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The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

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The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Old 02-13-14, 02:32 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by lisadoris
I watched Mary Poppins and that was no fun at all. I think I'm too cynical for a film like that. There's just something about people randomly breaking out into song that just makes me shake my head but if the music is good enough I can overlook it.


I'm sorry to read that... Mary Poppins is one of my top ten films of all time for a dozen different reasons, so I'm always sad when someone doesn't like it - and baffled if the music wasn't liked, either!

For me, MP works on several levels - and I wonder if some of them aren't lost on an American (i.e. not-British) audience - because it's comedy, fantasy, satire, family, adventure and musical. It's about the end of Empire, and the rise of women's rights. It's about putting family above everything else - even the vitally important campaign for female votes. It's about putting family before business, and "saving Mr Banks" from himself and the drudgery of work... while getting him the promotion he so sorely deserved and longed for. It's about finding entertainment in chalk drawings, and dancing your troubles away. It's finding the element of fun in the mundane, and making sure you listen to the opinions of your children. It's about "moulding the breed" without shaping them into the self same people their parents are, and it's about recognising when one's time has passed.

It's playing in the park, and the healing power of laughter. It's about answering the innocent but difficult questions and troubles of the very young. (When the children run away, Bert finds them and promises their father will take care of whatever their problem is... then asks them what their problem is: "father." That's the sort of problem a child faces: who will save them when the object of their fear is their parent...) It's about the 'hired help' (both then and always) finding themselves in the impossible position of having to suppress their own hopes and love because they are only the temporary custodian - if she does her job well, she will be forgotten and obsolete when the children reunite with their parents.

It's as much a story of the underclass - the nanny, the handyman/sweep, the policeman and the cook - as it is the children and their parents. But is also teaches charity and compassion; the rudiments of economic theory - and the precarious position of merchant banking - and the power of imagination. It takes George almost the entire film to learn to laugh with and at himself, and when he finally lets go he is able to embrace his own imagination and enunciate the nonsense word that always makes everything that little bit better. Better use it carefully, because it can change your life!

Originally Posted by LJG765
I think that's why I like musicals-that they randomly break into song. As long as it helps the plot, makes some sort of sense, I'm all for breaking into song! I'm a bit sad you didn't enjoy "Mary Poppins" as it's one of my favorites...

I know that the fantasy aspects of MP are a big part why I like it and think it works well. I read all the books as a kid, probably before I actually saw the movie and while I wish they had put a few scenes in there (would have loved to see a completed zoo scene!) thought that they picked some of my favorites. I saw "Saving Mr. Banks" last month and really enjoyed it and learned some new things about the author.

I"m also a big Sherman Bros. fan. Love their music-you can almost always sing along with it and while I am NOT a singer, I like to sing.
Exactly! And with Mary Poppins, it's not just the songs that are endlessly quotable, every time I watch it I'm amused by a thousand different lines and moments.

Incidentally, the stage version of Poppins is as good as the film: the expanded "S.U.P.E.R..." song, and the spectacle of "Over the Rooftops" are particularly memorable.




Originally Posted by lisadoris
This [suspending disbelief for musical numbers]is my issue. Films about aliens and time travel, I'm down with it. Show tunes, not so much. The only musicals I really love are Singin' in the Rain...
There's hope for you, yet! Singin' in the Rain is one of my other permanent top-ten films, and the choreography is certain one big reason.

...which leads naturally to repeated bemusement that the fantastic rooftop-to-parlor "Step in Time" sequence didn't swing Mary Poppins onto the 'good' list for you.

Originally Posted by lisadoris
At this point I'm not really looking forward to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers which is sitting in my queue.
If you watch it, I'll be curious of your thoughts. I saw it for the first time in decades last year and was underwhelmed.

Last edited by ntnon; 02-13-14 at 02:46 PM.
Old 02-13-14, 02:34 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by mrcellophane
Yay! I'm not alone! I was beginning to loss faith. The musical is probably my favorite genre. I've been enamored ever since I watched Disney films as a kid, and that love has only continued to grow. In fact, next Saturday I'm going to see the Broadway touring company of Beauty and the Beast which I was privileged enough to see on Broadway years ago.
You're not alone.

I watched Beauty and the Beast at home, and went to see the touring Wicked..! I missed the Gaston &co. stein-slapping number, but did not miss Belle's other additional stage song.
Old 02-13-14, 02:46 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by mrcellophane
I watched Saving Mr. Banks last night with my sister and brother-in-law, and we all loved it... When I saw the trailer, I was intrigued but reserved. I was a bit afraid Disney would be portrayed as this unblemished, affable optimist. While the film presents him in a very positive light, there are great touches, and you get the sense that he is just as stubborn and overbearing as Travers but able to use his charm to cover this. It's so apparent that most of the people around him are just awed and terrified by him.
My suspicion is that Walt Disney was a lot like (my take on the widely held opinions about) Stan Lee: both incredibly creative, even if their best work was done in collaboration with equally creative people; both with a great eye both for what the public wants and what they will want given half a chance. And both capable of bringing an "everyman" quality to the work that makes it all look so simple and simplistic, but also deeply resonant - and continues to be, decade after decade.
Old 02-13-14, 02:55 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by Travis McClain
...watching [Lilo & Stitch] this time I did start to think that maybe one reason why it's been treated as a lesser Disney movie is because of its dearth of white characters. Yes, there was a spin-off TV show (making the movie eligible for the TV on DVD* Challenge, in case you're wondering), but the perception exists that Disney doesn't seem to have taken the same kind of pride in this one that they have in some others. It's not as forgotten as, say, Chicken Little, but it's also clearly not as embraced by them as Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph.
My personal take on it's status (based on vague memories, and thus open to widespread inaccuracy*) is that the storyline is not universal.** It seems to be very popular with people who can personally empathise with the characters, and to pass completely over the heads of those who can't. Nothing about it spoke to me last year, and I was surprised to discover that there are a definite group of fans who elevate it above many other (Disney) films. I've begun to appreciate why from talking to some of them, so maybe when I get around to watching it again I can try and filter it through a different set of expectations and thoughts.


*I watched it for the first time last year. I assume it came out in England, but I do not remember reading or hearing about it much - if at all - until a few years ago. Had no idea there was a TV show, and less idea of the plot.

**On reflection, you could be right that part of that is the lack of white characters, at least for many people.
Old 02-13-14, 03:06 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by mrcellophane
(Aside: Not to beat a dead horse, but what the hell happened last year? Argo? Did the voters see Beasts of the Southern Wild or Life of Pi or the other films? I mean you've got Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained, and you go with Argo?)
I enjoyed Argo more than Beasts, and having just watched Pi, my only real take-away from it was in wondering just how often it was a real rather than CGI tiger. All three were interesting and well done, but Argo was by far the (more) exciting and nail-biting, and arguably had better - and more - characters and acting. To me, at least. (Although it probably got the Oscar in part because Mr Affleck was left off the Directors list.)

Last edited by ntnon; 02-13-14 at 03:21 PM.
Old 02-13-14, 03:26 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by BobO'Link
I have that opinion about *many* Oscar winning (especially Best Picture) films. So much so that I went through a period of decades where I'd refuse to watch *any* film that won "Best Picture." I still mostly ignore "Best Picture" winners and nominees if they were made anytime during the past 10 years or so.
I pretty much agree with you, though I haven't refused to watch just because they were nominated/ won. I did really enjoyed The Artist from a couple years ago and Gravity this year. I hope you give these two a chance at least!
Old 02-13-14, 05:02 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by ntnon
There's hope for you, yet! Singin' in the Rain is one of my other permanent top-ten films, and the choreography is certain one big reason.

...which leads naturally to repeated bemusement that the fantastic rooftop-to-parlor "Step in Time" sequence didn't swing Mary Poppins onto the 'good' list for you.


If you watch it, I'll be curious of your thoughts. I saw it for the first time in decades last year and was underwhelmed.
Yeah there's hope for me ! The Step in Time number was the highlight of Mary Poppins for me but considering my disappointment in the rest of the film, that isn't saying much. I did watch Seven Brides and I didn't post my thoughts because I was pretty sure no one wanted to read them. This was one of the most retrograde films I've seen in a long time.
Spoiler:
I'm sure that kidnapping women in an effort to get them to fall in love with you seemed like a good idea to someone but not to me. And then the women actually fall in love with their freaking kidnappers! That's not funny, that's not cute. The main husband was a total ass from start to finish so I spent the entire film wondering what the hell his wife saw in him.


The choreography of the barn-building dance was Brides only saving grace. I was floored when I realized that Donen directed Singin' in the Rain and Seven Brides. It's rare that a filmmaker will have a film on my best and worst list.
Old 02-13-14, 06:05 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by lisadoris
Yeah there's hope for me ! The Step in Time number was the highlight of Mary Poppins for me but considering my disappointment in the rest of the film, that isn't saying much. I did watch Seven Brides and I didn't post my thoughts because I was pretty sure no one wanted to read them. This was one of the most retrograde films I've seen in a long time.
Spoiler:
I'm sure that kidnapping women in an effort to get them to fall in love with you seemed like a good idea to someone but not to me. And then the women actually fall in love with their freaking kidnappers! That's not funny, that's not cute. The main husband was a total ass from start to finish so I spent the entire film wondering what the hell his wife saw in him.


The choreography of the barn-building dance was Brides only saving grace. I was floored when I realized that Donen directed Singin' in the Rain and Seven Brides. It's rare that a filmmaker will have a film on my best and worst list.
You can't judge old movies by contemporary mores. Sure, the idea of kidnapping women makes us think of the creepy Cleveland sex slave story, but Seven Brides for Seven Brothers's plot was inspired by
Spoiler:
"The Sobbin' Women" by Steven Vincent Benet, who based his story on the historical tale of the capture of the women of the Sabine tribe by Roman men who need brides to marry.
Old 02-13-14, 06:30 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by mrcellophane
Warning: Rant about something that happened over a decade ago:
Spoiler:
So, A Beautiful Mind inexplicably won Best Picture for 2001... I still don't understand that. While I haven't seen In the Bedroom, the other three nominees were much more desiring of the Oscar. I haven't seen Beautiful since 2001 so my opinion may change, but I hated it when I watched it. If I remember correctly, the film is very cavalier when it classifies and presents mental problems. As someone who struggles with such problems (admittedly on the same level as the main character), the film rang very false and sensational. Yet somehow, it triumphed over these over films that all had a lot more vision and fit a lot more into the narrative of film history.
There is one thing I forgot to delve into in my diary remarks about the film, and that's that those awards were the ones presented in the wake of 9/11. I firmly believe that cost Amelie to go home empty-handed that year. Despite being up for Art Direction, Cinematography, Sound, and Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen), it failed to win Foreign Language Film? How does it transpire that a foreign language film can be so recognized that it breaks into four other categories but fails to win at the very least the obvious one? Losing to No Man's Land, no less, a melodrama about the folly of war?

The message from the Oscar voters in that year's awards was clear: It was time to put aside such things as "love" and take a stand behind something else. Moulin Rouge! was an artistic triumph, but how could the voters possibly have declared at a time when they felt guilty even having the red carpet arrival that its theme of "learn[ing] to love and be loved in return" was the most important thing to hail?

I'm pretty sure Gosford Park was nominated for taking something voters love - British actors - and throwing as many of them as possible into a single film. It's entertaining, sure, but it lacks the heft of a Best Picture choice and anyway, what American voter was going to declare something so British the Best Picture? The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was unlikely to win the top trophy in any year anyway, but again; with so much real life despair, how could the voters get behind a fantasy film? That only leaves In the Bedroom (which I've not seen and know nothing about), and A Beautiful Mind.

I believe A Beautiful Mind won by default dictated by zeitgeist.
Old 02-13-14, 06:37 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by Travis McClain
That only leaves In the Bedroom (which I've not seen and know nothing about)
Saw it for the first time last year. Hope you like it as much as I did!
Old 02-13-14, 09:16 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by ntnon
My personal take on it's status (based on vague memories, and thus open to widespread inaccuracy*) is that the storyline is not universal.** It seems to be very popular with people who can personally empathise with the characters, and to pass completely over the heads of those who can't. Nothing about it spoke to me last year, and I was surprised to discover that there are a definite group of fans who elevate it above many other (Disney) films. I've begun to appreciate why from talking to some of them, so maybe when I get around to watching it again I can try and filter it through a different set of expectations and thoughts.
Here, it's probably worth noting that my parents divorced when I was young. I've never had much of a relationship with my dad or his entire side of my family. I do, however, have a solid core of friends who have been with me in some cases for more than twenty years who are more like family to me than friends at this point. I've rejected since childhood the notion that family is some kind of binding tie; my connections are based on what people have earned from me, not DNA. So, yeah, I'm sure that all factored into why Lilo resonated so much with me.

*I watched it for the first time last year. I assume it came out in England, but I do not remember reading or hearing about it much - if at all - until a few years ago. Had no idea there was a TV show, and less idea of the plot.

**On reflection, you could be right that part of that is the lack of white characters, at least for many people.
Studies have shown that people have less empathy for people outside their own race, and Lilo & Stitch very much requires empathy to "unlock". It's easy to picture a bunch of white people from "traditional, nuclear families" yawning and trying to ascertain why they should care about these characters. It's even easier to come up with a response to such hypothetical people, but I'll refrain from sullying this thread with those remarks.
Old 02-13-14, 09:22 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by ntnon
I enjoyed Argo more than Beasts, and having just watched Pi, my only real take-away from it was in wondering just how often it was a real rather than CGI tiger. All three were interesting and well done, but Argo was by far the (more) exciting and nail-biting, and arguably had better - and more - characters and acting. To me, at least. (Although it probably got the Oscar in part because Mr Affleck was left off the Directors list.)
I should say that I really enjoyed Argo. It's an excellent film, and I saw it in the best circumstances: at a college theater packed to the rafters with University of Oklahoma students. There was a lot of cheering and cries of 'Merica! when something good happened. I found it to be a fun, patriotic suspense/thriller that did a great job building the tension through absolutely exhilarating editing. However, in my opinion most of the other films nominated that year where so much more inventive and insightful. Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Lincoln were about so much more. They (along with other nominees) resonated with me; they grappled with complex themes about religion, democracy, individual agency. Argo is a fun romp.

I hypothesize that Argo's win was in part a reaction against the previous two winners. It's proudly American and slightly anti-British (unlike The King's Speech) and stylistically modern Hollywood (unlike The Artist). It also probably helped that the film smacks both of libertarianism (The CIA is a incompetent government agency of disconnected, pencil-pushing committees. We need a man - one savvy individual with a plan.) and Hollywood self-congratulations (And that all-American individual will need two loose-canons who make movies!).

Originally Posted by Travis McClain
I believe A Beautiful Mind won by default dictated by zeitgeist.
Brilliant contextualization, Travis! I wasn't even thinking about the relationship to 9/11. A little off topic: have you read Film After Film? It is how 9/11 and the subsequent Bush era changed Hollywood films; it's quite a good read.

Due to my love of British things and Robert Altman, I think I've place Gosford Park on a lofter pedestal than it probably deserves.

(Note: I meant to say that my own mental problems are nowhere near as severe as those of the main character of A Beautiful Mind. Edited original post.)
Old 02-13-14, 09:52 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by mrcellophane
Brilliant contextualization, Travis! I wasn't even thinking about the relationship to 9/11.
I hadn't given it any thought at all myself until a few years ago when I set out to watch as many 2001 nominees as I could and I started to consider why No Man's Land won Foreign Language Film over Amelie, which surely should have been the favorite being that it was nominated in four other categories. From there, I began to consider the implications for the rest of the awards that year. I'm certain, for instance, that's why Black Hawk Down picked up Film Editing (which should have gone to Jill Bilcock for Moulin Rouge!).

2001 Best Sound is interesting, because it ultimately went to Black Hawk Down, but one of the other nominees was Pearl Harbor. I have to believe that if Black Hawk Down hadn't been a nominee that year, Pearl Harbor would have gotten the nod. Instead, it came down to the more realistic military movie. Besides, who wanted to romanticize tragedy in those months after 9/11? Pearl Harbor *did* win Sound Editing that year, beating the only other nominee (Monsters, Inc.). Hokey military > no military, after all!

A little off topic: have you read Film After Film? It is how 9/11 and the subsequent Bush era changed Hollywood films; it's quite a good read.
No, I haven't! It sounds interesting, though, and it ties into a piece I've been planning for quite awhile now, actually. Only my piece is going to be on the movies of the 90's and how they couldn't be made after 9/11, or at least how they couldn't be made the same way.
Old 02-14-14, 11:46 AM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

What could be more appropriate for today than William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet? From my Letterboxd diary:
Spoiler:
I read Romeo and Juliet in my freshman year English class in high school. I was the only one who laughed at the end. That's the truth. Everyone else either thought it was sad or, if we're being honest, didn't care at all. Me? I thought it was ridiculous, that these two twits and their harebrained scheming had led them to their doom. Years later, I learned that Shakespeare had indeed written the play as a satire of the impetuousness of youth, affirming that I was the only one in my class who got it.

A couple of years later, along came this film adaptation. I had not the slightest interest, no matter how into it some of the girls I went to school with were. Oh, I heard the soundtrack CD playing in the background when we spoke on the phone and I endured the "You gotta see it!" entreaties. But the fact that none of them told me it was funny told me that Baz Luhrmann didn't get Shakespeare, either.

In truth, I may never have finally seen this film had it not transpired that I bought it in a double-feature Blu-ray Disc release last year, packaged with Moulin Rouge! (which I love). Today being Valentine's Day, and Romeo and Juliet erroneously held aloft as "the greatest romance of all time", it seemed the time had finally come. Plus, I watched Moulin Rouge! yesterday.

I'm fine with the modern dress approach employed here, though like many I find the guns-substituting-for-swords bit laughable. Then-modern film making aesthetics are also fine with me. There's no reason that a filmed version of a play written centuries ago should be static or try to approximate viewing a play. Let it be a movie, says I.

The problem is that, with just two exceptions, no one seems truly comfortable with Shakespeare here. Pete Postlethwaite exudes the most gravitas in the film as the priest, Father Laurence, and Harold Perrineau was inspired and delightful as Mercutio.

And that's it.

That's all I've got.

Every time anyone else opened their mouth, I was conscious that they were reciting lines. Even Paul Sorvino, who flashes the most personality of anyone other than Perrineau, seems to have been showing off his memory rather than really getting to the emotional core of his character.

Luhrmann's breakneck pace should have befitted the insistent, urgent nature of the titular couple. Instead, it merely runs roughshod over the core of the story. We never get a feel for how in over their heads the lovers are, or the nature of any of the relationship dynamics between any of the other characters. I think particularly of Lady Capulet, reduced from an ambitious woman who sees marrying Juliet as a means to greater security to little more than her husband's lackey here.

Even Postlethwaite's Father Laurence suffers from Luhrmann's haste. I mean, he's already married Romeo and Juliet, and when he's told that she must now marry Paris, he doesn't even bat an eye before presenting his faked death scheme? Just like that, you've got this whole thing planned out and ready to go? Were you holding onto this plan, just waiting for someone to walk into the church in such desperation that you could spring it on them? WHAT KIND OF A PRIEST ARE YOU?!

The finale, of course, is the big scene that secured the play's place in history. Luhrmann oddly chooses this time to show some restraint, filming it not quite as melodrama, but more as straight drama. In consequence, it doesn't play like the crescendo to a mad love affair gone off the rails that it should. It doesn't feel like much of anything, to be honest. My reaction was, "Huh. That's a lot of candles. I wonder if her dress is going to catch fire."

The film was nominated for one Academy Award: Best Art Direction (Art Direction: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Brigitte Broch). It lost to The English Patient (which I haven't seen yet). I've only seen one of the other nominees: The Birdcage, which I would probably have picked over this. I get that the contemporary urban setting was really the star of this production, but aside from the novelty I'd be lying if I said I was particularly dazzled by anything that I saw (though the Capulet masquerade ball looked like a lot of fun).

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet entered my Flickchart at #/1612

1996 Academy Awards (69th)
(N) ART DIRECTION -- Art Direction: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Brigitte Broch
Old 02-14-14, 02:42 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by Gobear
You can't judge old movies by contemporary mores. Sure, the idea of kidnapping women makes us think of the creepy Cleveland sex slave story, but Seven Brides for Seven Brothers's plot was inspired by
Spoiler:
"The Sobbin' Women" by Steven Vincent Benet, who based his story on the historical tale of the capture of the women of the Sabine tribe by Roman men who need brides to marry.
Actually the Cleveland incident hadn't even occurred to me until you mentioned it. While I usually agree that audiences shouldn't judge films by contemporary standards, I don't think kidnapping someone to marry was funny when the film was made nor so I think the original source material was meant to evoke a humorous response (I haven't read it so I could be wrong).
Old 02-14-14, 03:33 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by lisadoris
Yeah there's hope for me ! The Step in Time number was the highlight of Mary Poppins for me but considering my disappointment in the rest of the film, that isn't saying much.
Well, that's a start, I guess...! Hopefully you'll reappraise it someday.

Originally Posted by lisadoris
I did watch Seven Brides and I didn't post my thoughts because I was pretty sure no one wanted to read them. This was one of the most retrograde films I've seen in a long time.
Spoiler:
I'm sure that kidnapping women in an effort to get them to fall in love with you seemed like a good idea to someone but not to me. And then the women actually fall in love with their freaking kidnappers! That's not funny, that's not cute. The main husband was a total ass from start to finish so I spent the entire film wondering what the hell his wife saw in him.


The choreography of the barn-building dance was Brides only saving grace. I was floored when I realized that Donen directed Singin' in the Rain and Seven Brides.
Singin' is co-directed by Gene Kelly (or "musically" directed, maybe), so maybe it was his influence... try Hello, Dolly! maybe..?

Originally Posted by lisadoris
It's rare that a filmmaker will have a film on my best and worst list.
(I must admit that despite what so many people seem to adhere to, I tend to look to the script and actors far more than directors, so I have films scattered across my own lists.)
Old 02-14-14, 07:00 PM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by Gobear
You can't judge old movies by contemporary mores. Sure, the idea of kidnapping women makes us think of the creepy Cleveland sex slave story, but Seven Brides for Seven Brothers's plot was inspired by
Spoiler:
"The Sobbin' Women" by Steven Vincent Benet, who based his story on the historical tale of the capture of the women of the Sabine tribe by Roman men who need brides to marry.
I'm willing to bet those Sabine women didn't see their plight as particularly lighthearted.
Old 02-15-14, 05:58 AM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

I stayed up all night, mostly because I just kinda lost track of time chatting with a friend of mine on Facebook and when she went to bed at 2 AM, I was wide awake. I played the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack and played Mario Kart Wii (if anyone ever wants to race, lemme know!), then decided to revisit Sideways. From my Letterboxd diary:
Spoiler:
I've seen Sideways I think twice before, plus a third time with the delightfully verbose commentary by Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti. Sometime a few years ago, I finally read Rex Pickett's original novel. That made it easier for me to detect the alterations that director Alexander Payne made with his co-writer Jim Taylor to their Academy Award winning screenplay. Pickett himself said in an interview I read that the big thing is that Payne runs from anything resembling sentiment and emotion.

I don't have a sense of Payne, but I see what Pickett meant. The big thing for me was that literary Maya and Stephanie aren't quite the victims that their cinematic counterparts are. It may seem at first paradoxical to the notion of Payne fleeing sentiment that his film should more clearly establish a moral boundary for Jack and Miles to cross, but the thing is, Pickett's characters and their more complex relationship dynamics require a certain willingness to explore emotion in order to understand. Payne's characters are much cleaner and easier to digest: Jack is pure id, Miles is an ineffective ego, and in consequence poor little Stephanie and Maya are deceived and wronged.

Payne plays it all for laughs, whereas Pickett's novel is more about navigating midlife crossroads. And the thing is, as much as I enjoyed Pickett's novel, I have to say that Payne was entirely right with his tonal changes to the narrative.

The nuances of literature don't always play well on the screen, and I have a difficult time envisioning a more literal translation of Pickett's prose that anyone would have really enjoyed watching. The guys are terrible human beings. They're not even particularly good friends. And yet, the alternating camaraderie and conflict between them rings true about our own friendships, and even just as a reflection of our own inner struggles.

The rule in storytelling is "show, don't tell", but Payne deftly flips that around and finds that by telling us more than showing us the insecurities that drive Jack and Miles, they benefit as characters from the "less is more" effect. Some things are just blurted out in expository dialog. We learn other things by eavesdropping (such as Miles's phone calls), but a lot of what we know about these two guys is unspoken. We have to construct our own dossiers on them, but all we need to do this is given to us.

The other chief storytelling decision that Payne made is to keep the story focused on the characters, rather than the setting. Pickett's prose is as dedicated to being a travelogue of the vineyards of Santa Nyez as it is about the foursome. Payne's film trusts that shooting on location and putting images on the screen is sufficient for us to absorb what we need to know about not just where we are, but what it means for Jack and Miles to be there. Again, Payne's sensibilities about what works in print and won't work on screen pay off, freeing us from what could have been cumbersome conversations about each vineyard so that we can focus on the foursome.

Thomas Haden Church (Jack) and Virginia Madsen (Maya) were nominated for Academy Awards for their Supporting Roles. He lost to Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), which I've not seen; she, to Cate Blanchett (The Aviator), which I have. I can get behind Blanchett over Madsen, though honestly, I think Sandra Oh had stronger presence and should have been nominated over Madsen. In any event, I'd have given the nod to Sophie Okenodo for her work in Hotel Rwanda, but no one asked me.

Payne was nominated for Best Directing (losing to Clint Eastwood for the aforementioned Million Dollar Baby), and Sideways was a Best Picture nominee (also losing to Million Dollar Baby). The only competitor in either category I've seen is Martin Scorsese's The Aviator. I'd probably have awarded Scorsese over Payne, but note that I have stronger feelings about Sideways.

Sideways was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #75/1612

2004 Academy Awards (77th)
(N) ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -- Thomas Haden Church {"Jack"}
(N) ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -- Virginia Madsen {"Maya"}
(N) DIRECTING -- Alexander Payne
(N) BEST PICTURE -- Michael London, Producer
(W) WRITING (Adapted Screenplay) -- Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Old 02-15-14, 08:57 AM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

I too was up late last night as I just couldn't sleep. Was in the mood for some Star Trek, so debated between a movie or a series episode. I decided why not a movie, to get credit for the challenge and popped in Star Trek The Motion Picture.
Old 02-15-14, 09:01 AM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by shadokitty
I too was up late last night as I just couldn't sleep. Was in the mood for some Star Trek, so debated between a movie or a series episode. I decided why not a movie, to get credit for the challenge and popped in Star Trek The Motion Picture.
Which cut?
Old 02-15-14, 09:03 AM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by Travis McClain
Which cut?
I own the DIrector's Cut
Old 02-15-14, 09:11 AM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by shadokitty
I own the DIrector's Cut
In my estimation, that's really the best cut. LJG765 and I synced up to watch that back in October. She has it on Blu-ray, so she has the original theatrical cut. There was some pausing and waiting to catch up involved because of the different pacing/run times. I yawned at it in my adolescence, but recently I've come around on it. Here's what I wrote at the time in my Letterboxd diary:

Spoiler:
Throughout July and early August, I synced up with an online pal and we did a tour through Star Trek, both the original and animated series. I had hoped to get to the first six movies right after that, but it didn't work out that way. In some respects, that's actually okay since there was a decade between the end of the original series and this first movie (with the animated series between them, nearer the show than the movie).

The big draw of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was, of course, getting the band back together. Coming to it this time in the chronological context that I and my pal have established, I was better able to appreciate that elixir quality. Yes, the film is self-indulgent and full of "starship porn", but I admit that for about two whole minutes during that scene of Scotty transporting Kirk to the Enterprise in the shuttle, I just got lost staring and smiling. It felt good to reunite with everyone again, and I was okay taking our time.

(I'll never quite understand why Scotty, of all people, wasn't already on the Enterprise, given that as chief engineer, he should have been chained to a bulkhead until she was ready to launch.)

I love that instead of just resuming where we'd left off, the relationship dynamics are shaken up. The core of the original show was always the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triumvirate, and their relationships are the heart of the story here. Only this time, it's Bones playing moderator between Kirk's overeager ambition and Spock's mercurial distance. (Can one be both completely cold *and* emo? 'Cause I think that's what Spock is in most of this movie.) The divide between Kirk and Decker is also interesting, exploring a facet of the former that was never challenged in the show.

There was a conscious effort to distinguish Star Trek: The Motion Picture from the glorified serial action of Star Wars. When I first saw the movie in 1991, I understood that but it didn't really impress me much. This time through, though, I had a much greater appreciation for the sophistication and ambition of the story. We're much nearer to 2001: A Space Odyssey than we are to Star Wars. This feels like a grownup's science-fiction film instead of a juvenile's action sci-fi flick.

I remember earlier this year, screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman said that they want the next Star Trek movie to explore some classic science-fiction themes and get away from the heavy action of the last two. I would love to see another movie with the kind of conceptual grandeur of The Motion Picture, but with greater focus and more personality.

Robert Wise's 2002 DVD cut doesn't just feature spiffy new visual effects (which, admittedly, are pretty cool); it makes the narrative tauter. The aforementioned shuttle scene is still pretty languid and editorially ought to have been scrapped entirely, but it's hard to imagine cutting or outright deleting any of that. Credit really goes to Jerry Goldsmith for why that scene is so perfect, because without his gorgeous score, it's probably the dullest few minutes in the entire canon. With his lush music, it's one of my favorites. I'd watch the entire film with just his score if they'd given me that audio option.

Still, tightened as the narrative is, the film feels too passive overall. The relationship dynamics are interesting, but no matter how many times someone points out how much time is left before the intruder reaches Earth, there's no real sense of danger or urgency. We should have seen at least one more section of Vejur en route before the Enterprise finally intercepted it, just to re-establish what the antagonist is and can do.

Those garish costumes will always detract from the viewing experience, too. Those might be the single worst costumes in anything, ever. Even the superhero costumes in the Joel Schumacher Batman movies have some style to them, even if it's ridiculous style. I do kinda dig that uniform they gave Kirk with the gray stripes on either side (which they reinterpreted for Pike in the last two movies). But otherwise, it's just boring to look at these people because of what they're wearing. These are the most generic looking pajamas I've ever seen.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #47/1591
Old 02-15-14, 09:21 AM
  #223  
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

This past week, I've been mostly concentrating on watching films for the upcoming ceremony. This included watching two documentaries.

The Square charts the successes and failures of the Egyptian revolution. Over the course of the documentary, the optimism and relatively simplistic connections slowly gives way to brutality, politicking, and false promises.

The Act of Killing was even harder to watch. The documentary chronicles the efforts of former Indonesian warlords and executioners to make a film reenacting their crimes. In contrast to the grisly stories and opinions, the documentary is often visually beautiful.

Now, I've seen all of the nominated documentaries. I've never accomplished this before. All five were excellent, but I have to say that The Act of Killing and Cutie and the Boxer are the standouts for me.
Old 02-15-14, 10:53 AM
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by Travis McClain
In my estimation, that's really the best cut. LJG765 and I synced up to watch that back in October. She has it on Blu-ray, so she has the original theatrical cut.
I'd like to see the theatrical cut again "just because." The last time I saw that version was during the original release. I believe there's a new single DVD release of the theatrical cut (last September when a Director's Cut was released on BR) but I've found nothing firm about the release. I know the theatrical version is available in a DVD box set with the other five TOS films but I don't know if I want/need the theatrical releases of Wrath of Khan or Undiscovered Country. I'm cheap so I'll probably just wait for a really low price on one or the other. BTW: It's spelled V'Ger.
Old 02-15-14, 11:10 AM
  #225  
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Re: The 8th Annual Academy Award Movie Challenge (1 Feb - 2 March)

Originally Posted by mrcellophane
The Act of Killing was even harder to watch. The documentary chronicles the efforts of former Indonesian warlords and executioners to make a film reenacting their crimes. In contrast to the grisly stories and opinions, the documentary is often visually beautiful.
I enjoyed the documentaries this year, too....Wasn't "The Act of Killing" just plain weird, though?...not your garden variety documentary!

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