Sunday, January 27, 2013

Oz Obsession: Updates & New Projects

In 2010 there were 5 Wizard of Oz films in some stage of development. In a little over a month, one of these films hits the big screen (Oz the Great and Powerful). Here's an updated on the 5 films I wrote about in my previous post "Oz Obsession: 5 Films in the Works").


Oz The Great and Powerful: Not much changed since the 2010 post other than they actually made it and it has a release date. In 2010, Sam Mendes was rumored to direct with Robert Downey Jr was to play the title role of Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs. Instead James Franco takes the title role with Sam Raimi directing. (Release Date March 8, 2013).

Oz: The Return of th Emerald City: Warner Brothers does not appear to be acting on this adaptation scripted by Josh Olson (A History of Violence). No release date or appearance of production or news related to this project which tells a darker story of Oz based in part of Todd McFarlane's Twisted Land of Oz toy series. (Status - Dead/On Hold)

Oz [New Line/Temple Hill]: No news or update on the adaptation based Twillight's film studio Temple Hill, produced by New Line Studio. The goal here was a truthful adaptation of the L. Frank Baum series, more in the vein of Harry Potter. It appears that Temple Hill has canceled this ambitious plan, and Darren Lemke's script appears to be something that at least at this time will not hit the big screen.(Status - Dead/On Hold)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: John Boorman (Excaliber, Deliverance) also was to be working his own computer animated adaptation, but that appears to have also been put on hold. Boorman who even had test footage and images released, appears to for now be working on other projects. (Status - Dead/On Hold)

Wicked: Where other Oz projects have faded away, this one has remained and last July all signs pointed to a crucial next step in the project...a director to bring Winnie Holzman's musical book adaptation of Gregory Maguire's book to the screen. That director, Stephen Daldry. Universal Pictures appears to planning on producing and distribute with a 2014 release date.

Other Oz Film Projects

Dorothy of Oz: In the vein of "Return to Oz" this CGI film version by Summertime Entertainment has an impressive voice cast (Kelsey Grammer, Lea Michele, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Hugh Dancy, Oliver Platt, and Bernadette Peters) and is based on the book by Frank Baum's great-grandson Roger S. Baum. The film is complete and has had private screenings but does not seem to have a domestic distributor or release date yet. (Status: Wrap, No Release Date).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Book of New Family Traditions

Back in the day, it was common for me to kill time at Borders or Barnes & Noble. Today, I wonder around the library in much the same way, seeing what's there.

Yet, unlike Borders, the library offers a unique treasure...if there's something that looks interesting, but you're not sure if you'll like it or think it looks entertaining, you can check it out. And so, with that mindset, I came home the other day with The Book of New Family Traditions by Meg Cox.

I kind of expected this book to be a little cheesy, but was curious what it would hold inside.

My wife and I have a series of our personal traditions ("holidays" and rituals about our own relationship such as one called "Mexican Food Day" and another "1234 Day"). And with our kids we have established some early patterns and traditions, but I'm always game for a good idea.

It only took a couple quick flips through the book and I was suddenly starting at page one reading this book page by page.

In addition to having some great ideas, this book also reminded me of the important of rituals and traditions within a family, and how special those little things can be for enhancing family bonds, creating special memories, and teaching values.

Some of the ideas are certainly not my style (a Passover-style Thanksgiving , or require skills outside by gifting (embroidering signatures signed on a tablecloth), but others seem like ideas that match me and my family.

This morning, I had an early meeting (as I do on a semi-regular occasion) and had to leave for work before the kids would be awake. One of the idea's in the book was to create a ritual for such occasion where the parent draws a picture for the kids the night before and leaves it out for them in the morning as a little token of thought that they can come to expect. So last night, I drew them a picture and left it for them. It was simple, and I love the idea of doing this again next time I have an early morning meeting.

The cover or title may or may not grab you, but I think this book in the breadth of it's ideas and the variety of it's recommendations is an excellent treasure...I just might have to buy a copy for my book shelf to consult at different times of year or as my kids get older and other traditions or rituals might take on new meaning.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sex & Sundance: What Films Are Watched vs. What Films Are Made

James Franco, 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
James Franco is at Sundance, and not promoting his role in the Oz: The Great and Powerful due out later this year.

No, James Franco has a lot of reasons to be busy at the Sundance Film Festival, and his films all deal with sex, specifically pornography.

  • James Franco plays a supporting role as Hugh Hefner in Lovelace, a historical biopic about 1970s porn star Linda Lovelace.
  • James Franco is the producer of the documentary Kink about S&M.
  • James Franco co-directs with Travis Matthews a short film called Interior. Leather Bar. which reimagines lost scenes from a 1980s sexually explicit film called Cruising.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 2013 Sundance Film Festival
And it's this type of trend, that seems to be the trend of the independent film scene in every story and film story I've ready this year about Sundance.

One of the most popular and discussed films of Sundance so far seems to be Don Jon's Addiction, the feature film directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Don Jon's Addiction's high caliber cast featuring Gordon-Levitt in the lead role alongside Scarlett Johannson and Julianne Moore.  Don Jon's Addiction also deals with porn, this time the premise being that of a porn addict (played by Gordon-Levitt) who likes porn more than his real (and frequent) sexual encounters.

And other than the fact people are also commenting on the high number of female independent film makers, this trend continues.

I see this trend for 2013 independent film as disappointing. There is a part of me that wants to write "just because these films are being made, doesn't mean people will watch them." As a whole, this may be true, but that is probably true of most of the normal Sundance line up for any given year, but that doesn't mean these films are unseen and it doesn't mean that what happens in "Independent Film Land" doesn't influence "Mainstream Film Land." Further, it's clear that people are watching these types of films.

I can promise you this, my wife and I will not be watching any of James Franco's trio of porn-related films or Gordon-Levitt's film. I find nothing edifying about these types of film, regardless of how others might perceive their relevance or artistic nature.

In addition to these porn themed stories, I've also read about other sex-themed films. The Los Angeles Times sites a handful which seem to include many dealing with inappropriate relationships between older women and teenagers (Hannah Fidell's A Teacher, Liz W. Garcia's The Lifeguard, and Anne Fontaine's Two Mothers).

Are these themes a statement of the films being made or the Sundance film selection committee?

That said, it seems that the Sundance selection committee and the artists represented are interested in the topic of pornography and deviant sex. It seems that the gates have flung open and these films are all testing the waters to see just what will offend and be acceptable in modern story telling. 

I'm not minimizing the value of the discussion, but if I was going to chose the mouth pieces for a productive conversation about pornography and it's role in society I can't say I would chose James Franco and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the Sages of Porn. I would expect Franco and Gordon-Levitt to have a moral relativistic perspective that I'd expect doesn't jive with my own. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I Said: 2012 Posts Follow Up

I thought I would take the opportunity to follow up on some 2012 posts...particularly those from the beginning of the year when I was looking ahead:

Resolution - One Movie With Intermission in 2012 (January 11, 2012)
In 2012 my goal was to watch one of those "epic" movies that take a little effort to watch, namely due to length. The goal was met...I watched (over multiple sittings) Lawrence of Arabia this past September, and was certainly glad I did.

Within the post I ask, in reference to Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Sean Penn:
"Of the 5 living actors who have received two lead acting nominations - do any of these 5 men have a chance of a third Oscar trophy for work in 2012 films?"
Further, speaking of Daniel Day-Lewis' changes I said:
Daniel Day-Lewis has a knack for picking projects, will be in the Steven Spielberg film event, Lincoln. Yet, if Daniel Day-Lewis were to win the Oscar he would be the first actor to win an Oscar for a role in a Steven Speilberg film.
And who know's if he will win the Oscar but despite the "third-Oscar ceiling" he's up seems like he  has exceptional chances.


Cinemark Movie Theater Death (January 17, 2012)
When I wrote briefly about this Fort Collins, Colorado, bizarre movie theater death last January, I would have of course, never suspected I that later in the year there would be another movie theater death in Colorado far more serious we'd all be discussing.

"...Stephen Daldry was nominated for his first piece of work, and then his second. And then his third. His streaks could end come Oscar nomination morning this year, but anything's possible."
 Stephen Daldry's steak was broken with no directing Academy Award nomination for his work on Extremely Loud & Incrdibly Close, although it did get nominated for Best Picture. Daldry's currently is in talks for his 5th film to be a film version of the Wizard of Oz musical, Wicked.


Two Best Leads And The Lack of "Big 5" Films (January 21, 2012)
In reference to films getting a nomination for the big 5 (Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Lead Actor & Lead Actress). 
Forget the idea of "Big 5," if we just talk lead actor and lead actress nominations, the last time this happened was for the 2005 film Walk The Line, when Reese Witherspoon was nominated (and won) alongside the nominated Joaquin Phoenix. 
I can tell you now in advance of the Oscar nominations, that 2011 had no "Big 5" film. Who knows when we'll see the next "Big 5" film. 
At the time of writing this post in 2012, the last film with the honor of being nominated for the big 5 was 2004's Million Dollar Baby. 8 year later,the 2012 film Silver Linings Playbook, has the honor of being nominated for the big 5.


Follow Up: 2011 Not an R Year (January 27, 2012)
In 2011 only 1 of the 9 best picture nominated films was rated "R" and I asked:
Will the not R best picture nomination trend continue? 2012 will show.  
 Argo, Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook & Zero Dark Thirty are all R-rated. With 4 of the 9 nominees rated R, it still seems interesting to note that PG-13 films while having the biggest audience potential, also seems to benefit a films potential Oscarability.


John Goodman & Oscar (February 19, 2012)
But when I look at John Goodman's release schedule for 2012 he's not stopping and I have to wonder if John Goodman will be in a 2012 film that will be in the "best picture mix."
In the post I cite Argo and Trouble with the Curve as potential Oscar nominees (I left out Flight, as it must not have been on the schedule at that time). And yes, John Goodman was in an Oscar nominated film...Argo.


Bad Timing: Neighborhood Watch (March 28, 2012)
" addition to an updated marketing campaign and geographical variations, you have to wonder if there will be further changes...if it's not a release date change, you wonder if they might go for a title change that doesn't so closely seem to connect this film to George Zimmerman, a real neighborhood watchman in the news."
Yep, the film still released as scheduled in July, but under a new title...The Watch

I shared in this post about how exciting I was about this Apple Charlotte. Yet, I never shared an update with a picture of the final product. In honor of Downton Abbey, this year my birthday cake was an authentic Apple Charlotte -- here it is:

Homemade Apple Charlotte.

Is it about "Innocence of Muslims?" (September 13, 2012)
After the September 11 attacks in Benghazi the conversation was all about this internet film "Innocence of Muslims" as a catalyst for spontaneous protests. I said:
I think tying the outrage to the YouTube video "The Innocence of Muslims" is a false connection to make, and gives too much emphasis on the YouTube video.
And as this story played out...oh, how this story played out and as I suggested this embassy attack had nothing to do with the YouTube video "Innocence of Muslims."


Lincoln Trailer - Twitter's First Thoughts (September 16, 2012)
The twitter reviews were mixed, if not skeptical and negative. But with a fantastic boxoffice for a historical biopic and leading the pack in the Oscar nominations, I'd have to say the early reaction was later corrected.

In my top 10 potentials I excluded Zero Dark Thirty (at 12) Amour (at 14) and over-valued the chances of The Master (4), Promised Land (5), and Flight (8).

Can Adele do something that the past 11 films spanning two decades have not been able to do...get an Oscar nomination?
Yes - Skyfall is nominated for best song. One of it's five total nominations...the most for a James Bond film ever. 

I still propose that the actors in this year's award race are much more "household" names and that the Oscar shortlist in this post were pretty accurate in advance of the Oscar nominees.

Rachel Weisz did not get an Oscar nomination this year (despite some critical attention for Deep Blue Sea), but it still seems like the Actress race is a close one between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fiction to Film: 2013

In yesterday's post, I cited that 3 of the 9 Oscar nominated films from 2012 came from film adaptations of novels (and 28.1% over Oscar nominees for the 10 years prior to that, are based on Novels)

Whether it's classic literature, best sellers, or lesser known stories, I've captured a list here of all the 2013 films based on novels I could find, in part to search for 2013 books worth reading (before the film comes out), and to ponder, whether a couple of these will follow suit and be a part of this next year's Oscar race for best picture.

Happy Reading.


One of the first adaptations of the year, Richard LaGravanese directs the fantasy drama based on Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's book Beautiful Creatures.

Also an early in the year horror romance coming to movie theaters is the adaptation of Isaac Marion's Warm Bodies.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence co-star (again) in the 1930s depression era film based on Ron Rash's Serena.

Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star in the comedy Admission based on the book by Jean Hanff Korelitz.

The second installment of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy returns with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug based on J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit.

Also in the second-installment-club Jennifer Lawrence returns to the role of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire based on the book by Suzanne Collins.

This year also will bring the highly anticipated adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, staring Leonardo Di Caprio and Carey Mulligan.

This summer, we'll see Marc Forster direct Brad Pitt in the film adaptation of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.

Lasse Hallstrom directs an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven.

Liam Hemsworth and Gary Oldman star in a dramatic thriller based on Joseph Finder's Paranoia.

Lily Collins stars in the fantasy film adaptation of The Mortal Instrumens: City of Bones based on the novel by Cassandra Clare.
Kimberly Pierce directs a new adaptation of Steven King's Carrie staring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore.

Emmy Rossum and Hilary Swank star in an adaptation about a terminally ill woman called You're Not You based on the book by Michelle Wildgen.

Gavin Hood directs Asa Butterfield, Abigail Breslin, and Harrison Ford in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game.

Of course, this year has the spring blockbuster, Oz the Great and Powerful, a retelling of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

James McAvoy and Jamie Bell star in an adaptation of Irvine Walsh's Filth.

Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas gets a big screen adaptation with Willem Dafoe, Patton Oswalt, and Anton Yelchin staring.

Twilight fans might flock to see an adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's The Host later this year.
Joseph Delaney's Spook's Apprentice is the source material for the fantasy adventure film The Seventh Son. The film features Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, and Ben Barnes.
Javier Bardem plays lead role in Spanish language romance/thriller in the adaptation of Carlos Bardem's Alacran Enamorado.

Robert Redford directs an adaptation of The Company You Keep by Neil Gordon, a film about a Weather Underground activist on the run from a journalist. The film features Anna Kendrick, Shai LeBeouf, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper, Susan Sarandon.

John Crowley is set to direct an adaptation of the same-sex love story The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (written under the pseudonym Claire Morgan), the film is called Carol and set to star Cate Blanchett. 

David E. Talbert's book Baggage Claim is adapted and directed by the author. It will star Paula Patton and Taye Diggs.

In the young adults adaptation category you also have Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan being adapted.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fiction to Film: 2012's Films vs the Past 10 Years

This year, like last year there are 9 Oscar nominated films. Of those 9 films, 3 of them are based on novels...just slightly above the average of what we've seen over the past 10 years.

This years novel to film best picture nominees are:
The other 6 there are:
  • 3 original works (Armour, Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty)
  • 2 films based on non-fiction work (Lincoln and Argo)
  • 1 film based on a stage play (Beasts of The Souther Wild based on "Juicy and Delicious" by Lucy Alibar).
How does this compare to the past 10 years?

This years percent of Oscar nominees from Novels - 3 of 9 nominees : 33.3%

The percent of Oscar nominees coming from Novels over the previous 10 years - 18 of 64 nominees: 28.1%

3 of the past 10 years saw the winner coming from a novel.

Nominees for Best Picture from Novel from the Previous 10 Year (2002-2011 films)
2011  films - best picture nominees: 5 of 9 adapted from a novel (Kaui Hart Hemmings' The Descendants, Jonathan Safron Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Kathryn Stockett's The Help, Brian Selznick's Hugo, and Michael Murpurgo's War Horse)

2010 films - best picture nominees: 2 of 10 adapted from a novel (Charles Portis' True Grit; Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone)

2009 films best picture nominees: 2 of 10 adapted from a novel (Saphire's Push [source material for Precious]; Walter Kirn's Up in the Air)

2008 films best picture nominees: 2 of 5 adapted from a novel (Vikas Swarup's Q & A [source material for Slumdog Millionaire]*; Bernard Schlink's The Reader)

2007 film best picture nominees: 3 of 5 adapated from a novel (Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men*; Ian McEwan's Atonement; Upton Sinclaire's Oil! [source material for There Will Be Blood])

• 2006 films best picture nominees: 0 of 5 adapted from a novel

• 2005 films best picture nominees: 0 of 5 adapted from a novel

• 2004 films best picture nominees: 1 of 5 adapted from a novel (Rex Pickett's Sideways)

• 2003 films best picture nominees: 3 of 5 adapted from novels (J.R.R. Tolkein's The Return of the King*, Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, Dennis Lehane's Mystic River)

• 2002 films best picture nominees: 2 of 5 adapted from novels (J.R.R. Tolkein's The Two Towers, Michael Cunningham's The Hours)

*won the Oscar for best picture

Thursday, January 17, 2013

StrangeCulture's 7th Blogaversary & The 7 Year Itch

Happy 7th Blogaversary Cake! (Image from Lady Fi Blog)
I can't believe I'm been blogging consistently for the past 7 years!

Today is my 7th Blogaversary, and not breaking with tradition I find a cake picture. (Previously blogaversary post & cakes: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th5th, 6th).

One of the things I wonder going into year 7 is how long I sustain this blog and if this year brings the end. I don't think that I will quit blogging, but I have to wonder. Over the past 7 years the blog-o-sphere has changed.

Some Itchy Points:

Community: I personally have found blogging to be less interactive then in previous years. It seems that the "community of blogging" has diminished, surely much of that has been a drifting to other social networks. Whether that's people have moved their personal blogging to the Facebook experience, or if the micro-blogging rapid fire world of Twitter serves some readers and content makers better. I've specifically seen this in a decrease in comments and interaction in that regards.

Most Popular Posts For Search: In terms of traffic, I've sensed a loss of some of the "community type" visitors, but continue to pick up tons of one time traffic hits. But the search-oriented hits land all over my blog, but sometimes I am disappointed that some of what I would consider some of my best posts are not the one's that get this type of traffic. Instead traffic goes to pages like "Pigs in Costumes."

In fact, my most popular post of this past year was the post I did with a pictorial overview of Tom Hardy's films. Certainly not what I would consider my most unique and meaningful content.

Relevant Film Conversation: This blog has never been strictly devoted to film, but film related content probably makes up at least 80% of the content. As my life has changed over the past 7 years one of the biggest changes as it relates to my blog content is my availability to see new releases as early or as frequently as I would like to talk about films as they come out.

This fact has not hindered my ability to speak about upcoming films, but once they come out I am not always able to jump into the conversation how I might have at other times.

How I Am Fighting The Itch: 

Extending the Community Borders: I have taken StrangeCulture to twitter. You can find me there @StrangeCulture. My best content will still be here, but with 1000+ tweets today, I am paving out how StrangeCulture interacts in that space.

Diversified Content: I will still continue blogging within the scope of many of my favorite series and themes. But I am freeing myself up to continue to expand my content and adjust my ratio of film blogging as I feel appropriate. Not sure what exactly this will mean, but it could mean more post related to social, political, cultural, or economic topics. Maybe even sports? Probably food? It also means I will continue to blog from the perspectives that I have, which include through the lens as a father & a Christ follower.

Only When...: There are times over the past 7 years where I've felt a stress or burden to create content. My regular posting patterns over the past years have been a push to blog three-four times a week, and there has been months in the past year where I didn't hit the point that I wanted to hit, and it made me feel like I was dropping this ball. I fighting the 7 year itch by dropping the guilt factor, and instead blogging only when (1) I have time (2) Have Something to Say (3) Have Fun saying it.

Especially with more people using blog readers, or getting e-mail notifications when posts are published the frequency factor seems less relevant than days years back when people would "click" over or save the blog in their favorite's and check back regularly. So, I'm releasing myself of that burden. And if you don't subscribe in a reader or get posts delivered by mail you can certainly sign up (sign up here through feedburner.)

Thanks for hanging with StrangeCulture and here's to the year ahead! Have 7th blogaversary Strange Culture Blog!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dame Fatigue? Judi, Helen & Maggie

Dame Judi Dench (Exotic Marigold Hotel), Dame Helen Mirren (Hitchcock), Dame Maggie Smith (Quartet)
Sometimes, it seems like Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and Maggie Smith have become names that must be considered in any sort of award race pre-announcement. 

Despite the limited popularity (and releases, in some cases) of these three dames, there names were regularly tossed around as Oscar contenders this past year. And when the Golden Globe nominees were announced, each of these women were nominated for golden globes in feature films (The Exotic Marigold Hotel, Hitchcock, and Quartet).

In addition to these "Globe-worthy" performances, Maggie Smith has also done well this year picking up awards for Downton Abbey as well as her own attention for The Exotic Marigold Hotel and Judi Dench has received some awards attention and high praise for her work in the James Bond film Skyfall

Yet, none of them were Oscar nominees. Perhaps these ladies were close runner-ups in the nomination votes, or perhaps there's some "Dame Fatigue," and the Academy is ready to give them an awards rest for awhile from the award circuit.

Regardless, of whether that's the case. It's inevitable, that if these ladies are in a film people will be asking...will they be nominated for an Oscar? 

So here's a look at each of these Dame's 2013 schedules now, just to get the ball rolling. Who knows...maybe a year off from Oscar is just what they needed?

Judi Dench
Judi Dench's next project in post-production is Philomena, directed by Stephen Frears (who has come in and out of Oscar love with his most Oscarific success story coming from directing Dame Helen Mirren in The Queen). This film directed and staring Steve Coogan alongside Judi Dench is a little harder to tell where it falls on spectrum. Judi Dench plays a real life story of a woman, Philomena who is forced by the Catholic church to give up her son to an American family, and searches him out once he is an adult. 

Oscar potential...of course. Watch out for Dench in 2013.

Helen Mirren
So far, nothing on the 2013 calendar...unless you think playing Victoria in Red 2 is Oscar-worthy.

Oscar potential...all signs say "no."

Maggie Smith
What, more nominations for Downton Abbey? As for film work, so far, no evidence of potential film work for Smith in 2013, but that can change.

Oscar's looking like a "no."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ben Affleck: Golden Globe Winning Director, Not Even Oscar Nominated...Is He The First?

Ben Affleck took home the Golden Globes tonight for best director. Having won for Good Will Hunting (screenplay) in 1998, he had only been nominated once after that, as a supporting actor (Hollywoodland, 2007 ceremony). But tonight, he walked away as the Golden Globe winning best director of the Golden Globe best drama.

Since the inception of the Golden Globe awards in 1943, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), has given out an honor for best directing.

The first Golden Globe winner in this category was Henry King for The Song of Bernadette.

Henry King did not win the Oscar that year, instead Michael Curtiz won for Casablanca. Henry King was one of the 5 nominees for Oscar that year, though.

And where Oscar and Globes do not always line-up 1-to-1, it seems to be an oddity that Ben Affleck would win the prize for Best Director at the Golden Globes but not even be an eligible nominee at the Oscars.

A friend asked me if this oddity had ever occurred before.

So I checked:

1951 - László Benedek wins the Globe for Death of Salesman, he isn't an Oscar nominee (George Stevens wins Oscar for a Place in the Sun - he was a Globe nominee)

1956 - Elia Kazan wins the Globe for Baby Doll, he isn't an Oscar nominee (George Stevens wins the Oscar for Giant - he was a Globe nominee)

1968 - Paul Newman wins the Globe for Rachel, Rachel, he isn't an Oscar nominee (Carol Reed wins the Oscar for Oliver! - he was a Globe Nominee)

1969 - Charles Jarrott wins the Globe for Anne of A Thousand Days, he isn't an Oscar nominee (John Schleshinger wins the Oscar for Midnight Cowboy - he was a Globe Nominee)

1983 - Barbara Streisand wins the Globe for Yentl, she isn't an Oscar nominee (James L. Brooks wins the Oscar for Terms of Endearment - he was a Globe nominee)

1988 - Clint Eastwood wins the Globe for Bird - he isn't an Oscar nominee (Barry Levinson wins the Oscar for Rain Man - he was a Globe nominee)

2012 - Ben Affleck wins the Globe for Argo - he isn't an Oscar nominee.'s 2 trends I gather from this list:

1. When Globes dramatically break with Oscar in this regarding it appears that the Golden Globes have awarded "actors as directors" (Newman, Streisand, Eastwood, and now Affleck) in a way that perhaps the academy directors branch is less interested in doing.

2. In years where we see this dramatic break, the eventual Oscar winner was in the Golden Globes pack. In the case of this year only two nominated Golden Globe directors are Oscar nominees (Ang Lee, Life of Pi & Steven Spielberg, Lincoln).*

*Globe nominated Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) are not Oscar nominees. Michael Haeneke (Amour), David O.  Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), and Behn Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) were not globe nominees.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Les Silver Linings OscArgo NomPinations Unchained

Just some quick quick Oscar Nomination Morning Thoughts (I know, over 12 hours past's that for current?)
  • Seth McFarlen & Emma Stone were fine, but I'd prefer the standard cold style with the gasp, cheers and applause from the crowd getting attention.
  • I was super excited when Jacki Weaver was announced as a nominee. I really enjoy Silver Linings Playbook and am excited that with the nomination of Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Jacki Weaver makes Silver Linings Playbook the first film to get nominations in all four acting categories since 1981's Reds. Silver Linings Playbook is the 14th film to earn that honor (Full list here).
  • Where Lincoln is the "most nominated film" I think it's impressive that Life of Pi picked up 11 without a single acting nomination.
  • I don't like the term "Snubbed" and with 9 Best Picture nominees instead of 5, no film was snubbed for Best Picture (including Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, The Master). I consider it instead 4 films are lucky to have made the cut when years past they would not have been honored.
  • No snub talk here - but clearly one of the surprises in a year with a crowded film schedule of top films is the director nominations. Frankly, the films nominated for editing mirrored what I would have expected in directing. Films nominated for editing were Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty. Where I would have expected these corresponding directors (Ben Affleck, Ang Lee, Steven Spielberg, David O. Russell, Kathryn Bigelow). But Bigelow and Affleck were not included in favor of Michael Haneke (Amour), and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild). Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) and other contenders Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) or P.T. Anderson (The Master). But please, oh please...don't tell me that Christopher Nolan or Sam Mendes were snubbed.
  • With some great performances and films this year, there's bound to be some omissions and so exclusions. It's fun that this year had some surprises in part because of full categories. This is part of the fun. And it's nice that this year's nominees have had some respectable box office success so that the stories and news all seems more relevant.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Largest Collective Movie Preview Groan: Dark Skies

Keri Russell Hitting Her Head Against a Glass Window in Dark Skies
Last night, I was sitting in a full theater to watch Silver Linings Playbook. The previews were necessarily well calibrated to the film we were about to watch, because coupled with the film was a preview for Dark Skies.

The film with star Keri Russell is directed by Scott Stewart and is about a suburban home that appears to be possessed (or the family's been targeted by some type of paranormal event).

Never in my life have I heard a theater crowd collectively groan at the conclusion of the preview and say dozens of audible comments such as "that's just awful," or "what a horrible preview," or "who would watch that?"

This is part of the joy of the theater experience and I love the fact that this awful looking movie warranted such a powerful and audible response from the crowd. This is on my thumbs down list for 2013. I don't expect I'll be seeing this one.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Separation - Praise For Its Presentation of Honesty and Integrity

Sarina Farhadi as Termah, in the Iranian Oscar Winning film (directed by her father Ashgar Farhadi), A Separation
I can think of very few films in modern times that create a picture of moral conflict in the way we see in 2011's Oscar winning foreign language film, A Separation.

What strikes me in regards to their moral conflict is that the heart of their dilemma comes from the way their words way on their moral character.

In the film, a woman, Simin, attempts to divorce her husband for what the judge considers "small things" and does not grant the divorce. With general apathy and stubbornness on the part of her husband, Nader, the woman leaves, pretending to leave the country. Nader and Simin's daughter Termah stays at her home with her father, knowing her mother has not gone far. At her home, the eleven year old girl lives with her father and senile grandfather, and a woman is hired to watch over the grandfather while everyone else is gone during the day.

A series of events play out that puts these characters in conflict, and with layers of stage play style secrecy (everyone knows a little bit of something, but not the whole story) the inner conflict comes out. The conflict is with one another on the surface, but in a powerful way the conflict is truly internal conflict with their own morality, and in this case with God, particularly when characters are asked in a few scenes to swear on the Qur'an.

One of the things I appreciate about this film is it's presentation that integrity matters. It's unfortunate that one of the questions I find myself asking is whether this theme comes out in this film because integrity is more of an Iranian value than a Western or American value we see out of Hollywood. Where other films seem to question or challenge the idea of right and wrong, this film demonstrates the way dishonesty destroys human relations with one another, as well people as individuals.

My favorite character in this film is Termah, because at eleven years old she possesses an innocents and black-and-white perspective that no one else seems to have. Even the other young character in this film, the four year old, Someyeh (the care-takers daughter) early on tells her mother she will keep a secret from her father regarding a potential sin her mother has committed.

Yet, Termah is the silent observer in this film, who is pained by the presence of dishonesty she see's particularly when she catches her own father in what he has written off as a small lie that could mean the difference between freedom and a prison sentence. It is Termah who's innocence is does not seem naive but instead beautiful. Yet, it is not longer after this scene that Termah is caught in this similar web, and the challenge she faces is heart breaking.

I love this theme of honesty and integrity, and not only wish that it could have such a sensitive and artful portrayal in western cinema, but also wish that there was a similar sensitivity in real life. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

5 Broken Cameras

Emad Burnat with his "5 Broken Cameras"
I recently watched the documentary 5 Broken Cameras. I was surprised at how I personally connected to the story of a Palestinian farmer in Bil'in, a West Bank Village.

Our lives and worlds are miles apart, but there was an initial hook I didn't expect with the story of this non-violent protester. The connection, Emad Burnat is a father. The film starts with him getting his first video camera when his fourth son Gibreel is burn.

While the structure of this film is Emad's five cameras he has over a period of five years in the West Bank in a time when Israeli settlements are encroaching on his village, for me what I watched was not the story of five broken cameras, but of Gibreel's first five years.

Watching this film in the context of the Sandy Cook Elementary school shooting in New Town, Connecticut I was drawn to the idea of the innocents of children, and heart broken at what Emad Burnat's children were exposed to, particularly the violence that was part of their life.
Emad Burnat's Youngest Son, Gibreel

I was heartbroken when the first words of Gibreel are shared. They are "wall," "cartridge," and "army."

I was heartbroken at the sight of Gibreel joining a children's protest at the age of three.

And I was touched, troubled, and moved by some of the final lines of the film when co-director and father Emad Burnat says: "Gibreel is four-years old now...the only protection I can offer him is allowing him to see everything with his own eyes. So he can just see how vulnerable life is."

Directors Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi have done a fantastic job telling this story in such a sympathetic way, in a way that shows a history and footage that couldn't be found anywhere else.

Beyond the story of Emad and Gibreel the bigger story is interesting, even from the stand point that relative to other similar conflicts, I found the Isreali Army men seeming young, powerless, and uncertain of what actions that they should take in certain confrontations. The scenes were Emad goes to the hospital also reminded me another recent documentary from this area, Precious Life about another Palestinian/Israeli interactions. Films like this create a context that reminds us that things half a world away are real and involve real people, real families, and real everyday issues.

5 Broken Cameras is one of the fifteen documentary films short lsited by the Academy Awards for a potential Oscar nomination this year.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Favorite Films From Years That End in "3"

In celebration of the new year, and in spirit of similar posts I did in 20102011 and 2012...

Below are my favorite films from each year of the decade that ends in 3.

1933: Duck Soup (dir.Leo McCarey)
1943: The More The Merrier (dir. George Stevens)
1953: I Confess (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
1963: It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (dir. Stanley Kramer)
1973: The Sting (dir. George Roy Hill)
1983: The Right Stuff (dir. Philip Kaufman)
1993: Schindler's List (dir. Steven Spielberg)
2003: In America (dir. Jim Sheridan)

If there's some of these you haven't seen...see them.

Here's a toast in hopes of great films in 2013.