Little Miss Sunshine

Alternate Title: The Family that Plays Together
2006 Nominee

Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) gets a chance to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California. Unfortunately for her, this means her entire family has to come along for the trek from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In tow is her dad, Richard (Greg Kinnear), a high-strung motivational speaker waiting to hear whether his book deal is going to go through; her mom, Sheryl (Toni Collette); Olive’s grandpa and coach (Alan Arkin), who snorts heroin and spouts diatribes to the family about how to live well; her selectively mute brother, Dwayne (Paul Dano), who wants to be a pilot in the Air Force and refuses to speak until he achieves this goal; and her Uncle Frank (Steve Carrell), who recently attempted suicide when his male grad student fell in love with someone else.
The family travels across the state in a funny yellow van that develops horn problems and clutch problems to mirror the smorgasbord of problems of the people it carries on the road.

While her dad emphasizes the importance of being a winner and not a loser, Olive and her family get plenty of more lessons in living well than just the ones they hear about from Grandpa.

One of the many things I enjoyed about this movie includes a small Breaking Bad foreshadow cast over the film. The Hoover family is from Albuquerque, just like Walter White and Stan Grossman – the man marketing Dad’s book idea –  is played by Bryan Cranston, Walter White himself. Plus, the family gets pulled over at one point and the officer doing the pulling is Dean Norris…AKA Officer Hank Schrader!

Without getting too preachy about the pitfalls of body comparison and pageantry, Little Miss Sunshine is warm and honest in every possible way.


Now it’s Your Turn…
Little Miss Sunshine was nominated for Best Picture in 2006, but did the Academy get it right?

Wings

Alternate Title: All’s Fair in Love and War
1927 Winner

Wings marks the very first winner of the Oscar for Best Picture.

Just to clear the air, yes, this movie is quite old. In fact, it’s nearly 100 years old. It’s also a bit on the long side at a run time of close to two and a half hours.

Jack Powell (Charles Rogers) has a neighbor named Mary (Clara Bow) and she is totally smitten with him. Unfortunately, Jack is too focused on sprucing up his new car called The Shooting Star to give her much thought. Meanwhile, he daydreams about being a fighter pilot in the army at the height of World War I. It also turns out that Jack is sweet on another local girl, Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston). Like all great love stories though, almost none of the love here is reciprocated. Sylvia’s affection is for David (Richard Arlen), the wealthiest guy in the town. David also ends up joining the army a fighter pilot.

Before leaving for the front lines, both Mary and Sylvia give pictures of themselves (fully clothed) to Jack. Mary’s intentions are clear, but Sylvia only gives a locket with her photo in it to Jack when he mistakes it as a gift for him – but it was actually meant for David all along.

During training, Jack and David become unlikely friends. Mary decides to join the war effort as a driver and eventually, the three reconnect under some bubbly circumstances.

The movie is entirely silent – restored with a music score. Title cards give the impression that the movie is both a school play and a storybook, which is surreal and refreshing since no movies out now are like this one and some of them feature way too much jibber-jabber. Clara Bow plays the lead female, but her career was short-lived because the advent of sound in film exposed her heavy New York accent. Actresses back then had to even fucking sound pretty to keep their jobs.

History class aside, this movie is pretty good. There’s vaudeville-style theater acting, which is delightfully over-the-top. There’s a love story wrapped up in a war film; and there’s exciting air battles. There’s even a lingering shot of a Hershey bar, which could constitute one of the earliest examples of product placement in a movie. Plus, for other film buffs, Gary Cooper makes a brief appearance.

Given the special effects in the 20’s were giant steps behind their capabilities today, the sky fighting still manages to be exciting. Although, I personally have a hard time watching a movie about fighter pilots without listening to “Danger Zone.” I’m not sure audiences in the 20’s would agree with me on that one…

Now it’s Your Turn…
Wings won Best Picture in 1927, but did the Academy get it right?