Go to www.kcfcc.org to see the full list of this year’s winners
I didn’t get to review it for The Star, but I did get to provide a little Nerd 101
Click the “Calendar” link at the top of the page to see a comprehensive list of film-related events in the KC area. Right now, I think it’s complete through the end of October. Leave a comment if you have additions or corrections.
My latest on KC’s local film history. This guy was really something:
If you’re a nerd with some free time, Reel Smart Trivia at the Screenland Crossroads is my trivia night of choice (Sundays at 6pm!). This is the venerable institution that used to do its thang at the Screenland Armour before moving back south. My favorite part is the one where you can win money. It’s like poker night for people who don’t understand poker – but can tell you who won what game in what western (and then got shot).
Not to be outdone, the Chesterfield Club at the new Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet is now hosting the Geeks Who Drink on Thursdays at 8pm. They also have contests at other venues in the area. Here’s the Missouri list; this is the one for Kansas (OK, that one’s not really a list, per se).
Let your geek flag fly!
In case you had the crazy idea that there’s nothing to do in Kansas City, here’s a list of this week’s local film events:
- On Monday, August 13th, the Main Branch of the KCK Public Library continues its Attack of the Drive-In Movies series with Beach Party – 6pm.
- Also on the 13th, the KCMO Central Library’s Road Trip film series features The Straight Story. It’s in their nifty bank vault screening room – 6:30pm.
- On Tuesday, August 14th, the Tivoli in Westport will screen The Rolling Stones: Some Girls, Live in Texas. This is a hi-def upgrade of the Stones’ 1978 concert film, with a 2011 Mick Jagger interview added to the beginning – 7:30pm.
- The Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet is kicking its wacko programming into gear. On Wednesday, August 15th, the Mainstreet is hosting a Zoolander quote-along – complete with subtitles, for all you graduates of the school for Kids Who Can’t Read Good, Etc. – 7:30pm.
- If you prefer something (a little) more refined, the recipients of the first Robert Altman Education Grants will be feted at a mixer on the 15th, at Third Eye Productions, just down the road at 2024 Main – 7:30pm.
- In honor of The Expendables 2, the Mainstreet is hosting Van Dammage, a marathon tribute to the diminutive Belgian action hero (and Expendables co-star). So, if you’re a fan of Mr. Muscles from Brussels, head downtown on Thursday, August 16th – 5pm.
- Also on the 16th, the Glenwood Arts is offering a special screening of the documentary Corporate FM, about the takeover of locally-owned radio stations. It’s a benefit for the Kansas International Film Festival, with a filmmaker Q&A afterward – 7:30pm.
- Friday, August 17th, is the next Off-the-Wall film screening at the KC Central Library’s rooftop terrace. The rock-n-roll themed series features 24 Hour Party People this month, and offers discount coupons for Harry’s Country Club – 8:45pm.
- The KC Library’s North-East Branch, at 6000 Wilson Rd., is showing J. Edgar as part of its Million Dollar Movie series on Saturday, August 18th – 10am.
- Head over to the KC Central Library later on the 18th for the next Road Trip entry, Little Miss Sunshine – 1:30pm.
- The Screenland Crossroads is hosting its regular Rocky Horror Picture Show extravaganza on the 18th. There’s even a floor show! – 10pm.
- On Sunday, August 19th (as well as the 22nd), the Tivoli continues its Performing Arts series with the opera Norma, performed at the Teatro Antico Taormina, Italy – 1:30pm.
- The KC Library North-East Branch will feature Tooth Fairy 2 as its Sunday Family Movie on the 19th – 2pm.
- On the 19th – as on every Sunday evening – the Screenland Crossroads has its Reel Smart Trivia contest. You might even see me there! – 6pm.
- Later on the 19th, steel yourself for the Mainstreet’s Girlie Night screening of Steel Magnolias. I refuse to comment further on that one – 7pm.
Thanks to my friend Dan Lybarger for the name (learn more here)
What It Is
Robin Hardy’s long-awaited follow-up to his 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man. This time, naive Christian missionaries from Texas travel to a Scottish village, where they’re invited to be the “Laddie” and the “May Queen” in a local festival. You know the rest.
Why I Saw It
My love for the original, coupled with my boiling hatred for the Neil LaBute/Nicolas Cage remake, made me curious to see what Hardy would bring to his classic 37 years later. Also, Christopher Lee is in it. You won’t believe what I’ve watched just to see him.
What I Learned
- Robin Hardy’s grasp of American culture comes from a mix of Michele Bachmann ads and Petticoat Junction. I’m not convinced he’s ever been here.
- Having “a voice like an angel” apparently means being flat, breathy and completely lacking in stage presence.
- Hiring unkown actors for your lead roles only works if they can act.
- Even in a cameo, Christopher Lee owns everything he does.
- Pasty, flabby Brits should keep their clothes on.
- Honeysuckle Weeks is an actress, not a Harry Potter character.
- If you are famous and travel to Scotland, no one will notice if you don’t come back.
- People who haven’t seen The Wicker Man might actually have it ruined for them by these crappy remakes and sequels.
I’m still not sure if I’m going to see Rock of Ages. I was a teenager during the big-hair rock era, so I am a little nostalgic for the songs it contains, albeit ironically (I was/am more of a New Wave fan myself).
I have an almost physical aversion to musicals in general, which is what will likely keep me away. With very few exceptions, I find them cheesy, over-produced & too dependent on big production numbers to make up for bad scripts and non-actors. Even when there’s plenty of talent involved, they usually only work for me in segments. I love a great dance sequence or a memorable song, if they’re completely out of context. Usually, my highest praise is, “It was pretty good …. for a musical.”
There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised a handful of times. So, in chronological order:
1. Duck Soup (1933) – The joyous anarchy of the Marx Brothers’ best movie carries over into its musical numbers, which is why I love them. Later efforts, like A Night at the Opera, would try to shoehorn in a love story or some such nonsense, but Duck Soup is utterly, wonderfully bonkers. When Margaret Dumont starts belting out the Freedonian national anthem, the boys respond in the only acceptable manner – by throwing produce at her.
2. The Wizard of Oz (1939) – I avoided this movie for most of my adult life, thanks to its association with my home state. Any Kansan who travels elsewhere can tell you how many dumbass “Where’s Toto?” jokes we get. It’s enough to make you hate everything Oz-related, which is completely unfair. Thanks to my tornado-obsessed nephew, I’ve been re-introduced to this classic, and it’s even more exciting and imaginative than I remember from childhood. For me, it’s almost the only tolerable thing Judy Garland was ever associated with, coming well before her tragic diva years (although it probably helped lead to them).
3. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – It figures that a movie about Hollywood history would make a list of my favorites. I’m a sucker for more than its depiction of the silent era’s last hurrah, though. The whole movie just soars, all the time. Plus, Donald O’Connor runs up a wall and does a backflip. That’s enough to make any film worth seeing, especially one that also has Gene Kelly and gags about sound-on-disc failures.
4. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – It’s a terrible movie, of course, if you try to watch it at home. With an audience, it’s the best time you can have in a theater without getting arrested (although you’re not doing it right if you don’t break a couple of local obscenity laws). I’ve seen this thing at least 50 times, and Tim Curry’s performance never loses its fearless brilliance. Poor guy got typecast from this point on, but it’s only because he’s so awesome.
5. Beauty and the Beast (1991) – As far as I’m concerned, this is the perfect “traditional” Disney movie. I usually have to fast-forward through at least one song in every Mouse House cartoon (don’t get me started on the live-action stuff), but I happily soak up every single moment of this masterpiece. It may be sacrilege to put it above old-school classics like Dumbo or Snow White, but I like a little blasphemy now and then.
6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Once More With Feeling” (2001) – It’s not a movie, but it’s one of the greatest episodes of one of the greatest TV series of all time. Leave it to Joss Whedon to write several great songs, play to his cast’s strengths and find a way to have the song-and-dance make sense in the show’s universe. It’s got more humor and emotional depth than most movies, especially in this genre. Also, singing demons. You can never go wrong with singing demons.
7. Chicago (2002) – Maybe it’s the cynical nature of the story. Maybe it’s the complete absence of sappy love songs. Maybe it’s the actors (I can even stand Renee Zellweger in this, and that doesn’t happen often). Whatever the reasons, this is probably the most conventional musical I can enjoy without reservation. And it ain’t exactly My Fair Lady, unless Eliza Doolittle suddenly started packing heat. I’d totally watch that.
- Loey Lockerby
Local legend Walt Bodine is retiring on April 27th, finally taking a break at the age of 91. I’ve been a regular guest on his KCUR-FM show since about 1998, and it’s been a terrific education. Working with Walt is truly learning at the feet of the master. Check out the station’s tribute page here. Mine begins below…..
8 Things I’ve Learned from Working with Walt Bodine
1. Keep it moving, keep it interesting. The last thing you want on your broadcast is dead air. The second-to-last is boring drivel. Walt never let anything slow down the momentum of a show, and when he wasn’t as quick himself anymore, he let others take the lead. He also had a real knack for shutting down Chatty Cathys without insulting them. Even when they deserved it.
2. Perspective is everything. That calm, no-nonsense radio presence was not an act. Walt simply has one of the best attitudes of anyone I’ve ever met. The vagaries of the business – and the world in general – just don’t rattle him the way they do most people. That’s why his career and his life have both lasted so long.
3. Lack of professionalism is the 8th deadly sin. The only times I’ve ever known Walt to lose his cool was when someone didn’t seem to care about the program as much as he did. Major outbursts aren’t his style, but you can usually tell if he’s unhappy. Mess up the show, there won’t be any doubt.
4. The “kids” are not your enemies. Instead of feeling threatened by the presence of younger talent, Walt nurtured it, mentoring countless fellow broadcasters throughout his career. He didn’t care who you were or where you came from – if you deserved his support, you had it.
5. You can appreciate the past without trying to live in it. Walt loves local history (he is local history), but he understands the fallacy of “good old days” thinking. Even while sharing tales of KC’s past, which he does better than anyone, he remains engaged with the present and sanguine about the future.
6. Just because your name is in the title doesn’t mean the show is all about you. I’ve chatted with Walt about meeting celebrities, the evolution of the Plaza, our favorite Winstead’s orders……yet I have only a vague idea of his politics, and no clue what he thinks about religion. He rarely talks about his personal life, and gets embarrassed if you make a fuss over him. That seems almost quaint in this age of over-sharing and endless pontification, but it’s the mark of a true class act.
7. There are few greater pleasures than sharing a nice meal with your friends. By the time I got to know him, Walt could barely see or walk. Now, he can’t do either, but that hasn’t stopped him from indulging his love of good food and great conversation. He has one hell of an eclectic social circle, so even if the cuisine doesn’t measure up, lunch with Walt is still a guaranteed event.
8. Kansas City is a great place, and don’t you forget it. Walt could have gone national, like fellow KC broadcaster Walter Cronkite, but he remains devoted to his hometown. I’ve never heard him lament that decision. His affection is not uncritical, but he knows what this city can be. He loves it, and it loves him back.
So, enjoy your permanent vacation, my friend. You’ve earned every minute of it!
- Loey Lockerby
If you’ve known me for more than, say, 5 minutes, you know I’m a devoted Joss Whedon fan. Since they won’t let us line up for The Avengers yet, I recently joined some friends to see The Cabin in the Woods, the long-delayed horror film Whedon co-wrote with director (and Buffyverse alum) Drew Goddard. Which brings me to my new – and hopefully ongoing – feature, The Critical List.
WARNING – CABIN IN THE WOODS SPOILERS AHEAD!! IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT, YOU PROBABLY WON’T KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! SO GO SEE IT!! THIS’LL BE HERE WHEN YOU GET BACK!
1. It deconstructs an entire genre……then reconstructs it, turns it sideways and draws a mustache on it. Cabin isn’t just about winking self-awareness of horror tropes. It’s about why those tropes exist, and what it means that we enjoy them. Whedon doesn’t blend as many genres here as he did with his TV shows – not enough time! – but he puts what he has under one hell of a crazy microscope.
2. It continues the Lovecraftian mythology that emerged on Buffy & Angel. It could, in fact, take place in that universe, and many fans have pointed out the similarity between it and Buffy‘s season 4 “Initiative” storyline. Whedon loves the idea that ancient, powerful forces are manipulating us to their own ends, when they’re not actively seeking to destroy us. Our puny human efforts to appease them are never of much use, and fighting them is a noble, doomed cause.
3. It’s a lot deeper than it looks. While you’re laughing at the unicorn attack (which really happens) and playing “spot-the-copyrighted-horror-villain-knockoff,” you’re also chewing on some serious questions. Why do we enjoy watching others suffer, even when the suffering is fictional? What social roles are we pushed into, and what ones do we choose? Is it ever OK to do something evil for the sake of a greater good? Is that “greater good” really so great – or good? How much free will do we have, and what are we obligated to do with it? Those issues are all over Whedon’s original work. They’ll probably turn up in Avengers, too, albeit under layers of special effects.
4. It has surprisingly broad appeal. Horror fans can enjoy the creep factor and general mayhem, film theorists can dig into the genre commentary, philosophers can debate the Big Issues, Whedon cultists can revel in seeing Fred, Topher and Andrew in the same movie. The only thing missing is a tortured love story for the romantics, although the Buffyverse contained enough of that for several lifetimes, IMO.
5. Its evil is banal – and hilarious. The corporate drones who terrorize our heroes/victims are just guys who drink coffee and play around with the speakerphone. Sure, they place bets on how the kids are going to die, and cheer on the carnage, but they’re just letting off steam – kind of like the audience. They remind me a little of Sunnydale’s Mayor Wilkins, who could chuckle over the antics of Marmaduke while plotting apocalyptic destruction.
6. It never quite does what you expect. I kept developing theories about where Cabin was headed, only to have them erased 30 seconds later. Eventually, I remembered one of the cardinal rules of Whedon’s stories: You never really know what’s going to happen, yet it all somehow makes sense in the end.
So, seriously, go see this movie. Then…..Avengers Assemble!
- Loey Lockerby
I was at a fabulous Oscar-viewing party this year, hosted by my friends at Scene-Stealers and Lost in Reviews, so there were plenty of distractions during the telecast. That was probably a good thing, as I can barely remember any specifics about the show. And that’s not the alcohol talking, either….
- Billy Crystal is like Oscar-host comfort food. Even when his jokes fell flat, it was just so nice to have him around, I honestly didn’t mind.
- The show itself was solid, professional, no-bullshit. Admirable, but not much fun. We need streakers and impromptu smooching and one-armed push-ups (not all at the same time…necessarily).
- The only interesting things that happened all night were before and after the show – Sacha Baron Cohen dumping “ashes” on Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet, and Sean Young getting arrested for starting a fight at the Governor’s Ball. Save it for the broadcast, people!
- The one year they decide not to have Best Song performances is the one year there are only two nominees, and they’re both good. Next year, it’ll be back to the likes of Phil Collins and Celine Dion, and we can schedule our bathroom breaks accordingly.
- The Cirque du Soleil routine made absolutely no sense, but was kind of awesome nonetheless. Which should be their official motto.
- If Meryl Streep and Christopher Plummer can’t win every year, can they at least write everyone else’s speeches? I can almost forgive Viola Davis losing, since it meant hearing Streep be her witty, charming self.
- Is there a rehab program for Oscar producers who can’t stop with the pointless montages? Every year, we get this crap (what was Adam Sandler doing anywhere near an Oscar broadcast?). At least this year, it didn’t suck up too much time.
- You know what would be a great use of that time? Letting the honorary/special Oscar winners be part of the show again. Their absence is a continuing travesty. Who wouldn’t want to hear James Earl Jones give an acceptance speech?
- On a related note, winners on the telecast were actually allowed to accept their awards, without being played off by the orchestra after two seconds. It’s nice that someone, somewhere remembered what this show is supposed to be about.
- But seriously, no more Adam Sandler. At least until he makes another Punch-Drunk Love.
Watch any of the Thin Man movies, and tell me Nick & Nora Charles aren’t the cutest, funniest, sexiest couple in Hollywood history. These are just from the original film – there were 6 total, and William Powell and Myrna Loy were perfect in all of them!
My latest article on local film history is up at the CinemaKC site. This one is on some of the Kansas Citians who followed Walt Disney to Hollywood in the 1920s.
- Young Adult should have gotten an Original Screenplay nod, along with an acting slot for Charlize Theron.
- I’ve seen two of the Foreign Language nominees! In Darkness and A Separation are both excellent. Catch them if you get the chance.
- There are only two nominees for Best Song. Finally, the Academy has figured out what the rest of us have known for years – there are never five good contenders for this category. Plus, the show won’t be dragged out by unnecessary, terrible production numbers. I hope.
- I’m looking forward to seeing Billy Crystal again. Let’s just cut out all the gimmicks (Brett Ratner, really?) and focus on the awards for a change. Crystal knows what he’s doing, probably better than anyone.
- The lack of primo Pixar product this year left some interesting slots open in Best Animated Film. Aside from the usual kids’ movies (Rango, Kung Fu Panda 2 & Puss in Boots) are two foreign films nobody’s ever heard of – A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita.
- The Artist
- The Descendants
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
- The Help
- Midnight in Paris
- The Tree of Life
- War Horse
The Tree of Life, the most avant-garde nominee in recent memory. Also, Hugo. I was afraid it might not be taken seriously enough.
Where the hell is:
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- The Ides of March
The Help had great performances, but a great movie? No. I haven’t seen War Horse or Extremely Loud, but what I’m hearing isn’t too impressive. Just standard-issue Oscar bait.
The Artist is the easy frontrunner. It’s such an oddball choice (in a good way), I’ll be thrilled if it wins. The only other contender is probably The Descendants (my favorite film of the year).
- Demian Bichir – A Better Life
- George Clooney – The Descendants
- Jean Dujardin – The Artist
- Gary Oldman – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
- Brad Pitt – Moneyball
Bichir, another surprising performance in a little-seen movie. He’s not just the hot guy from Weeds anymore!
Where the hell is:
- Michael Fassbender in either Shame or A Dangerous Method (he probably canceled himself out)
- Ryan Gosling in The Ides of March or Drive (ditto)
- Ralph Fiennes for Coriolanus (again, not letting go of that one)
- Daniel Craig for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the guy never gets enough credit)
Oldman’s restraint in Tinker, Tailor is admirable, but there’s not much to the role, really
Clooney has been cleaning up, and probably will again (deservedly so – it’s his best work). Keep an eye on Dujardin, though.
- Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs
- Viola Davis – The Help
- Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
- Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn
Mara, who beat out any number of equally qualified actresses for that fifth spot.
Where the hell is:
Where to begin? This was a remarkable year for lead actresses
- Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia
- Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene
- Charlize Theron in Young Adult
- Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids
I’ll probably think of some more by the end of the day.
Sorry, but Albert Nobbs was a complete misfire, partly because Close just isn’t convincing in the role. At all.
Davis was the frontrunner, but Streep is moving ahead (she was the only watchable thing about Iron Lady). This will be close – let’s see what the SAG awards give us.
- Kenneth Branagh – My Week with Marilyn
- Jonah Hill – Moneyball
- Nick Nolte – Warrior
- Christopher Plummer – Beginners
- Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Nolte, who has been an underdog in this category. Good to see he wasn’t forgotten. Also, Jonah Hill!!
Where the hell is:
- Ben Kingsley for Hugo (all the noms for that movie, and not one for its best performance?)
- Alan Rickman for Harry Potter (come on, he was fantastic)
- Andy Serkis for Rise of the Planet of the Apes (someday, Oscar voters will realize how good this guy is)
- Viggo Mortensen for A Dangerous Method (no love for that movie, for some reason)
Branagh, who was terribly miscast as Laurence Olivier in Marilyn
This is Plummer’s to lose. And about time, too!