Archive | Academy Awards RSS feed for this section

Jack Palance Centennial

18 Feb

Today, February 18, 2019, would have been Jack Palance’s 100th birthday. He died in 2006 at the age of 87. He acted in films for the entire second half of the 20th century and his TV roles continued into the 21st century. The son of a Ukrainian coal miner, he had unusually taut facial features, a result of reconstructive surgery after his face was burned in a plane crash during a test flight in WWII, giving his face a dramatic look that made him a natural for villain roles, most notably the gunslinger Jack Wilson in SHANE, or various historical ethnic roles such as Attila the Hun (SIGN OF THE PAGAN), the Mongol chieftain Ogatai, son of Genghis Khan (THE MONGOLS), the Apache rebel Toriano (ARROWHEAD), Mexican revolutionary Raza (THE PROFESSIONALS), the biblical character Simon the Magician (THE SILVER CHALICE) and even Fidel Castro (CHE!).

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Weirdest Double Feature Ever?

7 Oct

The above ad appeared in The New York Times on Sunday, March 30, 1969.

Imagine going to a movie theater and seeing these two posters advertising the evening’s double bill:

Continue reading

Revisiting THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)

24 May

I recently picked up a used 2-disc set containing THE FRENCH CONNECTION and various extras, including two documentaries on the film, deleted scenes, and separate audio commentaries by stars Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider and director William Friedkin. First, I re-watched the film for the first time since seeing it on cable sometime in the 1990s. I then went through all the extras. But before I get to my reevaluation, a little history is in order.

Continue reading

Yoshiko Kawashima – Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy: Four Films

23 Jun

Earlier this year, I attended five films in a series at Japan Society in New York entitled “The Most Beautiful: The War Films of Shirley Yamaguchi and Setsuko Hara,” curated by Aiko Masubuchi, and wound up seeing five films there, three of them starring Yamaguchi, more widely known as Yoshiko Yamaguchi, and two of them starring Hara, all made in the years 1937-1943, during the period of Japan’s occupation of China. As preparation for seeing these films, I began reading a novel about Yamaguchi called The China Lover, by historian Ian Buruma, who has written several books about Japanese history and culture, two of which I’ve read. In the novel, there’s a character named Yoshiko Kawashima, who is also known as Eastern Jewel, a historical figure who was a princess of the Manchu royal family and a cousin of Pu Yi, the famed “Last Emperor” of China. She got her Japanese name when she was sent to Japan at the age of six to be raised by Naniwa Kawashima, a Japanese translator of Chinese and friend of Yoshiko’s father, Prince Su. She self-identified as Japanese for much of her life. I realized as I was reading about her that I own a DVD of a Hong Kong film called KAWASHIMA YOSHIKO (1990), a full-scale biopic starring Anita Mui in the title role. I’d never seen it, so I resolved to do so at the earliest opportunity.

Anita Mui as Yoshiko Kawashima

Anita Mui as Yoshiko Kawashima

Continue reading

Oscars 2015: Shorten the Speeches, Amp Up the Stars

27 Feb

Every year the Oscar show unfolds and seems to last forever and every year everyone complains about it. I always tell myself I’m not gonna watch anymore and then, of course, I do. All the way to the end, which is way past my bedtime. This year, the Oscar show was more like the Independent Spirit Awards, with virtually the same movies in competition. Lots of indie people filled the auditorium and few bonafide Hollywood stars of any magnitude were around. There were lots of presenters I didn’t recognize, some of whom I’ve heard of but wouldn’t have been able to recognize (e.g. Chris Pratt), some of whom I’ve never heard of (Ansel Elgort, anyone?), and some whom I’ve heard of but was seeing live for the first time (Margot Robbie). And there were frequent cuts to audience members, presumably nominees, whom I was clearly supposed to know but didn’t.

Eddie Redmayne, eventual Best Actor winner for THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, although I didn’t recognize him when they first showed him

Continue reading

History on Film: Lincoln vs. Django

16 Jan

DJANGO UNCHAINED and LINCOLN complement each other in many ways. Both deal with historical events from time periods that are very close to each other—DJANGO is set in 1858, LINCOLN in 1865. Both deal with the subject of slavery. Several of the important characters in DJANGO are slaves and the film shows what life was like for them on the ground. LINCOLN talks about slavery but never shows us a single slave. DJANGO offers a fanciful approach to history, with entirely fictional characters and events; LINCOLN recounts events that actually happened and uses actual historical figures as its main characters. DJANGO is like the eccentric substitute social studies teacher who comes in and throws out the textbook to offer students a revisionist history and wild stories about what “really” happened, while LINCOLN is the Establishment Historian who comes in with impeccable credentials and lays out a detailed view of the subject based on rigorous study of original documents and the actual written words of the participants. In terms of precedents of historical filmmaking, I would argue that Steven Spielberg, director of LINCOLN, follows in the tradition of someone like Darryl Zanuck, who made carefully wrought historical dramas a centerpiece of the 20th Century Fox film lineup for nearly 40 years (YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, WILSON, THE LONGEST DAY, PATTON), while Quentin Tarantino, director of DJANGO, adopts the more freewheeling approach to history taken in the past by Sam Fuller (I SHOT JESSE JAMES, RUN OF THE ARROW) and Larry Cohen (THE PRIVATE FILES OF J. EDGAR HOOVER), in addition to Sergio Leone and the other Italian filmmakers who offered a highly stylized view of western (and western movie) history in their films. Tarantino highly exaggerates to make his points, while Spielberg sticks to the historical record and dots all the i’s, crosses all the t’s and gets all the facial hair and suitcoats right. (As opposed to Django’s green vaquero-style “Little Joe” jacket, taken from “Bonanza.”)

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading