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The Bickering Critics – Anita and George

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Tammy (2014) Reviewed by Anita ***

Yep!  Another McCarthy movie, like I said I really get a kick out of her.  That is just what happened to me watching Tammy .  I have to say, similar to Life of the Party , this is a small screen movie.  Lots of laughs but not a theater film in my opinion.

McCarthy is every bit of crude, rude and bad manners in this one.  I love her as Tammy a fast food server who is having one hell of a bad day.  She just can’t seem to catch a break.  All in a day she totals her car, loses her job, and finds her husband knocking boots with the neighbor.  Reaching complete brain explosion she hits the road.  This is a great idea except she has no car, no money and limited options where to go.  Tammy decides to get help from her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon) who has a car, cash and wants to escape.  The duo take off for Niagara Falls.  Not exactly what Tammy had in mind but it ends up being just the trip she needed.

Tammy  is an excellent demonstration of McCarthy’s comedic abilities.  The story is charming, well-meaning and messy.  Good messy, the kind that is intended and comes across as love.  I  believe it shows off McCarthy’s knack for silent-esque, physical slap-stick style, and combines it with bad behavior. This is also why it doesn’t receive 5 stars from me, it is not 100% visually appealing in the over all film.  A few scenes (I’m sure you’d agree) are forced or just off.  Also, as I’ve seen in other films it is McCarthy’s talent that is truly center stage, just slightly to the left.  Meaning there is still a flatness about the over all effort. That being the only fault this critic finds wrong with Tammy watch it. Be sure to if the kids are around they are at least 14.  You will for sure get a giggle.

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Life of the Party (2018) Reviewed by Anita **

I really enjoy a good-natured, knee slap kind of movie.  Clean and fun for the family.  Life of the Party kind of brings that idea to the big screen.  However it is better on the small screen.  Melissa McCarthy is a ball of energy in everything she does.  Her character carried this movie all the way.  Sadly, even her efforts are lost in this miss directed script.

Would you like to go to college with your mom?  Especially if your mom is going through a mid-life melt down? That is the whole story and questions to be answered.  This film is a standard personal journey story about a dumpy dedicated house wife who has been forced to reboot her life.  Deanna’s (Melissa McCarthy) husband dumps her as their daughter is off to school.  Deanna faces things she left behind.  She evaluates choices she made putting her family first while denying her own dreams.  So! Deanna decides to finish school.  Putting her most enthusiastic foot forward she becomes the out spoken new student on campus.  We (and her daughter) watch her go from frumpy mom jeans to frat boy dream girl as she rediscovers her personal value.

What I liked about this movie is it is much cleaner than your average college movie.  It is neither cruel nor sleazy.  I still feel it wants for something more.  Maybe it is the plot; energy level of the other characters is flat and underdeveloped, aside of Deanna or Dee Rock as she earns her nickname along the way.  I am leaning toward it just leaves you wanting either a bigger ending or some sort of bang.  There is no life of the party in the end it is just over, as in run credits.

I like Melissa McCarthy so I watch her movies.  I don’t always like the over all movie as in this case, but I always like her.  Go ahead and watch it, it not something to write to mom about but it was worth sharing with you.

 

 

 

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Sh! The Octopus (1937) – reviewed by George

This is probably the silliest movie I’ve ever seen. Which is not to say I didn’t laugh at it. The reverses and reveals are supposed to make it suspenseful, but the comedy bits undermine that completely.
Paul Morgan (John Eldredge) and sea Captain Cobb (Brandon Tyman) arrive at the abandoned lighthouse which the government has (given? sold?) to Paul. They find a wallet marked DBH, and then “Captain Hook” (George Rosener), who has a hook for a right hand, shows up to inspect Paul’s papers and officially turn the place over to Paul. As the two captains leave, a weird pair of eyes is watching Paul from a small dark hole in the wall.
Two police detectives, Kelly and Dempsey (Hugh Herbert and Allen Jenkins, the stars of the piece), are driving through a rainstorm that strongly resembles a hurricane. They seem to be somewhere in New England, but location is unimportant, as long as the audience believes that there’s a lighthouse there. The cops are discussing the announcement of a new Police Commissioner, Clancy, who promises “to war on the Great Crime Octopus”.
They get a radio message to go to the lighthouse, but before following instructions they have to fix a flat and run into Vesta Vernoff (Marcia Ralston) who wants to go to the lighthouse too. She screams a lot.
At the lighthouse, when someone looks up, they see a body hanging at the very top by its heels. More people arrive (Eric Stanley, Margaret Irving, Elspeth Dudgeon) and octopus tentacles reach out and open doors, turn off lights, and grab people who are never seen again.
It’s a complete muddle, and still at certain occurrences (and very occasionally at a line) I laughed. So it’s not a complete loss, if you’re feeling masochistic. Actually I liked it in all its ridiculousness – not a lot, but just a little bit.
From Plays by Ralph Spence and Ralph Murphy and Donald Gallaher, Screen Play by George Bricker, Directed by William McGann.

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Randolph Scott in “Abilene Town” (1945) – reviewed by George

1870 – Five years after the end of the Civil War a thousand-mile cattle trail stretched from the plains of Texas to the railroad depots in Kansas. For 90 grueling days cowboys pushed cattle up the Abilene Trail at an average speed of 3/4 of a mile per hour.
This film depicts the struggle between the cowboys and the settlers as more and more people flooded in to farm the Kansas prairie, and wanted to fence in their property.
Marshall Dan Mitchell (Randolph Scott), his friend-who-happens-to-be-a-girl Sherry Balder (Rhonda Fleming), and Sherry’s shopkeeper father Ed Balder (Howard Freeman) are in church when a gunshot is heard. Dan looks toward the nearest window, but stays put. After the third shot is fired he gets up and leaves, taking off his jacket as he goes.
In one of the saloons Rita (Ann Dvorak) is singing “I Love It Out Here in the West” in a skimpy costume reminiscent of the undergarments of the time. The man firing his pistol is one of the customers, at a table. Before Dan gets there Rita has had quite enough of her number being interrupted, so as she sings she moves off the stage and through the tables, and disarms the offender as Dan walks in. He takes the gun from her and gives it to a waiter, who takes it to the barkeep. There is a prominently displayed sign over the bar that says guns must be checked at the bar, but this is not the first time the waiters have been careless about collecting firearms at the door. The town is basically one street, Texas Street, with saloons on one side, and shops and a hotel on the other side.
Then more homesteaders arrive in a large group, and the stage is set for conflict. The Marshall’s jurisdiction is the county and Sheriff Bob “Bravo” Trimble (Edgar Buchanan) is in charge of the town, but Bob is a coward, a get along to get-along sort of guy. So Dan has to take a lot of chances, and Sherry worries a lot about him and tries to get him to quit.
The new settlers, including Henry Dreiser (Lloyd Bridges) are determined to stick it out, so when some of the cowboys fire a barn and shoot the farmer the war begins. Or did it really get going when the first fences went up?
When the first new wave of settlers arrives Dan offers to take them out to the place outside of town where they can camp until they stake their claims, and since almost all the men have heavy beards, Rita says,”You ought to grow a beard too.” Dan tells her, “When you wear a sunbonnet and apron I’ll grow a beard.” Her quip? “When I wear a sunbonnet and apron, I’LL grow a beard!”
Some actual history exaggerated a bit, but not a lot, makes a really good western with larger than life characters and a finale that literally brings down the house.
From the Novel “Trail Town” by Ernest Haycox, Screen Play by Harold Shumate, Directed by Edwin L. Marin.

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Frenzy (1972) – reviewed by George

Alfred Hitchcock’s 53rd film was his first to film in England since “Stage Fright” in 1950. There’s a real love of London evident in the photography, and in the score, and I think he was truly glad to be back.
“Frenzy” is the story of a serial killer who rapes and then strangles with his tie; therefore according to the newspapers he commits The Necktie Murders (he leaves the tie behind). The film begins with a helicopter shot moving down the River Thames, and thanks to a zoom at the end, appears to go right through the Tower Bridge while the twin drawbridges are raised.
A politician on a space along the river where a sturdy stone wall prevents the unthinking from falling into the Thames, is announcing (I almost said “preaching”) that very soon native wildlife will return to the river due to the efforts to eliminate pollution from industrial effluents and waste. But the people next to the wall are more interested in the naked woman floating face-down in the river with a tie around her neck. Yes, The Necktie Murderer has struck again.
Elsewhere, in a pub, Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) is getting fired by his boss Felix Forsythe (Bernard Cribbins) for having a drink and not paying for it. Blaney tries to tell Felix that he always pays for his drinks, and the barmaid Babs Milligan (Anna Massey) backs him up, but to no avail. Seems, for whatever reason, Felix just wants to fire Blaney today, and now Blaney is on the town. He goes to see Robert Rusk (Barry Foster), an old military buddy, at a greengrocer’s. Rusk is sympathetic and gives Blaney a tip on a horse – a sure thing that will pay 20 to 1. Rusk also gives him a box of grapes, and Blaney moves along to a pub where he overhears a discussion about the Necktie Murderer where the talker is some sort of doctor who sounds like he knows whereof he speaks. He says the guy seems like the type to appear harmless and then just go off. Blaney moves on to his ex-wife’s place of business, The Blaney Bureau, a match-up emporium to help people meet and hopefully marry. There’s a new secretary, Monica Barling (Jean Marsh), and Blaney tries hard to put the wind up her, but she is unflappable. He then talks to his ex, Brenda Blaney (Barbara Leigh-Hunt), and he is so abusive that Brenda sends Monica home early. Brenda is still trying and takes him out to dinner (after all it isn’t everyday you wind up with someone you know who has been fired unfairly on charges of stealing), and he is loud and embarrassing. When they part she slips some money in his pocket, but he doesn’t know so he spends the night on a Salvation Army bed in one of their hostels.
The next day Rusk shows up at the Bureau while Monica is at lunch, and it’s worrisome that Brenda knows him as Mr. Robinson. He proceeds to rape and murder her with his tie, and I was surprised at how graphic it was (although nothing like today), and also that the identity of the murderer would be shown so soon. But as he left the building going right, Blaney arrived from the left and went in. He found the door locked and no one answered his knock, so he left and went down the alley, as Monica came back from lunch and saw him. And Monica has a key…
Now the police throw out the dragnet (or drag out the thrownet), and the cat and mouse game of finding a killer begins. It’s just that the mouse is unaware the game is being played.
At one hour and five minutes in, the big tracking shot (discussed previously in my review of Hitchcock’s “Young and Innocent”) begins. A couple is moving down a corridor with the camera on them, backing up as they advance. The people start up a staircase and at the landing the camera backs up  enough for the couple to move in front of it while it stays put and watches the two change directions by 180 degrees and move on up to a door. They go through and the camera begins to back down the stairs and out to the street. When the camera is outside a person walks in front of it very close, which forms a seam between the two shots, and allows a new shot to begin with the camera still backing up, but now in a real street and no longer on a set of the interior of the rooming house.
The film is suspenseful and scary as Rusk continues to choose victims, but apparently he has the sense to stop once Blaney is in police custody. At this point there’s still a lot of story to tell, and Blaney can thank his lucky stars that while Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen) is confident he’s got the right man, his wife (Vivien Merchant) calmly prattles on about Blaney’s innocence, and how the Chief Inspector should be looking harder. She is also the biggest source of humor in the film as she serves her husband meal after meal that is thrilling to her but inedible to him. Examples: pig’s feet with the French sauce used for tripe, and a fish soup that contains the worst fish you can imagine.
I said this must have been great fun for Hitchcock, but aside from the grisly parts it was great fun for me as well. Thoroughly entertaining, in that “can’t look away” manner, with great photography by Gil Taylor, and a great score by Ron Goodwin. Based on the novel “Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square” by Arthur La Bern, Screenplay by Anthony Shaffer, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

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The Smiling Ghost (1941) – reviewed by George

An elderly lady in a mink coat, Grandmother Bentley (Helen Westley), is trying to hire a young man and is seeking the help of her attorney, Mr. Dinwiddie (George Meador). He finds an ad placed by a young man who says he will go anywhere and do anything, and Mrs. Bentley says, “Call him.”
But why does he want a job? He has one – at Downing Chemical Engineering and Research, Inc. Well, at the moment he’s holed up in his office avoiding creditors. When the phone rings, it’s the pay phone in the hall where the creditors have assembled, so the young man, who is “Lucky” Downing himself (Wayne Morris), asks his only employee Clarence (Willie Best) to answer it, which he does like this: “Downing Chemical Engineering and Research, General Manager speaking”, which is true.
It’s Dinwiddie on the line with the job offer from Mrs. Bentley: $1000 to pretend for one month to be the fiance of Mrs. Bentley’s granddaughter, Elinor Bentley Fairchild. When the lady says the name she and Dinwiddie hold their breaths, but Lucky doesn’t react, so they relax.
Next a newspaper article: “Kiss-of-Death Girl, Elinor Bentley Fairchild, Announces Engagement – Alexander Thorndyke Downing to Risk Tragic Fate of Former Fiances – Will Horrible Vengeance of “Smiling Ghost” Strike Again?” By Lil Barstow (Brenda Marshall).
Lil goes to visit the most recent fiancee, Paul Myron (David Bruce), for a comment. He is in an iron lung. He says she’s got to get this Downing to get out. And he identifies Johnny Eggleston as the man who attacked him, laughing crazily and using a knife. And when a picture of Eggleston is shown – we have seen him before.
Lucky and Clarence are involved in a funny mixup just before they meet Elinor (Alexis Smith), then she takes them home to see her family: Norton the butler (Alan Hale) is very rude, and in fact everyone is at least strange. That includes Rose Fairchild (Lee Patrick), Hilton Fairchild (Roland Drew), Ames Bentley (Charles Halton), and Tennant Bentley (Richard Ainley). But Lucky still hasn’t heard about the ghost.
A suspense comedy with some nice scares and some good laughs. Although today you can’t help feeling sorry for Wille Best, a supremely talented young man, around 25 at the time this movie was being made, who was so marvelous at being frightened that he was typecast and basically made his career in parts that had him forever shivering, stammering, and running very fast. Very rarely he was allowed to spread his wings, as in “Thank Your Lucky Stars”, a wartime anthology of musical numbers with a small plot, and in “Cabin in the Sky”, and he appeared in a few Shirley Temple films. But his career thrust was in murder mysteries and suspense features where that ability of his to be both scared and funny made him commercial. Okay, he made his living doing what one assumes was what he wanted to do, and he had 130 credits from 1930 through 1955, but to be so talented and yet used in such a limited fashion – it makes me very sad. And it may have made him sad as well. Willie Best died in 1962 at only 45.
“The Smiling Ghost” – From an Original Story by Stuart Palmer, Screen Play by Kenneth Gamet and Stuart Palmer, Directed by Lewis Seiler.

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Harold Lloyd in “An Eastern Westerner” (1920) – reviewed by George

A wonderful silent short (about half an hour) with wonderful new music by Robert Israel.
The Boy (Harold Lloyd) is in a club for dancing and drinking. His mother is concerned, but his father is furious. To a servant he says, “Send that young scamp to me the minute he comes home.” And Mother replies, “Don’t be angry. I know he must be with his class at the Y.M.C.A.” Dialogue card: Well, he may have started for the Y.M.C.A., but somebody moved the building.
Back at the club – signs clearly state that Shimmie Dancing is Prohibited. He has been warned three times and the bouncer promises that the next time he will shimmie out the front door on his front ear. And someone drops ice down the back of his neck… and he’s out the door. But expulsion is very difficult and very funny, and the final shot shows him getting even with a fire hydrant.
And now, at 2 A.M., with his parents asleep on the sofa, he sneaks in and accidentally creates a huge kerfuffle, which wakes them up, and he’s off to his uncle’s ranch out west.
He arrives in Piute Pass where there are rules about how many times you can shoot a man in one day. The owner of half the county is “Tiger Lip” (What? Only one?!) Tompkins: The Bully (Noah Young), whose gang has broken most of the Commandments and seriously twisted the rest.
The Girl (Mildred Davis) drives her wagon into town with her sick father and a big need for a job. Tiger Lip gives her a job with benefits – not for her, for him. Then The Boy arrives  and in his own funny way tames the town. There’s a really good trick rolling cigarettes, and there’s no cutaway by the camera.
This is must-see and not to be missed (both).
Story by Frank Terry, Titles by H.M. Walker, Directed by Hal Roach.

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The Admirable Crichton (1957) – reviewed by George

When released in the USA the title was changed to “Passion Lagoon”. Who is playing down to us horny Yanks – the British releasing organization or the American distributors? And it’s in color! I remember years ago seeing it in black-and-white, probably because it was on television.
Loam Hall, 1905 –
The opening could be a parody of “Downton Abbey”, if it hadn’t been made decades before. Butler Crichton (Kenneth More) is warming a newspaper at a kitchen fire. The staff, so big it’s uncountable, all have something to do as the breakfast tray is prepared. And the newspaper is held to cheek after cheek to be sure it hasn’t cooled. Finally, after several younger men have carried the tray from work station to work station, it is handed to Crichton, but not before he has once again checked the temperature of the newspaper against his cheek. Then maid Tweeny (Diane Cilento) accompanies him, opening doors all the way upstairs to the Master’s bedroom, where she reaches around Crichton to open THAT door, and accidentally jostles his arm. He looks at the tray, casts his eyes heavenward, turns and goes back downstairs.
Crichton awakens Lord Loam (Cecil Parker) and as soon as the lord sits up is ready to place the tray upon his lap. But first Loam wants to know the news, and Crichton tells him of a suffragette throwing a brickbat through a window at Number Ten. “Any casualties?” “An underfootman; no one of consequence.” “The underfootman may be just as good a man as the Prime Minister.” And as they go through an argument they have clearly had many times before, we see that His Lordship is an egalitarian and Crichton is a snob.
But today a step further: Lord Loam proposes having a tea for the staff. Please ignore the fact that the staff has to prepare the tea; His Lordship does. The social occasion starts smoothly, even though the three Loam daughters (Sally Ann Howes, Mercy Haystead, and Miranda Connell) are scandalized almost as much as Crichton was, since they are required to pour and serve, but it ends abruptly, and the staff, uncomfortable from the start, flees.
That evening Crichton brings Lord Loam an unasked for cup of hot chocolate, and assures him that in six months the incident will be forgotten. “Six months of misery!” is the reply.
So Crichton suggests a bit of sea air. “Ah, the yacht, of course!” And with the major characters defined the central story can begin.
The Captain (Eddie Byrne) and his crew are highly competent, the family members are looking forward to a bit of a sail (one I deduce takes them from England around the African Cape and into the Indian Ocean), and two of the three girls have their gentleman friends along. It seems that Lady Mary’s beau Lord Brocklehurst (Peter Graves) was not allowed by his mother Lady Brocklehurst (Martita Hunt) to make the trip. She thinks Lord Loam is too much of a free-thinker.
A small staff is along as well, including Crichton and Tweeny, who has a big crush on Crichton. All goes the way Crichton prefers until they are 400 miles west of the Hawaiian Islands, and the engines blow causing the ship to sink. Everyone survives, but Crichton realizes Tweeny has not shown up, so goes back for her and finds her asleep. He carries her up to the deck, and luckily one lifeboat is still close enough. He throws a life saver overboard and he and Tweeny jump, and get to the boat, only to discover that it contains Lord Loam, the daughters, and the two boyfriends, and even Lord Loam is offended. “Why couldn’t you get to the staff boat?”
At any rate, these eight survivors drift to a deserted island which, though small, has fresh water, wild pigs, and plenty of edible plants. It’s fun watching this small slice of tightly layered society gradually become a meritocracy. And then, two full years later, the rescue…..
A movie which is basically a comedy, but also a social commentary, has a good deal to say and says it well. It also has moments of sadness. I really liked this film, and I daresay you will too.
Based on the Play by James M. Barrie, Screen Play by Vernon Harris, Adapted and Directed by Lewis Gilbert.
NOTE: Clearly based on the same play as this film (but J.M. Barrie is not credited) is “We’re Not Dressing” starring Bing Crosby and Carole Lombard, which I reviewed on March 6, 2018.

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Christopher Lee as Sherlock Holmes in “Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady” (1992) – reviewed by George

This is a very interesting original story written for TV and shown in two 93 minute segments. I’m sure you’re already predicting that I thought it too long, and you’re absolutely right. It could definitely use some tightening, but then each part would be shortened to an unusable time for TV, like one hour and twelve minutes or something.
The story takes place in 1910, first in Vienna, then in London, then back to Vienna, and it brings Irene Adler (Morgan Fairchild) back into Holmes’s life.
In Vienna an inventor shows a politician a detonator that can set off a bomb at 150 yards. He calls it “remote control”, and he manages to get 1000 pounds for it. The politician leaves with the plans and the prototype, and just barely off the inventor’s stoop he is mugged by two toughs, who take it all. The inventor, an older man, gives chase and his young niece follows him. The thief collides with a child and drops a paper which the inventor picks up. It is a program for “Die Fledermaus” which is opening soon. Since he has lost the thief, he goes to the theater where he sees the thief. A dress rehearsal is in progress and a soprano is singing. Irene, the Great American Diva, is still backstage waiting for her entrance. A moment or two later, when she is singing a solo, the inventor catches up, unfortunately after the pass to another man has been made. The inventor attacks the younger man and in the fight is thrown off the catwalk, and lands on stage, dead from the fall. His niece has caught up and screams.
In London Watson (Patrick Macnee) is cheerful, Holmes (Christopher Lee) is bored, and Mrs Hudson (Margaret John) is much younger than usual. Mycroft (Jerome Willis) arrives and summarizes the plot so far, adding “Only Britain can be trusted not to use the device. You must depart for Vienna at once.”
Holmes and Watson are met in Vienna by a third secretary from the Embassy, Michael Simpson-Makepiece (Nicholas Gecks), and are taken straight to the British Ambassador, who naturally is at a matinee of “Die Fledermaus”, which allows for a fast reunion between Sherlock and Irene, who must’ve seen the thief walk by, because of her position backstage. Homes gets a brainstorm and calls in Dr. Sigmund Freund (John Bennett) to hypnotize Irene in order to access her memory of the man.
Others involved: Irene’s costar Eberhardt Bohm (Engelbert Humperdinck), a Mr. Elliott (Tom Lahm) whose identity proves to be a secret, Irene’s maid Hilda (Amy Taylor), and various Bosnian bad guys who want to use the bomb to kill Emperor Franz Joseph (Cyril Shaps) when he attends an evening performance of Fledermaus. Two of the Bosnians are Franz Winterhauser (Michael Siberry) and Captain Von Bork (Dominic Jephcott).
There’s a nice set-piece: a weekend party given by Sir Reginald and Lady Violet Cholmondley (Ronald Hines and Jenny Quayle), where a lot of plot points occur.
And the big finish comes with the bomb already planted and Watson’s assignment to find it and run from the theater with it to get at least 200 yards away.
So it may be a little long, but there’s a lot of action and excitement and a few murders as well; and a brand new story is always welcome.
Entirely filmed in Luxembourg, Written for Television by Bob Shane and H.R.F. Keating, Directed by Peter Sasdy.

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Nuts to the MPAA! – Commentary by George

Today the Motion Picture Association of America announced changes to the Oscar process that are insulting to a lot of people and, coming this year, vaguely racist as well.
I’ve read criticism that young people don’t watch the awards (thus affecting the ratings of the broadcast) because the blockbusters that they favor don’t get nominated, which is a partial truth at best; it’s almost a given that “Black Panther”, which was excellent film-making in every current category,  would have gotten nominated (and still could) for Best Picture under the present system. But the announcement states that a new category has been introduced: Best Popular Picture, in order to lure those young folks back to the broadcast. This move seems fear-based to me, and anti-Black Panther as well.

And the other half of the announcement says that “certain” categories will be awarded during the commercial breaks.  I think this is the bigger horror: done in order to allow the show to end before dawn, but you know that it’s the technical awards they’re talking about. Winners will be announced right after the break, but the winners will never be seen or heard, and their reception and celebration by those present will not be on the recording their families are making at home. This is grossly unfair, in fact I’m still upset that the Lifetime Achievement Award has in recent years been given a few days in advance, which is an insult to that entire generation.

Now: the first change can be sabotaged by the members. When they receive their ballots for nominations, they can simply not nominate anything for Best Popular Picture. As for insulting the craftspeople, I see no easy remedy, except to admit it is a mistake and backtrack, but folks, don’t hold your breath.

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