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The Con is On

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To do a good con artist movie requires a deft hand. You don't want to make it so complicated you need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out---on some level it has to be plausible. You want your audience to come along with you for the ride to see whether the characters get away with it---but it's also fun to be conned a little ourselves as we watch. What works best is a combination of the two---let me in on it but hold a little something back for the big reveal! Here are my favorites.

The Sting---the standard by which all such movies should be measured. Robert Redford and Paul Newman at their absolute best--- handsome, cunning, charming. Robert Shaw is the perfect foil---you can't wait to see if they get away with this. Big Oscar winner.

Catch Me If You Can--- another one with a big name cast---Tom Hanks and Leonardo Di Caprio. All the more entertaining when you realize it is based on an actual person doing these things.

The Music Man---an old musical from 1962, this is quite a lot of fun. Do you remember that Ron Howard wasn't always one of today's best known directors? He started life as a child actor and is adorable in this movie.

MatchStick Men---clever and stylish. See Mels' earlier post 'Nicholas Cage Reconsidered'. Definitley worth a look.

Paper Moon---another one previously recommended under Pick of the Week. But like Matchstick Men, it is good enough to deserve a second review---excellent performances, including an Oscar for the very young Tatum O'Neal.

The Producers---we have both copies of this zany musical from the bizarre mind of Mel Brooks. The original with Zero Mostel and Gene Hackman, and the remake with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

You will have to go elsewhere to get Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin and Michael Caine, but it you have never seen it, make the trip. It is worth the effort---absurdly funny.

Film Festival In-a-Box

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When I wrote the post for Space Time Continuum I recommended a Science Fiction collection put together by Turner Classic Movies. They feature four movies each and CPL has several other of these thematic based sets. There's lots of good viewing here, with the Murder Mysteries, Sci Fi and Horror compilations being particularly strong. So if you aren't watching the Olympics, or just need a bit of a break from all that reality, grab one of these and away you go.

Sc Fi: Soylent Green, Forbidden Planet, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Time Machine

Horror: House of Wax, The Haunting, Freaks, Dr. Jeckll and Mr. Hyde

Murder Mysteries: Maltese Falcon, Big Sleep, Dial M for Murder, Postman Always Rings Twice

Best Picture: Casablanca, Mrs. Miniver, Gigi, American in Paris

Wsterns: Wild Bunch, McCabe and Mrs Miller, Jeremiah Johnson, Train Robbers

Broadway Musicals: Show Boat, Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss me Kate, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

American Musicals: Band Wagon, Meet me in St. Louis, Singin' in the Rain,Easter Parade

Spotlight on Madeleine Sherwood

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I was lucky enough to go to the launch of the Victoria international film festival last weekend and attended a talk by actor Madeleine Sherwood. Born in Montreal, Sherwood escaped from a mental institution and moved to New York and studied under Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio with many Hollywood greats such as Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, and playwright Tennessee Williams. The studio encouraged actors to dig deep into their personal pasts to make their characters come to life. Sherwood was black-listed during the McCarthy era for her friendships with other actors and playwrights suspected of Communist leanings. She worked mainly on Broadway and is famous for her role in The Crucible. At CPL, you can see her as sister woman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and a smaller role in The Changeling. She appears also in Alfred Hitchcock presents in Season 6 Episode 37 "Make my Death Bed" (1961). Sherwood is the subject of a new documentary by Miriam Lawrence. It is an inspiring short film for actors and fans, so catch it if you can at a film festival.

And the Nominees Are... 2010 Edition

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(Feb 02 2010) This morning, nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards were announced. 'The Hurt Locker' and 'Avatar' (the least expensive and most expensive of the Best Picture nominees) lead the overall nominations with 9 each. When the winners are announced, I can only hope that the Academy picks quality ('Hurt Locker' or 'A Serious Man') over bloated excess (I'm looking at you 'Avatar'). But I am prepared to be disappointed again.

A full list of the nominees can be found here.

In preparation for the big show (March 07, 2010) here is a list of films that are available (or [On Order]) at the Calgary Public Library. Most of the nominated films are still being shown in theatres around the city.

Click the links to place a hold:

The Hurt Locker - 9 nominations including: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jeremy Renner)

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire - [On Order] 6 nominations including: Best Picture & Best Director

UP - 5 nominations including: Best Picture & Best Animated Feature

District 9 - 4 nominations including: Best Picture & Best Adapted Screenplay

Star Trek - 4 nominations including: Visual Effects & Makeup

Princess and the Frog - [On Order] 3 nominations including: Best Animated Feature

A Serious Man - [On Order] 2 nominations: Best Picture & Best Original Screenplay

Julie & Julia - 1 nomination: Best Actress (Meryl Streep)

The Cove - 1 nomination: Best Documentary Feature

Coraline - 1 nomination: Best Animated Feature

Coco Before Chanel - [On Order] 1 nomination: Costume Design

Bright Star - [On Order] 1 nomination: Costume Design

Food, Inc. - 1 nomination: Best Documentary Feature

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - 1 nomination: Cinematography

Happy Viewing and good luck with your Oscar pools!