Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Best Picture Project — Birdman (2014)

Birdman poster.jpgDirected by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Screenplay by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bó

Starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts

In the first half of the 2010s, the Academy the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did an abrupt about face.  For most of the previous decade they’d operated as a body that preferred to give Oscars to faux-important films, e.g. Crash (2005) and The King’s Speech (2010), over truly resonant and moving work, e.g. Brokeback Mountain (2005) and The Social Network.  Then, all at once, AMPAS turned into a group that essentially rewarded itself, giving Oscars to films that threw big, fat self-congratulating kisses on the movie industry and acting in general.

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The Best Picture Project — The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The Life of Emile Zola poster.jpg

Directed by William Dieterle

Screenplay by Norman Reilly Raine; Story and Screenplay by Heinz Herald and Geza Herczeg; based upon the book by Matthew Josephson

Starring Paul Muni, Gloria Holden, Gale Sondergaard and Joseph Schildkraut

The Life of Emile Zola is really two movies in one.

The first is a 25 minute seminar of a film, focusing on the professional life of writer Emile Zola.  It begins with him dirt poor in Paris, proceeds through a whirlwind medley of his greatest hits – books are published, a wife is married, fame is gotten – then settles with him into state of retirement and living off his wealth. Continue reading

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What To Do…?

luiseAs loyal readers know, I’ve been chipping away at the Best Picture Project for some time — a little more intently at some times than others.  Well, at this point I’m an even dozen or so away from finishing and I’m determined to put an end to things this year, hopefully in the first half.  To that end I’ve got a DVD for The Life of Emile Zola waiting and DVD’s around the house for pretty much all the rest.  Come hell or high water, his year will put an end to it.

This leaves me, of course, in the position of wondering…what to do next?

No, loyal readers, I’m not going to pack it in and euthanize the blog — although, given how rarely I posted over the last year, who would know?  Rather, I intend to take on a different project, possibly two.

One I have in mind would be called ‘The Also-Rans’, a series looking at a Best Picture nominee in every year that I’ve not seen before — for instance, in 1939 I could watch Stagecoach.  Obviously, some years will be tough, because I’ve seen them all, but we’ll make it work.  Besides, I’m hoping that by taking a look at something down-menu, as it were, I might learn something.  Or maybe not.

The other would be called ‘Twinsies’ and more along the lines of double-features of films with the same title, or with the same actor/actress/writer/director that are disparate ends of the spectrum.  Think Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side vs. some movie where she’s the villain.

Maybe what I’ll do is both — I guess since this is my blog, I’m allowed to do that.

In the meantime, I’m going to watchThe Life of Emile Zola — meet you back here in a few days.  Maybe.

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The Best Picture Project — Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Midnight Cowboy.jpgMidnight Cowboy (1969)

Directed by John Schlesinger

Written by Waldo Salt, based upon the novel by James Leo Herlihy

Starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman

Midnight Cowboy seems an unusual choice to win the Oscar – after all, until it’s win in 1969, no movie with any real, honest-to-goodness grit to it, save for maybe Marty, managed to snag the top prize.  And those that did have a tinge of grit to it – or darkness, if you prefer another word – were about big, important things, e.g. The Best Years of Our Lives.  In other words, if a dark movie, rooted in real life, wanted to win Best Picture, it had to go big and make epic statements about important topics (anti-Semitism, WWII), because, aside from that sweet little film about the lonely butcher – Marty – you couldn’t win.

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