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 ...