Oscar Night 2014

Oscar night 2014 was a little more bearable than usual for me, because of Ellen DeGeneres. I used to always love the Oscars and look forward to them, but in recent years, I’ve felt a bit detached from them. I haven’t seen, or even heard of many of the nominated movies, and…y’know…even the big winners seem to fade away fairly quickly, don’t they? Really, how many can name last year’s winner? Two years ago?

DeGeneres did two things that freshened up the show for me. First, she wasn’t political and she wasn’t inappropriate. Even if the nominated movies aren’t all family-friendly, the Oscar show should be. There are all ages watching. Second, I loved her jaunts through the audience. Things like taking selfies and posting to Twitter, and ordering out for pizza sort of made the stars relate to us, even if they don’t really. For a moment, we could imagine we have some things in common. I hope she’ll be back next year. We’ll order some pizza and watch. And I will now post this to Twitter.

“Saving Mr. Banks”–the Genesis of the Disney Movie

Clapboard & cinema reelMary Poppins, the beloved Disney movie of 1964, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and won numerous other awards, has been known for decades. What hasn’t been as well-known, until now, is the story behind the story. In Saving Mr. Banks, Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson is brilliant as P.L. Travers, the contankerous creator of Mary and a real test of patience. How Disney and his people were able to work with her to bring her book to the screen is a testimony to how dedicated they were to this endearing children’s story.

The flashbacks of Pamela Travers’ childhood with her sick father in Australia greatly inform the 1961 storyline of the development of the screenplay for a film Travers really didn’t want to see made. We’re glad she did finally allow it to be made since the film allowed many legions of families to be introduced to her characters.

Sadly, Travers never allowed any more of her Poppins books to be adapted, and thankfully, Saving Mr. Banks doesn’t delve into that aspect and leaves us on a much more happier note, just like Mary Poppins herself would have done.

 

“The Book Thief” Reminds Us of the Value of Reading

Clapboard & cinema reelThey nominate ten movies for Best Picture at the Academy Awards now, where it used to be only five. I, movie lover though I am, albeit a picky one, have wondered how they can find ten movies that are good enough to be considered for that prize. I’ve looked over this year’s list, and why, oh why, is The Book Thief not on there? This adaptation of the bestselling YA book is high-class in every way, from its moving story and portrayal of history, to its acting and cinematic look.

Sophia Nelisse, who plays the main character Liesel, a Russian girl whose destitute mother had to give her up to foster parents in Germany, is a find. Word is, she gave up her ten-year-old dream of Olympics gymnastics to take this role. She’s definitely multi-talented. She carries a big movie on her small shoulders, with ample help from Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.

The story pulls in the viewer with its voyeuristic look inside Nazi Germany and what it was like for locals, i.e., it was a scary experience. But the story is made personal with a slice-of-life look at a young girl whose life difficulties are made a little better when she learns to read and commences to “borrow” books without permission. She doesn’t care what the books say, she just wants to read. She serves as a good reminder of the power of reading, alerting us to the oft-forgotten ideas of humility and gratitude for this basic necessity which transcends so many other needs. Oscar missed out with this one.

Film “Doubt” is Strong on Theme

Clapboard & cinema reelOscar season is upon us now–a good time to remember past nominees which may have gone largely unnoticed but which are well worth a look. Doubt received many acting and writing nominations at the 2009 Oscars and some wins at other awards. Today I welcome guest blogger Taylor Davis, who reviews this powerful film.

John Patrick Shanley’s 2008 film Doubt tells the story of a parish in peril as a pastor is accused of child molestation, and depicts the gospel principle that “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center” (1 Nephi 16:2).

Although the story is openly religious, taking place in a Catholic church and school and including several scenes of Father Flynn preaching sermons, this message is conveyed mostly in the familiar style rather than the abundant. The film shows a man facing the consequences of his sins in a way to which we may relate… or will relate someday.

Father Flynn is obviously shaken by the accusations against him. Whether or not he actually committed the crime is never revealed, though it is implied that he has a dark past, as he was thrown out of three other parishes in the past five years. His angry temperament when confronted with these accusations is a manifestation that, whether or not he did it, the subject is very personal to him. He hates its mere mention. The first time he is confronted by Sisters James and Aloysius, he does what any sinner might do: he retaliates angrily and changes the subject, asserting that he is unsatisfied with how the situation was handled. In this way he redirects all negativity away from him and at his accusers.

When the wicked are suspected of a sin, they will often do anything they can to hide it from the world and keep their reputation in good standing. In this way they act cowardly, and ignore the eternal and inevitable consequences of their actions. They will plug their ears and scream when someone tries to warn them of what will happen to them if they do not change, because the wicked take the truth to be hard. This is the theme of Doubt.

Doubt stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis.

If You Loved “Lincoln” You Will LOVE…

…the 1989 film Glory. The Academy Awards happen this Sunday night, and history buffs and many others will be rooting for Steven Spielberg’s excellent film Lincoln, nominated for Best Picture and 11 other Oscars. If you are one of those who appreciates the attention this film is getting, and if you never saw Glory, I highly recommend this precious celluloid gem, which won three Oscars in 1990 among many other awards. It has remained a top 10 favorite of mine ever since.

Glory tells the true story of the 54th Colored Regiment during the Civil War, and it is brilliantly told, powerfully acted, and stunningly filmed. Matthew Broderick plays the very young Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, thrust into a position of leadership he was hardly prepared for. (The real Colonel Shaw is pictured at right.)The real Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

The cast is filled out by some fictional characters who effectively capture the essence of the 54th Regiment. Morgan Freeman is the seasoned soldier who keeps the younger ones in line and reminds them of why they’re there. Denzel Washington (Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor) is the rebellious runaway slave, at once difficult but courageous. Andre Braugher is Thomas Searles, a proud freeman who must toughen up to serve alongside his brothers in arms. Jihmi Kennedy is Jupiter Sharts, an illiterate field hand eager to do his part.

The molding of these characters into a cohesive, stalwart unit is a remarkable story, and the film is an inspiring, memorable piece of work and a fine tribute to that brave regiment.