Six silly Oscar jokes – 30s and 40s edition

It’s Oscar season! This year’s Academy Awards ceremony will be held on 25th April and, once again, it will be host-less. And while I’m used to it by now, I do like a host! And because this is a Classic Hollywood blog, you know what’s coming (or do you? Do you ever know what’s coming here at the Garden? I’d like to think I’ve kept you on your toes for the last six years). So here is my ridiculous attempt at being funny with six stupid jokes I would have made at the Oscars back in the 30s and 40s. (See?) Move over, Bob.

– Welcome to the 5th annual Academy Awards. Everyone from Hollywood is here! I heard they’re already making the sequel to Grand Hotel as we speak.  

– Victor Fleming was busy this year. Gone with the Wind AND The Wizard of Oz. Hey Vic, leave something for George Cukor… Oh wait.

– Walt Disney is set to receive the Irving Thalberg award tonight. That’s just what he needs, another one.

– Ray Milland is nominated for The Lost Weekend and if he doesn’t win… well, you’ve seen The Lost Weekend.

– This year we have Supporting Actor and Actress nominees for the first time and it’s about time. In fact, if you ask me, I think it’s outrageous Asta hasn’t gotten a Lifetime Achievement award yet.

– Ingrid Bergman is nominated for Gaslight and she said she was absolutely thrilled! At least, she thinks she did.

Happy Oscar season, everyone! More with WORLD CINEMA later this month.

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WORLD CINEMA: The Blue Angel (1930)

The film that gave us Marlene! Germany’s first feature-length talkie and the first collaboration between director Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich, Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel, 1930) should also get credit as one of German cinema’s darkest masterpieces.

Written by Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmoller and Robert Liebmann and based on Heinrich Mann’s novel Professor Unrat, The Blue Angel tells the story of Professor Rath (Emil Jannings) who, after discovering that his students are passing around photos of a cabaret singer, goes to The Blue Angel nightclub hoping to catch them, but instead falls for Lola Lola, the role that made Marlene Dietrich a household name – the English language version of ‘Ich bin von Kopf bis Fub auf Liebe eingestellt’, Falling in Love Again, became her signature tune.

An early example of German expressionism, The Blue Angel is as bleak as they come. Set in a quiet, albeit adorable little town, it is a tragic tale of human desire followed by an inescapable descent into madness. This isn’t the only film to address this trope – Scarlet Street (1945), directed by another German cinema great, Fritz Lang, comes to mind – but it is perhaps one of the most striking: Professor Rath is a simple man. He enjoys the simple things in life but is hopelessly lonely. Until Lola Lola comes along. He falls in love with her (who wouldn’t!), they get married and, over the years, he becomes more and more dependent on her while deeply regretting everything that has happened… It’s hard to watch, maybe because it all feels like such an unjust punishment, but it’s so beautifully done. That stark German realism does wonders here and, by the end of it, your heart breaks for Professor Rath… A sad tale, indeed.

Suspense (1913) and Lois Weber, America’s first female director

As everybody knows, March is Women’s History Month and with Best Director nominees Chloe Zhao and Emerald Fennell making history yesterday at the announcement of Oscar nominations – this is the first time two women are nominated in the category in the same year -, I thought it would be fitting to talk about America’s first female director and the 1913 thriller that in 2020 was added to the National Film Registry as ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant’, the 10-minute short Suspense.

Picture it: a young mother (played by Lois Weber herself) and her child are left alone in an isolated house, when a wandering tramp decides to break in… Boom. That’s all you need. A premise that’s been used time and again, Lois Weber knows just what to do with it. Generally regarded as the first film to use the split screen technique, it also deserves credit for employing interesting close-ups, and POV shots that no doubt influenced Sir Alfred Hitchcock himself – the shot of the tramp walking up the stairs is particularly reminiscent of Psycho (1960). Suspense is thrilling, intriguing and effective until the very end, with all the elements in the right place. Lois Weber’s career is mind-blowing and way too extensive to go into here (seriously, look her up), but one look at this film and we immediately understand why she was so well-regarded by audiences as well as her peers, both for her body of work and the creativity of her output. Quite simply, Lois Weber was a badass.

WORLD CINEMA: Summer with Monika (1953)

For my second installment of the WORLD CINEMA series, how about we have a stroll through Sweden’s working class towns with Ingmar Bergman’s Summer with Monika (1953)?

A refreshingly honest look at teenage love beyond its summer timeframe, Summer with Monika follows a young teenage couple, Harry (Lars Ekborg) and Monika (Harriet Andersson) as they spend an idyllic summer together sailing on Harry’s father’s boat, away from their hometown, family and boring jobs. When the summer comes to an end, however, and Monika discovers she’s pregant, they are left with the growing responsibilities that neither of them could have predicted.

Summer with Monika has one of Bergman’s simplest plots while holding so much meaning at the same time and exploring its contrasting elements effectively: Monika’s carefree rebellion vs Harry’s responsible easy-going attitude, the town’s old-fashioned ways vs the couple’s desire to be free, and, of course, the longing for a summer love affair vs what happens when it’s over and life returns… Framed by some of the most gorgeous cinematography ever put on film, Summer with Monika puts Harriet Andersson right in the middle of it, with its candid depiction of sensuality and nudity, which was very controversial at the time. Not only that but it also deserves credit for making its main character unlikeable, unashamed and human. In one of the movie’s most devastating scenes, Monika dares you to judge her with an intense, piercing look at the camera that takes the whole ‘breaking the fourth wall’ motif to a whole new level! In a word, stunning.

Binge-worthy YouTube movie channels

I spend a ridiculous amount of time doing nothing. And part of that consists of watching videos on YouTube about movies and television and because the theme here at the Garden this year is unity and coming together, I want to share a few of my favorite movie YouTubers with you. Film nerds unite! Let’s go.

Eyebrow Cinema – In-depth script analysis, storytelling, characters, themes and motifs, you’ll find everything here! Eyebrow Cinema dissects films of all kinds intelligently and with a refreshingly straight-forward attitude. Eyebrow Cinema – YouTube

One Hundred Years of Cinema – Tracking the evolution of cinema through the years starting in 1915, OHYOC focuses on one movie per year, why it’s great and how it achieved its place in film history. 1941 goes to Citizen Kane and ’42 to Casablanca, unsurprisingly, but there are some unusual choices along the way! One Hundred Years of Cinema – YouTube

Jack’s Movie Reviews – Not unlike Eyebrow Cinema, the narrator explores storytelling and screenplays, as well as broad themes and, sometimes, entire genres. Their essay about the screenplay of Chinatown is particularly good. Jack’s Movie Reviews – YouTube

Be Kind Rewind – each video is about a different Best Actress Oscar win, comprehensively going through the history of the nominees, circumstances, individual films and Hollywood politics that made each win possible. The narration is fantastic, exuding knowledge and a touch of humor that frankly makes this channel addictive. Be Kind Rewind – YouTube

CineFix – They navigate through cinema’s history with ease and confidence, compiling massive lists including Influential Directors, Wardrobe and Rule-Breaking Films, with enourmous knowledge and genuine admiration. In an ideal world, movie talk would be like this, open-minded and non-discriminatory. Classic, modern, Hollywood, international, iconic, obscure, anything goes on this channel! Simply put, CineFix is what every movie buff should aspire to be. CineFix – YouTube

Happy binging, everyone!

One Hundred Years of Cinema – Tracking the evolution of cinema through the years starting in 1915, OHYOC focuses on one movie per year, why it’s great and how it achieved its place in film history. 1941 goes to Citizen Kane and ’42 to Casablanca, unsurprisingly, but there are some unusual choices along the way!

WORLD CINEMA: La Strada (1954)

It’s January 2021 and the world is stranger by the minute. COVID took center stage in 2020 with politics right behind it, but one of the best things that happened last year was that, after 92 years, an international film, Parasite (2019, dir. Bong Joon-Ho) finally won the Best Picture Oscar! It was a glorious and utterly emotional moment and, while it might seem small compared to everything else, it was a beautiful moment which highlights cinema’s power to bring people together. Which is what we need. So this year here at the Garden, I will be highlighting an international movie every month. And to start things off, I shall be publishing this as part of the Home Sweet Home Blogathon hosted by my friends Rebecca and Gill. Check out the other entries!

Today we go back to 1954 with Federico Fellini’s La Strada, which was the first movie to win Best Foreign Language Film after the category’s introduction at the Oscars. Perhaps Fellini’s most personal film, La Strada follows Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), a simple, homely young woman, who is sold by her mother to strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn) to go on the road with him and his travelling circus. As they go on their journey, Zampano makes no excuses for who he is: a violent, temperamental brute, who, at the hands of the great Anthony Quinn, never feels like a caricature, but rather someone we’ve all met at one point or another. His behavior is uncomfortable to watch as Gelsomina constantly tries to impress, excite and ultimately be loved by him. Throughout the film, we feel more and more sorry for her as she reveals herself to be one of cinema’s most tragic figures. A helpless, hopeless naive woman, who knows little more than her humble home, and who strives for what the world has to offer, without any idea of how to get it. So when tightrope artist Il Matto (Richard Basehart) tells her that she has value and a purpose in life, we can only hope she believes him…

Framed by Otello Martelli’s bleak cinematography against the backdrop of a bare, wide open Italian landscape, La Strada is a tale of abuse and loneliness, beautifully encapsulated by Masina’s soul-crushing acting, going from happiness to heartbreak in the span of seconds, with just one look. Truly one of the cinema’s greatest faces, made for one of Fellini’s most emotionally striking films.

I answer your questions!

That was fun! I had a blast answering your questions, thank you again for submitting them!

Dina asked: ‘Why is there still sexism in Hollywood to a certain degree?’

That is a very complex question and I’m probably not the best person to talk about it. There are so many factors that contribute to this, and that goes for representation, diversity, sexism, homophobia, racism, etc, but ultimately those things are reflected in Hollywood because they still exist in the real world. The system serves a limited group of people and it has been that way for years. When it comes to movies, we can see that in terms of blockbuster movies, ticket sales, female-led projects, and this is reflected in budget given to male vs female filmmakers, exposure, etc, and it takes a while for things to change. I think things are definitely improving though and cinema/TV is much more open-minded that it used to be. But we still have a long way to go.

Mike asked ‘Who is your favorite actor?’

My favorite actor is Cary Grant. Not only was he a phenomenal actor, but I also think he’s probably the best personafication of ‘movie star’.

‘What are your top 5 favorite films after The Apartment?’

Ooh, this is a tough one. It changes all the time, but for now I will say Casablanca, All About Eve, Some Like it Hot, Rear Window and Double Indemnity.

‘Who is your favorite modern actor and actress?’

Again, tough one! There are so many. If I had to pick my number 1 favorite actress, it would definitley be Cate Blanchett. My favorite actor is probably Al Pacino.

‘What is the most overlooked movie?’

I quite like The Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing. That one doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much as it should. Also The Big Combo.

Jon asked ‘Who are your five favorite screenwriters?’

Great question. Billy Wilder, Ernest Lehman, Ben Hecht, Quentin Tarantino, The Coen Brothers, among many others.

J-Dub asked ‘By reading my blog, would you conclude that I’m completely insane, brain-damaned, a heavy drinker or all of the above?’

Haha, none of the above. You’re a knowledgeable movie buff and critic.

Troy asked ‘How would you feel about a remake of All about Eve, The Apartment and The Aslphalt Jungle?’

Ooh! A resounding no to all of those. Haha.

Did you see the remake of DOA and the remake of Out of the Past, Against All Odds?’

I haven’t seen the DOA one, but I’ve seen Against All Odds and it just isn’t very good. Can’t stand Rachel Ward, and honestly Out of the Past doesn’t need a remake.

Stephen asked ‘What do you think of South Korean cinema?’

Great question. This is something I hope to explore in my new series, but in general, I like it. Definitely a powerhouse.

Sofia asked ‘What is the last film you watched with Katharine Hepburn?

I watched The Lion in Winter this Christmas. I love that movie, but this was the first time I actually watched during the holidays. An unconventional Christmas movie for sure. And a very fun one!

Paul asked ‘Are there any classics most people love, but you dislike?’

Haha, always a controversial topic. I will say My Fair Lady. Not a big fan at all. It just feels dated, patronising and frankly, irritating.

Virginie asked ‘What is your favorite national cinema?’

This is an interesting question, because my new series of posts will have a little something to do with this… Anyway, I love Italian cinema and French cinema.

What is your take on British noirs?’

I love them! The Third Man is clearly the most well-known of them all, but there is a lot of great stuff there! I will try talk about some of them this Noirvember.

What is your favorite cocktail?’

Aww, nostalgia! I think we went to Be At One when you were here, and they do an amazing Pornstar Martini! Also Candy Pants. But Pornstar Martini is probably my favorite.

Thank you so much for your questions! Hope to do this again soon! Carol x

Ask Me Anything!

It’s 2021 (!), my sixth blogging year (!!) and it’s about time I did an AskMeAnything! Woop Woop! You can post your questions in the comment section under this post and I will answer them in a separate post next week. All topics are accepted (except politics), not just film-related stuff, but keep it clean. Ask away! Muah x

FAVORITE ANGRY MAN #1: Juror 8 (Henry Fonda)

He is number 28 on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest heroes in film history, but he finishes off our year-long 12 Angry Men countdown at number one! Juror 8 (Henry Fonda) is the voice of reason. The voice of fairness. He stands alone in the beginning with his ‘not guilty’ vote, purely based on what he considers to be insufficient evidence on which to send a boy to his death. He stands his ground but is always willing to listen and, through conversation, he slowly but surely manages to change the minds of his fellow jurors. He understands without judging and he reasons without arguing. His moral compass and sense of justice guide him on and he stands up for what he believes in. May we all be Juror 8.

Thank you for the love, I hope you’ve enjoyed this countdown and Merry Christmas!