Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 TCM Remembers

"We live and we die
Like fireworks"

UPDATE: 12/17/2013:  TCM has edited the original clip to include five new images: Jean Kent, Audrey Totter, Tom Laughlin, Joan Fontaine and Peter O'Toole (whos images now end the video.)  I'm astonished at how quickly they did this and how they were able to squeeze these five extra folks in without removing anyone else and all the while working within the strict framework of the the existing video and it's music.

At first I thought maybe they'd shave .25 or .5 second off some of the images here and there to make up the time necessary to add 5 new video images.  But there are so many images that take place with musical cues.  For example Harry Carey Jr. looks up as the song lyrics talk about catching God's eye...or Matt Mattox swing his ax which hits the ground to the beat of the song.  Any clip-shortening would affect those match-ups.

So how did they do it?  Here's what was removed to add the new folks:

  • Jean Kent appears before Roger Ebert, the image of Ebert was shortened to fit her in
  • Audrey Totter appears where there was an image of a room in the theater with overlayed cursive writing on the pillar/wall.
  • Tom Laughlin appears between Hal Needham and Jonathan Winters.  A clip related to Needham of a Pontiac Trans Am making a jump in Smokey and the Bandit was removed to add Laughlin
  • Joan Fontaine was added before Esther Williams, a still image of Esther Williams was removed to make some time for this clip
  • Peter O'Toole comes at the end, to squeeze him in video producers had to:
    • Some of the later clips (after the musical tie-in with the firework displaying on the screen) I believe were shortened in the area between Ed Lauter and Kim Hamilton (that's 5 clips) in order to make some room for O'Toole.
    • The cut to the TCM Remembers graphic at the end is the old version you saw most of the word 'Remembers' drawn out while in the new clip you see just of the word drawn out.
    • The final clip of the single seat in the theater was shorted to add the blowing out of the match

[end of update]

It’s that time of year again, when Turner Classic Movies releases it’s video memorial production ‘TCM Remembers’ showcasing a list of film folks who've passed away during the past year. This year, like previous years, it’s a beautiful piece running around four and a half minutes long.

The song used in the piece is “In the Embers” by Sleeping At Last (an ‘Indie Rock musical project’.)  Quite a touching song, great lyrics relating to life and death.  Simple music, just piano and a single voice.

As usual, there are still pictures and/or short video clips of each person featured. And as usual, these are broken up with small breaks (where I’m usually muttering ‘oh my word’ as my mind tries to catch up from the overwhelming string of images it just saw.)

If you haven't seen it's the YouTube clip.

Some nice things about this year's clip:

  • Similar to the 2012 TCM Remembers video, this year’s theme is also theater-related and the images are of a shuttered theater or (as I prefer) a theater in the midst of renovation. 
  • As usual, the producers get seemingly the perfect clip for each of these folk (where a clip is shown.) The expressions/gaze of the person is spot-on. (Great examples are Annette Funicello and Eileen Brennan.) 
  • I like the video effect of playing the video onto a paint-peeled wall 
  • Love the tracking shot going through the series of open doorways...that shot is almost worth the price of admission 
  • Some of the transitions are fabulous, for example with Ruth Prawer Jhubvala we see someone walking through a field of flowers...cut to Julie Harris lying in a field of flowers and one in her hand. Speaking of transitions... 
  • So nice they put Virginia Gibson and Matt Mattox together with clips from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 
  • The dissolve on Jonathan Winters’ face on the glass door 
  • I really cannot believe how quickly there were able to add Eleanor Parker into this. 
  • Final shot of Peter O'Toole blowing out the match in an early scene from Lawrence of Arabia

Here’s the complete list of people from the clip in the order they appear:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thomas Mitchell - What a Character

First, I need to thank the co-hostesses of the What A Character blogathon.  This is a wonderful idea that Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66), Paula (@Paul_Guthat) and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) execute so well every year.  Kudos, ladies!

No discussion about Thomas Mitchell can begin without first acknowledging 1) the sheer amount of work this great character actor has been in (IMDB has him listed with an acting credit in 106 film and television roles) and 2) how many of these films were big hits.

In this video, I take a quick tour through some of these big hitters:

Stagecoach (1939)

Friday, May 3, 2013

What Happens When You Watch 18 Films in 3.5 Days - Part 2

Now that we had our 'sea-legs' after a full day of films on Friday, here's the recap for Saturday and Sunday:


Another full day of six films!

Beth and I started by going to see CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS which was in the 'early' block.  We saw lots of folks queued up for the Bugs Bunny retrospective (also playing at the multiplex...this seemed to be the big draw of the morning.)  The small theater (#4) for our screening was fairly full of mostly Spencer Tracy and Illeana Douglas fans.  Ms. Douglas introduced the film which stars her grandfather, Melvin Douglas.  Her comments were funny and succinct.  I'm looking forward to seeing her on Friday nights in May with her 'Second Looks' series.  Those who tweet along with me using the #TCMParty hashtag on twitter know of my love for this film.  It was great to see it on the big screen...not a dry eye in the house at the end.

Next, I rambled down to the Egyptian Theater for what would turn out to be a very special screening of THE DONOVAN AFFAIR.  There was a 30 minute delay getting into the theater.  TCM volunteers and network staff (including Scott McGee) kept the crowd informed of what was going on.  Once inside  Will and I sat in the 'geek seats' close to the actors.  This film was directed by Frank Capra and was Columbia's first 'All talkie', the only problem was that the audio disks (which looked like large vinyl records) were lost somewhere between 1929 and today.  So, what do passionate film fans do when this happens?  They recreate the entire soundtrack LIVE!  This included a piano accompaniment, 8-9 mic'd actors, a Foley artist and (if I remember correctly) pre-recorded background music tracks.  The film was a comedic whodunit, and the crowd was laughing throughout the film.  The live talent onstage were absolutely great in their recreation of the soundtrack.  Will later tweeted that this was the most impressive thing he's seen in four years of attending the festival.  High praise, indeed!

I had originally wanted to see THE BIG PARADE next, but due to the 30 minute delay, I didn't know if I could get into it on time.  So before THE DONOVAN AFFAIR, I made up my mind to grab lunch and head to the El Capitan theater for GUYS AND DOLLS.  So I inhaled a burrito from Baja Fresh while waiting on line for the musical...but while the black beans were falling onto the street where I was waiting, I realized that this film would get out too late to queue up for a ticket to THE SEVENTH SEAL.  So...I dashed over to the multiplex and walked into THE TRAIN about ten minutes before it started.  I've seen this once before on TCM, a good film...Burt Lancaster is wonderful in it.  A few things here:
  • This is only screening I attended where the audience did not applaud at the title card and they didn't applaud when Lancaster shows on screen for the first time...odd, and a bit awkward.
  • The theater filled completely and this was added to the TBA slots Sunday.
  • Great film if you're a train geek
  • The shot where German officers are seated at a table drinking wine and the truck blows up reminded me so much of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Raiders must have put that in as an homage.
  • Bass rumble from an adjacent theater (2, 3 or 5) bled over into our theater and was slightly distracting.  This also happened in I AM SUZANNE!
After that I met Beth down at the Egyptian to see THE SEVENTH SEAL.  Now, you may know that I love foreign films and I was looking very forward to seeing this for the first time.  However I was tired and closed my eyes more than once in slower spots.  The movie was quite odd...I'll have to watch again to get a better feel for it.  Ben Makiewicz interviewed Max von Sydow before the film and there was a special video of Mr. Sydow's work that was played before the interview (the only 'puff piece' I saw for any attending actor...but done very well...isn't that the case with everything that TCM does?!)

After leaving the theater, I think all 616 folks queued up for MILDRED PIERCE.  We were in a line the snaked back to El Segundo, I think.  But our queue cards were in the mid 200s, so I was confident that we'd get in.  The ushers even managed to squeeze in some walk-up/standby ticket-holders.

This was an amazing screening.

Lots of applause for many of the actors when they make their first on-screen appearance, including Butterfly McQueen who has a small role in this.  And (perhaps best of all) applause and shouts when Mildred slaps Veda early in the film, then hissing and booing when Veda slaps Mildred later in the film.  Before the film, Robert Osborne interviewed Ann Blyth who still looked terrific and had wonderful stories to tell.  It's amazing that she didn't get type-cast as the 'Veda-type' after making this film.

Next, another midnight screening!  This time, Charles Laughton and ISLAND OF LOST SOULS.  I was able to meet the irrepressible Jill at this screening.  We briefly discussed her video clips aired by TCM before the film started.  There were a few 'haha' moments in this, it was more of a bad sci-fi film.  I ended up closing my eyes a few times in this one, too...or zoning out with my eyes opened.

After the film let out, I walked to the room and crashed...again around 2am.


The last day of the festival...bittersweet!

I had originally planned to see YANKEE DOODLE DANDY this morning...a film I've seen countless times (because it's great!)  But the TBA screening in the morning was THE LADY VANISHES and Alan was going to see that, so I went over to check it out with him.  It was a marvelous film, effectively blending romance, comedy and suspense.  Thank you Mr. Hitchcock!

I had a little time to grab some early lunch (yet another burrito from Baja Fresh) and ate in the courtyard in the mall before getting in line for THE BIRDS at Grauman's.  (I would actually spend the rest of the day either in line on Hollywood Blvd. or in Grauman's Chinese theater.)  Before the film, Tippi Hedren was interviewed and I was shocked to hear about how Hitchcock treated her.  The picture quality was awesome (another DCP projection) and the film was wonderfully creepy on that huge screen.  I was admiring the editing while watching...good stuff.

After exiting Grauman's, I immediately got back in line for THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR.  Beth was also in line a little bit behind me, so I walked back and joined her.  This was the only film she watched today.  Max von Sydow was interviewed by Robert Osborne before the film (a better interview I thought than yesterday's with Ben M.)

After exiting the theater, I got right back in line again for the final event of the festival, a screening of Buster Keaton's THE GENERAL with live accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra.  Once I got my queue card, Beth and I ran across the street to get dinner at Baja Fresh.  Who did we run into?  The delightful Kimberly!

Before the screening of THE GENERAL, Robert Osborne came out for an announcement 'wrap'.  He thanked the sponsors one last time and highlighted some TCM folks who were integral in organizing and managing the festival.  His final comment was regarding the Chinese Theater.  He mentioned that in a couple of days they were going to close the theater and rework the interior to have stadium seating and IMAX projection.  There was an audible gasp from the crowd and booing...Osborne quelled the uneasiness by jokingly saying "don't throw anything at me" and also suggesting that we should reserve judgement and he hoped it would turn out well.  I had already heard the news, so it wasn't shocking to me, I kind of wished Robert O hadn't ended the evening like that, but he wanted to make sure people took a good look around the theater after the film to remember what it looked like.

The film was preceded by a Buster Keaton short film (maybe 20-25 minutes long).  Alloy orchestra was great...lots of percussion!  After the film ended, everyone was looking around the theater and taking photos of everything.  We really took Robert's words to heed.  Alan, Will and Aurora (whom I sat with) took some photos inside the theater, then met Paula and Tim outside where we took some more photos.

I ran back to the hotel and changed into my fancy duds and Beth and I walked up the street to the closing night party at the Roosevelt hotel.  There I met Kay and Kim (and got my picture taken with these lovely ladies!)  Then wandered out to the pool with Beth and we met up with a group of TCMParty folks where we discussed the films and the festival.

Beth and I left the party around 11, went back to the hotel and crashed.  The next morning brought a sobering reminder that this was a temporary joy as we were scurried to the airport by our car and waited to catch our flight home.

I enjoyed the TCM Film Festival immensely   I hope I can make it back in 2014 and meet up with folks I spent a lot of time with this year and meet up with new folks, too.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Happens When You Watch 18 Films in 3.5 Days - Part 1

I'll tell you what have a great time!

I spent last weekend in Hollywood with thousands of other classic film fans attending the TCM Classic Film Festival. Beth and I stayed at the Loews Hollywood, which is next door to the outdoor mall complex that houses the Chinese Multiplex (the three smaller venues for the event, the three larger venues being: TCL (Grauman's) Chinese, Egyptian Theater and El Capitan Theater.)  The Loews Hotel was extremely wonderful and very convenient to all TCMFF screenings. I highly recommend it to friends for next year who were 'so-so' on the Roosevelt.

I had created a schedule of what I wanted to see...and for the most part I stuck to the schedule (I'll explain exceptions below.)  Although I know that some venues filled and they had to turn away patrons, most of the screenings accommodated all pass-holders and then let in extra 'standby' ticket-holders.  Even the tremendously popular MILDRED PIERCE which screened in the 616-seat Egyptian Theater had room for standby ticket-holders.

I tried to take notes about each screening while standing on line for the next's a blow-by-blow of the films that I saw the first two days of the festival:


We flew from RDU to LAX (via ORD) and met Jessica at the Delta terminal to give her a lift into Hollywood.  It was fun chatting during the 40 minute ride about other online friends. We checked into our room and then headed out to explore.

I went solo to THE KILLING a great noir/heist film starring Sterling Hayden.  This film had a great jazz score and included many older character actors...many with European accents.  The film quality was perfect...this was a DCP screening, it was flawless. Actress Coleen Gray who was in the film was interviewed before the film.  I introduced myself to Trevor before the film (you can't miss him...only pork pie hat at the festival.)  Chatted with a mother/daughter seated next to me who lived in the LA area, this was their second year.

Afterwards, I queued for SAFE IN HELL which Beth joined me for.  Also at this screening were Will, Maggie, Laura, Trevor, Paula, Aurora and others, I'm sure.  I was in line a few people behind Paula, and didn't recognize her (she had a floppy hat on...but did recognize her voice.) I tweeted her that I was standing behind her and she turned around and gave me a hug...and I met her husband, Tim...a really nice couple.

This was screened in Chinese Multiplex theater #4, the smallest venue at 177 seats.  The screening was packed solid and they re-screened this on Sunday in one the TBA slots.  (There was a lot of buzz as I chatted with people on line all weekend about this film.)  A pre-code with director William Wellman's son interviewed by the brilliant Donald Bogle to discuss the film and his father.  A pre-code for sure...but some tender moments between the leads.  (I must admit my eyes close a few times during this...I saw most of it, but I'll need to watch again when I'm more awake.)


The first full day of the festival!  We (Beth joined me for this) started the day off early with a Robert Mitchum in THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.  A creepy way to start the day for sure!  I'd never seen it before.  It was screened at the Egyptian, the line was in the sun so we were sweating before heading into the theater.  Watched this with Beth and Aurora and sat down in the 'geek seats'...front and center! One of my favorite scenes is when they shoot the car underwater with Shelley Winters' hair billowing in the river current.  Creep-tastic!  An older Lillian Gish excellent as foster mom to a group of children.

Next up we exited the Egyptian and immediately re-queued again for the next screening: THE NARROW MARGIN, a tale of a detective assigned to protect the wife of a mobster on a cross-country train trip.  Really snappy dialog between the detective and the mobster's wife. This screening was a 35mm print and had two technical glitches, which turned out to be the only glitches the whole weekend that I experienced.  The first issue is that there was a delay on a reel cut-over  one real ended and played through the trailing lead, while the other machine didn't start and cut-over properly.  It was manually started quickly and we were back in business.  The second issue which occurred a little later was that the sound dropped for about 15 seconds.  I'm not sure if this was a problem with the print or something else.  I talked with Will about these glitches and he said "I'll give them pass on those minor issues."

After this, I had a small break, so I grabbed some lunch with Beth at Starbucks and then headed to the hotel to recharge my phone and read up on the upcoming films.

Back to the Multiplex #4 for I AM SUZANNE!  This was the most intriguing film on the schedule and I really wanted to see it...I queued up fairly early (think I got queue card #2) as it was in the smallest venue.  I was not disappointed...this film was indescribable.  According to the film restoration person speaking before the film, most prints of this film in circulation were 16mm prints and they went back to the original 35mm negative and recreated a 35mm print.  The lead acress Lilian Harvey was quite beautiful.  This film is hard to categorize: musical, show-within-a-show, love story, had elements of many genres.  I sat between Will another guy who knew a lot about the film and the puppeteer troupes used in the film.  After the screening we got into an intellectual discussion about the film...until I abandoned Will and headed to the Egyptian for my next screening...stopping at the Starbucks along the way for a turkey sandwich and coffee which I inhaled on line for IT.

I've never seen the film IT, but was glad I saw it on Friday evening.  Live accompaniment by a 15-piece orchestra.  Clara Bow biographer David Stenn was full of insight before the film...gotta purchase his book.  Will and I sat down in front to be closer to the orchestra.  Bow has that joie de vivre, that 'fire within'...the 'IT' girl, for sure.  After the film, most people were rushing back up Hollywood Blvd. to get in line for one of my 'must sees' of the weekend.  Will and I escaped out the side fire-exits and got a jump on the crowd.  He was off to see Hondo.

Meanwhile I lined up for ON THE WATERFRONT and met Beth on line.  We both got into the massive 1100 seat Grauman's Chinese Theater and sat with Alan.  Introducing the film was Ben Mankiewicz who interviewed Eva Marie Saint.  They were having a fun time with each other.  The film was wonderful on the huge Chinese Theater screen.  Nice applause for all major actors with their first on-screen appearance.  What a great way to end the evening.

But wait!  There was a midnight screening of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE that started about 30 minutes after the previous film.  Great crowd, the house was about 2/3 full...many TCMParty folks in attendance.  Great laughter at all of the weirdness throughout the film.  (Curious? The entire film is online here.)

Got back to the room at 1:30am and caught up on twitter then hit the sack at 2am.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2013 TCM Film Festival Picks

After the TCM Film Festival calendar came out late last week, I quickly went through the schedule and came up with a list of films that I thought I wanted to see.  This list was based on many factors, including:
  • I wanted to see the film on the big screen (like BEN-HUR)
  • The film was quite intriguing to me (like I AM SUZANNE!)
  • It's on my 'List of Shame' and I probably should watch it (like THE GENERAL)
  • It had a guest speaker that I wanted to see (like MILDRED PIERCE)

All was right with the world.

And then my friend and fellow film nut, Will McKinley published an epic post on all of the films and events happening at the festival and which films he was going to see and why.

This afternoon while flying to Florida for business, I had the chance to read through his entire tome.  (It's a terrific article, I encourage everyone to read it including those who aren't attending the festival.)  His reasoning for choosing some of the films made a whole lot of sense to me.  So much so, that I decided to make a few changes to my own quickly mocked-up list.

And the rearranging I think is for the best.  I'm going to see more films that I've never seen before in lieu of seeing some longer favorites on the big screen.  I'm OK with that...for now...we'll see what the future brings.

So, in response to Will's post, here's a (much) shorter version of the films I want to see and why I want to see them.  I'm using Will's 'block' approach as the films are fairly evenly laid out in blocks.  (Note, films that I'm currently planning on seeing are bolded and in GREEN)

Block 1: Thursday early evening

My Classic Pass doesn't get me into FUNNY GIRL opening night at Grauman's Chinese, so I initially chose NINOTCHKA because it's a film I've seen many times, and thought it might be interesting to see on the big screen, however after reading Will's comments on THE KILLING, I've changed my mind and will go see that instead.  Besides, Sterling Hayden is one of my favorite noir actors.

Block 2:  Thursday late evening

I chose to see SAFE IN HELL...a pre-code that has favorable reviews.

Block 3:  Friday morning

I've wanted to see BEN-HUR...mainly because it's on the big screen at Grauman's.  I could almost recite the TCM letterbox promo word-for-word.  In that promo, they cite the BEN-HUR chariot race as an example of what gets lost when you pan-and-scan a film.  (Scorsese says "you're basically re-editing the film.")

But by choosing to see a long film, I'm wiping out seeing anything in the following block.  I've heard so much good about THE NARROW MARGIN that I'm going to see that preceded by THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER in this block.  I'll get my fingers tattooed and check out Mitch.

Block 4:  Friday mid-day

Since I'm now skipping BEN-HUR, I'll see THE NARROW MARGIN.  A film that more than one attendee has highly recommended.

Block 5:  Friday afternoon

Here's where it gets ugly.  I wanted to see BONNIE AND CLYDE on the big screen.  It's a film I like more every time I see it.  But I also am very intrigued with I AM SUZANNE! a film that includes (of all things) marionettes.  However to see both, the timing may be too tight.  So, I may need to see something short instead of BONNIE AND CLYDE (Will's pick is RUGGLES OF RED GAP) or just choose to have an open block of time and see I AM SUZANNE!

Still murky in this slot....

(A side note here, when searching for films on IMDB...I love when the film doesn't auto-show in the search and when there's no picture for the film.  It means the film is fairly obscure, and is a bit of an unknown entity...could be great, could be a bomb.  It's like a new discovery.)

Block 6:  Friday early evening

Since I AM SUZANNE! overruns the beginnings of THE GREAT ESCAPE and THE RAZOR'S EDGE this only leaves three films that I didn't think much of.  After reading Will's description of IT as being "one of the signature events of the festival", I'll definitely have to duck into that before...

Block 7:  Friday late evening

ON THE WATERFRONT...for me, this is a must see on the big screen.  It will be my first time seeing it in a theater if I get into this screening.  This film keeps creeping up on my 'best film ever made' would be amazing to see it at the festival.

Block 8:  Friday midnight show

I will do everything possible to see PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.  I've seen it before...but it seems like it will be a hoot seeing 'the worst movie ever made' with a group of other film fans.  Really looking forward to this screening...thank you, TCM for putting this as a midnight show.

Block 9:  Saturday morning

I've heard many folks talk about how the Bugs Bunny collection will be a packed event.  Honestly, I'm just not a huge fan, so I'm going to instead attend the screening of CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS, one of my favorite 'adventure' films.  The fishing schooners should look wonderful on the big screen, and I'll shed a tear as the wreaths are tossed into the water.

Block 10:  Saturday mid-day

I had originally planned on not seeing anything in this block and instead chill and wait on line for the screening of GIANT...but after reading Will's descriptions of said film, I'm realizing that it may be a time-sink (at 201 minutes.)  That and the fact that I've seen GIANT before and there will be live, recreated dialogue and special effects that will occur at THE DONOVAN AFFAIR sounds like something really special to attend.

Block 11:  Saturday afternoon

Since I'm now skipping GIANT, I'll probably end up seeing THE BIG PARADE (based on Will's review.)  THE TRAIN is a great film, too.  I've seen it once before on TCM, Burt 'The Hurt' Lancaster is always great.

Block 12:  Saturday early evening

THE SEVENTH questions asked.  Bergman?  Subtitles?  I am there.  Bonus is that Von Sydow will be in attendance (whose name, by the way, I've been mispronouncing for at least a decade :/)

Block 13:  Saturday late evening

MILDRED PIERCE...because slapping.  Oh, and Ann Blyth will be there!  I just watched this last week and I'll be glad to see again in two weeks on the big screen.

Block 14:  Saturday midnight show

I'm saying now that I want to see ISLAND OF LOST SOULS...but at this point in the film festival my hotel bed is probably going to look very good to me.

Block 15:  Sunday morning

I'm choosing the comfort and familiarity of the Multiplex and YANKEE DOODLE DANDY...however I was a bit surprised to find Will giving kudos to CINERAMA HOLIDAY.  (Read his description...his point has merit: it's a rare opportunity to see a Cinerama film in one of the few Cinerama theaters left.)  But that venue is a bit out of the way.  (Had this been THIS IS CINERAMA or star-studded HOW THE WEST WAS WON, then I'd surely make the trek.)

Block 16:  Sunday mid-day

Although IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD will probably be the major pull due to the the folks showing up for it (Carl Reiner, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters,) I'll probably attend the screening of THE BIRDS with Tippi Hedren.

Block 17:  Sunday afternoon (the end is in sight!)

Block 18:  Sunday early evening (final group of films)

THE GENERAL, with live accompaniment from Alloy Orchestra.  I'm looking forward to the live music during this Keaton classic.

So...that's my list as of today.  I realize that I'll need to be flexible and this list is probably way over the top (but it's a goal to shoot for.)  Then just a few hours ago Will was tweeting this afternoon about an AFI event in the day preceding the TCM Film Festival where there would many stars attending and presenting films.  He was wondering if some of these stars would 'stay over' and attend some of the TCM events.

My schedule may be changing in the very near future!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Foreign Film Oscars from the 2000s

This is the fifth (and final) in a series of five blog posts dedicated to the 2013 '31 Days of Oscar Blogathon' hosted by the blogging divas Kellee (of Outspoken and Freckled), Paula (of Paula's Cinema Club) and Aurora (of Once Upon a Screen).

(For a complete summary of what I'm writing about, check out this post.)

Post 1: Foreign Film Oscars from the 1950s
Post 2: Foreign Film Oscars from the 1980s (Part 1)
Post 3: Foreign Film Oscars from the 1980s (Part 2)
Post 4: Foreign Film Oscars from the 1990s

In this final post, just two films.  I'm going to examine the following Oscar nominated films from the 2000's:

Zhang Ziyi kicks ass

This is Ang Lee's best film (in my opinion.)  It's a wuxia film set in Qing Dynasty China, it has actors from many different nationalities and terrific martial arts sequences choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping.

Basic Plot:
Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) is an accomplished swordsman late in his career looking to avenge the death of his master (his master was killed by Jade Fox.)  Meanwhile Governor Yu, his wife and daughter, Jen (Zhang Ziyi) are guests at Sir Te's estate.  Li Mu Bai's sword, the Green Destiny is stolen; he and Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) track it down, fall in love, and battle with Jade Fox.

Great Scenes:
  • All of the martial arts scenes are out of this world. The scenes dabble in fantasy (people have ability to temporarily 'fly')  but if you can get past that bending of reality, you'll enjoy the film much more.
  • I love the quiet scenes like when Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien are drinking tea in the bamboo forest.  There are moment of no dialog and they're very nicely done.
  • The ending scene with the bridge is so surreal and beautiful (I won't give away what happens for those that haven't seen this.)  The music is wonderful here and throughout the film (the combination of the cello and percussion is amazing.)

Why it's a great film:

  • Martial arts scenes are unbelievable...paired with percussion music in many cases
  • Cinematography is wonderful
  • The music (cello solos by Yo-Yo Ma)
  • Kick-ass women

If you liked this film, also consider:

Amelie (2001)
I've only seen this film once...but it left its mark.  One word: quirky.

Basic Plot:
A sheltered girl with a terrific imagination becomes a waitress at a cafe inhabited by eccentrics. Quirkiness ensues.

Great Scenes:
  • Escorting the blind man across the street while describing in some great detail all things around them
  • The list of the small things that Amelie when she pushes her fingers into the bag of grain.
  • Amelie wonders: 'How many couples are having an orgasm now?'

Why it's a great film:
  • Audrey Tautou is so good in this.
  • Cinematography is very nicely done
  • If you're a fan of 'light quirk', I think you love this...the filmmakers put just enough in to make it interesting.

If you liked this film, also consider:
  • Gotta be honest...not much else like this!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Foreign Film Oscars from the 1990s

This is the forth in a series of five blog posts dedicated to the 2013 '31 Days of Oscar Blogathon' hosted by the blogging divas Kellee (of Outspoken and Freckled), Paula (of Paula's Cinema Club) and Aurora (of Once Upon a Screen).

(For a complete summary of what I'm writing about, check out this post.)

Post 1: Foreign Film Oscars from the 1950s
Post 2: Foreign Film Oscars from the 1980s (Part 1)
Post 3: Foreign Film Oscars from the 1980s (Part 2)

Hope you like director Ang Lee, because he directed two of the three films in this post!  In this post, I'm going to examine the following Oscar nominated films from the 1990s:

A marriage of convenience

This was my introduction to Director Ang Lee.  And what an introduction it was!

Basic Plot:
Wai-Tung Gao and Simon are a gay couple living in New York City. Wai-Tung's parents don't know this and want him to marry a woman and have a baby boy to continue to the family name.  To appease them, he marries one of his tenants (a marriage of convenience, it appeases his parents and she [Wei-Wei] is a starving artist from mainland China who needs a green card.)  Wai-Tung's parents fly to the US from Taiwan to throw an elaborate wedding banquet...a series of events unfold and things start to get out of hand.

Great Scenes:
  • Simon giving Wei-Wei the run-down of all the tiny aspects of Wai-Tung's life so she'll come off looking like his long-time girlfriend. The "de-gaying" of the apartment is reminiscent of a scene from The Birdcage.
  • At their wedding luncheon...when Old Chen offers his banquet hall for a real wedding banquet.  He's so gracious and humble towards 'The Commander' and his family.
  • The wedding banquet scene itself is's cool to watch some Asian wedding customs alongside American ones.  (And Ang Lee himself makes a brief cameo!)
  • Shivaree!
  • When Mr. Gao admits to Simon that he knows about their relationship

Why it's a great film:
  • Sihung Lung plays Wai-Tung's father.  I just love him...he's in a lot of Ang Lee films. He was retired, but came out of retirement to do Ang Lee's first feature film: Pushing Hands. Ended up doing many other films after that with Lee.
  • I like films with ethnic weddings in them, it's so interesting to me to see how other cultures celebrate weddings...and this film does not disappoint.

If you liked this film, also consider:

Family Style

This, in my opinion is Ang Lee's second best film. (More in my next post on what I consider his best film.)

Basic Plot:
A widower lives with his three grown daughters.  As the daughters meet male suitors and leave the nest, there is tension between them and with their father.

Great Scenes:
  • The opening credit sequence is an amazing series of Chinese cooking styles.  An elaborate meal is being prepared for what appears to be dozens of people (we find out later that it's just the father and his three daughters.
  • Then scene where Chu trades his expert lunch with the girls plain lunch and everyone in her class in keenly aware that her lunch is the best 
  • The final scene when the father regains his sense of taste and rekindles his relationship with his 

Why it's a great film:
  • It's chock full of great relationship stories, daughters to father, sister to sister, girlfriend to boyfriend, friend to friend, etc.
  • The meal scenes are tremendous...everything looks so good!  You really need to watch this, then go out for good Chinese food.
  • Sihung Lung (Chu), yes he's in this one, too!

If you liked this film, also consider:

Father and son

Who can forget the exuberance and passion of Roberto Benigni's reaction when he won two Oscars for his film Life Is Beautiful? This is a wonderful film that eloquently mixes humor and tragedy together in war story.

Basic Plot:
Jewish-Italian Guido (Benigni) meets and falls in love with Dora (Benigni's real-life wife Nicoletta Braschi) before the beginning of WWII.  They have a son and during WWII are captured and sent to a Nazi concentration camp.  There, Guido employs a game to shield his son from the horrors of the war and the camp.

Great Scenes:
  • The one scene that stands out in my mind (it's been a while since I've seen this) is when Guido is led off by the Nazi guards (to his death)...he is still hamming it up for his son who is hiding but can see him.

Why it's a great film:
  • Benigni has a comedian's's elastic, expressive.  He looks a little funny. He uses this to great comedic affect. But it's also a dramatic film. This mixture of his comedic ways and the sobering drama of the story makes this film great.

If you liked this film, also consider: