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…


Monday, July 30, 2012

You Can't Take it with You, 1938









Not Rated

This delightful little comedy is an adaptation of a Broadway stage play and is directed by Frank Capra (who brought us one of my all-time holiday favorites eight years later, “It’s a Wonderful Life”). The story follows the eccentric Vanderhof/Sycamore/Carmichael extended family that lives in a large house in Manhattan. The granddaughter of the family, Alice, works at a bank alongside her beau Tony (who is the bank owner’s son and second in command). Mayhem and comedy ensue as Alice invites Tony (played adorably by Jimmy Stewart) and his uppity family over for dinner… only they come a night early and surprise the Vanderhofs. It turns out that Tony actually planned on having them come over a night early in order to catch the Vanderhofs in their natural state (and not trying to put on airs for his wealthy family). This, naturally, leads to a heated argument between Alice and Tony… will they get back together!? Each actor in this film performs his/her character’s uniqueness perfectly; it’s what makes this film so fun to watch. If you’re a fan of my Christmastime fave, you surely won’t be disappointed with this one.


For those of you who have seen “It’s a Wonderful Life”, you’ll see a few familiar faces in this film… for one, the lovable James Stewart (who’s also in Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”). Lionel Barrymore (Drew’s granduncle) who plays the crotchety miser Mr. Potter, plays the simple-minded but wise Mr. Vanderhof (aka Grandpa) in quite an opposite role. You’ll also recognize George Bailey’s father. I guess Mr. Capra enjoyed working with people he felt comfortable with and accustomed to… although I do know that back then, actors had contracts with studios, so he may not have had any say in the matter.

The title of the film comes from the dialogue that Mr. Vanderhof has with Mr. Kirby (the bank owner) during their surprise dinner visit. Mr. Vanderhof doesn’t see the point of stashing riches, of “making more money than you can ever use. You can’t take it with you, so what good is it? The only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends.”

Interesting little thing I noticed: while cleaning the house, one character appropriately starts whistling the tune “Whistle While You Work”. Now I’m sure you all know that this song is originally from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”, but did you know that it came out only the year before? It had already become so popular and engrained in pop culture (just like another Disney song reference in the Academy’s first comedy win “It Happened One Night”.)

This film’s win was a bit of a surprise given it was a comedy. It had an impressive seven nominations but only received two wins (including Best Director). It was up against “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “Boys Town”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, “Four Daughters”, “The Citadel”, “Grand Illusion”, “Jezebel”, “Test Pilot”, and “Pygmalion”. I haven’t seen any of those though I’ve seen the “modern day” version of “Pygmalion”: “MyFair Lady”.

FAVORITE SCENE:

The best scene in this film is when the Kirbys come over for “dinner” and surprise the clan in all their glory. Each family member is a little oddball in their own way and you simultaneously feel embarrassment and delight in their new predicament. Since the food was not going to be ordered and made until the next day, Penny Sycamore is in a tizzy about what to do for dinner. Mr. Vanderhof seems unaffected and simply lists some items they have on hand and can prepare in a hurry: “Get some beer, canned salmon, frankfurters, canned corn, and sauerkraut”. I was crying laughing watching Mrs. Kirby’s reaction as she looks as if she’s about to vomit.

LESSONS LEARNED:

I couldn’t helped but be reminded of this Bible verse after Grandpa’s little speech to Mr. Kirby: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” Matthew 6:19-20. In today’s society, we place a lot of emphasis on material goods. Keep in mind we can’t take them with us and should be practicing important virtues of patience and love with one another here on earth.

Along those lines and at the risk of sounding cliché: money can’t make you happy. You can’t buy your happiness- it comes from within. And it’s what you do with your money, property, belongings that really matters.

I’d like to revise Mr. Vanderhof’s last part of his lesson though… you can take the love of your friends AND family and the kindness you bestowed on others. It’s important to do nice things for others (not just the people you know well).

We’re all embarrassed by our families. But remember, our individual quirks and insanities, if you will, are our own family inheritance. So c’mon- let’s put the fun back in dysfunctional! J

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gandhi, 1982









Rated PG (may be a little lenient)

I thought I’d follow up my last post with another post about a religious and historical film. Interestingly, this is the second year in a row that a film with religious themes won the top honor (following “Chariots of Fire” the year before).

My husband knows practically everything there is to know about me (and vice versa) since I’ve been with him now for more than half of my life. But, when we sat down to watch this Oscar winner, I was surprised that he had never seen this before. He was equally surprised that I had seen this twice already. (How can you NOT have seen “Gandhi”??, I thought.) Thanks to my parents, I saw this when I was young, (actually too young to really appreciate it), but many things stayed with me encouraging me to watch it again when I was an adult. I got even more out of it watching it a third time. I highly recommend this film to anyone; it is a good history lesson in addition to having valuable lessons in servitude, humility, and faith.

This three hour-long epic is the life story of Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi, a man who became a prominent Indian leader promoting civil disobedience through non-violence. In his early life, Gandhi was an established lawyer in South Africa who helped attain civil rights for Hindis and Muslims through acts of non-violence. Upon returning to impoverished India in 1915, he decides to actively continue his campaign of non-violence and non-cooperation while “fighting” for India’s independence from Britain. He also works for the emancipation of the “untouchables”- the lowest class on the caste system required to clean latrines, sweep, and scavenge. He selflessly forsakes worldly possessions and fasts many times in his life, even to the brink of death. He is imprisoned for political offenses but continues to preach peace and truth and “fight” for a self-sufficient India up until the day he is assassinated in 1948. (As you can see, the film covers a good chunk of time.)

Gandhi is known as “The Father of the Nation” in India and his birthday, October 2nd, is a national holiday and celebrated worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence. This is an excerpt of a speech given at Gandhi’s funeral (also in the film): The object of this massive tribute died as he had always lived - a private man without wealth, without property, without official title or office. Mahatma Gandhi was not a commander of great armies nor ruler of vast lands. He could boast no scientific achievements or artistic gift. Yet men, governments and dignitaries from all over the world have joined hands today to pay homage to this little brown man in the loincloth who led his country to freedom. Pope Pius, the Archbishop of Canterbury, President Truman, Chiang Kai-shek, The Foreign Minister of Russia, the President of France... are among the millions here and abroad who have lamented his passing. In the words of General George C. Marshall, the American Secretary of State, "Mahatma Gandhi had become the spokesman for the conscience of mankind, a man who made humility and simple truth more powerful than empires." And Albert Einstein added, "Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” After reading that, who wouldn’t want to see this movie and learn more about this remarkable man!?

There were quite a few terms thrown around in this film that I was naïve to their meanings: Sammie (a derogatory term for an African-American), coon (an offensive term for a black person), kaffir (an insulting term for a black African), coolie (a Hindi word for West-Indian baggage carriers, turned derogatory), and fakir (a Muslim or Hindu who lives solely on alms). I had heard of “coon” before, but all of these words were derogatively used towards Gandhi (an Indian), so that’s why I was confused. Name-calling is so childish; I don’t understand it or have patience for it.

Perhaps I’m being too conservative, but I think this film is violent enough to warrant a PG-13 rating. There are beatings, riots, and open shootings in crowds; that and the subject matter should be saved for someone old enough to understand and handle its meaning.

From its impressive eleven nominations, “Gandhi” walked away with eight awards including a well-deserved Best Actor award for Ben Kingsley. Kingsley became Gandhi. His transformation in looks, mannerisms, and speech is amazing. This winner was up against “E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial”, “Missing”, “Tootsie”, and “The Verdict”. I am confident that the correct film one; no other competition comes close, even though “E.T.” was clearly the blockbuster hit this year, and I do enjoy that film. (“Gandhi” only grossed one-seventh that of “E.T.”). However, I am very surprised to learn that a very influential movie was left out of this year’s nominations: “Sophie’s Choice”. That is a powerful and emotional film with one very traumatically scarring scene (her choice) that I think should have deserved a nomination. Meryl Streep won one of her three Academy Awards for Best Actress for her portrayal of Sophie (see another one of her award-winning performances in “Kramer vs.Kramer”).

The real Gandhi (very late in his life) and Ben Kingsley…



FAVORITE QUOTES:

Charles Andrews, an English priest and Gandhi’s friend, walks away with him after narrowly escaping a beating by some neighborhood ruffians…
Charles: That was lucky.
Gandhi: I thought you were a man of God.
Charles: I am, but I’m not so egotistical as to think He plans his day around my dilemmas. 

Gandhi: An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

LESSONS LEARNED:

See last Favorite Quote. Don’t seek revenge; seek forgiveness.

When asked to give the people a message, Gandhi responded, “My life is my message”. Make your life your message. Act and speak the way you want others to, and remember you are all the while teaching younger generations.