Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon: Tiny Toons "Acme Bowl"

Original Air date: 11/16/1990

Director: Ken Boyer

Writers: Steve Langford, Debra Blanchard, Tom Ruegger, Paul Dini

Tiny Toons was the first of a wave of Warner Brothers Animation shows produced by Steven Spielberg. Each episode began with an opening title sequence complete with theme song. 


It’s no small feat to create a next generation of characters to interact with, and follow in the footsteps of, the Looney Tunes. Perhaps what made this show successful was that it incorporated the notion that these characters were learning and being taught the ins and outs of being toons by the old guard who act as teachers and mentors at Acme Looniversity. So they play a supporting role for those who don’t want to see only all new characters. Another function this show served was a continuation of the Warner Brothers canon following the death of Mel Blanc. 

The episode opens with a Wacko World of Sports newsreel, which is a reference to an eponymous episode earlier in Season One, which itself was a riff on ABC’s longtime series ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

The segment sets up the rivalry between the Acme Looniversity Toonsters and Perfecto Prep. The term rivalry is used loosely here because Acme is winless on the season (a montage shows their loss to the University of Woodpeckers,  Santa Ana Barbarians, and the Metropolis Marvels. 

Elmyra plays nurse to the team, her character originated on this show before joining both Animaniacs and being teamed up with Pinky & the Brain. Little Sneezer is established as the team’s super-fan and his involvement is pivotal later in the episode. Babs, Fifi, and Shirley the Loon are the cheerleaders and Buster has just been named the new quarterback of the team. 

Then there’s an ominous introduction to Perfecto, the antagonists. Even the building looks foreboding. It’s also the first part of the episode that requires a little suspension of disbelief as they are cited as being undefeated in their 200 year history. A would-be record in actual college football and if the implication they’ve played that long—well, college football only turned 150 in 2019. However, that information, the whole opening captured my imagination as a child and serves as a great lead-in to the story.

Next, we go into a pep rally where Bugs, the team’s coach, introduces Buster to the student body. The cheers from the cheerleaders are the comedic highlight here and they’re jokes I relate to better as an older sports fan.

“ARE WE GONNA WIN?”


“NO!”

“ARE WE GONNA LOSE?”

“YEAH!”

“ARE WE GONNA LOSE BIG?”


“YEAH!”

“HOW BIG?”

“WE’RE GONNA GET ANNIHILATED!”

We move to Perfecto who sing their fight song in this scene and it includes the lyric “because, you see, we always cheat,” this is both fitting for sports at the moment and the honesty is refreshing.

Aside from the new QB Acme is also unveiling a new playbook for the big game.

The playbook, “filled with razzle-dazzle,” is coveted by Perfecto. When they Acme players go their separate ways  we see that Plucky is not headed toward his house but is covertly meeting with Perfecto. In an Eight Men Out kind of twist, Plucky has with him the playbook they so desire. He enters a limo, hands over the book, and visits campus. In exchange for relinquishing it and throwing the game he’s being promised the ability to transfer there.

Plucky’s courtship includes video games and a seductress by the name of Margo Mallard who induces a rather Daffy-like reaction from Plucky; the first of many successful sight gags in the episode.  The combination of classic bits with modern motifs was one of the things that drew me to this show aside from old favorites still being there. 

One of the best running gags of this episode is Perfecto’s cheerleaders being disaffected Valley Girls (“Perfecto…rah”). When Plucky first signals Perfecto a play during the game he says “Am I a louse or what?”, which is a very Looney Tunes kind of aside. Later, there’s an anthropomorphic football gag that despite nearly being mandatory is well done.

Football fans will appreciate some of the trick plays Acme tries to run like the Statue of Liberty play. The most famous example of it can be seen below.

Recently, I was watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit with my son, and during the opening animated sequence, he asked something to the extent of  “Why are there so many windows in that kitchen?” What he was commenting on was the subtle gag at play in that scene that it took me many views to pick up on—animated shorts played with space to conserve how many backgrounds they needed to create in the cell animation days and Who Framed Roger Rabbit exaggerated that. 

There’s an instance of that technique which may not have been intentional in this episode.  After a kick Acme is pinned at the one-inch line (A good call by Sylvester doing play-by-play in the booth; his flooding the booth with spit and Porky trying to avoid it is another great running gag in this episode. On the next play after that kick, Buster drops back to pass about twenty yards and doesn’t even enter his own end zone much less run out the back of it like he should have.

The only other football-related SNAFU is that no extra points being kicked were shown, one was arbitrarily awarded to generate the closest possible result. 

Because Perfecto is signaled by Plucky about the plays they are able to force two strip-fumbles that are returned for touchdowns. 

Near the end of the first half Buster brings in the secret weapon he told no one about: Diz; Diz being the young counterpart to the Tasmanian Devil. Diz is told to go long. He does. Buster puts some mustard on his throw, cue sight gag. Diz catches it, by swallowing the ball, for a touchdown.

On Perfecto’s next series Diz creates some havoc on the defensive side and would have come down with an interceptions if Perfecto hadn’t put a literal rocket on the ball that carried him out of the stadium, the where we don’t know. 

It’s 18-7 at the half (see, Perfecto missed their extra-points, Acme didn’t and we saw none of them). 

The halftime show is the Wackyland Rubber Band a great homage to Porky in Wackyland

During halftime, Ronny, Perfecto’s alpha, accosts Plucky in the restroom. He’s angry about the touchdown, having expected a shutout, and is adamant that Perfecto better win. 

Sneezer was in a stall overhearing this and it prompts him to say “Say it ain’t so, Plucky,” in another Eight Men Out moment. 

Coming back from the second commercial break, or fade to black on streaming (Hulu has it in the US), we’re thrown back into the action with another tried and true gag: the use of stock footage. Many more of these techniques can be used in a single narrative when aiming for 22-23 minute episodes than a 6-8 minute theatrical short. 

Sneezer’s  refrain of “Say it ain’t so” continues to assail Plucky. Buster is sacked and as other players fall to injury Buster accepts the cheerleader’s offer to suit up. His only protestation being “Oh, brother.” For 1990 that’s progressive indeed.

As one might expect the girls don’t just help the boys avoid forfeiture. About to get tackle Babs screams that she lost her contact lens—insert gag about her having brown eyes—she finds it first and runs for touchdown. Acme now trails 18-13, another extra point missed unseen.

Fifi, the new generation’s answer to Pepe, forces a fumble and recovers for Acme with 0:06 left in the game. Buster is drawing up a play for Shirley the Loon and Babs catches Plucky signaling Perfecto. Perfecto thinks they have the game won regardless. Plucky is sent to the bench.

For the fourth time Sneezer implores “Please, Plucky, say it ain’t so.”

After the snap Plucky steps back onto the field just inside the boundary at the line of scrimmage. Buster gets him the ball immediately. In football terms, excluding the trick element aside, this play became popular much later. It’s a smoke-screen—a quick, short throw to a wideout that relies on yards-after-catch. Because Perfecto believed Plucky out and not replaced they didn’t cover that area and couldn’t catch up to him. Plucky scores as the gun sounds, no extra-point needed, Acme wins 19-18.

Ronny complains: “That wasn’t in the playbook!”


“Sure it was,” is the response. “Check the last page.”

It reads: You’ve been had. Signed, Buster Bunny.

Aside from the only-as-cartoony-as-it-needs-to-be football action, the drama of the game on display in this episode captured my imagination when I first had it and has kept it since; more on that in a bit, but first the denouement. 

Sneezer approaches Plucky in the tunnel. He is proud and never doubted the team. Sneezer offers him a drink, Plucky gives him his jersey in an homage to the Mean Joe Greene Coke commercial.

Perfecto laments their fate as Diz returns on the rocket-ball, from Hawaii it seems, and crash lands on them in a final bit of poetic justice. 

A few times in my early teen years and twenties I tried to deny the sports-loving part of me thinking it interfered with my creative side. What I later discovered was I needed to find balance. Since I’ve gotten better and better at doing.

The notion of Tiny Toons not only learning their craft in school but being student-athletes captivated me. I drew my favorite characters—Warner, Disney, or otherwise—in Acme uniforms and based on when they debuted in theatrical shorts I plotted when their school days would have been. I’ve thought about it with modern characters also. 

In that endeavor I also imagined what positions certain characters might play. I sated my sports interest, my creative impulse, and I also learned a little bit of film history. Little did I know at the time this was an activity all about balance. 

For artists in any discipline you never know what kind of impact your work will have. I’m sure those involved in “Acme Bowl” didn’t know that I—and other kids like me—would still know the score of that game thirty years later, still have drawings they made inspired by it or the diary entry I wrote recapping the episode when I had just seen it.

One of the reasons I love this blogathon so is that to discuss a series or season in totality can be tiresome. However, some individual installments can stand the test of time even better than the show as a whole. It was a pleasure discussing this one. 

110 Years of Claire Trevor Blogathon: Breaking Home Ties (1987)

This post is part of the Claire Trevor Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and The Wonderful World of Cinema. Claire Trevor was an actress I had seen but was nit conscious of before this blogathon, so I’m glad I joined up.

NOTES: 1. This film can be streamed on Hallmark Movies Now, which is available for a free seen-day trial 2. There were few photos of this film I was able to find online, none featured Claire Trevor unfortunately.

Breaking Homes Waves aired on ABC on November 27th, 1987 and is based on a Norman Rockwell painting by the same name, the film is written and directed by John Wilder. It stars Jason Robards as Lloyd, Eva Marie Saint as Emma, Doug McKeon (best known for On Golden Pond) as Lonnie; and, of course, Claire Trevor as Grace Porter was given the TV honorarium of “Special Guest Star.”

Despite being based on a work by the epitome of Americana, this film does go beneath the wholesome veneer to find the drama. It centers of Lonnie who is leaving home for the first time to attend college. While he’s adjusting academically and socially. At home, his mother, Emma, learns she has leukemia and decides not to tell her husband, Lloyd, or her son.

Claire Trevor comes in as Grace, a high school teacher, Lonnie being a former student of hers, and she is also a friend of the family. Her scenes in this film are few but significant. 

In her introductory scene she arrives at our protagonist’s home driving herself. Her first shot is a male gaze shot (While male gaze was an old-hat cinematic motif by the late-‘80s what makes this instance a little different is that both characters involved are senior citizens) that starts at her foot exiting the vehicle and pans up. This establishes the mutual attraction between Grace and Lloyd. That scene is the setup and we immediately sense the screen presence that earned her the special guest star credit, even if we were previously unfamiliar with her. During this very same year she also appeared on an episode of Murder She Wrote

When Grace speaks to Emma she asks how she’s doing especially considering Lonnie has just left for college. The bond Grace shares with Lonnie is revealed when she mentions that she never had kids but if she did he’d have been like Lonnie. Direction-wise this scene is a little off because the subtext that Grace carries a torch for Lloyd is clear but there’s never a reaction shot for Emma, so whether or not she’s any the wiser is unknown. We’re led to believe she’s not. 

Regardless of that Trevor carries much of the screen-time in this scene and emotes subtext through the surface of banal dialogue, which is a testament to her abilities.

Claire next appears when Lonnie comes home from school over Thanksgiving. This visit is at the beckoning of her mother because he and his success at college mean a lot to her. This is the part in the film where Trevor has her first significant involvement and is one of two storytelling scenes she has. Here she relates how this was her hometown and that she met a man, fell in love, and then traveled the road. What surprises Lonnie as a young man who has left the nest for the first time is that Grace’s returning home and teaching generations what she learned in the great big world gave her a renewed sense of purpose after losing her husband and brings her more joy than globetrotting did. Trevor in this scene effortlessly captures the energy of a sage who tells the tale quite naturally evidencing the progression of her acting style to a more modern sensibility, demonstrating that at this age she still had the chops. 

The next scene Claire Trevor has is her penultimate of the film, and finds Grace running into Lloyd in town near the pharmacist’s. At this point in the film the ailment that Emma has been hiding from her family is highly suspected by her husband. This adds a layer to the tension, this is on top of the sexual tension, as there is confirmation in this scene that there was a romantic past between the two. The restraint of emotion with clear communication between the scene partners here is most excellent. 

Spoiler Alert

Claire Trevor’s final scene in this film is one where Lonnie visits her at school after the death of his mother. This is another storytelling scene where she relates to Lonnie that she and Lloyd had a relationship after he was a student of hers. Due to this fact they broke it off in order to spare her reputation. She then met her eventual husband and Lloyd met Emma. This sequence consists of longer takes and Clair Trevor and Doug McKeon play off each other well. Moreover, the naturalistic style of delivery is still present. This scene paves the way for Lonnie to talk to Lloyd get his side of the story and bury the hatchet with him as he had been angry with his father when he didn’t understand his actions and now needed to vent and to understand his mother’s decision.

Claire Trevor plays a small but significant role in this film. There are times when the “special guest star” connotation is given due to an actor’s reputation and is not merited by the role and/or the material. Here it is deserved and Trevor shows to those who may not have known why her reputation preceded her into this film. 

The Out to Sea Blogathon: Lifeboat (1944)

When I saw the Out to Sea Blogathon the first thing that came to mind was Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. The reason for this is that when dealing with seafaring narratives you are normally are left with few options of how to approach it in terms of the kind of story being told.

As per usual Hitchcock worked from a concept first conceived in prose. In this case a story by John Steinbeck. Shaping into cinematic story proved a daunting task in the scripting stage, as Hitch told Truffaut in their now-legendary interview series:

I had assigned John Steinbeck to the screenplay, but his screenplay was incomplete and so I brought in MacKinlay Kantor who worked on it for two weeks. I didn’t care for what he had written at all. He said ‘Well, that’s the best I can do.’ I thanked him for his efforts and hired another writer, Jo Swerling, who had worked on several films for Frank Capra. When the screenplay was complete and was ready to shoot, I discovered the narrative was rather shapeless. So I went over it again, trying to give dramatic form to each of the sequences.

This kind of revolving door of writers was not unusual then, nor is it unusual now; nor is a director’s pass of the script. This kind of revisionary writing is what many directors do in lieu of writing their own scripts start-to-finish—Spielberg would be a modern day example. Much of Hitchcock’s contribution can be seen in Constance Porter’s (Tallulah Bankhead) arc. However, there are other touches that make this work special, one of under-appreciated works.

In the shipwrecked variant of the seafaring tale (this film deftly incorporates elements of that, war film, and chamber drama) there can be visual monotony to the goings on. What Hitchcock does to break this up is balancing the claustrophobic (being on a small lifeboat with a group of survivors) to agoraphobic (the oceanic nothingness that surrounds them). Another visual component that gives this film some vibrancy is that Hitchcock uses close-ups sparingly. Instead he frames many three-quarter, two-, three-shots, and larger group shots.

While, like Rope, this is a unity of space tale (but not time) yet there are cinematic moments, cuts, and mise-en-scène. So while the actors often share the frame listening and reacting to each other in the same take this film never feels theatrical.

As the title indicates the primary motivation for all the characters is survival. It instantly jumps into the action barely showing the sinking of the passenger ship by a U-Boat and getting right into the lifeboat.

The sea and their vessel is the ideal setting for this clash of characters who are a microcosm of World War II’s combatants. The focus remains myopically on the characters only focusing on the seafaring aspect as much as necessary and as a function of these characters.

As Hitchcock did later on The Birds, there is no musical score in this film. It’s another decision that focuses the audience’s attention on the characters as it searches for more verisimilitude and less spectacle.

As each passenger climbs out of the wreckage and onto the boat, there is tension and conflict as those already on the boat discover who the newcomer is and more about them. This is mostly subsumed and not bombastic. Most of the overt conflict surrounds the character of Willi (Walter Slezak), the German who comes aboard.

There are deceptions along the way but the character of Willi is most definitely an intriguing one. Hitchcock mentioned to Truffaut that some criticism from the press about the film was about the Nazi being too skilled, in short that they wanted the movie to be more propagandistic as it was released in 1944. However, the fact that he was the most qualified to captain the lifeboat doesn’t changed the fact that he lied about his rank on the U-boat and what supplies he kept on his person amongst other things. Plus, he goes to great lengths to earn their trust in order that his deception(s) can go undetected.

Had the film been more starkly black and white in its characterization, as some critics wanted it to be (judging a film by what you want it to be, and not what it is, is a cardinal sin of criticism), I don’t think the film would have had the afterlife its enjoyed despite its disappearing from cinemas with little fanfare upon its initial release. Save for a rather lengthy run in New York.

With any film the audience, both critics and the general public, are the final arbiter of meaning and impact–or at least have the final say whether “correct” or not. My perspective ends up being somewhere between Truffaut who said:

At one time I was under the impression that Lifeboat intended to show that everyone is guilty, each of us has something to be ashamed of, and that no one man is qualified to pass judgment others.

And Hitchcock who said:

Here was a statement telling democracies to put aside their differences temporarily and to gather forces and concentrate on the common enemy, whose strength was derived from a spirit of unity and determination.

In drawing the characters out, in giving them all dimension, you will naturally see flaws and positives in all these people. Having no character be a paragon of virtue is what makes this film art and not the propaganda some desired.

Yet Hitch’s message is also there, especially at the very end after the second shipwrecked Nazi is dealt with, the line is clearly delivering the moral he wants, but can be variously interpreted such that it doesn’t become a preachy statement–a trap many films of the era fell into. It could taken as a modern spin on the expression “Kill them all, let God sort them out.” The preceding events showed that when these people allowed their better natures to prevail and followed the Golden Rule they were taken advantage of. They were shown over and over again they could not deal with the Nazis humanely.

With Lifeboat Hitchcock puts on a morality play at sea with representative figures which are archetypal, yet layered; well-rounded and not stereotypical and it is perhaps that it did not connect as well 76 years ago as it might now.

O Canada Blogathon 2020 – Dawson City:Frozen Time

Hearing that the O Canada Blogathon was back I was wanted to join up. What I needed was a subject. To find one I sifted through my mounds of unwatched Blu-rays and DVDs (some blind buys; some not). Upon doing that I knew the film I’d write about would be Dawson City: Frozen Time.

When I was young I would often study maps and the Yukon was one of the areas that fascinated me. The attraction had to do with its name, its remoteness, it nearness to the Arctic Circle, and also (probably on a subconscious level) that Dawson City was denoted on the map in what I could only assume was a sparsely populated area and it was not the territorial capital. 

The reason for Dawson City still being on a world map in the mid-to-late ‘80s, when I was young boy, looking them was that it was epicenter of the final great gold rush in world history.

The town was built so prospectors had somewhere to live, the local Hän tribe displaced. That was one of many things I learned in watching this documentary.

But its selection is about more than just facts gleaned, which were many.

The film opens interviewing the couple who made a discovery of the movie reels while excavating for new construction project in 1978. However, this is but a framing mechanism and what comes between these bookends and predominates the film is a mix of stills, archival footage, and Dawson City film finds, both newsreels and features, that tell the story of the town’s history either with events that locals witnessed via movie houses or reenacted through narrative features that were set in Dawson City. 

The impetus for the narrative crisscross is that in discussing the town you have to establish the find, the foundation of the city, the year-by-year stampede of prospectors north, followed by the dwindling population later. 

Dawson City’s apex population of 30,000 in 1898 and the fact that people from all walks of life came there in search of fortune made it such that it was a crossroads. The people who came through as the town boomed and what became of them after their time there also play a part in the story. 

To the nascent film industry Dawson City was a new market, so films came as people needed entertainment in all forms. However, Dawson was the end-of-the-line and films were slow to come there. Studios did not want the costs of shipping the film canisters back from the Yukon to California, so when local theaters were done with them the studios ordered the prints destroyed. 

The formerly flammable nature of film stock plays a part in some of Dawson City’s early tragic moments and gives this film its tagline: Film was born of an explosive.

The tragedy for film everywhere—one of the omnipresent in its early history—was shortsightedness. Many films were purposely destroyed, involuntarily burned, or merely decayed over time erasing much of the silent era’s output. A form of safety film was first developed in 1910 but not adopted until the early ’50s due to prohibitive costs—more shortsightedness. All this talk of film burning had me thinking of Cinema Paradiso when Alfredo, already blinded in a film fire, is introduced to safety film by Toto he laments that progress always comes too late. 

In the end the decision in Dawson City to not burn all the film and how it was finally stored helped preserve much of it paving the way for one of the most monumental film finds in motion picture history. More specifics than that are spare to preserve some other surprises, for the film which contains plenty (not that one could adequately describe the magic of this particular film in mere words, but my meager attempt is forthcoming).

This film separates itself in its aesthetic approach to its subject matter. Other films have used feature film footage as a stand-in for archival footage or dramatization; the essays in the booklet included with the Blu-ray by Lawrence Weschler, Vanity Fair,  and Alberto Zambenedetti highlight Los Angeles Plays Itself as a prime example. However, it is the other techniques that combine with this that make this film a unique and masterful work.

For long stretches of its running time Dawson City: Frozen Time functions as a silent film. The titles cards disseminate needed information about the images we are shown, without voice over. We go through the rise and fall of Dawson City as a hub of civilization.

Director Bill Morrison was one of the first people to view much of the recovered footage, and so, over the years developed an intimate relationship with it that allowed him to exploit it as well as he does here. 

The rapturous symphonic score by composer/multi-instrumentalist Alex Somers increases the immersive nature of the film. 

A general interest audience will be captivated alone by how disparate folks like Fred Trump, grandfather of Donald, had his first financial success there; Tex Rickard, founder of the New York Rangers, passed through; Robert Service, poet and Jack London, novelist, found inspiration there; Calamity Jane, made a splash; Klondike Kate, of course, got her name there and there’s a pub not too far from me bearing her name a mere 3,917 miles away; the Carnegies, Guggenheims, and more all crossed paths at the top of the world.

The connections to the film industry and its history don’t stop with a couple thousand rediscovered film reels: Alexander Pantages and Sid Grauman both had their humble starts in Dawson City. Perhaps, most amazing to me was the reference to the 1957 Academy Award winning documentary short City of Gold, which tells the tale of Dawson City’s gold rush, but more influentially pioneered the pan and zoom techniques on still photos that Ken Burns would later make famous and make a staple of documentary filmmaking.

A few years ago when cutting a documentary for my local church I learned that Final Cut Pro now has a function called Ken Burns that facilitates usage of the aforementioned technique. So if you’ve used that software recently you’ve felt the influence of Dawson City, too, albeit in a very indirect way. 

Toward its conclusion the film becomes transcendent upon entering a montage of Dawson City film finds that are in various stages of water damage and other forms of decay. The imperfections of the film, scratched, nebulous, nearly abstracted images dance to the crescendo in the score. Being able to see part of an image that was previously lost is better than nothing. The visual image in a motion picture can be—and often is—beautiful even when imperfect. Hairs not removed from the gate live forever in the recorded image. Some older films will always have Nelson Spots or cigarette burns on them. Pristine images are ideal, but there is a majesty, power, and poetry to decayed film that still survives through the ages, preserving a moment in time.

It is the fact that this film can tell the story of the Gold Rush; how it created Dawson City; who came and left and how those people experienced the world; how the film was found and also celebrate celluloid itself that makes this work so special.

Decasia (2002)

The essays included with the Blu-ray also made me aware of a film I had not heard of by Morrison called Decasia. Decasia is a portmanteau of “decay” and “fantasy” and it plays with the idea of this kind of montage for a feature. The fact that Morrison made a whole film in this motif and blends a similar sequence seamlessly into a film that already tackles so much is remarkable.

Morrison’s Decasia was the first film released in the 21st Century to be added to the National Film Registry. It would not surprise me if this film ends up there someday also. It’s a story about a small town in the Yukon, but also all of Canada, all of America, and all of cinema. So much stemming out of such a small town is a miraculous thing, as is the discovery of the film, as is Dawson City: Frozen Time. 

Updates: Blogathon Entries Forthcoming

I’ve decided that Blogathon’s might be the best way to get me back in a film-writing groove. As such, I have entered two forthcoming ones…there may be more soon to follow.

Two I am currently drafting, so I will have three coming back-to-back-to-back.

For the above blogathon I will be writing about Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.

The O Canada Blogathon is back and so am I. I previously wrote about Atanarjuat, The work of Brendan Meyer, Pit Pony, The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy, and Léolo. This year I will write about Dawson City: Frozen Time.

In order to learn a bit more about Claire Trevor I decided to write about her appearance in Breaking Home Ties (1987).

In another blogathon I love I have previously written about Alfred Hitchcock Presents “Incident in a Small Jail” and You Can’t Do That on Television “Adoption”. This time I will write about Tiny Toons Adventures “The Acme Bowl.”

The 92nd Annual Academy Awards

Introduction

Once again I am live-blogging the Academy Awards because I can’t help myself and despite the fact that I haven’t seen as many nominated films as I would like.

Red Carpet

Tuned in at about 6:30, which is a bit later than when I was a teenager and earlier than I had been doing recently.

So, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig are together.

Because of Taika Waititi I will now use boomerang figuratively.

Billy Porter…that is all.

There may be some blind buys or rentals forthcoming for some of the films I have not yet been able to see.

Is Ryan Seacrest really a selling point for the red carpet show?

The above is something you probably didn’t see on the red carpet show.

How can Kelly Ripa mention fake tans and not mention this….?

True story: I read the nominations came out and knew who had a chance to be nominated, but I have no idea who is hosting.

That opening number by Janelle Monae was one of the best I’ve seen.

OK, the Steve Martin/Chris Rock opening explained my host confusion.

I was gonna venture a guess on political commentary in acceptance speeches. Considering Brad lead off with his disappointment in the lack of witnesses in the impeachment trial.

Missing Link is the first Laika film I didn’t see theatrically. I still have to see it.

There look like there are some really cool animation techniques in these shorts. I love going to see the nominee programs, but all the shorts should be available to stream. Look into them.

Josh Gad drops two political jokes and introduces the very cool polyglot “Into the Unknown” that I’ve been looking forward to.

Keanu Reeves and Diane Keaton’s intro was perfect. The patter before screenplay awards has occasionally been about bad writing in award shows, this was the most tongue-in-cheek version.

Parasite is another one I missed out on.

TAIKA!

What I wrote about the animated shorts applies here also.

Maya Rudolph and Kristin Wiig were insanely funny and that medley was legendary.

Charlton Heston makes this year’s broadcast as an NRA stooge in the Best Documentary montage. Tough break.

So feature length documentaries American Factory which won and Edge of Democracy (nominated) are both on Netflix, there may be more but I know those two are.

Now that Laura Dern won an Oscar (YES!) I may have to see Marriage Story tomorrow. Need to prioritize.

Are we really putting “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” on par with “Purple Rain” Oscars?

Now we’re adding to the runtime by having a performance of a previous winner?

Now ask Scorsese thinks of Eminem media, LOL.

Randy Newman coming on to perform invariably reminds me of the Family Guy gag about him.

Yes, this is exactly what we need a musical recap. Siiiiiiiiiggggh.

WOW. Julia Louis-Dreyfus looks amazing.

The Academy is making up for making Roger Deakins wait so long.

Ford vs. Ferrari wins Best Editing. Will it win Best Picture? It’s usually a strong indicator.

Leave it to Tom Hanks to toss in the Kirk Douglas reference.

OMG Cats.

Lots of audio dumps this year.

I wasn’t sure why Bombshell was even a contender until I saw who played Ailes in the win-montage.

With Parasite having so many other nominations who won Best International Feature Film was a foregone conclusion. I hope that in future years, following the furor caused by Nigeria’s disqualification that the antiquated rules that are a relic of Best Foreign Language Film days are scrapped.

True, Elton John doesn’t beed an introduction, but he still could have been afforded one. I know introducing the acts has been time-cutting maneuver but it seems weird.

Ancestral lands comment to open Taika’s intro is great. Cutting down the Governor’s Awards wasn’t so cool.

Female conducting live performances of the Best Original Scores. AN Academy first.

Bong-Joon Ho running away with the night.

Steven Spielberg always makes an appearance, this time for the In Memoriam.

With Best Actor there was finally BAM Awards agreement.

As has been the case in Awards Season, Joaquin Phoenix’s speech was pretty much all political.

And him quoting something his brother wrote made me cry. Oof.

“Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.”

-River Phoenix

Should’ve seen Zellweger’s win coming. Didn’t.

Jane Fonda coming out to read Best Picture. Awesome.

It only took 92 Years, but a foreign film has won Best Picture. It’s about time. Amen.

Renée Zellweger was practically delivering a keynote address and suddenly you’re going to cut the mics on the Best Picture team Oscars?

…and the 2019 BAM Awards go to…

Without further ado, here are my honorees for 2019. The honored film and/or performer is in Bold.

Best Picture

Avengers: Endgame

The Goldfinch

It: Chapter 2

Midsommar

Us

No film I saw this year was as layered and as worthy of revisiting.

Most Overlooked Picture

Not awarded.

Is not being awarded this year because the category had morphed into being about films that didn’t have a distributor or were under distributed. I saw no films that qualified in that sense this past year. 

Best Director

Ari Aster Midsommar

John Crowley The Goldfinch

Andy Muschietti It: Chapter 2

Jordan Peele Us

Anthony Russo and Joe Russo Avengers: Endgame

Peele’s vision for this film oozes off this film from the opening frame.

Best Actress 

Jessica Chastain It: Chapter 2

Lupita Nyong’o Us

Aubrey Plaza Child’s Play

Florence Pugh Midsommar

Octavia Spencer Ma

Lupita Nyong’o delivers the two best performances of the year in this film.

Best Actor

Robert Downey, Jr. Avengers: Endgame

Winston Duke Us

Taron Egerton Rocketman

Joaquin Phoenix Joker

James Ransone It: Chapter 2

Phoenix is a one-man show and a rather spectacular one at that.

Best Supporting Actress 

Awkwafina Jumanji: The Next Level

Carrie Fisher Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Isabelle Huppert Greta

Nicole Kidman The Goldfinch

Juliette Lewis Ma

Best Supporting Actor

Danny Devito Jumanji: The Next Level

Angus Imrie The Kid Who Would Be King

Samuel L. Jackson Captain Marvel

Will Poulter Midsommar

Bill Skarsgård It: Chapter 2

It’s really not about the de-aging, Sam Jackson steals a lot of this movie.

Best Cast

Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evan, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Brie Larson, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, Evangeline Lilly, et al. Avengers: Endgame

Oakes Fegley, Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, Luke Wilson, Sarah Paulson, Willa Fitzgerald, Finn Wolfhard, Aimee Laurence, Carly Connors, Ryan Foust, Jack DiFalco, Collin Shea Shirrmacher, Nicky Torchia, et al. The Goldfinch

Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Jack Dylan Grazer, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Luke Roesseler, Jackson Robert Scott, Sladen Peltier, Sophia Lillis, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, et al. It: Chapter 2

Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Vilhelm Blomgren, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Ellora Torchia, Archie Medekwe, Henrik Norlén, et al. Midsommar

Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright-Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker Us

What happened with It: Chapter 2 was near-impossible: they found a cast capable of believably being grown-up versions of the Losers and were equally in synch, making it an even more impressive ensemble piece.

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role

Akira Akbar Captain Marvel

Beatrice Kitsos Child’s Play

Sophia Lillis It: Chapter 2

Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen The Curse of La Llorona

Shahadi Wright Joseph Us

As opposed to It: Chapter 2, Us is a much smaller ensemble piece as such much more of the load is shouldered by each cast member. Shahadi Wright Joseph and her counterpart interact quite a bit carrying much of that load.

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role

Evan Alex Us

Gabriel Bateman, Child’s Play

Oakes Fegley The Goldfinch

Jackson Robert Scott The Prodigy

Louis Ashbourne Serkis The Kid Who Would Be King

To give a film called The Prodigy a chance to work requires a prodigious performance. Jackson Robert Scott here fully displays the abilities that the It films only hinted at.

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Supporting Role

Rhianna Dorris The Kid Who Would Be King

McKenna Grace Captain Marvel

Faithe Herman Shazam!

Aimee Laurence The Goldfinch

Finley Rose Slater Playing with Fire

Rhianna Dorris’s character is one half of a tandem of reluctant heroes and plays the most nuanced of the young characters beautifully.

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role 

Dean Chaumoo The Kid Who Would Be King

Jack Dylan Grazer Shazam!

Marcel Ruiz Breakthrough

Jackson Robert Scott It: Chapter 2

Tom Taylor The Kid Who Would Be King

Considering the synopsis Ruiz had more screen time than I anticipated, his performance is powerful, truthful, and indelible.

Best Youth Ensemble

Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Izaac Wang, Millie Davis, Christian Darrel Scott, Macie Juiles Good Boys

Oakes Fegley, Finn Wolfhard, Aimee Laurence, Carly Connors, Ryan Foust, Jack DiFalco, Collin Shea Shirrmacher, Nicky Torchia, The Goldfinch

Jack Dylan Grazer, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Luke Roesseler, Jackson Robert Scott, Sladen Peltier, Sophia Lillis, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, It: Chapter 2

Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Tom Taylor, Dean Chaumoo, Rhianna Dorris, The Kid Who Would Be King

Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Faithe Herman, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Ethan Pugiotto, Landon Doak, David Kohlsmith Shazam!

There were additional young cast members this time who also had their moments, so yes, they win an encore prize because they’re spectacular.

Best Original Screenplay

Ari Aster Midsommar

Joe Cornish The Kid Who Would Be King

Lee Hall Rocketman

Jennifer Lee Frozen II

Jordan Peele Us

Once again Peele’s singular vision is allowed shine as he brings his own concept to the screen, this time with a greater degree of success that in his previous endeavor.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely Avengers: Endgame

Tyler Burton Smith, Don Mancini, John Lafia and Tom Holland Child’s Play

Peter Straughan and Donna Tartt The Goldfinch

Gary Dauberman and Stephen King It: Chapter 2

Christ McKenna & Erik Sommers Spider-Man: Far from Home

Dauberman’s task this time around is no less enviable than it was the first time around. The characters, so well-created before, must now be presented in two versions and are executed equally well.

Best Score

Michael Abels Us

Joseph Bishara The Prodigy

Trevor Gureckis The Goldfinch

Bobby Krlic Midsommar

John Williams Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

To create an economy of words I’ve avoided citing all nominees in my explications. Here I cannot do that. Joseph Bishara is vastly underrated and I watched the credits to see what that Hungarian tune was and was stunned he wrote it. Gureckis’s work is lyrical. Krlic’s score is haunting and Williams’ work is his best in the series in the new trilogy. However, Abels’ work is ominous, pervasive, and has lingered with me.

Best Editing

Jason Ballantine It: Chapter 2

Kelley Dixon The Goldfinch

Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt Avengers: Endgame

Lucian Johnstone Midsommar

Nicholas Monsour Us

The pas de deux sequence is what sealed it for me.

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

Avengers: Endgame

It: Chapter 2

Midsommar

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Us

The sound mix is a large part of what makes this film so unsettling.

Best Cinematography

Roger Deakins The Goldfinch

Mike Gioulakis Us

Pavel Pogorzelski Midsommar

Lawrence Sher Joker

Checco Varese It: Chapter 2

There aren’t many flashy vistas and the setpieces alternate between opulent New York society, Amsterdam, and quasi-abandoned sections of Las Vegas but with Deakins light and shadow are the stars always.

Best Costume Design

Julian Day Rocketman

Andrea Flesch Midsommar

Sanja Milkovic Hays Captain Marvel

Luis Sequeira It: Chapter 2

Jany Tamime The Kid Who Would Be King

Taking on Elton John as a costumer is no easy task, even less so when you have represent him on stage and off as well as varying time periods with other characters.

Best Art Direction

Avengers: Endgame

The Goldfinch

It: Chapter 2

Midsommar

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The key to suspension of disbelief in this film is selling the location and how the characters hand themselves freely to it, a large part of that is accomplished through the intricate and beautiful art design.

Best Makeup

It: Chapter 2

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Us

Zombieland: Double Tap

Joker

It’s not just about clown paint but also stage blood, TV studio makeup beauty makeups–the variety within the film.

Best Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame

Midsommar

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

The Lion King

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

What this film did so impressively is that it put cartoon characters in a real world and made them look as real, like cartoon characters would if they could walk off screen.

Best Soundtrack

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Happy Death Day 2U

Jumanji: The Next Level

Playing with Fire

Rocketman

Sure, it’s easy to say the music of Elton John is the soundtrack of the year. But the songs are re-recorded and rearranged, sung by his character at three ages, and at the end Taron Egerton’s version of a song blends almost seamlessly into Elton’s.

Robert Downey, Jr. Entertainer(s) of the Year Award(s)

Tom Holland

Tom Holland (/GQ)

Holland’s appearances as Spider-Man continue to be stellar. One of the litmus tests of my Entertainer of the Year Award are appearances through the year. Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home took care of the spring and summer appearances. At Christmas he leant his impressive voice talent to Spies in Disguise. What about the fall? Well, when it appeared Spider-Man was doomed to cinematic limbo outside the MCU after Disney and Sony couldn’t come to an agreement, he stepped in behind the scenes and helped remedy that situation. It was the kind of movie news needed this year.

Ingmar Bergman Lifetime Achievement Award(s)

George Lucas

George Lucas’s credentials need hardly be listed here. He was the architect of the Star Wars franchise and one the architects of the Indiana Jones franchise. And, of course, there are his tech innovations with THX, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound. Normally, I want my honoree of this award to have a credit in the year of his/her honoring. Lucas does and his contribution is unconventional: of course, he’s credited with “Based on characters created by” but he also helped shape the ending which I loved.

Neutron Star Award(s)

Gunnar Björnstrand

In my viewing and re-viewing of Bergman films this past year I came to appreciate more fully the actors the he frequently worked with, none more so than Björnstrand who appeared in his works from 1944 to 1983

Special Jury Award(s)

None.

2019 BAM Award Nominations

Much of what I wrote in last year‘s intro applies this year: There were not monthly considerations posts or shortlists this year. However, I have been tracking eligible titles I’ve seen on Letterboxd. There you’d see that my viewings of eligible titles (and films in general) dipped. It went down to about the level it was when I started making these as a high school student. 

That quote is true in many ways and sometimes life happens and the releases viewed slow down by choice, circumstance or both. This year was a lot of both. Many things I prioritized highly I didn’t get to see, but as I realized a few years ago when posting these awards on my blog these awards are kind of like a yearbook. They may include many films or few, all the awards contenders or none, some I wrote on extensively and many I did not; these awards are my attempt to encapsulate what impressed me and why. 

Whom I select and why will be announced on January 11th. So without further ado, here are this year’s nominees…

Best Picture

Avengers: Endgame

The Goldfinch

It: Chapter 2

Midsommar

Us

Most Overlooked Picture

Not awarded.

Best Director

Ari Aster Midsommar

John Crowley The Goldfinch

Andy Muschietti It: Chapter 2

Jordan Peele Us

Anthony Russo and Joe Russo Avengers: Endgame

Best Actress 

Jessica Chastain It: Chapter 2

Lupita Nyong’o Us

Aubrey Plaza Child’s Play

Florence Pugh Midsommar

Octavia Spencer Ma

Best Actor

Robert Downey, Jr. Avengers: Endgame

Winston Duke Us

Taron Egerton Rocketman

Joaquin Phoenix Joker

James Ransone It: Chapter 2

Best Supporting Actress 

Awkwafina Jumanji: The Next Level

Carrie Fisher Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Isabelle Huppert Greta

Nicole Kidman The Goldfinch

Juliette Lewis Ma

Best Supporting Actor

Danny Devito Jumanji: The Next Level

Angus Imrie The Kid Who Would Be King

Samuel L. Jackson Captain Marvel

Will Poulter Midsommar

Bill Skarsgård It: Chapter 2

Best Cast

Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evan, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Brie Larson, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, Evangeline Lilly, et al. Avengers: Endgame

Oakes Fegley, Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, Luke Wilson, Sarah Paulson, Willa Fitzgerald, Finn Wolfhard, Aimee Laurence, Carly Connors, Ryan Foust, Jack DiFalco, Collin Shea Shirrmacher, Nicky Torchia, et al. The Goldfinch

Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Jack Dylan Grazer, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Luke Roesseler, Jackson Robert Scott, Sladen Peltier, Sophia Lillis, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, et al. It: Chapter 2

Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Vilhelm Blomgren, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Ellora Torchia, Archie Medekwe, Henrik Norlén, et al. Midsommar

Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright-Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker Us

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role

Akira Akbar Captain Marvel

Beatrice Kitsos Child’s Play

Sophia Lillis It: Chapter 2

Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen The Curse of La Llorona

Shahadi Wright Joseph Us

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role

Evan Alex Us

Gabriel Bateman, Child’s Play

Oakes Fegley The Goldfinch

Jackson Robert Scott The Prodigy

Louis Ashbourne Serkis The Kid Who Would Be King

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Supporting Role

Rhianna Dorris The Kid Who Would Be King

McKenna Grace Captain Marvel

Faithe Herman Shazam!

Aimee Laurence The Goldfinch

Finley Rose Slater Playing with Fire

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role 

Dean Chaumoo The Kid Who Would Be King

Jack Dylan Grazer Shazam!

Marcel Ruiz Breakthrough

Jackson Robert Scott It: Chapter 2

Tom Taylor The Kid Who Would Be King

Best Youth Ensemble

Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Izaac Wang, Millie Davis, Christian Darrel Scott, Macie Juiles Good Boys

Oakes Fegley, Finn Wolfhard, Aimee Laurence, Carly Connors, Ryan Foust, Jack DiFalco, Collin Shea Shirrmacher, Nicky Torchia, The Goldfinch

Jack Dylan Grazer, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Luke Roesseler, Jackson Robert Scott, Sladen Peltier, Sophia Lillis, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, It: Chapter 2

Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Tom Taylor, Dean Chaumoo, Rhianna Dorris, The Kid Who Would Be King

Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Faithe Herman, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Ethan Pugiotto, Landon Doak, David Kohlsmith Shazam!

Best Original Screenplay

Ari Aster Midsommar

Joe Cornish The Kid Who Would Be King

Lee Hall Rocketman

Jennifer Lee Frozen II

Jordan Peele Us

Best Adapted Screenplay

Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely Avengers: Endgame

Tyler Burton Smith, Don Mancini, John Lafia and Tom Holland Child’s Play

Peter Straughan and Donna Tartt The Goldfinch

Gary Dauberman and Stephen King It: Chapter 2

Christ McKenna & Erik Sommers Spider-Man: Far from Home

Best Score

Michael Abels Us

Joseph Bishara The Prodigy

Trevor Gureckis The Goldfinch

Bobby Krlic Midsommar

John Williams Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Best Editing

Jason Ballantine It: Chapter 2

Kelley Dixon The Goldfinch

Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt Avengers: Endgame

Lucian Johnstone Midsommar

Nicholas Monsour Us

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

Avengers: Endgame

It: Chapter 2

Midsommar

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Us

Best Cinematography

Roger Deakins The Goldfinch

Mike Gioulakis Us

Pavel Pogorzelski Midsommar

Lawrence Sher Joker

Checco Varese It: Chapter 2

Best Costume Design

Julian Day Rocketman

Andrea Flesch Midsommar

Sanja Milkovic Hays Captain Marvel

Luis Sequeira It: Chapter 2

Jany Tamime The Kid Who Would Be King

Best Art Direction

Avengers: Endgame

The Goldfinch

It: Chapter 2

Midsommar

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Best Makeup

It: Chapter 2

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Us

Zombieland: Double Tap

Joker

Best Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame

Midsommar

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

The Lion King

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Best Soundtrack

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Happy Death Day 2U

Jumanji: The Next Level

Playing with Fire

Rocketman

Robert Downey, Jr. Entertainer(s) of the Year Award(s)

To be announced January 11th.

Ingmar Bergman Lifetime Achievement Award(s)

To be announced January 11th.

Neutron Star Award(s)

To be announced January 11th.

Special Jury Award(s)

To be announced January 11th.

BAM Award Nominations…Tomorrow

Through 2019 my posts on this site have been sparse, but I have been tracking my viewing and will present my annual BAM Awards I plan to have the full list up tomorrow.

Viewing and posting has been more sparse than 2018 in part due to other writing pursuits. One short story I published can be read here another can be ordered in a magazine here.

The nominations again are from a smaller pool, and from mainly big studio films, but I am putting the same amount or care into selecting nominees as when I’ve had more than twice as many eligible titles. Watch this space as I hope to be a little more active and diversified here this year.

Blu-ray Review: The Reflecting Skin

Philip Ridley and the Film

As a fan of the horror genre one is usually on the lookout waiting for something new, persistently waiting for—living in anticipation of your mind being blown. However, sometimes something you’ve seen before, or haven’t looked at in the right way yet, can bring the same effect. One of the things about The Reflecting Skin I never fully took into account were those involved in the making of it. This reexamination has revealed Philip Ridley—and artistic force in multiple media—who I’d somehow never really considered or looked into despite holding this work in such high regard. Furthermore, close examination of this film made me realize that I have one of his novels on my TBR (To Be Read) pile and I only made the connection now. 

For a work to stand out and be unique it needn’t create entirely new American iconography.  The Reflecting Skin combines familiar tropes of Americana which are ingrained in not only our consciousness, but the world’s (the film being the imagined version of America by a British auteur). In its presentation, through the twisted perceptions of a traumatized child, the move recombines the familiar in unfamiliar ways, mingling the sacred and the profane, humor and horror, beauty and depravity, open spaces and oppressive homes.

The Reflecting Skin tells the story of an eight-year-old boy, Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper) and a harrowing sun-soaked summer on isolated Idaho farmland wherein death looms and strikes indiscriminately; he longs for the return of his older brother Cameron (Viggo Mortensen) from the war; copes with his overbearing mother (Sheila Moore), tolerates a pitiable father (Duncan Fraser), suspects a strange neighbor Dolphin Blue (Lindsay Duncan) of being a vampire; and is stalked by black Cadillac driving hoods.

This film will leave you overwhelmed by its beauty on occasion. Its subjective, dreamlike, subconscious language will either speak to you or it won’t. An example of this is that as I prepared to view this film anew my thought on it was that for 96 minutes it instills in me an awestruck fright that my childlike self felt at the quasi-literal visual that accompanied the line “All the vampires walking through The Valley, move west down Ventura Boulevard” in Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” video. This is what came to me before images from the film itself, such is its dreamlike persistence. 

The Images

I’m not one for statements like “I’d never really seen this movie before” even though I firmly believe in being a member of the #AspectRatioPolice on film-Twitter, but aspect ratio is the least of the sins absolved by this new release. The opening frame of this film hit me like a sledgehammer unlike it ever had before. So long had it been since I last saw it I’d forgotten that before we’re introduced to Seth Dove all we see is a wheat field. The sumptuous beauty of the image properly framed, immaculately presented, and color balanced toward excessive saturation forced a reflexive expletive from my mouth. 

The Essay

As is standard with Film Movement Classics releases there is an essay accompanying this film. This one is co-authored by Travis Crawford and Heather Hyche and illuminates some of the unique path of The Reflecting Skin’s path to cult classic status. It also teases Philip Ridley’s other two feature films which comprise a horror trilogy of sorts. Its closing line about cult films rings particularly true when this new, proper presentation elevated my appreciation of this film:

“Ridley has stated that the film’s restoration looks even better than the movie did upon its initial release, and this should finally satiate fans who know the truest cult films are not only the ones that have aged well over time, but the ones that also improve with each obsessive repeat viewing.”

Angels & Atom Bombs: The Making of The Reflecting Skin

This 44-minute documentary with insights from Philip Ridley, Viggo Mortensen, Dick Pope, and Nick Bicât is worth watching, but perhaps the most interesting part of it is Ridley’s explanation of the anthropophagous creation of the story from his art to a story idea about a recurrent figure in those paintings and collages. 

The Commentary Track

For any and all who might be inclined to get this film, I recommend all the bonus features. While between the making of and the commentary some information will be conveyed twice, however, with Philip Ridley’s feature-length commentary there are some things taken more in depth, such as the adjustments to cover sets; other filming specifics like lighting challenges, film cheats, and more. Both are suggested after seeing the film if the title is new to you. As I’d seen it before, I saw the featurette first.

Pertinent Details

Release: August 13, 2019

Formats: Blu-ray/DVD/Digital