OVER 1,000 VIEWS FOR THE FOUNDER REVIEW

Related image

A minor milestone was reached today when the views for my review of The Founder reached four digits.

The review was published January 18, 2017, the fifth review I posted that day and a relatively short one compared to some of my posts. It accumulated the customary likes and views over a 48 hour period that I’m thrilled to often receive with each individual post and then everything quietened down which is customary too especially if another post follows in a couple of days.

Then something odd happened in February and I started averaging twenty views a day. Fellow blogger Beetley Pete had a similar uptick in views with a post about whatever happened to the band Jamiroquai. His investigations had revealed that WordPress had gotten into bed with some other company and now our posts were featuring on some app or other. AMP or pinrss references in the stats backed up this likelihood. For whatever reason my Founder review had featured or struck a nerve and now we were off to the races.

My blog is growing but still a fairly minor thing, I marvel at the way some other bloggers have grown their audiences and take an interest in such a wide field. I’m happy to get 25 – 30 views within initial release, a good post will get 40-50 views and anything else over that is a superstar post. What hits and what doesn’t can never be an exact science. Is it a popular subject matter? When did you release it? Have you touched base with your core fans recently? What is the length of the post? Are there pretty pictures? These are factors that can appear sometimes to make a difference but in the end you have to write about what you want to write about and let the chips fall where they may? Related imageThe second most viewed post this year was about Red Carpet Dresses for Awards Season Part I with 78 views. During the Oscars I did Part II for that Awards Show and it petered out at 34 views. Not that I’m disappointed but the two similar posts do go to show predicting results is impossible.

As time moved on the views slowed down for The Founder but come April 4th they jumped back up again from say 3 views a day to 25 views a day. So here we are. A quick google search indicates what I suspected. The Founder was released digitally on ITunes and Amazon Video April 4th. DVD and Blu Ray release followed April 18th.

Related image

It wasn’t a particularly great review, nor a particularly bad one much like the film itself. If we’re being honest Stats show a lot of google searches with variances on a common theme. When I wrote about The Founder I noted it was a well made film about Ray Kroc performed by Michael Keaton is an Oscar worthy performance. Yet the film portrayed Ray Kroc as an asshole and the film was hard to enjoy as a result. Clearly many other people felt the same way as the popularity of the post has to at least be partly attributed to all these google searches for Ray Kroc is an asshole.

What is the difference between the number 40 and the number 1,000. There are no more comments on the post, I haven’t seen any money from this little deal and I’m sad to admit but it doesn’t reflect an increase in my skillset. This was purely down to algorithms and corporate wheeling and dealing of which I played no part. How many of these viewers actually read the whole post and enjoyed it? Who’s to say.

Yet I am glad it has 1,018 views and counting. Why? Perhaps the answer lies here. Sometime in early 2016 a Jim from Texas commented on a post of mine. His comment inferred he’d been reading a lot of my posts but he had no blog of his own. He just read mine and probably others and liked them and just wanted me to know he did and to keep posting. 1……1,000. I like to think there’s a few Jims from Texas and I thank them and I hope they liked this post.

-Lloyd Marken

Image result for dallas

Advertisements

HOW THEY DID THE OSCARS 2017

Related image

About half an hour out from the end of the 89th Academy Awards I reflected to myself that this had may be one of the better broadcasts of the past decade. Jimmy Kimmel joins Ellen DeGeneres and Chris Tucker from last year as some of the better hosts in recent times the credit for such an achievement should go towards the producers to some extent who have a big role to play in how the show is structured. Jon Stewart for example had good monologues but his second attempt was poorly paced. Hugh Jackman excelled in an opening musical number a few years back but the rest of his show was in search of such an entertaining moment. Kimmel’s show ran like clockwork (wait for it, I’ll get to that later)and made good choices throughout. Food falling from the ceilings owes its sensibility to Ellen DeGeneres ingeniously getting pizza in for starved actresses in glamourous gowns but it worked, it was funny, showed off the scope of the theatre and gave the show a boisterous atmosphere. Having a tour bus of “regular” people stop by and engage with the stars before being shuffled to the exits took courage and despite some taking it all in their stride and shamelessly requesting selfies worked well. Perhaps because. I would like to note that a week ago I urged the Academy to recall moments from the past and reinvigorate a sense of community and coincidentally that is exactly what they did. Montages of previous speeches for acting awards came up before those awards were presented, there call backs to The Apartment, Bonnie and Clyde. The Bridges of Madison County and Back to the Future were fun. The pay off with a parody of it with Kimmel assessing We Bought a Zoo was worth it too. Jackie Chan also showed up but not to present a long overdue stunt category but to revel in his Honourary Oscar given at the previously held Governor’s Ball. Was all of this a coincidence coming after my blog post in a little corner of the internet? You be the judge.

Related image

Whatever your politics the zingers Kimmel came up with were neat “Remember last year when people complained the Oscars were too racist” and he took aim enough at Hollywood itself that it seemed fair. The running gag of a feud with Matt Damon served him well even if the Mean Tweets Oscar Edition lacked teeth due to a primetime audience and maybe even a fear to not piss off those seated in the theatre too much. It should be worth noting that the first Oscar recipient at the first Academy Awards of President Trump was a Muslim with Mahershali Ali justly rewarded for his great work as Best Supporting Actor in Moonlight. I’m just sayin. Justin Timberlake’s opening outside the auditorium before entering it singing Can’t Stop The Feeling followed by a steadicam and some very talented back up dancers was a great way to take something that has been done many times before but never at the Oscars and make the event seem eventful. Seeing all the A-list actresses get down and boogie, Jessica Biel shimmy proudly with her man having his moment helped me forget that I am not really a fan of the song or Timberlake. I’ll give credit where it’s due, Timberlake did a good job and immediately there was a sense of fun in the air. All of the song performances were on key including a nifty idea for John Legend to perform both Audition and City of Stars in one go. Stone and Gosling presenting the songs lacked their usual chemistry but it feels less like a missed opportunity as just two talented actors leaving the singing and dancing to the professionals. Speaking of professionals, Sting’s appropriately pared back performance of Empty Chair was on key and Auli’I Cravalho didn’t miss a beat as she was knocked by one of the blue parasails while singing How Far I’ll Go. The singer is 17 years old and an incredible talent. On a night of great musical performances the highlight was Sara Bareilles singing Both Sides Now during the In Memoriam section, truly breathtaking.

Image result for sara bareilles oscars 2017

The video was well timed to have key quotes spoken during musical interludes allowing Gene Wilder, Mary Tyler Moore and Carrie Fisher the last word. Bill Paxton was mentioned by a visibly moved Jennifer Aniston and no doubt will feature in the montage next year. As a child of the 80s and a genre fan Paxton was always going to have a special place in my heart having been killed by a xenomorph, the Terminator and a Predator. Like Carrie Fisher though he was more than a genre actor, he was an artist with wonderful insight into the nature of storytelling and filmmaking. In a perverse way the Memoriam section is always the most moving piece of the ceremony and the one I look forward to the most. This year was exceptionally well done although sadly the photo of very much alive The Piano producer Jan Chapman was part of the montage when The Piano‘s costume designer the late great Janet Patterson’s name came onscreen.Image result for costume designer janet patterson An excellent piece over at the wonderful film website Dark Horizons suggests that a google search was done to select the photo rather than making contact with her agency or loved ones for one to be put forward. Perhaps a reflection of cutting down on costs or cutting corners in this economy but a mistake that hopefully will remind all involved that if something is worth doing (and honouring your community’s lost artists would be one wouldn’t it?!) then it should be done well. Dwayne Johnson rocked up to represent incredibly popular movie stars of blockbusters that weren’t Oscar nominated (as well as being in Moana) with an abundance of charisma, muscles and good humour. The Hollywood crowd really got into the spirit of things standing up for the White Helmets, NASA hero Katherine Johnson, Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Michael J. Fox, and cheering loudly when 5 time nominee Amy Adams walked on to the stage. Ironically Kimmel the host got “a sitting ovation” as the audience found their seats after boogieing to Timberlake.

Image result for kevin o'connell

Of all the winners I’m happy enough with the results, I didn’t have a favourite out of them and clichéd as it is I still believe being an Oscar nominee means something. That being said I was very pleased to see Kevin O’Connell win for Best Sound Mixing. I long suspected Hacksaw Ridge may grab a few tech awards and Arrival winning Best Sound Editing immediately before Best Sound Mixing threw me out of sorts. Suddenly I realised what a worthy nominee Arrival was and that it could win the next award. That is when Kevin O’Connell on the occasion of his 21st Oscar nomination snagged his first Oscar. The icing on the cake was his moving speech acknowledging his mother.

Related image

The night before the Oscars I called my best friend. I predicted like last year there maybe a split between Best Picture and Director, Jenkins would get Best Director and La La Land would get Best Picture. He told me he believed Damien Chazelle would get Best Director and Moonlight would win Best Picture. My friend’s prediction turned out to be wrong for about two minutes and then it became right for all eternity. It all feels silly to react so strongly to this mistake at the Oscars. As such an well oiled machine it seemed impossible that such a thing would occur but in the grand scheme of things you don’t even have to look further than the ceremony itself to see real issues to care about like the work of the White Helmets in the Middle East going into damaged buildings from war to rescue people out of the rubble. A bunch of wealthy movie producers thought they won the greatest award in the film industry and then had to realise that for now they are just Academy Award nominated professionals. Fuck try hiking a mile out of your village just to get clean water. Yet I was caught up in the watercooler moment as much as anyone. Again Dark Horizons has a great piece about most likely what happened. Older presenters sometimes get flustered and lose their spots at award ceremonies, young presenters do too. In hindsight we can all say that Warren Beatty could have easily taken the mike and said something is wrong here we need to check this but in the history of the Oscars how often has the wrong envelope been handed to anybody. In the moment when something goes wrong it is very difficult to react, to see all the angles and know what to do. Once things started happening Warren and Jimmy Kimmel recognised they had a responsibility to react and to speak. They did well. oscars-2017-front.jpgThere’s no doubt that in the confusion of the situation La La Land‘s producer Jordan Horowitz at a moment of great professional disappointment spoke clearly and pointedly about what was going on. Holding up the card to got across to everyone what was happening. If you look though back at the footage he is disrespectful a little to Beatty who was clearly going back to the mike to explain. I’ve heard a couple of good under the bus jokes about Warren handing the envelope to Faye and that’s fine but I would remind people that Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty have done some of the best movies of the past century and respect should be shown at all times to them. Image result for oscars 2017Also the people in the control room of the telecast and working the cameras did magnificent work reacting in real time. Alas Sammy Davis Jr is no longer on hand to run with such moments. The million dollar question for me is who raised the alarm? Did Warren pull somebody over, did the accountants realise the wrong envelope had been given or do the producers of the show actually know the results ahead of time even it has been long reported that nobody knows until the envelopes are opened on the night? This was an unfortunate event, I understand heads will roll at PriceWaterhouseCoopers and AMPAS are unlikely to use them next year if they do use them in the future. There’s a part of me that just recognises that statistically shit happens and another part that recognises that when mistakes are made you have to learn from them. I feel bad for everybody involved even as I recognise there are more important things in the world to feel bad about.

I suspect the Academy will seek out a returning host next year, when something goes wrong you want to rebrand with something familiar (comforting) and respected (who drew good ratings for their telecast) and so therefore I believe Ellen DeGeneres better keep her dance card free this time of year in 2018. That being said I really enjoyed Jimmy Kimmel and I hope that we see him again soon as well as producers Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd. For me this might have been the best overall Oscar telecast since 2005 and the legacy of it should be more than this one mistake.

-Lloyd Marken

BEST DRESSED AWARDS SEASON 2017 PART II

Image result for taraji p henson oscar

 

The Independent Film Spirit Awards were held the day before the Oscars and saw Moonlight sweep the ceremony. There were many big stars there on the night but for me my favourite dress was worn by a newcomer. Lily Gladstone who was nominated for Best Supporting Female for her work in Certain Women wore a Adrianna Papell with a fabric I can’t shake the feeling I’ve seen somewhere before.

Lily Gladstone

The next day the 89th Academy Awards too place and the stars came out in a dazzling array of gowns. To make sure this post doesn’t end at 100 words and two photos I’ll add in the gowns that my wife and mother liked. Well they liked several but these are the ones they offered up as a favourite if they had to only pick one and believe me they didn’t want to.

 

Image result for taraji p henson oscar

My mother liked Taraji P. Henson wearing custom made Alberta Ferretti for best dress then Meryl Streep’s, Nicole Kidman’s. Others enjoyed were Kirsten Dunst and Auli’i Cravachi’s white dress on the red carpet, Denzel Washington’s wife, Samuel L. Jackson in his blue velvet suit jacket and Aldis Hodge. Alberta Ferretti has been designing for 44 years and once in the 1990s renovated a 13th century castle into a hotel.

 

Image result for giuliana rancic oscar gown 2017

Karen’s favourite was television presenter Guiliana Rancic wearing Georges Chakra couture and enjoyed the trend of blue velvet throughout liking Taraji’s dress and SammyJ’s suit as well. She was also taken with Auli’i Cravachi’s red dress that she performed in on stage and Ruth Negga’s dress.Lebanese based Georges Chakra is a major international haute couture fashion house regularly dressing celebrities and featuring on fashion magazines in Gossip Girl and The Devil Wears Prada. A Chakra collection has been present at every Paris Fashion Week since 2001. Rancic who covers several red carpets a year for her work with E! Entertainment Television Network uses him as one of her go to designers.

Which leaves me in the awkward position of repeating one of their choices. There were no clear stand outs for me, that’s why Brie Larson’s Rodarte dress from the Golden Globes remains so special. A real immediate absolute favourite don’t always come around. That said I think my favourite Oscar dress is Taraji’s too. For the sake of variety I will point out Felicity Jones looked cute, I liked Busy Phillips dress and I think Nicole Kidman’s dress showed off her figure well.

Image result for busy phillips oscarsImage result for oscars 2017 red carpet

So what was your favourite dress at the Oscars? Did you enjoy Janelle Monae trying to channel Halle Berry’s classic dress wearing Ellie Saab herself, Image result for janelle monae oscarslovers of Salma Hayek did you approve of her choice, Image result for salma hayek oscars 2017 was there a favourite suit of the evening, Image result for samuel l. jackson 2017 oscars anybody dig the gold outfits

Image result for oscars 2017 red carpetImage result for oscars 2017 red carpet

or was red more your colour

Related imageImage result for auli'i cravalho's oscars

or did you stand up and applause any dress that got the twins out front and centre? Let us know below.

Until next year.

-Lloyd Marken

Image result for oscars 2017 red carpet

 

HOW WOULD YOU DO THE OSCARS?

Related image

It was February 2005 when I watched the 77th Academy Awards hosted by Chris Rock. That’s the last great Oscars telecast I remember. It was a gradual thing Jon Stewart took over the following year and it wasn’t as good but that was alright because Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg hadn’t been as good as Billy Crystal right? As time dragged on though, and more ceremonies occurred I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Oscars just didn’t measure up the same away anymore. If I look back over the past few years there’s always bits and pieces I love from all of them but always something lacking. The host sucks, the host was the only good thing, not enough skits, the skits sucked, the speeches were boring, the people accepting were played off by the orchestra before they could start. I would not be surprised either if I popped in a tape of a show that I remember as praiseworthy from the 1990s to find its no worse or better than the ones we see today. The thing I can’t shake though is that at some point the Oscars got scared, it rushed itself not allowing time for individual moments to breathe and organically occur and it worried about getting viewers in rather than celebrating its own community. It would be too easy to pick apart the high pressure work performed by dozens of professionals on a grand stage in front of a worldwide audience. Therefore I thought it would be interesting to put forward some ideas of my own and inevitably celebrate that which has worked in the past.

The Host

Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal are the Kings of Oscar hosting. This year the television networks have allocated their respective late night hosts to the Awards Show they’re broadcasting, CBS gave James Corden the Grammys, NBC slotted in Jimmy Fallon for the Golden Globes and so ABC have given Jimmy Kimmel the Oscars. Kimmel is edgy, very LA and approaching gravitas that comes with long term tenure. There’s a hope he will shake up things but there was a similar hope when Seth McFarlane was named to host and we know how that turned out. Choosing a late night talk show host makes sense given Carson’s reign at the gig but Carson was lightning in a bottle, Image result for the academy awards johnny carsona superb comic performer, movie star good looking with average folks appeal in his Nebraskan sensibility. Jon Stewart did this twice with only middling success, my favourite David Letterman bombed big time with his snark going over like a lead balloon with the celebrities on their night of nights, Fallon the current king of late night looked intimidated at the Globes earlier this year leaving basically day time host Ellen DeGeneres as the best since Carson – and her Emmy Hosting gigs were far superior to her Oscar ones. I’d love to see Samantha Bee and Jon Oliver tear the place down and I think James Corden actually could do a real good job but I would be looking at a stand-up comic more than a talk show personality to be named host.

A few big hitters include Jerry Seinfeld (he’s so big and established he wouldn’t be afraid to push people around but maybe is too much of an outsider), Louis C.K. (same thing but again outsider) Aziz Ansari (too TV maybe go with Emmys or Golden Globes for him first) and Amy Schumer.Image result for AMY schumer award shows Schumer is hip and cool, not an old white guy, has a hit movie and would take aim and fire at some of the absurdities of Hollywood. Would be more than happy to see her have a go but I can’t help but think that a funny Hollywood comic superstar would be a good choice. Crystal, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg have all had their go. You know who never did? Who has the gravitas, the comic chops and was king of the box office for a bit. Eddie Murphy. Now I know Eddie hasn’t been a big deal in a while but a few years ago he was announced to host with Brett Ratner producing, then Brett said dumb shit and had to pull out and Eddie stood by his friend and withdrew too. Related imageBut Eddie can deliver if he has a good writing team behind him because I believe this sincerely, people would like to see a comeback from that kid who did Delirious. The monologue should be solid, few have been bad in the past few years (Franco and Hathaway I’m looking at you) and as a former stand- up he should be able to spot opportunities when they come up. My favourite hosts of the past decade are easily Tina Fey and Amy Poehler doing the Golden Globes three years in a row but they don’t seem interested and others like Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell and Kristen Wiig only seem interested in doing presentation skits in awards shows rather than the whole thing. By the way look for Key and Peele to host Oscars soon, they’re good comedians and solid actors in their own right and I find it hard to believe the Academy hasn’t already asked them at least once.

The Opening

In 1996 a landmark occurred when Billy Crystal returned after Letterman bombed. It had been a couple of years since he hosted and he was missed. He was inserted into old movies as himself and that year’s nominees. Letterman even showed he was a good sport and showed up in it to mock his failure from the previous year. It feels more played out these days but when done well it never really gets old. Hell even Anne Hathaway and James Franco had some good bits in one such skit. Last year there was an amazing opening montage, easily the best from the past decade that Oscar has done. It displayed moments from the nominees, blockbusters and everything in between; themed around personal perseverance in a day it brought tears to my eyes with its empathy and hopefulness. It does mean however that if the AMPAS want to they can go big this year, one year they had Cirque du Soleil perform up in the rafters. Maybe it’s time to go big again Academy. Imagine Eddie or Amy inserted in Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Fences or Arrival.

The Presentations

If you look back over the years there are always at least a couple of good presentations. Some from really good actors being given funny lines and some from some of the funniest people we have working in Hollywood.

Ben Stiller, the aforementioned Wigg, Ferrel, Fey, Poehler, Steve Martin, and it would be great to see them all back doing their thing. It probably doesn’t get more moving than Christopher Reeve in his wheelchair after the riding accident. Sometimes there can be real quirkiness in the choices, one year a sound effects choir introduced those categories. R2D2, C3PO and BB-8 came out last year. However not everybody has to have a bit, some can wax lyrical about cinematography “The camera allows us to see ourselves like we’ve seen ourselves before – looking like Ryan Gosling.” or something like that and then get off the stage. It would be nice if before presenting the nominees for technical awards like sound editing, sound effects editing to remind the nominees that there’s five of you and nobody gives a shit about your arse cause you ain’t famous so you know you got five seconds each. Thank your wife and then let your buddies thank their wives. Because if you want to get laid tonight you better thank your wife if you win. If there are any female nominees in the technical categories don’t worry, your husband will not hold out having sex with you if you don’t thank him. You get back to the hotel room and he’d be like I can’t believe it, I gave you twenty two years of my life, supported you in your career, helped raise the kids and you couldn’t remember my name in front of a billion people. I am so upset, I’m not having sex with you tonight…..oh you’re wearing those stockings. Never mind. And this is why you really are running the world. But seriously male or female nominees either nominate one person or let everybody thank everybody real quick. If one person in your group is shy or boring, they’re out. There can be no room for weak links. You have got 30 seconds. Actually that’s not true, Harvey Weinstein has 30 seconds, and a special effects supervisor has 12 seconds. If you’re ugly you got 10! So that’s two seconds for each of you!

Sketch Bits

In the old days this might have been a montage of animal performers before Mike Myers hurriedly grabbed the envelope off a grumpy Bart the Bear. These days it will have Neil Patrick Harris re-enact Birdman’s famous scene in his tighty whities or have Ellen DeGeneres get pizza for the stars in their million dollar frocks.

Nothing wrong with that, it’s the growing trendy of daggy celebrities done so well by Fallon. I believe the host should remain present throughout the rest of the evening but more of less reacting to what’s going on. I got a long night planned anyway.

Montages

Hollywood used to do the best montages and then a few years ago the kids on YouTube started doing it better. The day after a tribute to James Bond was done at the Oscars, better online contributions went viral. Jon Stewart even joked one year that the whole show was montages. Yet done well they elevate the whole thing, one year they brought performers on stage to perform a raft of best songs from previous decades and it linked you to previous generations. This year I would suggest two major montages. One saluting women of cinema, given the range of strong female performances this year it would be neat and also relevant given current cultural dialogue about gender politics. Hidden Figures for example taps into this in a big way. Imagine iconic moments from Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, Bette Davis, Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Liv Ullman, Mary Tyler Moore, Lilly Tomlin, Noomi Rapace, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Sally Field, Whoopi Goldberg, Hattie McDaniel, Ginger Rogers, Lauren Bacall, Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon, Julia Roberts, Jodie Foster, Jane Fonda, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Sigourney Weaver, Emma Thompson, Cher, Charlize Theron, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Amy Adams, Felicity Jones, Cate Blanchett, etc.

The second would be long overdue, the work of stunt performers. There’s been a push for at least the past decade for them to get their own Oscar category and maybe this would be a step in the right direction of proper recognition. Sure practical stunts are being replaced by CGI since the heyday of the 70s and 80s but there is still plenty of stunt work being performed and a montage could show the classic stunts we all know and love with behind the scenes footage giving these men and women their day in the sun. There are plenty of stories too. Rick Sylvester’s Union Jack Parachute Ski Jump from The Spy Who Loved Me, Image result for movie stunts Jophery Brown’s bus jump from Speed “ If I’d been directly in the driver’s suit it probably would have broken my back”, Image result for movie stuntsBud Elkins driving that motorcycle over the border fence in The Great Escape, Zoe Bell on the hood of that Dodge Challenger in Death Proof, Related imageVic Armstrong’s work as Indiana Jones, Heidi Moneymaker’s work as Black Widow, Bill Hickman stunt driving in The French Connection, stuntwoman Lila Finn who doubled for Vivien Leigh and Donna Reed right through to doing work on Robocop 2, Yakima Canutt who pulled off that famous stunt in Stagecoach. Image result for yakima canuttAnyway the list goes on. The montage could include personal anecdotes about their injuries, close calls, relationship with stars they double for or love of the job. Perhaps mention of some stuntmen and stuntwomen who died doing what they loved. To introduce this montage get an actor who is noted for doing some of their own stunts, Burt Reynolds, Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise if you believe the hype, and Johansson who trains phenomenally hard in her role as Black Widow often doing more interesting stunt work than her male co-stars in The Avengers movies. Maybe the most perfect choice would be Jackie Chan.

Song Performances

Most song performances have been strong over the years, something as intimate as Dolly Parton singing Travelin’ Thru, to Beyoncé and Idina Menzel giving sterling performances right through to moving pieces as Lady Gaga was joined on stage by real sexual assault survivors performing Til It Happens To You. The energy of Everything is Awesome to the power of Glory. As a template, you could see the potential from this year’s best song nominees. Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling is idiotic but kind of catchy. Hopefully they’ll avoid trying to get the crowd involved with a bunch of middle aged actors looking uncomfortable although it would be worth it if Harrison Ford ended up punching Timberlake in the face – hey we can dream. Still it is an up-tempo number and if you put a bunch of kids there on stage enjoying it my cold heart will melt.

Superstar Sting showing up to sing Empty Chair with the lights dimmed and a montage of reporters lost in the field would be particularly moving. Don’t even say the clip was of all reporters lost doing their job until after the clip too. Not everybody is going to know it’s from the critically lauded documentary Jim about the sadly deceased correspondent James Foley. Audition (The Fools Who Dream) needs a big performance from a big star, Beyoncé, Gaga, somebody of that calibre. Maybe a Broadway star the film community doesn’t know. Think Idina or Kristen Chenoweth before everybody knew who they were. The big production number should go to How I’ll Go from Moana and come early in the piece in case any kids are still up. Lots of lights, moving props and dancers with Auli’i Cravalho singing her heart out.

Which leaves us with City of Stars; this should be sung by Emma Stone and Gosling at piano with their innate chemistry while dancers recreate scenes from the film in the background. The power of the ending should be recreated in this on stage performance. Think Eugene Levy’s wonderful touching of Catherine O’Hara’s cheek at the end of performing A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow in character or the heartfelt singing of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova doing Falling Slowly.

Speeches

Look there’s no denying we want to hear Emma Stone more than who won Best Film Editing speak and so she’ll be given more time. That is fair enough, but give the editor 30 seconds and if it looks like they’re wrapping up soon let it go. They might be about to tell you that their parent recently fought cancer. This can’t be stated enough, some of the most heartfelt and best moments of Oscars past are the speeches that were allowed to just happen in the moment. Don’t terrify people; let them tell their story at a moment of personal triumph. If after 30 seconds they’re bombing jokes or boring us nobody is going to have a problem if the music starts to kick in a little. Hell the recipient will probably thank you even. But stop apologising for the length of the telecast, this is your community you’re celebrating and the people tuning in aren’t just interested in the next blockbuster to pack their kids away in air conditioning for two hours, they’re cinephiles and they’re digging this as much as footy fans dig the halftime commentary.

Honorary Oscars

I know this is never going to happen, The Governors ball allows AMPAS to honour at least 3 recipients a year, focuses an evening more on just a few awardees and takes away the pressure of a live television audience but we’ve lost something with not handing out these Oscars on Oscar night.

Peter O’Toole, Sidney Lumet, Blake Edwards, Robert Altman, Clint Eastwood, Kirk Douglas, Deborah Kerr, Ennio Morricone, Michelangelo Antonioni. These were some of the lifetime achievement awards handed out in the years I started watching. Films like Bronco Billy and Honkytonk Man got on my radar because of Eastwood’s montage for the Irving G. Thalberg award. Who amongst us didn’t have tears in our eyes when Kirk Douglas made a speech having prepared endlessly for it following a stroke.

Michael standing with his brothers in the stands just a proud son. Deborah Kerr years after retiring flown over from the other side of the Atlantic who simply said “I’m amongst friends.” Anybody know who Michelangelo Antonioni is? He’s an Italian film director who I doubt I have seen the films of but I also doubt I have not seen the films influenced by his work. Oscars always echoed the ghosts of the past, gave a sense of community amongst this sea of celebrity that these rich pricks really just wanted to tell good stories and that the past was never forgotten. As a film buff my first awareness of so many classics came from Oscar ceremonies that remembered and championed work from the past as well as the present. A good choice for a foreign director of lauded classics now would be Wim Wenders who has influenced a whole generation of filmmakers. After ruining the perfect symmetry of Sly Stallone winning the Oscar for Creed last year it’s probably time to give him an Honourary Oscar but maybe some kids out there know who he is. They won’t know who Gene Hackman is; imagine a montage of his work on Oscar night followed by him making his first public appearance in close to a decade. The crowd would go ballistic!Image result for gene hackman oscarAl Pacino, Warren Beatty, Robert Duvall, Dustin Hoffman, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Frances McDormand are all potential presenters. Traditionally Honourary Oscars go to those who haven’t won in competition but to see Gene I’d just about do anything and if some young film buff out there notices his work and is inspired to watch The Conversation or Missippi Burning the way I was to watch Bronco Billy or Serpico then that’s a goal scored.

Well they’re just some thoughts, any pet peeves or treasured moments you have from previous Oscars or any things you would suggest for the broadcast. Whatever happens next Monday, I’ll be tuning in, judging the fashion with my wife and mother, texting my best friend during the ad breaks in another part of the country long into the evening about who won and who missed out. Maybe the ceremonies since 2004 haven’t been that bad, maybe the ones before weren’t that great. It doesn’t matter; it’s Hollywood’s night of nights and mine too.

-Lloyd Marken

MOONLIGHT ILLUMINATES THE HARSHNESS AND HOPEFULNESS OF LIFE AND LOVE

Image result for moonlight movie

Moonlight is the dark horse that could upset 14 time nominee La La Land at the Oscars this year for Best Picture. A lot of people are championing this coming of age tale which represents a new form of African-American masculinity onscreen and is an emotionally moving character study and performance piece. I went in excited by the high praise given by others to it but I left applauding the heart and soul put into the film by its makers but not necessarily moved in my heart and soul as much as I had hoped.

The most moving scenes may be at the beginning where a young boy named Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert)is being bullied by schoolmates while his mother Paula (Naomie Harris) works shifts as a nurse and is starting to take drugs and have strange men around their apartment. Left to fend for himself, a drug dealer named Juan notices him one day and befriends him. Why he feels compelled to do this is only hinted at but he is played by Mahershala  Ali whose performance looms over the rest of the film. He is the only positive male figure the boy nicknamed Little will ever have teaching him how to swim in one beautiful scene of the boy being cradled in his arms amongst the waves. Related imageThis is a hard man who shows this boy nothing but gentleness, the most obvious answer to why is he immediately recognised something in Little of himself and wants to protect the innocence he has lost but this man is a criminal and there are limits to what he can do. Perhaps we’re all protective of children and their fragility, there is a scene where Chiron asks what a certain word his mother called him means and it kind of breaks your heart.

The second act is about Chiron’s (now played by Ashton Sanders) sexual awakening and a pivotal moment in his life where he reaches a fork in the road and decides on one path. One of his only friends from the first act Kevin (originally Jaden Piner and now here Jharrel Jerome)is still friends with him here as he is being bullied by a kid named Terrel (Patrick Decile)and his mother’s drug use has escalated. Image result for moonlight movieWhen we meet him in the third act he seems destined to follow the path he chose previously which offers a sense of strength but can only end up being a life half lived. Kevin (Andre Holland) calls him up from out of the blue and so Chiron now known as Black (Trevante Rhodes) meets with him, the two men now in their twenties discuss life like people much older. Decisions have given them responsibilities, limited their future choices and left them feeling stuck in very narrow existences and afraid to communicate what they truly want. One of them has broken free of the life of a criminal and the other has closed himself off to love. The third act offers no easy solutions but it leaves you feeling hopeful that the orbit of these two individuals will pull each other into happier lives for them both.

Related image

The casting of Little/Chiron/Black in this film is phenomenal,  in particular Trevante Rhodes who looks very different from Ashton Sanders mimicks a lot of the facial expressions of Sanders brilliantly allowing us to see clearly the boy in the man. For a character often too shy to express himself it is an internal performance from all 3 actors and spellbindingly effective as representing the growth of someone from childhood to adult. Naomie Harris playing the mother through the three time periods shot all her scenes in 3 days and shows the nightmarish depths of an addict without becoming a caricature. Again though her best scene is maybe not with her son but her stand-off in the first act with Ali. Singer Janelle Monae is having a great award season with this and her work in Hidden Figures, here plays the most maternal figure Chiron has in his life.

This is a passion project for director Barry Jenkins who wrote the screenplay based on the play by Tarell Alvin McCraney In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue and honoured similar experiences they both had growing up in that time as black men in Florida with mothers who suffered from drug addiction. Jenkins builds up tension well in scenes by playing in real time with the limited perspective of an individual. We feel the danger of Juan’s work without a scene of violence just by following him on his rounds. Image result for moonlight movie gifsOne particular shot of Chiron when he makes a decision that will change his life is strikingly beautiful and sets up his actions with a bang. Finally the way a scene in a diner is shot at the end orientates us to the whole shop and lets the scene play out in real time as two men are now forced to say things to each other in person instead of down a telephone line and they’re terrified of what the other guy will say. I hope that’s not too vague but ten years ago there was a movie that everybody referred to as the gay cowboy movie and yes there were cowboys in it and yes they were gay but it was ultimately a tragic love story and I’d hate to see this film reduced to similar shorthand.

If there is one complaint it maybe that some scenes go on too long due to the real time nature of the pacing and the film therefore drags a little for such a runtime. Some scenes are in slow-mo and I understand the reasoning behind it but think it was not always necessary. Shooting on location, sunny Miami is seen in a new light here and another particular strong point of the way the film is made is the sound design and editing which always lets us feel the world around us. Sometimes we hear the beach without seeing the water and we know the diner is emptying in third act because we can hear the bell on the door.

A24 driving moonlight barry jenkins andre holland

This can be a bleak unsatisfying film for some but I ultimately left it hopeful having felt a great sense of empathy for the kind of life I’d never lived in a community I’d never been a part of. Empathy and understanding and love are some of the greatest things the arts can give us for others and for ourselves. At the end of this film I was hopeful for Chiron and I felt a great deal for him. If the film was at time slow telling its story it was no less an important story to have been told.

-Lloyd Marken