Thursday, July 31, 2008

12 Movies Meme

Tag! I'm it!

Ibetolis over at Film for the Soul tagged me to participate in the 12 Movies Meme started by Lazy Eye Theatre. I don't really get the rules so I kind of just went with a similar form based off of Ibetolis' entry. Basically I'm creating line-ups for 6 double-feature nights (Monday through Saturday), each with it's own theme. I've also provided a reason for why I chose that line-up. I have to tag 5 people and with an interesting twist, I'm tagging 3 guest bloggers (their responses I'll post here) and 3 bloggers. I know that's 6, but since I'm already breaking rules... My double-features and tags are listed below. Enjoy!

Theme: Right in the Belly - Poisonous Stories
Films: D.O.A. (1950) & Notorious (1946)
Reason: My favorite film noir matched with an astounding Hitchcock classic, both feature protagonists who have been poisoned.

Theme: Blonde Bette Davis Does Not Want to Kiss You
Films: Cabin in the Cotton (1932) & Of Human Bondage (1934)
Reason: Two great Bette Davis films, with her as a blonde, both include famous lines about kissing. Cabin in the Cotton - "I'd like to kiss ye, but I jus' washed ma hair". Of Human Bondage - "And after ya kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth! WIPE MY MOUTH!"

Theme: Robert Mitchum Just Wants to Love on You
Films: Holiday Affair (1949) & Two for the Seesaw (1962)
Reason: Robert Mitchum's softer side shines through with these two romances. A delight for anyone who crushes on him.

Theme: The Morning After ~ Ultra Sexy Pre-Codes
Films: Female (1933) & The Divorcee (1930)
Reason: One thing leads to another and well, you know... Women in charge of their sexuality. And a little Norma Shearer never hurt anyone.

Theme: Triumphant Triumvirates ~ Everything's Better in Threes
Films: Three on a Match (1932) & A Letter to Three Wives (1949)
Reason: It's a shame I couldn't make this one into a triple-feature! Based on threes, great films about three very different women coming together in unusual circumstances.

Theme: Multiple Families, Multiple Problems
Films: Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) & With Six You Get Eggroll (1968)
Reason: Two films that gave birth to The Brady Bunch. What happens when two families come together as one? Laughter is sure to follow.

Frank ~ Guest Blogger
Bob ~ Guest Blogger
Kevin ~ Guest Blogger
Carrie ~ Classic Montgomery
Ginger ~ Asleep in New York
Steve ~ Film Noir of the Week

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Emergency Alert! Watch Mad Men Immediately!

If you have yet to watch Mad Men the AMC original drama, go out and watch it. NOW! It's amazingly good. I was skeptical myself until I watched the first episode and got sucked in. It takes place in the 1960's during America's hey-day of Advertising. "Mad Men" refers to the men who worked in advertising on Madison Avenue in New York City. The period detail is exquisite and they bring in a lot of cultural and technological references. It's also a lot of sex, booze and tobacco but all the characters are interesting and their individual stories along with the relationships with each other makes for amazing TV. This is exactly what we need right now in what's proven to be a very tough economic climate. During the Depression, people flocked to the cinemas to watch others live the glamorous life on screen so they could live vicariously through them. Although I think today's contemporary audiences don't necessarily need to watch other contemporaries rejoice in their wealth, we do however want to escape to another time and place where things were very different. Either a time we lived in or a time our parents lived through. I'm a firm believer in understanding the present by understanding the past. But also take this show with a grain of salt. It's an exaggeration as TV shows tend to be.

So watch it please. Season 1's DVD is available now. I just ordered mine and am anxious to receive it in the mail.

I'll be keeping an eye out for classic film references made in the show. So far I have two. As I see them I'll point them out.

The Apartment (1960) ~ First Season. I think it's part of the foundation of the story as it also deals with affairs between men and women in an office setting. A character sees this in the theater and is affected by how Shirley MacLaine's character tries to commit suicide.

Butterfield 8 (1960) ~ Second Season. Conversation about how an old friend became a call girl and the comment was that that is very Butterfield 8.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Guest Blogger: Steve-O

Check out Steve-O from Film Noir of the Week's guest post about three great film noirs you probably haven't heard of. I enjoyed this post for two reasons. The first being it reminded me of the three films I got to see in the Unseen Noir series at the Harvard Film Archive. And also two of the films feature Bonita Granville! Yay! Enjoy Steve-O's post and feel free to share some of your favorite lesser-known noirs.

Three Great Film Noir You Never Heard Of by Steve-O

One of the coolest things about loving film noir is discovering lost, forgotten films. True, most lost films are forgotten for a reason. However, every now and then you find a film so amazing that it makes watching hours and hours of bad films worth while.

If you're new to classic film noir, I recommend you first check out all the great movies released on DVD over the past few years. Start off with big studio noirs like Out of the Past (1947), Criss Cross (1949) and Gilda (1946). Then work your way to the smaller budget films like Caged (1950) and D.O.A. (1950). If you're still a noir fan, step down to the Bs like Railroaded and Decoy.

There you have the three tiers of film noir. Don Miller, writing in "B" movies: An Informal Survey of the American Low-budget Film, notes that there were three classifications of movies during the 30s and 40s: “... the A, the B, and the programmers, sometimes alluded to as a 'nervous A' or 'gilt-edged B.' That hybrid would often play the top half of a double bill, have one or two fairly high-priced performers and, when a character walked into a room, the walls wouldn't shake as he shut the door; it looked reasonably opulent, but if a studio tried to palm it off as a big or A picture, you knew they were kidding.” The three films that I want to recommend fall into the B category. They're nearly impossible to find on television and I doubt they'll ever find their way to DVD. They are cheaply made without a movie star in sight. Nevertheless they're wonderful.

First is a film called Suspense. The 1946 film is – and I'm not kidding here – a figure-skating noir. Olympic figure skater Belita stars as a skater that dumps her mobster boyfriend for a peanut vendor (Barry Sullivan). The film is wonderfully strange with outstanding performances from Albert Dekker (The Killers) and Bonita Granville (her other noir role was The Guilty). The film is loaded with strange images (including Belita crashing through a giant Dali-like skull to begin a skating exhibition) and some true suspense.

Night Editor from the same year is based on a long-running radio series. The film begins, like the radio series, with a newspaper editor recounting a scandalous story from the past. Surprisingly, the story he tells is fatalistic and dark. A drunk cop spends his nights cheating on his wife with a sexy (and also married) society girl (a wicked performance by Janis Carter). The cheating couple witnesses the brutal murder of a woman on a dark street. The cop (William Gargan) doesn't stop the killer for fear that it would cause a scandal. He doesn't want it to get out that he was stepping out on his wife. To make matters worse, detective Cochrane – who has already been reprimanded for poor performance -- shows up to work hungover and is quickly assigned the murder. He has to investigate and at the same time find a way to cover up his role. His cars tire tracks at the scene makes him a potential suspect in the killing. 99-percent of the film is just perfect. The happy ending tacked on at the end is very annoying but not unexpected. However, this is a great little movie.

The third film I covered last week at the Noir of the Week blog. The Guilty (1948) is possibly the cheapest movie I have ever seen. The acting is wooden and the sets look like they just might fall down. However, it's a damned involving story of murder. A twin girl is killed in a dark, nameless city. The prime suspect is a WWII shell-shocked vet. A couple of other potential suspects include the “bad” sister's violent boyfriend and creepy middle-aged house member. Who did the killing? I found myself involved from beginning to end.

These three films are not easy to find. However, if you do get to see them you'll probably agree they're true black-and-white gems.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blonde Bette Davis ~ Double Feature Pre-Codes

I had the opportunity to watch two Blonde Bette Davis pre-codes at the Brattle Theater last night. What a treat. Here are some of my quick thoughts on both films.

Bureau of Missing Persons (1933)

Even though Bette Davis doesn't even show up until mid-way through the movie, and with her comes the actual plot, I have to say I really enjoyed this film. It's entertaining and a little cheesy, just the way I like my '30s films to be! Plus it's got Lewis Stone! You can't go wrong with that. SPOILER ALERT! None of us quite expected the ending which involved Pat O'Brien's character giving his wife quite a beating. He had just found out that she was already married and had been conning him into giving her alimony. When the movie was over, I proclaimed that there was nothing like ending a film with some good ole domestic abuse!

Three on a Match (1932)

I had seen this movie a couple times previously, but it was wonderful to see it up on the big screen. I really enjoy this film and it's one of my top favorite pre-codes. But really it isn't a Bette Davis film even if she is part of the triumvirate. Her character is weak and really the only thing you get out of her performance is seeing Bette at her most beautiful. Three on a Match is really all about Ann Dvorak and Joan Blondell. This film is a cautionary tale warning people off of adultery and alcohol/drug abuse. The real victim is the little boy who has to watch his family fall apart. Its just a superb film and watching it again just solidified that for me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Out of the Past - Into the Now: Misfit Mustangs

The relationship between humans and mustangs has always been a volatile one. Their size and their strength coupled with their wildness has made this species a threat to humans. The ways humans have treated mustangs over the years can be categorized in two ways. One approach has been to wrangle and hunt mustangs to either prove our strength as predators or to reduce their threat to us and our farmland. Another has been to see the mustang as a symbol of freedom and to sympathize and try to protect what has been a dying species.

The Sunday New York Times had an article about the debate on euthanizing select mustangs. The idea is to thin a captive herd which has been growing rapidly and is now at around 30,000.

I'm not forming an opinion or asking for one, whatever your thoughts are on the matter are strictly your concern. However, I do think this is an excellent example of how classic films can still speak to contemporary audiences. The Misfits (1961) explored the topic of the human relationship with wild mustangs. Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach are cowboys who make their living off of rodeos and hunting wild mustang. Marilyn Monroe plays a divorcee who is lured into the cowboy lifestyle, but is appalled by the killing of the mustangs. The most poignant scene is Clark Gable's final performance where he wrangles a mustang. Its difficult to watch as the physicality of it was most likely a factor in Gable's death just days later. This film was also Monroe's last and watching her break down in tears and hysterics has always been difficult for me to see as well. The film not only has amazing performances by all the principal actors but also a poignant dramatic story that has some relevance to audiences today.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Ode to Tuesday Night

On a beautiful summer night, the Brattle Theater is packed with movie goers waiting for the 7:30 show. Its Bette Davis' 100th Birthday year and All About Eve (1950) will grace the screen in homage to the great actress. I am energized by the sight of so many people, who could have spent their Tuesday night doing something else, but chose to watch Bette Davis in her famous comeback role instead. We got ready for a deliciously bumpy night. The two hours that followed were filled with laughter, a result of the witty and cutting dialogue that peppered the film. Others laughter served as a catalyst and I found myself laughing at points that weren't even funny. I must have been spurred on by the sense of communal enjoyment. Applause filled the theater as the credits rolled and we were released into the warm air of a July evening. It was downstairs to Casablanca, for drinks and dessert with friends. It seemed fitting to go from one classic to another. It was as though we were following the stars in the Hollywood heavens, Davis and Bogart were our guides for the evening. Its nights like these that I realize how truly great life as a classic film lover can be.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I saw Mickey Rooney with my own two eyes!

Yes that's right. On Thursday night, my mother and I were in Atlantic City to see Mickey Rooney. That's right, the one and only Mickey Rooney. I was so excited. We ended up getting 2nd row seats and I was probably only about 6 feet away from him. It was an amazing show. The first act was Mickey on his own, reminscing about the good ole days, cracking some jokes, doing some impressions (notably Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable) and singing some tunes. It was great to see him. He is so TINY! And even for his age, he had a lot of spunk and vivacity. The second act was his wife Jan who I didn't realize was a professional singer. She sang several songs including some country western ones. My favorite though was when she sang the theme song to Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), one of Mickey's films, "Moon River". It was quite beautiful. Then the third act had them together. They shared lots of jokes about their marriage, including a funny one about a beer commercial they had done together a long time ago (see clip below). Mickey then surprised us with some soft-shoe dancing and some piano playing! That alone was worth the admission! I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I think I cried a bit when he talked about his good friend Judy Garland and sang one of their songs with a video clip of them singing together on Judy's show in the 60s. Quite moving. In the end, Mickey Rooney was born to entertain and that's what he did. And to have been able to witness him in action was something I'll never forget!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Guest Blogger Series

I have returned. I bring with me a sense of liberation, well-time for Independence Day. In a few months, I'll get my diploma in the mail and it will be official. I will have my Master's. Okay, I've done my boasting, now on to other things...

I decided that since Guest Blogger month didn't quite work out as I planned (I think the pressure of confining it to a month was too much pressure for potential guest bloggers, especially since I hounded them so), that I would turn it into a Guest Blogger series going on for the life of this blog. I've set some guidelines if you are interested in submitting. I'll try to post a link on the sidebar so you can refer to the Guest Blogger submission guidelines in future. All I ask is that you keep it original (no boring stuffy standard movie reviews) and that you keep it on the topic of classic films.

Guest Blogger Series Guideliness

1) Submit an idea to me via e-mail.
2) Once approved submit a completed post via e-mail. Word .doc files or Works .wps files are fine. But you can also keep it in the body of the e-mail if you wish.
3) I encourage you to include photos but it's not necessary. If you do, attach them to your e-mail, make sure they are low on the Megabytes preferably jpegs. You can also tell how you want the pictures to be placed within the text.
4) Confirm how you want to be credited. Real first name, pseudonym, alias, website, etc.
5) I reserve the right to link to movies and actors/actresses listed in the post. My links are primarily to TCM's website. I also reserve the write to inject year references after movies.
6) I'll forward you a permanent link for your records.
7) Your piece will get an introduction plus 3-4 days as being the most current post on the site.


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