And the Oscar winners are:

Best Picture: Green Book

A scene from “Green Book,” the 2018 Best Picture winner. Actor Mershala Ali, right, won the Oscar for Best Supporting actor.

Outstanding Achievement in Directing: Alfonso Curon, “Roma”

Best Actress: Olivia Colman, “The Favourite.”

Oscar winner Olivia Colman in “The Favourite.”

Best Actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Supporting Actress: Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Best Supporting Actor: Mersela Ali, Green Book.

Best Foreign Language Film: “Roma.”

Best Original Screenplay: “Green Book.”

Best Adapted Screenplay: “Blackkksman,” Spike Lee, et al.

Spike Lee.

Best Original Score: “Black Panther.”

“Black Panther” won the Oscar for Best Original Score

Best Original Song: by Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born.”

Best Animated Feature: “Spider-man, Into the Spider Verse.”

Best Documentary: “Free Solo.

This is a partial list of the awards announced at the Feb. 24, 2019, Academy Awards ceremonies.

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2018 Oscar nominees listed

In case you haven’t read about them elsewhere, here are the nominees for the top 2018 Academy Awards:

BEST PICTURE

“Black Panther””

BlacKkKlansman”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“The Favourite”

“Green Book”

“Roma”

“A Star Is Born”

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

“Vice”

Amy Adams, “Vice”

Marina de Tavira, “Roma”

Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Emma Stone, “The Favourite”

Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”

Adam Driver, “BlackKKlansman”

Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”

Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me”

Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“Capernaum”

“Cold War”

“Never Look Away”

“Roma”

“Shoplifters”

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT)

“Black Sheep”

“End Game”

“Lifeboat”

“A Night at the Garden”

“Period. End of Sentence.”

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“Free Solo”

“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”

“Minding the Gap”

“Of Fathers and Sons”

“RBG”

ORIGINAL SONG

“All The Stars” – “Black Panther”

“I’ll Fight” – “RBG”

“Shallow” – “A Star Is Born”

“The Place Where Lost Things Go” – “Mary Poppins Returns”

“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

“Incredibles 2”

“Isle of Dogs”

“Mirai”

“Ralph Breaks the Internet”

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”

“BlacKkKlansman”

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

“If Beale Street Could Talk”

“A Star Is Born”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

“First Reformed”

“Green Book”

“Roma”

“The Favourite”

“Vice”

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Christian Bale, “Vice”

Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”

Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”

Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”

Glenn Close, “The Wife”

Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”

Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”

Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

DIRECTOR

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”

Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”

Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”

Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”

Adam McKay, “Vice”

PRODUCTION DESIGN

“Black Panther”

“The Favourite”

“First Man”

“Mary Poppins Returns”

“Roma”

CINEMATOGRAPHY

“Cold War”

“The Favourite”

“Never Look Away”

“Roma”

“A Star Is Born”

COSTUME DESIGN

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”

“Black Panther”

“The Favourite”

“Mary Poppins Returns”

“Mary Queen of Scots”

SOUND EDITING

“A Quiet Place”

“Black Panther”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“First Man””Roma”

SOUND MIXING

“Black Panther”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“First Man”

“Roma”

“A Star Is Born”

ANIMATED SHORT FILM

“Animal Behaviour”

“Bao”

“Late Afternoon”

“One Small Step”

“Weekends”

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

“Detainment”

“Fauve”

“Marguerite”

“Mother”

“Skin”

ORIGINAL SCORE

“Black Panther”

“BlacKkKlansman”

“If Beale Street Could Talk”

“Isle of Dogs”

“Mary Poppins Returns”

VISUAL EFFECTS

“Avengers: Infinity War”

“Christopher Robin”

“First Man”

“Ready Player One”

“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

FILM EDITING

“BlacKkKlansman”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“Green Book”

“The Favourite”

“Vice”

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“Border”

“Mary Queen of Scots”

“Vice”

Beatles, Jackson slate big film plans

thebeatles.com

At long last, The Beatles have announced plans for a release of Let It Be and a new film to be put together by the great Peter Jackson. Here’s the Apple Corps. announcement:

London – January 30, 2019 – Apple Corps Ltd. and WingNut Films Ltd. are proud to announce an exciting new collaboration between The Beatles and the acclaimed Academy Award winning director Sir Peter Jackson.

The new film will be based around 55 hours of never-released footage of The Beatles in the studio, shot between January 2nd and January 31st, 1969. These studio sessions produced The Beatles’ Grammy Award winning album Let It Be, with its Academy Award winning title song. The album was eventually released 18 months later in May 1970, several months after the band had broken up. 

The filming was originally intended for a planned TV special, but organically turned into something completely different, climaxing with The Beatles’ legendary performance on the roof of Apple’s Savile Row London office — which took place exactly 50 years ago today.Peter Jackson said, “The 55 hours of never-before-seen footage and 140 hours of audio made available to us, ensures this movie will be the ultimate ‘fly on the wall’ experience that Beatles fans have long dreamt about – it’s like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together.”  Although The Beatles were filmed extensively during the 1960s – in concerts, interviews and movies – this is the only footage of any note that documents them at work in the studio.The Let It Be album and movie, having been released in the months following The Beatles’ breakup, have often been viewed in the context of the struggle the band was going through at that time. 

 “I was relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth,” continues Jackson, “After reviewing all the footage and audio that Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot 18 months before they broke up, it’s simply an amazing historical treasure-trove. Sure, there’s moments of drama – but none of the discord this project has long been associated with.

“Watching John, Paul, George, and Ringo work together, creating now-classic songs from scratch, is not only fascinating – it’s funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate. …I’m thrilled and honored to have been entrusted with this remarkable footage – making the movie will be a sheer joy.” 

Jackson will be working with his They Shall Not Grow Old partners, Producer Clare Olssen and Editor Jabez Olssen. The footage will be restored by Park Road Post of Wellington, New Zealand, to a pristine standard, using techniques developed for the WW1 documentary film which has been nominated for a BAFTA for best documentary. 

A RDH Great Stories Beatles exhibit.

The untitled film is currently in production and the release date will be announced in due course. This film is being made with the full co-operation of Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon, and Olivia Harrison.  The Executive Producers are Ken Kamins for WingNut Films and Jeff Jones and Jonathan Clyde for Apple Corps. 

Following the release of this new film, a restored version of the original Let It Be movie directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg will also be made available.

A RDH Great Stories Beatles exhibition in 2017.

Readers review best SF film books

(Editor’s note: In  the recent https://rdhgreatstories.com/2019/01/19/authors-books-differ-on-top-sf-film post, the picks of outstanding SF films by the authors of “Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World,” “Top l00 Sci-Fi Movies” and “101 Sci-Movies You Must See Before You Die” and this writer were listed.)

Following the posting of a story about three books authors’ choices for the outstanding/best/favorite science fiction movies of all time, we asked a couple dozen people what they thought about the lists and what they might add or subtract.

We received some fascinating responses:

Joel Zakem, a currently retired attorney, is  a longtime SF enthusiast who has been attending conventions for more than 50 years.

“Even though I have not seen any of the books, I will make a few observations. None of the lists appear to have mentioned ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ which, in many ways, is a stronger film than the original,” Zakem said. “On the TCM list, I would not included ‘Barbarella’ and I thought ‘Terminator 2’ (mentioned in both other books) is a better film than the first one.

“Other than that, I have no real problem with what TCM included, but I would have added ‘Quartermass and the Pit’ and ‘The Road Warrior.'”

Zakem said that he would not have included Star Trek  and isn’t sure he would have included any Star Wars movies, even though he says they are important.

Keith Bradbury, owner of the  Who North America store in Camby, Indiana, said he was disappointed that “Tron” wasn’t included in the TCM book.  “I consider it to be one of the best Sci Fi movies because it contrasted faith vs. statism in a computer context,” he said.

Others he felt worthy of inclusion were “The Island” and “They Live.”

Bradbury said, “I do agree with much of the list. If I were going to do a rundown of my favorites (skipping the Flash Gordon serial), I would go: Metropolis, Things to Come, Forbidden Planet, Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Tron, They Live, The Island, Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, Logan’s Run, Planet of the Apes (original ONLY), Interstellar, 2001 (off the top of my head).”

Leanna Rogers, a nurse, said,  “I really enjoyed your writing on this. I especially enjoyed that you included a lot more modern Sci-Fi films as well.

“I feel like the two lists that are compared really glossed over sci-fi films from 2000-present. I also really enjoyed the segment about era specific sci-fi and how the films’ themes reflect the fears/concerns of the times in which they were made, especially for young(ish) fans like myself who didn’t experience those eras firsthand.”

Rogers said if she were adding films one would be “Battle Royale” and a  “Scanner Darkly. “I believe it wasn’t very well received so it might not be as iconic as the other films on this list … I’m biased because I love Philip K. Dick.”

Brian Culp, longtime SF enthusiast and former newspaper editor, questioned the  way “The Matrix” was listed.

Culp said, “I  have a hard time with the TCM people including ‘The Matrix,’ but not the full Matrix series (assuming that is the case). The first one can stand alone, but it is really helped along by the other two installments.”

Mike Rittenhouse, a musician in the band Five Year Mission and the owner of Hero House, said, “I believe I have the ‘101 Sci Fi’ book. And I agree that there are many films that are included/not included that I disagree with.

“But, in the end, it is just an opinion by the author. Not a definitive list. I find it interesting that the first book you mention completely overlooked Star Trek. Seems like a blatant use of author’s opinion vs. common opinion. Overall, an interesting article about the difference in books and opinions.”

Tracy Canfield, a published science fiction author and linguist capable of translating and speaking Klingon,  said, “I’m glad Schneider mentioned ‘Primer’ – it’s rare to see hard SF in movies, and Primer is a great film from beginning to end. I’d also include Shane Carruth’s second film, ‘Upstream Color,’ on my list of great SF movies.  … I recommend Upstream Color, but I have to warn you, it’s a lot of work.”

“Gattaca” is a great science fiction film too, she said.

” I wonder, though, if I’m thinking about this a little differently than De Forest (author of the TCM book) – if I were making a list of great science fiction films, I’d be thinking of films where the science fiction is great and not necessarily great movies where the science is just there to make exciting things happen (‘Jurassic Park,’ for example). …

“At the risk of contradicting myself, I might include ‘The World’s End’ on my own personal list. It’s a science fiction film by Edgar Wright and Sean Pegg, who are better known for movies like Shaun of the Dead. …’Dark City’ is a wonderful movie that didn’t seem to make anyone’s list. It would certainly make mine, though.”

Canfield said she would pick “Looper” over “Arrival,” which she says “has an equally implausible premise, and a distractingly weird idea of what linguistics is. …

“If I were making a list, I’d include a movie none of the other authors did: ‘Being John Malkovich.'”

Dr. Robert Pyatt, a college professor in South Dakota and presenter of fascinating science-related programs at science fiction gatherings, said, “I think the TCM book needs to define science fiction. Is Frankenstein sci-fi? The horror crowd would disagree.”

Wendy Carson and John Belden, co-hosts of PlaysWithJohnAndWendy.com, issued a combined response to the lists.

“I agree that it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a top-100 science fiction films of all time list,” they said.  “All I can do, in seeing the attempts cited, is list some ‘what-abouts.’

“If we can list Charlton Heston’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Soylent Green,’ what about “Marathon Man,” the original film version of “I Am Legend.”…

“The ’80s had more than just Star Wars knockoffs. ‘Enemy Mine’ should be counted among the greatest SF films of all time — two excellent actors at the top of their game, and a timeless message. If you looked beyond the comicbook-pulp fun of the original ‘RoboCop,’ there was timely and biting social satire that elevated the whole work. ‘Alien Nation’ was such a great allegory that it was spun off into a TV series.

Carson and Belden said the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Rock and Rules,” “Heavy Metal” and “The Black Hole” deserve consideration.

“And despite SF gadetry, no one is mentioning ‘Ghostbusters’ or ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.’ And let’s also note that if it weren’t for its MCU ties, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ would definitely be on the lists. “

Dan Carroll, director of media engagement at Dragon Con, said, “I am not one to impose my views on someone else’s list. I mean…lists should always be about favorites…not ‘best'”

Martin Ross, a retired journalist, said, “I liked the Gerani/Schneider list better, but then I’m a big fan of ‘50s-60s British sci-fi/horror, especially the Quatermass films, Five Million Years to Earth, and the original Village of the Damned (TMC’s preference for the sequel was a head-scratcher).

“I’m glad they also added more obscure oddballs like ‘Primer’ (I’m a sucker for time travel, though not always a found footage fan — the Statue of Liberty scene in ‘Cloverdale’ being an exception). …One of my personal favorites, though a bit slow in places, is ‘The Medusa Touch’ with Richard Burton, which leans toward horror but that offers a couple of semi-blower apocalyptic sci-fi touches.”

 

David Ross, actor, movie maker and former library director, said, “Some of my favorites are usually not the most popular or acknowledged, but I have no real argument with those chosen since Sci-fi has such wide fringe areas and people’s opinions may differ from mine, but I don’t care enough to argue. …

” I do think that George RR’s ‘Nightflyers’ movie was not as bad as the critics said. I actually found it more engaging than the Sy-Fy channel’s big budget interpretation.”

John T. Adams, a longtime association executive and former newpaper editor, said, “I haven’t seen all the films you mention, but I agree with you about the omissions of some of the more recent films. But maybe they’re too recent to make any of the published lists.

“I think one of the landmark films, since you mentioned the Cold War, is ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still,’  which is forward looking for its time. The alien is a good guy (not a space invader), and after failing to detain him the Americans mount a chase through D.C. and try to kill him. That’s not a typical Cold War plot. …

“If a flying saucer arrived today, would we try to shoot it down? Of course, there’s always ‘Men in Black’ and ‘Independence Day,’ where the aliens ARE the bad guys. And don’t leave out the zombie movies. Instead of the undead running down the streets, think of a horde of Mexican rapists, murderers and gang members. One could argue the zombie movies are inherently racist because we demonize The Other. “

Author John F. Allen said, “I think the choices are appropriate for their eras, although, I agree with certain ones you mentioned, which were excluded.”

Randy Porter works at IUPUI and has been very involved in SF-related events for decades including Gen Con.

Porter says he thinks a film has to be at least 20-years old to be considered a classic.

One of the films on the lists that caught his attention was “The Forbin Project.”

Porter said, “I haven’t seen it in forever. I love it. It would be worth a remake.”

“La jetee,” a short film that chiefly uses still images and narration to tell its story, is listed in two of the three books.

“It’s better than the ’12 Monkees’ remake,” Porter said.

Other films that Porter might put on his favorites list include “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Buckaroo Bonzai,” “Demolition Man,” Ghost in the Shell” (Japanese/UK verion), and “Dune.”

“My favorite right now is ‘The Fifth Element,” Porter said.

“Delicattessen” and “Zog” also are worthy of attention, he said.

Porter would like to see more movies where science isn’t the bad guy.

“There are few movies where science isn’t the bad guy,” he said. “In Hollywood, the idea seems to be that technology is bad. Most people writing movies in Hollywood have no experience in technology.”

For many people, SF films, however, have been increasingly impressive.

Canfield said, “Even if I disagree with some of their picks, I think we’re living through a wonderful time for science fiction movies. When I was a kid, science fiction movies were rare – and, looking back, a lot of them were terrible.”

 

 

Authors’ books differ on top SF films

The question of what are the best science fiction films is frequently the subject of heated debates between academics, SF fans and people who just like movies.

Last May, Turner Classic Movies entered the fray with “Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World,” a beautiful 280-page book by Sloan De Forest with an introduction by the legendary Roger Corman. There are plenty of outstanding illustrations in this helpful volume.

I have several differences with some films that are included and some that are excluded. The book “Top l00 Sci-Fi Moves” by Gary Gerani and Steven Jay Schneider’s “101 Sci-Movies You Must See Before You Die” agree with much of what’s in the TCM book, but also have some major differences.

Before getting into that and other debates, here are the films selected in the TCM book by eras:

1902-1936: A Trip to the Moon, Metropolis, Frankenstein, Island of Lost Souls, The Invisible Man, Things to Come.

1937-1950: no films selected.

1951-1959: The Thing from Another World, The Day The Earth Stood Still, It Came from Outer Space, War of the Worlds, Them!, Gojira (Godzilla), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Forbidden Planet, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Fly, The Blob.

1960-1968: The Time Machine, La jetee, These Are the Damned, Alphaville, Fantastic Voyage, Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Barbarella.

The human stars of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Photo by Ronald Hawkins.

1969-1970: none.

1971-1979: THX 1138, A Clockwork Orange, Silent Running, Solaris (original Russian version), Sleeper, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Logan’s Run, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien.

1980-1981: none listed.

1982-1987: E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, Blade Runner (2011 final cut), The Brother from Another Planet, The Terminator, Back to the Future, Brazil, Robocop.

1989-1992: none listed.

1993-2000: Jurassic Park, The Matrix.

2001-2016: A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Wall-E, District 9, Arrival.

A close read of the list will show that the films reflect the times in which they were made. The first group of films reflects fears of the future and the hope that humans will grow wiser.

The dark period of 1939-1950 is indicative of a serious time when the world was engaged in a terrible world war and then the rebuilding of the devastated parts of the planet. These serious times were real, not SF.

The cold war that dominated the 1950s (and would continue for decades) and the fears of nuclear war and xenophobia became fodder for SF films during that decade.

Nearly all of the 50 films are notable in a variety of ways, but while we like the humor in some of the TCM picks, we see better examples of it in movies such as Galaxy Quest, a near perfect spoof of Star Trek. And, by the way, not a single Star Trek movie is listed, not Wrath of Khan, not First Contact nor Star Trek XI, J.J. Abrams first crack at Trek, in the TCM book.

In their books published several years before the TCM book, authors
Gary Gerani (GG), author of “Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies,” and Steven Jay Schneider (SS), editor of “101 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die,” agree with many of the picks in the newer book. However, they disagree with some picks and list others not in the TCM book.

With that said, I have several differences with some films that are included and others that are excluded from Gerani’s and Schneider’s book.

I am not going to list all of the films they don’t include in their lists, but in the list that follows we’ll list the titles they included that aren’t in the TCM book. We’ll designate each authors picks with their initials and if both pick the same movies we will state that it is a choice of “both.” One distinction that should be noted here is the Gerani is a British writer and Schneider is an American scholar.

The list:

A Trip to Mars, SS; Aelita, SS; Paris Asleep, SS; When Worlds Collide, both; Invaders from Mars, both; It Came from Outer Space, both; Journey to the Center of the Earth, both; The Amphibian Man, SS; Robinson Crusoe on Mars, both; The 10th Victim, SS; Fahrenheit 451, both; Seconds, both; Who Killed Jessie, SS; Quartermass and the Pit or Five Million Miles to Earth, both; Slaughterhouse Five; both; Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, both; Fantastic Planet, SS; Soylent Green, SS; Westworld, SS; Dark Star, both; Stalker, SS; Time After Time, SS; Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, both; Flash Gordon, SS; Scanners, SS; Escape from New York, SS; The Road Warrior, both; The Thing (1982), both; Tron, SS; Videodrome, SS; The Final Combat, SS; Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, SS; Repo Man, SS; 1984, SS; Dune, both; Starman, SS; The Quiet Earth, SS; Aliens, both; Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home, SS; Robocop, both, Akira, SS; The Navigator, SS; Tetsuo — The Iron Man, SS; The Abyss, SS; Total Recall, SS; Terminator 2: Judgment Day, both; Ghost in the Shell (Japan-UK), SS; 12 Monkeys, SS; Independence Day, both; The Fifth Element, SS; Men in Black, SS; Gattaca, both; Starship Trooper, SS; Open Your Eyes, SS; Pi, SS; Galaxy Quest, SS; Signs, SS; Code 46, SS; Primer, SS; I Robot, SS; The Host, SS; Children of Men, SS.

Quartermass

Also, Crack in the World, Doctor Cyclops, Conquest of Space, The Giant Behemoth, The Man from Planet X, The Crawling Eye, The Day of the Triffids, The Man with X-ray Eyes, Unearthly Stranger, It! Terror from Beyond Space, The Humanoids, Red Planet Mars, 2010, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, X–The Unknown, Rocketship XM, Mysterious Island, Rodan, World Without End, Creature from the Black Lagoon, First Men on the Moon, This Island Earth, I Married a Monster from Outer Space, Predator, The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Minority Report, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, The Power, Gorgo, Rollerball, I Am Legend, Quartermass II — Enemy from Space,War of the Worlds (2005), On the Beach, The Creeping Unknown — The Quartermass Experiment, Altered States, Destination Moon, The Andromeda Strain, The Man in the White Suit, The Fly (1986), Voyage to the End of the Universe or Ikarie XB1, Colossus — The Forbin Project, Star Trek XI (J.J. Abrams’ first Trek movie), and Village of the Damned, all GG.

Ikarie XB1

Do I agree with everything in the two alternative books? No way. Some belong, some don’t and there are a few in Schneider’s book that I haven’t seen yet.

Some of the differences I have are a result of this story being written some time after the three books.

2017 Oscar Best Picture winner

Among others I would consider worthy of consideration are The Martian, Avatar, The Shape of Water, Gravity, Inception, Interstellar, Ex Machina, Blade Runner 2049, Inception, King Kong (both the original classic and the 2005 version), Contact, Sunshine (2007), Cocoon, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), The Man from Earth, The Hunger Games, The Adjustment Bureau, and others too numerous to name.

I credit the authors for the extremely hard work it took to put together their books. Science fiction is a nearly impossible large subject. Yet, I can’t hardly wait to see what the folks on other worlds are writing about us.

William Shatner, aka Capt. James T. Kirk. Photo by Ronald Hawkins.

f

Finding the ‘golden fleece’

Since RDH Great Stories moved to Lawrence County, Indiana, we have been trying to track down the site of the abandoned pyramid and Great Wall of China models project.

The project began in the late 1970s and was abandoned in the early 1980s, left incomplete. It was the beneficiary of federal funding, but became the subject of considerable criticism.

It was awarded U.S. Sen. William Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Award. The Wisconsin senator issued the awards from 1975 until 1988, when he retired. He presented 168 of the awards.

The Taxpayers for Common Sense in 2000 listed the Bedford project funded by the Commerce Department as the second most classic example of “wasteful, ridiculous or ironic use of the taxpayers’ money.″

How much federal and other government funds were invested in the project is unclear. However, when the plug was pulled, there were insufficient funds to complete, according to published accounts

.

Over the past 35 years, the site has gradually deteriorated and is marked with no trespassing signs. The remains are located at the end of a state road near Judah, Ind., surrounded by a quarry, farm land, a cemetery, and homes.

On our third visit, we determined we had found the site. We observed the “no trespassing signs,” but took pictures from the road.

If you know who owns the property, please have them contact us. We’d like to take a closer look and ask a few questions.

All photos by Ronald Hawkins.

What are the best Christmas movies?

This Turner Classic Movies and movie fan was delighted when Jeremy Arnold, author of “Christmas in the Movies: 30 classics to celebrate the season,” appeared as a guest to introduce a “Christmas movie.”

And what better way is there to enjoy a chilly, holiday evening?

The movie was “Beyond Tomorrow, a 1940 movie, this writer knew nothing about. After watching on TCM, however, we began looking at our collection of holiday movies and found the movie in a three-disc collection.

We also went looking to buy the book, but found it was on back order. So we ordered the ebook version.

It is an interesting book with several movies we didn’t think belonged on the list and others we didn’t know much about.

The movies that clearly belonged on the book include Holiday Inn (1942), Scrooge (1951), A Christmas Story (1983), Christmas in Connecticut (1945), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Love Actually (2003), Home Alone (1990), and The Shop Around the Corner (1940).

On the other hand, Die Hard doesn’t belong in the book even though it takes place during the holidays and has many Christmas elements in it. The movie, however, is far too violent to be a favorite Christmas movie.

Also, how could National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation be one of the 30 and the delightful Santa Clause movies be excluded?

Those weren’t the only movies we think shouldn’t be included. While Elf is a holiday related movie, it isn’t very good. And we’ve also found The Nightmare Before Christmas rather distasteful.

Even though we don’t agree on everything that’s in the book and what’s excluded, books that list what the writers think is best in a particular field almost always are at least entertaining and an inspiration for discussions about what’s in the book. This book is delightfully fun and well worth reading.

You just might find a movie that will make your holidays a fun, festive time.

Here’s the complete list of the 30 movies in no particular order:

  1. Miracle on Main Street
  2. The Holly and the Ivy
  3. White Christmas
  4. We’re No Angels
  5. The Shop Around the Corner
  6. Remember the Night
  7. The Man Who Came to Dinner
  8. Holiday Inn
  9. Christmas in Connecticut
  10. Miracle on 34th Street
  11. It’s a Wonderful Life
  12. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  13. Home Alone
  14. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  15. Remember the Night
  16. Love Actually
  17. A Christmas Story
  18. Die Hard
  19. Gremlins
  20. The Lion in Winter
  21. Meet Me in St. Louis
  22. Beyond Tomorrow
  23. I’ll Be Seeing You
  24. The Apartment
  25. The Bishop’s Wife
  26. 3 Godfathers
  27. Holiday Affair
  28. Trail of Robin Hood
  29. Elf
  30. Little Women

So get a hot beverage, get the movie you pick ready to watch and settle in your favorite seat.

Happy holidays!