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MICHAEL JACKSON: DANGERS OF IDOLATRY

My cranky old stepfather had a way with words. Back in 1955, I was but a 16 year-old lad when we were engaged in a conversation about movie idols. I shared with him my admiration for Elizabeth Taylor, who I considered to be the most gorgeous human creature ever to walk the face of the earth. In the middle of my blathering over her, Bernie interrupted, and in his inimitable Brooklynese, said, “Listen kid. Think about this. What if Elizabeth Taylor is out hiking in the woods. She’s gotta take a …she’s gotta go, you know…real bad. What does she do? She lifts her f ——g dress, pulls down her panties and squats…just like you and me.”

Fame and fortune doesn’t make anyone more or less human than you or me.

The current news blitz about the life and death of Michael Jackson is a good example of off-the-charts idolatry. Despite his wealth, (or because of it) it ultimately served as a virtual prison within a secluded world. Such was the case with Elvis, and others, who could not walk the streets, attend a public function, go to a movie or eat in a restaurant without throngs of worshippers crowding,

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Movie Critique: April ’09

 

Discriminating buffs who enjoy the best of motion pictures are entering into a time of the year when movie junk is in the theaters, mainly to attract teen and young adult audiences. But, we have seen a few gems within the mix, and some not so gemmy.

Here’s a few ratings:

The Soloist – 8 ½

Sunshine Cleaning – 7

Elegy – 8

Knowing – 5

“The Soloist”

Best picture so far in the 2009 season. Based on true events, the story focuses on two people; A homeless derelict (Jamie Foxx) whose early life included the Juliard school as a classical cellist, and a L.A. Times reporter (Robert Downey Jr.) who discovered and befriended him. Some folks will see this simply as a genius who fell into hard times when, in fact, it’s about the ravages of mental illness. Both men give Oscar worthy performances as the depth and versatility of each is nothing short of amazing. Foxx has won an Oscar for his betrayal of Ray Charles in “Ray”and has played in a number of other complicated roles since. Downey is to be admired, not only for his acting, but for having what it takes to pick himself up

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OSCAR PICKS FOR 2009

The Academy Awards for 2009 will be announced in just two nights. I have seen all the nominated movies, and most of the nominated performances. I do believe the academy voters allow sentimentality and emotion to influence their votes, as seen many times in the past. The very best actor/actress performance doesn’t always win the prize. Such was the case when Jessica Lange’s performance in“Blue Sky” won over Jody Foster’s, “Nell” in 1994. No comparison. So, for my predictions, I will list who I think deserves to win, and who will actually win. Major categories only.

Best Movie:

Will win: Slumdog Millionaire

Should win: Slumdog Millionaire

 

Best Actor:

Will win: Sean Penn

Should win: Mickey Rourke

Best Actress:

Will win: Kate Winslet

Should win: Kate Winslet

Best Supporting Actor:
 

 

 Will win:     Heath Ledger

Should win: Robert Downey Jr.

Best Supporting Actress:
 

 

 Will win: Penelope Cruz

Should win: Amy Adams

Best Director:
 

 

 Will win: Danny Boyle

Should win: Danny Boyle

 

And, for the best movie, not mentioned in the Academy Awards listing:

The Boy In the Striped Pajamas

 

Your picks?

 

 
 

 

 

 …

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MOVIE CRITIQUE – “MILK”/”WRESTLER”

 

These two pictures will probably represent the contest between the two men vying for best actor awards at the Academy Awards. So, here is my take on both of them:

“Milk”

First: No denying the talent of Sean Penn. He certainly deserves the nomination, if not the award itself. This is one of those movies where the actor totally becomes the character and immerses himself into the story.

 I consider myself fairly open minded. Gay theme movies such as “Bird Cage” and “Brokeback Mountain” were well acted, well-directed and were, for the most part, filmed in a manner which left nothing to the imagination, but still left out unnecessary and gratuitous sex.

I cannot say the same for “Milk.” One more wet, tongue-slobbering kiss between the men and I think I would have walked out. We all know that gay men kiss, but a little less would have told the same story without the graphics. Even in heterosexual movies these days, Hollywood actors in a kissing scene remind me of people eating a ripe peach. It’s bad enough between men and women, and — to me — more offensive between the same sexes. It is simply not necessary. …

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MOVIE CRITIQUES # 3

We’ve been to some of the end-of-season movies, when the Oscar contenders are generally released. Here are a few brief comments and ratings of the pictures we’ve seen so far.

 

 

Frost/Nixon:

 

8

Not for everyone. Young people who enjoy shoot-‘em-ups, vulgarity and raw sex will be bored to tears with this re-creation of the landmark 1977 interviews between President Nixon and his surprisingly adept nemesis, David Frost. But it’s a wonderfully made movie by Ron Howard, and an Acting 101 course for aspiring motion picture aspirants, particularly on the part of Frank Langella who immerses himself as the shamed president as well as anyone could possibly have done. He deserves the Oscar nomination, and movie goers who enjoy American history and political drama will be amazed by the performances.

 

 

Doubt:

 

8 ½

An intriguing picture that may provide Meryl Streep her third Academy Award as the imperious Sister Aloysius who suspects Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) of molesting a black student in the school, but without evidence. Moves slowly in parts, but the acting performances trump any criticism of the screenplay, which left me hanging, particularly at the end. Amy Adams is also deserving of her nomination for her role …

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Greatest Female Acting Performances Of All Time

Okay, without further ado. We submitted our opinions on the greatest performance by a male actor in the history of movies, here are my top ten picks for the greatest all-time performances by a female actor, Oscars notwithstanding because the best doesn’t always get the prize.

These are the kind of movies where you walk out with your head shaking, say “Wow” and continue to talk about incredible actress who simply dazzled the viewer beyond those of the ordinary. Your opinions are welcome. 

Jodie Foster – Nell   (If you never saw her in this, rent it)

 

Meryl Streep – Sophie’s Choice   (Ditto)

 

Holly Hunter – Piano   (she also was the pianist)

 

Bette Davis – Whatever Happened To Baby Jane  (powerful)

 

Sigourny Weaver – Gorilla’s In The Mist   (remarkably brave)

 

Patty Duke – Miracle Worker    (gripping)

 

Susan Sarandon – Dead Man Walking  (believable)

 

Audrey Hepburn – Breakfast At Tiffany’s

 

Kathy Bates – Misery   (Bitch!)

 

Mary McDonnell – Dances With Wolves  (immersed in the role)

 

*    Add Honorable mention: (which means, they belong there too)

Hillary Swank – Million Dollar Baby

 

Halle Berry – Monsters Ball

 

Charlize Theron – Monster

 

Liza Minelli – Cabaret

 

Diana Ross – Lady Sings the Blues

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GREATEST MALE ACTING PERFORMANCES OF ALL TIME

 

It’s easy to render eye-of-the-beholder opinions about the best movies, greatest actors and best looking and all that, but one must be up on their knowledge of motion picture history to extract the greatest performances of all time. This category isn’t based on star power, good looks or box office receipts, but powerful acting and a roles where the player inextricably became the very character he/she portrayed.

Academy Awards, in my opinion, do not always do justice to the most deserving. Robert Duvall’s portrayal of an obsessed minister in “The Apostle” should have easily landed him the Oscar in 1997. Rather, Jack Nicholson walked away with the award for his every-day-Nicholson performance in “As Good As It Gets.” In terms of powerful acting, there was no comparison.

Same goes for Jody Foster’s 1994 portrayal in “Nell” which far excelled Jessica Lange who won for “Blue Sky.”

So… Oscars notwithstanding, and starting off with the male actors for this blog, here are my picks for top ten movie performances of all time….(adding a few honorable mentions at the end). Feel welcome to weigh in.

1) Robert Deniro – Raging Bull

2) Daniel Day Lewis

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