Archive | February, 2012

The Oscars – A few things that made me happy this year

27 Feb

Well, another year and another tepid Oscar ceremony marked by few surprises, lackluster Best Picture nominees, low-watt star presenters and their dreary scripted antics, and little in the way of actual entertainment value. Still, it went by pretty fast (comparatively) and didn’t get bogged down along the way. I was able to pay bills and do other business while it was on.

However, there were a few bright spots for me. For one, there was Rooney Mara, Best Actress nominee for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Granted, I knew she didn’t stand a chance of winning but I was pleased she was nominated and thought she looked pretty awesome sitting there, adorned with some old-school glamour and a touch of the exotic.

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Best Picture Winners – When they were popular and prestigious

25 Feb

In the course of recent years, Oscar watchers have been lamenting the lack of truly popular films among the nominees for Best Picture, a race that, more often than not in the last 10-12 years, has favored smaller, independent films at the expense of the big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. The omission of THE DARK KNIGHT from the Best Picture nominees for 2008 led to a new set of rules in 2009 that allowed for a greater number of nominees, thus allowing popular favorites like James Cameron’s AVATAR and Pixar’s UP to be included among the Best Picture nominees of 2009. Still, a small, relatively low-budget independent film, THE HURT LOCKER, wound up winning that year. And in 2010, this allowed INCEPTION and TOY STORY 3 to be nominated, although both lost to THE KING’S SPEECH. This year there are nine nominees and some indeed are big-budget prestige productions, e.g. HUGO and WAR HORSE, both by veteran filmmakers in Hollywood’s top tier of directorial talent, but, alas, only one of the nine is a popular hit at all (THE HELP).

I can recall a time when Best Picture winners/nominees were both popular with moviegoers and acclaimed by critics. It was once the norm for enough films to come out every year to find five Best Picture nominees which had both popularity and prestige.

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Sam Fuller’s THE BIG RED ONE: Screenplay to movie to novel to autobiography

20 Feb

Late last year I read The Big Red One, a novel by filmmaker Sam Fuller, based on his World War II experiences. It was published in 1980, the same year as the film he made with that title, and was based, I believe, on the film’s screenplay on which Fuller had been laboring for decades. I then read the portions of Fuller’s autobiography that dealt with the war. Titled A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking (2002), it was like reading a streamlined version of the novel. Everything he recounted in the autobiography was in the novel. I’d seen the movie, THE BIG RED ONE, when it came out in 1980 in the studio-mandated 113-minute version that was much shorter than Fuller’s intended cut, but at this point I’d never seen the reconstructed version of 162 min. that came out in 2004, seven years after Fuller’s death, even though I had the DVD.

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“Ultra Q” – A Giant Monster Every Week

15 Feb

Once upon a time, in 1966 to be exact, there was a weekly TV show in Japan that gave viewers a different giant monster in every episode. It was called “Ultra Q” and its original aim was to be an anthology show telling different, unrelated stories about unnatural occurrences in a science fiction vein, in the style of “Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits,” two American sci-fi shows that had become quite popular in Japan around this time. The producers eventually settled on a handy formula that featured a trio of paranormal investigators (two male pilots and a female newspaper photographer) as regular characters confronting unusual monsters and other kinds of phenomena.

Ultra Q 1

I managed to find a DVD containing the first four episodes of this series and, like most Japanese pre-records I’ve picked up from Japanese video stores, it was in Japanese with no subtitles. However, the emphasis on the visual aspects of the stories, rather than the scientific exposition, made them easy to follow and fun to watch, with only one episode offering an “explanation” that suffered without subtitles.

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Welcome to my world…

12 Feb

I’m surrounded in this room by DVDs and VHS tapes containing, primarily, Japanese animation (films, TV series, made-for-video productions); Japanese live-action films and TV shows (think Godzilla, Ultraman, and Zatoichi); classic Hollywood movies, particularly westerns; Hong Kong movies, particularly kung fu; and plenty of other stuff (Italian westerns, classic cartoons, Criterion box sets, Japanese pop music concerts, etc.).  I’m a big believer in physical media. I like holding a film in my hand. I like knowing it’s on a shelf where I can get it and not have to depend on a TV station showing it or a website streaming it. (I once worked in a film library where everything was on 16mm film.)

Collection 1

One of my shelves

I created this blog so I can write about some of the stuff I watch, with the emphasis on classic film, anime and Japanese live-action entertainment. Much of it is pretty obscure, so there might not be many places to read about these titles. I like to write reviews for IMDB (Internet Movie Database) when I find something that no one’s yet reviewed or has only one or two comments. (I use my real name on all my reviews and have been submitting them since 2001.) A recent review I submitted was for “Ultra Q,” the 1966 Japanese TV series produced by special effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya and the forerunner of “Ultraman.”

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