(*homocinematically inclined)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Six Degrees of Oscar 2017

For 90 years now the Academy Awards has been honoring the best in film, and every year adds another batch of movies to the growing list of over 4,800 titles that have been nominated for and/or won an Oscar. Naturally, there's bound to be some overlap among all those movies in regards to subject matter, stories, themes, characters and even songs, and not just in sequels and remakes and reboots (oh my).

It's always fascinating when you notice how one movie can connect to another in one way or another, which brings to mind that whole "six degrees of separation" thing, which in turn reminds you of that play, also titled Six Degrees of Separation, about the con artist who insinuates himself into the life of a well-to-do New York City couple by claiming to be the son of Academy Award winning actor Sidney Poitier. Stockard Channing, who played the socialite wife in the original Broadway production, was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar when she reprised the role for the 1993 film version, which co-starred Oscar nominees Will Smith, Ian McKellen and Bruce Davison and recent Honorary Oscar recipient Donald Sutherland.

And by now you've probably guessed where I'm going with all this: call me crazy, but I have not only found connections between all of this year's Oscar nominees (all 60 of them) and a slew of Oscar nominated films of the past, but I have also connected them all, in one way or another, to Six Degrees of Separation. And, not only are all of the movies Oscar nominees, so are all of the actors, directors, etc. that I've named. Yes, I am that obsessive. Granted, most of the connections are more than "six degrees" apart, but yeah, even I'm not that obsessive.

All of the Oscar nominated/winning movies, people and even a few songs have been emboldened, with the 2017 nominees also in yellow. Shall we begin?

Let's start with Stockard Channing (and thank you, Actors Branch, for nominating her 24 years ago or this whole thing never would have made sense): she was in Grease with Eve Arden, who was in Night and Day with Jane Wyman, who was Oscar nominated for her performance in The Yearling, which featured a deer, as did On Body and Soul. Wyman was also in Mr. Dodd Takes the Air, which featured an Oscar nominated song titled "Remember Me", just like Coco, which Lou director Dave Mullins was an animator on and Edward James Olmos voiced a character in. Olmos returned for Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve, who also directed Prisoners (the story of parents searching for a missing child, just like Loveless) and Arrival, starring Amy Adams, who was also in American Hustle with Robert De Niro, who starred in GoodFellas, in which an insult is blown out of proportion, just like in The Insult; the plots of both The Insult and Watu Wote/All of Us revolve around interfaith conflicts. Both Arrival and American Hustle also starred Jeremy Renner, who was in The Avengers with Samuel L. Jackson, who was in Kong: Skull Island and Pulp Fiction (which featured a heroin overdose, as did Heroin(e)), which also starred Tim Roth (who appeared in the documentary Finding Vivian Maier, about a street photographer like JR in Faces Places) and John Travolta who, in addition to being in Grease with Stockard, was in The Thin Red Line with George Clooney, who was in Up in the Air (where he is seen obsessively packing a suitcase, as in Negative Space) and is producing a feature version of The White Helmets, the Oscar winning documentary short about the volunteer rescue workers also seen in Last Men in Aleppo.

Longtime Companion supporting actor nominee Bruce Davison was in The Crucible with Daniel Day Lewis, star of Phantom Thread and Nine, which also starred Judi Dench, of Victoria & Abdul, and Kate Hudson, who co-starred in Marshall with James Cromwell, who was also in The People vs. Larry Flynt with Woody Harrelson, who appeared in two Oscar nominated movies this year, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and War for the Planet of the Apes. War is a sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which starred James Franco (who starred in Spider-Man with Willem Dafoe of The Florida Project), star of The Disaster Artist, which featured a famous scene from Rebel without a Cause, which was the film debut of Dennis Hopper, whose directorial debut was Easy Rider, which earned Jack Nicholson his first of 12 Oscar nominations. Nicholson appeared in Broadcast News, which starred Holly Hunter of The Big Sick, and won his first of three Oscars for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, where he played a crafty mental patient, just like one of the men in The Eleven O'Clock. Nicholson's third Oscar win was for As Good As It Gets, co-starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., who was in Boyz n the Hood, where his character's brother is murdered; Strong Island is documentary about the filmmaker's brother being murdered. Going back to War for the Planet of the Apes, it was the latest movie in the franchise that started 50 years ago with Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston, who appeared in Bowling for Columbine, the documentary about school shootings, such as the one dramatized in DeKalb Elementary. Heston was also the narrator in Disney's Hercules, which also featured the voice talents of Barbara Barrie of Breaking Away, a movie about bicycle racing, a sport also seen in Icarus.

Ian McKellen received his second Oscar nomination for playing Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and his famous "You shall not pass!" line from that movie is spoofed in The Boss Baby. McKellen's Lord of the Rings co-stars included Viggo Mortensen (who was in Daylight with Sylvester Stallone of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and Cate Blanchett, who won an Oscar for Blue Jasmine, co-starring Sally Hawkins of The Shape of Water, wherein she plays a deaf and mute woman; The Silent Child also features a deaf and mute female main character. McKellen co-starred in Beauty and the Beast (2017's live action remake of the 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast, which featured animation by Glen Keane, director of Dear Basketball), which was directed by Bill Condon, who also directed Dreamgirls, which starred Jamie Foxx of Baby Driver and Eddie Murphy, who was in Mulan, a tale of a daughter who dresses as a male to help her family, just like in The Breadwinner. McKellen also starred in X-Men: Days of Future Past with Hugh Jackman and Michael Fassbender. Jackman starred in two Oscar nominated movies this year, Logan and The Greatest Showman, co-starring Michelle Williams, who also starred in All the Money in the World. Fassbender was in Inglourious Basterds (co-starring Brad Pitt, who was in The Big Short, a movie about the subprime mortgage crisis, as is Abacus: Small Enough to Jail), which featured the character Winston Churchill, the subject of the biopic Darkest Hour, which featured the evacuation of Dunkirk, which was also featured in fellow Best Picture nominees Dunkirk, Atonement and Mrs. Miniver. Saoirse Ronan received her first Oscar nomination for Atonement, and is nominated this year for Lady Bird (which co-stars Timothée Chalamet, also a nominee this year for Call Me By Your Name) and also co-starred in Loving Vincent (a movie about a mentally ill artist, as is Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405). Mrs. Miniver starred Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, who re-teamed for Mrs. Parkington, which co-starred Agnes Moorehead, who made her film debut in Citizen Kane, subject of the documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane, co-directed by Thomas Lennon, the director of Knife Skills.

Sidney Poitier starred in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, a major inspiration for Get Out, which featured the Oscar winning song "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing, which Julia Roberts watches in Wonder, the story of a boy with a facial disfigurement, like Mask, which starred Cher, an executive producer of Edith+Eddie. Wonder also featured several characters from Star Wars (including Chewbacca, also featured in Star Wars: The Last Jedi), which starred Alec Guinness, who was also in Doctor Zhivago with Ralph Richardson, who was in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, which featured a man acting like an ape, like that creepy guy in The Square. Getting back to Julia Roberts, she was in Mirror, Mirror, an alternate take on Snow White, who was also featured in Revolting Rhymes along with Little Red Riding Hood. The most famous film version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was produced by Walt Disney, who also produced the Oscar winning cartoon Ferdinand the Bull, which was based on the book The Story of Ferdinand, as was this year's Ferdinand. Meanwhile, Little Red Riding Hood was a character in Into the Woods, which starred Meryl Streep, who co-starred in The Post with Tom Hanks as Washington Post editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee, the same person played by Jason Robards (in an Oscar winning performance) in All the President's Men. Robards was also in Magnolia (featuring a memorable scene with frogs, like those in Garden Party) with Felicity Huffman, who was nominated for an Oscar for Transamerica, a film with a transgender lead character like A Fantastic Woman.

And finally: Donald Sutherland was in Pride & Prejudice with Carey Mulligan, who starred in Mudbound, which featured a racially motivated crime, as did My Nephew Emmett. Sutherland was also in JFK* with Tommy Lee Jones, who was also in In the Valley of Elah, which was directed by Paul Haggis, as was Crash, which featured a racially-charged confrontation during a traffic stop, as did Traffic Stop. JFK also starred Kevin Costner, who co-starred in Molly's Game with Jessica Chastain, who was also in The Help with Emma Stone, who was in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which was directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who won a Special Achievement Oscar for his virtual reality film Carne y arena. The Help also starred Allison Janney of I, Tonya, which also starred Margot Robbie, who starred in Suicide Squad with Viola Davis (who also starred in The Help and Fences, directed by and starring Denzel Washington of Roman J. Israel, Esq.) and Will Smith, which brings us full circle back to, you guessed it, Six Degrees of Separation.

*For those who want to tie all this in to "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon", the never nominated Mr. Bacon was also in JFK.

Coming soon: A Movie Dearest annual tradition: "If We Picked the Oscars".

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