Alden Graves | Graves Registry: There's no business like it


"You can take all the sincerity in Hollywood, place it in the navel of a fruit fly and still have room enough for three caraway seeds and a producer's heart." - Fred Allen

"You can learn everything you need to know about making movies in a day and a half." - Orson Welles

Everyone wonders what happens when we pass from this life to the next. There is one theory that proposes that life is like a record. When it is over, it simply begins to play again. Everything is exactly the same. I hope that isn't true if it means having to sit through "Mamma Mia!" again.

(The credit for that witticism really belongs to Woody Allen. I just substituted "Mamma Mia!" for Mr. Allen's dread of enduring the Ice Capades again.)

Taking a break from my usual discourse about the clown in the center ring of the Washington circus, I decided to focus on a more commonly accepted aspect of show business for this column. "I don't see many movies anymore, but here's an opinion about them anyway" would have been a good title, but it's just too long, so I went with abbreviated Irving Berlin.

I should probably note some of my cinematic quirks to encourage or dissuade readers from continuing. My favorite movie is "Psycho." I wouldn't trade one minute of Disney's hand-drawn "Sleeping Beauty" for all of the computer generated animated films, Pixar entries included. I thought that the train station shootout at the end of "The Untouchables" was the most impressive piece of filmmaking since Hitchcock died. I'll be very glad when the superhero craze follows the secret agent craze into oblivion.

I thought that the best movie I saw over the last year was "Leave No Trace." It starred the same actor (Ben Foster) who was in my choice for last year's best film, "Hell or High Water." Needless to say, neither film was swamped with honors.

I think Katharine Hepburn veers uncomfortably between astonishingly good and downright annoying. I thought that the most impressive aspect of Gregory Peck's performance in "To Kill a Mockingbird" was the fact that he won great acclaim despite being essentially miscast. I loved Elizabeth Taylor despite the fact that she was a middling actor with a chalk-on-a-blackboard voice, although "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" suggests wells of untapped potential.

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You will note that all of the people I directly referred to in the above paragraphs are dead. I know very few of the still alive people that the semi-manic hosts on "Entertainment Tonight" are constantly gushing about.

As you probably are painfully aware, we are in the midst of that time of year when the most over praised, overpaid, over fawned over, overdressed, and over quoted people in the world get to slap each other on their collective backs for their contribution to — dare I call it art since John Ford died? — during the past year.

Being easily susceptible to crushing boredom, I don't watch the award shows, but I do look at the list of winners after the festivities have concluded. It's hard to shake the feeling that the Golden Globe nominations aren't influenced by the lure of gathering mobs of A-list celebrities in one place for a few hours.

It is always surprising how worked up actors get over receiving the entertainment business' most celebrated second-string award. Glenn Close was awash in tears as she exhorted women to follow their dreams rather than remain subservient to men. As much as I admire Ms. Close as an actress, I wonder if she has any idea that she is probably speaking to thousands of single mothers while wearing a dress that probably costs more than those women make in a month.

Everyone expected that Lady Gaga would walk off with the award for her performance in "A Star is Born." The new film is actually the fourth remake of the familiar obscurity-to-fame tale first presented in a sans music version in 1937 with Janet Gaynor. It was done again in 1954 with Judy Garland giving one of filmdom's greatest performances and instigating the biggest Oscar ripoff in history when the Academy opted to give the coveted statuette to Grace Kelly for her bloodless performance in "The Country Girl." Barbra Streisand exercised her penchant for shameless self-indulgence in a noisy 1976 version.

Neither "Star" nor the much-hyped "Mary Poppins Returns" fared too well in the Globes' contest and that, at least according to legend, doesn't bode well for their Oscar potential.

There has been something of a controversy over the initial selection of Kevin Hart as this year's Oscar host. It seems that Mr. Hart has a history of making homophobic comments for which he is sincerely — if typically — regretful. You would think that someone at the Motion Picture Academy would have done a little vetting before selecting Hart, but hosting the Oscars doesn't seem to rank very high on celebrities' "Things I Really Want To Do" lists.

The Academy Awards telecast gets a smaller audience each year and any controversy over the host during the Trump era of epic public outrages seems to be of minuscule importance. Maybe Sandy Dennis had the right attitude about awards in general. When she won an Oscar for her work in "Virginia Woolf," she promptly handed it to her business manager.

Alden Graves writes a regular column for the Banner.


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