Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oscar's Real Winner

Here's to filmmakers, technicians, and Artists alike...

Most of those who nabbed the Statuettes were expected to win, and deserved to... 

(The night's one head-scratcher:  A Big HUH? in the Film Editing category...)

First, a nod to the major winners...

Horray! for  Christopher Plummer...Meryl Streep...Octavia Spencer...Jean DuJardin....

Kudos to "Hugo", "Midnight in Paris", "The Descendants", "A Separation"...

Bravo! to Mssrs. Hazanavicius... Thomas Langmann... Ludovic Bource....Mark Bridges...

After all of that, the spirit of this year's Oscars was summed up for me in two great photographs found on the web....

Here's to the most deserving victor of the night...in his little bow tie, taking a bow, and offering generous congratulations to his co-star.....

JOE KLAMAR / AFP / Getty Images

Chris Carlson / AP

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Night--Thoughts on What Should Be A Fun Evening

I don't want a lot of surprises this year as the Oscars are announced in a few hours.

In fact, so many of the front-runners happen to be personal favorites, that I WANT to see them win. I don't WANT to see Christopher Plummer fall to a Jonah Hill upset (I'm fairly certain Max Von Sydow will not experience a sentimental vote this year)

....I will scream in delight for Meryl Streep, but will also cheer appreciatively for Viola Davis.  Brad and George gave career performances...how could I feel badly for a win for either of them? Then again, a victory for Jean Dujardin is like a victory for Uggie the Dog. How can I resist?

There isn't one Supporting Actress nominee who isn't deserving....while I expect the charming Octavia Spencer to give a moving speech, any other winner would bring me a yelp of pleasant approval.  (Especially Berenice Bejo...or best of all, Jessica Chastain).

Woody Allen's name called out in triumph will feel like a personal vindication, because I loved his movie since I saw it last summer.

And while I have in my heart a deep yearning for two movies in particular as Best Film, I have to say that any one of them would please me in one way or another.

It's nice to watch the Oscars when your favorites are likely to win.  But then again, I had my balloon burst---badly---six years ago (CRASH!!) and I have never fully recovered.  That's why I don't want too many surprises this year.

If there ARE shockers...these would please me most:
Best Picture: Midnight in Paris or Tree of Life
Best Director--Terrence Malick
Best Actress--A Michelle Williams Surprise upset

The Tree Of Life, Oscars 2012

I will cheer loudly tonight for: Emmanuel Lubzecki (Cinematography, Tree of Life); Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris); Ludovic Bource (The Artist); Meryl Streep (Iron Lady); Christopher Plummer (Beginners); Dante Ferretti (Hugo); and Alexander Payne (Screenplay, The Descendants).  Add Michel Havazanicius to the chorus.

*       *       *       *       *
On recent stories that the Academy is composed overwhelmingly of old white men:

Where were all of these articles in 2005-06, when generational homophobia motivated a voting bloc to rally around a second-rate film, thus ensuring that the deserving critical and popular front-runner would not make history?

Add to that: It has ALWAYS been so; membership has always skewed older.  The Academy reflects the makeup of the industry.  And the Oscars weren't intended to appeal to the preferences of various cults within the moviegoing public.  (The "snub" of "Harry Potter" should not be seen as an injustice.)

These Old White Men are the ones who create those cults to begin with.  They fashion the blockbusters that bring in the big bucks from the mass of less-discriminating viewers.  The Oscars are an occasion for appreciating moviemaking's better intentions, when films that speak to the better part of our  natures, which can entertain us and give our minds and emotions a workout, are held up for recognition.  Sure, the choices are often less that applause-worthy, but it is, after all, an industry award. 

Who are we to demand anything else?

And for all of our complaining, we come back every year...  We sometimes forget how to regard a movie without the context of the Oscars.

*       *       *       *       *

Another Nominee I would love to see Oscared: 

It's clear that the name Sergio Mendes is a complete mystery to many in the Oscar-blogosphere.  But this composer, nominated for the song from the animated film Rio, has been an influence in world music for decades.

And has been one of my favorite musicians my whole life.

I have read with dismay those who feel a win for Mendes would be seen as a ham-handed effort by the Academy to be "global" and "relevant".  So..what is the Brazilian ---er, Portugese-- word for "bull--it"?

Not only has Mendes entertained millions for almost 50 years..but the song he wrote for Rio is out-of-the-ordinary Oscar fare, and FUN!!

Here are a couple samples of Mendes' previous works that I love so much...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oscars 2011: Revving Up My Engine With A Rant--Oscar Films Need A Chance

Evidence that modern motion picture distribution has finally descended into madness:

Say what you will about the current Best Picture nominees floundering at the box office. 

I say, don't blame the films.

First of all, has anyone noticed that most Theater chains in the U.S. are no longer advertising in the major daily newspapers?  There are still many people who rely on their local Entertainment Sections for information about which theaters are playing the movies they most want to see, especially in their neighborhood.

Nowadays, all of this information can be found on-line, or on smart-phone movie apps.  But unless you know which theaters are nearby; or you're already familiar with the films in current release; or which are OSCAR-NOMINATED--  

Unless you know all that at the start, how do you connect with an "Artist"? with a "Descendants"?  even (I shudder) "Extremely Loud..."? or any film that does not have the fan-boy build up of a "Twilight " or "Hunger Games" (which just broke a record for on-line advanced ticket sales..)

OK, OK, so I had to admit that times are a-changing, and thus I got with the program.

There is a 12-screen multiplex one mile from my house.  My new preferred method of info-gathering is on-line, using my trusty laptop computer (that alone sort of renders me as timely as Mr. Malick's dinosaurs...)

I logged on.

I found the AMC site for the local 12-plex.

And I found something maddening:


That means if I want to see "The Descendants" once more to refresh my memory and check out my original impression, or if I wanted to take a friend to see "The Artist", I might have to travel 30 minutes or more.

And yet, the movies themselves are blamed for not reaching an audience, when it is the studios/exhibitors who have not given the films and their potential target audiences a chance to connect.  The people who would likely make the films a hit are those who would  use the traditional print media that have been taken away from them.

To top it off, the films are pulled out of theaters at the EXACT TIME fans may want to check them out.

Am I wrong to believe that ALL of the Best Picture films deserve a chance to be seen on a big screen, at least for the weekend of and week following the Oscars?

More Oscar stuff this weekend!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cars Helping Pets...My Late Father's Auto May Save a Small Life

how to donate a car
cars for pets

A death.... Endless, emotional reminders and minutiae....And one proud outcome.

One cannot imagine the all-consuming tasks involved in handling the affairs of one deceased parent, while  desperately coping with the adjustment of the other, mentally challenged parent to a new environment.

Above all that--the unending phone calls, and meetings with banks, lawyers, real estate agents, credit card companies, doctors, nurses, social workers, former employers, and  US government assistance programs-- how do you accept the fact that you have in effect lost both parents? 

How do you slow yourself down enough to reflect, to remember...to mourn?

How do you sort through of 50 years worth of "things', some of it sentimental junk, most of it too big to move, and then explain to your mother why she can't go home?  That she will never go home again?  And, finally, to realize that she doesn't remember it all so well?

At least one completed task will turn out well.

My father had a car.  I could have sold the car, but I sought to dispose of it quickly. 

We found a web site called Cars Helping Pets.

tax deduction

I sent an e-mail. Scheduled the car for towing. Removed the pathetic items that remained from their last ill-fated road trip.  Took off the license plates and readied the deed for transfer. And watched the old Impala disappear down the street where I grew up.

The process was easy.  And, hopefully, the reward will be close to my heart. 

The Cars Helping Pets web site explains:

Your donated vehicle will be sold at the highest possible value and the proceeds from your car donation will be used to bring an end to animal cruelty,  provide medical treatment and caring for countless animals in our local communities, and throughout the nation. Your unwanted vehicle has incredible value, and we can use it to help those who cannot help themselves. Please be a voice by donating your car to Cars Helping Pets today.

Donating my father's car in hopes that it will someday aid unwanted animals has provided one small corner of comfort in what has been a cold and unforgiving process. 

I am now beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The blog-world will soon, once again, be privy to the cinematic insights of this older and wiser movie-lover, and well-meaning son.

online form

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Let Oscar Season Begin

It is now 30 minutes before the announcement of this year's Oscar nominations.

Time to get back to living.... back to blogging...back to moviegoing.....  and back to adding my small bit to this art form (and hobby) we call film criticism....

First, though,I want to thank all of you for your understanding, and for your kind words and support, during my sabbatical and period of reflection as I worked through of a mountain of difficult tasks during the last month.  It is not over...but the light is starting to emerge....

Just a brief note before Oscar season kicks off in earnest:

Despite my disappointment with the state of filmmaking over the long Spring and Summer, the movie year has shaped up to be overall one of the most interesting in years.  All of the high-profile Oscar hopefuls, based on the precedents of Critic's Awards, Golden Globes, and word-of-mouth, are movies that I have enjoyed and appreciated on many levels.

This year's potential Oscar nominees are also a decidedly lighthearted bunch, filled with nostalgia for the great literature and art and filmmaking of days gone by; and proving, by their audacious appearance on big screens in 2012, that we can still be entertained, stimulated, and aesthetically pleased by classic movie subjects and techniques that are in danger of being obliterated by studios in their search for big audiences.

Look for more---much more--about this idea in subsequent posts.....

Meanwhile, I will be cheering for the following favorites, should they be announced in the next 20 minutes:
"The Artist"..  Meryl Streeep..."Midnight in Paris"... Michael Fassbender... Viola Davis...  "Hugo"....  Ludovic Bource..... "The Descendants".......Michelle Williams.... Martin Scorsese...  Joseph Gordon-Levitt... Christopher Plummer...  "Moneyball".... Jessica Chastain.... Emmanuel Luzbecki... Octavia Spencer.... Jean Dujardin.... Michael Hazavanicius... "The Help"....George Clooney....Corey Stoll...  WOODY... TERRENCE...."TREE OF LIFE!"  (and a little groan if I hear the words Edgar, Bridesmaids, or Tattoo)...

And a special shout-out to the Best Supporting Actors of the Year who will not be nominated...Uggie and Cosmo.

Here's to a fun, artistic, and enlightening Oscar contest....

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Thomas M.--1928-2012

An important chapter has now drawn to a close.  It was written in anguish and caring, and in a strange way was predicted by the movies......

My father died on a quiet Saturday morning yesterday, January 14, 2012, one day after being released from the hospital to hospice care.

Not that it matters now, but he expired from the effects an as-yet-unknown cancer.  Brain tumors appeared to be the cause of his continued falls, and disorientation.  Until then there were no apparent symptoms.

He declined rapidly, in spite of a team of medical professionals, who sometimes seemed intent on thwarting my efforts to advocate for his recovery.  He passed peacefully.

My mother, who has struggled against her own afflictions of the mind and emotion, was released from the same hospital on the same Friday, and moved into the same nursing care facility on the same day as my father.  On the same floor.  We tried very hard to ensure that they would have some time together during his final weeks.

They had one day.

When the call came in, I felt anxiety drain out of my body through the floor.  There was so much we had to do for them since Thanksgiving, and now there is so much more to be done.  One just snaps to.

Emotions came in intermittent bursts throughout the day.

Mark and I, and my sister and  her husband, rallied to my mother's side to catch the fallout of....what, we could not easily predict.  Confusion? Hysteria? Resignation? Relapse?  She had come through her treatments so well....

Fortunately, amid some uncertainty, and the normal show of grief, my mom did fine.  She was a little confused, and mistook my father's death for that of her own father 10 years ago.  No matter.  She had her way of dealing with it, and it kept her strong, and pleasant.

The staff of her nursing facility was compassionate and low-key.

Mark could not have been a better support... He did what I needed, and stayed next to me all the time.

Our friends showed themselves to be loyal and worthy of our best esteem. Phone calls, emails, and visits with food, and never intrusive, but always caring.  Thanks to them all.

I have not blogged here for a while.  The overwhelming emotion of the last few weeks, and the drain on normal energy levels, kept me from committing to this effort.  Many nights, while feeling like I had to be in at least five different places at the same time (the hospital, the nursing home, my parent's house for cleanup, the attorney's office, my own job, etc.),  I hated myself for neglecting my writing. 

A strange calm has possessed me and Mark and our little household. 

I feel like writing again.

I want to read, and follow the zany antics of the Hollywood Foreign Press.  Tomorrow will be busy and anxiety-producing.  For tonight, little would please me more than to see Woody and "Paris" receive an accolade.


In a strange way, the movies of 2011 pay subtle tribute to our family's loss.  "The Artist" spans a few years beginning in 1928, the year my father was born.  In "Hugo", the young central character adjusts to the loss of his father.  In "Beginners", another character, closer to my age and experience, looks back on the weeks leading up to his father's death.  "The Descendants" observes a family whose mother, while not deceased, is no longer present for them.  "My Week With Marilyn" recreates the atmosphere of the mid 1950's, when my parents were married.  And "Tree of Life" looks at an average suburban family, and attempts to depict not only the origins of that life, but a speculation on their afterlife.

I am eager to return to the blogosphere, once the dust settles.....