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December 1: Happy Birthday Emily Mortimer and Zoë Kravitz


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Today is Emily Mortimer’s 46th birthday.  Her father was Sir John Mortimer, a British barrister who also created the television series Rumpole of the Bailey.  She began performing in plays while studying at Oxford, and began working in British television in 1994.  She made her feature film debut in The Ghost and the Darkness.  As the century turned, she had some more significant supporting roles in films like Scream 3, Kenneth Branagh’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Formula 51.

Mortimer has, for the most part, been a supporting actress or a part of ensemble casts, but she has kept busy for nearly two decades.  She has had major roles in Woody Allen’s Match Point, in the two Pink Panther reboot films starring Steve Martin, in Lars and the Real Girl, and in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island and Hugo.  Every so often she gets a chance at a lead role, as in Brad Anderson’s thriller Transsiberian or the upcoming drama The Bookshop.  Next year she will play Jane Banks in Mary Poppins Returns.

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December 1: Happy Birthday Woody Allen and Bette Midler


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Our two headliners for today starred together in Paul Mazursky’s Scenes from a Mall.

Woody Allen is turning 81 today.  He began working as television writer while just out of his teens, writing for a number of comedy shows, most notably for Sid Caesar.  He was a prominent stand-up comedian of the 1960s, and also began writing plays, including Play It Again, Sam, which starred Allen and Diane Keaton when it ran on Broadway and again in a film remake.

By the early 1970s, Allen was establishing himself as a film director.  Early slapstick comedies evolved into movies which, while still comic, had a more serious, sophisticated tone.  When the 1978 Oscar ceremony arrived, teenage moviegoers who had yet to discover a cinema world beyond popcorn movies were astonished that the Best Picture winner for the previous year was not Star Wars:

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Movieline Cover Gallery 1985-1988

Woody Allen: Whine, Women and Song


Crimes and Misdemeanors

Sometimes, it’s tough to be a Woody Allen fan.  I don’t think I need to explain why.  While there doesn’t seem to be any hard proof that the director has ever done anything illegal, he’s spent several decades making people uncomfortable with his personal choices.  For a fan like myself, I find it best to ignore Allen’s personal life and concentrate on the movies.

That was easier to do twenty-five years ago when no one had ever heard of Soon Yi.  But even then, fans had something to gripe about.  Allen has been an amazingly prolific filmmaker for several decades now.  But after an initial burst of really funny comedies, he settled into a slump that lasted most of the eighties.  Allen eschewed comedy for drama and his fans protested.

The always controversial and sometimes insightful Joe Queenan took Allen to task in the May 1991 issue of Movieline magazine back in the days when the worst thing you could say about the director was that his old movies were funnier.

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Movies of 1986 Bracket Game!: Platoon vs Hannah and Her Sisters


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As a part of our welcome to the new year, we here at Lebeau’s LeBlog are going to spend the next couple of weeks looking back thirty years and discussing the best that 1986 had to offer. We hope you readers will help us select your favorite movie from the year that gave us “that’s What Friends are For” and “Hands Across America.” You will notice that two of the biggest box office hits of the year, Top Gun and “Crocodile” Dundee, are missing from our bracket. Lebeau and I consulted on this and agreed that we both liked the included films better than either of those hits. If you disagree, please leave a comment and let us know why. Maybe you’ll win us over by serenading us with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,”…but I doubt it. Either way, take a look at the bracket we’ve created and help us vote the best movies into the next round!
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Personal Musings: Joss Whedon, Government Shutdowns and the Golden Age Fallacy


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I think we’re actually becoming stupider and more petty. I think we have one shot—and that’s education, and that’s being defunded along with all the social services. What’s going on in this country, and many countries, is beyond depressing. It’s terrifying.

Joss Whedon, director/pop culture icon

Recently, Joss Whedon gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly to promote his new TV show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  The in-depth interview covers all the topics you would expect from the guy who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer and cult classics, Firefly and Dr, Horrible’s Sing-along Blog.  As always, Whedon is clever, witty and insightful.  But the interview ends on a really down note.  Whedon makes the above statement that people are getting more stupid and petty.  And then he goes on to explain that he has no hope for humanity.

What’s going on in this country, and many countries, is beyond depressing. It’s terrifying. Sometimes I have to remember who I’m talking to. I’ll say something about climate change, how terrible things are, and meaningless, and the world is headed toward destruction and war and apocalypse. And at one point my daughter goes, “Hey! I’m 8!” She doesn’t want to hear that stuff. But I can’t believe anybody thinks we’re actually going to make it before we destroy the planet. I honestly think it’s inevitable. I have no hope.

I have been a fan of Whedon’s since the early days.  And I agree with a lot of the points he’s making here about our current social ills.  But his tone veers off into a personal pet peeve of mine, The Golden Age Fallacy.

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“The Best Comedy of the Year!” 1990s


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As I indicated in my previous post and in the comments section that came with it, I went into this project fully expecting to prefer the film comedies I would have to choose from as I moved back into my younger days. Is this a bias based on personal tastes? Is it a generational bias that we would see repeated reliably if we polled thousands of people of different ages? Or are there really certain eras for different art forms that are simply of a higher quality than others?

As we roll back into my young adulthood in the 1990s, my guess is that it’s a little bit of all of the above.
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