I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Beautiful Mind, 2001









Rated PG-13

I have seen this absolutely brilliant movie many times and feel that I can’t talk about it without revealing the most defining aspect. So, if you haven’t seen it, stop reading, see it, and then return back here.

“A Beautiful Mind” is loosely based on the prize-winning biography of the same name, and to date, it is the last biopic to win Best Picture. It spans five decades as it tells the story of John Nash, a Princeton University student and mathematical genius who is searching for his “original idea” that will get him published and make him famous. Immediately, you know he’s special (a term I like to use). But because he is also a genius, he becomes a professor at MIT and ends up falling in love with one of his students, Alicia. As he performs his work on governing dynamics and occasional code-breaking for the Pentagon, he starts to suffer from delusions. No other movie gets you inside the character’s mind like this one does. This is a beautiful and touching story of triumphing over adversity. (After reading a bit more about the real John Nash, I was surprised to learn some critical differences from the life that was portrayed on film. I won’t go into them here so as not to disenchant you regarding this glorious film.)

Like I said before, I knew Nash was special and was socially awkward, but I didn’t suspect that he had paranoid schizophrenia; I’m a pretty gullible movie-watcher. Did anyone else figure it out (before it became blatantly obvious)? My hubby did, but I tend to consider him pretty genius, so he doesn’t count. Since I was taking child psychopathology and psychology courses in college when I first saw this, I should have known better, but again, I’m a gullible movie-watcher. I believe what’s on the screen.

I cry every time I watch this film, and sometimes it is in a new place, depending on where I am in my life. When I saw it in the theatres, I cried twice: at the part where Nash is in his psychiatric hospital room desperately trying to fish out the imaginary decoder imbedded in his arm, and the other time was when he is running the bath water for his baby and gets sidetracked by his hallucinations. In the latter scene, I was obviously suspecting the worst outcome and crying out of fear for the baby, but both scenes depicted him in such innocence and naiveté that my heart bled for him. This time, I cried during two other scenes. First, was when his wife is trying to explain to him that he is sick and that his hallucinations aren’t real. That’s something that one would expect to have to explain to a child, but not a spouse. The other was when she chooses not to commit him to the hospital again. She tenderly tells him what’s real: him, her, their love. With their hands on each other’s hearts, she says, “I need to believe something extraordinary is possible”.


This film has such a fun and recognizable cast. Russell Crowe is superb as John Nash and I believe he was robbed the Best Actor award (although he did win the Golden Globe). This is my favorite role of the beautiful Jennifer Connelly as Nash’s wife although I first liked watching her in “The Rocketeer”.  ‘Big Brother’ Parcher is played by my older-man-crush Ed Harris- I love him in “Stepmom” and “Apollo 13”. Dr. Rosen, the psychiatrist, is played by the charming Christopher Plummer (from “The Sound of Music”). Josh Lucas plays the annoying colleague who redeems himself in the end- I fell in love with him in “Sweet Home Alabama”. And Anthony Rapp, another one of Nash’s colleagues is uber-talented in “Rent”.

This film was up against “Gosford Park”, “In the Bedroom”, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, and “Moulin Rouge”. I’ve seen the last two nominees and enjoy them both immensely but still feel that the right movie won. Another beautiful film made this year that I wish was nominated though is “I am Sam” with Sean Penn, who was nominated for Best Actor. "A Beautiful Mind" claimed four of its eight nominations for its own including Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Connelly), and Best Adapted Screenplay. I also think it should have won Best Score… James Horner, the same genius who brought you the music of “Titanic”, produced a beautiful soundtrack to this film.

FAVORITE SCENES:

I love the scene when John and Alicia are on their first “date”; they’re outside the party on a balcony looking up into the sky. John tells her to pick a shape (an object, anything). At first, she’s puzzle, but she settles on “umbrella”. He takes her arm and using her pointer finger, traces the outline of an umbrella in the stars. Even though I know it was computer-generated, I still think it’s a pretty cool talent and I won’t deny trying it myself once in a while when looking up into the heavens at night.


The other touching scene was the very end when Nash is making his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. He acknowledges that he wouldn’t be where he is today without his devoted wife. He looks at her in the audience and says, “You are the only reason I am…. You are all my reasons”.


LESSONS LEARNED:

To steal one of my favorite lines from the film, believe that something extraordinary can happen. Believe it for yourself and believe it for others. Most of all, believe it in the unexpected or unlikely. It’s what can keep the hope alive in the darkest or most difficult of times.

Don’t be too quick to judge or even label someone. It’s easy to look at someone and make a judgment without hearing him/her speak. It’s also easy to make another judgment after that, but try to keep an open mind about people and their backgrounds. You never know what difficulties they’re trying to overcome or suffer through.

American Beauty, 1999










Rated R

I pretty much hate this movie and I think I’m in the minority. I am a tough critic on this movie and realize there will be readers who disagree. Bring it on. ;)

I had seen “American Beauty” once several years after it came out and I remember thinking, it was okaaaay…. After having recently watched it again, I realize it’s the last fifteen minutes or so of the film that made me say that. The rest is shit. The last few scenes and dialogue redeem the movie and made me think the whole film was worth my time. But, a movie is not even okaaaay if you spend most of it cringing, offended, or uncomfortable.

I believe this film fooled the American public into thinking it was a different and enlightening film about an abnormal, but probably typical, family but it really was just a disturbing one championing self-interest. I don’t think a film is worthy of the term “masterpiece” just because it pushes boundaries or thinks outside the box. Other true classics have done that without the offensive language or nudity.

I don’t think it should be called “American Beauty” either. Maybe “American Crappy”. Another problem I have with it is that I think it was trying to be “realistic”. I think they tried too hard and overshot it. It depicts a contemporary but dysfunctional family in suburbia who probably expected the American dream at one point but instead lives a twisted nightmare. The husband and wife have found themselves in a loveless marriage. Kevin Spacey, who somehow snagged the Best Actor award for his role of the apathetic husband Lester, is basically in a mid-life crisis and starts lusting after his daughter’s best friend. Puke. As he finds a reason to be again, his wife starts an affair and his daughter has an unhealthy friendship with a girl who’s a tease and ends up finding comfort in the new boy next door who’s neo-Nazi homophobic Dad has him on watch. Don’t even get me started on the daughter’s “best friend” though. There is no way a teenage girl would put up with disgusting language about her own father from a best friend.

There is no happy ending here, but it has some poignancy, so I don’t really have a problem with it. Not everything ends perfectly or happily in real life. Fortunately, we see that the father has readjusted his way of thinking and seems to be almost grateful with his life.

But, the movie as a whole kind of reminds me of “The Breakup” with Vince Vaughan and Jennifer Anniston. While Vince is hilarious, and I did laugh out loud sometimes, I didn’t go to the theatres with my husband to see another couple fighting the whole time. I go to the theatres as an escape from reality, an escape from a stressful day/week/month, and to be entertained. Not to walk out feeling depressed, grossed out, or bored. That’s just me I guess.

The only character who I thought acted well and is the only character in my opinion with some interesting depth is the neighbor boy Ricky Fitts who has an obsession with videotaping. But even with that endorsement, seeing his footage of the floating plastic bag as “the most beautiful thing [he’s] ever seen”, prompted me to say, “You need to get out more honey”. He did say something very true, however, “Never underestimate the power of denial”. That, I can completely agree with and even relate to.

This movie was up against “Cider House Rules”, “The Green Mile”, “The Insider”, and “The Sixth Sense”. I saw that first nominee but barely remember it. I saw “The Green Mile” a couple times and enjoyed it. I’ve never seen “The Insider”, but I’ve seen and own the movie THAT SHOULD HAVE WON Best Picture: “The Sixth Sense”. Seriously Academy, what happened? For one, it was the highest-grossing film of the year, raking in more than double that of “American Beauty”. It was also the most successful that night among the nominees but somehow did not win the coveted award of Best Picture. That is a far better movie in my opinion, worthy of watching again and again.

LESSONS LEARNED:

See the beauty in the unexpected (and not somewhere or in someone inappropriate). If for you, it’s in a plastic bag floating on the breeze, then great. But I also encourage you to find the beauty in what our natural world has to offer.

Lester did have one thing right. The stuff in your home is just that- stuff. It reminded me of the Bible verse from Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

You are responsible for your own happiness. If you’re unhappy with yourself or some aspect of your life, do something about it. Don’t wallow in self pity or self-righteousness, and hopefully you will never find the characters of this movie too relatable.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Marty, 1955










Not Rated

Coming in at 90 minutes, “Marty” is the shortest Best Picture winner in Oscar history. It was also the first winning film that was based on a play written for and previously produced on television, which makes sense because it has the feel of a made-for-TV movie. It is definitely not your typical Oscar winner; it’s a pretty pedestrian film. We’d probably call it a “dramedy” now. The whole story takes place in two days sometime in the early ‘50s. Marty, a heavyset Italian butcher and bachelor from the Bronx, is played by Ernest Borgnine. (I didn’t even recognize him as the mean sergeant Fatso in “From Here to Eternity”!... which was good or else he wouldn’t have appeared so endearing to me.)

There’s not a whole lot I can say about this film since it’s not too deep, but here’s the gist. From the beginning, we see that Marty is getting pressure from everybody (his mother, his siblings, even his customers) to settle down and get married. I mean, c’mon, he’s 34 and even his kid brothers have gotten married! It immediately reminded me of that line in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” when Tula’s father tells her, “You’re starting to look old… you better get married soon.” Poor Marty admits he wants to get married but he just hasn’t found the right girl. He explains to his Ma, “One fact I gotta face is that, whatever it is that women like, I ain't got it.” Over dinner, he gets pressure from his Ma to go to a night club where supposedly there are lots of “tomatoes” (a word given to her by her other son). He ends up meeting a plain-Jane school teacher (I won’t tell you how) and talks her ear off all night.

When the scene cut to the school teacher’s entrance into the club, her friend asks, “Aren’t you afraid of one of your students seeing you here?” I laughed out loud because, being an ex-teacher myself, I used to think along the same lines. What if one of my students caught me walking into this R-rated movie? And as students, we never wanted to admit that our teachers had lives outside of the classroom. No, they don’t go shopping or eat out at restaurants; they live at their desks.

The interesting conundrum is Marty’s Ma. She has been complaining that her son (who still lives with her) needs to get married. That’s the thing to do- the normal progression of life. But then she has a talk with her older sister who is getting kicked out of her son and daughter-in-law’s house for being too annoying. Her older sister basically says she should count her blessings because who is going to take care of her once Marty marries and moves out? She is a widow and she’ll have no one left “to cook for and clean up after” (because that’s the only thing Moms are good for, right?). So, after Marty’s Ma meets the girl he talked to all night, she starts warning him that she’s so plain and boring, so what’s the rush? He gets the same reaction from his friends the next day and starts to fall back into the same rut. “What do you wanna do tonight?” “I don’t know what do you wanna do tonight?”… UNTIL he comes to his senses (at the very end of the film).

It is considered one of the weakest line-ups for Best Picture in Oscar history, so I guess it’s no huge surprise that it won. “Marty” was up against “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing”, “Mister Roberts”, “Picnic”, and “The Rose Tattoo”. I haven’t seen any of the others but if “Marty” was the best of those five, I think I’ll pass on renting them. I’m not saying I wasn’t entertained, because I was. It’s just not a strong referral for the other films. It was nominated for 8 awards and won 4 including Best Actor, Director, and Screenplay. Ernest was up against James Dean for Best Actor, who was the first actor to be nominated posthumously since he died tragically in a car accident 6 months earlier. (If anyone has seen the movie he was in, “East of Eden”, I’d like to hear reviews… I think it sounds interesting.)

A couple of “dogs” (a surprising term Marty refers to themselves as since they’re not attractive):


A cool behind-the-scenes shot I found:


FAVORITE LINE:

When Marty finally decides to man-up, he goes to give the girl a call. Before he does, his friend starts to give him a hard time, and he yells back at him, “All I know is I had a good time last night. I'm gonna have a good time tonight. If we have enough good times together, I'm gonna get down on my knees. I'm gonna beg that girl to marry me.”

LESSONS LEARNED:

Don’t let others persuade or dissuade you when your heart is telling you otherwise.

Along those lines, don’t let others pressure you. If time is what you need, take all the time you want. Don’t rush into things, especially if they’re life-altering decisions.

You usually find what you need when you stop looking for it. While this cliché usually applies to love, I find it’s most true when I’m clothes shopping. I can never find a specific article I’m hunting for when I need it. But give me a free day of shopping with nothing on my list, and I’ll find everything!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Around the World in 80 Days, 1956










Not Rated

I had not seen this year’s winner which was based on the best-selling fantasy novel by Jules Verne. Perhaps you may be more familiar with the remake from 2004 with Jackie Chan (I wasn’t, because I haven’t seen that one either). So I was completely unfamiliar with the storyline other than that I assumed it had something to do with traveling the world in under three months. It is about a wealthy English gentleman in 1872, Phileas Fogg, who wagers that he can circumvent the world in 80 days (by modes that end up including: a rickshaw, a hot air balloon, a train, an elephant, a stagecoach, and a boat). He brings along his manservant, Passepartout, whom he met only the day before and hired him for his adherence to his most important concern: punctuality. (That trait plays a big revealing role at the end of the film.)

Here’s the proposed route:

Passepartout, who’s got a mustache I’d like to see come back in style [insert sarcastic eyebrow raise here], is really the most interesting part about this film. He’s clearly the comic relief and keeps this slow-moving film moving a tad faster. His name is an interesting one: in French, passe-partout means master key or all-purpose. But, the three words independently, passe par tout, literally mean passing (or going) by all. No doubt Verne had that last definition in mind when writing about a character who would travel the world by various means and see it all. I’m not sure why a Mexican is playing said Frenchman
or why an American (a VERY young Shirley MacLaine) is playing an Indian princess! I’d like a word with the casting department.

The international cast:
 

In fact, that would be an interesting conversation because then we could talk about all the cameos in the film. The producer, Michael Todd, was a rookie with no money to back up his ambitious idea. He supposedly “invented” the term and use of cameos. In order to draw audiences and gain popularity, he persuaded celebrities to make very small appearances in his film. There are so many in this film (over 4 dozen), that there is a special feature on the DVD devoted to the list. Unfortunately, the only one I recognized in the actual film was Frank Sinatra.

There was enough action to keep me interested (at least while I multi-tasked playing Sudoku), but the film surely could have been edited down by cutting back the sweeping shots of landscape. I tried to keep in mind that this movie was a great way to expose audiences to worldly scenery and countryside. I know international travel wasn’t as popular as it is today. But now, thankfully, we can get even better images than these by just doing an image search on Google or buying some Blu-ray discs.

It’s fun to think back at how it must have been for Verne to write this fantastical science fiction novel about world travel… how absurd! My, how we take for granted how easy it is to hop on a plane and travel to a remote part of the world. I haven’t read the book itself, but learned that the hot air balloon ride wasn’t even part of the story. It is briefly mentioned as an option and then disregarded as “impossible”. Duh. But I guess with a little movie magic, it looks like a piece of cake. In fact, everyone should have one of those things in their backyard when airfare gets a little too steep.

This movie was up against “The King and I”, “Friendly Persuation”, “Giant”, and “The Ten Commandments”. I’ve only seen “The King and I” and I hope it came in a close second. “Around the World in 80 Days” was nominated for eight awards and took home five (including Adapted Screenplay, Color Cinematography, Musical Score (of a Drama or Comedy), and Film Editing). Interestingly, this was the first year that all the Best Picture nominees were in color.

FAVORITE SCENE:

There was some entertaining slapstick comedy in the scene when they arrive in San Francisco. It was funny to see how the “Americans” were portrayed. But my favorite look came from the piano player who looked back as Fogg and Passepartout left the saloon. Ol’ Blue Eyes himself was providing the music, of course.


LESSONS LEARNED:

Make sure you trust your travel agent or at least have all the details about your transportation in order when taking a trip. You don’t want to be left somewhere foreign without a proper connection.

When traveling abroad, take a minute (or a day) to really savor and appreciate the different culture and landscape.

Don’t let the International Date Line or Daylight Savings Time screw you. I get anxious about changing my clocks twice a year thinking I’ll make a mistake and arrive too early or miss something important. In fact, my husband and I did almost stand a friend of ours up for breakfast in Chicago one spring day… sorry again, Philene!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, 2003










Rated PG-13

The three “Lord of the Rings” films are tied with “Back to the Future” as my most favorite trilogy. I LOVE these movies even though fantasy is not my favorite film genre. (Although I also LOVE LOVE the Harry Potter series (but mostly because I ADORE the books)). I digress… For those of you who don’t know, this is the third installment of the series (the previous two were nominated but didn’t win). “LOTR: Return of the King” was the first fantasy film to win this top honor in Oscar history and it won 11/11 nominations which is an incredible achievement. It grossed a billion dollars in just under 10 weeks, which was a new record, and it earned 3 times more than the second highest grossing film that year in box office sales, making it one of the greatest film franchises of all time.

[Oscar trivia: Two other films have also won an impressive 11 awards (“Ben-Hur” (’59) and “Titanic” (’97)) and two other films have also experienced clean sweeps (“Gigi” (’58) won 9/9 and “The Last Emperor” (’87) also won 9/9).]

If you haven’t seen this movie or its predecessors, I strongly recommend renting/borrowing them. I shouldn’t have to say that it’s necessary to see the first two films before “LOTR: Return of the King” in order to understand the complicated plot and character webs. If I must wrote a synopsis here, I will say that this movie is the continuation of the journey of Frodo and Sam (hobbits from the Shire) who are trying to destroy the one ring (“that will rule them all”) in the fires of Mount Doom. It is a dangerously powerful ring that must be destroyed and Frodo has become the chosen bearer. The rest of the Fellowship (the incredibly handsome Aragorn, the bad-ass elf Legolas, Gimli the dwarf, and two other hobbits) are left to defend other communities of Middle Earth in what seems like battle after battle against evil Sauron’s armies.

It is fairly well-known that the late J.R.R. Tolkien (author of this series of books) was a Catholic and there are many parallels to Christ and the Christian life in these books about good versus evil and overcoming temptation. Specifically, Frodo, like Jesus, carries a heavy burden that no one else can carry. He has a small and devoted following to help him in his mission. Near the end, as Frodo climbs Mount Doom to complete his task, he crumbles from exhaustion under the pressure of his burden. Frodo’s closest friend, Sam (like Simon of Cyrene), helps him finish his journey by shouldering the weight. Aragorn can also be perceived as a Christ-figure. In this third film specifically, he returns to his throne as King after years of cover disguised as a ranger. Gandalf the wizard is another one; he must perish in order to save his friends. He rises three days later as a greater, more powerful wizard. The lembas bread, a gift from the elves, is the sole food the hobbits depend on as they continue their arduous undertaking. Tolkien once commented that the bread was a “derivation of the Eucharist” and it “gave strength to endure”. I could go on and on, but my point is that these books/films are rich in symbolism worth discovering. They are full of lessons in mercy, redemption, salvation, self-sacrifice, and loyalty, and the struggles of pride, temptation, and suffering.

Even though they filmed the three movies consecutively, they had an extra two years to edit this final one and put to use the special effects improvements. To blog about this Oscar winner, I knew I couldn’t just see the final movie; I had to re-watch the first two (and introduce my sister to the trilogy). I immediately noticed how Gollum looked more realistic, not to mention Shelob (the spider), the oliphaunts, the dead men of the mountains, etc.

I think I am the only person who wasn’t creeped out by or hated Gollum/Smeagol. I don’t know… I just felt bad for him. Maybe part of my heart bled for a misunderstood and self-tortured little guy with split-personality disorder. I kept defending his behavior like Frodo did. I was holding out for a scene in which he redeemed himself in the final film, but alas, he fell short (well, actually he fell a long way).

My main critique of this movie is the ending(s). People actually lifted themselves off their seats in the theatre when it looked like it was over. And then it happened again. And again. I understand there were a lot of storylines to wrap up; I just wish they each weren’t done in such sweeping panoramic way accompanied by soft music and a blackout.

This was the first time that a film was nominated for this many awards with none of them in the acting categories. (I think Sean Astin was snubbed for a Best Supporting Actor award though… c’mon- how many times did that guy make me cry in this film!?) Aside from Best Director, the awards were mostly in technical categories. Since the movies are obviously using the same make-up, costuming, music, etc., it’s thought that this Best Picture award is in recognition of the entire trilogy. I’m now wondering if the second part of the seventh Harry Potter film will win Best Picture at next year’s award ceremony…

This was the predictable favorite. “LOTR: Return of the King” was up against “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”, “Lost in Translation”, “Mystic River”, and “Seabiscuit”. I’ve seen those last two films and heard iffy reviews about the first. I personally think the movie “Cold Mountain” got a nomination snub for Best Picture though. Renee Zellwegger won for Best Supporting Actress and Jude Law was nominated. Although, there were difficult scenes to watch when I saw it in the theatre, I’ve since bought the DVD and watched it a few more times. (I LOVE the music in it too.)

A GREAT SCENE:

I liked too many scenes to pick a favorite but one that I thought was well performed/filmed/edited was the one in which Pippen sings a song to Denethor while Faramir and his horsemen are bravely riding to their deaths. And props to the actor, Billy Boyd, for singing it himself! I’ve attached a link to YouTube of this scene:


LESSON LEARNED:

As long as there’s something to hope for, all is not lost. Although it seemed like an impossible task, Frodo (and his fellowship) soldiered on. Isaiah 40:31 says, But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles”. Interestingly, Frodo and Sam fly away from Mount Doom on eagles’ wings... ;)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grand Hotel, 1932










Not Rated

This film was the 5th to win Best Picture in Oscar history. The Grand Hotel, which according to the movie, is the nicest and most expensive hotel in Germany, is a supporting character itself in this film. In its own art-deco style, the hotel houses its unique guests and keeps their secrets, giving us a glimpse in the lives of five characters whose lives intertwine over the course of two days. The hotel’s on-call doctor states at the end of the film to a guest, “The Grand Hotel. Always the same. People come. People go...nothing ever happens.” How little did he know…

Greta Garbo plays Grusinskaya, a washed up ballerina who desperately misses the days of larger audiences and being desired. She utters her famous line “I want to be alone” in this movie. I had never seen her in a film before, but seeing her act in this reminded me that I want to see her in “Camille” (which is the movie Daddy Warbucks takes Annie to see in one of my favorite children’s movies). She is so dramatic- a defining attribute of actresses on the big screen during that time period.

Joan Crawford plays Flaemmchen, who is a stenographer (which is only one way she makes a living, ahem) floating from one job to the next to earn enough money to settle somewhere in what she dreams as the good life.

John Barrymore (Drew Barrymore’s grandfather) plays the dashing but broke Baron von Gaigern who is the “bad” guy you love. He falls for Miss Drama and she for him in a somewhat cliché scene of them holding each other professing something about beauty, desire, dependability, etc.

Lionel Barrymore (Drew’s great uncle and John’s brother) plays the terminally-ill Mr. Kringelein and perhaps my favorite character. I totally didn’t recognize that he was the same man who played Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. He also starred in “Lady Be Good”, a musical I had the pleasure of dancing in 16 years ago, so now I’m intrigued to see that movie too (next year). He knows he’s nearing the end of his life, so he decides to live out the remainder of his short time in style and opulence. He is a sweetheart so I was pleased with the resolution of his storyline.

I’m surprised this movie hasn’t been re-done. It strikes me as the type of movie that can be easily remade in any decade and be just as entertaining. Storylines with characters whose lives intertwine and/or change because of their meetings intrigue me.

This film is unique because it is the ONLY one in Oscar history that won the honor of Best Picture and was failed to be nominated in any other category. “Grand Hotel” was up against “Arrowsmith”, “The Champ”, “Bad Girl”, “Five Star Final”, “One Hour with You”, “Shanghai Express”, and “The Smiling Lieutenant”. I haven’t heard of or seen any of those films so I can’t rightly compare, but I thought this movie was pretty entertaining for an old black & whitey. Also, just an unrelated tidbit from this year’s award ceremony: this was the first and only time two actors won/tied for the Best Actor award. Interesting, huh?

The hotel doctor had another line in the film that got me thinking. He said to another guest, “What do you do in the Grand Hotel? Eat. Sleep. Loaf around. Flirt a little. Dance a little. A hundred doors leading to one hall, and no one knows anything about the person next to them. And when you leave, someone occupies your room, lies in your bed, and that's the end.” I think it is such an interesting way to look at hotels. When it’s said like that, it sounds impersonal and almost like an invasion of privacy. But that’s actually what we’re doing as hotel guests… honing in on the hotel’s personal space. So many different types of people with different jobs, agendas, preferences, and secrets with one thing in common: our choice of where to lay our head at night.

BEHIND THE SCENES:

I found this shot online and thought it was fascinating for a couple of reasons. One, it all makes sense for me after seeing their lighting set-up. Many times throughout the movie, I thought ‘Wow, it looks like they just have a spotlight on them’ (versus some more natural-looking room lighting). Second, I would venture a guess that producers, directors, and assistants don’t dress like that anymore on the movie sets…


Here are two other shots of the stars, Lionel & Joan and John & Greta.

      

LESSONS LEARNED:

We’re a lot closer to each other than you think. Yes, proximity in a hotel is one thing, but also in regards to the human desires, drives, and emotions.

Don’t get so absorbed in how you make a living that you forget how to live. Each character in this film learned this lesson (some the hard way).