Tuxedo

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1953)

Onwards I plod towards the completion of this blog series on the Universal Classic Horror films, started in 2008. This third "Abbot and Costello meet the monsters" installment is perhaps the most simple, primitive installment so far--and also I think it is my favorite.

Compared to MEET FRANKESTEIN (1948) and MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN (1951), the supporting characters are cardboard cutouts. There is a square-jawed newspaperman hero who falls immediately in love with the pretty ingenue, with little definition to either character and even less shared chemistry. You can tell the impetus for their relationship comes from reading about it on the script pages. Yet it is precisely the social and relationship "comedy" surrounding the supporting cast which I find so insufferable in the earlier films; I cannot be reconciled to the paternalism and classism passed off as humorousness, falling inevitably flat as a board. This movie has a different project. Collapse )
Tuxedo

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN (1951)

Ten years! It's been 10 years almost to the day since the last entry in my Universal Classic Horror blog series. According to a list, available then but now gone from Wikipedia, there are 51 films in the classic Universal Horror film series, starting with THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1921) and ending with THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956). I watched and reviewed 36 of those films between 2008-2011, when LiveJournal was still a thing.

Then I ran out of gas! The quality of the films slumped starting in the early 1940s, when the storied franchise became a shared universe of crossover pictures made ever more quickly and cheaply. The studio was sold. Production values deteriorated. And in 1948, Abbott and Costello took over the franchise to make four comedy/horror hits, running slapstick routines literally over Bela Lugosi's coffin (at least in the first one). In 2011, these movies were hard to cheaply source, and after watching one, I decided I was done. Collapse )
Tuxedo

Oscar Picks 2019

The telecast starts at 6 PST. I have now seen 16 of the nominated films (51%) including all eight best picture nominees, accounting for 71% of the nominations (not counting short films, documentaries, or foreign films unless they are nominated in other categories, as four of them are). Here are my thoughts:

Best Picture
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice


This is a hard field to grapple with. I will be happy if the winner comes from one of these three: ROMA, BLACK PANTHER, or THE FAVOURITE. Collapse )
Tuxedo

Oscar films by number of nominations

This is a list of films nominated for Oscar by number of nominations. When I make these lists, I omit films nominated in the categories of Live Action Short, Animated Short Film, Best Documentary Feature, Documentary Short, and Foreign Language Film unless the films are also nominated in a another (non-omitted) category. Of which there are three this year! Cold War is nominated for Foreign Language Film and also for Directing and Cinematography. Never Look Away is nominated for Foreign Language Film and also for Cinematography. Roma is nominated for Foreign Language Film and also in nine other categories, including Best Picture(!). RBG is nominated for Best Documentary Feature, and also for Original Song.

The eight most-nominated films are also the eight Best Picture nominees. Of these 31 films, I have seen 14 (45%), accounting for 58 of the 100 nominations (58%). I can raise the nomination percentage significantly by just seeing Roma with its 10 nominations.

Ten Nominations
Roma
The Favourite Collapse )
Tuxedo

Oscar Nominees 2019

Here are the nominations for the Oscars tomorrow. So far, I've seen 14 films, including 7 of 8 of the Best Picture nominees.

Best Picture
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice Collapse )
Tuxedo

GREEN BOOK (2018)

I just saw GREEN BOOK, which was a lot more entertaining than I expected. Hell of an entertaining picture. I'm very impressed by Viggo Mortensen (especially, since it's a star turn for him, but also Mahershala Ali). But... it's also a parable about how white racists are not so bad, they're also cuddly and misunderstood and capable of learning (at least if they're from the North), and maybe also saviors at the same time. There is a place for this kind of story. I like To Kill a Mockingbird. But--is this the time for it? What if the film had invested equally in Mahershala's character? I feel like this is a film for centrist to center-left white people that is more directed at making them laugh and feel good about themselves than about confronting overt and implicit racism, although it does confront both of these, and has the potential to do good by doing so. Maybe cuddly Viggo the brawler (and eater!) is the sugar pill that will help some white folks take their medicine and get more woke. I'm just personally tired of media that is captured by the white gaze.
Tuxedo

Oscar Nominations

I am getting on the ball for my annual push to see as many films nominated for Academy Awards as possible before the broadcast. The nominations were announced over two weeks ago on Tuesday, January 23. The ceremony is in four weeks on Sunday, March 4. Jimmy Kimmel hosts.

Many have commented on the diversity of this years' nominations: 4 out of 20 acting nominees and 2 of 5 directing nominees are people of color. One directing nominee and one cinematography nominee are female; that sounds pretty bad, but Rachel Morrison (MUDBOUND) is the first woman ever nominated in the cinematography category, so that counts as progress. Nominated films with visibly diverse casts include GET OUT (4 noms), MUDBOUND (4 noms), COCO (2 noms.), VICTORIA & ABDUL (2 noms.), and ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. (1 nom.). THE SHAPE OF WATER may be metaphorically about race, but the core relationship is between a white woman who is mute and a manfish.

On casual perusal, the biggest winning threat looks like THE SHAPE OF WATER, which not only has the most nominations at 13, but is strong across both technical and performance categories, with 3 nominations for acting and nominations for writing, directing, and cinematography as well as best picture.

Female driven productions are notably scarce on the list. Usually there are several propping up the lead and supporting actress categories, even if they don't get much love in other categories. LADY BIRD and I, TONYA may be the only films primarily about women. Frances McDormand has a powerful lead performance in THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, but the movie is otherwise full of men, which is probably also true of Meryl Streep's part in THE POST and Judi Dench's in VICTORIA & ABDUL (although I haven't seen them). Of the rest, at least STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI has good gender balance. It's hard not to look at this list and think that Hollywood is still a man's business. #timesup

Focusing on feature-length films outside the documentary and foreign language categories, I'm surprised how many nominations were garnered by films shut out of the 9-film Best Picture category. BLADE RUNNER 2047 has 5, MUDBOUND and STAR WARS have 4, and both BABY DRIVER and I, TONYA have three. It's not a writer's year: 4 of the 10 films nominated for best screenplays (original or adapted) have no other nominations: THE BIG SICK, MOLLY'S GAME, THE DISASTER ARTIST, and LOGAN (of all films). The following best picture nominees are not nominated for their screenplays: DARKEST HOUR, DUNKIRK, PHANTOM THREAD, and THE POST.

Here are the nominees in these categories sorted by number of nominations, with a * to indicate a best picture nomination, and a + if I've seen it: Collapse )

What am I most looking forward to seeing? ALL OF THEM.
Tuxedo

Oscar Day! -- Picks

It's time to make picks! I love writing this post every year, as fast as I can (I'm usually running out of time because I watched one of the movies in the morning, like 12 YEARS A SLAVE which turned all my choices upside down in 2014). This time I've seen only 15 of the 38 films nominated outside the short, foreign, and documentary film categories, which is about nine films under par. I have, however, seen all nine Best Picture nominees. The films I've seen account for 68% of the nominations (67 of 98).

Best Picture
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Oh yeah, let's get right to it. Collapse )
Tuxedo

LA LA LAND (2016)

This review contains SPOILERS.

I was led to believe that LA LA LAND would be frothy, happy, self-indulgent, and life-affirming--a celebration of classic musicals, "the industry," falling in love, and being young and creative in Los Angeles.

I guess it's a few of these things? But that wasn't my experience. Of all the musicals which writer/director Damien Chazelle wants to celebrate in this opus, this flawed masterpiece, the one it keeps calling to mind is Martin Scorsese's NEW YORK, NEW YORK (1977). If you haven't seen it, this dour story of a downtrodden aspiring jazz musician and his relationship with a pop signer who dreams of stardom, filmed with mostly improvised dialogue, features Robert De Niro, Liza Minelli, and Scorsese's musical tribute to creative frustration, alcoholism, domestic violence, and darkness. It's no picnic to sit through. It's one of Scorsese's only three films to not receive a single Oscar nomination--not even for Original Song.[*] Yes, that song. Collapse )
Tuxedo

Oscar Nominees - 2017

The Oscars are on February 26, and the nominations were announced January 24. Here I am just getting organized to see all the films! Busy work season, etc. The nominations were spread around quite thinly this year. The nine Best Picture nominees are also the nine most-nominated films, ranging from 14 nominations (LA LA LAND) to three (HIDDEN FIGURES). Only one other film has three nominations (JACKIE), and only eight films have two. Disregarding the short subject, documentary, and foreign film categories, as like a Philistine I do, there are 38 films nominated, the most in the five years I have been tracking nominations by spreadsheet. In 2013 the nominations were more concentrated, with only 29 films receiving at least one nomination. As of this writing, I have seen 9 of the 38, including 3 of 9 Best Picture nominees (ARRIVAL, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, FENCES). My early advice? Don't miss MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. I also endorse DOCTOR STRANGE.

I made this observation on Facebook on January 24th: Collapse )