Describe the 2018 Oscars in One Word: “Safe”

Its not a surprise at all to me that this years show was the lowest rated Oscar telecast since the Neilsen Ratings started in 1974. Jimmy Kimmel was at best average last year. The two front running movies did not make $100 million between them. And, like it or not, TV audiences are tiring of being lectured, which seems to be an awards show staple.

This year’s Oscars had lower ratings than the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics. They were trying so hard to play it safe and not offend anyone and it showed in a rather dull telecast.

A few years ago, the Academy added more best pictures to the list of nominees to try and increase audience interest. If you look at the highest rated broadcasts of the last 30 years (1994 Forrest Gump, 1997 Titanic, 2003 Return of the King), they have well liked, financially successful movies at their forefront. This year, you have to go to 14th in the years box office to find a film with any Oscar possibilities (Dunkirk) and 47th for one with a real chance (Shape of Water). There were only about 7 nominations combined from the Top 10 films.

Gal Gadot and Luke Evans both gave performances worthy of Oscar consideration in blockbuster movies.

There was only one shock for me the whole night, that Kobe Bryant won an Oscar to a standing ovation in a MeToo world, which Hollywood wants to drive more than anything. Bryant was charged with rape and the charges dropped when his accuser, a 19 year old that Bryant admitted an extra-marital affair with, refused to testify in court. He later settled out of court in a civil suit. Casey Affleck’s accusations are very similar and was not allowed to even present.

There is an exceptional amount of hypocrisy in Hollywood that is emphasized by Bryant’s Oscar. MeToo voices like Meryl Streep and Oprah, some of the Hollywood’s most influential people, befriended and publicly praised Harvey Weinstein and cuddled up to him along with the Clintons and Obamas. They knew.

Ok, off my soap box.

All 8 major categories went exactly according to predictions. Maybe the only surprise of the night was Coco winning for best original song. (Same song writers that previously won for the ubiquitous ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen).

Their were two highlights for me. First was Roger Deakins. A brilliant, prolific cinematographer with 13 prior nominations, many for Best Pic nominees and a couple of winners, and no wins. Blade Runner 2049 was a superb film and he deserved this.

The second was Frances McDormand. She won her first Oscar in 1996 for Marge Gunderson, the plucky, pregnant policy chief in Fargo whose instincts both as a cop and a wife were uncanny. Also, that character has one of my favourite ever movie lines “I’m not sure I agree 100% with your police work there, Lou”. She created one of the most memorable characters in all of film.

McDormand is akin (in my books) to Daniel Day Lewis. Lately she is picky about her projects, few and far between and when she takes one on, she engulfs it

I loved her speech. When she called on Meryl to stand up knowing that others would follow. And then when she said “Talk to us, we have projects we want financed”. A punch of honesty right between the eyes.

She finished her speech by saying “two words … inclusion rider”.  This is relatively new to Hollywood and is really only at the disposal of A-list stars. Its a rider on their contract that stipulates that 50% of the cast (as far as it can serve the script) and crew must be women and minorities. For a self congratulating industry that seems to still largely be in denial of its problems with abuse, racism and sexism, this may have been the most poignant and effective of any speech given yet.

McDormand used her platform not to lecture and not to give a speech full of empty slogans and platitudes but as a direct call to action for people that wield her level of influence and higher. Bravo.

For the record, I was 7 for 8 on the major categories and 17 for 24 overall. I missed both music categories and Best Picture of all things.

I love the Oscars, always have and always will. There is a growing gap between films that audiences like and those the Academy chose to honour. The more this gap grows the more less relevant that long, languid show will seem. I am not sure how, but it needs to reinvent itself.

 

Dan’s 2018 Oscar Picks

This is going to be an interesting year for the Oscar’s. The first year without Harvey Weinstein. His influence on the Oscars was legendary, he could and did make a lot of unlikely films and actors nominees and winners. For 13 straight years he had at least one Best Picture nominee and his movies won over 140 Oscars over the years. If you ever wondered how mediocre films like Chocolat, Life is Beautiful and Shakespeare in Love had their Oscar success, its the Weinstein Factor. Good riddance.

I have not seen a lot of the movies this year. My pics are based on a lot of reading from Critics and Movie insiders and various websites.

Best movie for me this year, that I have seen, Get Out narrowly edging Logan.

This does not seem to be the year of a sweep or a runaway winner. Three Billboards with 3-4, The Shape of Water with 3-4 and the rest very spread out.

I thought Jimmy Kimmel was a weak host last year and I am quite surprised he is back. Perhaps he can do something this year other than Trump and Matt Damon jokes.

All that said, here are my picks.

 

THE 8 MAJOR CATEGORIES

Best Picture

It’s a two way race between Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and The Shape of Water. Vastly different films. There has been negative talk associated with 3BB of late and Guillermo del Toro is a much loved director. Also, in a two way race, never count out the third horse, which this year is Get Out. It is fashionable lately to given the Actors film best pic and the Special Effects film best Director. I see that continuing this year.

Dan’s Pick: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

best_picture_new-split-h_2018

 

Best Director

Best-Director

Jordan Peele proved he belongs in this group.

What a strong category. I am still in awe that Jordan Peele is an nominee. Greta Gerwig made a well loved, touching real life movie. Christopher Nolan has the Midas Touch and should have an Oscar by now. Paul Thomas Anderson makes consistently interesting and original films. Guillermo Del Toro has made some questionable films but never a bad or dull one. Hellboy, Blade II and Pacific Rim and all super fun even if they are not high art. Pan’s Labrynth is among my Top 100 favourite films, its pure genius. He is well liked and will take home the trophy.

Dan’s Pick: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

 

Best Actor

Here is one where you bet the farm.

Dan’s Pick: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

 

Best Actress

oscarnomination-kjiC--621x414@LiveMint

Frances McDormand is the favourite but any winner from this group would not be a surprise.

There is more talk in this category than any other of the majors. Margot Robbie made a sympathetic character out of Tonya Harding. Sally Hawkins is a brilliant actress, long overlooked. Meryl is Meryl, perhaps the greatest of all time and can never be counted out. Saorise Ronan gained acclaim and her third nomination for Lady Bird and she is brilliant. Her time will come. Frances McDormand as an all new kind of grieving mother will win.

Dan’s Pick: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

 

Best Supporting Actor

For the longest time, everyone favoured Willem Dafoe in the Florida Project. I love his work but that small film did not mount much of a campaign. Sam Rockwell now seems to have momentum.

Dan’s Pick: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

 

Best Supporting Actress

Everything I read everywhere points in one direction. If there is a upset it will be Laurie Metcalf in Ladybird

Dan’s Pick: Alison Janney, I, Tonya

 

Adapted Screenplay

Logan created a superhero film that defies the genre with heart and pathos. It will not win but perhaps should. The Disaster Artist is out of the question. Look here for Call My By Your Name to win its one and only award.

Dan’s Pick: Call Me By Your Name

 

Original Screenplay

getout1.jpg.size-custom-crop.1086x0

Oscar Nominee Daniel Kaluuya in what has become an iconic shot from Get Out.

Wide open, I think. The Big Sick will not win, any of the outer four could. I see the Academy wanting to honour Jordan Peele’s fascinating and horrifying Get Out. Either that or Ladybird.

Dan’s Pick: Get Out

 

The Runner Up Categories

Best Cinematography

If you have seen more than 10 movies in the last 20 years, chances are one was filmed by Roger Deakins. Proflic and brilliant, he has 13 prior nominations and could have won for any of them. He should have won for Fargo and Skyfall and arguably Shawshank. He is long overdue and his work here is among his best. Possible upset, Rachel Morrison, the first ever-female nominee in this category for Mudbound. (She also filmed Black Panther).

Bladerunner_Featured-1000x576

Everything about this short from Blade Runner 2049 is perfect. Deakins’ attention to the tiniest detail is legendary.

Dan’s Pick: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049

 

Best Costume Design

I am going to take the easy route and pick the film about a clothing designer

Dan’s Pick: Mark Bridges, The Phantom Thread

 

Production Design

I almost always get this wrong so maybe I should go against my instincts. The team of Katie Spencer and Sarah Greenwood have done some brilliant work and are nominated twice this year. Blade Runner 2049 was close to perfect. The team from Shape of Water are all first time nominees in a category of Oscar veterans. I see them winning:

Dan’s Pick: The Shape of Water

 

 

Film Editing

Hard to pick here. For decades, editing and best picture went together. Not so much in recent years. Coin toss for Baby Driver, Dunkirk and The Shape of Water. Lee Smith should have won for The Dark Knight.

Dan’s Pick:      Lee Smith, Dunkirk.

 

Best Original Song

The year was short on musicals. This is Me from The Greatest Showman is the only real musical song nominated. Wouldn’t it be great to say “Oscar Winner Mary J Blige”?? That said, Common has won before, but Diane Warren is 0 for 8 coming into this show.

Dan’s Pick: Common and Dianne Warren, Stand for Something from Marshall

 

Original Score

There is zero change John Williams will win but the music for Last Jedi was perfect. Alexandre Desplat seems to score one out of very three movies these days. Carter Burwell has done most of the Coen Brother’s films but is rarely acknowledged. This is also a tough category.

Dan’s Pick: Carter Burwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

 

Animated Feature

I have not seen it yet but Pixar’s Coco got great reviews and seems to be the consensus pick. Could The Boss Baby win. Three words, Big Hero 6.

Dan’s Pick: Coco

 

Foreign Language Film

Dan’s Pick: The Insult (Lebanon)

 

Technical Categories

 Best Sound: Dunkirk

Best Sound Effects Editing: Dunkirk

 Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049

 Best Make-Up and Hair: Darkest Hour

 

The Educated Guesses

Documentary Short: Edith + Eddie, true story of a nonagenarian newlywed inter-racial couple

 Documentary Feature: Faces Places. Celebrated French Director Agnes Varda becomes the oldest winner of a competitive Oscar. She is receiving an Honorary Award as well.

 Live Action Short:: Dekalb Elementary. About a real life 911 call placed during a school shooting in Georgia.

 Animated Short: Dear Basketball (In a #MeToo world, I find it hard to see Kobe Bryant winning an Oscar but this is the popular pick).

Dan’s Oscar Picks – 2016

This is a pretty banal year for the Oscars again. Other than the controversy stirred up by Spike Lee (which I will not comment on) there is not much intrigue at all. When Ridley Scott, the deemed front-runner, was not nominated in the Director Category, the prognosticators were left scratching their heads. It always leave me curious as to how a movie can be nominated in 8 or 9 or 10 categories and not director (Argo, The Color Purple, Driving Miss Daisy, Dark Knight and many others).

What will be nice this year is to see a couple of “lifetime achievement” Oscars handed out.

So we are heading for a night of foregone conclusions or complete shocks. Maybe Chris Rock will drop a swear or two and shake things up. I will be disappointed if he does not go off script and bring up the fact that Spike Lee is at a Knicks game. I can only hope.

I see early front runner The Martian going home empty. Usually one major nominee does. Mad Max with a lot of trophies but The Revenant will be the big winner.

Here are my pics for this year

 

THE SIX MAJOR CATEGORIES

Best Picture

I have not seen a site that is not picking The Revenant. So I will go with that. If you want to pick a dark horse either Spotlight or my #2 movie of the year, The Big Short. Spotlight was the pervasive frontrunner but ended up failing commercially and critically.

Dan’s Prediction: The Revenant

 

Best Actor

Oh please, Leo, please use your speech to continue your little spat with Prime Minister Selfie and slag the oil sands. Please!!! I can’t stand Leo but he is a great actor and long overdue. This is his year. Mortal lock.

Dan’s Prediction: Leo, the Revenant

 

Best Actress

Charlotte Rampling kind of took herself out of the running by proclaiming that the Oscars are racist against whites. Not a solid career movie. Cate Blanchett is in a daring performance but has won twice and recently. Jennifer Lawrence who is my girlfriend and doesn’t know it is the new Kate Winslett, nominated for everything. Down to Brie Larson and Sariose Ronan.

Dan’s Prediction: Brie Larson, Room.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Really, could this happen?? I will jump out of my seat and scream for joy if Sly Stallone wins for this 7th incarnation of Rocky Balboa in Creed. This is a tough category with brilliance all around. Acclaimed stage actor Mark Rylance may upset here in his wonderful, understated performance in Bridge of Spies, but it looks like after Sunday we will have the phrase, Oscar Winner Sylvester Stallone. Rocky is part of our culture. This is one of three or four categories I am truly excited about.

Dan’s Prediction: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

 

 Best Supporting Actress

I have not seen The Danish Girl but all signs from all media point to Oscar newcomcer Alicia Vikander in Tom Hooper’s transgender drama. Hooper has directed Colin First to his Oscar

Dan’s Prediction: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

 

Best Director

Ridley Scott has directed one best picture winner and one nominee. He is also responsible for Bladerunner and Black Hawk Down. He was considered a shoe in for best director months ago and not nominated so I think this is wide open. That said, it looks like we are in for a rare repeat of Best Director. John Ford is the only director to accomplish this with Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley in 1940/41. That’s some pretty impressive company. Alejandro is yet to make a weak film, let alone a bad one.

Dan’s Prediction: Alejandro G. Innaritu, The Revenant

 

THE CONSOLATION PRIZES

 The Original Screenplay

Wouldn’t it be great to see Straight Outta Compton pull the upset. Won’t happen but we can dream, can’t we?? I would love to see Inside Out, the year’s best film and a work of writing genius win, but let’s go with a safe pick about Catholic Church corruption.

Dan’s Prediction: Spotlight

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

This is the only pick where I will use my emotions and hope the Academy honours a brilliant, original film.

Dan’s Prediction: The Big Short
Best Costume Design

Interesting category. Sandy Powell is nominated twice. She has been in this scenario before and won. But I predict a technical sweep for Mad Max, so let’s go there.

Dan’s Prediction: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Best Production Design

I will do what I usually do and go with the same movie as costumes. Not this year.

Dan’s Prediction: The Revenant

 

 Best Film Editing

The link between Editing and Best Pic has not been as reliable in the last 7 or 8 years so let’s break that convention. Mad Max – didn’t love it but it’s a wonderful mess and totally coherent.

Dan’s Prediction: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

 Best Cinematography

A three-peat?? Looks that way. The great Roger Deakins will go home a runner up again and a man who is changing the way movies are filmed will win a third in a row. Watch Gravity, Birdman and The Revenant. They could not be any more different. He is a bona fide genius.

Dan’s Prediction: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant

 

Animated Feature

If Inside Out does not win, I will throw a shoe at the TV

Dan’s Prediction: The best movie of 2015, Inside Out

 

Foreign Language Film

Son of Saul. I have not seen this Hungarian holocaust drama but two reviews I have read both said it is on par with Schindler’s List for visceral impact. I want to see it but movies like this about the inhumanity of man tend to get under my skin and stick with me.

Dan’s Prediction: Son of Saul

 

 

TECHNICAL CATEGORIES

Sound Mixing: Mad Max Fury Road

 

Sound Editing: Mad Max Fury Road

 

Make-up: Max Max Fury Road

 

Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Really, can they let this film go with nothing?

 

Best Original Score: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful 8

This may be the most interesting category of the night, along with Song. On one hand we have the legendary, brilliant John Williams. A mind boggling 41 nominations and 5 wins. No wins since 1994. He just turned 84 and the music for The Force Awakens in awesome. Then you have Ennio Morricone. Also legendary and brilliant. 88 years old and scoring Tarantino movies. 6 time nominee and never a winner. Do they perhaps honour Mr. Williams one more time or finally give Ennio his due?? Expect Ennio to win and a five minute ovation.

 

Best Original Song: Diane Warren and Lady Gaga for The Hunting Ground

This is a controversial documentary and rape and cover up on college campuses. Joe Biden will introduce Gaga at the show tomorrow night. This is Diane Warren’s 8th nomination. A chance for the Academy to give her her due, make Gaga and Oscar winner and honour this film all at once.

 

 

The Educated Guesses

 

Documentary Feature: Amy (not a guess here, pretty much a lock)

 

Documentary Short: Claude Landmann: Specters of the Shoah

 

Animated Short: Sanjay’s Super Team

 

Live Action Short: Shok

Not a Bad Night After All – Oscar 2015 Recap

For a night that was supposed to have few surprises, Oscar 2015 had more than its share and more than most in recent history.

Personally, I went 20 fro 24 on my pics. I managed to pic all three short film categories yet miss best picture. I have been Oscar picking since 1990 and that’s a first. This is one of my better years, my best still being 2006 (when Crash was best picture) and I was 23 for 24, missing only Best Original Song.

Neal Patrick Harris started the show with an opening number for the ages, comparable to any of the Billy Crystal routines, but with better vocals. He kinda fell flat after that, save for when he said that Edward Snowden could not be there “for some treason”. Brilliant.

The four major acting categories all went as planned, but outside that, there were plenty of upsets.

Whiplash, the small film starring JK Simmons, took home three awards, two (Sound and Editing) to the shock of everyone, including the recipients. Disney’s Big Hero 6 upset How to Train your Dragon 2.

The strongest category of the night was Adapted Screenplay, which included Grand Bupadest Hotel, front runner Boyhood and critically acclaimed Birdman. When Birdman won, I was scrambling to adjust my ballot when no one was looking. When this night is analyzed by the prognosticators, there will be long discussions on how the universal favourite, Boyhood, went home with one statue.

The night belonged to Birdman, winning for Picture, Director, Screenplay and Emanuel Lubezki’s genius cinematography. Lubezki has now taken his place as the man to have behind the camera. Grand Budapest Hotel was honoured in four technical categories and Whiplash made its mark with three wins.

The night had his highs a lows. Sean Penn, who is a pretentious d-bag on a good day, paused before reading the best picture winner and said of Alejandro Innaritu “who gave this son of a bitch his green card.” That classless moment was the worst in Oscar history since Julia Roberts said “I love my life” before reading Denzel Washington for best actor. Yes, I know he and Penn have worked together. Still, that moment, Sean is not about you.

The peak of the night was clearly Lady Gaga. Looking shockingly normal, she did a four song medley from Sound of Music and nailed it. Even Julie Andrews, who joined her on stage after, seemed speechless. LAdy Gaga performed those songs like she owned them. She commanded the stage like a seasoned pro and proved she is not ordinary pop start. Common and John Legend brought the house down with Glory from Selma, then went on to win Best Original Song. Common gave a heartfelt, powerful acceptance speech.

Count me among those who felt Patricia Arquette’s “giving birth to taxpayers” speech was off key. While I have no quarrel with her content and agree with her, I have trouble with and highly paid actor preaching wage equality to a room full of privileged white millionaires. That moment for me was soon washed out by Graham Moore’s (original screenplay for Imitation Game) heartfelt, slightly sad but oh so joyous speech, encouraging youth to “stay weird and stay different”.

While Alejandro Innaritu will now go down in film history as a three time winner for Birdman, I encourage you to look at #86 on my blog, his brilliant “21 Grams”. Like Birdman, its challenging, different, demands a lot of its viewer. It was my first exposure to his work and it is a film that continues to mesmerize me to this day.

This year also confirmed my long-standing, undying crush on Cate Blanchett, my respect for Meryl Streep and the fact that Jack Black just makes me laugh.

For a year with no Clooney, no Pitt, no blockbusters, it turned into an exciting event. By the time the last two awards arrived, Best Actor and Best Picture were truly up for grabs.

I don’t expect to see Neal Patrick Harris back. He is uber talented and funny, but did not seem comfortable on stage and his ongoing gag with his picks on stage fell flat.

Lady Gaga, Common, JK Simmons and Mr. Moore all provided moments that will long be remembered. Birdman, a truly great but genuinely unusual film, will take its place amongst lesser Best Picture winners.

Dan’s All-Time Top 100 – The Complete List

Dan’s Top 100 Movies

The Complete List

(Jan 1 2015)

Happy 2015!!! I am often asked for movie recommendations. Here is a good place to start. There are likely some titles here you have not seen or some that could really warrant a revisit. I will update this list from time to time, probably annually, as new movies come out or as watch older films for the first time or gain a greyer appreciation for them. I also added my “runner’s up”, the last 10 movies I cut, in order. Over time, as I add titles, the Top 100 will grow.

The blog will continue. I will add new movie reviews, essays on older films, more complete reviews of some of my Top 100 films and Oscar commentaries. In addition, I will add film retrospectives by year and decade from time to time.

Completing a public Top 100 has been a long standing goal of mine. Thanks for joining me!

top_100

Dan’s Top 100 Movies (Jan 1 2015)

  1. The Godfather Part II (1974 – Coppola)
  2. Goodfellas (1991 – Scorsese)
  3. The Godfather (1972 – Coppola)
  4. Amadeus (1984 – Forman)
  5. Singing in the Rain (1952 – Donen)
  6. Pulp Fiction (1994 – Tarantino)
  7. Raging Bull (1980 – Scorsese)
  8. West Side Story (1961 – Wise & Robbins)
  9. A Fish Called Wanda (1985 -Chricton )
  10. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001,2002,2003 – Jackson)
  11. This is Spinal Tap (Reiner – 1983)
  12. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1983 – Spielberg)
  13. Citizen Kane (Welles – 1941)
  14. Fargo (1996 – Coen)
  15. Platoon (1986 – Stone)
  16. Casablanca (1943 – Curtiz)
  17. Vertigo (Hitchcock – 1958)
  18. Schindler’s List (1993 – Spielberg)
  19. Apocalypse Now (1979 – Coppola)
  20. WALL-E (Stanton – 2008)
  21. Taxi Driver (1976 – Scorsese)
  22. The Empire Strikes Back (1980 – Lucas)
  23. Tootsie (1982 -Pollack)
  24. Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1974 – Gilliam)
  25. Moonstruck (1987 – Jewison)
  26. Inglorious Basterds (2009 – Tarantino)
  27. All The President’s Men (1976 – Pakula)
  28. The Silence of the Lambs (1991 – Demme)
  29. A Clockwork Orange (1970 – Kubrick)
  30. Patton (1970 – Schaffner)
  31. Mississippi Burning (1988 – Parker)
  32. The Incredibles – (2004 – Bird)
  33. The Color Purple (1985 – Speilberg)
  34. Midnight Express (1976 – Parker)
  35. Being There (1979 – Ashby)
  36. The Searchers (1956 – Ford)
  37. Dog Day Afternoon (1975 – Lumet)
  38. Breaking Away (1979 – Yates)
  39. Some Like it Hot (Wilder – 1959)
  40. Stop Making Sense (1984 – Demme)
  41. Nashville (1975 – Altman)
  42. Smith Goes to Washington (1939 – Capra)
  43. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006 – del Toro)
  44. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962 – Mulligan)
  45. Robocop (1987 – Verhoven)
  46. Young Frankenstein (1974 – Brooks)
  47. High Noon (1952 – Zimmerman)
  48. Jaws (1975 – Spielberg)
  49. Bladerunner (Scott – 1982)
  50. Saving Private Ryan (1998 – Spielberg)
  51. The Third Man (1947 – Reed)
  52. Scarface (1983 – DePalma)
  53. The Up Documentaries (1966 to present – Apted)
  54. Do the Right Thing (1989 – Lee)
  55. The Dark Night (Nolan – 2008)
  56. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb (1964 – Kubrick)
  57. Alien (Scott – 1979)
  58. Aliens (Cameron – 1986)
  59. Duck Soup (1933 – McCarey)
  60. On The Waterfront (1954 – Kazan)
  61. The Departed (2006 – Scorsese)
  62. Glengarry Glen Ross (Mamet – 1992)
  63. Die Hard (McTiernan – 1988)
  64. E. T. The Extra Terrestrial (Spielberg – 1983)
  65. City Lights (Chaplin – 1931)
  66. The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont – 1993)
  67. Gravity (2013 – Cauron)
  68. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Zemekis – 1985)
  69. 2001 A Space Odyssey (Kubrick – 1969)
  70. The Little Mermaid (Clements/Musker – 1991)
  71. Psycho (Hitchcock – 1960)
  72. The Producers (Brooks – 1968)
  73. Hannah and Her Sisters (Allen – 1986)
  74. Hoop Dreams (James – 1994)
  75. Army of Darkness (Raimi – 1992)
  76. The Big Lebowski (Coen 1998)
  77. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Burton /Sellick – 1993)
  78. Bride of Frankenstein (Whale – 1935)
  79. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006 – Eastwood)
  80. The Wizard of Oz (Fleming – 1939)
  81. The Fog of War (Morris – 2003)
  82. Moulin Rouge (Luhrmann – 2001)
  83. Terminator 2 – Judgment Day (Cameron – 1991)
  84. Millers Crossing (Coen – 1990)
  85. 12 Angry Men (Lumet – 1957)
  86. 21 Grams (Gonzales Irraitu – 2003)
  87. The Princess Bride (1989 – Reiner)
  88. The Philadelphia Story (1940 – Cuckor)
  89. Ghostbusters (1983 – Reitman)
  90. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry – 2004)
  91. Juno (Reitman – 2007)
  92. Star Trek: First Contact (Frakes – 1996)
  93. Avatar (Cameron 2009)
  94. Wall Street (Stone – 1986)
  95. When Harry Met Sally … (Reiner – 1988)
  96. Belle Epoque (Treuba – 1992)
  97. Say Anything (Crowe – 1989)
  98. Planet of the Apes (Schaffner – 1968)
  99. The Breakfast Club (1983 – Hughes)
  100. The Blues Brothers (1980 – Reitman)

 

Runner Up List

  1. The Conversation (1974 – Coppola)
  2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982 – Meyer)
  3. Fight Club (1999 – Fincher)
  4. Being John Malkovich (1999 – Jonze)
  5. Rear Window (1954 – Hitchcock)
  6. Minority Report (2002 – Speilberg)
  7. The Sweet Hereafter (1997 – Egoyan)
  8. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951 – Kazan)
  9. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946 – Kapra)
  10. Nosferatu (1922 – Murnau)

Please offer comments, feedback, suggestions….

Dan’s All-Time Top 100 – #1

#1 The Godfather Part II”

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo

Stars: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Lee Strasburg, Robert DeNiro, Michael V. Gazzo, John Cazale, Talia Shire

Original Release Date: 20 Dec 1974

gf21

Oscars: 6 (Picture, Director, Supporting Actor – Robert DeNiro, Score, Screenplay, Art Direction), 6 other nominations

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%                    Berardinelli: 4.0 , #47 All time Top 100

Metacritic: n/a                                   Ebert: 3.0 original, 4.0 re-review in 2008, Top 10 of the 70’s

IMDB Top 250: #3

 

The Godfather Part II is my single favourite film and has been for over 20 years. It’s a bit of a curious choice because it cannot stand on its own without the original film, whereas The Godfather is a complete film in and of itself. The first film makes the second one great and the second one adds immeasurable depth to the first. (Let’s not mention Part III).

While there is a theme running through my top three films (gangster film, set within a certain era, long running time, sweeping story lines) there is a darkness and sadness to The Godfather Part II that gives it an timeless appeal.

You cannot discuss this film without reference to the first. At the end of Part I, we see Michael, now in iron fisted control on the Corleone Empire, his enemies vanquishes and his power absolute. We have watched him transform from disinterest outsider to a man who will do literally anything to maintain his power.

Robert DeNiro as young Vito Corleone. A brilliant performance, one where we can see the character transformations in his expressions.

Robert DeNiro as young Vito Corleone. A brilliant performance, one where we can see the character transformations in his expressions.

In Part II, we get two intertwined stories. Set in the current time of the late 1950s, we see Michael’s vast empire increase as he takes control of gambling in Vegas and sets in motion a plan to do the same in pre-Castro Cuba. This story is woven with flash backs to the rise of his father, Vito. It stretches a timeline from 1901 when Vito escapes from Sicily, to the final shot of Michael, isolated, in 1964.

 

Robert DeNiro plays Young Vito in an Oscar winning performance that I consider the greatest of all time. DeNiro lived in Sicily for four months to learn the dialect and brilliantly adopts the Bronx accent and penchant to pepper in a little English here and there as well. It’s a school in method acting, subtlety, gesture and character.

 

John Cazale as Fredo. Cazale only ever appears in 5 films,all were nominated for Best Picture and three won. He was engaged to Meryl Streep at the time of his death at age 42 from Leukaemia.

John Cazale as Fredo. Cazale only ever appears in 5 films,all were nominated for Best Picture and three won. He was engaged to Meryl Streep at the time of his death at age 42 from Leukaemia.

In the opening scene, it is the first communion of Michael’s son Anthony and Michael is seeing supplicants in the same way his father did in Part I at Connie’s wedding. Michael is growing paranoid and distrustful of everyone, including his long time consigliore Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall). He embarks on a mission to find out who is loyal while expanding his empire. The screenplay gives us little information as we watch Michael joust with the various players in his life. He makes each move having to anticipate endless life or death outcomes.

The cast of this movie is flawless. As Roger Ebert pointed out in his 2008 essay, are there any other films in which you can name 6, 7 or 8 characters 40 years later? Michael V Gazzo as Frankie Penatangali is brilliant, tough, old school; easily confused but in his mind knows right from wrong. John Cazale reprises his role as Fredo, Michael’s witless brother. Pacino and Cazale were good friends and went on to make Dog Day Afternoon together.

"So, I want everyone to enjoy their cake. So, enjoy"

“So, I want everyone to enjoy their cake. So, enjoy”

Lee Strasburg, founder of The Actors Studio, comes out of retirement to play Hyman Roth,. On the outside, he is a soft-spoken even kindly aging Jewish man, but inside, a ruthless criminal with an empire to protect.

As we watch the flash back scenes, we see Don Vito rise from a street thug and killer to the man he became, still a criminal but a leader, a diplomat and a man loved by those around him. We watch Michael, unable to stay in his father’s footsteps, become a man who will do anything and lose everything he loves to maintain power. Vito Corleone’s empire was controlled by love and respect; Michael’s by fear.

What I love about this movie, what puts it atop my list and keeps it just a teeny bit ahead of Goodfellas is the vastness of the story arch and the depths of its themes. To dismiss this movie (and Part I) as glorification of the mafia is to miss the point entirely. This is a film about guilt, the secrets we carry in the deepest caverns of our souls, the transience of power and living in the shadows and expectations of our fathers.

"I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart."

“I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart.”

 

Best Quote:

Michael Corleone: There are many things my father taught me here in this room. He taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

 

Trivia:

Francis Ford Coppola wanted to produce the movie and not direct. He chose Martin Scorsese to direct but was turned down by the studio and took on the project himself.

 Robert Deniro and Marlon Brando are the only two actors to receive Oscars for portraying the same character.

 The word mafia is never spoken in the first film. The Part II, it is spoken three times, each one at the Senate hearing.

 Legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman can be seen as one of the senators.

 Cinematographer Gordon Willis became known as the “Prince of Darkness” for his use of dimly lit scenes in these two movies.

 Nominated for 12 Oscars and winner of 6, including Director, Picture and Screenplay. The first movie sequel to ever win Best Picture. It was made for $13,000,000 and gross a very impressive $58,000,000. However, it never lived up to the expectations set by the original, which grossed $134,000,000 domestic and became the highest grossing movie of all time.

 Today, this movie routinely appears near the top of many “Best Of All Time Lists”. At the time of its release, it received tepid reviews and was considered too long and convoluted.

 

A beautiful shot of Michael, along and isolated. Note the lighting, the use of sepia tone, the point of view and framing. A perfect shot.

A beautiful shot of Michael, along and isolated. Note the lighting, the use of sepia tone, the point of view and framing. A perfect shot.

Dan’s All-Time Top 100 – #2

#2Goodfellas”

Director: Martin Scorcese

Screenplay: Martin Scorcese, Nicolas Pileggi

Stars: Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino

Original Release Date: 19 Sep 1990

 Oscars: 1 (Supporting Actor – Joe Pesce), 5 other nominations. It lost to Dances with Wolves. Dances with freakin’ Wolves. I’m still bitter over that.

Goodfellas-SD-O_ring_Af

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%                                   Berardinelli: 4.0 , #39 All time

Metacritic: n/a                                                  Ebert: 4.0, best movie of 1990, #3 of the 90s

IMDB Top 250: #16

 

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster”.

So speaks Henry Hill is his voice-over narration of Martin Scorsese’s 1990 instant classic, Goodfellas. In real life, Hill was born of an Irish Father and Sicilian Mother. Because he was not pure Sicilian blood, he could never be a “made” guy in a crew. An untouchable. A boss. He did, however, at the age of 12, capture the attention of Paul “Paulie” Vario, Brooklyn capo of the Lucchese crime family.

Hill became associated with Jimmy “The Gent” Burke and Tommy DeSimone. The three lead a life of crime, extortion, rackets and drug trafficking. Paulie, Jimmy and Tommy have different last names in the movie and Tommy serves as a bit of a composite character, but the depictions of their real life brutality and lack of respect for anything other than their own gratification is shockingly real.

62

No ever asks a direct question : “Whaddya know about that thing?”. Paulie slapping Henry was improvised and Henry’s shocked reaction was very real.

 

Goodfellas is based on the Nicolas Pileggi’s novel Wise Guys, based on Hill’s life has a mid level operative and eventually FBI informant. The movie deals in theme’s often scene in Scorsese’s films, guilt, loyalty and fear. Scorsese’s master stroke is balancing those themes with a movie that also tells longingly of the fun and the good times but at the same time, chokes you with the paranoia of its characters as lives careen out of control and the walls close in.

The Godfather and Goodfellas both are Gangster films, both cinematic classics, both directed by Italian-American Directors. They are both voyeuristic looks inside a closed world and both long films that take time to explore details and themes. But with this much in common, they could not be any more different.

goodfellas-800x400

All mob films prominently feature food. This scene, with Scorsese’s real life mother, is almost entirely improvised and amongst the movie’s best scenes.

Goodfellas is the finest work from America’s best living director. It is a film with no plot but it’s like a live wire. It does not tell a story, it shows us how it felt to be in a crew. The loyalty that is overshadowed by forced laughter. The sense you belong coupled with the sense that you could get whacked at any minute.

Technically, this film is as close to perfect as you will ever see. The choices by Scorsese, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and long time editor Thelma Schoomaker fit the mood of the film at the time. Note for example, how in the earlier scenes, we see cameras breeze lazily across bars and restaurant, introducing us to characters, everyone relaxed and enjoying the fruit of a life they essentially stole. The most famous is the 184 second single tracking camera shot through the back of the Copacabana while Henry and his girlfriend Karen enter for a date. It shows the confidence, power and influence Hill had at 21.

The final set piece, of one the greatest ever filmed, is on the other hand jolted, quick cuts, brightly lit and zooms in and out to match the effects of the drug induced paranoia. As Henry so glibly says, “I was gonna be busy all day”. Gunrunning, dealing coke, running from the feds and shipping “The Pittsburgh stuff” (they never say cocaine) by way of his babysitter all take equal prominence to veal and a good tomato sauce. That scene does not end; it crashes off a cliff.

Goodfellas-goodfellas-24347570-780-439

“I’m a clown? I amuse you”.

Joe Pesci’s legendary performance as Tommy DeVito (based on real life gangster Thomas DeSimone) deservedly won Best Supporting Actor and is the centrepiece of the film. The movie is peppered with unforgettable minor roles and leads doing some of the best work of their careers.

Goodfellas is an indictment on a life of crime. But it does not stand on a soapbox and point fingers and pontificate. It dives into the trenches of a life a crew and let’s the viewer know the appeal of this life, how it became their norm, why they all did it and why they would all do it again.

GoodJimmy2

In this scene, as Jimmy grows increasingly paranoid, the camera slowly moves in as the intro to “Sunshine of Your Love” plays in the background. A perfect scene.

 

Favourite Quote

Tommy DeVito: “Oh no….”

 

Trivia

The real life Tommy DeSimone was a large burly man not a short guy as portrayed in the movie. Other than that, Hill said that Joe Pesci’ portrayal was “90 to 95% accurate”.

 321 F-bombs in this movie, ½ spoken by Pesci’s character.

 Many of the events in the movie depict real life events, including the heists of Air France and Lufthansa, the murder of Gambino Family made man Billy Bats, Henry’s first awful date with Karen and the torching of the rival neighbour cab stand.

 Body Count: 10

 Joe Pesci was genuinely shocked and unprepared for his Oscar victory. His acceptance speech “It’s my privilege, thank you” is one of the shortest speeches in Oscar history.

 The “Do I look funny to you scene” was based on a real life experience with Pesci was a young and serving a real life mobster in a restaurant. The scene is largely improvised and Scorsese did not tell the other actors what was going on to get their genuine reactions of shock.

Director Martin Scorsese’s attention to detail included tying Ray Liotta’s ties for him and having his parents on set to iron the gangsters shirts because they would do it properly. His parents both also appear in the film. His father as Vinne (makes the sauce in prison and says to DeNiro over the phone “You know what I mean, he’s…gone”. His mother as Joe Pesci’s mother in the legendary late night meal scene. 

 Casting notes: Original choices for Henry and Karen were Tom Cruise and Madonna. Al Pacino and John Malkovich both turned down Jimmy The Gent Conway. Sean Penn and Alec Baldwin both auditioned for Henry. Robbie Vinton plays his father, Bobby Vinton and lip synchs his father’s singing.

goof1

Even in prison, its about the food. The time the movie takes to describe how Paulie preps garlic is brilliant. A nearly 3 minute scene talking about dinner in “the joint” as “Beyond the Sea” croons in the background.