2013: A Look Back

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Yesterday at The Movie Morlocks I wrote about the upcoming Academy Awards and my favorite Best Picture nominee, Steve McQueen’s 12 YEARS A SLAVE. The curious can find my post here. In it I used the word “brutal” to describe my feelings about the batch of films that I watched last year and I shared a list of my favorite films from 2013 that I thought I’d re-post here (naturally it’s limited to what films I’ve had the opportunity to see). I’d like to write a little more in-depth about each of the films on my list so I’ll try to do that in the coming weeks but in the meantime here’s the list.

Top 10 Favorite Films of 2013 (Listed Alphabetically):
1. 12 YEARS A SLAVE (Dir. Steve McQueen)
2. BASTARDS (Dir. Claire Denis)
3. BLING RING, THE / SPRING BREAKERS (Tie: Dir. Sophia Coppola/ Harmony Korine)
4. DRUG WAR (Dir. Johnnie To)
5. FIELD IN ENGLAND, A (Dir. Ben Wheatley)
6. HUNT, THE (Dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
7. MAGIC MAGIC (Dir. Sebastián Silva)
8. ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
9. SELFISH GIANT, THE (Dir. Clio Barnard)
10. STOKER (Dir. Park Chan-wook)
Bonus: THE SILENCE (Dir. Baran bo Odar) – The film was originally released in 2010 but didn’t get officially released in the U.S. until 2013.

2013 at the Movie Morlocks

jfrancoJess Franco 1930-2013

What follows is a collection of links to some of my posts at TCM’s Movie Morlocks from 2013. These are (in my estimation) the best and most interesting articles I wrote last year but you can read my entire output for 2013 at the Movie Morlocks if you peruse the archives. From this point onward on I’ll be collecting links to my Morlocks’ posts and sharing them here at the end of each month.

Rio – Rififi Style! GRAND SLAM (1967)
A Brief History of the Telefilm
Out, out, brief candle: Jon Finch 1942-2012
This is a Time for Ghosts : THE AWAKENING (2012)
All Love is Mad : MAD LOVE (1935)
Does Oscar gold come with an Oscar curse?
Telefilm Time Machine: DAUGHTER OF THE MIND (1969)
Tracing My Irish Roots Through the Movies
The Pulp Adventures of Lee Marvin
Telefilm Time Machine: THAT CERTAIN SUMMER (1972)
In Memoriam: Jesús “Jess” Franco (1930-2013)
Lon Chaney Jr. – Lady Killer
Comic Relief with ARTISTS AND MODELS (1955)
Telefilm Time Machine – FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY (1973)
GUN AND SWORD: An Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films 1955-1980
Personal Passions: Alain Delon
Derelict Dancers: Gerard Depardieu vs. Roman Polanski – A PURE FORMALITY (1994)
Hail Cleopatra! Queen of the Nile & Queen of ’60s Style
Arsenic & Ambiguity in David Lean’s MADELEINE (1950)
Final Faces
Francois Truffaut – Friend, Teacher & Film Critic
Someone is Bleeding: LES SEINS DE GLACE (1974)
Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be? : SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950)
Telefilm Time Machine: Steven Spielberg’s SOMETHING EVIL (1972)
Four Reasons Why I Love Natalie Wood
Julie Harris 1925-2013: “And we who walk here, walk alone.
The Story of Film: UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1928)
In the Trenches with James Whale
Hollywood Goes to the Dolls
Telefilm Time Machine: SATAN’S TRIANGLE (1975)
Vincent Price Takes Center Stage
Vincent Price’s Small Screen Successes
Vincent Price & Gene Tierney: A Doomed Romance
In the Kitchen with Vincent Price
Adults Only: HOUSE ON STRAW HILL (1976)
Fighting Prejudice with Sidney Poitier
A Celluloid Revolution – James Dean: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray
Telefilm Time Machine: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (1972)

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3 Reasons

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The few people who still visit this blog may have noticed that I haven’t updated since November. That’s a 5 year record (of extended absences) and there are lots of reasons for it but here are the top 3:

1. Work – I’m not just referring to freelance writing because that doesn’t pay all the bills, but the other various things/projects I’m working on in an effort to survive.

2. Computer problems – My 8 year old Mac computer with all my files, software, etc. died. I’ve had major problems with the last two Macs I bought & I couldn’t afford another one (I also loath Apple’s business practices) so I purchased a Dell laptop about 2 months ago and I’m still transferring files, making updates, etc. and figuring out how it runs. I used PCs in the ’90s but it’s taking me awhile to forget all my MAC habits and learn how to properly use my new machine.

3. Burn out – I write about movies every week for The Movie Morlocks but they aren’t my only love and they’ve been consuming way too much of my free time. In an attempt to use my free time more wisely – and any writing time I have more productively (and keep from becoming utterly burn out) – I’m focusing a lot of my attention on other things and Cinebeats is going on hiatus in 2013. You can still find my weekly updates at the Morlocks and I’ll occasionally post on Twitter and Facebook (although I’m also utterly burn out with social media as well) but generally speaking, you’re going to see a lot less of me online this year unless I get some fabulous offer to write a regular column about my first love – horror films.skyfallp

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Every year I always devote some time to the Oscars but after last year’s utterly wretched show of which I wrote:

“The 84th Academy Awards was the worst Oscar show I’ve sat through in ages. Between Billy Crystal’s badly aged/tasteless jokes and the overall dullness of the whole production I can’t believe I got through it all. I still feel abused just from watching it and I’m not surprised they got their lowest ratings ever. I really hope they fire Bruce Vilanch and get some decent writers next year as well as a host who isn’t locked in a 1990 time warp.”

I’m having a hard time justifying watching it again for a number of reasons (I always have a hard time watching but I watch for shits & giggles and even those are getting difficult to come by) and I just haven’t been all that eager to discuss the program or the nominations this year. In general, I think 2012 was a pretty lackluster year for major film releases (and yes, I realize I’m in the minority in thinking that) and unlike years before, I actually saw most of the Oscar nominees thanks to my participation with AWFJ but most of them didn’t leave much of an impression on me. This year Seth Macfarlane is hosting the show and it feels as if the Oscars is trying really damn hard to force me NOT to watch… that’s how much I dislike Macfarlane and his sophomoric humor… but for the 5th year in a row I’ll be tuning in and “Tweeting the Oscars live” while I try to tune Macfarlane & the bad musical numbers out. Now that that’s out of the way, here are 3 reasons I’ll be watching the Oscars tonight:

1. SKYFALL – I spent much of 2012 writing about spy films and my fascination/appreciation with the James Bond franchise but nothing prepared me for how damn good and outright entertaining SKYFALL was. I’m one of those weirdos who believes it was the best Bond film in decades and I wrote a lengthy appreciation of the film (with some reservations) for the Movie Morlocks that you can find here. I’m looking forward to any Bond related wins or tributes that the Oscars might have planned but I’d especially love to see the incredible cinematographer Roger Deakins take home an Oscar for his work on SKYFALL.

2. THE MASTER – To be frank, I had a lot of mixed/indifferent reactions to Paul Thomas Anderson’s earlier films but I consider his last two movies , THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007) and THE MASTER, to be flat out brilliant & beautifully shot. THE MASTER is an amazing looking movie that manages to capture some of the mysterious beauty of the Bay Area in a way that I’ve rarely seen before. It also contains a mesmerizing performance from Joaquin Phoenix that deserves any accolades it gets. It’s a long shot that Phoenix will win a Best Actor Oscar for his unforgettable portrayal of Freddie Quell because he’s the dark horse in a race full of show horses, but he should.

3. AMOUR – I’ve long considered HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR (1959) one of my favorite films so it’s wonderful to see its star, the lovely & talented 86-year-old Emmanuelle Riva, being acknowledged for her performance in Michael Haneke’s harrowing AMOUR, which attempts to look illness, aging & death (topics cinema rarely tackles) in the face without flinching. I would be very happy to see the film, Riva or her director take home an Oscar tonight.

Odds are that I’ll be disappointed on all fronts but I’ll be watching & tweeting with wine in hand while hoping for the best.

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10 Great Christopher Plummer Performances

From my latest post at the Movie Morlocks

“My favorite moment of this year’s Oscar telecast occurred when a sprightly 82-year-old Christopher Plummer took the stage in a beautiful velvet suit to accept his Best Supporting Actor award. He was incredibly gracious and gave one of the best speeches of the night. It was obvious that the Canadian actor hadn’t lost any of the charm that has made him so appealing to audiences throughout his long and impressive career.

In celebration of his Oscar winning performance in BEGINNERS (2010) I thought I’d take a look back at the actor’s early career in front of the camera and share a short list of viewing recommendations. I hope it might encourage some readers to seek out or revisit the films that helped make Christopher Plummer a star. All of the movies mentioned below are available on DVD or video so they should be easy to track down.”

Further reading:
“10 Great Christopher Plummer Performances” @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks

On a side note – My husband, his friends and my brother-in-law worked as extras in a few films shot in the Bay Area duirng the early ’90s. One of the films he appeared in was STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991) with Christopher Plummer. He played one of the nameless and faceless “Prisoners of Rura Penthe” seen briefly in the following clip…

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The 84th Academy Awards

for Best ActorIt’s awards season again and for the 4th year in a row I’ll be “live tweeting” the Oscars over on Twitter. As usual, I haven’t been able to see all the Best Picture nominees but in all honesty most of them hold little interest for me. I did see a lot of 2011 releases but overall I thought 2011 was a rather lackluster year for modern movies. And many of the films I enjoyed watching such as Abbas Kiarostami’s CERTIFIED COPY and Nicolas Winding Refn’s DRIVE felt all too familiar. There’s been a lot written about the nostalgia surrounding Oscar nominated films such as THE ARTIST, HUGO and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS but I think it’s symptomatic of something bigger. Director’s are relying much too much on “homage” lately when they should be developing their own vision, their own voice and their own ideas.

So if I’m not all that interested in most of the movies up for nomination this year why am I watching the Oscars? As I’ve explained many times before, I’ve been watching the Academy Awards since I was a kid and I appreciate the pomp and circumstance of the whole gaudy affair. I like seeing my favorite actors dressed to the nines and hobnobbing with one another. And I enjoy rooting for my favorite artists and performers to take home that gold statue even if they don’t. And they usually don’t. Most of my favorite directors and actors have never won an Academy Award and they never will. This is showbiz folks and showbiz has very little to do with the fine art of making great motion pictures.

But the fact remains that every year one or two people I greatly admire usually gets nominated for an award and I have fun rooting for them. This year I’m particularly excited for Gary Oldman who’s an actor I’ve admired for a very long time and I thought his low-key performance in TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY was brilliant. The odds are stacked against him but I really hope he takes home that gold statue on Sunday night. His terrific work in films such as SID AND NANCY, PRICK UP YOUR EARS, TRACK 29, ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, JFK and LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL (just to name  a few standout performances) should have won him a nomination many years ago. I also appreciate the comedic skill of his top competitor, Jean Dujardin, but Oldman’s quiet, thoughtful and intimate portrayal of an aging British spy was some of the best acting (or non-acting) that I’ve seen in years. None of the actors nominated along with Oldman for Best Actor can match his range or hold a candle to his incredible body of work.

Among the Best Supporting Actor nominees four of the men nominated are performers I admire a lot and none of them has ever won an Academy Award. It seems bizarre (and it is) but even though Nick Nolte, Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer and Kenneth Branagh have all been nominated in the past, none of them has ever taken home an Oscar. I think Max von Sydow and Nick Nolte are both extremely talented actors and I have a soft spot for Christopher Plummer. As for Branagh, he’s also done some great work and recently he’s been in top form on the excellent PBS crime drama WALLANDER so it’s nice to see him getting some much deserved attention. It would be fun to see any of these talented men win the award even though I’ve only had the opportunity to see Plummer in BEGINNERS, where he was his usual charming self. Kudos to them all!

We lost a lot of noteworthy performers last year as well as directors and composers. Elizabeth Taylor, Ken Russell and John Barry are three names that come to mind immediately but there were many more. I hope the Academy makes time to properly honor the memory of some of these people. Just seeing their picture flash by in a quick montage with some sappy song played over it will not do. I’d like to see a musical tribute to Barry and Dame Elizabeth deserves a tribute fit for a queen. Hollywood owes her something special and they better deliver but I’m not getting my hopes up. It’s the Academy Awards after all and chances are I’ll be grinding my teeth and bitching through the whole spectacle tomorrow night. See you on Twitter!

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Young Americans (1967)

The Young Americans (1967)

From my latest piece at the Movie Morlocks

“In 1968 five documentary films were nominated for an Oscar but you’d never know that from looking at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website. The site claims to feature a complete list of all the Oscar nominees and winners, but on the official web page for the 41st Oscar ceremony there are only four nominees listed instead of the customary five. James Blue’s A FEW NOTES ON OUR FOOD PROBLEM, Harry Chapin‘s THE LEGENDARY CHAMPIONS, David H. Sawyer‘s OTHER VOICES and Bill McGaw’s JOURNEY INTO SELF all receive credit but the original Oscar winning documentary of 1968 is suspiciously absent.

Despite the website snub, the fact remains that YOUNG AMERICANS took home the award for Best Documentary that year but director Alexander Grasshoff was forced to return his Oscar a few months later due to one of the Academy’s most notorious blunders. Thankfully the documentary still exists even if it has been forgotten by the Academy and it remains a fascinating relic from a decade that I too often categorize as “swinging” and “groovy.” I must point out that there’s nothing swinging or groovy about YOUNG AMERICANS. In fact, it’s an extremely square film but it offers audiences a unique and undeniably conservative look at American culture in the sixties that is as revealing as it is deceiving.”

If you’d like to read more about the film that helped kick-start the popularity of “show choirs” in America leading to the current success of the television show GLEE, just follow the link.

Scanning Life Through the Picture Windows: Young Americans (1967) @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog

I’ve also posted a video featuring a performance from the Young Americans TV special that aired in 1969. Fair warning – this will hurt your ears and possibly melt your brain but it is a lot of fun to watch!

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Girls WIll Be Boys

Dame Diana Rigg in THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973)

Last week I compiled a lengthy list of some of the most interesting examples of female actors who have portrayed men (or dressed in male clothing) for a particular role at the Movie Morlocks. It was inspired by the recent Oscar nominations for Glenn Close and her costar Janet McTeer in ALBERT NOBBS (2011). The piece (which I secretly subtitled: “A Brief Visual History of Actresses in Male Drag”) includes silent film stars such as Gloria Swanson and Louise Brooks as well as Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Veronica Lake, Julie Andrews, Ingrid Thulin and Diana Rigg just to name a few. To read more about these talented gender defying women just follow the link below.

Girls Will Be Boys @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks Blog

It’s That Time Again

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It’s that time again – Oscar night is here! And for the third year in a row I’ll be “live tweeting” the show. If you want to follow along or join in the fun you can find me on Twitter here.

Update 2/28: I wanted to update this with some more thoughts about last nights Oscar show but I managed to erase my previous post. Que Sera, Sera! I will mention again that I’m especially happy that Colin Firth won Best Actor last night. He should have won last year for A Single Man but his performance as the stammering king was mighty impressive. He’s a terrific actor who has been delivering consistently great work in films for decades such as Another Country (1984), A Month in the Country (1987), Apartment Zero (1988), Trauma (2004), etc.

Oscar 2010

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Oscar night will soon be here and just like last year I plan on “Tweeting Live” during the show. If you want read my off-the cuff remarks during the Academy Awards you can follow my Oscar commentary on Twitter or read my Twitter updates as they appear here on my blog under “Twitter Updates.”

There are only a couple of awards that I’m really excited about this year. Out of the movies that I’ve seen that are nominated for Best Picture I think that A Serious Man is probably the best of the bunch but I’ll be rooting for Inglourious Basterds to win for one simple reason; I hope that the cast will be allowed on stage and I’ll get a good view of Michael Fassbender in a tux. I realize that’s a rather silly reason for wanting Inglourious Basterds to win Best Picture but I don’t watch the Oscars for much more than fun and pleasure. Seeing Michael Fassbender dressed to the nines will probably be the best moment of the Academy Awards as far as I’m concerned.

I’d also like to see Colin Firth or Jeff Bridges take home the Best Actor award. I’ve liked both actors for a long time and neither of them has won an Oscar before. I haven’t seen either of the films they appeared in but I really want to see A Single Man since the clips that I’ve seen look terrific. I also really like Christopher Plummer so I’ll be rooting for him to win Best Supporting Actor even though the odds are not in his favor. Christoph Waltz will probably take home the award for his role in Inglourious Basterds and I thought he was really good in the film so I can’t complain if he wins. I would especially like to see the Oscar for Costume Design go to Janet Patterson for Bright Star. I think it’s a shame that Bright Star didn’t get more nominations since I would have liked to have seen Jane Campion nominated for Best Director but it would be nice if the film took home one award.

And finally, if you’re throwing an Oscar party or just plan to enjoy a nice evening at home with family and need some last minute party tips or snack suggestions check out my latest update at Mid-Century Living. You’ll find links to lots of helpful sites that offer fun ideas for Oscar parties including cocktails and hors d’oeuvre recipes.

On with the show!

March 8th Update: As is often the case, I thought last night’s Oscar show was dull and predictable but I watched, had fun “Tweeting Live” and hoped for the best. The two hosts never really made me laugh. Sadly, even the montages were poorly executed. I didn’t hear any drunken speeches but I did see lots of bad dancing. The only Basterds in attendance were Oscar winner Christoph Waltz along with Eli Roth and Melanie Laurent. Apparently Michael Fassbender’s seat was given to Miley Cyrus. Even the red carpet parade was unrewarding. The fashion? Very ’80s! Lots of bright colors and ruffles. Maybe that was in support of the John Hughes’ tribute? Jack Cardiff, Jennifer Jones and Karl Malden died in 2009 but they make time for a John Hughes’ tribute? I just don’t get it. At least they let Roger Corman and Lauren Bacall attend even though they didn’t receive their Oscars on stage. Two awful things from last year were repeated. Someone sang over the memorial tribute (this time it was James Taylor – last year it was Queen Latifah) and before the best actor and actress’ awards were handed out there were some awkward speeches made by their costars. At least last year the awkward speeches were made by acting legends that I cared about even if they had nothing to do with the film. I’m not a Kathryn Bigelow fan (she’s made one movie I like – Near Dark) and I wasn’t overly impressed with The Hurt Locker but it was nice to see a woman finally receive the Best Director award. Highlights of the evening for me? Seeing Barbara Streisand deliver the Best Directer award to Bigelow and Jeff Bridges’ Best Actor win. Funniest moment? The bit between Robert Downey Jr. & Tina Fey before they handed out the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Best dressed guy in the audience? Colin Firth.

I’ve been abducted by the Morlocks!

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I’ve got some exciting news to share! I was recently asked to join the Movie Morlocks team and I’m officially blogging for TCM (Turner Classic Movies) at http://moviemorlocks.com now. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and I couldn’t be more excited about it. It will give me the chance to spread my wings a bit and write about older films that I love but don’t often cover here at Cinebeats. I’ll be posting there once a week but I’ll still be updating Cinebeats whenever I can.

My recent move has been occupying most of my time lately but like a lot of movie lovers I’ve got the Oscars on my mind. In my first post for the Movie Morlocks I discuss why I enjoy the annual Academy Awards show and I review Robert Hofler’s new book Party Animals: A Hollywood Tale of Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Starring the Fabulous Allan Carr. Carr produced the disastrous 1989 Oscar telecast and if you want to know more you’re going to have to visit TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog.

Last year I had a lot of fun “Live Tweeting” the Oscars on Twitter so I’m going to try and do it again this year. I’m living out of boxes so life’s a little chaotic at the moment but I’ll update Cinebeats before the 82nd Academy Awards with more details. Sunday promises to be an interesting night!

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A Morlock goes after Yvette Mimieux in The Time Machine (1960)