Sunday, October 29, 2017

Coming Soon: The Also Rans

Since it's inception in 1929, there have been numerous times that a movie has been nominated for multiple awards in what is affectionately known as the "Big Five"  (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay). Although not quite as often as getting two or three of the categories for nominations, there have been a total of 43 movies that managed to get nominated for all five awards.  Some years had multiple movies that achieved this accolade, but the mathematical fact is that in 36 of the 89 Academy Awards shows at least one movie managed to be represented in the Big Five.

That comes out to 40% of the time that a movie had a nomination in all five categories.  Odds would say that a movie with this sort of representation at the awards ceremony would come away with at least one or two of the awards and, indeed, most of them did manage to take the stage to accept at least one of the coveted statuettes.  Three of them skipped out the door with all five.  {It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991)}

On the other side of the coin, 8 of the movies in this category were snubbed for all five nominations.  Now in all fairness, the losers lost to equally worthy films, but it must have been hard on all those involved to find themselves going home without the ultimate Hollywood accolade.  In point of fact, 3 of the movies in that list did manage to get an award in other categories, just not one of the Big Five.  But that still leaves 5 movies that had multiple nominations but were sent home empty-handed at the end of the night.

I am going to be writing a series of blog entries I am calling The Also Rans. These will appear intermittently, whenever I feel like writing another entry, and the first eight entries will be dedicated to those eight movies that failed to achieve one of the top Big Five.  Later I may expand it to movies that received multiple nominations in other categories, and failed to receive any awards (there are quite a few), but initially I am only going to cover these eight.  The eight are (in alphabetical order): American Hustle (2013), Atlantic City (1981), Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Lenny (1974), Love Story (1970), The Hustler (1961), and The Remains of the Day (1993).  Expect a review on each of these in the coming months.  Expect the first one sometime later this week.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reluctant Heroes

This is my entry in the Hispanic Heritage Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen

The Three Amigos stars Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short.  It is a comedy (you were expecting something else with those three...?) that takes place in 1916.  Most of the film takes place in Old Mexico, and has several familiar faces if you are a frequent viewer of movies with Hispanic actors.  Tony Plana, who plays El Guapo's second-in-command, Jefe, will probably be the most recognizable, but there are others, to be sure, depending on your movie-viewing habits.

It also has Alfonso Arau, a Mexican film star, but one who has had numerous appearances in Hollywood films, too.  You've seen him in The Wild Bunch and Romancing the Stone, as well  El Topo, if you are a devotee of foreign films.  He has also directed a few movies.  Like Water for Chocolate and A Walk in the Clouds will be the most familiar to American audiences.

Fred Asparagus, who plays the bartender at the cantina  (real name Fred Reveles) will also be familiar as a character actor in several movies. Jorge Cervera, a face you seen on countless TV shows, plays one of the banditos.   A fully clothed (darn!) Rebecca Ferrati, a former Playboy model, has a brief appearance.  And Patrice Martinez, the female star of the movie, may also look familiar.  She was the receptionist in the afterlife in Beetlejuice.

Three Amigos! (1986):

One for each other and all for one,
The three brave amigos are we.
Brother to brother and everyone,
A brave amigo.

Wherever they need us
Our destinies lead us, 
Amigos we'll always be together.
Wherever we go
We're three brave amigos,
And we'll always be amigos forever.

We are the three amigos.
We are the three amigos.
We are the three aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamigos!


Lucky Day (Steve Martin), Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase) and Ned Nedermeyer (Martin Short) are three actors in Hollywood during the silent era, who have a career as characters in a western series as "The Three Amigos".  As the movie starts they are in the office of the head of the studios, Harry Flugelman (Joe Mantegna).  It seems the Amigos films have started to become box office bombs, and Flugelman wants to go a different direction. But the egos of the actors cause them to get fired instead.

Luckily for them, a woman who lives in a remote village of Santa Poco in Mexico has trouble.  Carmen (Patrice Martinez) is looking for men to help her fight off a villain, known as "El Guapo" (Alfonso Arau), who has been consistently raiding their village.  None of the "upstanding" citizens who frequent the Cantina de Borracho (which translates as the Drunk's Bar) will help her.  She goes to a local mission which is showing one of the Amigos movies, and believing them to be real heroes, sends a telegram asking them to come save the village.  Of course, they have limited funds, so the message gets a little truncated.

When the Amigos receive the telegram, they think they are being asked to put on a show and head straight for Santo Poco.  At the same time, a German shows up in Santo Poco looking for El Guapo, to whom he is bringing guns and supplies.  If you see the potential for confusion already, you are well versed to know what happens next.  After killing a few hecklers and telling the bartender that his friends are much less understanding, the German leaves. The villagers initially think the German's  friends are the Amigos, who show up shortly thereafter.

When three banditos show up to raid the village, the Amigos put on what they think is a show and the banditos are startled and leave.  Of course, the villagers think the Amigos have successfully scared off the banditos, but they just go back and tell El Guapo about what has happened.

El Guapo vows to go back to the village tomorrow with 50 of his men.  When he arrives, the Amigos, still thinking this is all in fun, do their act again, including the Amigos' oath which is just fantastic, not only in its message but in the perfunctory seriousness in which it is stated:

"Wherever there is injustice, you will find us.
Wherever there is suffering, we'll be there.
Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find...
The Three Amigos!"

 (I don't think it's just a coincidence how reminiscent it sounds of Henry Fonda's speech in The Grapes of Wrath).  Jefe shoots Lucky in the arm, and the three realize that this just ain't the show they thought they were hired for and ride off in panic.  El Guapo takes Carmen prisoner and his men lay waste to the village.

Having second thoughts, the Amigos return to the village and find they are not exactly welcome anymore.  At this point Ned convinces the other two to help the Amigos become real heroes.  They ride off in search of El Guapo's hideout.  Meanwhile the Germans have shown up at the hideout and present El Guapo with the guns they brought.  The clueless Amigos arrive and are captured.  Hijinks ensue as the three try to escape from the clutches of El Guapo.

They rescue Carmen and ride back to the village.  But El Guapo is not pleased.  He takes his entire army with him to attack the village.  Reminiscent of The Magnificent Seven, the Amigos use the villagers innate abilities to help defend the village. In a dramatic (and comedic) soliloquy, Lucky exhorts the villagers to band together to help defeat El Guapo.

"In a way, all of us has an El Guapo to face.  For some, shyness might be their El Guapo.  For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo.  For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us.  But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be the actual El Guapo."

Since it would spoil one of the best scenes in the movie, I won't reveal how they defeat El Guapo.  But I will tell you it is funny as all get out.

Time to ride off into the sunset, folks.  Hasta la vista!



Saturday, October 14, 2017

Announcing the Inspirational Heroes Blogathon

I was listening a few days ago and the song "Holding Out For a a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler came on the radio.  As I listened to it, I realized that the song could have fit into dozens of movies at crucial points in said movies. (It was actually a part of the movie "Footloose").  My first thought was that it would have fit in the movie "Rocky", the scene where he is jogging in downtown Philly.

Inspiration came to me.  A new blogathon.  I got in touch with my friend Hamlette and discussed the potential of the idea.  We agreed that it was an interesting blogathon idea and she came on board to help host it.  So....

 What movies make you want to stand up and cheer?  It could be a downtrodden everyman who overcomes the odds.  It could be a man (or woman) who challenges the prevailing ethos and champions right over wrong.  It could even be a idealistic "Joe Blow" who got inadvertently bit by a radioactive spider and  uses his new found abilities to fight crime and injustice.

The object here is to delve into heroes who inspire you.  And there is no limit here.  Inspiration is a unique thing that is subjective.  If it inspires you, it inspires you, and no one can argue with your personal feelings.  So pick a movie that inspires you and write about it.

If you need spark to your inspiration here is a list of movies you can use, but you are definitely not limited to just these.


1.  We would prefer a variety of movies.  As such, we would like you to limit multiple choices for the same movie, so only one person per movie.  However, if one person chooses a movie, that does not mean another couldn't choose an actor in said movie and write about him or her.

2.  Please choose one of the banners below for your blog.  Hamlette worked made them and it would be a shame to see them go to waste.

3.  The blogathon runs from Dec 29th to Jan 1st.  But since this is a holiday and you might have other plans, early submissions are copacetic.  Just be aware that they won't be linked until the blogathon actually starts.

4. Have fun.

The Inspirational List:

Your Hosts:
The Midnite Drive-In:  Rocky (1976) and Hoosiers (1986)
Hamlette's Soliloquy:  Apollo 13 (1995)

Angelman's Place:  It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Caftan Woman:  Torchy Blane
Charlene's (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews:   Stella Dallas (1937)
Cinematic Scribblings:   The Ascent (1977)
Coffee, Classics and Craziness:   Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Crítica Retrô:  Boys Town (1938)
Hamlette's Soliloquy:  (A guest post by Jessica Prescott) Stand by Me (1986)
Love Letters to Old Hollywood:  His Girl Friday (1940)
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films:  To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Meanwhile, in Rivendell:  Secretariat (2010) and Meagan Leavey (2017)
MovieRob:  Rogue One (2016), Hacksaw Ridge (2016), United 93 (2006)
Movies Meet Their Match:  Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Movie Movie Blog Blog:  Rocky Balboa (2006)
Once Upon a Screen:  12 Angry Men (1957)
Realweegiemidget Reviews:   Blade Runner (1982)
Sat in Your Lap:  Sergeant York (1941)
Silver Screen Classics:  Meet John Doe (1941)
Silver Screenings:  The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Story and You:   Good Will Hunting (1997)
The Story Enthusiast:   Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
The Wonderful World of Cinema  Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Bond Age (Pt. X)

2017 marks 55 years of James Bond on the movie screen.  To celebrate this momentous year, I am undertaking to review the entire oeuvre of Bond films, all 24 of them (at this juncture in history), two at a time.  These will appear on the 7th day of each month  (Bond's agent number being "007").  At the beginning of each entry I will give my personal ranking of each movie and of each movie's theme song.  (These are subjective rankings and do not necessarily agree with the view of the average Bond fan, so take it as you will).  I hope you enjoy them, nay, even look forward to the next installment.  As an added note, I am deeply indebted to Tom DeMichael, and his book James Bond FAQ,  for tidbits of information with which I am peppering these entries.                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Quiggy

By the time the series reached the dawn of the new millennium, the Bond saga had been going on for 40 years.  Many of the series regulars over the years had come and gone.  We had seen a woman take over as M, we had seen four separate actors don the tuxedo and persona of Bond, and we had even seen the departure of the stalwart Lois Maxwell, and her unrequited passion for Bond.  The only remaining figure who was still being played by it's original actor was "Q" (Desmond Llewelyn).  But even that was not a taboo role to change.  In The World is Not Enough, we still had Llewelyn's "Q", but looking forward to the eventual retirement of the actor, a new associate was introduced in this outing.

John Cleese, the Monty Python star, was introduced as an assistant to "Q".  Although he was not actually named in the film, Bond quips that if Llewelyn was "Q", Cleese must be "R".  The introduction turned out to be more prescient than the producers had thought.  Shortly after the movie was completed, Llewelyn was tragically killed in a car accident in December.  Having John Cleese take over the role added a bit of a twist to the character.  He continued the role of being exasperated by Bond's nonchalance with his gizmos, but he also added a twist of an acerbic wit, reminiscent of some of his characters on Monty Python's Flying Circus.

The World is Not Enough (1999)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the movie: #14

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the theme song: # 14

Best Bond Quote:  I couldn't resist...The last line as Bond and Dr. Christmas Jones make their ubiquitous liaison in the finale:  Bond "I thought Christmas only came once a year."

Best Bond Villain Quote: Renard: "There's not point in living, if you can't feel alive"

Best Weapon:There are lots of neat little things in this one.  I'm particular fond of the helicopter that has five circular saws attached to it for use in tree trimming.  Of course, you just KNOW that's not the only use they have...

In one of the longest opening sequences ever in a Bond film, James Bond is in Spain, where he is retrieving a satchel full of money.  While he and the Swiss banker who is holding the money converse, the banker is killed by his personal assistant, just as the banker was about to name the killer of another MI6 agent.  The killer gets away.

 Bond returns to MI6 HQ where he gives the satchel of money to its rightful owner, Sir Robert King.  But King has been rigged so that a lapel pin explodes killing him while he is inspecting the money. Bond sees the same assassin from Spain, and gives chase. She commandeers a boat, and Bond hijacks an experimental boat from Q to try to catch her.  An exciting chase scene around the Thames makes for a very good opening.  Bond ends up injuring his shoulder as the assassin explodes in a flaming balloon.

 The opening credits feature a song by a band called Garbage.  The song, however is not truly garbage, although it does push the envelope a bit with the sultry style that lead singer Shirley Manson brings to the song, but as far as I'm concerned, it is much better than some of the other songs that were chosen over the years.  I still feel a hard-driving style, like the themes for A View to a Kill and Live and Let Die fit the Bond theme more, but I'll take this one.

Bond is eager to go after the killers, but M decides that his injury is too severe, so she denies him the opportunity to be on the case.  Bond of course has other ideas, and he convinces his physical therapist to give him a clean bill of health.  Bond takes off to investigate the terrorism angle, first by meeting up with King's daughter, Electra (Sophie Marceau).  Electra has taken over her father's oil business, and is overseeing the installment of a pipeline.

It turns out that the money that Bond retrieved is somehow connected with an extortion ransom that Sir Robert had paid to get his daughter released from being kidnapped by an anarchist named Renard (Robert Caryle).  Renard has one unique attribute.  He is dying from a bullet lodged in his brain, which has the effect of rendering him immune to feeling pain and gives him extraordinary endurance.  Bond is sent to protect Electra from further harm, but she is initially indifferent, since she thinks MI6 is responsible for her father's death, by not preventing the assassination.

Bond and Electra go skiing to view the pipeline and are attacked by some terrorists.  Bond manages to save Electra, and wins her trust.  Bond then goes to see an old nemesis, Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane), who now runs a casino.  Zukovsky tells him about the Renard connection.  Electra shows up at the casino, and promptly loses a million dollars to Zukovsky.  She dismisses the loss when Bond expresses his dismay and  tells Bond "there's no point in living, if you can't feel alive".

Bond follows a lead and goes to Kazakhstan where he meets nuclear scientist named Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), {who must be the most improbable scientist ever, but this is Hollywood and they were trying to reach a younger audience}.  Jones betrays Bond, who was posing as a scientist, to Renard.  She doesn't know who he is, she just was suspicious of him.  Renard, it turns out, is working on getting a nuclear bomb which he plans to use to blow up the pipelines that compete with Electra's pipeline.  If you are already ahead of me, you know what that means.  And so does Bond.  He confronts Electra, who it turns out, has been a victim of what is called the "Stockholm syndrome" in which a victim ends up falling into a romantic relationship with her captor.

The finale has Bond, with Jones, who is now on his side after discovering who he really is and what Renard's evil plans entail, trying to stop Renard from his plan.The movie works on several levels, but this trope of using nuclear weapons to cause havoc has started to become passe' in my opinion. Still, I think that the story is entertaining enough that it keeps one riveted throughout.  My only quibble is the casting of Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist,as I intimated earlier.

Die Another Day (2002) 

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the movie: # 9

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the theme song: #19

Best Bond Quote: (Bond has just turned over a briefcase full of diamonds, rigged with a bomb) Bond: "Don't blow it all at once."

Best Bond Villain Quote: Graves: "You only get one shot at life.  Why waste it on sleep?"

Best Weapon:  Without a doubt, it's the invisible car.  I want one of those!

Bond is in North Korea with a couple of South Korean agents.  He poses as an arms dealer where he trades a satchel full of diamonds for a cache of weapons from Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee), along with his aide, Zao (Rick Yune) .  But he is revealed as a impostor, and  he is exposed.  A chase ensues which ends in the death of Colonel Moon, but Bond is captured by General Moon (Kenneth Tsang), the colonel's father.

As the opening credits roll, featuring one of the worst Bond theme songs in recent years, by Madonna, instead of seeing the classic dancing shadows and such that one has come to expect, we instead are treated to scenes of Bond being tortured while in captivity.

After the credits, Bond, who is now almost unrecognizable with shaggy long hair and beard, has been traded in exchange for Zao, who had been captured by the West during Bond's captivity.  M, who thinks that Bond probably revealed secret information while in captivity, has revoked his  007 status and plans to have him removed to a re-education facility (or possibly imprisonment, it's kind of vague to me).  Bond insists that someone must have betrayed him and wants to go after the traitor, but M refuses.

Bond engineers an escape from the hospital and goes to Hong Kong where he gets help from a Chinese agent.  He makes a deal with the head agent because the Chinese have had three of their secret agents killed by Zao.  The Chinese agent sends him to Havana where Zao has gone to a gene therapy clinic.

In Havana, Bond encounters Giacinta "Jinx" (Johnson (Halle Berry), who it turns out has her own agenda.  It turns out, as Bond later discovers, that Jinx is an agent for the American NSA.  While Jinx performs her own operation, Bond finds Zao as well as the diamonds that had been given to Colonel Moon. The diamonds now have a signature of Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), a wealthy industrialist.

Bond seeks out Graves and manages to make an enemy of him right away.  Graves has an assistant, Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) who is helping him.  But Miranda turns out to be an agent of MI6 and is trying to find out what Graves' plans are.  Graves has created a satellite called "Icarus" which, ostensibly, is his gift to the world.  It can focus light from the sun to create ideal climates in areas for growing food.

But of course, that isn't Graves real objective.  You see, the Icarus satellite can also be used to create a giant laser than can be focused to destroy military installations.  Something quite similar to the object Scaramanga created in The Man with the Golden Gun, but 30 years later, technology has made an even more devastating weapon possible.

And once you find out what Graves true agenda is, you will be just as surprised as I was.  I won't reveal who Graves actually turns out to be (although you may guess just based on that passing comment).  The last 20 minutes of the movie is what puts this one so high in my personal rankings.  That and the invisible car of course, which I still want..

Time to go off and try to save the world.  Or at least save the part where I live...