Friday, February 28, 2014

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "You Can't Take It With You" (1938)

There used to be certain things you could be guaranteed of in Hollywood. You've heard the term "Hollywood Ending", right? That means everything, no matter how rough things seem, always turn out the best in the end. When it comes to Old Hollywood, probably no director personified that more than Frank Capra. Capra's films were brilliant in two regards: comedy, and the Hollywood Ending. No one did it better, and it could be argued no one ever will. Granted, the Oscars were certainly voted upon differently in the 1930's, but the fact remains Frank Capra won three Best Director awards in that decade, including for the film we're looking at today, You Can't Take It With You, because of his excellence is presenting feel-good comedy films. He scored six career nominations for Best Director, and this is the work he directed to his third and final Oscar win, a movie adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. Let's check it out.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dallas Bloggers Club -- 86th Annual Academy Awards predictions (March 2, 2014)

Well, we have arrived. It has been one of the more unpredictable Awards seasons we've ever seen, with several categories having no clear front-runner, and the awards leading up to now being spread around to several films and several names. This is probably the only time where with less than a week before the Oscars, I still am not 100% sure on what I think will win the top prize. THIS is the excitement the Oscars needs every year!

I'll list with each category the nominees and who or what I think will win the award, but I will also then give you my own personal vote. Meaning, if I was an Academy member, who or what I would check off on my ballot, and why. If you're partaking in an Oscar pool, maybe some of these picks will put you into the winner's circle! (Disclaimer: Author is not responsible for disastrous Oscar pools resulting from predictions made within this blog.)

Let's roll!

Monday, February 24, 2014


William Shakespeare is considered one of the great playwrights of all time, and rightfully so. Some may be intimidated by the language used in the plays, not because it's profane (it isn't) but because it's just performed in Olde English and can be hard to understand sometimes. Nonetheless, everyone knows MacBeth. Romeo and Juliet. Othello. Hamlet. King Lear. These are the names of plays, but also characters, and there are far more plays and characters than I could possibly list here. In the early days of cinema, many of Shakespeare's plays were adapted for the silver screen, so it should come as no surprise to see that at least one of them wound up crowned Best Picture by the Academy. It may come as a small surprise, though, to learn that the number of films based on Shakespeare plays that won Best Picture is just that number, one. This film was 1948's Hamlet, written, directed and produced by Sir Laurence Olivier, one of the greatest British thespians of all time. Olivier also tackled the title role himself and made Hollywood history in the process, even though some in Hollywood were a little concerned when he did. Let's check it out.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991)

"Hello, Clarice."

"I do wish we could chat longer, but I'm having an old friend for dinner."

"It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again."

"I ate his liver with some fava beans and nice chianti."

Many quotes became favorites within the pop culture lexicon in the early 1990's thankx to a most unlikely Best Picture Oscar winner called The Silence of the Lambs, based on the 1988 Thomas Harris novel of the same name. That last quote in particular is still thrown out there at times, especially with the noise Anthony Hopkins, as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, makes afterwards. The first psychological thriller (and some would even categorize this, I think somewhat incorrectly, as a horror film as well) to win the top Oscar prize, this film bucked the trend of Best Picture winners coming out towards the end of a calendar year. It was released into theaters rather quietly in February of 1991, and was in fact available for rental and for sale on home video by the time the Oscars took place in 1992, which made this also the first Best Picture winner to be available for public ownership at the time it won. The film made history in one more way as well upon winning as it took home the "Big Five", becoming only the third film in history (and the last one to date) to win Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. Let's take a look at The Silence of the Lambs. Oh, but since I haven't said this in awhile, let me warn you in advance that these blogs include a full movie synopsis, so there are spoilers ahead.

Friday, February 21, 2014


As of this writing, we're just 8 days away from the 86th Annual Academy Awards, honoring the best in film from 2013. This seemed like a great time to cover our next film for the Best Picture Showcase, that which was honored as the top movie of 1963 at the 36th Annual event. So ladies and gentlemen, let's give it up for Tom Jones!, that's Tom Jones. I said Tom Jones. See? It's italicized. That means we're not talking about a person, we're referring to a title. Specifically, the title of a British film based on Henry Fielding's novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, written way back in the 18th century. Tom Jones, the singer, may have sung "It's Not Unusual", but this film certainly IS unusual for several reasons which we'll get to later. First, though, we should give you the synopsis.

Oh, and for the record, Tom Jones the singer DID actually get his stage name from this very film, so there you go.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Gandhi. I admit it. I was dreading this one.

I tried to watch this back in the late 1980's, but my teenage self just couldn't get into it. It bored me.

Now, I'm older, wiser (supposedly) and a genuine lover of film. Plus, let's face it, Gandhi won Best Picture! So in all likelihood, it's really good, right? I already know that Ben Kingsley's portrayal of the man is still revered to this day, so there's that too!

Perhaps. All I knew going in was, it was over 3 hours long. There are very few films I've ever seen that reach the 150-minute mark before I start fidgeting in my seat. 180 minutes? By then I'm practically whimpering.

I planned on doing this one last week but what was about our 37th snow event this winter killed that plan. Today, I was determined to finally get this done. I have a blog to execute, dammit, and execute it I shall!

So without further adieu...1982's Best Picture winner, Gandhi.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "The French Connection" (1971)

Part of the reason I decided to do this Best Picture Showcase series of blogs was to finally do something I've been wanting to do for many years. I wanted to see all the films that won the top Oscar. For a while, I even considered owning them all, but I decided against that because there are some I just don't, or probably won't, like. Ultimately when my wife threw this blogging series idea at me late last year, the time seemed right. I estimated there were about half of the films that have won Best Picture that I've seen, and the other half I either saw only in part, or not at all, or perhaps saw some or all of but just can't remember. This film falls into that last category. I know I watched this on TV with my parents when I was young (and I'm sure it was edited because I remember there were commercials interrupting the film), but I was too young to either recall it well today, or moreso, too young to fully understand and appreciate it. All I knew then was that we had good guys chasing bad guys for 2 hours. To be honest, that pretty much is the best summation of the plot one could give for this movie. Good guys versus bad guys. Cops and robbers. Trust me though, it's anything but dull.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


There was a time when movie musicals were arguably the most popular genre amongst the filmgoing audience. For us Generation X-ers, this was "before our time". For the most part, the decades of the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's saw musicals as nothing more than outdated dinosaurs. Sure, there would be one that would pop up on the silver screen now and then, such as Grease in 1978 or Fame in 1980 or Newsies in 1992, plus the Disney films of the 1990's if you want to count those, but overall the genre didn't produce a lot of memorable films. Frankly, most of them were awful. Then you had the films that weren't musicals per se, they just happened to have a lot of music in them, such as Footloose in 1984. Here in the 21st century, the genre has made a successful comeback. As someone who has always loved classic films, musicals absolutely included, this makes me happy. Back in the Golden Age of Cinema, no studio had greater success with musicals than Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM. They were the level that all other studios tried to measure up to. Greatly considered the last of those great MGM musicals was 1958's Gigi, which was based on the 1944 French novella by Colette. Let's travel back to Paris, circa 1900...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE: "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989)

Everyone probably has a favorite year in their childhood, for one reason or another. Mine was 1989. It was the year where I truly began to "find myself", if you will. I was a sophomore and then a junior in high school. I understood life, how it worked, what it meant, the people within it, family and friends and beyond. Everything made sense. Music meant more to me. In fact, 1989 was my favorite year of music. A Philadelphia radio station, WIOQ (Q102-FM), played nothing but the music that I really discovered was the genre I liked the most, the overall dance genre and all of its subgenres. I listened to it for hours and hours a day. I found and still have my very select circle of friends from high school that I keep in contact with, plus one additional friend I met through, of all things, a pen-pal service in 1989. Zoë Rusga (née Collins), a gal from England who shared a lot of the interests I did, and to this day is one of the most treasured friends of my lifetime, despite the fact that we've only actually met in person once up to now. I officially found my favorite sports teams, the Chicago Cubs for baseball and the Philadelphia Eagles for football. Even pro wrestling was best in 1989. Flair versus Steamboat. Enough said. As far as movies, and more specifically the Oscars, it was the first year where I really got into the whole ordeal. I knew what the Oscars were, and I already had discovered that I loved movies, but by the time the 1990 Oscars rolled around to honor film's best from 1989, this was where for the first time I found myself not just interested in the whole process, but downright NEEDING to know everything about it. Now, of course, I was still just 16 so I wasn't driving yet, and there wasn't Netflix and instant streaming, and I couldn't get into R-rated movies yet, so for all these reasons I wouldn't be able to see a lot of these films until after the Oscars were to already have happened anyway. That didn't diminish my excitement, however, for the 62nd Annual Academy Awards, which was the first Oscars broadcast I watched from start to finish, rooting for my choice movies and actors. The Best Picture that year? Driving Miss Daisy, a film based on Alfred Uhry's off-Broadway play set in the 1950's-1970's.