Danse Macabre, part I: The Rules of the Game as a Comedy of Errors

 

Here,  you have one of the two most important scenes in The Rules of the Game, the famous Danse macabre as it is performed one night at the La Colinière estate owned by pensive yet prideful Robert, Marquis de la Chesnaye. Continue reading

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Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016) and Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

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“Cute, cute, cute—the ruination of careers.”

So said the legendary Debbie Reynolds regarding the way she was described by many in Hollywood and around the world.  I understand where she was coming from—what she meant—but I think her statement, made at least partially in jest, wasn’t quite right, at least as far as her career was concerned. Continue reading

Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

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Marcel Proust, in the second part of his Remembrance of Things Past—Within a Budding Grove—wrote,“But genius, and even great talent, springs less from seeds of intellect and social refinement superior to those of other people than from the faculty of transforming and transposing them. . . . To mount the skies it is not necessary to have the most powerful of motors, one must have a motor which, instead of continuing to run along the earth’s surface, intersecting with a vertical line the horizontal line which it began by following, is capable of converting its speed into lifting power. Similarly, the men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or their culture the most extensive, but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror, in such a way that their life, however mediocre it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consisting in reflecting power and not in the intrinsic quality of the scene reflected.”

Certainly a wordy passage for one of the wordiest of novels.  Yet, like practically every sentence in Proust’s masterpiece, these sentences paint a colorful and insightful picture into the human mind and condition.  Genius is not brute force.  Genius is the grace-like ability to expand, enlighten, and, like Proust said, transform.  Genius lies in the application of talent, not so much the exposition of it.

If there is one way to describe the comedy of Gene Wilder, then, it is genius. Continue reading

Does Awards Season Matter?

*The following was written prior to the 2014 Academy Awards as a supplement to this blog.  It was originally published as a chapter in the blog and had a spot on the left-side panel with other like pages.  I have re-categorized it for organization’s sake, so it has been re-posted as a blog post.

The ending of the year (and the beginning of the following) represents an important time period in the movie industry, particularly in Hollywood.  We have come to call this period of time “Awards Season”, that four-month-or-so period of time between November and February (or March this year) which begins with the Gotham Awards and ends with the Academy Awards.  This period is not only limited to awards jubilees, however.  This season is also marked by film festivals, with their accompanying festival awards.  It is a time of balloting, nominating, campaigning, voting, winning, accepting, losing, and politely applauding.

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88th Annual Academy Awards

Perhaps you could call this year the year of the Blockbuster.  Or, the year of the colon.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Mad Max: Fury Road, the list kind of goes on and on when it comes to the colonated titles that did more than just “grace” the box office charts.  Continue reading

Lauren Bacall (1924-2014)

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It always seems to happen in a wave.  While the passing of comic sensation Robin Williams is on everyone’s minds, it will unfortunately shadow yesterday’s sad news that the legendary Lauren Bacall died of an apparent stroke.  Again, you may wonder why this merits an article on my blog: I don’t write about every celebrity passing, after all.  In my tribute to Robin Williams, I even mentioned the names of several significant personalities that passed away in the last several months about whom I probably should have written something. Continue reading

Robin Williams (1951-2014)

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Many significant film personalities have passed away since I started this website.  I have only written about two of them: Roger Ebert and Peter O’Toole.  I forewent a post about Philip Seymour Hoffman (perhaps the best actor of the last decade), as well as Joan Fontaine (whose roles in Letter from an Unknown Woman and Rebecca have lasted with me as few roles ever have).  I also didn’t write about the great Shirley Temple Black, which was perhaps my biggest mistake, because her service not only to cinema but to the United States of America and its citizens was invaluable.  I also didn’t write about the master-critic Andrew Sarris, the father of auteur theory. Continue reading

Fantasy Academy Awards Ceremony

Okay, so this is a little indulgent.  But I can’t help but think that all this Academy Award talk in which I have been engaging can be diverting in this quest from casual movie watching to competency in film.  What I would like to do is bring back the discussion from contemporary films and set our sights backwards again, towards the vast world of cinema that encompasses over a hundred years of art and culture.  So, I’ve decided to go back and set up my own hypothetical awards ceremony, complete with honorary awards and imaginary glamor.  Imagine a red carpet with Miley Cyrus in her fishnet leggings and Audrey Hepburn in her black Givenchy dress; Jared Leto’s long hair followed by Humphrey Bogart in unbelted wool jackets.  The notion is enchanting, sure.  Those basketball or football video games that I like to play often have a “fantasy draft” setting or a pick-up game kind of setting were you can do the most absurd things: you can have LeBron James play against Oscar Robertson, or have the Detroit duo of Isaiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer take on Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman.  Why not do something like that for movies?  I consider this “fantasy academy” a well-earned journey into the indulgent imagination of my own self.  It is time to let all those worlds, the world of John Huston, the world of Federico Fellini, the world of Robert Bresson, the world of Martin Scorsese, and the world of Christopher Nolan, all come together in the ultimate exposition of glamor, art, competition, and class.  And considering the fact that my lists of the greatest directors and movies and acting performances are buried so deep in this blog, I feel like a resurrection of these lists in some new form is not an altogether bad idea, especially considering the fact that I just posted a page which, in essence, restated all the principles and theories that this blog has laid out thus far.  As long as I’m in the “reviewing” mode, I might as well review those earlier lists by having a little fun; having my own awards ceremony in my head.

The nominees are listed in alphabetical order.  There are 10 nominees for each category.  The winners are in bold.  I have hyperlinked all but one of the nominees to clips online (most of which can be found on YouTube) for your viewing pleasure. Continue reading