Three Films — From Chicago to Paris to India: Ordinary People (1980), Chariots of Fire (1981) & Gandhi (1982)

Life has been ordinary. I had the flu, and “Yes” I did have the flu shot. We ran into snow in Minnesota and ran back to Texas and warmer weather. Halloween had its cadre of costumed candy-seekers. Thanksgiving arrived with welcome relatives and plenteous foodstuffs. The Christmas lights are up on the house, the street is alive with Santa, elves and snowpersons, and the first freeze is expected soon. Yes, life has been ordinary and busy. It has been difficult to schedule Best Picture showings and even more difficult to return to you with the results of those filmings. I apologize and I am sorry, but sometimes the ordinary can be quite extraordinary.

So here we are with the results from the Best Pictures for 1980, 1981 and 1982.

As a scene set, I will note that for each movie a survey is completed by each member of the EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy audience. As part of that survey, the viewer is requested to rank the film from 1 (low) to 10 (high) and to write out their likes and dislikes for the film. For each of these three shows, a summary sentence was prepared reflecting those likes and dislikes, and a single word was chosen for the film. In addition, the combined average ranking for the movie is tabulated and compared against the other Best Pictures viewed to date.

“Ordinary People” is not ordinary. Set in suburban Chicago, Illinois, USA, in what I would call the 1970’s, the show tracks a father, mother and younger son who has made a suicide attempt after the accidental death of the older son. Though their setting is fairly well to do economically, the family members are distant and apart.

“This is a very sad movie about a teenage boy recovering from a suicide attempt; the family is emotionally disrupted and does not recover as a family; wonderfully acted by son (Timothy Hutton – Best Supporting Actor Oscar), son’s girlfriend (Elizabeth McGovern), psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch – nominee for Best Supporting Actor), father (Donald Sutherland) and mother (Mary Tyler Moore – nominee for Best Actress), everyone liked the acting and no one liked the acted character of the mother (sad hat’s off to Mary Tyler Moore); the growing relationship between son and girl friend, the recovering relationship with the father and the healing relationship of the psychiatrist are the upbeat parts of the show, but they are not enough to save the audience from an emotionally draining experience and an unresolved ending; when the final credits played, the film managed only a 7.73 average rating, placing it #34 down the list of the first 53 Best Pictures.”

That’s the summary sentence for Best Picture #53. My high school English teacher required 100-word sentences and I still have that bug. I notice no mention of the older son in these words. That bothers me. I think the show is meant to bother its viewers. The single word for the show is “suicide.”

“Chariots of Fire” centers around the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France, and follows members of the British track team as they prepare for, journey to, compete in, return from and live on after those Olympics. The Americans are there as a counterpoint to add conflict and tension, but the show is for the British and they do marvelously. The summary sentence is:

“This film was most liked for its main message: Put God first, honor Him and He will honor you; next liked were the teamwork, hard work, friendship and comradery evidenced among and between the runners — they lifted each other up even when they were racing against each other; cinematography, music and costumes followed closely as additional big likes of the audience; the major dislike was the difficult to understand English and Scottish accents of the actors while a few viewers singled out the discrimination practiced against the Jewish competitor; overall there were few dislikes, the positive, uplifting, inspiring story won out, and the average rating of 8.87 places the film tied at #12 of the first 54 Best Pictures from 1928 to 1981, a very commendable showing for a very entertaining show.”

An extraordinary show of extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances behaving in an extraordinary fashion. For all of that, there is a quite ordinary element. The single word for the show tracks that: “comradery.”

In India, there are many sayings. One of those is a single word, the name of one very ordinary extraordinary man, the name “Gandhi.” The 55th Best Picture released in 1982 attempts to tell the story of that life and opens with these words, “No man’s life can be encompassed in one telling.” From there, it attempts the telling, and “Yes” it is too long, but the telling despite its length is that of marvelous person presented by a marvelous actor in a film reflecting the momentous events of its time.

“This is Gandhi’s movie, the man and the actor; Ben Kingsley won Best Actor for his portrayal of the man, and the man presented was instrumental in securing the independence of India from the English — together they become one in the film and they were the most liked aspect of the show for the EFMO audience; curiously, this movie depicting the very successful non-violent protests instituted by its lead character was most disliked for the violence portrayed, the English who largely perpetuated that violence, and the hopelessness and helplessness of the violent ending in a divided country where one might say nothing had really changed; nevertheless, the likes won out and the movie achieved a 9.00 average ranking, placing it tied at #10 of first fifty-five Best Pictures; on top of that, everyone retrieved the person they were angry with from the cold bare hillside (only the 10th time this has happened), thereby securing the film’s high and virtuous stature among the Best Pictures screened to date.”

One of the survey questions places you angry with another person and considering leaving that individual on a cold bare hillside or retrieving the rascal to the comfort of a warm cabin. After viewing this show, it asks, which way would this movie influence you to act? To his credit, after watching Gandhi no one left that unruly personage out in the cold. Such can be the power of a single name. And, the single word for the show: “non-violence.”

Enough, there you have three films for three years in three different places. From Chicago to Paris to India, we find no one is ever really ordinary. And that is as it should be — quite extraordinary.

Thank you for reading,

Grandpa Jim

“Kramer vs. Kramer,” The 1979 52nd Best Picture: The Movies Of The 1970’s And The Storms Of 2017 — There Is Hope

Transitions can be rough, and the transition from the summer of 2017 to the fall of 2017 has been just that: horrible hurricanes, devastating flooding, terrible earthquakes, property destroyed and lives lost. The last weeks have been very challenging for so many and very sad for all of us. We thank God for the responders, the selfless and unselfish people, who have done so much for so many. Thank you.

It is difficult to predict the future: the weather and our personal lives

It can happen that someone doesn’t notice that things aren’t going well until they aren’t and it’s too late to stop what’s going to happen and then it gets even worse.

Ted didn’t notice. Ted is a young father, an advertising executive in busy New York, and a workaholic. He’s having a great day, one of his very best days ever, when the storm hits and his life comes crashing down. His wife, Joanna, can’t take him any longer. She walks out, into the hall and leaves Ted with their 8-year old son, Billy, as the elevator door closes. Ted looks around for support and finds a demanding and uncaring boss who fires him and a recently divorced gossip of a neighbor buried under the weight of her own grief. Ted has no one but Billy, and Billy has no one but Ted. The father and son are their only responders. Isolated in the wreck of their lives, they struggle and fight and laugh and somehow manage to stay standing together. Despite insurmountable odds and recurrent obstacles, they somehow manage to survive and grow closer. At show’s end, the elevator door closes on Joanna who leaves father and son to their new-made relationship.

It’s just a show. “Kramer vs. Kramer” is a film, a movie that won the Best Picture for 1979. Dustin Hoffman plays Ted, Meryl Streep plays Joanna, and Justin Henry plays Billy. It’s not real. What it portrays is.

Storms hit and they hurt, and then it’s not about what the storm did, it’s about what the people do — in the movies and in real life.

The 1970’s had some great movies: Patton, The French Connection, The Godfather, The Sting, The Godfather Part II, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Rocky, Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, and Kramer vs. Kramer. Of all those very good movies, our EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy audience rated Kramer vs. Kramer #3 behind The Godfather and Rocky. Why?

The summary sentence derived from the like and dislikes is this:

Most liked the acting of father Ted (Dustin Hoffman), mother Joanna (Meryl Streep) and young son Billy (Justin Henry), while most disliked the uncomfortable topic of the mother leaving her child, the portrayal of divorce in today’s society, the uncaring attitudes of the attorneys and the overall unfairness of the judicial system; the father-son relationship is the focus of this film and the story of that growing and often humorous relationship is what makes the movie and holds the audience.

It’s real, it’s timely, it hurts, and it leaves you with hope for the future.

To all those who suffer the storms of life: Stay Standing.

There is hope — at the movies and in real life.

Stay Standing. We are with you.

There is hope.

 

Grandpa Jim

 

Terrifying & Shocking: The End of Summer, Hurricane Harvey & “The Deer Hunter” — Best Picture #51 (1978)

The end of summer can seem terrifying for those returning to school from the protections of the long safe time away. Yet the new school year with its new faces and places can be an exciting and inviting time — when it can. . . .

Hurricane Harvey threw a wrench in the plans of many on the Gulf Coasts of Texas and Louisiana. The schools in Houston have yet to open. For some, the recovery will be long and difficult. My old house is under water and may be for months. Relatives and friends have been rescued by boat and truck. Many have lost much of what they owned.

When I talked to Houston earlier today, I was told 90% of the town and the people are back in business — if not yet in school, but 100% of the community is in shock. The 90% must carry on and help the 10% who cannot. The town will carry on. The city will recover. Still a sense of worrisome guilt, quiet foreboding and deep grief accompanies those externally unscathed survivors as they commute to work, read the morning papers, do their jobs and then go to the shelters after work to help their friends.

It seems an odd time for us to carry on with the Best Pictures. Over 250 miles away, we saw only little rain and no flooding. Perhaps it is a tribute to the “family” in EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy (EFMO) that the group met together to review the next film in the list of award-winning pictures. You may recall that the EFMO group started with the 1928 Best Picture and is now at the 1978 film, the 51st movie to receive the Oscar for Best Picture.

“The Deer Hunter” is an American tragedy. The story starts in a small town in Pennsylvania where young friends celebrate the wedding of two of their number, after which the boys in the crowd escape in the cool morning for a final deer hunt together in the mountains. Three of the young men then jump to the conflict in Vietnam where they are imprisoned, tortured, escape and are separated. In the final act of the film, two of the three companions return home. One does not. The two survivor and their friends are diminished, damaged and undone by what has happened. In shock, they sit and sing a final song as the movie leaves them and the audience each to recover in their own ways. A terrifying and shocking film, it is a film of everyday life, because everyday life can be terrifying and shocking.

One of the questions on the post-show survey asks each viewer to circle the primary color they associate with the film: RED  YELLOW  BLUE? For The Deer Hunter, most circled RED. The next question asks the watcher to circle the work relationship they associate with the movie: BOSS  PEER  SUBORDINATE? Most circled PEER. This is a show of close friends, PEERs, who are fiercely loyal to each other and willing to show their love for one another in the face of great suffering, personal sacrifice and common tribulation. The circumstances are bleak and for some RED was sadly the color encountered.

At the end of this show, there was a deep silence in the room. No one spoke as the survey sheets were handed out. No one spoke as they wrote their answers. In the kitchen after, friends helped each other as friends do; and friends helped each other to their cars and off into the dark night, because that is the way of friends.

On the bottom of the EFMO survey sheet, the final question asks the person to identify something they LIKE and something they DISLIKE about the film. I am the only one who sees all the sheets, and it is my job to take the LIKEs and DISLIKEs and to the best I can to summarize those entries into a single sentence. Here is that sentence for “The Deer Hunter.”

“The music, acting and actors were the big ‘likes’ — Robert De Niro was singled out among the group of friends followed from home, to Vietnam and back home again; and even though the story was variously viewed as sad, depressing, disturbing, disjointed and convoluted, and the ending far fetched, some thought the film in its ways true to life and an accurate if not beautiful rendition of the times and the difficulties of the Vietnam conflict; this is a story of the tragedies of war and the physical, mental, emotional and psychological carnage left behind that ordinary people must face into the rest of their lives; and, as such, this is a film not so much to be enjoyed as to to be endured in shocked silence.”

In the face of terrifying circumstances, sometimes we are asked to endure in shocked silence and carry on as best we can by helping one another, because this is the way of friends.

You are and have friends,

Grandpa Jim

 

 

 

Rocky Meets Annie Hall: The 49th (1976) And 50th (1977) Best Pictures — Fiction, Science And Beyond!!!

The dog days are upon us. Friends visit, kids swim and the heat is unremitting Texas summer. We sigh for time to reflect and apologize for the time it has taken to get back to you with the results from the EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy (EFMO) surveys of our two most recent Best Pictures: “Rocky” and “Annie Hall.”

By way of background, “Rocky” was voted the 49th Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) from among the films produced in 1976. In this movie, Sylvester Stallone plays Rocky Balboa, “The Italian Stallion,” a young fighter whose career has dead-ended before it began. Rocky’s been demoted at his gym, can’t get a date with Adrian at the pet store and is too goodhearted to be a bad guy. His life is over, until he gets the “chance.” That chance is the film Stallone conceived, wrote in part, helped direct, and acted for The Stallion and himself — as the names reflect (only one vowel separates Stallone and The Stallion) and the sequels attest (there are total of seven Rocky movies to this year, 2017).

Our EFMO audience gave Rocky an 8.41 average rating out of 10. This places Stallone and The Stallion at #19 of the first 49 Best Pictures. This is a very commendable showing, and I feel it reflects the film’s wide audience appeal, inherent good manners and basic audience connectivity — despite the violence of the show’s epic finale and fight.

Of the EFMO survey questions, Rocky scored a perfect “Retrieve” for the question that: After watching the show, would you chose to leave that person with whom you are angry on the cold bare hillside or rescue him or her to the comfort of a warm cabin? Immediately after viewing Rocky, no one voted “Leave.” Everyone voted “Retrieve!” Only 7 other of the first 49 Best Pictures were so uplifting to receive zero leave votes: Cavalcade (1933), It Happened One Night (1934), You Can’t Take It With You (1938), Going My Way (1944), My Fair Lady (1964), The Sound of Music (1965) and The Sting (1973). With these films, Rocky (1976) is a wonderfully entertaining film of wide audience appeal.

I fear not so “Annie Hall.” Annie garnered the 50th Best Picture Oscar from among the films released in 1977. In so doing, the AMPAS voters passed on “Star Wars!” An exclamation point is, I think, appropriate here — considering that Star Wars was the biggest winner in the other Oscar categories, and time has proven Star Wars to be clearly the most widely entertaining show of 1977.

Who then is Annie Hall and what on earth happened?

Annie Hall is Diane Keaton and the show “Annie Hall” was written for Diane Keaton in the character of Annie Hall by Woody Allen, who plays himself as the neurologically disturbed comedian Alvy Singer, who acts very much like himself, Woody Allen, who both Woody and Alvy try for 93 minutes of steam of consciousness showtime to understand what happened to their romantic relationship with Diane, I mean Annie. Having said that, you begin to see the imbedded and confused humor that drives the picture and the intergalactic forces at play in the eyes of the AMPAS voters as they try to watch and understand the clearly alien antics of Woody, I mean Alvy. Stop here and think of open mic night in the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine with Woody-Alvy stepping to the microphone and stuttering a deadpan joke about the Emperor’s clothing that leaves the audience firing their lasers at each other in tears of laughter as half fall silently to the floor. You get the picture and it is truly a bizarre one, but the unusual craft of the show was clearly appealing to the voting craftsman of the Academy.

One must give Diane Keaton credit for an absolutely marvelous acting job which deservedly merited the 1977 Oscar for Best Actress. It might be said she was the only one who understood what Woody said, and for that she truly deserved the best actress award.

Woody Allen was chosen the Best Director over George Lucas (Star Wars) and Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind). It could be observed that the movie Annie Hall may have been recognized by the Academy voters as the best science fiction film of the year. From that perspective, Woody may be truly deserving of best director. Here it may be soothing to remember the sonorous lilts of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes as they play in the background behind Alvy.

How did our AMPAS voters survey the film?

On two EFMO questions, Annie Hall set the record for most votes received. One question asks whether the message of the film is still relevant today? A record number of viewers answered “NO!” Another question asks if this movie were a panhandler approaching your car at the intersection how much money would you hand through the window: NONE  $10  $1,000,000  MORE? Immediately after viewing the show, a record number of surveyors answered “NONE!” Overall, our EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy audience gave Annie Hall an average rating of 4.62 out of 10, placing Annie near the bottom at #47 of the first 50 Best Pictures reviewed.

Admittedly some of our EFMO audience had never seen Annie Hall or any other Woody Allen movie. On the other hand, a few of the audience admitted to being Woody Allen fans and a few not so. Still one wonders: Would Star Wars have done any better with our EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy reviewers? Perhaps not. You know not everyone likes science fiction.

See you next time with the Best Picture of 1978, #51 on our list and counting.

Grandpa Jim

The Best Pictures Of 1973, 1974 & 1975: The Sting (#46), The Godfather Part II (#47) & One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (#48) — Back In The 70’s Again

For 1973, we have “The Sting,” the 46th movie to be awarded the Best Picture Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). With this show, we move into the second half of our EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy project to view and review each Best Picture. This is the second half because we won’t finish until 2018 when the 90th Best Picture will be selected.

In The Sting, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) are grifters who con mob boss Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) out of a suitcase full of money. The mark, Doyle, never knows that he’s been the victim of a sting. He just knows that he just lost a lot of money.

The likes and dislikes of our EFMO audience are summarized in this 100-word sentence:

This is Robert Redford and Paul Newman’s picture and almost everyone singled them out and the general acting of the supporting cast as the big like of the film; the whimsical, fun, humorous story and the wonderful music of Marvin Hamlisch (Best Score and Song) were the next likes; there were only a few dislikes, e.g. crooked cops, the strip show; and although some thought the ending a bit abrupt and the progress somewhat confusing, the film’s overall average rating of 8.33 (out of 10) places the movie solidly in the top 50% of the 46 Best Pictures reviewed to date. (101 words)

An entertaining romp through the Chicago of 1936, the one derivative word assigned to the film was: FUN.

With this first film of the second half, the EFMO survey included a new question:

A friend orders an ice cream cone for you. You take the cone, look down and see this movie as the ice cream in the cone. What flavor is the ice cream? Circle one: CHOCOLATE  VANILLA  STRAWBERRY  MINT-CHOCOLATE-CHIP

The predominant flavor selected for The Sting was MINT-CHOCOLATE-CHIP. The movie was FUN!

For 1974, the winner of the 47th Best Picture Oscar is “The Godfather Part II.”

The sentence for this second Godfather is:

The acting, especially of Robert De Niro (the young Vito Corleone) and Al Pacino (the surviving son of Vito Corleone), was the big “like” for the film; the violence (killings, revenge, abortion, ruthlessness) was the big “dislike”; some found the movie deep, profound and amazingly entertaining, others saw the show as dark, dysfunctional and hard to watch; one liked the flashbacks, one disliked the flashbacks; perhaps a revealing comment made by one viewer was that this show does not have the “class” of Godfather 1; without that added class (those good manners), Godfather 2 managed only an 8.07 rating, far less than the 9.08 of the first Godfather, and this difference in manners appears to have caused the film to finish lower, at the midpoint of the first 47 Best Pictures, #24 of 47. (134 Words)

The one word for Godfather II: MIXED.

An emerging purpose of EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy is to try to identify those elements that compose a Best Picture. We have presented that ENTERTAINMENT value and ARTISTIC worth appear to be criteria components necessary to the emergence of a Best Picture. Another element may be MANNERS: Good manners seem to lift the rating of a film, bad manners seem to sink a picture lower in the standings. As good as it is, the second Godfather might have performed better with another rub to polish off the bleak sulking and moody pouting. Bad manners do not picture well.

Our run of great actors and actresses continues. Following Redford and Newman in The Sting, and Pacino and De Niro in The Godfather Part II, we have Jack Nicholson (Randall McMurphy) and Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched) in Oregon in a hospital for the mentally ill in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” the 1975 Oscar winner and the 48th Best Picture, with Best Actor and Actress awards to Nicholson and Fletcher.

With the Cuckoo’s Nest, the summarized words of our EFMO reviewers grow longer:

A intricate, serious, complex and humorous movie that bluntly and brutally displays the difficulties of mental illness and the challenges of caring for those with the disease and its various manifestations; the cruel and dishonest Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) was disliked, the faking and fun-loving Randal McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) was liked, and the other patients were uniformly viewed as funny and sad, as was the show itself and its ending; one thought the film the best movie ever, one couldn’t believe it got best picture, and another reflected on the darkness of the show with the telling observation, “Mental illness is dark”; faced with an expose’ of the dark depression gripping the mentally ill, we may all have a certain unconscious connection and silent prayer for distance; perhaps those concerns contributed to this movie – so highly rated by others – meriting only a 7.63 EthnoFamiyMovieOgraphy rating, which places the film 2/3rds of way to the bottom of the first 48 Best Pictures, #32 of 48. (166 Words)

This film is one of only 3 of the first 48 to have votes in all categories of all EFMO questions, except one: No one voted for the ice cream flavor “VANILLA.” This is not a vanilla show. It is, I believe, one of the great American films and one of the more challenging, and it is not vanilla.

The one word for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: SANITY.

With Cuckoo’s Nest, we begin to see another possible criteria linking the audience to the film: CONNECTION. We are each different with different experiences, and who we are influences how we connect with a film and how we rate and evaluate the film. Perhaps CONNECTION is another necessary factor, with ENTERTAINMENT, ART and MANNERS, in the selection of the nominees and the determination of the Best Picture. More needs be said here, but this must be enough for now.

We are back in the 70’s again, and it is I think a good place to be.

Until the next show and the next year,

Grandpa Jim

The Godfather: The 1972 45th Best Picture — Art, Entertainment Or Both?

The Godfather has long haunted the minds of recumbent males.

In this movie, the 1972 45th Best Picture, there is a quote that has those guy viewers writhing in sleepless sleep in the nightdreams of their beds: “I want Sollozzo. If not, it’s all-out war: we go to the mattresses!”

The Godfather is a fetchingly attractive and well-shot tale that winds whimsically and violently around, between and behind the lives of the members of an organized crime family now residing in and around the area of New York City, USA. The family is the Corleone family from their hometown of the same name in Sicily, Italy. Yes, the players are largely of Italian origin and the play is a Mafia film. The movie is itself a very well and politely accomplished piece of filmenship. It is a well-mannered crime show, despite the bodies strewn about the city pavements, on the courthouse steps and in the eateries — the work of our soldiers now polishing their guns with clean white cloths, eating pasta while wearing bibs, and reclining between their shootings on those troublesome mattresses.

Why the phrase “to the mattresses!” One Internet site recounts this logic from the panes of history: “In times of war or siege, Italian families would vacate their homes and rent apartments in safer areas. In order to protect themselves they would hire soldiers to sleep on the floor in shifts.” And on those floors beneath those soldiers were the original mattresses that spawned that phrase which now haunts the dreams of our recumbent males — who would, if they could, be there too with their dreamed counterparts preparing for the next sleepless battle.

This is a battle show, a crime film, a war movie, and with Patton, the 1970 43rd Best Picture, and The French Connection, the 1971 44th Best Picture, The Godfather shares that baggage that divides its audience, to a greater and lesser extent, along gender lines. Curious that three such films in linear order were of such common content and manufacture, but that is as they say the movies.

This writing is in its part a derivative portion of an ongoing study in EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy (EFMO). Along those lines, let me share with you a compilation and summary of the likes and dislikes of the viewing audience recorded on their EFMO survey forms:

The acting and the actors, especially Marlon Brando (Grandfather Vito Corleone) and Al Pacino (Son Michael Corleone) were the big “likes” followed by the superb camera work and mesmerizing music; the matter-of-fact violence and killing of the “business” of organized family crime was the big “dislike”; curiously, one disliked the baptism/murder scene while another singled the scene out as a particular like; a violent crime movie, the film so polarized the audience that one commenter described the movie as one of the greatest of all time while another reviewer could not understand how anyone could like the show; despite these apparently disparate views, the film was rated by the overall audience among the top movies viewed to date (#9 of the first 45 films), reflecting perhaps that even a polarizing topic (crime, battles, war) can result in a movie of widely recognized and appreciated artistic and entertainment value. (150 words)

Not bad, you might say, for one sentence of 150 words.

But what doe it mean for us and our study?

With that, we move from our fidgetingly divided viewers, whatever their personal genderic reasonings, to our continuing reflection on the meaning of “entertainment” within the “artistic” framework of a best picture.

“Entertainment” is the noun form of the verb “entertain.”

“Artistic” is the adjective form of the noun “art.”

This distinction between verb and noun may be critical to our ongoing study of the meaning of the phrase “best picture” and its application by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) in the selection of the “Best Picture.” More will be said of this later in following EFMO writings. For now and for this movie, I would ask you to observe that “entertain” is the battling verb action of impacting a viewing audience, and the merit of “entertain” would appear to be determined by the extent the movie moves the viewers. “Art,” on the other hand, is a recumbent noun state that can be seen in large measure as independent of the wider viewing audience, though some may recognize and appreciate it more than others, because art resides more in the realm of the studied particularist pausing to peruse a scene or object as one would an impressionistic painting on a wall or the lines of a new cell phone in a case. The merit of “art” is more the merit of the work itself and not how it moves the viewer.

The point is that “entertain” and “art” may represent very different points of view and effect. In one (entertain), the entire audience is riding raucously and noisily atop a rollercoaster at break-neck speeds at a local amusement park packed with fans below waving and clapping at the people above traversing the tracks. In the other (art), a solitary individual in the audience is closeted in a cloistered gallery siting quietly on a bench, referencing a guidebook and staring at a recognized work of creative genius. One is participatory, the other observatory. In one I am close and involved, the other apart and disengaged. One pulls me into the intricacies of the scene as an active participant, the other pushes me back to watch and appreciate from a safe and removed distance.

Art or entertainment?

It depends on your point of view and effect.

Are you on the mattress admiring the gun or in the street firing the pistol?

The Godfather allows you to lose yourself in the action or isolate yourself in the object of the moment.

In allowing its audience both, the movie itself becomes it seems a truly great best picture for all its viewers.

 

Art, entertainment or both?

Your point of view.

And effect.

 

Grandpa Jim

 

The French Connection: Three Films Versus Five; Good Manners Versus Bad; Art Versus Entertainment — Yours To Decide The 1971 Best Picture

Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo are narcotics cops in New York City. I like their names and nicknames. Their work is dirty.

While investigating an anticipated shipment of drugs, Popeye and Cloudy draw a connection to two French visitors, who they refer to as Frog 1 and Frog 2. The chase is on.

After a memorable and partially unscripted car race by Popeye below chasing Frog 2 above in an elevated train across Brooklyn, Popeye shoots Frog 2 in the back, killing the suspected criminal, who — it should be said, I guess, by way of justification — had tried to shoot and kill Popeye before the chase began. Do not make Popeye Doyle mad. He is a “bad” cop.

The elderly and more refined smuggler, Frog 1, attempts to close the deal and deliver the goods. Popeye and Cloudy intervene and the rest is in the movie, the ending and the closing credits.

A commendable cops and robbers show with very good acting, the film was awarded the Best Picture statuette by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) for the year 1971.

I too thought well of the movie.

The EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy (EFMO) audience not so.

Of the first 44 Best Pictures viewed to this point, the EFMO viewers gave this movie a 6.30 out of 10.00 (10 great; 1 not). That’s #36 of 44, the bottom 20%. Responding to the EFMO survey question whether after viewing the show you would be influenced to leave someone you are angry with on a bare hillside in the snow or retrieve them to a warm cabin, a majority said “LEAVE.” That’s only the 6th time out of the first 44 Best Pictures, our disfavored personage has been left so behind in the freezing cold.

What a sad lament this is.

And, “Why for?”

Consider the following sentence summarizing the audience likes and dislikes:

“Some liked and some disliked the show; the acting and chase scene were likes, while police violence and the ending were singled out as dislikes — although it should be noted that some liked the ending; the subject is cops and robbers, and, like war, this appears to be a polarizing topic, which, when presented with the brutal unfinished bareness of this film, may present an entertainment hurdle for those preferring a more balanced and determined process and endpoint.”

Cops and robbers (1971 The French Connection) are violent and ill mannered. So are war and warriors (1970 Patton). As are drugs, bums and prostitutes (1969 Midnight Cowboy). The last three Best Pictures (1969, 1970 and 1971) portray leading individuals with bad manners. And the average rating for those three pictures is the lowest 3-picture average since the inception of the Oscars.

The five prior Best Pictures (1964 My Fair Lady, 1965 The Sound of Music, 1966 A Man For All Seasons, 1967 In The Heat Of The Night and 1968 Oliver) portray leading individuals with good manners. And the 5-picture average for those films is the highest since the Oscars began.

Good versus bad manners.

It appears good manners travel better and are more entertaining than bad manners — even 50 years later.

A word on “entertaining.” There is a great controversy whether the Best Picture award should be an award for primarily entertainment value or primarily artistic value. At the 1st Academy Award Ceremony in Los Angeles on May 16, 1929, two Oscars were awarded for Best Pictures: one for “Outstanding Picture” (entertainment value) and one for “Unique and Artistic Picture” (artistic value). The next year the categories were combined to one for “Best Picture.”

Since 1929, the Academy has studiously avoided placing any meaningful criteria on the definition of the “Best Picture” or any practical limitations on the voting members of the Academy in making their choices.

Entertainment versus art.

Perhaps this is another reason why some movies travel well and are appreciated years later, and some are not?

This is far too heady a subject for a short discussion.

Suffice to say the last three shows have not traveled as well as the prior five.

Allow you to opine in your own heads whether this is a matter of manners, entertainment or art.

And always remember there is another movie next year.

See you in 1972.

 

Grandpa Jim