Sunday, 22 February 2009

Twenty Four Hours of Oscars

For almost all my life after I was about six years and the Second World War had ended I have been interested in the Hollywood Oscars. For the greater part of my childhood I was taken every Monday and Thursday evening to the Odeon Cinema Wallington, because my care mother who worked in various shops in Wallington had befriended an usherette who got for her a half price concession card so that we paid only a few old pence to attend. I would also go to the Saturday morning Matinee for children and at weekends, if I was lucky I would be taken by older cousins to see films at Sutton where there was a Grenada and a Gaumont, or Purley where they was a Grenada and one other, or Croydon where there was the Davis which could seat several thousand as well as other Cinema chains. Sometimes I would also be taken by my birth and care mothers and their older sister to the Odeon Wallington at the weekend when during the interval between the two main pictures an organist would play and the audience would sing. In those days the cinema would be brightly lit and there would be curtains to be moved to the side to reveal the screen. There were three categories of films, the U which was open to everyone and the A film where children had to be accompanied by an adult and the X film where officially one had to be 18 but along with everyone else we would go as soon as we were sixteen and in my case had left school and started work. I have now seen almost all the films which were awarded the best picture, some several times with one the 1943 winner Casablanca, at least once a year.

I do not remember the 1927 winner Wings with 1928 The Broadway Melody, the first remembered. It was several decades later that I saw All Quiet on the Western Front 1929/30, seen several times along with Grand Hotel 31/32. I am not sure about Cimerron which I may be confusing with the Cimarron Kid which is being shown regularly on cable and satellite. Cavalcade, It happened one Night, Mutiny on the Bounty have been seen some several times from the 1930’s but I have a query about, the Great Zigfield not to be confused with the Zigfield Follies, another query is the Life of Emile Zola, but definitely, You cannot Take it with you and Gone with the Wind which was the favourite of my care mother who would see the film every time it was shown subsequently on television during her later life.

Others from this era experienced, and often viewed several times over the years which were highly regarded in their day, were A Tale of two Cities, Lost Horizon, A Star is Born, The Citadel, Grand Illusion and Pygmalion, Stage Door, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, The Good Earth and the Adventures of Robin Hood, San Francisco and Test Pilot, Dark Victory and Goodbye Mr Chips, Mr Smith goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men( I have book), Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, Mr Deeds goes to Town, Little Women(I had the book and may still have)( which was an eleven plus film) Farewell to arms, I am a Fugitive from the Chain Gang, The Private life of Henry VIII and State Fair, The Thin man, Shanghai Express, David Copperfield and Les Miserables.

1940 Oscar winners were Rebecca, How green was my valley (I have the book) Mrs Minerva, Lost Weekend, The Best Years of Our Lives, Going My Way, Gentleman’s agreement and Hamlet which I saw in theatre when it was released, All the Kings Men, and Casablanca as previously highlighted. Others were The Razors Edge, The Yearling, Foreign Correspondent and the Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, The Philadelphia Story, Citizen Kane, The Little Foxes, The Maltese Falcon and Sargeant York, Random Harvest, The 49th Parallel which I have just acquired the DVD, The Magnificent Ambersons and Yankee Doodle Dandy, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Heaven Can wait, In Which we Serve (have DVD) and the Oxbow Incident and Madam Curie. Double Indemnity and Gas Light, The Bishop’s Wife, Great Expectations and Johnny Belinda which I remember seeing at the Wallington Odeon. Miracle on 34th Street and the Red Shoes, again in theatre. The Heiress and Twelve O’clock High and the Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

The 1950 winners were All about Eve, An American in Paris, The Greatest Show on Earth and From Here to Eternity, Marty and On the Waterfront, Around the World in Eighty Days and Gigi and Ben Hur were all seen in theatres. Others in the running were Father of the Bride, King Solomon’s Mines and Sunset Boulevard, High Noon. Ivanhoe, The Quiet Man and Moulin Rouge(have DVD), Julius Caesar, The Robe, Roman Holiday, Shane, The Caine Mutiny, Seven Brides for Seven brothers, the Country Girl and Three Coins in the Fountain. Love is a many Splendid things, Picnic, Mr Roberts and the Rose Tattoo, Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I, The Ten Commandments(have DVD) and Peyton Place, 12 Angry Men, Witness for the Prosecution and Sayonara, Cat on the Hot Tin Roof, The Defiant ones and Separate Tables. The Defiant Ones and the Diary of Anne Frank, The Nuns Story, Anatomy of Murder and Room at the Top(have book).

1960 winners were The Apartment, West Side Story and Lawrence of Arabia (DVD and Seven Pillars of Wisdom) Tom Jones, My Fair Lady and the Sound of Music (Video Tape), A Man for All Seasons, In the Heat of the Night and Oliver and Midnight Cowboy. Others were Sons and Lovers, Elmer Gantry and the Sundowners; The Guns of Navarone and visited film site(DVD) Judgement at Nuremberg and Hustler, the Longest Day, Mutiny on the Bounty and Kill a Mockingbird. Cleopatra and How the West were won. Becket, Dr Strangelove (DVD), Mary Poppins and Zorba the Greek. Dr Zhivago. Ship of Fools, Darling and Alfie, The Sand Pebbles and Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf. Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Doctor Doolittle and Guess who is coming to Dinner. Funny Girl, The Lion in Winter and Romeo and Juliet. Butch Cassidy, Anne of a Thousands days and Hello Dolly.

1970 Winners were Patton and the French Connection, The Sting, The Godfather Part II and One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest Rocky and Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter and Kramer V Kramer. Others were Love Story, Mash and Five Easy Pieces. A Clockwork Orange, Nicholas and Alexander, Fiddle on the Roof and the Last Picture Show. Cabaret (DVD) and Deliverance. A Touch of Class. The Exorcist and American Graffiti. China Town, The Towering Inferno and Lenny. Cries and Whispers, Jaws and Nashville, All the Presidents Men(DVD) and Taxi Driver. Julia, Star Wars and the Turning Point. Midnight Express and Heaven can Wait. Apocalypse Now and All that Jazz.

1980 winners were Ordinary People (I do not remember seeing) Chariots of Fire, Ghandi(DVD), Terms of Endearment, Amadeus(DVD) Out of Africa, Platoon(Video) The Last Emperor, Rain man and Driving Miss Daisy. Others Coalminer’s daughter. Raging Bull(Video), Tess and Elephant Man, Reds(seen in Paris), Atlantic City, On Golden Pond (DVD) and Raiders of Lost Ark(on ferry from Holland). E.T(DVD), Tootsie and The Verdict. The Big Chill, A Passage to India, The Color Purple and Prizzi’s Honour. Children of the Lesser God, a Room with a view, Hannah and her Sisters, and the Mission (DVD), Fatal Attraction. The Accidental Tourist, Mississippi Burning and Dangerous Liaisons. Dead Poet’s Society and Born on the Fourth of July (video) together with My Left Foot.

1990 winners were Dancing with Wolves, The Silence of Lambs, Unforgiven and Schindler’s List, Brave Heart and the English Patient (DVD), Titanic and Shakespeare in Love and American Beauty (DVD) Forest Gump Others Godfather III and Goodfellows. Bugsy, JFK (DVD) and the Prince of Tides. The Crying Game, A few Good Men(DVD), The Scent of a woman and Howard’s End. In the Name of the Father, the Piano and the Remains of the Day. Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction and the Shawshank Redemption. The Fugitive and Apollo 13. As Good as it Gets, Life is Beautiful, Babe and Sense and Sensibility. Secrets and Lies, Jerry McGuire and Fargo. The Full Monty, LA Confidential and Good Will Hunting. Elizabeth and Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Cider House Rules(book). The Green Mile, and the Sixth Sense.

2000 winners are Gladiator(DVD) Beautiful Mind, Chicago(DVD), Lord of the Rings(both sets of DVD’s and books), Million Dollar Baby, Crash, The Departed and No Country for Old Men, Slum Dog Millionaire, Others Chocolate(DVD) Crouching Tiger(DVD, Erin Brockovitch and Traffic. Gosford Park, Moulin Rouge(DVD) and Lord of the Rings( Both sets of DVD’s book). Gangs of New York, The Hours (DVD), The Pianist (DVD and book), The Lord of the Rings (sets of DVD’s and book), Lost in Translation (DVD) Master and Commander, Mystic River and Seabiscuit. The Aviator, Finding Neverland and Ray (DVD). Brokeback Mountain, Munich, Goodnight and Good Luck. Babel, Letters to Iwo Jima, The Queen and Little Miss Sunshine. Atonement, Juno and Michael Clayton. Those highlighted had greater impact than the others. I do not remember seeing Oscar winners Wings, Ordinary People and did not see Million Dollar Baby with a question mark over Cimerron, The Life of Emile Zola and the Great Zigfield which I would need to see again to remember if I have seen before. Several of the Oscar winners and contenders from the 1930’s I did not see until the 1940’s and many of those from the 1940’s I am not sure if I saw first in theatre, or subsequently on Terrestrial or Satellite. Some films such as Margaret Lockwood are Wicked Lady or the early Walt Disney Films. Such as Snow White they left more of an impression, not always a good impression, than those which highly regarded in their day. Some films not on these lists were better or made a greater impressions than many included such as The African Queen, Les Enfant du Paradis (Oxford) Paths of Glory (Oxford), Richard III, The Third Man, The Thirty Nine Steps (original) and Whisky Galore, The Lady Vanishes (original) and It’s a Wonderful Life. Two films in Barry Norman’s 100 lists I did not see until recent years Wild Strawberries and La Strada with both in my Top List as well as Scenes from a Marriage and Saraband, Autumn Sonata and La Dolce Vita, the latter which I did see shortly after release. Many films affect me in childhood while as are important because of the place, the person/people association or the issues, films such as Get Carter and The Wicker Man from recent years, Morning Departure from immediately after World War 2, Bill Haley’s Rock around the Clock, with the dancing in the aisles, Turning the Key Softly and a Bridget Bardot on my first date, the choice of the first date to the disapproval of her parents. This makes me want to do a different piece on films which had an influence and why, if I can now remember or am prepared to say. Another piece will be on actors and acting performances. For example I do not believe that Doubt is a great film but the performances of Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman are together with the actors who play the young nun and the boy’s mother are outstanding. I thoroughly enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire but it was the performances of the children in the early part of the film which impressed more than the adolescents and young adults. I am in advance of myself.

For the greater part decade when I held a cinema see everything ticket, and commenced to keep records of films seen, reviews or my own notes, my interest in those nominated at the Oscars has increased. I have debate watching the Oscars live, resisting so far paying for Sky films as I have seen most of the films which they shown in Theatre or have already seen on TV, DVD or Video. This was the reason why I selected the internet DVD subscription instead because I wanted to look back on the films of Directors such as Bergman and Fellini, and then discovered Almodovar. There is a lot about the Oscars which I do not like, I avoid the Red Carpet shows where remarkably silly and uneducated young women chatter away about dresses and make stupid comments or ask the Actors cringe questions. While I understand that most individual acting performances are the result of the team work of the various technical and directorial staff on films which are often listed in the credits in their hundreds, why do recipients have to claim the crew is the best ever, every time. When a stage actor gets an award they talk of other actors and people who influenced them but I cannot recall hearing about the lighting or the sound. I also believe there should be a better way of paying tribute to those have died, because now it is terribly rushed.

This year I was tempted to go to bed, and keep away from the news until the Sky One showing of edited highlights on Monday evening. However a couple of years back when I did this, I was horrified to find that Sky used over half the two hours allocated to the red carpet, after awards interviews and parties and adverts. The problem is that Hollywood has become schizoid as it is split between those who want to make the award ceremony as big an earner as possible by restricting coverage to pay for view TV in one form of another and those who want more people to go and see the nominated films and make money that way and which involves making the viewing of the ceremony free.

In the event what happened was the wrong choice in every respect. I went to bed but was restless and tired and went to sleep waking about two thirty. I should have returned to sleep as usual but collected the battery operated radio from the bathroom and tried to listen to that, but was very tired so switched off and tried to sleep but could not, got up and listen to LBC radio on Sky digital where the two commentators were awful, sneering, without any good understanding of the cinema or the ability to communicate live events on the radio. They were typical example of the kind of journalists who only thrive on bad story or dramatic story news. They become quickly bored because they are such boring people and cannot cope when the predictable happens. Meryl Streep gave two brilliant performances this year, for Mama Mia and Doubt, superior to the two of Kate Winslet, although I thought her performances were also worthy of an award and superior to that off Angelina Jolie. I have not seen the other two actors nominated Anne Hathaway or Melissa Leo. However Kate had been nominated five times without success, or a Golden Globe until this year, whereas Streep has a total 15 nominations and two Oscars and over 20 other major awards including Golden Globes, Bafta’s and Life Achievement.

I have not seen Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight but did in Brokeback Mountain. He was a young man destined for greatness and his premature death meant that there was an additional reason for honouring him and his family. I would be surprised if his performance was in the same class as that as Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt though. Hollywood was split over Mickey Rourke, talented but messed up of his own making. I did not want to see the Wrestler because wrestling is more of a fixed fraud than professional Boxing, although a close run thing, with its fixing of gambling and other criminal aspects. I though Frank Langella was outstanding and head and shoulders above everyone else as best actor in a male role, butt with the recent attacks on the Gay community in the USA it was inevitable it would go to Sean Penn for his performance in Milk. Having not seen the wrestler I cannot comment on the Performance of Marisa Tomei and I am yet to see Penelope Cruz but she is a fine actress whose previous performance deserved recognition outside of Spain. I now come to best Picture and best Director. I thought Slum Dog Millionaire was the best all-round film of the year although I was disappointed that Boy in Stripped Pyjamas did not feature. However the extent of the awards given was more to do with two non performance reasons. The first is that Hollywood wants to compete more with Bollywood in India as India becomes an economic player on the world stage and secondly Hollywood wanted to show support for India following the latest Mumbai massacre and its opposition to what is happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I thought the visual effects and make up in Benjamin Button were brilliant as was the performance of Taraji P Henson as his surrogate mother. It is also an imaginative concept, however Brad Pitt is just below the level of the other nominated performance and the story was too Forest Gump for my liking.. I enjoyed The Duchess so was pleased it gained an award for Costume and that Australia got a mention along with the Changeling which I thought was an important film and Angelina merited her nomination. There is only one regret rather than dissent and that is that In Bruges did not win the best script. I am usually opposed the gratuitous use of swearing in films but In Bruges is so dark witted, nearly said bloody funny, that for once it was the authentic use of the f word by the three central characters which added to an already rich script rather than detracted. That’s that I guess for another year or at least until the autumn as film makers usually save their best until the autumn and New Year.

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