Your Favorite Film of 2013 – Poll

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has the ability to nominate ten films for best picture in any given year. In the 1930’s and 1940’s eight to twelve films were nominated, but in the 1950’s  there was a conscious decision to limit it to five. In 2009 that rule changed, allowing ten films to be nominated. This has helped films that can’t afford to lobby the Academy members to be on the ballot for the top prize. Ever since that change ten films indeed were nominated each year up until 2013. This year’s crop consists of only nine.

The Academy has also evolved the category name several times outlined below.

  • 1927/28 — 1928/29:  Academy Award for Outstanding Picture
  • 1929/30 — 1940:  Academy Award for Outstanding Production
  • 1941 — 1943:  Academy Award for Outstanding Motion Picture
  • 1944 — 1961:  Academy Award for Best Motion Picture
  • 1962 — present:  Academy Award for Best Picture

Which one of the nine nominated films was your favorite? I’m not asking you to try and predict which film may win. Which one did you enjoy most?

Was your favorite not on the nominated list? Let me know what it was and why.

Remembering Roger Ebert

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsAny lover of film my age was heavily influenced by what Roger Ebert wrote about the movies. He was not trained in film theory and started out his career as a journalist. You might say he was in the right place at the right time as the Chicago Sun-Times decided to anoint their first film critic. Ebert was already an accomplished individual and writer and in a way entrepreneur. He was more than up to the task and in no time developed his unique style of looking at and writing about movies. He played several roles; guide, interpreter, analyst and industry watchdog. No matter your education level or understanding of film as an art form, you could easily access his reviews and find something interesting, even unique. Oh yeah, one more, teacher.

His output was nothing short of amazing, watching movies everyday, most days more than one. He reviewed nearly 250 films per year for decades and despite being stricken with cancer, continued to be a film sponge. He was probably the best friend the movies ever had because he connected them to our society through the lens of culture. When you are that deep and long involved in an industry you become a historian as well. He connected the dots across decades, genres, actors, directors, even themes. If I was forced to select one word to describe him, I’d say, rare.

Like so many people, I followed him on Twitter and read his blog to ensure I kept my film mind sharp.

In 1984 he published the  first of his fifteen books called, A Kiss is Still a Kiss. It was s chronicle of the film beat with stories of stars and filmmakers up close and personal. You got to see how near industry people let him get to them and it no doubt helped shape his personal view of the business. It was a business/industry/art form he loved and because of that special relationship he freely criticized it when he felt it was needed.

Ebert Signature
Ebert personalized his first book for me

The 1980’s was the decade I ran a bookstore chain and we had a store in Champaign, IL. Ebert grew up in the neighboring town of Urbana and attended the University of Illinois. I read in Publisher’s Weekly that he was publishing his first book and immediately contacted his publicist and arranged for a book signing event in that store during one of his trips back to Champaign. In he came with no sense of entitlement or conceit. It wasn’t that long before that he won the Pulitzer Prize, but you’d never know it. He was jovial, relaxed and engaging. We spent a good half hour before the signing time in the stockroom of the store talking movies. His all time favorite was Citizen Kane, which I was a huge fan of as well. It was such a pleasure to have had that time with him and my mind and heart will sorely miss him.

Thank you Roger for allowing me to share decades of your life at the movies and I’m so happy that I can go back and pull any of your books off my shelf and indulge in my ongoing quest to learn more about the movies.

Audio Podcast of this post: 

Kiss Ebert book

Book dust jacket scan

ebert young interview facebook 650

From Roger Ebert’s Facebook Page. Interviewing Senator Estes Kefauver, Adlai Stevenson’s running mate in 1956 for his Urbana, Illinois high school paper.

Photo of Ebert from The Chicago Sun-Times

Scan of A Kiss is still a Kiss from the collection of Steve A Furman

Silver Linings Playbook – Film Review

silver_linings_playbook_2As with so many films that examine mental illness through the lens of their characters, Silver Linings Playbook ends up like most, with the crazies saner than the non-crazies. I was hoping David O. Russell would push the envelope a bit and give us a fresh look, but the film plays it safe. Bradley Cooper is Pat (Sr.) doing eight months time in a Baltimore mental health facility. He severely beat the man he found in the shower with his wife after coming home early one day. Pat has many OCD related issues and we’re led to believe this event was the trigger to going over the edge.

Quirky people abound in this picture. Robert DeNiro plays Pat Solatano, senior to Pat Jr. The senior is a Philadelphia Eagles fanatic and was banned from the stadium years ago for beating people up. He now runs a bookie business out of his home and is uber-supersticious on game day. Pat Jr. is released into the custody of his parents and trots around the neighborhood bumping into the people he knew prior to the event. Pat Jr. is still obsessed with his wife Nikki and is convinced they are still madly in love. If only he could demonstrate to her his is now stable, all would be fine.

Enter Tiffany played with intrigue by Jennifer Lawrence. They are introduced at a dinner party by Pat Jr.’s friend who is TIffany’s brother. They make an instant connection. Tiffany’s husband was tragically killed and she has been unable to cope. The rest of the story has Pat Jr. and Tiffany jogging around the streets of their neighborhood trying to connect. It’s strangely comedic, but you get the feeling you really shouldn’t be laughing.


Pat Jr. wants to get a letter to Nikki, but dog gone it there’s that annoying restraining order in the way. Tiffany claims she can pass Nikki the letter and will do it if he agrees to be her dance partner and enter a contest at a local hotel. He agrees and the dance begins. The rehearsal scenes are really interesting as it requires the actors to do as much physically as mentally. Those hours become their real therapy sessions (minus the bill). The crazy becomes the therapists.

I swear that everyday is Sunday in this movie, and Eagles game day Sunday at that. Pat Sr. pleads with Pat Jr. to sit and watch the game. He never does. Despite all that attention on football we never actually see a play, not on television and not even when Pat Jr. goes to the Eagles stadium with his loser brother. Of course Pat gets in a fight during the pre-game tailgate.

The film is at its best when it slows down and examines the strangling consequences of mental illness. People really get lost and live life in an alternate reality and they are frequently helpless to get better. Many of these suffering people don’t know what normal (word used loosely) is, but they are keenly aware that they are not that.

Bradley Cooper is the billed star, but the movie ultimately belongs to Jennifer Lawrence. She sets the tone with her ability to manipulate the moment. When you look into her expression you absolutely know there is so much more going on beneath that face and it’s probably conniving in nature.

This film has terrible timing. It came out during a rush of serious and important film projects and when you compare them to this picture, it just can’t hold up. The soundtrack combines some excellent original work from Danny Elfman sprinkled with Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Rare Earth (look it up).

Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

2010 Academy Awards – Vote Your Favorites

For years I ran an office pool on the Oscars and did very well. I’ve since dropped the gambling which was a smart move because over the last few years my predictions have not matched well with the Academy members. As we approach the March 7th awards show it’s worth noting a pretty big change. This year they have added 5 additional films as part of the Best Picture category. That’s 10, instead of the usual 5. What will this mean? I believe that it won’t have much impact on the outcome this year, but looking ahead it could set the stage for an underdog film slipping in ahead of a studio juggernaut. One injustice that will be eliminated by adding more best pic nominations is that lone director who is nominated but her/his picture isn’t.

It was a pretty good year for Hollywood. Total box office was $10.6Bn, a 7% rise over prior year. Ticket prices rose to $7.50 from $7.18 in 2008. This increase was helped by the growing number of 3D releases that cost more to film, and therefore cost more to see. I explored this in more depth in an earlier post. This trend will continue in 2010. Another healthy sign is the number of tickets sold; 1.4Bn in 2009 vs. the 1.3Bn in 2008. There are a number of factors at work here. Franchise pictures like Transformers, Harry Potter, Star Trek and the emerging Twilight attract repeat viewings. Also, there were some pretty powerful children targeted films, Up, Monsters vs. Aliens and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which benefit from the youngsters wanting to see them over and over.

As this is not an official ballot and for brevity, I have chosen only 10 categories for this poll. It in no way suggests the other categories are of lesser value. Whether you are a serious handicapper or someone who only votes for their favorites, let’s hear it.

Box office stats from