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Messages - Holden Pike

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Yes, Doug let me know on another board when he found out. I have been sad ever since.

Holy sh!t. I am so terribly sad to hear this news, I just heard today.

Kathie was the absolute best. We hadn't had much contact the past few years but we met in person many times. She came down to see me in Maryland a couple times, staying at my house once when Eli Wallach was speaking at the AFI theatre in Silver Spring, and she took the train down for the day when Clint's longtime editor Joel Cox was presenting a screening of Unforgiven at a film festival in Baltimore. I had been to her apartment in New York several times and we had met for dinner a couple times in my trips up to Manhattan. We saw a screening of Once Upon a Time in the West together in Brooklyn, a screening of Unforgiven at MoMa, and were in the third row for the world premiere of Mystic River at the New York Film Festival at the Met with Clint, Penn, Robbins, and Linney in attendance.

I never got a behind-the-scenes tour of the New York Public Library where she worked, and I regret that. We were both also rabid Yankee fans and had that as a bond beyond the films. Never got to see a Yankee game with her at the Stadium. She didn't go to many games, preferring to watch them on TV at her apartment. I think I have seen more Yankee games in New York than her, and I live three and a half hours away.

Well sh!t.

Apart from the zillions of hours she contributed here on the forums I am feel very lucky to have gotten to know her IRL, as the kids say. Seeing the world premiere of Mystic River was pretty cool, but I think we both enjoyed Joel Cox the best. It was a smaller festival in Baltimore at the Charles Theatre, just a block away from Penn Station downtown. It was the final night of the three-day Maryland Film Festival. This was May of 2001. Joel Cox personally brought a pristine print of Unforgiven from Eastwood's collection, so obviously KC and I had to go! But the screening was pretty lightly attended - probably a hundred or so people, maybe even less - and to the locals the bigger draw may have been Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick, who chose and introduced Unforgiven. The Baltimore Ravens had just won the Super Bowl that January and as the coach explained in his introduction (and THIS ARTICLE) he used the "deserve's got nuthin' to do with it" as a bit of a mantra in the locker room. Kathie literally laughed out loud when he said that. Which made me laugh out loud. Everyone stared. Including Billick. It was glorious.

But that all wasn't the cool part. The cool part was Kathie and I were standing in front of the theatre, just chatting and catching up, and up pulls a van and out steps Joel Cox. Kathie and I were literally the only two people there, probably including most of the staff of the festival, who knew who he was. So he got a drink and hung out in the front of the theater too. We approached him to say how much we love his work...and he talked with us for about forty minutes. Just me, Kathie, and Joel. It was so wonderful. I have attended a couple dozen film festivals of all levels over the years and met many of my cinematic heroes, but the only autograph I ever asked for was Mr. Cox's. Not because I thought it would be "worth" anything of course, but to memorialize that terrific evening. Kathie nor I can see Unforgiven enough, so the screening was great too, but nothing will replace these two film buffs talking movies with one of the great editors. Had it happened a few years later there would have been selfies and maybe even a recording of the conversation, but in May of 2001 it is simply a memory to cherish.

I am heartbroken to learn of Kathie's death but incredibly thankful for the memories and level of friendship we shared.

Eastwood News / Re: Burt Reynolds RIP
« on: October 17, 2018, 05:40:12 PM »
A great underrated performance and film of Burt's is Breaking In (1989). Script by John Sayles, directed by Bill Fosyth (Local Hero, Gregory's Girl). He played his age, for once. Even a bit older than he was at the time. Funny, subtle movie. Like several points in his career, I wonder if he had maybe been Oscar nominated for that performance if it might have shaped his choices better?

From all the stories I've heard while I think it is safe to say he wasn't much of a husband or boyfriend, he was very loyal and generous to his friends, in and out of the business. And he certainly enjoyed being a movie star.

My favorites would be Smokey & the Bandit, Deliverance, Breaking In, The Longest Yard (1974), Starting Over and Sharky's Machine.

Eastwood News / Re: Re: Eastwood in the press (minor mentions)
« on: March 29, 2017, 06:37:57 AM »

I was listening to the podcast "Soundtracking" where host Edith Bowman interviews filmmakers about the use of music in film, both original score and existing material on soundtracks. I'm sure she would love to talk to Eastwood, but while listening to the episode featuring writer/director Jeff Nichols he at least mentions one of Clint's films. For those unfamiliar with Jeff Nichols, he is one of my favorites working today, having made Take Shelter (2011), Mud (2012), Midnight Special (2016), and Loving (2016). At about the 11-minute mark on the episode Bowman asks Nichols what moments in films that he saw growing up he found especially powerful combinations of music and cinema. The first one he cites is A Perfect World[/b], the Cajun waltz that Butch plays on the record player near the end of the film (Lennie Niehaus' "Big Fran's Baby").

Link below.

The CEWB Movie Club / Re: CEWB Movie Club - Who wants in?
« on: November 02, 2016, 12:33:54 PM »
I could try to participate. Or at least try to try.

I can rattle off two dozen remakes, but I'll start with two that possibly very few of you have seen either one, so the perspectives on both would be fresh and instant...

Criss Cross
(1949, Robert Siodmak)


The Underneath
(1995, Steven Soderbergh)

The two versions of The Vanishing are especially interesting because the same man directed both films. This has happened a handful of times over the years. Very similar to George Sluizer directing the Dutch original and the Americanized remake, Ole Bornedal directed his thriller Nattevagten - Nightwatch (1994) as well as its Americanized remake Nightwatch (1997). More recently Takashi Shimizu got to remake his Japanese horror movie Ju-on as The Grudge in America, and Austrian Michael Hanake made the German-language and American versions of Funny Games ten years apart. Michael Mann's Heat (1995) was a remake of his own little-seen made-for-TV movie called "L.A. Takedown" (1989). Even the Master, Alfred Hitchcock remade his own film when he reworked his 1934 thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much into the 1956 Jimmy Stewart/Doris Day flick. Frank Capra remade his 1933 Lady for a Day in 1961 as A Pocketful of Miracles. And another 1930s movie was remade by its director when Yasujiro Ozu turned his Silent The Story of Floating Weeds (1934) into the very colorful Floating Weeds (1959).

Web Site Announcements / Re: Scott Eastwood Forums
« on: April 01, 2016, 04:07:23 AM »
I like jokes. Jokes are funny. Jokes on April 1st are less funny to me, but, yeah, I get jokes.

Here are some pics I have taken over the past few years or so...

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Your Song
« on: March 16, 2016, 09:48:20 AM »
The one that your link said for me was "ABC" by the Jackson 5. But every other resource I have used has said The Guess Who's "American Woman". Including this site...

According to that one, the number one song in the U.S. was, indeed, "American Woman" while the number one song in the UK and also in Canada was Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky", and the number one song in Australia was The Beatles' "Let it Be".

Clint Eastwood Westerns / Re: Pale Rider Trailer Mystery Solved!
« on: March 08, 2016, 09:48:38 AM »
As most who have watched movies very closely for years will have noticed, when it comes to the music used in trailers, especially teaser trailers, it is not unusual for them to use music that isn't from the film at all. The music for Pale Rider's teaser is called "Best Endeavours" by Alan Hawkshaw, and since the early 1980s it has been the theme for the Channel 4 News in the U.K.  ;D

General Discussion / Re: Tag You're It #5!!!
« on: March 08, 2016, 09:10:54 AM »
Holden Pike: If you could hand out an Academy Award for best cinematography to an Eastwood film, which film would you choose and why?

Well first of all, I don't usually like to answer questions about Oscar in a vacuum. Saying this performance or that movie "should have" won an Oscar is all well and good, but I like to look at not just the actual nominees but also consider what other great performances/movies were eligible that year but didn't even get nominated.

Shockingly, the only movie Clint ever directed or starred in that received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography is Unforgiven. Jack Green was up against Stephen H. Burum for Danny DeVito's Hoffa BioPic, Tony Pierce-Roberts for Merchant/Ivory's Howard's End, Robert Fraisse for Jean-Jacques Annaud's adaptation of Marguriete Duras' sultry The Lover, and Philippe Rousselot for Bob Redford's A River Runs Through It. Howard's End and Unforgiven were the only two that were attached to Best Picture nominees, and it was A River Runs Through It that won. Jack Green was not nominated for the American Society of Cinematographers Award that year. Howard's End, A River Runs Through It and Hoffa were nominated, along with Robert Richardson for A Few Good Men and Dante Spinotti for The Last of the Mohicans. Burum won for Hoffa, there.

Some of the other movies that year that had wonderful cinematography but did not get nominations are James L. Carter in Carl Franklin's One False Move, François Catonné in Régis Wargnier's Indochine, Ernest Dickerson in Spike Lee's Malcolm X, Peter Biziou in Louis Malle's Damage, and Jean Lépine in Bob Altman's The Player.

Of the five Oscar nominees, I think Unforgiven is easily the best of the bunch and should have won, that year. When you include all of the other films I listed, including the unnominated, I would still vote for it....except for one rather spectacular outlier. Ron Fricke's documentary Baraka was a 1992 release. It is one of the most gorgeous films ever shot, not just that year or that decade but EVER. If we can fix the Oscars, that should have been one of the five nominees, and in that case, even if Unforgiven was a nominee, I would very happily give that Oscar to Baraka. But if you want to play with the five actual Oscar nominees, yeah, it should have been Unforgiven.

Other Eastwood movies that I think at the very least deserved nominations are Bird and A Perfect World, both of which were also lensed by Jack Green. Those actual Oscars were won by Mississippi Burning (Peter Biziou) and Schindler's List (Janusz Kamiński).

Not that Eastwood hasn't had great cinematography in most of his movies, because he has, but taking in the competition from each complete year, even going back to the Leone movies as wonderful and influential as they were, Unforgiven may be the only one I think was deserving of the Academy Award (if you eliminate Baraka).

That may have been a more pedantic answer than you expected, but not if you know me. :D

My biggest problems with streaming movies are that you are dependent on the strength of your internet connection and at the mercy of what the various services have at any one time. You may enjoy watching a movie on Netflix in April, but go back a few months later or a year later or three years later to find it is no longer offered. And buffering drives me nuts.

If I own the movie, physically, as long as I have power, I can watch it. Could be a sh!tty day for the internet, the cable could be out, and what I want to watch may be out of the rotation of the major streaming providers. but if I want to watch it, I can watch it.

But I am also a crazy collector, so I'm probably not the best person to ask. I still have several hundred LaserDiscs and a box full of VHS, fer cripe's sake.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: 2016 Academy Awards Thread
« on: March 03, 2016, 06:43:25 AM »
I am a movie fan and an Oscar fan. I have watched every ceremony in its entirety since 1981, and pieces of them before that. The Oscars telecast has always been and will always be a bloated, clunky thing that runs too long. It has always been thus, and shall forever be, as was decreed by the cinema Gods. If you go back to even just clips of ceremonies from the '60s, '70s, and '80s, there were always jokes about how long and boring it is made during the telecast. They tweak it this way and that, take away some of the variety show hallmarks that were there at its inception in a long ago era, but keep others. Doing away with the interpretive dance segments that accompanies sections of the nominated Original Scores being played was a welcome cut....that didn't come until 1999. They have tried being militant about the length of acceptance speeches, they tried having those "lesser" technical awards that the public cares less about be accepted from their seats rather than walking all the way to the stage, the nominated songs are usually so dull it doesn't matter how talented the person singing them is or what kind of production values they put around them, they have separated the Governor's Awards (lifetime achievement and humanitarian awards) to an unbroadcasted evening prior to the Oscars, and on and on. But no matter what they do, it's always tediously long, "nobody cares" about many if any of the awards outside of the Big Eight (Picture, Director, the four acting, and two screenplays), and everybody and anybody complains about it every single year. Every. Single. Year.

My take frippin' what? That's what the Oscars are. Complaining about having the burden of wading through Best Documentary Short Subject and both Sound Mixing and Sound Effects Editing to me starts to sound like my Mother complaining about how boring the Super Bowl is. "Why can't they just show the plays where somebody scores? Why did we just watch a pile move an inch and six whistles and three flags were thrown?" You gots ta show every single snap, and you have to show every Academy Award. That's what the Academy Awards are. If you don't give a sh!t about the technical categories either don't watch or hey, maybe learn to appreciate what each of these departments do in making the finished movies you love. You may not care about the technical categories, but I guarantee you Clint Eastwood cares very much about how good his costume department is and loves it when his editor or cinematographer or any of the hundreds of people who work on his movies get recognized with nominations and wards. Do you think the people who work on these films care about the costumes and effects? They better. If you don't, it's simple, don't watch. Also, try seeing as many of the movies as you can before the ceremony. If it doesn't give you a rooting interest at least you'll have a fuller appreciation for what is going on.

The Oscars are one night a year. Could the four-hour marathon be turned into a tightly produced one hour sprint? Of course it could. They could do it like the early days of the Academy Awards, just have a private dinner and at the end say, 'Hey, come get your statue' and be done with the ceremony part in twenty-three minutes. But the Oscars as a telecast is a long, cheesy, sometime aggravating show. But when you do get those rare moments of somebody screwing up or emoting in an honest way or an off-the-cuff joke that becomes Oscar lore, those things are all the more beloved and lasting because of the format they all-too-seldomly appear in. Making the show shorter would not manufacture interesting things happening, but it would actually leave less room for things to happen organically. Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

In the words of the great poet of our time, hater's gonna hate, hate, hate, and bashing how boring the Oscars are is as time-tested and inevitable as Monday morning quarterbacking after the big game.

I can hardly wait until next year.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: 2016 Academy Awards Thread
« on: February 28, 2016, 04:27:23 PM »
Sure, plenty of people do, especially after it won the PGA Award. It's a three-horse race, between The Big Short, Spotlight, or The Revenant. We'll know which in another five hours or so.

The most famous and iconic of all of his posters may be for Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, and my personal favorite, which I have framed and hanging in my house, is Pennies from Heaven. Bob Peak was one of the greats, for sure, and I think the posters for the two Eastwood Orangutan flicks are fun and cool.


The artist who designed and drew the poster, as well as for the sequel Any Which Way You Can, is the legendary Bob Peak. Peak was one of the busiest and most influential graphic artists of his day, and his movie posters are some of the most iconic of the '60s, '70s, and '80s. Saul Bass, probably the most influential of his era, designed the West Side Story logo and poster, but for some of the subsequent art and promotional material Bob Peak was brought in. That started him on the path to movie posters, where he quickly established his signature style with the stunning posters for My Fair Lady and Camelot. He is credited as one of the fathers of the modern movie poster, with his stylized portraits and use of collage and color. Some of his many posters include the Musicals Thoroughly Modern Millie, Mame, The Great Waltz, Mahogany, and Pennies from Heaven, classics of the spy and action genre in Modesty Blaise, Our Man Flint, In Like Flint, Enter the Dragon, The Yakuza, and The Spy Who Loved Me, Sci-Fi and Fantasy works including Rollerball, Superman: The Movie, Excalibur, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Dark Crystal, and on and on and on. Before he hit in the movies he was working a lot in advertising, including the (in)famous Marlboro Man campaign (don't smoke, Kids, it's not cool) and became as known for his magazine covers for Time and TV Guide as he did for the film work. His name may also be know to Star Trek fans. His TV Guide cover featuring Kirk and Spock is much beloved, and it later led to him designing the posters for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the first four cinematic sequels.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: 2016 Academy Awards Thread
« on: February 22, 2016, 01:33:35 PM »
The Big Short has an all-star cast and it is on a serious subject, thought it takes an irreverent and inventive approach to presenting that subject matter as a feature narrative. Its director, Adam McKay, is nominated for both Best Director and for co-writing the screenplay, from Michael Lewis' non-fiction best seller. It is a heavy favorite to win Adapted Screenplay, but does that all add up to a Best Picture win? A few weeks ago, it seemed very unlikely, but in addition to whatever intangible "buzz" it may have as more people, including Oscar voters, actually get to see it, the feather it has in its cap that absolutely MUST insert it into the conversation for Best Picture, is that it won the Producers Guild Award. Unlike the Directors Guild, the Producers Guild does not have as long a history with their year-end award, but it does usually mirror the eventual winner for Best Picture. Usually, not always.

The PGA Award has been around since 1989, when Driving Miss Daisy won their inaugural honor. It also won Best Picture at the Oscars. In the subsequent twenty-five years, the PGA winner and the Academy Award winner have differed only seven times. Those differences were The Crying Game/Unforgiven, Apollo 13/Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan/Shakespeare in Love, Moulin Rouge!/A Beautiful Mind, The Aviator/Million Dollar Baby, Brokeback Mountain/Crash and Little Miss Sunshine/The Departed. So they had three "misses" in a row there in the middle of the last decade, with The Aviator, Brokeback Mountain, and Little Miss Sunshine, but none since (though they did cheat a bit and had a tie two years ago with 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle). Is The Big Short going to be another anomaly, the first such one in nine years?

The Golden Globe Awards that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association gives out are often not the best predictor for Best Picture since they have two categories for the top films of the year, Drama and Comedy/Musical (however they choose to define what a comedy is versus what's a drama). It is also a completely different and much, much smaller voting body than the industry awards, which have at least some overlap with the Academy voter pool. However, since this may be a year where the PGA seems like it is giving a different signal than other awards, let's go back to see what they did in January. The Revenant won the Golden Globe for Best Picture Drama, over Spotlight, Room, Carol, and Mad Max: Fury Road. The Golden Globe for Comedy or Musical went to the wacky Disco-fueled hijinks of The Martian over Joy, Spy, Trainwreck and The Big Short. Although yet another problematic predictor that is only accurate half the time, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Cast, which some like to equate to Best Picture, that went to Spotlight over Beasts of No Nation, Trumbo, Straight Outta Compton and The Big Short.

So though it won the prestigious Producers Guild Award, The Big Short did NOT win either of the Golden Globes or the SAG Award. Since the PGA has moved from what used to be five nominees and expanded to ten as well as moving to the same “preferential voting system” that the Academy started using at the same time (seven years ago), the PGA winner has matched Oscar every time. And though there isn’t complete overlap in membership, another reason the PGA is used as a great indicator is that they have a similarly sized voting body.

Since they have changed to the preferential voting, has a movie won the PGA and Oscar without winning a Golden Globe, SAG for Cast, or the DGA Award? No. The Hurt Locker did not win the Golden Globe for Drama (Avatar) nor the SAG (Inglourious Basterds), but Kathryn Bigleow did get the DGA Award (as well as the Oscar). That’s the closest a Best Picture winner has come to losing all of the other big awards leading up to the end, and still managed to win. The PGA is really the only award The Big Short has won, this season. Is it alone strong enough to float it to the top of the Oscar ballots?

So how about Spotlight this awards season? It did win the SAG for cast, which is right only 50% of the time, but did not win a Globe, nor the PGA, nor the DGA. But could it win Best Picture? For as inventive as The Big Short’s narrative is and for as immersive and stark as The Revenant is, Spotlight is very traditional, by comparison. It employs nothing especially fancy as it tells its story of the Boston Globe reporters who uncovered proof that the Catholic Church was well aware of the abuse problems and was systematically moving offending Priests from parish to parish. The cast is excellent, but in narrative and stylistic terms it follows a pretty standard formula, even if it applies that formula very well. It is a good movie, but other than the story itself there is nothing very memorable, cinematically speaking. In a year with some very flashy and intense choices, will this throwback drama be the one that manages to rise to the top and actually win Best Picture?

Spotlight is a rarity in that it is a positive story about journalism. Most of the great films with journalism as a subject use it as a whipping boy, be it The Sweet Smell of Success, Ace in the Hole, A Face in the Crowd, Shattered Glass, Nightcrawler, or even Citizen Kane. There definitely are other great movies about the good journalism can do, like Good Night and Good Luck, The Killing Fields and All the President's Men, the latter being the most obvious cousin to Spotlight. Most of the 21st Century movies about journalists seem to be preoccupied with relevance in a new media age while Spotlight really is old fashioned in that it just wants to show how a huge scandal like this can be revealed, piece by piece, source by source.

And then of course there is that freakiest-deakiest of all wild cards, Max Max: Fury Road. If Alejandro Iñárritu doesn’t win Best Director, surely it will be the 70-year-old Aussie George Miller who does. There were thirty years between the release of the third Mad Max film, Beyond Thunderdome, and Fury Road. Mel Gibson wasn’t back as the title character, but Miller and his mayhem were. It was a hit and incredibly well reviewed, currently idling at a massively impressive 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It is insane and brutal and kinetic. Gloriously so. Furiosaly so. It has racked up all sorts of critics prizes and its fanbase is as loyal as a paint-inhaling War Boy. Its fans have convinced themselves that in this year when there is no clear frontrunner, something like Schindler’s List or Titanic, that George Miller is going to triumph as Best Director and that Mad Max: Fury Road is going to plow ahead and explode as Best Picture come Oscar night. That kind of passion is cool, it’s what makes being a cinema nerd fun, and it may increase the viewership of this particular ceremony, with fanboys and fangirls making a drinking game out of the evening, bolting back full cans of Fosters for every win it amasses, and early on when the technical awards are given it should do very nicely indeed. But actually winning Best Picture?

I really don’t see it happening. Obviously it can happen, it is on the ballot unlike any other number of recent blockbusters from The Dark Knight to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As I listed above when talking about The Revenant, yes, the Academy can get dark and weird in their Best Picture choice, from time to time. I mean Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture, what more evidence do you need? But no Sci-Fi film has ever won. As beloved as the genre is globally, even more pronounced over the past couple decades when filmmaking technology finally caught up with some of the fantastical things the genre can imagine, the Academy doesn’t go for this type of thing. Not in numbers enough to win. Yes, the cumlination of Tolkien's Fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won just about every award there is, including Best Picture, and Sci-Fi films as diverse as A Clockwork Orange, Star Wars (1977), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Avatar, District 9, Inception and if you want to include them Gravity and this year’s The Martian, along with Fury Road, have garnered Best Picture nominations. Even Avatar, which was then the biggest box office champ of all time having passed Cameron’s own Titanic, didn’t pull off the win, though. Classics of the genre including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kid, Alien, Blade Runner, The Thing, The Terminator, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park and on and on were never even nominated for Best Picture. None of them were able to get it done...but it’s going to be the fourth Mad Max movie that does?

Mad Max: Fury Road is so much kick-ass fun, but thinking that is what the Oscars reward for Best Picture is either forward thinking or being completely blind. Movie nerds would absolutely lose their sh!t if it was called for the final award of the night, but it is very unlikely to happen. If it does, what a lovely day, and may your chained up electric guitar player’s riff echo to the gates of Valhalla. But when it doesn’t, and The Revenant or The Big Short or Spotlight is called, try not to break too much stuff in your house, or to road rage some poor unsuspecting mini-van in protest.

What about total number of nominations? Doesn't the film with the most noms wind up winning? As with most Oscar trivia, well, I mean sometimes, yeah. This year for these four I am focusing on, The Revenant has the most nominations of anything at twelve, Mad Max: Fury Road two behind at ten, Spotlight six, and The Big Short has five. Last year the Picture winner, Birdman, did have the highest number of nominations, nine, tied with The Grand Budapest Hotel. And in 2012, The King's Speech had the most nominations in the field, with twelve. But in 2014, both Gravity and American Hustle had ten nominations to 12 Years a Slave's nine. In 2013 Lincoln towered over all with a dozen noms, Life of Pi had eleven, while the Best Picture winner Argo had only seven. In 2012 Scorsese's Hugo had one more nomination, eleven, than the winner The Artist. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button had thirteen nominations to winner Slumdog Millionaire's ten. And when The Hurt Locker bested Avatar, they both were tied coming in with nine nominations each.

The Revenant may win Best Picture, but it having more than twice as many nominations as The Big Short doesn't mean one has a lock over the other.

Given ALL of that, with no obvious winner sitting there waiting to be anointed, if I had to guess...I think it is going to be Spotlight that ultimately prevails and is named the next Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In a year full of bleak stories up for Best Picture, it is the one that perhaps is the most positive. It’s about good old fashioned journalism and truth and the powerful being taken to task instead of getting away with it. It’s an underdog story in that sense, not as adrenaline-pumping as Rocky, but with a well earned righteousness of good triumphing over evil (or if not triumphing, at least exposing it). The Revenant is about survival and revenge, The Big Short a largely comic look at how things got so damn bad but while those handful of smart people figured it out nobody was able to stop it and nothing much has changed, and Fury Road is a wonderfully chaotic train of pure cinema that doesn’t stop moving. I think among those choices, the more narratively conservative and relatively uplifting story is the one that will rise to the top. It may not be listed first on a lot of those Academy ballots, but it’ll be second and third, and in a year where there is no clear cut front runner, that may be exactly what it takes.

Gonna be fun finding out, anyway.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: 2016 Academy Awards Thread
« on: February 22, 2016, 01:33:14 PM »
The Best Picture race, whether there are five nominees, eight, ten, or if they expand it to twenty, always comes down to two or maybe three films, and for there to be even three titles legitimately in the mix is unusual. Most years there is a clear favorite, if not an outright assumed winner, and one other that could, conceivably, upset it...though it almost never does. But this has turned into a year where three movies seem to have legitimate shots at winning, and possibly even a fourth as that wild card (in this case, very wild). Leaving the final award of the night an actual mystery, for once. Can hardly wait to find out which one it will be.

Right off the bat, you can pretty much throw out any of the Best Picture nominees that don't have their directors nominated. This year that would be Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, and The Martian. Movies without a corresponding director nomination have won before. I mean it just happened three years ago with Argo and Ben Affleck. But before that it hadn't happened since Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and Bruce Beresford (Oliver Stone won for Born on the Fourth of July). Before that, you have to go all the way back to first few years of the Academy Awards.

In 1932 Grand Hotel won Best Picture without Edmund Goulding being nominated (Frank Borzage won for Bad Girl), and at the very first Academy Awards Wings won Best Picture while William Wellman went unnominated. But for those first two misses, it should be noted that the format of the Oscars (which hadn't even been given the nickname "Oscar" yet) was very different. Wings was one of only three nominees for what was called "Outstanding Picture", though they also had a similar category called "Unique and Outstanding Production", which also had three nominees and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans won that. By the second Academy Awards, those two were combined for a single Best Picture award, with five nominees. That first ceremony also had Best Director split between Drama and Comedy categories, with five total nominees (two comedy, three drama). That was similarly blended into a single Best Director category in the second year, though they allowed seven nominees. The year Grand Hotel won, the fifth ceremony, there were eight Picture nominees but only three Best Directors.

So if you throw out those first two instances when the Academy Awards were still playing with the format quite a bit, in all the decades since it stabilized with five Best Director nominees, it's just Driving Miss Daisy and Argo in all those years to win Best Picture without a nomination for the director. Is it going to happen again? Sure, at some point. Is it going to happen this year with Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn or The Martian, just a few years after Argo? Nope.

To make the Best Picture race truly interesting, I think there really has to be the possibility of a split between Picture and Director. It is certainly not uncommon for those two awards to go to different films, though the norm is for them to match. So far in the 21st Century it has become relatively common, compared to the five or six decades that ended the 1900s, to have a split now and again. In the fifteen most recent Oscars, from Birdman on back to Gladiator, Picture and Director have matched ten of the fifteen years. But two of the last three were mismatches. Iñárritu and Birdman of course won last year, but before that 12 Years A Slave won Picture while Alfonso Cuarón won Director for Gravity, and Argo won Picture though Ang Lee won Director for Life of Pi (again, Affleck was not even nominated for Director).

The Revenant seemed like the immediate favorite when the nominations were announced, and since then Alejandro Iñárritu has emerged even more clearly as the heavy favorite for Best Director. But while The Revenant may well still win Best Picture, it seems that both Spotlight and The Big Short have picked up some serious ground in recent weeks, and The Revenant is no lock to win, even if Iñárritu does.

The Revenant is a very brutal, bleak movie. Not that brutal and bleak movies haven't won before, but in comparison to The Big Short and Spotlight, it is a cinematic ordeal. That is its strength, of course, that it is an immersive experience, and why the direction and cinematography are such heavy favorites in their categories. But will the overall Oscar votership go for it? They certainly could. 12 Years A Slave, The Hurt Locker, No Country for Old Men, and The Departed are recent winners that could broadly be described as major bummers, even if in a couple of them the protagonists actually survive their ordeals. So the Academy isn't afraid of going dark and brooding and punishing. But that does contrast The Revenant pretty sharply with both Spotlight and The Big Short, both of which are serious subjects, but not presented in the unrelenting style that The Revenant employs.

Besides its darkness and intensity, the main marker that has me questioning whether The Revenant can really win, from a Oscar history buff perspective, is that its screenplay is not nominated. As rare as it is for a film to win Best Picture without its director being nominated, it is almost as rare for one to win without the screenplay getting a nod. Doesn't have to win, but at least be one of the ten nominated screenplays. Once again throwing out those initial years of the Academy Awards where they were figuring out the format, in the many decades since then there have been exactly three movies that won Best Picture without their screenplay being nominated. They are Larry Olivier's Hamlet (1948), Robert Wise's The Sound of Music (1965), and James Cameron's Titanic (1997). That's it. Olivier refused to take a writing credit for the adaptation, meaning it is officially credited to Billy Shakespeare alone, Rodgers & Hammerstein's The Sound of Music was a Broadway smash before it was adapted into the movie, and for all of its spectacle I think anybody other than twelve-year-old girls must acknowledge that Titanic has some absolutely dreadful dialogue.

The Revenant was partially adapted from a novel of the same name which tells a version of the true life story of famous fur-trapping mountain man Hugh Glass, who was indeed mauled by a Grizzly and managed through sheer force of will to survive after being left for dead by the men he was traveling with. The same core story was adapted into the 1971 film Man in the Wilderness starring Richard Harris. Iñárritu's film is extremely visual, and there are huge stretches of the running time where DiCaprio's Glass is alone, barely alive, hiding from men or animals, and doesn't have a syllable of actual written dialogue. Which is probably why it didn't make the cut for screenplay. But the question becomes is The Revenant so strong and beloved and respected by the Academy voters that it is going to triumph the way Hamlet, The Sound of Music, and Titanic did? I have my serious doubts. If it does, it joins that very small list. But if you just want to play the odds of Oscar history, there is at least enough doubt there to knock it off of its early front-running perch.

Which leaves room for speculation.

Speaking of room, Room, though it is nominated for Best Director, doesn't seem to have the proverbial snowball's chance of actually winning Best Picture. I like this movie A LOT, and if I was filling out an actual Oscar ballot, I may even slot it as my number one choice. But while I think it is fantastic that it got as many high profile nominations as it did, and that Bree Larson is the heavy favorite to win Best Actress, I can't imagine any scenario where it actually wins, here. It is one of those yearly instances where it is truly an honor to have been nominated.


Off-Topic Discussion / Re: 2016 Academy Awards Thread
« on: February 22, 2016, 01:26:09 PM »

All signs seem to be pointing to a likely Best Picture/Best Director split this year, but as for whom that director doing the splitting is, there isn’t all that much mystery. Alejandro González Iñárritu has already won the Golden Globe and most crucially the DGA Award. The Directors Guild of America is by far the most reliable of all the pre-Oscar awards in predicting who will win the corresponding Academy Award. The DGA started handing out their award in 1948, and in all those decades and generations of filmmakers since, Iñárritu is the first person to win in back-to-back years, having won the DGA Award and the Oscar last year for Birdman. If he wins the Oscar for The Revenant, he will join John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz as the only directors to win back-to-back Oscars (Ford earned his for The Grapes of Wrath and How Green was My Valley, Mankiewicz for A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve). This is Iñárritu’s third nomination in this category, having also been nominated for Babel (the year Scorsese won for The Departed).

Since 1950 there have only been six directors who won the DGA Award but then didn’t win the Oscar. Three of them somehow weren’t even nominated at the Oscars: Spielberg for The Color Purple, Ron Howard for Apollo 13, and Ben Affleck for Argo. The only other three to lose the Oscar after winning the DGA are Anthony Harvey for The Lion in Winter (Carol Reed won for Oliver!), Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather (Bob Fosse won for Cabaret), and Rob Marshall for Chicago (Polanski won for The Pianist). Will Alejandro González Iñárritu join their company this year? He could, of course, but the odds and Oscar history are against it. Vote your heart, vote your gut, flip a coin, do what you will, but if you vote for anybody other than Iñárritu, you are going way against the odds.

The other four nominees this year had never even been nominated in this category, and Alejandro González Iñárritu seems poised to win it in consecutive years.

Despite the odds being stacked in A.G.I.’s favor, if there is going to be an upset, the groundswell and certainly the film’s rabid fanbase would suggest it’ll be George Miller as the only other nominee with even a slim chance. The 70-year-old resurrected his iconic character and dusty post-apocalyptic drag race of a world for a long gestating fourth edition of the Mad Max series, and not only was it a box office smash but it is one of the best reviewed movies of the year, if not the best. Even its detractors must marvel at its style and use of practical effects, and no doubt Fury Road is a heck of a flick. Whether it is Oscar fare beyond the technical categories, where it should just about entirely sweep, we shall see, but I think Best Picture and Best Director are both beyond its leather-clad, chainsaw-swinging grasp.

I loved Room, and Lenny Abrahamson, who is no kid (he’s forty-nine), has finally arrived on the scene in a big way. He has made small indies in his native Ireland, and two years ago had a bit of an arthouse hit with Frank – that’s the one with Michael Fassbender as a weird singer/songwriter who wears an oversized papier-mâché head. But Room is dark and weird and unsettling and engrossing, somehow even doing all of that with the first chunk of it taking place in one teeny set, so I love that he got nominated. He won’t win, but I anxiously await his next projects.

Tom McCarthy became a favorite director of mine right of the gate when he made The Station Agent, with Peter Dinklage as a dwarf who inherits an old train depot and reluctantly befriends some of the locals. It is endlessly charming and rewatchable. His followup, The Visitor, was just as good, with Richard Jenkins as a professor who becomes invested in the visa problems of an immigrant he’s met in New York City. Win Win with Paul Giamatti isn’t quite as strong as the first two films, but McCarthy’s deft touch and Humanistic approach to characters made for another good film. Spotlight is different from his first films in scope and tone, but he does a nice job telling the story. He also has the odd distinction of birthing one of the year’s worst reviewed films, Adam Sandler in The Cobbler, in this same calendar year. Even if Spotlight wins Best Picture, McCarthy won’t win this year, but now that he is on the Academy votership’s radar, I hope he makes it back multiple times in the future, and that his next wonderful gem like The Station Agent won’t be lost in the shuffle, next time.

Likewise, Adam McKay may see his movie, The Big Short, win Best Picture, but there are slim chances that even if it does that he would win Best Director. Yet it is a worthy nomination. He is the former head writer of ”Saturday Night Live” who with his partner Will Ferrell made a comedy empire for themselves with the website Funny or Die and a slew of hit movies like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy and Step Brothers. He might not have seemed like the perfect choice to bring Michael Lewis’ non-fiction best seller about the housing market collapse that nearly cratered the economy to life as a narrative feature, but his comedic inventiveness is exactly what was required. A large and good ensemble cast is aided immeasurably by breaks like actress Margot Robbie naked in a bubble bath explaining the very dry banking concepts and loopholes that you must know to fully understand what happened. It was an unusual and ultimately winning way to adapt the material for the big screen. He will likely be rewarded with Best Adapted Screenplay for his work, and The Big Short may even manage to win Best Picture, but McKay will have to find another project down the line to bring his brand of storytelling to if he wants to win Best Director.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: 2016 Academy Awards Thread
« on: January 21, 2016, 05:32:43 AM »
Love me some cinematography!

Poor Roger Deakins. He is one of the best at his art and has lasted long enough to become one of the true elder statesman in his business, but despite working with filmmakers like Joel & Ethan Coen, Martin Scorsese, and Denis Villeneuve, Mr. Deakins has not yet managed to win an Oscar for Best Cinematography. Sicario marks his thirteenth nomination! Unless he drops dead, he will win one of these eventually. But not this year. Again.

With his long white hair, Robert Richardson could be considered an elder statesman of cinematography, and boy is he still in his prime. Unlike Deakins, Richardson has won before. Three times, actually: Oliver Stone's JFK and Scorsese's The Aviator and Hugo. He has five other nominations, including Tarantino's previous two flicks Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds. Working in full 70mm must have been a joy worth every challenge it presented, but he has the bad luck of this work coming in the same year as that OTHER snowbound Western. His ninth nomination won't bring him his fourth win, but at only sixty years old he should have many, many more nominations and maybe even a couple more wins coming, especially if he keeps working with the likes of Tarantino and Scorsese.

I like Ed Lachman a lot. Going back to the beginning of his career in the 1980s with films like David Byrne's True Stories, Mira Nair's Mississippi Masala, and Paul Schrader's Light Sleeper, then teaming with Soderbergh for The Limey (still my favorite from Lachman) and Erin Brockovich before his first collaboration with Todd Haynes in Far From Heaven. They subsequently paired for the Bob Dylan piece I'm Not There and the HBO mini-series "Mildred Pierce". Carol is evocative of a pristine, dreamlike 1950s which is lovely and belies the nightmare of secrecy and intolerance the characters find themselves in (and less stylized than the colorful Douglas Sirk aping going on in Far From Heaven). But he won't win. His only other nomination was for Far From Heaven, the year Connie Hall won posthumously for The Road to Perdition.

Australian John Seale has been working since the 1980s as well, with his first two Oscar noms coming from Peter Weir's Witness and Barry Levinson's Rain Man, plus he also shot Gorillas in the Mist, The Mosquito Coast, The Hitcher, Children of a Lesser God, Dead Poets Society, Steakout, and The Firm in the first chunk of his career. He won the Oscar for The English Patient, was nominated for Cold Mountain, and helped establish the look for the whole series when he lensed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. George Miller's return to Mad Max was something he couldn't say no to as he came out of retirement to help bring the ambitious actioner to life. If this is the capper to his career, wow, what an amazing way to go out (the Depp/Jolie dud The Tourist was his previous credit, five years ago). If Emmanuel Lubezki wasn't the most amazing Director of Photography around right now, he may even have a chance of winning, but even as magnificent and striking as Fury Road is, this is Lubezki's to lose.

Emmanuel Lubezki is simply lapping everybody else in the biz, right now. He has been one of the best cinematographers for the past twenty years, but he is emerging as perhaps the cinematographer of this era. The Revenant makes his eighth nomination, and he has won the award the past two years in a row, for Gravity and Birdman. And now he will become the first person to ever win three in a row for his amazing work in The Revenant. Filming period pieces in natural light has been done before. A benchmark example is when John Alcott won the Oscar for 1975 for his stunning work in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, no small feat with the lenses and technology available at that time. Lubezki and Iñárritu certainly have more impressive toys to play with, but having the equipment and using it to its full glory are different steps.

If you haven't yet learned the name Emmanual Lubezki, you damn well should. If you see his name attached to a project know that you are going to be overwhelmed by some of the most beautiful images and ingenious camerawork in all of cinema.

Web Site Announcements / Re: CEWB Member Starter Packs for sale!
« on: January 15, 2016, 07:09:56 AM »
What's all this, then?

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