PCR's past banners
Now in our ninth calendar year!

PCR #418 (Vol. 9, No. 13) This edition is for the week of March 24--30, 2008.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang! Sorry for the delay but I've been forced to watch EVERY YouTube clip that features Shih Tzu puppies this week. Well, maybe not EVERY one. Shall we begin?

"Stop-Loss"  by Mike Smith
DVD Review: "The Baby"  by ED Tucker
Happy Birthday, PCR....Happy Birthday, Iraq War....The Wolfman  by Matt Drinnenberg
The Right Price At What Cost .... Golden Slumbers .... Also Passing .... .... .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1967 Should Have Gone To...  by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2008
Archives 2007
Archives 2006
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Email PCR

I have to admit here that, no matter how many times I get pissed at Wal-Mart, I still go back because their prices are low. From having to wait over 3 hours for the auto department to rotate my tires (the person who took the order "went on break" and apparently never came back...my car just sat there, even though I went back twice to check on its status and was told it wasn't ready yet) to being next in the "Express Lane" only to have the woman in front of me have her items rung up three at a time so she could write a check and get $20.00 back to this week, when I took my car in for service and noticed that they hadn't done half of the things they check off, or checked off the wrong stuff (I drive a Honda CRV with a rear wiper but when it came to checking the rear wiper the words "Not Applicable" were entered. I also apparently told them not to check any of the major fluids (which is the main reason for getting the check up in the first place) or vacuum my car out, which they said they did but didn't. But none of these things compares to what Wal-Mart has done to Deborah Shanks. Shanks, a former over-night stocker for the store chain, was severely injured seven years ago when her van was broadsided by a semi. Originally, Wal-Mart's insurance paid almost $470,000 toward her recovery. However, she suffered slight brain damage and needed assistance walking, so she now lives in a nursing home. Her husband filed a lawsuit against the trucking company and was awarded $417,000, to be used for Deborah's medical bills, etc. Learning of the award, Wal-Mart SUED (and won) Deborah and her husband, requesting not only the $470,000 the company had paid but also legal fees and interest, demanding more then the actual amount awarded. Making this an even sadder story is that Mrs. Shanks 18-year-old son was recently killed in Iraq. Because of her brain injury, she has no short term memory. This means that every time she asks about her son, she has to be told he is dead and she reacts as if she's hearing it for the first time.

George Martin. Murray the K. Billy Preston. Stuart Sutcliffe. What do these four men, and countless others, have in common? At one time or another, they have been refered to as "the fifth Beatle." Technically, the only real "fifth" Beatle was Sutcliffe, who was the fifth man in the group, quitting while they were in Hamburg and causing Paul McCartney to pick up the bass. However, if you asked the Fab Four, they would tell you that the true "fifth Beatle" was Neil Aspinall, former school mate of McCartney and George Harrison who managed the band's Apple Corps music business. Mr. Aspinall died this week after a brief battle with lung cancer. He was 65.

Abby Mann, Academy Award winning writer and veteran television writer/director, died of heart failure this week. He was 80. After years writing episodes for such early television shows like "Playhouse 90" and "Studio One," he wrote his first original screenplay. "Judgement at Nuremburg" told of the Nazi war trials held after WWII. For Mann, first time was the charm as he won the Oscar for best original screenplay. He earned another nomination for "Ship of Fools," and wrote Frank Sinatra's thriller, "The Detective." He later branched out into television, including the television movie, "The Marcus-Nelson Murders, which became the pilot for the television series, "Kojak." In a strange bit of fate, the movie co-starred Lorraine Gary and was directed by Joseph Sargent, who would reteam almost 15 years later to work together on "Jaws the Revenge."

Richard Widmark, tough guy character actor who earned an Oscar nomination with his first role, died in his Connecticutt home this week. He was 93. His portrayal of "bad guy" Tommy Udo, who binds an old woman in her wheelchair before pushing her down a flight of steps in 1947's "Kiss of Death," earned him an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor. He followed with, and built his career on, silent, tough guy roles in films like "The Street With No Name," "Road House," "Yellow Sky" and "Pickup on Sixth Street." In the 1960s he starred as Jim Bowie in "The Alamo" and as the head US prosecutor in "Judgement at Nuremburg." In 1968 he starred in the film "Madigan" as a detective and later reprised the role in 1972 in a television series of the same name.


They called him Mr. Tibbs but they didn't nominate him. Or Robert Blake!

April 10, 1968. In honor of the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had been assassinated 6 days earlier, the ceremony was postponed from it's scheduled April 8th date. Also, there were some changes in some of the technical categories. Because there were fewer and fewer feature films released in black and white, the awards for cinematography, art direction and costume design were combined into single categories rather than a distinction between color and black/white.

1967 is often referred to as the first year in one of the greatest ten year runs in film. The majority of films honored with Oscar nominations dealt with everything from race relations to true life criminals to sexual infidelity. The nominees for Best Picture of 1967 were: Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and In The Heat Of The Night. Movies that, with the exception of the bloated musical about talking to the animals, fit perfectly into the new Hollywood ideal of making films that were perceived as important. Of course, true to form, another big budget musical snuck into the top five. 20th Century Fox had struck box office gold with "The Sound of Music," and the powers that be demanded that the studio concentrate on making one BIG musical a year, hoping to draw the same audience. With much fanfare and publicity, "Dr Doolittle" opened to little business. Not to be swayed, Fox then produced "Star" the next year, followed by "Hello Dolly." These two also tanked. Ironically, Fox wouldn't make any money with a musical until 1973, when the studio wisely reissued "The Sound of Music." "Dr. D" did win two awards on this night: best special effects and best song for the enjoyable "Talk to the Animals." But of course, with the good doctor in the Best Picture race, what films got left out? First on my list: "In Cold Blood," Richard Brooks' adaptation of Truman Capote's "non-fiction novel" that told the story of two men who murdered a Kansas family in 1959. Long time readers may remember my review of the film "Capote" where I go into detail about how the novel "In Cold Blood" influenced my life (no need to worry, I mean in a positive way). The film brilliantly captures the events of the story and part of that brilliance is that director Brooks filmed it in black and white, giving it a very realistic feel. The other two films I would have happily nominated over "Dr. Doolittle" are "Cool Hand Luke" and "Wait Until Dark," two very different films that are both 10 times better then the one that made it. I can't slight the other films nominated. They are all excellent in their own way, even the sligtly fluffy "Dinner," which really only succeeds because of the acting talent involved. If I had a vote, it would have been hard to decide between "In Cold Blood" or "In the Heat of the Night." However, since "In Cold Blood" wasn't in the mix, I would have gone with the film that won the big prize, "In the Heat of the Night."

Best Director nominees include four from the group of Best Picture and one from a film that should have been there: Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde), Mike Nichols (The Graduate), Stanley Kramer (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner), Richard Brooks (In Cold Blood) and Norman Jewison (In the Heat of the Night). All excellent directors doing great work. Penn was criticized for his "bullet ballet" at the end of "Bonnie and Clyde" while Kramer was accused of "white-washing" the story in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," mostly by critics who found the film's story line of a white woman falling in love with a black man offensive. Nichols shook conventional wisdom by featuring the unconventional looking Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate," passing over the studio's suggestions of Warren Beatty and newcomer Robert Redford. Again, my vote would have been split between Jewison or Brooks. However, the Academy honored Nichols, giving the film it's only Oscar.

Best Actor boiled down to three youngsters and two veterans: Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde), Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke), Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate), Spencer Tracy (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) and Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night). This category is hard to complain about, with all five actors giving great performances. However, if there was one omission, it would have to be Sidney Poitier, who scored a rare hat trick of great roles the previous year. Not only did he star in two Best Picture nominees ("Heat" and "Dinner"), he also appeared in the highly successful "To Sir With Love. That's not a bad career for most actors, let alone one year. If I had to pick a performance to honor, it would have to be Virgil Tibbs in "In the Heat of the Night." As a black Philadelphia policeman helping to solve a murder in the deep south, Poitier maintains his dignity and cool inspite of the injustices he is exposed to. Of course, he also gets to deliver one of the greatest lines in film history. When he's told that Virgil is a funny name and is asked what they call him in Philly he proudly replies, "They call me MR. Tibbs!" Not only a great line but the title of a film Poitier would star in in 1971. Tracy was the sentimental favorite, having passed away only two weeks after filming on "Dinner" was complete. As the first actor to win back to back best acting Oscars ("Captain's Courageous" and "Boys Town"), Tracy was a true symbol of old Hollywood, respected by everyone. Of course, that respect only went so far. When he received his Best Actor trophy for "Boy's Town," the inscription read "Dick Tracy." Newman and Beatty were up and comers with a large female following while Hoffman was making his major film debut. (he had appeared in the film version of "The Tiger Makes Out," a play he had appeared in that same year). Steiger had seemed a lock for the award a couple of years ago for his role in "The Pawnbroker" only to lose to Lee Marvin's drunk cowboy in "Cat Ballou." One of the earliest, and greatest, Method actors, Steiger engrossed himself in every role, chewing scenery like it was candy. If there was an actor that should have been here, it was Robert Blake, who humanized murderer Perry Smith in "In Cold Blood." My vote, after several coin tosses, would have gone to Steiger, who was also the choice of the academy. But don't weep for the others here. Newman would go on to win Best Actor in 1987 for "The Color of Money," while Hoffman would win twice ("Kramer vs Kramer" and "Rainman"). Beatty would go on to mass an amazing 14 Oscar nominations (so far) in his career, including twice being nominated four times in the same year. He won the Best Director award in 1982 for "Reds."

Best Actress was another race between old and young Hollywood. The nominees were: Faye Dunaway (Bonnie and Clyde), Anne Bancroft ( The Graduate), Katharine Hepburn (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner), Audrey Hepburn (Wait Until Dark) and Edith Evans (The Whisperers). Here the choice was obvious but let's look at all of the nominees first. Dunaway was just starting her career when she was cast as Bonnie Parker. She would later win the Best Actress Oscar almost a decade later for "Network." Dame Edith Evans is widely regarded as the greatest British stage actress of the 20th Century, so even though she went home Oscar-less she still found work! The other three ladies already had Best Actress trophies on their mantles: Bancroft, who in reality was only 6 years older then Dustin Hoffman, won for "The Miracle Worker." Audrey Hepburn had won previously for "Roman Holiday" while Katharine Hepburn had won the award 34 years ago for "Morning Glory." The winner was Katharine Hepburn and most deservedly so. There is a scene at the end of "Dinner" where Spencer Tracy gives a speech about the trials his daughter and her boyfriend will endure because they are a couple. Great scene and Tracy is great as well. But the camera angles catch Hepburn's face and her emotions spill forth with just a quick glance. Much is known now about the life long affair between she and Tracy. They were surely kindred souls. Tracy was sick often during the filming of "Dinner" and I've often wondered if Hepburn's emotions are not acting as much as her realizing that her long time love would be passing soon. Either way, she surely earned the award, her second. She would go on to win two more; the next year she tied with Barbra Streisand and won for "The Lion in Winter." She also won in 1982 for "On Golden Pond."

Keeping with the tradition of the show, the supporting categories were also full of vets and newbies. The nominees for Best Supporting Actor: Gene Hackman and Michael J. Pollard, both for "Bonnie and Clyde," George Kennedy for "Cool Hand Luke," John Cassavetes for "The Dirty Dozen" and Cecil Kellaway for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Common sense suggests that Hackman and Pollard split the vote, though Hackman would later win two awards of his own (Best Actor for "French Connection" and Best Supporting Actor for "Unforgiven"). Kellaway was the kindly monsiegnor who counseled the you lovers in "Dinner." A pretty much one dimensional role (the irish catholic who likes to drink and play golf) while Cassavetes stood out among the other dirty eleven actors. My choice would have been for the quirky Pollard. However, the award went to Kennedy, who spent the next forty years playing the amicable friend or sidekick.

On the Supporting Actress side, it was one kid against a team of "older" talent: Mildred Natwick (Barefoot in the Park), Estelle Parsons (Bonnie and Clyde), Katharine Ross (The Graduate), Beah Richards (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) and Carol Channing (Thoroughly Modern Millie). My vote here would have gone to Richards, who brought such a quiet dignity as Poitier's mother in "Dinner." However, the academy went with Parsons, whose tough talking Blanche impressed the voters.

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.