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Movies Past and Present

The Oscars telecast will be next Sunday. Not that I watch most of it, but it is fun to see who wins, and who might hit one of the people on stage. Of course, there are so many movie and television awards shows, that it seems almost anticlimactic, we know who and what are likely to win. Still, it is a spectacle, and I enjoy seeing clips on TCM and other stations, of Oscars shows from decades ago, even if the style and jokes and most importantly, the quality of the movies, was better then. Yes, I know, ‘get off my lawn,” but it’s true, they were!

I will indulge myself a bit, by telling you my favorite movies. I am not any kind of movie expert; I could scarcely tell a long shot from a tracking shot. But just like anyone, I have my favorite movies, and then those I think are very overrated. At this point, I don’t see many movies in the theatres. That is partly due to trying to be safe, and also because there are few current movies that I want to see, which is a shame.

This year, I have seen a few, the ones I wanted to see. So I may have missed something great, though I doubt it. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” I will never see, I am not even curious enough to give it a try. I absolutely do not like the current movies which always seem to win now, which are described as “mind-bending,” “weird and wild,” ”hilarious yet moving,” etc. I saw “Parasite,” and that was enough of that. Someone whose opinion I greatly respect, saw “Everything,” and thought it was not good at all; and that, plus my initial sense of what it is, was enough for me. But it will win.

As I mentioned when it came out, I think that “The Fabelmans” is a very good movie. Honest and humorous and touching, and still very entertaining. Yet it probably will win nothing, which is not only wrong, but a little unsettling; Is the “New Academy” disinclined to give major awards to “Jewish-themed movies?” Or is it just that the voters keep wanting to reward strange movies with foreign directors, finding the old-fashioned type of story boring?

Put it this way: “The Fabelmans” was a much more enjoyable picture than “Ordinary People,” also about a family, which won “Best Picture.” One of the awards shows this year nominated its actors and director: Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Judd Hirsch, Stephen Spielberg, and the movie, for top awards; and it won none of them, including “Best Ensemble Performance.” Rather amazing, in a negative way.

Well, I think it is a very fine, old-fashioned type of movie with modern touches. I am not saying that it will be considered a classic, but it is the kind of movie where you leave the theatre with a smile, as they used to say.

Other than that, I would hope that Justin Hurwitz wins for his brilliant score for “Babylon.” I will root for Austin Butler in “Elvis.” I would like to see Spielberg win, but he likely will not.

Leaving the present, I will list some of my favorite movies and actors and such; not that everyone does not have their own opinions on these things, but it is fun to do..

Favorite Movie of All Time; “Out of the Past.” Others high up there: “Vertigo,” “Kiss Me Deadly,” “Random Harvest,” “Casablanca,” “The Graduate,” and I’m sure there are others I am not thinking of right now.

Best Movie Musical: “The Music Man.”

Best Mystery Movie; “The Last of Sheila.”

Best Adaptation of a Shakespeare Play: This is very difficult, but I’ll pick “Julius Caesar,” from 1953.

Best Western: For an elegaic Western, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” For a straight story, “Warlock,” and “The Garden of Evil.” Also, I had thought that “High Noon” might have been overrated, but I saw it again a few weeks ago, and it deserves its accolades. Gary Cooper is superb, and the tension is present throughout. And the partial allegory of the McCarthy hearings; do you stand up, or hide away, is still so meaningful.

Best Musical Score: Two very different movies; “Somewhere in Time,” John Barry; and “Vertigo,” Bernard Herrmann.

Best Comedy:”Monty Python’s Life of Brian.’

Best Movie in the so-called “Horror” genre; “The Innocents,” adapted from “The Turn of the Screw,” by Henry James. I will mention that I taped a movie I had never seen, “Scream of Fear,” with an excellent cast, and I have only watched some of it so far, and it looks very atmospheric and unsettling.

Best Adaptation of a non-Shakespeare play: “The Barretts of Wimpole Street.” “The Petrified Forest.”

Best Dance Scene in movie: Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly in “Brigadoon,” the song “The Heather on the Hill.”

Best Adventure Movie: “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

Favorite Female Actor: Jean Simmons, Bette Davis, Eleanor Parker, Norma Shearer.

Favorite Male Actor: Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Leslie Howatd.

I’m sure I will think of more categories and choices, but I’ll list these for now. Just think, how many movie have been made; how many stars; how many visual and aural memories? I would like a return to movies with compelling narratives, and intelligent dialogue; they exist, but seem to be less each year. And of course the pandemic has really hurt the ability to make Independent films which can at least break even. Otherwise, we’ll be limited to Marvel films, and arty ones which make little coherent sense. And of course Tom Cruise, whose “Top Gun Maverick” film may have saved the movie business, they say. I think that literate screenplays, with dialogue you remember, are what are most missing from movies today. But there are still a few good ones each year.