31 Days of Oscar: Costuming BARRY LYNDON (1975) by Jack Deth

by Jack Deth

Greetings, all and sundry!

It’s my great pleasure to accept Paula’s gracious invitation to add a different perspective to the current Oscar Blog~A~Thon and its many unique facets.

Opting for the less-discussed, though aesthetically important variant that today has been given criminally short shrift amongst the plethora of romantic comedies. Where a logo T-shirt, jeans, sandals or sneakers will suffice for the guy, while skinny jeans, a midriff top and heels works for the girl.

For this dissertation, I want to go back to the familiar stomping grounds of the 1970s and a little-known novel replete in the history of its time. The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray was adapted by that master of detailed storytelling, Stanley Kubrick, who devoted 300 days in 1973 and ’74 to splendid on-location cinematography around the estates, castles, valleys and marshes of Ireland, creating a lavish, occasionally luscious feast for the eyes.

A film about unadulterated social climbing within the strict confines of 18th-century English morals, mores and etiquette, where words, or lack of them, contain great destructive or constructive power. Enhanced and highlighted by meticulously detailed and constructed costumes.

To that end, allow me to introduce a perfect cure for a bout of the flu, or dreary rainy or snowy days, when the weather outside is far more miserable than you wish it to be, and you are in need of an opulent distraction: Barry Lyndon (1975).

Barry Lyndon-4Barry Lyndon begins with ne’er do well, Redmond Barry (quietly adequate Ryan O’Neal) trying to improve his lot in life after the death of his father in a duel, leaving Barry and his mother to scheme amongst monied families. Falling in love, being rejected and getting revenge, before running off to Ireland.


Joining the British Army to survive the French at the Battle of Minden. Before deserting and trying his luck at the gaming tables. In search of a sponsor or a titled friend.

Barry’s a very busy boy and finds himself in the employ of a minor spymaster and gambler (Hardy Kruger). Forming an alliance at the gaming tables and shady dealing with new, well-off friends and acquaintances. Working their way across Europe to placate Barry’s desire to make money the old fashioned way. Marrying it!

Barry Lyndon-2The apple of Barry’s eye is the beautiful, willowy, wealthy and widowed, Countess of Lyndon. Outwardly delicate and sedately seductive Marisa Berensen, whose gaze, occasional glare and silence carries more weight than pages of written dialogue!

She is seemingly wedded to intricate gowns constructed of rigid whispering taffeta and flattering loose silk, and even more elegant hats. Gliding about parquet floor sally ports or the polished woods of grand halls, posture perfect and temperament mild as she and Barry are wed. With her young son, Lord Bullington (Dominic Savage as an infant and child; Leon Vitale, later in life), who sees Barry for what he is and despises him. Even more so as a baby step brother, Bryan Patrick is added to the equation, upon whom Barry ridiculously and lavishly dotes.

Barry Lyndon-3I won’t go into heavy detail, but Barry does what he does. Going through paramours and the Countess’ wealth with carefree and sloppy abandon, as Lord Bullington’s anger grows. Intrigues about inheritances arise, and Barry’s mother (Marie Kean) tries to take over, bringing about a duel and ending that may seem sad, but is ironically well deserved.

Overall Consensus

Barry Lyndon-1With a slow moving, yet intricate morality play of this size, acting, is of course essential to sell the story. Yet it is costuming that seems to rise above and take center stage in cementing time and place. In a film that is essentially an opulent, lush and moody oil painting brought to life.

We’ve all heard of Mr. Kubrick’s insistence in designing camera lenses for shooting in available candle and sunlight. Also the exactly of its time Schubert-heavy piece that comprise its soundtrack. The costumers are the unsung heroines and heroes are never seen in front of the camera, but their meticulous hard work and attention to design and detail adorns the film and makes things whole.

Huge kudos to 1976 Best Costume Design Oscar winners Milena Cannonero and Ulla-Britt Sonderlund, aided by Norman and Yvonne Dahms, Gloria Barnes, and Jack Edwards, for their vision in regaling Ms. Berensen in soft tones and period pastels, while making British Redcoats even more bold and empowered on the field of battle. And to Colin and Frances Wilson, for creating minor miracles with elegant head wear.

Note: This film is available for viewing on You Tube.

Call for posts – 31 Days of Oscar

I accept this very gratefully for keeping my mouth shut for once, I think I’ll do it again.
—Jane Wyman

There’s been a lot of criticism over the years over this award, and some of that criticism has been warranted. But whether it’s warranted or not, I think it’s one hell of an honor, and I thank you.
—Jack Lemmon

I’ll tell you this about the Oscars – they’re real.
—William H. Macy

And so is this blogathon!

Temple and Colbert banner  flat

For the second year in a row Kellee (@IrishJayHawk66) of Outspoken and Freckled, Paula (@Paula_Guthat) of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen bring you a mammoth blogathon event which just happens to coincide with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar.

This promises to be another February filled with fabulous tales and screen wonders – many of the stories, players and films featured on TCM all month long. In fact, the network is kicking things off this year in spectacular style on February 1st by featuring all of the Best Picture nominees from Hollywood’s “Golden Year” 1939, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary! In addition, that night, TCM premieres a new original documentary, And the Oscar Goes To….

So, in short, if you can’t take the entire month of February off work, or send your kids to your relatives, then be sure to clear your DVRs, and join the blogathon.

We are not limiting this event to classic film fare though — posts on more recent Oscar-winning or Oscar-worthy filmmaking are very welcome. We want to see and hear it all from the golden man’s more than eighty-five year history, including the 2014 nominees. Share stories about the films and players, tell us which and who deserved the nod and were ignored, or rhapsodize about which films inspire you with their music or lighting.

We are doing things a little different this year by focusing on a different Oscars topic each week.
For your consideration:

WEEK 1 – the weekend of February 1-2 – Oscar Snubs!  Let the venting kick things off!

WEEK 2 – the weekend of February 8-9 – Music, Costumes, Cinematography, Writing, etc.  You name it. If it’s not Best Acting, Direction, or Picture, it’s in!

WEEK 3 – the weekend of February 15-16 – Actors!  Lead or supporting, take center stage.

Week 4 – the weekend of February 22-23 – The Directors!  

Week 5 – the weekend of February 28-March 1 – THE MOVIES!  

We are taking turns hosting, but you can submit topics by leaving comments on any of our blogs, via twitter, or by email.  We ask that you please include the following:

  • Title and link to your blog
  • Your email address (use [at] instead of @ if leaving a blog comment)
  • Topic

It would also be great if you can include any of the event banners included above or below in this post on your blog to help us promote the event.

SO – write to your heart’s desire!  Write one post or several on each topic.  But write!  And join us, won’t you? Hollywood’s big night is only once a year.

Sinatra and Reed Oscar banner flat

Poitier Oscar banner flat

Leigh Oscar banner flat

Fontaine Oscar banner flat

Hepburn Oscar banner

What A Character! Bruce Dern: The Guy You Love To Hate

by Kerry Fristoe

Marnie sees red and panics. As she struggles to remember the events of a long-repressed night from her childhood, we see Marnie as a child awakened from a deep sleep and sent to the sofa while her mother uses the bed for ‘business.’ A storm rages outside and thunder frightens the sleeping child. Mom’s client, a sailor, tries to comfort Marnie but the child resists him. She wants her mommy who enters and pushes the man away from her girl. A fight breaks out and Mom falls, hurting herself.  In an attempt to help her mother, Marnie grabs a poker from the fireplace and beats Bruce Dern to death. Marnie (1964)
Image
Dressed in a tuxedo for a society party, Bruce Dern waits in a solarium for a tryst with his beloved, Bette Davis. The meeting doesn’t go as planned. Seconds later we see his face full of fear as an axe wielded by a mysterious stranger descends and his head rolls across the floor.  Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
Image

Dying violently after very brief screen time may seem like an inauspicious start to a film career, but it added to the CV of a prolific actor who has played killers, scumbags, and downright nasty guys. Bruce Dern started in television in the 1950s and continues to work today.  To be fair, he has also played some non-psychopathic roles though Dern, as a rule, is known for playing heavies. Tall and lanky, with a toothy grin that can go from friendly to malevolent in an instant, Dern plays nasty like no one else. In the western Hang ‘Em High (1968), his murderer/cattle rustler taunts Clint Eastwood and jumps him when he’s not looking.

In Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels (1966), he and fellow Hell’s Angel Peter Fonda, clad in swastikas and other Nazi insignia, threaten veteran Dick Miller with a pair of pliers. In his most infamous role, Long Hair in The Cowboys, Bruce Dern shoots John Wayne in the back, killing him.  When they discussed that scene John Wayne told Dern, “America will hate you for this.” Dern replied, “Yeah, but they’ll love me in Berkeley.”
Image
His counter-culture reputation was cemented after a series of films he did with Roger Corman and others during the 1960s. He even strayed from his nasty persona in a few. In The Trip (1967), Dern plays a benevolent soul guiding Peter Fonda through his first acid trip.  His calm, thoughtful demeanor and compassionate tone are a far cry from the snarling villain he usually played. I watched The Trip recently and listened to director Roger Corman’s audio commentary on the film. He said of all the cast members, including Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, Bruce Dern was the only one who never touched drugs.  A marathon runner who almost qualified for the Olympics, Dern lived a healthy life. During one scene in which partiers pass a joint, Dern is the only one not smoking.
Image
Jack Nicholson, a close friend, said Dern was one of the best of a breed of actors coming into his own in the 1970s. Films like The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), Silent Running (1972), The Great Gatsby (1974), and The Driver (1978) allowed Dern to show his range.  In Marvin Gardens as the ne’er-do-well with a dozen get-rich-quick schemes, Dern is all charisma and charm, and you get caught up in his enthusiasm even when you sense his plans will never come to fruition.  In Silent Running, as astronaut Freeman Lowell, Dern gives a nuanced performance. You know his actions are wrong, but his motives and the way he relates to little Huey, Dewey, and Louie charm you into rooting for him. As Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, Dern’s callous aristocrat uses people and tosses them aside without a thought. I cannot think of the book or film without picturing Bruce Dern in that role. The spare The Driver lets Dern show his malevolent side again when, as The Detective, he orchestrates a robbery to frame Ryan O’Neal’s getaway driver and seems unaffected by the violence left in its wake.
Image
It might surprise you to learn that Bruce Dern’s background is closer to the patrician Tom Buchanan (The Great Gatsby 1974) than the scuzzy gang member Loser (The Wild Angels 1966). Bruce MacLeish Dern, born in Winnetka, Illinois, in 1936, went to the prestigious New Trier High School in Illinois before attending the University of Pennsylvania. He left Penn after a couple years for The Actors’ Studio and a career in acting. Dern’s grandfather served as Governor of Utah and Roosevelt’s Secretary of War. His other grandfather established the department store Carson, Pirie Scott & Co., and the poet Archibald MacLeish is a maternal relation. His godparents were Adlai Stevenson and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Throughout his career, Dern has done scores of television shows including Route 66, Thriller, The Outer Limits, The Kraft Suspense Theatre, Branded, Bonanza, Big Valley, Rawhide, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Fugitive, The FBI, and recent appearances on Big Love and CSI:NY. He even hosted his own series from 1996-2001 called The Lost Drive-In, during which he sat in a vintage car and talked about drive-in movies, old cars, and that era in general, then showed a film which might have played in one. It was a fun show and Dern came off as well-versed and natural. I was sorry to see it end.
Image
With a career spanning almost 60 years, 145 films, and countless televsion appearances, Bruce Dern remains a working actor.  He, his daughter Laura Dern, and ex-wife Diane Ladd received their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010 and IMDB lists 5 or 6 projects in production for this versatile actor.  In May of 2013, Bruce Dern won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his role in Nebraska, which plays in theatres in November of 2013.  I can’t wait to see it!
Image
Kerry Fristoe is on Twitter and writes reviews about an array of eclectic movies at screamingargonauts.com. She lives in Massachusetts with her pretty cool teenager and sweet puppy. 

What A Character! 2013 Update

In just about a month’s time, we’ll be singing the praises of those amazing actors and actresses who appear in the periphery of our beloved classic films and yet have made indelible marks on our memories. For the second year in a row, we’re putting them front and center. Hosted by Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66) of Outspoken & Freckled, me (@Paula_Guthat) of this-here blog, and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen…it’s the WHAT A CHARACTER! blogathon 2013!

  • Can you count how many scenes Walter Brennan stole from the likes of Duke Wayne or Humphrey Bogart?
  • Or the number stolen by Beulah Bondi as she portrayed lovable, meddling moms?
  • Would Gone with the Wind be as memorable without the talents of Hattie McDaniel or Harry Davenport?

To those and the many others whose work we admire we dedicate WHAT A CHARACTER!

WAC-banner-2013-green

If you’re interested in participating, and we certainly hope you are, please adhere to the following:

  • Let one of the hosts know which character actor is your choice via email [mine is paula.guthat[at]gmail.com], contact form [at the end of this post] or blog comment [below].
  • Although we’re inclined to limit these to those considered “traditional” classic actors – or before 1970 just to choose a point of reference – if you have an actor in mind after that time, that’s fine. (My contemporary pick? Stanley Tucci.)
  • Please include your twitter or FB tag, email address and blog name & URL.
  • If you do not have a blog, one will be provided for you. By that I mean, I will gladly publish your post for you. Leave me a comment or send me an email.
  • Publish the post for either November 9, 10 or 11. Let us know if you have a date preference, otherwise we’ll split publicizing duties equally among the three days.
  • Please post one of the blogathon graphics on your blog to help us publicize the event.
  • Include the graphic and link to one of the host sites in your WHAT A CHARACTER! post.
  • If possible, please send any of the hosts the direct link to your WHAT A CHARACTER! post by the day before your due date. Otherwise we’ll link to your site’s home page.

WAC-banner-2013-rust

There are many great characters worthy of attention. Won’t you join these stalwart bloggers in honoring these familiar favorites? (Don’t worry if your pick has already been chosen, you can still write about her/him.) List in alpha order according to subject’s first name.

Kay Movie Star Makeover Agnes Moorehead
Kerry Hosted on Paula’s Cinema Club Bruce Dern
Barry Cinematic Catharsis Dick Miller
The “semi” Daily Maine Edna May Oliver
Aubyn The Girl with the White Parasol Edward Arnold
Kristen Sales on Film Elisha Cook, Jr.
Jenni Portraits by Jenni Eric Blore
Ruth Silver Screenings Ernest Borgnine in Marty
Paula Paula’s Cinema Club Eugene Pallette
Christy Christy’s Inkwells Florence Bates
Paula Paula’s Cinema Club Frank McHugh
Marlee Picture Spoilers Gail Patrick
Cindy Bruchman Cindy Bruchman George Sanders
Le Critica Retro Hank Worden
Aurora Once Upon a Screen Harry Davenport
Kellee Outspoken & Freckled Hattie McDaniel
Cliff Immortal Ephemera Hugh Herbert
Kristina Speakeasy Irving Bacon
Pam on Once Upon a Screen Jane Darwell
Monstergirl The Last Drive-In Jeanette Nolan
Maegan Hosted on Once Upon a Screen Jesse Royce Landis
Della Street The 5 AM Show Jessie Ralph
Bogart Fan Bogie Film Blog Joe Sawyer
Moira The Skeins John Hoyt
Patricia Caftan Woman Joyce Grenfell
I Love Terrible Movies Mary MacLaren
Jessica Comet Over Hollywood Nat Pendleton
Moira The Skeins Pert Kelton
Matt TVs Fault Peter Lorre
Stacia She Blogged by Night Regis Toomey
Annmarie Classic Movie Hub Roscoe Karns
Terry A Shroud of Thoughts Sheldon Leonard
Dorian Tales of the Easily Distracted Sam Levene
Paula Paula’s Cinema Club Stanley Tucci
Jill Sittin’ On a Backyard Fence Sterling Holloway
Chris Family Friendly Reviews Thelma Ritter
Joel Joel’s Classic Film Passion Thomas Mitchell
Furious Cinema Timothy Carey
FlickChick Tony Randall
Fritzi Movies, Silently Tully Marshall
Kaci Hepburnia Una Merkel
John The Droid You’re Looking For TBD
Diana & Constance Silver Scenes TBD
Rich Wide Screen World TBD

HAVE FUN and thank you for spreading the word! HAPPY BLOGGING!

Watching movies with Aunt Mary

Anybody who has either read this blog for a while or attended a TCM Party knows that I have been watching old movies since I was a young child.

During the summer when my mom was working, I would be at my grandparents’ house, watching the local afternoon movie showcase, Bill Kennedy At The Movies, hosted by the titular raconteur/retired actor. For those who grew up outside of the metro Detroit area and/or were born after 1986 or so, picture a slightly-unkempt, more rambling, hammier Dean Martin. At least that’s how it seemed at the time.

Slinging both fascinating anecdotes — particularly about the films in which he’d had a role — and barbs that mostly went over my head, Kennedy owned those hours after noon and before the 6 o’clock news. He showed pretty much anything old. The Best Years of Our Lives is one that I particularly remember. I can remember just bawling during it, without even really knowing why.

In those days, respectable Italian girls lived with their parents or their husbands, certainly not by themselves or with other girls. Not in my mother’s family. Thus if I was allowed to stay for the evening, I got to see my mother’s oldest sister, Mary Rose Romano, when she arrived home from work. Born the same day as Elizabeth Taylor, February 27, 1932, Aunt Mary seemed just as glamorous and self-possessed. Unlike my parents, she worked in a bank downtown, and wore suits to the office; also scarves, cute shoes, and amazing jewelry. (Also unlike my parents, she liked to take me shopping for clothes.) Though (I now know) she was probably really tired, we’d always talk about whatever I’d watched, because she knew all about Old Hollywood — the movies, how they were made, the actors and actresses. No one has had more of an influence on my film taste than Aunt Mary.

Me and my aunt, c. 1977

I believe her favorite movie was Gone With The Wind. Back in the day, before cable, really the only way to see it in one piece was on network TV in the evening. Even broken up with ads, it was powerful stuff. She told me all about the burning of Atlanta being filmed first, Clark Gable’s dentures, the long process of casting Scarlett, and how Leslie Howard was a spy and died in The War. This was the first time I was conscious of a film being a purposeful creation, the result of a collaborative effort by many people. Since then, I’ve learned more about the time period portrayed in the film, and I have a fair amount of ambivalence about it, but to this day, if I’m home, I can’t pass it up.

Fast forward 20 years or so. My mother died of cancer in 2002, and afterwards my husband and I began to visit my aunt (now in her 70s) and my grandmother (in her late 80s) every Sunday. The routine almost never varied: lunch at around noon, then movies on TCM until 4 or 5 p.m., accompanied by their inevitable dialogue, which I affectionately call “Who’s Dead?”

— “Jesus, everyone in this movie is dead.”
— “Yeah, there’s so-and-so. He’s dead.”
— “There’s so-and-so. She’s been dead forever.”

I think it may be an Italian thing.

These Sunday afternoons were when I realized how much I had absorbed from her as a kid. She loved the classics and had great respect for both their craft and their magic, but at the same time, she could be irreverent. In other words, she would have fit right in at a TCM Party. Among these random recollections, imagine the quotes from Mary are tweets and you’ll get the picture (may contain spoilers):

  • Psycho: “That sound [the stabbing in the shower] is somebody knifing a melon. Nobody could believe Janet Leigh got killed off. It just didn’t happen. That Hitchcock was a weirdo.”
  • Now, Voyager: We watched this together so many times that it’s almost painful to watch now. My aunt looked a bit like Miss Davis, and had her crisp enunciation, and I always got the impression from her comments that she could relate to Charlotte Vale, but I can’t know for sure.
  • Any Joan Crawford movie: “Watch out…she packs a wallop.”
  • Any appearance by Adolphe Menjou or Ray Milland: “He’s such a sleaze.”
  • Jeremiah Johnson: Robert Redford was a fave of ours, particularly in The Sting and this downer of a 1970s beard-tastic Western. When the widow freaks out on Jeremiah and forces him to take her son along with him, I remember asking, “What is she going to do? How is she going to get food out there by herself?” Mary shrugged. “She’ll go over to craft services, they’ll find her something.”
  • Victor/Victoria: “Has this guy [James Garner as King Marchand] ever really looked at Julie Andrews?”
  • On The Waterfront: This is the last film we ever watched together, a couple of weeks before Tim and I saw it at the TCM Film Festival with an introduction by Eva Marie Saint. I so wish my aunt could have gone with us. To Terry Malloy [Marlon Brando]: “She’s not interested in you, you dumb lug.” To Edie Doyle [Saint]: “He’s no good. Go back to school and study.”
  • The Pink Panther: [Gales of laughter] “What an idiot. He’s so stupid. He’s so silly.”
  • Sunset Blvd.: Norma Desmond: “They had to have the ears of the whole world too. So they opened their big mouths and out came talk. Talk! TALK!” Aunt Mary: “Thank God. Who wants to read a movie?”
  • Two Mules for Sister Sarah: “She’s a pretty lousy nun.”
Watching "the channel." April 2013
Watching “the channel,” April 2013

My Aunt Mary passed away on September 27, 2013. Our family and everyone who knew her will remember her unqualified generosity, her style, and her sense of humor, but I also have her love of the movies, and because of that, she is still with me.

Reckless Review: UN FLIC

Every year, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) throws a few surprises into their Summer Under The Stars (SUTS) programming. As you may know, SUTS means each day in August is dedicated to the films of a single brilliant star. Along with actors you might expect, such as Humphrey Bogart (Aug. 1) and Bette Davis (Aug. 14), TCM always includes a few surprising choices. For instance, I don’t know of any other cable channel that would run nearly 24 hours of silent films, but that’s exactly what happened on Ramon Novarro‘s day (August 8). If you missed Ben-Hur (1925) starring Novarro and Francis X. Bushman, you really should check it out.

Un-flic-01

The other somewhat unconventional and totally welcome choice in the SUTS mix this year is Catherine Deneuve (Monday, August 12). As I said on Jean Gabin day in 2011…big ups to TCM for running 24 hours of subtitles. (Actually, there is one English-language Deneuve film, The Hunger, showing at 4:15 a.m. on Tuesday, August 13. But still…it’s not something you see every day.)

Of Monday’s films, I highly recommend Un flic (1972). It’s showing at noon on Monday and stars Deneuve, Alain Delon and Richard Crenna, directed by Jean-Pierre Melville.

Un-flic-02

Un flic is French for “a cop;” the film’s American title is less ambiguous: Dirty Money. Delon plays the title role, a brutal, not-so-clean police commissioner, who suspects that his friend, a nightclub owner (Crenna), is behind a series of bank robberies and drug deals. Cathy (Deneuve) is caught between them, sleeping with both and keeping both their secrets. Her model beauty and perfectly coiffed hair belie the anxiety in her nervous gestures and darting eyes. It’s a small part but a memorable one.

Un-flic-03

Melville is one of my favorite directors, he does crime pictures as well as anyone. His newsreel-style, on-location filmmaking was influential on Jean-Luc Godard (whose use of jump cuts was inspired by Melville). This was Melville’s last film, and like my favorite Le samouraï, Un flic may as well have been shot in the black and white of a film noir…cold desaturated colors, dark rooms, inky shadows. Thematically it’s as melancholy as any noir, and the line between the lawman and the criminal is as hazy as dusk in the Paris of Melville’s creation…this isn’t Woody Allen’s City of Lights. Part of it is unbelievable (you’ll know it when you see it), and I’m pretty sure Crenna was dubbed, but these are minor details in a suspenseful and enjoyable neo-noir.

UPDATE: No worries if you missed this on Deneuve day and you have Netflix. I searched the site on the off chance they would have Un flic on DVD, and lo and behold, not only do they have it, it’s also streaming. C’est super!

Presenting Week 3 of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon

The winners, the losers, the snubs, the backstories, the gossip, the players and the games… it’s all about Oscar!

31-Days-450x300The 31 Days of Oscar blogathon, hosted by myself, Aurora of Once Upon A Screen, and Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled, continues. We’ve had two great weeks of submissions covering a wide variety of films from the silent era to this year’s nominees. So if you need more Oscar, you can also check out Week 1 and Week 2.

And now…these are the brilliant Week 3 posts, listed with Twitter handles (where available) so we can all find each other and converse.

Check out my completely random, probably totally wrong 2013 Oscar predictions, including a mini-review of Zero Dark Thirty.

“Glorious to look at, enchanting to listen to – a romance to remember…” My co-host Aurora (@CitizenScreen) reviews Midnight in Paris at Citizen Screenings.

Michael (@le0pard13) from It Rains… You Get Wet was a projectionist for a while, which I think eminently qualifies him to revise Oscar snubs from the 1970s and then make 1980s Oscar wrongs right as well.

Rich (@ratzo318) of Wide Screen World loves a good song and dance…for instance, octuple Oscar winner Cabaret.

The Nitrate Diva (@NitrateDiva) explores the connections between “spiritual sisters” and Oscar cinematography winners Black Narcissus and Apocalypse Now.

The Focused Filmographer (T, aka @FilmsWith_T) spotlights two criminally overlooked Oscar-worthy performances from 2012, one in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the other in Les Misérables.

Paul (@LassoTheMovies) from Lasso The Movies discusses the similarities between 1940’s and 2012’s Oscar nominees, particularly the diversity of genres.

Pete (@FuriousCinema) from Furious Cinema reviews The Master, “another masterwork from visionary filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson.”

The Gal Herself discusses “the first time Mr. Lincoln was in the house,” 1940 Best Actor race at One Gal’s Musings.

Angela (@MaterialGirl850) of The Hollywood Revue analyzes and assesses “Oscar’s Most Awkward Year,” 1928-1929.

Murtaza (@apotofvestiges) reviews The Master, “a multifaceted work of cinema that can be enjoyed at so many levels,” at A Potpourri of Vestiges.

Dawn at Noir and Chick Flicks explores why Blood and Sand (1941) won Best Cinematography.

Dan (@PGCooper) from PG Cooper’s Movie Reviews takes a look at 12 classic films that, despite being worthy of Best Picture and Best Director nods, received none at all.

Lê (@startspreading) at Crítica Retrô gives her take on Oscar and the surprising 1950s.

Joel (@joelrwilliams1) of Joel’s Classic Film Passion appraises three Oscar-winning or -nominated foreign films from the 1980s.

R.A. (@925screenings) at Silver Screenings briefs us on why Miriam Hopkins was perfect for the role of Becky Sharp.

Karen (@TheDarkPages) highlights 10 Oscar-Less Dames Their Oscar-Worthy Roles at Shadows and Satin.

Kimberly (@glamamor) at GlamAmor surveys Audrey Hepburn’s amazing, and non-nominated, wardrobe in Two for the Road.

Marlee (@MarleeWalters) of Spoilers bestows the First Annual Muse Awards to Ida Lupino, Gene Tierney, and Gloria Grahame.

31 Days of Oscar: 1973 – A Very Good Year

By Jack Deth

Greetings, all and sundry! When an opportunity arises to indulge in a favorite pasttime. Wax nostalgic about the ins and outs and nuts and bolts of a specific time in cinematic history. Its awards and rewards. You graciously accept and give it your best effort. To that end, I would like to thank Paula for chance to shine some light on…

1973: A Very Good Year in Film

A year that created a lot of controversy as the war in Vietnam was finally winding down and the palette of tastes continued to swell and expand, allowing some well-established talent to prove their mettle, while young upstarts were given the chance to make their mark for future generations.

Best Picture 1974, clockwise from top: Winner THE STING; nominees CRIES AND WHISPERS, THE EXORCIST, A TOUCH OF CLASS, and AMERICAN GRAFITTI
Best Picture 1974, clockwise from top: Winner THE STING; nominees CRIES AND WHISPERS, THE EXORCIST, A TOUCH OF CLASS, and AMERICAN GRAFITTI

Ingmar Bergman weighed in with a familial tome, Cries and Whispers. Which would explore the world of sisters as one is bedridden and slowly deteriorating to cancer in late 1800s Stockholm. Wondrously, sometimes rawly, told in flashbacks of earlier times and sibling rivalry, as the sisters coalesce and slowly retreat and pull apart.

While the previous year’s heavy hitter, William Friedkin, exceeded all expectations. Bought the rights to the worldwide best seller, The Exorcist, and re-wrote the limitations of American Horror. In a film that pulls the audience in and takes them on a ride not soon forgotten. And a fledgling director named George Lucas gave his personal take on rites of manhood and cruising the strip on a warm summer night before college in American Graffiti. A cut in the can, near-documentary benchmark film that would launch countless careers.

Not to be outdone, and to prove that he still had it, Melvin Frank put together a trans-continental, high-end romantic comedy, A Touch of Class. That spans Europe and mixes lush backgrounds and scenery as an affair takes root and flourishes. Placed squarely opposite what many would wrongly perceive to be a forgettable medium-length, low-budget ode to changing times and morals from John G. Avildsen, Save The Tiger. Only to have the field rounded out by George Roy Hill and his offering, The Sting. Which had the trademark look and feel of an old Warner Brothers backlot gangster film. Though highly polished and superbly executed on Universal’s backlots. Brought to life by two of the most handsome and proven actors in Hollywood.

A heady brew, indeed. Five contenders, unique in their own ways, vying for the 1974 Best Picture Academy Award. With the shot callers and odds makers outside the Academy close to tossing their arms up in the air. As quality and story cancelled each other out for the most part. Perhaps, and perhaps not, revealing the value of large ad campaigns as ballots were cast. Not exactly a coin toss, but a process of taking in the myriad details and many memorable moments as a decision is made.

I can’t disagree that The Sting deserves the top slot. Hill directs masterfully with a practiced touch around well and often meticulously detailed sets that somehow always seem smaller than they appear. Not exactly cramped, but compact. Drawing attention to the two leads as they move and share space with a stalwart cast of veterans and soon-to-be-recognized talent. In a tale that boasts no weak spots. Moves fluidly and builds to a delightful payoff. Infinitely watchable. And re-watchable, as only a few key scenes are telegraphed ahead of time. And even those have a pleasant twist.

The category of Best Actor is just as difficult. With Marlon Brando, the odds-on favorite for his role as  American expatriate Paul in Last Tango in Paris. Still riding the crest of his role as Don Corleone in The Godfather and being re-introduced to a new generation of audiences. Brando plays an often unlikeable character, a bit too fascinated and fixated on sex. Under the helm of Bernardo Bertolucci. In a film more memorable for its intimate scenes than stunning dialogue.

Followed closely by Jack Nicholson. A soon-to-be household name after his roles in Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces and Carnal Knowledge. It is in The Last Detail that Nicholson is allowed to push already legendary boundaries. Chew occasional scenery in scenes where he loses it. Keeping the faith as a believable career Navy NCO on a job few want, but needs to be done.Up-and-coming Al Pacino delivered a more than solid performance in Serpico. As New York policeman, Frank Serpico. A career-long honest cop who resisted the temptations of payoffs and worse. Becoming a pariah and shifted from precinct to precinct. Making notable cases, busts and arrests across the boroughs. While gathering information on bad cops and being denied a detective’s gold shield.

Staunch and stoic Jack Lemmon’s name on the ballot may have raised cursory eyebrows. An everyman’s actor just coming into his own. And his Harry Stoner in Save the Tiger has those quiet inner qualities writ large. As the head of a company which mass produces fashions seen on the catwalks of Paris, Milan and London. Suddenly stricken with hard times. In a film that would reveal Mr. Lemmon to be one of America’s great untapped dramatic talents. I’ve no doubt those cursory eyebrows were lifted a bit more with the addition of Robert Redford in The Sting. His often too-cautious Johnny Hooker is one of Redford’s best roles opposite Paul Newman. Though not what I would consider to be Oscar quality.

Many might have been surprised with Mr. Lemmon’s Oscar win for Best Actor, though I wasn’t. I knew his performance as mid-life crisis material Harry Stoner was special after just fifteen minutes of sitting in a near-empty matinee. And that the fix would be in as the final credits rolled. Few actors have been able to open up and reveal the heights and depths of their characters as Mr. Lemmon had. And would again in later films.

Best Actress 1974
Best Actress 1974, clockwise from top: Winner Glenda Jackson; nominees Barbara Streisand, Marsha Mason, Ellen Burstyn, and Joanne Woodward

Which made the selection of Best Actress only slightly less difficult. With fresh, aspiring faces mixed amongst veterans who always delivered more than was asked or required. With Joanne Woodward exploring and making her mark in fertile fields usually left for Gena Rowlands in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams. As Rita, a wife on the verge of a nervous breakdown due to empty nest syndrome and wishes that she had married the young man she had a crush on ages ago. One of the first and better “What if?” films of the 1970s. Followed closely by Barbra Streisand’s post-WWII radical chic Katie in The Way We Were tangled up with Navy officer Redford in an “on-again, off-again” relationship under the deft touch of Sydney Pollack.

Offset by Marsha Mason’s hard luck Maggie Paul in Mark Rydell’s Cinderella Liberty. Doing whatever is necessary to her and her ten-year-old mulatto son’s heads above water in the Navy liberty port of Seattle, Washington. While a single mom in Georgetown (Washington DC), Chris MacNeil, played by nearly unknown Ellen Burstyn, copes with her daughter being possessed by Satan in The Exorcist.

Leaving Glenda Jackson several obstacles and egos to clear in her role as George Segal’s “other woman” in A Touch of Class. A nicely detailed return to the earlier sophisticated romantic comedies of 1950s and ’60s. Where wit, adult dialogue and lush sets and backdrops have equal weight with the leads’ chemistry. An odd, almost safe choice for Best Actress at first glance and by today’s standards, though Ms. Jackson and Mr. Segal make the idea of “love at first sight” appear elegant, if not effortless. Even between a divorcée and a married man.

Which brings us to Best Supporting Actors. With Jason Miller and his role as Father Damien in The Exorcist out in front. Mostly, I believe for his ability to respond so well to shock and fear amongst then cutting edge special effects technology and a child’s bedroom kept at below freezing temperatures. Followed close by John Houseman’s Professor Kingsfield in James Bridges’ The Paper Chase. Mr. Houseman made the most of his voice that could easily bounce off the back walls of any enclosed space. Along with enunciation, a near void of contractions to project and surround himself with the aura of omniscient invincibility to a classroom full of aspiring college students.

Leaving plenty of room for Vincent Gardenia to play with his role of old and wizened coach, “Dutch” Schnell, in Bang the Drum Slowly. Though tinged with tragedy, still one of the better baseball films around. And Mr. Gardenia makes the most of his role as the team’s Father Confessor, manager, and mother hen. With veteran Jack Gilford and young upstart Randy Quaid filling whatever space is left with their quiet brilliance. In Mr. Gilford’s case, it’s playing Jack Lemmon’s wise old sage and business partner Phil Green in Save the Tiger.Who, like Mr. Lemmon’s Harry Stoner, just wants another season, but won’t condone arson and insurance money to do it. And Randy Quaid’s oversized, introspective, something of a dullard young sailor, Meadows, makes more than the most of each scene opposite Jack Nicholson. While on their way to Norfolk and its brig for petty theft from a Base Exchange.

A very contentious field. A grand master of projection with Mr. Houseman. Opposite a grounded character actor in Mr. Gardenia and two students of the “Less is more” contingent. A tough choice for Best Supporting Actor, but a proper one, as Mr. Houseman’s haughty, eloquent Professor Kingsfileld in The Paper Chase is awarded the prize.

With ladies demanding equal time. The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are more diverse and eclectic. Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon is double-tapped, with Madeline Kahn’s Trixie Delight and Tatum O’Neal’s Addie Loggins, who may or may not be con man Ryan O’Neal’s Moses Pray’s daughter. Busily wrapping any and all in her way around her little finger. While Trixie offers fresh and often insightful comic relief.

While near complete unknown Linda Blair delivers above and beyond as an adolescent girl with familial problems experiencing a close encounter of the inexplicable kind in The Exorcist. While Sylvia Sidney excels as Woodward’s aged and infirm mother Mrs. Pritchett in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams. Leaving Candy Clark’s bombshell blonde turn as a tempting Marilyn Monroe beauty behind the wheel of a classic white T-Bird in Lucas’ American Graffiti.

The award of Best Supporting Actress to Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon came as no real surprise. Though her voice may have grated a time or two. Ms. O’Neal showed great potential and ease of execution in a familial, very family-friendly film. The sum of which reflected Mr. Bogdanovich’s “sit back and let it happen” school of direction.

Overall Consensus:

I’ve long believed that the 1970s were the last great era for films. With many directors taking a path away from the slowly stagnating Hollywood “system” and indulging in ventures that would make or break them and their reputations. And 1973 is a banner year for those pioneers. Who were able to find the talent and money and put it all on the line. As with John Alvidson and Jack Lemmon collaborating in what could and should have been a just under two hour personal ode to changing times and morals that reaped enormous rewards. Especially for screenwriter, Steve Shagan. And just being recognized Marvin Hamlisch and his minimalist score for Save the Tiger.

Add to the mix a young unknown named George Lucas given a fistful of money to start a project, choose his own cast of unknowns who would find fame in later films, shoot through the nights, and cut the film in the can. And start all over again for consecutive nights. While proven directors like William Friedkin and George Roy Hill are given wherewithal to run their films their way. Even if the former’s project, The Exorcist, rubbed many the wrong way at first viewing, and the latter’s The Sting, the second collaboration of Messieurs Newman and Redford, is a superior, cast-driven long con and period piece.

Taken altogether, 1973 was a watershed for directors taking the less-used path. And actors, cinematographers, arrangers, musicians, set designers, and wardrobe technicians applying new ideas and swinging for the fences.

Making it a very good year for films!

All about “stingers”

“Stingers,” aka “post-credit scenes,” are those awesome little clips that reward the patience of that intrepid moviegoer who, resisting his or her comrades’ rush to the parking lot or the restroom, remains seated for the entire credits of a motion picture. Just when this film fan thinks it’s all over…a little gem of a scene pops up, giving much satisfaction and perhaps a slight feeling of superiority.

The term “stinger” is also applied to extra scenes or bloopers shown during the credits, which are also a ton of unexpected fun, but to me, they’re not as gratifying as true post-credit scenes.

A stinger is the sign of filmmakers who really love movies. I can picture these people wanting to share that feeling of not wanting to leave the cinema. The stinger becomes an in-joke between the makers of a film and its fans, and may also complete the story or hint at further developments taking place after the time included in the movie.

Text advertising the next installment of a movie series (“James Bond will return in…”) had been around since From Russia With Love (1963), but according to Wikipedia, “[o]ne of the earliest appearances of a true stinger” was in The Muppet Movie (1979). The earliest movie stinger I can remember is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in which the main character, having demolished the fourth wall throughout the film, appears and says to the audience, “It’s over. Go home!”

Comedy and action-adventure seem to provide the majority of post-credit scenes, although some horror films have them. The Avengers cycle has delivered a few of my favorites.

The Avengers (2012) actually had two stingers, one involving The Other and Thanos, and this one:

Recently I ran across MediaStinger, a site which exhaustively catalogs scenes that run during and after the credits in movies and video games. Consult this site before going to the theatre and you’ll never miss another stinger. Details and spoilers are thoughtfully hidden behind a link. Comments are not hidden though, so don’t scroll down too far if you want to preserve the surprise.

The most recent post-credit scene I’ve seen (I don’t think this is a spoiler anymore) is the very fleeting one in Django Unchained. What is the first stinger you remember seeing, and what are some of your favorites?

31 Days of Oscar update

Time for an update on the 31 Days of Oscar blogathon (full rundown at the original post). We’re a little more than a couple of weeks out from the first deadline. Publish your post and email me the link by any one of the following dates: January 31, February 7, February 14, February 21 and February 28.

The nominations were announced on Jan. 10, providing as much fodder for blog posts as any other’s, maybe more. Right away, I was aware of what I consider to be one major snub: Ben Affleck for Argo, and now that I’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty, I think Kathryn Bigelow was snubbed as well. Of course, the format of the Best Picture nominations, where 5-10 movies are tapped, virtually guarantees that there will be snubs. Is the Academy crazy, or crazy like a fox? Sounds like an idea for a blog post, speaking of which here’s some topic prompts (new ones at the end of the list):

  • Is there a film, performance or art or technical work the non-nomination of which you feel is a crime? Tell us about it.
  • Sometimes the Oscar seems to hinder, not help, someone’s career, including but not limited to the “Best Supporting Actress Curse.” Discuss.
  • Special Achievement Awards and Board of Governors’ Honorary Oscars…do you dare go there? Who should have gotten a competitive Oscar, and/or who might win an honorary Oscar the future?
  • Spotlight on sound editing and sound mixing, or any other unfairly neglected award.
  • Your favorite/the most influential Best Costume winners/nominees/should-have-beens through the years, or just focus on one.
  • Short films are often given short shrift…throw some love on your favorite.
  • Cinematography and editing vs.directing…the auteur theory, etc. Discuss, using Oscar-winning examples.
  • The Oscars still create the most hoopla, but should we be paying more attention to other awards, such as the Golden Globes or (fill in the blank)?

NEW:

  • The Academy’s rules for selection of the Best Picture dictate that any film receiving 5 percent or more of first place votes is nominated, so that a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 10 are in the running each year. This year there are 9 nominees, but there are still only 5 Best Director nods. Discuss the implications and ramifications of this set-up.
  • Judi Dench famously won a Oscar for her 6 flawless minutes in Shakespeare in Love. If there was an Oscar for cameos, who would be nominated, and who would win?
  • It’s generally accepted that actors and directors, and possibly other filmmakers, may receive an Oscar for a previous year’s, or an entire career’s, work, sometimes referred to as a “cumulative Oscar.” Do you think this is legit or totally unfair? Discuss.
  • Academy…why so serious? Certain genres are overlooked every year, generally speaking comedy, adventure, and science fiction are rarely given nods. Is this due to the overall age of the Academy, or other factor(s)?
  • Final Oscar ballots aren’t due until the Tuesday before Oscar Sunday; this year that is Feb. 19. Any answer to this question is likely to be pure speculation but: Do the other awards influence voting?
  • As reported last year, the Academy is overwhelmingly white, male and over the age of 60. Only 2% of the Academy is under the age of 40. Discuss.

If you’d like to participate, leave me a comment or email me at paula.guthat[at]gmail.com. So far our Oscar bloggers, in addition to myself, Kellee at Outspoken & Freckled, and Aurora of Once Upon A Screen are…

Fernando – Committed to Celluloid
R. A. Kerr – Silver Screenings
Ruth – Flix Chatter
Lê – Critica Retro
Kevin aka “Jack Deth”
Paddy – Caftan Woman
Vanessa – Black & White All Over
Iba – I luv cinema
Le0pard13 – It Rains, You Get Wet
Joel – Joel’s Classic Film Passion
Lindsey – The Motion Pictures
The Gal herself – One Gals’ Musings
Paul – Lasso The Movies
Ivan – Thrilling Days of Yesteryear 
Jessica – Comet Over Hollywood
Kay – Movie Star Makeover
The Lady Eve – The Lady Eve’s Reel Life
Kimberly – GlamAmor