Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar® Afterthoughts

Although bleary eyed after watching the entire 83rd Annual Academy Awards televised show last night, I can’t resist posting an early morning rant and rave about the proceedings. My hubby and I dressed for the occasion. I wore a robe by Chenille, but he refused to divulge his bizarre wardrobe designer. We have to admit Natalie Portman and Christian Bale put both of us to shame. Natalie with her gorgeous deep purple gown and matching string earrings; Christian with his elegant black tuxedo. We decided to bestow our “Cutest Award” to co-host James Franco, mostly because of his engaging smile, which he flashed as often as possible while bantering with his dazzling co-host Anne Hathaway, who’s best moment came with her one amusing song performance. Too bad Anne didn’t perform more musical numbers and that Hugh Jackman (be still my heart) refused to join her for a duet.

Speaking of music, my biggest complaint involves its de-emphasis at the Oscars. I agree with Randy Newman (composer of the Best Song winner, “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3) when he asked how hard could it be to find a fifth song to nominate. Not hard at all in my book. “You Haven’t Heard the Last of Me” and “Bound to You” from Burlesque should have been nominated. The whole show would’ve benefitted by adding more singing and dancing -– and including fewer costume changes by Anne Hathaway, no matter how beautiful she looked in each one (except the funny brown duck outfit, of course).

Regarding the awards, there were no surprises. Although many fans expected
The Social Network to win Best Picture, The King’s Speech made an impressive stretch run during the past few weeks. Still, I can’t help being disappointed that my favorite 2010 film, The Fighter, didn’t end up winning that category. But I’m pleased about Christian Bale and Melissa Leo taking home the Best Supporting Actor statuettes for their brilliant work in that wonderful movie. Best Actress and Best Actor winners Natalie Portman (Black Swan) and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) gave excellent acceptance speeches. It’s about time Firth was recognized for his acting talent, and Portman put her heart and soul into the difficult role she played.

While the 83rd Academy Awards may not have been the best Oscar show ever, it wasn’t the worst either. I found it more entertaining than last year, but I can’t help hoping Hugh Jackman will return soon as the singing/dancing/funny host his fans love so much.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Truer Than Fiction

Is Mark Hogancamp an artist? Some people may not think so, but I believe the tiny world he created in his backyard ranks as true art. Marwencol, a fascinating documentary, showcases Mark’s journey to recovery from a brutal beating through his own unusual therapy. Suffering from brain damage and not able to afford help, Mark built Marwencol, a 1/6” scale World War II-era town, and used dolls to represent his friends, family and even his attackers. When his photographs of the tiny village receive attention, he is thrust reluctantly into the art world.

While chronicling Mark’s amazing accomplishments, director Jeff Malmberg also does a splendid job exploring the nature of art. “Some of the best art comes from conflict,” he explains. “It has an honesty that art from pure cleverness just doesn’t. And that makes it beautiful, but at the same time, it makes it very private. A very private experience that all of us want to share in.”

Personally, I became totally involved in the town of Marwencol and with its residents. Mark puts incredible detail into every doll’s costume, so everything seemed so real to me! I loved following the exploits of Mark’s alter ego, Captain Hogancamp, as he interacts with all the nostalgic characters populating Marwencol. I couldn’t help feeling considerable suspense concerning such plot points as how our hero would outwit the Nazi SS men and which of the beautiful women (best use of Barbie dolls ever!) would win his heart. You don’t have to know much about art to enjoy Marencol. There’s plenty of action, romance, and adventure in Mark’s fictional town.

I also admire the movie’s seamless connection between Mark’s troubled real world and his artistic creation. Fortunately, the filmmaker handles Mark’s struggle with personal/emotional problems with great sensitivity here.

It’s not surprising Marwencol won the 2011 Truer Than Fiction Award at last night's Independent Spirit Awards. This is an extraordinary movie about a unique and gifted artist. As novelist Katherine Anne Porter pointed out many years ago, “Human life itself may be almost pure chaos, but the work of the artist is to take these handfuls of confusion and disparate things, things that seem so irreconcilable, and put them together in a frame to give them some kind of shape and meaning.”

Clearly, Mark Hogancamp’s frame is the wonderful town of Marwencol.

(For more information about Marwencol, please go to

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Charles Pappas on Film Noir

I'm pleased to participate in the "For the Love of Film (Noir)" Blogathon hosted by Ferdy on Film and The Self-Styled Siren. This important film preservation event begins today and runs through February 21. Its purpose is to help the Film Noir Foundation locate and restore films on the verge of disappearing forever. My post today is part of this special fundraising Blogathon.

Because I'm a big fan of film noir, I admire Charles Pappas' terrific book, It's a Bitter Little World. Looking at the world through blood-tinted glasses, Bitter celebrates the hardboiled language of the genre's classis from The Maltese Falcon to U Turn. Now updating his book, Pappas lives in Rochester, MN. A mild-mannered writer for Exhibitor magazine and a grandfather, he claims to be "still moderately dangerous." (Thanks to Pappas for sending me that colorful bio. Like film noir itself, he has a way with words.)

Clearly, film historian Pappas loves cynical movies about sex, violence and money that feature losers who seek the very thing that gets them killed. His fascinating book -- subtitled The Smartest, Toughest, Nastiest Quotes from Film Noir -- concentrates on the biting dialogue that makes these films so memorable. Included in this well-researched book are quotes from such classics as Double Indemnity, Touch of Evil, Gilda and The Big Sleep as well as from contemporary films like The Usual Suspects, The Last Seduction and Pulp Fiction.

Using the words-as-weapons writing style characteristic of his subject, Pappas crafted a stylish "Introduction" worthy of the best film noir screenwriters. "In noir, the women have jewelers' loupes of brains and cash registers for hearts; they stom on the men who are losers on loners," he observes. "The words are the explosions ... if, as Emerson said 'language is poetry,' film noir will now and forever be a skeletal record of monsters that bite worse than any T.Rex."

Here are three of my favorite quotes included in Pappas' book:

See, Mr. Gittes, most people never learn to face the fact that at the right time and the right place, they are capable of anything. --- Chinatown (1974)

There's one good thing about being a widow, isn't there? You don't have to ask your husband for money. --- Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

You shoot me in a dream, you'd better wake up and apologize. --- Reservoir Dogs (1992)

It's a Bitter Little World is a wonderful resource book. I think it's a must-read for film noir fans.

Check out the "For the Love of Film (Noir)" Blogathon at the following links:

To donate to the Film Noir Foundation, click here:

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Our Valentine Book

Where can you find a heartfelt true love story, some yummy recipes and over 20 reviews of favorite romantic films -- all in one package? Only in the expanded KINDLE version of IT HAD TO BE US, the award-winning romantic memoir my husband and I co-wrote which is now available at the Amazon Kindle store. If you don't have a Kindle device, Amazon has free software you can download which enables you to read the book on your computer.

Nancy Lombardo, host of Comedy Concepts on BlogTalkRadio, calls our story "A Recipe for Love" in her recent rave review. She also says the book is "a wonderfully touching homage to love -- sweet, honest and filled with hope -- a great gift for Valentine's Day, so share it with someone you love."

Because I don't eat anything that once had a face, I added some delicious vegetarian recipes to our book, and that's probably why Nancy used "Recipe" in her review title. As a movie addict, I gave most of the recipes film-related monikers, such as "Oscar-Worthy Nachos." However, my hubby is still a carnivore, so he fries up a bit of hamburger and mixes it into his own servings of our "4-Star Chili" and "Thumbs-Up Spaghetti," which proves that vegetarians and carnivores can live together in harmony, at least in our house.

About those romantic films, I know many are highly predictable and not very entertaining, but my husband and I still have a lot of favorites, so we included reviews of several excellent ones, such as Love Actually, Pride & Prejudice and Kate & Leopold. It was fun compiling our list, even though we frequently disagreed while making the selections.

For more information about IT HAD TO BE US, click on the link below.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Women and Hollywood

Melissa Silverstein, creator of the terrific "Women and Hollywood" website and co-founder of the first Athena Film Festival, is concerned out about the small percentage of women in front of and behind the camera in the film industry today. She spoke eloquently about this issue during her recent interview on our Movie Addict Headquarters radio show.

Like many other women, I admire Melissa for the work she's doing to call people's attention to this problem -- and I think the idea of a film festival focusing on the contributions of women in film is an important one. The Athena Film Festival, scheduled for February 10-13 at Barnard College in New York City, looks like a very exciting event! In addition to fascinating discussions and a great lineup of movies to be shown, the festival will honor several women in the industry, including Debra Granik, the writer/director of Winter's Bone.

Here's the link for more information:

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