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His Girl Friday (#110 of 8)

15 Famous Oscar Snubs

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15 Famous Oscar Snubs
15 Famous Oscar Snubs

No Kathryn Bigelow?! No Ben Affleck?! Yesterday’s Oscar nominations brought their fair share of shocking snubs, but it certainly wasn’t the first time the Academy stuck it to likely contenders. Looking back over Academy Awards history, there are many dumbfounding, surprising omissions to be found—realizations that underscore the belief that Oscar nods hardly indicate long-term quality. Be them unforgivable or just bewildering, we’ve selected 15 snubs that no doubt had people talking…heatedly.

15 Famous Movie Phone Calls

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15 Famous Movie Phone Calls
15 Famous Movie Phone Calls

Budding blonde Ari Graynor continues the R-rated femme comedy trend this weekend in For a Good Time, Call…, a naughty film that pairs the funny gal with brunette Lauren Miller (otherwise known as Mrs. Seth Rogen). Inspired by Miller’s college exploits with roommate and co-writer Katie Ann Naylon, the movie casts the leading pair as sparring roomies turned phone sex operators, a scenario that soon proves especially lucrative. Phones may have undergone a lot of makeovers in recent years, but their effectiveness on screen has been solid since the days of the candlestick model. In honor of the new fantasy-fulfilling comedy’s basis in ring-a-ding-ding, we’ve gathered up 15 films with highly memorable phone calls, which run the gamut from disarming to terrifying.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Ballot Tom Stempel’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tom Stempel’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tom Stempel’s Top 10 Films of All Time

If you read my “Understanding Screenwriting” column at The House, you may be aware that I generally do not do Top 10 lists (“Top 10 Scripts of the Year,” “Top 10 Scripts Most Likely to be Nominated,” “Top 10 Scripts That Should Have Been Nominated,” etc.), because I try to keep the column an Oscar-hype-free zone. But the idea of going up against the legendary Sight & Sound lists was just too delicious to pass up. Of course, there are more than 10 great films, and any list is bound to change, so this is my list on the days the I wrote this: June 19 and 20, 2012. If I made up a list a month or a year later, some, if not most, of the list would change. Since I have tried to pick films from a range of time periods, the films are listed in chronological order.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Elise Nakhnikian’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Elise Nakhnikian’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Elise Nakhnikian’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Maybe it’s just coincidence, but the most creative periods for the movies seem to occur about every 30 years, usually triggered by the advent of some new technology. First came that short burst of experimentation by people like Georges Méliès during the last few years of the 19th century, right after the medium was invented. The latest is the digital revolution that started around the turn of this century, making it possible for almost anyone to make a movie (and enabling a whole new level of intimacy between filmmaker and subject) by eliminating the need for expensive film processing and slashing the cost and size of professional-quality cameras. But my favorite golden age is the one that stretched from the late ’20s to the early ’40s in Hollywood. Old pros who’d cut their teeth on countless shorts showed us what could be done with silent film while upstarts like Howard Hawks and the Marx Brothers played with synchronous sound, that shiny new toy, in movies crammed to the brim with fast, funny talk. That probably explains why half of my 10 favorites were made during a 14-year period that ended as WWII began.

A Movie a Day, Day 89: His Girl Friday

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A Movie a Day, Day 89: <em>His Girl Friday</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 89: <em>His Girl Friday</em>

I hate to be asked what my favorite movie is (how can you pick just one when there are so many great films, which you love for so many different reasons?), but I was asked in an interview a few years ago, so I had to come up with an answer. The one I eventually came up with—His Girl Friday—is still what I’d say if anyone asked. Other movies (not a lot, but some) may be as wonderful as Howard Hawks’s brilliant adaptation of The Front Page, but I don’t think any others mean quite as much to me personally. So I watched it again this morning, as I have every couple of years since I first saw it in a revival theater in Austin.

Love on the Run: Cary Grant @ BAM

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Love on the Run: Cary Grant @ BAM
Love on the Run: Cary Grant @ BAM

“Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.”

—Cary Grant, née Archie Leach

Viewership is by nature bisexual. It compels us to take on the perspectives of men desiring women, of women desiring men, of lesbians and gay men desiring each other, and of the omnipresent (a-)sexual outside observer. Art doesn’t hold a mirror up to nature; it creates its own nature, and allows us to enter other people. Yet pun aside, bisexuality isn’t only a form of lust. It’s also a lifestyle. One can be bi in one’s tastes for avant-garde and for commercial art, for health food and for junk food, for football and for ballet. It suggests an ability to turn two differing states of mind into one—openness—and then to occupy the space between them as well.

5 for the Day: Cary Grant

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5 for the Day: Cary Grant
5 for the Day: Cary Grant

Cary Grant said:

“To play yourself—your true self—is the hardest thing in the world. Watch people at a party. They’re playing themselves…but nine out of ten times the image they adopt for themselves is the wrong one.

“In my earlier career I patterned myself on a combination of Englishmen—AE Matthews, Noel Coward, and Jack Buchanan, who impressed me as a character actor. He always looked so natural. I tried to copy men I thought were sophisticated and well dressed like Douglas Fairbanks or Cole Porter. And Freddie Lonsdale, the British playwright, always had an engaging answer for everything.

“I cultivated raising one eyebrow and tried to imitate those who put their hands in their pockets with a certain amount of ease and nonchalance. But at times, when I put my hand in my trouser pocket with what I imagined was great elegance, I couldn’t get the blinking thing out again because it dripped from nervous perspiration!

“I guess to a certain extent I did eventually become the characters I was playing. I played at someone I wanted to be until I became that person. Or he became me.”

These are fascinating statements. He was box-office gold for decades, and the Cary Grant persona was a consciously created phenomenon. He did it. The studios didn’t do it, the marketing folks didn’t do it, the man didn’t even have an agent, for God’s sake. Grant, through a period of trial and error, tried things, kept those that worked, discarded those that didn’t. The fact that he seemed so easy and commanding onscreen is just one of the many miracles of Cary Grant.

Farber/Hawks

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Farber/Hawks
Farber/Hawks

[Editor’s Note: Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday and Scarface play this weekend as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s tribute to Manny Farber. Click here (and on the film titles in the article) for more details.]

The auteurist debate is no longer a matter of dispute; the question critics should be asking is not if a director “writes” the film in cinematic terms, but how. Does he create a film in a way that can be told only through cinema, with many conflicting truths happening simultaneously? Or does he film a script, making a linear collection of words into something visible, connecting the dots with a standardized grammar of cinema that was developed in previous films? In the latter situation, one message is illustrated. However interesting this message may be, this is a waste of cinema. (Print conveys one voice in a linear order much less expensively.)

Manny Farber explained the elevated species of this second scenario more explicitly, under the banner of “masterpiece art” or “white elephant art.”