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