THE YEAR THAT WAS 2017 ON LLOYD MARKEN WORDPRESS

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Following on from last year I’m doing a quick recap of stats for 2017 which I always find a little interesting. This year the site has seen a few changes, a lot of posts now refer to reviews I’ve had published elsewhere and don’t include screenshots or gifs from movies which may attract views. I don’t know. My stats have gone through the roof due to the large interest shown to a post I did on the movie The Founder which I think got placed on a site by WordPress that increased traffic to the post. At the same time I haven’t engaged with my fellow bloggers or sought to grow my blogging community and so you’ll see number of likes has decreased as a result. All I can say is I enjoy my current blogging community and the size of it and am grateful for their continued interest and I want to remain able to keep up with them semi-regularly and so don’t worry a lot about getting new followers. Always nice to grow though. I have some plans for 2018 but I had some plans for 2017 and not all of them came to fruition so we’ll just see what happens.

The United States retains the crown for most views this year, the United Kingdom comes second place after barely coming in third last year with Autralia now in third place. Congratulations to Canada who remains in fourth and has cracked over 1,000 views for the year. It was hard fought but Germany cracks the Top 5 this year. Spain, Brazil and France all fall out of the Top 10 this year. A post I wrote about a good man I knew who passed away saw an uptick in views from his homeland of Malaysia and one of his favourite countries in the world Japan. Goodbye Kelly Chen, you will are so obviously missed by so many far and wide. I’m particularly touched to see my post has resonated with those who knew him best. Any mention of Taika Watitti sees an uptick in New Zealand view. Congratulations to Indonesia and India who cracked the Top 10 this year, hope you’re enjoying the blog.

 

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Top 10 Most Views by Country

  1. The United States of America                                                                               9,126 Views
  2. The United Kingdom                                                                                              2,339 Views
  3. Australia                                                                                                                   1,848 Views
  4. Canada                                                                                                                      1,057 Views
  5. Germany                                                                                                                      166 Views
  6. Japan                                                                                                                            163 Views
  7. Indonesia                                                                                                                     120 Views
  8. New Zealand                                                                                                               113 Views
  9. India                                                                                                                             100 Views
  10. Malaysia                                                                                                                         92 Views

 

stats 2017

 

Out of 105 posts published for the year the following 25 got the most views. In 2015 the blog started to grow with 1,609 views, 333 visitors, 23 Likes and 30 comments. In 2016 the blog received 5,673 views, 3,206 visitors, 546 Likes and 751 comments. In 2017 this grew to 16,767 views (more than a third of which were for The Founder Review), 11,891 visitors, 1,240 Likes and 1,707 comments. This was helped in no small part thanks to the support and interest from my fellow bloggers.

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Top 25 Most Viewed Posts 2017

  1. Ray Kroc…What An Asshole                                                                                5,992 Views
  2. Goodbye Kelly Chen and Thank You                                                                    303 Views
  3. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Lucy From Going In Style               187 Views
  4. Extras Who Add A Little Something – Kathy Larson and Missy Wolff           141 Views
  5. The Appropriately Titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back                                    131 Viewstime jack nothing reacher
  6. Review of Young Australian Filmmaker Shorts Available on Scenestr         127 Views
  7. Extras Who Add A Little Something – John B. Destry                                         112 Views
  8. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Dr Lamar from Gattaca                     89 ViewsRelated image
  9. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Stephanie from The Naked Gun      89 Views
  10. Star Character Actors: Stephen Tobolowsky                                                         85 Views
  11. Best Dressed Award Season 2017 Part I                                                                 85 Views
  12. The Mystery Blogger Award Nomination                                                               84 Views
  13. The Seven Ages of Clint Eastwood                                                                           80 ViewsImage result for honkytonk man clint eastwood
  14. The Long Overdue Film About Jadotville                                                               76 Views
  15. Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine                                                                             72 Views
  16. You Can’t Keep A Good Kong Down Even If You Should                                     72 Views
  17. Star Character Actors – J.T. Walsh                                                                            71 ViewsImage result for j.t. walsh young
  18. Over 1,000 Views for The Founder Review                                                            70 Views
  19. Major General John Cantwell – Hero, Veteran, Human Being                            69 ViewsImage result for major general john cantwell
  20. La La Land: A Modern Musical                                                                                 68 Views
  21. The Seven Ages of Harrison Ford                                                                             67 ViewsImage result for harrison ford WITNESS
  22. Spider-Man: Homecoming and Atomic Blonde Reviews Available at Buzz    66 Views
  23. My Favourite Films of 2016                                                                                       65 Views
  24. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Jaguar Owner from Speed                 64 Views
  25. The Perspective of the Girl on The Train                                                                64 Views

As you can see the posts about extras and characters actors were very popular so I hope to bring them back in a way in 2018. Also I really liked the idea of doing the Seven Ages posts but unfortunately the time needed and the titles that have to be seen makes that challenging. Going through all the posts and figuring out what got most likes will simply take too long but please continue to like my posts if you like them because it is always a thrill for me when I see those little icons below the post. A lot of my posts were about reviews published elsewhere this year which seem to attract attention mostly from my long time core readers. Thank you very much for supporting me in these new ventures, it has meant a lot and I think also shows my editors that I do have an audience that I bring along with me. It really is appreciated.

For Your Consideration

Now it’s time for some shameless self-promotion where I point out reviews I’m very proud of from that year that you might want to check out. In going over the 105 posts for the year there were many I’m pleased with and glad found an audience but citing them seemed redundant. They are a time and place and people either read them then or will discover them later. Some of the posts I do on here now have become more personal whether it is me remembering BIFF or describing a recent holiday to Newcastle. 20171001_110615There are some reviews I’m proud of and some reviews I’m not. Yet again they either found an audience or they didn’t, people seemed to like the Tom Hanks Top 5 over at Heavy and had lots to say about my review of Dunkirk. My review for Queensland Ballet’s Raw and Hidden Figures at Scenestr will always have personal significance for me and I worked really hard for them to be good. I felt energised when writing about The Go-Betweens: Right Here than I was when writing about Kingsman: The Golden Circle. I enjoyed my list of Best Films for 2016 Image result for eye in the skyand look forward to doing one for 2017 once the bulk of Oscar releases arrive here in Australia. Come on Ladybird! I should take this opportunity to mention that 20th Century Women and Nocturnal Animals would have easily made the 2016 list if I had seen those movies at the time. I’m humbled to see the review of The Siege at Jadotville was met with approval from someone who’s father had served at Jadotville. If from my small corner of the internet someone has learnt a bit more about the Irish at Jadotville or the strength of Major General John Cantwell then that makes me very proud. In the end though I just want to say cite two pieces. The first is a review I did of the movie Fences, I just like my review which mentions something about one of my grandfathers. Image result for fences movieThe second… Many years ago I worked with a young man on the set of a film being shot on the Gold Coast named Vigilante. He passed away earlier this year and while I didn’t know him very well I was struck by thoughts of how he had lived his life. Not just personal career achievements but the measure of the man was in how he had treated others and enriched their lives. This is a legacy to aspire to and I tried to put into words my memories of him in a post. I would urge people to take a look if they haven’t. His name was Kelly Chen.

Well that’s another bunch of stats for another year. I would like to take this moment to thank you all for your continued support Pete, Cindy, GP, Don, Vinnie, Jay, Sean, Paul, Allen, John K, Michael, Jet, Eddie, Alex, Paol, Jordon, John R, SJS, DB, Emma, The Film Blog guy, Jersey Dreaming, Robin, Eric and anybody else who takes the time to read these posts. It would be helluva lot less fun without you all.

-Lloyd Marken

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MINOR ROLES THAT HAD A MAJOR IMPACT – JAGUAR OWNER FROM SPEED

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A minor role will usually only involve a few minutes of screen time but will usually see the character given a name and have some relevance to the main characters. A friend who in a twist is the key villain, a mother who only offers advice in one scene, somebody whose importance to the plot is only revealed at the eleventh hour. Other times it’s a showy role for only one scene and everybody is talking about that performance after they leave the film.

A long time ago there were these ice skaters named Torville and Dean. They scored a perfect 6 from all the judges in their final routine at the 1984 Winter Olympics and naturally became legends. Image result for torvill and dean in australia 1994Following their Gold Medal winning performance at the winter Olympics they went professional and performed for several years. In 1994 they returned to the Winter Olympics and won Bronze. Some time passed and they came to Australia to perform. My family were fans and on a whim one day decided they would see if they could get tickets. It was not in my parent’s nature to go to such shows, they were luxuries to be weighed up heavily. Hence the last minute enquiry and the resulting lack of availability. So as a consolation prize we decided we’d go to the movies. Speed termed as a “Die Hard on a Bus” was out  with Keanu Reeves playing against type. We knew of his Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), Parenthood (1989) and Point Break (1991) although only the first had been really watched by me as the others were probably deemed too adult. We went in with no expectations, my father, mother and siblings. I still think about that night every now and again watching Speed up on the big screen. Kids become teenagers and get too old to go see movies with their parents. Then your parents tend to not want to go out to the movies because its easier to wait until it comes out on Foxtel. 🙂 Speed was on the cusp of that change and an unexpected gift. This action film inadvertently became a family film  because we all have that memory and we all enjoyed that night and that movie. A great movie will be universally loved and bring people together.

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Torville and Dean would have been a once in a lifetime experience but there are no memories from that day tinged with disappointment only amazement. It turned out Speed was to be bonafide classic with amazing cinematography, a rip roaring score, amazing stunts, witty dialogue, and a fantastic ensemble cast. There’s no denying that Joe Morton, Jeff Daniels, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves have a huge part to play in engaging the audience and making them care about the outcome. As a kid who’d never seen Easy Rider it made Hopper relevant again, it introduced the world to Sandra Bullock and it allowed Reeves to be seen in a new light. Yet there is not one speaking part in that film that isn’t memorable. That gun wielding latino “Stop the busss!”, the aw shucks tourist “We’re at the airport…I’ve already been to the airport.”, the lady with the G-string coming out of the elevator, the elderly African American couple weeping “The baby.” just before that incredible jump. I could fill out the rest of the year in this series of posts with actors from Speed. I’m half tempted to, but on initial viewing there was one guy who we all strode out of the cinema talking about-the black guy who’s car gets commandeered.

Credited as Jaguar Owner Glenn Plummer is still listed seventh on the cast listing at IMDB. An ordinary man finding himself in the extraordinary situation of flying down the LA Freeway after a commuter bus that has a bomb on it. I look back now and wonder how this played to African American audiences to see a black man in an expensive vehicle have his car commandeered at gunpoint by a white police officer (Keanu Reeves’s Jack Traven) who then proceeds to wreck said vehicle and put both of their lives in danger. Related imageAt the time this was standard behaviour for film action heroes to pull guns when civilians black or white did not play nice with them. Now I wonder if Plummer’s performance is a little over the top, at the time African Americans were featuring more and more in films and to Australian audiences any unique ways they spoke were lively and fresh and exciting to see. Bad Boys come out a couple of years later and the banter between Martin Lawrence and Will Smith was riveting because we weren’t used to seeing this in mainstream American films. Now two decades later I wonder if Glenn Plummer was encouraged to ham it up but I like to think he maintained his dignity. Related imageThe characters always plays as real to the situation, the off hand way he says “Take the phone.” after losing his car door feels right but you know a white guy wouldn’t say it the same way and that’s kind of the point. Well I guess it will be interesting to hear what you think but I thoroughly enjoyed  Glenn Plummer’s performance as Jaguar Owner and it seems I wasn’t the only one.

They made a point of having his character now named Maurice appear in a similar manner in the sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) courtesy of an amazingly ridiculous coincidence and he got some high profile roles directly after Speed in Showgirls (1995), Up Close & Personal (1996). More recently Glenn Plummer had roles in The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Saw II (2005), Sons of Anarchy (2008) and Suits (2016).

He has also branched out into other jobs co-writing, producing and directing in 2006 VooDoo Curse: The Giddeh (2006) and the upcoming Charlie Charlie (2017).

Some people will remember him in his early work in Menace II Society (1993) and his break out role in South Central (1992). Others know him from his recent television work. Yet if you’ve seen Speed it’s doubtful you’ll not remember him in that. He took a small thankless role and sold every line, every joke, every reaction and I hope to see him again soon holding my full attention with his incredible talent.

-Lloyd Marken

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HOW WOULD YOU DO THE OSCARS?

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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

LA LA LAND: A MODERN MUSICAL

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La La Land comes advertised as a joyous throwback to romantic musicals of olden days but while looking to the past for inspiration it should be more fairly recognised for being a much more ambitious modern taken on those old films. Critically acclaimed and award winning you can already sense the backlash mounting from cynical minds ready to pick at its flaws. In hindsight it may be obvious to note that a steadicam take in a musical would be neat or that CGI could open up the possibilities of old musical numbers. Just because the ingredients were there all along doesn’t change the fact that it took a smart chef to make a tasty new dish. A classic that may not endure in the years to come it will remain for fans of a certain age a heartbreaking ode to romance when ironically it’s real theme is about ambition.

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The film opens up on the disused freeway ramp where parts of Speed were shot with an impromptu dance number by many stuck in LA traffic with a one take tracking shot over several vehicles and choreographed dancers. It’s kinda awesome but has little to do with what the rest of the film will be about. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are both stuck in the traffic and have an altercation signposting immediately for us that they will fall in love. He is a down on his luck bar musician with a deep abiding love for jazz. She’s a beautiful young woman auditioning for roles in Hollywood, so you know a barista on a film lot. Both have respect for art forms of the past and dreams to bring something forth of their own artistic merit into the present. Slowly they keep running into each other and romance blossoms but dreams are hard to pursue in Hollywood where many dreams have come to die. Will their love give each other resilience and support or will it too be broken by the disappointment that can come from not realising your dreams?

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This is the third onscreen pairing of Gosling and Stone who have an easy chemistry and benefit from the film history they’ve already established for themselves. It’s interesting to note neither were originally intended for their parts and yet are kind of perfect. Gosling gets a bad rap for being too handsome and too cool but I feel he invests most of his characters with deep passion always subverting the coolness his characters want to exude. Think the visible shaking of the Driver holding the hammer over his assailant or financial trader Jared Vennett exclaiming I’m jacked to the tits down the phone line.

Stone who is beautiful in that cute girl next door way always belies some smarts in her characters. Think of the love interests she played in Amazing Spider-Man or Superbad who always seemed to know more than what the lead male characters did. With little subtle choices here she shows her character knows how impossible her dreams are and what costs choices have in our lives. There are a lot of scenes here where Stone says a lot with her eyes more than her words and it can be devastating. In a year of so many wonderful female performances that were broad, strong and nuanced, it is these subtleties that will mean there is no injustice if she takes home Oscar at the end of the month.

The style of the film changes tonally throughout, the meet cutes at the beginning amuse, as the romance blossoms we’re treated to exciting musical numbers where our leads literally float through the air and then as the relationship develops and is called on to face challenges the numbers disappear and a regular Ryan Gosling indie hit appears. It says something about all involved that the transition to a late dinner argument feels authentic and seamless. These later scenes and outcomes may feel out of place with how the film was sold but sadness does give stories depth when done honestly.

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The production of this film is perfect, LA is rendered with love in all its beauty, the flat vista spreads out before us, our characters attend parties at houses on hills with swimming pools no regular schmo could afford, the sun brightens every day and every night is moonlit. This is a beautifully, lit and shot film by cinematographer Linus Sandgren, quite possibly the best of the year. The choreography of the dances are beautiful but also human and heartfelt without the polished sharpness of professionals. Barring the finale which hits you with a flurry of emotion, the stand out sequence may be Stone and Gosling dancing around each other on a hill at sunset looking for their cars but really dancing around each other metaphorically and literally. Whether the sunset was CGI enhanced I don’t know, it has the controlled look of a studio set with the natural power of outdoor shooting. For a musical there is the one stand out song of City of Stars with only a couple more, don’t look for several new tracks to fall in love with but the music in it by Justin Hurwitz is enjoyable. Damien Chazelle’s direction is confident on his second feature film giving equal care to capturing the way our bodies slowly reach out during a first kiss right through to the big production numbers. Dreaming lovers walk the streets of 2016 Los Angeles thanks to his vision.

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For those that have gone to Hollywood to be an actress or open up a jazz bar I salute you. Especially if you have failed. Taking your shot should matter, so few of us do and you did it. La La Land is a movie for you and for the million like you because even though you failed where the hell would we be if there weren’t dreamers like you. La La Land understands those dreams and those dreamers but it also understands the cost of it. A cliché in a Hollywood film is a darkly lit corner at the back of jazz bar where a washed up saloon singer sings about lost love in such a way that you feel he’s lived the story of that song. We look at his strained face; we hear his rising voice, feel the pounding of those piano keys. We don’t feel it, we know he’s lived that song’s story and La La Land the movie knows it too and sings it like never before.

-Lloyd Marken