The Oscar Project
A film that is visually striking to you
I absolutely love this film and was happy to find a spot for it on my list. It’s probably my second favorite “real” space film behind Apollo 13. By real space, I mean set roughly in the current reality of our ability to travel in space, and not set in some far off future or distant far-flung past. It has a great pace to it and truly makes you feel like you are in the various space bound environments with Sandra Bullock.
With Bullock playing the majority of the film on her own in space, fighting for her own survival and trying desperately to figure out a way to get back to Earth safely, it truly give the feeling of a suspense thriller that just happens to be set in space. One of the main points of pride, but also pain points is the scientific accuracy of the film. While even director Alfonso Cuarón admits some liberties were taken in the interest of the film, it is incredible to me how well they depicted the movement in space and how things interact with one another in that environment. There are several moments where Bullock just barely manages to save herself from certain doom. Typically, in an Earthbound film, we would see this as falling over a cliff or off the side of a mountain, but in zero gravity, we get that in the form of potentially being flung off into the void of space. It’s a different look at something tried and true in survival films.
One of my absolute favorite pieces of trivia related to this film is its running time. The film runs at 91 minutes, which by no coincidence is almost exactly the amount of time that it takes for the ISS to complete an orbit around the Earth. In a similar way that Titanic runs for the same amount of time as it took for the boat to sink after it hit the iceberg, Gravity is as long as it would take for Bullock’s character to be forced to find a way home. In that way, we are on the journey with her and feel the tension in as close to real time as possible.
And finally, returning to the visuals which prompted the selection of this film for this category, the views in the film are truly stunning. You certainly get the feeling of being in the emptiness of space and far away from our home planet, but also get the feel of the scale of Earth when looking at it from low orbit on or near the ISS. As the action moves around the planet and away from sunlight that we get at the beginning of the film, the palette changes form very bright to very dark, and back again. We get interiors of various space vehicles along with the splendid exterior space shots. All in all, it’s a fantastic voyage and visually stimulating the entire time.
If you haven’t checked out Gravity, I urge you to go rent or download it today. You won’t be disappointed.
Day 26 – A film you like that is adapted front somewhere | Day 28 – A film that made you feel uncomfortable
A film you like that is adapted front somewhere
I waited almost the entire month to get to one of these films, and finally decided it was time to drop it here. It’s REALLY hard to adapt a book into a film, especially a book as deep and intricate as The Lord of the Rings. That’s what makes the accomplishment of Peter Jackson that much more impressive.
I will admit, I never read The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit growing up. I think I first read The Hobbit around 1999 or 2000 when I first heard that they were making the longer book into a series of movies. I followed that up with a mad dash through The Lord of the Rings trilogy, finishing The Fellowship of the Ring before seeing the film in theaters and working my way through The Two Towers and Return of the King soon after. After seeing all the films, I am extremely glad I read the books first. Not only did I get some of the little tidbits that the films leave out, I had a better understanding of the action taking place. Since there is so much going on in these films, even with the things left out, it helps to have a little background going in.
I know The Lord of the Rings is one of those groups of films that people either love or hate. I personally love them and think everyone should see them. I have the theatrical versions as well as the extended director’s cuts on DVD, buying all of those at a time when I didn’t have a ton of disposable income, but it was important for me to have them just the same. One of my favorite parts of the extended DVDs especially is all the behind the scenes features included across the three films. For anyone who loves films, I highly recommend those extended features, even if you’re not a big fan of the movies themselves. They cover the entire breadth of film making, from initial script writing and concept art, to costume design, sound and film editing, and up to the music that fully develops the world. One can get lost in those features and spend probably a solid week watching nothing else if you really wanted to.
Finally, I know that today is Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. I want to just say how thankful I am for everyone who has been reading these posts this month. I appreciate the dedication to reading them and have thoroughly enjoyed writing each and every one of them for you.
Day 25 – A film you like that is not set in the current era | Day 27 – A film that is visually striking to you
A film you wish you saw in theaters
Despite my desire to stray away from Star Wars films in this list, I didn’t have much of a choice when picking this category. It was a no-brainer for me to pick the original Star Wars. Not Star Wars: A New Hope, as it is now known, but just Star Wars. Unfortunately, the film was release in 1977, a few years before I was born, so I was never able to see the original version when it was in theaters. Even the version I had on VHS tape in the mid-90s was slightly different than the original 1977 version and there is plenty of changes that have been applied to the film since that time.
The first time I was able to see the film in the theater was in 1997 when Lucas released his Special Editions of the original trilogy, priming the pump with audiences for the 1999 release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. There have been entire libraries written, mainly on the internet, about the positives and (mostly) negatives of the Special Editions. Yes, they are different than what was originally shown in the late 70s and early 80s, but certain aspects I can understand updating, especially when it comes to visual effects shots that just weren’t possible until computer technology caught up with the vision.
But back to the original film. Star Wars is a classic hero’s journey story. You have a cast of characters that are immediately memorable. From the affable farm boy turned Jedi in training Luke Skywalker and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, to the evil Darth Vader, the beautiful yet headstrong Princess Leia to the charismatic Han Solo and his alien co-pilot Chewbacca. And let’s not forget the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the story, R2-D2 and C-3PO, as well as a cast of hundreds of aliens populating bars, spaceports, scavenging vessels and warrior tribes.
And with all those characters, I haven’t even mentioned the spaceships. Between the Rebel X-Wing fighter and Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, you have two of the most iconic spaceships in movie history. Add to that the Empire’s TIE Fighters with their distinctive screeching sound and of course the Death Star itself, and you have the makings of an entire universe.
And I still haven’t gotten to the lightsabers! This film is one that just keeps on giving. Just when you think there isn’t any more cool stuff to cram into a movie, it surprises you yet again. If not for Star Wars, empty paper towel tubes would be just that. But thanks to Star Wars, they become laser swords in the imagination of just about every adolescent boy in the last 40 years.
I know there is a section of the population that doesn’t care for Star Wars, and they are allowed to be wrong. I kid, sort of. No matter what your feelings on the films that came after Star Wars, there is no denying that the original film redefined the genre, bringing it solidly into the mainstream and in the process, cementing the concept of the summer blockbuster, pioneered a few years before with Jaws. If you’ve never seen any Star Wars film, I urge you to try and find an old copy of the original film and watch it as it was originally intended to be seen. If you’re a huge Star Wars fan, use this as your excuse to go watch the original again. Even as many times as I’ve seen it in my life, I always try and find something new when I watch it.
Here’s hoping I’ll be able to catch the next groundbreaking film in the theater and as always, may the Force be with you.
Day 23 – A film made by a director that is dead | Day 25 – A film you like that is not set in the current era
A film made by your favorite director
I had such a hard time picking a favorite director for this category, so I landed on Steven Spielberg. I already had two Christopher Nolan films on the list and had selections from some greats like Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, and Peter Jackson but I only had one Spielberg film (Jurassic Park) way back on day 2. And if you’ve been playing along all month, you’ll know that a few of those names I just mentioned are teasers for upcoming films in the last few days.
Obviously, Spielberg has such a vast catalog of films he has directed over a nearly 50-year career, I had many options to choose from. Some other choices that were near the top of my list included Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, and Minority Report. But if I had to pick one movie that only Spielberg could have made, it would be E.T. The Extraterrestrial.
There is so much to love about this film. He clearly moved on from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and wanted to make a different kind of alien movie and succeeded in that. From the instant E.T. appears on screen, anyone watching the film loves him. Granted, the film was released three months after I was born, but I would guess that the love for E.T. hasn’t been matched in the nearly 40 years since then, with the exception of the recent addition to the Star Wars universe, Baby Yoda.
I think it’s a credit to the enduring legacy of this film that it even inspired a short film/commercial last holiday season that featured Henry Thomas, the actor who portrayed Elliott in the original. You can watch that short film here. I dare you to watch even this short 4-minute clip without tearing up just a little.
We all want a little part of E.T. in our life, something from completely outside our imagination that we can believe in and be connected to. And deep down, we probably all understand that we may not get to keep that strange thing for long, but that it will always be a part of our experience and remain in our heart forever.
Day 18 – A film that stars your favorite actor/actress | Day 20 – A film that changed your life
Welcome to day 1 of the 30 Day Film Challenge. I'm excited to get going and introduce my first film!
The First Film I Remember Watching
I originally listed another Disney classic (Fantasia) for this first category, but when I started writing this post, I realized there was an even earlier movie from my memory. So, what I'm about to relate gets a little foggy, but here is the story behind Dumbo being my earliest movie memory.
When I was four years old, my family took a cross country road trhip in the old station wagon (yes, just like the Vacation movies, but it was blue, not green with wood panels). We set off from upstate New York, traveling generally west and south across a dozen or so states before finally ending up in Los Angeles and San Diego. This doesn't do justice to the trip that actually took several weeks and included stops in St. Louis, the Grand Canyon, and many other tourist locations across the country. After a visit to Disneyland, we made our way up the west coast to San Francisco as we began our return trip across the northern part of the country.
Unfortunately, the trip was cut short when our car was in an accident as we were getting on the highway one day. Everyone was fine, but the car was damaged enough that we flew home soon after. Some days or weeks later, the station wagon made its way home on a car carrier and got dropped off to us in a retail plaza near our home.
I hear what you're thinking, what does all this have to do with Dumbo? It so happened that Dumbo was airing on The Wonderful World of Disney the same night we were to pick up the car. Being the awesome parents they were, my mom and dad taped Dumbo, along with the preceding shorts "Lambert" and "Mickey and the Beanstalk" off the television so I could watch them later.
I'm pretty sure I wore out that tape completely with the number of times I watched it during my younger years. It was standard viewing whenever I was home sick from school and I knew the order of every commercial on that recording, even down to the classic Big Mac jingle about the special sauce.
While the tape itself may be long gone by now (or buried in my parents basement) I still have the Dumbo plush that we got the next year at Disney World. Dumbo remained one of my favorite films for many years before being supplanted by newer releases like Aladdin and The Lion King.
The film itself was highly successful and has enjoyed critical praise over the last 80 years. At just over an hour, it's a perfect film for young audiences with short attention spans.
Dumbo is available on Disney+.
Don't forget to come back tomorrow for the next movie.
Day 2: Film I like that starts with the first letter of my name
We're on to a smaller batch of films that are coming to Disney+ next month and taking a look at the list of Pixar animated films.
If you haven't already checked out the previous posts in this series, please go back and look at the list of live action films and animated films coming to Disney+ when the service kicks off in a few weeks.
Last week, I kicked off a few preview posts about the Oscar nominated and winning films that will be part of the Disney+ offerings when that service launches next month. I started off with a lengthy list of live action films either currently owned by Disney (though not necessarily original releases by Disney).
Today I'm taking a look at the animated films that have been nominated for or won Oscars over the years. I did decide to include honorary Academy Awards here simply because that let's me write about films like Fantasia which didn't win any awards outright (it used all existing music) but is still a fantastic film that should be revisited when you get the chance.
Continuing my coverage of predictions, today I am tackling four categories including Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Costume Design.
If you missed the previous prediction posts, please check out my Sound and Visual Predictions and Design, Cinematography, and Editing Predictions.
This is a bit of a departure from the posts I've been putting up about current Oscar nominees, but I wanted to write about a film I've seen many times.
My family was looking for a movie to watch last night on Netflix and landed on the 1998 film Prince of Egypt starring Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes as Moses and Rameses in the story of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt.
The Oscar Perspective
In light of the general topic of this blog, I wanted to take a look at the film from the perspective of the Oscars. Looking up the historical data, I found that Prince of Egypt garnered two nominations (Best Original Song and Best Original Musical or Comedy Score) with the one win coming for the song "When You Believe."
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?