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.