68 posts categorized "Academy Awards"

12 October 2017

The thrill of the (Harbor) Chase

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Making Movie Memories with (from left) Bridgette, Lisa and Glenda from HarborChase of the Park Cities.

I was humbled to be asked by Bridgette Walshe, executive director of HarborChase of the Park Cities, to present my "Life Lessons I've Learned at the Movies" Movie Memories presentation Tuesday afternoon at the historic Highland Park Village Theater in the trendy Park Cities area of Dallas near the George W. Bush Presidential Center and Southern Methodist University.

It's always a little special when I speak about the magic of the movies and my adventures interviewing internationally famous movie stars like Tom Hanks and Shirley MacLaine (just to namedrop a couple) and see the presentation spring to life on a huge movie theater screen.

Continue reading "The thrill of the (Harbor) Chase" »

05 September 2017

Who's your 'Mother!'

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Jennifer Lawrence as the title character in "Mother!" (Courtesy: geektyrant.com)

Generally speaking, horror-thrillers come and go these days without much interest from this aisle seat.

Until now.

Mother!, written and directed by Oscar-nominated Darren Aronofsky, is the exception.  Simply put, Aronofsky, whose Academy Award nomination came for calling the shots and putting Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis on their toes as driven ballet dancers in  Black Swan (2010), knows how to creep us out.

Continue reading "Who's your 'Mother!'" »

21 August 2017

R.I.P. -- Bob Polunsky

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Bob Polunsky (Courtesy: www.pinterest.com)

As far as I know, longtime San Antonio film critic Bob Polunsky was never a "Robert."

Bob, who died at 85 this week in San Antonio, Texas, was just Bob, a kindred spirit in the love and appreciation of any film really worth watching.  He was also never shy about condemning a flawed movie for its shortcomings in a Bob Polunsky style dubbed "Flicker Footnotes."  Bob's reviews were direct and sometimes ruthless but always honest.

Bob was well established as The Guy when it came to film criticism in San Antonio when I arrived in 1983.  Bob wrote for the Express-News daily newspaper.  After a year of general entertainment reporting at the other daily newspaper in town, the now-dark San Antonio Light, I became "that other film critic in town."

Continue reading "R.I.P. -- Bob Polunsky" »

08 August 2017

Post-'Graduate' Hoffman is how old?

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Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman and friend. (Courtesy: jewishcurrents.org)

Dustin Hoffman, one of my favorite actors and, I might add, interview subjects, turns 80 today.

'Scuse me, Mr. Father Time, but how can that be?

There's no denying it, though.  There it is in black-and-white (not to mention blue for linked words):  Dustin Lee Hoffman, born in Los Angeles on Aug. 8, 1937.

Continue reading "Post-'Graduate' Hoffman is how old?" »

16 May 2017

You must, you will remember this

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Bottled-up sorrow: Rick (Humphrey Bogart) drowning in despair. (Courtesy: www.google.com)

I don't remember the first time I saw Casablanca, the mesmerizing romantic World War II drama classic starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid, but I remember the best.

It was in the mid-1970s.  If you wanted to see a movie back then you pretty much had to go to a movie house.  There was no Internet.  No cellphones.  No movies on demand on your Wi-Fi-connected TV.  Social media in a time that now seems locked in a galaxy far, far away meant chatting about a movie on the way home.

Continue reading "You must, you will remember this" »

12 April 2017

Cinematic genealogy: Popcorn in the family tree

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Courtesy: google.com

I have very little interest in scampering out and back on every branch of the family tree to discover if I might be a direct descendant of royalty, a great writer from centuries past or, gasp!, rodents (the name Ratliff, you see).  I'm much more interested in getting to the root of my love and appreciation for movies.

It's deep-seated, but where did it come from?

I only have to look back one generation to find out all I need to know.  My mom and dad both loved movies.  I can remember my dad telling the story (over and over, actually) about falling asleep in the Hico (Texas) Theater and waking up in the dark to two startling discoveries:  The movie had ended some time ago and everyone was long gone and that he was locked in.

Continue reading "Cinematic genealogy: Popcorn in the family tree" »

19 March 2017

'Beauty' and the bean counters

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Belle (Emma Watson) and the Beast (Dan Stevens) trip the candlelight fantastic. (Courtesy: www.digitalspy.com)

We probably shouldn't scold the Disney Studio or its bean counters too severely for rolling out a live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, the Mouse House's animated golden oldie that swept up a boffo $425 million worldwide in 1991.

Disney has been raiding its own vault of animated treasures for years; Alice in Wonderland (2010), Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016) with Dumbo and Mulan on the way next year.  That, folks, is why they call it show business with the emphasis clearly on the second word.

Continue reading "'Beauty' and the bean counters" »

27 February 2017

And the Oscar goes to ... chaos!

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Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty fumble through the not-so-grand Oscar finale. (Courtesy: www.google.com)

See, this is what happens when you trust Bonnie and Clyde to hand out the Best Picture award at the Academy Awards.

The only thing I can think of that would have been more bizarre would be if Warren Beatty, looking totally confused and lost (for good reason, it turns out) had said, "We're Bonnie and Clyde.  We rob ballots!"

In case you missed it, the 89th Academy Awards telecast was putt-putting along fairly smoothly Sunday night until, of all things, the all-important finale.

Continue reading "And the Oscar goes to ... chaos!" »

01 February 2017

Founders keepers? Not so fast McDonald's

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Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc in "The Founder" (Courtesy: IMDB.com)

Do you want lies with that?

You'll get plenty -- supersized, in fact -- in the compelling Ray Kroc biopic The Founder.

Michael Keaton shines as brightly as McDonald's iconic golden arches in this blistering tale of deceit, egomania and franchised burgers.

Let's put it this way.  When it comes to how McDonald's erupted into a worldwide empire from humble beginnings in California, the secrets weren't just in the sauce.

Continue reading "Founders keepers? Not so fast McDonald's" »

28 October 2016

Coming attraction: The Movie Memories Film Fest

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"Young @ Heart" (Courtesy: imdb.com)

Remember movies?

You know, the good ones.

The ones that moved you so much that you didn't just suggest to friends and family that they go see them, but the ones so good you actually gathered up a carload and took them to the movie house yourself just to see the look on their faces when something that can only be described as magical unfolded on screen.

Continue reading "Coming attraction: The Movie Memories Film Fest" »

16 September 2016

Blood, guts and, uh, bluegrass?

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Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in "Bonnie and Clyde." (Courtesy: google.com)

I was honored to speak to a group in Dallas last week about movies shot in and around Dallas.

I always come away from The Movie Memories presentation "Lights, Camera, Dallas!" with the music from Bonnie and Clyde bouncing around in my head.  Arthur Penn's 1967 action-crime thriller showcased Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the notorious outlaw duo that terrorized North Texas and surrounding states in the early 1930s.

Continue reading "Blood, guts and, uh, bluegrass?" »

04 August 2016

Jones: A career reborn in 'Bourne'

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Tommy Lee Jones in "Jason Bourne." (Courtesy: www.google.com)

It's good to see Tommy Lee Jones back on the big screen in a big way in Jason Bourne.

San Antonio's resident Academy Award winner (The Fugitive, 1993) stars opposite Matt Damon's title character as CIA Director Robert Dewey in the fifth installment of the Bourne action-spy-thrillers.

Continue reading "Jones: A career reborn in 'Bourne'" »

01 July 2016

Flags of our great grandfathers and grandmothers

Yankee330rI make no apologies for star-spangled banter when it comes to Independence Day.

So, proudly fly the U.S. flag, thump an ice-cold watermelon, crank some homemade ice cream and get the family together, it's the Fourth of July weekend, time to celebrate this great country of ours.

Continue reading "Flags of our great grandfathers and grandmothers" »

13 May 2016

Cannes 2016: Woody, could he, did he?

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Kristen Stewart, left, Woody Allen and Blake Lively draw quite a crowd at the Cannes Film Festival. (Courtesy: www.wsfa.com)

After more than 35 years sitting down with world-famous movie actors, you know, cinematic royalty, if you will, people often ask me if I am nervous or awed in their presence.

Absolutely not!  Except twice.

Continue reading "Cannes 2016: Woody, could he, did he?" »

28 March 2016

Screen Gems: All sweaty on the Western front

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Gary Cooper goes it alone in "High Noon." (Courtesy: loopedblog.com)

Have you ever put out the call for a little help and nobody showed up; maybe for a move or some heavy lifting?

Imagine how Gary Cooper's stone-faced Marshal Will Kane felt in the classic 1952 Western High Noon?

Call it the other Kane mutiny in the history of classic movies.

Continue reading "Screen Gems: All sweaty on the Western front" »

12 January 2016

Joy and 'Joy,' my review, to the world

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Jennifer Lawrence takes aim at becoming a successful entrepreneur in "Joy." (Google.com)

A quick note about joy, that inner-tingling feeling of delight, and Joy, the award-winning movie.

It is my pleasure to inform anyone who doesn't already know that The Senior Voice is now a dual North Texas publication serving both Dallas and Fort Worth with separate issues.

That makes the circulation of Carol Butler's soon-to-be-monthly brainchild to bring news, features and other articles of interest to seniors and those who deal with that special section of the population to a whopping 100,000.

It's an exciting new year for Carol and the staff, which includes this semi-humble scribe as the film columnist/critic.

The (soon-to-be) monthly format will allow more access to timely movie releases.  We'll start the film review party with Joy, which earned Jennifer Lawrence, its star, a Golden Globe award as best performance by an actress in a motion picture - comedy or musical Sunday night in Los Angeles.

My review begins thusly:

Watching Joy, the mesmerizing dysfunctional family drama-with-comedy starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, this thought kept running through my mind:

“Is there anything Jennifer Lawrence can’t do?”

Click here to read my full Joy review.  And, while you're on the Senior Voice website, take a little time to look around at a new major player in North Texas media.

   

04 January 2016

Close encounters of the Vilmos kind

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Courtesy: est.hu

The first time a cinematographer truly rocked my cinematic soul was November 1977.

Steven Spielberg's wonder-filled sci-fi adventure Close Encounters of the Third Kind transfixed many of us to the screen with possibilities that we are not alone in the vastness of space.  John Williams' five-tone symphonic magnificence brought much to the party, of course, as did director Spielberg.

It wasn't until that afternoon at the movies in 1977, however, that I fully appreciated the contribution a gifted cinematographer adds to the movie magic.  I can still remember my insides rattling with the ferocity of those vibrating mailboxes that Richard Dreyfuss, portraying a soon-to-be-befuddled lineman for the county, was experiencing with a mixture of wide-eyed fear and curiosity.

Those unforgettable images in Close Encounters came from the creativity of master cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who died January 1 at 85, according to published reports.

The Hungary native hop-scotched in and around San Antonio to shoot Spielberg's breakout film, The Sugarland Express, in 1974.  My Zsigmond favorites, in addition to Close Encounters, include The Deer Hunter (1978), Deliverance (1972) and, especially, The Rose, showcasing Bette Midler channeling Janis Joplin in 1979.

According to Zsigmond's obit posted on the Hollywood Reporter website, the master behind the camera, who took home home his only Academy Award for Close Encounters "was taught in the European style of cinematography with particular appreciation for light gradations and color tone.

"Zsigmond’s work was noted for its use of natural light and often subdued palette, as visible in such films as McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971). To attain this look, he utilized a photographic technique known as 'flashing,' exposing the negative to a small amount of light before lensing. The procedure would ultimately mute the colors," the Hollywood Reporter post stated.

Let me just add this.  Vilos Zsigmond shot film, baby, when shooting film -- celluloid, not that digital stuff we see today -- was not only cool, but truly magical.

Rest in peace, Vilmos, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of movie fans around the world will not soon forget your spellbinding contributions to our movie memories.

 

01 December 2015

Lawrence the cinematic conqueror

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Jennifer Lawrence on the run in "Winter's Bone." (Courtesy: outnow.ch)

Would you skin a squirrel in your back yard to land a movie role?

Jennifer Lawrence apparently would and, if an article posted on the Variety website is accurate, did to land the role as a tough Ozark Mountains girl searching for her drug-dealing dad in Winter's Bone (2010).

Lawrence has risen to worldwide fame as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise monster as the fearless bow-and-arrow defender of the common people.  The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay -- Part 2, the fourth and final (so they say) installment in the series, is riding high on the box-office charts.

But where did Lawrence come from?

That might just surprise you.  Aspiring young actresses and actors might be shocked to hear that Ms. Lawrence, a three-time Academy Award nominee and winner for Silver Linings Playbook in 2012, never took acting lessons.

"Lawrence had never taken an acting class, but explained how she prepared for the role: 'My brother’s friend came over with a squirrel he’d shot and we skinned it in my backyard.'

"The film earned four Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actress," the Variety article states.

If you ask me, Lawrence has risen to the top of the fame game because she isn't just a celebrity riding the wave of a huge movie franchise.  She's on top because she's the real deal; an actress with a natural gift and, from all appearances, enough smarts to keep ego and fame in check.

She's also savvy enough to step out of the movie studio tent-pole (mass market appeal) projects to flex her acting skills in less-gadget-driven movies with character depth.  I'm really looking forward to Joy, a based-on-truth drama with comedy starring Lawrence along with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

Joy director David O. Russell has worked with Lawrence before with tremendous success.  He called the shots on Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle (2013).

As Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop, Lawrence takes on something perhaps scarier than the cutthroat competition in the Hunger Games fantasy series.  This time she's fighting against the all-powerful forces of Corporate America.

Joy opens Christmas Day.

  

13 November 2015

Movie magic: A keystone cop-out

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Jack Nicholson and "friend" in "As Good As It Gets"

Thanks to everyone over at Bonaventure Dallas for a memorable Movie Memories evening last night. 

Even though my projector opted to sit down on us a little and offer up only a slightly lopsided image (a keystone issue, according to the unhelpful "help" button), we soldiered on through memories of Hollywood's finest romantic films.

I love performing at the Bonaventure because the audience fills the room with enthusiasm and a willingness to ignore small distractions and get on with the show.

"Hollywood's Great Romantic Scenes" leans heavily on well-known classics like Gone With the Wind, On Golden Pond and West Side Story, of course.  One of the favorite moments for me, however, is the showcase of As Good As It Gets (1997), which resulted in Academy Awards for co-stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.

Thanks again, Bonaventure folks, It was a memorable Movie Memories evening.

  

22 October 2015

The Oscars: Caught between Rock and a hard place, once again

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Chris Rock hosting the 77th Oscars in 2005. (Courtesy: flavorwire.com)

Nothing against Chris Rock, he's about as sharp and quick as any comedian working today.

But the announcement yesterday that Rock will host the 88th Academy Awards broadcast on ABC Feb. 28 comes as a ho-hum, no big whoop.

Why?  Because it's the 88th year they've been doing this, that's why.  Quick, what's the last thing that inspired goosebumps or made you go "Wheeeeeeee!" the 88th time you did it?

Well, there's that.  But huge bowls of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream don't count.

The Oscars, despite recent attempts to appeal to a younger audience like the 2011 debacle hosted feebly by Anne Hathaway and an extremely detached James Franco, have aged like a stoic, grumpy old grandpa.

And there's this:  The Academy Awards make the huge mistake of being last.  And I don't mean second or third.  I mean the final weak blip on an awards season that begins about six months earlier and drags on and on. 

Need proof?  Well, before the golden statuettes are passed out in late February, the movie industry and keen industry scribes and watchers have already endured the Golden Globe Awards, the Critics' Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Directors Guild of America Awards, the Golden Bear Awards (Berlin), the British Academy Film Awards and the Cesar Awards (France).

Let's not forget to mention kudos from local film critics groups from every semi-major city in this fine country of ours and a couple of neighborhood associations thrown in for good measure.

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That's me, right, at the Academy Awards sometime in the past century.

So by the time the Oscars open with a tired fanfare, the winners' speeches are too-well rehearsed, the bloom is off the red carpet arrivals and, let's just go ahead and say it, the tux tails are dragging.

I have much respect for Rock's ability to seize what little energy is likely to still be in the room by the time late February gets here.  He was sharp and way too fast for the dozing audience when the hosted for the first time in 2005.

Maybe, however, it's time to bring in a fresh face, an outside insider, if you will.

Someone like, well, me. 

I can take a selfie with the best of them.

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