Friday, November 23, 2012

Best Picture: "Cavalcade," 1933

Movie Stats:
Released 1933 (USA)
American, in English
Director – Frank Lloyd
Stars – Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook, Una O’Connor, Herbert Mundin

Plot Summary:
This movie follows the lives of two British families – the wealthy Marryots (Diana Wynyard & Clive Brook) and the lower-class Brooks (Una O’Connor & Herbert Mundin) – from the turn of the 20th century through 1933, including all of the highs and the lows. In the opening credits, it bills itself as seeing life from the feminine perspective.

Bad Stuff:
It involves a lot of “staring off into space with a constipated look to indicate a serious reaction” style acting. (Or, if you’re familiar with “Friends,” the “I just smelled a fart” method of acting.)

You know, I realize that it was a different time and people viewed women differently back then, but the truth is that women have been watching their men go off to war for centuries without falling apart. Jane Marryot’s simpering and crying every time war was mentioned got pretty annoying. And for a lady who was so upset to see her men go off to war, she seemed pretty much okay when [SPOILER] some of them never came back again.

It’s nearly two hours long. Although things happen, it somehow felt like nothing ever happened.

Good Stuff:
It was relatively true to real life, which is not all sunshine and puppies. Bad things happen.

Unintentional hilarity ensued yet again during a montage of men dying during WWI. I can only watch so many scenes of guys clutching their chests, grimacing, and falling to the ground before I get the giggles.

I found the montage that covers the 1920s, showing how the whole world fell apart after WWI, to be very interesting. At least, I think it’s interesting that people felt that way at that time. It was a time of huge social upheaval, especially in Britain. Interesting to think about.

The Verdict:
I didn’t really like this movie. I didn’t hate it either. It was okay. I give it 2.5 stars.

Here is a recap of my previous reviews of the 3 winners that came after this one:

1934 – “It Happened One Night,” 4 stars
1935 – “Mutiny on the Bounty,” 2 stars
1936 – “The Great Ziegfeld,” 1.5 stars

Now I’m all caught up! From here on out, there shouldn’t be any further backtracking.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bookworm Bash 2012

Yesterday I went with a friend to Addison's Bookworm Bash, a two-day book sale. The proceeds benefitted Senior Adult Services, a non-profit that assists senior citizens and those who work in the caregiving field.

I was a little concerned because we were hitting the sale on the second day. I thought the pickings might be slim. Luckily, the sale was very well run. The tables were fully stocked with books and other media of all subjects. They were also well-organized, so it was easy to find the section you were looking for and browse for books to your personal taste.

We had a great time. My friend came away with two full bags. Afterward, we explored the quiet little corner of Addison (around Circle Park) where the sale was held. It's a really nice area that reminded me a lot of the Pearl District in Portland. This sale seems to occur every year in Addison. I'm already looking forward to next year's sale!

Below are pictures of the five books I bought for just $6.00:

This is urban fantasy. Could be fun. Could suck.

I liked the movie of This Boy's Life.

Reminds me of Mad Men. Should be good.

Non-fiction from my favorite time period of history. Sold.

See caption for The Lost City of Z.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Best Picture: "Wings," 1928

Movie Stats:
Released 1929 (USA) [Not really sure how it won the 1928 Best Picture Oscar if it was released in 1929, but this is what IMDB says.]
American, in English (movie is silent, but all of the scene cards are in English, with a few exceptions)
Director – William A. Wellman
Stars – Clara Bow, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, Richard Arlen, Gary Cooper (in a very brief role; when I looked up the cast list after the fact, I thought to myself, "Oh yeah, I thought that guy looked familiar!")

Plot Summary:
Mary (Clara Bow) is in love with the boy next door, Jack (Charles Rogers). Jack, in turn, is in love with Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston), who happens to be in love with rich boy Dave (Richard Alen). Fortunately, Dave returns Sylvia’s love, so at least someone is in love with the right person here. However, the year is 1917. The Great War is raging. When both young men join the Army to become fighter pilots, what will happen to their friendship and their loves?

Bad Stuff:
It felt really long, and it is long. The running time is 144 minutes.

The “dog fights” are numerous and interminable. I realize that these were probably amazing and thrilling back in the 1920s, but to modern eyes it’s biplanes flying around with fake plane sounds and fake plane after fake plane spiraling to the ground, sprouting a trail of flame.

I don’t have a problem with silent movies, but the convention of the genre was to overact. I get this. However, this tendency toward overacting made a lot of scenes that were supposed to be serious and moving unintentionally hilarious. In truth, I found myself laughing at most of the scenes where people were dying. I’m certain they weren’t supposed to be funny.

Apparently, ladies cry and simper a lot, especially when the men in their lives aren't doing what they want.

Good Stuff:
Hoo boy, was Charles Rogers good-looking back in the day. Clara Bow wasn’t bad to look at either.

The special effects were a lot better than I was expecting.

Very unexpected nudity (even a booby shot)! I’d forgotten that “morality” standards weren’t set until the 1940s or so.

I liked the basic, underlying story about growing up, becoming a man, learning the true nature of friendship, and figuring out what love means.

Slashy slash slash. The two male leads seemed totally gay for each other (the husband agreed with me on this). I don’t have a problem with that; I consider it a plus. I could see where other people would disagree, though.

The Verdict:
When I think about the sensibilities of the time this came out, I can definitely understand why it was a popular movie. Despite my gripes, I did like it. It might have made me laugh unintentionally, but it made me laugh intentionally as well. I was mostly entertained by it for 2+ hours. I’d probably never watch it again, but I wouldn’t discourage someone else from doing so.

I give this movie 3 stars.

Since it’s been so long since I’ve updated on this project, here’s a quick recap of my ratings for the other Best Picture Oscar winners after this & up through 1932:

1929 – “The Broadway Melody,” 2.5 stars
1930 – “All Quiet on the Western Front,” 3 stars
1931 – “Cimarron,” 2.5 stars
1932 – “Grand Hotel,” 3.5 stars

Movie Project, Maintenance Post

As mentioned in this blog post on Oct. 4, I’ve decided to once again to pick up my campaign to watch all of the Academy Award best picture winners. However, when I was working on this project before, I didn’t have any kind of format to those posts. From here on out, I will be formatting them all in the same way as my “Adventures in Instant Watch” posts.

Also, since I’ve decided to do more in-depth reviews, this means that, with a few exceptions, I’m going to have to re-watch some of the winners I’ve already seen. (There are many of them I’ve seen only once, most of those a long time ago.) Deciding to do this makes me sad because there’s quite a few I really, really hate that I’ll be forced to watch again (I’m giving you the side-eye, “Crash”). But I guess I’ll do it. For science or whatever. Sigh.

Lastly, I had previously had trouble accessing some of the movies, as they’re so old that it’s difficult to find copies. I’m still having trouble with the 1933 winner, “Cavalcade,” which is available only in VHS format. Since I no longer own a VCR, this presents a problem. I’ll have to see if I can borrow one.

Anyway, I just wanted to keep my loyal readers up-to-date. Now on to my next movie review! You can see all of my movie reviews by clicking on the "movies" tag below.