Number-Crunching The 86th Academy Awards

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Hi. Remember me? I used to write this blog before I started an epic journey through Katharine Hepburn’s filmography. Turns out epic journeys are way more time-consuming than I thought. Anyway, the Academy Awards are on Sunday and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to re-visit my yearly tradition of number crunching the sequels, adaptations, and remakes that are nominated this Oscars season. And since I’m trying to buy back your love, I made the graphs really, really pretty.

First of all, let’s look at the new-and-improved breakdown of all 511 Oscar nominees through history (click to make larger):

511bestpicturenoms(Those are pretty graphs, right?) Side note: while adaptations still dominate, I had to create a new heading, “Other,” to deal with all of the anomalies. Many movie adaptations (like the American Gaslight) are also remakes (of the British Gaslight). “Other” also includes the two later Lord Of The Rings movies which are both sequels AND adaptations, which is just not kosher. Even with this change, adaptations make up over half of the total: 289 straight adaptations have been nominated up to the present.

The sequels you can probably guess most of: Godfather Part II, Godfather Part III, and Toy Story 3 are the obvious, but there are two other early sequels: The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) and The Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935, oddly).

The remakes, on the other hand, have a fun oddity.  Two movies with the same title have been nominated for an Oscar: Heaven Can Wait (1943), and Heaven Can Wait (1978).  However, the first is the story of a playboy who recounts his exploits in Hades, while the second is a Warren Beatty film about a football player who comes back to life in the body of a multimillionaire.  Here’s the weirder part: the second film actually is a remake of a 1941 film called Here Comes Mr. Jordan, starring Robert Montgomery and Claude Rains.

85bestpicturewinnersUnsurprisingly, the numbers stay pretty consistent from types of movies win to what types of movies dominate. As I was re-creating this graph, I started to wonder. Do we nominate so many adaptations because they seem more Oscar-worthy somehow? Is this finally proof of my freshman English professor’s scoff that film is derivative? Let’s try taking a historical perspective on this data.

511NomineesByDecade

“Unoriginal” stands for the sum of Remakes, Sequels, Adaptations, and Other

First thing I notice: the 1950s were not big for original content. When you think about it, the 1950s and 1960s were the times of the Great Epics, most of which were based in literature (Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia). The the 1970s and the American New Wave hits and BAM new content! Since then it seems mostly steady, although there’s so far been an uptick in original material in the New Millennium. Don’t get me wrong; I love period pieces, but I definitely welcome stories written specifically for the screen (whatever the theme of this blog may suggest). Let’s see how this holds with Best Picture winners.

85WinnersByDecadeWow. Well, the Academy is at least consistent in its inconsistency. There’s that mid-century dip again, although this time its nadir is the 1960s. We seem to have more or less evened out since then. I do hope this current uptick in original screenplays continues though.

Speaking of current Oscar winners, here’s the breakdown of this year’s Academy Awards. It is by far the simplest graph I’ve made since I started these, and it’s also contrary to everything we’ve been seeing (except that last graph):

9bestpicturenoms

No sequels or remakes

With all that critics (including me) keep kvetching about how these are the End Times for the film industry because Hollywood can’t stop making sequels, it’s nice to see visual proof that it isn’t always so. In 2013, we found 9 movies that represent the best of what Hollywood sees in itself, and over half of them were original stories.

What do you see in these graphs? Data is always up for interpretation!

I’d like to thank my 8th grade math teacher, Mr. Dicker, for teaching me how to use Excel. I’d like to thank God, Meryl Streep, and my parents, without whom this blog post would not be possible. And now the band is playing me off, so I really have to go!

For more fun updates, or to suggest a movie, like WRM on Facebook or follow on Twitter @WeRecycleMovies. Also check out our podcast on iTunes!

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What Price Hollywood? – The Movie That Inspired A Star Is Born

225px-WhatpricehollywoodposterI’d like to start 2014 with a throwback. All the way back in 2012, when I started (or rather restarted) We Recycle Movies, the blog was reborn with a trio of reviews of the various versions of A Star Is Born (1937, 1954, and 1976, respectively). At the time, I remarked that they were all based on an earlier movie called What Price Hollywood? that was unavailable through conventional means and only seemed to be a minor inspiration anyway. I have to be honest. This rankled me. I’m somewhat of a completist (as my current column on The Film Experience will attest), and I didn’t like the idea of starting the blog with an unfinished set. Fortunately for us, Turner Classic Movies screens everything, so I at last was able to uncover a lost gem. And what a gem it turned out to be!

It’s impossible not to compare What Price Hollywood? to the films it later inspired. Unlike A Star Is Born, What Price Hollywood? (1932 dir. George Cukor) is not a Depression era morality fable about the joys and sorrows of Hollywood. In fact, unlike its pontificating progeny, What Price Hollywood? is not very moral at all. It’s one of the last Pre-Code films about Hollywood, and although its content isn’t particularly lascivious, its tone is nonetheless one of unapologetic excess.

"I'm a movie star, not an actor!"

“I’m a movie star, not an actor!”

Mary Evans (Constance Bennett) is a cynical waitress at the Brown Derby who wants to be a star. When drunken director Max Carey stumbles into the restaurant the night of his premiere, she rides his tipsy tailcoats all the way from the Chinese Theater to a studio contract and stardom. Max’s career spirals out of control while Mary rises higher; she marries a mercurial millionaire and settles in France, while Max commits suicide in a sober spell of self-loathing. This is no story of star-crossed lovers – Max and Mary are not in love. Most of the time the story seems pulled from a ‘30s fan magazine.

Before 1933, anything really did go for movie stars. This was the era of Gloria Swanson’s Lancia limo upholstered in leopard fur, and Greta Garbo’s less-than-subtle love affair with Mercedes de Acosta. This is Mary’s world, and compared to most of Silent Hollywood she’s practically a nun. Mary’s worst faux pas is going to her millionaire boyfriend’s dinner in her nightie (not by choice). And then there’s Max’s sad suicide in her living room. That one does almost cost Mary her career. Mary is a low-class actress who wants to be famous and have fun. There’s no moral judgement against Mary for her ambition. The film applauds her for it.

"I'm a movie star, not an actor!"

“I’m a movie star, not an actor!”

This is because What Price Hollywood? is an artifact of Pre-Code Hollywood. While I’ve talked extensively about the effect the Hays Code had on films, I’ve left out its effect on studios. Once the Hays Code crackdown happened in 1933, stars had morality clauses written into their contracts. Gone were the days of wild parties and rape allegations (well, almost gone). Depression-era audiences said goodbye to the worldly girls like Mary Evans. It was time for the virtuous Vicky Lester’s star to shine.

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What A Year It Was! 2013 In Review

Wow, was this an incredible year! It started with a massive movie musical missive against Les Mis (that lasted maybe longer than it should have), then for a while we juggled (mostly) regular posts and contributions to Hit Me With Your Best Shot at The Film Experience. That last one led to an ongoing gig writing for The Film Experience, for which I am extremely grateful (more on that in a minute). I lectured at the Queen Mary Art Deco Festival in Long Beach (and again at San Diego Comic Fest) and did the occasional podcast. The rest of the year seems dull in comparison, though I managed to gather a few great guest posts from friends, liveblog The Sound of Music Live, and break 200 followers and 100 posts before the end of the year. As always, thank you to everyone who read. Thank you also to Margaret, Adam, Gabe, and Nathaniel for contributions and support.

Now, on to some big news: The blog is going back to twice a month! I know. I’m sorry. I promise it’s for a good reason. That reason is…

I’m writing a weekly column for The Film Experience starting January 1st! (That’s tomorrow!) Katharine Hepburn, my lifelong idol, made exactly 52 movies, and for the next 52 weeks I am going to watch them in chronological order. It’s called My Year With Kate and it’s going to be yar. Really it is. I’m so excited Nathaniel is giving me this opportunity, and I can’t wait to spend a year with my favorite leading lady.

In the meantime, I’ll need breaks from Kate the Great, so I will be updating We Recycle Movies every other week. I’ve got lots of great ideas for 2014, so stay tuned here! And as always, if you have any suggestions for posts please voice them in the comments below.

Thank you all for making 2013 an incredible year. Here’s to what has passed in 2013, and what will come in 2014! I found the perfect clip to ring in the new year: Katharine Hepburn’s New Year’s Eve scene from Holiday:

Happy New Year!

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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A Christmas Carol Revisited

Merry Christmas! Last year I weighed in on four weird versions of Dickens’s classic Christmas story, but I barely scratched the surface of A Christmas Carol adaptations. My good friend Shiraz invited me to discuss the wider world of Christmas Carols on The Flickering Podcast. I still managed to sneak in a Muppet reference though.
Listen here and enjoy! Happy Holidays!

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Sound of Music Live Follow Up (and more!)

CarrieVsJulieAfter last week’s “live” blog of The Sound Of Music Live! on NBC, I just couldn’t let the subject of musical theater on television lie. No, this isn’t like my obsession with Les Mis in February. (I know it’s been a year but that movie is still so bad.) The Film Experience gave me the opportunity to compare Carrie Underwood and The Sound Of Music Live to Julie Andrews and Cinderella. Did you know Cinderella was the most-watched TV event for 25 years? Check out the article here.

I’ve actually been doing a lot of writing for The Film Experience lately. If Cinderella doesn’t appeal to you, enjoy any of the articles below:
Three Christmas Movies for Friday the 13th
Rita Moreno turns 82
Goodbye, Eleanor Parker
Potent Quotables – Margo Channing in All About Eve
Team FYC: ‘Nebraska’ For Best Score

A new We Recycle Lines is coming this week. In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

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Beer And A Movie Black Christmas(es) Crossover!

Gory Christmas to all, and to all a good fright! ‘Tis the season for the holiday Beer And A Movie Crossover! Gabe brought over two great beers, and we decided to watch Black Christmas, both the 1974 original and the 2006 remake. I’m beginning suspect we may need to do more research before choosing these movies. It was definitely a… festive experience.

"Tell me my eyes are pretty"

“Tell me my eyes are pretty”

The original Black Christmas is considered a slasher “classic” in the same way that The Petrified Forest is considered a crime classic – it’s old as dirt and there are some recognizable names in it. The recognizable names in Black Christmas are Olivia Hussey (best known for pining after Romeo), Margot Kidder (best known for pining after Superman), and Andrea Martin (best known for fondling her niece’s fiance’s hair before offering to cook him some lamb). The story revolves around a group of pretty sorority girls – the slut, the nerd, the good girl, and the hero – who are picked off one by one by an unknown killer. After each crime, the killer calls the girls to say more and more disturbing things. Here’s the twist: the calls are coming from inside the house!

This cliche is conveyed with such earnestness that I think it may have been the now-tired punchline’s origin. What nobody seems to even consider – everyone in this film has a genre-consistent case of the Horror Hero Stupids – is that the killer is hiding in the attic. The killer’s constant unnoticed presence does lead to some great moments of tension in the film – his shadow flits through the background of many scenes as the girls obliviously hide in the “safety” of their home. In fact, in many ways the killer is the best part of the film: he’s mostly unseen, shown only as a POV camera shot or a quick shadow or as an eye in the door. Despite the fact that the audience knows where he is, we don’t know who he is, and we never find out. The movie ends with the reveal that the man accused of the murders is actually innocent, because the calls are still coming from inside the house!

Black Christmas is not quite as good as its contemporary calendar-related carnage-fest, Halloween. The problem is really a lack of consistent tension: too often the suspense is derailed by confusing character exposition or unnecessary melodrama. The last third of the movie is really a phone technician running through a warehouse trying to trace each call that comes into the sorority. Still, it was interesting as a piece of history, both horror-and-telephone-related.

I hate every character in this movie so here's the sorority house in lights instead

I hate every character in this movie so here’s the sorority house in lights instead

As for the 2006 Black Christmas, all I can really say is I have lost my faith in horror remakes. Like My Bloody Valentine before it, the remake of Black Christmas seems to think the only way to improve a classic horror movie is to make it as gory as possible. And it’s not just gory, it’s gross. The core idea remains the same – killer attacks sorority girls – but around it swirls an endless arc of appalling exposition. Far from being unknown, the killers are actually revealed early on to be a yellow-skinned psychopath named Billy and his one-eyed sister/daughter Agnes. Their backstory is told in gleefully lurid flashback and includes pedophilia, cannibal cookies, and perversion. In fact, the heroes of the story aren’t the sorority sisters at all; more time and care is given to explaining Billy and Agnes than to any of the girls they murder. The girls are really just fodder for their misplaced twisted justice.

 

The differences between the killers in the two versions of Black Christmas actually shows  audiences’ long and growing fascination with murder. In the original Black Christmas, the POV shots from the killer’s perspective spoke somewhat to the audience affiliation with the man with the knife, but ultimately he remained anonymous. However, as the mountain of exposition in the remake shows, we’re increasingly drawn to a Cult of Bloodstained Personality. Hannibal, Dexter, the Saw films, and the enduring legacies of Michael, Jason, and Freddy show that Killers carry a franchise, not Survivors.  Exceptions do exist – Evil Dead springs to mind (Groovy!). But overall, audiences prefer their body counts higher and their killers more extreme. I have neither a qualitative judgement nor a philosophical point to make about this. But I will say that missteps on the path towards this gory goal lead to bad films like Black Christmas.

Gabe has more to say about Black Christmas and our two beers and our two movies, so check his blog out. If you have any suggestions for another holiday crossover, let us know in the comments or on Twitter! Happy Holidays!

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The Sound Of Music Live “Live” Blog!

nbc-releases-first-sound-of-music-live-trailer

7:55 PST – A great and gracious good evening to you, Recyclers! By now, The Sound Of Music Live! starring Carrie Underwood, Stephen Moyer, Christian Borle, and (more to the point) Laura Benanti and Audra Freakin’ McDonald is drawing to a close. However, thanks to NBC programming delays, the show is just about to start on the West Coast! This will by my “live” blog as the show unfolds in LA three hours after it was first broadcast in New York. If you’re on the East Coast, you can laugh in remembrance of fonder times a few hours ago. If you’re on the West Coast, you can follow along with baited breath. If you’re somewhere in between, you’d in what’s called a “Flyover State” and nobody on either coast really seems to care all that much about you. Sorry.

FIVE MINUTES UNTIL SHOW TIME!!

(Remember to keep hitting “refresh” as this is not Twitter – though if you’re not following me on Twitter now’s the time to start.)

7:59pm: A word on my limited qualifications to live blog. I love musicals. I love Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. I can remember the first musical I saw; it was a dinner theater version of The King And I. We sat house right. Anyway, I have been defending this live version of the stage version of The Sound Of Music with a pop country star all week to my fellow thespians, and I want to share my joy (or sorrow) as Live-ish Theater-ish makes its triumphant return to Television!

8:00pm: AUDRA MCDONALD, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!! She is flawless in all ways, so of course she’s playing a holy woman. It was inevitable. We all worship at the altar of Audra already.

8:02pm: True story, my high school did this show my senior year. I edited a video with the nuns singing in it, so this song drives me NUTS. I have flashbacks. It’s awful.

8:04pm: Oh hey Carrie! I don’t like that she’s looking at the camera. That’s weird. Stop breaking the fourth wall. I refuse to pass judgement on her voice yet though.

8:05pm: SHE ALMOST TRIPPED. DID YOU SEE THAT?

8:07pm: Snarking aside, Carrie has a lovely voice. That was lovely. Nice start!

8:09pm: Side note, my friend Margaret just (correctly) pointed out that the music is a little odd. It’s loud-ish, and it doesn’t have the same sound quality as the voices. This is because the orchestrations are pre-recorded. I do not begrudge them that. The sound mixer must be having a bitch of a time keeping this from sounding as lousy as Les Miserables. Bravo, sound mixer!

8:11pm: Dat Lighting Effect. Totally unnecessary. Made me laugh, though. Every nun should have some God Light From Above at some point.

8:12pm: This is Carrie’s first test as an actress. Most of the anti-Carrie snarking has been that she can’t act. So can she…?

8:13pm: …kinda not so much. Maybe it gets better. I HAVE HOPE, PEOPLE. I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN SPRINGTIME! (That song’s not in this broadcast, but hey look we’re already at “My Favorite Things!”)

8:14pm: One of the reasons I’m really glad we’re doing the play as opposed to the movie is that we’re going to see a lot more Audra and Laura. Let’s hear it for our Tony Award Winning Ladies! YOU HIT THOSE HIGH NOTES, AUDRA!

8:16pm: “I know what you expect, Mother, and I’ll do it I promise!” We expect you to act a little better, Carrie. Just a little better.

8:18pm: I like Carrie Underwood’s version of “My Favorite Things.” She’s doing a great job with this song. Side note: HOW BIG IS THIS ABBEY SET? Bravo, set designers!

8:19pm: First commercial break. Yay Walmart? I’m going to go get (another) beer and check Twitter.

8:23pm: Aaaaaand we’re back! Side note: A Few Of My Favorite Things include the sugar cookies that my roommate is baking while we watch the show. No joke. He’s in the kitchen baking sugar cookies. We are so bloody adorable right now.

8:24pm: Captain Von True Blood looks very smart.

8:26pm: This is where she’d sing “I Have Confidence” if this were the movie. This isn’t the movie, so we’re going to get a lot more Nazis and a lot less dancing through the streets.

8:28pm: Here come the children!! True story: when my high school did The Sound of Music, I taught the Von Trapp children “Wilkomen” from Cabaret but I didn’t teach them what it meant…

8:30pm: Text from my mom: “Can’t anyone under 30 walk in heels?” Well, I can’t. Carrie Underwood walks in heels better than she acts.

8:31pm: The middle Von Trapp girls are like the Flyover States: nobody on the ends really cares who they are, and we keep mixing them up.

8:32pm: “Do Re Mi!” We’re getting some sound issues. Is there a fan constantly going in the Von Trapp mansion?

8:34pm: For those who are wondering why everything sounds so loud, we’re getting some sound mixing problems on the mics. Turn it down, sound mixers! You sing at a different level than you speak!

8:37pm: THIS SET JUST KEEPS GOING! It’s gigantic! I like the fountain in the courtyard. Good shout out to the movie.

8:38pm: Wal Mart definitely sponsors this, which makes me sad. Commercial Break #2! Time for some cookie dough!

8:42pm: Quick shout-out to Beth McCarthy-Miller, the director responsible for giving this live TV broadcast a very “movie” feeling. Say what you will about the sound (please guys, turn down the mics), the camera work is FLAWLESS.

8:43pm: Rolph has a cleft in his chin and looks like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. Seventeen going on Eighteen my ass.

8:44pm: So they’re setting “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” on Maria’s mountain. Since they don’t have many exterior sets, this actually makes a lot of sense. Plus now they can roll down the hill, instead of in the proverbial hay.

8:45pm: “No one cants like this Rolph / wears short pants like this Rolph!” Sorry, he just looks like Gaston in short shorts.

8:48pm: “No one goes on long Nazi-filled rants like this Rolph!”

8:49pm: Sorry, I got distracted. They’re actually very sweet together. This is the scene they performed at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and it convinced me to watch the show live.

8:50pm: THEY DID NOT JUST ROLL DOWN THE HILL. I WAS JOKING.

8:52pm: Since we’re not paying attention to Carrie Underwood whenever she has to act, I’d like to point out that we are 51 minutes in and we have had 0 minutes of Laura Benanti and I refuse to accept this. BRING ON THE COUNTESS.

8:54pm: GRETL IS ADORABLE.

8:55pm: I’m not exactly sure how we got on the subject, but my roommate is now trying to find out if there’s Sound of Music porn on the internet.

8:56pm: Hey look, the country star can yodel! Who’da thunk it? …actually I really like this song. (“Lonely Goatherd”)

8:57pm: I don’t know if you all are reading the comments, so I’d like to point out my favorite comment so far from my friend Margaret: “Come back here and sit on the edge of my bed and we’ll have a talk.” Fraulein Maria, you’re trying to seduce me… aren’t you??

8:59pm: Commercial Break #3!

9:03pm: Back from cutting cookie dough into shapes and YES IT’S LAURA BENANTI FINALLY

9:04pm: HUSH YOUR LAURA BENANTI SASS SHE IS FLAWLESS NO MATTER WHAT HER ACCENT OR STRANGE PINK-PURPLE COSTUME

9:05pm: Christian Borle is recovering well from Smash.

9:07pm: PLEASE START SINGING LAURA I LOVE YOU SO MUCH

9:08pm: “How Can Love Survive”I love this song. THIS is why I love the Countess. Well, this and her later song. Gotta love the altos, they’re designed for Musical-Appropriate Snark and Sluttiness.

9:09pm: True story: The actual Countess lived in a ski resort in Colorado.

9:11pm: “No one heils like this Rolph/ Hides his smiles like this Rolph”

9:13pm: Aaaaand then Carrie Underwood starts acting again. Damn it. We were doing so well!

9:14pm: Captain Von True Blood does not do well with crying ladies.

9:15pm: Captain Von True Blood started singing! Captain Von True Voice, amirite?

9:17pm: The kids are great! All of them are newcomers, except Liesl who’s supposed to be a newcomer but actually is going to be Eve in the Noah, a movie I am not looking forward to. Maybe I’ll like it better if Eve starts singing “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” to the snake.

9:19pm: This is my favorite scene with the Countess. It’s the passive-aggressive smackdown. DAT DOUBLE TAKE. It’s more of an evil eye roll, or a secretive side-eye. Whatever. I love it.

9:20pm: Commercial Break #4 Hey guys, guess what! I’ve already seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s fun. There’s a Danny Kaye movie based on the same short story!

9:24pm: We’re back! Awww it’s the party scene! In tasteful pastels.

9:25pm: I love a Richard Rogers Waltz. I watch Rogers & Hammerstein musicals just for the waltzes.

9:26pm: The Lindler is a real thing. And this is the one dance that will remain basically the same no matter what production of The Sound of Music you see. True story.

9:27pm: HOT DAMN LOOK AT LAURA BENANTI, Who chooses the girl in the puffy sleeves and the braid over ALL THAT WOMAN?

9:30pm: I don’t know who’s overacting more, Carrie or Brigitta.

9:32pm: “It was lovely, soft and white.” Captain Von True Blood like his ladies soft and white.

9:32pm: Sorry, playing catch up. We’re at “So Long, Farewell,” which takes forever if your kids aren’t cute enough to pull off a repetitive song. These kids are cute enough.

9:34pm: ATTAWAY!! HIT THAT HIGH NOTE BOYYYY! (Kurt was so saucy when he hit that note. Boy’s been PRACTICING)

9:35pm: THE WALLS. THEY MOVE OF THEIR OWN ACCORD. I love these set designers.

9:37pm: Intermission! Well, it would be. But instead it’s Commercial Break #5(?)

9:42pm: We’re baaaack! OH HEY AUDRA!!

9:43pm: The fan is back. The fan that is ever-present in the Von True Blood home is ROARING in the back of the abbey as well.

9:44pm: Don’t worry. There’s a good song at the end of all of this acting. I promise we’ll get through this scene together. And at the end of it: AUDRA.

9:45pm: “If you love this man it does not mean that you love God… any less.” Nice catch, Abbess.

9:46pm: Full disclosure: I usually hate “Climb Every Mountain.” But it’s Audra. Freaking. McDonald. I would listen to her sing the phone book… Oh crap, I’m already crying and we’re only a verse in.

9:47pm: My reaction is the same as Carrie Underwood’s right now. Guys. This is so beautiful. AND THERE’S THE HIGH NOTE. Ugh. I’m a wreck.

9:48pm: You need a break after that. Commercial Break #6. I’m going to go get a tissue.

9:53pm: And we’re back with Christian Borle. I saw him first in Legally Blonde: The Musical. It’s my guilty pleasure musical.

9:54pm: Holy crap. These kids have incredible pitch.

9:55pm: WHY DO YOU INSIST ON PUTTING LAURA BENANTI IN PINK THINGS? She looks like she’s wearing a Pepto Bismol wrapper. She looks damn good in it though.

9:57pm: Maria’s hair is down. This just got real.

10:00pm: Commercial Break #7. My roommate just handed me a wad of cookie dough. This is a very good night.

10:04pm: I wasn’t going to comment on the commercials but EL POLLO LOCO HAS S’MORES NOW

10:05pm: Are the people who are Nazi sympathizers dressed in pink and red? Is this a political statement?

10:06pm: It’s the return of the scene-stealing background fan…

10:07pm: THIS IS MY FAVORITE SONG FROM THE STAGE SHOW.

10:08pm: “And there’s no way to stop it / no there’s no way to stop it / no you can’t even stop it if you try” not unlike Laura Benanti’s raw talent in this scene…

10:09pm: I once read a criticism of the play that said that this song was “the first rock n’ roll song in musical history” because it was self-absorbed and angry. I mean, really? Rogers and Hammerstein did a lot of wonderful things, but they didn’t invent rock n’ roll.

10:10pm: YOU CHEW THAT SCENERY, LAURA BENANTI. YOU CHEW IT GOOD AND PROUD. I’m going to miss you.

10:11pm: Laura Benanti is coming to LA in January and I really want to go, but it’s slightly outside my price range. Same thing happened with Audra McDonald a few months ago. I’m playing Broadway Diva bingo. I’ve already seen Patti LuPone, Barbra Streisand, and Kristin Chenoweth.

10:12pm: SOMEBODY TURN OFF THE GODDAMN FAN WE’RE TRYING TO ACT HERE

10:13pm: Ohhhh heyyyyyy. For a nun, Maria really knows how to kiss…

10:14pm: Okay, so “Something Good” is not supposed to be here. This is a song they wrote for the movie, because the song that’s supposed to be here, “Ordinary People,” is just not that interesting. “Something Good” is ever-so-sweet, with just a touch of Catholic guilt.

10:17pm: When The Sound of Music movie came out, it was so popular that my mom’s friend actually walked down the aisle at her wedding to “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria.” True story.

10:19pm: Damn it, I’m crying again. I really love this abbey set, you guys. And this song. And this scene. And weddings. I want a cookie.

10:20pm: True story: Since I went to Catholic school, we just had the abbey scenes in the Chapel section of our auditorium. On that note, Commercial Break #8! I’m going to go get a cookie.

10:23pm: Clarification, I’ve been told by my mom that my mom’s friend walked down the aisle to the orchestral accompaniment. The main theme of “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria” was underplayed.

10:25pm: We’re back! And so are the tasteful pastels. And now for some Nazi exposition.

10:26pm: I don’t know why a few Nazis always end up looking a little like Italian mobsters. It must be the loud ties and contrasting shirts.

10:27pm: Awww, look at Maria’s little hat! Why is everyone in variations of red and pink? Kinda shoots my “Nazi sympathizers wear pink” theory.

10:29pm: Aw, I forgot the reprise of “Sixteen Going On Seventeen.” Let’s be real. This song is about losing your virginity.

10:32pm: “No one’s mad like this Rolph / Won’t act glad like this Rolph”

10:35pm: How many young children were introduced to WWII history by The Sound of Music? Musicals are a learning tool! Who says the arts aren’t important?

10:36pm: HEY LOOK AT THAT COSTUME CHANGE! Quick shout out to the dressers as well! Getting Maria in and out of those corsets in just a few lines!

10:37pm: Captain Von True Blood is kinda short. I never noticed until now. It’s hard to intimidate an Italian Nazi when you’re a) shorter and b) singing Rogers and Hammerstein.

10:38pm: Commercial Break #9! Time for another cookie!

10:41pm: I forgot, my friend Margaret sent this to me from Jezebel:
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I love Grumpy Cat.

10:43pm: We’re back again! Captain Von True Blood has a beautiful voice. He was flat earlier but I forgive him because “Edelweiss” is beautiful.

10:44pm: I will not cry a third time during this broadcast. I will not cry a third time during this broadcast. I will not cry a third time during this broadcast…

10:45pm: This live broadcast interrupted by a small camera error. Intern stepped on the wrong cord!

10:47pm: Oh, I get it! They’re saying goodbye ’cause they’re escaping the Nazis! Cleverrrrrr…

10:48pm: I always felt bad for Gretl during the reprise of “So Long, Farewell” because she’s only got one thing, and that’s being cute, and they take that from her so they can escape quickly. It’s a musical. We can pause for dramatic (or adorable) effect.

10:50pm: Commercial #10. We got like half a scene at best. The commercials were longer than that!

10:53pm: Back again! The Nazis have invaded the abbey!

10:54pm: Rolph and his short shorts have entered the abbey! Rut roh! What will a young Nazi do?

10:55pm: “No one’s smart like this Rolph! / Changes heart like this Rolph! No one gives his girl’s life a new start like this Rolph!”

10:56pm: Intern stepped on a cord again. Two video blips are really pretty minor in a three hour broadcast. Better record than the Tony Awards.

10:57pm: START SINGING, AUDRA! YOU BRING THIS MUSICAL HOME!

10:58pm: Really, any musical with her as a castmember should begin and end with Audra McDonald belting.

10:59pm: We ended two minutes early! What now? Oh, a rehearsal montage and credits. Nobody takes a bow?

11:00pm: Credits roll. Thank you everyone for joining me on this wonderful journey. I’ve been doing a lot of snarking over the past three hours, but I’m actually so happy that The Sound of Music Live happened. I hope it’s the success it deserves to be. Any major network that gives musical theater a chance should be lauded. Thank you, NBC. Here’s (I hope) to another TV musical very, very soon!

11:01pm: I’m out!
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Christmas With Carol Burnett

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Last week, PBS broadcasted the 16th Annual Mark Twain Award for Comedy, which honored the Queen of Sketch Comedy, Carol Burnett. As we know, this blog is a big fan of Carol Burnett, so I’m not biased at all when I say this is a much deserved award and a long time coming. Fortunately, I’m not the only one who worships Carol Burnett. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Rashida Jones joined a cast of others to celebrate Carol Burnett’s incredible career and thank her for eleven years of The Carol Burnett Show. And fortunately the Burnett love doesn’t stop there. Time Life and Star Vista have released even more episodes of The Carol Burnett Show just in time for Christmas.

Carol Burnett never did official holiday shows, but the new Christmas With Carol DVD collects a handful of the best episodes and sketches she produced for the holiday seasons. Of course there are the greats–a painfully hilarious Mama’s Family sketch includes Eunice in ruffled Christmas garb screaming at her “odd” brother played by guest star Alan Alda. The second full episode also contains a Burnett standby: Mr. Tudbull and Mrs. Wiggins get drunk at the office Christmas party. However, the bonus songs are the best part. Carol’s take on the “Twelve Days After Christmas” includes the lyric: “The second day after Christmas, I pulled on the old rubber gloves,/And very gently wrung the necks of both the turtle doves.” But in case that’s to mean, there’s also a lovely version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by the Charwoman.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good Christmas special. It’s a tribute to Carol Burnett and I hope this means we’ll see even more episodes of The Carol Burnett Show released in the future. In the meantime, Merry Christmas from Mama’s Family to yours!

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We Recycle Lines: Kate the Great vs Princess Grace

Welcome to a new series called “We Recycle Lines,” wherein WRM contributor Margaret runs a comparison of one line as used in two films. Remakes, sequels, parodies and homages all welcome.
HOME TEAM: The Philadelphia Story

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A 1940 film, based on a play of the same name, with one of the starriest-ever Old Hollywood casts. Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, and Ruth Hussey held the principal roles, with frequent Hepburn collaborator George Cukor directing. It remains one of the premier entries in the “comedy of remarriage” genre, which had its heyday in the 30s and 40s. The story follows a society woman (Hepburn) whose wedding plans are complicated by the arrival of a pair of tabloid journalists (Stewart and Hussey) and a playboy ex-husband (Grant). Universally considered a classic, and virtually omnipresent on your local PBS affiliate.
Box Office: $3M ($50M in today’s dollars, and the 4th-highest grossing movie of the year)
RottenTomatoes Score: 100%*
Oscar cred: Six nominations, and two wins: Stewart for Best Actor and Donald Ogden Stewart for Best Adapted Screenplay.

CHALLENGER: High Society
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A musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story featuring music and lyrics by that singular genius of popular song, Cole Porter. Boasting perhaps the only cast that could be considered starrier than that of its predecessor, it features Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm, and Louis Armstrong. Also a classic, though it owes much of its status to the celebrity of its cast and the Porter score. In glorious Technicolor.
Box Office: $13M ($112M in today’s dollars, and the 9th-highest grossing movie of the year)
RottenTomatoes Score: 80%*
Oscar cred: Two nominations (for song and score), and zero wins.

High Society is a pretty straightforward remake of The Philadelphia Story, though there are some plot details that shift in order to better accomodate the musical numbers, and the presence of Louis Armstrong essentially playing himself. The musical version is also generally lighter– Cole Porter lyrics notwithstanding, there is overall less bite to the movie.
There are many recycled lines throughout, as the films share the same source material, but it’s almost inarguable that all the best lines belong to Tracy Lord, the queen of Philadelphia society and the centerpiece of the plot. Both Hepburn and Kelly had already earned a Best Actress Oscar by the time she played Tracy Lord, and both were at major turning points in their careers. Hepburn was about to turn around a reputation as “box office poison” with her first major hit in years  and go on to dominate the movie industry, and Kelly was about to leave the business entirely. It was just after wrapping High Society that she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and took a permanent hiatus from show business to be his Princess, cementing her status as a permanent object of public fascination both onscreen and off.
 
THE RECYCLED LINE:  “Put me in your pocket, Mike”
Home team’s line reading: (Skip to 2:37)

Katharine Hepburn is in fine form in this movie, and this is arguably her best scene in the film. Her proud, refined Tracy Lord, quick with a barb and quicker with a comeback, is now rip-roaringly drunk, with all sorts of amusing consequences. Her “Put me in your pocket, Mike,” to Jimmy Stewart, is just the right blend of plaintive, seductive, and something-only-a-drunk-person-would-say.
Quotable? Certainly, though it has fierce competition from the rest of the Oscar-winning screenplay.
Challenger’s line reading: (Start at 3:23)
A fun performance from the very picture of an ice-queen socialite, Grace Kelly’s version of Tracy is certainly very charming and always easy on the eyes. However, even in what should be her most vulnerable moment she never completely loosens up. She’s so cool and refined even when plastered that the whole scene, down to the line that caps it off, just never packs the same punch.
Who wins?
Hepburn, handily. She executes a tricky balancing act in this scene, seamlessly blending girlish enthusiasm, desperate vulnerability, sly sexuality, and comic drunkenness. Kelly never stood a chance. Hepburn had an ace in the hole: the part was written for her. Playwright Philip Barry created Tracy Lord to perfectly sync with Hepburn’s particular strengths as an actress. She originated the role on Broadway to enormous commercial success, and took up the rights to a movie version in order to ensure that no studio head could try and give that role to anyone else. A smart business decision on her part, and huge gift to movie lovers everywhere. Apologies to Miss Kelly, but it’s Hepburn remains the queen of high society.
Which performance do you prefer?
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BRB @ AFI

Hello Recyclers,

No post this week. I’m attending AFI Fest with Nathaniel from The Film Experience. I’ll be writing reviews of everything I see and do for TFE this week, so be sure to check it out for all of your Oscar Buzz and Hollywood glamor!

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