Sunday, September 30, 2012
Musicals Month (Film 12 of 12)
I really didn’t know what to expect from Carmen Jones. A more modern retelling of Bizet’s Carmen done with an all-black cast? But after viewing, I can see why the movie was included on the 1001 list. It has the music, or at least traces of the original operatic music, integrated nicely into updated songs by Oscar Hammerstein. And the cast is very good, especially Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen. It also made me want to listen to the music of the original Carmen, which I suppose is as good an endorsement as any.
Two things I learned from watching eleven musicals in a row
1. I appreciate them more having watched so many in a row, however…
2. Don’t watch them in a row. You may end up suffering from musicals overload. Spread them out next time.
Friday, September 28, 2012
Musicals Month (Film 11 of 12)
I saw this movie in re-relaease at the Fox Theater in Atlanta in the early 70’s. I thought it was wonderful at the time. The main character was this whiny kid, so it was definitely someone I could relate to! The best part of the film is of course, the imaginative stories of Uncle Remus about Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox (whose voice sounds just like Eddie Murphy to me). It was quite a wonder to see the cartoon characters and live action actors interact.
Seeing it today, the story is a bit thin. Eh, so what? The wonder is still there for me, because the Uncle Remus stories are still imaginative and fun. Too bad the film isn’t in wider distribution.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Musicals Month (Film 9 of 11)
Marilyn Monroe’s other entries on the 1001 list (Her small but memorable role in The Asphalt Jungle and the classic Some Like it Hot) are both films I like more than this one . But Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is probably the film that shows Marilyn (as Lorelei Lee) at her most Monroeviest. I'm talking about the ditz who is a bit of a golddigger, but still comes equipped with a healthy supply of gold already in her heart. And we also get to see her perform “Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend,” probably her most famous screen moment. My favorite line in the movie comes from veteran character actor Charles Coburn, who replies to Lorelei’s line that she was expecting someone older when she meets him with, “Older than what?”
P. S. Jane Russell isn’t exactly chopped liver either, and does a pretty good Marilyn impersonation during the courtroom scene.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Musicals month (Film 8 of 11)
The best way to find a wife, as we all know, is to throw a sack over their head and abduct them, especially when seven brothers desperately need wives. Well, there is a suspension of disbelief when it comes to musicals that you have to accept, because it is usually more about the songs and how they fit into the plot. Of course, this one may be more memorable for its dance numbers. And it also takes an even greater suspension of disbelief to accept these rustic mountain folk dancing so gracefully and so damn well. I do think the dance numbers are the highlight of the picture. My favorite is the number where the brothers are chopping wood, dancing, twirling with axes and pining about how they’d rather be sleeping with women than with sheep.
Wunderkind: Stanley Donen directed (or co-directed) three entries on the 1001 list: On the Town, Singin’ in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, all well before his thirtieth birthday!
The seven brothers include future Jet from West Side Story, Russ Tamblyn.
The seven brides include: Future Catwoman Julie Newmar (Newmeyer) and future dice roller from the 70’s Alex Trebek game show High Rollers, Ms. Ruta Lee.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
I’ll be brief since all these musicals are beginning to wear me out-Engaging story, some pretty good songs, but some of the scenes with Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons are a bit long. When I see Brando and Sinatra together I can’t help but think of Brando in The Godfather in his scenes with the Sinatra stand-in Johnny Fontaine. Is that just me?
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Musicals month (Film 6 of 11)
On the Town (1949)
Twice as gay as Anchors Aweigh! –trailer promo for On the Town.
I didn’t have any expectations for the musical On the Town and I must say I was delightfully surprised. First of all, as with most of the muscials from this era you’ve got to have a great suspension of disbelief to accept the plot of three sailors on leave and how they meet and pick up/fall in love/but certainly don’t sleep (well, maybe in subtext) with the three girls they find in the big city.
The musical numbers are memorable (New York, New York It’s a Helluva Town and You Can Count on Me ). The film is fast paced, fun and the dialogue is pretty sharp. And the cast features the two biggest musical stars of the era (Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra,) the comedy relief (Jules Munshin , Betty Garrett),the lovely Vera-Ellen and perennial tap dancing hottie Ann Miller.
Note: I admit that liking this movie has made me feel a little old. Perhaps I should follow it up with a different view of New York. Taxi Driver maybe? Well, maybe for another month.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Musicals month (Film 5 of 11)
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
This most famous of musicals is a pretty interesting piece to see after just seeing the recent Oscar-winning film The Artist cover similar terrain.
The plot of Singin' in the Rain involves two silent movie stars who have trouble adjusting to the new "talking" picture phenomenon. It's funniest moments involve either Jean Hagen and her grating voice or Gene Kelly's sidekick Donald O'Connor.
Kelly's mammoth Broadway Melody number is memorable,though his waterlogged rendition of the title song is such a part of movie lore it overshadows virutally everything else.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Musicals month (4 or 11)
The Band Wagon (1953)
So that's where the song That's Entertainment came from first! Or did I already know that?
The thing about watching a lot of muscials in a row is that you get to the point where you say to yourself, why did I choose to watch so many musicals in a row? So I went into watching The Band Wagon with probably not the best of attitudes. All I knew about it was that rather over-the-top triplets number where Fred Astaire, Nanette Fabray and the other guy do that rather annoying song dressed as babies.
But as I watched, I began to like the whole musical within a musical storyline. The numbers seem pretty inspired to my untrained eye and Astaire and Cyd Charrise make a pretty good team. And the other guy (Brit Jack Buchanan) is pretty good, too.
Friday, September 7, 2012
Musicals month (3 of 12)
Swing Time (1936)
If I was going to put one Astaire/Rogers movie on the 1001 movie list it would be Top Hat. However, RKO’s Swing Time can be pretty fun too if you’re in the mood for it. I think if you are a dancer, you’re going to really appreciate Fred Astaire. I’m not a dancer, but my niece is and she gives Fred the stamp of approval. Who am I to argue?
Favorite 30’s censorship moment: Victor Moore calls a policeman a son of a bitch under his breath as he is being drowned out by a jack hammer. When the policeman asks him what he said, he says ”Look out for the Big Ditch!”
And the final dance did make me remember John Coffey at the end of The Green Mile crying while watching Fred and Ginger and saying, "Why, they's angels. Angels, just like up in heaven."
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Musicals month (2 of 11)
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
I was not at all familiar with this RKO backstage musical and having seen it, am a bit surprised with its inclusion in the 1001 movie book. It has been praised for having some early feminist virtues and has an interesting contrast of the classical dance style versus burlesque, but the main reason to see this is Lucille Ball.
I say this as someone who is not much of a fan of Lucy's TV shows (I find her too loud, but not in a funny Ralph Cramden way). But I give her her due here. She's sassy, sexy, sings and dances well and basically steals the picture. Maybe I'll give I Love Lucy another go.
Maureen O'Sullivan vs. Maureen O'Hara-Ok, I always get these two Irish beauties mixed up.
Just so I'll remember-Maureen O' Hara-Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dance, Girl, Dance, Miracle on 34th Street, The Parent Trap.
Maureen O'Sullivan-Tarzan movies, Bonzo Goes to College, A Day at the Races, Mia Farrow's mother, Hannah and Her Sisters. I think I got it now.
The ever present Ralph Bellamy: If you watch Hollywood movies from different eras, chances are good that you will see Ralph Bellamy pop up from time to time. He seemed like a second rung leading man in the thirties and fourties (like in Dance, Girl, Dance)But he really had a long movie career, ranging in roles from the doctor in Rosemary's Baby in the 60's, the prosecutor of God in Oh, God in the 70's all the way up to a businessman in Pretty Woman in 1990. Of course, my generation chiefly remembers him for being one of the wicked Duke brothers in Trading Places.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Today's guest movie commentary is from the honorable Boo Spanyer
It's impossible for me to give this film a review without bias.
I first watched this with my parents and grandfather as a small child and instantly loved it because all over the screen I see "our car" (the Citroën DS---we had two that Popa had imported.) That was my first viewing, and I was very small. Only the cars and the main character Jef Costello, stuck in my mind because he was stylish and sad and lived in a rather monastic room with only a songbird for company. I was a little girl, so I felt sorry for the nice man. Where was his family?
Upon subsequent viewings I came to appreciate the story. My family liked this film a great deal, so when it was on the television we watched it. I discover more about the character 'Jef Costello'---he is a free-agent hitman, he lives by his own code of honour, like a samurai. The film opens with a supposed quote from the Book of Bushido,
"There is no greater solitude than that of the samurai unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle... Perhaps..."
but the text given was actually written by one of the film's writers, Jean-Pierre Melville. It doesn't matter about the origin of the text because it gives a good insight into the character and sets the tone of the piece. Costello is fluid like a tiger in his movements, he is stealthy and cat-like clean. He is honourable in his way. But his business is death, so whatcha gonna do? Itiz wot itiz.
The plot of the film involves a 'hit' that goes wrong. It's the first time that perfectionist Costello has messed up a job and when he leaves the scene there are several witnesses who can describe him to the police...
Well I won't give it all away because I hope you will want to see it.
It's a beautiful film, visually. The people in the film are very attractive. All the locations are nice to see. Everything is very stylish and clean. And it has that wonderful rainy moodiness that some French films have. Things look so nice in the light rain and at night with all the lights of the city! So it's really beautiful to watch.
There are many scenes of great tension that will keep you on the edge of your seat, or it does me that way---everyone is different.
I must say if you are a first-time viewer: don't just give up at the opening! There is very little dialogue in the first 10 minutes or so, but then they talk. It's all for setting the tone.
Because he is alone.
Because he is Le Samouraï.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Musicals month (Post 1 of 11)
That’s Entertainment (1974)
Boy Do We Need It Now!
The phrase above was the tagline for That’s Entertainment when it came out in 1974. At the time, my interpretation of this was that because of Watergate, what we, the movie going public, really needed was a movie featuring clips of all the MGM musicals of yesteryear hosted by many of the stars of the era. I guess that’s what they meant, anyway.
I still think its kind of funny that as late as 1974 a documentary featuring mostly old movie* clips would be on the big screen and actually be a hit!
Seeing it again after many years, some parts are definitely better than others. Some of the host segements are a bit stiff (Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor look especially uncomfortable and it seems a little strange to have Bing Crosby on board since most of his mucials were non-MGM. Though Donald O'Connor's Mark Spitz joke seems absolutely quaint). I also found watching some of the clips, that I would rather watch some of the better films in their entirety than the bits and pieces here and there.
The segments dedicated to Judy Garland and Fred Astaire are probably my favorite bits.
This film is not in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Book, but I thought it would be a good first film for me to see before I get into more musicals this month.
*That is to say, my definition of "old movie." Not some teenager who says they love old movies like The Fugitive.