Curly Top (1935)
The Little Princess (1939)
In 2013 Joy and I saw Michelangelo’s Moses in the San Pietro Church in Rome. I’d forgotten what the sculpture looked like and was surprised to see he had horns on top of his head. It was like seeing a statue of Winston Churchill wearing a swastika armband. Thankfully our tour guide explained to us the story: a simple case of mistranslation.
When the Old Testament was transcribed into Latin, the scholars came to the passage where Moses descended from Mount Sinai talking to God and his face was “cornuta.” The simplest translation was the word “horned.” Made sense to them really. If you’re going to have a fireside chat with God it’s most likely going to leave quite the impression. In this case, he simply mutated. I’m sure any of us would have done the same, though I’m scared to think what I would’ve ended up with. Probably something more embarrassing like gigantic sideburns or a third nipple.
But those translators simply couldn’t see past their own language. They were a lot like European explorers in the 15th and 16th Centuries. An indigenous chief invites Jacques Cartier to the village where he lives, with the word “village” spoken in Iroquois as kanata. “Say no more,” states the explorer with confidence. “I read ya. The name of this place is ‘Canada.’” Turns to his posse, “Hey guys, we’re in Canada!”
So, it turned out the word “cornuta” had a couple of possible senses. Just like in English where “bank” could mean a building where you keep your cash or a mound of snow, this word could be translated both as “horned” or “shining.” Now, surely it makes more sense that Moses would have a shining face after meeting God, but them Latin scribes were probably pretty smart fellers. At least Michelangelo thought so.
There are a lot of great tales from the making of 1956’s The Ten Commandments, the most successful biblical epic of all time with two iconic roles played out: Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Ramses. But my favourite story has to do with two extras whose names I don’t believe have ever been identified (Understandably, since the movie used 14,000 of them as well as 15,000 animals. Keeping names straight was likely not easy.). Anyway, Cecil B. DeMille was known for giving very long-winded speeches through his megaphone when giving direction. Prior to filming the golden calf scene he was in the middle of one of these tedious disquisitions when he noticed two extras talking to each other, ignoring him. This annoyed the veteran director causing him to stop and give what most of us received from our seventh-grade teachers who deserved more respect than we were giving them. According to the IMDb TTC trivia page it went something like this:
“We have a young woman whose conversation with her friend is apparently more important than listening to her instructions from her director while we are all engaged in making motion picture history. Perhaps the young woman would care to enlighten us all, and tell us what the devil is so important that it cannot wait until after we make this shot.” After an awkward, pregnant pause, the young woman spoke up and boldly confessed, “I was just saying to my friend here, ‘I wonder when that bald-headed old fart is gonna call ‘Lunch!'” DeMille stared at the woman for a moment, paused, then lifted his megaphone and shouted, “Lunch!”
Congratulations The Ten Commandments. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actor: Yul Brynner as Ramses in The Ten Commandments. Btw, when he found out he would play this role with a bare chest in most scenes, he wanted to make sure he wouldn’t get overshadowed by Heston. He dieted and exercised diligently, which is the main reason he looks more buff than usual in The King and I (1956), the next movie he starred in.
Best Quote: “That’ll do pig.” — James Cromwell as farmer Hoggett in Babe.
My halfhearted apologies to Jacques Cartier as he wasn’t the first nor the only distinguished gentlemen to sail ignorance-first across the Atlantic and culturally throw up all over the carpet and point out how beautiful he made it look.
A couple of years ago we had this category and chose from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Alien (1979), and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). This time around we’re we’re again going to choose three visual effects Oscar winners and again from three different decades. They’re all so different from each other, so this should be fun. Which one is your pick for movie of the week?
We all enjoyed watching MaCaulay Culkin set up booby traps for the Wet Bandits and hearing one of the twins saying “You got it dude” on Full House. To me, child performers are some of the best and worst of Hollywood actors. So here is a list of the best and worst, and I think you’ll find that I’m right. How could I be wrong?
10. Hallie Eisenberg (The Miracle Worker 2000) — You may not recognize the name, but this little actress did the best Helen Keller I’ve ever seen, and that says a lot considering Melissa Gilbert’s performance in the 1979 TV movie.
9. Drew Barrymore (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 1982) — Even though her memorable roles didn’t start coming out again until she became a young adult, she practically stole the show of one of the biggest movie hits of the 20th century.
8. Emma Watson and Rupert Grint (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 2001) — Both were the perfect picks for their respective roles. I would add Daniel Radcliffe, but to me these two shone brighter than he did performance-wise.
7. Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, 2006) — I’ve bragged enough about her and this role on this blog before. I’ll move on.
6. Corey Feldman and Corey Haim (The Lost Boys, 1987 et al) — I can’t think of another young duo who had/has the comedic chops as these two.
5. Tatum O’Neal (Paper Moon 1973 and The Bad News Bears 1976) — She has to be on this list considering being the youngest actress to win an Oscar (best supporting). Anna Paquin comes in second, winning at 11-years-old for her role in The Piano (1993). The youngest male actor to win an Oscar? 29, Adrien Brody (The Pianist, 2002).
4. Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam, 2001; Man on Fire, 2004) — Her abilities at a young age were impressive, to say the least. Every time she was on the screen she killed it. My family loved her in The Cat in the Hat (2003).
3. The kids from Children of Heaven (1997) — This is one of those movies that I wish I could convince everyone I know to watch. It’s a touching story and I still can’t get over how good the two kids were in it, especially the boy who played the older brother. His name is Amir Farrokh Hashemian, and I haven’t found any titles that he’s been in since then, unfortunately.
2. Christian Bale (Empire of the Sun, 1987) — Another one I’ve bragged on enough in the past. In this movie he was only 13 and had the starring role. Looking at the acting nominees for that year, it’s a crime he wasn’t amoung them.
1. Shirley Temple (Curly Top, 1935; Heidi, 1937; The Little Princess, 1939; etc. etc. etc. — None can compare. Even if sometimes her acting was a little mugg-ish, her perfect dance steps, angelic voice, and utter confidence make her the ultimate acting prodigy.
8. Jake Lloyd (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 1999) — He was ok, but Star Wars fans love to hate this young iteration of Darth Vader.
7. MaCaulay Culkin — This may be a little controversial, but I think the reason we loved him in the Home Alone movies were only partly for his acting. Most of it was directing and producing decisions and his adorableness. He’s a decent actor, but in those early years he wasn’t amazing.
6. Cole and Dylan Sprouse — If you’ve never seen The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, don’t bother.
5. Danny Bonaduce — Every time there is a “Where are they now?” segments on TV about child actors, he’s brought up. His story is amazing, but his acting wasn’t anything to write home about.
4. The Olsen Twins — Again, these two were our favourite child actors at the time, but it was because of how cute they were. As children they had confidence and the ability to do what was asked of them on screen. Their abilities weren’t even all that great when they were teenagers.
2. Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) — I know you agree.
1. Sydney and Rachel Greenbush (Little House on the Prairie) — Adorable, yes. But their acting was so bad I’m not sure what the cast director was thinking. There are other cute kids in the world, you know.
Congratulations To Kill A Mockingbird. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: I wouldn’t say that Mary Badham was an exceptional child actor, but there’s not doubt that her role is memorable and was certainly part of what made TKAM great.
Best Actor: Spencer Tracy as Judge Haywood in Judgment at Nuremberg.
Best Quote: “If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” — Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in TKAM.
Honourable Mentions for Best Child Actors:
Will Poulter as Eustace from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 2010; Henry Thomas as Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982); Justin Henry as Justin Henry as Billy in Kramer vs Kramer (1979); Haley Joel Osment as Cole in The Sixth Sense (1999); Jonathan Ke Kwon in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Goonies (1985); Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
I love a good courtroom drama, and some of the very best of them are old B&W classics. Which one would you pick for this week’s movie? If you’re not familiar with any of them, click on the link and read the plot description.
And we can’t forget Philadelphia, the movie that I would probably place in between Do the Right Thing and Gandhi. Some from the LGBT community were critical of it, where the gay characters were fairly one-dimensional, it took Hollywood a decade to finally address the issue, etc. However, it was a kind of first step for us in understanding. Which I believe is the first step in social justice. If you don’t seek to understand, the next steps are near impossible.
Congratulations Philadelphia. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Octavia Spencer as Wanda in Fruitvale Station.
Best Actor: Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman in BlacKkKlansman.
Best Quote: “I AM NOT GOING TO BURY MY SON! MY SON IS GOING TO BURY ME!” — Denzel Washington as John Quincy Archibald in John Q.
There are many other movies, of course. Schindler’s List (1993) and Crash (2004) I left out, as well as American Histry X (1998), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Blood Diamond (2006), and Tangerine (2015). I also enjoyed District 9 (2009), Children of Men (2006), and Snowpiercer (2013), which are more allegorical stories of social justice. So, if there are any listed that you haven’t seen and they pique your interest, maybe this is a good time to gain a little bit more understanding. We could all use more of that.