The things filmmakers want to preserve

Earlier the week, the National Film Registry announced that it was adding 25 movies to the list of films it considers worth preserving for all time.

Films selected for the 2013 National Film Registry
“Bless Their Little Hearts” (1984)
“Brandy in the Wilderness” (1969)
“Cicero March” (1966)
“Daughter of Dawn” (1920)
“Decasia” (2002)
“Ella Cinders” (1926)
“Forbidden Planet” (1956)
“Gilda” (1946)
“The Hole” (1962)
“Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961)
“King of Jazz” (1930)
The Lunch Date” (1989)
“The Magnificent Seven” (1960)
“Martha Graham Dance film” (1944)
“Mary Poppins” (1964)
“Men & Dust” (1940)
“Midnight” (1939)
“Notes on the Port of St. Francis” (1951)
“Pulp Fiction” (1994)
“The Quiet Man” (1952)
“The Right Stuff (1983)
“Roger & Me” (1989)
“A Virtuous Vamp” (1919)
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966)
“Wild Boys of the Road” (1933)

Now, I had seen nine of these. And some of these are so far before my time, I don’t know if I’ll ever see them.But there’s something here called “The Lunch Date,” made in 1989, which I’d never heard of.

And it happens to be on YouTube:

OK. Adequate. Why did they pick it?

The Lunch Date (1989). Adam Davidson’s 10-minute Columbia University student film examines the partial erosion of haughty self-confidence when stranded outside one’s personal comfort zone. A woman has a slice-of-life chance encounter in a train station with a homeless man and stumbles through several off-key reactions when they share a salad she believes is hers. Winner of a 1990 Student Academy Award, Lunch Date stands out as a simple, yet effective, parable on the vicissitudes and pervasiveness of perception, race and stereotypes.


Not to mention this from the Academy Awards:

Year: 1990 (63rd) Academy Awards
Category: Short Film (Live Action)
Film Title: The Lunch Date
Winner: Adam Davidson
Presenter: Martin Short, Chevy Chase
Date & Venue: March 25, 1991; Shrine Civic Auditorium

This is really a great thrill. Thank you. It’s also very scary, too, because it really is just a ten-minute student film I did for a class. I’d like to thank all those people who volunteered to help this student film, particularly my actors Scotty Bloch, Clebert Ford, Paul Sarnoff, Bernard Johnson. Also my co-producer Garth Stein, somewhere up there. Let’s see, Anghel Decca, Thomas Cabaniss, and Stuart Emanuel, Claudia Mohr. My family. My school, Columbia University. That’s it. Thank you.

Really? It won an Oscar. It’s on the National Film Registry. Looks like it also won at Cannes. I think I’m missing something.

I think I’ll go watch “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” again. That, too, was in black and white.


Sandra Bullock’s delight

If you’ve seen the movie “Gravity,” you probably walked out at the end saying, “Well, that’s Sandra Bullock’s second Oscar.”

What you don’t know is that Sandra Bullock can (in the kids’ vernacular) throw down the beats. Here she is on a British chat show bringing back a rap classic:

And while we’re at it on movie stars’ doubling as rappers, here’s Anna Kendrick, from “Pitch Perfect,” with Dr. Dre‘s “No Diggity“:

A glimpse at two R-rated movies (Only one deserves the rating)

An observation on two movies I saw this weekend.

This is the red band trailer for “This Is the End,” so you know it’s beyond tasteless and full of profanity, and you shouldn’t watch it if you’re easily offended:

I saw the movie the other day. This preview does not come close to how crude and sacrilegious it was. If I have to sum it up in one line:

It’s the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine.

On the other hand, the is the trailer for “Frances Ha.” It’s also an R rated movie.

Unlike “This Is the End,” what you see in this preview is exactly what you’ll get in the movie. I don’t know why it’s rated R, other than a few curse words.

The critics love “Frances Ha.” The critics weren’t overly thrilled with “This Is the End.”

And given the choice, I will see “This Is the End” again. (I really hated “Frances Ha.” Of course, if you’re into self-indulgent 20-something New Yorkers living off their parents money, this is the movie for you.)

“Frances Ha” will probably get Academy Award nominations. “This Is the End” won’t.

Oh, one other thing.

When Hermione goes after those guys with the axe, she is totally justified.


A touch of class, and an anti-tribute to Thatcherism

Here’s how out of it I am. I didn’t know Glenda Jackson had quit acting! Well, I knew I hadn’t seen her in a movie in years, but just the thought that a two time Academy Award winner for Best Actress (“Women in Love,” 1971; “A Touch of Class,” 1973) is totally out of the business astounds me.

Even worse, I didn’t know she’s been a Minister of Parliament in the U.K. for 20 years!

And then I find out she went of the floor of Parliament and did a savage rhetorical autopsy on Margaret Thatcher when everyone else was eulogizing the former PM.

Here’s the speech:

Wow! Jackson left a lot of sputtering Conservatives in her wake!

Sally Field: Will the Oscar like her again?

The Academy Awards are tonight. I’ve seen a lot of the movies and actually posted on the Best Animated Short nominees, and saw all of the Live Action Short nominees, which were fascinating, especially “Henry” and “Death of a Shadow.”

And this was a pretty good year in movies, so I don’t have any real favorites for any of the major categories.  Except for one.

Anne Hathaway is considered the shoo-in for “Les Misérables,” but I really would like to see Sally Field win for “Lincoln.”

Field is a great actress. We old people remember her when she was “Gidget” and “The Flying Nun” on TV. We remember that weird romance with Burt Reynolds that ended up with her in those bad “Smokey and the Bandit” movies in the ’70s. We’ve seen the weird Hollywood treatment of actresses of a certain age; how in 1988, she played the love interest of Tom Hanks in “Punchline,” and six years later, she played his mother in “Forrest Gump.”

We also remember when we realized she was a great actress, with the performance as the woman with multiple-personality disorder in the TV movie “Sybil” in 1976. Then she went two-for-two in Best Actress Oscar nominations, winning for “Norma Rae” in 1979 and “Places in the Heart” in 1984.

But when she won her second Oscar, she was unfairly ridiculed for this acceptance speech:

We hear a lot of snark about people being phony and insincere in moments like these, but here we have someone who is truly moved that her peers acknowledge her work, and she speaks honestly. She lets the world know how she feels. And the result was she got ridiculed, for years afterward, with the “You like me” jokes.

So I want to see Sally Field win the Oscar tonight. I want to see her walk up on that stage, hold that golden statue, look over the crowd and say, “Wow! Looks like you still like me!”


I recently figured out I live somewhere near a military installation. I’ve kind of know it since I moved here. A few weeks ago, I was headed to work earlier than usual, and I heard the bugle blow “Reveille.”

And for the past two nights, because it’s warming up, I’ve have my windows open, and at 11 p.m., I heard the bugler blowing “Taps.”

I don’t know if it’s a real person doing it, or if it’s a recording. I’d like to think it’s the latter. Because when I hear “Taps,” I think of this scene in “From Here to Eternity.”

That’s Montgomery Cliff, and the actors here include George Reeves, Jack Warden and Burt Lancaster. But the playing of “Taps” is for Frank Sinatra, who’s been beaten to death in the stockade by a sadistic Ernest Borgnine. The version of “Taps” here sounds just like the version I hear in the distance at night.

Sinatra and Donna Reed won best supporting actor and actress Oscars for their roles. The movie was the best picture of 1953, picking up eight Academy Awards overall.

There’s a scene in the 1972 film “The Godfather,” where the famous singer arrives at Connie’s wedding and goes to Don Corleone because he wants a role in a movie that the producer refuses to give to him. Story is that the scene was modeled after Frank Sinatra’s desire to be cast in “From Here to Eternity.”

The first superhero movie

We’re all excited about the opening of Marvel’s “The Avengers” today. The reviews have been impressive, at times glowing. It promises to be a blockbuster.

Then at the beginning of July, we get “The Amazing Spider-Man.” A reintroduction of the masked web-slinger, though we had a pretty good introduction to him in 2002 with “Spider-Man.”

And in late July, “The Dark Knight Rises.” It will likely be the best of the costumed-crime-fighter offerings this year, but I honestly can’t imagine it coming anywhere near the magnificence of “The Dark Knight.” Heath Ledger‘s Joker was the greatest interpretation of any comic book character, and he was the villain. But that movie was so amazing that people fail to recognize that Aaron Eckhart‘s Harvey Dent/Two Face was also an outstanding character interpretation. The Joker showed a true psychopath. Two Face was a decent man driven to insanity. Both actors were magnificent in their roles. And Christian Bale was pretty good, too, as the Batman.

So we’re going to wallow in comic book, superhero Nirvana this year. But let’s simplify things for a moment and figure out where this all began.

It sure didn’t start with Marvel, which brought us Spider-Man, Iron Man or the Hulk in the ’60s. Captain America first appeared in 1941 in Marvel’s predecessor, Timely Comics. I don’t even think it started with DC comics, which brought us Superman in 1932 and Batman in 1939. And that goes pretty far back.

If you want to look at the original masked avenger, who battled crime and injustice but hid his secret identity behind a milquetoast of a man, you have to go 1920.


That’s the silent classic “The Mark of Zorro,” with Douglas Fairbanks, who should be remembered as the first action hero. If you saw the latest Academy Award winning best picture, you’ve seen a clip from this. In “The Artist,” silent movie star George Valentin is down on his luck, living in a dive apartment and watching movies from his glory days. One of the movies shows a masked man zipping across the screen in an acrobatic chase scene.

If you are a true movie fanatic, you immediately said to yourself (or to the person sitting by you), “Hey! That’s “The Mark of Zorro!” That wasn’t the most recent Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin running across the movie within the movie. That was Douglas Fairbanks, no special effects, performing his own stunts.

Every movie masked avenger … every superhero … from Batman to Spiderman to Rohschach in “Watchmen” to Hit Girl in “Kick Ass” is the progeny of Zorro.

This movie above is in the public domain, which is why you can see it in full on YouTube. It is more than 90 years old! You are, in effect, entering a time machine.

When I first saw it in college almost 40 years ago, the soundtrack was different (and much better). But if you’re a true comic book movie fan, it’s worth your while to put aside the next hour and 15 minutes and watch the first superhero movie.

Acting, and greatness

I’m not a big fan of awards shows so I only tuned in to the Academy Awards briefly Sunday night to see the Oscars for best actor and best actress.

Last one first: I think Meryl Streep is the greatest living actor in the world today. She has been so great for so many years that people think it’s just a matter of course that she’s going to be nominated, but don’t seem to realize that in the years she has been nominated, she has given the best performance and out of 17 nominations and only three wins, I’d say she was robbed of the Oscar eight times. Look at the past three nominations:

— How could she have lost in 2009 after that performance in “Julie and Julia” as Julia Child? And to Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”?

— How could she have lost in 2008 after the performance in “Doubt” as Sister Aloysius Beauvier? And to Kate Winslet in “The Reader”?

— How could she have lost in 2006 after the performance in “The Devil Wears Prada” as Miranda Priestly? And to Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in “The Queen”?

(OK, that’s a tough one. Helen Mirren was great in “The Queen.” But then, that’s why you have ties. Remember Barbara Streisand in “Funny Girl” and Katherine Hepburn in “The Lion in Winter” back in 1968?)

And if you watched the show, you saw she was actually shocked that it happened. She was sure Viola Davis was going to get it. And I think, one day, Viola Davis will get it. But I’m glad Merrill Streep got this one, even though she was more deserving of the three previous one she lost. The last time she won the big one was 30 years ago: That in itself is an outrage. The world’s greatest actor has been denied the top acting honor for three decades? The Academy owes her big time.

Now to the Best Actor.

I saw “The Artist.” I thought Jean Dujardin was great in it. And I thought I didn’t know who he was.

Then I turned on France 24, the English-speaking news channel out of you know where and saw its story on Dujardin.

They said that his first major role was as “Brice de Nice.” Holy crap! I hated Brice de Nice! It was a bad French movie that was advertised forever in Belgium when I was there. I didn’t want to see it, I didn’t want to be exposed to it, but everywhere I turned, there were huge posters for “Brice de Nice.”

Then they said he was in the television series “Un gars, une fille.” Holy crap! I hated “Un gars, une fille.” It was an annoying series of vignettes about a married couple that played on every stereotype of male/female relationships. One I’ll never forget is the couple running a marathon. She is talking on her cellphone to her friend when the race starts. The next shot is the end of the race. He’s wasted and she’s still talking on the phone as they cross the line together, and she doesn’t even realize the race is over.

The worst part of “Un gars, une fille” (for you non-French speakers, that’s “A guy, a girl”) was that I bought a DVD in Brussels once that was labeled as “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” And they had put in “Un gars, une fille” by accident. I didn’t take it back, because I figured I’d take a look and find out what it was and learn a little French in the process. Big mistake.

So, Jean, you deserve your Academy Award for “The Artist.” But someone should take it away from you for putting me through all that misery in my early years in Brussels.

Oscar-winner Cliff Robertson dies at 88

Cover of "Charly"

Cover of Charly

Cliff Robertson was John Kennedy in “P.T. 109” (he was reportedly Kennedy’s personal choice for the role) when he was young, and Peter Parker’s (Spiderman‘s) Uncle Ben when he got older.

But he won an Oscar as best actor for his 1968 role as “Charly,” a mentally challenged adult who, through a medical experiment, became a genius… for a while. John Lithgow‘s character in today’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is, in essence, an abbreviated version “Charly.”

Robertson died today at 88 in Southampton, N.Y.

For now, you can see “Charly” on YouTube. Here’s the first part:

The ultimate Hollywood couple

As everyone in the world knows, Elizabeth Taylor died yesterday at the age of  79. Everyone in the world knows, because she was the original modern superstar. No one, not even Marilyn Monroe, matches the excitement Elizabeth Taylor created in her personal life. Liz was one half of the ultimate Hollywood superstar couple.

Today’s overwhelming interest in Brangelina doesn’t hold a candle to the obsession with Dickenliz back in the ’60s. Make the comparison. When you think Brangelina, you’re really thinking Angelina Jolie, because Brad Pitt, superstar that he is, is kind of dull.

But Dickenliz (or Lizendick). That really meant two dynamic, larger-than-life personalities. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Every fight, every new diamond, the excessive spending, the acting rivalry, all the bad behavior. They loved and hated each other so much, they married and divorced themselves twice.

The world wanted their marriage to really be like this:

She got the Oscar for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” He absolutely deserved one as well, but didn’t get it, and that has to go down as another Academy Award crime. (Does anyone remember Paul Scofield in “A Man for All Seasons? I didn’t think so.)

Now that’s tabloid fodder.

Liz and Dick. That’s the couple by which all true Hollywood tabloid couples have to be judged. And no one, yet, comes close.