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The Best Picture Winners: A Man for All Seasons (1966)



Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.


The two major contenders for the 39th Best Picture prize were a pair of widely acclaimed play adaptations that are no doubt brilliant but were both so super serious that watching them feels like a plate of broccoli.  Mike Nichols’ adaptation of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Fred Zinneman’s adaptation of Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons were both about bitter personal feuds and neither is what you’d call fun.

In Nichols’ case, the story of a well-off married couple (Richard Burton and Best Actress winner Elizabeth Taylor) whose 20 year marriage has withered down to hateful spite games soaked through bitterness and alcohol.  Bolt’s adaptation of his own play, meanwhile, retells the story of British statesman Sir Thomas More (Best Actor winner Paul Scofield) and his refusal to go along with King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) who wishes to defy the Roman Catholic Church in order to divorce Catherine of Aragon so he can marry Anne Boleyn.  Fun! Fun! Fun!

Given a choice, I wouldn’t sit through either film again on a given evening.  Given a mandate, I’d have to think it over.  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has the better performances but a story that is a bitter pill to take.  The Academy’s choice was A Man for All Seasons which is easier to sit through but always feels like a homework assignment, although there is a lot to admire.  I admire it greatly for being more about principles and ideals than about getting the historical bric-a-brac in the right order.  Who couldn’t feel something for More who is asked to set aside his deeply felt religious convictions in order to satisfy his king, and by extension sparing his own life (he was beheaded for this in 1535).  Given that, A Man for All Seasons is apt for a lot of discussion afterwards, and given the current social climate, it asks a lot of questions that are relevant to our society today.  That’s the key, you’re thinking about it when its over.  How many movies do that?

So where are my negatives?  Well, for one, the movie is based on a play and it feels like a play.  While the technical work here is adequate, there isn’t much in the way of transitioning it to a full-blooded film.  It feels stagey as long passages are given over to dialogue in period dress.  Also, while I got caught up in the issues at hand, I always find the movie a little dispassionate.  Thomas More knows the consequences of his refusal, but seems oddly unfazed.  He’s faced with death, but you always sense that he’s given to his fate even as he approaches the chopping block.

A Man for All Seasons is a movie that I admire without much enthusiasm (which should be abundantly clear by now).  I don’t I revisit all that often.  Of the ten Best Picture winners of this decade, it is the one that I’ve seen the least, not because I dislike it but because there are better films from this particular year.  This was the year of Blow Up, The Good The Bad and the Ugly, Fantastic Voyage, Persona, Georgy Girl, and Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain.  Given those choices, I’m happy to leave A Man for All Seasons on the stage.

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Posted by on 11/24/2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Best Picture Winners: Tom Jones (1963)

Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.
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Posted by on 11/18/2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Pod Bay Doors Podcast, Episode #17: Dreamcatcher (2004)


Week #2 of Turkey Month takes our dynamic duo to the mountains where they experience a psychically linked group of friends, shit weasels, and Morgan Freeman’s eyebrows. Lawrence Kasdan’s cinematic atrocity Dreamcatcher is this week’s turkey. Doug hates this movie with the intensity of 1,000 suns and Jerry isn’t far behind him.

 
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Posted by on 11/13/2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Pod Bay Doors Podcast, Episode #13: It Follows (2015)


In week three of Shock-tober Jerry and Doug take a look at It Follows, going along slowly but never stopping…until the end of the episode.

 
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Posted by on 10/15/2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Pod Bay Doors Podcast, Episode #7: Under the Skin (2014)

 
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Posted by on 09/03/2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Pod Bay Doors Podcast, Episode #6: The Wild Bunch (1969)

This week on the Pod Bay Doors Podcast, Doug and I strap on our shootin’ arns and blaze a bloody trail through Sam Peckinpah’s immortal Western classic “The Wild Bunch.”

PDB - Wild Bunch

 
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Posted by on 08/28/2017 in Uncategorized

 

Catching Up: How to Be Single (2016)

There will come a moment, soon I hope, that Dakota Johnson will find her path to greatness.  As a performer, there is something in her that her contemporaries seem to lack, an understated intelligence, a manner in which you can tell there’s a real person there.  When someone talks to her on screen you can see that she’s thinking.  Maybe that’s just something I’ve interpreted, but I think it’s special – she reminds me a lot of her grandmother, Tippi Hedren.  My problem is that it doesn’t really fit with the movie’s she seems to find herself in.  Fifty Shades of GreyNeed for SpeedCymbeline?  She has a screen presence that suggests that she should be in films like Spotlight.

That’s a nice way of saying that she is using her special qualities in movies that don’t deserve them.  Take the latest, How to Be Single, a disposable rom-com that does no favors for her or the genre.  There is nothing especially wrong with this movie, but there’s nothing especially noteworthy either.  Here is a movie that feels a lot like a Greatest Hits collection of the rom-coms you’ve been going to over the past 10 years.  It gathers all of the comic overtones and heartfelt moments and wraps them up into a tender-hearted burrito that you’ll enjoy while you’re watching it but probably cash out of your memory banks as soon as its over.  It chases The Hangover, “How I Met Your Mother” and steals borrows great heaping gobs of Bridesmaids. Yet it never finds an identity for itself.

Johnson is at the center here in a role that should have been a movie by itself.  She plays Alice, a twenty-something who “takes a break” from her relationship with her long-time boyfriend John (Nicholas Braun) and moves to New York to work as a paralegal.  The relationship is complicated when the “break” breeds new relationships on either side, especially for Alice who goes through a series of rotating suitors even though she tries to resist the temptation to find a man.

Hovering in her immediate hemisphere are her three BFFs; her sister Meg (Leslie Mann) an OB/GYN who rejects the notion of a husband and kids.  There’s Lucy (Alison Brie), a lonely-heart who is on an all-consuming mission to find “The One.”  And there’s Robin (Rebel Wilson), a cliche who is a free-spirited and apparently self-destructive party girl who is always either hung-over or in pursuit of the male sex organ.  She’s one of those movie-types that parties all the time but never has to face any consequences.  Where are the consequences?  Where is the sadness?  Where are the morning-after problems?  She’s a cliche and that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the film.

The pieces and parts of other (and much better) rom-com standards are present here but they are stitched together into a movie that is really hard to care about, mainly because you already know where it is going.  Does it surprise you that workaholic Meg’s biological clock goes off the moment she looks into a baby’s eyes?  Does it surprise you that Lucy falls for the guy running the bar that she has an argument with?  Does it surprise you that Robin’s bacchanalian lifestyle comes buttoned with a tag of wisdom for the heartaching Alice?  Does it surprise you that, for the ump-teenth time, we get the “Sex and the City” vision of New York featuring stylish cloths and comfortable apartments?  Again, you’ve seen it all before and done way better.

 
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Posted by on 08/11/2017 in Uncategorized