month. I didn't get to all of them, including one of the ones I was really looking forward to, and apparently, not one of the Best Foreign Film nominees is available on DVD. And I really wanted to see Waltzing With Bashir. Still, we've gotten through everything we're going to get through, and now is the time for predictions and preferences. As usual, we'll be doing this in the order in which things appear on the Academy's website, even though that order makes no sense whatsoever. We'll also be calling the categories by what people actually call them, hence "Best Actor" instead of "Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role."
So Best Actor. I have seen two of these. Smart money, from what I understand, seems torn between Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler (which I haven't seen) and Sean Penn for Milk. Now, I liked Milk a lot, and I even liked Sean Penn in it. However, I don't think Sean Penn did as good a job as Frank Langella did in Frost/Nixon. They were both playing historical figures, but Nixon is much larger in the public awareness than Harvey Milk. He could have given us the over-the-top Nixon that, well, Oliver Platt did. But this was a picture of real power and real corruption, and I was greatly impressed by it.
Best Supporting Actor. Gee. The only question as I see it is, who's going to present for Best Supporting Actress next year? After all, the tradition holds that whoever wins Best Supporting Actor presents the corresponding actress award the following year. This will prove difficult when Heath Ledger wins for The Dark Knight.
Best Actress. I have seen two of these; I was hoping to see The Reader, but it only hit the mall theatre yesterday, so I didn't get the chance. But I did, as you know, see Changeling and Frozen River, and while they were both good performances, I am given to understand that it is probably Kate Winslet's year. But I'd accept Anne Hathaway over Meryl Streep.
Best Supporting Actress. I have not seen any of these movies. I really hope PenÚlope Cruz doesn't get it for Vicki Christina Barcelona, because I hate Woody Allen. That's not fair of me, but it's how I feel. If Marisa Tomei wins, she will be the most surprising double winner in Oscar history, but it might dispel the rumour that she didn't really win for My Cousin Vinnie, that it was a cruel joke that was allowed to stand. (To be fair, I doubt the Price Waterhouse guys could take Jack Palance, possibly even now that he's dead, but the situation would not have been allowed to stand.) I've heard good things about Viola Davis in Doubt--I think she might be Roger's pick, but I'm not going to go look it up--so we'll guess her.
Best Animated Feature. Okay. I've only seen one of the nominees. I don't care about the other two nominees. But it doesn't matter, because one of them keeps having people say of it that it should have been nominated for Best Picture. So hmm. WALL-E it is.
Art Direction. I've seen three of the movies in this category, and they were all beautiful. (Well, okay, The Dark Knight was more gritty. But well-designed.) Part of me leans toward Changeling, because Clint Eastwood's two movies for this year kind of got hosed. The Duchess was simply beautiful. But I really think it's going to go to The Dark Knight.
Cinematography. I'm torn here between Slumdog Millionaire and The Dark Knight. (People don't mention favourites in the more technical categories, so there's no real public guess I can name.) I'm going to go with Slumdog, because it's the more traditional choice.
Costume Design. Always go with the period piece; The Duchess deserves the win most.
Best Director. Danny Boyle is favourite here for Slumdog, and I see no reason to assume it won't go to him.
Best Documentary Feature. Much as I love the Herzog, I think Man on Wire is the popular choice.
Documentary Short Subject. This is one of those categories where you have to guess; I don't know what any of these are even about. But from the titles, I am most curious about "The Witness--From the Balcony of Room 306."
Film Editing. This should go to Milk. As I mentioned in my review, the seamless transition from actual footage of the time to footage shot for the movie is amazing. I liked The Dark Knight; I think it had great editing. I don't think it was as good as the editing for Milk.
Best Foreign Language Film. I hear Waltz With Bashir is really good, but I wouldn't know.
Makeup. If it goes to Benjamin Button instead of Hellboy 2, I, for one, am going to be very upset.
Best Score. I want Danny Elfman to win. I like Danny Elfman. He's never won. Milk it is.
Best Original Song. Well, here's a poser. I liked both songs from Slumdog better. However, it is often the case that, if two songs from one movie are nominated, neither will win. Besides, I doubt most of the Academy can tell the two Slumdog songs apart. So I'm guessing "Down to Earth."
Best Picture. I thought Milk was better, but Slumdog is going to win.
Best Animated Short. I've seen a couple; of the ones I've seen, I liked "Oktapodi" best.
Best Live Action Short. I have not seen any of these. We'll guess "Manon on the Asphalt."
Sound Editing. The Dark Knight or possibly WALL-E.
Sound Mixing. The Dark Knight or possibly WALL-E.
Visual Effects. The Dark Knight. Maybe Iron Man.
Adapted Screenplay. Slumdog. Maybe Frost/Nixon.
Original Screenplay. I'd like it to be Milk. It may be WALL-E. It had better not be In Bruges.
So we'll all meet tomorrow--I'm baking chicken for my guests, and I've got the obligatory bag of Hershey's Miniatures to be handed out whenever anyone's seen a winning movie. (I should have bought two.) Tomorrow, we'll talk over winners, as we always do.
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The Golden Globes are tonight, and everyone knows what that means. The Oscar nominations will be out soon. (Well, we'll have a new President sooner, but soon enough, right?) I don't know why they've chosen Hugh Jackman to host, but we'll see how that goes. There will, of course, be all kinds of topical jokes and inside jokes, a tribute featuring many people you've never heard of, and speeches thanking everyone ever. It's tradition. What is also tradition is second-guessing the Academy. It's already started, of course, even before the nominations are out. Will Heath Ledger actually win his posthumous nomination? Will Wall-E get a Best Picture nomination to go with its Best Animated Film? Will flesh-toned dresses be fashionable again? It's a cavalcade of confusion. And every year, there is much debate as to whether or not certain awards are undeserved. You've seen me do it, and recently. Did Gigi deserve Best Picture? Well, what was it up against? So tonight, as per request, we're going to go over some of the Best Picture winners that I think show perhaps less-than-perfect taste on the part of the Academy.
I haven't seen a lot of the early films, I must admit. If you tally up all of the movies from the days when the category was "Outstanding Production" (1927-1940), I've seen twenty. It sounds like a lot, but until 1943, there would be as many as a dozen nominees in the category. (From 1941-1943, the category was "Outstanding Motion Picture"; from '44 to '61, it was "Best Motion Picture.") In the early years, you couldn't prove by me that a better film was there. I'll quibble a bit with the choice in 1934 of It Happened One Night over The Thin Man, but whatever. I'm certainly glad that, at the previous ceremony, they didn't give it to She Done Him Wrong!
The year I start having seen more than average of these films is probably that great year, 1939. There were ten nominees in 1939 alone. I'll give them Gone With the Wind. It's one of my favourite movies, though, so you should expect it of me.
The great year of the Academy's shame, as any film student will tell you, is 1941. In 1941, the Outstanding Motion Picture winner, out of a field of ten, was How Green Was My Valley. To be fair, I haven't seen it. I've seen three of the other nominees, though. I've seen The Maltese Falcon, Suspicion . . . and Citizen Kane. In all, Kane was nominated for nine Oscars, four of which would have gone to Orson Welles personally. He got one, for Best Original Screenplay, or whatever they called it then. Hearst won, and the Academy tries to forget it.
In 1944, Double Indemnity should have beaten Going My Way, which I couldn't even finish. Probably it was the contrast of dark, doomed Fred MacMurray versus light, cheerful Bing Crosby, who can cure everything with a song. And so it goes. Interestingly, in 1947, both The Bishop's Wife and Miracle on 34th Street lost to Gentlemen's Agreement, which I haven't seen.
In 1951, An American in Paris shamefully beat A Streetcar Named Desire, probably for the same reason as Going My Way won. The Academy, for all its fondness for drama, likes it a happy ending. I've never seen The Greatest Show on Earth, 1952's winner, but I doubt it's better than High Noon. I'll admit that I wish Roman Holiday had won in '53, but that's because it's my favourite movie, not because it's objectively better than From Here to Eternity. And so we get to 1958 and Gigi. I have actually seen four of the five nominees from 1958. I haven't seen Separate Tables; outside the list of nominees, I've never even heard of Separate Tables. But three of the others are Auntie Mame, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Defiant Ones. I suspect what happened is that the two great movies on the list split the vote, letting the pleasant but not as good musical slide in for the win.
In 1960, The Apartment won. I'm not fond of it, but for once, we're going to look at what wasn't even nominated. In 1960, Stanley Kubrick made Spartacus. In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock made Psycho. I'm pretty sure there's at least one more, but I can't remember it off the top of my head. But no. The Apartment. In 1961, Judgement at Nuremberg probably should have beaten West Side Story, much as I like West Side Story. In 1964, Doctor Strangelove should have beaten My Fair Lady. In 1968, The Lion in Winter and Romeo and Juliet were both better than Oliver!
1977 was a peculiar year. A lot of people who are not me quite like Annie Hall, and normally, I celebrate comedies winning. Even, I suppose, Woody Allen comedies. But as everyone probably knows, Annie Hall is not the iconic film of 1977, even if people at the time probably thought it would be. But I think we all know that it isn't true. Most of you, I think, already know which film--which was, yes, nominated--I think should have beaten Annie Hall. I think most of you can hum several of its themes under your breath. Practically every male friend I have can do a pretty good impersonation of one of its characters--one who never gets a line in English. The thirty years intervening have been shaped a lot more by Star Wars than by Annie Hall. I will not, however, make the same argument for '81 and Chariots of Fire over Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even though I like Raiders a whole lot better.
1984 makes me wonder how you define Best Picture (as it had been called for twenty years). In many ways, Amadeus is a great film. I really enjoy it, and there's a lot to recommend it. But is it really a better film than The Killing Fields? Or am I thinking that The Killing Fields is better because it's a lot more significant than a movie about a man was, essentially, a pop star?
Brazil wasn't nominated in 1985. Kurosawa's Ran wasn't nominated. I've not seen Out of Africa, but is it really better than The Color Purple? Was Rain Man, in 1988, better than Dangerous Liaisons or Mississippi Burning?
1994. I will put my foot down. I simply don't like Forrest Gump and never have. Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, and The Shawshank Redemption were better. The lot of them. I thought Ed Wood was better, and certainly it should have gotten the fifth nomination over Four Weddings and a Funeral. Hoop Dreams, another of the Academy's shames. In fact, 1994 seems to have been quite a good year, but it all got so blasted overshadowed by that great sack of syrup.
In 1995, Braveheart was not better than Apollo 13. Which brings us to 1997 and the most overrated film ever to sweep the Oscars. In that year, Best Picture winners, whether nominees or not, could have been LA Confidential, Good Will Hunting, Amistad, Contact, or even The Full Monty. Several of those, I think, will be remembered for quality long after Titanic is only remembered for its shininess. I could probably come up with a bunch of other films. Heck, Mononoke-Hime came out that year. Anyone bored enough to sort through the over 10,000 entries in the IMDB database for the year could come up with even more. You could throw a dart in a video store, is all I'm saying.
Shakespeare in Love was not the best picture of '98, though I like it more than a lot of other people do. Then again, it was a good year, which splits the vote a lot. I have become unsure, since '99, if American Beauty really deserved to beat The Green Mile. 2000 is another year where you can come up with a whole list of movies which deserved the award more than Gladiator, starting with Cast Away and Traffic. Even, in my opinion, Shadow of the Vampire.
Chicago, in 2002, wasn't better than The Pianist. In 2003 . . . well, look. Return of the King was not, contrary to what some of my friends think, the best film of the year. Again, I could list. On the other hand, for the first time since we've started tracing these failings, I'm actually okay with this, especially if Annie Hall had to beat Star Wars. You see, we haven't seen any fantasy or science fiction yet. There hasn't been any fantasy, and the only science fiction was Star Wars. 2001 wasn't even nominated, back in '68. (Freakin' Oliver!) There are certain genres the Academy chooses not to take seriously. Often, this is because Hollywood doesn't, either. There's only ever been one animated film up for Best Picture (this may change), and foreign films are hardly ever up, either. Kurosawa never won. Even if Wall-E is nominated, it probably won't win. But Lord of the Rings is fantasy, epic fantasy, and it was about time, even if I don't think this was the right movie.
So that gets us to the present day, really. I could go other categories, but I think this shows you. Probably a fifth of the years since the inception of the awards, I haven't agreed with the Best Picture choice. The Oscars aren't the best indicator there is, at least not to me. In some years, movies later agreed to be among the best pictures of the year aren't even nominated. Yet I still go back to the Academy. I'm grateful for their database, and often, I will tell you when a film has won Oscars. But if I were the Academy, many years would have been different.
So I was going to watch a movie today. I really was. I watched the Rose Parade, went back to sleep, and woke up again. I went into the hall, where I keep my library stuff, and I brought two movies in, which is a thing I tend to do in case one of them is bad. Insurance, you see. Unless I know the movie's going to be good; I only bothered bringing in the Godfather box set, you see. Still, I brought in my two movies and made one pivotal mistake. I decided to see what was on before sticking one in, because neither really appealed to me. There are often good marathons on New Year's Day, and there might be something worth using as a delaying tactic. The problem is that Cartoon Network is playing nothing but Looney Tunes all day, and I'm not turning that off.
When I was a kid, as I've mentioned before, we had the Disney Channel. (This is leading somewhere, I promise.) In those days, as I've mentioned before, the Disney Channel played a lot of their old stuff. I've probably seen pretty much the entire Disney catalogue, probably several times over. I still like a lot of it, particularly the Goofy "how to" series and any of the ones about avoiding accidents. However, Mickey Mouse doesn't generally make me laugh. Donald Duck occasionally produces a snicker. Oh, I'll still watch the cartoons, and if someone were to buy me the various box sets, I wouldn't complain. However, they aren't really things I'm interested in. I own two of the Looney Tunes box sets, and I intend to get the rest of them. What's more, I'll sit and watch them.
So what's so great about Looney Tunes? For one thing, they're simply wittier than the Disney cartoons--and especially than the tedious Tom & Jerry or Woody Woodpecker. Mickey Mouse cartoons are all bright and sunny, and there's nothing wrong with that, if that's your thing. But there's a strong touch of surreality to the Looney Tunes that no other cartoon series really captured until, say, Roger Rabbit. (A short-lived series indeed.) And yet, if you're paying attention, certain rules develop. Indeed, Chuck Jones and Mike Maltese wrote out a complete list of rules for just the Roadrunner cartoons, which I will not reproduce here but which is available in the delightful Chuck Amuck, one of Jones's two autobiographies and the one more about working in the studio.
Okay, the really early ones don't appeal much, and Speedy Gonzales irritates me. However, once the series really hits its stride, there's nothing like it for just sitting and giggling for six minutes. How many cartoons can you find yourself quoting? How many cartoons have websites devoted to the tools used in them? (Try Googling "Acme catalog.") Name anyone who voiced the Mickey Mouse cartoons, or who voiced Woody Woodpecker. A true cartoon fan will be able to come up with a couple, provided they remember that Walt Disney himself voiced Mickey in the early years. Now, who voiced practically the entire Warners series? Uh huh. I knew you'd know.
Mind you, I'm a big Rocky and Bullwinkle fan. And I do still like some of the Disney cartoons; I'm saddened by the fact that you apparently can't find the "I'm No Fool" series with Jiminy Cricket. Even as a child, I didn't much like Woody Woodpecker or Tom & Jerry, I must admit, but there is actually a lot of non-Warners animation of which I'm fond. But if it had been a marthon of practically any other cartoon, I could have turned it off. But it appears to be the entire collection in chronological order, which means "Duck Amuck" and "Rabbit Seasoning" and "What's Opera, Doc?" and all the other favourites. Who can turn that off?
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I've never believed in the concept of the happiest year of someone's life. Too much happens over the course of a year, and there is always, always going to be bad to match the good. But I do think you can look back at weeks, even months, and think, "Yeah, that was really great." It's always a depressing look back, though, because moments like that are so fleeting, and you can never be sure you're going to have them again.
So what? Well, Paul Simon is inextricably linked to quite a lot of those really happy moments for me. You see, I used to go to music camp when I was in junior high and high school, a fact I don't mention much post-American Pie. (There's a movie I'm going to be snobby about not having seen.) Mr. Meyer, one of the music teachers there and a great composer in his own right, had a copy of the Paul Simon lyrics collection, all the way through One Trick Pony. He also had a guitar and a genuine love of our company. (He was one of God's teachers, a man who genuinely loved teaching for its sake and that of his students.) And we would sit there, so many of us--and, yes, I can remember the names--mostly older than I, under a tree with Mr. Meyer and his guitar and his Paul Simon lyrics. (And Cat Stevens, but only a couple of his songs.) Those moments still rank among some of the happiest of my life.
To be fair, that was Simon and Garfunkel, a time that is left out of this particular collection. This is Paul Simon alone, in the years since then, when he explored the world's music and incorporated it into the American musical vocabulary. It's a two CD/one DVD set, reaching from Paul Simon to the current day. The closest we get to the Simon and Garfunkel days are two clips on the too-short DVD, the only real problem I have with the collection. One is Paul Simon talking to Dick Cavett about "Mrs. Robinson," playing a little of it as he goes, and the other is a duet, but not with Art. It's Paul Simon and George Harrison, very clearly from the '70s, singing "Homeward Bound," a clip that I wish made it onto the CDs as well. It's a great duet and well worth inclusion.
But that DVD is too short. It's about a half-dozen videos, the aformentioned Dick Cavett clip, and three SNL bits, only two of which are Paul himself singing. Given that, so far as I know, the man has appeared on SNL more often than any other musical guest, I cannot help thinking that there must be a wealth of appearances that they could have used. Come to that, he was on The Muppet Show once. I'm delighted to have the "You Can Call Me Al" video, one of the few times I've ever actually liked Chevy Chase, but there must be less than an hour of content on that DVD. Possibly less than forty-five minutes, even. It's too short, and that's only partially made up for by the fact that the CDs are nice and long.
I miss the Simon and Garfunkel stuff, but I don't think that's a failing of the collection. I think it defines it. This is Just Paul Simon. "Mother and Child Reunion" is the first song, and I think it's a good place to start. We wind through his career from there, touching on all his musical influences. We have Ladysmith Black Mambazo here, and the zydeco influences, and the Afro-Brazilian influences on Rhythm of the Saints. We even have his Oscar-nominated "Father and Daughter," written for the Wild Thornberries movie. (Shamefully, it lost to Eminem, as did quite a few other worthy contenders that year.) It's a worthy summation of an impressive career--Paul Simon is one of those people in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame twice, once for his work with Art and once for his solo work.
This is one of the best birthday presents I received. I didn't get much, but it was a quality year. Gwen gave me this and the book Lyrics, a collection of all of his lyrics from the very beginning, "Red Rubber Ball" and all. Miriah gave me a very sweet gift. Allen gave me a very thoughtful gift. But Gwen--Gwen gave me happier days. Bittersweet, yes. But I was so happy under that tree with Ashley and Chrissy and Becky and all.
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I'm not writing a review today. I am taking the day off. I'm not even posting from backlog, because I want to celebrate in my taking-the-day-offness. Oh, I could review Charlie Bartlett, which Graham is watching, and write a scathing critique of how modern-day America views mental health and the over-medication issue, but as it is, I may go back to sleep. I'll get back to you guys tomorrow.
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Sometimes, I just don't care about subtitles. Always for live action, but I don't think it damages some animation to just watch the thing dubbed, especially if you know the dubbing is done pretty well.
Sometimes, I'm just not in the mood to read a film and would rather watch a bad English-language film than a good foreign one.
I turn movies off halfway through if they bore me.
A lot of classics bore me. Movies I neglected to sit all the way through include Chariots of Fire, Last Tango in Paris, and On the Waterfront. And I'm not even sorry. (I'm really, really not sorry about Last Tango in Paris.)
I don't think Fellini's films are as mindblowing as everyone else does.
With a few exceptions, I'd rather watch Spielberg than Kubrick.
I can do without seeing the six-hour version of Fanny and Alexander. I don't need that much Bergman.
Using the word "cinema" makes me feel smarter about movies.
I've never read a word Pauline Kael wrote in her life that I didn't read excerpted somewhere else.
I think Jay Leno makes a better movie critic than some people who do it for a living.
I would rather watch my Great Performances version of Into the Woods fifty times in a row than ever have to sit through Oklahoma! one more time.
There are a lot of really bad movies that I like anyway, and I'll give them positive reviews they don't deserve because of it.
I don't see anything wrong with doing that.
I don't like James Bond or Jason Bourne.
Sometimes, spectacle really is better than intimate little films, even if other critics really like the intimate little film. Even if I really like the intimate little film.
I will watch anything with certain people in it at least once, even if I know for a fact going in that it isn't going to be good.
When I get my stack of movies from the library, I return some of them without watching any of the movie at all.
I reserve the right to be snotty about some movies even though I haven't seen them. This includes the complete works of Uwe Boll and the near-complete works of Will Ferrell. (I hear Stranger Than Fiction is actually pretty good.)
It makes me feel superior when people ask who my favourite actors are and half of them are dead.
I like Gone With the Wind better than Citizen Kane.
I hate Meryl Streep. Most of the time, I just think she's acting like Meryl Streep. For what it's worth, Hepburn didn't like her, either.
Sometimes, I really do care about the private lives of actors.
I like Richard Roeper better than I liked Gene, even if he is an android for not liking Prairie Home Companion.
I give the Oscars more weight than I should, even though I know that I disagree with their choices a lot of the time.
There are a lot of famous directors whose work I cannot tell by watching it.
The only special effects artist I can name off the top of my head is Ray Harryhausen, and I don't really like most of his work.
It is possible to get bored with Miyazaki's work.
2001 doesn't make much sense to me for about a quarter of its length. I think it's brilliant anyway.
When people ask me what the best movie I've seen during my alphabet project is, I can't think of an answer. Clearly, I must start carrying around a card.
I've never finished watching The Lord of the Rings. Which is okay, because I've only gotten about 80 pages into the books.
Nor surprisingly, Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have a slot for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. I'm frankly surprised that IMDB does. (They list it as a TV show, for the curious.) I wish I could give it a nine, and I would--if Felicia Day, who plays Penny, could sing better. Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer isn't bad, though he's not great, either, and of course Neil Patrick Harris has a very good voice. But more of the work depends on her voice than the somewhat stronger one of Fillion, and she simply isn't capable of sustaining the performance. She's lovely, and of course, you can see why Dr. Horrible (Harris) falls for her, but she's not able to adequately hold her voice. Ergo, I give this movie an eight instead.
Dr. Horrible does indeed maintain a blog. This is, of course, a bad idea for a supervillain, and we later find out that both his nemesis, Captain Hammer, and the police are monitoring it, as wouldn't you. But the blog isn't just about his planned evil, which he sees as overthrowing a corrupt government and replacing it with one that's built on sounder principles--his own. No, the blog is also about the lovely Penny, with whom he does laundry at the local laundromat. (Apparently, being a second-rate supervillain doesn't pay enough of the bills to be able to afford your own washer and dryer.) During one of Dr. Horrible's heists, Captain Hammer meets Penny as well and catches her eye.
This is rapidly becoming an internet phenomenon. Part of it is, of course, that it's from Joss Whedon (the idea came to him during the writers' strike, apparently). The other part is that it's genuinely good. The songs are, mostly, well-written and entertaining, leaving aside the one Nathan Fillion one that's just painful--but even that is intended to be. In addition, Dr. Horrible is a genuinely sympathetic character. Captain Hammer is a major jerk, and Penny deserves better. Maybe she doesn't deserve being attached to a supervillain, but she sure as hell doesn't deserve being attached to that jerk. What she seems, I think, to deserve is being with Billy, who is just Dr. Horrible without the goggles.
Joss Whedon likes playing with people, I think, and this is no exception. I mean, a man does not make a story involving "the Thouroughbred of Sin" if he intends us to take things entirely seriously. On the other hand, he doesn't give us the conflict between Captain Hammer and Dr. Horrible if he intends us to do nothing but laugh. Dr. Horrible is pathetic, frankly, in several senses of the word. It's not just that he hangs around with a sidekick type called Moist, who makes things just that. It's not just that he's having a hard time getting into the Evil League of Evil. It's not even just the girl. He's all those things and more. He is, again, pathetic.
Heather warned me that it wouldn't necessarily be as good to me as it was to everyone else, simply because I'd heard it talked up so much. However, unlike some of the other movies I've called overrated, I think this one is rated just about right by most people. It's not exactly great art, but it is worth tracking down and watching. Or even just tracking down and finding the soundtrack. There is some debate as to whether there will be more of it or not, but I have to say, I hope there isn't. I think the ending Joss Whedon gives us is perfect, and I think that adding more will just shatter that one moment.
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