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PCR #413 (Vol. 9, No. 8) This edition is for the week of February 18--24, 2008.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang! Oscar week is here so let's not dawdle. Shall we begin?

"The Best Picture Nominees Are..." áby Mike Smith
Dr. Paul Bearer: The Lost Photographs ľ Part 1 áby ED Tucker
A Retired Cuban-American Activist Remembers a Different Castro áby Paul Guzzo
Barack Attack or Obama Yomama...Rondo Hatton Awards áby Matt Drinnenberg
Oscar Night .... Somewhere John Hooper Is Weeping .... Death Goes To The Movies .... Speaking Of Heath Ledger .... In Memory .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1981 Should Have Gone To... áby Mike Smith
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Sunday night marks the 80th Anniversary of the biggest night in Hollywood, the Academy Awards. Once again, the best of the best have been nominated and soon the envelopes will be opened to declare to whom "the Oscar goes to" (the Academy decided many years ago that "and the winner is" made the other four nominees "the losers," and went to the more politically correct presentation phrase). Once again I've listed my choices as well as my "surprise" winners. Now sit down with some popcorn and follow along:

BEST PICTURE: The nominees are "Atonement," "Juno," "Michael Clayton," "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood." All excellent films and a fine representative for 2007. Four intense dramas and a comedy. The winner will be "No Country for Old Men," though, as the most successful film in terms of box office, I can see "Juno" sneaking in.

BEST ACTOR: The nominees are George Clooney (Michael Clayton), Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd), Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah) and Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises). Five years ago I would have bet my house on Day-Lewis winning for "Gangs of New York," only to have found myself homeless when Adrien Brody won for "The Pianist." This year I'm backing Day-Lewis again, but I wouldn't be disappointed if Depp went home with the Oscar.

BEST ACTRESS: The nominees are Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Julie Christie (Away From Her), Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), Laura Linney (The Savages) and Ellen Page (Juno). Blanchett has a better chance in the supporting category. Linney and Page will have more chances in the future. Which leaves Christie and Cotillard in a tight race. Christie won this award forty years ago and I predict she'll win it again this year, but a steal by Cotillard isn't impossible.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: The nominees are Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson's War), Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild) and Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton). This award has been Bardem's to lose since November and this is really the only award I would have given away then and not worried about someone changing my mind. That's still how I feel. Bardem in a landslide. Only the beloved (and 82 year old) Hal Holbrook can ruin Bardem's evening.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: The nominees are Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There), Ruby Dee (American Gangster), Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) and Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton). While a lot has been made of Blanchett's portrayal of Bob Dylan (yes, you read that right) has been rightly hailed, her fellow actors gave their guild award to Ruby Dee. Besides, it's been 25 years since Linda Hunt won this category for playing a man and it will probably be 25 more before it happens again. My vote goes to Ryan, though, like Hal Holbrook, Dee can emerge as a sentimental favorite. That she hasn't been nominated after more then 50 years of great work borders on criminal.

BEST DIRECTOR: The nominees are Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood), Ethan and Joel Coen (No Country for Old Men), Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton), Jason Reitman (Juno) and Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). The one category I'm torn over, because Paul Thomas Anderson and the Coen Brothers are filmmakers I love. That being said, I'm picking the Coen boys to become the first directing team to win this award since Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins shared Best Director for "West Side Story." Give the surprise to Anderson and I can go to bed happy.


FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: "The Counterfeiters"
CINEMATOGRAPHY: "There Will Be Blood"
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: "No Country for Old Men"
VISUAL EFFECTS: "Transformers"
ART DIRECTION: "Atonement"
COSTUME DESIGN: "Sweeney Todd"
FILM EDITING: "No Country for Old Men." Just to see who accepts. The nominee is Roderick Jaynes, which is an alias for the Coen brothers.
SOUND MIXING: I'm going with "Transformers" just so 20-time nominee Kevin O'Connell can finally win!
SOUND EDITING: "Transformers"
ORIGINAL SONG: "That's How You Know" from "Enchanted"
MAKEUP: "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"

Very sad to report the passing of cartoonist Steve Gerber, creator of Howard the Duck. Mr. Gerber passed away this week from pulmonary fibrosis. He was 60.

This week Warner Brothers announced that one of the main tie-ins for the upcoming "The Dark Knight" film will be a Joker doll, modeled after the film character portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. I'm not surprised.

Death and Hollywood seem to go hand in hand. James Dean died shortly after "East of Eden" premiered and one month before "Rebel Without A Cause" debuted. A year later saw the release of "Giant." Dean died without knowing the impact he would have on film fans all over the world. The first actor to be nominated for an acting Academy Award more then once, 50 years after his death Dean is still remembered. Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy died only a few weeks after completing their last films. Bruce Lee died a month before "Enter the Dragon" made him an international superstar. But in these cases, the films were released without much being made of their deaths.

Jumping ahead to the 1980s, we find films being changed to deal with the deaths of their stars. 1983's "Twilight Zone: The Movie" was originally anticipated because it was the first time that four celebrated directors put out a film with different stories. Then, in the early morning hours of July 23, 1982, while filming a scene that would highlight his racist character's change of heart, actor Vic Morrow and two children, Renee Chen and My-ca Dinh Le, were killed when explosive charges caused a helicopter hovering above them to crash to the ground, landing on the three. Morrow's death caused director John Landis to alter the ending of his segment, one that only seemed to bring the tragedy to the forefront because it was so abrupt. Shortly after filming "Brainstorm," Natalie Wood died. Director Douglas Trumball still had some scenes to re-shoot but, with Wood gone, alternate footage had to be used. The same is true with "The Crow," who had to improvise after star Brandon Lee (Bruce's son) was accidentally shot to death on the set by a prop gun that contained a real round. These movies were released, but the behind-the-scenes deaths were often mentioned in the first paragraph of any news story or review.

Now comes "The Dark Knight." Ledger's performance is said to be nothing short than great, so Warner Brothers is now faced with the prospect of promoting their product without looking ghoulish by milking a tragedy. And if Ledger is as good as they say, that's great. But lose the doll. You really don't need the extra $12, do you?

Johnny Depp, Colin Farrel and Jude Law have volunteered to replace Ledger in the film he was working on when he died, Terry Gilliam's fantasy "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus." Gilliam has altered the script so that when the magical Doctor visits different worlds he will have the ability to change his appearance.

The day Ledger died I posed the thought on the message board that he would receive the most applause during the annual "In Memoriam" segment of the Academy Awards. And he probably will. However, I'm hoping that some heavy applause is reserved for Roy Scheider as well. I know there will be in Kansas City.


How did "Chariots of Fire" roll over "REDS" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark?"

March 29, 1982. Oscar night. A new category has been added to the list of awards: Best makeup. For me, 1982's awards were the "wimpiest," if that's a suitable word. The Academy played it safe in almost every major category, starting with Best Picture. The nominees: "Atlantic City," "Chariots of Fire," "On Golden Pond," "REDS" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
All good films, with "REDS" and "Raiders" registering "great" on my list. If I'm doing the nominating I'm dropping "Chariots" and "Pond" and adding "Prince of the City" and "Body Heat" to the list. Two very adult dramas that didn't seem to fit whatever agenda the academy had that year. Since it wasn't up to me, it would have been a toss up for me on voting for Best Picture for either "REDS" or "Raiders of the Lost Ark." However, the subject is moot and the very safe "Chariots of Fire" won.

For the first time in a few years, the best picture nominees spawned all five nominees for best director. They were: Louis Malle (Atlantic City), Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire), Mark Rydell (On Golden Pond), Warren Beatty (REDS) and Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Again, I'm dropping Hudson and Rydell and replacing them with Sidney Lumet (Prince of the City) and Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat)...kind of an "old master, new master" kind of deal. Putting away my love for Spielberg would have been hard, and an Oscar for "Raiders" would be easy to accept. However, if I'd been choosing my vote would have gone to Beatty, whose work on "REDS" was nothing short of magnificent. And the members of the academy agreed with me, sending Beatty home with his only Oscar.

Best Actor was narrowed down to Paul Newman (Absence of Malice), Burt Lancaster (Atlantic City), Dudley Moore (Arthur), Henry Fonda (On Golden Pond)and Warren Beatty (REDS). I should mention that this was the second time in less then five years that Beatty had earned four nominations in the same year (for Best Picture as the producer of "REDS," director, actor and screenplay). There was a lot of sentiment in the nominations this year. This was Lancaster's fourth (and last) nomination in this category, and first one in 19 years, though he had won 20 years earlier for "Elmer Gantry." For Paul Newman, this was nomination number five for acting. He also had a previous nomination for producing Best Picture nominee "Rachel, Rachel," which he also directed. Beatty scored his third Best Actor nomination here, while this was Moore's first (and only ) nomination. This leaves Henry Fonda, who was celebrating his second Best Actor nomination 41 years after his first nod for "The Grapes of Wrath." All very good performances. However the sentiment value may have been the reason actors like Treat Williams (Prince of the City) or William Hurt(Body Heat) were left off the list. Of the nominees I would have chosen Moore, whose performance as the alcoholic but loveable Arthur Bach in "Arthur" is one of the greatest comedic performances ever captred on film. Sentiment won out here as Fonda was announced as the winner. Sick and watching the show in the hospital, Hank saw his daughter, Jane, accept the award for him. Of the other nominees, Newman finally won this award in 1987 for "The Color of Money," ironically one year after he had been given an honoray Oscar for his career work.

Best Actress saw a nominee line up that included Susan Sarandon (Atlantic City), Meryl Streep (The French Lieutenant's Woman), Katharine Hepburn (On Golden Pond), Marsha Mason (Only When I Laugh) and Diane Keaton (REDS), a group of actresses that over their combined careers earned an incredible 39 acting nominations. Not a strong year for the ladies, with only Jessica Lange for "The Postman Always Thinks Twice" a probable nominee left behind. My vote would have gone to Sarandon, who finally burst onto the "A" list with "Atlantic City." However, once again sentiment won as Hepburn was awarded Oscar number four in her career. Streep, who between 1979-1991 only missed four years of not being nominated, would win this award a few years later for "Sophie's Choice," as would Sarandon in 1996 for "Dead Man Walking." Keaton would earn two more nominations (to date). This was Marsha Mason's last nomination (to date). Of her four noms, three of them came for roles written for her by her then husband Neil Simon.

Best Supporting Actor nominees consisted of John Gielgud (Arthur), Ian Holm (Chariots of Fire), James Coco
(Only When I Laugh), Howard E. Rollins Jr. (Ragtime) and
Jack Nicholson (REDS). Probably the toughest category to choose from. Though Rollins' character was the driving force behind "Ragtime," he was nominated in this category. His strongest competition was Gielgud, who almost stole "Arthur" away from Moore. While I would have gone with Rollins the academy went with Sir John, awarding him his only Oscar in a 76 year (yes, you read that right) film career.

For the ladies, the Supporting Actress category included Melinda Dillon (Absence of Malice ), Jane Fonda (On Golden Pond), Joan Hackett (Only When I Laugh), Elizabeth McGovern (Ragtime) and Maureen Stapleton (REDS). Of the nominees, Fonda had seen the most Oscar love, with two on her mantle already for "Klute" and "Coming Home." For Stapleton this was nomination number four in this category; for Dillon her second. A week year in the supporting category as well. My vote would have gone to McGovern, who was one of my serious movie "Crushes" at the time. However, the powers that be chose Stapleton for her fiery portrayal of Emma Goldman.

And congratulations to Rick Baker, who won that first competitive Oscar for Best Makeup for "An American Werewolf in London

Some of my favortie films from 1981 that Oscar forgot included: The Howling, Thief, Nighthawks, Outland, Stripes, Escape From New York, Blow Out, They All Laughed, Zoot Suit, Looker, Time Bandits, Sharky's Machine and the final two films of John Belushi's sadly shortened career: Continenal Divide and Neighbors.

Well, thats all for now. Have a great week. See ya!

"Mike's Rant" is ©2008 by Michael A. Smith.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.