Happy Anniversary, Nellie Forbush and Gigi

South Pacific

March 19 marked the 60th anniversary of the New York premiere at the Criterion Theatre of the film version of Rodger and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, which debuted on Broadway in 1949.  It was one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Big 5,” whose other members were Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I, and The Sound of Music.  Like Oklahoma!, South Pacific differed from traditional musical theater in its emphasis on story, even a hard-edged story.  Racism was at the core as sailors, soldiers airmen, and nurses island-hopping across the Pacific toward Japan encountered and interacted with indigenous peoples or, in the case of American nurse Nellie Forbush (Mitzi Gaynor), expatriate French planter Emile (Rossano Brazzi, his singing voice dubbed by Ezio Pinza, Broadway’s Emile) who’d fathered children with a Polynesian woman, and Lieutenant Cable (John Kerr), who romanced Liat (France Nuyen).

The public made the film the highest grosser of the year.  Unsurprisingly, critics, who rarely complimented Broadway director Joshua Logan’s films, belittled South Pacific.  Complaints ranged from casting Gaynor as Nellie rather than, say, Mary Martin from the stage play or Judy Garland, to the curious color palette developed by Logan and 20th Century-Fox’s “house cinematographer” Leon Shamroy.  Shamroy had helped develop CinemaScope and photographed The Robe (1953), the first movie in the process.  Logan hated Technicolor and did not want to make a film that looked like a picture postcard.  He took a still photographer’s advice to “Use filters, overexposure, shoot through a Navajo blanket or a Spanish shawl.  Anything!  Just don’t make it look as though you could turn it over and find written, ‘Having wonderful time in colorful Tahiti—wish you were here.’”  Taking the advice, Logan “thereby made one of the major mistakes of my career.”  Nevertheless, in The Musical Film, Douglas McVay complimented the rich score “and some at times slightly bilious but often strangely atmospheric use of colour films,…”

Mitzi Gaynor, who could dance up a storm and sing more than adequately, had been under Fox contract for her most of her career.  That was a mixed blessing as Fox worked in MGM’s shadow in the musical realm, continuing to make backstage musicals rather than create art via spontaneous singing and dancing.  Gaynor did get to do one good MGM musical, Les Girls, but like her work at Fox, it was mostly a backstage affair.

 

Gigi

Like South Pacific, Gigi, which premiered on May 15, 1958 in New York at the Royale Theatre, was a reserved-seat roadshow and a smash hit, taking in $40,000 in advance, mail-order tickets before opening night.  Unlike South Pacific, Gigi was one of the last Hollywood musicals whose score Lerner and Loewe wrote specifically for the screen and included such memorable songs as “The Night They Invented Champagne,” “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” “I Remember It Well,” and “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight.”  Gigi won a record 9 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

There is a relationship between Gigi and 1951’s An American in Paris.  Both were MGM productions, both were directed by Vincente Minnelli, both featured Leslie Caron as the lead femme, both were set in Paris.  Both won the Best Picture Academy Award.  One thing was radically different:  Douglas McVay identified “virtually no dancing (the numbers frequently being shot in long, static takes with the singers sitting down).”

In fact, there wasn’t a tremendous amount of dancing in South Pacific either.  (Of course it’s difficult to dance on sand.)  Nevertheless, dancing or a simulacrum of it was part of “A Wonderful Guy,” “Honey Bun” “A Cockeyed Optimist,” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.”

Sidenote:  In the mid-sixties South Pacific and Gigi were reissued, which was the only way audiences who’d missed them in ‘58 could catch up.  There were no VHS tapes, RedBox, YouTube, streaming, or Turner Classic Movies.

By Kim

References

Holston, Kim.  Movie Roadshows.  2013.

Logan, Joshua.  Movie Stars, Real People and Me.  1978.

McVay, Douglas.  The Musical Film.  1967.

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Mystery Science Theater 3000 season 11

Audiobooksfallen
The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
The First Family by Daniel Palmer
The Fallen by David Baldacci
Noir by Christopher Moore
A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

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New Releases

Moviesgreatest showman
The Greatest Showman
Molly’s Game
All the Money in the World
Phantom Thread
Proud Mary
My Friend Dahmer
The Tribes of Palos Verdes
Scotch: The Story of Whisky
Understanding the Opioid Epidemic
Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds

TV Series
Vice Principals the complete series
The Coroner season 1
Outlander season 3

Musiclookout
Ember by Breaking Benjamin
The Tree of Forgiveness by John Prine
The Lookout by Laura Veirs
Rearview Town by Jason Aldean
PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol 1 by Pentatonix

AudiobooksAfter Anna audio.indd
After Anna by Lisa Scottoline
Macbeth by Jo Nesbo
The Cutting Edge by Jeffery Deaver
Shoot First by Stuart Woods
The Fox Hunt by Mohammed Al Samawi

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Vulture British Period Dramas

I came across this handy guide via Vulture on recent popular British period television dramas organized chronologically (though it does include Versailles, which is about France, but still useful!). Our library has nearly all of these available for rental! You can view the list of what we have here.

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by | April 8, 2018 · 4:00 pm

March Staff Picks

STAFF Picks (1)

Dragana’s Picks

billions.jpgTV Series: Billions

A great soap opera exploring the world of high finance as a separate ecosystem that rules unto itself at the cost of most everyone else. Despite a lack of likable characters, Billions is addictive and highly entertaining. Season 1 released in 2016, Season 2 in 2017, Season 3 coming soon!

Nonfiction DVD: Joan Sutherland – The Complete Bell Telephone Hour Performances, 1961-1968joan sutherland

Opera lovers will find much to enjoy in this Joan Sutherland “Live Greatest Hits” compilation that spans nearly a decade of unrivaled bel canto splendor. Sit back and enjoy this perfect voice singing arias from Tosca, Rigoletto, Norma, Ernani, la Traviata, and more!

Jamie’s Picks

in the gardenAudiobook: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

A fascinating true account of an American ambassador’s front row seat to Hitler’s rise that reads like a movie or novel. Offers valuable insight into not only how Hitler consolidated his power but how the American foreign service failed to stop it.

CD: The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unitnashville sound

An alt-country/rock album that has songs ranging from southern rock anthems to bittersweet duets. Favorite tracks are “Cumberland Gap” and “Molotov.” Isbell shows again that he’s an excellent songwriter.

Jessie’s Picks

unbreakable kimmyTV Series: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

A quirky, lighthearted comedy about a former cult member that moves to NYC. Her optimism and naiveté despite her time in the cult endears her to those around her and to the viewer.

Audiobook: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolverpoisonwood

Dean Robertson does a good job narrating this audiobook and handling its various dialects and accents. Because of that the listener gets to experience the story of a missionary family in the Congo around 1960. The story is told from the perspectives of the four daughters and their mom. This is a powerful book and is one of Barbara Kingsolver’s best.

Kim’s Picks

wicker manMovie: The Wicker Man

The infamous British horror film received accolades after its first and extremely limited 1973 release and is now reckoned a veritable masterpiece.  The story:  a police inspector (Edward Woodward) travels to a remote Scottish island in search of a missing girl.  But is she really missing?  Who is Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) and what strange rites does he practice?  With Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland and cult fave Ingrid Pitt.

Audiobook: Charlie Chaplin: A Brief Life by Peter Ackroydcharlie chaplin

Small but mighty is this 8-disc biography of he who was once the most famous man in the world:  Chaplin, the Cockney raised in poverty whose innate talents in mime, music and acting helped create the world of the cinema.

Mary’s Picks

leap yearMovie: Leap Year

An unlikely pair travel through the Irish countryside in this fun, romantic comedy.

Audiobook: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilberteat pray

A woman’s search to find herself after a nervous breakdown. An uplifting journey that speaks to all of us and truly opens your eyes to the beauty of life.

Stephanie’s Picks

an inconvenientNonfiction DVD: An Inconvenient Sequel

“A decade after An Inconvenient Truth brought climate change into the heart of popular culture comes the follow-up that shows just how close people are to a real energy revolution.”

CD: Love & Hate by Michael Kiwanukalove and hate

Dark, and at times, lonely and sad soul album. Standout tracks are the orchestral 10-minute opener, “Cold Little Heart,” and “Black Man in a White World.”

 

Quoted summaries from catalog.ccls.org.

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Music
Hard Feelings by Blessthefall
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Whole Heart by Passion

Audiobooks
Red Alert by James Patterson and Marshall Karp
To Die But Once by Jacqueline Winspear
I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

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Academy Award Omissions

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is instrumental in restoring and archiving films, but many times its voting members have missed the boat on nominating or awarding films that have become classics and/or were cutting edge.  Also, many a director and performer now viewed as icons received little recognition via wins or nominations.  Emanuel Levy, a chronicler of the Academy, wrote that In Hollywood’s heyday, “The major studios always had the resources and facilities to carry out sophisticated and effective campaigns on behalf of their movies…Not to be forgotten is that the Academy began its existence as a guild-busting company union manipulated by the biggest studio, MGM.”  Furthermore, “For two decades, the Academy was controlled by the big studios, with nominations dominated by a few powerful cliques within the studios.”

Examples of oversights and omissions through the years:

Major stars who never won a Best Actress or Actor Award:  Deborah Kerr (6 nominations—and should have had a 7th for The Innocents), Cary Grant (2 nominations; rumor has it his freelance success perturbed the studios), Peter O’Toole (8 nominations), Richard Burton (7 nominations), Barbara Stanwyck (4 nominations), Rosalind Russell (4 nominations), Kirk Douglas (3 nominations).  To absolve the Academy of some blame it should be remembered that in the past competition was incredibly stiff.  How else can we explain Burton and O’Toole, for instance, never winning, Richard Widmark’s sole nomination coming for his first screen appearance in 1947’s Kiss of Death, and Glenn Ford never being nominated.

Fredric March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and Wallace Beery (The Champ) tied for Best Actor of 1932.  Because they were within 3 votes of each other, the tie was “legal.”  Nevertheless, rumor persists that MGM, which produced The Champ, used its leverage to make this category a tie.

King Kong (1933) received no nominations.  (Special Effects wasn’t yet a category.)citizen kane

Alfred Hitchcock received 5 Best Director nominations but never won.  Vertigo (1958), now deemed one of the all-time greatest American films, sometimes given pride of place, was not nominated.

Citizen Kane (1941) did not win Best Picture.  How Green Was My Valley did.  Levy  observed, “There is no doubt that Citizen Kanes cinematic merits were not sufficiently recognized at the time,…its innovations were revolutionary, well ahead of their time.”

James Stewart didn’t win for his tour-de-force performance in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), but the following year took home the statuette for The Philadelphia Story (1940).  It seems as if Academy voters were atoning for an oversight.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s majestic score for Kings Row (1942) was not nominated even though there were 18 nominations in that category!

John Wayne was not nominated for Red River (1948) or The Searchers (1956).  Nor were those classic westerns nominated.

James Cagney did not receive a nomination for his mesmerizing mom-fixated psychopathic bank robber in White Heat (1949).singing-in-the-rain

Singin’ in the Rain (1952) did not win Best Picture, probably because An American in Paris, another MGM musical, had done so in 1951.  Singin’ is now generally regarded as the greatest Hollywood musical.

Robert Mitchum was not nominated for his super-disturbing, sociopathic preacher man Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter (1955).  Academy Award-winning actor Charles Laughton directed the movie but it was not a success and he never took the director’s seat again.

Elizabeth Taylor did not win Best Actress for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958).  That honor went to Susan Hayward for I Want To Live!  Two years later Taylor won for Butterfield 8, a distinctly lesser film than Cat.  It is assumed that Taylor’s health problems and the death of husband Mike Todd had something to do with this.

In perhaps the biggest oversight ever, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was not nominated for Best Picture, and the Academy took heat for the omission.  Variety extracted from The Portland Oregonian its critic’s complaint that the awards “are blatantly commercial awards given to con yokels into believing that some kind of final word has been delivered on the relative quality of a movie….They defy artistic expression and reflect the waning dinosaur groans of a movie generation sinking into senility and richly deserved oblivion…2001 was obviously too new and too advanced for the rank and file.”

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) won a slew of awards but Manhunter (1986) is essentially the same story and won nothing.  Tom Noonan’s crazed Dollarhyde is as horrifying as Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter.

Martin Scorsese won Best Director and Best Film for The Departed (2006) a worthy movie but not in the same league with his Taxi Driver (1976) or Raging Bull (1980).inception

Christopher Nolan did not receive a Best Director nomination for Inception (2010), which essentially doomed that film from winning Best Picture.

It may have been Ossie Davis who declared that the awards extravaganza was overblown but who didn’t want to be a part of it?

 

By Kim

References

Fredrik, Nathalie.  Hollywood and the Academy Awards.  1970.

Holston, Kim.  Movie Roadshows:  A History and Filmography of Reserved-Seat Limited Showings, 1911-1973.  2013.

Levy, Emanuel.  Oscar Fever:  The History and Politics of the Academy Awards.  2001.

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Accidental Heroes by Danielle Steel
The Disappeared by C. J. Box
The Punishment She Deserves by Elizabeth George

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2018 Academy Awards

2018 Academy Awards

Here is a summarized list of the 2018 Academy Award winners and nominees with links to their films in the library catalog (if available at this time). The full list of nominees and winners can be viewed here.

Best Picture

The Shape of Water (winner)
Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Actor in a Leading Role

Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour (winner)
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel Esq.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (winner)
Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World

Actress in a Leading Role

Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (winner)
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Meryl Streep – The Post

Actress in a Supporting Role

Allison Janney – I, Tonya (winner)
Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Animated Feature Film

Coco (winner)
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049 (winner)
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mudbound
The Shape of Water

Directing

Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water (winner)
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread

Documentary (Feature)

Icarus (winner)
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

Foreign Language Film

A Fantastic Woman (winner)
The Insult
Loveless
On Body and Soul
The Square

Music (Original Score)

Alexandre Desplat – The Shape of Water (winner)
Hans Zimmer – Dunkirk
Johnny Greenwood – Phantom Thread
John Williams – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Carter Burwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Music (Original Song)

“Remember Me” – Coco (winner)
“Might River” – Mudbound
“Mystery of Love” – Call Me By Your Name
“Stand Up For Something” – Marshall
“This is Me” – The Greatest Showman

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

James Ivory – Call Me By Your Name (winner)
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – The Disaster Artist
Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green – Logan
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Virgil Williams & Dee Rees – Mudbound

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Jordan Peele – Get Out (winner)
Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani – The Big Sick
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor – The Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

 

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New Releases

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Major Crimes season 6
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Musicboth sides the sky
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American Utopia by David Byrne
Tearing at the Seams by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
White is Relic/Irrealis Mood by Of Montreal
Firepower by Judas Priest
Outsider by Three Days Grace

Audiobooks
The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
Caribbean Rim by Randy Wayne White
The Rising Sea by Clive Cussler & Graham Brown

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