Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The weather continues to be atrocious: it has been one of the coldest winters on record, with below freezing temperatures going on for a month, and every week a major snowstorm. But this is happening throughout the US, not just in New York City. But we're really suffering through a particularly bad winter.

The last week has brought a number of events, but i'll concentrate on movies.

First: Turner Classic Movies does have an agenda, a hierarchy as to what is important and what is not. As anyone who watches TCM knows, February has always been "31 Days of Oscar", showcasing Oscar-winning and/or Oscar-nominated movies (with an overlap into March, since February doesn't have 31 days). Now, in the last week, two more major film people died: one was the Danish director Gabriel Axel (whose "Babette's Feast" won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1987) and the other was Shirley Temple (who was awarded a special "juvenile" Oscar in 1934). This, in addition to the previous week's loss of Maximillian Schell and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Well, Shirley Temple is the only one who rates at TCM: immediately upon the announcement of her death, TCM prepared one of those "TCM Remembers" spots, and a tribute to Shirley Temple on the TCM website, and an announcement that there will be a day devoted to her films in March (as soon as 31 Days of Oscar is over).

Now, yesterday, "The Young Lions" was shown (it was nominated for several technical awards in 1958); this was a TCM premiere (it was a 20th Century Fox film) and there was a little intro by Robert Osborne (it was shown at noon) to announce the fact. Now, this would have been a perfect opportunity to acknowledge Maximillian Schell (who was making his debut in American films with "The Young Lions"; the importance was that the occasion of being brought to the US to be in this film allowed Schell to work in NYC, where he appeared on Broadway and also did several live television broadcasts, one of which was "Judgment at Nuremberg"; when it came time to make the movie, Schell repeated his performance as the defense attorney and won an Oscar). No; no acknowledgement of Schell, nothing.

Second: the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards were this weekend. Because of distribution patterns, several movies which have been award favorites here in the US were excluded (most notably "Dallas Buyers Club"), but this whole award season has been one of extremes, but also one of great variety. I hate watching award shows, and i didn't bother watching the BAFTAs, but Cate Blanchett's speech was much discussed: she sidestepped the whole "issue" of Woody Allen by dedicating her award to the memory of her friend, Philip Seymour Hoffman. (Blanchett, of course, is nominated for her part in Allen's "Blue Jasmine".)

One death which really affected the art world was the sudden death of Hudson, the proprietor of Feature Gallery. Roberta Smith wrote a highly appreciative obituary in The New York Times yesterday.

Today, there was a discerning obituary about Stuart Hall in The New York Times (written by William Yardley), who died last week. Hall's importance in the development of "cultural studies" was duly noted, but also his assessment of the decline of cultural studies: "If I have to read another cultural studies analysis of 'The sopranos,' I give up," Mr. Hall said. "There's an awful lot of rubbish around masquerading a cultural studies."

In January, there was a lot written about the Sundance Film Festival; the Berlin Film Festival just finished its annual run. I hope i'll be able to get to more screenings, but this weather has been tough! It's supposed to warm up this week, but next week there's another plunge into freezing! I just want this winter to be over!


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