Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

An Autobiographical Notice

I haven't been active here since August, except for the occasional lurking [which sounds spooky]. I guess I put it down to writer's block. I've tried a few times to type out something only to resign after a few sentences.

One thing I've been getting hooked on lately is autobiographies. I'd been meaning to start this habit about two or three years ago, but my local library never really had what I wanted to read and I wasn't willing to make blind buys either. So in comes university, and the realisation that I can borrow from other libraries, and well the access to star autobiographies begins.

Self Portrait: Gene Tierney - This was a very interesting read. It solidifies Gene Tierney's intelligence, that she was certainly more than a pretty face. Gene's book has its share of heartbreak, notably being let down by her father, the birth of her first child, marriage failure and then her subsequent breakdowns. I guess such a summary makes it sound like a potboiler of a book, but in truth Gene's story is frank and open, not sensationalised. I find the book is more about her depression than her film career, which isn't a bad thing, because it reaches out to all those out there with mental illnesses. Gene doesn't sound ashamed at what she went through, and her book endorses \better nurture towards mental illness.

Still Gene does explore other elements of her life, including her relationships with Howard Hughes, Prince Aly Kahn and JFK. Out of the actors she worked with, you get the vibe that she found Henry Fonda and Richard Widmark as the most easy to work with. Of her films, she of course mentions Laura in some detail. She had nice things to say about Leave Her to Heaven - I figure it might be the one she's most proud of - and she says words to the liking that Edmond Goulding, the director's confidence in her helped along her performance. I was a tad disappointed to find she didn't think much of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, as I'd rank that among her finest films and performances. It's a minor disappointment as ultimately, the book is compelling and presents an extra domension of Gene outside of her onscreen characters.

The Moon's a Balloon: David Niven - I heard that Gregory Peck couldn't write his autobiography after realising that he could never top Niven's writing skills. Fair enough, after all Niven is indeed one talented writer. His autobiography (first of two memoirs) is thoroughly full of comical anecdotes, all of which are seamlessly put together. There's a bit of sadness though. After the death of his first wife Primmie, there feels a shift in tone and even though Niven finds Hjordis, you can't help but feel the earlier tragedy has marred the rest of his life. Still, Niven got by, probably with more than a little help from friends. He appeared to be one of the most likeable men in Hollywood, and his list of celebrity friends is enviable: Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Ronald Colman, the Astaires to name a few.

As for Niven's acting career, you get the sense that it had a few bumps along the way. He signed with Samuel Goldwyn in the late 30s, a relationship which built up some friction near the end of it. Some of his films Niven doesn't appear too proud about [he doesn't really talk much at all of late forties and early fifties films, at a time when he was written off as being washed up]. But he seemed happy to have gotten the role of Phileas Fogg, although today Around the World in 80 Days is seen as one of the worst Best Picture winners. Of course the icing on the cake is his win for Separate Tables, but if I remember correctly he seemed modest about it and felt that the screenplay was actor-proof, that it was impossible to stuff it up.

It's a great read, very difficult to put down at times. I look forward to Bring on the Empty Horses.

Life's a Banquet: Rosalind Russell - A very good read, and Rosalind keeps it somewhat light, never going into detail about her battle with cancer. The book lives up to the title, and Roz seems like the kind of person who seizes the day. It's evident that she's a go-getter from the beginning of her story, detailing lengths she'd go to stand out, and then of her embarkment towards an acting career. She speaks of how after a string of 'Lady Mary' roles - where she momentarily stole Gable or Powell from Harlow or Loy - she graduated to dramatic leading ladies, and then stepped out as a comedienne. Her time spent with great directors like George Cukor and Howard Hawks is great to read for gaining insight into their working habits.

The book turns a leaf when Roz meets future husband Freddie Brisson, who on board a ship to America saw that Roz's Sylvia Fowler from The Women was playing almost everywhere, thinking in his head that he'd either murder or marry that woman. They turned out to have one of Hollywood's more successful marriages.

The book is full of little funny scenarios, similar to Niven's book, and it's interesting hearing Roz brush shoulders with several people through it. One of the highlight, if not my favourite moment, is when Freddie and Roz plan on having a 25th anniversary, but don't want to have too big a celebration, because somebody always gets left out. Well Frank Sinatra, one of their friends, takes it into his hands to organise the anniversary. It is settled that there will be 25 guests, including the Sinatras, the Dean Martins and the Cary Grants among others. Roz recalls it as one great night that nobody involved would ever likely forget.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rochefort, Aspic and the Bourgeoisie

Yet another segment of brief and fleeting film reviews.

Les demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) - This is my second Jacques Demy film after Les parapluies de Cherbourg. If two films by the same director could be any different from each other, this is it. In saying that, they're still both clearly Demy films. They're both colourful in their ways, they both star Catherine Deneuve, they both feature music by Michel Legrand - indeed both are musicals. The difference is one is melancholy (and set in winter), while the other has yards of joie-de-vivre, and definitely evokes late spring/early summertime. For its sheer mirth and optimism, I'll take Les demoiselles de Rochefort.

A Dandy in Aspic (1968) - I'll watch practically anything of Mia Farrow's early work, so I was quite happy to get a hold of this film. Needless to say, waif-like late 60s mod girl Farrow's acting is not really tested here, she'd have to wait till Rosemary's Baby - her next feature - for that. What is here is an interesting late entry into the 60s spy/espionage craze. It's directed by Anthony Mann (Winchester '73), except he unfortunately passed away during filming. This might explain the strange post-production choices such as fast zoom ins and loud, booming voice echoes that are supposed to reflect the protagonist's (Laurence Harvey) dishevelled consciousness. Though the techniques come off unsubtle - even unintentionally comedic - I guess they go a long way in shaping the film's often bizarre atmosphere. It's a confusing, at times hard to follow film, but it's most watchable.

Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie (1972) - I really like this film's title (among other things) because it sounds quite rhythmic. The film was written and directed by Luis Bunuel, which should be enough said. It's, in other words, often surreal. Similar to Belle de jour, it's hard to distinguish between what's meant to be 'real' about the narrative and what isn't. Pervading the film is the fears, desires and plain ennui of a small band of bourgeois friends during a series of dinner dates. It doesn't all make sense at all times, but I suspect Bunuel doesn't want the viewer to simply come away with a full understanding. That is to say, a little - or a lot - of uncertainty goes a way in keeping one interested in the film. Or frustrated with it. But certainly engaged with it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

it's heaven

Back on blog duty...couldn't tell for how long though.
I thought I'd do some re-capping of film venturing and discovering.

Some news from real life before entering the reels: I'm currently volunteering at acmi, which hosts film exhibitions (currently a Tim Burton-themed one) and screenings, every Friday. It's more fun than work, I'll admit, and time flies while there. Volunteers mostly greet visitors and inform them of what acmi has to offer, and it's been unexpectedly enjoyable for me. It definitely takes me away from my comfortable, solitary zone.

Otherwise things have been fairly ordinary for me this winter break. Next week I return to university in the haven of film, television, literature and human rights. Hodge-podge of subjects - what can it be but an arts degree.

But for the moment I'll take a detour to distraction. I'll talk movies. Here's a summary of some that have chanced my way in the last two or so months:

Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in a Borzage World ~ actually the title - or titles - of the films are Seventh Heaven (1927), Street Angel (1928) and Lucky Star (1929). Before coming across Gaynor and Farrell, I thought I'd already seen the final word in screen couple chemistry with Fred and Ginger and Bill and Myrna. But no, before either of those couples, there was the romance, idealism and youth of Janet and Charles. Two beautiful looking late silent era stars who seemed ardently in love when paired opposite each other. With a drought in good modern day romances (well I think so), it's wise to take oneself back to the late 1920s and see Borzage give love its fervent due.

Belle de jour ~ an example of blending the real and surreal in a lavish, bourgeois world. Or something akin to that. Catherine Deneuve equals her neurotic ice blonde from Repulsion, only this time her character puts her demons to a test rather than recoils from them. The result is a strange, somewhat disturbing film wrapped in exquisite colour and set designs.

On the Road with Hope and Crosby ~ I've seen my first four 'Road' movies with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. The first two - Singapore and Zanzibar - are really just warm-ups as the trio find their footing (still, the second one has that added bonus of Una Merkel), but with Morocco and Utopia, the laughs really start coming. Crosby and Hope have a great rapport and it's fun witnessing them trade good-natured insults to one another. Theirs might just be the ultimate 'buddy' films.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Time for a survey

Millie and Kate have created a really cool survey:
So I thought I would take it instead of completing homework because its fun-factor is considerably higher.

Which actors do you always (or did you always) mix-up? (For example: Millie's tendency to confuse William Powell and Clark Gable when she was a thirteen, er, four year-old? Yes, I am talking in the third person.)

This is going to sound weird, but a few years ago when I was starting out with classic films, I'd get Rita Hayworth and Jean Harlow confused, because of their slightly similar sounding surnames. And also Hedy Lamarr and Gene Tierney because...?

Gidget or Beach Party?

I haven't seen either, but I'm growing more curious of each. I caught a little of Gidget on tv once though, so I'd lean more towards that one for the moment.

Favorite Movie Outfit?

Tough decision. I love this dress from Gigi:

But it could also have been the blue dress Grace Kelly wears in To Catch a Thief when she first kisses Cary Grant at her hotel door.
If you could be ANY character in ANY movie...who would you choose?

Any of the screwball heroines, like Susan Vance in Bringing Up Baby. Just to be so blissfully nuts.

If you could marry ANY character in ANY movie...who would you choose? (Excluding any Dana Andrews' characters. Seriously. ;-D)

William Powell in most any of his romantic comedies, but especially his films with Myrna Loy. He's witty, charming and just a touch wacky.

If you could live in ANY movie...which would you choose?

I wouldn't mind inhibiting those technicoloured Danny Kaye-Virginia Mayo film worlds like Wonder Man.

Black & White movies you wish were in Technicolor, or vice-versa?

It wasn't a good film to begin with, but maybe technicolour could have lifted up the musical West Point Story.

Favorite Movie Soundtrack?

I love the Ghost and Mrs Muir soundtrack. Very dreamy.

Favorite Movie Dance Sequence?

The hardest question I could ever be asked? What to choose? I love Fred and Ginger's Hard to Handle routine Roberta because it looks so spontaneous and candid. It's infectiously happy.

Coolest Movie Star? (Cough, cough, BOBBY DARIN, cough, cough)

Marcello Mastrioanni, the very definition in 8 1/2.

Sophia or Gina (Oh, how Kate enjoys replaying Gina's sad defeat OVER AND OVER!)

I used to not like Sophia, but she's growing on me so I'll pick her. But really, I need to see more films of both.

"Isn't It Romantic" in most Billy Wilder films, or "Red River" in most John Ford films?

I've seen more Billy Wilder films and 'Isn't it Romantic' makes me happy, if that's what the question means.

If you could re-cast ANY role in ANY movie, what would it be?

Why isn't an answer coming to me? I'm sure I've thought about this numerous of times, but I'll coming up blank right now.

When I was watching Designing Woman with Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall, I did have the slight wish that Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn - if the film had been made when they were a bit younger - had been cast instead. It would have been kinda cool if they had been together in a Vincente Minelli-directed film...

One movie that should NEVER be remade? (under THE THREAT OF A SLOW, PAINFUL DEATH!)

It would be sacrilege to remake Casablanca.

Actor or Actress who you would love to be best friends with? Are you an Oscar or a Felix?

Probably leaning towards Felix.

Actor/Actress you originally hated and now love?
I didn't like Norma Shearer until a while ago. I thought she was bland, having only seen The Women (I need to get back to that film...). But then I saw The Barretts of Wimpole Street and everything changed.

Also, Leslie Howard. I thought he was the weak link in Gone With the Wind, and from there I held the belief he wasn't much of an actor. Then I saw Pygmalion and saw that in an interesting role, Leslie could rise to the occasion. Then came a succession of Leslie Howard films and my opinion did a 360.

Favorite performance that was looked over by Oscar? (Not to be confused with the aforementioned Oscar of Felix fame.)

I think Laurence Olivier should have been nominated for Carrie. One of those performances where the actor really sinks into the character. I think it's very underrated.

Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie?

Probably Bewitched. Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York and Agnes Moorehead equals a great formula. Though it does get a bit repetitive.

Favorite Style Icon: Fred Astaire or Cary Grant?

I love Fred and his scarf thing as belt look. And he's my favourite person in tails, so Fred by a little.

Single most favorite movie scene EVER?

In Stolen Kisses (1968), when Antoine (Jean-Pierre Leaud) proposes to Christine (Claude Jade) with a kitchen utensil. The simplicity of it just makes it moving.

Movie you really "should" see, but have subconsciously been avoiding for who knows what reason?

Lawrence of Arabia for one - its running time is intimdating though.
Really just mostly the epics - Ben Hur, Spartacus. Should get down to those.

50's Westerns or 60's Spies? (I can't even answer this myself...but you have to! MWAHAHAHA!)

60s spies are so mod, so I'll go with them. And yet all I can think of for 60s spy films is The Glass Bottom Boat. Does it even count?

Favorite splashy, colorful, obnoxious 50's musical?

I love lots of musicals, but favourite is An American in Paris - love all the songs and of course the ballet.

Favorite film setting (example: Rome, Paris, Seattle, Siberia, Chile, Sahara Desert, etc)

I like those faux European settings on the studio lot - like Top Hat's recreation of Venice. Quite a dreamland that only the films could conjure up.

If you could own the entire wardrobe of any film, which would it be?

Sabrina - that wardrobe's the epitome of chic.

Carol Burnette or Lucille Ball?

They're both funny ladies. Right now leaning towards Carol because I've been watching her skits on youtube. Plus, I loved her performance in A Wedding.

Favorite Voice. Ever. Period?

Right now it's Herbert Marshall. Love him.

Which actors would you want for relatives? (Mother, Father, Grandma, Crazy Aunt, annoying cousin, older brother, etc...)

Mother: Mary Astor in Meet Me in St. Louis. She's the only one coming to my head...Or Claudette Colbert in Since You Went Away.

Father: Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Zany Older Sister: Shirley Maclaine

Grandpa: Lionel Barrymore in You Can't Take it With You

Favourite Uncle and Aunt: William Powell and Myrna Loy

A French Uncle: (well I can dream) Charles Boyer

Monday, April 5, 2010

March Highlights - film-wise

Well March has well and truly gone and without a single entry on this blog. So to kind of make up for lost time, I bring forth mini-reviews of some interesting films I saw last month.

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) - I've been on a mini Sissy Spacek spree lately and by that I mean this film and 3 Women. And I quite adore her. I mean, she has a bit of a spooky, misfit onscreen persona about her, and she looks eternally adolescent even past her 20s - I mean this all in an endearing way.

But onto this film, I thought Sissy Spacek deserved her Oscar. She certainly fleshed out her character of real country singer Loretta Lynn, from her small town upbringing to making the big time and all the pressures that mounted in between. Plus, she sang the songs herself and thus, really owned the character. As for Tommy Lee Jones as her husband, he was nothing short of swoon-worthy. But moving on from the aesthetics, he also put in great work, trying to drive his wife's career, but at the same time having a bit of resentment of it. All in all a nice, moving biopic.

A Wedding (1978) - Ah, the frenzy of being at a wedding. Something always goes wrong and the strangest of encounters can occur. The great thing about this film is the way that the ensemble casting just works. It can be hard I imagine to focus on multiple characters and get a good story from each, but Robert Altman seems to do it with ease. There are so many interesting actors on board, and for me it was three of the actresses in particular that stood out - Carol Burnett, who is just great as the sexually repressed mother of the bride; Geraldine Chaplin as the wedding planner who lives for weddings; and Mia Farrow as the muted sister of the bride with strange revelations of her own. Quite a funny and entertaining film.

The Shining (1980) - In addition to my Sissy Spacek kick, I've had a growing interest in Shelley Duvall. I thought her performance in 3 Women was so fascinating. There's something raw and untrained about her acting. And at the same time she's so quirky and offbeat. And so she was my prime reason for finally relenting to The Shining. Otherwise, a film that also includes Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson gets my intrigue.

Well, the film wasn't exactly the typical slasher horror film. Yes there's blood, there's suspense and there's supernatural elements, but they don't exactly 'scare' you. But haunt you, the images and the music certainly does, and linger with you after the end credits. And personally that's a much more satisfying experience.

I've heard a bit of criticism and poking fun of Shelley's performance, and everyone has probably heard of the 100+ takes Kubrick required for one scene. But I just think that if Shelley didn't act the way she did - where she's simultaneously weary, scared and just stunned at what's happening - I can't see how else it would have been. I mean there's no 'perfect' way to react to these kinds of situations, the reactions themselves need to be flawed and bizarre, and that adds to the surrealism of the film.

Monday, February 15, 2010

February Finds [part 1]

It's turning into an ace film February for me. Two weeks before university picks up again is ripe for some good viewing. I hand over the highlights thus far:

The Good Fairy (1935) --

I'm beginning to feel William Wyler could do no wrong (yes he could do silly caper fun like How to Steal a Million, but still no wrong). In this earlier fare, he directed wife at the time Margaret Sullavan in one of the cutest of comedies (penned by no less than Preston Sturges). The film is filled with sweet and tender moments - Margaret's raspy voice and sad eyes are at full disposal in her characterisation of the wonderfully named Luisa Ginglebuscher. In my first two encounters with Margaret (The Shop Around the Corner and The Shopworn Angel) I'll admit I didn't really like her because I felt she came across as too cold and inaccesible. But upon watching The Good Fairy I've done a switch around because she's delightful here.

Along for the ride is a wonderful cast. You have suave Herbert Marshall sporting a beard, Reginald Owen's waiter who tries to protect Luisa (he has facial expressions that are sort of reminescent of Eric Blore) and Frank Morgan as a hilarious rich man who wants Luisa to himself. You couldn't ask for much better.

I'll See You in My Dreams (1951)--

I kind of wasn't expecting this to be as wonderful as it was. I mean, as much as I am a Doris Day fan, I'm a bit wary of musical biopics. They have a general reputation of being dull and unrealistic. Well, I don't know how accurate I'll See You in My Dreams is, but dull it is certainly not.

The film chronicles the highs and lows of Gus Kahn (wonderfully portrayed by Danny Thomas), memorable lyricist of such songs as Pretty Baby, Makin' Whoopee, and the beautiful title song. It is also about the woman that helped him through it all--and tried to control his career too if you want to read it that way--his wife Grace Leboy (Doris Day).

I like the film for a few reasons. For one it runs through pretty smoothly and gives us a good insight into Gus' achievements and low moments; I believe a lot of that has to do with Danny Thomas. He injected into the character a right balance of humour, inspiration and self-loathing that makes him fascinating to watch. One of the other aspects that works is that Thomas and Day genuinely have a good chemistry and you can believe in their relationship. For the film's span, they are the characters and you can imagine that they are experiencing every moment as if it were real. The songs are also nice and beautifully sung - they contribute to the plot in their own way, giving further insight into our characters' feelings.

Trouble in Paradise (1932) --

Nobody does subtlety quite like Ernst Lubitsch. And I think this film best exemplifies that. While many a film today will show rather than hint, Lubitsch did the opposite in this early 30s pre-code.

Herbert Marshall's Gaston Monescu (God I love him) is a jewel thief who meets his match in fellow thief Lily (Miriam Hopkins). All goes well until the stock market crashes and they realise they're in financial trouble. Conveniently, opportunity strikes when Gaston somehow finds himself secretary to rich Mariette (Kay Francis). Trouble brews though when he falls for her.

Getting back to the art of subtlety, there are moments in this film where Lubitsch will ask of you to use your imagination and scenes become far sexier and classier (can you have the two together?) than they otherwise would have been. Case in point. Lubitsch's camera fixates on a clock, while Gaston and Mariette are heard talking in the background. Gaston is supposed to leave the office around five and get back to Lily. The clock dissolves into later hours, Gaston and Mariette have left. After the clock finally settles on one or so, you hear Gaston and Mariette coming back. You know he hasn't gone back to Lily. On paper it doesn't look like much, but on screen it's pure Lubitsch.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

The violence factor (which wasn't too bad in the end--ugly but bearable) sort of turned me away. I mean heads being skinned sounds bad enough on paper. But I finally gave in because Basterds has been receiving some rave attention. And well, it deserves it.

I think it's probably the film of 2009 (of what I've seen) that is quite unique, so part of its director Quentin Tarentino's vision, that you couldn't quite compare it to something else. Painted with delicious visual design, intriguing characters (yes Christoph Waltz survives the hype unscathed--his character's fate is another matter-woops spoiler alert) and a plot that is really unreal.

It's called a fantasy world war 2 picture and this is perhaps why: a band of troops who call themselves the Inglourious Basterds, led by Aldo Raine (great performance by Brad Pitt) go out on a Nazi killing spree. Simultaneously, Shosanna (Melanie Laurent--great too-actually everybody in the film puts on a great show), whose family was shot by a Nazi, is out for a revenge, plotting the death of Hitler in the cinema complex she now runs. The two forces collide in a spectacular showdown at the cinema. Basically, that's the plot, but the way it unfolds is the interesting bit. It's just too bad I didn't see this at the cinema because it just felt so grand--not in a pretentious, self-aware way. Just in a well-written and entertaining way that suspends you in your seat. My predictions are that this film will have quite a cemented following.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oscar Noms Are Out...

...and the goal is to watch every film from the Picture, Director and Acting categories. Daunting, shall have to see how it goes.

The complete list is on the Academy's site, but it's also neatly set out on imdb here.

Some thoughts thus far:

--Nice to see Up get Best Picture nomination, but as much as I love the film, it almost seems like a consolation for not nominating Wall-E in this category
--Didn't think Morgan Freeman deserved the nom for Best Actor. When I was watching the film, I felt he was concerned with mannerisms and appearing like Nelson Mandela rather than being him - though I partly blame the script for that. I couldn't sense much room for character development.
--Penelope Cruz - surprise nomination. While she does well with the time she has in Nine-and she's great at the beginning-she's practically nowhere at the end of the film and so you don't get much closure in her performance. Marion Cotillard was more deserving because I feel her character was more complete, but even then she leaves me cold. Again, I blame it a bit on the script/direction.
--A woman director winning the Oscar? It seems to be coming closer to the truth with all the buzz Kathryn Bigelow is receiving. Could be exciting.
--Harry Potter getting nommed for best cinematography? Didn't see it coming.
--So great that Fantastic Mr. Fox AND Sherlock Holmes have received noms for best score, quite deserving to me. Though I actually also think Invictus deserved one too.
--Where is Bright Star in, well, almost anything? No best director, no best actress, art design, cinematography? It gets best costume, but those snubs hurt.

Who'd I'd like to win for the moment:
--Vera Farmiga for Up in the Air - haven't seen Precious yet, so this could change soon, but Vera was great here. Seemingly so cool and laidback, but not quite so straightforward as all that. She had marvellous presence here.
--Haven't see The Hurt Locker, but hope Up gets best score
--Would like to see Fantastic Mr. Fox get best animated feature - as much as Up was warm-hearted and inspiring, Fantastic Mr. Fox was just something else. Wonderful dialogue and more subtly moving.

Need to see:

The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds**seen it
Precious**seen it
A Serious Man
Crazy Heart
A Single Man
The Last Station
Julie & Julia
The Messenger
The Lovely Bones

Saturday, January 23, 2010

R.I.P Angel Face

One of the loveliest and talented ladies of the silver screen, Jean Simmons, has passed away today. She starred in many a classic, including Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, in which her Ophelia is oh so enchanting and ethereal. At a similar point she was also quite recognisable as Kanchi in Powell & Pressburger's Black Narcissus.

The film that perhaps really made me sit up and pay attention to Jean was her comedic turn in The Grass is Greener. Amongst the likes of of Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum, she ran away with the film. As Hattie Durant, Jean was deliciously kooky.

Her engaging presence and talent probably peaked in the 50s - one of my favourite performances is her femme fatale turn in Angel Face, where she comes off as both vulnerable and dangerous. She was also in Guys and Dolls and The Big Country. In 1960 she gave a truly haunting performance as Sister Falconer in Elmer Gantry. She received two Oscar nominations - one for Hamlet and the other for The Happy Ending, but I firmly believe she deserved more.

I hope Jean is forever remembered for all she has given to cinema. R.I.P dear lady.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Audrey, in a class of her own

Harley of Dreaming in Black and White has posted some really lovely things about Audrey Hepburn on the anniversary of her passing. You can view it here. It's inspired me to put in some thoughts on Audrey and why she was and still is wonderful.

"A great lady. It's quite an achievement to spend that long in Hollywood and not become a Hollywood product. She always maneuvered around that -- and that takes intelligence. She was always her own person." {David Niven

One of the first things that drew me to Audrey Hepburn, some years before I was into classic films, was how she presented herself. With one glance at a photo of hers, you could see she was poised and well-mannered. When you see a few of her films, you also notice her smile and quirky sense of humour, all while maintaining class. She reflected who she was - from the way she conducted herself to her fashion sense - and didn't compromise that.

It's interesting because when Audrey made it big with the success of Roman Holiday, she wasn't like other Hollywood actresses of the time. When I think of Audrey, I don't usually think of her as side-by-side of her contemporaries, she stuck out among other upcoming starlets of the 50s and I think that's why she was able to have such a distinguished career with star vehicle after star vehicle.

But she wasn't only a lady with a delightful screen presence, she could stretch herself in her acting. It's easy to turn to her signature role in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but I really think it was a triumphant performance. She herself said - sorry, adlibbing here - that the part called for an extrovert when she was an introvert. Audrey was also in fine form as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Even though Audrey didn't sing her own songs, she gave a convincing stretch as a cockney girl. Then there's the straight drama parts in The Nun's Story and Two For the Road where Audrey abandoned the Givenchy and exposed her deep sadness and vulnerability to the camera.

Perhaps, though, the most admirable quality of Audrey was her kindness. She gave back to UNICEF for their aid to her during world war 2 and travelled to Africa. Footage and images show the true caring nature of Audrey. She was that rarity, a sweetheart on screen and in reality.

R.I.P Audrey Hepburn.

Monday, January 11, 2010

If Only...

I was thinking lately of things that could've/should've happened - film-wise - that didn't happen. Here is the list:

If only...

- Marilyn Monroe's last film Something's Gotta Give had been completed before her passing. I haven't seen the remaining footage that gets circulated around the web yet, but I've seen screencaps and stills for the film and Marilyn looks so refreshing and happy. I earnestly believe it would have been one of her best films, and with Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse on board, well that would have been delightful.

- Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had danced to 'They Can't Take That Away From Me' in Shall We Dance. It just doesn't sit right that this poignant song was danced by Fred with Harriet Hoctor instead.

- The original, unbotched version of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons could be miraculously re-discovered. Because as much as the current version hints at a good film, it doesn't feel as whole as it may have been.

- Audrey Hepburn could've used her real voice - flawed as it may have been - in My Fair Lady (or else Julie Andrews should've been allowed to reprise her stage role). This might be contestable, but Marni Nixon's dub just doesn't sit right with me. Their voices don't match and so I can't suspend disbelief when Audrey's character sings. Otherwise, I did like Audrey's performance. Yet it would be interesting to see how Julie Andrews' Eliza Doolittle would have been.

And that is all I can think of know. I might make a part 2 if I come up with some more...