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…


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rain Main, 1988





Rated R (which I think is too harsh)


This is such a touching film about understanding, acceptance, and appreciation and I was excited to get to watch it a second time for this blog. “Rain Man” tells the story of Charlie and Raymond Babbit. Charlie (Tom Cruise) is a money-hungry luxury car salesman who learns that upon his estranged father’s death, he was only left his prize-winning rosebushes and Buick convertible instead of $3 million dollars and the estate. He discovers that the $3 million is going to an unnamed beneficiary at a mental institution. Feeling robbed of his birthright, he is determined to get his inheritance and confront the possible fraud. Enter Raymond (aka Rain Man).


Ray (Dustin Hoffman) is an adult with autism and is the brother Charlie never knew he had. He is also an idiot savant (whose title doesn’t sit well with me but who is considered “a person with autism that has extraordinary skills in certain domains in spite of cognitive deficiencies in most others” according to idiotsavant.com). Charlie basically kidnaps Raymond in an effort to get his money and on their cross-country trip back to his lawyers in Los Angeles, he is easily frustrated by his brother’s behavior. He gets to see first-hand how important Ray’s routines and repetitions are. The audience is privileged to see the change that takes place in Charlie as he discovers more about his older brother.


Hoffman was the obvious win this year for Best Actor. I just wanted to reach into the screen and hug Raymond (although I’m sure that would’ve startled him into a fit). I consider this the best role of his career. Cruise was pretty spectacular too.


Individuals with Autism typically like to stick to routines, however, this is not something specific to this disorder and I know that first-hand. My beautiful younger sister has Down syndrome and I know how important routines are to her. It’s more than just structure, which I think benefits all children, but it’s the specific routines (e.g. the order things are done when getting ready for bed) that keep the peace. It can borderline on obsessive-compulsive behavior at times, but it’s important for maintaining their inner harmony. I also tutored a rather low-functioning 11-year old with Autism when I was in college. As challenging as that job was, it was incredibly rewarding watching her effectively communicate and accomplish simple tasks independently. 


The award-winning Director, Barry Morrow, gave his Oscar statuette to the inspiration behind his film, Kim Peet, to have when he went on speaking engagements. Kim was known as a “megasavant” and amazed people with his ability to immediately tell people what day of the week they were born on based on the date (among other astounding talents, obviously).

Peek and Morrow


This film was by far the highest grossing one of the year and won four of its eight nominations. Its competition came nowhere close at the box office, and it’s probably no surprise by now that I haven’t seen any of them: “The Accidental Tourist”, “Dangerous Liaisons”, “Mississippi Burning”, and “Working Girl”. A bit of Oscar trivia: this is the year the phrase “And the winner is…” was changed to “And the Oscar goes to…”


MEMORABLE SCENES:


It’s too hard to pick a favorite scene because there are touching ones and funny ones. My heart melts at one of the end scenes when Raymond and Charlie are talking to the lawyer and institution director about custody and Ray labels Charlie as his “Main Man”.



I also thought parts of the road trip were pretty comical. (I can closely relate to some of those moments because of my own memories with my sissy.)



LESSONS LEARNED:


People with Autism (or any disability) teach and change US. We have so much to learn from these special people (ie. patience, understanding, sensitivity, adjustment…) and we can be forever changed for the better for having known them.


Routines are good. As I mentioned before, I know this from experience with my sister, but also as a mother of two toddler boys. Routines provide stability and structure and can also offer comfort. Without them in my life, too much crazy gets in.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Departed, 2006




Rated R

I thought I’d follow watching a violent movie with another incredibly violent movie that won Best Picture just the year before. (No, actually, that was not my thinking... It just so happened that our Bed & Breakfast had this movie in its collection while my hubby and I were on vacation.) We first saw this movie in the theatre when it came out and hated it (and I think we’re the only ones, after talking to a few friends). I felt sickened, violated, and offended, and that I lost two and a half hours of my life.

 
The story takes place in Boston as the police force is trying to take down the organized crime in the Irish-American community headed by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). He has had a secret informant (Matt Damon) in the state police department for a while. But now, police Captain (Martin Sheen) and Staff Sergeant (Mark Wahlberg) place a new undercover cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) on an assignment to infiltrate Costello’s posse in order to bring him down. Word gets ‘round that there’s a rat, and both Damon and DiCaprio’s characters are each on a hunt to discover who it is before he himself is discovered. “Cover you’re a--” seems to be a major theme in this film and it’s taken to the extreme. “The Departed” is an appropriate title for this film because there certainly are a lot of them. It’s a full-blown Greek tragedy.

Apparently Boston’s full of pretty-boy cops. Seriously… DiCaprio, Damon, AND Wahlberg? We got it- you got a cast that girls wouldn’t mind seeing on the big screen, but let’s be real. And it’s hard for me to think that a police force can really be this “dirty”. It’s just too unsettling for me. They’re supposed to be the good guys not the bad ones.

People who know me know I can throw my fair share of expletives around (a horrible habit I’m trying to break), but not like these guys. Just listening to them made me uncomfortable; they throw the F word around like it’s the word “the”, among other unpleasantries. So, if cold-blooded violence, racist remarks, and obscene language doesn’t faze you, then you should be fine, but it does me, so I’ll probably not see this for a third time. It’s not that I don’t like thrillers or suspenseful movies; it’s just that I think it could have been done differently and still have been effective and entertaining.


I find it hilarious that when I looked this movie up on imdb.com, I noticed that under: “People who liked this also liked….,” there was the movie poster for “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Um, what? Because of the racism? For those of you who LOVE the latter as much as I do, know that I don’t think that’s necessarily a strong indication that you’ll enjoy “The Departed”.

This is Oscar’s first and only Best Picture winner that is a remake of a previously made foreign film (from Hong Kong in 2002). Its competition was “Babel”, “Letters from Iwo Jima”, “The Queen”, and “Little Miss Sunshine”. I’ve seen the last two films and would’ve preferred “The Queen” to win if I had to choose, but I’m not entirely enthusiastic about any of them. I take that back, I’d probably prefer the un-nominated “Blood Diamond” to win. I’d watch that again before any of these. This was the first time in Oscar history that the most-nominated film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture: “Dreamgirls” won only 2 awards from its eight nominations. I wasn’t in love with this film either as much as the rest of the nation was… I don’t know, maybe I was having a blah year.

FAVORITE SCENES:

The credits.

Any scene that didn’t involve blood.


LESSONS LEARNED:

If I wasn’t married, I might consider moving to Boston. Apparently they have nice-looking cops. (Luckily, I married a man who everyone thinks looks like Matt Damon, so I’m good.)

my husband (kind of)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

No Country for Old Men, 2007






Rated R

I was not interested in seeing this movie when it came out, nor did I want to see it for this challenge, nor do I need to see it again. It’s not that it was THAT bad, it’s just not my kind of movie. It is pretty violent, which isn’t my cup of tea, but it’s the suspense surrounding the violence that I dislike the most. My stomach gets in more knots from me asking What’s he gonna do to him? and What’s he gonna do with that?, that by the end of the movie, I’ve bitten off all my nails and upset my stomach thinking how the situation could’ve played out.

This dark western/horror/chase/film noir was award-winningly directed by the infamous Coen brothers and was their first film based solely on a novel. (I’m personally not a big fan of any of the brothers’ films.) Taking place in 1980, this film is a cat-and-mouse game involving a cold-blooder killer, a deputy, and your average Joe. The latter, Llewelyn (played by Josh Brolin), comes across a drug deal gone very wrong in a stretch of nowhere in West Texas. There he finds a truckload of cocaine and a briefcase containing $2 million and we soon see he believes in “finders keepers”. The psychopath, Anton Chigurh, (kind of pronounced the way Southerners say “sugar” but with the accent on the last syllable), is out to get that money back, and Ed Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is the about-to-retire cop hot on his trail.

The title of the film is taken from the first line of a poem by William Butler Yeats. I believe this is supposed to be a thought of Bell. He is dismayed at the amount of violence still going on in society and feels he’ll never beat it. In short, Bell is getting to old for this.

SPOILER: Why is the movie’s tagline “There are no clean getaways” when that’s precisely what the bad guy makes at the end of the film?? I mean, I guess he’s not clean- he’s pretty bloody, but he escapes the captures of the police.

Javier Bardem won the award for Best Supporting Actor (even though I think Josh Brolin gave an acting performance of equal value). One of the creepiest things about his character is his hairstyle and I find it interesting that it’s not featured in the movie poster. In fact, Javier doesn’t look all that terrifying in that shot, he just looks tired. But in this one…. eew.


This film was up against “Atonement”, “There Will Be Blood”, “Michael Clayton”, and “Juno”. In my opinion, I think this was a pretty weak year for the Oscars. I saw “Juno” and enjoyed it but it wasn’t Oscar caliber; I’m pretty sure I saw “Atonement”; and the rest I think are forgettable (if not already forgotten) films. Disney/Pixar’s “Ratatouille”, however, won for Best Animated Feature Film and THAT is a memorable film- one of my family’s faves! J

FAVORITE SCENE:

…didn’t exist. I would’ve liked to see justice brought to Chigurh, instead I’m left with the thought that he may still be out there in west Texas.

LESSON LEARNED:

Chigurh has forever ruined coin tosses for me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Midnight Cowboy, 1969

Rated R 


HATED IT. Once again, I find myself in the minority (according to imdb.com, rottentomatoes.com, and two people I’ve talked to) in not liking/appreciating this cult classic. It just isn’t my type of movie, and if you know me, you’ll probably know why. Basically, I’d gladly watch “Tom Jones”, my least favorite movie before this one, a few more times before this one.

Call me naïve, but I didn’t know what the title was referring to but I soon found out that a “midnight cowboy” is code for male hustler. Jon Voight, a newcomer to the screen, plays Joe Buck who leaves his small town in Texas to move to the big city (NYC) because if there’s anything he’s good at, it’s pleasing the ladies. “I ain’t a for-real cowboy, but I’m one hell of a stud!” – Joe Buck. (Turns out, he’s about as naïve as I am.)

In the city, Buck meets “Ratso” Rizzo (played by award-nominated Dustin Hoffman), a drifter and a cripple who befriends him and agrees to help him find “work” and even lets him stay at his apartment. It’s evident Rizzo has fallen on hard times and staying warm and eating are hard things to do in the dropping temperatures of NY. I’m sure that’s what leads to Rizzo’s getting sick (although I don’t know from what exactly), and near the end of the film, Buck declares he’s had enough of the city anyways, so he’s going to do everything he can to make enough money for bus tickets to sunny Florida. In a touching scene at the end, Rizzo dies on their way to Florida, leaving both of their dreams unfulfilled: Buck’s successful life in New York City and Rizzo’s life of paradise in Miami. That’s the basic rundown of the plot, but I’ve obviously left out all of the scenes involving sex and drugs.

The film is daring and quite scandalous and is the only Best Picture winner with an original X-rating. It was initially released as an X-rated movie for its language, nudity, rape, sex, homosexual references, and drug references). It was downgraded to an R-rating two years later. Obviously, this movie is a product of its time: the swinging ‘60s, sexual revolution, drug craze, etc. Keeping all that in mind, critics and audiences still thought it was a bit shocking but realistic and significant enough to be award the top honor. Juxtapose this film with the film made the year before (“Oliver!”) or even a decade earlier (“Ben-Hur”) and you’ll see that we have a wide array of Best Picture-winning films, which makes this blog challenge so interesting to me.

I recently asked my mom (who’s in her early 60s) if she’d seen this film. Her first response: “Yeah, I loved it!”. After I picked my jaw off the floor (and reminded myself to keep in mind “the times”), I then proceeded to remind her about the film’s plot and content. Needless to say, she doesn’t want to watch it again. For me, this is a prime example of remembering the memory/experience and not the situation/movie because I’m pretty positive that it’s not her cup of tea anymore. What made a lasting impression on her though were Dustin’s performance (which was pretty good) and the soundtrack. The film’s signature song (which is played to death in my opinion), is “Everybody’s Talkin’”.

The film is also so full of flashbacks, flash forwards, and “what if?” hallucinations that I found it annoying; the cinematography was nauseating. I also noticed the main characters were sweaty, and not in that way, but in a “will someone from Make-up hand him a blotting sheet please!” way, but I guess it all adds to the realness and grittiness of it all.

This film’s competition was: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” which is also very popular and one I want to see, “Hello Dolly!” which I enjoyed, starring my faves Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau, “Anne of the Thousand Days”, and “Z”, both of which I’ve never heard of or seen.

MEMORABLE SCENE:

I didn’t know that one of the most famous movie lines came from this film… While crossing the street, Dustin Hoffman’s character nearly gets run over by a cab. He hits the hood of the cab and yells, “Hey! I’m walkin’ here!” I’ve seen that clip before and heard it referenced in other shows but never knew its origin. There’s a discrepancy whether or not that line was improvised. Hoffman “brags” that he improvised that line in order not to ruin the take when the cab came out of nowhere. But a producer claims it was written in and edited to look like an ad-lib.

 
 
LESSONS LEARNED:

I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to movies. (But that’s ok with me).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rebecca, 1940






Not Rated

Oscar’s first mystery/thriller is brought to us by none other than the master of suspense himself: Alfred Hitchcock. This was his directorial debut and first of five career-long unsuccessful nominations. (He finally received an Honorary Award in 1967.) This, not too surprisingly, was also my first Hitchcock film. The film is produced by the same producer (Selznic) who brought us the incredible epic “Gone with the Wind” just the year before.

“Rebecca”, based on a gothic novel, stars Laurence Olivier as the standoffish Max de Winter who is a widower brooding and sulking over the recent passing of his beautiful wife Rebecca. (From this we learn that the title character never actually appears in the film yet it still revolves around her. Although she’s invisible, she is such a part of the film that we seem to know her.)  Mr. de Winter is a wealthy owner of an expansive estate called Manderley. On a vacation to Monte Carlo, he meets, bypasses courtship, and marries a young woman who has a crush on him. She is interestingly unnamed in the film until she becomes and is referred to only as Mrs. de Winter.

Although Max’s occasional language with his new wife caught me a little off guard (e.g. “Don’t be such a little idiot, darling”), I could tell he really does love her. We’re informed immediately of how different she is from the deceased Mrs. de Winter: for one, she’s more of a “plain Jane”; she is of no social standing and doesn’t know how to throw parties; she doesn’t care about expensive and elaborate clothing/items. Even though it’s obvious he adores her so, I started to wonder, well why did he marry someone totally different then??

At her new home in Manderley, Mrs. de Winter does not meet the approval of the head housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. Just as I was beginning to wonder why Hitchcock is known for suspense, about 40 minutes into the film, things get a little creepy… somethin’s not right with Mrs. Danvers. She psychologically tortures the new young wife. The poor thing can’t get away from haunting reminders of her husband’s previous and “better” wife. Rebecca is such a presence in her new life/home, there’s no way around it, and it’s easy to see why the new Mrs. de Winter is intimidated. Now that I think about it, I’m sure it wasn’t an accident that the new Mrs. de Winter doesn’t have a first name… When we meet her in the beginning, she is being pushed around by her employer (to whom she’s a personal assistant). She then marries into a household and becomes completely overshadowed by a ghost. It’s as if she was meant to have no identity at all.

Near the end, through a well-performed monologue by Olivier, we learn about Rebecca’s life and what happened in her death. And while what we learned in his speech didn’t surprise me that much, it is what followed that had me watching and listening intently. Hopefully I’ve intrigued you enough to rent the film and watch Hitchcock’s ending for yourself. Although my detective self “called” a couple things, I couldn’t have predicted the end if I tried- there are a few different twists.

One little thing that bothered me: their use of green screens. It is so obvious that a screen was used behind the de Winters while driving a convertible (that’s pretty typical in older films). But there was a scene where they were just walking on some of the estate’s property where it was obvious there was a screen behind them. (The shot was zoomed in from their wastes up and the timing didn’t match up to their walking.) Could they not find a park-like area to film a brief walk??

I haven’t seen any of the other films it was up against: “All This, and Heaven Too”, “The Philadelphia Story”, “Foreign Correspondent” (also Hitchcock’s), “The Grapes of Wrath”, “The Great Dictator”, “Kitty Foyle”, “The Letter”, “The Long Voyage Home”, and “Our Town”. Interestingly, “Rebecca” was up for an impressive eleven nominations but only walked away with the top honor which is very unusual.

FAVORITE SCENE:

I thought Olivier’s performance was pretty on the mark during his “confession” in the boathouse. For the most part, I wasn’t too connected to him as a character… I like him much better in “Hamlet”. But I liked the manner in which this scene was filmed and I liked how the story unfolded after that. I couldn’t find a photo of this scene in particular, so I posted one that comes later- the one where I went “Wooooooah”. J


LESSONS LEARNED:

Try to get on the housekeeper’s good side (unless she’s crazy).

I should see more Hitchcock films.

Have self-confidence and assertiveness. Had the new Mrs. de Winter been sure in herself that her new husband loved her as she was, she wouldn’t have been so easily intimidated by Mrs. Danvers and could’ve stood up for herself.