Driving Miss Daisy is one of the easiest Best Picture winners you could possibly watch. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. Coming in at the tail end of the 80’s, Driving Miss Daisy is the last Best Picture winner with a PG rating. Since most winners nowadays are something with a little edge to it. So it will always surprise me that Driving Miss Daisy was able to win. Not to mention the fact that the PG-13 rating was already well established. Based on an off Broadway play, Driving Miss Daisy centers on one Daisy Werthan. After crashing her car, her son Boolie (played by Dan Aykroyd) hires her a chauffeur. Much to her chagrin. Hoke Colburn is the man he hires and even though Miss Daisy is stubborn at first, she eventually warms up to him. As simple as the story is, Driving Miss Daisy does touch on some heavier topics. Like racism, anti-semitism, illiteracy, and dementia. Miss Daisy is jewish and Hoke is an African American. Their past experiences with mistreatment help them to bond more. They even listen to a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hoke is one of Morgan Freeman’s most beloved characters. While Jessica Tandy won the Oscar for Best Actress playing Miss Daisy. I guarantee her calling Hoke her best friend is enough to melt your heart. The movie also won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Makeup (since the characters age). Driving Miss Daisy is a ride everyone should take.
SPOILER ALERT! Then again, Soylent Green has the most well known movie spoiler in cinematic history. It tends to happen when your most memorable line is the movie’s twist. It’s so well known that its become an inside joke for many sci-fi comedies. Soylent Green can be viewed as part of a trilogy of science fiction movies starring the great Charlton Heston (the others being Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man). He plays a New York City police detective in the no longer distant year 2022. In this future, there’s mass overpopulation, lack of resources, and pollution. With a greenhouse effect that makes the city humid and hazy. The mere sight of meat, fruit, vegetables, soap, or hot water makes people emotional. Charlton Heston’s detective is tasked with uncovering the secret behind the murder of a wealthy citizen. The secret being that Soylent Green, the new “plankton” based food source, is actually made out of people. All in an effort to cut down on overpopulation. It’s a future I pray never comes to pass. Another noteworthy scene involves a futuristic assisted suicide process that involves classical music. Soylent Green has all the ingredients of a shocking sci-fi thriller.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is one of the greatest psychological horror films of all time. My mom suggested I watch the movie, but only after acquainting myself with a Joan Crawford and Bette Davis movie. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis were two of the biggest personalities in Hollywood. With a rivalry so legendary it was depicted in the miniseries Feud. Bette Davis was a serious actress, while Joan Crawford was more of a starlet. In What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Bette Davis plays the titular Baby Jane Hudson. An aging child star nobody remembers who’s lost touch with reality. Joan Crawford plays her sister Blanche Hudson. A more successful former actress confined to a wheelchair. What made What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? so different was how it gave aging actresses the starring roles. Something that was entirely unheard before the 60’s. Jane is a cruel caretaker who abuses her sister. Starting with little things like mimicking her sisters voice and throwing away her fan mail. To worse things like unplugging her phone, buzzer, denying her food, and beating her. Bette Davis fought to make her as ugly as possible… she succeeded. So she expected the same from Joan Crawford. By telling her to look as pathetic as possible. She succeeded as well, but Bette Davis still ended up with the sole Oscar nomination. So as an extra bit of spite, Joan Crawford accepted the award from the actress who actually won. To quote the movie, “they could have been friends.” What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? keeps you on the edge of your seat by introducing the scariest monster of them all, the psycho-biddy.
All About Eve is a tale of the theater, love, fame, and deception. It’s one of two films that screen legend Bette Davis is most remembered for. Bette Davis was a powerhouse of an actress known for her wit and improvisation. She was the first actress to be nominated 5 times in a row and to have 10 nominations overall. Although I knew of the film for many years, All About Eve was another suggestion by my mom. All About Eve is a timeless story of a fading star being surpassed by someone younger. Bette Davis doesn’t play Eve, but rather Margo Channing. An aging critically acclaimed theater starlett. Anne Baxter plays Eve Harrington, a huge fan of Margo’s with aspirations of her own. Very similar aspirations in fact. You could even say, Eve is trying to be the new Margo Channing. All About Eve takes us through the life of someone in the theater. How sometimes the stage is more real to you then the real world. Having performed in the theater before, I could attest to some people feeling that way. All About Eve was actually the first Best Picture winner I saw from the 50’s. It also won for Best Director and Best Actor George Sanders to name a few, because it was the first movie to have 14 nominations overall. With it being the only movie to receive Oscar nominations for four different actresses. Not to mention its 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. All About Eve also features a then unknown Marilyn Monroe. She’s not in it much, but she steals every scene she’s in. All About Eve is a theatrical hit.
Mildred Pierce finally gave Joan Crawford some much needed recognition. Joan Crawford had been working in the film business for over three decades. Finally in the 40’s she won her first and only Oscar for Best Actress as the titular Mildred Pierce. Mildred Pierce is about a murder mystery. In the center of it is the wife of the murder victim. When taken in by the police, Mildred Pierce Beragon recounts her life story leading up to the events of the murder. How she was once a housewife living with her first husband and two daughters. Until financial problems cause them to divorce. Leading Mildred to work as a waitress and eventually open her own restaurant. While also marrying her second husband who was murdered. I guarantee that I probably wouldn’t have even known to watch Mildred Pierce if not for my mom suggesting it. My only knowledge of Joan Crawford came from the over-the-top biopic Mommie Dearest. Although some of what happens in Mildred Pierce is similar to what happened in real life. Particularly Mildred’s strained relationship with her bratty oldest daughter Veda. Making Mildred Pierce Joan Crawford’s best starring performance.
Freaks is a Pre-Code horror movie released in 1932. Way back then in early Hollywood, the Hays Code was a series of guidelines all films had to follow. We would later come to know it as the MPAA rating system. Freaks was among the earliest films to truly shock audiences. Less likely by today’s standards, but it was a very different time. Freaks was meant to uncover the cruel manner in which people with physical deformities are treated. While at the same time portraying “normal” people as the real monsters. A bold statement to make at the time, but it’s one that I firmly believe in. No one deserves to be mistreated for something they can’t control. In fact, Freaks enlisted the help of real life physically deformed individuals at the time. Little people, people with shrunken heads, a bearded lady, conjoined twins, a man with no legs, a woman with no arms, a man with no limbs, and a hermaphrodite. While Freaks gives everyone screentime, its main story focuses on a little man in love with a big woman. The beautiful trapeze artist who (along with the strongman) takes advantage of him for his money. Until they’re found out and taken care of by the so called “freaks.” Due to its frank depictions of sex and violence, Freaks was at first banned, then recut into a short 64 minutes. All that footage is lost, but Freaks is still capable of shocking people even now.
Metropolis is the first movie I’m reviewing from the 20’s. It’s also the first authentic silent feature length film I’ve seen from beginning to end. The interesting thing about the 20’s is that nearly every movie released was silent. The music was actually added in later. It’s part of the reason why I’ve hardly touched this decade. However, Metropolis is a must watch for all film buffs. It’s considered the first feature length science fiction film. Some lists would even classify it as the greatest film released in the 20’s. And it’s not hard to see why. Well sometimes it is, but that only depends on how bad the picture quality is. Metropolis was actually made in Germany, it came out in 1927, and is considered expressionist. The very valuable poster features an image of a robot with skyscrapers in the background. Metropolis is an enormous futuristic city fueled by the workers below and ruled by the wealthy above (no Superman though). The robot is a design I’ve been familiar with for years. I’ve always thought it looked like a female version of C-3PO. I just never knew the meaning of the rings or the pentagram. I’m still a little confused, but I think I understood Metropolis well enough. The movie is nearly 3 hours long, but I luckily saw a much shorter cut. If you can find it, you’ll see that Metropolis was a true pioneer, whose influence can still be felt today.
Happy Feet Two is the sequel no one needed. Even though Happy Feet was such an unprecedented success that guaranteed a sequel would get made. The animation is as good as ever, George Millar is still director, and the songs are well chosen like the first. But that’s where my admiration stops. Happy Feet Two takes place some time after the penguin colony was saved. Mumble and Gloria (replaced with P!nk) now have a son named Erik who tries to discover what his thing is. The new problem plaguing penguins is a massive wall of ice keeping the penguins inside. There’s also a flying penguin guru named Sven that everybody looks to for guidance. As well as a couple of krill named Will and Bill voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon yapping about their own existential crisis. This story is completely separate from everything else. Which brings me to the biggest problem with Happy Feet Two. It can’t focus and has no idea what it wants to be. Sure the environmentalism was a little pretentious in the first movie, but this is ridiculous. Happy Feet Two is nowhere near as Oscar worthy as Happy Feet was. At least George Miller eventually got back to his violent roots.
Preceded by: Happy Feet
Happy Feet is one of the best penguin movies to come out of the mid-2000’s. One of the most weirdly specific crazes was the penguin craze. From March of the Penguins to Madagascar, there was no escaping penguins at the time. Among the most acclaimed was Happy Feet. An animated movie about a tap dancing penguin that managed to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Making it the first non-Disney movie since Shrek to beat Pixar (then again, Cars wasn’t much competition). Happy Feet was a true phenomenon at the time. If he didn’t already direct Babe: Pig in the City, I would also find it strange that Happy Feet was directed by Mad Max director George Miller. Enlisting the voice talents of Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, and the late Robin Williams and Brittany Murphy. Happy Feet is set in the snowy tundra of Antarctica. Where emperor penguins have to perform a “heartsong” in order to attract a mate. By using a variety of well known pop songs. When Mumble’s father accidentally drops him on the egg, it gives him an inability to sing. Instead Mumble dances using his happy feet. It makes him an outcast, but with the help of some rockhopper penguins, Mumble can bring the fish back to his colony. Oh yeah, this is a mid-2000’s movie. So expect an interjected environmental message. Regardless, Happy Feet is a beautifully animated groovy flick that kept the love for penguins alive.
Followed by: Happy Feet Two
Eighth Grade is basically my life. With the exception of being a girl or the generation depicted. Other than those 2 things, it’s pretty much to a T. Like most great independent movies nowadays, Eighth Grade is from A24. The best studio for unique and/or personal stories. A current trend in Hollywood is unlikely first time directors delivering something unexpectedly good. In this case that’s musician and former YouTuber Bo Burnham. Eighth Grade is about a socially awkward eighth grader named Kayla. She doesn’t have many friends, but she does have a small YouTube channel where she gives life advice. Like her, I was (and still am if I’m being honest) really quiet, but talkative when you got to know me. My eighth grade year was also kinda similar. Where it mostly sucked, but I tried to make the most of it near the end. We even both blog as a means to express ourselves. Elsie Fisher is very believable in the role. You may recognise her as the former voice of Agnes in Despicable Me. In fact, every performance feels real. Which can be cringy, but hey… that’s life. They don’t even hide the acne. Speaking of life, Eighth Grade received an R rating. Even though it’s supposed to appeal to its title audience. If you spend just one day in a public school, you’ll see how much kids swear and talk about sex. So the rating is understandable. It’s also notably one of a few movies about “Generation Z.” While there constant phone use and occasional ignorance of reality does get on my nerves. I have nothing but love for the honest down to Earth movie Eighth Grade is, “Gucci.”👌