50th Academy Awards (1978)

Looking For Mr. Goodbar (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Looking For Mr. Goodbar (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Supporting Actress (Tuesday Weld) and Cinematography (William A. Fraker).
Watched October 20, 2012.

[This review contains spoilers]

 

Looking For Mr. Goodbar is so far off from what I was expecting.  If I know nothing about the film, I don’t look at any descriptions before I watch it, and therefore the title threw me completely off.  It is based on a true story of a woman named Rosanne Quinn who was murdered in New York.  Her story inspired a novel, and then this film.  Richard Books, who both wrote the screenplay and directed the film, decided to change the character of Quinn in order to make her more likable, but her end is still the same.

 

Reportedly, Quinn was a woman living in the time of women’s lib and got her fixes not just from drugs but from increasingly violent sexual encounters.  She was a school teacher by day and a bar hopper by night.  The character in the film, Theresa Dunn (Diane Keaton) is the same in this regard.  She teaches deaf and mute children during the day, but at night she frequents singles bars, snorts coke, and tries desperately to rebel against her strictly Catholic upbringing.  Theresa differs from Quinn in that she is not a masochist.  She generally would like to avoid violence and abuse and her attraction to lesser men is simply because she can abuse them with her eloquence.  Ironically, the man who is the craziest of all seems like one of the sweetest in her first encounters, although we as an audience know he is not.  This is another difference from the true story and the screen adaption–she brings home what she thinks is a sweet guy, maybe someone more who she would be looking for, but in Quinn’s instance, he was probably the worst of the worst from the beginning.

Theresa’s story is somewhat intriguing.  She starts as a school girl with wild fantasies of her professor.  He becomes her first lover–the first chauvinistic man to bed her.  After her experience with him, she moves out of her father’s house and into an apartment her sister, Katherine (Tuesday Weld), offered her.  Katherine is a wreck when it comes to men–she marries them without knowing them and often wakes up in the midst of naked people and doesn’t remember how she got there.  But even Katherine would never let a man treat her the way Theresa eventually finds herself being treated.

 

When she begins her bar life, she finds a man named Tony (Richard Gere) who is an attractive, jealous player.  He is unpredictable, excitable, and very alluring to her, and although he pictures her as his ‘girl,’ he shows very little commitment.  His unpredictability and also physical abuse eventually end their “relationship,” but her security precautions against him eventually lead to her demise.

 

What is intended to be a cautionary tale is something I will never watch again.  It is much longer than it needed to be and seems to fall off point many times just so that it can show just how troubled and “liberated” Theresa has become.  Her home life reads as a soap opera, her one legitimate boy toy turns into a creepy stalker, and her near innocent forays into an unknowable world are very misjudged and under appreciated.  Tuesday Weld was pretty deserving of her nomination as the troubled sister, and the cinematography was very interesting.

 

I wouldn’t recommend the film.  Many people and critics alike love the film, but would not necessarily advise it for multiple viewings.  I can understand its nominations, and consider Diane Keaton’s performance to be something of note, but Looking For Mr. Goodbar was not my flavor.

 

 

Sources: Facets FeaturesFan CarpetIMDBRotten TomatoesRoger EbertFilm Fanatic

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Julia (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Julia (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 10 awards, of which it won 2.
Nominated for Supporting Actor (Maximilian Schell), Best Actress (Jane Fonda), Cinematography (Douglas Slocombe), Costume Design (Anthea Sylbert), Directing (Fred Zinnemann), Film Editing (Walter Murch), Music-Original (Georges Delerue), and Best Picture (Richard Roth).
Won Supporting Actor (Jason Robarbs) and Writing-Screenplay based on material from another medium (Alvin Sargent).
Watched October 12, 2012.

Julia (Vanessa Redgrave) is an eccentric, intelligent activist who was tragically and fortunately born and lived in the time of Hitler.  She was doomed from the beginning, and so it seems was her friend and eventual famous playwright Lillian Hellman (Jane Fonda).  They had a deep, loving friendship all through their childhood until Julia went away to Oxford to study.  It is here that a distance was created between them, not just in miles.  Lillian reflects romantically on her memories of her friend later in life as she attempts to write her first play, holed up in a beach house with her on-again-off-again lover Dash Hammett (Jason Robards).  It is the tragedy and unconditional love and devotion of Lillian’s relationship with Julia that preoccupies her writing, but also fuels her greatness.  It is also this that is constantly driving her to visit Europe in hopes of tempting Julia out of hiding to spend time with her.

 

The movie is a mess, unfortunately.  It is supposedly about Julia, but is actually more halfheartedly about Lillian.  It is about their relationship, and yet we rarely see them together except for in Lillian’s romanticized memories.  We very rarely see or know anything of depth about Julia, just that she is a shadow that haunts Lilly.  The affection in the relationship is primarily on Lilly’s side, although Julia does eventually name her child after her friend.  All that we know about Julia is that she is daring, brave, and an activist first in Vienna and then in Berlin during the rise and dominance of Hitler and Mussolini.

What should be the climax of the film is infact the worst part.  On one of Lillian’s inevitable tragic visits to Europe, she is approached by a “friend” of Julia’s who asks her to help them smuggle money into Berlin.  This again begs the question of who actually loves who in the relationship–Lillian who is so willing to put her life on the line for her friend, or Julia who would willingly put her friend’s life on the line for the cause?  Instead of an exciting point in the film, it is slow, seemingly pointless, and unfortunately feels like padding to fill screen time.

 

The acting is wonderful and the imagery is good.  If the film had only been about Lillian with a little bit of Dash it would have been a hit, but because it could not decide who it was really about, it fell drastically short.  I enjoyed the darkness of the setting–rarely was it sunny and cheerful.  I found Lillian herself very interesting, with her chain smoking, writers block, and utter transparity with her emotions.  Jane Fonda did a very good job with her.  Vanessa Redgrave, on the other hand, wasn’t given much to deal with in terms of Julia and therefor she did fairly well.  I’m not sure why Jason Robards won supporting actor, though.  Not to say that he didn’t do well, but his character didn’t feel very demanding.

 

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend the film.  If you are looking for something about the anti-fascist movement it might be of interest to you, although again, it is almost entirely about Lillian and her memories and not very much about what was happening in Germany at the time.  The writing, however, was interesting enough to possibly warrant a viewing.

 

Sources: Share FilestoutlecineIMDBRotten TomatoesRoger EbertThe Best Picture Project

Star Wars (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Star Wars (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 11 awards, of which it won 7.
Nominated for Supporting Actor (Alec Guinness), Directing (George Lucas), Best Picture (Gary Kurtz), and Writing-Original (George Lucas).
Won Art Direction (John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Roger Christian), Costume Design (John Mollo), Film Editing (Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew), Music-Original Score (John Williams), Sound (Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler, Derek Ball), Visual Effects (John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune, Robert Blalack), and a Special Achievement Award (to Benjamin Burtt, Jr. for the creation of the alien, creature and robot voices featured in the film).
Watched October 5, 2012.

 

The second science fiction film to be nominated for an Academy Award, the cult classic, the household names, and the instant launch into stardom all began at one unbelievable place on the set of a film with a tiny budget comprised of a crew who didn’t believe in the project. Star Wars came into our lives at the precise moment that our culture was able see its greatness and make it such a huge success. 
The original owners of the movie studios were all retiring and selling them to inexperienced corporations. At a time when our American heroes and leaders were a part of the Watergate scandal or engaged in the Vietnam War, George Lucas was exploring mythology and religion, trying to piece them together into a simple coming of age story where good and evil are clearly defined. Only because of the technology of the time, the simple story turned into a monumental, nearly impossible task. 

 

The science fiction culture, as well as the other genres of the time, were preoccupied with death and destruction, taking lead from the world that surrounded it. In the end, it took a very special man at 20th Century Fox, Alan Ladd, Jr., who believed in the man but not in the project, to get Lucas his 8.25 million dollar budget and launch the film. Lucas, an independent filmmaker who had recently stepped away from experimental films and was still determined to stay out of Hollywood, wanted to do everything his way without the studio’s suffocating tampering he had experienced in his other projects. He took six months to cast the film and did his best to choose no-names for the three key characters. While he was still elbow deep in preproduction, his big hit American Graffiti was finally released and the studio gained a little confidence in him.

 

The story line is simple. A young farm boy named Luke who longs for adventure outside of his home crosses paths with two wanted droids that lead him to the doorstep of Obi-Wan Kenobi, an old Jedi Master. The Jedi are apart of a religion almost forgotten to the past. One of the droids contains important information for the rebellion against the evil Empire, and seeing that they are the only hope, Luke and Obi-Wan enlist the help of the smuggler Han Solo to fly them to the rebel base. It doesn’t take long before they are caught up in something much bigger than they had anticipated–rescuing a princess and piloting X-Wing fighters among them. As the story progresses, Luke slowly begins to discover his skills with The Force, and ultimately uses them to deal the Empire a crushing blow.

Initially, Lucas refused to consider Harrison Ford for the role of Han Solo because he had worked with him before (remember his goal of casting no-names), but recognizing his talent, Lucas asked Ford to help him in casting by reading with the auditions. Eventually, inevitably, Ford’s connection to the character and spot-on interpretation of his mannerisms won him the role, and he was joined by recent TV phenomenon Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker (originally named Luke Skykiller), and the not so common damsel in distress Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.

The shooting of the film was plagued with misfortunes, mostly with unpredictable desert weather, malfunctioning robots, and differing styles between director and cinematographer. No one on set really understood Lucas’ vision or the story and therefore there was not a lot of belief in its success. The studio was constantly breathing down his neck, and when the shoot went over schedule by three weeks, there was the threat of pulling the plug. 

Meanwhile, the special effects department had been working for a year, spent half their budget, and had only filmed four shots, none of which Lucas liked. His stress level reached an all time high and he had to go the hospital with complaints of chest pains. Immediately, he stepped in and took control of the special effects department, setting deadlines and making regular trips to visit, insisting that they do a year’s worth of work in six months. Their hippy mentality finally got into gear, and although Lucas was never truly satisfied with the results, the immense progress they made completely changed the department and the art of filmmaking from then on out. 

It wasn’t until Lucas made some drastic changes and brought in some brilliant artisans that his film finally began to come together as he wanted it. His initial editor completely lost his vision and he brought in two men for whom winning an Oscar was the last thing on their minds, Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew. He was also lucky enough to enlist the help of composer John Williams, who already had an Oscar under his belt and was well known for his work on Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jaws.’

But before the music was complete, Lucas showed one of his first cuts to a group of friends, almost all of whom gave him fairly negative reviews. Only Steven Spielberg recognized it for the genius that it was. To Lucas’ astonishment, the studio loved it, and several of them actually left in tears, knowing they would always remember the day they had witnessed such a film. 

When the film was released on May 25, 1977, it was pandemonium. Only around 40 theaters had agreed to show the film and in its first weekend it made over 35 million dollars, breaking all sorts of records, and not just for science fiction films. It became one of Fox’s highest grossing films at the time, and the real kicker is that they had no interest in merchandising when they created Lucas’ contract, which means that he was set up to make an incredible amount of money from the inevitable cult following that began even before the film was released.  This was thanks in part to the marketing department and their use of the famed Comic Con convention in San Diego and their release of a novel just six months prior to the film’s release. 

The film itself was a great feat for the time of its release. The acting is not the best, and the special effects certainly aren’t up to today’s standards, but its incredible and genius utilization of story, characterization, and imagination, are what help it stand the test of time. George Lucas’ vision was much too grand for the time in which he was born, but it is because of this that he pushed the boundaries of cinema and created the first ever science fiction blockbuster, thus changing the whole idea of film.

If you have somehow never seen Star Wars (you know who you are), drop what you are doing right now and please enjoy this incredible film that changed the tides of filmmaking for the better.

 

Sources: The RushMovies and MayhemRotten TomatoesIMDB, A look inside of the Star Wars Trilogy (A New Hope / The Empire Strikes Back / Return of the Jedi) (Widescreen Edition with Bonus Disc) DVD

The Turning Point (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

The Turning Point (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 11 awards.
Nominated for Supporting Actor (Mikhail Baryshnikov), Best Actress (Anne Bancroft), Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), Best Supporting Actress (Leslie Browne), Art Direction (Albert BrennerMarvin March), Cinematography (Robert Surtees), Directing (Herbert Ross), Film Editing (William Reynolds), Best Picture (Herbert Ross, Arthur Laurents), Sound (Theodore Soderberg, Paul Wells, Douglas O. Williams, Jerry Jost), and Writing–Original (Arthur Laurents).
Watched September 28, 2012.

 

The Turning Point would today be considered a Lifetime movie, Oscars-style.  To have been nominated for eleven Oscars and win none of them has only happened twice in the Academy’s history.  To be honest, a few of the nominations seemed a bit excessive–namely the supporting cast.  The film was apparently a big hit when it came out, and should certainly be on the favorite list of today’s dancers, but it is another prime example of a film not standing the test of time.

 

Despite its flaws, this film is very relatable.  For anyone who once had a dream, and ended up taking a different path, or outgrew it, the story line will strike a chord with you.  It is about a woman named Deedee (Shirley MacLaine) who gave up the opportunity of being a prima ballerina to get married and have a family.  One day when her old company comes into town, her oldest daughter is invited to join.  Deedee accompanies Emilia (Leslie Browne) to New York, just for the summer, and immediately feels out of place.  It is not her time anymore, and it seems the light is dimming on her old friend and rival, Emma (Anne Bancroft), who might just be nearing her last dance.

 

To see the ins and outs of a dance company is something we are familiar with in films these days, but to see such exquisite dancing, we are not as accustomed.  Granted, as the Step Up films certainly highlight their genres very well, The Turning Point does the same with ballet.  Its consistency with the story is a bit lacking, but unlike many critics I enjoyed this.  I found it more realistic and consistent than, say, a musical.  The characters themselves are in fact dancers, and when they practice and perform the dance consumes them, but in their outside lives they are not as likely to break into song and dance.

 

Considering the fact that neither MacLaine or Bancroft were dancers, they did a very good job assimilating themselves into their environment.  Their relationship is strained, almost fake, because of long-harbored resentment toward each other.  They both long after the life the other person has and are filled with regrets.  The film is preoccupied by the life decision between career and family, which doesn’t give the actors too much range to work with.  The climactic confrontation between the two main characters inevitably comes, and after a lot of harsh words and a drink thrown in MacLaine’s face (which was unplanned and thus her reaction is of genuine surprise), turns into a full-out cat fight that was quite hilarious.

 

Overall, unless you are a lover of dance or a fan of Lifetime movies, I would not recommend this movie for you.  However, if you have any appreciation for ballet, I suspect this is already one of your favourite films!

Source: The Best Picture ProjectMubiIMDBRotten TomatoesYou Dance Funny, So Does MeMinute a Day About MoviesAll MovieEmanuel Levy

The Bread Game (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

The Bread Game (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
5/5 Stars
Nominated for Short Animated Film (Ishu Patel).
Watched September 14, 2012.

 

Surprise!  A short film that is not being posted on Short Movie Monday!  What is this?!  Don’t feel gypped, this is a great little five minute short that I think you should all go watch right now!  It is stop motion animation, which is one of my absolute favorites.  It started out a little slowly and immediately I was rash and foolhardy and said, “Oh this is very simple, I could do this.  This might be a long five minutes.”  Don’t worry, though, I was quickly humbled and in awe of this colorful, intricate, statement piece.

 

It begins with small organisms, but you aren’t exactly sure what they are, only that they seem to be chasing each other around and morphing together, then separating into something different, and so on.  Suddenly the organisms become something more–small crustaceans and other ocean life that continue to chase each other and devour one another.  It quickly becomes apparent that this is a type of “circle of life” piece.  The animals progressively get larger and eventually become monkeys and then man.  Once man is introduced, it is no longer about consuming another animal, but about killing other men.  From Cane and Able, to Romans, and onward, it is a statement piece on war and men and humanity.  Animals, for the most part (unless you are a Velociraptor), kill for food and to sustain themselves.  Humans do not.

 

Ishu Patel’s use of color pallet and movement are amazing.  There is always motion and a stark contrast between the black background and the light, frolicking movements that represent death as well as life.  The music choice is also very fitting–very tribal and a bit chaotic.

 

Soure: IMDB