Saturday, January 29, 2011

'80s film + music

My parents always joke they "missed the '80s" because they married and started a family that decade. They mostly say this in reference to movies, music, and other pop culture. Even though they obviously exaggerate, (my dad and I actually debated whether Andrew McCarthy was in Pretty in Pink or not recently. I was right; he was.), I still try to share my appreciation with them. While it seems more popular to diss the decade, I feel it showed a lot of innovation in terms of film, fashion, and music. I discovered many of my favorite songs by watching '80s films. Here are a few favorites I would use to ease my parents into the '80s:

 The Breakfast Club is not only one of my favorite '80s movies, it is one of my favorite movies period. I think John Hughes captures high school life perfectly, and his films say what everyone feels during it, but rarely expresses. The film's title track, "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds is also one of my favorite songs. It is famous, and I am sure you all have heard it before, but here is a YouTube link anyway: Simple Minds-"Don't You (Forget About Me).

Thank goddess Less than Zero has such a fabulous title song. I personally find this film depressing and shallow, but The Bangles' cover of "Hazy Shade of Winter" easily makes the opening credits the best part. I swear, I had this on replay over and over again last summer: The Bangles-"Hazy Shade of Winter"

Teen Witch could qualify as shallow too. I mean, it easily conveys one must conform to society's beauty and popularity standards to find happiness. However, unlike Less Than Zero, it is fun, cute, and does not take itself too seriously. I love this song when the main character, Louise, casts a popularity spell on herself: Teen Witch-"Most Popular Girl". Plus, her outfits rule! 

Finally, is there anything more '80s than Flashdance? I love this movie, and its song, "Flashdance (What a Feeling)" by Irene Cara always empowers me. I think it is positive and fun to listen to: "Flashdance (What a Feeling)"

Do you have any favorite '80s music and/or movies? 


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What I'm into ...

What I'm into:

  • Why be Good? Sexuality and Censorship in Early Cinema (currently tops the NetFlix queue)
  • Natalie Portman's Oscar nomination
  • The "Best Performances" editorial gracing W.
  • Bleak House
  • Kristen Stewart on Vogue's cover. I didn't want to like it, but I do.
  • Vanilla bean coffee from Cost Plus World Market
  • Sherlock's and Watson's Tweets. Seriously hilarious!
  • Friday nights with wine and PBS.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two Brando's

 I have been into Marlon Brando for almost five years now, and understandably, have viewed the majority of his films. There are very few I have yet to see. I used to swallow his films whole and dedicate entire weekends to them. Does anyone remember when TCM aired its original documentary Brando, with a marathon of his work? I was in heaven. However, in the past year or so, I have slowed down.  My interest has not waned, but two reasons now keep me from watching Marlon's films. First, several remain hard to come by, (and not even NetFlix carries them), or they just look horrible. Second,  it saddens me to think one day I will finish that last film. Sure, I can re-watch them, but I think there's something special about watching a movie with a favorite actor, director, etc. for the first time. Otherwise, it's not the same.

So, I surprised myself by watching two "new for me" Marlon movies within a week. Both are Westerns, but  still completely different films with two different performances from Marlon.

First, I finally saw One-Eyed Jacks in its entirety. I tried to watch it three times before, but always became distracted and never made it past the opening credits. Released in 1961 by Marlon's company, Pennebaker Productions, this film marks his only directing credit. It generally flopped, and sources paint it as an over-budgeted Brando ego-trip, but I wish he had done more. The cinematography in One-Eyed Jacks is so ... pretty. I can tell care was put in each scene, perhaps too much sometimes, yet it still avoids awkwardnes. Still, the sweeping deserts and Monterey Bay took me to more exciting, other-worldly place.

Marlon plays Rio, a bank robber abandoned and left to a prison sentence by his partner Dad Longworth, played by Karl Malden. A revenge plot follows: Rio escapes from prison, ventures to California where Dad stands as sheriff (after deciding being a criminal just wasn't for him, I guess), falls for his step-daughter, challenges his authority, and the two "duke it out," if you will, both mentally and physically. I love watching Marlon and Karl onscreen together. They have this unexpected chemistry that avoids the "bromance" seen with many male actors who work well together. The relationship between Rio and Longworth shifts from partnership, to awkward, to hatred, and it just seems authentic for the situation. Marlon's calm portrayal of Rio makes the relationship more suspenseful and creepy. He restricts his emotions so carefully, his character remains unreadable.

The Missouri Breaks (1976), on the other hand, shows Marlon as Lee Clayton, a hitman hired to foil the plans of a horse-thief band led by Tom Logan (Jack Nicholson). Directed by Arthur Penn, in some parts, it tries to hold on to the classic Western feeling ...


I loved this film. For one, Marlon gives a hilarious performance. He portrays Clayton with a drifting Irish accent, affinity for horses, and women's clothes. It's so ridiculous, but like I said, I love it. Marlon just kind of did "whatever" on the set, and it works for him, and me as a viewer. On the film's IMDB message board, conversations drift about "getting" Marlon vs. "not getting" Marlon, and worshipping "anything" he does. Personally, I am not sure what is wrong with that. If someone just digs an actor's style, they automatically feel more open-minded than skeptical or unfamiliar viewers. Therefore, my arguably blind acceptance of this performance warrants little justification other than I like watching this man work.

 Other than that, the cinematography (beautiful, like in One-Eyed Jacks), and quirky music score made this one of the few Westerns I would like to watch again.

Well, two more down. And now I feel so fired up about Marlon, I want to watch more. This is depressing ...


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Flapper films and headbands

I watched the adorable Gloria Swanson silent film Why Change You Wife? (1920) on NetFlix last weekend. It follows a husband and wife who learn to appreciate each other after some time apart (with other lovers), and though it came out a wee bit before the full-on flapper rage, the decadent costumes and sets foreshadow the upcoming trends. The film also shows quite the cat-fight, though I prefer its fashion. It inspired me to pick up this headband from Urban Outfitters.

I personally love how fancy this is. 


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Black Bottom

A couple years ago, I bought a 1920s album that featured the Johnny Hamp's Kentucky Serenaders' version of the "The Black Bottom" dance. It's one of my favorite tracks. Every time I listen to it, it stays in my head the rest of the day, and makes my obligations a little bit easier and happier. Anyway, I found this video with a couple other versions of the song, plus footage of a cute couple and woman dancing. These people blow my mind, because I dislike most popular modern dancing (with the exception of maybe salsa, but even that has been around for quite awhile), and I doubt many women today would dance the way the 1919 woman does. I think it relates back to the discussion from the previous Winnie Lightner post, that most entertainers today are too contrived, and less likely to convey the sort of "free spirit" quality I see in this era.

If Gaga and Britney think they can dance, I'd like to see them try this!

Isn't it cute?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The "Song a Minute Girl"

I just found this video, and I love it! According to IMDB, Winnie Lightner was called Broadway's "Song a Minute Girl" because she sang powerful songs like these in a minute or less. Nice to see a different kind of performer from this era.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sherlock (2010)

My mom owns every Sherlock Holmes novel and story Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, and over the years, her loved trickled down to me. I read almost every book and story by the time I reached college. Then of course, the film adaptations feed my interest. Basil Rathbone in the '30s and '40s, Jeremy Brett in the '80s, Robert Downey, Jr. in Guy Ritchie's extravaganza, and of course, Wishbone, always provide the perfect on-screen literature to cozy up to this time of the year.

Despite this exposure, I approached the newest reboot, the BBC three-part series Sherlock, with confidence many may not relate to. Sherlock's setting, 21st century London, hardly hearkens the literature's original Victorian era. Yet, it does not need to because the characters always seemed "modern." Furthermore, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, two of writers behind the current Doctor Who (which I heard is excellent), seamlessly adjust the setting, and keep the original's essentials. Sherlock Holmes, excellently played by Benedict Cumberbatch, stills comes off as the quirky, arrogant, and yet ridiculously intelligent consulting detective who remains miles ahead of everyone him. The series' first episode, "A Study in Pink" (based on Conan Doyle's first Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet) shows him scanning murder victims and concocting assumptions from details like grimy wedding rings and chipped nail polish. He then cooly chastises those around him for lacking his abilities. His best lines include:

"Anderson, don't talk aloud. You're lowering the IQ of the entire street."
"What is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring."
"When the police are out of their depth, which is always, they consult me."
"I'm not a psychopath. I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research."

Though I got a little sociopath from him, I believe Holmes mostly kids by employing an annoyingly high opinion of himself. Yet, at the same time, he seems neurotic, and constantly pleads for quiet as he tries to maintain his intellectual stance. He remains work and mind driven. That is, until John Watson appears.

Watson, (Martin Freeman) opens "A Study in Pink." Wounded, and recently returned from Afghanistan, he struggles with war memories through counseling and blogging. By chance, an old acquaintance introduces him to Holmes, and suggests they become Baker Street flatmates. Holmes takes this opportunity to drag Watson on their first case together, whether he wants to or not. Though Watson appears stunned by Holmes' ability to analyze his entire past by his cell phone (Yes, Holmes shows an affinity for texting here), Freeman does not play him as the bumbling, starry-eyed fan others versions convey. While Holmes fascinates him, Watson still challenges his arrogance, and inquires who the hell he really is. By the first episode's finale, he still does not quite know, but he is closer.

This relationship, like the original literature shows, remains important to the series' success. Holmes and Watson bicker over relationships and "borrowed" lap tops, yet they also uncover murder clues, and race through London streets after suspects together. They develop a comradery that resembles most healthy relationships. While they do not understand everything about each other, they maintain a mutual fascination and loyalty.

I recommend Sherlock to anyone. Anyone. All three episodes are exciting, funny, visually stunning, and worth seeking out. I watched them first on PBS's Masterpiece Mystery, and then through Netflix. Although I had to wait awhile after I added them to my queue before they became available. I think that is due to their popularity, though.

Check out the series trailer here.