Nomination Reaction! Finding the right amount of RAGE!

I had a revelation today- following the Oscar race like I do means the only possible reaction I can have to the annual nominee announcements is anger.

For example, I long expected that Daft Punk's score for TRON wouldn't come anywhere near a nomination, so when it didn't, in fact, get one I felt nothing. Even though that score is hands down my favorite score of the year, and made its film infinitely better.

I didn't expect, as nearly everyone didn't, Christopher Nolan to get the shaft AGAIN, and Inception to get further dissed in the Editing category. This is because he's been included by the guild, the BAFTAs, virtually every awards-type-thing that has space for five directors has had the same five, but the Academy up and decided the Coen brothers were better.

Now, I didn't expect Inception to win for Director, or Editing, so it really is pretty meaningless news, but I didn't see it coming, so I was mad.

But just because AMPAS is trying to goad Nolan into breaking down and making a Holocaust movie, we shouldn't take their capricious decisions to heart- they don't mean anything, not when films mean something to us.

It's all what we make of it. In that spirit, things that were great about the announcements:

-Winter's Bone gets four nominations! John Hawkes as well, officially moving him past 'Hey It's That Guy!' status, which is long overdue.

-I did enjoy True Grit quite a whole lot, so its somewhat surprising 10 nominations is pretty cool, even coming at Inception's expense. I'm starting to think that this is finally cinematographer Roger F*cking Deakins' year.


-Even without Daft Punk, the score category has three of my faves: John Powell's stirring How To Train Your Dragon work, Hans Zimmer frantic Inception strings, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' progessive, amazing soundscapes for The Social Network.

-Even though it's been cleaning up to this point, the love for The Social Network is still gratifying, with eight nominations total. Except for the two supporting categories, it'll be going toe-to-toe with The King's Speech come Oscar day (contemporary dramas never get considered for Costumes or Art Direction, so those don't count as an advantage).

Finally, how did I do? Middling to well, I reckon. 79% overall (75/95), 85% in the Big Eight categories (38/45). The only categories in which I predicted every nominee were Best Supporting Actress (which everyone got) and Animated Film (which also wasn't that hard).

Early predictions for Oscar Sunday- it looks bleak now, but I just can't see The Social Network losing, not after the run it's had. It pulls in 5 trophies (Picture, Director, Ad. Screenplay, Editing, and Score) to The King's Speech's 3 or 4 (Actor, Or. Screen, and Art Direction for sure, maybe Costume). The Social Network could even take home Sound Mixing, too, since the Oscars are hating on Inception so much. True Grit for Cinematography, I feel good about it in costume for some reason, and Hailee Steinfeld is the only acting nominee with a shot at upsetting the frontrunner (Leo). Firth, Portman, and Bale are locked in. Toy Story 3 already got the Animated Oscar in the mail, and Randy Newman wins another Original song Oscar.

Is that everything? Oh, Inside Job for documentary and Inception consoles itself with Sound Editing and Visual Effects.

Also Foreign Film will go to something I don't pick. You heard it here first!

Oscar Nominee Predictions 2011!

Nominations are out tomorrow? Totally snuck up on me this year. Categories not appearing in this list: All three short films, doc feature, foreign film. Didn't see any of 'em.

Sound Mixing:

127 Hours
Black Swan
The Social Network
Tron: Legacy

Sound Editing:

127 Hours
Black Swan
Toy Story 3
Tron: Legacy

I used to think I was good at these categories, then I just realized I was overly proud of myself for being able to tell between them.


Alice In Wonderland
The Way Back
The Wolfman

It seems like it would be easy to pick three out of seven finalists, but I can never call makeup correctly. I looked at the last ten years, and creature-features are pretty consistently nominated, hence The Wolfman. Alice's primary marketing strategy early on was to go "Hey! Look at all the makeup Johnny Depp's wearing! IT IS A LOT OF MAKEUP DON'T YOU THINK?" And there has to be a respectable choice to actually give the award to, which my gut is telling me is The Way Back remarkable sun-bleached and dehydrated faces.

Original Song:

“You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from Burlesque
“If I Rise” from 127 Hours
“I See the Light” from Tangled
“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3
“Shine” from Waiting for Superman

Is it lazy to pick the most obvious one? Probably. But everytime I put a lot of research, trying to listen to as many of the 60ish songs that I can, I get burned by an unpredictable, random slate of nominees. So I feel safe that at least three of these end up vying for the prize: Alan Mencken (Tangled) and Randy Newman (TS3) are returning Disney-winners, A. R. Rahman (127 Hours) of course won with a Slumdog Millionaire song, Cher is Cher I figure (no matter how bad the film is), and the last Davis Guggenheim documentary (An Inconvenient Truth) made Melissa Etheridge an Oscar winner, so why not his new one?

Original Score:

Alexandre Desplat, The King's Speech
Danny Elfman, Alice In Wonderland
John Powell, How To Train Your Dragon
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Hans Zimmer, Inception

Whither Daft Punk, huh? Whither?!

Visual Effects:

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
Iron Man 2
TRON Legacy

They already narrowed this field down to seven, despite expanding the field to five. So you just have to pick the two that'll miss, in this case Hereafter (one good tsunami, not musch else) and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World- because the Academy is a noted enemy of fun.

Art Direction:

Alice in Wonderland
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
True Grit

Why did the guilds love Alice in Wonderland so much if it was so terrible? True Grit finally gets some respect here at least.


Alice In Wonderland
Black Swan
The King's Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

When Julie Taymour does Shakespeare it always shows up somewhere, even if it's a trainwreck. The other four are foregone conclusions.


Russell Boyd, The Way Back
Danny Cohen, The King's Speech
Roger F*CKING Deakins, True Grit
Matthew Libitique, Black Swan
Wally Pfister, Inception

Gut feeling on Boyd sneaking in, though it might just be because I saw it three days ago. Pretty sure that's Deakins' legal middle name, by the way.

Editing, Director:

Black Swan
The Fighter
The King's Speech
The Social Network

Why waste space if the five 'real' Best Picture nominees are going to clean house in these two as well? Those directors would be mssrs. Aronofsky, Russell, Nolan, Hooper, and Fincher.

Animated Film:

How To Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

The need for 16 entries to get five nominees seems dumb- why not just go with whatever gets enough votes? Then we'd have room for the fourth deserving entry, Tangled.

Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

I think I read that the powers that be have decided Steinfeld is too young to be a lead actress, history notwithstanding. Otherwise, Adams might drop out.

Supporting Actor:

Christian Bale, The Fighter
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

Sorry, La Boeuf (Matt Damon), but Garfield deserves it.

Lead Actress:

Annette Benning, The Kids Are All Right
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Julianna Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Nicole Kidman may have pushed out Williams with a late run in Rabbit Hole, but I just can't take her off the list.

Lead Actor:

Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine

Again, lots of people are predicting that Gosling will lose out to Robert Duvall in Get Low playing an Old Guy Who Is Old And Stuff, but I just don't see it.

Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay:

The Social Network
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Best Picture, Original Screenplay:

Black Swan
The Fighter
The King's Speech
The Kids Are All Right

Again, why wast column space when our ten BP nominees are evenly split into screenplay groups? 127 Hours has just been fading too far too quickly for me to feel better about it than The Town or Winter's Bone. The Ghost Writer is probably better than three or four of these movies, but will be shut out (unless is sneaks into score or something). Shutter Island's February-release strategy worked out better for the box offic than the awards chances. And I really believe that with a real fall release pattern instead of a last minute "Oh yeah, did that come out?" dumpoff, The Way Back could have won enough voters over.


The King's Speech- 11
Black Swan, Inception- 10
The Social Network- 8
The Fighter- 7
True Grit, The Kids Are All Right, Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story 3- 5
127 Hours- 4
The Town, Winter's Bone, Tron: Legacy- 3
Blue Valentine, The Way Back, How To Train Your Dragon- 2
A Bunch Of Other Stuff- 1

This Week In Actual Movie Taglines

No Strings Attached

Actual tagline: Friendship has its benefits.

This year we get not one, but two entries in the burgeoning subgenre of Former 'That 70s Show' Stars Having Casual Sex. Who knew there was such a market for such a thing.

Anyway, we get the Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher version in January, and the Mila Kunis-Justin Timberlake one in July.

Just to add to the confusion we'll all surely have years from now remembering which is which, No Strings Attached went with a tagline that brings the competing film's title, Friends With Benefits to mind.

Which one will be better? Who can say? No Strings Attached does boast Ivan Reitman as director, although he hasn't made a good film since... Dave, in 1993? I would watch Dave if it came up on cable. Friends With Benefits has Will Gluck, of the surprisingly winning Easy A, behind the lens.

The Way Back

Actual tagline: Their escape was just the beginning

New Peter Weir movie! And it comes out on Friday? In over 600 theaters? Amazing.

Why has Weir gone all Terrence Malick on us? He worked pretty regularly until the 90s- in 1972 he has five credits to his name. Now it'll be five-plus years until we hear from him again.

Oh, the tagline: eh. Thanks for hammering home the plot, but it is called 'The Way Back,' after all. I wonder more about the change from the title of the book, The Long Walk- I suppose that didn't sound terribly exciting.

But hey, something I wanna see. In January!

IMDB #159 Groundhog Day

"Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today."

"That's right woodchuck-chuckers, it's GROUNDHOG DAY!"

The hilarious, seminal, mind-bending (gently, but still) 1993 classic comedy is today's subject on the countdown- it's funny: every time I approach a classic movie hesitantly, because what could I possibly have to say about a movie so ubiquitous and beloved, I find myself pondering deeper questions and writing even more than usual.

It bodes well for the future of the countdown, I would say. In any case, let's do this.

The Key Players:

Ivan Reitman's fame as a director (Caddyshack, National Lampoon's Vacation, Analyze This) is arguably equal to his fame as Egon from Ghostbusters one and two.

Bill Murray (whom we saw briefly once already) rose to national prominence as a wild man on "Saturday Night Live" and in Meatballs, Stripes, and Caddyshack. And he's had a resurgent decade on the strength of his world weary performances in Lost In Translation, Rushmore, and The Life Aquatic. But really, didn't that essential "Bill Murray" persona already exist in an earlier form in his 90s hits like Scrooged and Groundhog Day anyway? Arguably even his unprofessional parapsychologist in Ghostbusters used nihilistic humor to mark an inner sadness. There's a case to be made here, but we don't have the time or space.

Remember Andie McDowell? She used Steven Soderbergh's breakout hit Sex, Lies, and Videotape as a springboard to co-headlining a bunch of romantic comedies like Green Card and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Just as Murray can be seen embracing his age in an ironic way, she's a spokeperson for L'Oreal these days that would like you to know you can postpone it.

Chris Elliott and character actor Stephen Tobolowsky appear in support.

Click for More...

The Story:

A sci-fi premise with none of the expository trappings you'd expect, Groundhog Day stars Murray as a vain, cranky Pittsburgh tv weatherman assigned to cover the Groundhog Day ceremonies in Puxatawney, PA for the fourth year in a row.

He drives out the night before with a wise-cracking cameraman (Elliott) and his new producer (McDowell), and wakes up a miserable day of well-beneath-his-taste small town pleasantries- he's even trapped in town for an extra night by a blizzard just out of town, the same blizzard he predicted would miss the area altogether.

He goes to bed, he wakes up to the same song ("I Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher), same radio dj patter as above. He soon finds he's repeating Groundhog Day, all over again, but nobody else seems to remember doing it all before. Every time he goes to bed, he wakes up to the same clock, the same song, the same town, the same day.

The Artistry:

Groundhog Day started out as a very different kind of movie. In the first week of shooting, some of the most expensive scenes were produced- Murray's character, realizing that there were no consequences to any of his actions, gets his hair cut into a mohawk, and destroys his room at a bed and breakfast with a chainsaw, only to wake up and have everything restored.

Harold Ramis, after the production spent thousands on mohawk hairpieces, duplicates of destroyed props, and scenery restoration, took a look at the footage, decided 'nope', and tossed it out.

Instead, after the second time through the fateful day, a visibly shaken and confused Murray goes to bed, but breaks a pencil and puts it on the nightstand before falling asleep. 6:00 AM, and the pencil's whole again, and this quiet moment (in place of an over-the-top mohawk/chainsaw test) sets the character down a more existential path.

How do we tell the difference between things we want and things we need? If everything in our day to day routines was taken out of the equation, how would we choose to pass the time? What would give us purpose?

This is what Groundhog Day asks, or at least specifically asks Murray's Phil Connors. He first moves from confusion to a sort of glee at living without repurcussions (seducing a local woman, robbing a bank) to a single-minded pursuit of Rita, his kind-hearted producer.

The reasons for this are unclear, other than Rita being one of the constant presences in his "day" (no matter what he chooses to do, she'll at least seek him out to see why he blew off reporting the groundhog ceremony) and being totally early-90s-hot. A masterpiece of editing follows in which, bit by bit, he learns little things about her and treats her eventually to a "perfect" evening, but no matter how many times he orders her favorite drink, recites French poetry, and says cliche things about wanting children, he's usually met with a slap in the face.

Even with an eternity to smooth it out, trying too hard isn't the answer. A depression sets in, where Phil attempts many times to commit suicide (highlighted by the film's comic apex, the car chase with Phil the groundhog)- given the timing, it seems brought on by his inability to score Rita, but it's really the last vestige of a man with everything stripped away- even when it's funny, Murray's trademark hangdog expression is perfect for this sort of despair.

The real beauty of Groudhog Day is in the final third, when Phil finds purpose by helping the townsfolk and learning various skills (ice-sculpting, classical and jazz piano) since he has the time. Even as he acknowledges his limits when he's unable to save the old homeless man, Phil learns that our lives are defined by the idle hours we pass with ourselves as well as our impact on the community around us, even one that doesn't remember you.

What makes the film a classic is that this Frank Capra-like life lesson is more or less a backdrop to hilarious scene after hilarious scene. The comic timing of the most depressing and uplifting elements of Groundhog Day prevent it from even approaching maudlin. One of my favorite examples is Phil's eloquent, expressive speech that capitvates the entire crowd by the last "day": the cut right into the middle of the scene elicits the biggest laugh from me, every time.

Murray's performance is of course integral to the film and well realized but McDowell has an important torch to carry as well. She has to be tolerant enough of Murray's crass persona in the beginning to sell falling for him later, and naive enough not to doubt his sudden (to her) transformation for too long. It helps that her character has just met Phil. Chris Elliott meanwhile plays a pretty good Chris Elliott, just like he does in guest appearance on every other sitcom in the last decade.

It's hard to really judge the cast- I know their parts so well and saw this movie first so long ago that they're nearly actual people in my mind. They exist in a Punxatawney that grows more familiar with each repetition, populated by the sort of regular, midwestern folk that I know well (at least cinematically).

Groundhog Day is an allegory for the filmmaking process as well. Take after take after take, all to find which one has the spirit, the feel that the picture needs. The editing determines the resulting product just as our decisions determine the outcomes of our days.

As mentioned up top, with the wrong choices, Groundhog Day could have become a much different film: a funny one, sure ("Oh that crazy Bill Murray!"), but more run-of-the-mill funny than deep-thinking funny.

If I have one, minor critique of the film it would be the too-obvious soundtrack choices, like Ray Charles' "You Don't Know Me" to the montage of Phil's failed attempts at Rita (because he, like, totally doesn't really know her, get it?), or "Weatherman" by Delbert McClinton.

Finally, I can't say enough about the decision not to explain the basic premise: apparently an early version of the screenplay had a gypsy curse or some such thing. Explaining it in any fashion would make the movie something else entirely- trying to ground it in any real-world or other-worldly phenomenon would make it cheaper somehow, and less universal.


After an indeterminate amount of Groundhog Days (Ramis estimates as much as 40 years' worth), Phil appreciates life, wows the entire town and Rita on one especially fine day that culminates in Rita winning his company in a bachelor auction.

The next morning, the alarm goes off, and "I Got You Babe" plays...but it's a fakeout, as Rita shuts off the alarm and Phil freaks out.

It's a new day, and they run off in the snow to the tunes of "Almost Like Being In Love." Aw.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

"If you gotta shoot, aim high. I don't wanna hit the groundhog."

The real question here is where the F%&%^ is Ghostbusters, countdown voters? For all my meaningful bluster you just read, sometimes funny is just funny, too.

The Legacy:

This would win the BAFTA for best original screenplay, but go largely unrecognized otherwise. Today it's revered as one of the most spiritual films of our time by Buddhists and Catholics alike, already preserved in the NFR, and the title is instant shorthand for the time-loop concept, or any unpleasant, recurring situation (especially in the military, for some reason).

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

"There is no way that this winter is ever going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don't see any other way out. He's gotta be stopped....And I have to stop him."

Leftover Thoughts:

-Stephen Tobolowsky, AKA annoying insurance salesman Ned Ryerson, has an excellent podcast at Slashfilm- the episode where he reminsces about Groundhog Day was an immense help in writing this article.

-Question: didn't he ever try and stay up until six the next morning? I might not be yet in my middle age, but how hard is it to stay awake 24 hours if the very nature of TIME AND THE UNIVERSE is at stake? Just a thought. He probably would just instantly be back in bed at 6 on Groundhog Day again at that instant, anyway, since not even his death breaks the cycle.

-"I don't know, you're a producer: think of something!"

-"What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?"

-A good metaphor for how this film affects me is the look on the face of the dude on the stairs when Murray recites some Coleridge, kisses him on both cheeks, and departs with a pleasant "Ciao!"

-The day this is posting we're expecting -25 degree sind chills here in Milwaukee, which seems appropriate.

Coming Up...

158. The Bourne Ultimatum

157. The Big Sleep

156. Ben-Hur

This Week In Actual Movie Taglines

Remember this? No? Well, it's back anyway.

Season Of The Witch

Actual tagline: Not all souls can be saved.

It's hard not to think that we're referring to Nicolas Cage's soul, instead of witches. You should go listen to the second episode of Paul Scheer's new podcast, How Did This Get Made?, which takes on this movie and finds it to be unsurprisingly terrible.

Mostly I wonder if the title is a reference to the Donovan song from 1966. Is that a phrase ever used before that point? Are witches more prevalent during a particular season of the year (autumn, I would assume)?

Country Strong

Actual tagline: It doesn't matter where you've been as long as you come back strong.

Meh. The placement above the title makes the rhythm weird- "...come back strong. (pause) Country Strong." If you don't care about spoilers, go here and prepare to be flabbergasted. I would never have guessed that this seemingly fluffy Lifetime version of Crazy Heart would draw legit Black Swan comparisons.

I heard one of the songs from this movie playing over the PA in a Borders books and it was stuck in my head the rest of the night.

The Dilemma

Actual tagline: The Truth Hurts.

OR: A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing.

OR: Two best friends. Nothing could come between them... or could it?

Look, I'm not a fool. I understand that Kevin James/Vince Vaughan movies where people fall down a lot and call things 'gay' (but not in a homophobic way, at all, totally) exist because there's a market for That Sort Of Thing.

But why are we dragging Ron Howard into this. Why is a Ron Howard movie of any sort coming out in January? I know he's not Terrance Mallick or anything, but still.

Anyway, the tags seem to all think that one man seeing his best friend's wife having an affair is hilarious, when in reality it would just be a miserable situation for all involved. The movie, or at least the trailers for it, seem to acknowledge this and go for laughs based entirely on pratfalls, Queen Latifah busy Latifah-ing it up, and Vince Vaughan's character having painful urination. Stay classy, Ron Howard! This should make a good triple feature with Apollo 13 and Frost/Nixon!

The Green Hornet

Actual tagline: Breaking the law to protect it.

Yes, I guess that's what all viglantes do? Thanks for reminding us of the concept.

Speaking of beloved directors whoring themselves out, this is directed by Michel Gondry, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the movie I would blurt out if you had a gun to my head and for some reason demanded I name my favorite film of all time. With Rogen co-writing and co-producing, it might actually be okay, but I still wouldn't have predicted Gondry to helm a film that should properly be referred to with "in 3D" at the end of its title.

IMDB #160 The Graduate

Are there any movies that make going to college seem like a good idea? So much is made of the post-undergrad malaise there's nearly an entire subgenre, from last year's Tiny Furniture to Noah Baumbach's classic Kicking and Screaming. It even has it's own flops, like Post-Grad.

But 1967's The Graduate might have been the original film to imply that higher education doesn't necessarily elevate your life.

The Key Players:

Our second visit with Mike Nichols, directing his second film. How ridiculous is it that he opened with Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate, back to back?

Dustin Hoffman would launch an iconic career playing oddballs and eccentrics. To this day he remains arguably cinema's most memorable cross-dresser (Tootsie), autistic (Rain Man), male divorcée (Kramer vs. Kramer), and of course Wonder Emporium proprietor.

Anne Bancroft's role as Mrs. Robinson would overshadow her otherwise lauded career, consisting of multiple other nominations and a breakthrough Oscar for The Miracle Worker, in a role she originated on Broadway. Katherine Ross (The Stepford Wives) may look vaguely familiar to my generation since she had a wonderful small part as Donnie Darko's therapist.

Click for More...

The Story:

Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman), a dead-eyed, mystified recent college grad arrives home. His well-to-do parents throw him a party, attended by his parents' uppity bourgeois friends, all of them full of congratulations and vague advice for the future.

Benjamin is beset by worry about said future, but before he can think about it he's seduced by Mrs. Robinson (Bancroft), the wife of his father's business partner- she bullies him into driving her home from the party, strips down and traps him briefly in her bedroom. Though it doesn't take- Benjamin flees downstairs, and makes a hasty, flopsweat-filled exit after sharing an awkward drink with the just returned Mr. Robinson- he soon calls her up to start a wordless, summer long affair at a hotel.

Even the most basic attempts at small talk with Mrs. Robinson fail, though she does talk at length about one thing: she forbids him from seeing her daughter, Elaine (Ross). So naturally Benjamin falls in love with her.

Even after it's all out in the open, Benjamin feels himself drawn to the younger Robinson woman, so he announces his intention to marry Elaine to his parents, and follows her on a fool's quest to Berkeley.

The Artistry:

Much like Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate spoke to a large audience on the cusp of a revolution. And while I couldn't really fathom why so many disillusioned youth would latch on to Beatty and Dunaway's stylish but empty posturing as a cultural moment, I can see why Hoffman's blank cipher, unmoored and aimless holds a wide appeal.

It might help that I'm pretty much stuck in the exact same period of post-college self-evaluation- thanks, English degree!

The Graduate is about life happening around you- Hoffman is moved through the opening credits on an airport walkway, standing stone-still himself. He stumbles through the party of faceless corporate well-wishers (the on-the-nose pro-tip of "plastics" is probably the movie's most famous quote), is jostled into position by Mrs. Robinson, and hides from his family in a deep-sea diver suit.

Anything he actually does, later in the film, is met with resistance and unexplained hostility by the older generation, especially Mrs. Robinson. Her downright animosity at the idea of Benjamin and Elaine together is never explained (other than that it would just be, you know, messed up).

Even after gamely trying to put Elaine off entirely (driving like a maniac, taking her to a strip club), Benjamin finds it easy to open up to Elaine, to be himself, perhaps. But it's hard to tell if that's something he found worth pursuing so stridently on his own, or because it was forbidden.

Adding to the hip factor, in an era before so-called "music televison," is the function of The Graduate as an extended music video for a handful of Simon & Garfunkel songs. The thematically relevant "Sounds of Silence" bookends the film, "April Come She Will" is wonderfully edited with the beginning of Benjamin's laconic summer, "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" plays for what seems like ten minutes when he goes to Berkeley, and the original(ish) song "Mrs. Robinson" briefly scores the big finish- Simon would write a full version for a later album, which became the ubiquitous radio staple we all know.

The wistful, melancholy folksiness of said tunes adds much more emotional weight than the screenplay seems to have in mind, filling in the spaces that Calder Willingham and Buck Henry's screenplay leaves empty. The performances, especially Hoffman's mumbling blankness and Bancroft's arch hostility, seem like caricatures in memory but are very restrained on the whole. No one in The Graduate seems to know what they're doing, or why they're doing it, but Hoffman and Ross are the heroes of the story because they're willing to admit it.


Their seeming rebellion manifests itself in a somewhat shocking showdown at a church- Elaine's family spirits her off to marry a patented Some Douchebag, and Benjamin's manic drive to stop the wedding and pounding on the chapel window are the stuff of cinema legend.

What I always think of though, is the rapidly cut faces of Mr. and Mrs. Robinson (and Some Douchebag), whose faces are absolutely convulsing with rage when they realize what's happening, and the way Benjamin has to hold them all off by swinging a cross ripped from the wall.

As they sit on a bus, riding off into the proverbial sunset, Benjamin's trademark neutral expression creeps back onto his face, and quickly spreads to Elaine's as well. What do they do now?


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

I guess I'm going with an obligatory higher- The Graduate makes me mildly uncomfortable every time I see it, but I seem to watch it every few years one way or another. It might be this time the post-collegiate malaise hits a little close to home, but it's one of those films that feels like a classic, even when you're watching it.

The Legacy:

Aesthetically, The Graduate is bright and arresting, and surely that's inspired the Wes Andersons of the world (as has the interwoven pop music, much like the use of Cat Stevens in Harold and Maude).

The cinematographer, producer, screenwriters, and all three principal stars would be Oscar-nominated for their work, but the sole statue went to Nichols as director (still his only one out of five trips). And while sure, I'd agree to throw in the NFR archives, I don't know if it needs to be AFI's seventh greatest film of ALL TIME.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

Kind of tough. The ending? The initial seduction? Plastics? I'm going with the run-up to Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson's awkwardly hilarious first meeting at the Taft Hotel bar- "Are you here for an affair sir?"

Leftover Thoughts:

-Simon & Garfunkel, too busy to write any original songs in earnest for the film, just contributed a bunch of old stuff and and re purposed a vague, nostalgic song about Americana and "Mrs. Roosevelt." Lazy jerks.

-I saw the parody of the ending in Wayne's World 2 waay before I saw The Graduate itself.

Coming Up...

159. Groundhog Day

158. The Bourne Ultimatum

157. The Big Sleep

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