That Team in Washington

Change often comes slowly, often inexcusably so. It is often met with resistance, sometimes for financial reasons, or cultural reasons, or sometimes just for the sake of resistance. Today, though, a little bit more change has come, and it is long overdue. If you’re a fan of the NFL — or are friends with anybody who is — it’s likely you already know, but today the U.S. Patent Office ruled on the case Blackhorse v. Pro-Football Inc. that the trademarks of the Washington Redskins are derogatory and offensive — and are thereby cancelled.

It’s likely to be appealed again, of course. And it’ll probably be at least two generations before people stop clinging to the racist nickname. But it’s a start. Continue reading

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

F13_pt5_pstrThe blog has been on hiatus for a few months, and as yet I’m still undecided on whether I’ll be returning to regular posting soon. Truthfully, I’ve only even watched one movie in the past two months. But I couldn’t quite bring myself to let today go past without continuing our infrequent traditional idiocy of watching and reviewing Friday the 13th films on the day in question. After all, whenever the blog starts up regularly again, whether it’s soon or whether it’s still a while off, it’ll be nice to have a continuous run of this nonsense.

And believe me, the fifth installment in this franchise — directed this time by Danny Steinmann in his fourth, final, and largest credit as writer/director — is full of idiocy and nonsense. And I don’t just mean the characters. Continue reading

Signal Termination

Things have been quiet around here a lot the past month. And I’m sorry to say that’s going to be the rule going forward. It’d be easy to just pretend otherwise and not say anything about it, but I don’t think that would be the most respectful thing I could do regarding my readers.

For various reasons I won’t get into, it’s been difficult to set aside time for this. Just watching a movie requires a two-hour or more block of uninterrupted time, and writing a review requires as much as an additional hour. That’s not always easy to manage on a regular basis, and lately it’s been harder than it previously was. I’d slotted out February for my Oscar Best Picture theme month, and I wound up watching fewer than a dozen films for it. I’ve got more than that just sitting in my queue, currently unwatched. It’s nothing to do with the idea of the theme, it just happened to be bad timing that something that would require a little more work than normal wound up happening when I was unable to put in my usual effort.

But the truth of the matter is that right now, I think it’s going to be a lot easier to just be an occasional movie viewer rather than a frequent movie reviewer. So it’s time to make the unintentional both intentional and official: Morgan on Media is going dark. I’m not ruling out the possibility of one day returning to regular blogging — I still have plenty of ideas on things to write about — but realistically, if it happens it’s going to be a good long while. I also won’t rule out the possibility of the occasional post here and there when I have both the time and something to say, but I’m not guaranteeing it either. At best, it should be viewed as a pleasant surprise if and when it happens.

I appreciate all the support and camaraderie from the blogging community that I’ve gotten over the years. A few of you I’ve known for years upon years before this started; some of you I’ve met through doing this. But whether we’ve been talking for a few months or a decade, it’s the conversations that made this worthwhile. Michael, James, Richard, Bruce, Ruth, Terrence, Tyson, Bubbawheat, Will, Jaina, all the Daniels, and everybody else: Thank you for making this fun.

And that much I have no plans on giving up. I may not be writing, but I’ll still be around. I’ll be reading blogs when I have a few minutes available. I’ll still be hanging out on Twitter — though I’ve changed my Twitter handle to @morganrlewis given that the site won’t be a big part of it anymore. I’ll also still be updating on Letterboxd (also as morganrlewis) on the occasion that I do watch a film, and I might write just a couple sentences when I do. I’ll be around. The site’s old posts will stay around. It’s just that there won’t be anything new for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for a fun run, everyone.

The Thin Man

ThinMan-Poster1934 Best Picture Nominee

The image of the private detective in film is largely shaped by the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashielle Hammett: two-fisted heroes and tough-hearted cynics who come from the seedier sides of town. So it’s interesting to note that Hammett, who created one of the archetypes in Sam Spade (memorably played by Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon) also created one of the major subversions of it. In W.S. Van Dyke’s 1934 film The Thin Man — and its numerous sequels — the audience gets to see the detective work of Nick Charles… at least, once he can finally be convinced to do some detective work. It’s actually about halfway into the film before any of the other characters can convince him to take the case, but the film, much like Nick, gets by on charm. Continue reading

Juno

Juno-Poster2007 Best Picture Nominee

From the very beginning of Jason Reitman’s film Juno, the director lets you know something of the tone of the film. It opens with Ellen Page as the title character walking down the street of her suburb, chugging a gallon of Sunny Delight, in a title sequence that’s made to look like something out of a scrapbook. A bit of indie folk rock, and the mood is set: this is a lightly comic film about a quirky character. Juno is a high school student who is, if not exactly an outcast, not exactly the height of popularity either… but who doesn’t appear to be bothered by this. She has larger things on her mind, like the imminent development of a small person in her abdomen. Continue reading

Oscarama Stats: Ratings

AcademyAwardFor today, another simple look at the statistics of the Oscars. This time around, I’m looking at the MPAA ratings assigned to the movies — just to see what sort of films get nominated for Best Picture, in terms of age-appropriateness.

Now, this doesn’t cover every Best Picture for a simple reason: Not every Best Picture has an MPAA rating. Early on, there was no regulation or rating system on films. The Hays Code was established in 1930, so for the first few years of the Oscars, it was pretty much “anything goes” as far as what filmmakers could do. With the Hays Code it was more restrictive, but the only rating was “Approved”.

It wasn’t until 1968 that the MPAA ratings were established as we know them today — sort of. Continue reading

Oscarama Stats: Release Month

AcademyAwardI remember back when 2008’s Oscar nominees were announced, and I was a regular visitor to a few different comic book forums. There was, of course, a lot of discussion on whether or not The Dark Knight should have been nominated for Best Picture. While a worthy subject for debate, that’s not the biggest thing that stuck with me from the conversations, though. What came up over and over again was that the people in the conversation were ignorant of the actual Best Picture nominees. This wasn’t willful ignorance; they weren’t saying “Meh, what a bunch of worthless hoity-toity art films.” It was enforced ignorance; they were saying, quite literally, “What are these movies? I haven’t heard of them.” I hadn’t either — being at the time a little less involved in the movie fan community — and did some looking. What I found was that the films nominated had achieved their eligibility solely through the “released in L.A.” qualification. Of the five films, only The Curious Case of Benjamin Button had a wide release in 2008, and it only barely. The others had limited L.A. releases in 2008, but had their general release in 2009. Whether my fellow comic book fans were justified in being upset over The Dark Knight getting snubbed may be a debate for the ages. But it seems like a fair call that we were justified in being annoyed that we couldn’t even see the films that were nominated at the time the announcement was made.

It’s something that I’ve always remembered. And while years like that aren’t all that common, it got me thinking about just when these movies really do come out. Continue reading

The Front Page (1931)

Front Page 1931 Poster1931 Best Picture Nominee

Based off of a 1927 play of the same title, The Front Page is merely the first adaptation of the story of newspaper man Hildebrand “Hildy” Johnson; other versions include a 1974 rendition with Lemmon and Matthau, and of course His Girl Friday, which has Hildy portrayed as a woman. But it was the original 1931 adaptation from Lewis Milestone that was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

Hildy (Pat O’Brien) is a reporter in Chicago, and soon to be an ex-reporter. He has promised his fiancee (Mary Brian) that he will quit the paper and move with her to New York, where he has a job waiting as an advertisement writer for greater pay. Leaving the paper isn’t easy, though, as editor Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou) is known for employing devious schemes to keep his reporters from quitting. On the eve of Hildy’s departure, he finds himself faced with a big scoop as a convicted killer breaks out of jail the night before his execution. Continue reading

Up

Up Poster2009 Best Picture Nominee

Just being a Pixar film would be enough to get Up onto my watch list, but the accolades it’s received certainly didn’t hurt. Directed by Bob Peterson and Pete Docter, Up was the second animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and the first to be nominated after the creation of the Best Animated Feature category (which it won).

Over the past few years, I’ve heard a lot about its opening sequence and how touching it is. It’s nothing less than the truth; the first fifteen minutes of this movie could comprise an award-winning short film all by themselves. Watching Carl and Ellie grow up together, fall in love, grow old, and eventually Carl being left alone is heartwarming and sad all at once, and provides an unusually serious and mature beginning to a generally light-hearted film. Continue reading

Re-Ranking the Oscars: 1994 Best Picture

AcademyAwardOne of the nice things about awards ceremonies is that they foster discussion based on how people perceive them. Some people couldn’t care less. Some people place great importance on them. Some view it as a guide on what films might be worth checking out, but place less importance on the actual winner. And whether it’s a minor award or the Academy Awards themselves, just about everybody periodically disagrees with the winning selection.

The Oscars don’t rank their nominees; it’s simply one winner (at the end) and the other nominees. But I enjoy deciding where each falls in my personal estimation. I’ve done two prior Re-Ranking the Oscars lists, but each was on Best Animated Feature. It can, after all, take a while to see all the nominees for a year. But I was fortunate to finally knock off the last film from one of the more commonly-discussed years for Best Picture: 1994.

So here are my rankings for the five films nominated that year. Continue reading