The Academy Don't Know History

I watched the 2014 Academy awards the other night. The president of the Academy made a big deal about one of their four goals being to preserve the history of film. They then did a tribute to The Wizard of Oz since it was the 75th anniversary of the film and Liza Manelli was in attendance.

What a shame they're ignorant of history or deliberately twisted it for their own goals.

Yes, it is the 75th anniversary of the release of Oz. But 1939 wasn't known as the year of The Wizard of Oz. Most records show that Oz was only the 8th largest draw of the year. 1939 has always been known as Hollywood's Golden Year with pictures like Goodbye Mr. Chips, Babes in Arms (also starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney), the great Capra-corn feature Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Women, Gunga Din, Ninotchka, and oh, yes, argubaly the highest-grossing film of all time: Gone With the Wind. At least half these films get better ratings on imdb.com than Oz. But none of the rest of these films were even hinted at during the Oscars. I guess GWTW isn't politically correct anymore, especially considering who was giving the Adacemy's speech.

I'm just extremely disapponted that the Academy though giving lip-service to preserving history decided to turn its back on it.

Movie Remakes

Which brings us to the whole topic of "Remakes". Why remake a movie? In an interview with the great Frank Capra I once saw, he was asked "What does Hollywood need today?". His reply: "The same thing it always needs: good ideas." Getting a good idea in film making as in anything else in life is the hard part. Everything else comes easy. So doing a remake is a way of making a movie without having to do the hard part: get a fresh idea. Let's face it the vast majority of remakes stink. The only reason a director does a remake is because he has the ego to think he can do the story better than the origial director. Most are mistaken. Here's my votes for the short list of remakes better than the original:My wife thinks the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much is better than the original. That's because she likes Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart. Heck, who doesn't?I like the remake of The Parent Trap better than the original. Why? Well, first let's look at the problems with the original. Mostly the miscasting of Hayley Mills She was fourteen, about three years too old for the part. One twin was supposed to be from California and the other from Boston. But both had British accents. All in all, it didn't work. Now in the remake Lindsay Lohan is the right age, about eleven. One twin is from California, the other from London. She does a credible job of the accents. The special effects were vastly improved from the original. The score was vastly superior to the original. The location shots in California and London were great.I also thought the remake of Sabrina better than the original. Why? First Julia Ormond did a vastly superior duckling-to-swan transformation than Audrey Hepburn did. Hers was: "Audrey Hepburn with a ponytail" to "Audrey Hepburn without a ponytail". Whoopee. Also the original's "Paris" scenes were positively laughable. The remake did great location shots. As to leading men, both Humphrey Bogart and Harrison Ford appeared too old for the part to me, so it's a toss-up. But in the remake the character of David Larabee was actually three-dimensional and had a redemptive ending. Not so the original.On the down side of remakes, it reminds me of someone looking at a copy of a great painting. Their comment was "It has everything that the original has, except of course, the originality." So it is with remakes.

Cowboy Bebop

My sons told me I should watch a short (26 half-hour episodes) anime called Cowboy Bebop. It's set in the future when mankind has moved off earth to Mars and the asteroids. It follows the adventures of the spaceship Bebop and it bounty hunter crew. They do a great job of weaving the world design, backstories, characters, voice work and artwork. Oh, yes, the opening credits and music that are worthy of a James Bond movie. It's one of the rare times that everything works, and definitely work a look. Be sure to view the episodes in order, as they build on each other. Note: there are violent scenes in here, so it's not suitable for pre-teens.

High Concept Movies

A few years back (egad! 1988! was it that long ago?), I heard a movie critic reviewing Twins starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. The critic (on NPR I think) was going on about "high concept" films. His premise was that the shorter a sentence in which you could encapsulate a movie premise, the worse the movie would be. His conclusion was: "Schwarzenegger and DeVito are twins" is only five words, hence the movie held little promise. But I got to thinking how patently absurd his premise was. (I've never seen Twins, so I can't comment on that part of his criticism). So, anyway here's some movies that can be described in a few words. Thus, by his reasoning they should be bad movies. See how you do.Antebellum bitch loses everythingAnswerReporter investigates millionaire's dying wordAnswerNazi Industrialist rescues JewsAnswerDesert saloonkeeper loses ex-girlfriendAnswerInvalid photographer unravels murderAnswerPeasants hire warriors for protectionThe OriginalThe Remake Re-Remade as the most expensive movie Roger Corman ever madeThen they did comic takeoffs of the above as:Mistaken peasants hire actors for protectionWesternComputer-GeneratedIn SpaceSee what you can come up with.So, I claim the exact opposite of his premise is true. I claim that the really great, unique films can be instantly recognized with just a few words. The derivative, formula films can't. Such as:Teenagers escape terrorizing prowler.My gosh, how many movies does that describe?


Darker Than Black

I admit it, I love good animation. I guess growing up in the Disney haydays with old Loony Tunes on Saturday morning did something to ingrain it into me. The same genetic material got passed down to my sons as well. Recently they got me watching a short anime series called Darker Than Black. This is just a 'thumbs-up' note to recommend it. It's a multi-layered plot, that keeps its secrets close to its chest. Some of the pieces to the puzzle you won't get until the last couple of episodes. It's also nicely packaged: each small story arc spans two episodes, or about 45 minutes of watching time. It's doesn't fall easily into standard Anime genres like Mech, steampunk, supernatural, martial arts, etc. It's closer to superheros, perhaps along the lines of a dark X-men saga. Anyway, I don't want to give away any of the plot, so I'll stop here. Enjoy.