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And the Nominees are.......2011 Edition

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(Jan 25, 2010) This morning, nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards were announced. The King George VI drama 'The King's Speech' leads the overall race with a whopping 12 nominations. The Coen Brother's remake of 'True Grit' recieved 10 nominations followed by 'The Social Network' and 'Inception' each with 8.

A full list of the nominees can be found here.

In preparation for the big show (February 27, 2010) here is a list of films that are available (or [On Order]) at the Calgary Public Library. Most of the nominated films are still being shown in theatres around the city. Click the links to place a hold:

Social Network [DVD hold link][Blu-ray hold link (on Order)] - 8 Nominations including: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jesse Eisenberg)

Inception [DVD hold link][Blu-ray hold link] - 8 Nominations including: Best Picture

Toy Story 3 [DVD hold link][Blu-ray hold link] - 5 Nominations including: Best Picture, Best Animated Film

Winter's Bone [DVD hold link] - 4 Nominations including: Best Picture, Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence)

The Kids Are All Right [DVD hold link][Blu-ray hold link] - 4 Nominations including: Best Picture, Best Actress (Anette Benning), Best Original Screenplay

How To Train Your Dragon [DVD hold link] - 2 Nominations including: Best Animated Film

Alice In Wonderland [DVD hold link][Blu-ray hold link] - 3 Nominations including: Art Direction

I Am Love [DVD hold link][Blu-ray hold link] - 1 Nomination: Costume Design

Iron Man 2 [DVD hold link][Blu-ray hold link] - 1 Nomination: Visual Effects

Salt - [DVD hold link] 1 Nomination: Sound Mixing

Restrepo - [DVD hold link] 1 Nomination: Best Documentary Feature

The Town - [DVD hold link] 1 Nomination: Best Supporting Actor (Jeremy Renner)

Animal Kingdom - [DVD hold link (on Order)] 1 Nomination: Best Supporting Actress (Jacki Weaver)

Exit Through The Gift Shop [DVD hold link] - 1 Nomination: Best Documentary Feature

Gasland [DVD hold link] - 1 Nomination: Best Documentary Feature

Inside Job [DVD hold link] - 1 Nomination: Best Documentary Feature

The Wolfman [DVD hold link] - 1 Nomination: Make Up

Enjoy the films and good luck in your Oscar Pools!

Opie-All Grown Up

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Who would have thought that adorable little Opie from the Andy Griffith show would grow up to be one of the most respected and successful directors of his time? Well Ron Howard did just that and he has an impressive number of hits in his c.v. Try any or all of the following- he is almost without fail a good bet.

Ransom -1996- now I know Mel Gibson isn't on a lot of peoples must see list at the moment, but that aside this is still a good movie. Gary Sinise co-stars.

Backdraft- 1991- Kurt Russell, Scott Glen, Robert deNiro, Donald Sutherland and some really well done pyrotechnics.

da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons---Howards' go-to guy, Tom Hanks stars in both of these movies, which are based on the incredibly popular Dan Brown books. I prefer the second title---suspend disbelief and just go along for the ride.

Apollo 13- 1995--- again with Hanks, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and a very unhappy Kevin Bacon. Why, you ask? In order to get the amazing shots of weightlessness they filmed in something called the 'vomit comet'. This is the nickname for an aricraft that briefly provides a weightless environment and is used to train astronauts, conduct research and film motion pictures. For about 25 seconds out of a 65 second loop, you become nearly weightless. Kevin Bacon had a particularly hard time with the shoot as the loops can produce extreme nausea. You can see in most of the shots that he is pretty close to loosing his lunch---and it works great because it just looks like extreme anxiety, fitting the situation in which the astrounauts find themselves.

A Beautiful Mind---this won Howard an Oscar for best director and the movie received best picture that year (2002). Starring Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, and Paul Bettany. Biopic of the famed mathematician John Nash and his lifelong struggles with his mental health.

Splash-largely responsible for launching Hanks movie career, this 1984 film is still good for quite a few laughs. Mermaids and a very funny John Candy.

And of course we have all 8 seasons of the Andy Griffith Show, which is just wholesome fun at its best and a real trip down memory lane for lots of people. Or join Richie Cunningham, Potsie, Ralph Malph and The Fonz in the hugely successful Happy Days, which ran for 11 seasons---which was several more than it should have. But we have the first 4 and they were very good.

Pianos- Really!

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Piano themed movies have done incredibly well over the years---especially come Oscar time. Every actor in the following four movies took home a best actor statuette for his/her performance. So to those actors who are feeling neglected by Oscar, perhaps they should brush up on the old ivories and see if the Academy will smile upon them. One other thing- along with the really fine acting performances, all four actors did their own playing, and there are some pretty impressive performances.

The Pianist 2002- with Adrien Brody playing real life Polish Jewish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, struggling to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II. At the age of 29 Brody became the youngest Best Actor recipient. Best director went to Roman Polanski.

The Piano-1993 with Holly Hunter, Sam Neill, Anna Pacquin and Harvey Keitel. Best actress to Hunter and best supporting to 11 year old Paquin (you'll recognize her if you are an X-Men or True Blood fan). And no, she is not the youngest to ever receive an Oscar. That title is still held by Tatum O'Neil for her wonderful performance in Paper Moon. The Piano is a strange and oddly compelling movie.

Shine- with Geoffrey Rush pre Captain Barbossa fame (as in Pirates of the Caribbean, where the 4th installment of the incredibly popular series currently is in production ). Rush plays real life pianist David Helfgott, who struggles to come back after suffering a complete breakdown.

Amadeus 1984- with Tom Hulce taking on the role of Mozart and F Murray Abraham as his nemesis Salieri. Both actors were nominated for best actor and the win went to Abraham, so perhaps my opening statement breaks down a little here. The exceptional playing is done by Hulce, not Abraham. Regardless, this is an excellent film, also winning best movie and best director for Milos Foreman. What ever happened to Tom Hulce? Last thing I remember him in is Parenthood from 1989.

Now although not Oscar winners these next are worthy of a mention;

Great Balls of Fire-The story of Jerry Lee Lewis, arguably one of the wildest musicians of the 1950s. With Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee.

We have many performances by piano players just being themselves including four from Elton John. Check out Elton John: The Red piano concert. or the always popular Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Or how about virtuoso Arthur Rubenstien or a Chopin Celebration. Or sit down yourself and teach your children how to play with Easy Piano for Children.

In the mood for some good laughs? Try any of the three years of the Victor Borge show. For those of you unacquianted with Borge you are in for a real treat. The shows are charming, funny, suitable for the whole family and also feature some brilliant playing. Need a little more flamboyance in your life---try the Legendary Liberace.

So there you are- movies with pianos and players as a common thread---maybe next time I'll do wind instruments.

Gregory Peck

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My previous Guaranteed Embarrassment Free post (The Yearling) got me thinking about Gregory Peck---not a bad way to while away a few hours! He started making movies in the 40's, remained very popular for the 50's and 60's and then hit a dry spell after his oscar win. He saw a resurgence of his career with the unexpected 1977 hit, The Omen. More roles appeared after this and he did several turns on television. He was the recipient of many awards, including an Oscar for Best Actor, the Academy's Jean Hershold Humanitarian Award and the Medal of Freedom. On June 12, 2003 just days after the AFI named him as the screen's greatest hero for his role as Atticus Finch, Peck died at the age of 87. Tall, rugged, handsome and by all accounts a very decent human being, he played many a heroic character over the years.

To Kill a Mockingbird---Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice. Depending on the age of your own children, say about 12 and up, it's one for the whole family to watch and discuss. This won Peck the best actor Oscar and was his own personal favourite from his many roles.

Captain Horatio Hornblower---if you've been reading our blog over the past months you know that we have recommended the Hornblower series from A&E. This film predates it by several years-decades actually, and Peck does an excellent job playing the swashbuckling hero.

Roman Holiday---with Peck and Audrey Hepburn in her Oscar winning role. A lovely, charming movie. Interesting bit of trivia here. The on-screen credit and Academy award for best Screen Writing were originally credited and given to Ian McLellan Hunter. Hunter was the 'beard' for Dalton Trumbo, who was one of several Hollywood writers blacklisted during the infamous McCarthy era. In December 1992 the Academy decided to change the records and to credit Trumbo for his achievment. Ian Hunter was removed from the Motion Picture Story category and the Oscar was posthumously present to Trumbo's widow on May 10 1993.

Boys From Brazil---one of his very few outings as a villian---and what a villian! He plays an aged Doctor Josef Mengele to Lawrence Olivier's equally aged Nazi hunter. I particularly like the scene with the telephone encounter between the two. This is based on the book of the same name by Ira Levin---who wrote many good stories adapted for theatrical release, including Rosemary's Baby.

Cape Fear--- the styish film noir original from 1962 (not the abysmal Robert De Niro remake). He plays another small town lawyer---this time one being stalked by a truly terrifying Robert Mitchum. (This makes the second time we have recommended a movie in which Mitchum is the heavy---the other being Night of the Hunter. One of our regular followers suggested a 'who's afraid of Robert Mitchum' post. After seeing this movie I'm sure you'll agree we ALL are).

Moby Dick---he is riveting as the maniacal, obsessed Captain Ahab. I once heard the book described as 600 pages of how to boil whale blubber, and after two failed attempts at reading it I just gave up. This movie will fair you much better.

On the Beach-based on Aussie writer Nevile Shute's story of the same name. In 1964 after atomic war has wiped out the northerrn hemisphere, all that remains of civilization is to be found in Australia. With the growing realization that their days are numbered as well, people struggle to carry on with a normal life. This is not your typical post apocalpytic movie.

Guns of Navarone--- the plot is so convincing that for years many believed that this movie was a retelling of an actual war time event. It is entirely fictitious and is an above average war/adventure movie.

The Big Country---Peck was no stranger to westerns, and this is a solid offering even though having a fairly well-worn 'fighting over water rights' plot. With Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, and Burl Ives.

Dennis LeHane

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This is an author who really knows how to write a great story. Three of his books have been turned into excellent films and the first two have been nominated for a total of 9 Oscars. Watch for Shutter Island to get a lot of Oscar nods for next years event, including I hope, a nomination for Leo for best actor.And Lehane stories attract the big guns- Scorcese and Eastwood as directors and A list for actors.

You can also check out his books---they are great reads. Do an author search under Lehane Dennis to see everything else by him.

For another one of my favorite writers check out the earlier post on Paul Haggis.

Mystic River---2003---this was Sean Penn's first win for Best actor (his 2nd being Milk in 2008). Who would have thought the misfit character from Fast Times at Ridgemont High would become one of the best dramatic actors of the decade? The movie also scored a well-deserved best supporting statuette for Tim Robbins. Also features Kevin Bacon, Laura Linney, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden.

Gone Baby Gone--- Ben Affleck directs younger brother Casey in this tale of two Boston area detectives investigating a little girl's kidnapping. Like Mystic River this one also deals with very dark subject matter and can be almost painfully real at times. Strong supporting performances are turned in from Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris (when do they not?). The decisions made at the end of the movie should provide lots of foder for discussion. What would you have done?

Start lining up now folks---we are getting Shutter Island and you do not want to miss this one! This features another excellent performance from Leo DiCaprio, who is fast turning into one of my 'never miss' performers (I think I will have to devote an entire post to him shortly). Martin Scorcese directs this and it is quite an achievment. Along with Leo it also includes Sir Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow (still able to command the screen at 81 years old), and Patricia Clarkson. If anybody tries to tell you anything about it before you watch it, beg them to keep quiet, or if they won't, walk away! You deserve to be astonished by the ending.

Jeff "The Dude" Bridges

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Nothing like a nod from Oscar to catapult someone back into the public eye. After 40 some years in the biz, Bridges picked up a well deserved Best Actor Award for his performance in Crazy Heart. Big in the 80's and mid 90's, he has made a lot of movies over the years. Now he isn't the headlinder in all of these but you can depend on Bridges' performances to be consistently good. Here are some of my favorites.

The Big Lebowski---from the weird and wonderful Coen brothers, this movie is good on so many levels. A cult classic, it is also just plain fun, and is the role that garnered him his nickname "the dude".

Arlington Place---from 1998 with Tim Robbins and Joan Cuscak, a solid pyschological thriller, with conspiracy overtones.

Seabiscuit---based during the depression, this tells the story of the real life racing horse of the same name. Also features Tobey Maguire and Chris Cooper.

The Last Picture Show from 1971. If you have never seen this you owe it to yourself to have a look. Set in a small Texas town in the 50's it is a gritty coming of age story---at times almost unbearably real. Lots of familiar faces in this one, including a very young Cybil Shepherd.

Iron Man--- in a supporting role to the headliner Robert Downey Jr. This movie is a real departure from the usual super hero genre and very watchable.

Men Who Stare At Goats. This movie is currently on order, so get your holds on now. With Ewan McGregor and George Clooney, it is quite hard to pigeon hole this one into a genre---but I do know that I found it quirky and entertaining.

We have others---follow this link to more Bridges

Film Festival In-a-Box

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When I wrote the post for Space Time Continuum I recommended a Science Fiction collection put together by Turner Classic Movies. They feature four movies each and CPL has several other of these thematic based sets. There's lots of good viewing here, with the Murder Mysteries, Sci Fi and Horror compilations being particularly strong. So if you aren't watching the Olympics, or just need a bit of a break from all that reality, grab one of these and away you go.

Sc Fi: Soylent Green, Forbidden Planet, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Time Machine

Horror: House of Wax, The Haunting, Freaks, Dr. Jeckll and Mr. Hyde

Murder Mysteries: Maltese Falcon, Big Sleep, Dial M for Murder, Postman Always Rings Twice

Best Picture: Casablanca, Mrs. Miniver, Gigi, American in Paris

Wsterns: Wild Bunch, McCabe and Mrs Miller, Jeremiah Johnson, Train Robbers

Broadway Musicals: Show Boat, Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss me Kate, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

American Musicals: Band Wagon, Meet me in St. Louis, Singin' in the Rain,Easter Parade

And the Nominees Are... 2010 Edition

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(Feb 02 2010) This morning, nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards were announced. 'The Hurt Locker' and 'Avatar' (the least expensive and most expensive of the Best Picture nominees) lead the overall nominations with 9 each. When the winners are announced, I can only hope that the Academy picks quality ('Hurt Locker' or 'A Serious Man') over bloated excess (I'm looking at you 'Avatar'). But I am prepared to be disappointed again.

A full list of the nominees can be found here.

In preparation for the big show (March 07, 2010) here is a list of films that are available (or [On Order]) at the Calgary Public Library. Most of the nominated films are still being shown in theatres around the city.

Click the links to place a hold:

The Hurt Locker - 9 nominations including: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jeremy Renner)

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire - [On Order] 6 nominations including: Best Picture & Best Director

UP - 5 nominations including: Best Picture & Best Animated Feature

District 9 - 4 nominations including: Best Picture & Best Adapted Screenplay

Star Trek - 4 nominations including: Visual Effects & Makeup

Princess and the Frog - [On Order] 3 nominations including: Best Animated Feature

A Serious Man - [On Order] 2 nominations: Best Picture & Best Original Screenplay

Julie & Julia - 1 nomination: Best Actress (Meryl Streep)

The Cove - 1 nomination: Best Documentary Feature

Coraline - 1 nomination: Best Animated Feature

Coco Before Chanel - [On Order] 1 nomination: Costume Design

Bright Star - [On Order] 1 nomination: Costume Design

Food, Inc. - 1 nomination: Best Documentary Feature

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - 1 nomination: Cinematography

Happy Viewing and good luck with your Oscar pools!

A look at Paul Haggis

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Paul Haggis is a filmmaker/screen writer who burst into the public eye in 2005 when he won back-to-back Oscars for two movies he scripted. Although he seemed an overnight success with these two wins, in fact Haggis has been writing successfully for years, although just not on this grand a scale.

Million Dollar Baby(2004) directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank, was the first win and deservedly so. It follows three down-on-their-luck individuals who risk everything for a chance to change their lives. Freeman and Swank both picked up Oscars for their performances.

He followed this up in 2005 with Crash which he directed himself. Crash won an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The film also received an additional four nominations including one for Haggis' direction. This has a huge ensemble cast and follows the interconnectivity of seemingly random events in a 24 hour period in Los Angeles. Gritty and dark but very compelling.

In 2006, Haggis' screenplay collaborations included two Clint Eastwood productions-Flags of our Fathers(which tells the story of the 6 men who raised the flag in the iconic picture) and Letters from Iwo Jima (which is told from the perspective of the Japanese). The latter earned him his third screenplay Oscar nomination. He also helped pen Casino Royale, which garnered considerable acclaim for reinvigorating the James Bond franchise and then went on to co-write the screenplay for Bond's next outing in Quantum of Solace.

Haggis' directorial follow-up to Crash wasIn the Valley of Elahwhich he wrote, directed, and produced. The film, which stars Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon, tells the story of a father's search to uncover the truth behind his son's disappearance following his return from a tour of duty in Iraq. Jones earned a Best Actor nod for his performance in the film.

He currently has four more fims in development and given his track record they should be good---the man knows how to tell a story.

Grab the Hankies

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What is is about a good cry? After the puffy red eyes and running nose settle down we feel a lot better---sad tears are even shown to be chemically more complex than regular tears! So grab the hankies and prepare to cry your eyes out with the saddest movies I could think of. Be warned, there are some devastatingly sad choices here!

Terms of Endearment---1983. With Debra Winger, Shirely MacLaine, and Jack Nicholson, this one garnered a lot of Oscar nods, and a win for best director to James L Brooks. A tear jerker of the highest magnitude.

Awakenings---Robert De Niro and Robin Williams turn in great dramatic performances in this 1990 movie about a catatonic patient and the doctor struggling to help him.

Steel Magnolias---from 1989 there are almost too many big names in this one to mention, including Julia Roberts who received an Oscar for best supporting actress. This also has Shirley MacLaine, who come to think of it has done a few weepers over the years.

Pay it Forward--- from 2000 about a boy who tries to make the world a better place. This one might require extra hankies.

Brian's Song---Based on the real-life relationship between football teammates and the bond established when one of them discovers that he is dying. Might even wring a tear from the menfolk with this one from 1971. Starring James Caan and Billie Dee Williams.

Old Yeller---A perennial Disney heart-breaker; if you own a dog, this movie will rip your guts out.

Recommended by a co-worker as heart-wrenching try out (with sub-titles) I've Loved You So Long from 2008 with Kristen Scott Thomas.

Currently being acquired by CPL, put your hold on this oldy but goody from the Bette Davis collection...Dark Victory from 1939. Also starring George Brent, Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan (you did remember that he was once an actor, right ?). A little melodramatic, but still a great cry.

If you aren't already wrung out like a dish rag, try the following, although you will have to look elsewhere as CPL does not currently carry them. Mask from 1985 with Cher, Sam Elliott and a young Eric Stoltz. This is a real favorite of mine and I never fail to watch it when it turns up on television. Always with Richard Dreyfus, Holly Hunter and the last performance by Audrey Hepburn. And the movie that I'm sure is on most lists as the saddest movie ever made...Beaches from 1988 with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey.

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