Alexander Film Works

Posts Tagged ‘Oscars’

The Universal Pantechnicon…

In arts, Film and Related, Just Because... on April 13, 2013 at 10:53 pm

This post promises nothing… it’s going to be a little bit of this, a little bit of that; sort of like potluck soup, or hobo stew.

Jonathan Winters died this past week… He was an inspiration to many of the comic performers of today, such as Robin Williams (who acknowledged this perceived debt loudly and often).  He was an unpredictable performer, letting his prodigious imagination lead him on comic flights of fancy that left us all the richer for having heard them.

He was also a cousin (to what degree I’d have to figure out) of my wife’s mother’s family.  His name was Jonathan Harshman Winters, and my mother-in-law (rest her soul) was a Harshman.  Another coincidental thing, it seems.

On the subject of comedy…

I was revisiting the Kevin Brownlow/David Gill profile of Harold Lloyd on YouTube the other day, after I had reblogged the post from swingstatevoter on silent comedy.  Brownlow and Gill produced, to my mind, some of the best profiles of silent film personalities extant; Brownlow’s book The Parade’s Gone By… was a textbook for my old history of silent film class, back in the mists of time.  I appreciated his bringing back to the fore the (up to that point) overlooked French director, Abel Gance, and his tour de force, 1927’s Napoleon.  Sometime in the 1980’s, if memory serves me, (and it didn’t… the first restoration by Brownlow was in 1979, I just found out) Francis Ford Coppola sponsored a series of viewings of the then-major restoration with a score by his father, composer Carmine Coppola.  There is a more complete restoration by Brownlow, with approximately thirty additional minutes of footage and the Polyvision (Gance’s predecessor of three-screen Cinerama) in full bloom, which was shown almost a year ago in Oakland, California.

Abel Gance’s Napoleon from SilentRobet on Vimeo.

This is the trailer.

Back to Harold Lloyd…

Lloyd’s character was the most “normal” of the three top comedians of the silents… Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” was a Victorian-era creation, full of pathos and bathos, trying to ensnare the audience in a struggle between the “little man” and the heartless, cruel well-to-do of society.  Keaton’s frozen-faced automaton was freed of the emotional baggage of the Chaplinesque view, the chilling whiff of nihilism wafting out from behind the slick mechanical façade of his gags, the unsmiling man against an uncaring universe.  Lloyd, on the third hand, was the smiling All-American Boy we thought typical of that time, bright enough, determined enough, but lacking something essential to win through to the final victory.

Lloyd was never a “comic”, doing jokes and gags for the sake of doing them, but had gag men spooling out things to do in the context of the story and the character.   (The parallel was drawn in the Brownlow/Gill profile to Bob Hope having a staff of gag writers providing him with jokes for his monologues; Lloyd’s gag men provided gag bits for the picture.)

Of the major silent film comedians, Harold Lloyd was the luckiest (or most foresighted, if you prefer); he bought real estate in Los Angeles when it was cheap, saved and invested his money wisely, and retired after 1947’s “The Sin of Harold Diddlebock”, also known as “Mad Wednesday”.  (The failure of the film at the box office probably hastened this decision.)He died in 1971, prosperous, away from the hurlyburly of  “the business”, and mostly forgotten by moviegoers of today.  Quite a change from Keaton’s death from cancer in 1966, Chaplin’s fading away in self-imposed exile in Switzerland in 1977, Harry Langdon’s death in 1944 (Langdon deserves an article to himself, and there are many out there), Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who never really recovered from the scandal surrounding the death of bit player Virginia Rappé at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco in 1921, three trials, and the inability of the public at the time to accept his acquittal by the third jury and his death in 1933, or the lesser lights of silent comedy, such as Lloyd Hamilton, Lupino Lane, Raymond Griffith, Snub Pollard, Ben Turpin, or the ones who are nameless to us but still enjoyed when silents are played again.

[Whew!  LOONG paragraph!]

It seems a pity that, with the exception of 1976’s Silent Movie, from the fertile mind of Mel Brooks, and Michel Hazanavicius’s Oscar™-winning The Artist, silent film is a curiosity from a time gone by.

It seems to me that dialogue, while helpful, is not a necessity for a movie.  Besides, I think it’s a good way to flex some creative muscles making a film without relying on dialogue.

I think I’m going to try that myself.

Seth MacFarlane: Oscar Threat Or Menace?

In arts, film, Film and Related, Just Because..., screenplays, writing on February 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Well, Seth Mac Farlane had his turn at hosting the Academy Awards® ceremony last night.  The reviews were, to put it generously, mixed.

Personal opinion?  I didn’t much have a problem with him.  He did better than Letterman (remember “Uma… Oprah.  Oprah… Uma.”?)  did.

Critics are going to find fault with everybody… even if Bob Hope or Johnny Carson came back from the dead to host the awards, there would be people criticizing.

So be it.

The surprises of the night (for me, at least) were the wins for Anna Karenina and Life of Pi – and Argo winning Best Picture.

Jennifer Lawrence?  Christoph Waltz?  Anne Hathaway?  Okay… I can deal with that.  Searching for Sugar Man?  A happy time… since Rodriguez, the subject, actually lives here in the D.  Skyfall as Best Song?  Sure.

Argo winning Best Adapted Screenplay?  Tarantino winning Best Original Screenplay for Django Unchained?  I can deal.

Ben Affleck getting shut out of the Best Director nominations?  Spielberg losing to Ang Lee?  Hey, these things happen.

The Best Sound Editing tie between Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall was a surprise… there usually aren’t ties in Oscar® voting.

It just goes to show you that award shows are funny (not in the sense of humorous, but in the sense of odd)… they don’t always listen to the same “conventional wisdom” that gets put out in the hype for these shows.

Discuss among yourselves.

The Oscars Are Coming! The Oscars Are Coming!

In activity, blogging, film, Film and Related, Just Because..., Roughly About Films, writing on February 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

On Sunday evening, at about 4:00 PM Pacific Standard Time, which is about 7:00 PM here in Detroit, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present the 85th Academy Awards® at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
Back in the mists of time, when I was just a youngster, the show was the ultimate in what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to be one day. Now, after several decades, and roadblocks galore, I find myself no closer to that goal than I ever was.
The only thing in my way now is myself; I have learned the technical tricks to get a film made, and some of the ways to promote it so it’s seen. I have the tools, I (supposedly) have the talent, but it remains to be seen if I have the WILL.
Could I win an Oscar®? Sure. Anything can happen; events have proven this over the years.
Will I? That will depend entirely on whether or not I can get the motivation together to get out and DO something.
To DO… or not to do…
THAT is the problem.
More later…

Oscars® And Me…

In Film and Related, Roughly About Films on March 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held the 84th Academy Awards ceremony nine days ago.  By now, the dust has settled, I should think, and it’s time for me to chime in with my two kopecks worth.

Between Hugo and The Artist, they took up a good bit of the time of the ceremony.  This is not a bad thing, as I see it… Between Marty Scorsese and Michel Orthographically-Difficult, these were, in my opinion, the two strongest choices for Best Director and Best Picture.  The fact that The Artist won is not a slur on Scorsese, in my opinion.  In any other year, he’d have walked home with all the marbles.

Jean Dujardin for Best Actor?  I can see it.  The clips show someone who combines the looks of a Rudolph Valentino with the grace and charisma of a Douglas Fairbanks; nobody outdid him, I’d say.

Meryl’s got another one, Christopher Plummer’s finally got one, and Octavia Spencer broke us up (or down, if you prefer) with her speech.

Rob Legato winning for Visual FX is wonderful, especially since (as related in Creative Cow Magazine) he did a lot of those effects “old school”.

And finally, Billy… He’s back, and I, for one, hope he doesn’t go away again.  Franco/Hathaway last year, and some of the other ones (except for Whoopi) were just excruciating.

(Eddie Murphy?  Don’t make me laugh… not that he’s shown any inclination to, recently.)

Oh, well… back to it for next year, guys!

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