Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The James Bond Film Series

Ursula Andress in Doctor No,
the first James Bond film

I just reviewed the James Bond series at my companion site, 1000 Dvds to See. I concentrated on my favorite Sean Connery films and Casino Royale, the first with Daniel Craig. Personally, I didn't like any of the Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan 007 films, so I didn't mention those at all. Check them out, they are timeless, along with the novels by Ian Fleming.

Diana Rigg and George Lazenby, in 
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
This was the only film in which Bond got married

Sunday, February 26, 2012

2012 Academy Award Winners

Academy Awards 2012
[for films released in 2011]

Most Awards: The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius) and Hugo (Martin Scorsese), 5 each [Iron Lady won 2]

Best Picture: The Artist 
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Iron Lady [This was Streep's third Oscar, and her 17th nomination, the most ever; her 3rd for acting ties her with Katharine Hepburn]
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Supporting Actress: Olivia Spencer, The Help
Best Supporting Male: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best Cinematography: Hugo (Robert Richardson)
Best Film Editing: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter)
Best Art Direction: Hugo (Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo)
Best Special Visual Effects: Hugo (Robert Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann, Alex Henning)
Best Makeup: Iron Lady (Mark Coulier, J. Roy Helland)
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)
Best Screenplay Directly for the Screen: Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)

Best Music: The Artist (Ludovic Bource)
Best Song: Brett MacKenzie, ‘Man or Muppet’ (The Muppets)
Best Sound Mixing: Hugo (Tom Fleischman, John Midgley)
Best Sound Editing: Hugo (Philip Stockton, Eugene Gearty)

Asghar Farhadi of Iran, with his 
Oscar for best foreign language film

Best Foreign Film: A Separation (dir. Asghar Farhadi, Iran)
Best Documentary: Undefeated (Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin, Rich Middlemas)
Best Animated Feature: Rango (dir. Gore Verbinski)

Best Live Action Short: The Short (Terry George, Oorlagh George)
Best Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg)
Best Documentary Short: Saving Face (Daniel Junge, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy)

Note: Never one to miss a chance for propaganda, the Iranian government, which before denounced artists critical of the government and especially filmmakers winning awards at festivals, immediately proclaimed it's first Oscar for foreign language film as "a victory of Israel", which also had a film nominated. In Farhadi's speech, he said that he hoped his film, which is critical of the lack of freedom women possess in his fundamentalist nation, would help remove the "cloud that politics has placed over perceptions of the people of his country".

Best Film Awards for 2011

Current list of best film awards winners for 2011 releases
[Updated 2.27.12]


Cannes, Palm d’Or: The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
Malick has a degree in philosophy from Harvard, was a Rhodes scholar, and a professor at MIT. This is only his fifth film in 38 years, beginning with Badlands (1973). This film won't please the masses because it lacks a typically literary story with an easy to follow plot, but is one of the most visually stunning films ever made, on a very short list with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Seven Samurai and L'avventura.

Academy Awards: The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
British Academy Awards: The Artist
Independent Spirit Awards: The Artist
Golden Globe Awards: The Descendents (Drama), The Artist (Musical/Comedy)

Directors Guild Awards: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Producers Guild Awards: The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
Screen Actors Guild Awards: The Help (Ensemble Cast)

I know a lot of people like to scoff at these, notably those who think each Harry Potter film is the best of the year, but the critics are the people who watch hundreds of films annually, so it takes a creative work of artistry to even get their attention and keep them awake amid a plethora of crime, teen comedy, vampire, and gore films.

The Broadcast Film Critics Association: The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius) A silent film?
Online Film Critics Society: The Tree of Life

Austin Film Critics: Hugo (Martin Scorsese)
Boston Society of Film Critics: The Artist
Capri Hollywood: The Artist
Chicago Film Critics Association: The Tree of Life
Dallas-Ft Worth Film Critics: The Descendants (Alexander Payne)
Gotham Awards: The Tree of Life
Hamptons Int’l Film Festival, Audience Award: The Artist
London Critics Circle: not awarded yet
Los Angeles Film Critics: The Descendants (2nd: Tree of Life)
National Board of Review: Hugo (Martin Scorsese)
National Society of Film Critics: Melancholia (Lars Von Trier) 2nd: Tree of Life, Hugo
New York Film Critics Circle: The Artist
Phoenix Film Critics Soceity: The Artist
San Diego Film Critics: not awarded yet
San Francisco Film Critics: The Tree of Life
Satellite Awards: not awarded yet
Toronto Film Critics: The Tree of Life
Washington DC Area Film Critics: The Artist

The Artist (#196 at IMDB) has currently won 74 awards, the most this year so far

The Tree of Life (my favorite so far) has currently won 45 awards out of 67 nominations. It's ranked higher by critics, 85, than fans, 73, typical for a cinematic work of art without a simplistic plot.

The Descendants has currently won 42 awards

Drive (#208 at IMDB) has currently won 38 awards
I liked this a lot, it should have been nominated for best picture; a review is to follow shortly.

Hugo (#205 at IMDB) has currently won 39 awards

The Help has currently won 40 awards (ranked much higher by fans, 81, than critics, 62) I grew up in this environment in Georgia, so this will strike an honest and nostalgic chord for me.

Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen), has won 13 awards
A beautiful Woody Allen fantasy about the immortality of art and artists, and how great art (primarily literature and visual arts) can influence lives for generations, all centered around creative artists who spent time in Paris: Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Luis Bunuel, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Salvador Dali ("I paint you, with your lips melting into the sand - and of course, a rhinoceros!"), and Toulouse-Lautrec are just a few of the famous artists who come alive for Owen Wilson on his post-midnight walks around Paris. Most of the awards are for Allen's screenplay, which should be a favorite for an Oscar. As an artist (painting and writing) this film reinforced my lifelong belief in the power of creativity.

Senna, a documentary about Gran Prix driver Ayrton Senna, has won 8 awards
This is without doubt the scariest, least controllable sport in the world. My favorite computer game program ever is the Gran Prix simulator from the early 90's - just a 15 minute race left me shaking and stressed, and these guys drive for two hours with their lives on the line. I could never last that long even in a game, not without a morphine drip.

War Horse has currently won 5 awards

We’re not including film festivals since those aren’t typically open for all films, just films entered and accepted into the various festivals.

Actress Jessica Chastain, who is a breakthrough winner this year for The Tree of Live and other films (The Help, The Debt, Texas Killing Fields, Coriolanus, Take Shelter), has already won 17 awards out of 29 nominations

Actor Albert Brooks has won 8 awards for supporting actor in Drive [photo below]. I'm glad, he only won 3 for Broadcast News, and has been overlooked both as a screenwriter and an actor, so this is the most awards he's ever received in his long career.

Academy Awards for Best Picture and Director

Best Picture Oscar® Winners
[updated 2.27.12]
* = Director also won an Oscar

2011 The Artist Directed by Michel Hazanavicius*
2010 The King's Speech Directed by Tom Hooper*
2009 The Hurt Locker Directed by Kathryn Bigelow*
2008 Slumdog Millionaire Directed by Danny Boyle*
2007 No Country for Old Men Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen*
2006 The Departed Directed by Martin Scorcese*
2005 Crash Directed by Paul Haggis
2004 Million Dollar Baby Directed by Clint Eastwood*
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Directed by Peter Jackson*
2002 Chicago Directed by Rob Marshall
2001 A Beautiful Mind Directed by Ron Howard*
2000 Gladiator Directed by Ridley Scott

1999 American Beauty Directed by Sam Mendes*
1998 Shakespeare in Love Directed by John Madden
1997 Titanic Directed by James Cameron*
1996 The English Patient Directed by Anthony Minghella*
1995 Braveheart Directed by Mel Gibson*
1994 Forrest Gump Directed by Robert Zemeckis*
1993 Schindler's List Directed by Steven Spielberg*
1992 Unforgiven Directed by Clint Eastwood*
1991 Silence of the Lambs Directed by Jonathan Demme* [photo rt: Best Actor winner Anthony Hopkins]
1990 Dances with Wolves Directed by Kevin Costner*

1989 Driving Miss Daisy Directed by Bruce Beresford
1988 Rain Man Directed by Barry Levinson*
1987 The Last Emperor Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci* 1986 Platoon Directed by Oliver Stone*
1985 Out of Africa Directed by Sydney Pollack*
1984 Amadeus Directed by Milos Forman*
1983 Terms of Endearment Directed by James L. Brooks*
1982 Gandhi Directed by Richard Attenborough*
1981 Chariots of Fire Directed by Hugh Hudson
1980 Ordinary People Directed by Robert Redford*

1979 Kramer vs Kramer Directed by Robert Benton*
1978 The Deer Hunter Directed by Michael Cimino*
1977 Annie Hall Directed by Woody Allen*
1976 Rocky Directed by John G. Avildsen*
1975 One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest Directed by Milos Forman*
1974 The Godfather Part II Directed by Francis Ford Coppola*
1973 The Sting Directed by George Roy Hill*
1972 The Godfather Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
1971 The French Connection* Directed by William Friedkin*
1970 Patton Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner*

1969 Midnight Cowboy Directed by John Schlesinger*
1968 Oliver! Directed by Carol Reed*
1967 In the Heat of the Night Directed by Norman Jewison
1966 A Man for All Seasons Directed by Fred Zinnemann*
1965 The Sound of Music Directed by Robert Wise*
1964 My Fair Lady Directed by George Cukor*
1963 Tom Jones Directed by Tony Richardson*
1962 Lawrence of Arabia Directed by David Lean*
1961 West Side Story Directed by Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise*
1960 The Apartment Directed by Billy Wilder*

1959 Ben-Hur Directed by William Wyler*
1958 Gigi Directed by Vincente Minnelli*
1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai Directed by David Lean*
1956 Around the World in Eighty Days Directed by Michael Anderson
1955 Marty Directed by Delbert Mann*
1954 On the Waterfront Directed by Elia Kazan*
1953 From Here to Eternity Directed by Fred Zinnemann*
1952 The Greatest Show on Earth Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
1951 An American in Paris Directed by Vincente Minnelli
1950 All About Eve Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz*

1949 All the King's Men Directed by Robert Rossen
1948 Hamlet Directed by Laurence Olivier
1947 Gentleman's Agreement Directed by Elia Kazan*
1946 The Best Years of Our Lives Directed by William Wyler*
1945 The Lost Weekend Directed by Billy Wilder*
1944 Going My Way Directed by Leo McCarey*
1943 Casablanca Directed by Michael Curtiz*
1942 Mrs. Miniver Directed by William Wyler* [photo rt: Greer Garson, Best Actress winner for Miniver]
1941 How Green Was My Valley Directed by John Ford*
1940 Rebecca Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

1939 Gone with the Wind Directed by Victor Fleming*
1938 You Can't Take It with You Directed by Frank Capra*
1937 The Life of Emile Zola Directed by William Dieterle
1936 The Great Ziegfeld Directed by Robert Z. Leonard
1935 Mutiny on the Bounty Directed by Frank Lloyd
1934 It Happened One Night Directed by Frank Capra*
1933 Cavalcade Directed by Frank Lloyd*
1932 Grand Hotel Directed by Edmund Goulding
1931 Cimarron Directed by Wesley Ruggles
1930 All Quiet on the Western Front Directed by Lewis Milestone*

1929 The Broadway Melody Directed by Harry Beaumont
1928 Wings Directed by William A. Wellman

Best Directors for non-Winning Pictures (22 of 83)
2005: Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
2002: Roman Polanski (The Pianist)
2000: Steven Soderbergh (Traffic)
1998: Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan)
1989: Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July)
1981: Warren Beatty (Reds)
1972: Bob Fosse (Cabaret)
1967: Mike Nichols (The Graduate)
1956: George Stevens (Giant)
1952: John Ford (The Quiet Man)
1951: George Stevens (A Place in the Sun)
1949: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives)
1948: John Huston (Treasure of the Sierra Madre)
1940: John Ford (The Grapes of Wrath)
1937: Leo McCarey (The Awful Truth)
1936: Frank Capra (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town)
1935: John Ford (The Informer)
1932: Frank Borzage (Bad Girl)
1931: Norman Taurog (Skippy)
1929: Frank Lloyd (The Divine Lady)
1928: Lewis Milestone (comedy – Two Arabian Knights)
1928: Frank Borzage (drama – 7th Heaven)

Multiple wins by directors: John Ford (4), Frank Capra (3), William Wyler (3)
Two each: Frank Lloyd, Steven Spielberg, Frank Borzage, Lewis Milestone, Leo McCarey, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Robert Wise, David Lean, Billy Wilder, George Stevens, Milos Forman, Oliver Stone, Clint Eastwood.

Alfred Hitchcock never won, but his film Rebecca won Best Picture. Other notables who have never won: Sergei Eisenstein, Lena Wertmuller, Frederico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Zhang Yimou, Luis Bunuel, Pedro Almodovar, Alejandro Innaritu, Gillian Anderson, Peter Weir, Cecil B. De Mille, John Frankenheimer, George Lucas, Martin Ritt, Robert Altman, John Sturges, Stanley Donen, and Howard Hawks.

All winning directors were nominated for Best Picture, but the only picture winners whose directors weren't nominated were: Grand Hotel (Edmund Goulding, never nominated; Hotel only received ONE nomination and it was Picture) Driving Miss Daisy (Bruce Beresford, nominated before for Tender Mercies) As someone quipped at the Oscars, "Driving Miss Daisy directed itself."

My Top 25 Winners
1. Lawrence of Arabia
2. Godfather Pt II
3. The Best Years of Our Lives
4. My Fair Lady
5. The Return of the King
6. Bridge On the River Kwai
7. All About Eve
8. Gandhi
9. Dances with Wolves
10. Silence of the Lambs
11. Chicago
12. Schindler’s List
13. Amadeus
14. The Godfather
15. Shakespeare in Love
16. Mrs. Miniver
17. Casablanca
18. Annie Hall
19. The Last Emperor
20. Platoon
21. Patton
22. Million Dollar Baby
23. The Hurt Locker
24. A Man for All Seasons
25. Midnight Cowboy; Terms of Endearment

Runners-Up: Out of Africa, The Deerhunter, The Departed, The Apartment, Driving Miss Daisy

The Worst Winners: Titanic, Broadway Melody, Rocky, Marty, Crash, How Green Was My Valley, Gigi, Braveheart, Kramer vs Kramer, Rain Man, Greatest Show on Earth, Ordinary People, Tom Jones, The Sting, The Lost Weekend, Going My Way, The Great Ziegfield

Best non-winning nominees:
The Best: The Shawshank Redemption, Babe, Dangerous Liaisons, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Tree of Life, Atonement, Babel, Finding Neverland, Traffic, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hope and Glory, Field of Dreams, Network, Doctor Strangelove, Sunset Blvd, Citizen Kane (!)

Best of the Rest: Goodfellas, Reds, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, Five Easy Pieces, A Clockwork Orange, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, To Kill a Mockingbird, The King and I, High Noon, The Caine Mutiny, Shane, Double Indemnity, Gangs of New York, Mister Roberts, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Pride of the Yankees, The Philadelphia Story, The Maltese Falcon, Miracle on 34th St., Treasure of the Sierra Madre, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Thin Man, Lost Horizon. (Yikes, there's some great stuff here!) Now, aren’t these better than half the winners?

Some I picked simply because they were better than the winner, like The Thin Man, A Streetcar Named Desire, Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Some happened to be released in unfortunate years: To Kill a Mockingbird in Lawrence of Arabia’s year, The Conversation in Godfather II’s year, oddly both Francis Coppola films; had he held Conversation back a year, it would have certainly won some Oscars. Some just scared the Academy with X or R ratings, like Clockwork Orange, given an X for violence, Virginia Woolf an R for language! What a farce, these days Halloween-type slasher films are getting PG-13. Sex is now more offensive than homicide... "Everyone's armed but few have protection."

2012 Independent Spirit Awards

Indie Spirit Awards 2012 (for films released in 2011)

This continues the recent tide of approval for The Artist, which has now passed The Tree of Life with the most awards for the year, raising it's total to 69 awards overall, with certainly more to follow at tonight's Oscars®.

Best Feature: "The Artist"
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Best Female Lead: Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"
Best Male Lead: Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Best Supporting Female: Shailene Woodley, "The Descendants"
Best Supporting Male: Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"

Best Screenplay: "The Descendants" Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Best First Feature: "Margin Call"
Best First Screenplay: Will Reiser, "50/50"
John Cassavetes Award: "Pariah"
Best Cinematography: Guillaume Schiffman, "The Artist"
Best Documentary: "The Interrupters"
Best International Film: "A Separation"

Robert Altman Award: "Margin Call" director J.C. Chandor, casting directors Tiffany Little Canfield and Bernard Telsey, and ensemble cast Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci

Piaget Producers Award: Sophia Lin, "Take Shelter"
Audi Someone to Watch Award: Mark Jackson, "Without"
Nokia Truer Than Fiction Award: Heather Courtney, "Where Soldiers Come From"
Jameson FIND Your Audience Award: Benjamin Murray and Alyssa Nahmias, "Unfinished Spaces"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Self-Portrait

My first self-portrait with my new digital Nikon, with my favorite cat, Puffy. As Lily Tomlin said, "I am a real person, much like yourself".

Puffy wandered into my yard when I lived in Hayward, California, due to my animal magnetism no doubt, and he was so fuzzy and small that he looked all puffed out, hence the name; plus, he was the color of a puff of smoke. He's been attached to me ever since, and when I drove from California to Georgia in my camper, he slept down inside my sleeping bag. He likes to sit in this chair like a humanoid, always sitting upright, and it's obvious that he knows where the camera is and what's happening.

I've been watching films since about age 5, introduced by my grandmother, a huge film fan. Her favorite actors were Charles Laughton and Rudolph Valentino, and her favorite actress was Clara Bow, so the silent era influenced her a lot. She got me to watch the Little Rascals every day after school - and of course she called them Our Gang, the original name when they were shown as shorts preceding movies in theaters.

About 10,000 films later, I'm convinced that they've replaced paintings as the visual art form of our era, and that about 90% of them aren't worth watching, let alone re-watching. I have to admit that Clara Bow (below) looked amazing, and deserved to be called "The It Girl", because saying "sex appeal" apparently wasn't allowed in the media, but she definitely had "it".

Clara Bow

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Charity Wakefield, Film Goddess

The most beautiful flower in the greenhouse

I saw British actress Charity Wakefield in the 2008 miniseries of Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility, and fell in love with her fresh beauty. I was surprised that at IMDB there were only two photos of her, and none at all at Fanpix. So I did a search on the internet and found all of these, and decided to post them here so the world can see them all in one location.

Publicity still for Sense and Sensibility

I predict that she will become a household name over the next five years as she gets more exposure and film and tv roles. According to her skimpy bio at IMDB, she was born Charity Rose Wakefield, in 1981 at Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, no birthday given. It's hard to believe, but this make her at least 31 years old; in Sense and Sensibility she played 16 year old Marianne.

More stills from Sense and Sensibility

Charity as just herself?

Photo by John Anthon,
breathtaking skin tones

Charity arrives at the BAFTA
awards in 2008

The girl we wish was next door

Photo by Jemal Countess,
© 2011, Getty Images

Charity does have 21 titles to her credit, but has apparently been in more plays than films. For her role as the musical daughter in Sense, Charity bought an electric piano and learned all the music so she could perform the music herself in the miniseries.

More trivia from IMDB:
She studied acting at the Oxford School of Drama, 2000 to 2003. She lived in Spain when she was young. She is the granddaughter of the British film actor James Hayter who appeared in The 39 Steps (1959) and Tom Brown's Schooldays (1951).

Has appeared in numerous plays including The Cherry Orchard at The National Theatre (2011) directed by Howard Davies; No Naughty Bits at The Hampstead Theatre (2011) directed by Ed Hall.

She played Elaine in Terry Johnson's adaptation of _The Graduate_(1967) - New Vic Theatre, Newcastle (2005). She played Constance in Dumas' "The Three Musketeers" - Bristol Old Vic Theatre, Bristol (2006-7).

Charity regularly works with Look Left, Look Right, a verbatim theatre company based in London.

Charity with Hattie Morahan (Elinor),
in a scene from Sense and Sensibility

Friday, February 3, 2012

Downton Abbey Season One Review

Jim Carter as the butler leads the servant staff (L), while
Hugh Bonneville as the Earl heads the family (R)

I just reviewed Downton Abbey, Season One at my companion site, 1000 Dvds to See. I gave it one of just 40 perfect 10's I've awarded out of 830 reviews so far. As far as tv goes, and especially Masterpiece Theater, it doesn't get any better than this.

Season one was seven episodes, just under seven hours long. It's the complex story of the lives of both the family members and their staff of servants at a British Manor house, circa 1910, in the waning years of the wealth and power of this class system, when over 50% of the land in England was owned by just 100 families.

I've included some history in my review as well to set the stage for the story, excellently written by Julian Fellowes, who has received 7 of the 12 awards that the mini-series has won to date. Click here for my review

Given it's fans' rating of 9.0 at IMDB, if it were a feature-length film it would be tied for 2nd with The Godfather (1972), only bettered by the 9.1 garnered by The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Note: I would have just copied the review to this site as well, but Google with lock out a site for 3 days for "duplicate postings"; that happened the only time I did that