The Oscar Project
Best coming of age film
I’ve never really been a huge fan of “coming of age” films, but there are some that just transcend time. From the moment the odd cast of characters enters Shermer High School on that fateful Saturday morning, you get the feeling that things are going to get a little crazy. It’s hard to find a more different mix of characters to throw into a melting pot of all-day detention. However, with the passage of over 35 years since its release, I feel like there has to be a bit of a discussion of how the film is a product of its time.
First off, if the film were made today, there would be a strong push to include students from different ethnic backgrounds. I would challenge anyone ever thinking of remaking this film to challenge the social “norms” that many people think of. Don’t make the nerdy kid of Asian descent. Make the African American girl the nerd, and the Korean kid is the jock. Today’s Breakfast Club would certainly have someone who is transgender or homosexual and while the original had “the basket case” in Ally Sheedy, there would most certainly be some inclusion of someone struggling with suicide or more serious mental illness.
But back to the original film. I think the film works as well as it does because the characters are so different. They all come from different cliques. Their family situations are all different. Each one is in detention for a different reason. However, once they set their differences aside and start to talk to one another like civilized humans, they discover they aren’t so different after all. I think we could all take a lesson from the group here and spend more time listening to those who we think are so different from us before passing judgement.
What is your favorite coming of age film? Leave a comment below.
Holiday film that annoys you the most
I know I’m going to get plenty of flack for this selection, but I absolutely can’t STAND A Christmas Story. Yeah, I said it. This film annoys the hell out of me! There is absolutely no reason to play this film back-to-back for 24 hours straight on Christmas Eve. Once would be enough for the entire holiday season and even that is probably too much. Don’t get me started on the fact that every holiday movie gets overplayed from the middle of November through Christmas Day. I get that we have hundreds of channels these days and they are all trying to fill air time, but enough is enough!
But back to A Christmas Story specifically. I honestly don’t get the appeal of this film. Maybe it’s supposed to be nostalgia, but I don’t have memories of just about anything in the film. Yeah, there are memories of spending Christmas morning with my family and the joy of finding out there was one special present left over that was the EXACT thing I’d been hoping for all year. But that’s about the only real connection I make to this film.
I will give credit that there are a couple funny moments. The “F--- word” scene is pretty classic and while I don’t think my parents ever washed my mouth out with soap, I was careful to never utter that word in front of them when I learned it. The leg lamp is another classic moment in the film, but I don’t quite get the point of it. The whole fact that the father seems baffled that something like that showed up on his doorstep in a huge wooden crate is a little beyond belief for me, even in a movie. It’s moments like that, ones that don’t really aid the overall flow of the story, that make the entire thing start to fall apart and feel a bit contrived.
Now, I’m sure there are plenty of other odd ball holiday films out there that people can’t stand. I want to know what they are and why you feel that way. Leave a comment below or shout out your selection on Twitter or Facebook.
Film that takes place somewhere you want to go
This was a fun category for me and I ended up picking a comedy movie even though there are so many films that take place in Hawaii. There were also lots of different places I would love to go, but landed on Hawaii since I’ve heard wonderful things about the state.
In terms of things to do in Hawaii, I think I would focus on the history, especially centered around Pearl Harbor. I’m a huge history buff and I’ve always wanted to visit the wreck of the USS Arizona. I would spend as much time there learning and seeing as much as possible in that area.
For the movie (50 First Dates), I actually love this one and have seen it probably two dozen times over the years. It’s one that is on TV quite a bit and you can pick it up anywhere and watch little bits and pieces. There are lots of fun set pieces in the film and the relationship between Adam Sandler’s Henry and Drew Barrymore’s Lucy feels natural and unforced in the way many on-screen relationships do. The twist that Lucy has short term memory loss and cannot create new memories leads to the film’s title. Add in Lucy’s loveable father Marlin (played by longtime Sandler co-star Blake Clark) and brother Doug (Sean Astin) and you have a great cast. On top of that, there is even a Dan Aykroyd cameo for good measure.
The other fun thing about this is that it is the second film starring Sandler and Barrymore, the first being The Wedding Singer. There is a clear chemistry between the two actors so it’s not surprising that they connected on screen more than once. The thing I actually like about both films is that they are not straight love stories where boy meets girl, they fall in love, and eventually get married. They both twist and turn, throwing some unexpected roadblocks in the way of the pairing.
If you haven’t seen 50 First Dates, do yourself a favor and rent a copy for your next date night. It’s a tidy 99 minutes and will have you laughing, crying, and cheering for true love to prevail.
A film with a single word title
Yesterday I chose a very recent film, and today I’m going in the way back machine for my selection. My film with a single word title is Casablanca, the Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman classic that provided some of the most memorable lines in film history.
This was actually a terrible gap in my film resume until about a year ago. I had seen bits and pieces of it over the years, catching segments when it was on television, or snippets in documentaries about films, but I had never sat down and watched the film from beginning to end. I went back and looked at the films I have rated on the movie tracking website Trakt.tv and I have reserved a 10 out of 10 rating for only about a dozen films, Casablanca being one of them. It is a truly timeless film and I think the thing that struck me most during my most recent watch was the fact that it was a film set during WWII, made shortly after the United States entered the war at the end of 1941 and premiered less than a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The entire film feels a bit like the story of the war up to that point. Bogart’s Rick Blaine is the stand in for the United States, staying out of the politics and making money from both sides until his hand is forced and he has to make a decision. Bergman’s Ilsa Lund is the reason Rick ends up getting involved for she begs him to help her and her husband and Czech Resistance leader, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) escape Casablanca.
One of my favorite scenes from the film comes when the Germans start singing their patriot anthem “Die Wacht am Rhein” in Rick’s bar. Laszlo urges the house band to break into “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem. The band pauses only a moment until Rick gives a nod of approval. The patrons of the bar pick up the French tune and soon drown out the Germans, but it’s Rick’s subtle nod that is the true turning point of the story. He has decided to do what is right, rather than what will provide him financial gains. It may have been, just like the United States’ own entry into the war, a bit later than the Allies would have liked, but it came just the same.
There is so much more to this film than I have space to discuss here, but I am so mad at myself that I waited so long to see it. If you are like I was and haven’t seen the entire film, please do yourself a favor and check it out. It is currently available on HBO Max and at just 102 minutes, it’s not a terribly long film.
Best Biography Film
Green Book is one of the most recent films on my list this year and it is fantastic. There is a reason this film won the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), and Best Original Screenplay a few years ago and was nominated for several others.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a perfect film by any stretch, but a great film doesn’t have to be perfect. There is plenty to quibble with in the film and its depiction of race in the Southern United States in the 1960s, but at the heart it is a story about two men from different worlds that come to understand and respect each other through a series of shared experiences.
If you don’t know the story, Ali stars as Dr. Don Shirley, a black pianist who is about to embark on a concert tour of the American Midwest and South. He hires Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) as his driver. The men start off as complete strangers, Shirley trying to get Tony to act with more refinement and class, while Tony makes some attempts to get Shirley to lighten up a bit and “live a little.”
As the trip wears on and the pair venture further into the Deep South, the attitudes towards a black man change and Tony starts to see how Shirley is treated. The final straw comes when Shirley is denied permission to eat dinner in the very dining room of a white country club that he has been hired to perform in that evening. Tony stands fully by Shirley’s side and begs the owners to relent on their rules and allow Shirley to dine with the white members.
While I don’t know much about the two men depicted in the film, I do love the actors that portrayed them. I have been a Mortensen fan since seeing him in G.I. Jane and of course his star turn as Aragon in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Ali has been a rising star as well, garnering his second Oscar for this role following his win for Moonlight several years ago. These two roles couldn’t be more different, so it’s wonderful to see the actor inhabit these drastically different characters.
Film that starts with the last letter of your last name
Hopefully your last name doesn’t end with an uncommon letter like ‘Q’, although there are some decent choices for films that start with ‘q’.
In my case, I’m looking for films that start with the letter ‘G’. Last year I had a similar category for a film that started with the first letter of your name, for which I selected Jurassic Park. This year’s selection for the new category is Ghostbusters. Now, I was just a tad young when this film originally came out, but I do remember seeing the sequel in the theater. I actually just enjoyed watching the episode about this film on the Netflix series The Movies That Made Us. As a side note, this is a fantastic series, and if you love movies like I do, it’s a great watch and gives some new insights into some of the most beloved films of the 1980s and 1990s.
I have not seen the original Ghostbusters in quite some time, so I actually sat down to watch it again and it didn’t disappoint. The effortlessness with which Bill Murray plays the role of Peter Venkman is something to behold. There are so many classic lines in the film from “dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria” to “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!” and the highly memorable “he slimed me” which apparently wasn’t even supposed to be Murray’s line in the original script.
Watching the film again, I appreciate it that much more after seeing how close it came to not being made or being called by a different name when filming began. It’s incredible to think that a few different choices or chance occurrences would have made an entirely different film. Did you know that the film was originally written to star John Belushi and Eddie Murphy alongside Dan Aykroyd? The alternate title of the film was even supposed to be Ghostbreakers, mainly because the title Ghostbusters had already been used by an animated television show in 1975, nearly a decade before the film was released. If Belushi had not passed away before the film was made, and if the studio hadn’t been able to land the rights to the name, just imagine how different the film would be.
Even though the film is nearly 40 years old, it still holds up. The fact that it had a sequel, an animated TV series, several video games, and has even been recently rebooted speaks to the staying power of the original concept. If you haven’t seen the original Ghostbusters in a while, do yourself a favor and dig out your old VCR and VHS copy (I know you have one somewhere) and pop it in for a trip down memory lane with Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston.
Favorite Film Sequel
Welcome to the first day of this year’s challenge. Since this is the second time I’m doing this challenge, it counts as a sequel right? Thus, the first category up for your consideration is your Favorite Film Sequel.
Unfortunately, this was also a category I used last year, and I am challenging myself to pick different films this year. That said, my favorite film sequel remains the same as last year (The Empire Strikes Back), but I’m going to “officially” pick a different film here for the sake of variety.
This year’s pick is Terminator 2: Judgement Day. While technically not my favorite sequel, this certainly ranks right near the top of the list. It is also one of the few situations where the sequel is actually better than the original film. Last year, I went back and watched both the original 1984 Terminator film and T2, and I have to say that the sequel is a step up in nearly every aspect from the original. Arnold and Linda Hamilton helped create a new world in James Cameron’s original film, but they brought us deep in the world they created with the second film. The dystopian future was still there, but flipping the script and making Arnold the protector instead of the killer was a master stroke.
Not only did the story take things to a new level, but there is the obvious facet of the effects used in the film. While they look a little dated by today’s standards, the visual effects were state of the art at the time. The film was one of the first major motion pictures to make use of computer generated effects and set the stage for the expanded use of these effects throughout the motion picture industry. Just a year later, Spielberg’s Jurassic Park would make even wider use of computer animation with the introduction of virtual dinosaurs, and any moviegoer today can see hundreds or even thousands of effects shots in a single film.
To be honest, I could have selected this film for a few categories this year including Best Coming of Age Film or Best Road Trip/Travelling Film, but I decided to stick it here to start off the month with a bang. Be sure to leave a comment with your favorite movie sequel and check back tomorrow for the next category, a Film that starts with the last letter of your last name.
Full Category List
Day 2 - Film that starts with the last letter of your last name
As announced last week, I am rebooting my 30 Day film challenge. I'll officially start this Wednesday, September 1st, but here if the full list of categories for this year to get your gears turning and thinking about what you might pick for your movies.
Day 1 – Favorite Film Sequel
Day 2 – Film that starts with the last letter of your last name
Day 3 – Best Biography Film
Day 4 – A film with a single word title
Day 5 – Film that takes place somewhere you want to go
Day 6 – Holiday film that annoys you the most
Day 7 – Best coming of age film
Day 8 – Film starring an actor who died in the past year
Day 9 – A film you can’t watch without crying
Day 10 – A film with your favorite job in it
Day 11 – A film that would have been better as a book
Day 12 – Favorite film based on a book
Day 13 – Film you would never let your child watch (at least not until they’re older)
Day 14 – Film with your favorite car in it
Day 15 – Favorite animated film
Day 16 – Film with your favorite onscreen president
Day 17 – Favorite film musician
Day 18 – Favorite underdog film
Day 19 – Best road trip/travelling film
Day 20 – Film that has an amazing soundtrack
Day 21 – Film that scarred you the most as a child (or adult)
Day 22 – Film with a character you have a crush on
Day 23 – Film with the best car chase(s)
Day 24 – Film that you’ve never seen that EVERYONE else has seen
Day 25 – Film starring your favorite actor/actress
Day 26 – Film with your favorite type of animal in it
Day 27 – Film where the ending makes you angry
Day 28 – Film with your favorite villain
Day 29 – Favorite war film
Day 30 – Most recent film you watched
As we near the end of the summer months and get ready to send the kids back to school, I thought it would be a good time to revive my 30 day film challenge. We had lots of fun with this last fall and since September is a 30 day month, it will be perfect to do it again.
I have made some updates to the categories from last year and while some of them are the same, I also have a bunch of new ones that will hopefully keep the conversations going around our favorite (and maybe least favorite) films. Be on the lookout for categories like Favorite Underdog Story, Film That Would Have Been Better as a Book, and your Favorite Movie President.
Just like last year, I will be posting my own picks for each category daily as we go through the month and will have a full list of the categories (in order) later this week. If you missed last year's challenge, check out the posts for those categories starting with Day 1.
I hope you'll join me for this fun challenge and if you have any suggestions for categories, please drop them in the comments below.
A film with your favorite ending
We finally reached the end of the month. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and have been able to be safe and healthy through this trying time. I also hope these posts have brightened your days throughout the month.
Speaking of endings, today’s category is a film with your favorite ending, and I choose Hitch. Much like yesterday’s pick of Serendipity, it’s a great feel good movie and you can probably see the ending coming a mile away. However, Hitch throws just enough curveballs in the final act of the film to make you think that it might not end up all roses for the main characters.
Hitch is a 2005 romantic comedy featuring Will Smith at Alex Hitchens, also known as the “date doctor,” who helps men get hooked up with their dream girls. It sounds a bit sleazy on the surface, but he says multiple times throughout the film that he’s merely setting up opportunities for the two individuals to meet and make an initial connection, from that point, it’s up to them. His newest client Albert (Kevin James) has his eyes set on a beautiful celebrity Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta) who is a client of the investment firm where he works and despite the fact that this is a romantic comedy, some of the best comedic moments come from the interaction between Smith and James.
Throw in gossip reporter Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) into the mix as she investigates Hitch’s business while also starting to fall for him before realizing who he is, and you have a complex relationship tangle that only gets more complex as the film goes along. This is not to say that it’s a love triangle or anything like that, but the film does manage to show how complicated relationships can be, regardless of how easy they seem at the start. That’s part of what I love about it and Hitch even comes right out and says near the end of the film that when people are in love, “the leap, and hope to God they can fly.”
This is one other film, like many on this list, that I tend to watch on TV whenever I find it on. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, but I love how is ends and how the entire film is put together in general.
Day 29 – A film that makes you want to fall in love
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?