Family Therapy in a Galaxy Far Far Away

Warning: Though I was quite careful to avoid plot elements of movies discussed below,  there may be spoilers. Proceed with caution.

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Starlord has Daddy Issues

Summer is here and so are the aliens. In the movies, that is. You may have the impression that these stories are full of laser cannons, gelatinous monsters, or the long-buried artifact on the moon that will change humanity’s destiny.  Your impression is misleading. The best science fiction films – even the summer blockbusters – have a human story at their core.

I recently watched Guardians of the Galaxy II for the second time and realized how much more I enjoyed it because it is about family relationships. We also had a second viewing of Arrival this week (see my blog 2016-12-14),  an alien invasion tale that is completely encased in and interwoven with a woman’s life with her daughter. Those two films stress how the heart of even a good futuristic adventure should contain the same themes of all great epics – mothers and daughters, sibling rivalry, prodigal sons, coming home, or the birth of a child.

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Bette Davis: Champion of the Pictures

I always had the will to win. I felt it baking cookies. They had to be the best cookies anyone baked.
–Bette Davis

Today, April 5th, is Bette Davis’ birthday. If you’ve never seen a Bette Davis movie, your life is not complete. In a career spanning five decades, her legacy includes a dozen movies that are all classics. The hallmark of a Davis film is that you can’t take your eyes off her when she’s on screen. As the Internet would say, “You won’t believe what she’ll do next…” Whether playing a vixen, starlet, waitress, apple seller, murderer, nanny, queen, or washed-up film star, Davis could squeeze every drop of drama out of a line. She would work a scene like nobody’s business, and that was the hallmark of her talent – in that way, uniquely American and uniquely female. Her characters always had to defeat the odds and they had to work like the devil to do it. Continue reading “Bette Davis: Champion of the Pictures”

Youth-anizing the Oscars, a Fact-based Analysis

I hesitate to claim that I am the first person ever interested in reviewing the age of Oscar winners. The idea has been tried before, but it is a worthy subject. The topic cropped up again this year as I was looking at a local film critic’s predictions prior to this past weekend’s Academy Awards. The argument he made was that the Best Actress winner would be under 35 and, furthermore, that Emma Stone would be chosen over Ruth Negga because Negga had just passed her 35th birthday. A magic wall of 35?  That seemed like a prediction worth investigating, so I set out to explore the data and see what fascinating analysis™ might turn up.

First, it’s worth noting that the newspaper critic decided that he could handicap the winner to be under 35 based on the percent from “the last 13 out of 19 years”. It always gives me pause when someone uses a statistic involving an oddball number (like 19); you know that they’re cherry-picking the data. For non-statistical people that means they went out of their way to self-select the best set of facts to fit their hypothesis. Without even looking, I could tell you that if they select 20 years, or 25, 10, 12, or 15 years, the percentage wouldn’t be as high.

For the record, the percent of Best Actress Winners under 35 in the last 19 years is 68%, while the 20 year and 25 year were 65% and 64%, respectively.  Why cherry-pick when if you look at actual data and use round numbers, 64% is just as compelling. However, since any given actress has a 20% chance of winning randomly, and even a 20 or 25 year sample is pretty small and kind of lazy, we should really look at a much bigger set of data to understand the interplay of youth and winning. Continue reading “Youth-anizing the Oscars, a Fact-based Analysis”