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This year's Academy Awards ceremony will feature motion pictures paying homage to  cinema’s fascinating legacy. Many of the top nominees offer interesting back-stories that I’m happy to share with you.

HUGO - Martin Scorsese is committed to movie restoration. His latest production takes us back to the origins of film during the Silent Era. Georges Melies created innovative magic on screen during the first decade of the twentieth century. A Melies-renaissance took place just after the advent of sound in cinema. France's Motion Picture Academy eventually restored many of the director’s work feared lost, which is why Scorsese desperately wanted to share this compelling story.



* MIDNIGHT IN PARIS - Here's a Woody Allen comedic fantasy taking us back to a time during The City of Lights Lost Generation of the 1920′s. Among the artistic-elite featured:  Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Josephine Baker. The words, music, and visual art created by these avant garde intellectuals would have a distinct impact on the origins of the Studio Era in movies, including the use of art deco, jazz, and approved scripts based on A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Great Gatsby.



* THE ARTIST - The transition of the silent era to talkies had a profound effect on the Hollywood community. It helped make stars of Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and Broadway actors as Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, and James Cagney. This fateful decision also ruined careers. The most notable was John Gilbert, whose thin voice didn’t translate well to sound. Overnight, Gilbert became an alcoholic and prematurely died. This time in America is well-chronicled in celluloid, including The Jazz Singer, A Star is Born, Singing in the Rain, and now, The Artist.

* MY WEEK WITH MARILYN - Postwar English cinema blossomed through the concerted efforts of Alec Guinness and Laurence Olivier. Legendary studios as Pinewood and Hammer brought into focus British comedy, drama, and horror into the 1950′s and 1960′s. This delightful movie provides a snapshot during a week when Marilyn Monroe desperately traveled to the United Kingdom to be considered a serious actor; while Olivier searched for surefire stardom. Neither succeeded, but the historic pairing in The Prince and the Showgirl had a lasting impression on both stars; as well as, on Vivien Leigh and Arthur Miller, their respective spouses at the time.

There's little doubt, Hollywood’s reverence to its past will continue, due to the interest of producers, directors, and actors from today’s era. Meanwhile, enjoy the Academy Awards show this weekend!

(photos above - A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune), 1902; Georges Melies; Josephine Baker; John Gilbert; Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe)


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