Julie Andrews, in her fourth starring role, takes direction from Alfred Hitchcock for the Cold War thriller Torn Curtain, 1965. In the 1966 release, Sarah (Andrews) suspects her fiancé Michael (Paul Newman) of cloak-and-dagger doings and follows him from Copenhagen to East Berlin, where a quest for a secret formula puts both their lives in danger. Though the film was one of Universal’s highest grossing for the year, Hitchcock was not happy with it, its top stars being two of the reasons why. His first choice, Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, fell through because of their ages, with the studio deeming Saint too old and Grant considering himself a little long in the tooth. The director was also none too keen about spending $750,000 each for Andrews and Newman’s services. And, in the end, Hitchcock simply did not care much for Newman’s performance.
Dinah Shore dies of ovarian cancer in Beverly Hills, 1994. She started show business as a radio singer first in Nashville, then New York City, and eventually recorded songs with bandleader Xavier Cugat. As with many photogenic pop stars, Shore was courted by Hollywood and gave movies a shot, acting in light fare such as Up in Arms (1944), Belle of the Yukon (1944) and Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick (1952). Many recording artists, like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Doris Day, proved to be natural actors and compelling movie stars. Shore was not one of them, appearing likable and folksy, but missing that certain spark. By the early 1950s, Shore abandoned the big screen and moved to television, where her variety and talk shows earned her a total of eight Emmy Awards.
“Apart from her looks, which were magical, she possessed beautiful poise; her neck looked almost too fragile to support her head and bore with it a sense of surprise, and something of the pride of the master juggler who can make a brilliant maneuver appear almost accidental. She also had something else—an attraction of the most perturbing nature I had ever encountered.”
— Laurence Olivier on Vivien Leigh, to whom he was married from 1940 to 1960.
Five US Marines and a US Navy corpsman raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima, 1945. Photographer Joe Rosenthal received a Pulitzer Prize for his photo of the event, which became one of the most enduring images of World War II and served as the inspiration for a handful of well-made war movies. Two of the more recent films came from director Clint Eastwood: Flags of Our Fathers (2006), which followed the lives of the American men who raised the flag, and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), which focused on the experiences of the Japanese soldiers involved in the conflict. The very first film to tackle the subject was Sands of Iwo Jima, a 1949 picture directed by Allan Dwan starring John Wayne as John Stryker, a tough Marine sergeant who turns inexperienced fighters into hardened soldiers. Because of this film, Wayne received his first Oscar nomination and was invited to leave his hand- and footprints in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. A special shipment of black sand from Iwo Jima was sent to Hollywood to be mixed into the cement.
With the Oscars ceremony on top of us today, now would seem appropriate to opine on some, if not all, of the major nominees. Alas, unlike last year, I did not see many of the major nominees. By some rare lull in my schedule, I was able to attend screenings of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, Boyhood (three times) and Into the Woods. No foreign films, no documentaries, no Selma or The Theory of Everything—a terrible showing on my part. But in one category I was able to take in all nominees, mainly because they were brief and were shown in one neat little screening at West L.A.’s Nuart Theatre. Here, then, are the nominees for Best Animated Short Film.
The Bigger Picture
The visuals have the style of a modern painting, and I suspect most stills from this short would look perfectly at home hanging in a gallery. With the use of stop-motion photography, paper mâché and full-size painted characters, Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees tell the somber tale of two brothers caring for their sick and dying mother. The script? Serviceable. The animation? Art.
The Dam Keeper
Somewhere in the film’s 18-minute run time is a tidy and effective story about bullying, peer pressure, friendship and fitting in. Unfortunately it is often elbowed aside by the set-up: A small pig must maintain an old windmill to stave off the town’s ruination by…water, as the title would imply? Nope. Air pollution, a weird component to a wholly superfluous plot element. Perhaps there is a metaphor or extended allegory here, just out of reach. At the core of The Dam Keeper, however, is something more compelling—a heartfelt relationship set in a grade school between the lonely, picked-on pig and a new student, a fox, who by all appearances is the picture of kindness and caring. Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi are the filmmakers.
Of the five nominees, this is undoubtedly the one that most people saw, as it was screened in theaters prior to the showing of Disney’s Big Hero 6, a film that has thus far earned $220 million domestically. As for the short, filmmakers Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed have crafted a charming and fast-moving tale of an adult relationship told through a dog’s meals, from Brussels sprouts to Cheetos. It’s a freewheeling and witty experience, with its only flaw perhaps a rather safe, cozy ending. One might also wonder how Winston, its canine star, retains his svelte figure despite his high calorie intake.
Me and My Moulton
The tale of three sisters who wish to have a bicycle has a meandering, stream-of-consciousness quality to it that touches upon a lot of the anxieties kids have as they figure out society at large and how everything in their immediate world compares. Torill Kove, previous winner in this category for The Danish Poet (2006), tells the tale in her signature spare, observant and gently humorous style.
A Single Life
Joris Oprins's two-minute film is the most fully realized of the lot, presenting an amusing concept—a magic 45-rpm record that allows a young woman to travel through various stages in her life—playing around with it cleverly and ending it with a twist. Its brevity may work against it in voters’ minds, but for me it was best in show.