2015 Neutron Star Award: Dickie Moore

Introduction

OK, so what is the Neutron Star Award? As I watched older selections through the year, I was frequently compelled to pick a film based on the fact that Vincent Price was in it. When I was younger I was very actor-oriented, more so than with directors. The fact that an actor had that kind of draw, and was one who is sadly no longer with us, made me think there had to be some kind of way I could honor them.

2015: Dickie Moore

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Here’s one I thought I wasn’t going to hand out this year.

However, even though I knew Dickie Moore from things like The Little Rascals, Oliver Twist, The Word Accuses, Three on a Match, and saw him in a few titles this year; I thought his star couldn’t grow to me – matching the definition of a neutron star – a star bigger after its death. However, after his passing I started to realize he would fit.

Blonde Venus (1932, Paramount)

In April I covered a movie he was in for the Pre-Code Blogathon, Blonde Venus.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (1984, Harper & Row)

For the Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge I covered his book Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, which is a bittersweet-at-best account of the early days of child stardom, which includes the perspective of many young stars (himself included) from the early days of sound when he caught up with them again in the 1980s.

The World Accuses (1934)

Then less than a month later he passed away at the age of 89. One of the better obits I read was this one.

Bogged down with other things I didn’t eulogize him at the time. I believe the one I did for Wes Craven was the only one this year.

There is precedent for the recipient dying in the year he was awarded.

Miss Annie Rooney (1942, RKO)

So, while there will not be Film Discoveries like there was for 2013 (Miss Annie Rooney and The World Accusses) for Moore this year, his TCM homage is taking up much of my DVR with many titles I was hoping to have seen for quite some time.

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So 2016 and beyond will likely feature more of his films. No one perfectly captures all of film’s past as they learn to love and fully embrace the art. For as much as you learn and know about technique and production there is a tendentiousness to things, and everyone develops personal favorites and preferences. Some films and people are inarguably greats, or talented if their films don’t happen to reach you on a visceral level.

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Despite the fact that he may not have been a Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney or a Freddie Bartholomew; Dickie Moore is one of my favorites. He was undoubtedly a star in his own right, he was just surrounded by many of them in a crowded system. I look forward to getting to know more of his films that remain with us though he may be gone from this world.

RIP.

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2015 BAM Special Jury Award

A Statement of Explanation and a Mea Culpa

One plan I had this year was to discuss the BAM Awards’ past, which I may do. It’s a way to self-examine, look at oddities, and acknowledge past triumphs and errors.

When acting as a committee of one, you may wonder what’s the point of a Jury Award. It’s really because somethings that should be considered or rewarded don’t fit into categories, and on occasion, like this to acknowledge a film where you couldn’t – even if in error.

I’ve had them infrequently for a while, and learned later that Ebert did them on his best of the year lists. Quite frankly, this one is to acknowledge an unforgivable bookkeeping error. The system will improve for 2016.

Stranger (2015, Tursunov Film)

As you can see here, I love Stranger (Zhat). Somehow, it was on my Letterboxd but didn’t enter my offline BAM lists and a later, second braincramp kept it out of consideration. So the Special Jury Award becomes my salvation. Below I will cite its best aspects, and rest assured it will be on my top films of the year list, which starts soon.

Be that as it may its a richly deserving film that I will gladly champion and I hope it sees  US distribution.

The Award

Stranger (2015, Tursunov Film)

This is a Special Jury Award Commending Stranger (Zhat) for:

Yermek Tursunov for writing and directing;
Murat Aliyev for his lush, layered cinematography;
Nurgali Nugman and Erzhan Nurymbet for magnetically portraying Ilya at many ages;
as an overlooked film;
and, finally, in recognition of its being one of the finest films of 2015.

2015 Robert Downey, Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year: Will Ferrell

Introduction

This award is one I will present annually to the actor, writer, director or any combination thereof who has in my estimation the best year. The only real criteria is that they have multiple credits. The credits can be two responsibilities on the same film or more than one film. The idea came to me based on Robert Downey, Jr.’s incredible 2008. He was the first winner and the name stuck.

2015 Entertainer of the Year: Will Ferrell

Sometimes it’s next to impossible to pick this award and not confuse it with a Lifetime Achievement award. Though the main difference is, even though this is also a body-of-work trophy it’s awarded for a year’s work irrespective of the accomplishments made in prior years.

Yes, Will Ferrell has been at it longer than many of us care to realize right now and I’ve been a fan for quite some time and think he has had very few misses along the way. However, this year there was a lot of stuff, all throughout the year, and it was all hilarious; at least his involvement was.

I like to be inclusive of comedy, and horror, and any other genres the awards generally disregard, so those are just some reasons this funny man is honored this year. Now, for some more specifics about his 2015….

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First, there was Get Hard, as with any projects he does with Adam McKay behind the scenes there is silliness and farce in equal measure. There’s much topical humor about the world of high finance aside from broad generalizations and stereotypes exploited for comedic value.

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A Deadly Adoption really should have sealed it any, but these awards are ones that kind of occur to me rather than being ones that I consciously plot more often than not. First, this film was a secret project. It was then a surprise announcement as a Lifetime Movie mocking Lifetime Movies, mysteriously pulled from its premiere then rescheduled. It then received a drubbing from those not prepared for the film’s tongue-so-firmly-planted-in-cheek. Will McKinley’s take on it echoes my sentiments on it perfectly. It’s very effective, funny when the absurdity hits you with its subtlety and marks the 2nd straight year a TV film has been included in the BAM Awards.

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Ferrell Takes the Field is Ferrell taking his love of baseball to a hilarious extreme to help a charity, create a documentary and promote the MLB by making appearances at 10 positions in real Spring Training games. It aired on HBO and is well worth your time if you like him or baseball or both.

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Shortly after that I discovered that perhaps his most hilariously insane character Orson Welles caricature (my reading) Eric Jonrosh had The Spoils Before Dying on IFC. I was able to stream the first two so far. It doesn’t start as strongly as The Spoils of Babylon but he’s as funny as ever.

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Then came Daddy’s Home, a re-teaming with Mark Wahlberg and a return to more family-friendly fare where he’s more successful than most comedians.

The cherry on top of his 2015 was his unannounced return to SNL in a recent cold open as Dubya.

Clearly it was a great year for him, and one thing Wahlberg said in his junket/circuit interviews was true, to paraphrase he said “His comedy doesn’t come from a dark place, he just genuinely wants to me make people laugh,” and in 2015 he made me laugh quite a lot.

 

2015 Ingmar Bergman Lifetime Achievement Award: Max von Sydow

Introduction

This award is named after Bergman because when I was set to establish an award of its type his last film blew me away and was nominated for many awards. The idea then is that it’s not a parting shot but rather recognition of someone still very much at the top after many, many years.

2015 Max von Sydow

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I like these awards to come around almost by osmosis. I considered another way for Bergman-connected people: like Liv Ullmann, unfortunately I did not see her most recent film (as director).

It seemed like a stretch to pick Max von Sydow, as someone active this year only in the very beginning of the new Star Wars, but as I thought about it it started making more and more sense. He’s been considered before and was part of a BAM-nominated cast this year.

In the future, he will be the human embodiment of Bran’s raven on Game of Thrones.

Winter Light (1963)

He has connections with other liftetime winners: He co-Starred with Werner Herzog in What Dreams May Come, was in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters, 14 feature films with Ingmar Bergman himself and Best Intentions based on Bergman’s novel, Sleepless with Dario Argento, and Minority Report with Steven Spielberg.

In a year with another sub-par Bond, it made me long for old Bond films and von Sydow was Blofeld in Never Say Never Again.

Considering that Robin Williams passed well before his time, and the seemingly-immortal Christopher Lee did as well, it’s not too late but about time to honor Max von Sydow. He clearly has well-earned longevity of his career on his side with credits in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, ‘10s; in other words consecutive decades. He’s 86 years old, and debuted at 22 in Miss Julie (1951).

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He was Oscar nominated in 1989 and 2012 (most recently for Extremely loud and Incredibly Close), Golden Globes in 1967 and 1974, Emmy in 1990.

Yet more impressive are his list of credits I’ve not even mentioned yet.

  • Shutter Island
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Snow Falling on Cedars
  • Leland Gaunt in Needful Things; perfection of casting imperfection of adaptation
  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • Ghostbusters II
  • Pelle the Conqueror
  • Conan the Barbarian
  • Flash Gordon

He went from something like Winter Light to playing Christ in The Greatest Story Ever Told to being Father Merrin in The Exorcist.

His credits are multi-lingual.

Even the blind spots I have with him are well-regarded:

  • Tudors
  • Dune
  • Dreamscape
  • Ice Pirates
  • Three Days of the Condor
  • Steppenwolf
  • New Land
  • Emigrants

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His voice has even featured in games like Skyrim and Ghostbusters.

When I discovered he was going to be on Game of Thrones my reaction was simply “Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow,” which was frequently how I reacted to his performances.

Max von Sydow is a true living legend.