Future Classic Movies: Round 2

To recap really quickly, the Future Classic Movies (FCM) Blogathon involves predicting films that will still be drawing audiences on TV, or a chip in our brains, or whatever form of communication exists, 30 or 40 years from now. All of the films were made during or after 2000; these will be as old then as the ones we watch on TCM now.

My FCM Round 2 pick is Moneyball (2011). It begins with a playoff disaster. In the 2001 post-season, the Oakland A’s squander their two-game lead over the New York Yankees, who win three games in a row. Their general manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), sits in the home stadium, flicking a transistor radio on and off, almost afraid to hear what’s going on. A couple weeks later, losing his best players on the free agent market, Beane is begging the A’s owner for more money. No way, he’s told. Make do with the lowest payroll in the league. His scouts are all older guys whose info on the players is half speculation and half gossip. When Beane takes a meeting with Mark Shapiro of the Cleveland Indians, he notices that all the older guys always look to Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a “player analyst” in the front office.

After the meeting, Beane grills Brand (in a parking garage à la “Deep Throat” in All The President’s Men). The latter admits that he has a radical, economics-and-statistics-based system for baseball: buying wins. That is, buying runs. Brand says, “Baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions.” Beane is impressed. He hires Brand away from Cleveland and together they start to remake the A’s for the 2002 season. But there’s plenty of resistance, naysaying, and defiance from the scouts and the manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is on a 1-year contract and knows a poor season could end his career. He’s downright insulting about this new way of putting a team together. The big scary doubts of the fans on talk radio are interleaved with flashbacks from Beane’s crash-and-burn career and scenes from his current complicated personal life (ex-wife with smug husband, sweet daughter he doesn’t see enough).

Pitt and Hill were both nominated for Oscars and I was surprised by this when I finally saw the movie. The acting in this film is pretty much the definition of natural, which the Academy doesn’t always reward. I definitely agree with whoever said that unless Brad Pitt is in a movie right at the moment, everyone forgets that he is in fact a great actor. He is excellent here. Hill adds little touches — fidgeting, nervous looks — that make his Brand real (though the character is a composite). One of my favorite moments is when Brand is on his way out of Howe’s office and says, “You want this door closed?” Chris Pratt as catcher (turned first baseman) Scott Hatteberg gives an authentic performance as a guy scared out of his mind.

The film’s cinematography is beautifully done by Wally Pfister, probably better known for his work with Christopher Nolan.

I’m not the biggest baseball fan in the world (though I do like going to Comerica Park) but if you like baseball, there’s enough behind-the-scenes intrigue about how deals are done to keep you interested. (“He’s talking to Dave Dombrowski! Wow, Steve Schott!”) Moneyball is really three movies, and Bennett Miller’s command of music, sound and closeups prove that there is crying in baseball, at least for me: the rise and fall and rise of a washed-up baseball player (Beane); a behind-the-scenes history of a baseball revolution; and the eternal struggle of originality and creativity against “we’ve always done it this way.”

Because if The Artist is about dealing with change, so is Moneyball. Or more accurately, it’s about the perseverance, determination and courage to not just adapt, but to change the rules, the situation, the world. That is of course what Beane did — he may have doubts about the new system, but he never really wavers. The film is a dramatization but his concepts were adopted by the Boston Red Sox and, two years later, they broke their 86-year World Series drought. And some underfunded political campaigns have been taking a look at Bill James’ “sabermetrics”, which paved the way for Beane’s system, and applying the former to their election races. And that is some consolation to anyone trying to find their way in a constantly changing world. And that is why, in 30 years, people will still be watching Moneyball, along with these other FCMs:
Big Fish, Happy Accidents, The Namesake, The Science of Sleep, and Walk the LineThe Motion Pictures

The 40-Year-Old VirginImpassioned Cinema

Requiem for a DreamThe Warning Sign

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindPG Cooper’s Movie Reviews

Almost FamousJourneys in Classic Film

City of Life and Death – Mark

Pride and Prejudice and Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyReveal Something More

NorthforkLeft to my own devices

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?

Future Classic Movies Blogathon MEGA POST

To recap really quickly, the Future Classic Movies (FCM) Blogathon involves predicting films that will still be drawing audiences on TV, or a chip in our brains, or whatever form of communication exists, 30 or 40 years from now. The vast majority of the posts involve films made during or after 2000; these will be as old then as the ones we watch on TCM now.

My FCM pick is The Artist (2011). Regular readers of this blog know that I adore this film. It is a little miracle — a silent film premiering in the 21st century. It was made by people who really love movies and stocked their film with tons of homages, tributes and shoutouts to the classics. It has romance, humor, suspense and melancholy. The acting in it is superb. It was beautifully written, art-directed, and shot. There is something about it that makes me cry every time I see it. (I’ve actually plunked money down to see this three times. Once I was actually on vacation.) It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and it won five: Best Director, Best Picture, Best Costume Design, Best Score and Best Actor. But none of these reasons are why I chose this film to endure into the middle of this unpredictable 21st century and beyond.

Sometimes it’s all a little too much…Jean du Jardin as George Valentin

Every day our lives get a little more complicated and a little more technological. As recently as 2006, the vast majority people had only a vague idea of what Facebook was. No one had heard the term “social media.” Phones were decidedly dumb; they made calls, and that was about it, at least in the US, where SMS hadn’t yet caught on. Now billions of people are using social media every day. Approximately 20,000 tweets go out every 10 seconds. You can watch a movie, video-chat with someone on the other side of the world, or run a business, all from a smartphone. And the pace of new technology only seems to accelerate rapidly. Economically, the upheaval of 2008 seems to have stabilized somewhat but lots of people lost their jobs and homes, and technology is ending some jobs and creating others. Everything in life is changing so quickly that the term “radical transformation” comes to mind, although nothing is happening quite that fast. I love all the technology, but sometimes even I feel a little overwhelmed, a little bit blindsided…a little bit like George Valentin. He would understand if he was here, because this is what The Artist is at least in part about: coping with change. (It’s about love, loyalty, friendship, the creative process, paying it forward, and really great shoes as well. But I digress.)

The world the characters inhabit is completely shaken with the advent of sound, and they each provide an example of a different coping strategy, from stubborn disregard (George) to grudging acceptance and pragmatism (Al Zimmer, the director played by John Goodman) to leveraging new opportunities that open up and helping others to reconcile themselves with a new reality (Peppy). We’ll all have to adapt, and since we’ll be adapting well into the foreseeable future, this film is always going to be relatable and relevant. There’s a few people out there who didn’t like this film. To those people I say, get used to it…The Artist isn’t going anywhere, and neither are the rest of these picks, all films that I believe will persevere:

Hunger  — ILuvCinema

Children of MenIt Rains… You Get Wet

Gladiator, Hugo, Midnight in Paris — FlixChatter

ZodiacOnce Upon a Screen

Batman BeginsThe Filmic Perspective

Crash, GladiatorThe Focused Filmographer

The Hunger GamesClassic Movie Man

The Girl with the Dragon TattooReveal Something More

Jane Eyre (2011)T. K. Guthat.com

Bringing Up Baby, Casablanca, GoodfellasJack Deth

InceptionJulian Bond

The HoursChampaignMatt

from The Cinementals:

Mulholland Drive — Will

Kill Bill, Vol. 1 & 2  — Jill

O Brother Where Art Thou — Carley

Bride & Prejudice — Jennifer

There Will Be Blood — Drew

The Toy Story trilogy — Michael

Brick — Chris

Update: Two more great FCM choices are in:

Iron ManZombieDad

Sideways — Dan from Top 10 Films

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the very first blogathon I’ve ever run. I hope you had as much fun writing these as I did reading them. To paraphrase a title…there will be more 🙂