Sunday, December 26, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
My Fair Lady (1964)
Starring: Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Holloway
Director: George Cukor
Awards: 8 Oscars, including Best Picture
I don't think I've ever started writing a post with negative thoughts about the movie. Well, that’s not true anymore – because you know what? I’m throwing this down: My Fair Lady is not a good movie. I know, it’s a shock. I’m usually a pretty positive person. But to my surprise, I found it so bad that I admit: there may have been fast-forwarding. Yep, that painful.
In the case of this movie, the problems far outnumbered the shining moments. Audrey Hepburn’s character is annoying and over-the-top, and seems ill-cast. The songs aren’t all that great, and the script adaptation seems awkward at times. In short – eh. Not so great.
I may dislike My Fair Lady, but I’m still obligated to summarize the horrors, so here goes.
Professor Henry Higgins (Harrison) is a misogynistic and bad-tempered phonetics genius who overhears ill-mannered Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn). He’s appalled by her poor speaking, and makes a bet that he can turn her into a “lady,” and take her to a society ball. After months of hard work, Eliza goes to the ball and it’s a great success. But Higgins takes all the credit for Eliza’s work, and she leaves in a rage. After she's gone, Higgins realizes that for all his mocking, he misses her. He finds her, they squabble, and she swears to never return. BUT - of course, she does, and it’s a sort-of-happy ending. I suppose.
So. Why on EARTH is this movie on the AFI’s list? I really don’t quite know. There are many far more deserving musicals that were omitted. Films like Cover Girl (1944) or Shall We Dance (1937) – now those are good musicals. Good songs, good scripts, and most important – no Audrey Hepburn squawking in a painfully shrill voice.
It's not like there are absolutely no good things about My Fair Lady. Rex Harrison is hilariously rude, and even though he acts atrociously to Eliza, she’s so annoying you don’t even mind. Stanley Holloway turns the bit role of Eliza’s comically drunk father into one of the most enjoyable parts of the movie. And admittedly, some of the Lerner and Loewe songs like Why Can’t The English? are pretty good.
So not everything is bad - just most of it. Sadly, I’m not in a hurry to recommend it.
Next up, The Jazz Singer (1927) – starring Al Jolson. This movie is all about film-industry firsts; it was the first film to incorporate sounds and dialogue. Should be interesting, so stick around and read about it!
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
A Place In The Sun (1951)
Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Shelley Winters
Director: George Stevens
Awards: 6 wins, including Best Director
My final verdict? Love it. Really, it’s a great movie, and I’m glad to find it’s still appealing to viewers today.
In short, if you like:
* Gorgeous black-and-white cinematography
* Stories with extremely depressing endings
* Elizabeth Taylor at her jaw-dropping beautiful best
* Amazing period sets and clothing from designer Edith Head (Ladies, this movie is worth checking out just to see Liz Taylor’s dresses, they’re that good.)
* Montgomery Clift at his most tragic
* A memorable and talented supporting cast
…then you’ll love A Place In The Sun.
Next up on my list; No. 92, My Fair Lady (1964), starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Ehh… I’ve seen it before. I like it, but it’s not my favorite, for reasons we'll discuss. My parents aren’t even that nice. They just hate it. So, this should be interesting! Stick around and read about it.
Friday, July 9, 2010
The Apartment (1960)
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Fred MacMurray, Shirley MacLaine
Director: Billy Wilder
Awards: 5 Oscars, including Best Picture
I’m a huge Billy Wilder fan - I’ve seen pretty much every film he’s ever made. Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity, Stalag 17, Some Like It Hot…the list goes on and on. I only have one problem with Billy Wilder films: Fred MacMurray.
Well, let me explain that. See, I grew up watching all of MacMurray’s really nice Disney films, like The Happiest Millionaire, and Follow Me Boys. So when I finally saw Double Indemnity, I was in shock. Nice role model Fred MacMurray playing a bad character – how could it be? I thought that was horrible, and then I saw The Apartment. Thanks, Billy Wilder. You just ruined my happy childhood.
I’m not saying The Apartment is a bad movie – in fact, I think it’s a very, very good movie. It showcases Billy Wilder’s dark humor, and balances romance and comedy, with a touch of sadness. All three stars (Lemmon, MacLaine, and MacMurray) are perfectly cast, and plunge deep into their characters’ personalities.
C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) works at a huge insurance company and has a little secret – he allows the company’s managers to use his apartment to conduct extra-marital affairs. Baxter’s boss, the callous Jeff Sheldrake, (MacMurray) discovers the scheme, but instead of shutting it down, uses it himself to meet with his latest flame, elevator operator Fran Kubelik (MacLaine). Only one problem – Baxter’s had a crush on her forever. On Christmas Eve, Sheldrake returns to his family, and Fran’s left in the apartment. Depressed, she attempts suicide, but Baxter finds her and in the course of her recovery, realizes he loves Fran, and also realizes that Sheldrake’s only using her. Now, because of “the apartment," Baxter’s about to be promoted – but will he pick his job, or love? He picks love, and Fran picks him. Happy ending!
In short, if you like:
* Billy Wilder films
* Dark, melancholy humor
* Sarcastic and witty dialogue
* Wonderful movie references (Grand Hotel’s playing on TV, The Music Man is in theaters…it’s fabulous.)
* Jack Lemmon straining spaghetti through a tennis racket
* Life-changing conversations over gin rummy
* A wonderful cast of Yiddish-accented characters living in Lemmon’s apartment building
…then you’ll love The Apartment. Watch it. Really.
Coming up next, No. 92, A Place In The Sun (1951). Yessssss! I have to admit, I love this movie, and I can’t wait to write about it. Starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, this film is an unabashed soap-opera – with a good plot and great actors. Stick around and watch it!
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci
Director: Martin Scorsese
Awards: Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Pesci
I was at our local video store the other day, renting GoodFellas. While waiting, I had a conversation about the movie with the guy working the counter. His advice? “Take your vitamins before you watch it.”
That sounded super negative. But they were just cautionary words to make sure my brain was…prepared? After watching it, I can honestly say you do need a little moment of preparation. I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty profane and violent. But once you steel your mind to watching it, believe me - you’re going to like it.
Henry Hill (Liotta) has always wanted to be a gangster. The local mobsters take him under their protection, and Hill works his way up the mob chain, starting with petty theft and moving on to bigger heists with friends Jimmy Conway (DeNiro) and Tommy DeVito (Pesci). When a heist goes sour, Hill’s drug-dealing career starts catching up with him and eventually, Hill is captured in a massive narcotics bust. He stands trial, and when he commits the ultimate betrayal by ratting out his friends, he’s forced into witness protection with his family. Oh, such a happy ending.
So why is this movie good? Well, I could just say it’s a Scorsese movie, and not say another word. But I’d rather discuss all the details. One thing I love about the movie is how connected you feel to the characters. You root for the underdogs, you gasp when someone you like gets whacked…you feel like these people are your friends (albeit pretty scary friends).
Another thing Scorsese excels at is carving out a niche for each character. In the mobster movie genre, it’s all too easy to depict gangsters as pizza-eating, machine gun-toting caricatures. And you do see a bit of that in the movie. But the way that it’s done is unlike any other representation. The characters all have their own quirks and temperaments, and by the end of the movie, you’ll never be able to lump gangsters into one mold again.
In short, if you like:
* Martin Scorsese
* Lotsa oozing blood
* The most delicious-looking Italian food ever. Period.
* Multiple types of killing - if you’re into variety
* Really beautiful camera work - freeze frames, insanely long tracking shots, you name it!
* The soundtrack - it's brilliant how the music adapts and changes according to each decade, like the shift from Italian nightclub music to Eric Clapton.
* Shaving garlic with a razor (One of the best scenes in the film.)
…then you’ll love GoodFellas. And if you don’t, well, who needs you? Just kidding. Try it out!
Next up: No. 93, The Apartment (1960), a Billy Wilder film starring Jack Lemmon and Fred MacMurray. I’m really excited for this one - I love both the director and the stars’ other films, so stick around and read about it!
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Blood splatters the back seat of a car. Brains land in Samuel L. Jackson’s hair. And, you start…laughing? That's what happens when you watch Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. It’s a weird phenomenon, and I assumed it wouldn't be my thing. Well, that’s not true. I know I said I was terrified of this movie, and for some of it, I was. But to my eternal surprise, I really, really liked it.
The gratuitous violence and constant swearing are unavoidable - but once you get past it, and focus more on the characters and their quirky stories, you'll enjoy the movie. I'm not sure I'd recommend it to everyone, because Pulp Fiction is an acquired taste. But there are so many cool things about it, and if you don't mind the gore, you should check it out.
around Los Angeles, following shady characters like Vincent Vega (Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Jackson), hired killers with a passion for guns, drugs and burgers. We also see Mia Wallace (Thurman) snort and O.D. on heroin, a bizarre couple's attempt to hold up a diner, an aging prizefighter obsessed with a family heirloom, and a couple of psycho pawnshop owners with some pretty crazy stuff in their basement. While the stories don’t sound similar, they all connect in some way. Trust me - it makes sense after you watch it.
Now, there’s something you should all understand. I’m not a big fan of violent movies, at all. I like comedies. I like Aladdin. Not exactly splattering brains. But I somehow managed to enjoy Pulp Fiction. How? Maybe because Tarantino balances the violence with just the right blend of actors, characters, and humor. I mean, this movie is absolutely hilarious! So many exchanges are just classic, especially between Travolta and Jackson. All the characters in the movie were perfectly cast, and they all have great timing. So maybe that’s why?
In short, if you like:
* Splattering blood
* All sorts of weaponry
* Samuel L. Jackson with an Afro
* John Travolta dancing (but not like nice Danny Zuko in Grease)
* Amazing, graphic camera work
* Hilarious and quotable dialogue
…then you’ll like Pulp Fiction. I know I did. Still, I can’t recommend it for everyone without a label: "Warning: Pretty Freaky." But good freaky.
Next up: No. 94, Goodfellas (1990) – a bloody Scorsese classic. Jeez, they really pile on the blood movies all at once, don’t they? The AFI couldn’t have given me say, a musical or a comedy? Oh well. Stick around and read about it!