Sunday, December 30, 2018

1965 Alternate Oscars

My choices are noted with a ★. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ.

"Half of this probably belongs to a horse out in the Valley somewhere," said Lee Marvin upon winning the Oscar for his performance in Cat Ballou. Sounds about right. Thus, Smoky's half-nomination for best actor.

Chimes at Midnight — the tragedy of Shakespeare's greatest comic figure, Falstaff — is, in my book, second only to Citizen Kane as the best movie Orson Welles ever made. Dismissed upon its initial release and largely unseen since, it's now available in a restored, remastered edition from Criterion. Highly recommended.

As for the Academy's choice for best picture of 1965, The Sound of Music, it's not the worst movie to ever win the Oscar for best picture, but thanks to the weakness of its competition, it may be the worst movie to nevertheless deserve to win for best picture.

On the other hand, Julie Andrews is sublime. It might be the best performance by an actress in a musical ever. At least I can't think of a better one.

If in fifty years Chimes at Midnight has developed an audience to rival that of The Sound of Music, I'll change my vote. Until then, I'm sticking with the people's choice.

On a more serious note, I've been debating whether to share some rather personal news — I generally prefer to reveal the personal through my insights into movies rather than through the autobiographical — but I think the autobiographical is already beginning to affect the work so I might as well explain myself.

About six weeks ago, I found out I have cancer, stage 2 esophageal adenocarcinoma (read about it here). The doctors — some of the best in the world — caught it relatively early and I'm otherwise in good health, so they are able to pursue an aggressive form of treatment that includes chemo, radiation and surgery. As my thoracic surgeon put it, the prognosis is "realistically optimistic."

By June, or so they hope, I should be right as rain. Knock on wood.

As you might have guessed if you've been following this blog for any length of time, Katie-Bar-The-Door has been extraordinary, and my friends and family have come through like champs. To quote Lou Gehrig, "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

In the meantime, I will keep plugging along with my alternate Oscar polls as long as I am up to it. I'm two weeks into the treatments and I'm just now beginning to feel the side effects, including fatigue. We'll hope for the best.

But for those of you who, like me, prefer to let the movies do the talking, I offer up some thoughts on life, death, love and life as expressed though a handful of select reviews: here, here and here.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

1964 Alternate Oscars

My choices are noted with a ★. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔.

In case you're interested, my top five movies of 1964 are, in order, Dr. Strangelove, A Hard Day's Night, Mary Poppins, Goldfinger and the Academy's choice for best picture, My Fair Lady — which is a little like ranking your top five Picasso's or your top five snowflakes. Each is a unique treasure.

I arrived at the other five nominees through a proprietary blend of alternate Oscar sites (Erik Beck, Gabby, Rick's Cafe Texan, Armchair Oscars, Top Movies, Wonders in the Dark, Lost in the Movies, The Movie Projector, Whoopsie, Fritz, Felix, Oscargasms, Stinky Lulu, B+, Crop Duster, Best Actor, AMC Filmsite, jmpatison003 and Matt v. the Academy), along with Films 101, the Internet Movie Database, Roger Ebert's Great Movies series, Danny Peary's original masterwork Alternate Oscars, a battered copy of Halliwell's, the BBC's list of the 100 greatest foreign-language films of all time, and perhaps most importantly, my own well-worn eyeballs.

If I left you off of my alternate Oscars list and you run an alternate Oscars site, let me know — you can never have too many alternate Oscars!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

1963 Alternate Oscars

My choices are noted with a ★. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ.

In case you've forgotten who Ray Harryhausen was, here's a clip from Jason and the Argonauts:

That's all stop-motion, dude — took Harryhausen four months to create what amounted to about three minutes of film. But it's his Mona Lisa.

The Academy named Tom Jones the best picture of 1963 and it was a popular choice. But it hasn't aged well in my opinion. Director Tony Richardson turned Henry Fielding's 18th century novel into one of those "wacky" Sixties comedies that in retrospect aren't particularly funny.

In fact, come to think of it, Tom Jones might have been the start of all that zany wackiness. You've got a lot to answer for, laddybuck.

On the other hand, I find the pure slapstick of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World very funny, so who knows. Maybe because slapstick is fundamentally sincere while wacky is inherently smug.

The Monkey hates smug.

Note: Patricia Neal's performance in Hud is really a supporting one, but she fits better at lead actress so I'm leaving her where the Academy put her.

And P.S.: Katie-Bar-The-Door and I are celebrating our anniversary today. 29 years. Shall we try for thirty?

Sunday, December 9, 2018

1962 Alternate Oscars

My choices are noted with a ★. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔.

Another great year for movies.

By the way, if you've never seen Lawrence of Arabia, don't let its reputation as a classic dissuade you — it's one of the most rootin'est tootin'est popcorn shootin'est movies of all time, a great Saturday night flick (assuming your Saturday night starts around eight and ends at midnight).

Too many times people hear the word "classic" and they think "funeral home." And sometimes they're right.

In my opinion, movies should always make you feel something — laughter, sadness, fear, joy, anger, exhilaration, euphoria — but they should never feel like work. You can experience those emotions, big and small, in all sorts of ways, and not just in the obvious, cookie-cutter way you might expect. But you absolutely should feel something.

That's my promise here at the Monkey — you watch my picks for best picture, you will know where your time and your money went.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

1961 Alternate Oscars

My choices are noted with a ★. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. A historical winner who won in a different category is noted with a ✱.

If I were playing by my own rules — nominating Hollywood movies in the year they were Oscar eligible; foreign movies (including British movies) in the year they were released in their home country — I would have nominated Sophia Loren for best actress last year, in 1960. But she actually won the Oscar for best actress in 1961, the first time an actor or an actress in a foreign-language film won a competitive Oscar. To avoid confusion, I put her here.

Do I promise to be consistent about it? Only when it suits me.

Look, the real point of this exercise is to create a God's-eye view of the history of movies — what was going on at a particular moment, who was influencing what — rather than an Academy-eye view of what the marketplace deemed worthy of releasing in Los Angeles in a given year. Which is tough to pull off because I'm not God. But as the man said, I gotta model myself after someone.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

1960 Alternate Oscars

My choices are noted with a ★. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ.

Roger Ebert called Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless the greatest movie debut by a director since Orson Welles's Citizen Kane and went so far as to say, "Modern movies begin here."

Thus, Godard's nod for best director.