Tag Archives: Oscar

No. 95 THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971)

Everything Gets Old if You Do It Often Enough

The Last Picture Show, a movie about the dirty laundry of a small Texan town, was considered to be risky and scandalous at the time of its making. It has scenes with full frontal nudity and sex between high school students and married adults. So, pretty much nothing that is currently considered scandalous. But at the time of filming Cybill Shepherd had to consider many times if she would do the nude pool scene and Cloris Leachman refused to get naked on camera and instead waited until her character got under the covers.

                                       Nope – you should not have worn that shirt

It’s 1951 in a small Texas town called Anarene. Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges) are best friends who play football, go to the movies at an old movie house and hang out at the local pool hall. Both places are owned by Sam The Lion (Ben Johnson), who has a close relationship with Sonny. Both boys also lust after rich Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd), whose mother Lois (Ellen Burstyn) gets around and also had an affair with Sam The Lion.  Jacy is going steady with Duane while Sonny falls into an affair with the football coach’s wife Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman). After Sam the Lion’s death the pool hall is left to Sonny, who is determined to honour Sam’s legacy while Jacy and Duane head away from Anarene. Sonny and Duane make one last trip to the closing movie house.

It’s a bleak town

The Last Picture Show is based on a book by Larry McMurtry. When the director Peter Bogdanovich (The Mask and The Thing Called Love) saw the book the first time he did not read it – even though he was intrigued about the name. Thankfully he did the second time around and made a movie out if it that went to win 2 Oscars (Johnson and Leachman).

                                                             Lion, Sam The Lion

The movie was filmed in Larry McMurtry’s home town, Archer City. Which is the same town that the book is based on. So no wonder that the film crew was not welcomed with open arms, as the real Duane, Sonny etc. were still there. Even though the actors never got to meet their real-life counterparts. The whole movie is shot in black and white, which was originally suggested to Bogdanovich by Orson Welles who thought that the depth of that period could only be captured in B&W. I have to say that it definitely adds dimension to the depressive atmosphere of the movie.

The Last Picture Show has many great scenes like the one where Sonny is driving Ruth to the clinic and back. So much has been left unsaid and the viewers can decide themselves the reason why Ruth is so upset. Another excellent scene by Cloris Leachman is the final scene between Ruth and Sonny.

                                                                Never you mind

Another scene, which portrays Bogdanovich great talent to concentrate in expressions and emotion instead of dialogue, is when Lois realises that her daughter has been with her lover. Total of eight different emotions run through her face while she walks from the living room sofa to the kitchen. If that’s not powerful acting, I don’t know what is. Bogdanovich’s only advice to Ellen Burstyn was to think the thoughts of the character in that scene.

I found that one of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when Billy dies and Sonny is carrying him away from the street. Once again almost no dialogue for Sonny – only one line: He was sweeping!

He was sweeping!

I am sure that The Last Picture Show is a great movie on many levels and I am glad I watched it. But would I watch it again? No – as I found it extremely depressing, which I am sure just speaks of its greatness.

Yep, nothing much has changed.

No. 92 GOODFELLAS (1990)

As far back as I can remember; I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.

All you need to know about this movie is the following two words: Martin Scorsese. This on its own should make you want to watch Goodfellas. I must admit that this was my first time seeing this particular Scorsese movie – I have seen more recent ones like The Departed, Shutter Island, Gangs of New York and The Aviator. All great movies, but a tad bit violent. Though the thing about Scorsese and violence is that even though violence goes hand in hand with almost all of his movies, yet he does not glorify violence by any means. Scorsese’s violence is always messy, ugly and well – violent. He portrays violence how it is – an unthinkably horrible act.

Goodfellas is based on a book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi. Pileggi also co-wrote the screenplay with Martin Scorsese. “Wiseguy” is a true rise-and-fall story of a real-life mobster, Henry Hill. As Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) says in the beginning of the movie – he always wanted to be a gangster. So from a young age Henry starts hanging out and running errands for the neighbourhood’s mob boss, Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino). He then starts pulling jobs with Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), who are part of the same mob crowd. There are several milestones in Hill’s life: first arrest, wedding to Karen (Lorraine Bracco), mistress number one, mistress number two, jail term and running around behind the mob boss’ back dealing cocaine. But the most profound moment is the murder of Billy Batts (Frank Vincent), when everything changes for Henry. From there begins the fall that concludes on one cocaine-fuelled day in 1980.

Anything I wanted was a phone call away.

Goodfellas is not your ordinary gangster film. This does not make you want to be a gangster and unlike in The Godfather, you do not see the gangsters living in big mansions. You see them fighting for survival every day and night. As the real Henry Hill puts it – it was anything but the American Dream.

                 Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies.

I don’t think I even need to address the issue that Scorsese is probably the most genius director of our century. The greatness of Goodfellas comes down to Scorsese’s brilliance as a director. And also to his advice to actors who according to Scorsese should not act like the people they are portraying – instead they should behave like them. This gives the movie that magic intensity and sense of reality.

                                                       I don’t mean no disrespect!

The use of voice-over narrative in Goodfellas is just genius. It increases the level of the relationship between Henry and the audience by giving it more intimacy. The casting is perfect. All fantastic performances – Liotta, Pesci – who won an Oscar for his performance -, De Niro, Sorvino… I could go on and on. One of the interesting performances comes from Scorsese’s mum, who plays Tommy DeVito’s mum in that famous dinner scene. Martin Scorsese’s own roots are deep in the Italian-American community in New York – not that different from the neighbourhood is Goodfellas.

Sure, mom, I settle down with a nice girl every night, then I’m free the next morning.

There are many excellent scenes. One is the nightclub scene between Pesci’s and Liotta’s characters. Scorsese shot it with a medium shot (no close-ups), so that the audience is able to see how the people around Tommy and Henry behave. You can see the expressions on their faces changing from laughter into alarm.

                                            Funny how? What’s funny about it?

The 3rd act in the movie is basically Henry paranoid running around and going home to stir pasta sauce; and then the same again and again – all the time with the same intensity level. Brilliant! Another talent of Scorsese is to take a small detail and blossom it into art – like in the prison sequence the most memorable thing is how thin Paulie cuts the garlic.

Now take me to jail

So has Goodfellas earned its number 92 spot on the list? Absolutely! It’s also a movie, which should be watched more than once to truly appreciate its brilliance.

Today everything is different; there’s no action… have to wait around like everyone else.

THE KING’S SPEECH (2010)

Why are you here then – Because I bloody well stammer!

The must-see-movie of this year and I have finally managed to view it. And it sure did live up to all the expectations. The whole movie just reeks of quality – from the beginning to the end. No wonder it won 4 Oscars including screenplay, leading actor and directing.

          What’s he saying? – I don’t know but… he seems to be saying it rather well

The King’s Speech tells a story of King George VI (Colin Firth), who reluctantly becomes the King of England after his brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abdicates due to a scandalous marriage to American divorcée Wallis Simpson. King George VI or Bertie – to his friends – has been suffering from stammer all his life. At that day and age stammer was regarded as a weakness – a king with a stammer was considered to be an unfit leader for a nation. After trying every kind of treatment Bertie’s wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) finds an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Suspicious Bertie meets with Logue and after a couple of turbulent meetings starts Logue’s unorthodox treatment course. During that course of treatment Bertie and Logue develop a strong bond that becomes a lifelong friendship. England is facing war and its people are desperate for a strong leader. Thankfully Logue’s treatments are working and the whole country gathers around their radios to witness the King’s speech, which will unite them in battle and inspire them through the inevitable war.

Kinging can take a lot of time…

This film has such an impressive cast. Colin Firth is marvellous as the troubled King George VI. He sounds like his has been stammering all his life. Mr. Darcy is all grown up! Funnily enough Jennifer Ehle, who plays Mrs. Logue, was Elizabeth Bennett to Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1995). Mini-series with that famous lake scene of wet Colin Firth…

                                 Is the nation ready for two minutes of radio silence?

Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter give equally impressive performances. Costumes are spot on – like everything in this movie.

Ham; not palm

David Seidler, who wrote the screenplay, wrote a letter to Queen Mother a several years ago asking for permission to make a movie out of King George VI’s story. Queen Mother asked him not to do so during her lifetime, as the memories were too painful for her. Seidler respected her wish and the movie was made after Queen Mother passed away. David Seidler also got very lucky as private journals of Lionel Logue were found a short time before the movie started filming, thus they could be incorporated into the script and give valuable insight into the private relationship between Bertie and Logue.

                                 Do you know any jokes?

At the end of the day this is a bromance story. As Colin Firth recaps the movie: Boy meets therapist – boy looses therapist – boy gets therapist.

If you have somehow missed The King’s Speech you must watch it and enjoy moviemaking at it’s best.

Waiting for me to… commence a conversation, one can wait rather a long wait.

THEY JUST DON’T MAKE MOVIE STARS LIKE THAT ANYMORE

Paying homage to Elizabeth Taylor (1932 – 2011)

                                                                                 

“My Mother says I didn’t open my eyes for eight days when I was born but when I did, the first thing I saw was an engagement ring. I was hooked.”

Sadly after a long battle with serious health issues Dame Elizabeth Taylor passed away yesterday. This truly is sad; she was an icon – movie star in the true meaning of the word.

                                                               “Nobody tells me who to love, or not to love, who to be seen with and who not to be seen with”

She will be well-remembered for her long career that included 54 movies and 2 Oscars. We will also remember her for her turbulent private life – her eight marriages, battles with alcohol, drugs and weight. But also for being a true fashion icon with ever-changing looks and style. Camera just loved her!

Elizabeth Taylor was born in Hampstead, London in 1932. She was only 12 years old when National Velvet (1944) made her into a movie star. Her other memorable silver screen highlights include Father of the Bride (1950), Giant (1956), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Butterfield 8 (1960), Cleopatra (1963), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and her final big-screen appearance in The Flintstones (1994). In the 50’s she was voted The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.

With Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Elizabeth Taylor was the first actress to have full control of her own image in the movies. Before studios could release any publicity stills, they had to be approved by her. She could also approve her own make-up, hairstyles and costumes.

When she was filming Cleopatra in London in the 60’s she stayed at the Dorchester and had the following food items flown to her: chilli from Chasen’s in LA, stone crabs from the coast of Florida, smoked salmon from Barney Greengrass in New York, steaks from Chicago, shrimp creole from New Orleans, spare ribs from St Louis, white asparagus from the French countryside and fresh linguine from Genoa, Italy. What a meal, I say!

                                                         With Montgomery Clift on the set of A Place in the Sun

Elizabeth Taylor remained close friends with many of her costars. She even married one of them. She also saved Montgomery Clift’s life in 1956, after he left a party at her house and smashed his car into a telephone pole. She removed his shattered teeth from his throat, thus prevented him from choking.

Elizabeth Taylor did a multi-episode appearance on General Hospital, which she was a huge fan of, in 1981. I love this blooper reel of her scenes. It shows her as a grande dame, but also as a person who can make fun of herself.

It’s ELIZABETH TAYLOR!

Elizabeth Taylor will also stay in our memories as of one of Hollywood’s earliest and most vocal advocates and fundraisers for AIDS and HIV patients. She started to raise awareness of the disease after her Giant costar Rock Hudson died from AIDS in 1985.

                                                           With Rock Hudson, James Dean and George Stevens on the set of the Giant in Marfa, Texas

Debbie Reynolds remembers Taylor, “She was the most glamorous and sensuous star of our generation. No one could equal Elizabeth’s beauty and sexuality. Women liked her and men adored her — my husband included — and her love for her children is enduring. She was a symbol of stardom. Her legacy will last….”

                                                          With Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher in Las Vegas during the early 1958

Michael Wilding (Elizabeth Taylor’s son) said in a statement after her passing away, “We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts.”

“I’m a survivor. I’m a living example of what people can go through and survive”

No. 74 THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)

Well, Clarice – have the lambs stopped screaming?

The Silence of The Lambs opens with a scene in the woods. Mist is gathering. A young woman is jogging alone. The caption says “Near Quantico”. Eerie music is playing. The camera cuts to the woman’s feet pounding the ground faster and faster. Then the focus shifts back to her face and then to the surroundings. And back to the feet again. The music is building up the promise that something horrible will happen at some point. Suddenly somebody is running to her yelling her name. When he turns around, we see FBI on his cap.

What a brilliant opening scene! And to think that the original idea for the first scene was a drug bust. But thankfully Jodie Foster, who plays Clarice Starling, managed to convince the director Jonathan Demme to change that scene.

                                                             Do you spook easily, Starling?

The Silence of The Lambs is one of the best crime dramas to this date. It was the first crime movie to win five Oscars and it has inspired so many movies. Entertainment Weekly voted it as the fourth scariest film of all time. And I wholeheartedly agree. I have chills even thinking about Dr. Lecter and his taste for meat – human meat.

                                                             My precious…

This movie is based on a novel by Thomas Harris. It tells a story about a rookie FBI agent, who is sent by a veteran agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit to interview a psychopathic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Dr. Lecter used to be a brilliant psychologist. He also has an uncanny ability to get inside your head. Agent Crawford warns Starling not to share any personal information with Dr. Lecter. She does it anyways. However, doing so she manages to get Dr. Lecter to help the FBI to catch a loose serial killer “Buffalo Bill”, who kidnaps young women and skins them. But she is also letting Dr. Lecter loose inside her head.

I have chills and they are multiplying…

The screenplay is full of suspense and witty lines. The acting is excellent. Jodie Foster is great as the young agent, who has so much to prove in a male world of FBI. Not to mention that this movie created one of the most memorable villains in the movie history – Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). It is so easy to forget that Hopkins only has a little bit more than 16 minutes of screen time, so powerful and memorable is his interpretation of this cannibalistic serial killer. When Hopkins read the script for the first time, he had a hunch that Lecter’s personality would fascinate people. But even he could not imagine the lengths that this fascination would reach. Hopkins read the script 250 times (only his part) to get to know his character. This is something he does with all his roles. He was able to convince Jonathan Demme and the costume designer Colleen Atwood that in the scenes when Lecter is moved from Baltimore, he should be wearing a white jumpsuit instead of the normal yellow or orange to make his character feel more clinical and unsettling. I think that summons up Dr. Lecter quite well. You are scared of him, but at the same time Anthony Hopkins makes you feel sorry for Dr. Lecter’s circumstances. That truly is great acting!

                                                                 I am having an old friend for dinner…

Jonathan Demme uses impressive directorial shots and thus manages to catch the suspense masterfully. One of the best scenes is towards the end of the movie is which Demme uses twin frames of Clarice ringing a doorbell and FBI agents charging into a house. Another reason why this movie is so memorable is the score by Howard Shore. It accentuates the script. Like in all the good movies, all the separate aspects work well together. Even though this movie scares me, I do feel compelled to watch it again from time to time.

Don’t forget your phone call… Is it coming from inside the house???!!!

No. 99 TOY STORY (1995)

That wasn’t flying – THAT was falling with style!

After a depressing and busy week at work (lack of posts this week explained) I thought why not to watch a feel-good movie. Toy Story (the original one) was produced by Pixar and distributed by Disney. Those Disney movies are all about feeling good at the end after you have learned a valuable lesson. The lesson in Toy Story is the value of friendship and working together. Woody and Buzz don’t get along in the beginning, but thru an unfortunate situation they learn to respect and even like each other.

                                                      You’ve got bingo arms

Toy Story was the first fully computer-animated full-length feature film. Wow, the speed that technology develops blows my mind. We did not even have computers when I was a child– wait; wait – I mean iPods…

I saw Toy Story back when it first hit the theatres, so now watching it all these years later it felt like a reunion with good old friends. I found myself cheering for Woody and Buzz to break free from that little monster Syd. And getting sad when Buzz realizes that he is a toy.

                                                             To Infinity and Beyond! No story about Toy Story would be complete without this…

Toy Story is about Andy’s favorite toy called Woody (voice of Tom Hanks), who like all the other toys comes alive when humans are not around. Woody has it good – he rules the roost as he has been Andy’s favorite toy for many years. But things change drastically when every toy’s worst nightmare happens – Andy gets a new and more exciting toy as a birthday present – Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen). Buzz is a shiny action figure who has all kinds of gadgets that none of the other toys have. He does not realize that he is a toy. He thinks his spaceship crashed and he is here to save the planet.

Breathing – optional

He shortly becomes Andy’s new favorite toy and all the other toys begin to look up to him. Woody is consumed with jealousy and tries to get rid of Buzz. Instead of succeeding in that both of them wind up lost. They now must work together to get back to Andy.

That ain’t no happy child

John Lasseter who directed Toy Story based Woody and Buzz on his own childhood toys. He went on to direct several other groundbreaking animated films such as A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2 and Cars. He also received a Special Achievement Oscar in 1995 for his inspired leadership of the Toy Story team.

Billy Crystal was originally offered the voiceover role of Buzz Lightyear, but he declined. Boy, did he come to regret that! Tim Allen as Buzz’ voice is perfectly arrogant. Tom Hanks as Woody is excellent. John Lasseter chose him because he thought that Hanks has the ability to take emotions and make them appealing. Woody did not start as a likeable character. The early draft was much darker and Woody looked like a jerk. This was because Disney kept on wanting edgier screenplay. Everybody thought it was really bad (yes, it is bad – it’s one of the bonus features on the Blu-ray released last year) and Pixar went on to make the movie they had set to make in the first place. The current Toy Story was born and it is the first animated film in history to be nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award – Adapted or Original.

I love the scene in the beginning of the movie when the toy soldier army is doing a recon mission to Andy’s birthday party. The animation team perfected the movement of the toy soldiers by gluing some sneakers to a sheet of wood and trying to walk around with them on. Also an interesting fact about the animation – whenever a character’s eyes blink, they never blink together, but one at a time.

I thoroughly enjoyed Toy Story way back in 1995 and also yesterday in 2011!

A good soldier never leaves a man behind

No. 66 RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)

We are simply passing thru history, but this – this is history

Who is the Greatest Adventurer of Them All? Who handles a bullwhip with confidence, wears a leather jacket and is recognizable all over the world by only his silhouette? No, it’s not E.T. – it’s Indiana (Indy) Jones. Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’ professor of archeology and obtainer of rare antiquities still lives on strong 30 years after the first movie. Funny that Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was meant to be a low-cost B-movie, went on to win four Oscars. It is still studied at film schools and has gone to influence such films as Romancing the Stone (1984), Jewel of the Nile (1985), The Mummy (1999) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001).

Some things are better left unopened

Steven Spielberg wanted to make a globetrotting adventure and action movie, which would have a James Bond like main character. A movie, which would give homage to the Saturday matinee movies he grew up watching. George Lucas wanted to make a movie, which he would like to watch himself. During the making of Star Wars Lucas had an idea of one globetrotting Indiana Smith. When these two masterminds came together, film history was made and Indiana Jones was born.

                                                          Fair Trade in Action

Tom Selleck was cast as Indiana Jones, but he pulled out to make a little known TV-series called Magnum P.I. Harrison Ford from the Star War movies was cast instead and to this day – even though he has done zillion other movies – Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones.

                                                                                         Whip it!

Fundamental part of this movie is its musical score by John Williams. The music is recognizable even today. You only have to hear a couple of beats and in your mind you can see Indiana Jones riding to catch the truck that’s carrying the ark or running away from a gigantic rolling rock.

Each scene in this movie is good. Unforgettable scenes include the opening sequence with a golden statue, and the underground Egyptian temple filled with snakes. Both are my favorites. You just cannot choose only one. The scene that stands out the most for Steven Spielberg is the “basket chase”. George Lucas on the other hand prefers the “truck chase” scene.

                                                     Giving new meaning to travelling in economy

At the time the special effects were groundbreaking, especially “the melting face”. Chris Wales, the special make up effects artist, says that still today he gets calls asking him how he did it as it had never been done before. With computer technology nowadays, you could make that special effect even more magnificent, even though the basic process would still be the same.

                                                         They thought they got stuck in an elevator with Charlie Sheen

It has been said that this movie has the best screenplay ever written. You cannot find any fault in it. Even though some lines might sound quite corny, they are delivered in such way that they are believable. Remember – this is a Saturday matinée B-movie! It is supposed to be fun and over-the-top.

Steven Spielberg’s direction is genius. The use of silhouettes and shadows is mind-blowing. It gives the movie depth. The tension build up in the “bad dates” scene is perfection. The fast-moving action sequences are chained together continuously. What else would you want from an entertaining movie?

                                                   They’re digging in the wrong place!

So; needless to say – I am a fan of the whole Indiana Jones series. I love them all – even the latest one with Shia LaBeouf as the “future Indy”, but my favorite will always be The Temple of Doom.

It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage