Sunday, March 31, 2019

1978 Alternate Oscars

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

I probably saw fifty movies in the theater in 1978 — I had a driver's license and matinees were incredibly cheap back then. If my memory serves, these were the ten most talked about movies at the time.

Unlike a lot of years when the best picture is obvious, I've been going round and round with this one. Rather than re-write this post every time I change my mind, let's just see what happens ...

Trivia: Ingrid Bergman received her final Oscar nomination for 1978's Autumn Sonata while Meryl Streep received her first for The Deer Hunter. How often do two such lengthy, celebrated careers overlap so neatly?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

1977 Alternate Oscars

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

Annie Hall is a great comedy — arguably Woody Allen's best — and it would have been an easy winner in most any other year. But Star Wars is one of the most iconic movies ever made, and in terms of reshaping everything that came after it, one of the most influential of all time.

By the way, I prefer the hard-to-see original theatrical release of Star Wars to any of George Lucas's re-worked clusterhumps. Han shot first, my friends.

P.S. Katie-Bar-The-Door and I had an opportunity to see a sneak preview of The Best of Enemies down at the AFI-Silver this past Thursday night. Starring Oscar-nominee Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, TV's "Empire") and Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), it's based on the true story of civil rights activist Ann Atwater and KKK Exalted Cyclops C.P. Ellis who squared off in Durham, North Carolina, over school integration back in 1971.

The film is witty, moving and avoids the trope of the "white savior." Highly recommended.

Henson (a Washington, D.C. native), writer-director Robin Bissell and producer Dominique Telson spoke afterwards.

Opens nationwide April 5.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

1976 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 ✱.

Lot of good choices this year. Taxi Driver is one of Martin Scorsese's most celebrated films, and for reasons I can't put my finger on, All the President's Men seems more relevant than ever. But I'm going with Network, a scathing look at television and our obsession with celebrity and novelty which was considered pretty far out there back in its day but which plays more like a documentary now.

By the way, this coming Saturday, March 23, is the tenth anniversary of the Mythical Monkey. I'll be celebrating by taking a well-deserved nap. You're welcome to join me (but only if you're Katie-Bar-The-Door).

Sunday, March 10, 2019

1975 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.

Sorry I'm running late today. It was a busy week on the cancer front. I'll try to blog ahead a couple of months so there'll be no future disruptions of service ...

Sunday, March 3, 2019

1974 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.

I suppose One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is Jack Nicholson's most famous performance, but I think Chinatown is his best — and it's not close.

As for Roman Polanski, he presents me with a bit of a philosophical conundrum. On the one hand, I think Chinatown is the best movie of 1974 (and maybe of the decade). On the other hand, I also think Polanski, the film's director, is a morally-reprehensible human being who should spend the rest of his natural life in an American jail. Can I hand him an award for what showed up on the screen without also making myself complicit in his crime?

I've written about cognitive dissonance before (here) — that uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously:

The farther I get into blogging about movies and their history, the clearer it becomes that the people who made great movies weren't necessarily great people, and certainly what you see on the screen doesn't reflect what you would have seen in their private lives. John Ford was an insufferable bastard, Henry Fonda was a terrible father, Woody Allen married his girlfriend's daughter. ... Jane Greer, on the other hand, was as sweet as chess pie, as loyal as a faithful dog and as brave as your average Marine, but that doesn't mean she wasn't absolutely riveting as the murderous femme fatale Kathy Moffit in the noir classic, Out of the Past.

There are any number of ways you can handle unpleasant information about the people who make movies. My father refused to watch Jane Fonda because of her politics; my mother-in-law wouldn't watch John Wayne because of his. Which is a pity from the point of view of the movie fan because it means you miss out on Klute and The Searchers ...

You can also go the other way and excuse behavior of your heroes you would never forgive of your enemies. Thus you'll find plenty of petitions seeking to free Roman Polanski despite committing a crime you'd insist your neighbor be buried for. Our brains are hard-wired that way, or so scientists tell us, something to remember the next you (or I) want to beat someone senseless for taking a position we don't agree with. There's not much future for the republic if we're forever choosing to behave like territorial pack animals.

In writing this blog, I have opted for a third way. I have in the past and will continue in the future to distill out the professional from the personal, the on-screen persona from the private one, and though I have written about both, and will continue to do so, I've been choosing awards and reviewing movies strictly based on the former. Some of the winners have been creeps and some have been saints, but all of them have done something on screen that I think is worth your time and attention.

It's either that or stop writing about movies altogether. But then anything you write is guaranteed to offend somebody. After all, I imagine there are still some people out there who insist the world is flat. You can't please everybody.

That was true when I wrote it ten years ago. If anything, it's even more true now.