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Tag Archive: Alternate Oscars


Review by C.J. Bunce

Thanks to Fathom Events and other film retrospectives over the years, movie audiences can revisit their first viewings of some of the best films ever made.  In that league comes The Muppet Movie, which just wrapped its 40th anniversary with two days of screenings.  Like the one-of-a-kind The Beach Boys and The Bee Gees, and the symbols of goodness everywhere: Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, and Steve Irwin, The Muppets are a truly unique team, and Jim Henson and his $65 million box office hit The Muppet Movie reflects why they created the word “iconic” in the first place.  It says something when a retrospective anniversary screening can make the week’s Top 10 box office after 40 years.  The Muppets are as accessible and necessary as they’ve ever been.

Paul Williams’ musical score and powerful songs might be the high point of the movie, from “The Rainbow Connection,” to “Movin’ Right Along,” to Gonzo’s emotional “I’m Going to Go Back There Again.”  Or maybe it’s the magic, the forgetting we’re absorbed in characters played by actors that are a frog and a pig and a bear and a dog and whatever Gonzo is.  Or maybe it’s the behind the scenes magic.  Filming in the lagoon once used for Gilligan’s Island, Henson spent an entire day perfecting the scene with Kermit singing in a wetsuit under water, perched inside a metal tank, reaching upward to give Kermit his character.  You wouldn’t know any of it happened that way from the perfectly still water and multiple angles the song is filmed from.  Or that Kermit was operated my remote control for the Schwinn scene (but Kermit the Muppet really was riding that bicycle, no strings attached!).  Jim Henson can’t be overstated as sitting among the kings of creating the fantastical.

But even all of those great components can’t beat the storytelling.  Full of honesty and heart, Kermit’s path is a classic reluctant hero’s journey, equal to that of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Luke in Star Wars, Frodo and Bilbo in Tolkien’s stories (Fozzie is a great Samwise), Harry in J.K. Rowling’s series.  Here our green felted friend assembles a group of new friends to help him succeed by story’s end.  The Muppets had already been known to us through The Muppet Show, yet this movie succeeded in getting audiences to meet them all over again.  The story is playful, too, allowing its own script to become a plot device with the characters.

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Iconic scenes 2001 A Space Odyssey

If you’re wondering what the best movie was in any given year, you have plenty of options.  You can look for the movie that had the biggest take at the box office.  You can look to critic reviews.  You can scroll through the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com).  You can review the dozens of award lists.  Or you can just watch the movies and choose for yourself.  Three thousand Oscars will have been given out by the end of this year’s 88th annual Academy Awards tomorrow.  But what does the Academy know?  Historically it’s Oscar-bait that takes the big trophy, often over-represented categories like not-always-so-historical costume dramas, biopics, “family” melodramas, or just plain highbrow yawners, all usually released within the last three months of the year.  The movie viewing public often raises its collective eyebrows to winners who seemingly take home the prize for sentimental reasons, popularity instead of performance, atonement for being overlooked in the past or catch-up Oscars for an end of career weaker performance to award an actor’s entire body of work.

Writer Danny Peary did something we all want to do, and wrote a book to correct all of Oscar’s many past errors.  Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but Peary presents many great arguments for overlooked American masterpieces and acting triumphs, in his 1993 book Alternate Oscars.  His best selections shore up the biggest failing of Oscar, its ongoing snubbing of genre works.  Peary argues that many worthy movies were passed over, and awards his Alternate Oscar to the likes of King Kong in 1933 instead of Cavalcade, Hitchcock’s mystery The 39 Steps instead of Mutiny on the Bounty in 1935, The Adventures of Robin Hood instead of You Can’t Take it With You in 1938,  the all-time fantasy classic The Wizard of Oz instead of Gone With the Wind in 1939, Citizen Kane instead of How Green Was My Valley in 1941, Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life in 1946 instead of Fredric March in The Best Years of Our Lives, Strangers on a Train in 1951 instead of An American in Paris, the Western Shane in 1953 instead of adapted novel From Here to Eternity, The Searchers in 1956 instead of Around the World in 80 Days.

Alternate Oscars

Peary would have the arguable best comedy of all time Some Like it Hot sweep the big Oscar categories in 1959.  The sci-fi game changer 2001: A Space Odyssey would have taken Best Picture of 1968 instead of the musical Oliver!  Steve McQueen would win Best Actor for the police procedural Bullitt.  And George Lucas’s American Graffiti would have taken Oscar instead of The Sting.  In 1982 E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial would knock out Gandhi, The Right Stuff would take out Terms of Endearment in 1983, and Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V would have beaten Driving Miss Daisy in 1989.  In 1991, Wesley Snipes would win Best Actor for New Jack City instead of Anthony Hopkins for Silence of the Lambs.

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