Happy New Years to you and yours!
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Happy New Years to you and yours!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Imagine a young prince, very young, still fresh with youthful ideals and not yet tainted by the burden of royal duty. Then comes a long a beautiful young girl, a commoner only in status, but marvellous in all other respects. The young prince meets the young girl and they fall in love. All seems right until the royal burden puts a damper on their romance. They have arrived at a crossroads in their romance and their fate depends upon the prince making a major decision about his future.
This story has appeared in the history of mythology, literature and film in many forms and variations (Cinderella anyone?). Personally, I have very little information about its history, but I feel that I've come across it so many times that I have a somewhat good understanding of it. I didn't make much of this story until I read about The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1928) and after much waiting, got the chance to watch it when TCM aired it a couple of months ago. Norma Shearer plays Kathi, a maid at a beergarten who falls for the young prince Karl Heinrich, played by the very handsome Ramon Novarro, who happens to be lodging at the beergarten as a temporary escape from the palace. When the king dies, and young prince Karl takes over the throne, he has a very important decision to make. Whether to follow his heart and marry young Kathi or to honor his father's memory by fulfilling his royal obligations and marrying Princess Raquel (yes, Raquel, I did a double-take when I saw her name written on the marriage contract!).
So I thought about all the other places this story has appeared in film. With its name "The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg" it was released in 1919, 1928 and 1954. The most recent incarnation of this story is Prince & Me (2004) with Julia Stiles. In that variation, the girl doesn't know that the guy she is falling for is in fact a prince. There have been subsequent sequels of that film, sans-Julia Stiles. If you are a Marilyn Monroe fan like I am, you may also recognize the story in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). Its also appeared as a sub-story with minor characters in other films, such as Black Narcissus (1947). Since monarchy is an ever-dying establishment, today we seek this same story in other types of authority figures. Like the unrealistic romantic scenarios involving single presidents or prime ministers. Take for example, Michael Douglas in The American President (1995) or Hugh Grant as prime minister in Love, Actually (2003).
So why is this story so important? I don't really know. Is it a way for us to sympathize with royalty? Or does its sole purpose serve to give little girls the hope that they one day may become a princess, regardless of their current status? I'm interested enough to keep exploring the mythology of this story in film and in literature, to see how its become our ultimate story.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Me: "Wow! Eso fue una buena pelicula!!!" (Wow! That was a great movie!)
Mom: "Raquel! Yo ni me dormi!!!" (Raquel! I didn't even fall asleep!)
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
1) Kirk Douglas hallucinating by the pool with a bunch of grapes which he dangles over the water's surface. In his imagination, the mythic Faye Dunaway emerges from the water to take a bite.
2) Kirk Douglas, again hallucinating, but this time flying an airplane over the city. The scene to which my mother reacted by saying "Ay yay yay! El loco va en un avion!" (Ay yay yay! The crazy guy is flying an airplane!)
3) After Deborah Kerr, tears up the naughty pictures she finds of Douglas and Dunaway at the beach, a neat camera trick shows live action in the scraps of the pictures left behind.
4) Kirk Douglas, hallucinating, (does he do anything else?). But this time its Kirk Douglas dressed as an ad executive, in bed with Kirk Douglas, in the buff as they both smoke cigars!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Check out my slideshow to your right. It contains an album of all the pieces of my project.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Broken Code: Rape should never be more than suggested.
Mostly, this film is a being unto itself, not afraid to say what it needs to say and not afraid with how people will react or how they will interpret it. The storyline and its climax go against the very nature of the Code. The concept that a defense lawyer in his right mind can defend someone who’s intent was ambigiously justifiable, is probably a concept radical for its day. The normal chain effect of crime equals punishment does not necessarily apply here. The boundary between good and evil is blurred by the uncertainty of intention when brief insanity comes to play. Sexual tension is the root of the drama with all the film’s central character. Sex here has been used for not only just violence but also a method of manipulation for personal gain. Both Laura and Frederick Manion realize that Laura’s sexuality is what got them into this mess, so that is exactly what will be used to get them out. And the final outcome, is a film that has to be one of the greatest courtroom dramas in film history.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The History of the Hays Production Code
After being rocked by many sex, murder and drug scandals in the 20’s, the movie industry took steps to clean up its image. William H. Hays, President Warren G. Harding’s campaign manager, wrote a set of strict guideliness for movies to follow in 1927. He spent the next several years trying to get it enforced. The newly formed Motion Picture Associate of America (MPAA) adopted the Hays Code in 1930. The Code was also backed up by the newly formed Catholic Legion of Decency which felt there was a moral obligation to the members of their church. In June of 1934, a Production Code Administration was created and the Code began to be enforced. Filmmakers had to preview their films to the administration, the result of which was either a certificate of approval that allowed for public viewing of said film or the call to the filmmaker to reshoot or edit their films for content.
The details of the codes were specific, denouncing many particulars of violence, sex and morality that would forbidden to be shown on screen. It functioned off of three basic principles. The first was the prevention of lowering the moral standards of any potential audience members. The second was to have films show "correct" standards of living in good light. The third was that law and authority were not to be ridiculed and thus encourage law-breaking of any sort.
In the late ‘50s, Hollywood filmmakers were under increasing competition from television and foreign movies for their audiences. Televisions were convenient and foreign movies were not under the Production Code’s regulations and the government could not prevent these films from being shown in American theaters. Because of this filmmakers, felt the pressure to give their films an edge, which often meant exploring subject matter that was controversial. In 1952, a US Supreme Court ruling under Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson overruled the 1915 decision that claimed motion pictures were not viable under First Amendment protection. This weakened the now dying power of the Code. The most outspoken director of them all was Otto Preminger, whose films such as The Moon is Blue (1953), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959) seemed to give the middle finger to the Code.
At the turn of the decade, from the ‘50s to the ‘60s, films started to release even without the Code’s certificate of approval, weakening its authority. By the ‘60s, filmmakers started blatantly ignoring the code and exploring all sorts of themes including sex, race, culture, gender and violence. The reign of the code ended with the seminal film Blowup in 1967. It was released by MGM, who had been abiding by the Code for many years, without a certificate. After that, enforcement became impossible and the MPAA abandoned the Code in favor of the tiered rating system we have today (i.e. G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, etc).
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Saturday, December 8, 2007
1) Boxed Set slipcase
2) 12-16 page Booklet
3) 5 Promotional Postcards
4) Web Advertising Banner
The Three Faces of Eve (1957) - Orange
Baby Doll (1956) - Purple
The Night of the Hunter (1955) -Red
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) - Green
Anatomy of a Murder (1959) - Blue
Friday, December 7, 2007
Broken Code: Ministers of religion in their character as ministers of religion should be used as comic characters or as villains.
The only film the legendary actor Charles Laughton ever directed, The Night of the Hunter is an allegorical tale of good versus evil with a creepy twist. Robert Mitchum plays Reverend Powell, an antinomian and religious fanatic who is a growling evil monster that feigns to hear commands of violence and crime from the voice of God. He’s hell-bent on recovering the money his prisonmate had hidden before being arrested for robbery. His history of manipulation and corruption make him a force to be reckoned with but he is no match for innocence in its purest form: children. Its the only thing that stands in his way and he finds himself outmatched when angelic Lilian Gish as Rachel Cooper comes to the children’s rescue. Beautifully directed and stylized, the film’s creepiness stems from its characters, night time settings, tall vertical and wide horizontal shots, sharp shadows, eery silences and religious singing. The film is best known for its main character who sports the letters "L-O-V-E" and "H-A-T-E" tattooed on his knuckles. Spike Lee fans will recognize a reference to this in his film Do the Right Thing (1989).
Highly underestimated at the time of its release, this film is a classic example of allegory told and shown throw realism. This film also demonstrates the growing need for realism in film. Audiences were being wooed away from movie theatres by TV and Hollywood was in direct competition of European cinema. Filmmakers needed an edge to survive and the Hays Code seemed like a needless obstacle in their way. The Night of the Hunter approaches gritty realism in two significant ways. The first is how its not afraid to show the hideous side of death. Refusing to follow the path of many bloodless death shots of previous films, The Night of the Hunter has a truly grotesque underwater shot of a corpse that is only preceded by the a similar, but much less horrifying in Sunset Bld (1950). However, the second and arguably most defiant way it approaches realism is through its focus of the use and abuse of religion. The Reverend Powell uses his own spirtuality to do evil and in his mania believes his actions are sanctioned by God. The idea of religious authority using faith for evildoing is revolutionary for film history.
1) Robert Mitchum once said this was his favorite film to make and Laughton was his favorite director.
2) Director Charles Laughton had a difficult time with children and was helped by Mitchum to direct the child actors.
3) Director Charles Laughton was horrified by the poor reception of the film to the point where he never directed a film again.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Saturday, December 1, 2007
1) Controversial figure throughout most of his life, many people refused to stand or applaud when he received his Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement at the 1999 Academy Awards.
2) He revealed the name of 8 known Communists to the HUAC. 3 of which were friends of his and who gave him permission to name them.
3) He was part of the Communist party for 2 years but left as he didn't like the secrecy or the propaganda involved.
4) Marlon Brando was reluctant to work with him after the HUAC controversy.
5) As a director, Elia Kazan was known for filming on location instead of in a studio, for very long takes, encouraging actors to use props, exploring intimacy and emotional distance between characters, and helping actors from the Actor's Studio get their start in films (Andy Griffith, Carroll Baker, etc).
6) Modeled the father character in East of Eden (1955) more after his own father than John Steinbeck's version in the original novel.
7) He shared Marilyn Monroe as a girlfriend with Arthur Miller, who went on to be Monroe's last husband (tee hee!).
8) Did not work well with established film stars Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy on the set of Sea of Grass. They clashed artistically.
9) He was influenced by filmmaker Orson Welles.
10) Nicknamed "Gadget" or "Gadge", a name he would resent throughout his life.
11) Watch A Face in the Crowd (1957) . On pain of death. (Just kidding!)
(Just a Baby Doll (1956) shot I liked. Enjoy!)
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
To say I was completely molestada by Ace in the Hole (1951) is succumbing to the great power of this film. An exploration of media manipulation through the story of one particular bad apple, Charles Tatum (or Charlie, Chuck or plain Tatum depending on who addressed him), a deceitfully opportunistic and greedy journalist. He sees an unfortunate situation, a man trapped cave, and knows how to exploit it for his own need. What's amazing about this is that Tatum is seeking a type of immortality in a business where one's story one day is treasured, and the next day, it's used to wrap fish. He even admits this himself, but still wants to grasp that fame, to make his mark in the industry.
Tatum's character is matched evil-to-evil with Mrs. Lorraine Minosa, the platinum-blonde wife of the poor man trapped in the cave. She's my favorite character. A hard-boiled dame, so overcooked that even her yolk is rock hard. She has only one very small soft spot, which is reserved for the elation she receives from money. Lorraine is as manipulative as Tatum, using her husband's situation for her own selfish needs. Two such characters are so bad, that one town will always be too small for them and its a wonder they don't instantaneously combust when they meet.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Broken Code: Impure love must not be presented in such a way to arouse passion or morbid curiosity on the part of the audience.
Stories that take place in the deep South are wonderful exaggerated studies of the human condition, especially when its character's lives seem to fester in the sweltering heat. And nothing festers better than a good Tennessee William's story. Controversial to its very core, Elia Kazan's adaptaion of Baby Doll is true resistance against the code. The repressed and expressed passions in this film are as hot as the exposed light bulbs that hang from the ceilings. And when those two opposing passions collide the results are explosive. Nothing is hidden, nothing is coy, its all exposed and has either the effect of arousal or discomfort. Baby Doll is a woman-child, married too young to Archie Lee, whose frustration with his unconsummated marriage affects his cotton-gin business. Rival, the hot-blooded Mr. Vacero (literally Mr. Cowboy), sweeps into town stealing away Archie's business. In retaliation, Archie burns down Mr. Vacero's gin. But what he doesn't expect, is the hit below the belt when Mr. Vacero manages to seduce his previously frigid young wife.
The swing scene is by far the most infamous and passionate. It is difficult to watch it without experience a quickening of the heart and shortness of breath. With every touch and caress, Mr. Vacero brings out the hidden lust in Baby Doll and brings about her transition from child to woman on the eve of her 20th birthday. Such power that sizzled from the screen, terrified audiences and censors alike leading to a national boycott. Raw sexual energy like that had never been seen before in a film and people immediately resisted it. In 1956, a primary figure in the Catholic church, Cardinal Spellman , spoke out about the film telling all Catholics that if they dared watch this movie, they would commit a sin against God. It eventually got pulled from theatres. Yet, this low-budget film stood out as an legitimately amazing film and received 4 Academy Award nominations. It marked a turning point in how sexuality could be expressed on film and paved the way for the expression of passion in cinema.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Broken Code - Repellent Subject - Apparent cruelty to children or animals
The Three Faces of Eve (1957) is less an example of Hollywood's rebellion against the Hays Code and more a specimen of how restrictive it was to storytelling and how it could not stop the wheels of social change from turning. The film starts with an opening narration in which a psychologist introduces the case of Eve White, a woman who has multiple personality disorder. Based on a true story and provided to the audience as educational rather than entertainment, was one of the ways this film worked around the codes restrictions. Educational material, presented as such, had more leeway than a regular film which only had a story to tell. Three Faces of Eve did something great for film history. It explored the societal and emotional dynamics of mental illness in a new and interesting way. In so many films in the years before, characters were either inherently good or bad or in the case of film noir, ambigously both. It was stepping into murky waters when a character did bad things yet also captured audience's sympathy. Case in point, in Three Faces of Eve, we have Eve White, a quiet unassuming woman. She is a simple housewife and in submission to her backwardly stubborn and aggressive husband. Eve gets these terrible headaches in which her alter-ego Eve Black manifests. This personality is the polar-opposite of Eve White. She's single, flirtatious and manipulative. She even proves herself capable of great violence when tries unsuccessfully to strangle her own daughter to death.
1) June Allyson was talked out of starring in this film by her husband Dick Powell who thought that she would be a miscast.
2) Joanne Woodward won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Eve White/Eve Black/Jane.
3) Orson Welles was considered for the roll of Dr. Luther, played by Lee J. Cobb, but instead decided to devote his time to directing Touch of Evil (1958).
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind
- Consequences of sexual repression affect both the female and male protagonist. A rarity amongst coming of age stories.
- I was both enraptured by the story but put off by the soundtrack. Violins screeching the same sentimental notes over and over again was too much.
- The title of the movie means something to the story and its characters. The fact that it comes from a line written by a well-known Romantic poet gives it even more credence.
- I could not have seen this same story taking place in a city. There is something about rural open space, small communities and isolation that exaggerates the human condition.
- A tolerable, even enjoyable Natalie Wood. That says a lot for me, I'm not a fan.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Saturday, November 3, 2007
In other news, I've finally selected my 5 films to go in my mock "Breaking the Code" boxed set. I will hold A Face in the Crowd (1957) as a back-up selection in case I find one of these doesn't quite work.
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
Baby Doll (1956)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Three Faces of Eve (1957)
Now I'm wishing I could do a Pre-Code boxed set too! Shucks!
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
The story is about Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, a simple Arkansas country boy, whose charm catapults him from jail to radio to broadcast television. He becomes intoxicated by the power his growing audience gives him and this of course leads to his downfall. Its fascinating to see how dangerous it can be and how vulnerable we are when power is put into the wrong hands.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Trombonology (Relative Esoterica) asked me which of the many great Norma Shearer films is my personal favorite. To answer truthfully, it is, hands down, The Women (1939). It's what introduced me to her and what's kept me a fan.
I'd love to hear your responses and your ideas for future polls.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Sunday, September 9, 2007
In crazy times like these, I try to find support amongst family and friends. But I also realize that I need to be responsible for developing my own strength and tranquility. And sometimes a really good story can transport you to your comfort zone and while you are there you build up your own confidence. That story for me right now is Yours, Mine and Ours (1968).
This particular film stands out in the midst of many other "large family" stories. This particular sub-genre has two of it's one sub-categories. The first being two familys coming together while clashing and bonding in With Six You Get Eggroll (1968) and The Brady Bunch (1969-1974). The second features an excessively procreative couple such as in Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) and henceforth any sequels, remakes and remake sequels. Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) has two excessively procreative individuals coming together to combine their large families (11 and 9) into one monstrosity of a household (20!). What's inspiring is that the story is based on real life events. They successfully manage meals, clothes, ailments and personal dramas in what seems like an impossible situation. The situation is very difficult for the couple (played by Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball) but they get through it because they rely on their abundant love for their children and each other to get them through. Plus they realize the importance of organization, perseverance and strict scheduling in maintaining a hectic life and they put all of this to work at all times.
It's a heart-warming and inspiring story. When I watch this film, I think to myself if this one couple can manage raising a family of 20, soon to be 21, then why can't I manage myself. I'm only one person managing my own life, and I have no other lives dependant on me. If they can manage 20, I can certainly manage 1.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Metropolis (1927) anyone?
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
After viewing this film recently for the first time, I wondered how much of the story is representative (or at least symbolic) of the fight against the Code? Take for example, Elizabeth Taylor's character, Catherine. The previous summer she had witnessed the most utterly grotesque sequence of events that culminated in the horrific death of her manipulative cousin, Sebastian. After her return from Europe, the story is held inside her tormented mind and she is consquentially punished for the danger the truth she holds represents to others. Katharine Hepburn plays Violet, Sebastian's mother, whose incestuous relationship with her son lends to her desperate need to keep Sebastian's image alive and well - one even may say "pure". Catherine threatens to tarnish the image with the tale of Sebastian's last summer in Europe and Violet wants to literally rip the story out of her brain, by means of employing Dr. Curkowicz, played by Montgomery Clift, to perform a lobotomy.
[potential spoilers ahead]
Catherine is the owner of a story that needs to be told and encounters a long and difficult path to become the story's teller. When she is finally able to give birth to the story, the experience is painful, ensuiing in screams and sobs but in the end healing. Violet, the censor, the person still alive who is most threatened by this story is not capable of handling it after repressing it for so long.
Catherine - Story - Hollywood
Violet - Censor - Hays Code
Does anyone see the connection? I tend not to think this was in any way on purpose but it was probably a subconscious for of rebellion. It could also be the English major in me just looking for something to analyze. Who knows? What I do know is this film is unquestionably part of Hollywood's break from the code.
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