Just Parsons, Not Project

A few months ago mondhasen made a post about a band from the 70's or 80's (sorry. forgot which one). But I mentioned the Alan Parsons Project as a band that I liked but really couldn't admit such since prog-rock/soft rock was "old people music." It just wasn't cool. Eventually I came around to admitting I really liked it. Their video for "Don't Answer Me" came out while I was in college. Once again, it wasn't hip or cool, but the video was fun to watch. Perhaps it was also my time in eastern Oregon where all I could pick up was KBOI, AM radio from Boise that played nothing but soft rock. You'll happily listen to that when you're 100 miles from the nearest town. But I digress.

Right after I made that LJ comment I saw that he would be coming to town! I might not be a superfan, but I could certainly give props to such an influential person of the music industry. We're talking about the man who produced one of the greatest albums in rock history, "Dark Side of the Moon." His concert would be held at one of my favorite music venues, so I bought tickets. Kitty was a little unsure. She knew a couple of his songs and hated one of their biggest hits ("Time"). But she would give it a shot.

I had a feeling it would be an older crowd since his biggest hits came out 30 years ago. I was right. We fit right in. He does have a new solo album coming out, so he played a few songs from that. Fortunately I had checked out YouTube before the show, so I knew the songs he played. Mostly he and his band played the big hits of the Project. During the first part of the show, however, I felt like I was watching a cover band. It was an interesting situation. Alan was most at home behind the sound board. He was a musician, but not really a vocalist. In their heyday they almost never toured. So who exactly were the 7 other people on stage with him? They were talented musicians, but they were not the original band. Even then the "original band" was a collection of studio musicians. I decided to not overthink things. During the second act the band seemed to tighten up a little and really rock out. By the end of the show Kitty had been won over. We were both happy to have seen the show.


Old Movie Time

I'm starting to binge all of the old Oscar-nominated movies in my queue. And they're gonna keep on coming for another 2 weeks! Here's what I've seen so far:

"A Farewell to Arms" - A really schmaltzy love story with WWI as the backdrop. They said that even Hemingway hated what Hollywood did to his story. It does feature a very young Gary Cooper. It's just amazing how attitudes have changed over time. It was so scandalous that men and women should be alone together! And to become pregnant from such an encounter?!? We laugh at the Taliban today, but we were not so different less than 100 years ago.

"Broadway Melody of 1936" - How many movies have been made where someone comes from the country to hit it big on Broadway or Hollywood? I suppose you need some kind of story to support lots of singing and dancing in old skool Hollywood style. Big musical numbers on big sets with lots of extras. Classic. Buddy Epsen's first movie role!

"Our Town" - Supposedly it's a famous American play. They literally put the play on screen. There is a narrator who totally eliminates the 4th wall. There's not much to the plot other than a slice of small-town American life. It features a very young William Holden. So young I didn't immediately recognize him.

"Stagecoach" - One of the quintessential westerns. John Ford + John Wayne + Monument Valley = American classic. Good story. Good cast.


Yes, the DVD arrived in the mail yesterday and Kitty and I watched it. The "secret" of the movie had not been revealed, so it was fun to watch the plot unfold without spoilers. No, there is no "gotcha" moment, but I had heard that the plot pulls you in one direction and then throws you in a completely different one so that you have no idea where you are going to end up. To me that's a good thing. My biggest problem with the majority of Hollywood movies is that you have a good guy and a bad guy. The bad guy wears a black hat. He does bad things. The good guy in the white hat eventually saves the day. He will be put in peril, but he's the good guy, so you know that things will be OK in the end. I prefer films with moral ambiguity. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed "Joker." Wait. You're kinda feeling sad for the bad guy! Batman was supposed to have that trait, but usually he just ends up being a pussy.

So was "Parasite" Best Picture worthy? Tough call. It's new storytelling and perhaps the Academy is now more woke about film around the world. It was probably better than some of the other nominees that I had seen, but not necessarily. It was probably just as good if not better than some of the crap that has won in previous years. Hopefully it will open the doors to movies that people wouldn't normally see.
Maybe this throws the doors wide open to Netflix and Amazon who can better sweep up interesting movies from abroad easier than the plodding dinosaurs of Hollywood studios. Maybe American brain cells can be stimulated to actually think about a plot instead of just cheering for the latest comic book hero.

The Oscars - 2020 Edition

The Oscars is the only award show I watch. It has been a guilty pleasure for decades for me. I love movies. I roll my eyes when an entertainment industry takes itself so seriously, but I can set that aside and just focus on the art. So here are my takeaways from this year's spectacle.

I guess the Academy thinks they can throw a bone to the "Oscar-so-white" crowd by having lots of black people dancing in (and flopping around) the aisles. There was a hip-hop performance by Eminem (I guess) which just proved how old (and white) I was because I didn't have a clue about the song even though it appeared most of the young, hip people did. I asked Kitty "I wonder how Anthony Hopkins feels about all of this?" The camera panned over him and it looked like he was asleep. *LOL* It seemed like every opportunity the Academy had to showcase black people, they did...except in actually having them nominated for things. I just wonder how the "woke" crowd is going to handle this year's winners. If Oscar-be-so-white is true, why did an Asian film win the biggest prizes? A woman won for best music score. I think people just like to stir up shit to better match their own agenda. Produce good quality work, win a prize. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?

Just a few other takeaways. I was happy to see "American Factory" win best documentary since it was the only one I had seen. I liked it a lot even with its overtly pro-union slant. It reminded me so much of the 80's movie "Gung Ho" where a Japanese company takes over a US auto plant. I see little has changed in 30 years, only swap out Chinese for Japanese. It just proves how evil the Chinese system is and what it could mean for the US worker.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the short documentary about skateboarding Afghan girls won. I thought for sure the one produced by MTV would win. I guess the "woke" crowd will just have to take comfort that "Hair Love" won best animated short. I will give a hearty "meh" that "Toy Story 4" won best animated feature. That was a safe bet. The very unsafe bet was to predict that "Parasite" would win both Best International Film as well as Best Picture. I can't wait to see it! It should be in my mailbox today when I get home.

Oscar-Nominated Shorts - Live Action

Since the Oscars were so early this year, we barely had time to watch the last of the short movies and get home in time to catch the show. I think I'll make a second post about that and just write here about the short movies.

"A Sister" - An emergency operator tries to get help to a woman who is in danger of being hurt/killed by an abusive boyfriend. There have been several movies lately dealing with trying to get help to someone on a cell phone. It was done much more effectively in last year's "Mother." A good film, but not great.

"Brotherhood" - A son returns to his family after fighting for ISIS in Syria and is rejected by his father. Pretty meh with a vague ending.

"Saria" - Based on a true story of an orphanage (almost like a prison) in Guatemala where the children were punished for an uprising by being locked in their cell block. A fire breaks out and kills 40 young girls. A good film. Probably my second favorite.

"The Neighbors' Window" - A young family struggles with day to day life in a New York City high rise. They envy a young carefree couple in the building across the way. But who is watching who? This was my hands-down favorite movie and it was awarded the prize later in the evening.

"Nefta Football Club" - A fun quirky tale about 2 boys, a stash of heroin, and a headphone-wearing donkey who listens to Adele. It was nice to have some comic relief.

Oscar-Nominated Shorts - Documentaries

Time for the 2nd installment of my annual Oscar-nominated shorts posts. One to go!

"Life Overtakes Me" - A very slow and plodding tale about refugee children from Syria living in Sweden who suddenly fall into a coma due to stress. It may be a real phenomenon, but I call "bullshit." Why should such a small segment of refugees worldwide suddenly have this affliction. And it seems like the only cure is to grant asylum to the families so there is no more stress. Yeaaaaaah. Bad story. Bad film making.

"Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone (If You're a Girl)" - Girls in Afghanistan are given an education which includes learning to skateboard which builds their confidence. I give it an outside chance to win. It's uplifting and not too political. It's nothing great, but it tells a good story.

"In the Absence" - In 2014 a ferry sank off the coast of Korea killing 299 people on board, mostly students. This film shows the disaster as it unfolded as well as the government cover-up that happened afterward which ultimately lead to the president being thrown out of office. Very heartbreaking but a little too straightforward in its presentation. It looked more like a news report than a documentary.

"Walk Run Cha-Cha" - The story of a couple from Vietnam who escaped their country and settled in LA where they learn to dance. It's nice and uplifting but definitely not a terribly interesting documentary.

"St Louis Superman" - This will probably be the winner since it was the most "woke" of the bunch. A black representative from St Louis gets legislation passed in Missouri making gun violence declared a health emergency. It's hip and slick and produced by MTV. That should be enough to get it the prize.

Movie Ghosts

I started watching films in my DVR queue last night. The choice was "Here Comes the Navy" which was nominated in 1935. If nothing else it provided a window into American life in the 30's. Ah! What a more simpler time. What was poignant for me was that the ship that James Cagney wanted to be assigned to was the USS Arizona. I guess the Navy actually let them film on the ship. It was sad to know that 7 years later it would be sitting at the bottom of Pearl Harbor with over a thousand souls still on board.

Earlier in the day I saw another ghost. I turned on "Ghostbusters" for a few minutes since it was the only worthwhile thing on. There was the ambulance going across a bridge into Manhattan. The camera pans up and focuses on the Twin Towers.

Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Animation

Here we go again! I've been making this post annually for the past several years. Once again Kitty and I headed out to see the Oscar-nominated shorts at our local art-house theater. So expect 2 more posts about short films in the next week. A few of the films below have links with the whole movie. Some just have trailers.

"Dcera" (Daughter) - Czech Republic - The story of a girl's relationship with her father. It had a strange animation style kinda like stop-motion but not. It was quite dark, but I still kinda liked it. It gets points for style, but it was just not my cup of tea.

"Hair Love" - USA - If Hollywood wants "woke" points, this will win. A young black girl wants her hair done with the help of her father. It then goes for even more heartstring points by making her mother have cancer, and thus, has no hair. I gave a thumbs down to "Dear Basketball" last year and it won. So I'll just say that if it wins, I won't be surprised.

"Kitbull" - USA - And the furry award goes to...this film! What's not to love about a stray kitten who makes friends with an abused pit bull. The ending will have your eyes watering.

"Memorable" - France - This one really surprised me in that I would give it the award. It's the story of an old artist with Alzheimer's and his wife who is taking care of him. It's a touching story and the animation is unique. It just really pushed all the right buttons with me.

"Sister" - China - It started out as a fun tale about a boy growing up with a little sister. It devolved into a political statement about China's "one child" policy. It must be a huge issue over there, but it doesn't necessarily translate into a good short film.

Of course there were a few honorable mentions:

"Henrietta Bulkowski" - A woman with a hunched back dreams of flying so she rebuilds a crashed plane. It turn out her hunched back contains wings. Yeah. Kinda weird.

"The Bird and The Whale" - A young whale makes friends with a caged bird marooned after a ship wreck. Cute, then sad, then uplifting tale.

"Hors Piste" - A couple of daring search-and-rescue pilots help an injured skier with hilarious consequences. This one was good for a laugh.

"Maestro" - Lots of furry points for this one. A bird sings a song with the help of its forest friends. I loved it! It packed a lot of fun in less than 2 minutes. WATCH IT!

Oscar-Nominated Animated Features

Thanks to Hulu and Netflix I spent the weekend watching all of the full-length animated features up for an Oscar. I had already mentioned "I Lost My Body" which was a weird French film about a severed hand "walking" across Paris to find its owner. The other nominees were much more mainstream and aimed at the more traditional young audience.

"Toy Story 4" - OK. Enough already! It's Pixar so it's high quality. It has A-list voice actors and a well-thought-out plot. It also pulls at your heart strings. In other words, it's like all the other "Toy Story" movies that have come before. Hopefully this will be the end of the series and people can move on to more original projects.

"Missing Link" - I had originally thought this was a film from Aardman Studios (Wallace and Grommit), but found out it wasn't. It had that same sort of animation style. The plot was Bigfoot in America goes looking for his cousins the Yetis in the Himalayas with the help of a British explorer. My largest disappointment was that in this era of CGI fur rendering, Bigfoot looks like he's covered in plastic feathers. The only points I'll give to the film are because of its originality and its not from a major studio.

"Klaus" - It felt weird watching a Christmas movie in February. My synopsis of the movie would be titled "If Rankin/Bass made 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' with Don Bluth using CGI." I had very low expectations for this movie as it began in a cliche' "young spoiled rich boy gets his comeuppance." Slowly but surely the plot starts to evolve, however, and by the end there was actually a little tear in my eye. I'd give it a watch again this December.

"How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" - Oh no! Another sequel!! Once again I had low expectations going into this. I was not a huge fan of the franchise to begin with, and I really didn't want to see more sequels. I had heard that it contained a dragon love story as well which lowered my expectations even more. With that being said, I think this film has a shot for the Oscar. It's not at all for the plot but rather for the animation. I was floored at the detail that they were able to obtain. If their color pallet had 1,000,000 colors, I'm sure they tried to use every one of them. One thing that I noticed which blew me away was that if you looked into the eyes of the characters, you could actually see the reflection of what they were looking at. It was very subtle, but once I noticed it, it could not be unseen. So I hope it wins the award and then, like Toy Story, goes away so new projects can be developed.

A Room With a Jew

Last night I watched "The Diary of Anne Frank." It was in my quest to watch all of the Best Picture Oscar-nominated films that I have overlooked over the years. I'm not sure how I missed this one. I know I read the book (or play) in school like I'm sure many people did. Kitty said they made her watch the movie for a class (so she had no desire to see it again). It's one of those movies that you can't say anything bad about because...you know...the Holocaust. But if you compare this with something like "Schindler's List," I think you can say that this was a bad movie. I shouldn't say "bad," more like overly-hyped. Hollywood turned it into some kind of love story between her and Peter. Maybe there was some teenage love there, but probably not like the way it got portrayed in the movie. I've been reading some intellectual highbrow stuff from some supposed Jewish scholar and he slammed the portrayal in the movie as well as in the play. *shrugs* That has to be taken with a mountain of salt as well since it drips of ulterior motives. Taken as a piece of entertainment, the movie wasn't all that great.

Starting on Saturday Turner Class Movies begins it's annual "30 Days of Oscar" film festival. It's time to get the old DVR ready to record a bunch of movies. In all there will be 54 Best Picture nominated movies shown that I have not seen before. And if someone asks you how many Best-Picture nominations there have been over the years, that number is 563.