Tag Archives: Academy Award

Coming Up

I know that I have been really slack with this blog but hopefully things will start to pick up. After weeks of not watching any movies at all I have decided to start watching some again. I know that I have made these promises before but here are just some of the films that I plan to watch this year.

I wonder how many of these that I will actually watch.

Hopefully I can also clean up the previous posts that I have made, which I have already started to do.

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Network

Directed by Sidney Lumet
Produced by Howard Gottfried & Fred C. Caruso
Written by Paddy Chayefsky
Narrated by Lee Richardson
Starring Faye Dunaway
William Holden
Peter Finch
Robert Duvall
Ned Beatty
Beatrice Straight
Music by Elliot Lawrence
Cinematography Owen Roizman
Editing by Alan Heim
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer & United Artists
Release date November 27, 1976
Running time 121 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Network is a great satirical film that is quite prophetic in that it tells about what could really go on behind the scenes on news TV if certain media moguls *cough Rupert Murdoch cough* get their way. It’s amazing that this film was made in 1976, a couple of decades before the rise of News Crop., Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Jerry Springer and reality TV rubbish like Big Brother.

Peter Finch won a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of newsreader Howard Beale who suffers an on-air breakdown after being fired but is then manipulated by his media bosses into becoming a ‘mad prophet of doom’. His performance is brilliant and almost steals the film.

“We’ll tell you anything you want to hear, we lie like hell.”

The rest of the cast is great too with great performances by Robert Duvalle, Faye Dunaway (Oscar winner for Best Actress), William Holden and Ned Beatty. Sidney Lumet won an Oscar for Best Director whilst Paddy Chayefsky won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Beatrice Straight also won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress despite the fact that she was on-screen for less than ten minutes.

“Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation; this tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers; this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people, and that’s why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA, the Communications Corporation of America; there’s a new chairman of the board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr. Ruddy’s office on the twentieth floor. And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?”

This is a great film that is perhaps more true today than it was back in 1976.

Useless Trivia

* Only two actors have posthumously won an Oscar, Peter Finch and Heath Ledger. Both won for Best Supporting Actor and both are Australians.

Link to quotes from Network at IMBD


The Good Earth

Directed by Sidney Franklin, Victor Fleming & Gustav Machatý
Produced by Irving Thalberg
Written by Pearl S. Buck (novel)
Donald Davis (play)
Owen Davis (play)
Talbot Jennings
Tess Slesinger
Claudine West
Starring Paul Muni
Luise Rainer
Walter Connolly
Tilly Losch
Charley Grapewin
Music by Herbert Stothart
Edward Ward
Cinematography Karl Freund
Editing by Basil Wrangell
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date January 29, 1937
Running time 138 min.
English

I like old movies but even I can see that one area where old-Hollywood got things dreadfully wrong was with race. Even in the 21st century this has been one area where the movies have struggled although things are better than they were when The Good Earth was made in 1937. Firstly you’d expect a film about Chinese farmers in China to feature Chinese actors playing the roles, but you’d be really wrong. Here Paul Muni of Scarface fame plays Wang Lung, whilst Luise Rainer won the best actress Oscar (her second) for her portrayal of O-Lan despite the fact that she did so with a heavy German accent.

Apparently producer Irving Thalberg wanted to cast and all Chinese cast but Louis B. Mayer thought that the film going public would not be ready for this. Anna Mae Wong was asked to play Lotus, the seductress, to give the film some authenticity, but she angrily declined the role because she was angry that all the main roles were played in yellow-face by Caucasians and that she would be asked to play the least sympathetic role.

Over-all the acting is hammy, the dialogue ridiculous and stereotypes abound. The film may have been tolerable if there had been Asians at least playing the Asian characters as the yellow-face just makes the film worse than it probably is.

By the way just a note to all Foxtel subscribers that everyone gets the movie channels free for the next two weeks. I saw The Good Earth on TCM.


Coraline

Directed by Henry Selick
Produced by Claire Jennings
Written by Henry Selick (Screenplay)
Neil Gaiman (Novel)
Starring Dakota Fanning
Teri Hatcher
Jennifer Saunders
Dawn French
Keith David
John Hodgman
Robert Bailey Jr.
Ian McShane
Music by Bruno Coulais & They Might Be Giants
Cinematography Pete Kozachik
Editing by Christopher Murrie
Studio Laika
Distributed by Focus Features & Universal Pictures International
Release date February 6, 2009
Running time 100 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I love stop motion animation. I think that it is fascinating to think that the animators are able to painstakingly pose and film lifeless puppets so that on film the look like they are real living things. It is really quite amazing and I think that I appreciate this form of animation even more than the traditional ink and cell form that was the dominant form of animation until a decade ago. (I hope that all makes sense!) 2009 saw a bit of a renaissance for stop motion animation with both Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and this movie, Coraline, being nominated for the Academy Award for best animated film. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see Mr. Fox, but I have seen Coraline and think that it is very good.

The film is at times a little dark and really young kids may find it a little scary. I suppose that this perhaps to be expected as it is directed by Henry Selick, who previously directed Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and James And The Giant Peach for Disney and is based on a book by Neil Gaiman.

The plot involves Coraline, whose parents are too wrapped up in their own lives to take much notice of her. They’ve just moved to a new house where Coraline discovers a secret door to an alternate reality and her other family. This new family are just like her own but perfect, except for their button eyes. They cater to Coralline’s every whim, especially her Other Mother but things start change after Coraline wishes that she could stay with her other family forever. Upon hearing this the Other Mother states that if Coraline really wants to stay she should become just like them and allow her to sew buttons onto Coraline’s eyes. Naturally the thought of this revolts Coraline who then discovers that the Other Mother is really a monster.

The film is particularly creepy in parts, especially the character of the ‘other Wybie’, the other world’s doppelgänger of Coralline’s friend. Unlike the real Wybie the other one has had his lips sewn together so that he doesn’t speak. It is in my mind really amazing how this lifeless puppet can express so much emotion without speaking a single word. He does look as though his soul has been tortured whenever he’s on screen and expresses such a great mix of defiance and defeat that it is a great credit to the director and the puppet makers. It is here that it is easy to forget that this is a stop motion film and has not created using computer generated graphics. I can only imagine how painstaking the film-making process must have been to make the film this good.

There is but one criticism that I can level at the film and that is that the animation is not as smooth in some places as it should be. In a few scenes, mostly at the beginning of the film, the animation looks a little jerky, as if there are additional frames added to the film. I guess this was done to enhance the 3D version of the film but as I was watching the 2D version it just made the film a little jerky in places.

The DVD contains both the 2D and 3D version of the film and comes with those funky red/blue glasses that people in the 1950s used to use when watching 3D films, not the more modern Roy Orbison glasses that are used today. I still think that 3D is a gimmick and will die out unless some poindexter can invent a way to watch these films without the silly, uncomfortable glasses. It also doesn’t help when today’s cutting edge 3D filmmakers use cheap tricks like having objects fly at the camera for no reason at all  just because it is a 3D film. This sort of gimmick becomes boring after a while and is not so cutting edge, as the same thing used to be done in the 50s (House Of Wax’s scene with the spruiker batting the ball at the camera!!!). Anyway the rumour is that 3D is just a fad designed to get cinemas to update their projection equipment to digital and that in a few years it will go the same way as the first 3D era in the 1950s. I still laugh at the thought of people buying 3D TVs and hearing Gerry Harvey say that they are the way of the future. Sorry but I cannot really see people sitting around watching the TV with those ridiculous glasses on. 3D TVs will be just like those internet refrigerators that people like Gerry Harvey were predicting that we’d all have a decade ago.

After that rant all I can say is that  Coraline is a very good film and was worthy of its Academy Award nomination. It is a little scary in parts but it is very well made and enjoyable.


Foreign Correspondent

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Walter Wanger
Written by Memoir: Vincent Sheean
Screenplay: Charles Bennett & Joan Harrison
Dialogue: Robert Benchley & James Hilton
Uncredited: Harold Clurman, Ben Hecht,
John Howard Lawson, John Lee Mahin,
Richard Maibaum &Budd Schulberg
Starring: Joel McCrea
Laraine Day
Herbert Marshall
George Sanders
Albert Basserman
Robert Benchley
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Rudolph Maté
Editing by Dorothy Spencer
Distributed by United Artists
Release date 16 August 1940 (US)
11 October (UK)
Running time 120 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Foreign Correspondent is another of those lesser known Hitchcock films. It was released in 1940 and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, but it has since been overshadowed by Hitch’s other film from 1940, Rebecca.

This is a brilliant spy thriller set in Europe just prior to the start of WWII. There is lots of rollicking action and intrigue and a few of Hitchcock’s set pieces that are excellent examples of film making. The scene where Van Meer is shot in the face is brilliant, as is the scenes involving the windmills and the plane crash at the films finale. However the most disarming thing about Foreign Correspondent are the scenes in which Edmund Gwenn, who in years to come would play Santa Claus in Miracle On 34th Street, playing a hired killer trying to murder Joel McCrea’s heroic Huntley Haverstock. It’s a great action movie, well worth watching.