Monthly Archives: February 2017

15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Mona Lisa”

Sometimes one great song is the lone claim to fame for an otherwise forgotten movie, and we can only hope that the Academy will successfully identify these diamonds of musical inspiration which are hidden in arguably unlikely places. Of course public attention to a song can often do the job for them. This was certainly part of the case in 1950 when Nat “King” Cole’s recording of the Ray Evans/Jay Livingston tune “Mona Lisa” topped the charts throughout the month of August despite getting little to no promotional boost from the movie it appeared in. Captain Carey U.S.A. was an inconsequential film based on a written serial about an American played by Alan Ladd who returns to Italy to help bring a traitor to justice. It wasn’t one of the top ten box office hits of the year and “Mona Lisa” appears to have been the only awards attention it received. Classics such as All About Eve, Born Yesterday, Sunset Boulevard, Walt Disney’s Cinderella, The Third Man, and Father of the Bride dominated both the box office and the Oscars that year (the eventual divorce in tastes between the movie-going public and the Academy is a subject for another day perhaps). Either way, we can thank Captain Carey U.S.A. for getting this great song to the Oscars stage.
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Best Actress Oscar Nominees (89th Academy Awards)


While there have definitely been years in which the Academy appeared to be having trouble filling out this category, this was definitely not one of them. Probably the most talked-about exclusion of the Oscar year was Amy Adams’ lead performance in Arrival, which managed to grab eight other nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and in several technical categories without likewise honoring Adams. It has been suggested that perhaps she split the vote with her equally fine work in Tom Ford’s entrancing Nocturnal Animals. Still more onlookers favored Annette Bening’s turn in 20th Century Women or Taraji P Henson as mathematician Katherine Goble Johnson in Hidden Figures. Clearly none of these women would have looked out of place on the final list of nominees. This is a good sign for actresses in general, but maybe not a great one for those hoping to take home an Oscar. The competition appears to be getting even more fierce.

That could also be demonstrated by how much trouble I had deciding on my own rankings in this category.
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February 23: Happy Birthday Robert Lopez and Kelly Macdonald


Songwriter Robert Lopez is turning 42 today.  He began writing songs as a child and wrote two musicals during his studies at Yale.  After graduation, he teamed with another songwriter, Jeff Marx, on a musical called Avenue Q.  An innovative musical which featured Sesame Street style puppets interacting with human characters, Avenue Q ran for over 2500 performances on Broadway and won three Tonys including Best Musical and Best Musical Score.

In 2003, Lopez was approached by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, of South Park fame, who had seen Avenue Q and had the beginnings of an idea for a musical.  It took the threesome seven years of development, but in 2011, the musical The Book of Mormon premiered on Broadway.  It went on to win nine Tonys, including two that Lopez personally shared in, Best Book and Best Original Score.  The original cast album also won a Grammy.

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JFK Filmography “Dead Again and Again”

Costner - JFK

Today’s Movieline article is a silly one from the February 1992 issue.  The gag is that the author imagines alternate versions of Oliver Stone’s JFK by other famous directors including Martin Scorsese, Susan Seidelman and David Lynch.

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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Call Me Irresponsible”

Yeah, I know, you thought this was primarily a Frank Sinatra tune. Well that certainly is the most famous recording of “Call Me Irresponsible,” because face it, if you had your choice as a record company would you want to be selling a recording of Jackie Gleason singing drunk or something by Frank? Even if he was in a mild slump at the time. As it turns out, the song was actually only a charting hit for a singer named Jack Jones who most of us probably know best for singing the theme to the Love Boat television show (damn, I’ve got that stuck in my head now).
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The 2017 Best Costume Design Nominees


Hello again! I’m Allison, and I love writing and costuming. So I’m thrilled to be back on Le Blog for a second year of discussing the Oscar nominations for Best Costume Design, especially as I recently wrapped my consistent blogging project, Lizzie McGuire Reviewed.

We’ve got an interesting crop of films this year. They’re almost all period pieces (with the exception of La La Land, which wants to be) and none are particularly over-the-top; we certainly don’t see any costuming as downright bonkers as last year’s winner, Mad Max: Fury Road, but this year’s list also lacks the bright, fantastical design of Disney flicks like Cinderella or Alice in Wonderland that usually appear in this category. Most critics are calling a toss-up between Jackie and  La La Land for the award. I’d be fine with the former. We’ll….get into the latter.

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February 22: Happy Birthday Drew Barrymore and Lea Salonga


Drew Barrymore turns 42 today.  The granddaughter of John Barrymore, she became famous in her own right at a very young age for playing Gertie in E.T. and then starring in Irreconcilable Differences.  But her childhood was far from idyllic—google “Drew Barrymore” along with “rehab” and you’ll probably learn more than you wanted to.

In the early nineties she began working regularly in film, although often in films that weren’t very well-received by either critics or audiences.  1996 was a bit of a turning point, as she appeared in Woody Allen’s ensemble film Everyone Says I Love You and was memorably terrified in the opening scene of Scream.  Two years later she starred in a pair of financially successful films that showed she had a talent for romance, The Wedding Singer, her first film with Adam Sandler, and a somewhat revisionist take on a classic fairy tale:

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Accents Will Happen

kilmer- ghost and the darkness

Joe Queenan had a long history of ranting on various entertainment related subjects within the pages of Movieline magazine.  Something he did less frequently was to change his mind on a subject.  We have a rare case of the writer doing so here.  Ten years after Queenan wrote a screed about bad Hollywood accents, he came back with a retraction of sorts.  In the December 2001 issue of the magazine, Queenan professed his newfound love of ridiculous accents.

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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah”

They run the risk of wearing out their welcome with that reprise don’t they? To my ears the Walt Disney Choir drops in about one chorus too late. Ah well, no matter. This is the sort of ear worm that can survive some mild over-reach.

Let’s address the seventy-year-old elephant in the room, shall we? Song of the South is a pretty complicated chapter in the history of the Disney company that has gone through an ebb and flow in critical and public estimation. Walt himself knew that he was treading on tricky ground with any film that was even adjacent to discussing race relations. He hired a Jewish “lefty” writer to try to balance out the tone and characterizations in the film. He hired the only African-American actress to ever win an Oscar. He hired a legendary cinematographer. He consulted with the marketing team of another racially sensitive film. He organized a meeting with the President of the NAACP for script revisions.

So what happened?
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Best Supporting Actor Nominees (89th Academy Awards)


I consistently find the Best Supporting Actor category to be the most interesting and competitive group just about any Oscars night. Perhaps that’s because a high percentage of my own work in theatre has been done in supporting roles, but it’s also true that there are naturally more supporting roles available over the course of a year in film which tends to lead to more variety. This time we’ve got a couple of eccentric lawmen, an uncertain father figure, a son dealing with his father’s death, and another trying to find his way back home. Past winners in this category have included luminaries such as Karl Malden, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Christopher Plummer. There have also been a bunch of guys you haven’t heard from since. Will this year’s winner fit into one of these categories? Join me below and we’ll discuss.
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Best Actress Bracket Game Winner!


It may not be the most surprising outcome, but I doubt anyone will object to strongly to the readers’ decision to crown Meryl Streep as their favorite Best Actress winner.  Streep has been a presence at the Oscars since the late seventies.  She has remained relevant for decades.  Over that time, she has continually showed new sides of herself.  Originally, Streep was pigeon-holed as the actress who does accents.  So she stretched out into comedy and even action movies.  Just when audiences thought they had seen all Streep had to offer, she branched out into musicals.  There doesn’t seem to be anything Meryl Streep can’t do.

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February 21: Happy Birthday Kelsey Grammer and Sam Peckinpah


Five-time Emmy winner Kelsey Grammer is turning 62 today.  After studying at Juilliard, he began working in theater and made his Broadway debut in 1981 in a revival of Macbeth—initially in a supporting part but eventually moving up to the title role.  He began working in television and soon landed the role of Dr. Frasier Crane on Cheers, joining the show’s cast in its third season and becoming a regular a couple of seasons later.  He received two nominations for Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor during his time on the show.

When Cheers ended its run, Grammer was asked to continue playing his character on a spinoff series.  Frasier ended up being one of the most successful spinoffs in television history, and Grammer won four Primetime Emmys (out of ten nominations) for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy.

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Before Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry was a better-than-average model-turned actress who spent more than her fair share of time on the covers of tabloids thanks to her failed celebrity marriage.  That changed when she became the first (and to date only) actress of color to win an Academy Award for Best Actress.  In this interview from the December 2001 issue of Movieline magazine, Lawrence Grobel asks Berry about her marriage to David Justice, her hit-and-run car accident and why she chose to go topless for Swordfish.

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