CineSavant Column

Tuesday February 26, 2019


1974:  David Niven and friend show ’em how it’s done.

Ha! The perceptive Joe Baltake (for February 22) writes about self-appointed ‘Oscar analysts,’ “a breed of nobodies who are multiplying faster than rodents.” I wasn’t going to comment on the Oscars at all, but if doing so gains me entry into such a select group…

I did a pretty good job not paying much attention to the Oscars this year, I guess because the crop of films overall seemed less involving than ever. The best show I saw was Roma, and I’m pleased that it got so much attention. I still like to star-gape as much as anyone, I suppose. I know folk that attend Oscar parties and play guessing games with the winners, which sounds like a good excuse to get together with friends. For the past few years I’ve DVR’d the show and listened to most of it from the next room while I putter on-line. Then toward the end I fast- and skip- forward from the beginning, stopping to see what people look like, to see the fancy montages, the ‘In Memoriam’ piece, and the most dramatic awards. I get to skip the interminable commercials and some of the more mawkish acceptance speeches. If the next day’s news tells me that something outrageous occurred, I’ll go back and look for it.

This year’s stripped- down experiment is a good idea. I liked the more international scope of the show — a lot of Spanish was spoken. The political statements were less tacky, perhaps because without the usual single host in charge, no single viewpoint was enforced. The montages were fewer and not particularly well done, and the ones intended to be funny, weren’t.

I love Obit montages, as I have as much emotional attachment to favorite actors as does anyone. I compared the Academy’s In Memoriam montage to a full list of celebrities that passed away last year, and quickly realized that there was no way to do that piece shorter than ten minutes — they had to skip plenty of beloved actors. Because the time constraint makes a comprehensive montage impractical, perhaps the concept needs to be re-thought. TCM’s ‘Remembering’ montages are more satisfying, even with their funereal style that intersperses fussy atmospheric visuals in between clips of the departeds.

The obit format has another difficult problem, no matter who’s in charge or what the style is. It’s natural to build the emotion to a big finish that places emphasis on ‘special’ stars, ending with someone guaranteed to be universally mourned. Unfortunately, that only reminds us that even in death, Hollywood celebrities must follow a pre-determined billing, a stellar pecking order. It brings back Billy Wilder’s joke about the news reported some Hollywood people killed in a plane crash. Wilder noted that ‘other’ people that perished with the noted celebrity were effectively billed as, “Additional Dying By…”

My Oscar enthusiasm can be gauged by the fact that I turned off the broadcast the moment the Best Picture was named, but that’s only a symptom of Awards Show burn-out. I saw most of the movies nominated this year and can only say that they seemed overloaded with social messages, some more worthy than others. The nominees that focused on old-fashioned entertainment were all about celebrity superstars. I was impressed by Roma, which is genuine movie art. The show that most engaged me emotionally was the documentary about Fred Rogers.

Congrats to the winners!  And that concludes this frivolous Oscar report from CineSavant’s Rodent Nobody!

  We happily return our attention to the important news now crossing CineSavant’s editorial desk: associate Gary Teetzel found this impressive behind-the-scenes Gorgo photo at a Facebook page called Facebook Monsterland. I think it shows us the nearly finished ‘baby’ Gorgo head piece. Or does it still need work?  The throat area doesn’t seem quite final.

The operator / monster actor’s head would have to be positioned inside Gorgo’s neck, it seems safe to say. We note the wiring hanging below the rubber helmet-mask, which perhaps leads to solenoid mechanisms to flap Gorgo’s ears, open and close his eyes and move his hinged jaw; his eyes are electric too. That’s pretty fancy animatronic work for 1959 or 1960. The featurette on the VCI Gorgo disc has a very brief 8mm shot of a similar Gorgo head, but this is much clearer. The only BTS shots I’ve ever seen from the English movie are views of the Thames River miniature landscape in American Cinematographer. Even that article lacks the kind of detail we’d like to see.

Thank you Gary, and thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson