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PCR #416 (Vol. 9, No. 11) This edition is for the week of March 10--16, 2008.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang! Another short one so let's get started. Shall we begin?

"Horton Hears a Who"  by Mike Smith
King of the Strip Clubs and Gids of Gore: 2 Days at The Gasparilla Film Festival  by Chris Woods
MegaCon 2008  by ED Tucker
I Feel Faint .... Passing On .... Movie Notes .... .... .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1985 Should Have Gone To...  by Mike Smith
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About a month ago, Barack Obama was in town and, during his speech, a woman suddenly fainted. Not missing a beat, the Senator went to her aid, gave her some water, and helped her to her feet. He then continued his speech, which, ironically, was about "lending a helping hand." Nice moment. Or so I thought. But, thanks to the internet, I've learned that Senator Obama is this century's equivalent of the Beatles. Apparently the incident in KC is part of no less then eight campaign stops where Obama has "rescued" a fainter. Hmmmmmmm. The man's a good speaker but he isn't THAT good. Like Rudy Giuliani staging phone calls from his wife or Clinton campaign workers "asking" questions during rallies, this political season is starting to resemble a 19th Century Medicine Man convention.

Dave Stevens, comic book artist and creator of "The Rocketeer," died this week from complications for treatment of leukemia. He was 52.

Session guitarist Barry "Byrd" Burton, who toured with such country stars as Dolly Parton and Brooks & Dunn, also passed away this week after a battle with leukemia. His best known session work can be heard on the Amazing Rythym Aces' "Third Rate Romance" and Don Williams' "Tulsa Time." Mr. Burton was 61.

Warner Brothers has announced that it will open "Speed Racer" in the IMAX format the same day the film is released in theatres.

Also, in a shameless attempt to bilk kids out of their money, Warner Brothers has also announced that they will split the last Harry Potter book into 2 films, for "purely creative reasons," producer David Heyman stated. Yeah, creative ways to fill your bank account. At least they're giving the movie going public some notice. I can still remember the angry multiplex fans screaming at the end of "Back to the Future 2" when they realized they'd have to see Part 3 for the end of the story.


The Spielberg backlash begins!

Funny how some filmmakers need to earn respect, no matter how brilliant their early work is. "Citizen Kane" is often heralded as the greatest American film ever made yet Orson Welles was often mocked as the "boy genius" who really never made good. Of course, history has proved them wrong. Enter Steven Spielberg. And before you start sending me nasty emails, I'm certainly not comparing Spielberg to Welles, especially since Spielberg's first feature, "The Sugarland Express" was no "Citizen Kane." But a major similarity between the two was that they were very confident in their talents. A classic example took place in early 1976 when Spielberg invited a television news crew to his home to listen to the announcements for the 1975 Academy Awards. Spielberg looks directly into the camera and boldly declares that "JAWS" is about to get nominated in 12 categories. (note: I really don't know what those categories would have been. "JAWS" was nominated for four Oscars (Picture, Musical Score, Editing and Sound) winning all but Best Picture. If I had to come up with another eight categories I would venture: Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and two acting nominations (Shaw Best Actor, Dreyfuss Supporting?). There was no Visual Effects award back then so that wouldn't be on the list. Anyway, I digress. The part of the story that is Hollywood legend is Spielberg, after hearing he WASN'T nominated for Best Director, lamenting "they went for Fellini instead of me!" Yes they did, buddy. In 1983, after losing his third directing nomination for "E.T.," Spielberg wondered allowed what he had to do to win. In a Time magazine interivew, director Sydney Pollock stated that Spielberg would never be taken seriously until he directed a serious film. A year later I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Pollock at a benefit screening of "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" While he very graciously signed a couple "Tootsie" items I had brought with me, I asked him about his comment. He told me that he thought Speilberg was very talented, but that Hollywood felt he was wasting his talent on "fun" films like "Raiders" and "E.T." Apparently Spielberg got the message, because his next film was "The Color Purple," based on Alice Walker's best selling novel about an abused black woman in a loveless marriage who grows under the wing of her lesbian lover (hardly noted in the film). Sounds pretty serious to me. So serious that it earned 11 Oscar nominations. Of course, it wasn't THAT serious because Spielberg was NOT nominated! Let's see who beat him, and the rest of the awards from that year.

Best Picture nominees for 1985 included "The Color Purple," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Out of Africa," "Prizzi's Honor" and "Witness." A good list of nominees, not a stinker in the bunch. Other films I could have nominated for the big prize: "Purple Rose of Cairo," "Coccon," "Back to the Future" and "Silverado." Of the nominated films, my choice would have gone to "The Color Purple," with "Witness" a close second. The academy went for "Out of Africa," a sign that old Hollywood still loved romantic epics.

Best Director boiled down to the following: Hector Babenco (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Sydney Pollock (Out of Africa), John Huston (Prizzi's Honor), Akira Kurosawa Ran) and Peter Weir (Witness). You can almost hear Spielberg wailing, "they went for Kurosawa over me!" Almost a complete sweep of best picture nominees except for the acclaimed Japanese director. And again, all great nominees. Others I might have considered: Ron Howard (Cocoon - a DGA nominee), Lawrence Kasdan (Silverado), Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) or William Friedkin (To Live and Die in L.A.) Even the directors had trouble choosing a winner. Not only was Spielberg nominated for the Director's Guild of America Award that year, he won the damn thing! Occasionally the DGA winner had not gone on to win the Oscar (up until then the most recent being Francis Ford Coppola who won the DGA award for "The Godfather" but lost the Oscar to Bob Fosse for "Cabaret"), but this was the first time that the DGA winner had NOT been nominated for an Oscar the same year. It would take another year for this to happen when Ron Howard won the DGA award for "Apollo 13" but was not nominated for the Academy Award for the same film. Of the nominees my choice would have gone to Weir. However, the winner was, surprise, surprise, Sydney Pollock, who earned points in my book by searching out and shaking Steven Spielberg's hand while heading to the stage. Surprisingly, in spite of some great work in the past, this was only Pollock's third directing nomination ("They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and "Tootsie" in the past).

Best Actor nominees: William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman), James Garner (Murphy's Romance), Jack Nicholson (Prizzi's Honor), Jon Voight (Runaway Train) and Harrison Ford (Witness). Nice group of actors, though a soft year in my opinion. I love Jim Garner, but didn't find him award worthy for "Murphy's Romance." And Nicholson was Nicholson in "Prizzi's Honor." I would have replaced either of these men with Mickey Rourke in "Year of the Dragon" or Kevin Costner in the little seen "American Flyers." Hurt had the showiest role, that of a homosexual sharing a prison cell with a politcal prisoner in "Kiss of the Spider Woman." A great performance but a little over the top for me. My nod would have gone to Ford, who proved he could carry a movie without having to rely on George Lucas. Unfortunately, over the top carried the night as Hurt won the award.

The Best Actress category was the strongest it had been in a long time: Anne Bancroft (Agnes of God), Whoopi Goldberg (The Color Purple), Meryl Streep (Out of Africa), Jessica Lange (Sweet Dreams) and Geraldine Page (The Trip to Bountiful). All great actresses. Bancroft, Lange and Streep already had Oscars and Goldberg would later win one. As I mentioned, this was a strong year for women's roles and, sadly, there was only room for five nominees. That left Cher, who was outstanding in "Mask," on the outside looking in. Of the nominees, my pick would have been Goldberg, who, in her film debut, was the glue that held "The Color Purple" together. However the winner was Page, a legend in the industry. In fact, when presenter F. Murray Abraham opened the envelope he prefaced the winner's name by declaring, "I consider this woman the greatest actress in the English language." Nice to be loved.

The supporting categories were a mix of newcomers and old timers. The nominees for Best Supporting Actor: Don Ameche (Cocoon), Robert Loggia (Jagged Edge), Klaus Maria Brandauer (Out of Africa), William Hickey ( Prizzi's Honor) and Eric Roberts (Runaway Train). Of course, this left no room for Eric Stoltz (Mask), Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) or almost anyone (Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, Brian Dennehy) from "Silverado." Brandauer was a relative unknown in Hollywood while Roberts was well known for his intense portrayals of tortured men. The oldsters included Loggia, a former television star making a name as a character actor in films; Hickey, a revered acting teacher whose last screen appearance was as a drunk in a bar in "The Producers;" and Ameche, a major film star in the 1930s and 40s, who scored a big comeback in 1983's "Trading Places." For the first time tonight, the academy and I agreed as Ameche took home his Oscar 50 years after his first film.

Best Supporting Actress was a category of fresh faces and, like the men, all first time nominees. They included: Meg Tilly (Agnes of God), both Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey for "The Color Purple," Anjelica Huston (Prizzi's Honor) and Amy Madigan (Twice in a Lifetime). Of the nominees, Huston had the roughest road to walk. Daughter of the great John Huston, she was better known as Jack Nicholson's girlfriend than for her on screen talent, which had often been ridiculed by people jealous of her last name. Again, a great year for woman's roles and, to me, a hard category to pick a winner in. In fact, I would have been happy if any of them won, which of course had to happen. And that winner was Huston, who as Mae Rose Prizzi erased all of the negative from her past with one performance.

Besides the major films nominated, some of my personal favorties from 1985 include: The Breakfast Club, Heaven Help Us, The Sure Thing, Mask, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Weird Science, Real Genius, American Flyers, Year of the Dragon, After Hours, Re-Animator, To Live and Die in L.A. and Rocky IV.

Well, that's 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.