Archive | December, 2013

“Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road…”

30 Dec

Last week I received an email alert from my friend Art S. Revolutionary, publisher and editor of the MUSEA ‘zine and blog, announcing that the fabled Technicolor film lab is closing its doors in Glendale, CA. Oh, Technicolor isn’t going out of business necessarily, but as the movie industry shifts to digital production and/or presentation, there is less and less of a need for film prints, the bread and butter of Technicolor lo these many decades.

Of course, even before the the rise of digital technology, the nature of Technicolor had changed significantly from  its heyday in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Beginning with 1935’s Becky Sharp, Technicolor entailed using an elaborate three-strip process, that is, three strips of black-and-white film running simultaneously through one specialized camera equipped with a prism, all of it supervised by the people at the Technicolor labs. To clarify, studios did not own their own Technicolor cameras, rather they leased them, and when they did, they did so under the watchful eye of Technicolor personnel who apparently were on-set day in and day out to protect both their property and their brand. (Oh, and, yes, I’ve greatly simplified the process, but please feel free to explore the links to further reading I’ve supplied at the end of this piece.)

By the mid 1950s, Technicolor introduced a less cumbersome and less expensive process which still produced fantastic results, per the likes of To Catch a Thief (1955), Vertigo (1958), Ben-Hur (1959), West Side Story (1961), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), My Fair Lady (1964), and Mary Poppins (1964), though purists still insist the full-bloom of the Technicolor magic was lost, meaning loss of depth, loss of resolution, etc. That loss continues with the reliance on digital production. Yes, turning away from pure celluloid is a democratic move as it means more and more people can make the movies of their dreams. Indeed, a friend of mine in New York City is excited about the prospect of making his own dream project a reality, and I’m certainly rooting for him. Plus, the quality of digital recording has come a long, long way as the price has fallen. Look no further than 2013’s Oblivion and Gravity. That noted, no less than Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight and Inception) still holds that film produces superior, more satisfying imagery.

Here are some of our favorites from the classic three-strip era:

rubyslippersonayellowbirck

^ I honestly think it doesn’t get any better than this: the primary colors, red, blue, and yellow, captured in a single shot in 1939’s classic The Wizard of Oz. Heaven. As much as I respect the tremendous amount of talent, skill, and effort in the same year’s blockbuster Gone with the Wind, I think The Wizard of Oz makes better use of Technicolor’s properties. Star Judy Garland found additional Technicolor greatness in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and A Star is Born (1954), among others.

thegardenofallah-4

Lawrence of Arabia? Nope. It’s 1936’s glorious The Garden of Allah, starring Charles Boyer and Marlene Dietrich. The film won a special Oscar for its cinematography (W. Howard Greene and Harold Rosson) as black and white was still standard, and color was considered a rare and exotic thing. Separate categories for color/b&w cinematography, art direction, and costumes would not be introduced for a few more years though even then black and white films outnumbered those in color. The Garden of Allah, by the way, is my hubby’s #1 Technicolor pick. (PHOTO: Lassothemovies.com)

blood-and-sand-tyrone-power

I’d read about director Rouben Mamoulian’s Blood and Sand (1941) for ages before I actually saw it. We had a VHS copy for years but have not yet updated our collection. The film, which stars Tyrone Power, Rita Hayworth, Anthony Quinn, and Dallas’s own Linda Darnell, won Oscars for its team of cinematographers, Ernest Palmer and Ray Rennahan. Unfortunately, there are almost no photos available online that show the movie’s true beauty. A professor friend of mine, a mentor, is writing about this movie’s use of color.  (PHOTO: Immortal Ephemera)

Leave her to heaven

Beautiful Gene Tierney earned her only Oscar nod for her starring role in 1945’s lush Leave Her to Heaven, a dizzying technicolor spin on film noir which earned Leon Shamroy that year’s Academy Award for Best Color Cinematography. (PHOTO: Old Projection Room/tumblr)

Moira Shearer: Lovely to look at in The Red Shoes

Some film connoisseurs hail Michael and Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s Black Narcissus (1947) as the most impressive Technicolor film ever made, and, true enough, cinematographer Jack Cardiff won an Oscar, but I much prefer, as I wrote in either my first or second blog piece, the directing duo’s The Red Shoes (1948) starring Moira Shearer (above) and Anton Walbrook. No one can deny this hugely popular movie’s staggering beauty, but cinematographer Jack Cardiff was glossed over for Academy consideration though the film was up for Best Picture and actually won Best Art Direction/Set Decoration honors for Hein Heckroth and Arthur Lawson. Of course, my thought is that all those design elements stand out precisely because of Technicolor in the first place. Per the IMDb, Technicolor founders Herbert & Natalie Kalmus championed The Red Shoes as their supreme achievement though they also reportedly fought with Cardiff, and that might have played a part in Cardiff’s snub, that or the fact that he had just won a year earlier.

SamsonandDlh

A year ago I included Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949), starring Hedy Lamarr (center) and Victor Mature (right), on my movie bucket list. Now, I cherish my own completely legit copy, and while no one will ever extol this extravaganza as great art, the colors most certainly pop, especially the blues, greens, and purples. The movie won Oscars for art direction and costume design while cinematographer George Barnes, though in the race, was outpaced by Robert Surtrees (King Solomon’s Mines). Note: All available reference materials tag Samson and Delilah as a 1949 release though it actually competed in the 1950/51 Oscar race. (PHOTO: DVD Talk)

MM

Omg, how insane are the color schemes in 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring the one and only Marilyn Monroe? Who pairs fuchsia and deep, deep red? Unconventional, sure, but it looks like a million bucks–Technicolor as its most delightfully garish–as does the opening “Two Little Girls from Little Rock” number with Marilyn and topped billed Jane Russell, smashing in red sequins against a violet-blue background. Even so, and even with Marilyn’s iconic “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” the Academy stayed away, but the rest of us can still enjoy the fun.  (PHOTO: Rotten Tomatoes)

shane-1953-lucky-luke-morris

Meanwhile, the 1953 Oscar for Best Color Cinematographer went to Shane’s Loyal Griggs, another stunning Technicolor winner. (PHOTO: Dave Wessels ComiX)

The candy colored hokum of This Island Earth

Michael and I stumbled upon the candy colored hokum of This Island Earth (1955) several years ago.  It was apparently Universal’s first sci-fi offering filmed in color, that is, Techicolor; however, I believe this was likely not shot using the three-strip process, but who cares?

Of course, I could go on all day, what with the likes of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Annie Get Your Gun (1950), An American in Paris (1951), The African Queen (1951), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), The Quiet Man (1952), and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), as well as  The Ten Commandments (1956), not to mention a few Disney animated classics, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Cinderella (1950).  Don’t ask me how these animated films were filmed using Technicolor.  I’m just the reporter. Esther Williams’ aquatic spectacles, such as Oscar nominated Million Dollar Mermaid (1952), also presented challenges since portions of Williams’s movies were shot in water-filled tanks. Oh, and don’t forget Ziegfeld Follies (1945) featuring Lucille Ball, known in those days as ‘Techinicolor Tessie’ thanks to her flaming red hair and big blue eyes–never seen to better advantage.

Over the course of researching this article, I’ve discovered that some of my faves weren’t even filmed in the simplified version of Technicolor as innovations in technology allowed studios to work their own magic. For example, Giant (1956) was filmed in WarnerColor, and Gigi (which I prefer to, say, An American in Paris) was filmed in Metrocolor. Universal’s popular Ross Hunter/Douglas Sirk version of Imitation of Life (1959) starring Lana Turner was in Eastman Color; moreover, 1954’s terrific mystery The Black Widow, starring Van Heflin, Ginger Rogers, and Gene Tierney, was filmed using “Color by De Luxe,” but, trust me, it’s as plush and eye-catching as Technicolor at its snazziest. The Black Widow was a 20th Century Fox offering as are other choice De Luxe entries such as  The King and I  (1956, another one of Michael’s picks), An Affair to Remember (1957), and The Sound of Music (1965),  along with Three Coins in a Fountain and The Best of Everything, both of them highly entertaining “career girl” flicks that offer equal doses of newfangled romance and old-fashioned morality. Of course, once single strip color film became available–and less expensive than the old three strip method–it all but spelled the end for black and white films and, arguably, gave movies an advantage over television.

Even though, as the old saying goes, “They don’t make ’em like they used to,” that doesn’t mean that good movies–with amazing visuals–aren’t still being made in Hollywood. They are, and they will continue to be; nonetheless, it’s hard not to get nostalgic about the end of this most robust, and yes colorful,  passage of old school filmmaking.

Okay, that’s my two-cents. Now, I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your favorite color films from  Hollywood’s Golden Age? What recent movies did you love for their eye-popping visuals?

Thanks for your consideration.

Further reading:

“Technicolor Shutters Glendale Lab as Film Fadeout Continues” by David S. Cohen in Variety, featuring quotes from Chris Nolan: http://variety.com/2013/film/news/technicolor-shutters-glendale-lab-as-films-fadeout-continues-1200981010/

“Filmmakers Lament Extinction of Film Prints” by Andrew Stewart and David S. Cohen in Varietyhttp://variety.com/2013/film/news/film-jobs-decline-as-digital-distribution-gains-foothold-1200375732/

Natalie Klamus on The Red Shoes at the Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040725/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2

“The Rise of Technicolor” in the Los Angeles Times: http://articles.latimes.com/1998/dec/04/entertainment/ca-50659

“Fabulous Technicolor! A History of Low Fade Color Print Stocks” by Les Paul Robley: http://www.in70mm.com/news/2010/technicolor/

“The ‘Tech’ Behind Technicolor: The Advent of Classic Color Films” by John Cunningham, 1997:  http://www.reelclassics.com/Techtalk/technicolor-article.htm

“Technicolor Adventures in Cinemaland” by Technicolor founder H.T. Kalmus: http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/oldcolor/kalmus.htm

‘Technicolor Camera” by Martin B. Hart at the American Widescreen Museum: http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/oldcolor/big_camera_pic.htm

“Happy Birthday Natalie Kalmus, Queen of Technicolor” by Anne Marie: http://werecyclemovies.com/2013/04/09/happy-birthday-natalie-kalmus-queen-of-technicolor/

The Awards Season Continues

30 Dec

Good morning. While the rest of us were scurrying about hunting for last minute Xmas gifts, putting finishing touches on decorations and sumptuous meals all the while worrying that our information might have been compromised when shopping at Target, the DFW Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society were handing out awards. I apologize for being a bit lax in reporting these things, but in my defense, there are three websites claiming to be the official home of the Dallas Fort Worth Film Critics, one of which has not been updated since last year’s awards, and I only found out about their latest honorees by chance. Still, here we go.

The Dallas Fort Worth Film Critics Association Winners:

12-years-a-slave-quad

^ Best Picture – 12 Years a Slave (PHOTO: Entertainmentwise.com)

Cate-Blanchett

^ Best Actress – Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

MattMCDBC

^ Best Actor – Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club; PHOTO: The Hot Zone)

alfonso_Cuaron

^ Best Director – Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)

Lupita

^ Best Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Jared Leto

Best Supporting Actor – Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Foreign Film – Blue is the Warmest Color

20-feet-from-stardom-poster-200

Best Documentary – 20 Feet from Stardom (Yay!!!!) PHOTO: Popmatters.com

Best Documentary: Twenty Feet From Stardom
Best Animated Film – Frozen
Best Screenplay – John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
Best Cinematography – Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)

fruitvale

^ Russell Smith Award for Independent Filmmaking – Fruitvale Station, written and directed by Ryan Coogler; the film’s team of producers include Oscar winners Forest Whittaker and Octavia Spencer, who also appears as part of the on-camera talent. (PHOTO: lynmillerlachmann.com)

The Online Film Critics Society Winners:

Best Picture – 12 Years a Slave

chiwetel-ejiofor-12-years-a-slave-nsn091713

^ Best Actor – Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Something tells me that, barring a wave of sentiment for Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Ejiofor will be duking it out against McConaughey for the Best Actor Oscar.

Best Actress – Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

alfonso_Cuaron

^ Best Director – Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
I wonder if the Academy  will split Best Picture/Director honors like it did last year when Ang Lee won for the technically marvellous Life of Pi while Ben Affleck’s crackerjack real-life thriller Argo nabbed the Best Picture honors. I can imagine Cuarón being hailed for his expertise and innovation while the historic 12 Years a Slave captures the ultimate prize.

michael-fassbender

^ Best Supporting Actor – Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) PHOTO: Screen Fury
Two years ago Fassbender was widely hailed for multiple performances including Jane Campion’s take on Jane Eyre and Shame, from Steve Mc Queen who also directed 12 Years a Slave. In spite of all the recognition he received in 2011, he failed to find favor with the Academy. Now, he may very well be on his way to the Oscars thanks to his no-holds-barred performance as a crazed, pathetic slave owner.

Best Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Best Original Screenplay – Spike Jonze (Her)
Best Adapted Screenplay – 12 Years a Slave

gravity-george-clooney-sandra-bullock-24

Best Editing – Gravity
Best Cinematography – Gravity
Special Awards: Best Sound Design – Gravity; Best Visual Effects – Gravity

Best Animated Feature – The Wind Rises
Best Film Not in the English Language – Blue Is the Warmest Color (France)
Best Documentary – The Act of Killing

What’s next? The National Society of Film Critics announces its picks in the coming weekend, the DGA noms are announced on January 7, and the Golden Globes, again hosted by the great team of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, are held on January 12. Oscar nods will be unveiled on January 16. In between all that will be the Producers Guild, the Writers Guild, and the SAG awards.

Whew. Now, thanks for your consideration…

This should be the official DFW Film Critics Association site: http://www.dfwcritics.com/

(^ Beware of imitators.)

Online Film Critics Society: http://www.ofcs.org/awards/2013-awards-17th-annual/

Thanks for your consideration…

The National Film Registry: Practically Perfect in Every Way

21 Dec
judgement_at_nuremberg

Few Hollywood directors have been as notable for making socially conscious films as the late producer-director Stanley Kramer whose credits include, besides Judgment at Nuremberg, The Defiant Ones, Ship of Fools, Inherit the Wind, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Judgment at Nuremberg may very well be his masterpiece. Here’s how the film is described on the National Film Registry webpage: “Selecting as its focus the “Justices Trial” of the post-World War II Nuremberg war crimes tribunal, rather than the more publicized trials of major Nazi war criminals, “Judgment at Nuremberg” broadened its scope beyond the condemnation of German perpetrators to interrogate the concept of justice within any modern society. Conceived by screenwriter Abby Mann during the period of McCarthyism, the film argues passionately that those responsible for administering justice also have the duty to ensure that human-rights norms are preserved even if they conflict with national imperatives. […] “Judgment at Nuremberg” startled audiences by including in the midst of its narrative seven minutes of film footage documenting concentration camp victims, thus using motion-picture evidence to make its point both in the courtroom and in movie theaters.” Screenwriter Abby Mann won an Oscar, and Maximilian Schell, in the tricky role of a defense lawyer, won the Academy award for Best Actor. Judy Garland and Montogomery Clift earned Oscar nominations for their supporting roles. The rest of the cast includes Spencer Tracy, Richard Widmark, and Marlene Dietrich.

What I love about the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry is that its yearly roster of new inductees, announced earlier this week, reminds me just how many great American films have yet to be honored. For example, I could have sworn that Gilda had already made the cut as had, or so I thought, Forbidden Planet (1950s sci-fi based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest), Mary Poppins, The Quiet Man, The Right Stuff, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  Nope. All newbies.

Oh, and what about Pulp Fiction? It became eligible for inclusion a decade ago, after it hit its tenth anniversary, but who can imagine that it took this many more years to make it happen? After all, Quentin Tarantino’s ironic riff on low-life hoods, co-written by Roger Avary,  is arguably the most influential film of the 1990s, opening the doors for a host of  “edgy,” “indie” imitators though most often without the same impact. The film also rejuvenated the career of John Travolta and catapulted Samuel L. Jackson to stardom.

Of course, not all registry picks have as much instant recognition as Pulp Fiction or some of the other titles in that first paragraph. One entry is the intriguingly named Ella Cinders, from the 1920s.  Starring Colleen Moore, this one appears to have some connection to, well, Cinderella.  Other titles of interest are The Lunch Date, 1989’s award winning student film, and Martha Graham Early Dance Films, dating all the way back to the 1930s and ’40s.

500 Rita Hayworth Gilda

Sure, strawberry blonde Rita Hayworth is ravishing in Technicolor, but she’s also at the peak of her beauty and power in the black and white classic, Gilda. Yes, the movie co-stars Glenn Ford, but it’s Hayworth’s show, and her flirtatious “Put the Blame on Mame” is the centerpiece, perhaps Hayworth’s defining film moment. Not bad for a gal who never earned an Oscar nod.

Please explore all of the titles in the list and not just the ones you already know…

Bless Their Little Hearts (1984)
Brandy in the Wilderness (1969)
Cicero March (1966)
Daughter of Dawn (1920)
Decasia (2002)
Ella Cinders (1926)
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Gilda (1946)
The Hole (1962)
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
King of Jazz (1930)
The Lunch Date (1989)
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Martha Graham Early Dance Films (1931-44)
Mary Poppins (1964)
Men & Dust (1940)
Midnight (1939)
Notes on the Port of St. Francis (1951)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
The Quiet Man (1952)
The Right Stuff (1983)
Roger & Me (1989)
A Virtuous Vamp (1919)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
Wild Boys of the Road (1933)

MaryPopp

Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins broke new ground back in the day with its marvellous special effects, including the most advanced integrations of animation and live action footage. Plus, the movie featured a batch of amazingly catchy tunes, including the Oscar winning “Chim-Chim-Cher-ee” along with “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilsticexpialidocious,” and the irresistibly poignant “Feed the Birds” (long my personal favorite, that one). The movie helped make Julie Andrews a major star, and the Academy honored her with that year’s Best Actress Oscar. Though Mary Poppins did not claim as many Oscars as loverly Best Picture winner My Fair Lady, it was a box office colossus in an era in which few films were expected to succeed on such a massive scale. Actually, both Mary Poppins, with 13 nods, and My Fair Lady, with 12, still rank as two of Hollywood’s most popular movies based on numbers of tickets sold. Poppins’ inclusion in the National Film Registry is not only long overdue but timely given the newly released Saving Mr. Banks, a feature film that purports to show what happened behind the scenes during the production of the Disney classic.

The-Quiet-Man-1952-top

I have a soft spot for The Quiet Man, a movie that was on my “Bucket List” for the longest time, but I finally caught up with it a few years ago. I will argue that parts of the film are problematic, but I will also argue that John Wayne (l) and Maureen O’Hara (r) make an excellent screen pair, and that I was startled to see Wayne as romantic and as vulnerable as he is here, that is, especially in this particular scene. Also, kudos to John Ford who won an unprecedented–and still unmatched–fourth Oscar for Best Director. Amazingly, with all of the talent involved, Ford basically had to go the indie route to secure funding for his film, landing a deal with Republic Pictures which was more famous for fast-and-cheap Westerns rather than sweeping color films shot on location in Ireland.

I could and should probably add a few words about The Right Stuff, Roger and Me, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, not to mention The Magnificent Seven (with its legendary score by Elmer Bernstein that I worte about over the summer), but I’ll stick to the entries that mean the most to me.

Thanks for your consideration….

Official National Film Registry site: http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2013/13-216.html

Per Box Office Mojo, Mary Poppins currently ranks 25 on the list of 200 most popular movies while My Fair Lady comes in at 56: http://boxofficemojo.com/alltime/adjusted.htm

Happy Birthday, “Unknown” Joan

16 Dec

I’m reposting this piece from October in tribute to Ms. Fontaine, who passed away over the weekend at the age of 96…

Confessions of a Movie Queen

I’m reposting this piece from October in tribute to Ms. Fontaine, who passed away over the weekend at the age of 96…

 

Okay, today is Tuesday, October 22. If I’ve timed this just right, it’s Joan Fontaine’s 96th birthday.  Hopefully, she’s still alive. Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t. See, I began writing this piece on Monday, July 8, and my goal is to take as long as I need to write it, my way, and present it on her b’day. Hopefully, she’s  still with us. 96, can you believe that?

Fontaine’s parents were English though she was actually born in Japan and lived there for a number of years before settling down, with her mum and older sister, in California. Her sis, btw, is no less than renowned actress Olivia de Havilland, a two-time Best Actress Oscar winner (To Each His Own, 1946; The Heiress

View original post 3,464 more words

Awards Season Frenzy: Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe Nominations

15 Dec

This past week the Screen Actors Guild announced nominees for its annual awards, and the Hollywood Foreign Press followed suit with Golden Globe nods. It’s been a busy time, what with finals and lingering snow days. I didn’t think it would take me this long to file a report.

Okay, first the SAGs, which have a bit more credibility to me because they are voted on by members of the industry (a significant number of which are also Academy members); the Globes are fun, but they’re really more of a party than anything else, and with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler back on board as hosts, that’s fine too.

Supporting Male

  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)

    Barkhad-Abdi-in-Captain-Phillips-photo-Sony-Pictures

    ^ Abdi

  • Daniel Brühl (Rush)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • James Gandolfini (Enough Said)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Look closely. You won’t see a nod here for James Franco (Spring Breakers), who tied with Leto for honors during voting for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association over the weekend, but Leto is still in good company.  Barkhad Abdi, in the role of Captain Phillip’s chief tormentor, has garnered nothing but raves for his film debut. By the way, he was born in Somalia though he moved to the U.S. when he was in his teens. Another strong candidate is the late, great James Gandolfini who co-starred with Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the summer’s well-reviewed Enough Said. On one hand, I do believe that voters most definitely want to honor the much liked Gandolfini; however, positioning him as a supporting player, when he’s clearly the male lead in a middle-aged romance, smacks of studio politics–a way to score an “easy” win. Oh, and where the heck is any and all recognition for Sam Rockwell (The Way, Way Back)?

Supporting Female

chi-june-squibb-nebraska-20131121

^ Squibb

  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)
  • Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels‘ The Butler)

A lot of star power here, what with the likes of Lawrence, Roberts, and Winfrey, but something tells me that Nyong’o or Squibb has the edge as they are true supporting players.   Octogenarian Squibb definitely makes the race more interesting.

Leading Male

chiwetel-ejiofor-12-years-a-slave-nsn091713

^ Ejiofor

  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Tom Hanks  (Captain Phillips)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels‘ The Butler)

Finally, a little love for Chiwetek Ejiofor, but what a powerful lineup. At this point I’m pulling for either Ejiofor or McConaughey. I’m glad to see that Forest Whitaker’s understated work in Lee Daniels’ The Butler has not been forgotten. Still, with competition this steep, there’s bound to be a few disappointments and that includes Robert Redford (All is Lost) , Joaquin Phoenix (Her), and Idris Elba, who’s currently earning solid notices for his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

Leading Female

philomena2

^ Dench

  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
  • Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

Okay, sure, at this point I’m still rooting for transcendant Sandra Bullock in Gravity, but the fact based Philomena is on my list, and Saving Mr. Banks will be soon enough. Of course, I aim to see Streep in Tracy Lett’s award winning August: Osage County.  That noted, I still wish more love was being shown to Julia Louis Dreyfus in Enough Said, and I keep hearing wonderful things about Lake Bell in In a World, which she  also wrote and directed. So far, Bell has not been singled out for her performance in this indie about the wonderful world of voiceover artists, but she’s currently up for a “Spirit” award for her script, and earlier in the year she was won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance.

Cast in a Motion Picture

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • American Hustle
  • August: Osage County
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Lee Daniels‘ The Butler

Okay, now the Golden Globes, which don’t forget, divide major races into Drama/Comedy categories in order to accommodate big ticket Hollywood studios and to encourage more and more nominated stars to come out, get drunk, and act like fools at the big televised party. Ouch! Did I really write that?

Best Picture, Drama

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Captain Phillips
  • Gravity
  • Philomena
  • Rush

Best Picture, Musical or Comedy

  • American Hustle
  • Her
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Nebraska
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actress, Drama

JLD

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Enough Said. Yay! She’s in the race. She’s also competing in the Best Actress in a TV Comedy for her work in Veep.

  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
  • Kate Winslet (Labor Day)

Best Actress, Musical or Comedy

  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
  • Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said)
  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Best Actor, Drama

mandela-long-walk

Barely a week since the passing of Nelson Mandela, actor Idris Elba is nominated for a Golden Globe for portraying the late leader; however, Elba is not the only actor to play Mandela in a 2013 release as Terrence Howard had the honor earlier in the year opposite Jennifer Hudson in Winnie Mandela, filmed a few years ago. Of course, Morgan Freeman earned an Oscar nod for his performance as Mandela in 2009’s Invictus.

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave ) 
  • Idris Elba (Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom)
  • Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Robert Redford (All Is Lost)

Best Actor, Comedy

  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
  • Joaquin Phoenix (Her)

Best Director

  • Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
  • Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips)
  • Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
  • Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
  • David O. Russell (American Hustle)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
  • Daniel Brüel (Rush)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
SallyHawkins_BlueJasmine_1

In Blue Jasmine, Sally Hawkins plays “Stella” to Cate Blanchett’s “Blanche,” that is, Jasmine. Hawkins has never been Oscar nominated though five years ago, she won a Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy, per Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky. A few years later she made a splash in the fact-based Made in Dagenham, but it wasn’t made for Oscar.

Screen Actors Guild Awards site: http://www.sagawards.org/

Official Hollywood Foreign Press Golden Globes site: http://www.goldenglobes.com/

An Actor and a Movie Star: Mr. O’Toole Takes His Leave

15 Dec

Alas, the great Peter O’Toole has passed away at the age of 81. May he rest in peace. Please indulge me as I repost a piece I wrote in July of 2012 just as O’Toole announced his retirement. Thank you.

Confessions of a Movie Queen

Alas, the great Peter O’Toole has passed away at the age of 81. May he rest in peace. Please indulge me as I repost a piece I wrote in July of 2012 just as O’Toole announced his retirement. Thank you.

 

I started writing this blog a year ago today. This is not the piece I intended to post in order to mark my anniversary; however, when Peter O’Toole decides it’s time to retire, attention must be granted…

Rest assured, Mr. O’Toole is not gone for good–not yet; however, a recent report reveals that with the actor approaching his 80th birthday, he has decided to retire from the profession that has given both us and him so much pleasure for the last five decades (or so). I had the good fortune to see him in person once: it was at his book signing at the old Taylor’s bookstore, just around…

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Applause, Dear Eleanor, Applause

9 Dec
eleanorparker2

^ Eleanor Parker as the unlucky baroness in The Sound of Music. Her frosty beauty is no match for the unabashed enthusiasm of governess Maria though she still looks like a million bucks in her champagne colored evening gown, one of the classic to-die-for creations in all of moviedom.

It’s probably just a coincidence that three-time Oscar nominee Eleanor Parker, who also portrayed the hardluck baroness in 1965’s Oscar winning smash The Sound of Music, has passed away at the age of 91, less than a week after the widely panned televised adaptation of Roger & Hammerstein’s beloved musical, but there it is. (What? Too soon?) Technically, she passed away due to complications from pneumonia so say the official reports. Alas.

Parker was never A-list Hollywood royalty. She wasn’t a great star like that. Like that meaning, say, on the magnitude of Lana Turner, Deborah Kerr, or Susan Hayward, all of whom were at the top of their games in the 1950s, the decade in which Parker enjoyed her most notable successes. Crawford, Davis, and Stanwyck had already peaked at that point though they continued to work steadily; Katharine Hepburn was still on the path to becoming a legend, but I digress. Instead of commanding exquisite, tailor-made vehicles, Parker was a reliable character actress who took chances playing gritty, gutsy roles.

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^ Parker in Caged, the first of her three Oscar nominated performances: the then hardhitting drama helped Parker score acting honors at the 1950 Venice Film Festival.

Parker’s three Oscar nominations are worth noting even if the films themselves are not remembered as classics. Like 1948’s The Snake Pit, starring Olivia de Havilland in a for-the-times frank depiction of a mental patient, Parker’s women-in-prison Caged (1950) has not aged well to the degree that it can’t play as anything but camp these days–to the point that its depiction of butch inmates is mocked in the influential documentary The Celluloid Closet (1996).  That noted, Parker, as the naive young widow coarsened by prison life (a role Ida Lupino might have killed for), wasn’t the only Oscar nominee in the Caged bunch as the Academy also recognized supporting player Hope Emerson (an evil matron) and screenwriters Virginia Kellog and Bernard Schoenfeld. None took home a trophy. Parker lost in her category to Judy Holliday recreating her Born Yesterday  stage triumph though Parker was in good company with fellow also-rans Bette Davis and Anne Baxter (All About Eve) and Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard). The next year, Parker was back in the race for Detective Story starring Kirk Douglas and Best Supporting Actress nominee Lee Grant.  In that go-round, the Best Actress statuette went to Vivien Leigh as Tennessee Williams’s faded belle Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Playing second-fiddle to manly man Douglas just wasn’t enough to snatch victory from Leigh in such a celebrated role. Parker’s most typically Oscar caliber feature was 1955’s Interrupted Melody (in color as opposed to the previous B & W entries), in which she portrayed real-life Australian opera star Marjorie Lawrence who successfully battled polio and even enjoyed a solid comeback. No opera singer, Parker was dubbed in the film, but members of the Academy liked what they saw and nominated her accordingly. She lost that year to Anna Magnani in The Rose Tattoo, another Williams adaptation.

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^ Parker as the literally clingy wife in The Man with the Golden Arm starring Frank Sinatra

One of Parker’s most famous roles, released the same year as Interrupted Melody, is in The Man with the Golden Arm, Otto Preminger’s blistering depiction of a–barely–recovering heroin addict with Frank Sinatra giving his all, and reaping plenty of acclaim, as a drummer trying to beat the odds of recidivism once released from prison. It’s Sinatra’s vehicle, no doubt, though Parker is effective in the role of his brittle, manipulative wife. Even so, she’s no match for the sensuous beauty of Kim Novak.

Per the IMDb, Parker has not acted in ages, and her last few decades of work were mostly on TV though it only seems like she was in every other episode of Murder, She Wrote; however, she frequently guest-starred on Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Her TV accolades include a Golden Globe nomination for the short-lived series Bracken’s World and an Emmy nod for The Eleventh Hour.  I’m also proud to say that I saw her at the Dallas Summer Musicals in the early-to-mid 1970s, cast as Broadway dynamo Margo Channing in Applause (a Tony winner for Lauren Bacall), adapted from 1950’s Oscar winning All About Eve starring the aforementioned Davis and Baxter with the former magnificent as Margo and the latter slipping into the role of the duplicitous title character.  I saw a lot of DSM shows back in the day, and Applause was definitely a highlight thanks  mostly to Parker’s incredible verve and talent.

Applause, dear Eleanor, applause.  Indeed.

Thanks for your consideration….