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OMG! THEY STOLE LA LA LAND'S OSCAR!
I don't usually watch the Oscars because I don't care to sit through the pomp and circumstance when I can just read a list of winners the next day. But I tuned in this year because, well, La La Land. So, yes, I saw the Academy Awards' worst screw-up in 89 years as it aired live. Fittingly, it felt like a moment from the least represented genre at the Oscars: a horror movie.
Seriously, I'm not particularly surprised that the award went to Moonlight. I haven't seen it, but it gets great reviews. I'm sure that after years of functionally, ahem, segregating movies made by and featuring minorities, the Academy voters understandably jumped at the chance to reward a great movie about a young, gay, black man. Good for them. I also champion giving Oscars to films that didn't have great box office success. (La La Land's $140,000,000 gross to date may not be in Rogue One's orbit, but it's light years from Moonlight's $22,000,000.)
I'm not even disappointed that La La Land didn't win. It is a great movie, and I do love it. (Have I mentioned that?) I've seen it twice and counting. I will probably see it again before it leaves theaters. That said, I'll be the first to admit that it's a bit lightweight with an underbelly of unseemly sycophantic emphasis on the mythical "magic" of Hollywood and a distinctly whitewashed cast. I can understand how it's not everyone's cup of tea.
But to get the Best Picture declaration wrong? To fail to correct the error before the La La Land cast and producers took the stage? To deny Moonlight its moment in the sun by casting doubt on its win? To give Warren Beatty the wrong envelope and embarrass him in front of an audience of millions? (In the post-awards press conference, Best Actress award-winner and national treasure Emma Stone said she was still holding her card when Warren Beatty read it again. That means there were two Best Actress cards and no Best Picture cards? WTF, Academy!) Frankly, I feel bad for everyone involved.
So congratulations to Moonlight. I will see you one day. Until that day, even though the Academy didn't choose to recognize it, La La Land remains Best Picture in my heart.
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Maybe because the United States government has devolved to a Marx Brothers comedy, it seems I've been watching more movies in 2017. Frankly, I think we can all use the distraction.
15. (1074.) Cannery Row (1982)
I'm no fan of Nick Nolte, but I still enjoyed his take on the stereotypical genius-hiding-from-the-terror-he-created. Even better was Debra Winger in the stereotypical part of the prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold. And keep your eyes peeled for the well-intentioned-but-dangerous-giant-retard! This feels too lighthearted to be an adaptation of a Steinbeck novel, but I still enjoyed it.
16. (1075.) A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
Seth MacFarlane has built a cottage industry on a very particular style of non sequitur nostalgia comedy. He tones it down a bit in this live-action western that strives to be a 21st-century Blazing Saddles. What can I say? I laughed.
17. (1076.) Brute Force (1947)
Burt Lancaster leads a prison break in this incredibly violent (but well named) film. It's a slow build, but totally worth it.
18. (1077.) Snowden (2016)
Mom said, "Let's see Snowden." I said, "I don't like Oliver Stone films." She said, "Tough." So we watched Snowden. It does go a bit too far out of its own way to deify the guy, but otherwise does a pretty good job of explaining what he did and why he felt it was necessary to do it. Why are men like Snowden treated like traitors while men like Trump are elected president?
19. (1078.) Storks (2016)
Mom said, "Let's see Storks." I said, "Sure." Now I know where babies come from. Thanks for nothing, 6th grade sex education class!
More to come.
The final tally of movies watched in January was 14. I've already given you the first batch of 6 (including La La Land — have I mentioned La La Land?). So here are the remaining 8.
7. (1066.) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
I really don't understand why people like this movie. Yes, it's patterned after a World War II movie, but few of the "sci-fi" elements (by which I mean fantasy elements with electrical power) or enemy motivations make any sense. Worse, no time is spent on character development. (I swear, some of the characters exist just to sell toys.) Everyone seeing this already knows who wins, so when people start dying, as they must, THERE IS NO REASON TO CARE. If you don't just love all things Star Wars — because, I don't know, nostalgia? — avoid this exercise in fanwankery.
8. (1067.) My Favorite Brunette (1947)
Friend Otto called me an artless heathen because I mentioned that I don't like Bob Hope movies, so he insisted that I watch this. It's cute. I can definitely say that it's the best Bob Hope movie I've ever seen (but that's a pretty low bar).
9. (1068.) American Gigolo (1980)
This film, cut from the same cloth as Basic Instinct, looks and sounds like Miami Vice. No wonder Richard Gere only plays prostitutes or johns. He's good at it.
10. (1069.) Here Comes the Groom (1951)
Bing Crosby stars in a Frank Capra musical! If your idea of romance is hitting a woman over the head with a club and dragging her back to your cave as you whistle Johnny Mercer tunes, this movie is for you!
11. (1070.) Too Hot to Handle (1938)
Another "love" story that shows its age as Myrna Loy's career is destroyed and saved by A Number 1 sleazeball Clark Gable (and B Number 2 sleazeball Walter Pidgeon).
12. (1071.) When Ladies Meet (1933)
Myrna Loy has a heart-to-heart with her lover's wife. The dialog is pretty darn good. I liked it.
13. (1072.) The Barbarian (1933)
Rich fiancee takes a trip to Egypt where she is kidnapped by a prince posing as a peasant. She refuses his love and escapes back to her fiance. Then, at the wedding, she pledges her love to the prince. "Stockholm Syndrome" wouldn't be named for another forty years, but it could have been called "Barbarian Syndrome." Myrna Loy is beautiful, but this is not her best work.
14. (1073.) Midnight Lace (1960)
Doris Day plays a role that should have gone to Grace Kelly in this would-be Hitchcockian thriller. I found it predictable, but the suspense was still top rate.
More to come.
Yes, I still watch Saturday Night Live every week.
But I'd really rather be watching La La Land again.
Movies are off to a good start in 2017! (I'm trying extra hard to escape from reality these days.)
1. (1060.) King Solomon's Mines (1950)
The character of Alan Quatermain is famous as the stereotype of the colonial era European huntsman in Darkest Africa. I thought Stewart Granger was quite good. His female lead, played by Deborah Kerr, however, was treated with less sympathy than the natives, and her post-haircut scene is laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Ah, Golden Age Hollywood.
2. (1061.) Donnie Brasco (1997)
Remember when Johnny Depp was a good actor? I still don't like "mob" movies because they always always always glorify crime, but I found Al Pacino's depiction of a lesser, wannabe wiseguy very enjoyable.
3. (1062.) Spaceflight IC-1: An Adventure in Space (1965)
As much as I love '50s sci-fi, this felt more like a pilot for a television series than a standalone film. Its premise — a mutiny on a deep space colony mission organized by a tyrannical government — would make for a pretty good movie in 2017.
4. (1063.) Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)
Honestly, all art should be judged in context of its time, and movies are no different. B&C&T&A is very much a movie for the straight-laced upper middle classes struggling to understand the Summer of Love. I found it incredibly tame (and boring) by 2017 standards. Like Easy Rider, this one is probably best left to film historians and nostalgia buffs.
5. (1064.) La La Land (2016)
I usually leave movies I've covered elsewhere out of these lists, but damn, I loved this movie. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it. Am I gushing? Is this what gushing feels like? I loved it! (I bought the soundtrack CD and now I sing all of Ryan Gosling's lines and listen to Emma Stone sing back to me. Is that weird? It doesn't feel weird.)
6. (1065.) Broadway Bill (1934)
Ok, so to recap, I don't like gangster movies, but I watched Donnie Brasco anyway. I don't like Natalie Wood movies, but I watched Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice anyway. And I don't like Frank Capra movies, but I watched Broadway Bill anyway. I'd say that I must be a masochist, but I only watched this to see more Myrna Loy. It was worth it. (I'd let Myrna Loy sing to me, too.)
More to come.
Every once in a while, I see a movie that deserves better than being dumped into a list. This is one of those.
5. (1064.) La La Land (2016)
I had intended to see this even before it swept the Golden Globes. Worried that it wouldn't last long in theaters despite the accolades (it doesn't have any explosions, bare tits, or Disney princesses in it so you know the masses aren't going to turn out in droves), I trekked to the local Regal Georgian 14. I'm not a huge fan of this particular theater. It brags of those giant, newfangled reclining seats that you can either sit back in or have your feet touch the ground, but never both at the same time. Ugh. I felt like Edith Ann. (Look it up, Millennials.) If it was important to me to watch a movie in a recliner, I'd watch it in my living room, where the carpets aren't sticky, and the popcorn doesn't cost $12.
At the box office, despite the movie having officially started 10 minutes earlier, the ticket taker still insisted that I pick my seat from the two dozen remaining. "Reserved seating is strictly enforced," read the sign on the ticket window. Someone should have told the woman sitting in E8 when I got there. Rather than kick out a little old lady, I took her seat, E10, and sat next to a child and her sister whose father only realized that they weren't in a showing of Sing after thirty minutes of previews and La La Land's opening dance number. After the father toted his girls, their two boxes of popcorn, three drinks, and mountain of boxed candy out of my row, I, at 41 years old, became the youngest person in the theater. (Yet another sign of a movie soon to be at your local Redbox.)
Most movie lovers will tell you seeing a movie with a crowd of people intensifies the experience, as though sharing the laughs and cries with a bunch of strangers makes it more deeply felt. I don't buy that shit. The theater is dark and loud for a reason, and that reason is so that when someone answers her cell phone in the first act, you can't figure out where she's sitting. The theater can't really duplicate the feel of home unless robocallers interrupt dinner.
But at least the audience is paying attention. I guess. As soon as the movie was over, the friend of the old woman who stole my seat said, "I don't understand the ending." To which her male companion replied, "I think you can choose whichever ending you like." Sure you can. You don't even have to watch a movie to do that. I would think the underlying themes of La La Land are pretty universal, but I concede that if you've lived your whole life without sacrificing anything to achieve your dreams, if you've never been in or lost a love, if you have no passions or fears, if you slept through your twenties, if you're both blind and deaf, then this film probably isn't for you.
Fortunately for me, the movie more than made up for everything else. In many ways, it reminded me of That Thing You Do!, another great film with musical numbers (and Tom Everett Scott) and a message about being forced to chose which of the things in life really matter when you're on the road to becoming the person you want to be. When I saw that film in 1996, I left the theater to find that someone had broken into my car and stolen everything in it. Yet I didn't mind because I had enjoyed the movie so much. Yes, La La Land was a lot like that.
If you get the chance, go. It's totally worth seeing on the giant screen. Totally. And that's the truth.
Ok, let's get the last of those movies from December out of the way so that I can clear my DVR for January.
115. (1053.) Fire Sale (1977)
This comedy is... not funny. That's a shame considering all the talent involved. If feels like Alan Arkin's trying a "zany" take on Neil Simon, but while it does have some clever ideas for gags, they don't gel well. Oh, well. They can't all be winners.
116. (1054.) Killer Party (1986)
Another one that doesn't quite work. This horror movie (that combines the holidays of Halloween and April Fools into one blood-soaked mess) cheats at the end and becomes something other than the subgenre you though it was for the first hour. I didn't like that. I felt like I was the one being pranked. Plenty of bare tits, though. That always helps.
117. (1055.) Thirteen Women (1932)
Ah, now this is better. I guess you could call it a horror too, though of the old-school variety that is more thriller than anything else. A woman uses superstition to murder the girls she briefly went to school with. Even as the "half-indian" villainess, Myrna Loy sparkles.
118. (1056.) 22 Jump Street (2014)
This is how sequels should be done: with tongue held firmly in cheek as they gamely reference their previous outing at every turn. While perhaps not as out-and-out funny as its predecessor, I think I liked this one more.
119. (1057.) Casualties of War (1989)
Damn it, Michael J. Fox was a pretty good actor, easily holding his own against Sean Penn. The story was also pretty good, though I found the cinematography to be a weakness. For all the closeups, it could just as easily have been filmed on a back lot as the jungles of southeast Asia. The moral of this story is that war isn't as bad as the people who fight it. (Fun fact: first film for John C. Reily and the second for John Leguizamo.)
120. (1058.) Used Cars (1980)
Kurt Russell plays a slick used car salesman in a comedy from the same men who brought us Back to the Future. The climax felt a little padded, but the film is otherwise a charming diversion with some genuine chuckles.
121. (1059.) Penthouse (1933)
I was a little disappointed in this film, though mostly because Myrna Loy doesn't show up for the first thirty minutes. When she finally does, her lines are great. The "mystery" plot isn't very deep, but then it's sort of supposed to be, and I guess that's okay. It's worth sitting through some dumb films to get more Myrna Loy.
And that's that on movies for 2016. I aim for 120 each year, and this year I hit it almost on the button. Hooray, me!
More to come.
Ok, so I've had a lot of time to watch movies in December. This batch is the second five (of fifteenish), and I'll have at least one more wrap up to go.
110. (1048.) The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
Apparently, this weird romance/crime noir hybrid is best known as Kirk Douglas' first movie role. He plays a sniveling leech, not the sort of role he would become known for. I have to say, he was pretty damn good, even at the beginning of his career.
111. (1049.) Funeral in Berlin (1966)
This is the second of the Harry Palmer spy movies featuring Michael Caine. (Palmer is far more believable than James Bond. When the woman comes on to him, he realizes she has to be a plant. Because who would come on to him?) Of the three made in the 60s, I think this one is the best of the bunch, though it does make "British Intelligence" an oxymoron. (The Soviet plan is obvious almost as soon as Colonel Stok is introduced.)
112. (1050.) Billion Dollar Brain (1967)
The third and final theatrical Harry Palmer movie (there were two more made for television in the 1990s) is the weakest I've seen by far. It strays too far into James Bond territory with a ridiculous villain in his own army and hidden lair. With everyone behaving so bizarrely, I often found myself cheering for Colonel Stok, the loyal Soviet returning from Funeral in Berlin. (It wasn't his funeral.) This was not the right direction for this franchise.
113. (1051.) Quintet (1979)
I admit that I watched this because it was a Robert Altman sci-fi movie, and I wanted to see how his near religious devotion to film realism (and Paul Newman) would translate to a dystopian environment. Surprisingly, it was that realism that elevated this material above its Buck Rogers-style plot whose moral is "life sucks, don't play." Wow. Thanks for that.
114. (1052.) Head (1968)
I was charmed by this, the only feature film starring The Monkees. It's incredibly endearing to see them try so damn hard to bite the hands that created them. There's a lot of fun and insightful stuff here (proudly penned in part by Jack Nicholson (yes, that Jack Nicholson)), including great use of Coca-Cola product placement in a metaphor for the market forces that created The Monkees for mass market consumption. Sadly, because it's not paced well, long stretches of this film can be a bit of a dull watch. I recommend liberal use of the fast forward button.
More to come.
Movies to start December!
105. (1043.) The Squall (1929)
Californian Myrna Loy plays a racist stereotype of a European gypsy doing terrible gypsy things, which mainly consists of seducing stupid men. I found it completely believable. (Damn sexy gypsies! *shakes fist at sky*)
106. (1044.) The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again (2016)
I don't get it. I don't understand the point of remaking a movie exactly like its predecessor. This remake went out of its way to look and sound sound like the original (which it openly references at point, such as a crack about Meatloaf for dinner). The music was over produced, and for a film celebrating deviancy, everyone is just too damn pretty. The polish here only shows how much more creative the original was. Watch that instead.
107. (1045.) Beloved Infidel (1959)
A film based on F. Scott Fitzgerald and his romance with gossip columnist Sheilah Graham. I watched it to learn a little more about the final years of the great novelist, but it might as well be yet another remake of A Star is Born, with Graham in the up-and-comer role.
108. (1046.) The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933)
This is another early Myrna Loy movie. She's a (badly dubbed) singer who falls for (real life) boxer Max Baer. It's got a bit of a Rocky vibe, where the romance is more important than the boxing, even to the boxer.
109. (1047.) Night Flight (1933)
Myrna Loy has a very small part in this as the wife of a pilot. That's okay. Clark Gable has an equally small part as a pilot (though not her pilot). The main plot involves a couple of Barrymores. It's not as great as it wants to be, but it's hardly bad.
More to come.
Comments (3)| Leave a Comment | Tags: movies myrna loy
I'm sorry I didn't mention this sooner, but Myrna Loy is the Star of the Month at TCM.
I didn't discover Loy until I watched The Thin Man much too late in life. (After years of hearing people say "Have you see The Thin Man," I finally took the hint.) Loy's screen presence matches a keen, playful mind and a knowing, beautiful face, often with more than a small pinch of wry cynicism. I simply love her.
(According to my notes, I've watched 21 Loy movies in the past 4 years. That's a small fraction of her catalog. IMDB.com credits her with 131 movie roles in all. I've got some watching to do!)
Sadly, this warning comes too late for you to check out the terrible Mask of Fu Manchu or the underrated Whipsaw, but there's still plenty of Loy to come. All six Thin Man movies will be showing on December 23. There are much worse ways to spend a Friday.