Friday, December 31, 2010

"If I only had a brain ..."

I watched The Wizard of Oz over Christmas, and again swooned at one of my first movie-crushes.

Though the entire cast gives fantastic performances, I have always harbored a special love for Ray Bolger's portrayal of the Scarecrow. I really believe he is stuffed with straw as he flails his limbs, and quivers over lighted matches. Also, while he bemoans his lack of intellect, he always proves the smartest and bravest one of the bunch. Secretly, I believe he saves Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West at the end. She seems to appreciate (and crush on?) him too with her super-tear-jerking line "I think I'll miss you most of all," before she departs from Oz.

Despite my admiration for the Scarecrow, I do not know much about Bolger, and I do not think I have seen him in another film. According to Wikipedia (I know, but I always go there first for some initial info), he seemed mostly a stage actor and television actor, although he did score some fancy film credits with The Great Ziegfield (1936) and Babes in Toyland (1961). Also, interesting to note how he got the the Scarecrow role. I knew Buddy Ebsen played the Tin Man for a bit, but dropped out due to an illness the make-up caused. However, I did not know Ebsen apparently first signed on to play the Scarecrow, while Bolger played the Tin Man, and the two switched roles to accommodate Bolger's preference.

I wish Bolger had more screen credits, as I would love to see him outside his Scarecrow/Hunk personas. But I am still happy watching him do the same routines over and over.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Marilyn holiday

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! I took a break from the blogosphere and indulged in some good company, food, and gift-giving. The ones I received weren't too shabby either. I got a ton of books, including these on Marilyn Monroe:

The first, Fragments, is the new book containing Marilyn's poetry and personal notes. I am almost finished with it, but I feel like I did when I read Journals by Kurt Cobain--- like I am invading someone's privacy. However, I love the photographs and the section featuring books from Marilyn's library. Her passion for literature comes through the pages. The second book, My Story, came as a complete surprise to me, as I had no idea Marilyn wrote her memoirs. I believe these are incomplete, but I am still looking forward to reading. The book is also filled with beautiful work by Milton Greene, who took some of the most famous photos of Marilyn. 

Has anyone read either of these books? What do you think? 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life ... the REAL ending ;-D

My family and I saw one of our favorite holiday movies, It's a Wonderful Life on the big screen tonight. It was the second time I saw it in a theater, and about the billionth time I saw it in general. I definitely recommend it. I thought I had an awful day, but this film lifted my spirits and reminded me what is truly important, as corny as that sounds ;-)

Although, I must admit, I am a bit disappointed we did not see the "real" ending ;-D

Sigh. I lovelove Saturday Night Live.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pandora's Box (1929)

While I do not think silent films are for everyone, I always feel a little bad for those who do not like them, especially when I watch a "really good" one like Pandora's Box. In my view, they missed out. Suspenseful, stylish, sexy, and poignant, the film represents what that era of film history created that others could not.

Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst, and starring Louise Brooks, Pandora's Box follows Lulu, a dancer and escort whose sexuality leads to her downfall. Yes, clear message here, but honestly, it's nothing new to see women onscreen punished for promiscuity or any sexual display. Yet, it remains fascinating to watch. Brooks portrays Lulu as so naive in the first half. She controls the other characters closely, and in a moment she loses it all, runs away, and arrives at another fate. Like I said, viewers expect the downfall, but that does not impact its effectiveness. Brooks' facial expressions and playfulness make her loveable, but at the same time I both disliked and pitied Lulu because she brought so much on herself.

Also, the film suggests, but does not show, many of her actions. Still, this conveys quite a difference between European (the film is German) and Hollywood films at the time, at least from what I have seen. It seems this trend would continue. I always feel Hollywood (even today) so fears offending audiences that it rarely produces "real" films. Instead, it provides "escapism." While I consider that part of the movies' appeal as well, (even Pandora's Box provides that fantasy "Jazz Age" vibe with the costumes, shows, and parties the characters indulged in) I also consider too much escapism just fluff. When I watch an American film, eight or nine times out of ten I know it is "just a movie," but I often feel differently with foreign films. Movies, like any artform, can create more than escapism, and that makes them powerful. And yes, they had better make me uncomfortable, if they show me a truth I rarely see. It is only my opinion, but this pattern frustrates me.

Anyway, I went off on a tangent here, but Pandora's Box (a scene, by the way, explicitly connects title and plot) makes me think about many things, and is worth viewing. It is sad it opened only a few years before the production codes censored everything even more.

I also found this Brooks tribute, with a random first photo of Clara Bow. I have no idea what that is about, but I like looking at her too.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A few films ...

I have not posted as regularly as I hoped, but here are a few of my recent NetFlix views:

 Jules and Jim (1962): A World War I French drama directed by Francois Truffaut, and starring Oskar Werner and Henri Serre as friends (Jules and Jim) in love with the same woman, played by Jeanne Moreau. The film starts out sweet, then morphs into one more strange and disturbing as the triangle persists. It surprised me more than I expected, and presented three interesting, flawed characters I wanted to learn more about. The ending blew me away. I did not see it at all. Plus, it features wonderful cinematography of Paris and the French countryside. These kinds of movies always make me wish I was European.

Wendy and Lucy (2008): When Wendy's (Michelle Williams) car breaks down in a small Oregon town on her way to Alaska, her sole companion, her dog Lucy, disappears. As she tries to find Lucy, viewers learn she is broke, homeless, and dependent on an Alaskan summer job to make ends meet. This movie made me sad, as it seems Wendy needs more than a small intervention to pull her out of this. The ending almost had me in tears. This is a slow, quiet film (no music, except for  Lucy's humming), but I think it's worth it if you choose to watch it. Williams is a good actor, but I think Wendy and Lucy is more about the story.

Chinatown (1974): Okay. I did not care for this one. I rarely enjoy Jack Nicholson's acting, (besides The Shining he has never completely transformed into any character for me) and Roman Polanski's films are hot and cold for me, so I knew I would have a difficult time with it. I appreciated the film noir references. Any L.A. setting looks its best to me when it's set in the '30s or '40s because it just has that fantasyland vibe. However, I found it slow, and, maybe I have a "young" attention span, lacking enough throughout to compensate for this. Nicholson just played a "Nicholson persona," and Faye Dunaway looked pretty, but nothing more. The story kind of interested me, but not in the way the film told it. However, I think John Huston gave the strongest performance, and I dug the final "twist," though (trying not to write spoilers) it and the ending disgusted me. Still, nice cliche avoidance there, and I think the script wanted me to feel that way. Maybe I was not paying enough attention throughout, or maybe I need another viewing. I don't know. I think it has good aspects, but I am not obsessed like other viewers.

The Internet Movie Database message board for Chinatown, by the way, is hilarious. Apparently, anyone who does not worship this film is twelve and watches nothing but Transformers. Isn't it more like, different strokes for different folks?

So ... hopefully I will not get behind again, and will post more as I view. Gotta love the holidays!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Vintage Sparkly Jacket

 My favorite antique store had a whole rack of sparkly jackets, tops, and sweaters displayed when I visited last Tuesday. Since I was Christmas shopping, I wanted to pick a couple up for gifts, except I never know what vintage clothes others will like. However, I decided I could work this jacket for the holidays. It goes with everything I have, which surprises me. Sequins are kind of my fashion guilty pleasure, but I never feel I can wear them just out and about with a regular outfit.

Oh, many of you may know this, but Blake Edwards, the director of the Pink Panther franchise, and one of my favorite movies, Breakfast at Tiffany's passed away yesterday. The New York Times included this obituary.  Rest in peace. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Breathless" (1960)

In many ways, I am a little embarrassed of my adoration for Breathless (or A bout de souffle, if you prefer the French titles). Now, in all fairness, I think it does display some kernels of brilliance. For one, stylistically, it suits its title. Director Jean-Luc Godard's famous jump cuts make it seem like the narration constantly tries to catch its breath as it keeps up with the plot. For two, Jean Seberg looks amazing as the American girl in Paris. Her pixie cut, flowy frocks, and cat-eye glasses represent fashion to me.

However, at the same time, Breathless remains one of those films often tossed around the social circles of college sophomores who took one film history class, and became momentarily obsessed with the French New Wave. It, like most college conversations, is pretentious and keeps a stick a up its ass, as the participants try to impress each other with the same interpretations again and again. Now, I was one of those college sophomores, but that's beside the point ...

But it is a good movie, albeit perhaps more style than substance. I can forgive that though, because it remains so aesthetically pleasing throughout the style almost becomes the substance, in lieu of other aspects. For example, the plotline, which involves a car thief who kills a policeman, and then hides with his American girlfriend (Seberg), seems alright to me, but not amazing. I get more caught up in the characters' lengthy conversations about nothing, except "deep" questions that mean everything to them. Again, this college fodder throws me back into mindsets that embarrass me, only because I wish people (myself included) could discuss popular films like this without the snootiness and title-dropping. Breathless is a simple film with a reputation, and I fear that reputation overshadows the actual work quite a bit.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

HB, Frank!

 Happy 95th birthday to Frank Sinatra, another icon I used to consider terribly overrated. I do admit I have come to like his music and little diva demeanor. The photo of him in this YouTube-age is perfect, yes?

A few months ago, I bought my first Frank album from Borders. It was only $5, so I thought, why not? It turns out, the employee who rang me up was a huge Frank fanatic. He rambled on and on about his admiration and different stories he read that he liked. It was so sweet, I just did not have the heart to contradict him, despite his defense of Frank acting a douche bag several times. And after all, I was buying a CD. Despite Frank's own opinion, I do not believe for one second he could play Terry Malloy better than Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, or even Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, but he still had a lot of talent. It is great to see he still has a ton of loyal fans, especially fans my age.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"In the Park" featuring Charlie Chaplin (1915)

This year, I took chances on two film icons I previously considered overrated: Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin. The exposure made me see they rightfully deserve the attention they get, even though I still argue many more just as talented, underrated performers need a bit more lovin'. Charlie Chaplin, in particular, has had to fight his way into my heart. Perhaps the things I read, or my Harold Lloyd preference, or the horribly biased Attenborough biopic pitted me against him (no fault of RDJ), but I still need to find that one Chaplin film that makes me "get it." 

However, I like a lot of his work. I actually prefer the shorts over the full-length pictures so far. This one, "In the Park" is cute, and features some badass (sometimes obnoxious) music. 


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Edge of Love (2008)

I heard lukewarm reviews of the World War II romance, The Edge of Love. However, I adore Dylan Thomas and Cillian Murphy, and I shamefully girl-crush on Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller, so despite the reviews, I put it in my NetFlix queue. 

Yeah ...

As far as the story went, I did not get it. Poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys) meets up with an old singer friend/flame, Vera (Knightley), and the two begin a flirtation as Vera becomes friends with Thomas' "free-spirted" (a.k.a just silly) wife, Caitlin (Miller). At the same time, soldier William Kilick (Murphy) begins an affair with Vera, though she still clearly feels something for Thomas. It seems confusing, and honestly, I did not care enough to pay full attention. It seemed the characters told me over and over how they supposedly felt for each other, but I still failed to see it. I almost missed the film's most climatic scene, where Kilick storms Thomas' home with a gun, because I cared more about my wine and updating my Facebook page than this film. Then I looked up, and was like, "Oh. Gun. Shouting. Crying. Maybe I should pay attention." That lasted about thirty seconds. It did not help that Knightley's voice sounded awful, and her face looked funny when she sang. 

By the film's end, I missed the infamous friendship Vera and Caitlin developed, the flirtation, the scandal ... everything. One thing I appreciate, however, are the film's lush period costumes. April Ferry designed them, and thus created the only part of the film worth seeing.  As much as I find Miller more Jude Law's little tart than anything else, she looks fantastic in clothes. Now thanks to her I want to frolic across a beach in a full skirt, boots, and fedora. Knightley also look amazing. Like in Atonement, the period clothes suited her.

So, basically, if you have heard anything about this film, it's probably true. At least, that is how I saw it.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Office

Yikes. I meant to post more over Thanksgiving Break, but I got so absorbed in some big school projects, I just did not have time. Also, I started watching The Office last week, and that has taken up a lot of my movie-watching time. I am SO hooked on this show! Steve Carrell and Rainn Wilson are hilarious, and I think it's just a funny good time over all. In many ways, it's what I expected, but some aspects are also different. Anyway, I could care less about the rest of my NetFlix queue right now. I have made it through almost three seasons! Do you watch The Office? What do you think?

The Office- funny clips

I can't figure out how to embed videos in this new blog template without it looking obnoxious. I think I might try changing back to the one I had on my other blog ...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Eve change ...

Not the best photo, but I thought those of you who followed my previous fashion blog might be interested in this little appearance change. I haven't gone dark in a couple years!

I hope all who celebrate have a happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


 Oh dear. Here I go, getting way too obsessed with Christmas, way too early.

But seriously. One of my favorite things to do around Thanksgiving is to read and watch the different film versions of A Christmas Carol. I do not typically enjoy Dickens, but I do like this piece. It is classic, and just a great story. I always enjoy the films because each actor portrays Ebenezer Scrooge a little differently, despite the almost identical dialogue and scenes in each version. However, I do have two favorites I never miss.

First, I initially became acquainted with Scrooge and A Christmas Carol through Michael Caine's performance in The Muppet Christmas Carol. I know, it's a Muppet movie, but I think Caine gives a top-notch performance in it. I always see and feel clearly how Scrooge changes throughout. The graveyard scene with The Ghost of Christmas Future and the bit at then end where Beaker gives him the scarf remain two of my favorite "Scrooge" scenes ever filmed. Not to mention, he appears convincing acting, singing, and dancing with Muppets!

George C. Scott, on the other hand, will not play the Scrooge who sings and dances does London's streets in the 1984 television movie version of A Christmas Carol, but he does give a more subtle, refined performance that downplays some of the "Scrooge" gimmicks. He says "humbug," without making it sound like a one-liner, and acts mean and cold, but understandably so. Scrooge must count as one of the most popular characters ever filmed, and it seems easy to turn him into more caricature than human. Scott avoids this, and every time I watch his performance, I see someone who could be any of us, beaten down by his mistakes, and eventually led to a truth that could destroy him if he refuses change.

What versions of A Christmas Carol are your favorites? Are there any actors you would like to see play Scrooge who have not yet? More remakes are inevitable!

Until the remakes, I leave you with two great songs from The Muppet Christmas Carol that show the "old" Scrooge, and the "new" Scrooge.


My "boutique"

I decided to take a break from films and post about the Google-powered site, Has anyone else checked it out? It's pretty fun, in my opinion, and definitely provides some inspiration. Here is my "boutique":

Now, if only I had enough money to buy everything it recommends to me!


Friday, November 19, 2010

Kings Go Forth (1958)

In the middle of watching Kings Go Forth on NetFlix Instant, I also caught another amazing Tony Curtis performance when The Boston Strangler (1968) aired on TV. I love being on Thanksgiving Break because I feel I can watch a couple movies at once and not feel lazy. Needless to say, he played wonderfully in both, though when I returned to Kings Go Forth, I felt more underwhelmed, and kept asking questions of Curtis' character like, "Wait, why are you doing this? Are you really just ... clueless? Okay." So that's one downside to watching two movies with the same actor at once. One performance or film may overshadow the other.

Not that I didn't enjoy Kings Go Forth. On the contrary, I became putty in its hands. It contains a lot of "typicals" I look for when choosing sappy movies: the "war plotline" where two soldiers become attracted to the same woman, the Natalie Wood character who crumbles in a moment, the idealized, really annoying maternal figure, and cinematography. Here, it exhibits lots of shots of the French countryside, seaside, and neon-lit dive bars that could not exist past the '50s. Frank Sinatra and Curtis play Sam Loggins and Britt Harris, two American soldiers stationed in Southern France during the end of World War II. Sam plays a tough authority figure to Britt, who, by both his actions and background story, seems flighty, and just ... well, dumb. Sam meets Monique (Natalie Wood), and falls in love, although she refuses his advances. They continue their friendship (under the eye of Monique's mother, played by Leora Dana) until Britt meets Monique in a jazz club. Britt woos her, talks her into marrying him, and then backs out. The film ends with Sam and Britt at odds over Monique, yet forced on a mission together behind enemy lines.

I refrained from including all the plot points here because I did not want to spoil anything. Some aspects, such as Britt's "reasons" for breaking up with Monique, rub me the wrong way, and I realize I need  historical empathy. However, that has more to do with me and not the film. Overall, the plot, while unoriginal, engaged me, as well as the performances. Sinatra gives the best, in my opinion, both on his own, and in his screen time with Curtis. I could not imagine Curtis and Sinatra on screen together, but they achieve chemistry in the odd relationship their characters maintain. The last sequence shows them fighting over Monique, yet still collaborating, which created the most suspense for me. Natalie Wood, on the other hand, plays the fragile character she plays in pretty much all her films. I forgive it because I adore her, but the more films I see, the more I dread seeing her typecast.

The film also has weaknesses. I thought the ending felt rushed, and the "happy" ending forced. I cannot stand it when it happens because it makes the whole film seem awkward. If I had been one of the writers, I would have developed a different ending, but that is just my opinion. I would still recommend this to anyone who likes classic movies.

Oh, and here Frank promotes it!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Charade (1963)

I am not going to lie. One of the best parts of the romantic thriller Charade is Audrey Hepburn's wardrobe. I always love watching her films and thinking about how she supposedly sported more a jeans and ballet flats look in real life, yet her characters always take the height of glamour. For instance, when her character, Regina Lambert, visits the American Embassy in Paris dressed in an orange, funnel-collared coat, and leopard-print hat, I had to pause NetFlix Instant and say, "Really?" outloud. Who else looks that chic? Who else? I should note Givenchy designed the costumes, and I loved the parallels to Holly Golightly's wardrobe.

Her other main accessory, Cary Grant, only increases this. All right, "accessory" seems a demeaning term, but they look damn good together on screen. Like most first-time viewers, I felt confused about who Grant's character was supposed to be, as he switched and un-switched identities, but I also knew this confusion would culminate in some moment when they, gasp, kissed.

Needless to say, I loved this film. For years, I thought Alfred Hitchcock directed it, but Stanley Donen remains the true deliverer. He creates a Parisian fantasyland where perfect women like Regina become lost in con-men, murdered husbands, and stolen millions. Walter Matthau, in a supporting role as a CIA agent, tries to cover her, but cannot prevent the subway races and rooftop fistfights. And while the twist seems obvious now, I did not see it coming while watching, which to me, spells a strong script. Add a scene with Cary Grant, oranges, and bosoms, and Charade delivers the goods I love in classic films.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hey Stella

Leave it to me to start a new blog during possibly one of my busiest and most stressful weeks this semester! I am happy for this weekend, mostly because I will see a student production of  A Streetcar Named Desire at my university tomorrow.

If you followed my previous blog, you probably remember what a big fan of Streetcar and Marlon Brando I am. Naturally, I cannot wait to finally see the play live, in a theater! For one, it will use Tennessee Williams' original script, and not the censored screenplay, and also, I will finally see different actors play the characters. However, I still love the film performances, especially Marlon's. To me, Marlon just is Stanley Kowalski, so I am anxious to see what another actor does with the role. I actually hope their interpretation will be different. Nothing seems worse than a bad Brando interpretation.

Scene: Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire


Sunday, November 7, 2010

I think I'm stuck in old-school

Honestly, I did fine for many years without Netflix. I only succumbed because my neighborhood rental store closed down, and the library's selection alone seem a bit ... dissatisfying. I mean, it's important to support local libraries, but I can only watch those movies so many times.

Now, as I browse though this expansive online catalog, add films to my queue, and view them as they arrive (so far, The Big Lebowski, Orphan, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and classy gigs like A Single Man and Wonder Boys) I feel like this is all "cool." However, I miss the intimacy my previous set-up provided, the employees' suggestions, the deli smell from next door, and the disturbing, plastic-wrapped pickles in the candy section. This, on the other hand, is me on a computer. What's new?

Don't get me wrong. I like Netflix a lot so far, and  would recommend it to anyone who regularly watches movies. This just signals one more isolating act, and commitment to something other than real people. Then again ... it's an adjustment.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New beginnings ...

I got Netflix recently, and realized I wanted to blog about my film adventures. Hooray! Maybe some fashion and Mad Men will appear along the way ... you never know. I am pretty flexible.