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

Happy birthday, Stanley Tucci

011613-TUCCI

I meant to write about “The Tooch” for the What A Character! blogathon but with everything going on, it got away from me. My only thoughts were “he’s adorable” and “what a chameleon of a great actor.” Each of his characterizations is different and each is perfect in its details, becoming an essential part of whatever film in which he’s working his magic. PS: He turns 53 today. Looking good Tooch.

James Cromwell, What A Character! by Jack Deth

by Jack Deth

Greetings, all and sundry!

It’s been a while since being invited to delve in and play around in the wonderful world of those consistently and hardworking people towards the back of any room or set. The character actors. Who begin their careers in obscurity. Usually as one of a pack. Or spread throughout a set. Earning and learning their trade. Either silently, or with only one or two throwaway lines as roles, lines and screen time increase.

To that end. I would like to introduce one of a collection of thousands. Who caught my attention in small parts amongst the plethora of television prime-time situation comedies and later, dramas of 1970s and ’80s. Specifically, at first glance. Playing four distinctly different characters in the superbly cast, live audience, classic cop situation comedy, Barney Miller. Reveling in their interplay with master of dry, wry comedy, Steven Landesberg’s Detective Sgt. Arthur Dietrich. Knowing there was something there in this tall, gaunt actor worthy of greater things. Enjoying his episodic and occasional background work. While moving to the forefront work in smaller films.

Until the right opportunity presented itself. As the omniscient, erudite and charmingly bent as barbed wire Honcho of Homicide Detectives in a recent classic of noir genre.

L.A.~1
James Cromwell: Kingpin Cop, Captain Dudley Smith in L.A. Confidential

Take the wisely-purchased rights to an award-winning and best-selling James Ellroy novel that has to bleed mood, setting, lighting and allegiance to the near “anything goes’ mindset of a spread-out city becoming the land of milk and honey. And does!

Focus its spotlight away from the packaged and highly bankrolled glamor of the day and take a look at what runs rampant underneath. With a well-known crime boss, Mickey Cohen (Paul Guilfoyle) safely ensconced in prison, but leaving a massive power vacuum to be filled. Add a large batch of stolen heroin and the money and types of uncouth, out of state, riff-raff clientele it draws, and you have the makings of a prime neo-noir!

That begins with an eye-blackening scandal for the LAPD. In the shape of a very violent, multiracial rumble erupts in a lone precinct’s holding cells prior to a Christmas party attended by the local press. Papers are printed. Conferences amongst the highest ranks of the LAPD are held. And scapegoats are sought. Aided by a still wet behind the ears precinct officer, Edmond Exley (Guy Pearce, at his most bookish looking, easy to underestimate best)! Who yearns to achieve the reputation of his iconic, killed-in-the-line-of-duty father.

lac-bloody-christmas_low

An old, not quite crooked, soon to retire “hat” (Graham Beckel) is selected. Along with celebrity busting, Hollywood connected, Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey channeling Dean Martin, smooth and cool) are on the chopping block. Events all overseen and manipulated by Mr. Cromwell’s Captain Dudley Smith. Who may have a new and intriguing appreciation of young Exley’s familiarity in playing the system.

Vincennes is placed on suspension. And the old “hat”, Detective Dick Stensland is forcibly retired without his pension. Creating a massive amount of hate within Officer Bud White (Russell Crowe showing tremendous potential for future greatness!) and his sizable hard on for newly promoted Lieutenant Exley.

james_cromwell_la_c-nite-owl

Time passes and erupts with a spree shooting at an all night diner, The Nite Owl. Which brings about an instance of swords crossing between Exley and Smith. Who wisely wants to keep this eager beaver at controllable arms length. Even more so when it is discovered that White’s retired partner and Susan Lefferts, a prostitute made up to look like a star, are among the dead.

The hounds are set loose the following morning. With all data, direction and where to look generated by Captain Smith. Two “negroes” are sought while Vincennes, recently reinstated to Narcotics, follows the lead of a Fleur De Lis business card that screams high-end and very cautious prostitution. Vincennes seeks counsel from his under-the-table business partner, Sid Hudgens (slimily played to the hilt by Danny De Vito), who points him towards prominent citizen, with his fingers in everything dirty, Pierce Patchett (David Strathairn). Whose minion is seen setting up an introduction between the District Attorney (Ellis Lowe) and a promising young male talent (Simon Baker).

As with any atmospheric cop film. People are murdered. Criminals escape only to meet a bloody end. Medals are awarded and won. Alliances are formed between the unlikely (Vincennes and Exley) who know something important about each other’s cases. And inroads are made into Mr. Patchett’s empire. Courtesy of Kim Basinger, playing Veronica Lake lookalike Lynn Bracken. Who knows and whispers enough between Exley and White to send them on a collision course with a glimmer of photographic extortion hinted at by a soon to be a loose end, Sid Hudgens.

L.A.~3

And through it all Captain Smith stays in the background. Always one step into the shadows and ahead of everyone. As he gently pulls a string here. Or tugs one there. Throwing up false signals and leads, as White and Exley start dipping into the past records of the LAPD in general. And Smith, in particular. Which leads to his, Stensland’s and the recently-discovered “Buzz” Meeks’ past cases, and later ties to opportunities for crime and corruption. On scales small. Large. And in between.

What does Mr. Cromwell’s Captain Smith bring to the film?

A masterfully delivered dose of quiet mystery. Tall, seemingly omniscient. Grandfatherly and quiet in his disposition. Simply because, as a Captain of Homicide, he doesn’t have to raise his voice or chew scenery best left to Mr. Crowe’s “Bud” White. The Captain’s word is law. And the Captain assigns manpower and initially directs where it goes.

The wizened spider in the center of its web. Getting tickles from Vincennes, delving into the death of Mr. Baker’s Matt Reynolds. Sensing that “Bud” White may be wanting to expand his career horizons beyond that of muscle for one or more “valedictions” with greedy out -of-town talent.

While also being blessed with a soft Irish brogue. And the film’s, and possibly, cinema history’s best lines.

Offering advice to “Bud” White and the officer’s desire for a gold shield:
“I admire you as a policeman – particularly your adherence to violence as a necessary adjunct to the job.”

And later. After White concedes;
“Wendell – I’d like full and docile co-operation on every topic.”

During a “valediction” with recently arrived out of state talent at the deserted Victory motel:
“Go back to Jersey, sonny. This is the City of the Angels, and you haven’t got any wings.”

When Vincennes expresses a desire to look once again at the Nite Owl murders:
“I doubt you’ve ever taken a stupid breath. Don’t start now.”

And later:
“Don’t start tryin’ to do the right thing, boy-o. You haven’t the practice.”

And through it all, Mr. Cromwell’s Dudley Smith radiates a serene, untouchable confidence. That easily equals that of his fellow cast of veteran, A-List and soon-to-be A-List talent. In a film loaded with color, shadow, glitz and post-war glamor for the masses.james-cromwell-in-l.a.c-lowres

WAC-banner-2013-greenThis post is part of the 2013 What A Character! blogathon, co-hosted by myself, Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled, and Aurora of Once Upon A Screen. Be sure and check out all the other Monday posts. And there’s Saturday and Sunday’s as well.

Russell Crowe – The Early Years

This post is prompted by Flix Chatter’s recent post, Russell Crowe Birthday Tribute: Top 10 Favorite Roles of the Aussie Thespian. Her Top 3 favorite Crowe roles are the same as mine:

  1. Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider (This is the one that deserved an Oscar; if you haven’t seen it, get thee to Netflix or whatever ASAP.)
  2. Maximus in Gladiator
  3. Bud White in L.A. Confidential

Her list brought to my mind the films that Crowe starred in before he got super-famous — relatively obscure Australian movies that didn’t win any major awards, yet were entertaining to watch, with the occasional interesting aspect to them. How do I know? Well, not that long ago, from around 1999 until 2005 or so, I was quite the fan of Crowe’s. Although I was nowhere near as dedicated as other admirers, I rented, borrowed or bought much of his early work. Sure, these films were 10 or more years old, but I had to see them. In those pre-Netflix days, before video was widely available online, this took some doing. Though lesser in both renown and production values, these movies did usually showcase Crowe’s talent and occasionally give insight into Australian society. Here’s a quick look at the ones I consider to have been most rewarding:

Crowe, Danielle Spencer, and Robert Mammone star in THE CROSSING
Crowe, Danielle Spencer, and Robert Mammone star in THE CROSSING

The Crossing (1990): Soapy love triangle starring Crowe as the main character’s former best friend and and Danielle Spencer as the former girlfriend. They met on this shoot and had an on-again, off-again relationship, before marrying and divorcing. Why you should bother: Crowe is darn good in it; it’s stunning really how much of his craft was already in place. Fun factoid: Director George Ogilvie paid to have Crowe’s broken front tooth replaced. (Update: Crowe and Spencer are not divorced, they are separated.)

Brides of Christ (1991): This miniseries from Australian television is about the teachers and students at a convent school in the 1960s. Crowe plays the boyfriend of the rebellious main character; their relationship is cut short when he gets drafted and sent to Vietnam. Why you should bother: Though it’s a dramatized version, BoC provides a glimpse of Australia’s social change and involvement in the Vietnam War, which I was not aware of previously. Other stars in the cast include Brenda Fricker as a nun and pre-fame Naomi Watts. Also Crowe does his own guitar playing and singing. Fun factoid: Though not that well-known in the U.S., female lead Kym Wilson is a big TV star in Oz. She starred in the Aussie indie Flirting with Watts and Nicole Kidman. I highly recommend this quirky little romance. Don’t be fooled by some of the DVD cover art you might see though; Wilson, Watts and Kidman are barely in it. The (perfect) leads are Noah Taylor and Thandie Newton.

For-The-Moment-DVDFor The Moment (1993): Crowe plays an Australian WWII airman stationed in Canada, in love with his girlfriend’s married sister, whose husband is fighting in Europe. Why you should bother: Potentially clichéd characters elevated by some interesting, great-ish performances. Crowe in uniform, reciting poetry. Fun factoid: This film was an American/Canadian production, filmed in Manitoba, Canada at actual Commonwealth airbases.

The Sum of Us (1994): I can’t do any better than this summary on IMDB: “A widowed father…is searching for ‘Miss Right,’ his son …is searching for ‘Mr. Right.'” It’s a character-based comedy-drama, the kind that doesn’t really get made all that often anymore, depicting a realistic family’s good and bad times. Why you should bother: Crowe’s non-stereotypical character’s orientation is pretty much accepted and no more commented on than, say, eye color, presenting a refreshing perspective. Plus insight into Australian Christmas. Fun factoid: Crowe had already worked with the actor who plays his dad, Jack Thompson, when the former was a 6-year-old extra on a TV show. Bonus video: From the soundtrack,”Better Be Home Soon” by Crowded House:

You can hear Crowe talk about these and a lot of his other films in one of my all-time favorite episodes of Inside the Actors’ Studio:

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

Announcing the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon

The envelope please…

The winners, the losers, the snubs, the back stories, the gossip, the players, the games…this time it’s all about Oscar!

We’re back! Myself, Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66) of Outspoken and Freckled, and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen are hosting a new, mammoth blogathon event that coincides with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar, February 1 to March 3, 2013. It’ll be a month filled with fabulous tales and screen wonders.

But this one is not just for classic film fare; we want to see and hear it all from the golden man’s more than eighty-year history, up to and including this year’s nominees. And you don’t have to stick to just Best Picture or acting winners. Posts about nominees or winners in all the other categories…Original Screenplay, Costume Design, Cinematography, etc….are more than welcome.

The details:

Let us know what you’ll be writing about by email [paula.guthat[at]gmail.com] or leave us a comment.

Submit links to as many posts as you would like by email or by comments in time for any of the following due dates throughout the month. Submissions should include as much information about you as possible: First name, Twitter username, link(s) to your site(s) and email address.

January 31
February 7
February 14
February 21
February 28

We’ll promote entries for an entire week after each due date. If you have a preferred promotion date, please make a note of that as well.  However, we welcome all submissions by any of the dates specified. Don’t forget to include your Twitter handle if you have one.

This is the banner I created for the blogathon. We encourage you display it on your site to help promote this event and cannot wait to hear from you. Happy blogging!

31-Days-450x300

UPDATE: I have so many ideas for this blogathon, far more than I could ever tackle myself, so I offer these as topics for posts or inspiration thereof:

  • 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 in 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)?

That’s all for now…I will add more when I think of them.

Future Classic Movies: BRINGING UP BABY, CASABLANCA & GOODFELLAS

By Jack Deth

Given the premise of what film and cinema may look like 40 years hence, I’ll opt for the convenience of handheld devices, flatscreen home entertainment centers and personal 3-D glasses, now that the very first, infant steps of the future Blue Sun Consortium so well-loved in Firefly has put out a bid for the AMC chain of theaters here in the U.S.

Now, as to what cinephiles, movie buffs and assorted hormonally-driven teens will want to view. The sky and its opposite end of the spectrum are the limit. Though Classics will always be present to fall back on. Be it for nostalgia sake. Or just to sit back and experience what good really is and can be. There will always be a healthy clutch of films in dust laden cans ready to be spun up on a projector. Or taken to a lab to be cleaned up, re-mastered and brought back to life in whatever form of medium is in use at the time.

To that end, allow me to prognosticate and put forth three choices for what may be viewed and enjoyed by those of all ages in the future.

Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The definition of screwball comedies of the 20th century stars Cary Grant as David Huxley, a clumsy, mild-mannered paleontologist with Harold Lloyd glasses. Deep in the Sisyphian task of assembling the skeleton of an ancient Brontosaurus, David only needs one bone to complete the task. To add to his stress, David is engaged and soon to be wed to a woman of means whose family can supply extra funding for David’s museum.

Cary Grant gets mixed up with Katharine Hepburn and her zipper in BRINGING UP BABY

Seeking surcease, David decides to play some golf the next day and meets a striking, fast-talking Katherine Hepburn as Susan Vance, madcap extraordinaire and niece of his future mother-in-law. Susan plays by her own rules and speaks her mind. The repartee between David and Susan is as over-layered, stepped-on, and Hawksian as it is flat-out hilarious! With David constantly trying to catch up when to two meet again at a resplendent, elegant restaurant and night club.

Rapid-fire banter turns into a whispered argument that segues into an accidentally ripped and torn skirt of Susan’s evening gown. Which David tries to cover as best he can with his top hat and quick turns as they seek club’s front door. For a quick trip to Susan’s family’s palatial manse and manicured grounds. Where David is introduced to kith and kin, including a leopard from Brazil named ‘Baby’ and a terrier named ‘George,’ who slyly buried the essential Brontosaurus bone the ‘intercostal clavicle’ somewhere beyond the house while ‘Baby’ ambles away into the night.

Desperately seeking George

What follows is a primer on comedic timing, quips, pratfalls and stalking through foggy woods and narrow streams. Interspersed with choruses of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” which Baby likes, as David and Susan search high and low. Accidentally break windows while seeking assistance. Run afoul of the law and are locked up in the Constabulary’s jail. Where Susan takes on the voice, slang and body language of a gangster’s moll. An incredibly funny few moments that involve a second leopard and mistaken identities. Until a friend of the family arrives and straightens things out.

David goes his way. Susan and Baby go theirs. The intercostal clavicle is recovered and Susan takes it to a now busy David high atop the incomplete Brontosaurus on tall scaffolding to make amends. When Susan sees a nearby flimsy ladder…

Casablanca (1942)
The film that solidified Humphrey Bogart as a romantic leading man still manages to pack a heck of a lot of story and tell it well within its 102 minutes. Wondrously crowded, well designed and executed sets transport to a stylized Morocco, Casablanca, its shadowy casbahs and Rick’s Cafe Americain. The hub of all things curious and worth noting by the Vichy constabulary and its German occupiers.

Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart in CASABLANCA

Bogart plays Rick Blaine, expatriate American cafe and casino owner with a fixed roulette wheel that pays on 22. Who drinks alone, plays chess against himself. Has few friends. Is rarely impressed. While exuding an air of supreme clever confidence. Master of his own fate in a corner of the world where suspicion runs rampant and others beg, borrow and steal for exit visas and a way out.

Enter into this world skullduggery, Ilsa Lund. Spectacularly gorgeous Ingrid Bergman. Rick’s old flame from happier times in Paris, just before the Germans rolled in. Unfortunately, Ilsa has brought her husband along. Suave and elegant Victor Laszlo. Leader of the Free French movement and Public Enemy #1 of Conrad Veidt’s Major Heinrich Strasser and his minions. Who would be quite content to keep Ilsa and Victor right where they are.

Who, but director Michael Curtiz and writers Philip and Julian Epstein could wrap a deliciously moody love story around this foundation? As Rick politely reintroduces himself to Ilsa. Sparks flare to life. Aware that she and Victor are in need of a pair of exit visas that Rick possesses. The possibilities are endless as emotions sway. I’ll leave it right there for you to draw your own conclusions.

Goodfellas (1990)
The life of Henry Hill. A Brooklyn kid who says, “As far back as I can remember. I always wanted to be a gangster,” is given the full blown Martin Scorsese treatment. In full blown, lush color. From Henry’s early years hanging out on street corners and parking cars for the meetings of made men he idolized. To huge tips being taken under the wing of slow moving, always cautious ‘Paulie’ Cicero. Henry climbs up the lower tiers of organized crime. Befriending a young young Joe Pesci giving wondrous psychotic life to Tommy DeVito and his friend, Jimmy ‘The Gent’ Conway, played with low-key deliberation by Robert De Niro.

Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta in GOODFELLAS

Life is good as Henry dumps school in favor of selling hijacked cigarettes to any and all. Until he is arrested for the first of several times. Surprisingly, the pinch helps rather than hinders Henry’s slow, yet steady climb up the criminal corporate ladder. Henry, now played by a smooth faced, lean Ray Liotta is all style and flash, but not a lot of substance. Part of Jimmy’s crew, Henry learns the ins and outs of the finer points of hijacking semi tractor trailers along the New Jersey Turnpike. When not robbing Idlewild Airport of its employees’ payroll. or burning down restaurants or clubs slowly taken over by Paulie and his friends.

Henry falls in loves with, pursues and courts Karen. A stunning Lorraine Bracco with visits to famed New York nightclubs. Filmed in Steady Cam from the rear entrance. Through the kitchens and to a quickly laid out ringside table in time for Henny Youngman and complimentary champagne. Then taking the time to brutally beat a competitor close to death with a pistol who. Making Karen an accessory after the fact, by giving her the pistol to hide.

Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco enjoy the good times in GOODFELLAS

The good life continues. Henry marries Karen. The money rolls in and heists get bigger and bigger. Until one night when a made man runs afoul of Tommy. Is killed messily and buried somewhere Upstate. Then exhumed six months later when Jimmy finds out the land is going to be developed. The wheels start to come off. As Henry takes a mistress and Karen finds out. Threats are made and Paulie tells Henry to get back with Karen. Henry does. Then he and Jimmy go down to Florida to collect some betting markers and draw a delayed bust from the FBI.

Henry discovers drugs behind bars, though life there is better than for most. Against Paulie’s wishes, he continues in the trade as a major heist goes bad. And those involved get very sloppy and spend very conspicuously. Then pay for it rather sloppily to the strains of ‘Layla’ by Derek and the Dominoes. I’ll end it here, lest I get into Spoiler Territory.

Overall consensus
I’ve chosen three films which have stood the test of time. Masterpieces assembled by directors with the clout and ability to get superior writers, cinematographers, set designers. Then turn it all over to superior casts anxious to make their marks. Creating benchmarks that have aged well and improved with time. And will be amongst the first chosen decades from now.

What do you think of Jack’s picks? Are there other films that are already considered classics now and will remain so?

Metro Detroit Classic Movie Fan – Julian Bond

Bond…Julian Bond…is a huge movie fanatic. When he isn’t managing the Detroit Medical Center’s social media, or hanging out at metro Detroit’s cool spots, he’s writing his blog titled — “no surprise here” — Not Quite 007.  While attending University of Michigan-Dearborn, he was a feature writer forThe Michigan Journal student newspaper.  Says Bond, “I’ve always been heavily into movies, and I was happy to write about them at U of M-D. The best part of that gig was interviewing a few stars including Chris Rock, Tom Cruise — post Oprah couch jumping incident — and my epic face-to-face with the awesome pro-wrestler turned actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.”

Sharing a last name with the most famous spy in the world has been “very interesting, to say the least,” Bond says. “All of my Dad’s family, the Bonds, were named, no joke, with the letter J. So every single one of us has gotten the ‘Are you related to the real 007?’ question throughout our lives, and we’ll never get tired of it. Back when I was in grade school, my dad actually legally added “James” to his whole name (which is really Joel), and started using that for postal addresses and even our caller ID. My friends would always get a big kick out of seeing “James Bond” popping up on their phones.”

Even before the start of filming on Skyfall (Bond 23) was in the news, of course I was asking Mr. Bond about his famous “relative.”

Who is your favorite James Bond actor, and why?

I have to go with the original Bond…Sean Connery. Pierce Brosnan is pretty good, Daniel Craig is surprisingly one of the best with his more realistic portrayal. But Connery will always take the win as favorite at the end of the day. Every time I see him in interviews or in other movies, it seems like he’s actually a real-life James Bond, 24/7.

Telly Savalas and George Lazenby in the criminally underrated On Her Majesty's Secret Service

What are your Top 5 James Bond movies?
Such a hard question and I have to cheat just a little bit.

  1. GoldenEye is easily my favorite film of the entire series. Picture-perfect intro (and killer theme song from Tina Turner), great simple story, awesome action scenes, and some pretty good acting. I can honestly watch it over and over without getting tired of it. It barely beats out Goldfinger as my number one pick because this was the first Bond flick that I saw in the movie theaters. The rest I watched on VHS or cable TV, and thus this one holds a close place to my 007 heart.
  2. Goldfinger and Dr. No are two of the best Bond films ever bar none. I think most fans have them on top of their list. Sean Connery is the best Bond, and these are easily the best villains of the series. They also set the high standard for all Bond films, parodies, and anything associated with the name still to this very day. Nuff’ said.
  3. I LOVE Quantum of Solace and don’t think it’s too soon to put it on a best list because it’s SO criminally underrated. I liked it a bit better than theCasino Royale reboot because it has a lot more action and a better villain (that crazy French guy). And as weird as this sounds, because it’s the shortest Bond film in history (running at less than 2 hours instead of the usual almost 3 hour length), there’s a lot of Bond goodness in a lot less time.
  4. Licence To Kill and The Living Daylights, likeGoldeneye, will always have a special place in my heart because they were the first Bond films I ever saw. As an ‘80s kid, I had not yet been introduced to the awesomeness known as Sean Connery. While Timothy Dalton is probably one of the least popular of all of the Bonds, I actually thought he wasn’t that bad, and can hopefully be forgiven for an ultra-corny action scene — fighting bad guys while sliding down a mountain on a violin case.
  5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is another underrated gem. I place it slightly above the 2009Casino Royale, because of its unorthodox style and one-time only Bond, George Lazenby. It also has the most shocking ending to a Bond movie EVER, with 007 getting married (?!?) and then the infamous drive-by scene shortly after (won’t spoil it here!). I know so many friends who are Bond fans and still have never seen this movie because it doesn’t star Sean Connery and honestly looks sort of odd in comparison to other Bond films, especially with the sight of Lazenby. But all true blue fans MUST see this one here at least once. Again….a CRAZY ending.
Roger Moore and Richard Kiel
Roger Moore and Richard Kiel duke it out in The Spy Who Loved Me

The Bond series is also known for its villains and love interests, any favorites of those?
My favorite villain simply has to be Jaws, the tall menacing dude with steel teeth. The man just would never die. I really disliked the films that he was in, especially Moonraker (James Bond…IN SPACE!!). But he seriously almost stole the show with his crazy appearance and attempts to bite off Bond’s head.

I’m pretty sure the Bond film series is the longest running one, at 49 years and counting. Why do you think it has endured for so long?
Besides the gadgets, the girls, and the guns, the series is always fun and never takes itself too seriously. Even with the edgier series with Daniel Craig, each film still feels like an escape into a cool world of spy fantasy.

If you could have one Bond gadget, which would you choose and why?
I loved the rocket-ppowered jetpack that Bond had inThunderball. It was so freaking cool-looking, even back in the ‘60s. All of the watches and cars were always cool, but the simple design of the jetpack made it seem like it could actually be a real thing. But I also do have to give a shout-out to the villians’ gadgets as well, such as the Golden Gun fromThe Man With The Golden Gun (one shot and you’re dead!), and weirdly enough, the explosive ‘milk cans’ that the bad guy used in The Living Daylights.

With Quantum of Solace, the movie series has used the last of the original Fleming James Bond material. (Some of it got used twice!) Where do you think the series will go from here?
For the next Bond film, I was so happy to hear that Javier Bardem will be joining as the bad guy because he could easily be the best of the Craig-era bunch. For the plot and overall material, I really hope that they expand on the entire Quantum international villain group. I thought it was really cool that they had story continuity from Casino Royale to the literal beginning of Quantum. They tried to do that with the older films with the group SPECTRE and “the guy with the kitty cat” (aka Blofeld, aka the Dr. Evil-looking villain) appearing several times. Then, sadly, they dropped SPECTRE and never mentioned them again. It could be a nice touch to the series to bring back the “guy (or gal) with the kitty cat”, and the entire Quantum group, and create a cool edgier feel with him or her.

Who do you think will be James Bond when Craig moves on? An actor we know now or an unknown…?
I don’t know. Seems like the Bond series has worked because they usually go with a relative unknown. If they chose an established actor, it would distract from the series (i.e., Leonardo DiCaprio as 007). When they get someone unknown, it essentially gives a deserving actor a chance to shine, as the awesome Craig has done so far. Here’s hoping that he has a few more movies left in the tank to keep the series going strong.

Do you watch any other classic movies? What are your favorite movies from the last 10 years or so?
Some of the classic flicks that I love include westerns like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and “new classics” like the firstStar Wars. I’m a huge fan of the first Tim Burton Batman with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton (sorry, Dark Knight). Some of the newer films that I love happen to be James Bond-influenced: The Bourne series, with its crazy modern-day spy hijinks; Inception, whose overall style and music score reminds me strangely of Goldfinger; and recently X-Men: First Class, which to me and many others was kind of like “James Bond with Mutants.”

So Bond fans, what do you think of Mr. Bond’s favorite films in the series? Who is the best James Bond? Where do you think the series is headed?