PICK OF THE WEEK: LADY SINGS THE BLUES
I had a hard choice to make this week for The Pick. I saw a beautifully made comedy by Billy Wilder, The Fortune Cookie. Then there was the unforgettable Edward James Olmos film American Me, a brutal look at the rise of the Mexican Mafia. But in the end, I went with the film that moved me most, Lady Sings the Blues.
Walk The Line did well this year, and Ray did well last year. The music biopic has become a standard vehicle for a studio to cash in at the box office and to gain Oscar interest. In 1972, the Oscar race was fierce, and Lady Sings the Blues got the blunt end of the statue.
Diana Ross shone as Billie Holiday, coming up from humble beginnings and making her way to the top. There was a lot of focus on her heroin use, as it was her demise. I thought the formula was inappropriate for the movie Ray, wherein Ray Charles' heroin use is given equal or greater weight to his music. While Billie Holiday was cut down in the prime of life, Ray Charles kicked his habit and had many productive years throughout the rest of his long life. Ross sang her own songs, as do her contemporary counterparts, but few could give the performance she gave.
Billy Dee Williams, unfortunately only known to most people as Lando Carlrissian and the spokesperson for Colt 45 malt liquor, played the male lead in a follow up to the previous year's Brian's Song, which may be the best made for TV film ever, and before his part in Bingo Long's Travelling All-Stars and Motor Kings, a rare look at the world of barnstorming baseball teams in the days of the segregated major leagues. Williams turns in these fine performances, then takes a role in The Empire Strikes Back, but then his career takes a downturn to films like Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror.
Richard Pryor shows up in his first significant acting role. He was no stranger to the business, but as a serious actor, it was one of his only non-comic roles. He appeared in the Bingo Long movie some years later, alongside Williams once more, in a comic relief role in a somewhat serious film. It's impossible not to notice Pryor, and want more screen time from him, as he constantly stole attention.
But all of these actors suffered in a year that brought many good films from Hollywood. It was the year of The Godfather, which garnered many nominations and Oscars. Cabaret also showed up that year, and was more popular with the music lovers. Sounder took the attention of the African American vote. Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier gathered the rare double Best Actor nods for the same movie, Sleuth. There were also strong showings by Deliverance, The Heartbreak Kid, and The Poseidon Adventure.
Lady Sings The Blues won no awards at all. Diana Ross was nominated for Best Actress, but was beat by Liza Manelli for her role in Cabaret. Pryor didn't stand a chance to get nominated with James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino all nominated for their roles in The Godfather. There were other nominations for the film: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Music, and Best Writing, But it didn't win.
The best films often slip under the radar of the Oscars, but hopefully, you will see with the wide range of nominations this film received, that many people considered it on par with these other better known films.
Give it a chance, I'm sure you'll love it.
TWO MONTHS IN REVIEW: A LOOK BACK
I am missing TV. I never thought I would say that. But I miss the television programs. My first love in entertainment is the movie, but something had to go in my life to make room for this experiment.
I'm not even sure what's on these days. I think there are new episodes of The Shield and Nip/Tuck. Possibly Rescue Me. I haven't watched Entourage, Boston Legal, Streetball, Beyond The Glory, The First 48, Rollergirls, Intervention. The Adam Carolla Project is over, so is Kathy Griffin's My Life on the D-List.
The only shows I've been watching are Moral Orel on Adult Swim and #1 Single. Moral Orel is a brilliantly sacrilegious ten-minute cartoon. #1 Single is Lisa Loeb's trashy and heartbreaking reality show that I am trying to admit that I love.
Next week, The Sopranos starts its new season. There's no way I'm not watching them. I've seen every episode twice, some episodes more than that. Saying I think it's a good show is like saying Michael Jordan was a good basketball player. It's a safe opinion I hate to throw around, but I'm not going to ignore it. I've watched only a handful of movies during this project that I would trade for that show.
I needed to get to 80 DVDs by the end of February to be on pace for 500 for the year. I'm not there, I was at 69 by the end of February. I have to play catch up. I have to somehow watch more than I am now. It's possible mathematically, but troublesome in real life.
I'm going to Utah Tuesday night. I may get a few DVDs that day, but Wednesday through Sunday there will be nothing for me. I'm getting back Sunday night, just in time to miss the premiere of the Sopranos. No wonder that flight was so cheap.
For March, I'm looking at the last 306 days of the year. To get back on pace, I have to get through 44 DVDs this month. I'm at 76 as of this typing, so I'm 37 away. I could totally do that if not for this darn Utah trip.
But the art scene of Salt Lake City has called me, and I must go. I haven't been on a good vacation in a while, and I'm planning on having a good time next week.