Tag Archives: Oscars

Topkapi

1964

directed by: Jules Dassin

Oscars: Best Supporting Actor – Peter Ustinov

Picked this up over the weekend.  Decent heist movie.  Let’s go into it.

So this starts out on a massive LSD trip with weird colors, weird dialog, and a weird looking blonde foreign (older) chick.  And I thought to myself, ‘oh no, Mike, what kind of movie did you get? Some sort of Euro-Mod-Hippie incoherent mess of a movie.’  But then the titles roll, and no mention of any of this is made again. Or so it seemed for me.

So this move plays out (broadly) as a museum heist.  Long-time criminals (played by older blonde foreign chick & a dead ringer for the villain in The Mask) wait… I always get mixed up on what the villain from The Mask looks like… Ok, I’m back, nope not him.    AH HA! The villain from License to Kill.  And the Goonies. And to a certain extent, Die Hard…. well he played the FBI agent. Sorry about that, okay so these two basically hire a bunch of rag-tag amateurs to help burgle this knife from a Turkish … Sultan…Emperor…Tsar…Dude.  Enter Peter Ustinov as the bumbling grifter who gets in way over his head and is quickly apprehended by the Turkish Secret Police.  This is where the movie gets really good.  Because it seemed like 20 minutes in, he gets caught , and welp, that’s all she wrote.  But he, as Catherine Zeta Jones did in Entrapment, is (everyone all together) “playing both sides”.

Hijnks ensue.  It’s mostly a “will they (the secret police) find out? / will the bandits get away with it?”  .  Not many places to go at the end , plot-wise.

Beautiful cinescapes of Istanbul in the 60’s though.  Worth checking out for Pete Ustinov’s performance and fans of heist movies (Who isnt?) and fans of Turkey/Greece.

Oh and Mission Impossible totally rips off the ‘dangling Tom Cruise from above and lowering him because he can’t touch the floor’ from this movie.

Underrated Actors: Ustinov won the Academy Award (must have been a slow Oscars year), Robert Morley as the old British guy that made toys… nah, not really.

 

 


Network

1976

directed by: Sidney Lumet

Oscars: Best Actor – Peter Finch; Best Actress – Faye Dunaway; Best Supporting Actress – Beatrice Straight; Best Original Screenplay

Okay, my last “recent” film for a while.  I promise.  Sort of.  Now on first glance, you’re like wow, that’s a lot of Oscars.  Especially a lot of Acting Oscars.  And you’d be right.  In fact, I’d say it’s too many.  1976 must have been a down year for movies. … Hmm, let’s check Best Picture nominees,  ech, All the President’s Men, Taxi Driver, and Rocky won. …So yeah. This makes more sense.  But still, Ned Beatty got a nomination for best Supporting Actor for this movie for playing … Arthur Jensen.  I don’t even remember seeing an Arthur Jensen … I mean he was mentioned.  But maybe it was a little too fast paced for me to realize who everyone was.  Hell, the two main guys looked alike to me.  Not Robert Duvall.  Obviously.  And the chick who won Best Supporting Actress? She was in the movie for maybe like … 5 minutes at best and 2 or 3 scenes.  Had 1 rant.  More on rants later.   Well,  to be fair, Best Supporting Actress is kind of Sham.  Okay a big sham.  Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique (I feel dirty just typing that), Octavia Spencer, Angelina Jolie, Tilda Swinton (in Michael Clayton … a terrible film)   … Shudder.    I mean really, Renee Zellweger?

Anyways, where was I? Oh that’s right, I was demonstrating the point of Network.  It’s a film about rants. Basically, Dennis Miller but … not funny at all.  I’m not going to lie, I enjoyed Peter Finch’s rants.  (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more”)   He was good.  He deserved his award.  However, he wasn’t the main focus of the film.  Rather, it was more about William Holden and Faye Dunaway.  Now, disclaimer, I don’t really care for Faye Dunaway.  She’s got too much Katherine Hepburn and not enough Audrey.  Other notable actresses like this: Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman etc. minus her being American… I think… (confirmed, and oh wow. She’s had some work done).

Anyways, this film is a classic.  I guess.  It’s got its moments with Finch.  And the seeds are there for all current political/news fiction drama movies/TV series.  And I like Robert Duvall (not only because we share a birthday) .  But in the end, it really didn’t do that much for me.

Underrated Actors:  I guess Robert Duvall.


Barry Lyndon

1975

directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Oscars:  Best Art Direction; Best Cinematography; Best Costume Design; Best Musical Score

One of these days I’ll watch all of Kubrick’s films.  This was my motivation to look through and find some that would interest me that I haven’t seen.  Barry Lyndon is Kubrick’s film in between A Clockwork Orange and The Shining.  So it’s got to be like, super twisted and all, right? … Nope.

Barry Lyndon is a coming of age/revenge/anti-hero flick set in one of the best decades, namely … the 1760’s.    Kubrick sets the tone right away, with some voiceover work, and a duel.  This dueling serves as a major motif of the film, and most of the plot junctures are centered around them.  Plotwise, though, what struck me as superiorly brilliant though, was Barry’s involvement with women, or rather what Kubrick was telling us about man’s involvement with women over the course of one’s life.  The movie starts out, as I said, with a duel, with Barry’s father getting killed.  So right off the bat, Barry’s dependence on his mother is apparent. He then extends this familial love to his cousin, whom is his first love.  Now the film points out it’s his first love, and you know right off the bat it’s not going to work out for him.  Sure enough, he is embarassed, tricked, and sent off.  Soon he’s swindled and penniless.  Ah, to be in the real world.  Barry then does what any teen of the age did, join the army.  He works his ass off, survives through his determination and cunning (and bravery) and after he’s discharged settles into a sweet gig as a gambler.  The single 20-something years.  The freedom and carefree times.  Then during the course of one these  brilliantly filmed gambling seshs (more on the look of the film in a bit) , he crosses eyes with this mega hot upper class babe.  My rented DVD skipped a bit here, but they end up hooking…up.  and She parades him around as sort of a boy-toy.  They get hitched and he treats her like garbage.  Yada yada yada, Act II , Tragic Downfall (Pride), Act III , the end.  It’s a 3 hour movie.

Now the look of this film.  Stunning, to put it simply.  Oscars for Visual and Auditory Stuff.  Strangely, It’s easy to put into words.    Decadent; indulgent; beautiful; every scene is a Baroque painting; Cold (in a strangely alluring way); the candlelight scenes were stunning… but I already said that.  Even a bit humorous at times, just laughing at the ridiculous customs , costumes, and situations of high society (and the brawl scene was good).

The acting was, eh, though.  A bit forced and again cold.  But the film was more visually stimulating and thematically challenging than I think the acting could manage.

Underrated Actors:  Marisa Berenson as the foxy 70’s Keira Knightley-esque (with the pale makeup) Lady Lyndon


Rebecca

1940

directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Oscars: Best Picture, Best Cinematography – Black & White

There are great disservices in our day to day lives.  We all have to put up with annoyances caused by others and take it in stride most of the time.   It’s part of being human.  Today, I’ve done a great disservice by not reviewing this sooner.  It’s probably been a month since I watched Rebecca, and it’s one of those that I want to get just right because it blew me away.  This was honestly one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

Wow.

Lofty words.  Now the cynics in the crowd are probably just muttering that it’s because Joan Fontaine is in it.  And on first glance, this is what made me dive in and grab it.  Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Olivier is in it, and it’s directed by Hitchcock.  So it’s got that going for it.  On top of that , Best Picture 1940, beating out Philadelphia Story and Kitty Foyle (reviewed on this site) Foreign Correspondent (in my queue), Grapes of Wrath, and other great films (I’m assuming).  So it’s got the critical pedigree.

It’s honestly a movie that I don’t want to really get much into plot-wise because the plot is just too damn good to gloss over.  It starts a bit like Suspicion (another Fontaine-Hitchcock vehicle) in that it’s really going well for Fontaine (great wardrobe in this), but quickly gets weird for her, and then things start going wrong.  But again, it’s a Hitchcock picture, so it’s more just tension and psychological toying.  But unlike other Hitchcock pictures, the overall morality of Olivier’s character, along with the other pseudo-villains, is not over-the-top, black & white, or unbelievable.  And George Sanders is in it.  And as a general rule of thumb, everything the man is in is pretty pretty good.  It’s even got a costume party and an inquest. Only included that because I wanted to type inquest.    Hah, anyways.  Definitely see this movie.  A great one.

 

Underrated Actors:  George Sanders as Jack Favell


The Philadelphia Story

1940

directed by: George Cukor

Oscars: Best Actor – Jimmy Stewart; Best Adapted Screenplay

 

So this is the triumphant return to the blog! Huzzah!  Welp, I watched this movie more than a couple months ago, (last edit on this post was September 23 2011).  So here goes what I can remember.

Cary Grant movie # 39 of 74 .  He’s in his wheelhouse.  Now The Philadelphia Story is a movie which most (if not all) movie buffs have seen, and mostly everyone over 40 has as well and everyone remembers fondly.  But at least for me, it’s one of those movies where if someone asks you what it’s about, you kind of blank.  Like what exactly is The Philadelphia Story about?  Why is it so great? Hmm, I forget, I’ll watch it again.  And after every rewatching you fall in love with the movie again and like most people, completely forget about the premise , the plot, the lines, the jokes, everything, so that it’s as fresh as the first time you watched it.

Now that I’ve been dodging actually talking about it (intended), let’s dive in.  Grant plays a rich bachelor , C.K. Dexter Haven, (it sublimely rolls off the tongue), who returns to his house on the weekend his ex-wife (Hepburn) is getting remarried.   The first scene (either before or after or during the opening credits) has Grant literally stiff arming Hepburn to the ground.  Like picture a modern NFL highlight reel with … uh …. Barry Sanders just stiff arming a GB linebacker.  Now imagine that happening to a woman … .in a movie.  Awesome.  Anyways, now the curmudgeon kind of blah new fiance , George ( ” Hullo George ” , a priceless line)  doesn’t really play a huge role and gets shafted at the end.  But this isn’t about him, it’s about Kat Hepburn and Grant…and Jimmy Stewart.  Now Jimmy plays Mike , (ugh, I can hear Hepburn saying ‘Mike’ in her awful accent) (not much of a Kat Hepburn fan) (whatever)  a news reporter there to spy and write a gossipy tabloid esque article on the wedding.  Grant invites him and  a lady photographer who’s also interested in Mike.   Hijinks ensue.  Great script.  Great acting.  A classic.

Underrated actors:   Roland Young as Uncle Willie and Virginia Weidler as Dinah  ,  Kat Hepburn’s teenage sister


The Thief of Bagdad

1940

directed by: Michael Powell et al.

Oscars: Best Cinematography; Best Art Direction, Color; Best Visual Effects

Thief of Bagdad.  Cool Movie.  So The Thief of Bagdad is a remake of the 1992 Disney movie Aladdin, though the producers had to time-travel back 52 years to make it.  It stars John Justin as Ah(Acccchhhhh)mad [Aladdin] , Sabu as Abu [Abu] , June Duprez as the Princess [Jasmine], and Conrad Veidt as Jaffar [Jafar].  Aladdin names will be used from now on.  So Aladdin is the Sultan of these peoples, even though he’s as white as me and they’re as Indian as … Gandhi.  Jafar is his royal vizier, same as the other movie.  So Aladdin pulls a Jasmine and wants to go out into the city to live and breathe amongst the peoples. Jafar is like, sure, dude, go for it, but then has him arrested and proven mad because no one would believe a man in rags is Sultan.  +1 to Jafar.  So Jafar takes over.  Aladdin escapes with his monkey-boy Abu, the thief.  Note, Abu gets changed into a dog by Jafar, then back into a boy.  +2 Jafar.  They Tarantino a lot of the first Act.  Anyways, it’s love at first sight for Aladdin and Jasmine, who’s still the daughter of another Sultan (he’s got different peoples and loves toys? for some reason), but Jafar is always getting in the middle and banishing Aladdin with his voodoo magic or throwing guards at him with swords.  +3 Jafar.  So after a while, Aladdin and Abu get shipwrecked on different places, (though they were on the same boat).  This is where it gets Drug-trippy (think Poppy-scene in Wizard of Oz).

So Abu has this hallucination and ends up in a tent full of elders that proclaim him as some sort of demigod.  They also tell him to find this ‘eye’ and it will show him how to get back to Aladdin.  Right.  Now, Abu finds a bottle and boom, Genie.  Giant genie.  Laughs a lot, not as funny as Robin Williams, picture Jafar in the climax of Aladdin (not the snake, the giant) though less (though not much) evil.  See also, photo above. So they all , oh crap, I mixed this up a bit.  The hallucination crap comes later.  Whatever.  So Abu and the Genie find this eye.  Which is guarded by (BEGIN OBSCURE REFERENCES)  Morlocks & a …average sized spider puppet and had a very Uncharted 2 feel to the place.  Also think of Aladdin where Abu tries to steal that red ruby at the beginning, minus the whole place collapsing. (END OBSCURE REFERENCES)   To be honest this whole part of the movie was a throwaway.

Meanwhile back in the Aladdin and Jasmine saga….not much has been happening.  Jafar is still trying to get Jasmine to love him (All the man wants is to be loved! Is that so much to Ask?!)  Aladdin swings in to save the day, minor sword-fight, Abu has a flying carpet?, and the Sultan got stabbed in the back of the neck and died 45 minutes ago.  And they all lived happily ever after.

Underrated Actors: Conrad Veidt as Jafar


Swing Time

1936

directed by: George Stevens

Oscars: Best Original Song – “The Way You Look Tonight”

Ah back to a simpler time with simpler movies.  Quite the antithesis of Terms of Endearment & Beaver Falls.  A time when calling someone a “Cossack” was an insult.  A time when a movie could have 4 dancing numbers and still flow relatively quickly.  In short, a Fred Astaire movie.  This one is quite different from Kitty Foyle, the other Rogers vehicle in a previous post, so I thought this would provide a good review opportunity.

Astaire starts off engaged and the movie starts on his wedding day.  He doesn’t seem too concerned with getting married, but after all he’s a dancer, and the world’s his stage.  And I’ll stop making cliche dance metaphors.  So the guys he dances with pull a fast one on him and cause him to miss his marriage, and he tries to reconcile but her dad is basically like, ‘You’re a thief and a scoundrel’, no wait that’s the wrong movie… Her dad says if you can raise some moolah, I have no objection to you trying to marry my daughter …again.  A little thin but hey, we need a love triangle, and a reason for him to get Ginger Rogers in the picture.  So he moves to NYC with his buddy , Pop, who may or may not actually be his Pop, and they set up nice, doing some gambling and some dancing.  A basic ’30s romp, right? Well, … yeah, that pretty much sums it up.  The orchestra conductor provides the final piece of the love triangle puzzle, but it’s pretty much wham bam Rogers and Astaire falling for each other by the end.  Oh and “The Way You Look Tonight” (a Tony Bennett staple) gets introduced in this movie, sung by Astaire, and wins Best Original Song.

A couple great scenes:  First, after Astaire stands up Rogers for a dance audition, he and Pop picket outside her apartment/hotel room.  Witty dialogue, and a satirical look into unions/communism.  Second, the outdoor snow / cottage scene.  Now this scene made no sense plot-wise, but it was pretty & VERY reminiscent of Holiday Inn (made 6 years later) / White Christmas (made 18! years later).  Overall, great sets, great dancing.

Underrated Actors:  Victor Moore as Pop , the gambling magician best friend / comic relief; and Rogers, who shines more in these types of movies, in my opinion, than her soon to be Kitty Foyle days.