Category Archives: Analysis

Oscars: How Important is Best Picture?

How meaningful is a Best Picture Oscar in the grand scheme of things? Well, obviously that’s going to depend on the point of view of each individual person considering the question. For the purposes of this article we’re going to assume that it’s a pretty big deal within the context of the awards themselves, but we’re going to have a look at the history of voting patterns in relation to other Oscars given out each year, its importance within the film business, and how these relate to long term relevance.

Let’s see how much I can find to say on this subject, shall we?
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Vertigo

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

As a puzzle focused on movie posters, some of the chosen films or versions of their posters featured on it are not necessarily top notch. None of this can be said about the amazing poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic psychological thriller, Vertigo. The great designer Saul Bass produced a wide array of promotional images for this Hitchcock masterpiece, but the above one sheet version has become one of the most famous and striking posters in film history.

However, Vertigo is much more than a great marketing campaign. The film was worked on by some of the legends of the art form, and it shows. Although the movie’s reputation had gained steadily over the years as film lovers continued to see it over and over, a dramatic million dollar restoration and re-release of Vertigo in 1996 allowed even larger numbers of people to fully appreciate the beauty of Hitchcock and company’s work on it. Despite mixed reviews on its initial release in 1958, it has become one of the standard members of any compiled list of the finest films ever made, and actually replaced the legendary Citizen Kane at the top of Sight & Sound’s 2012 critics list.

Join me below, and we’ll discuss this amazing poster and film. Oh, by the way, there will be enormous spoilers for the movie after the break, so if you haven’t seen Vertigo yet I’d recommend you go take care of that momentous lapse in judgement first and then come back and finish reading this article.
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Daffy & Lebeau (sing it)

The big movie release of this past weekend, if I can believe the hype I’ve seen and the strong crowds I experienced, was the live action adaptation of the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast. The 1991 animated musical production is one of the most beloved in the Disney canon, winning Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, and becoming the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. The affection and nostalgia still attached to the animated film have made this year’s adaptation perhaps the most hotly anticipated live action Disney film of the past decade.

Join Lebeau and me as we discuss our own histories with the story and our reactions to the new film. There are mild spoilers here, but if you’ve seen the previous Disney film, the general story shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
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Daffy Stardust takes on Haunted Mansion theories


It’s just a few days after Christmas, so obviously the natural thing to do is to compose another post about Disney’s Haunted Mansion. The topics I’m going to cover here were touched on a bit in last year’s tour of the Walt Disney World version of the Mansion, but since I’m still finding these fan theories lingering I thought I’d talk about them in a little more detail than before. I’ll be asking three central questions, with a little bit of crossover. Who is Master Gracey? Is he the Ghost Host? Do you die on the ride? Some fans will give you a “yes” to those last two questions, but I’m not so sure. Let’s take a look, shall we?
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Snowpiercer: What Does It Mean?

snowpiercer poster

The other day, I wrote a pretty bare-bones review of the Korean science fiction movie, Snowpiercer.  Partially, I was trying to shield readers from spoilers.  But I was also still processing the complicated messages of the movie.  Over the last week, the movie has stuck with me in a way few movies do.  So the purpose of this article is to analyze what is going on beneath the surface of the action movie.

To do that, I am going to have to get deep into spoilers.  So if you haven’t seen Snowpiercer, turn back now.

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“The Best Comedy of the Year!” 1960’s

Based on how long it has taken me to do the necessary research for this, my final decade-based installment about how many “great” comedies can reasonably be expected in any given year, it would be easy to assume that the concept of comedy as generational is a winner. Well…maybe. But that would ignore the fact that I have identified here several truly great film comedies which to my eyes and ears hold up no matter what age you are. Some others may depend a little more on your own context and tastes. There certainly are some comedies I have subjected myself to which have aged badly. Not even Lee Marvin and Lee J Cobb could keep my attention on In Like Flint, and if The Ladies Man really is among the best Jerry Lewis has to offer, then I’m really glad I didn’t see one of his “stinkers.” Even some of the really good movies are prisoners of the age, incorporating mildly painful pop culture references and jokes which don’t always land so many years later. Still more perfectly good films like The Graduate, Alfie, and Never on Sunday mysteriously get listed in various places as comedies, when they are clearly dramas.

But these articles are supposed to be more about the movies I do like…so let’s try to focus on those.
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12 Angry Movies

                                “Okay, who’s been in some other movies?”

In January of last year, I set out to write profiles for a dozen remarkable actors.  Researching and sharing my thoughts about the cast of one of my favorite films, the Reginald Rose/Sidney Lumet/Henry Fonda jury room drama 12 Angry Men was a very rewarding experience. So when I finally posted my article about Juror #12, played by Robert Webber, I decided not to let the project go just yet. Okay, so that was more than six months ago. Life (and an as-yet unabated obsession with the Simpsons “Tapped Out” game) can get in the way.

One of the great pleasures of the 12 Angry Men project has been catching up on some of the films these men have performed in over their careers which I had not seen yet. But while there have been plenty of hits, there have also been several misses. What I’d like to do is to narrow down the offhanded recommendations I made over the course of the previous 12 articles into 12 recommended films which include appearances by jurors 1 through 12.

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“The Best Comedy of the Year!” 1980’s

The first two posts of this series took us back through cinematic humor from today’s genre confusion and obsession with idiots and into the 1990’s which featured a greater proliferation of quality comedy writing and the unfortunate origins of some of today’s most disappointing trends. Now I step into Reagan era comedy with both anticipation and trepidation.

The years 1980-1989 contain both the end of my childhood and the entirety of my teenage years. This means that for more than half of the decade, I did not get to choose which films I got to see at the movie theater. Also, the 1980’s featured the explosion of home entertainment options, but this didn’t really get going for my family until about 1987. So while I saw each of my yearly selections from 1986-1989 on the big screen, the rest of these, I’ve had to catch up with on video or cable and only some of that happened during the 80’s.

My opinions of big screen comedy may be inexorably tied to my own development through this era as my expectations were first established and then subverted. Nobody experiences everything in exactly the same way. But I’m going to keep hold of some of my opinions here with all 32 teeth.

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“The Best Comedy of the Year!” 2000’s

The television commercial for the new Jason Bateman/Melissa McCarthy movie Identity Thief makes the claim that it is “the first great comedy of the year!” Now I haven’t seen Identity Thief, so I have no personal experience to be able to refute this claim. Both Bateman and McCarthy are charming performers who have been funny in other stuff. So maybe that claim is fully reasonable. But somehow I doubt it.

This got me to thinking. How many “great” comedies are the producers of Identity Thief expecting to be released this year? Based on the history of modern English-speaking film, how many “great” comedies could reasonably be expected to hit screens in a single calendar year? Now, clearly this is a question without a definitive answer. What constitutes a great comedy will be very different from person to person. What I have decided to do is to look at film comedies from each year and select the best for each. At times I will also give my overall impression of the year in movie mirth. This first installment will cover the years 2000-2011, with future posts reflecting each decade. Right now, I expect to do five posts, with the last one covering the 1960s and 1959. If you can’t figure out why I would shoehorn 1959 in, keep reading and all will be revealed.

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Analysis: The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is a fanboy’s dream.  While it can be enjoyed on the level of a simple horror story, it works best if you scratch below the surface.  It is really intended as a commentary on the state of the horror genre at the time the script was written.  Due to the film’s troubled road to the screen, its release was delayed for several years.  It was originally written as a response to “torture porn” horror.  Fortunately, Whedon and Goddard didn’t tie themselves to the flavor of the moment.  So Cabin still feels fresh if not quite as timely today.

As with my review of the film, this scene-by-scene analysis is loaded with spoilers.  I recommend that you watch the movie before reading this article.  It will be worth it.

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