Tuesday, August 25, 2009

100 films

Sometime last year (I'm late to jump on the bandwagon), Entertainment weekly considered the following films as the new classics (pfft). And so the point here is to bold what I've seen. I'm also going to italic the ones i'd like to see:

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03) don't know if I could ever re-watch this
3. Titanic (1997)
4. Blue Velvet (1986)
5. Toy Story (1995)
6. Saving Private Ryan (1998 )
7. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
9. Die Hard (1988 )
10. Moulin Rouge (2001)

11. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
12. The Matrix (1999)
13. GoodFellas (1990)
14. Crumb (1995)
15. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
16. Boogie Nights (1997)
17. Jerry Maguire (1996)
18. Do the Right Thing (1989)
19. Casino Royale (2006)
20. The Lion King (1994) i may have seen this, nonetheless it needs to be watched again
21. Schindler’s List (1993)
22. Rushmore (1998 )
23. Memento (2001)
24. A Room With a View (1986)
25. Shrek (2001)
26. Hoop Dreams (1994)
27. Aliens (1986) i've seen a snippet-a very graphic snippet of an alien coming out of a guy's guts...no more thank you...
28. Wings of Desire (1988 )
29. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
30. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
31. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
32. Fight Club (1999)
33. The Breakfast Club (1985)
34. Fargo (1996)
35. The Incredibles (2004)
36. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
37. Pretty Woman (1990)
38. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) would like to see this again
39. The Sixth Sense (1999)
40. Speed (1994)
41. Dazed and Confused (1993)
42. Clueless (1995)
43. Gladiator (2000)
44. The Player (1992)
45. Rain Man (1988 )
46. Children of Men (2006) excellent film. well deserved on this list.
47. Men in Black (1997)
48. Scarface (1983)
49. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
50. The Piano (1993)
51. There Will Be Blood (2007)
52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988 )
53. The Truman Show (1998 )
54. Fatal Attraction (1987)
55. Risky Business (1983)
56. The Lives of Others (2006)
57. There’s Something About Mary (1998)
58. Ghostbusters (1984)
59. L.A. Confidential (1997)
60. Scream (1996) it has been positively ages...don't want to watch it again nonetheless
61. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
62. sex, lies and videotape (1989)
63. Big (1988)
64. No Country For Old Men (2007)
65. Dirty Dancing (1987)
66. Natural Born Killers (1994)
67. Donnie Brasco (1997)
68. Witness (1985)
69. All About My Mother (1999)
70. Broadcast News (1987)
71. Unforgiven (1992)
72. Thelma & Louise (1991)
73. Office Space (1999)
74. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
75. Out of Africa (1985)
76. The Departed (2006)
77. Sid and Nancy (1986)
78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
79. Waiting for Guffman (1996)
80. Michael Clayton (2007)
81. Moonstruck (1987)
82. Lost in Translation (2003)
83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
84. Sideways (2004)
85. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
86. Y Tu Mamá También (2002)
87. Swingers (1996)
88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
89. Breaking the Waves (1996)
90. Napoleon Dynamite (2004) could not sit through all of this--twice--
91. Back to the Future (1985)
92. Menace II Society (1993)
93. Ed Wood (1994) one of the best things Tim Burton and Johnny Depp ever did together
94. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
95. In the Mood for Love (2001)
96. Far From Heaven (2002)
97. Glory (1989)
98. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
99. The Blair Witch Project (1999) the hype was scarier than the actual thing--although, the very end where the three young filmmakers run away and drop their cameras, and what you see is this camera on the ground while it looks like one of those filmmakers is standing in the distance, that was spooky.
100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)

film meme time

Ah these memes are great, pointless fun--and are perfect for those times when there are '50 others thing you must do first but have postponed in the name of distraction'. I found this one on http://www.thegirlinthecafe.com/2008/10/14/a-film-meme/ after google searching 'film meme'.

1. Name (a) film(s) that you have seen more than 10 times (cinema + home).

I don't know if there's a likelihood of this, but the film that comes closest to such an honour is:

+ Strictly Ballroom

2. Name a film that you’ve seen multiple times in the cinema.

Click (twice)

The Dark Knight (twice)

3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a film.
all my favourite classic stars, but the two people who i would watch just about everything of are: Fred Astaire and Doris Day; and lately I'm feeling more and more inclined to watch everything Daniel Day-Lewis has done so far.

4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a film.

Adam Sandler (crude and lewd--so how did I watch Click twice? I don't know either); also I originally thought I'd become a big fan of Betty Grable's becaue she's so energetic and perky (kind of like Doris Day-ish), but I actually find her more annoying with every film I see of hers.

5. Name a film that you can and do quote from.

Strictly Ballroom! Ah I went through a whole stage where lines from that film would just run across my mind like song lyrics.

Also probably: Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany's,

6. Name a film musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.

Impossible--nevertheless parts of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music are probably embedded in every person's brain.

7. Name a film that you have been known to sing along with.

Umm...if I sing it's usually in private, so nobody has known me to sing any song, but in my own time I do like singing Gershwin tunes (from no particular film).

8. Name a film that you would recommend everyone see.

Vertigo, Mon Oncle, A Matter of Life and Death, 8 1/2 <- these are what I call unique film experiences

9. Name a film that you own.

How about the first film I bought? Early on in my collection there was only Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge, Shakespeare in Love and Edward Scissorhands. Now these titles are overwhelmed by classics.

11. Have you ever seen a film in a drive-in? If so, what?

Yes indeedy. King Kong (2005). I fell asleep mid-way though, but woke up in time to feel teary-eyed over the final scene. But boy, did the film have to be so long?

14. Ever walked out of a film?

I walked out and back in to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Needless to say I don't remember much of what happened in the film. Interestingly enough, I did the same thing this year with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, this time on the account of a bursting bladder. But I came rushing right back (I was actually enjoying this latest HP release--thankfully I saw most of the film and loved it).

15. Name a film that made you cry in the cinema.

Many, many. Million Dollar Baby, Cheaper By the Dozen 2 (yes an unusual choice), Marley & Me to name a few.

16. Popcorn?

Yes, and also choc-tops and coca-cola. But I don't really like eating at the cinema, too distracting.

17. How often do you go to the cinema (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?

Once a month sometimes. I'd say I go roughly six times a year, which sounds like a disappointingly low figure.

18. What’s the last film you saw in the cinema?

Public Enemies. Johnny Depp's hot property these days, but the film fell a little short--I may be in the minority, but I actually wish they had scrapped the romantic subplot. Is it me or does every biopic these days have to have some romantic plot slapped on? Romance is best when it comes naturally, not when it feels like the film's trying to increase its appeal across the demographic.

19. What’s your favourite/preferred genre of film?

I like musicals, romantic comedies, romantic dramas, comedies in general, anything that makes me feel good--Powerful sad, tragic films are great every once in a while.

20. What’s the first film you remember seeing in the cinema?

Free Willy I think. I went with my parents and sister, all the way to the city by train. I don't remember much except bursts of images of that killer whale. I also saw Babe when I was pretty young and the scenes with those border collie dogs getting into an argument scared the beejeesus out of me. But it was a great film.

21. What film do you wish you had never seen?

Just last year, I don't know why now, I watched You Don't Mess With the Zohan. It was painful.

22. What is the weirdest film you enjoyed?

Nothing is really coming into my mind. Hang on, The Fly with Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum was pretty weird, disturbing and somewhat graphically violent (it's a horror film), yet somehow it was touching and sad. I think that's the weirdest mix of emotions I've ever felt towards the one film. Otherwise, there's Cries and Whispers, my first Ingmar Bergman film, and that was kind of off-centre but oh so intriguing. Jean-Luc Godard films can also be a bit of a weird experience in a good way, primarily because he deliberately never lets you really settle and connect to what is happening.

23. What is the scariest film you’ve seen?

The aforementioned The Fly. Also The Exorcist, and for a different kind of scary, there's Rosemary's Baby. Apart from one disturbing rape sequence (which isn't graphically disturbing though), the film is more psychologically disturbing rather than graphically disturbing. It was pretty suspenseful, but never actually shows the horror that you think it will show. It sort of applies that Hitchcockian idea that there's no fear in the shot of a gun, only in the anticipation of it.

24. What is the funniest film you’ve seen?

To Be or Not to Be is one. His Girl Friday is also a hoot (as are most Cary Grant comedies). Also What's Up Doc, My Man Godfrey...and more...

Monday, August 24, 2009

If at first you don't succeed...try failure

I've discovered this blog which is a wake-up call to all self-described pessimists (like myself): http://www.positivityblog.com/. And it had some notes on the notion of failure and this quote particularly resonated with me:

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." -- Michael Jordan

I've succumbed pretty often to the stigma of failure (why try if you're going to fail?). And here we have Michael Jordan, who needs no introduction, telling us that failure helped him to succeed. A statement like that brings a whole new meaning to saying 'I failed to succeed'. Usually that means 'I failed to make things work and now I should give up', but right now that's sounding more like 'I failed so that I could succeed'.

The writer of the aforementioned blog, Henrik Edberg, discussed an interesting thing. He said something to this effect: when we first go bike riding, even after we fall off we still get back on that bike and persevere till we get it right. And how about when we're infants, our first trial of walking involves tumbles and cuts and bruises. But we don't stop.

Somehow the older you get the less often you want to make mistakes (or it might just be me), the more wrong it seems to make mistakes. There's such an emphasis on 'success', we kind of forget that mistakes are the roots of every achievement.

The irony (<- i never know when to use this word, and I so often want to use it badly) of it all is that, as a poster on Murphy's laws informed me, solutions actually lead to more questions and conflicts. So really there's no way of escaping failure.

Without failure, you can't move forward. So it's probably about time that the word didn't have such negative connotations. I say failure should be the new success (kind of like the way you hear fashionistas says 'pink is the new black').

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Films that involuntarily drain out your tear ducts...

...that is, films that make you cry. Not out of boredom or hatred, or coincidentally getting something in your eye while watching a film, but those tip-of-the-iceberg moments where it all comes emotionally tumbling down.

For example, I watched Gran Torino earlier today (Clint Eastwood directed and starred in this film--I've cried in 3 out of 3 of his films I've seen...hmm...). Man, when the near to end scene comes (no spoilers, just in case) ...well I couldn't stop the tears. It was a 'nooo' crossed with 'awe-inspired' moment, I was unhappy but at the same time I felt the film couldn't have ended any other way. Clint Eastwood's character in this, Walt Kowalski, is one for the ages. I don't know if this is true, but I may have heard somewhere that he would retire as an actor after this (but please not his directing, he's only begun to reach his peak if you ask me), and boy you couldn't pick a better ending for an actor. Enough generalisations said.

As I mentioned, this isn't the first Eastwood film to get me blubbery. Before Gran Torino, there was Million Dollar Baby and Changeling, both interestingly about persevering women who won't give up no matter the odds. Even if these inspiring films perhaps reek of sentimentality, I'm not cynical enough of their bewitching powers to care. There's nothing like an extraordinary story to lift a person up.

Take for another example, After The Promise, which my friend Jezza made us watch one school holiday afternoon. That was a beginning till end tear-fest practically, mostly because it was so heart-breaking. But then when the indominable human spirit makes its entrance and shows that hope has not died, well that's life-affirming, wouldn't you say? If life isn't tough and rough, then there's nothing to really prove, nothing to demonstrate human strength.

Other all-time favourite crying sessions:

-- Camille (1936), before there was Moulin Rouge! there was this tale of a courtesan who falls for a younger, naive-ish man who can't promise her money, but he can promise her love. Unfortunately, there's more than the hurdle of her 'financial income' ( 'the other man') to prevent the two from being together...with all the tug and pull that this couple goes through, the ending feels cruel and oh so encouraging for the tears.

-- Titanic (1997),call it an over-blown, over-budgeted, over-rated film, but it's undeniable that when that iceberg hits, your breath catches in your throat. And when it becomes clearer and clearer that Jack isn't going to make it, well by then you're a goner.

-- Big Fish (2003), this had the added problem of some friends choosing to visit me while I was watching this; and it just so happened that the waterworks had begun by this stage. Needless to say, this film (or what I remember of it--I own it but I haven't watched it since) was heartfelt and it circulates somewhat around death and lack of belief when it's needed the most (i'm being quite vague), issues that tend to be teary.

-- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), whether it's true or not, I'll remember this film as the first classic that I ever cried to.

-- Cheaper By the Dozen 2 (2005), this is an unusual choice for me, but I'm placing it here because amidst all the tears I've shed for sad and tragic moments, I've shed tears for joyous moments too. And for this film it happened when Tom and Kate Baker have their baby.

Award for least-expected film that I'd cry to: Click (2006). I say 'least-expected' because 1) it's an Adam Sandler film and 2) it's a crude-humour filled film, which means I should have been more likely to get grossed out or uncomfortably laugh, than to be moved. But alas, when the film takes its dramatic turn and you realise you actually care for Adam Sandler's character enough to cry over his predicament, well that's surprising (even more from a retrospective point of view).

And the award for most inspiring, fist-pumping in the air film...Rocky (1976). Hidden in the shadows of "Adrian!" parodies and the fact that this beat Taxi Driver (and I say this without having seen Taxi Driver) to the Oscar finish line, is a really good under-dog type film. "Gonna fly now"? Heck yeah!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

p is for poetry


Muddy boots kicked off,

Wet hair ruffled,

A slight cold shiver,

And that unmistakable cough.

The winter rain to dance to,

Gum boots sloshing in the puddles,

Moodiness caused by dreary skies,

The idea of hot chocolate sounds good.

The heater which warms the hands,

Grandma knitted sweaters all around,

Scarves and gloves of every colour,

Snow if you’re lucky.

Warm soup never tastes better,

Staying inside is a good idea,

Rainy day movies in the vcr,

Cooked marshmallows in the hearth.

For some it’s Christmas time,

For others it’s the year’s middle,

It’s the season of cold and grey and melancholy,

And it’s the season of self-made warmth.

I have a French oral tomorrow, but I'd rather ignore it and reside at my blog. Why oh why do they give you three assessments in one week and then on top of that expect you to be prepared for tutorials and still have sanity by the end of it---I sometimes wonder how people do it. Is it really possible to do well both academically and socially, or do you have to forsake one a little for the other? And then when 'socialising time' turns into 'too much solitude time', well, then....

One turns to poetry. I've been doing a bit of that lately. It doesn't take long (to shape it up and create a masterpiece would be a different matter) and it allows you to release emotions quickly and sharply and impulsively (this is how it works for me anyway). I've been doing sort of 'free-falling' poetry, not really immersing myself in getting rhythms (but then I don't have a sense of rhythm anyway) or abac whatever patterns. What I've really been doing is writing in lines---I write a bit, and then decide it's time to press 'enter' and start on a new line. I don't know if that's poetry, I mean if I'm to go self-critical at this point, I'll point out that i don't have the widest vocabulary or a knack for groovy metaphors. But it's kinda fun and self-absorbing.

And it just so happens we're doing Romantic (a literary/art movement, not necessarily meant to evoke Mills and Boone imagery) poetry. I read up on John Keats just on the weekend and he died at a young age, which makes it fascinating that the guy could write all that poetry in his late teens to early adulthood, talk about child prodigy, the James Dean of the poets. Oh and he was a short statured person, so I guess I can identify with him there.

Monday, August 10, 2009

tra la la : musicals survey

Through a bit of blogspotting (http://someparade.blogspot.com/ -- hmm, maybe I should follow more blogs instead of snooping sort of intruder-like), I came across a survey that mostly circulates around musicals. And if I must say it (and I must), musicals are probably my favourite genre, that and comedies. Anything which makes me feel happy as a lark.

What is your favorite musical from the 1930s? At the moment it's Top Hat, love those great big white sets, the unrealistic but dreamy recreation of Venice, most of the Irving Berlin music (except the treatment of The Piccolino, the Busby Berkeley wannabee choregraphy doesn't fit in nicely with the rest of the film) and of course, Ginger and Fred and their witty banter and dancing.

From the 40s? Much harder with Minelli, Garland, Kelly, Astaire in this decade. It's probably the Golden Age of musicals. I'll go with The Pirate, it's somewhat surreal, has great use of colour, fine performances and nice Cole Porter music.

From the 50s? The obvious answer would be Singin' in the Rain, but I love An American in Paris and Gigi more.

From the 60s? ... I do like Thoroughly Modern Millie, it's a quirky musical, an ode to the roaring twenties, suffers a little from political incorrectness, but recovers with the loopy performance of Carol Channing.

From the 70s? Cabaret is great, Liza Minelli is sensational in it.

From the 80s? not sure...

From the 90s to today? Moulin Rouge is the most recent musical that I take a shine to.

Out of these, which is your favorite? An American in Paris is the one I've been able to return to most frequently.

Who are your favorite musical actors? Fred Astaire, Donald O'Connor, Gene Kelly, Howard Keel

Who are your favorite musical actresses? Doris Day, Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Vera Ellen, Cyd Charisse, Rita Hayworth

Who are your favorite musical directors? Vincente Minelli, Stanley Donen

Who are your favorite songwriters? The Gershwins, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter

Who are you favorite dancers? Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Vera Ellen, Cyd Charisse, Rita Hayworth, Ginger Rogers, Bob Fosse

What is your favorite showtune? Tied between They Can't Take That Away From Me from Shall We Dance and Never Gonna Dance, from Swing Time and have to add in, Gigi from the film of same title.

What is your favorite movie with Fred and Ginger? Top Hat, but since it's already mentioned I'll give a shout out to Swing Time--it's flawless in its music and dancing and Fred and Ginger's chemistry steps it up a poignant notch.

What is your favorite movie with Mickey and Judy? Girl Crazy--for one, it starts off with Mickey pining after Judy rather than the other way around. For another it has a Gershwin score. And for a third, it's just the best film of the two.

What is your favorite movie with Nelson and Jeanette? Haven't seen any yet. Watch this space.

What is your favorite Judy Garland movie? Easter Parade/The Pirate.

What is your favorite Gene Kelly movie? An American in Paris

MGM or RKO? What? They both gave us some of the best musicals, where would the Freed Unit and Singin' in the Rain be without MGM? Where would Fred and Ginger be without RKO?

Pasternak or Freed Unit? Freed unit, though can't forget that Pasternak produced Anchors Aweigh which is a formidable musical.

Astaire or Kelly? Astaire for me.

Howard Keel or Gordon McRae? Probably Howard Keel, but Gordon McRae is great, particularly in Oklahoma and he has a lovely voice to boot.

June Allyson or Jane Powell? I've seen a little amount of films of either, but June so far, she was very sassy and sweet (do the two combine? Well they do here) in Good News.

Barbra Streisand or Liza Minnelli? I've seen more of Babs than Liza so it's probably not fair to say. They both have their strengths and are great actresses and performers and singers in their unique way.

Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music? The Sound of Music.

Julie Andrews as Poppins or Audrey Hepburn? Audrey as Poppins? Nope can't imagine it.

Favorite dance by Fosse? I'm pretty sure he choregraphed his dance with Tommy Rall in My Sister Eileen so I'll say that one. It's flawless.

What is your favorite aqua-musical? I've seen one Esther Williams--queen of the water--movie and it was Take Me Out to the Ballgame. To my knowledge it has one scene in the water, I don't know if it counts.

What is your favorite non-musical scene from a musical? I just can't get over Fred Astaire's 'peek-a-boo' when Ginger finds out he's driving her carriage in Top Hat.

A Review: Oscar and Lucinda (1997)

In 1997, Gillian Armstrong, the director of My Brilliant Career and Little Women brought to the film-going public something new to bask in, Oscar and Lucinda. The said title characters are just about my favourite kind (which is starting to become a kind of cliche in this blog): people who skirt on the outer edges of proper society; misfits; outcasts; un-fitter-ins (I made that one up myself to spice things up).

I'll say it right off. This film isn't perfect, nor is it near-perfect. The pacing is a little uneven, some scenes are perhaps too long, others perhaps too short, and perhaps this is not a film for those with weak attention spans - they, like myself, might be left wondering at what is happening. Oh, and the ending is cruel (well, that isn't the film's fault, but wishful thinker me would have liked it to be not so...bittersweet).

It's always good to get flaws cast aside at the start so you can move forward to the pros of the film. For me, positive number one comes in the form of Ralph Fiennes, whose beautiful light blue/green/ocean-like eyes are not beside the point but part of his wonderful characterisation of Oscar. There's expressions in those eyes that the camera allows us to focus on. We see sensitivity, awkwardness, love, risk--add your own emotion. So as you can gather, Fiennes made the film for me. Cate Blanchette's bold, assertive, independent, feministic (before the term was popular) Lucinda is a wonderful heroine. She defies society's rules and one delightful example is in her clothes: yes, she wears the frilly dresses of her time, but she combines them with long pantalons that can be seen. How do these seeming opposite yet similar one of a kinds meet? Through a passion of gambling--one is a priest who gambles to make money (Fiennes), another is a heiress who gambles to lose her money (Blanchett). The premise is delicious isn't it?

But like I mentioned, this film is bittersweet. It's a film that shows that love can be limitless and it can bring out the bravery you didn't think you had (Fiennes' Oscar, who had an unfortunate incident with water as a youngster, hates coming into contact with it. Yet, love makes him take a glass-made church through several rivers...). And that bravery can have costs. I say no more on the matter.

One of the wonderful things about the film is the score by Thomas Newman (he's a notable modern composer as far as I know--I hear much of his music through wonderful mvs on youtube). The music played during the titlecards and again in various moments, evokes the sweeping, glorified Australian landscape. It makes me think of untamed wilderness and freedom.

So though this film didn't reach the cinematic height of My Brilliant Career (to make an arguably useless comparison between films by the same director), it sparkles with individual charm. In the end it is the title characters that make this film worth one's while.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

R.I.P John Hughes

On Thursday (or yesterday to Australia and countries of alike time-zones), the writer and sometimes director of 80s hits The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Pretty in Pink passed away. I think it's safe to say that he will be remembered for a long time coming and several of his films are already (cult) classics.

After watching Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club somewhat back-to-back a few years ago, I became pretty inspired by his writing style and his ability to get somewhat into the teen psyche. His films have such memorable moments--has anybody forgotten the Twist and Shout parade in Ferris Bueller's Day Off? In his films, you have your moments of pure elation and then your moments of angst and awkwardness--opposite emotions blend together, just as they do in real life. His films are also like a time capsule of the 80s--capturing the hideous and out there clothing and hairstyles and the sometimes electro, sometimes rock-edged music of the time. Hate that decade or love it, the 80s made a statement.

My favourite film of his is The Breakfast Club. It's a film that shows that in high school, people are put into groups (I don't think here in Melbourne, cliques are so clearly defined, but groups exist nonetheless) and you have an expectation to uphold the 'rules' of the group--you can't step outside of it, or else you find yourself in social exile. In the film, an interesting circumstance occurs whereby five teens from five different cliques find themselves in detention. At first they hate it--they've nailed it into their brains that they're too different from each other to get along, just as high school culture has dictated to them. But as the film unravels-alas!-they share emotions, they can identify with each other. And through bonding together, they realise, that nobody really belongs in a cookie-cutted group--they've compromised themselves in some way to belong. For one day in detention they see themselves as they really exist-as individuals (not stereotypes). It's a complex film that benefits from an exploration under the surface.

R.I.P John Hughes, you live on in celluloid.

When beautiful people share the screen...

I don't know what 20:to:01 thinks (I mention that show because every second episode is usually about the best scenes/couples/heroes/films of *thisandthatgenre*...usually with the same films...), but if I were to say who is the number one screen couple--based on sheer gorgeousness--I'd look no further than:

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951) <--they made two other films, but the chemistry is evidently most evident here. So...what inspired me to gush about these two? Browsing through imdb's classic board today I saw that a user had shared links to photos of them. And it just made lovehearts take over my eyes (animation style). So here are some photos from Life magazine's archives (hosted by Google) to show you that I'm not making a hullabaloo over nothing.

They weren't lovers in real life, but after meeting on the set of A Place in the Sun, they became good friends and remained so until Monty's death in 1966. In fact Elizabeth even saved Monty from dying much earlier from a car accident in 1957. They seemed to have a really good friendship, with Monty even once saying (according to imdb) that Elizabeth felt like " the other half of (him)".

It's worth mentioning that aside from being genetically blessed, they were two great actors, who both really hit their peaks in the 1950s.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Favourite Characters of Celluloid

There's always the odd character which you take to moreso than usual (well for me anyway) - maybe it's because they seem so idealistic, so dynamic or so wickedly evil or maybe we can identify with them. Anyway, here's a list of characters that have stood out in my film-watching experience:

<- the perfect dad

. Atticus Finch
The personification of Good, a man who hasn't had it easy by any means (he's had to tackle raising two children on his own and to defend an African American in a town where racial intolerance reigns), but who is able to quietly, yet strongly remain dignified. The book gave a great basis for Gregory Peck to perfect Atticus Finch on screen. I first saw snippets of this film in a Commerce class in Year 10 and they were of the court scene - and as the cliche goes, I was blown away.

. Longfellow Deeds
A character with high ideals (in spite of his use of violence and somewhat temper that comes out in one scene-but hey, who's perfect?) and boyish charm, Mr. Deeds is the kind of guy who happens to be both awkward and handsome (perhaps the combination is what makes his good looks more down to earth). In the film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Gary Cooper--someone who somewhat skirts the line between underacting and not acting at all, it all depends on one's opinion on the matter--plays the title character with such nuance, if you look closely at his every movement, every facial gesture, you can see how fully his character's traits come alive.

. Antoine Doinel
We have the fortune that there were five films chronicling Francois Truffaut's alter ego, Antoine Doinel (played by Jean-Pierre Leaud-who actually shares resemblance with Truffaut). Here we get the progression of a troubled youngster who lacks the proper love from his parents and who just can't get himself out of ruts. As he moves to adulthood, he finds he suffers from irresponsibility (carried on from childhood I guess) and is unable to fully commit to a wife or an occupation, resulting in the divorce of the former and of the latter, a career in writing his memoirs. He eventually finds, what we assume, is a gal who'll he commit to and we leave on a satisfied note. Through his successes and losses we are with Doinel, becoming infectious towards his charm, his humour and his introspection, hoping ultimately it will all come together for him.

. Sybylla Melvyn
I only just wrote about My Brilliant Career last week, but here it comes up again in another form. Maybe, perhaps, I identify with Sybylla because she doesn't quite fit in to society's conventional structure-though in that sense, maybe she's not so different to many people, as I suppose everyone struggles to fit in and conform. What separates Sybylla I guess is that rather than try to take her 'rightful' role in society, she choses to rebel instead. She doesn't get everything in the end, but with what she has achieved she is content. I like Sybylla because she can be contradictive (asserting her independence, and yet so obviously trying to get Harry to notice her), she's very human and very free-spirited, as perhaps everyone is naturally. Oh, and her ultra frizzy, big hair really gets attention--I wondered more than once why she didn't use hairgel or something to control it, but when I think about it more, I guess her hair makes a statement of who she is-she can't be tamed or controlled, just like her hair can't be.


A Review: Carrie (1951)

First of all, this film is not an adaptation of the Stephen King horror classic of the same name--for one, it came before the publication of Stephen King's book (i'm pretty sure). It is, however, based on a novel that according to the dvd's back cover was considered controversial at the time of release (the film itself is tame for today's standards, but the themes are still significant).

I guess we all go into a film with some preconceived notions of what it'll be about. For me, the front cover--featuring a close-up of a man (Laurence Olivier) and a woman (Jennifer Jones) positioned close together--suggested that this was a straightforward romantic, costume drama. Somehow I never figured it would be quite as sad as it turned out to be. I don't know if you can place this film in the romance genre (though it has romantic elements). It's more the kind of film that challenges the idea that "love conquers all". While we often hear the affirmations that "love is all you need" (that one is courtesy of The Beatles) and that "money doesn't make the world go round", this film instead provokes us to further explore these (perhaps simplistic) ideas.

The setting of the film is something like turn of the century Chicago, where society is not quite so forgiving if you turn your head from your 'duties' (this all sounds so ambiguous, but let's see if I can elaborate). We enter the film with a young woman, Carrie, (Jennifer Jones-who even past the age of 30 still looks refreshingly youthful) who leaves home to venture out to make her living. Yet making that living proves difficult when she loses her job and somehow gets entangled in a sexual relationship with a well-off man (Eddie Albert). In this society sex before marriage is taboo and she soon finds herself ostracised from her neighbours. Wanting to get away from this relationship and find a more respectable living, Carrie finds her ideal in George Hurstwood (Laurence Olivier in a great performance). As the story begins to turn more towards George, we find out that he is a wealthy man with a family, and in theory, he should be happy, but he's in a loveless marriage. When he becomes acquainted with Carrie, he finds within himself emotions that he thought were long ago extinguished, and you see through Olivier's expressions just how much this man wants to be freed by the trappings of his current life. However, society being what it was and still is, when George's cruel and self-absorbed wife (Miriam Hopkins) finds out about his relationship with Carrie, she refuses to divorce him (since divorce threatens her own reputation in society)--which leads to a chain of events that keep spiralling until we reach the point where George no longer has access to his money and he and Carrie find themselves in poverish circumstances (you'll have to watch it to believe the injustice of the situation).

All the hardships and eventual departing between the two lovers might raise the question: was love worth it in the end? Even when at the end of the film where George is seen at his physical and financial worst, he still feels grateful that he was given the opportunity to find love. This is somewhat easier to grasp when we think what his alternative would have been: remaining in a yes luxurious life, which in spite of all that money could buy, wouldn't have presented him with the love that he felt with Carrie. I think by showing what George went through and by how he felt in the end, the film displays acute awareness that there is no right or wrong answer on this subject. One can blame George's society for his downfall, or that George himself should have known better, or even could see Carrie as some femme-fatale (or maybe not), and maybe a combination of things contributed to the ways things turned, but in the end, what's done is done--and the film chronicles that journey and I believe it allows the audience to come to their own conclusions (albeit with sympathy for George's plight).

The film was directed by William Wyler (also the director of Roman Holiday, among other notable pictures), and he's somewhat known as the director who usually extracts formidable performances from his actors (often by issuing repeated takes, which has the affect of breaking down the actor's mannerisms, causing them to be more natural). Wyler was particularly good at helping Laurence Olivier, who he had worked with once before (on Wuthering Heights). Early in his film career, Olivier couldn't quite shake off his theatricality (he's considered just about the greatest theatre thespian, and I would have killed to see him on stage), but Wyler helped to adjust Olivier to the toned-down nature of films, and in Carrie, Olivier gives one of his most natural performances. I applaud his sinking into his character, even moderating his uppercrust British accent to sound more American (I read that he modelled his voice on that of Spencer Tracy's, and with that in mind as you watch the film, you can kind of hear the Tracy-ness of Olivier's voice). I'm pretty sure Olivier's performance here wasn't Oscar-nominated, but I think it deserved to be. His slow decline from a handsome and wealthy man with everything society holds up high to a poor, tired and much more aged man is quite convincing-in particular, his voice and his expressions convey so much. Jennifer Jones is very solid in her role, she transforms well from a poor, small town girl with much dignity in spite of her upbringing, to a wealthy, mature woman. I feel that the script doesn't quite allow us to delve as much into her character as Olivier, but Jones allows through her expressions to give us a better understanding of her character. Also, I've come to the conclusion that the film shifts from Jones to Olivier to show just how he has become dependent on her, after she was initially dependent on him - they shift roles (she goes from poor to rich, and he does the opposite) and this adds more to the sadness of the film and to the social commentary. Even as I think now, I find myself finding more potential layers of the film--this is quite a film to think about.

So overall I can say that Wyler's great directing (it's really hard to find a film of his that doesn't work), the wonderful script that gives so much to think about, and the all round performances make this a film that rises above the kind of fare that quickly leave your consciousness once the credits stop rolling. This film feels somewhat timeless and so long as society itself exists, the themes of the film remain relevant. And if that doesn't mean a thing, this film can work purely on the level of seeing Laurence Olivier delivering a great performance.