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A look at Paul Haggis

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Paul Haggis is a filmmaker/screen writer who burst into the public eye in 2005 when he won back-to-back Oscars for two movies he scripted. Although he seemed an overnight success with these two wins, in fact Haggis has been writing successfully for years, although just not on this grand a scale.

Million Dollar Baby(2004) directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank, was the first win and deservedly so. It follows three down-on-their-luck individuals who risk everything for a chance to change their lives. Freeman and Swank both picked up Oscars for their performances.

He followed this up in 2005 with Crash which he directed himself. Crash won an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The film also received an additional four nominations including one for Haggis' direction. This has a huge ensemble cast and follows the interconnectivity of seemingly random events in a 24 hour period in Los Angeles. Gritty and dark but very compelling.

In 2006, Haggis' screenplay collaborations included two Clint Eastwood productions-Flags of our Fathers(which tells the story of the 6 men who raised the flag in the iconic picture) and Letters from Iwo Jima (which is told from the perspective of the Japanese). The latter earned him his third screenplay Oscar nomination. He also helped pen Casino Royale, which garnered considerable acclaim for reinvigorating the James Bond franchise and then went on to co-write the screenplay for Bond's next outing in Quantum of Solace.

Haggis' directorial follow-up to Crash wasIn the Valley of Elahwhich he wrote, directed, and produced. The film, which stars Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon, tells the story of a father's search to uncover the truth behind his son's disappearance following his return from a tour of duty in Iraq. Jones earned a Best Actor nod for his performance in the film.

He currently has four more fims in development and given his track record they should be good---the man knows how to tell a story.

Grab the Hankies

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What is is about a good cry? After the puffy red eyes and running nose settle down we feel a lot better---sad tears are even shown to be chemically more complex than regular tears! So grab the hankies and prepare to cry your eyes out with the saddest movies I could think of. Be warned, there are some devastatingly sad choices here!

Terms of Endearment---1983. With Debra Winger, Shirely MacLaine, and Jack Nicholson, this one garnered a lot of Oscar nods, and a win for best director to James L Brooks. A tear jerker of the highest magnitude.

Awakenings---Robert De Niro and Robin Williams turn in great dramatic performances in this 1990 movie about a catatonic patient and the doctor struggling to help him.

Steel Magnolias---from 1989 there are almost too many big names in this one to mention, including Julia Roberts who received an Oscar for best supporting actress. This also has Shirley MacLaine, who come to think of it has done a few weepers over the years.

Pay it Forward--- from 2000 about a boy who tries to make the world a better place. This one might require extra hankies.

Brian's Song---Based on the real-life relationship between football teammates and the bond established when one of them discovers that he is dying. Might even wring a tear from the menfolk with this one from 1971. Starring James Caan and Billie Dee Williams.

Old Yeller---A perennial Disney heart-breaker; if you own a dog, this movie will rip your guts out.

Recommended by a co-worker as heart-wrenching try out (with sub-titles) I've Loved You So Long from 2008 with Kristen Scott Thomas.

Currently being acquired by CPL, put your hold on this oldy but goody from the Bette Davis collection...Dark Victory from 1939. Also starring George Brent, Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan (you did remember that he was once an actor, right ?). A little melodramatic, but still a great cry.

If you aren't already wrung out like a dish rag, try the following, although you will have to look elsewhere as CPL does not currently carry them. Mask from 1985 with Cher, Sam Elliott and a young Eric Stoltz. This is a real favorite of mine and I never fail to watch it when it turns up on television. Always with Richard Dreyfus, Holly Hunter and the last performance by Audrey Hepburn. And the movie that I'm sure is on most lists as the saddest movie ever made...Beaches from 1988 with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey.

Feeling Mutinous?

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Based on the true story -- albiet a heavily flavored Hollywood retelling -- of Captain Bligh and his crew, Mutiny on the Bounty tells the wonderful story of the harsh life in the British navy circa 1780. It has gone through several big screen reimaginings, going as far back as a silent offering from 1916. Version two 'In the Wake of The Bounty' from 1933 starred Errol Flynn but did not amount to much at the box office. CPL has the excellent 1935 version with the incomparable Charles Laughton as Bligh and Clark Gable as First Mate Christian Fletcher. Sent on a two year mission to bring breadfruit plants from Tahiti, the two protagonists lock horns from the beginning. Dangerous assignments, reduced rations, floggings and an horrific keel-hauling, set the stage for the mutiny. It took home Oscars for Best Picture and Best director in 1935 and was nominated for many others.

For a little different retelling there is the 1962 version with Trevor Howard donning the captain's hat, and a young and intense Brando bringing a completely different take than Gable to the role of Fletcher. For a fifth take on the story there is the 1984 version with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson, that actually stands up quite well. I would have to say that I have never been able to decide whether I like the 1935 or 1962 version better---they are both among my favorite movies and I watch them again and again.

Although Captain Bligh has come to be synonomous with the cruelty of the duty-obsessed, he was thought by his superiors in the British Navy to be only slightly harsher than he need have been. In fact, the real life Bligh was quite well regarded by his peers and his superiors thought enough of him to decorate him. This was for what is still considered to be one of the most exceptional feats of survival ever. With only a sextant and a pocket watch (no charts, no compass and certainly no GPS !) he successfully navigated across 3600 miles of open ocean in a 23 foot launch, bringing to safety himself and 17 of the 18 members set adrift by the mutineers.

Still feeling mutinous ?

The Caine Mutiny with Humphry Bogart, Van Johnson and Fred McMurray. This tells the modern day tale of another first mate who wrests power away from his captain. In my opinion, one of Bogart's best performances.

Horatio Hornblower: Mutiny I previously reviewed this under Pick of the Week for December 7 2008. It's a good enough series to warrant two mentions.

Damn the Defiantfrom 1962 with Sir Alex Guinness, Dirk Bogarde and yet more cat o' nine tails and navy battles.

And although not about mutiny, but a good swashbuckling tale nontheless, try Master and Commander with Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany from 2003.

Moe's Pick of the Week

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For April 23rd 2009

Paper Moon

This 1973 movie stars real life father and daughter Ryan and Tatum O'Neal as a pair of depression era con artists. A very engaging story full of colorful characters, including the outrageous Madeline Kahn as Trixie Delight, and Randy Quaid pre National Lampoon days. An excellent performance by 10 year old Tatum makes her the holder still of the title as the youngest performer ever to win the Oscar for best supporting actress (next youngest is Anna Paquin for her role in 1993's The Piano-another good, but much darker movie).

And the Oscar goes to

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The 81st annual Academy Awards were presented on February 22, 2009.

The winners of the major categories are as follows; for Best Picture-Slum Dog Millionaire; Best Director-Danny Boyle for Slum Dog; Best Actress-Kate Winslet for The Reader; Best Actor-Sean Penn for Milk; Best Supporting Actress-Penelope Cruz for Vicky Christina Barcelona; Best Supporting Actor- Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight; Best Animated Film-Wall-E. Of the winners, CPL presently has Wall-E and Dark Knight, but will be adding other winners as these current movies move to DVD. See Mat's previous post And the Nominees Are, for other nominated titles that we do have.

For a complete listing follow this link to Oscars home page


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The 62nd annual BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) were awarded on Feb 8/2009 in London, England. Established in 1947--- by among others, the great David Lean---they honour excellence in film, television, television craft, video games and forms of animation. Previously held in April or May, since 2002 they have taken place in February in order to precede the Oscars. Looks like the one to beat this year is Slumdog Millionaire, winning best movie and director and also the Golden Globes in the same categories.

And the Nominees Are...

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(January 22, 2009) Early this morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the nominations for the 81st Academy Awards. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," leads the pack with 13 Oscar Nominations, followed by the Golden Globe winning "Slumdog Millionaire," with 10. These two films join "Frost/Nixon", "Milk" and "The Reader" in the race for the Best Picture Oscar.

A full list of the nominees can be found here.

In preparation for the big show (Feb 22, 2009) here is a list of films that are available at the Calgary Public Library. Most of the nominated films are still being shown in movie houses around the city. We will keep you updated as they become available at the CPL over the next few months.

"The Dark Knight" - 8 Nominations (Including Best Supporting Actor -- Heath Ledger)

"Wall-E" - 6 Nominations (Including Best Animated Feature)

"The Visitor" - 1 Nomination (Best Actor -- Richard Jenkins)

"Kung Fu Panda" - 1 Nomination (Best Animated Feature)

"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" - 1 Nomination (Achievement in Makeup)

"Iron Man" - 2 Nominations (Visual Effects, Sound Editing)

"In Bruges" - 1 Nomination (Original Screenplay)

"The Duchess" - 2 Nominations (Art Direction, Costume Design)

"Man on Wire" - 1 Nomination (Documentary Feature)

Happy viewing and good luck with your Oscar pools!

A Grand Movie

by Melanie Kolbeins - 0 Comment(s)

I took Grand Hotel home, not knowing that this is the film in which Greta Garbo utters her famous line "I vant to be alone!" Grand Hotel is one of the early "talkies," and it is interesting to watch silent film actors working with sound. They are suddenly able to explore a range of emotions without exaggerated facial expressions and gestures, but it is as if the actors are still working through the transition. According to, Grand Hotel won Best Picture in 1932. One copy of Vicky Baum's 1930 novel of the same name is available at Castell Central.

Grand Hotel follows the struggles of various characters staying in a deco Berlin hotel in the time between the wars: an unhappy dancer played by Garbo, a stenographer fighting off male attention, played by Joan Crawford, a criminal (Lionel Barrymore) who tries to rob the dancer, but finds himself falling in love with her, and a dying man who seems to bring the unlikely assortment of hotel guests together.

The charms of this one are subtle. Just watch it!

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