Stanley Donen, the legendary director of musicals and romantic comedies, has died at age 94. He started as a choreographer and dance director before being elevated to director status at MGM, where he brought to the screen some of cinema's greatest musicals. Among his achievements: "On the Town", "Royal Wedding", "Singin' in the Rain", "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", "Kismet", "Funny Face" and "Damn Yankees". As the traditional musical genre started to decline, Donen concentrated on comedies such as "Once More with Feeling", "The Grass is Greener", "Two for the Road" and "Bedazzled". One of his biggest hits was the 1963 comedy thriller "Charade" starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, which can be described as the best Hitchcock movie not directed by Hitchcock. A similarly-themed spy thriller, "Arabesque" starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren, was not as well received. Donen had other artistic misfires in the course of his career including the big budget 1975 comedy "Lucky Lady" and he also directed, produced and wrote the 1969 poignant comedy "Staircase" starring Richard Burton and Rex Harrison as an aging gay couple. The film was ahead of its time in its sympathetic portrayal of a homosexual relationship. Surprisingly, Donen was never nominated for a directing Oscar but the Academy awarded him a lifetime achievement honor in 1998. For more click here.
Robert Vaughn and Paul Newman in the 1974 blockbuster "The Towering Inferno", nominated for Best Picture.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Movie fans have complained for many years that the Academy is increasingly focusing on nominating art house movies at the expense of blockbusters in the Best Picture Oscar category. The Washington Post investigates whether this is myth or reality and comes down on the side of the latter, providing charts and inflation-adjusted calculations to show that more than ever the Best Picture winners are generally not among the most popular with the public. But should they be? The Oscars are not supposed to be a popularity contest, though someone should tell the Academy that, given their botched lead up for plans for this year's telecast. Should a film get the Best Picture Oscar simply because it is a huge boxoffice success? The Academy was aware of its members honoring smaller art house films and in 2009 made the controversial decision to expand the nominations for Best Picture from five to up to ten. Purists said this was just a disingenuous way to include populist fare without really having to actually vote for it. But Oscar may be getting a raw deal. In the past, the Academy gave Best Picture Oscars to such popular successes as "The Greatest Show on Earth" and "Around the World in 80 Days" and nominated such blockbusters as "Jaws", "E.T.", "Star Wars" and "The Towering Inferno" even when the Best Picture category was relegated to only five films. Click here to read the article and form your own opinion.