Deadbeat: The Movie

This is a short film I wrote and directed back in September 2003 It’s based on the first chapter of my novel Deadbeat. If you want to know what happens next and before, the novel is available for purchase by clicking here.

Thank you to everyone in the below cast and crew who volunteered their time and effort.

In the years between shooting this and putting it on-line I learned that the editor, Matt Villines had passed away. I’m not sure if he would have wanted me to, but since no one had to watch this as much as he did in the editing suite of the L.A. Film School, I’m dedicating it in his honor. R.I.P. Matt.

Frank Bengling: Mark Craig
Maria Novella: Mirelly Taylor
Roger Bengling: Kidd Stablein

Writer/Director: David Rolland
Producer: Jacintha Timothy
Editor: Matt Villines
Sound Design and Mixing: Peter Stier Jr.

Deja Vu – Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Creed

spaceballs06In the 1990’s the original Star Wars trilogy was the Bible to pop culture nerds. When Star Wars: The Phantom Menace came out in 1999 the anticipation was what it must have been like 2000 years earlier when the New Testament came out.

Except instead of Jesus Christ we got Jar Jar Binks.

I fell asleep both times I tried to watch The Phantom Menace and the next two Star Wars movies weren’t that much better. So I didn’t have much hope when it was announced Disney was going to crank out a new Star Wars movie every year for the foreseeable future. In fact I dreaded the new movies as a cynical cash grab that would destroy the childhood innocence Star Wars and all its action figures, Underoos, and Pizza Hut limited edition cups represented.

So what a pleasant surprise Star Wars: The Force Awakens was. Someone who wasn’t a fan of the original Star Wars movies could point out plenty of plot holes, some wooden acting, and the fact the whole two and a half hour feature was basically a commercial for the next chapter, but they could say the same about the originals.  It would be more accurate to describe The Force Awakens as a two and a half hour love letter to those original three Star Wars movies.

This is a children’s movie not made for kids, but for 40 year olds who grew up on R2D2’s beeps and Chewbacca’s roars. Our heroes Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker are even older and grayer than us, but it gives you goosebumps to see them back on the screen again. The final shot left my jaw agape. All of a sudden the next Star Wars movie can’t come soon enough.

Critics have pointed out that many of the plot points for The Force Awakens were nearly identical to that of the original Star Wars movie, which I think was a brilliant move. That is also the strategy the new movie Creed took. Creed followed the same template of its 40 year old forefather, Rocky. In Creed, Rocky is now the wise old Jedi, teaching kind of young boxer Adonis Creed how to use the Force to come out of nowhere and get a chance at a title fight.

I don’t know how much I would have enjoyed Creed and The Force Awakens if I hadn’t grown up on Rocky and Star Wars movies, but I did and so I’m grateful they provided that welcoming nostalgia I’m always chasing when I go to the movies.


A Movie Only Donald Trump Could Love – Sicario

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1GZCO

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

This is a statement by Donald Trump, it is also the ethos behind the hateful new movie, Sicario.

I’m all for xenophobia in brainless action flicks, but when a movie paints itself as a serious, pretentious work of art as Sicario does with its long silent shots of landscapes of the US/Mexican border, to portray an entire nation as villainous is more than reckless, it is immoral.

Sicario tells the tale of a female FBI agent who goes to Mexico with a couple fascist CIA agents to fight Mexican cartels. The Mexico in this movie is a land where dead corpses are hung naked in the middle of a busy city. It is a country where tattooed thugs drive around ready to kill you in a moments notice. It is a land filled with such vile creatures, that we should build a wall higher than the one seen in Game of Thrones.

In movies like the original Red Dawn when Russians were painted as the enemy and in Olympus Has Fallen when the North Koreans were depicted as heartless, it didn’t seem so wrong because the movies didn’t take themselves so seriously. Sicario however tries to position itself as high minded, as a true to life portrayal of the dangers Mexicans brings to America, and thus it feels much dirtier.

It’s kind of like how it was easier to laugh at Donald Trump before you realized a large percentage of the population were going to vote for him.

Somewhere in the middle of this anti-Mexican, pro-waterboarding screed could have been a good B action movie. The battle scenes are often intense, and an out of shape Benicio Del Toro as a supersolider is such a ridiculous killing machine that if they bothered to write him a few witty one-liners this could have been a bizarro version of Machete.

The director of this movie Denis Villeneuve hails from Canada. After seeing the venom that spews from his mind onto the screen, not only in Sicario, but also in one of his previous movies Incendies,  I feel if we have to build a wall on the border of this country, we should maybe look North.

Sizing Them Up – Ant-Man and Jurassic World


Either my standards have gotten lower or the big budget movies this summer have gotten better.

It’s a distinct possibility that after watching all the terrible flicks the past few summers that I might have suffered brain damage and viewing a blank screen might elicit some laughs and startles out of me, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy Ant-Man and Jurassic World.

Ant-Man is probably the least known comic book character to get his own movie since Tank Girl. He shrinks to a centimeter tall and has the ability to order around ants. Stan Lee found his creation so lame that after a few appearances in the 1960’s he decided to reverse course and changed the character’s codename to Giant Man.

But still the character has over 50 years of history and the new movie picks and chooses wisely which aspects to utilize from it. It has some inventive special effects showcasing what it would be like to have to dodge rats, toy train sets, and dancing feet when you’re the size of an ant, but I think what I liked best about this movie is it didn’t make the stakes too high. Too often in these comic book movies, the fate of the world or the universe is at the hero’s hands. It was refreshing to watch one of these Marvel Comics movies where even if Ant-Man failed his mission to stop an evil industrialist from selling the shrinking technology not that many people would have lost sleep over it.

Jurassic World also benefited from shrinking it’s worldview. I liked the original Michael Crichton book the franchise was based on, Jurassic Park, but the previous movies always let me down. 3-D technology has advanced enough now that the plot or lack of characterization in it’s human characters won’t matter. There’s a tiny bit of exposition showing the human characters who we’re supposed to be rooting for, but Jurassic World wisely does not waste too much time on them. Instead it wows us with dinosaurs. The main villain is a genetically modified superdinosaur that raises all kind of hell. It seems at times he can’t be killed, but since all the action takes place on a dinosaur theme park set in the middle of the ocean, even if it kills every tourist in its sights, we don’t have to worry about it conquering the world and making slaves of us all. Narrowing its focus makes for a better experience and immerses you in the movie like the flicks of summers past had forgotten to do.

One great thing about Ant-Man and Jurassic World was neither movie tested your endurance. Both lasted for about two hours. For the longest time summer movies have treated audiences like they don’t have an attention span. We don’t, so it should now be a rule that no movie based on a comic book, theme park ride, or toy should have a running time of over 120 minutes.

Marvelous? – Avengers: Age of Ultron and Daredevil


My expectations couldn’t have been lower going into Avengers:Age of Ultron. The last few Marvel comics based movies have been terrible. Guardians of the Galaxy confused pop culture references for having a sense of humor. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was nothing more than a loud two and a half hour commercial for the next Marvel movies.

So I went into the theater dreading that Avengers:Age of Ultron would be another cynical spit in the eye of the stories and characters I’ve invested so much time and money into.  What a surprise then to find myself enjoying the hell out of the sequel. Not that it’s perfect, there’s a time wasting romance and a couple gratuitous sexual double entendres that seemed ridiculous for a movie made for kids. Worst off they’ve destroyed my favorite character, the wise cracking womanizing, archer Hawkeye so completely I almost think they only added the character to the roster because they hated him and wanted to publicly humiliate him.

But I am willing to forgive these sins because they got so much right. My biggest complaint with comic book movies has been their makers unwillingness to see the forest for the trees. They’ve been so busy trying to make epic franchises, that the individual movies have felt like nothing but a set-up for the next sequel. Avengers:Age of Ultron has plenty of hints of what is to come, fortunately though it is its own creature with a beginning, middle, and end. It introduces new characters while giving each established character something to do (except for poor Hawkeye who was once a street smart purple masked wearing ex-carnie and now is… ok maybe I’m not willing to forgive them for the way they portrayed him). Instead of feeling like a way station for bigger things like the first Avengers movie did, this felt like a main event. They offer longtime fans so many faithful touches from the comic books that I wondered at times whether people unfamiliar with the source material would be able to follow what was going on.

I enjoyed it so much I have to wonder if I have gotten soft. Had taking nine months off from superhero movies (not counting Birdman) made me less critical? But then I remembered I recently spent thirteen hours watching the great Daredevil TV show on Netflix.

After watching Daredevil I was convinced episodic television was the right way to adapt comic books, rather than movies. It’s a format that is more conducive to the cliffhanger ending that is so central to superhero comic books. With television instead of having to wait months or years, you only have to wait until the next week (or in Daredevil’s case seconds) to see how the hero gets out of whatever bind he found himself in at the end of an episode. Daredevil is lucky to have had some of the best stories in comic history, but when they made a movie with Ben Affleck as the character they got it all wrong. The TV show was wise enough to stay true to those comics’ spirit. This first season is mostly based on Frank Miller’s creations making it even grittier and more violent than what came out of his sick mind decades earlier. There are epic fight scenes and great explorations of what can make a man a hero and alternately what can make a man a villain.

Daredevil and Avengers:Age of Ultron were so good I’m almost allowing myself to get excited to see Ant-man.

What Movie Should Have Won the Oscar – 2000-2013

No longer do we have the long lens of history to help us make judgments. As I end this exercise I have come to the conclusion that I am following the NFL’s instant replay rule, that the Academy must clearly be wrong in order for me to overrule their initial judgments. Fortunately, they were clearly wrong plenty of times this century.

In 2009 the Academy made a major change of having up to 10 best picture nominees. For consistency’s  sake I’m going to keep it to 5 nominees for each year.

Click here to read the 1970’s.

Click here to read the 1980’s.

Click here to read the 1990’s.


Winner- “Gladiator”

Losers- “Chocolat”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Erin Brockovich”, “Traffic”

Should have been nominated- “Almost Famous”, “Erin Brockovich”, “Gladiator”, “O Brother Where Art Thou”, “You Can Count on Me”

Should have won- “O Brother Where Art Thou”


The century got off to a rough start.  “Gladiator” followed the “Braveheart” formula to an Oscar win, but the timeless charm, comedy, and music of “O Brother Where Art Thou” surpassed Russell Crowe’s scowl.


Winner- “A Beautiful Mind”

Losers- “Gosford Park”, “In the Bedroom”, “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, “Moulin Rouge”

Should have been nominated- “A.I.”, “Memento”, “Moulin Rouge”, “Mulholland Drive”, “The Royal Tenenbaums”

Should have won- “The Royal Tenenbaums”


Apparently, the Academy did start the 2000’s blinded by Russell Crowe’s scowl. Looking at the nominations the century began cinematically horrible, but dig deeper and you can see the Academy just didn’t do a good job of weeding through the trash and finding some hidden gems.


Winner- “Chicago”

Losers- “Gangs of New York”, “The Hours”, “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”, “The Pianist”

Should have been nominated- “8 Mile”, “About Schmidt”, “Adaptation”, “Gangs of New York”, “Talk to Her”

Should have won- “Gangs of New York”


I feel dirty about this choice. “Gangs of New York” is the worst of the five movies on the list I feel should be nominated, but one of my choices is foreign and two are quirky and the other stars Eminem. “Gangs of New York” is the only one I feel could win over a wide swath of the population. Again the Academy of 2002 should be ashamed for what they selected as the 5 best movies of this year. Especially considering the movies I selected were all nominated in other categories.


Winner- “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”

Losers- “Lost in Translation”, “Master and Commander”, “Mystic River”, “Seabiscuit”

Should have been nominated- “Big Fish”, “City of God”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Raising Victor Vargas”, “Whale Rider”

Should have won- “Big Fish”


Again shame and ignominy on the Academy for 2003. We are lucky they stopped making Lord of the Rings and Russell Crowe movies or they would continue to have a stranglehold on the nominations. If they felt a need to give the award to a big popcorn movie they should have given it to “Pirates of the Caribbean” that at least had a great  Johnny Depp performance. Big Fish though is the imaginative tearjerker to end all tearjerkers. Perhaps the most criminally overlooked movie of all time.


Winner- “Million Dollar Baby”

Losers- “The Aviator”, “Finding Neverland”, “Ray”, “Sideways”

Should have been nominated- “Hotel Rwanda”, “Million Dollar Baby”, “The Passion of the Christ”, “Sideways”, “Spider-Man 2”

Should have won- “Million Dollar Baby”


Finally the Academy pulled its collective head out of its tuchus. I prefer the quiet desperation of “Sideways” and the heroism of “Spider-Man 2, but “Million Dollar Baby” is a worthy choice that will make you cheer and sob.



Losers- “Brokeback Mountain”, “Capote”, “Good Night and Good Luck”, “Munich”

Should have been nominated- “A History of Violence”, “Batman Begins”, “Capote”, “The Squid and the Whale”, “Walk the Line”

Should have won- “Walk the Line”


And just like that the Academy returns their head to where the sun don’t shine. I struggled to endorse any of their nominations, but finally gave the nod to “Capote” over “Hustle & Flow”. After much deliberation and many tiebreakers I settled on “Walk the Line” as what would be most universally beloved over the ultraviolent “A History of Violence” or “Batman Begins”.


Winner- “The Departed”

Losers- “Babel”, “Letters from Iwo Jima”, “Little Miss Sunshine”, “The Queen”

Should have been nominated- “Borat”, “Children of Men”, “The Queen”, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, “The Lives of Others”

Should have won- “The Queen”


The greatest travesty in Oscar history is for all the great movies Martin Scorcese directed, “The Departed” is what he wins for? They say comedy is the hardest thing and in that case Borat should win, but I think it was a harder trick to pull off getting audiences to care about the modern day royal family.


Winner- “No Country for Old Men”

Losers- “Atonement”, “Juno”, “Michael Clayton”, “There Will Be Blood”

Should be nominated- “Michael Clayton”, “No Country for Old Men”, “There Will Be Blood”, “Eastern Promises”, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

Should have won: “No Country for Old Men”


A great year for movies and where the Academy finally gets back on track. “No Country for Old Men” is one of my least favorite Coen Brothers movies and I wouldn’t blink if they gave it to “Michael Clayton”, “Eastern Promises” or “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, but I don’t have irrefutable evidence those three movies are better than “No Country for Old Men”.


Winner- “Slumdog Millionaire”

Losers- “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Frost/Nixon”, “Milk”, “The Reader”

Should have been nominated- “Doubt”, “Frost/Nixon”, “Milk”, “Wall-E”, “The Wrestler”

Should have won- “The Wrestler”


Every generation deserves its “Rocky”. We get “The Wrestler”.


Winner- “The Hurt Locker”

Losers- “Avatar”, “The Blind Side”, “District 9”, “An Education”, “Inglorious Bastards”, “Precious”, “A Serious Man”, “Up”, “Up in the Air”

Should have been nominated- “The Hangover”, “The Hurt Locker”, “Precious”, “A Serious Man”, “Up”

Should have won- “The Hurt Locker”


This is the year the Academy started nominating better movies by doubling the number of nominees. Choosing a cartoon, two movies dependent on racial/ethnic stereotypes, and an R-rated sex and drug comedy, means “The Hurt Locker” gets to keep its prize. 2009 also marks the beginning of the Pablo Chiste era, so by clicking on the bold lettering you can see what I thought of that respective movie way back when.


Winner- “The King’s Speech”

Losers- “127 Hours”, “Black Swan”, “The Fighter”, “Inception”, “The Kids Are All Right”, “The Social Network”, “Toy Story 3”, “True Grit”, “Winter’s Bone”

Should have been nominated- “127 Hours”, “Black Swan”, “The Fighter”, “The Social Network”, “Toy Story 3”

Should have won- “The Social Network”

The Social Network

One of the great blunders in Oscar history. I could make an argument “The King’s Speech” is the worst of the ten nominated movies. I was torn between “Toy Story 3” and “The Social Network”, with live action winning over in the end.


Winner- “The Artist”

Losers- “The Descendants”, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”, “The Help”, “Hugo”, “Midnight in Paris”, “Moneyball”, “The Tree of Life”, “War Horse”

Should have been nominated- “The Artist”, “The Descendants”, “The Skin I Live In”, “Super 8”, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

Should have won- “The Artist”


I didn’t know foreign movies could win the best picture Oscar, much less foreign, silent, black and white movies. It will never happen again, so you might as well celebrate the best movie in a weak year.


Winner- “Argo”

Losers- “Amour”, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “Django Unchained”, “Les Miserables”, “Life of Pi”, “Lincoln”, “Silver Linings Playbook”, “Zero Dark Thirty”

Should have been nominated- “The Dark Knight Rises”, “Django Unchained”, “The Intouchables”, “Moonrise Kingdom”, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Should have won- “Django Unchained”


You wouldn’t realize there were some actually terrific movies that came out in 2012 by what the Academy nominated. I was tempted to give it to a superhero movie as “The Dark Knight Rises” explained what it means to be a hero better than any other film of that genre, but “Django Unchained” will age better as Ben Affleck will soon tarnish all things Batman for future eyes.


Winner- “12 Years a Slave”

Losers- “American Hustle”, “Captain Phillips”, “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Gravity”, “Her”, “Nebraska”, “Philomena”, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Should have been nominated- “12 Years a Slave”, “Gravity”, “Inside Llewyn Davis”, “Philomena”, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Should have won- “12 Years a Slave”


“Gravity” had awe inspiring special effects, “Philomena” will bring the toughest amongst us to tears, “Inside Llewyn Davis” requires multiple viewings and “Wolf of Wall Street” despite being too long has you laughing in stitches, but “12 Years a Slave” was as good as any of them and should have the longevity to impress audiences of 2045.

What Movie Should Have Won the Oscar – 1990-1999

Just when I start to feel I’m getting the hang of what I’m trying to do here going back in time and deciding which movies should have been nominated and won the Oscar each year, we get closer to the present and my own personal prejudices start making themselves known. I was already a critical teenager for much of the ’90’s, but I’ll try to stay close to the spirit of this exercise and pick movies that a random modern day person could look at and agree are great movies.

Click here to read the 1970’s.

Click here to read the 1980’s.


Winner- “Dances With Wolves”

Losers-  “Awakenings”, “Ghost”, “The Godfather Part III”, “Goodfellas”

Should have been nominated- “Edward Scissorhands”, “Ghost”, “Goodfellas”, “Misery”, “Wild at Heart”

Should have won- “Goodfellas”


The 1990’s start off with one of the bigger goofs in Oscar history. “Goodfellas” was one of the more influential movies of the decade and if Scorcese won for this year, they wouldn’t have felt the need to give it to him for the mediocre “The Departed”.


Winner- “The Silence of the Lambs”

Losers- “Beauty and the Beast”, “Bugsy”, “JFK”, “The Prince of Tides”

Should have been nominated- “The Silence of the Lambs”, “JFK”, “Thelma & Louise”, “The Fisher King”, “Barton Fink”

Should have won- “The Silence of the Lambs”


Though as a writer I can relate most to the Coen Brothers classic “Barton Fink”, as a serial killer I have to admit “Silence of the Lambs” was more influential. The Academy got it right in spite of the movie inspiring way too many terrible sequels.


Winner- “Unforgiven”

Losers- “The Crying Game”, “A Few Good Men”, “Howard’s End” “Scent of a Woman”

Should have been nominated- “Unforgiven”, “A Few Good Men”, “Malcolm X”, “Reservoir Dogs”, “Glenngary Glen Ross”

Should have won- “Unforgiven”


“Reservoir Dogs” was more influential  and easier to watch over and over, but “The Unforgiven” also was a classic, and while “Reservoir Dogs” had more unforgettable lines of dialogue and the most violent moment in cinematic history that happens solely in your imagination… I’m quickly talking myself out of this, but we’ll stick with “The Unforgiven” just because it has a lot of horses and pretty scenery.


Winner- “Schindler’s List”

Losers- “The Fugitive”, “In the Name of the Father”, “The Piano”, “The Remains of the Day”

Should have been nominated- “Schindler’s List”, “The Fugitive”, “In the Name of the Father”, “The Piano”, “Groundhog Day”

Should have won- “Schindler’s List”

Schindler's List, Oliwia Dabrowska

Though the final scene where Liam Neeson gives his big heart wrenching speech about how he should have saved one more life was melodrama at its worst, the rest of Schindler’s List is photographed beautifully enough in black and white that it triumphs over an otherwise forgettable year at the movies.


Winner- “Forrest Gump”

Losers- “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Quiz Show”, “The Shawshank Redemption”

Should have been nominated- “Forrest Gump”, “Pulp Fiction”, “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Ed Wood”, “Heavenly Creatures”

Should have won- “Forrest Gump”


“Pulp Fiction” was more influential, “The Shawshank Redemption” had more heart, but “Forrest Gump” outruns them both.


Winner- “Braveheart”

Losers- “Apollo 13”, “Babe”, “Il Postino”, “Sense & Sensibility”

Should have been nominated- “Babe”, “Braveheart”, “Il Postino”, “Twelve Monkeys”, “The Usual Suspects”

Should have won- “Braveheart”


Somehow the Academy in the 1990’s knew which movies would hold the test of time. Five years in a row the movie they picked seemed the most best picture like in the faraway futuristic year of 2015.


Winner- “The English Patient”

Losers- “Fargo”, “Jerry Maguire”, “Secrets & Lies”, “Shine”

Should have been nominated- “Fargo”, “Jerry Maguire”, “The People vs. Larry Flynt”, “Sling Blade”, “Trainspotting”

Should have won- “Jerry Maguire”


Again I fight against personal preference. “Trainspotting” is such a great movie, but as most people can’t understand the character’s Scottish accents, I’ll admit “Jerry Maguire” the romantic comedy for people who don’t want to admit they like romantic comedies is a more universal selection.


Winner- “Titanic”

Losers- “As Good as It Gets”, “The Full Monty”, “Good Will Hunting”, “L.A. Confidential”

Should have been nominated- “Boogie Nights”, “The Full Monty”, “L.A. Confidential”, “Starship Troopers”, “Titanic”

Should have won- “Boogie Nights”


What a rotten year for movies. I thought I was just being a whiny 19 year old when I remembered hating every movie I saw back in college, but looking at what was released back then I realized I was just keeping it real. I find “Titanic” to be a terrible movie, but it was such a cultural force I had to keep it on here. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to give it a best picture award when there was one truly great movie to come out that year in “Boogie Nights”.


Winner- “Shakespeare in Love”

Losers- “Elizabeth”, “Life is Beautiful”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “The Thin Red Line”

Should have been nominated- “Elizabeth”, “Life is Beautiful”, “The Big Lebowski”, “Out of Sight”, “Saving Private Ryan”

Should have won- “The Big Lebowski”


The Academy truly hates comedy. 1998 had many award worthy funny stuff, but only honored a comedy set in the holocaust in “Life Is Beautiful”. “There’s Something About Mary”, “The Truman Show”, “Mr. Jealousy”, all deserved  respect above most of the nominees. The biggest honor though shall go to one of the greatest comedies of all time, “The Big Lebowski”. I’m not a fan of  “Saving Private Ryan” but the D-day battle scene deserves respect.


Winner- “American Beauty”

Losers- “The Cider House Rules”, “The Green Mile”, “The Insider”, “The Sixth Sense”

Should have been nominated- “Eyes Wide Shut”, “Fight Club”, “The Sixth Sense”, “The Straight Story”, “The Talented Mr. Ripley”

Should have won- “Fight Club”


The Academy ended the century and the millennium in complete and utter shame. In a year of innovation, they instead looked backwards and celebrated a forgettable piece of pretension in “American Beauty”. I was tempted to give this as a lifetime achievement award to Stanley Kubrick who is probably the greatest director in the history of film and is definitely the greatest director to never win an Oscar, but he was already dead by the time “Eyes Wide Shut” was released and thus it would be a deathtime achievement award. Instead  give it to Fight Club, a movie that when I first saw it made me say, “That might be the greatest movie I’ve ever seen.”

Click here to read the 2000’s

What Movie Should Have Won the Oscar – 1980-1989

Upon where I look at what movies the Academy Award nominated each year and through my perspective in time and space tell the Academy what they got wrong and which movies they should have instead selected.

Things fall apart in the 1980’s. Perhaps it was the cocaine. You start to see a schism between fun, popcorn movies, the comedies, the fantasy, the action movies and the high minded Academy movies that take themselves way too seriously. Very rarely do the two meet. Until now.

Click here to read my choices for 1969-1979.


Winner- “Ordinary People”

Losers- “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, “The Elephant Man”, “Raging Bull”, “Tess”

Should have been nominated- “The Blues Brothers”, “The Elephant Man”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, “Raging Bull”, “The Shining”

Should have won- “The Elephant Man”


1980 might have been the greatest year for movies. “Ordinary People” was a fine movie, really it was. So was “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, but if I had to leave off perhaps the two funniest movies ever made in “Caddyshack” and “Airplane”, room is scarce. “The Blues Brothers” is one of my favorite movies, but “The Elephant Man” touches the human spirit in a way not even music and laughter can.


Winner- “Chariots of Fire”

Losers- “Atlantic City”, “On Golden Pond”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Reds”

Should have been nominated- “Atlantic City”, “Blow Out”, “My Dinner With Andre”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Stripes”

Should have won- “Raiders of the Lost Ark”


As deep as 1980 was, that’s how shallow the roster of movies of 1981 are. “Chariots of Fire” and “On Golden Pond” look completely ridiculous to modern eyes while at close to 4 hours long “Reds” is interminable. I had no choice but to go with the first chapter of Indiana Jones, the forefather of the modern superhero movie.


Winner- “Gandhi”

Losers- “E.T.”, “Missing”, “Tootsie”, “The Verdict”

Should have been nominated- “Blade Runner”, “E.T.”, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, “The King of Comedy”, “The Verdict”

Should have won- “E.T.”


“The Verdict” is a wonderful movie with a great open ending, but it’s hard to top “E.T.” for the number of people a movie touched and continues to touch. “Tootsie” feels too much like a sitcom to usurp a much better comedy in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”.


Winner- “Terms of Endearment”

Losers- “The Big Chill”, “The Dresser”, “The Right Stuff”, “Tender Mercies”

Should have been nominated- “The Dead Zone”, “The Outsiders”, “Rumblefish”, “The Right Stuff”, “Terms of Endearment”

Should have won- “Terms of Endearment”


I don’t know how Francis Ford Coppola got forgotten twice with the excellent “The Outsiders” and “Rumblefish”, but “Terms of Endearment” gets you right at your heartstrings and deserved its prize.


Winner- “Amadeus”

Losers- “The Killing Fields”, “A Passage to India”, “Places in the Heart”, “A Soldier’s Story”

Should have been nominated- “Amadeus”, “Ghostbusters”, “The Karate Kid”, “The Natural”, “The Terminator”

Should have won- “Amadeus”


This might have been the low water point for the Academy in picking forgettable movies. They got the winner right in “Amadeus”, but  the bridesmaids are a sorry lot.


Winner- “Out of Africa”

Losers- “The Color Purple”, Kiss of the Spider Woman”, “Prizzi’s Honor”, “Witness”

Should have been nominated- “Back to the Future”, “Brazil”, “The Color Purple”, “Fletch”, “Witness”

Winner- “Back to the Future”


So hard to leave off so many great, fun flicks like “The Goonies”, “Commando”, “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”, “National Lampoon’s European Vacation”, “Weird Science”, “Better off Dead” the list goes on and on. 1985 might be the high water point of rewatchable escapist movies, but it was nearly impossible to find five decent “adult” movies, therefore an imaginative teenage movie wins.


Winner- “Platoon”

Losers- “Children of a Lesser God”, “Hannah and her Sisters”, “The Mission”, “A Room With a View”

Should have been nominated- “Platoon”, “Hannah and her Sisters”, “Blue Velvet”, “Stand by Me”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

Should have won- “Platoon”


“Blue Velvet” might have been one of the more glaring omissions made so far, but I’m willing to grant “Platoon” as a correct pick. Also strange is how Woody Allen is the only comedy director whose movies ever get nominated.


Winner- “The Last Emperor”

Losers- “Broadcast News”, “Fatal Attraction”, “Hope and Glory”, “Moonstruck”

Should have been nominated- “Empire of the Sun”, “Full Metal Jacket”, “The Princess Bride”, “Raising Arizona”, “Wall Street”

Should have won- “The Princess Bride”


The one year so far where the Academy didn’t get a single one right. Admittedly I haven’t seen “Hope and Glory”, but I doubt it could match the romantic perfection of “The Princess Bride”. Again it was a solid year for popcorn movies that get shunned including “Spaceballs”, “Lethal Weapon” “Robocop” and the Schwarzenegger one-two punch of “Predator” and “The Running Man”.


Winner- “Rain Man”

Losers- “The Accidental Tourist”, “Dangerous Liasons”, “Mississippi Burning”, “Working Girl”

Should have been nominated- “Coming to America”, “Midnight Run”, “Rain Man”, “The Last Temptation of Christ”, “Working Girl”

Should have won- “Rain Man”


I’ve come up with a new rule for this exercise in that if it’s close between who the Academy crowned and an usurper, I’ll go with the Academy’s choice. “Midnight Run” is such a perfect movie it was a challenge not to knock off “Rain Man”, but maybe it’s more enjoyable as a quirky secret.


Winner- “Driving Miss Daisy”

Losers- “Born on the Fourth of July”, “Dead Poets Society”, “Field of Dreams”, “My Left Foot”

Should have been nominated- “Born on the Fourth of July”, “Dead Poets Society”, “Do the Right Thing”, “Field of Dreams”, “My Left Foot”

Should have won- “Born on the Fourth of July”


The Academy almost got it completely right as they rounded out the 1980’s in style except for the winner. Give me Tom Cruise in a wheelchair fighting for peace over Dan Aykroyd in bad make-up any day.

Click here to read the 1990’s

What Movie Should Have Won The Oscar – 1969-1979

I’d long considered making a list of which movie from each year affected me the most. This list isn’t quite that. Instead because I am a compulsive movie nerd I went back and compared whether the Academy Awards tastes translated to modern times. I reviewed each year from 1969 noting which movies won and were nominated and which movies should have won and been nominated. Here’s my trip down memory lane starting with a decade I have no memories of, the 1970’s, a decade which not only had truly excellent movies, but also a discerning Academy which for the most part picked the most memorable movie every year.


Winner – “Midnight Cowboy”

Losers – “Anne of the Thousand Days”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “Hello, Dolly!”, “Z”

Should have been nominated – “Midnight Cowboy”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”, “Take the Money and Run”, “Easy Rider”

Should have won – “Midnight Cowboy”


America had their act together in 1969. They put a man on the moon. Woodstock. LSD everywhere you went and they picked an X rated movie to win the Oscar. Try not to cry in Midnight Cowboy’s final scene when Jon Voight’s character finally has his act together on the causeway to Miami Beach only to see his only friend in the world is dead. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is a perfect movie in every way, impossible to turn off when it is on, but didn’t stick with me the way “Midnight Cowboy” did.


Winner- “Patton”

Losers – “Airport”, “Five Easy Pieces”, “Love Story”, “MASH”.

Should have been nominated- “Patton”, “Five Easy Pieces”, “MASH”, “Little Big Man”, “The Conformist”

Should have won- “Patton”


One of the rare times I agreed with the Academy two years in a row. “Little Big Man” was probably the movie that holds up the best under modern eyes, but “Patton” even at an insane three hour running time has the gravitas that still manages your attention.


Winner- “The French Connection”

Losers- “A Clockwork Orange”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, “The Last Picture Show”, “Nicholas and Alexandra”

Should have been nominated- “A Clockwork Orange”, “The Last Picture Show”, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, “Dirty Harry”, “McCabe & Mrs Miller”

Should have won- “The Last Picture Show”


We get to our first embarrassment on the list. If they were desperate to give an Oscar to an action movie they should have gone toward the superior “Dirty Harry”. “A Clockwork Orange” might be my favorite movie by the greatest director who ever lived in Stanley Kubrick, but there’s something about the Texas New Wave of “The Last Picture Show” shot in black and white it captures a past that might have never existed, but sure feels like it did.


Winner- “The Godfather”

Losers- “Cabaret”, “Deliverance”, “The Emigrants”, “Sounder”.

Should have been nominated- “The Godfather”, “Deliverance”, “Jeremiah Johnson”, “Solaris”, “Fritz the Cat”

Should have won- “The Godfather”


To be fair I haven’t seen “Cabaret”, “The Emigrants”, or “Sounder”, but nothing would knock “The Godfather” off the list. I couldn’t resist honoring an X rated cartoon in “Fritz the Cat”.


Winner- “The Sting”

Losers- “American Graffiti”, “Cries and Whispers”, “The Exorcist”, “A Touch of Class”

Should have been nominated- “The Exorcist”, “Paper Moon”, “Mean Streets”, “Badlands”, “Serpico”

Should have won- “Mean Streets”


This was the year the Academy was most off thus far. If they were going for nostalgia, they should have picked “Paper Moon” over “The Sting” or “American Graffiti”. I sure wanted to pick it for best picture, but Scorcese’s first classic won out. It’s the movie he keeps remaking over and over.


Winner- “The Godfather Part II”

Losers- “Chinatown”, “The Conversation”, “Lenny”, “The Towering Inferno”

Should have been nominated- “The Godfather Part II”, “Chinatown”, “The Conversation”, “Blazing Saddles”, “Swept Away”

Should have won- “The Godfather Part II”


Though I think I prefer the silliness of “Blazing Saddles”, the noir of “Chinatown”, and the existentialism of “The Conversation”, the Godfather still triumphs over all.


Winner- “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”

Losers- “Barry Lyndon”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, “Jaws”, “Nashville”

Should have been nominated- “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Barry Lyndon”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, “Jaws”, “Nashville”

Should have won- “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”


If I had a time machine I would go back to 1975 because for once I am in complete agreement with the Academy. Maybe I would find a way to sneak in “Three Days of the Condor” or “The Man Who Would be King”, but bravo 1975 Academy, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” slays me every time.


Winner- “Rocky”

Losers- “All the President’s Men”, “Bound for Glory”, “Network”, “Taxi Driver”

Should have been nominated- “Rocky”, “All the President’s Men”, “Network”, “Taxi Driver”, “Marathon Man”

Should have won- “Rocky”


The 1970’s were a film nut’s Eden and the Academy really celebrated the right films. I haven’t seen “Bound for Glory”, so perhaps they were right to stick that movie on the list, but I find its director Hal Ashby to be unwatchable and “Marathon Man” is one of my favorites. I was tempted to give “Marathon Man”, “Taxi Driver” or “All the President’s Men” best picture, but Rocky is the only one with a happy ending and that should count for something.


Winner- “Annie Hall”

Losers- “The Goodbye Girl”, “Julia”, “Star Wars”, “The Turning Point”

Should have been nominated- “Annie Hall”, “Saturday Night Fever”, “Star Wars”, “3 Women”, “Eraserhead”.

Should have won- “Annie Hall”

ANNIE HALL - French Poster by Jouineau Bourduge

The six year old in me is stunned I could pick anything over “Star Wars”, but the 36 year old in me knows “Annie Hall” holds up far better and on a personal level has proven to be far more influential in my creative and love life. I don’t feel good about “Eraserhead” being on the list, but for the life of me couldn’t find a movie to replace it which must mean the ’70’s are close to ending.


Winner- “The Deer Hunter”

Losers- “Coming Home”, “Heaven Can Wait”, “Midnight Express”, “An Unmarried Woman”

Should have been nominated- “The Deer Hunter”, “Animal House”, “The Buddy Holly Story”, “Midnight Express”, “Dawn of the Dead”

Should have won- “The Deer Hunter”


The year of my birth was not a watershed moment for cinema. After The Godfather lite of “The Deer Hunter” it was slim pickings to fill out this list.


Winner- “Kramer vs. Kramer”

Losers- “All that Jazz”, “Apocalypse Now”, “Breaking Away”, “Norma Rae”

Should have been nominated- “Apocalypse Now”, “Manhattan”, “Norma Rae”, “The Jerk”, “The Muppet Movie”

Should have won- “Manhattan”


I know, I know Apocalypse Now should win, but it didn’t hit me the way the gorgeous black and whites and George Gershwin songs of “Manhattan”. Knowing what we do about Woody Allen now, it’s tough to see his character dating a teenager, but the final frame captures the human condition better than any other movie except perhaps for “The Muppet Movie”.

Click here to read the 1980’s.

Dumb American – American Sniper

Thursday RNC

When I attended a screening of the new Clint Eastwood movie American Sniper a couple weeks back I had no intention of writing about it. It was a hateful piece of propaganda not worthy of a second thought that would disappear from the public consciousness as quickly as political campaign ads do after the first Tuesday in November.

Or so I figured.

But then I go on vacation and come back to discover that not only is American Sniper breaking records at the box office, but it also became the most clueless movie since Crash to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards.

For the two people that haven’t seen American Sniper, it features Bradley Cooper pumped up on human growth hormone as Chris Kyle, a real life Navy Seal. According to the movie Kyle was a saint, a dead eye shooter who killed 160 enemy combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was a rodeo star, and a sensitive man whose heart ached for every one of his fellow American soldiers. If Kyle was one tenth as wonderful a person as the movie portrays him he deserved far better than this muddled, confused mess whose only worthwhile moment comes before the closing credits when they show photographs of the real Kyle and video of the legion of mourners at his funeral. That was the movie’s one moment of honesty.

The remainder of the movie features Cooper doing a Brett Favre imitation more worthy of a Saturday Night Live sketch, than the centerpiece of a “serious” movie about the glories of war.

Since I am fortunate enough to have never visited a war zone, I can not say for certain the war scenes are unrealistic, but based on the fact that Eastwood could not bother to get a real baby instead of an obvious doll to play Kyle’s child, I’m going to go on a limb and say Operation Iraqi Freedom was not the video game they present it to be. According to this movie every Arab from their women to children is a backstabbing swine and every American just wants to get home to give his girl a diamond ring.

There are two key scenes where in the middle of warfare Kyle is on a cell phone call with his wife in the States. This seems grossly incompetent behavior. It could be interesting commentary on the callousness of a sniper waiting in the shadows to kill his prey, but instead it is a lazy storytelling device so Kyle’s wife can hear the horrors her husband is going through.

At times the movie seems to hint that war might be hell, but can’t be bothered to explore that theme at any depth. Worse, it is either too scared or dense to question whether our nation’s volunteer soldiers deserve any of the blame, wrapping itself around the old fascist jingo of “supporting our troops”.

If this movie had disappeared as quickly as Eastwood’s last few flicks, I could have stayed silent. But the fact that a record number of people are lining up to see such a dangerously stupid movie is worrisome. Especially since it could encourage support for future needless wars in the Middle East so we can teach those evil Arabs a lesson.