While Atlanta burned,
Scarlett dreamed of her Ashley
And Rhett gave no damns.
As I posted the other day, I was working hard on a short haiku style poem for Gone With the Wind. As difficult as it was to capture the story of this nearly four hour long film in 17 syllables, I think I did OK. Let me know your thoughts on "1864" in the comments below.
While Atlanta burned,
Scarlett dreamed of her Ashley
And Rhett gave no damns.
Way back when I first conceived of this project, there was one poem where I knew how I wanted to approach it. Today you get a little of the story behind that poem.
Missing a Classic
You might be surprised that someone who claims to be a huge film buff had never seen one of the most iconic and well-known films of all time, but it's true. I made it into my mid-30s before actually sitting down to watch Gone With the Wind from beginning to end. There had certainly been moments of catching a few scenes on TV throughout the years, but to devote nearly 4 hours of my life to watching the film...it just never happened.
Then I was at the local library about a week ago browsing through the Blu-Ray shelf and happened upon the 70th anniversary edition of the film and figured, why not? It was Labor Day weekend and even with three kids in the house, I might be able to throw it in after they were in bed.
It turns out that watching a four hour movie is not easily done in one sitting. In fact, it took me three days to finish the entire thing. I managed to make it to Intermission on the first night, and to Scarlett and Rhett's honeymoon on the second, finally getting to see Rhett's famous exit line in context on night three.
I don't have the time to offer a full review here, especially since it would only be buried in the mountain of reviews that have been written about this film over the past 75 years. What I do have is the workings of a new poem based on the film.
As I noted above, I always knew how I wanted to write a poem based on this film. In a word: haiku. Gone With the Wind is the longest film to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture and I wanted to challenge myself to capture the essence of the story in the shortest form of poetry I'm aware of.
Now I know that I could write a poem that's even shorter than a three line haiku, but I wanted to stick with a recognized structure. That will make this the shortest poem in my series, lining up with the longest film that is part of the project.
So this post is a bit story, and a bit preview of what I will be posting within the week. I have a few rough outlines of what the poem will look like, but it's not quite ready for prime time yet. As soon as it is, you will see it here.
I have to admit, I've been trying to write this post for a while, and just never finding the right words.
For anyone who knows me, the past five months have been crazy with a new addition to my family which is part of the reason why I haven't been posting here regularly. But now that kids are back in school and things are a bit more settled at home, I think it's time to resume.
A Side Quest
You've probably noted that the original plan for my quest here was to write a poem for every Best Picture Oscar winner and it has proven difficult as the inspiration comes and goes. Which is why I have embarked on a side quest (you know every great video game has those) to watch every Oscar nominee from this past year.
As of today, I have seen 48 out of the 62 films nominated for the most recent Academy Awards. That amounts to 77% of the total films and I have seen all films in 10 out of the 24 categories awarded.
Along with this side quest, I also had some new ideas of things to do to bring you dear reader along with me on the journey. One of the ideas I had was to build out some online courses to guide readers through the process of watching all of the films in a given category and discussing them in some manner.
More to come on this as my plans continue to evolve. I think I may start with a short course on watching all of the Best Picture nominees from this past year and determine if there is a desire for people to participate.
If you are interested in participating in this experiment, drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recently wrote a pretty lengthy post about which films I thought would win in each of the categories at the Academy Awards this year. Anyone who checked out that post knows that I predicted terribly. I only predicted six categories successfully, a grade of merely 25%...so I failed…BIG TIME!
That’s OK though. I was honest and up front about the fact that I had only seen a handful of the films (something I’m working to rectify right now as many of them are being released on DVD and Blu Ray) and was thus basing many of my predictions on trailers and word of mouth from people who HAVE seen the films.
This Isn’t About the Oscars
It’s not about my failure at predicting the Oscars either. This post is an analysis of some of the animated films that were nominated in the Animated Feature Film category this year, and why I should have trusted my gut when selecting that category.
To review, I picked Moana as the Best Animated Feature Film this year while the award went to Zootopia.
In the end, I think that the Academy made the right choice, again with the caveat that I haven’t seen the other three nominees. But given the choice between these two films, I would now pick Zootopia in a heartbeat.
I wrote last month that I felt Moana would win on the stunning visuals alone, and stunning they are. Thanks to my kids, I’ve seen the film at least a half dozen times in the two weeks since it was released, and every time I pick out a new amazing image and I continue to be amazed by the visual accuracy they can portray with things like water, lava, smoke, and even hair, all of which are extremely difficult to mimic using a computer.
Speaking of my kids, they may have swayed my vote a bit. Obviously, Moana is the more recent of these two films and the one they talk about more. My daughter got a Moana doll for Christmas and they have been listening to the music non-stop since they first saw the film three months ago. So, Moana was in my consciousness more than Zootopia.
And the music…oh that music. I am a huge fan of the Moana soundtrack and tip my hat to Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa'i for putting together an amazing set of musical accompaniment. It gets in your head and stays there for days, leaving those three to simply say “You’re Welcome.”
Even with the stunning visual appeal of the film, there is a bit of a disconnect in some aspects. One of the catchiest songs, “Shiny”, is also the one that feels the most out of place in the film. This scene, along with one where Moana and Maui are attacked by vicious coconut pirates called Kakamora (yes, I said coconut pirates) take me out of the film too much. We get similar montage song moments in Frozen (“In Summer” and “Love Is an Open Door”), Tangled (“When Will My Life Begin?” and “Mother Knows Best”), and even back to Aladdin (“Friend Like Me”) and Beauty and the Beast (“Be Our Guest”). The songs I’ve called out here are all examples of Disney creators flashing their animation skills in wild fantasies that don’t have a real place in the world of the story. Yes, maybe the Genie can conjure up all the things he talks about in “Friend Like Me”, but the dishes probably can’t spontaneously put on the production they do in “Be Our Guest” and Olaf certainly doesn’t actually GO to summer when he sings “In Summer.”
But for some reason, I can ignore these breaks in continuity in all those other films, but not as much in Moana. In fact, there are two songs in Moana that I do let slide in this same way, “Where You Are” which shows the inner workings of the village, and the ever popular “You’re Welcome”. While Maui’s pop/rap riff is his only singing highlight of the film, it does resurface throughout the remainder of the story in key spots. It also departs visually from the rest of the film, but in a way that is very reminiscent of “Friend Like Me”. Interestingly, the directors of Moana also did Aladdin 25 years ago.
So why does “Shiny” rub the wrong way so much? I honestly don’t know. The style of the music feels much different than anything else on the soundtrack, almost more like a country rock song than something that fits in the island culture of the film. Add to this that the last phrase of the song is accompanied by the singing crab character getting a sudden psychedelic glowing paint job, it just takes things too far off the rails for my liking.
There is also little to connect “Shiny” and the Kakamora scene to the rest of the story. It is explained at the very beginning of the film that all these creatures want to Heart of Ta Fiti for themselves, but doesn’t everyone want the power to create life? When the Kakamora attack, they don’t speak, only making faces with paint on their shells. We are left to pick up the pieces of the story from Maui as he tells us what they’re after.
I think the big problem I have with both scenes is that they rely on telling the story much more so than showing it. The characters they highlight are seen fleetingly at the beginning, but so quickly that I honestly had to go back and watch the opening scene several times to catch them both. If there had been a longer chase involved with the Kakamora where they picked up the trail of Moana when she meets Maui, then they manage to flee the Kakamora only to run straight into the crab, these scenes would have felt much more connected, almost like Odysseus avoiding Scylla only to get too close to Charybdis.
In the end, I feel like Moana relies too heavily on the music (which is fantastic) and the visuals, but went soft on the actual story that lies beneath those beautiful surface elements. The story itself is OK, but thinking back, it falls in line with many of the other Disney princess stories where they go on some sort of discovery journey and come out changed at the end, either proving things to themselves or to others. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Yes, Moana learns to sail from Maui. Yes, she restores the Heart of Te Fiti and brings abundance back to her people. Yes, she becomes chief and leads her people out to the ocean in a return to their earlier traditions. But it all feels wrapped up I such a nice neat little bow.
Zootopia, on the other hand, tackles some much bigger world issues than one girl finding her purpose. First, some similarities (AND SPOILERS). We again have a young female character (Judy Hopps, albeit a rabbit this time), who is determined to achieve more than people expect of her. She goes on a journey, is told “no” by her main authority figure (Police Chief Bogo), meets an unlikely friend (Nick Wilde) who leaves before she can complete her journey, only to return at the very end when she truly needs him, and finally she does succeed in the end, redeeming Nick and setting things right with the world.
So, where are the differences? Those come in the issues.
The world of Zootopia is one where predator and prey live side by side in harmony. Yet, even with this idealistic society in place, there is an undercurrent of mistrust and even racism between the two types of mammals. The film even uses the word “savage” to explain what happens when a predator reverts to basic animal instincts that we all learned in high school biology.
Beyond these obvious elements, there is an undercurrent of political corruption at the highest levels of the city government, not just the mayor who is covering up the animals that have “gone savage” in his own interests (he’s a lion after all) but the assistant mayor (a sheep) who’s behind the entire plot to drive a wedge between predator and prey and take over the mayor’s office for herself. There are layers in this story that go well beyond anything you can find in Moana.
And I haven’t even gotten to the deep characters that exist. The one that jumps out the most is Nick Wilde. We first meet him as a down on his luck dad, trying to get a jumbo pop from an elephant ice cream parlor for his son. Of course, his character soon changes tone as we see him and his “son” melting the jumbo pop down to form smaller popsicles that he can then sell to lemmings leaving work, collect the popsicle sticks which he also then delivers to a rodent construction site. When Hopps confronts him about his “illegal activities,” he presents all the appropriate documentation and plasters a smug grin on his face as he tells Hopps, “It’s called a hustle, sweetheart.”
We can see that Nick is incredibly smart, resourceful and has a sarcastic streak. What we don’t get until later in the film is that he has never been trusted simply because he’s a fox. We get a flashback to when he was a boy and wanted to be in the Zootopia equivalent of boy scout. His pride at being a part of the Junior Rangers is quickly dashed when the other Rangers try to muzzle him as part of his “initiation”. Seeing this troubled past, along with the ultimate turn back to trustworthiness as a police officer in the closing scene, gives Nick’s character a well-defined arc throughout the film.
The other key takeaway from Zootopia is that at the core, it is a very well designed crime drama. As noted above, there is corruption in the government, a police chief who only wants to do things the way he’s always done them (without rabbits in his force) and of course there is the adorably cute shrew crime boss, Mr. Big. When you see Zootopia for the first time, it unfolds in such a way that you might not know the identity of the true nemesis until the characters on screen do. I admit that I only figured it out a minute or two before the reveal during my first viewing.
In my final analysis, I think that the Academy got it right. As an overall film, an piece of art that tells a story, Zootopia is the better piece. If you’re looking for amazing visuals, I could still lean toward Moana, however there are plenty of stunning visuals in Zootopia too. But looking at it through that lens would be like comparing Castaway to Lethal Weapon. (I only pick those for loose comparisons, island movie and buddy cop movie, so don’t over analyze that)
I look at it like this, if you recreated the two films side by side as live action, keeping all other elements the same, I could definitely see Zootopia getting a Best Picture nomination before Moana. In fact, when I first saw it, I told my wife not to be surprised if Zootopia was nominated for Best Picture this year.
Let me know your thoughts. If you think I’m wrong, tell me why in the comments below. I’m open to other interpretations and I may have missed something in Moana that could vault it back ahead of Zootopia.
The Oscars are tonight and I thought what better way to prepare than to do a little predicting of my own. This comes with a big caveat that I have not seen most of the films nominated this year, something I hope to remedy in future years. That being said, here are my predictions, delivered in the order of last year's show. If you want to play along, check out all the nominees.
One other note, I've included a crowd-sourced prediction for eight categories based on information from HSX, an online "movie stock" game which has an excellent track record of predicting winners in past years. By the looks of it, I'm in trouble since my predictions only agree on two of the eight.
Best Original Screenplay
Manchester by the Sea
I have heard many great things about this film and I think it will be one of the multiple winners at the Oscar ceremony tonight.
HSX Prediction: Manchester by the Sea (close runner up La La Land)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Initially I thought Lion might take home a few prizes tonight, but after going back over my list I think this may be the only win on the night. Again, I haven't seen any of the nominated films in this category so I'm going in a bit blind.
HSX Prediction: Moonlight
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis, Fences
Minor spoiler alert, but this choice is based somewhat on who I have NOT winning Best Actor below. I think this will likely be the only win for Fences on the evening.
HSX Prediction: Viola Davis, Fences
Best Costume Design
La La Land
As usual, all of the films in this category are "period pieces," as long as you consider Fantastic Beasts a period piece since it's set earlier in the 20th century. If Fantastic Beasts is to win anything I could see it coming here, but feel that La La Land will start taking the lead for most wins on the night with a win here.
Best Production Design
When you only have a handful of actors to fill the screen, it's increasingly important to design the film well around them and that is no more evident than in Passengers. This is an area where science fiction or fantasy films can shine, note some recent winners such as Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. And while I could see this going to Arrival or Fantastic Beasts, this is the only nomination for Passengers.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Star Trek Beyond
With only three films in this category it should be easier to pick from a smaller list. I will admit this is somewhat of a fan pick, but I do think that the makeup design for this Star Trek film was great, even placing it up there among some of the other recent Trek installments.
Here is another area where I don't have a lot of direct evidence to go on other than what I've seen in trailers, but the sweeping storytelling of Silence shines through even there.
Best Film Editing
Thinking that Arrival probably will not win much, I could see a lone win coming here. Hacksaw Ridge would be another great option as war films sometimes win here.
Best Sound Editing
Recent trends see this category often going to war and/or disaster films (see American Sniper, Gravity, and Zero Dark Thirty) and I can see that continuing this year with one win for Deepwater Horizon. As a second option, I could certainly see this going to Hacksaw Ridge for the same reason, but feel like that has a better chance to win in some other categories.
Best Sound Mixing
La La Land
Here is another area where I can't see giving this sound award to something other than the musical in the bunch. I would of course prefer to see this go to one of my science fiction films (Rogue One or Arrival) and I could see Rogue One receiving this if things fall right. That being said, my money is on La La Land.
Best Visual Effects
I saw two of the films nominated in this category (The Jungle Book and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and while ten years ago I would have blindly voted with my Star Wars fandom, I am trying to look at this as objectively as possible. I haven't seen Doctor Strange yet, but given what I've heard from friends and seen in trailers, I would be hard pressed to give this award to another film. Rogue One has some fantastic visual effects, and The Jungle Book seamlessly blends jungle animals on the screen next to Mowgli, but I don't think either of them come close to what I've seen from Doctor Strange. I would not be surprised to hear that The Jungle Book wins here, but still see that as a big long shot.
Best Animated Short Film
This one is really tough for me. I sat down last night and actually watched four of the five nominees in this category (YouTube links are below). My initial leaning was to "Piper" since it was the only one I'd seen of the bunch. However, upon seeing most of the films (except "Pear Cider and Cigarettes") I had a very hard time narrowing down my choice. "Piper" looks extraordinary. It feels so real and even the cartoony elements have an amazing realism, and the title character is REALLY DAMN CUTE! The concept of the story behind "Blind Vaysha" is astounding and something I never would have thought of in a million years. Go check it out for yourself. "Pearl" is another piece of ingenuity, I believe the first 360 degree immersive film to be nominated for an Academy Award. However, it's not just a gimmick to watch the film with 3D goggles on your face. There is a truly moving story behind it at well. Finally, "Borrowed Time" is a very moving story of loss and grief. It has a realism that matches "Piper" but a much deeper story.
In the end I decided to go with "Borrowed Time" over "Blind Vaysha" because it adheres to the age-old story-telling rule of "show, don't tell." While the concept behind "Blind Vaysha" vaults it above the pack, it leans too much on a voice over narrative to tell the story where "Borrowed Time" has only a few words spoken by the characters and no narration necessary to get the point across.
Best Animated Feature
The only film of this bunch I've see this year is Zootopia and while I feel it is an outstanding film, I don't think it could hold up to Moana and possibly even Kubo and the Two Strings. In the end my vote goes to Moana simply for the visuals that it provides. Disney will start to gain some more ground on the folks at Pixar with another win in this category this year.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
This is one there I'm coming almost blind as well. I've heard many "experts" indicate that Shannon is their favorite for this category so I will go along with that.
HSX Prediction: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Best Documentary Short Subject
"The White Helmets"
With two films focusing on various parts of the ongoing issues in Syria, I have a feeling that one of the two will win. I decided to go with "The White Helmets" over "Watani: My Homeland."
Best Documentary Feature
O.J.: Made in America
I just started watching this one recently and have to say I'm impressed. For all of the news coverage of the O.J. trial at the time, I'm somewhat amazed that we can still get new approaches to the story but this film seems to do just that. I'm hoping that my early opinion doesn't change once I finish it, but I have a strong feeling that this will take home the prize here.
Best Live-Action Short Film
I ran out of time to watch any of these films so this one is a complete shot in the dark. We'll go with "Silent Nights."
Best Foreign Language Film
I don't know much about the films here, but have heard a bit about The Salesman from Iran. As an English major, I like the idea of making a film about a production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. I find it interesting how other cultures adapt and adjust the "classic" English literature.
Best Original Song
"How Far I'll Go," Moana
I think tonight will mark the completion of the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) for Lin-Manuel Miranda when he wins Best Song for his contribution to the Moana soundtrack. My own kids are in love with this song and I personally don't even think this is the best song on the soundtrack album.
Best Original Score
La La Land
How can you give the Oscar for best original score to any other film on a night when there is a movie musical in the running. I know some folks have been lukewarm on La La Land overall, but I can't see anyone else taking this prize home tonight.
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Unfortunately I feel that this will be the only award for Hacksaw Ridge this evening. Gibson has long made a name for himself as a leading man in Hollywood, but it seems like directing may be where he ultimately earns the accolades from his peers. If Gibson does not win for directing, I would not be surprised to see this award go to Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea.
HSX Prediction: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Natalie Portman, Jackie
I've heard tepid reviews of the film itself, but very little criticism of Portman's portrayal of the title character. Meryl Streep is the only other woman in this category that has received an Oscar before, so it could very well go to a newcomer, but I feel like Portman will receive her second win this evening.
HSX Prediction: Emma Stone, La La Land
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
I have a feeling Washington will not receive his second Best Actor nod this evening but it will instead go to either Gosling or Affleck. With this being Gosling's second nomination, I feel like it could be his time here.
HSX Prediction: Denzel Washington, Fences
Manchester by the Sea
I don't see as big a runaway as many pundits have predicted for La La Land. It will definitely take home several awards this evening, but I don't think it will land the top prize. As you can see from the HSX prediction below, I may be completely off here, but everything I've heard about Manchester by the Sea is wonderful. Additionally, you have to go back to the 1960s to find the last musicals to win the top award (The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story). As many people as I've heard say La La Land will win, I just don't see it and am opting for Manchester instead.
HSX Prediction: La La Land
Note: All links to film titles in this post are affiliate links to Amazon. If you purchase through those links (at no extra cost to you), a small percentage will come back to help Film Poems stay active. Thank you in advance for your support.
That being said, I completely enjoyed every moment of this film and it entirely lived up to my expectations based on early trailers, and from reading the book. I have been in love with the concept of humans traveling to Mars since as early as I can remember. I devoured Ben Bova's book Mars at a young age and hoped that The Martian would capture the same sense of wonder as that book did.
I will start this review by saying that this is not the type of film to which I normally migrate. My typical favorites fall in the science fiction, action and fantasy realm so something with lots of folks talking for extended periods can be tough for me. That being said, i truly enjoyed this film.
I immediately found a personal connection to this film just based on the type of story it tells. Much like Eilis, the young girl leaving Ireland for America, my father left his native Norway at a young age to come to school in America. The timing for his arrival would have mirrored that of the film so I enjoyed being able to see what he may have encountered when he arrived in this country. It made me truly appreciate what a struggle it was for someone to leave, spending days on a boat crossing the ocean with no immediate way to call home. There was no Skype, texting, email, etc. so you truly were cut off from your family back home and this film captures that dramatically.
Despite the connection I had, the early part of the film was a bit slow for me. Much of the first half is used to set up the conflict of the second half of the film when Eilis is called home by the death of a family member. The young man she meets in Brooklyn doesn't want her to return home to Ireland, but understands that she must take care of things with her family. When she returns to Ireland, she starts to fall for a local Irish boy and the personal conflict arrives front and center.
Overall, the acting in this film is top notch. With thick Irish accents and some wonderful Brooklyn accents, you truly feel like you are in this world. The subtle references to the (at the time) Brooklyn Dodgers vs. New York Yankees rivalry helps place the events in time along with the attention to detail of the fashion of the day. When Eilis first goes to Coney Island, her lady friends help her select an appropriate "beach outfit." Upon her return to Ireland, her friends are amazed at the bathing suit she dons for a beach date on the other side of the Atlantic.
My last note about the acting is that I was happy to see young Domhnall Gleeson in a more dramatic role that was refreshingly different from his turns as Bill Weasley in the final two Harry Potter films and General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
If you are looking for a departure from typical "Hollywood" films, I highly recommend Brooklyn. Be patient with it as it does start a little slowly, but trust that you will feel Eilis' anxiety in the second half.
In preparation for the Oscars ceremony that is now just a little over two weeks away, I put together a quick timeline infographic about the awards.
I know I learned some things in putting this together. Hopefully you learned something too!
Don't forget to watch the Academy Awards ceremony live on February 26th, 2017!
Back when I originally started this project, I planned on doing all of the Best Picture winners in order of their release and subsequent Oscar win. This poem deviates from that plan a bit, but only by a few years.
If you want to skip the rambling below, you can check out the new poem "Jericho" right now.
It Happened One Night (Amazon Affiliate link) is largely considered one of Frank Capra's greatest films and was the first film to win all five major Academy Awards. It has been referenced numerous times throughout film and television and has even spawned remakes in countries including Pakistan and India.
My Relationship With the Film
I first encountered this film as a student in English department at SUNY Brockport back over a decade ago. I had decided to take on a Film Studies minor to broaden my horizons a bit and this film showed up in the syllabus for the first class I took as an overview of film history.
I don't think I truly appreciated the film for what it was when I watched it back then. When I look back on it now and place it in the context of the mid-1930s when it was produced, I'm a bit surprised by what Capra was able to get away with. That being said, this was one of the last films of that era that WAS able to get away with those things before the Production Code started being enforced in Hollywood.
On to Jericho
If you've seen the film, the title of this new poem will probably be a very obvious reference back to the film. It was the biggest recurring element of the film that I could pull out and the one piece that stuck in my head as I was writing the poem.
As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I wanted to take some additional time with the poems moving forward and allowed myself to do that with this poem. I took my usual first pass where I just write from the gut and let the words spill out onto the page. With this poem, I took time to read back through it and re-write things a bit to not only sharpen the poem itself, but add some additional little reference hidden throughout.
I'm also trying a different approach in terms of posting the poems here on the blog like I have with other poems in the project so far. If you've read this far, thank you for indulging my ramblings.
Check out "Jericho" now and happy reading!
Don't worry...there is a poem coming. There are actually two poems coming within the next week.
I know what you're saying, I disappeared for seven months, came back to say I was here again, and then disappeared after one post. But that's not the case, I promise!
One of the things I promised myself when I restarted this project a few weeks back was to spend more time on the poems themselves. I had the entire process a bit backwards before, spending many hours (sometimes up to 10-15) reading source material followed by roughly 2 hours on each film. After I had put all that time in, I allowed myself to finish by ripping off the poems in just a half hour or so.
I say this not to brag, but to hang my head a bit. I was approaching it as a college student who has an assignment due the next day and writes 500 words for the 500 word essay and calls it done, rather than writing the 750 words that were truly necessary to say what needs to be said. I was being lazy. I was writing my poems and hitting publish right away without letting them simmer.
So this is an additional promise that I'm making today, the poems that I write for this project from now on will have more thought behind them. I am striving to create better poetry and to craft insightful pieces that can both stand alongside the masterpieces of film that inspire them, but also stand on their own.
Let me be honest...I wasn't sure I would ever return to this project. Looking back at the last posts from October of last year, I realized that I had a chance to get this moving again in a slightly different way and still accomplish the original goal.
The Library as Motivation
I was at the local library the other day and decided to see how many of the 1930s Best Picture winners I could find on the shelves. I pulled up my trusty list that is still where I left it on Wikipedia. I scrolled through the titles that won the award between 1930 and 1939 and was able to find half of them on the shelf. So I checked them all out!
Now, am I honestly going to watch five films in the next week (the normal check out period for DVDs) and write five poems to go along with them soon after? Probably not. But at least I have them in my hand and I have the opportunity to move on with the project.
What I'm NOT Doing
When I tackled this project last year, I added an unnecessary layer of complexity buy trying to read all of the source material (novels, short stories, plays) that inspired the films on this list. I realize now that taking on something of that magnitude was beyond what I have time for in my busy life. So, while I would love to be able to sit around all day and read those books, then watch the films in the evening, I can't. I wrote a bit more about this in one of last year's last blog posts.
So I hope you join me on this adventure. Share your thoughts on the films. I'll re-post some of the lists that I put up last year when I was just starting to get back in the groove. Thanks!
When I first started this blog, I mentioned that I enjoyed the work of Chris Guillebeau. I continue to read his blog on a regular basis and came across an inspiring article a few weeks back that I had to share.
Each week Chris publishes a profile of someone who is on a quest. It can be anything from SCUBA diving in all 50 states to writing a new haiku every day for a year. Some quests may seem small, others large in scope, but one thing that they all have in common is that they are personal. Each quest is a reflection of the person performing it and oftentimes, the questers learn something about themselves that they never expected when they began.
Well, I finally decided to admit it...I bit off more than I could chew with this project.
Don't worry, it's still going to happen. I am still going to write poems based on and inspired by all of the Best Picture Oscar winners, but I'm going to allow myself a little more room to work.
When I sat down the other day to think about what I had set out to do, I realized that one poem per week was much too ambitious and I had become disillusioned with myself because I had fallen a bit behind. I threw up my hands and said "Forget about it! It's never going to happen."
Then I got to thinking. Instead of giving up on the project (which had received great support at the beginning) I needed to re-frame my own expectations of what the project would be.
Once this round is done I have two additional sets of films lined up that I want to tackle. One is going to be a Director Series which will go through and view all films by an individual director. The other will be the Foreign Film Series which will take a look at the best films from certain countries or regions. This will surely be a more subjective listing of films, but I want to make sure to include all types. Some other series I am considering are Genre focused or Actor focused.
If you can think of any other lists that I'm neglecting or find lists of great films around the internet, post a comment below.
Last week I posted a poem inspired by Minions. You can read that here if you haven't already (P.S. I finally decided on a title). Today I give you a new poem inspired by Inside Out. If you didn't read my post about our trip to the drive-in, you might want to look over my thoughts of both films before reading the poems.
There are fewer spoilers in this poem than last week's, but if you're intent on seeing the film and don't want to know anything, you probably should wait and see it first before reading any further.
Our essence, the core of our being,
is ever changing.
Sometimes for ill,
other times for good,
but never is it static.
New memories can shape and alter old
just as the old will color the new.
Emotions will change their power,
some pushing to the surface
while others recede away.
Yet all are as important as the others.
For without sadness, joy becomes mundane.
Fear can lead to sadness, disgust can lead to anger.
All are intertwined together,
A complex knot that cannot be undone.
It's what's on the inside that matters most.
Copyright © 2015 Jonathan Ytreberg
Yellow and pill shaped they long for a master.
Someone to keep them and their capers from falling into disaster.
They toil away for eons before landing ashore in a new land of York.
Long before they became despicable, they followed the Overkill in red.
Overkill this is for long have we yearned to understand
what guides these little yellow men(?)
and followed this story in hopes of finding
that long searched for answer.
But...no answers will you find here.
If you can tell me what they say,
more power to you.
Bee do po-ka hana papoi!
God love them anyway.
Let me first say that I can understand why these places are a dying breed in this country, but also why there are a few left standing that will hopefully be around for a long time to come. It was a truly unique experience, sitting in the back of our minivan, blankets and pillows laid out while we munched on popcorn and candy through a wonderful kid-friendly double feature (Minions and Inside Out). When we first arrived, it was still a little light out and being a warm evening, the bugs were out, not something you usually have to worry about at Regal or Cinemark. Fortunately the evening cooled off and by the time the second movie came on, the bugs had all left (along with a third of the audience).
We worried a bit about having our two little ones out so late at night (Inside Out didn't start until almost 11:00 PM) but decided to give it a try anyway. The beautiful thing about the double feature is that if you don't like one movie, there's a chance you'll love the second.
This was exactly how it was with these two films last weekend. It's not that any of us disliked Minions. There is plenty of room in the world for the little yellow guys to do their version of slapstick, complete with grade school butt/fart jokes. But if I'm being perfectly honest, the minions are getting a little tired. They were cute in the first Despicable Me movie, with their nearly unintelligible "language," but when the entire movie focuses on characters you can't understand, it's harder to love them like I once did.
Was it a good film? No. Was it a fun "movie" to watch? Yes. We all laughed at the right places and it was fun to see how the creators placed this film in the overall story of the Despicable Me films.
Now Inside Out, this was a film on another level altogether. I'm usually not one to make bold predictions, but I would not be surprised if you hear Inside Out announced as the winner of the Best Animated Feature Award at the Oscars next February. I know it will never happen, but I would love to see this film nominated as a potential Best Picture as well.
While the Minions concept felt a little old and worn out, the idea behind Inside Out was fresh and new and was approached in an incredibly innovative fashion. I really shouldn't be surprised by this as the team at Pixar continues to crank out some of the greatest animated films of this generation (see Toy Story, WALL-E, Up and Finding Nemo). If you've seen the trailers for the film, you get the basic premise. Those short glimpses don't do the film justice however, and you really need to see it to fully appreciate the thought and effort that went into putting together an incredible, emotion filled story. (Sorry, couldn't resist)
Why Drive In?
Let me finish by saying that as much as I loved the experience of doing these films together and I'm glad it was something I could share with my kids, I can't say that I would go to the drive in for most other types of movies. I love action films and science fiction. Those are the types of films where I want the full sound and image experience. I want the thousands of watts of sound or an IMAX experience to immerse me in the world I'm watching. I wouldn't get that with a car stereo or portable radio brought to the drive in.
So what's the point?
The point is to spend time with your family. We made an event out of this excursion. The theater was a little over a half hour from home and we passed by probably a half dozen multiplexes that would have been closer. But the kids are still talking about it a week later and asked on the way home if we could do it again.
My wife and I are already looking at the coming attractions to see if there is another double feature they will like before the summer is over. We want them to remember the times of laying in the back of the van at the movies and hopefully pass this tradition along to their own children some day.
The Short Film!
One last thing. How could I forget to mention the obligatory Pixar short film that accompanied Inside Out? Honestly I did forget it until I was doing a Google search of all the Pixar films for an earlier part of the article. As is par for the course with them, the short film "Lava" perfectly set up the feature to follow. I looked around on YouTube for a full version of it, but couldn't find one. There is however a first look below which should give you an idea of how stunningly beautiful this short is.
This was the first film adaptation of a novel (of the same name) to win the Oscar for Best Picture and it would set a precedent for this going forward as almost 75% of all Best Picture winners to date have been based on a book, short story, magazine article or stage production. These range from Shakespearean classics such as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet (West Side Story) to lesser known short stories like "Night Bus" (It Happened One Night).
One other trend that I want to mention as it will likely come up throughout this project is the subject of war. All Quiet on the Western Front shows the horrors of war as people of the day knew it. World War I (or The Great War) was a fresh memory and the world had not yet seen the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust that was to come a decade later. It is hard to watch this film and not be affected by the story of young Paul as he leaves school to fight for the Fatherland with his friends.
And now, "What Good is War?"
What Good is War?
Good for killing young men
those primed to enter society,
pumped full of knowledge,
eager to make a difference,
then plunged head first in a ditch
to stare blankly across the open plain
past the wired at men just like them,
only speaking in a different tongue.
Good for creating rubble by the ton
as the bombs fall in towns
long emptied of their inhabitants
yet filled with men sent
only to kill and create more
rubble in a mirror town
across the line.
Good for filling the bellies
of survivors, for when one man
falls, his brothers that live
share the spoils of his absence.
Good for creating quick inheritance,
for the man with only one leg
no longer needs two boots, but his
comrade on the line can use them well...
until he too become separated from leg...or life.
Good for training men to march
in lines neat and organized,
the better to be forgotten when
charging helter skelter over
"no man's land."
Good for brewing despair overnight,
causing fresh young minds to
turn to madness and run blindly
toward death rather than stay
still and hope for salvation.
Good for warping time, making
every day seem as a year,
every night as a century.
Good for learning to kill or be killed.
Good for forgetting home and family.
Good for settling disputes of men
who never picked up a gun or
set foot on the field of battle.
Good for dying.
Copyright © 2015 Jonathan Ytreberg
Jonathan Ytreberg is a writer and poet with a lifelong love of films. This project is aimed at combining those loves and creating something that lasts at the same time.