Friday, November 18, 2011

Movie Season!

Here are a few movies I am excited to see this upcoming holiday season.  Put a few of these on your short list if you're into artistic dramas.

In no particular order;

  • My Week With Marilyn  
  • Colin Clark met Marilyn Monroe while working as a young assistant on Laurence Olivier's "The Prince and the Showgirl." When Marilyn experienced emotional difficulties during shooting, the 23-year-old third assistant director came to her aid and romance developed. But one week of honesty and fun was not enough to save the doomed star from self-destruction. 
Michelle Williams and Julia Ormond in this film has peaked my interest enough, let alone the fact that it would be a small glimpse into the life of Marilyn Monroe.  Albeit "silver screened". Michelle Williams also seems to be gaining more and more recognition for her acting powress.  i didn't get to see Blue Valentine last year which got her an Oscar nod, so hopefully I won't miss this one.

  • A Dangerous Method 

  • Early in his career, psychiatrist Carl Jung takes on the challenge of a seemingly impossible case, a deeply disturbed, beautiful young woman named Sabina Spielrein. Jung employs his mentor Sigmund Freud's experimental "talking cure" in treating Sabina and the treatment proves to be successful. This results in Freud and Jung becoming colleagues rather than master and student, but before long, both men are involved with their patient, complicating their relationship. 
Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender (plays Magneto in X-Men: First Class) is enough of a reason for me to want to see this movie.  But a movie about two of the most famous psychologists of all time?!  Yes please!   
  • The Artist
  • Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break. 
Seems that it may be a foreign film?  I'm not exactly sure, but I am very intrigued and curious with this film.  What kind of cinematography are they going to use?  Will some of it be filmed in black and white?  Will they stay true to 1920's styling?  Very curious...

  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

  • In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.
COLIN FIRTH!!!! (yes, that is my main reason) 

That is all for now!  Keep these in mind when choosing films.  I really would love to see J. Edgar, but apparently it didn't get very good reviews... more on that later.

Until next time, happy movie viewing!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lord of the Rings; The Return of the King - 75

2004 Winner.  Nominated for roughly 289346 other awards, and won them all.  (Okay so it really was only 11...but 289346 was a good keyboard mashing guess)

I feel silly reviewing this film since only someone who has lived under a rock in the middle of Mongolia has not seen or at least heard the basic reviews of this film, let alone the entire trilogy.  But! It has been so long since my previous post that might as well start with one of the most popular trilogy's of all time.  (The original Star Wars trilogy is still the very best by FAR, no arguments allowed.) 

201.  That's the running time on our beloved 2004 winner.  As in, 201 minutes.  I really shouldn't seem to hate a movie so much that seemed to change a landscape of film and that really put "nerdy stories" into the mainstream pop culture.  I fear I may need to re-watch it at some point and consider my opinions again.  After watching all of the extended versions in dorm rooms with my friends... I may have to wait another 10 years before I can stomach it again.  

To be fair, LOTR: RotK won best original song (Annie Lennox - "Into the West") which would always make me well up like a cheap sponge.  And best original score, because Howard Shore.  Truly was a movie that deserved to win, I'm just being a sore blogger :)

Until next time, thank you Academy #75

Monday, November 7, 2011

Midnight Cowboy - 76

1970 Winner.  Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight.  No other major awards besides Best Director, though Voight and Hoffman were nominated for the roles they portrayed. Garnered 7 Oscar nominations even though it was a rated 'X' movie.

I am aware that Jon Voight (on the left in this poster) appears to completely tower over Dustin Hoffman, but Hoffman plays a man with a limp and you can tell if you check out his right ankle.  Here is some fun trivia about Dustin Hoffman's performance in the movie;

  • Dustin Hoffman used to keep pebbles in his shoe to ensure his limp would be consistent from shot to shot
  • Before Dustin Hoffman auditioned for this film, he knew that his all-American image could easily cost him the job. To prove he could do it, he asked the auditioning film executive to meet him on a street corner in Manhattan, and in the meantime, dressed himself in filthy rags. The executive arrived at the appointed corner and waited, barely noticing the "beggar" less than ten feet away who was accosting people for spare change. At last, the beggar walked up to him and revealed his true identity.
  • In one particular scene, Ratso and Joe get into an argument over cowboys. Ratso states that "Cowboys are fags!" Joe's response is "John Wayne is a cowboy! Are you calling John Wayne a fag?" Coincidentally, Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight were nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for their roles as Ratso and Joe, respectively. They lost out - to John Wayne for his role in True Grit.

Two things out of the gate; Jon Voight is soooo young, and Dustin Hoffman has always looked old.  Case and point with just how young Jon Voight looks in this movie;

Not so young.

So very young.

It was almost like when I was watching Nicole Kidman in The Hours, I had to do a double take on the cast list to verify it was actually Voight that my eyes were gazing upon.  I mean, he wasn't hard on the eyes... by any means... annnnnnd moving on.... (sorry boys)

In short Jon Voight plays young stud Joe Buck.  Joe Buck lives in Texas and works as a dishwasher.  He decides to quit his job, pack up and move to the Big Apple where he plans to use his "manly talents" as a hustler.  He ends up befriending Ratso (Dustin Hoffman), who is a man with many.....issues.. to say the least.  He is not only crippled, but his health is ailing as he suffers from tuberculosis.Which would explain the limp... so maybe he's not crippled he just has tuberculosis which causes his limp... moving right along now shall we?

Apparently hustling (errday I'm shufflin') wasn't all it was cracked up to be and Jon Voight falls into a world of debt and misfortune.  Rico Rizzo, "Ratso" (Dustin Hoffman) takes Joe into his condemned apartment so they can both rely on each other to survive.  And from there the movie takes off as they struggle to make ends meet, barely scrapping by.  Joe finally lands his first regular customer but Ratso becomes very ill, so Joe buys two bus tickets to Miami to fulfill Ratso's life dream.  On their journey to Miami, Ratso dies in the seat next to him.  The movie ends with Joe staring out the bus window, arm around Ratso and Palm trees passing them by.

There is so much more to this movie than this chopped up terrible nut shell that I have put it in.  From a psychological standpoint it is very intriguing.  Joe Buck goes to a party and smoke a joint, which he naively thinks is a cigarette, then mixes it with some coke.  He ends up having vivid flashbacks of his past, where him and his girlfriend at the time are raped by a local group of boys who are jealous that she chose Joe over them.

The entire film revolves around homophobia and the current state of society.  To put it simply; Drugs, Sex and Rock n' Roll.  In my opinion it was rated 'X' originally not because of the sexual content (though fairly graphic, but seldom) but because of the portrayal of society at the time.  I believe that people were trying to hide from the fact that the younger generations were becoming more "liberal" and experimental.  The current generation did not want to confront homosexuality or face the truth about drug addictions that was becoming more prevalent.  The same kind of thing happened to Requiem for a Dream when it first came out. (Which is an absolutely mind wrenching movie that you should see if you haven't yet.  But I warn you that the ending scene is VERY difficult to watch...)   People wanted to hide from the truth, they wanted to shelter themselves from reality so Requiem for a Dream did not get very positive reviews when it first came out.

The most moving aspect of the movie is very simple; the relationship between Joe Buck and Ratso.  Two strangers that end up meeting by chance. Ratso takes the Cowboy under his wing, lets him live in his apartment and they end up supporting each other, becoming best friends in the process.  A true story of camaraderie and the human nature of friendships.

Until next time, thank you Academy #76  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cimarron - 77

1931 Oscar Winner.  No one that any of us would know acting in this movie... but to follow the theme, Richard Dix & Irene Dunne. Both nominated for acting.

So.... this is your typical Western, as all movies should be when filmed in 1931. These are my favorite movies to watch (dripping sarcasm).  Old westerns yessir.  Let me put it this way... the main characters names are Yancey and Sabra.  C'mon man! Those are fairly epic names, even for a western.

So in short, it's 1889 and President Harrison opens up the territories in Oklahoma on a first come first served basis.  So hundreds of people line up and wait for a "shotgun start", quite literally,  and then they all race to find the land they want.  So an editor of a newspaper in Wichita (Yancey) decides to pack up all his belongings, with wife and son in tow and move to "Oklahomy".  Originally Yancey gets beaten to the patch of land he wanted by a woman named Dixie Lee, so they settle in Osage

My first impression?  Dirt.  So much dirt.  Someone gets kicked out of the bar and as they fall you can see the dirt billowing from his clothes.  The amount of dirt in this movie reminds me of the amount of sand in Lawrence of Arabia.  In fact one of the very first scenes of the movie has so much dust and dirt flying about I could almost taste it.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie were the lines that they would use and the phrases they would say.  I've learned how to speak "Western".  Let me share my new wisdom;

"HIGH RICKITY!"- when you're surprised about something.
"Why, you old letch monger!" - when excited to see someone you haven't seen in a long time.
"Stick to your lawn!" - stay out of my business.
And to say to your buddy about a woman who "pleases the eye";
"Ain't she a huckleberry?"
"Lollapalooza, field up, pert and chipper" (By far my favorite in the movie, they used the term "Lollapalooza" back in the 1930's?!? This baffles me)

There is so much going on in this movie I'm not even sure where to go... about an hour into the movie Yancey is convinced to give the first sermon of the town of Osage.  He uses the time to talk about his new newspaper, some of his sins, kind of about God and His temple, and then the service ends with a prayers after a shootout in the middle of it. Where Yancey ends up killing Yon Lountis because he killed the old newspaper editor.

Dixie Lee makes a triumphant come back and Yancey remains polite and his wife Sabra gets very jealous of this fact.  Calling Dixie a heathenish woman, mainly because of the rumors that are milling around of the type of woman Dixie is, if you know what I mean...

Blah blah blah, lots of random gun fights because it's your typical Western Movie and there are lots of outlaws, drunks, etc.

Typically with films of this era I cannot stand the acting nor the camera work, and it's not because I think they could have done better but more the fact that I believe I have been spoiled by modern day technology and "movie glamour".  But this one isn't that terrible for 1931.  In fact, one of the very first scenes of the movie when they do "The Run" to claim land was quite dangerous for its time.  It's not like they had computer graphicing to super impose in hundreds of extras riding horses and pulling wagons.  Can you imagine if one of them fell?  Or one of the wagons tipped over?  Game over man...  Those extras were taking quite the risk to help make one scene in a film.  Especially since film hasn't completely taken off yet in the early 30's.

The acting is actually bearable, and some of the scenes are able to convey emotion that I haven't seen in movies this early.  Isiah, their young work boy, was shot during a shootout and when they found his body I felt a tiny bit verklempt.

Yancey leaves for many years at a time.  When he heard of adventure he would not be able to resist the temptation of the new excitement and would pack up and leave his family for his own happiness.  Meanwhile the townspeople still worshiped the ground that he walked on.  This is the point in the movie my opinion of Yancey as a good man/husband completely changed.  Packing up and leaving your family for your own personal gain?  One of the most unattractive character traits a person can have, in my opinion.  (I'll step off my soap box now...)

Yancey dies at the end and his last words as he is dying in Sabra's arms are "Hide me, hide me in your love", Sabra replies with "sleep my boy, sleep".  Then it cuts to the final scene of a statue being reveiled of "Oklahoma's Pioneer", and of course it's of Yancey Cravat.  Music builds and the screen fades to black.  A very poignant final scene that indicates the love that Sabra and Yancey still have for each other.  

All in all, Cimarron was actually a very interesting movie about changing times and the rising American economy and how it impacts the lives of a family.  How one city was literally raised from dirt into a booming town.  How one woman follows her husband to "Oklahomy", has that husband leave her for extended periods of time to "discover new adventures and land" and in the meantime takes over the paper and eventually becomes a congresswoman.  The more I think about it, the ending of the film was really about the strength of an independent woman.  Sabra, in the end, has to raise her children and run a newspaper all by herself.  In the 1920's that's a pretty big deal.

Would I recommend the movie?  I'm not sure.  I'd rather just tell you about it than you trying to hunt down this film and spend 2 hours watching it.

So, until next time...

Thank you Academy #77

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chicago - 78

 Holy cow I'm sorry it's been so long...

2002 Winner.  Won 6 Oscars in total including Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Zeta-Jones). All Star Cast in a Celebrity Jamboree; Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger, the oh so dreamy Taye Diggs, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John C. Riley, Queen Latifah, Lucy Liu and even Mya.

Since my last Oscar post was so painful (All Quiet on the Western Front) and pretty much the worst post ever, I'll try to do this one a little more justice.
Get Some

Quite possibly one of the few musicals that is better on screen, depicting the story, than on stage. Just the way they can use camera angles and flow seamlessly through scenes.  On stage the play can, not saying that it is, become too jumbled and it's somewhat hard to follow scenes from the jail to scenes in the court room.  The luxury of the silver screen is that you can lay it all out for your audience, without losing them and still capture the essence of the play. I really don't want to give any of the play/film away so we'll leave out the plot completely and I'll focus on two of my favorite numbers in the show.

Almost the same image from stage to screen
I had forgotten how early in this movie the Cell Block Tango was.  I couldn't remember any other big numbers as vividly as the Cell Block Tango, which is why I was thrilled I had forgotten about "They both reached for the gun" (TBRFTG).  More on that later....The Cell Block Tango is one of my all time favorite songs done on Broadway and the way the film took it from stage to screen was phenomenal.  How each sound entering into the song could be seamlessly depicted was just, well, delightful! From the dripping water to the prison guard walking with his baton to a full scale orchestral piece just makes me all giddy.  I could probably watch this number on repeat for a good hour.  The use of light throughout this scene was also brilliantly done.  Not to mention camera angles and movement through the set.  Clearly, I am infatuated with this scene and need not discuss it further to get my point across.  If you haven't seen this or have no idea what I'm talking about please educate yourself;

Good, now that you no longer live under a rock I believe we can move on...

TBRFTG is a perfect example of what I was talking about earlier where some things and elements of a scene can get lost on stage.  "They Both Reached for the Gun" is centered around Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger at a press conference.  Richard Gere plays a puppeteer as Renee, Journalists and Courtroom are his puppets.  Another song that is better on screen than on stage.  It is so much easier to act as a puppeteer moving marionettes on strings when you have special effects at your disposal.  That being said, Richard and Renee do a remarkable job acting this scene out together.  Working in perfect tandem with one another throughout the entire song.  Without synchronization the essence and point of this piece could have easily been lost, but with great actors and great directing there were a couple times I had to double check to make sure it was still Renee singing and not some kind of fandangled doll in her place.

If you have not seen this, either on stage or screen, and do indeed love a good musical you need to get on this stat.  All in all I believe the best musical you will see on film (not counting Sound of Music because in the game of choosing favorites Sound of Music always wins).

Until next time,

Thank You Academy #78

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Funny Girl - Barbra Streisand

1968 Musical which awarded the ever so famous Barbra with an Oscar for Best Actress, which she had to share with Katherine Hepburn.

(Fun Fact: this is the only tie in the history of the Oscar's as Barbra had to share the award with Katherine Hepburn who won for The Lion in Winter.)

I haven't posted in a while because I'm working on my post for Chicago (yes I am on a musical kick) and it's ending up to be a lot more detailed than I thought.  SO! In the meantime here is a quick review of a musical that is climbing the ranks as being one of my favorite ever.

I am Fanny Brice.  Or at least I am the Fanny Brice Barbra portrays.

I don't know of any other musical that is so dominated by a sole lead.  Barbra does it all, she IS the soundtrack. No really, look up the track listings.

Barbra wins for her portrayal of the real Fanny Brice.  I was not aware that Ms. Brice was a real person until after I had seen the movie.  If you have time, especially if you've seen the movie, I suggest you click that like I so kindly made and read about her.  It's a somewhat fascinating story for someone born in 1891.

"Hello, gorgeous" are the first words uttered by Barbra in the movie, and were the first words out of her mouth when she accepted her Oscar, AND is in fact #81 on AFI's Top 100 Movie Quotes.  It sets the tone of the movie off the bat.  Not another word is spoken for awhile as the movie begins to unfold.

The depth of her character is one of the best I have seen an actress portray.  The first 3/4 of the movie is absolutely hilarious and you feel attached to Fanny.  You want her to succeed because you know she's just like you in some ways.  She becomes ridiculously famous and yet hides behind a curtain of sarcasm and humor to deflect issues she has with image and self-esteem.  She is undeniably human.  The emotion she puts behind each song she sings is tangible.  Especially the last two songs in the entire movie "Funny Girl" and "My Man"

The last quarter of the movie takes a very serious turn. Instead of roaring with laughter you ache with empathy for Fanny.  Her voice cuts through you as she laments on life and love.

I strongly believe that this movie/musical would have not been nearly as phenomenal had it not been for one Miss Barbra Streisand. Funny Girl turned me into an instant Barbra fan and now there is no turning back.

Until next time, thank you Fanny Brice

Thursday, May 26, 2011

All Quiet on the Western Front - 79

1930 Oscar Winner.  No names that anyone would recognize and none of major importance.  Adapted screenplay from the novel written by Erich Remarque.

A couple items before we dive in.  I must confess, I have never actually read the book.... and as mentioned in my "Bridge on the River Kwai" post, I'm not a huge fan of war movies pre 1990... and this is definitely a war movie that fits into the "Lauren is not a huge fan of ____" category.

So, with that in mind, I was very bored with the movie.  Maybe I wouldn't call it bored, but I would get distracted easily by more entertaining things while I was watching the movie.  Like shiny objects on the floor... or painting my nails.... yeah you get the point.

To be fair, it was well done for the time, and I can understand why it was so popular and critically acclaimed, but I believe it was because of the era it was made in.  Society was "war hungry" at this time.

[I've been trying to finish this entry for over a month now so I'm going abruptly wrap things up]

Basically this teacher convinces this German high school boys that it is their duty to join the army for the MUTHALAND and they think it will make their families proud.  A lot of people die, one kid kills a Frenchmen and then tries to save him as he is bleeding out.  Then when he can't save him he sobs at this dead mans side.  If I had to choose one word for this movie it would be; regret.  It really depicted how war changes ones life forever and it is something you can never set aside and look past.

Germans are manipulative and war is bad.  And with THAT. 

Until next time,

Thank you Academy #79