Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dear Jodie! My Oscar Predictions and Preferences

See Jodie's Oscar Post Here

Dear Jodie:

I can't honestly say I have watched every Oscar telecast in the last half century, but I can't remember one that I've missed. I gained an understanding of what the Oscars were all about in 1964 watching with my parents.  In 1965 I rooted hard for Julie Andrews to win in her leading role, the title role, in Mary Poppins.

She was the first person I rooted for.

She won.

Over those 50 years, I've seen some amazing moments. One came in 1972 when Charlie Chaplin, The Little Tramp, who once finished third in a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest, came back to Hollywood after a 20-year exile to accept an Honorary Oscar.  The poor man was floored by a response that Gods and Goddesses could only dream of.  Check it out here.

In 1976 Louise Fletcher, in one of the great acceptance speeches in my memory, excused herself and signed a thank you to her parents, both of whom were profoundly deaf and spent their lives working with the deaf and hearing impaired. That gesture brought awareness to Hollywood of the deaf and hearing impaired.

Two years later when Debby Boone sang her Oscar winning song "You Light Up My Life" on the broadcast a chorus of children signed the lyrics.  My father cried and signed along with those lyrics.  I was nineteen years old and didn't know that in addition to the other two languages he spoke, American Southern and Texan, my father could sign.  I wish he had taught me.  Check out Ms. Fletcher's amazingly beautiful speech here.

So, Jodie, in the spirit of the intellect and the emotion, here are my predictions and preferences for the Academy Awards in the major categories.

As it turns out, in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category, my prediction and preference are the same.  Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club.  You could argue, and justly, that the prediction portion of this program is more preference than prediction since I live in the Dallas area.  I agree with your comment in your review Dallas Buyer Club, Jared Leto was brilliant. 

In the category of Best Actress in a Supporting Role my prediction is that Lupita Nyong'o will win.  She was amazing and will so deserve it if she does.  My preference is Jennifer Lawrence because she has the best acting chops I've ever seen from any actor anywhere under the age of 30, and she does not disappoint in American Hustle.

For Best Director my prediction and preference are the same, Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity. I love his work, Gravity is amazing, and he directed, to my mind, the best of the wonderful Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

For Best Actor in a Leading Role I think Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club will win, and he will so deserve it and I will applaud loudly for the Texas boy if he does.  I'm rooting for Bruce Dern in Nebraska because he is longtime underrated Hollywood veteran who deserves recognition.

For Best Actress in a Leading Role I think that Meryl Streep will win because Meryl Streep wins whether she is brilliant or whether she sucks.  Okay, that was a personal, snarky comment, but let it stand. She sucked in her Oscar winning wretched impression of Margaret Thatcher.  Viola Davis in The Help should have won that year and Meryl Streep, to her credit, knew it.  I'm still furious about that one.  My preference is Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.  She's wonderful.  Period.

For Best Picture I think that Gravity will win and it will deserve it if it does.  I almost said I want Dallas Buyers Club to win, and in an early draft of this post I did. After further review, I thought the editing was a bit clunky and the timeline confused me a bit.  I also thought they could have done a better job in the redemptive sections.  I'm rooting for Gravity.

Oh, Jodie.  These are my predictions and, admittedly emotional, preferences!  What are yours?  I can't wait for the telecast!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dear Jodie - Dallas Buyers Club

In Dallas Buyers Club, the scene between Rayon and his father took me back more than thirty years, to the early 80's, a time before the real life events of the movie.

My cousin Charles danced for the Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all male ballet troupe, for a number of years. When they came through Dallas in 1980 my mother, sister, brother, and I went to a performance in Dallas at my cousin's invitation, and met him for dinner and drinks after.

This was his announcement to us that he was gay.

He danced the women's parts, and damn well, too.

We talked about old times. He asked about his father, and sisters, and seemed genuinely interested.  We gave suitable replies.  At the end of the evening, Charles reminded me that though he was five years my senior, we learned how to fish at the same time, and that the same man taught us, a man whose parents were born into slavery. 

He asked that I remember that.

Four years later my Uncle Eldredge, Charles's father, called and asked that we meet him at DFW airport, he was changing plains on his way to San Francisco.  Only my mother and I could go.

Charles, Eldredge told us over a cup of coffee, was in San Francisco and dying of "a wasting disease of some kind or other."  In 1984, Mom and I knew of HIV and AIDS, but Eldredge was a deacon at the First Baptist Church in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  We didn't push the matter, nor did he.

He was sad that his son was dying, but truly wanted to see him.  I saw the truth swirling in my uncle's eyes, and his struggle to accept it.  Charles died while Eldredge was out there, and Eldredge on his return trip said they had talked quite a bit, and hugged.

How hard that must have been for my uncle given his conservative religious beliefs and the way he was raised.

As much as anything, Jodie, I think Dallas Buyers Club is about accepting things outside of our normal range to accept.  It's about jumping out of the comfort of a plane and riding a bolt of lightening to the ground.  Matthew McConaughey gives a stellar performance to my mind of a man who is dragged kicking and screaming into a different world, one that he gives the finger to time after time, only to finally understand that he is just like each of them, a person fighting to survive.

And at the end he fights for them, just as hard and as passionately as he hates them earlier in the movie.  I wish they had spent more time here.  The movie makers glossed over this a little to my mind.

Jerod Leto!  Whoa!  What an amazing performance as well!

Because of the other two performances, I'm afraid that Jennifer Garner's gets lost, but it shouldn't.  She, too, was terrific!

I give this movie a solid 8 out of 10.  I thought some of the edits were a bit clunky, and the time line confused me at various points, but definitely, this is a movie to see once.

And I am remembering that the same man taught me and my cousin to fish, a man whose parents were born into slavery.

What do you think, Jodie?

Check out Jodie's take here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dear Jodie! I've Learned To Feed The Birds!

Dear Jodie!

In light of our comments on Saving Mr. Banks, here is a story I wish the movie had mentioned, but understand why it didn't.

When it came time to cast the small, but important, role of the Bird Woman, Walt Disney said, "I know who I want to do this role.  I don't know if she will do it, but I want to ask."

So Walt Disney personally went to the actor's retirement home and asked the eighty-five year old Oscar winning actor Jane Darwell, if she would play the role of the Bird Woman.  Ms. Darwell had not worked in a number of years.

She was thrilled that he asked, and gladly accepted.  Each day that she worked, Walt Disney sent a car for her, and personally met her on the sound stage to welcome her.

The song "Feed The Birds" is about a seemingly small act that rocks the world!  "Tuppence a bag."  What a great line. I can't say the line without tears forming in my eyes. Walt Disney, whether he knew it or not, honored that sentiment by giving an elderly lady the chance to shine one more time in her life.  Jane Darwell, herself, said, "Mr. Disney made me feel like a star."

Oh, no!  Ms. Darwell was a star. Check out her credits on IMDB.  Mr. Disney just made sure the world knew it and got to see it one last time

Jane Darwell lived long enough to see the movie, and LOVED it.

Here in seven minutes is her performance!


Ahhh, what movie shall we tackle next, Jodie?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dear Jodie! Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks Theatrical Poster.jpg

Dear Jodie,

I saw Mary Poppins in its original release in 1964 and fell in love with it.  Naturally, when I saw the previews for Saving Mr. Banks, I couldn't wait.  What better story for this actor and writer to see?

If I had a trepidation going in, it was that Walt Disney Pictures was involved in the making of this story . . . along with BBC films.  The issue for me would be how would the Walt Disney Pictures portion of this team handle a story that ultimately didn't end well between P. L. (Pamela) Travers and Walt Disney?

I needn't have worried.  Just as the movie transported P. L. Travers back to the world of Helen Lyndon Goff, her younger self, it transported me back to 1964, and all of the times since that I have seen Mary Poppins.

 Oh, Jodie, I can't count the number of times I have been down in the dumps only to have Mary Poppins pull me out, laughing and joyous.

Saving Mr. Banks had a similar effect on the adult Rocky.

I loved everything about this movie. A friend of mine didn't like the flashbacks, but to my mind, the essence of this movie is in the backstory.  How did loving, open, imaginative Helen Lyndon Goff become tight, repressed, almost misanthropic Pamela Lyndon Travers?

We do learn.

I thought the acting in this movie rocked!  As I mentioned in my Philip Seymour Hoffman tribute, one of the most difficult roles an actor can play is someone in living memory.  For me Walt Disney is within living memory.  Tom Hanks shined, especially in the London scene.

Colin Farrell kicked serious ass as Travers Goff.  Bradley Whitford and Jason Schwartzman were amazing as the Sherman Brothers.  So many others did great jobs, but I did want to give a shout out to young Annie Rose Buckley as Helen.  What a lovely performance!

The movie, though, belonged to Emma Thompson, and her role was so much more difficult than even Tom Hanks.  In addition to being within living memory, P. L. Travers comes off as a pill early on in the movie, and Emma had to sustain that while making ever-so-gentle steps forward, gaining and keeping the sympathy of the audience along the way.

She amazed me by doing it in almost imperceptible baby steps.

I especially loved the scenes between Pamela and Ralph (Paul Giamatti), and their developing friendship.

Saving Mr. Banks allowed me to go back to 1964 and not just enjoy Mary Poppins, but to take shy, hurt, Rocky, who had no self-worth, and show him that everything is all right.

But Saving Mr. Banks left me torn.

The writer in me completely understands the need for Pamela Travers to see her creation as her family, and to cling hard to her own vision of that family.  My writer soul relates to the disappointment and even anger that she felt when it didn't completely turn out her way.

The child in me, both from 1964 and now, believes that Walt Disney served her family brilliantly.

What a great collaboration between Australian, American, and British filmmakers!

My intellect gives the movie 8 out of 10.

My emotions give it a 10.

Oh, Jodie!  Did I tell you that in the 90's, I collected about 300 autographs, including this one of Dick Van Dyke.


What did you think of Saving Mr. Banks?

You can find Jodie's take here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dear Jodie - Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman 2011.jpgDear Jodie!

We lost Philip Seymour Hoffman yesterday, and I am sad.  What a special actor he was.  He was what I strived to be, a gifted character actor capable of leading roles.

This was not easy for him to accomplish in the Hollywood world of, not just beauty, but perfect, flawless beauty.

Mr. Hoffman helped break that mold with brilliant performances with such directors as the Coen Brothers, Spike Lee, Cameron Crowe, and David Mamet.

For me his best of all of his wonderful performances was "Capote."

I'll discuss this more in depth at another time, but one of the most difficult roles an actor can play is a person within living memory.  For me, Truman Capote is well within living memory being a brilliant writer and character in his own right, yet fifteen seconds after Hoffman appeared on-screen, I forgot about any semblance of a performance.  I stayed with him the entire way through his research and writing of the amazing "In Cold Blood."  I couldn't take my eyes away from his brilliance.

He pulled me in.

I voted for Hoffman for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role in the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2005.  He won.  I so rooted for him in the Academy Awards.  He won that, too, and I applauded so hard my hands hurt.


The entertainment community lost a wonderful actor from whom I wanted to see so much more, not the least of which was the continuation of "The Hunger Games" in the two-part telling of "Mockingjay."

And, Jodie, what were we discussing in our comments on "The Wolf of Wall Street" and how these people could have ingested so many drugs and walk out on the other side?

Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn't fortunate enough to walk out on the other side.

We may have sadly found the cautionary tale that Jordan Belfort wanted for himself.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was 46 years old, and on his way to the top of his profession.  He had not hit his peak.

Tonight I am sad, and my heart goes out to all of his family and friends and those who knew and loved him.

Yet he has left behind a wonderful body of work, and was, in the best sense of the word, unique.

What were your favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performances, Jodie?  

Read Jodie's tribute here!