Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Best Picture 2017 Added

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 15, 2018 by cdascher

2017 has come and gone and we are still alive to add The Shape of Water to the Ramdomizer. So here we are. Our output slowed  for a while, as we spent a lot of our time checking the news to see if World War III had started. Hopefully our end-of-year flurry of activity brought us back on track and with luck we will complete this project before society collapses.

This year, we did take a break from hiding in our bed and stockpiling canned goods to take a Red Carpet Roulette Family trip to England. I tried to scout out filming locations to visit from our Best Pictures, but there are surprisingly few in London (most of our London-set films were shot on sound stages or back lots). We did visit The Tower of London, which, while not a filming location, was where Best Picture subjects William Wallace and Thomas More were imprisoned.

 

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This is the tower in which More was held before his execution.

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If I understood the Beefeater correctly, the spot where we posed for pictures would have been near where they took Sir Thomas to ax his head off. Close to where the KFC is now.

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Also seen during our travels, is the manuscript for Seven Pillars of Wisdom in Bodleian Library, which is the basis of Lawrence of Arabia.

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Also of Best Picture relevance in Bodleian Library was wireless transcript from the S.S. Virginian of the messages the Titanic sent as it sank. Sorry I didn’t get a photo of that.

Unforgiven coming soon. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Best Picture 2016 Added

Posted in About, Uncategorized with tags on March 12, 2017 by cdascher

Moonlight has been added to the Randomizer. Let us otherwise agree 2016 never happened.

Best Picture 2015 Added

Posted in Uncategorized on March 1, 2016 by cdascher

Funny thing about awards shows, is that they seem like the most insular, venal affairs- until someone you like wins. So on that note, congrats to Ennio Morricone for his first competitive Academy Award. Well done, sir. And congrats also to Best Picture winner Spotlight, which I hear is a movie that came out this year. It’s been quite a year for your bloggers here at RCR, what with going through with a wedding and giving birth to a son (our other collaborative project), so we may have gotten a little out of touch. Speaking of getting married, we did get off to a little honeymoon in NYC. A short walk down Third Avenue from our hotel was this, filming location of previous subject The Lost Weekend.

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And of course we have a new Best Picture to add to the Randomizer.

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Thanks for reading and hope you all had a great year. What’s that? Sylvester Stallone lost? The Oscars are a bunch of crap.

THE GODFATHER (1972)

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2016 by cdascher

Godfather_ver1Well, here we are. This one had us stalled out a bit while we put off watching it. Not because watching would be a chore, or that we felt we’d have little to say about the movie. Quite the contrary. 1972’s The Godfather is a staple of best-ever lists and has achieved the cinematic triple crown of enduring critical regard, commercial success and lasting cultural significance both artistic and popular. I’ve heard it called the best movie ever made and I honestly can’t find an argument against that statement. This really is where it all came together. So while I quite looked forward to watching it yet again and discussing it yet again, we run into the problem of just what to say about it that hasn’t been said a thousand times over. I mean, this is normally where I’d summarize the story, but I can’t imagine you’d actually be reading a movie blog if you haven’t seen this film at least once in your life. So these two bloggers stalled and tried to find an angle to work that could manage a fresh viewpoint. We tried to secure an actual Italian-American to watch with us but that proved fruitless, despite our South Philly locale. But when we realized the blog could wait no longer, we declared this holiday to be an Italian-American cultural appreciation day, set to work on several recipes from Chloe Coscarelli’s Vegan Italian Kitchen and treated ourselves to a New Year’s Day viewing of a classic saga of organized crime.

Given how intimidated I feel making a stab at intelligently discussing The Godfather, I’ll pursue a more personal approach. I’ll bet everyone has story about this movie, and here is mine. The first time I ever saw it, I inadvertently rented a special VHS release that combined both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II into a single piece, edited into chronological order. I was about three and half hours into watching, with no ending in sight, when I began to wonder just how long this damn movie was? I somehow made it through that six hour, 15 minute beast only to learn the truth later.

Also, putting an orange peel in one’s mouth really can frighten a small child, something I learned personally by trying the experiment on my nephew. I have, in fact, photographic evidence of him fleeing in fear as I approach menacingly, citrus rind in mouth. Fans of The Godfather know that much of its content was inspired by actual people and events, but I’m living proof of real-world basis for that famous scene.

This was my second time watching the film, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time. There is a lot that is emotionally compelling about this movie. It’s also my strongest experience with both Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. Mouse mentioned to me that one critique of the film centered on how it glorified organized crime – and I imagine that is a valid one. The original Don Corleone, Vito (played to perfection by Brando) is an extremely sympathetic character. He appears to have a moral compass and a deep regard for family, and as audience members we remain shielded from what I have to imagine are some of his worst actions. Continue reading

THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2015 by cdascher

french“We had to destroy the town in order to save it.” That quote, supposedly by a U.S. Army officer (and slightly distorted in popular retelling) encapsulated how many Americans came to feel about the Vietnam War. In 1971, President Nixon declared a war of another sort- a “war on drugs”. Four decades in, even mainstream thinkers have openly questioned whether the War on Drugs has, on balance, done more ill than good; whether we have been “destroying towns in order to save them,” so to speak. Fittingly, that same year this war was declared, the Best Picture winner was a crime drama about heroin smugglers and the police hunting them down.

Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Hackman) and his partner “Cloudy” (Scheider), are NYC narcotics detectives. When they observe a fellow at a bar throwing cash around and socializing with known narcotics figures, they suspect a large transaction is imminent and at Popeye’s insistence, they investigate. This backs up their suspicions and despite lukewarm support from their superiors, and Popeye’s sometimes erratic behavior, they continue to pursue this connection between a minor local criminal and several French men staying in town.

This was an engaging film, but I can’t help but notice there weren’t any characters of note who were women. I kept waiting for there to be a little more development of Angie, the young wife of Sal – the fellow throwing cash around at a bar. She wears a wig when they are out galavanting, and we learn that she is only 19. She seems savvy, and I thought there was an opportunity for the filmmakers to tell us a bit more about how she got where she is in the story. However, as Mouse pointed out, we don’t really get much on background with any of the characters. That may be the case, but at least the men have more time on screen. Continue reading

TITANIC (1997)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2015 by cdascher

titanicWord to the wise: watching the movie Titanic with a woman post-partum may in fact up the waterworks more than you were bargaining for. This is the first film that Mouse and I watched as part of our blog series since the birth of our son, David Ian Dascher. As parents of a newborn, we ended up watching the film in chunks – pretty much during nursing sessions, of which there are plenty. We seem to also have been the last two people in the world to see this film, and we were both pretty excited to finally check it out. I am an avowed Leo fan, so any film that showcases him front and center is going to do well with me. His character, Jack Dawson, is a penniless artist with a heart of gold, courageous spirit and quick wit. He easily wins over Kate Winslet’s character Rose, a young woman of the upper crust who is betrothed to Billy Zane’s character Cal, a self-serving and conniving man of stature with whom she has nothing in common past social status. Billy Zane is dastardly on screen, the kind of guy against whom the underdog never feels he will have a chance. But what the underdog and the alpha male both need to remember is that the leading lady has some agency, smarts and independence of her own.

The score of the film is perfect, emphasizing moods and shifts in theme without overtaking. We both knew the basic premise of the story, but it was definitely powerful to see the mindblowing cinematography. Mouse told me that this film cost a tremendous amount, and that it was known that it regularly went over budget. I have to say having witnessed its grandiosity firsthand now, I think it was worth it. The film was nominated for fourteen Oscars and won eleven, achieving not only critical success but also commercial success. It was a box office chart-topper. Celine Dion’s theme song for the film has always held significance for me, too, since I remember my former bandmate and dear friend Andrea singing it along with a few other Celine songs at karaoke. Of course, the film has its critics. Many have written that they thought the visuals were spectacular but that the storyline and dialogue were weak. It definitely is an over-the-top romance, and I can see why it might not be for everyone. But I guess in this regard I am truly my mother’s daughter – I appreciated a love story like this for the ages, and it may not be surprising to hear that by the end I was sobbing uncontrollably. Again, though, I am sure the fact that I just had a baby and have been a new mom for only three weeks (with the very little sleep that goes along with that) might have been a contributing factor. Still, I am sure I’d have wept either way.

I really thought I was the only person in America never to have seen this movie. You see, when I was but a lad, many years before I met the woman who would become my wife, mother to my son and blog collaborator, I had a brief entanglement with Continue reading

Best Picture 2014 Added

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24, 2015 by cdascher

The 87th Academy Awards were held last night. So first off, congratulations to Birdman for taking the big prize.

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It’s been quite a year for your bloggers here at Red Carpet Roulette. A few months back we took a fact-finding trip to the West Coast. First stop: Hollywood, of course. We spent the day conducting research and walking in the footsteps of the legends of American film.

Not in frame: a Storm impersonator

We would loved to have stayed longer, but we were also scheduled to visit the filming locations for Play Misty For Me, Vertigo, Dr. Giggles and Singles before we went home.

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And since another Oscar night has passed, we’ll be adding another Best Picture to our list. That makes this the ideal time to switch over to our newly acquired, state of the art Randomizer. Made of space-age polymers and a metal alloy frame, the Randomizer is the ideal tool for determining our films to watch.

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Thanks for reading. Be on the lookout for our entry on Rebecca, coming soon.

CHICAGO (2002)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2015 by cdascher

chicagoI was in for an awesome surprise with this film! One of the actors featured in a fabulous musical scene was Mya Harrison – who I went to high school with. I didn’t realize Chicago was a musical when we first chose it as our next film to watch – but I was definitely pleased. The songs were numbers I had heard before, and the choreography and showmanship was fantastic. Having a familiar face pop up on the screen was just the icing on the cake!

 But I am getting a little ahead of myself. Chicago is the story of Roxie Hart, a young woman bored in her marriage who wants more than anything to be a performer on the stage. She gets wrapped up in a torrid love affair, thinking that the man she is involved with might be able to get her an in in show business. When he announces he is leaving her and that he never had any real connections to help her with her career, she loses it. They have a confrontation and he tosses her against the wall. She gets a gun from the drawer and shoots him, killing him. It is against this backdrop that our story begins.

Let’s see if I remember this right: this film is adapted from the Broadway musical that was in turn based on the play, itself inspired by real events and the basis for a contemporary silent film. Taking place in a stylized version of Jazz Age Chicago, it aspires to historical accuracy about as much as a typical Halloween costume. Thematically, though, the film nails a few things perfectly. The decade of the 1920s saw the birth of modern mass media and popular culture as we know them. It is the perfect setting to explore themes like trial by news media and the pursuit of fame as its own end, by whatever dubious means. Bear in mind that in the real Chicago of this time, crime boss Al Capone was actively courting media attention, contriving a public image. It was also a time of tremendous change for women in society, coming right after the first generation of the Women’s Movement.

It’s been pointed out that Chicago is the first musical to win Best Picture in 34 years. But I think it’s really more of a danceacal. The elements of the film are, in descending importance: dance, music, character, plot. In fact, the music I found a Continue reading

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2014 by cdascher

It’s no secret that I am not a huge fan of A. black and white films, B. old films, and C. films about war. I wasn’t thrilled going into the viewing of this feature. At one point, though, I made a comment to Mouse that summarizes how I feel about this film and it’s significance. I was looking at Paul, the protagonist, who we follow as he goes from a young German man in school to a soldier on the frontlines in World War I. He enlists at the urging of his esteemed professor and classmates in an effort to valiantly serve his country – but a few years in, he learns all too well the futility and brutality of war. In one scene, I looked at his countenance and said, “He could be a young man today – as he was cast, he could be a modern soldier.

That is why this film, based on the renown book with the same title, is relevant. It depicts the relationships formed between the enlisted with heart and sensitivity. While the frontlines as they once were don’t exist in the modern theater of war in the same way much of the time, the violence of artillery and bombs and grenades is as shocking and jarring now as it was then. We remain engaged in a war in Afghanistan that has needlessly claimed lives and is, for all intents and purposes, going nowhere. So while this film is old, and in black and white, and set in another country, it hardly feels dated.

This is indeed an old one, only the second Best Picture with sound and third winner overall. As such, I was particularly keen on seeing how the technical aspects of the film were handled. I find the transition to sound an interesting phenomenon. As I’ve understood the story, the introduction of sound necessitated a whole new batch of technology, the handling of which had a deleterious effect on other aspects of filmmaking, particularly cinematography. I’ve tended to imagine sound films of this era as primitive curiosities, more like stage plays with a camera rolling, with the settings in interiors or soundstages clearly recognizable as such. In this, All Quiet On The Western Front exceeded my expectations. Yes, it had the uneven, noisy sound and Continue reading

ON THE WATERFRONT (1954)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2013 by cdascher

On_the_Waterfront_posterIn 1999, I’d gotten around to seeing some of the movies nominated, so for once I actually watched the Academy Awards. That was the year, Elia Kazan received an honorary Oscar for his life’s work, presented by Martin Scorcese and Robert Deniro. But when the cameras cut to the audience during the ovation, they caught a few members not applauding, sitting with their arms folded.

The seeds for this reaction from the Hollywood community- a reaction not so much mixed, but downright polarized- were sown six decades prior, before most of that night’s attendees were even born. The nation was living through the Great Depression. A quarter of the workforce was out of a job and desperate poverty was becoming a new norm. Naturally, quite a few Americans searched for a solution, and many looked to the Soviet Union. With its emphasis on workers’ rights and an economy that was centrally planned rather than subject to the vagaries of the business cycle, it must have looked like an appealing alternative to the capitalist system that had failed so many. By the 1950’s, when the USSR and United States were direct antagonists and the cruelty and hypocrisy of the Soviet system were more well known, all but the most loyal comrades had long since moved on from the Communist Party. But then came the second red scare, when opportunistic politicians conducted investigations into supposed subversives. When they targeted the film industry, people were compelled to cooperate, including informing on others who had been involved in the Communist Party all those years ago. Some refused and had their careers destroyed. Kazan, on the other hand, was one of those who saved his career by “naming names”, an act some of his colleagues couldn’t forgive. And it was this rancor that ran so deeply that when Kazan stood onstage as an old man accepting his award, his esteemed body of work notwithstanding, some  of the people in the room sat silent rather than acknowledge him.

On The Waterfront is the second Best Picture we’ve seen directed by Kazan. Like Gentleman’s Agreement, it’s a socially conscious film, this time focussing on the lives of working class dockworkers. Terry Malloy is a longshoreman and washed up pro boxer whose  older brother is in the inner circle Johnny Friendly,  a union boss as ruthless as he is corrupt. The movie begins with Terry luring a fellow dockworker to be killed by Friendly’s goons, to prevent him from testifying to authorities. Terry, though, believed the man was merely going to be strongarmed into silence, not murdered in cold blood. His unease grows into guilt when he meets the dead man’s sister and takes an interest in her. Meanwhile, a sympathetic Catholic priest rallies the rank and file of the union, encouraging them to break the unwritten rule of silence that permeates their culture and allows their leadership to exploit them.

It’s shameful that this was the first Marlon Brando movie I have ever seen, especially because I consider myself a fan. A fan of what, then? The myth, the legend. Mouse and I had a conversation after watching this film about method acting, and I have to wonder where the line between Terry and Marlon should be drawn. Continue reading