Walt Disney, with a few of his many Oscars and other awards.

For, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: With the approaching of the 90th Academy Awards (to be broadcast Sunday, March 4, on ABC, Ch. 4 locally), it might be a good time to look back 25 years and review a trivia quiz about the Oscars that was published in the Deseret News on March 28, 1993, under the headline: ‘Time for Academy Awards — the show we love to hate.’ (But things change in 25 years; next week in this space there will be an update of these stats.)

It’s time once again for Oscar Trivia!!! Just in case you care.

Oh, you can pretend you don’t — but you’ll be watching the Academy Awards on Monday night, won’t you? It’s the show we love to hate. And how can you properly complain if you don’t watch it?

After all, as a friend of mine says, movie stars are the closest things we have to royalty — and Oscar night is like a coronation.

Anyway, here are some tidbits I came across while looking up other Oscar info:

— The most Oscars presented to one person? Walt Disney, who went home with 32 statuettes over the years (including some that were “honorary”).

      — The most won by a woman? Eight, to costume designer Edith Head.

— Who received the most nominations without a win? Composer Victor Young, with 21. (He finally won for his 22nd, "Around the World in 80 Days," which was awarded posthumously.)

— Most acting nominations? Twelve, Katharine Hepburn.

— Most acting wins? Four, Katharine Hepburn. (With all those nominations the odds were in her favor.)

— In 1988, Sigourney Weaver made history not winning. She was the first nominee in the best actress ("Gorillas in the Mist") and best supporting actress ("Working Girl") categories to lose both.

— Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter are tied for the most nominations without a win in the "actress" categories — six.

— Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole equaled and surpassed that record in the "actor" categories — seven nominations each. (If Al Pacino, who is nominated in two categories this year, should lose both, he'll top that record with eight losses.)                      

                Tatum O'Neal, left; Jessica Tandy

— Most nominations for one film? Fourteen, "All About Eve" (1950).

— Most wins by a film? Eleven, "Ben-Hur" (1959).

— Billy Wilder is the only person to win three Oscars for one movie - as director, co-writer and producer of "The Apartment" (1960).

— Barry Fitzgerald is the only performer to find himself nominated in both acting categories for the same film (which brought about some changes in the Oscar-voting ground rules). He was nominated as best actor and best supporting actor for "Going My Way" (1944). He won the latter.

— There has only been one write-in winner in the history of the Academy Awards, cinematographer Hal Mohr for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1935).

— Jack Palance went 38 years between nominations. He received a supporting actor nomination in 1953 for "Shane" and then won in 1992 for "City Slickers."

— Palance's win last year tied a record that was set by Helen Hayes, who also went 38 years between nominations. But she won both times! She was named best actress in 1931 for "The Sin of Madelon Claudet" and best supporting actress in 1969 for "Airport."

— The youngest director nominee ever is John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood"), at age 24.

— The oldest winner ever is Jessica Tandy, who was 80 when she was named best actress for "Driving Miss Daisy."

— The oldest male winner was Henry Fonda, who was named best actor for "On Golden Pond" at 76.

— Nine-year-old Justin Henry ("Kramer vs. Kramer") was the youngest nominee ever.— Tatum O'Neal, at 10, was the youngest winner (for "Paper Moon." 


                        Spencer Tracy, left; Linda Hunt

— In 1985, Anjelica Huston became the first third-generation winner. (Her father John Huston and grandfather Walter Huston were both Oscar-winners.)

— Only one performer has ever won posthumously, Peter Finch as best actor for "Network."

— Linda Hunt is the only person to win an Oscar for playing the opposite sex (she was a male character in "The Year of Living Dangerously").

— What former "Saturday Night Live" regulars have received acting nominations? Robert Downey Jr. (this year for "Chaplin"), Albert Brooks (for "Broadcast News") and Dan Aykroyd ("Driving Miss Daisy"). (Steve Martin has been nominated but was only a frequent guest, never a regular on the TV show.)

— True or false: The Three Stooges were once nominated for an Oscar. (True, for the 1934 short, "Men in Black.")

— True or false: Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy won an Oscar. (True, for the 1933 short, "The Music Box.")

— True for false: When Spencer Tracy won his second best-actor award, the engraving on the Oscar mistakenly said, "Dick Tracy." (It's true.)

— Aside from special Oscars, how many of these folks actually won an Academy Award? Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Judy Garland, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich, Edward G. Robinson, Greta Garbo, James Dean. (None.)

— When Gary Cooper won in 1952 for "High Noon," who picked up his award? John Wayne.

— "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989) was the first film since "Grand Hotel" (1932) to win the best-picture award without its director being nominated.

— "The Silence of the Lambs" was the first horror movie to win the best-picture Oscar.

New Movies This Week New Movies This Week



For, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018

Only three new films are opening in Salt Lake theaters this weekend, a sci-fi thriller, a raunchy comedy-mystery and an offbeat fantasy.

“Annihilation” (R). A squad of soldiers enters an environmental disaster zone and only one (Oscar Isaac) comes out, injured but alive. So his biologist wife (Natalie Portman) volunteers to go inside with another expedition to discover what happened. With Jennifer Jason Leigh and Gina Rodriguez. Based on the first of the “Southern Reach” trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.

‘Game Night” (R). This dark, raunchy comedy follows a group of friends who meet regularly for a game night together. When one night is devoted to a murder-mystery game, violent events point to a real crime going down. Or do they? With Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Jeffrey Wright, Michael C. Hall and Danny Huston.

“Every Day” (PG-13). Sixteen-year-old Rhiannon (Angourie Rice) falls in love with the mysterious A (played by a variety of actors), who proves to be a traveling spirit that wakes up in a new body each day and lives an entirely different life. Maria Bello plays Rhiannon’s mother.

New DVDS/Blu-rays New DVDS/Blu-rays



For, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Recently re-released on DVD by the popular manufacture-on-demand website Warner Archive, ‘The Grass Harp’ is a neglected film that deserves to be seen. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on Nov. 1, 1996.

After 20 years, "Carrie" is finally getting revenge on her mother.

Remember young Sissy Spacek as the repressed title character in the 1976 Stephen King film and Piper Laurie as her wacko mother? In "The Grass Harp," the roles are reversed as Laurie plays a gentle soul who has lived a lifetime of repression under the thumb of her shrewish sister, played by none other than Spacek.

Overweight Laurie is a flibbertigibbet who virtually lives in her kitchen, spending most of her time with sassy Nell Carter, whipping up sugar-loaded confections. The rest of their time is spent gathering "ingredients" from local wild fields for her "secret dropsy potion," a natural medicine that sells well in the region.

But the house — and half the town — is actually owned by her stern, unbending sister, skinny-as-a-reed Spacek, who spends a good deal of her time browbeating Laurie.

When their younger cousin dies unexpectedly, prompting her husband to commit suicide, the ill-fated couple's orphaned son (played as a 16-year-old by Edward Furlong, of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day") comes to live with the sisters.

At first Laurie isn't sure a boy should be raised by a houseful of women, but it isn't long before Laurie and Furlong develop a strong bond.


         Piper Laurie, Walter Matthau, 'The Grass Harp'

As the story progresses — told from Furlong's point of view — there are vignettes about Spacek being unexpectedly duped by a smooth-talking con man (Jack Lemmon), while Laurie is surprised to be courted by a gentlemanly retired judge (Walter Matthau), whose wife died a couple of years earlier. (The romance between Laurie and Matthau is especially charming.)

The nominal central plot has Laurie finally breaking free of her sister's psychological hold as she blossoms for the first time.

Meanwhile, Roddy McDowall is hilarious as a talkative barber who knows everything about everybody else's comings and goings. Mary Steenburgen brings her own brand of eccentric energy to the film when she shows up as an evangelist with a passel of kids. And both Charles Durning, as the local preacher, and Joe Don Baker, as the town sheriff, have amusing bits of business.

Co-producer/director Charles Matthau (Walter's son) has done a nice job of pulling all of this together as a sweet, nice-and-easy, PBS-style nostalgia piece (it's set in the 1940s), and the script is nicely shaded, written by veteran Stirling Silliphant and Kirk Ellis (based on a Truman Capote story).


But there's no question that casting has a lot to do with the success of "The Grass Harp." And while it's a treat to see all of these veteran actors come together, it's a genuine pleasure to report that each is given much to chew on — the characters are wonderfully written. In fact, so many movies today lack supporting characters of any dimension that it's tempting to go overboard since there are so many here.

As terrific as she is, it's no real surprise to see Laurie playing a softhearted spinster who finally strikes out on her own. The real surprise comes in seeing Spacek as a tight-lipped, unhappy woman who cruelly dominates her loved ones. She is also terrific — as are Matthau, Lemmon, McDowall, et. al.

"The Grass Harp" has its flaws, and the sentimentality is laid on a bit thick — and it would be nice if Furlong were just a bit less surly in what is essentially the lead role. (To see him blown away by Laurie and Matthau and Spacek is a little sad.)

But the film has enough going for it that audiences should feel properly entertained, and perhaps even touched by its heartfelt intentions.

And that acting ensemble … it's a rare and delightful sight by modern standards.

"The Grass Harp" is rated PG for some violence, a few mild cuss words and a couple of mildly vulgar gags.

Welcome Welcome

Hi. I'm Chris Hicks.

But if you're looking for Chris Hicks the Australian rugby player or the American recording-industry executive or the Major League Baseball player or the author of "Think" or the singer-songwriter or the former basketball player, you're in the wrong place.

I'm Chris Hicks the movie guy from Salt Lake City. If that's who you're looking for, welcome to my website as I enter the 21st century … a little late (May 2013).

This site is all about movies, well mostly, and it's also about me, I guess, but I'll try to keep my ego in check.

My goal, my hope, is that you will be able to browse the pages here and be alerted to or reminded of some great movie you've never heard of or forgotten about. In other words, something that might enhance your movie-watching experience, whether it's by Alfred Hitchcock or Joss Whedon, or stars Audrey Hepburn or Jennifer Lawrence or someone you never heard of. And I've also tried to make it fun.

The bulk of stories and reviews here are gleaned from my some 40 years of writing about film for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, with side trips here and there to other entertainment forms.

I'm still writing for the D-News, but this is mostly archival stuff (with permission), primarily from the Deseret News but also from my 13 years with KSL Television and Radio, as well as other sundry freelance things I occasionaly come across in my deteriorating hard-copy files.

Hope you enjoy my little site. If you do, tell your friends. If you don't, just say you couldn't find it.

Chris H.

Shameless Hucksterism Shameless Hucksterism


Click here for Deseret News interview.

Click here for Deseret News review.

Click here for Amazon store.

Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen



For, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Love it or hate it, ‘The Dark Crystal’ has a following, which explains this big-screen, two-day revival at local Cinemark theaters, courtesy of TCM and Fathom Events. You can catch it on Sunday, Feb. 25, and Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 2 and 7 p.m. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on Dec. 30, 1982.

“The Dark Crystal,” a five-year dream project of Jim Henson, is not quite the epic fantasy he intended, but it’s still a fascinating attempt, and a surprisingly affecting one.

Henson, and his partner Frank Oz, have created a bizarre world where three suns are about to converge and wreak havoc, unless a young gelfling named Jen finds a missing shard and replaces it in the dark crystal, a life-giving force at the center of this unusual universe.

This sends young, inexperienced Jen on a “Wizard of Oz”- type journey that takes him through “Alice in Wonderland”-style forests and swamplands, as he encounters all kinds of cliffhanger adventures. There is also some Tolkein here, and even a touch of “Star Wars.”

In fact, the entire story and most of the plot twists seem to have their origins elsewhere. But what Henson lacks in originality where the script is concerned, he more than makes up for in his own special brand of Muppetry.


You won’t find Miss Piggy or Kermit the Frog here, but you’ll meet a number of wondrous little creatures, most of them relegated to the background, and a vast number of grotesqueries, curiously dominating the foreground.

That, and some unusually dark imagery make this questionable for younger audiences; parents might want to think twice about taking very young children, since the PG rating is for some rather violent moments and more than a few scary ones.

There is also the Henson charm in abundance, however, with some delightful characters that will remind you of others you’ve seen on “The Muppet Show” and “Sesame Street” — including Animal and Snuffleupagus! What I enjoyed most about this film were these delightful little creatures, the podlings and the dog-like Fizzgig, and the dozens of strange forms of animal and plant life populating the swamps and caves, playing supporting and cameo roles.

“The Dark Crystal” is mainly populated with skeksis and mystics, along with landstriders, garthim and characters called Aughra or Urzah, and a second young gelfling named Kira — the love interest for Jen. If all this sounds confusing, you’ll catch on as the film progresses.


Gary Kurtz, left, Jim Henson and Frank Oz on the set of 'The Dark Crystal.'

Henson has also included a lot of semi-religious mumbo-jumbo and the climax has Jen and Kira starting anew as a sort of Adam and Eve in Muppetland. And, after all, this is really just an elaborate puppet show.

But the special effects and amazing advanced art of puppetry here are truly fascinating. The story takes a back seat to the imaginative and highly entertaining telling in this case.

“The Dark Crystal” is obviously not for all tastes (at one point Jen says, “This place is weird!” and you’ll have to agree), but even if audiences fail to catch its spirit, there’s a cult film here whose reputation will grow over the years, I think. It’s so new and so different, it may take more than one viewing to take it all in. But I expect it will tend to grow on its audience.

It should also be mentioned that the joint direction of Henson and Frank Oz (who, in addition to his numerous Muppet chores, was Yoda in “The Empire Strikes Back”) is very good. They have a real feel for the art of cinema, and future projects should prove well worth waiting for.

Oldies New to DVD/Blu-ray Oldies New to DVD/Blu-ray



For, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: The boutique label Shout Select has, for some inexplicable reason, chosen to give this Lily Tomlin comedy (written by her significant other, Jane Wagner) a Blu-ray upgrade. Sadly, after watching it again, I feel no different about it than when it came out some 37 years ago. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on Feb. 5, 1981. Fortunately, all concerned would go on to bigger and better things.

It is generally agreed that comedy films are the most difficult to make, and if that’s true, it must be even harder to blend different styles of comedy and make them work together.

That’s one of the main aims of “The Incredible Shrinking Woman,” and the result is simply a comedy that can’t make up its mind.

“Shrinking Woman” is often funny but it’s an empty laughter brought on by the expertise of the cast as much as anything. The script is a disjointed mess with very little originality, and though the direction is better, it, too, is rather unimaginative.

But Lily Tomlin has the makings of a truly great screen comic actress and her talent shines throughout this film.

Unfortunately, even Tomlin is not always shown to best advantage.

Jane Wagner, who wrote and directed Tomlin’s disastrous “Moment by Moment” two years ago, also wrote and was executive producer of “Shrinking Woman.” There’s a woman who must be her own worst enemy.

And this is Joel Schumacher’s first directing effort, so he may show improvement in the future.

But mostly, this is Lily Tomlin’s showcase piece — the first feature that is truly all her own. And we can be grateful that someone as talented as she, is being showcased.

The story is based on Richard Matheson’s “The Shrinking Man,” as was the 1957 sci-fi classic “The Incredible Shrinking Man.”


Lily Tomlin shrinks to the size of a toy in 'The Incredible Shrinking Woman.'

Tomlin is Pat Kramer, a contented, if harried, housewife with two kids, a Spanish-speaking maid and a husband who makes a comfortable living by naming household products for an advertising firm.

Then, one day, Kramer begins to shrink, and she discovers it is due to her exposure to the many chemicals that make up all those household products.

The premise is a fine one and the first half of the film is much better than the final half.

But Wagner and Schumacher just try for too much. Not content to stay with the social satire and spoofing of Madison Avenue tactics, they try at various times for romantic subtle humor, slapstick, broad strokes, puns and movie parodies.

The ensuing mishmash becomes tiresome quickly.

The same can be said for the special effects. Though they are excellent, we are pushed through them too fast. One of the things that made the 1957 film a classic is that it exposed us to the terrors of being too small as the victim discovered them. There was a gradual, suspenseful buildup that made us grow in our sympathy for the subject, right up to the end.

But “Shrinking Woman” tries too hard to do too much too fast. And that’s the direct result of straying from the main premise and playing cute with the material.

We have Tomlin’s “Laugh-in” characters “Judith Beasley” (in a secondary lead) and telephone operator “Ernestine” (in a cameo appearance), and before you know it, it’s a Jerry Lewis film in drag.


Then an ape is introduced and we get a “King Kong” parody, people start running in and out of elevator doors (similar to what the Marx Brothers did much better 50 years ago), and we even have the oldest joke of them all — the bad guys slipping on banana peels (here, the idea is that if one banana peel slip is funny, a dozen people slipping on banana peels must be funnier).

Charles Grodin is Pat Kramer’s husband, and as always, he is in fine form, with far too little to do (no pun intended). Ned Beatty is Grodin’s boss and Tomlin’s old “Laugh-In” colleague Henry Gibson is also on hand — but neither of them have much to do here, either.

And for some reason there are an awful lot of scenes that are so soft in focus that they look like the camera was dipped in Vaseline, and some of the special effects appear terribly grainy (though, again, the effects are very good).

There are some inspired gags, such as Grodin pouring champagne for Tomlin and nearly drowning her, and the cast — particularly the star — is all in.

My advice to Tomlin is to dump Wagner and find some projects worthy of her talent, as were “9 to 5,” “Nashville” and “The Late Show.”

As for “The Incredible Shrinking Woman,” if you’re not too picky about your humor or if you are already a Tomlin fan, you may enjoy it.

Otherwise, beware.