We’ve got a couple of Oscar winners today. We’ll start with the one that nabbed the big prize: The Departed, a solid gangster epic about loyalty and betrayal based on an equally good Asian film called Infernal Affairs. In any other year, it would have been notable, but not Best Picture material. However, since it was directed by Martin Scorsese, and since the Academy finally got its head out of its ass and realized that they had NEVER given him a Best Director Oscar, they decided that The Time Had Come. It’s not one of his greats, but it certainly qualifies as one of his Pretty Goods, and since it corrected one of the Academy’s most monstrous oversights, we’re not inclined to complain. It opened today in 2006.
Helen Mirren. If you don’t love her with all your heart, something is clearly wrong with you. And nowhere is there reason to love her more than The Queen, a recounting of the Britsh monarchy struggling to handle the public fallout of Princess Diana’s untimely death. As a movie, it’s decent enough, with some interesting thoughts on the balance between tradition and change. But it exists mainly to let Mirren show us kust what she’s capable of, and the woman never disappoints. It also opened today in 2006.
Nicole Kidman was a successful actress for many years, but in the early 1990s, she was still better known for being Tom Cruise’s wife than for being a star in her own right. That changed with To Die For, Gus Van Sant’s media satire about a small-town girl so desperate to get on television that she convinces a pair of local schlubs to commit murder. In one fell stroke, it turned its star into an actress of note, and paved the way for her eventual Oscar triumph a few years later. Today, its view of the media looks positively prophetic, and Kidman’s turn is just as irresistible as it was twenty years ago. It opened today in 1995.
Finally, we’re going to mention The Jazz Singer not because it’s a good movie — it’s awful — but because it’s widely heralded as the first sound motion picture ever. Considering that the climactic scene involves star Al Jolson in blackface, I’d say take it with a grain of salt. It opened 90 years ago today in 1927.