Sunday, February 26, 2012


There was a time period in my younger life when I gave close attention to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oscar Awards ceremony and winners. I never specifically aspired to appear in the movies, but I did entertain a desire to stage act. Then, as television became more prominent and I had an opportunity to perform in a one-act play TV production, I thought that new medium might also be an attractive acting venue.

I perceived that whatever talents I might have, they were most suited for my being a character actress much like Maureen Stapleton. The question for me became whether to apply for admission to the West Coast's prominent Pasadena Play House, or go to New York City with a goal of seeking admittance to the preeminent National Academy of Dramatic Arts and Sciences. (How many of us have entertained such aspirations or other dreams that never reached fruition?) I still have my Pasadena Play House uncompleted, much less not submitted, application form. Life happened, causing my plans to be what I thought of as temporarily delayed, when I necessarily returned to my home state.
The next several years I still was able to continue enjoying pursuing all aspects of drama productions in a small communities little theatre group called Footlight Players -- a group whose website I just discovered tonight. They have re-located, apparently to a much more professional theatre setting, expanded their production undertakings, and evidence an ever-increasing popular patronage today.

I eventually did leave that town for a larger city and off-camera employment at, by then, popular commercial television about which I've written here before. I was still single during these latter years when the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences that awards the Emmy was being created. Their annual national ceremony gained increased recognition, also becoming more pertinent to me when I received voting membership in a newly authorized local area Television Academy Emmy branch. The Emmy Awards and the Oscar Awards ceremonies were now all highly viewed popular televised programs I occasionally enjoyed, too.

Living in Southern California as I now do -- near the Oscar awards show flashpoint -- having a friendship with some who've actually attended the affair and after parties -- knowing others who the media has recognized as having a record-setting number of years ritualistically observing the movie stars from the bleachers at the red carpet entry to the formerly known Kodak Theatre site (now known as Hollywood and Highland Center since Kodak is filing for bankruptcy) -- has exposed me to frequent conversation about movies, their stars and the entertainment business, thus renewing my interest in the event -- especially now that I'm partially retired with a little more free time.

I take advantage of the special senior early movie rates, since a few years ago my town once again acquired our own independent theater featuring more selective film fare. I've seen a few of this year's Oscar nominee films, so thought I might as well share some of my reactions here. I'm interested in others views, whether or not they agree with mine, and any thoughts about the movies I haven't seen.

For starters......I look forward to Billy Crystal as this year's Oscar show host.

"The Artist" became my favorite movie, compared with those few I had seen, long before the film won any other awards. I'll be quite pleased if it wins the 2012 Academy Awards Oscar for Best Movie. Movies with sound, known as "talkies," were prevalent when I was young, but before that movies were silent. The silent pictures had written captioned dialogue for viewers to read as they watched the film's action with theater music accentuating and propelling the storyline plot. "The Artist" is a refreshing modern classic black and white silent film presentation. Delightful dancing scenes augment a twist of romance and humorous antics to which an unforgettable lovable perky dog lends his talents making this movie most enjoyable for me.

I, especially, appreciated the nonverbal language expressed by the actors through facial expression, gesture, and overall body movement that is so instrumental in carrying the message in this movie and in real life. This key feature to effective communication is missing in present day digital social sites. Fortunately, some programs with video, too, are available including one of my favorites, Skype. Email alone often lacks personality, can be sharp and brittle, utilitarian sounding, lacking in warmth and a human feel. I'm not the first to recognize some slight, maybe even subtle variations of meaning, or more serious misunderstandings that can be conveyed between email correspondents whose messages often lend themselves to misinterpretation by both parties.

"The Iron Lady" is a movie I enjoyed primarily because of Merle Streep's performance. She's long overdue for an Oscar as Best Actress, but not my first choice this year. I'm still haunted by the story line and her portrayal in her "Sophie's Choice" role years ago. She typically inhabits her characters, or they her, resulting in my generally forgetting her real life persona as I've seen it in her personal interviews. Certainly in this film the makeup department did a phenomonal job to aid in creating her character's appearance. The movie overall did not hold my interest as much as I had expected and hoped it would.

Streep portrays former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in later life -- a woman who had been Great Britain's formidable leader when in her prime. Her mental faculties declined as she aged in the years after leaving office. Interestingly, so did those of her American counterpart, our President Ronald Reagan who ultimately disclosed he had Alzheimer's Disease, a dementia. Current research has show the diseases can begin to effect the brain long before symptoms are recognized.

I also saw the current outstanding Oscar nominee movie "The Help." I thought Viola Davis was superb in her role and well-deserving of the Oscar as Best Actress. This movie characterizes a south to which my family and I moved when I was a young girl. There I experienced culture-shock with blatant race dividing scenes like those shown in this movie at bus stations, rest rooms, drinking fountains, restaurants. I do think the movie's revenge pie ingredient was strictly for unnecessary over-the-top shock and the desired effect could have been equally and more palatably accomplished with some other easily selected item. Otherwise, the movie is a well-acted and presented book adaptation.

I'm reminded that many years later in mid-life after moving to California, that a former southern Junior League (group prominent in the film's story) woman member became a close friend. She confided to me the feelings and adaptive challenges she experienced in her subsequent adult years. Intellectually she rejected the discriminatory views with which she had been raised, such as portrayed by some in this film. Yet emotionally, my friend revealed her adjustment to accepting racial equality was more difficult.

I also thoroughly enjoyed "Descendents" which addresses several significant issues in addition to realistically presenting certain family problems. A father, played by George Clooney, begins learning to actually relate to his teenage daughters as a result of tragic circumstances involving their mother , also his wife. The unfortunate parental relationship illuminates how families, especially the children, can be impacted when all members become somewhat estranged while continuing to share the same household. The mother's medical complications present the necessity of decision-making that too many people are often faced with making.

The Hawaiian ocean scenery was spectacular with select views I recalled having seen in years past. Also familiar were some other sights such as Oahu's Punchbowl Memorial Cemetery where one of my beloved female family members has rested since being victimized by ovarian cancer in the sixties.

George Clooney created his character well in this movie, as he has generally done in most of the other recent years movies in which I've seen him act. I do think, basically, George Clooney is George Clooney in all these movies -- perhaps some aspect of himself in each character that he can never quite fully bring out to completely subjugate his own person. Maybe the problem is mine in not being able to forget his character is George Clooney because his presence is so large. This is not necessarily a negative. Throughout my lifetime quite a few popular actors have seemed to overwhelm their roles in a variety of stories and acting parts, but I've derived great pleasure viewing their movies as I do his.

I'm reminded that a friend told me of meeting Clooney as a young boy at his home. Young George strongly emphasized with certainty, words to the effect that one day he'd be quite important in the entertainment business. But his Dad, Nick, was quite important then, too. Nick was well-known and popular in the Midwest as a singer and in that particular setting at that time. Many years later Nick Clooney became a Los Angeles news anchor for a short time. His sister and George's aunt Rosemary Clooney, vocalist, was quite a music industry and movie star. So, George had excellent role models and probably encouragement he could be a star, too. Perhaps he has become a much brighter star than he ever imagined. Too bad his Aunt Rosemary isn't still living to share his pleasure.

"Midnight In Paris" swept me away to the romantic Paris world about which I once fantasized. The sights and sounds, imagined smells -- but, alas, no smellivision -- along with some of the artists, writers and personalities I might like to have encountered, rekindled long ago memories. I like Woody Allen films despite Woody Allens personal behavior. Same with film director Roman Polanski. That's how some felt about actress Ingrid Bergman, for different reasons, years ago.

I missed seeing "Tree of Life," "War Horse" when they were on the marque, along with some other films that have received various types of Oscar nominations. I wasn't in the mood for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," but may be in the future, partially because I'm intrigued by the Max Von Sydow role. Also, I want to eventually see "Hugo" which may be considered a classic in years to come; "Moneyball" because I like Brad Pitt's acting and baseball; also "The Beginners" because of Christopher Plummer's typically exceptional acting skills.

I prefer seeing most movies on a large theater screen in preference to DVD's on my TV, or streaming on the computer. I don't have a large TV screen at home by choice, but may one day succumb to the temptation.

A couple more movies I saw at our local theater include "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" which I think is probably a movie with suspense and complexity that many will enjoy. Gary Oldman inhabited Smiley. I was so enthralled with the initial presentation and acting on the PBS series many years ago I couldn't expunge that memory. Perhaps there was more time to tell the story on PBS than this accordion compressed movie version, though John Le Carre, who authored the book from which the adaptations came, has said he's very pleased with this new movie version.

"A Dangerous Method" which chronicles some of the pioneers of psychoanalysis with an account of complicated relationships between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Sabina Spielreim, once a patient, then in a romantic involvement. I think interest in the dynamics of psychoanalysis would enhance a viewers enjoyment and appreciation of this movie.

I really want to see the fascinating dance movie "Pina" on a big screen; may have an opportunity to see a purportedly unusual "Shame" dealing with sexual addiction; and "Albert Nobbs" in which Glenn Close portrays the lengths to which a woman of another generation would go to avoid the limiting traditional life styles imposed on females by society then.

I have mixed feelings about seeing "My Week With Marilyn," since I never cared for the real life Monroe character that she is said to have created as her alter persona, making her a movie star for many fans. The young actress, Michelle Williams, portraying Marilyn in the movie may well have created an interesting character worth seeing.

My tastes often are contrary to popular culture, since in addition to Marilyn Monroe, I never cared for Elvis Presley either, but that's another story. I liked the old movie "Some Like It Hot," but primarily because of the other actors -- such a farce -- certainly Monroe's character lent itself well to the part. I thought the movie "The Misfits" was extremely disappointing largely because of her. I think the movie would have been much better had any number of other more appropriate actresses played her role. I never appreciated her sex appeal. We had formed our opinions independently before we met, but she did not appeal to my husband and his friends either, other than as a big acting joke. Maybe her insecurity was valid.

This is probably not a good note on which to end this piece. Likewise, I may have injected too many personal memories, related topics and opinions.

I think there are some entertaining movies to be seen and hope everyone has an opportunity to view the ones that most appeal to you. Betcha Billy Crystal makes us laugh! Enjoy the Oscars!


  1. What a cool thing to find out about you JoAnn...that you had a bit of the 'acting bug' when you were younger. My unforfilled aspiration was to be a really great singer. I love music so much and have always appreciated a really good musician....singer or instrumentalist; and I always have dreams where I am this great singer in these stellar performances. Ah dreams. I also dream I can fly, so what does that tell you?

    I look forward to watching the Oscars tonight...and I am really looking forward to seeing Billy Crystal back....he's ALWAYS been one of my absolute favorite hosts. That said...watching the Oscars has always been kind of a tradition with me since I was a little kid. Enjoy the show... ~Joy

  2. As I had written a research psper on Maggie Thatcher, I read several reviews of the film "Iron Lady." I too like Streep, but do not think the movie portrayal of Thatcher is very accurate. There is no evidence that she had the "hallucinations" or mental confusion the movie apparently depicts.

    Rather like the gross HBO film about Sarah Palin I think this is a Hollywood version of the truth and we know how biased Hollywood is these days. I hate lies, especially lies about history, and the movies are full of them. I am no Palin aupporter, but too many folks made so-called "witty" impressions of both Palin and Thatcher that are taken as "truth" but nothing but gross fabrications.

    As for SSTS with Oldman, I think I will keep my memories of the much better PBS version, and skip that adaptation. John LeCarre, (David Cornwall)...I thought he died before the film version was complete?

  3. I really appreciate this post!!! I'm too hung up on Netflix and need to drag myself out out to the movies!!!! And yeah, this old gal hates it when a film rewrites history.

  4. Thanks so much for your approving comment at my "face-lifted" blog. Once again will try to outwit blogspot to leave a message, say how I enjoyed reading about your early days and theatrical interests. Can relate from my own post-college days in New York. Ultimately decided I was too middle class to survive the low wages/constant rejection--and probably not sufficiently talented!

    Have you seen French-Canadian "Monsieur Lazhar," a film that brings together many ideas to ponder. Teaching, immigration, boundaries between people with beautiful acting and some humour. Think you'd enjoy it.

  5. The nearest movie theaters are so far away that I rarely see a film there first. When I go, people whispering or going in and out kind of dampen my concentration. So I have only seen one of the films that would be up which was Tree of Life and wouldn't have put it on any best movie of the year list. I have Moneyball up on my netflix list but it hasn't come yet. I probably won't consider it a best either. I see a lot more old movies than new ones. My recent total favorite is very old, in black and white-- Americanization of Emily. It had some great things to consider while enjoying Garner at his most beautiful. I like him still in pretty much anything.

    Tonight, if I remember, I will have on the Oscars but not sure I will care who wins in any category where I mostly have to go by having seen these actors in some other film. I will definitely look forward to seeing Billy Crystal host it. He's the best.

    I enjoyed reading your take on them very much.

  6. Joy: Yes, I'm a ham at heart -- once the bug bites it never leaves, but, as in my case, finally became dormant. Interesting that you loved dance. Actually, I danced, too, when quite young, but then circumstances resulted in my having to give up dance and the several years of piano lessons ended, too. Keep dancin', singin', and flyin' in your dreams.

    schmiddley: I wondered how much license was taken in dramatizing Margaret Thatcher's later life. I always wonder about that when any individual's life is portrayed in a movie, or other source, too.

    Le Carre'/Cornwall is still living. He was recently interviewed on the PBS Charlie Rose Show which I frequently view.

    Kay: I probably should get Netflix, but might end up watching too many movies. I've viewed more films recently than I'll likely do the entire rest of the year. I wish they didn't release the good ones all at once like they do now, but I understand the reasons -- afraid award voters will forget them if released too early in the year. Geeze, everybody plays an angle any more.

    Naomi: Who knows if I would have survived the low pay, even get a job, and the tryout rejections that I'm sure would have been prevalent. Guess I would have been in the "YW" in NYC - had a cousin teaching the Philosophy of Religions at Columbia Univ. who made a significant difference in my life that I might have contacted.

    Thanks! I'll definitely check out the movie you recommended. Sounds like one in which I would be interested.

    Rain: Afternoon features are a bargain rate and the theater is seldom ever crowded -- mostly older people, some from three retirement communities, close by. Everybody is quiet and behaves, so I don't make waves either! (Thought you'd appreciate knowing that.) grin

    Thanks for your take on "Tree...." and sharing about "...Emily" -- I like Garner, too, but not sure if I've ever seen the movie, so another for my list.

  7. You have a stronger stomach than I do. I couldn't get past the first TWO minutes of the "red carpet" inanities. UGH. Shut the free streaming of the Oscars off fast. Of this year's crop, I saw Midnight in Paris, the War Horse, and Dangerous Method...liked Midnight in Paris the best, Dangerous Method next, and liked the horse in War Horse. Couldn't bring myself to watch Meryl Streep, whom I admire so much, play Margaret Thatcher. And I'm very sorry I missed this year's Harold & Kumar movie, but that's the breaks. It costs $15 now to see a movie here, and that's not counting busfare.

  8. Your take on all these films is interesting to me, my dear....I had written about quite a few of them about two months ago....And I know you read what I felt about The Oscars, today....But I would like to say something about George Clooney--in defense of him "always being George Clooney". Cary Grant was always Cary Grant and STILL was magnificent...! As you said there are any number of Actors who's own personality dominate no matter what they are in...Still, I thought Clooney was wonderful in THE DESCENDENTS....And that his performance was very Oscar worthy....
    As to your desires to be in the theatre, etc... that was very interesting....!
    And, incidentally, my dear Betty Garrett was on Broadway many many times.....The last time being in 2001 in the revival of Stephen Sondheim's "FOLLIES", where she sang "Broadway Baby"....She bounced back and forth between Theatre, Television and Movies....
    Also, the movie you mentioned on my blog is actually "ON THE TOWN"....I may just write the Academy, myself, though the horse is out of the barn, at this point...But I think they should be reminded of movie history...!

  9. I passed on The Oscars this year, largely due to frustration with the stupid choices the movie chains make in my area: they largely avoid showing movies that might be Oscar nominees until they've already been nominated. Nevertheless, I did manage to see "Tinker, Tailor, etc," "My Week With Marilyn," "Midnight In Paris," and "War Horse." The latter was pure cliché abuse, in my opinion; the others were more than worth the price of a ticket. "My Week With Marilyn" was visually beautiful in every sense, so I saw it twice, probably because I have a tendre for Eddie Redmayne...such a rare face.

  10. Extreme English: Looks like I may not have missed anything based on your assessment of the first few minutes of the Awards Show. I'll explain in my up date post coming next

    Gee, movies expensive there! Don't they have any special showing times and/or rates for Seniors? We do,so only costs me $5 and theater is about 5 or 10 mins from my house with free parking. No bus service, but I could get a special inexpensive car/van service for Seniors,and those with special needs charging far less than your bus service. My friend in Ohio's capital goes to a similar $5 show, too. Your city not very friendly to Seniors, so you better move.

    OldOldLady: I always value your views and agree about Cary Grant whose movies I always enjoyed, He was much like Clooney is proving to be for me so far. I think I missed reading your posts about the movies -- maybe it was during the time I wasn't blogging much. Thanks for the info on your dear friend Betty Garrett and getting the title "On The Town" right -- I knew that, guess I wasn't thinking -- big difference from "Our Town." Laudee me!

    Nance: Thanks for your movie views. Surely would make it difficult to see all the movies as most people wouldn't want, or maybe couldn't afford, to go to so many movies in such a short period of time. No wonder people wait for the DVDs. Well, maybe I'll have to see "Marilyn" some time.

  11. I enjoy watching the Oscars to get a feel for the movies I haven't seen. The one movie I know I want to see is the Iranian movie Separation. Has anyone seen it? The movie theatre that shows foreign movies is a long way downtown, and I haven't yet made the shift into NetFlix but may have to in order to see the films I miss. Thank you for the overview and sharing your acting bug. I have fun with an improvisational story telling/movement form can Interplay these days. Gives me lots of outlets for acting and even being outrageous in a playful way.

  12. Joared: Nah....moving costs too much. I just wait till I can get a good DVD and then watch it on my laptop. Sometimes I get invited out to a movie, and then I hope and pray I can get through it without falling asleep or busting any more of my teeth on the old maids. We DO have Video Americain here in this town--right on main street across from the best korean-american-vegan-omivore restaurant in these parts, Mark's Kitchen of Takoma Park MD. Video Americain used to be in Adams Morgan, just a hop and a skip from where I lived over the ice cream shop on 17th St. NW. Then IT moved, and I moved, and just t'other week, I discovered it on the main drag HERE! We also have DVDs in the library, but they appeal only to much different demographic than mine.

    I did get to see "Salmon Fishing in Yemen" at E Street Cinema down in Penn Quarter, and it was a HUGE, WONDERFUL experience. LOVED that movie, loved the stars, loved it all.