Wednesday, March 31, 2010

review: My Boy Jack

I can not stop crying. It seems like with each war movie I see, I become more and more anti-war. I know that sometimes it is neccessary, but it is also senseless.

That aside, this is an amazing movie. It is like All Quiet on the Western in the fact that it tackles the disillusionment with romantic war notions. It is about the Kipling family just before and in the beginning of WWI. Rudyard Kipling (David Haig) was a very outspoken in support of the upcoming war. He doesn't bully his son, Jack (Daniel Radcliffe), but he certainly drives his son to join. The problem is that Jack is very nearsighted. After several attempts, Kipling manages to pull some strings and get Jack accepted. He goes and becomes a leader, then is sent to war. I will go ahead and tell the rest because, its historical fact, I won't ruin anything. In his first battle charge, he is listed as missing. The family begins a search for, I believe, two years to find him. Unsurprisingly, they learn that he died.
As a side note: they never found their son's body. While a part of me thinks that it is somehow not a big deal, a much larger part of me can not imagine having to deal with that. No marker, no grave, no idea where his final resting place is, which usually means that he was thrown into a goup grave or some sort after the battle was over. It is just so tragic. I can never imagine going through something like that and on top of which never having the satisfaction of where his mortal body is.
But the story is more than that. It is about a family in war time. The best part, I believe is after they learn of his death. The scene between Rudyard and his wife Carrie (Kim Catrall) is so heartbreaking and brilliant. Which leads me to the acting, which is wonderful. I like seeing Daniel Radcliffe's work outside of HP - and I think he is good. It is interesting seeing him portraying this young man who grows up while we are watching. Once he gets promoted, it is amazing the change that comes over him. So mature at such a young age. That is not easy to portray as an actor. Radcliffe does it wonderfully. The other person I very much liked was Kim Catrall. The only way I knew of her was through Sex & the City - which is a far cry from this. And she was delightful without being too sentimental and overdramatic.
I like this story because it takes on disillusionment with what war is - and I think that is very important. Sometimes it amazes me how we romanticize war. And nothing has changed, we're still doing it. We did in in WWI, it was very much apart of our culture in WWI, we shunned those who were against it in the following wars - and even look at what our country was like after 9/11. What makes this worse was that no one was prepared for a war like WWI. It was considered the first modern war - and we had to sacrafice a lot before we knew how to fight a war like that. I mean think about all the horrors of that first world war. Gas bombs, tanks, machine guns - they all came from The Great War. And it was supposed to be the War to End All Wars. Sadly, it wasn't.
As a side note: watching the special features interviews, I was happy to hear the writer/actor of the play/film stop and take a minute to think about the effect of the loss of a human life. For every soldier there is at least one entire family whose life is changed forever - not to mention their friends as well. And then Kim Catrall mentioned that a single death has a ripple effect. Every human action does, but when you think in the finite terms of human life, it takes on special significance. Since each person's life circumstances are so different from anothers, we will never be able to fully realize the significance that the loss of so many lives means. This is what history is to me. A series of ripples reach out and effecting the course of human lives. Except that, in reality, it would be like adding another drop of water for each ripple produced that would, in term, start a whole other set of ripples, which would be the origin of an entire other set. Interconnected ripples. Now that is history.
Not an easy film to get through without a box of Kleenex - but a really good one with a touching story.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

review: Merchant of Venice movie

A Shakespearean Comedy (?)

Shows you what time can do. Time and social change.

You know, I do not have much of a problem with this story. Except two things: the trick in the law naming Shylock an "alien" of the city and the cruel judgement that he should convert. That sickens me a little.

Actually, I do not like this story very much. It's sickening to be called a comedy. Most of the time I just want to slap the people. Especially Jessica. How could she do that to her father? Just leave him? I can not like any of the characters. No one is trustworthy.

That aside, I do like the actors in this movie. They are wonderful. Pacino and Irons are amazing! The design/art direction is wonderful. Can I say it again? Pacino is amazing!!

But it is the story that stays with me this time. It sticks with me and just makes me so MAD!
Still and all, it is a good movie.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

review: The Cradle Will Rock

Considering how long I have been writing these reviews, I am surprised that I have yet lavished on this film. I love this film. No, I LOVE this film. It is by far, my favorite movie ever. And I have a long list of favorite movies.

Of course, it is about theatre - well, part of it is. The movie is loosely based on the circumstances surrounding Project 891's production of Marc Blitzstein's Cradle Will Rock. Tied into this is also the story of Diego Rivera and Nelson Rockerfeller, the HUAC, and politics mixing with art. Normally, I would leave it there, but I love discussing this movie as much as I love seeing it, so you're going to get it all with commentary.
In the Opening Sequence, we meet:
* Olive Stanton (played by Emily Watson), a homeless waif sleeping on curtains who tries to sing songs on the streets for nickles.
* Hazel Huffman (Joan Cusack), a clerk for the FTP who is posting leaflets about a meeting for people who are dissatisfied with the FTP.
* Marc Blitzstein (Hank Azaria), a writer with the FTP who is working on composing his labor opera.
* Gray Mathers - head of Mather's Steel, and his wife, Countess LeGrance (Vanessa Redgrave).
* Aldo Silvano (John Tuturro), a member of FTP's project 891, an Italian American with a large family.
* Hallie Flannagan (Cherry Jones), the head of the FTP.
* Tommy Crickshaw (Bill Murray), a ventriloquist, who is convinced that his Vaudeville company is host to Communists.
* Jack Houseman (Cary Elwes) producer of Project 891
* Orson Welles (Angus McFayden), artistic director of Project 891.
Mathers, Sarfatti, and Rockerfeller at an art exhibit
Then we jump to the other part of the story: the world of visual art and politics where we meet:
* William Randolph Hearst - powerful man who decides public opinion in his network of newspapers.
* Marion Davies: Hearst's mistress and protogee
* Margharrita Sarfatti (Susan Sarandon), who is the "cultural emissary" from Mussolini in America.
* Nelson Rockerfeller (John Cusack) successful businessman with a love of art.
* Diego Rivera (Rueben Blades) brilliant painter of the time, who is a communist.
Trying to boil this into a nutshell is kind of hard. There are so many stories and most of them interconnect.
You have the Cradle Will Rock storyline. This focuses mostly on the coming together of this particular show. (That is the easiest way to explain it)
There is the Visual Art storylines. Part one is the sale of Italian art for the promise of money and supplies to make war materials. Hearst and Mathers agree to help the Italians, because, as of this point, the US was was more concerned with Communism than with Nazis - and we didn't look too deep into the future plans and ambitions of Mussolini. All this is done with the help of Sarfatti, who served as a "publicity queen" for Italy to the world. Part two deals with a very American story. Rockerfeller hires Rivera to paint a mural in the Rockerfeller building. Once the mural is finished, Rockerfeller has a problem: its a bit of a political hot potato for many reasons, the most of which is that it features Lenin prominately. There is quite a lot of controversy when Rockerfeller is forced to destroy the work.
The next storyline is about the FTP and the HUAC. Congressman Dies starts a committe to oversee hearings about finding Communism in the WPA. While, historically, his seach is of the whole WPA, the FTP was an easy target. People like Huffman testified for months, and when it came time to Flanagan to testify, she was only given hours.
I think I covered it all.
Diego Rivera's Man at the Cross Roads

One of the best parts of the film is when Blitzstein comes across a protest in the park. He sits and listens for a while, then begins to compose on an imaginary piano "Joe Worker" while the police ride in and the protest becomes a riot with police beating the workers. It is brilliant. Blitstein playing the "piano" while he hears a woman singing the song as people are running and screaming. This lands him in jail when he starts calling the policemen "whores" There he developes the plot of his opera.

Marc in jail with his characters and his imaginary helpmates: his late wife and Bertolt Brecht

But the best part of the movie is the entire ending sequence. Everyone arrives at the theatre to find the doors padlocked and armed soldiers guarding the door. They sneak in a window to the backstage and begin to try and find a plan B. Ironicly, once they find a new theatre, they are told that the Musicians' and Actors' Unions have forbidden them from performing on any other stage. Still, they decide to go on with the show, having Blitzstein basically do all of the parts. So, they announce it to the crowd, and begin to lead them on a walk to the new theatre.

Houseman, Blitzstein, and Welles worry as they walk

It all comes down to this one performance. Most of the actors go, but even going to the performance, they run the chance of losing their jobs. So they are faced with a decision.

The rest has to be experienced.

Blitzstein at the piano

This movie is brilliant. I love live theatre, and I love its power, but in the case of Cradle Will Rock, we can never again experience the thrill of this first show. First of all, the show is so much about its time, that has become dated. On top of that, the show itself has changed because of that first performance. It is now a historical piece with a lore to it. This event is famous in the world of the theatre - and no show can ever capture what this first performance had because of the circumstances surrounding its opening. This movie gives us the chance to experience the electricity of that moment in time; the importance, the passion, the politics.

Design-wise. This is wonderfully done. Re-creating life in New York in the 1930s (both the rich and the poor worlds) is not easy, but they do it so well. Also - they are recreating historical places and events that were recorded in one way or another. Especially the theatre you see. I love seeing the Faustus bits, because that also is the stuff of theatre legend.

Acting-wise, it is phenomenal. I mean, look at the cast! I can not say enough about it. So I will stop there. Everyone is fantastic.

There are so many reasons I love this movie. Everytime I watch it, I get so caught up. I've seen it at least a hundred times, and I find myself tearing up in those last minutes. There is a moment in the play when Silvano is making a speech and the entire theatre is quiet. Everyone in the audience is on the edge of their seats - living, not only with the characters they are watching, but with the actors who have been placed in this amazing situation and are doing what they do best with all the defiance, fire, strength, and passion they have.

And I'm starting to tear up as I write about it. I'm crazy. As far as I know, this won no major awards, but I don't care. You seriously, see this movie. And if you want to see it, watch it with me!

5 out of 5 stars

Monday, March 29, 2010

review: Easy Rider

I did not expect to like this movie. All I had ever about it was the drug use.
Here is what I think now: I think the making of it was all about the drugs and I think that the drugs is only a part of the story.
What is the story? Two drug dealers with amazing bikes make a journey from LA to Mardi Gras. Along the way, things happen to them, they do things, and see places. That is it in a nutshell - without giving away too much.
Aside from the bit at the commune, and the insane bit at Mardi Gras, I rather liked it. And I didn't like those parts because I didn't get them. This is why I need to watch it with someone smarter than I am.
Overall, this movie is really interesting. I am niave, I will admit that. And I am niave because I can not imagine the people are like that (the "rednecks" in the film). I just can't wrap my head around that. Thank goodness there is the scene with the man with his huge family. Otherwise, you would think all country people are that biggoted and bloodthirsty.
The acting is pretty good. I was shocked by Jack Nicholson. Amazed - considering the body of his work that I am familiar with. This character is so different. You really came to love this character. Hopper and Fonda are strange companions, but it makes a better picture of who they are; keeping in mind that we know nothing about them.
Art direction is amazing. Except for that bit in New Orleans, which looks incredibly different from everything else. Some of the most beautiful shots of America - and then you contrast that with how most of these townspeople who think themselves as the heart of america, treat these men. That is what gets me the most. The beauty of the country and the happiness and the freedom against the drugs, the bigotry, and the hate. In this way, I think the film is genius.
Also the music is amazing.
This movie was nomiated for only 2 Oscars, but it is the social significance that makes this movie a classic. It is included in the National Film Registry and is on 3 AFI lists.
Watch it with someone, but I don't think this is one of those films that you should watch while under the influence of anything stronger than liquor. It just wouldn't work.
4 out of 5 stars

review: Metropolis

This is probably one of the most interesting movies I have ever seen. Also, one of the most artistic.
It is also a little bit tragic, because this movie is incomplete. There is not a single version of this film that is complete. There were so many breakaways with descriptions of what should be happening It's sad really. Also considering how different versions of the film were presented in different areas. For example, the movie was cut in America by 1/4 and some of the story slightly changed. So, watching this, you don't really know what story you are seeing: the original or something that was pieced together as best it could be. Although it must be somewhat close to what was intended, because the original screenplay does survive, along with other documents about the film as well as the score.
There is so much to this film that transcends the story. I mean, the story is good. Essentially, it is about a young, niave playboy who learns of the unfair conditions of the workers from a saintlike young woman and tries to help. Its a little more complicated than that, but you get the jist. The acting is typical silent film acting: much over-gesturing and gnashing of teeth. But I will say that I admire their ability to do that with realistic intentions. There is an entire scene where a man drops to his knees with his hands clutching at his head. And he holds that the entire time. The gesture being held that long is a little fake, but the actor is there 100%. Realistic or not, you can believe him in the moment. This is a gift of acting that I never had. I admire it.
There is also a sections with an exotic dancer which I am sure all men continue to oogle at. Which brings me to another side note: Maria of the film ...
The music is amazing; the design is fantastic; the special effects and the tricks of the camera and art are unbelievable. This movie is quite the gem, and its interesting to see something like this in modern day.
Also, I should mention that a version of this movie is included in the Memory of the World Register. Talk about saving culture - this is an international collection of things (documents, films, photos, etc) that humans have deemed significant enough to preserve in case anything should ever happen to us. Amazing, huh?
4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Etiquette (EP): Names

What is in a name?
A lot apparently.

According to Mrs. Post's book - back in the gay 90s (1890s, that is) Charles Dickens ridiculed Americans a little after visiting the US because of some very strict name rules. And yet, the overuse of first names is also something to be warned against.

So here are some rules:
* the "name of safety" for the family is simply what relation they are to you. (my mother, my aunt, etc)
* One should not introduce a spouse as Mr or Mrs - rather by "my husband" or "my wife"
* For close friends and family, it is ok to be call a friend's spouse by their first name, but to employees, mere aquaintances or strangers it is the more formal Mr or Mrs that should be used.
*In general, it is impolite to call people by their first names without having permission to do so - this is especially true for children in regards to adults!
*On the phone, one should always introduces themselves by both names for practical identification reasons, although the invention of caller id made that almost pointless

There apparently is no rule when it comes to refering to in-laws and step-parents. What do you call them? Well, that depends on the person. Some people prefer first names, some titles, and still others (and I think I like this a lot) call them Mother or Father (last name). I don't know why, but I find that so quaint. But I guess hardly anyone uses those names in these days. But I guess it is a bit oxymoronic because it implies a familiar formality (mother or father being the familiar, and the formality being the use of last names).

This one I found interesting - only because I have never really known anyone to do this: No matter what the circumstances are (barring witness protection program etc) if a person legally changes their name, to avoid any possible embarrassing situations, (?? I don't get that) social and/or business associates should be sent an announcement. Post suggests something like this: Mr & Mrs (Last Name) announce that by permission of the Courts they and their children have taken the name of (New Name). Now -I don't know what to make of this. I can understand contacting some business associates in the case of a wedding, but who changes their name unless it is for secrecy purposes? Moreso, can you imagine recieving a note like that these days?

This really isn't discussed in the book - but it is something I have always wondered. We are taught that the most common titles for people are Mr (married or unmarried), Miss or Ms (unmarried), and Mrs (married). I have always been confused and have wondered about this. Mr and Mrs are pretty straight forward. But when does one go from Miss to Ms? Post does not mention Ms at all - so is that a later developement? And is there an age limit?

This, as you can guess, really goes with my ponderings/feelings on being called by my first name in the workplace. Like I said, I hate nametags with my first name printed on them. Wouldn't Miss work just as well? Why do they have to know my first name? I am a pretty casual person, and I don't mind being called by my first name - although no one really does anymore. Only mere aquaintances call me Teresa anymore. Friends mainly call be Teej. Now that I think about it, hardly anyone calls me TJ anymore except for my family.

This is going to lead me off into a tangent, I am sorry. When I was in elementary school, I was Teresa (except for TJ to my family) As I got older, it was half Teresa, half TJ - and then when I was a junior or a senior, suddenly some people began to fuse TJ with some E's in there and it was Teej. When I got to college, I never pushed the name situation, but in a few very short months I went from Teresa (first introductions and to formal people - like professors) to TJ (which was what I told them my nickname was) to Teej again (somehow they just came to that conclusion by themselves as well). Very quickly, that nickname grew on me - and I believe Robert Thomas and Jess Lubbers were the first to start calling me Teejie Weejie. I kinda liked that, so to close friends I quickly became Teejie or back to Teej for short (and somehow more formal). And now, hardly anyone calls me Teresa. It now sounds strange to me. As far as Miss Rankin goes, I have only ever had a few teachers, some telemarkers, and friends in jest call me that. But it does have a nice ring to it. Sorry - like I said; a tangent. But it kinda makes you wonder about the evolution of a name in your life. For some, it doesn't change at all. But I'm not finished, I also have some other nicknames: Mouse, Miz Mouse, or Baby Mouse - these are mostly for mom and dad, and only on paper. Auntie J from the kids - they couldn't get Auntie TJ out, so they fused them together. And there is Fifi (only my sister calls me this & I'm not that fond of it). Grandpa Gaskill called all of us girls "Sug" as in sugar. To this day hearing someone call me that brings a little tear to my eye (God rest his soul, I miss him!). Last and least, to my ex-boyfriend I was Baby Doll (a name which I now can't stand to hear!)

All of that considered - what is in a name? Think about all the different types of names we have for the people in our lives. There is a least 5 that I know of for mom (in english only). What is the real difference between Miss Rankin, Teresa, and Teej - is it just formality? Or is it respect? A mix of the two? And why is it that I perk up when being called Teejie by some people, and for others it is just another name? Why would Miss Rankin sound so wonderful coming from someone, and so cold coming from someone else? If that is the case, then does it really matter what you are called?

Got way off track, but still on the same subject, so I think we're at least relevant. Good night everyone! And if I don't have dreams of naming baby Jesus I will be surprised. Here's why:

I was searching for an image to put with this entry about names and I came across this. It made me laugh, so I had to include it. Hee!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

review: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

I will say this: I love Shakespeare.

I will admit this: It takes a lot for me to understand him. I can't just go see a Shakespearean play and completely enjoy it. I can understand it, and I can like it, but I am of the opinion to appreciate the complex genius of Shakespeare's work, you have to study it. It is not just the language. But it was written at a completely different time - and that carries a lot with it. Like I said, it is not just the language - because no one talked in iambic pentameter. What I mean, is that if you want to understand everything about the play - you have to know a lot about myths, Elizabethan jokes and turns of phrase, as well as history (knowing what is true, what is not, and what was believed), and a vast knowledge of the culture of the time and before that time.

That being said, I will also admit something else: I know next to nothing about Tom Stoppards work - except for this play, which is based on Shakespeare. I have tried to watch this movie once before, and I was not successful. I don't think my full concentration was in it, and I just got so damn lost.

So, I am here to watch it again. Just me in my room watching it on my laptop with no other distractions. Hopefully, with the help of subtitles and my undivided attention, I will come out with a better appreciation of a very well respected comedy. (Although, I don't know how close this is to the original stage version.

So here goes...
Fuck. No subtitles.
Back to the show ....

End of the show -

Absurdism why do you mock me?! I understood a good deal of it, and I liked a fair amount, but in the end I am still utterly perplexed. What the...?

I can see now that I would have to study this flim/script before I can even try to understand it. I mean, I get the plot, but I don't have a concept of the story. I will only get that with study. So, I choose to keep this one unscored. When I understand it, then I will judge it. But until then it remains an utterly illusive piece of "what the hell was that?"

review: I Remember Mama

This has to be one of the most touching family stories I have ever seen.
It is so sweet. This is definatley a case of a shining story. It outshines everything. This was not about a star performer or a lavish production. It is about a story - about family,
No kidding, I cried a little.
As wonderful as this is, I would much rather see it on stage. But one of the benefits of the movie is the wonderful nostalgic design of it.
* It was nominated for 4 Oscars that year.
Like I said - a family film through and through with some laughs, some tears, a lot of joy and a couple life lessons to be shared.
4 out of 5 stars

Friday, March 26, 2010

review: The Bachelor & the Bobby-Soxer

Well that was fun. Not much to it, but a lot of hi-jinks and some clever dialouge, including a very fun patter: "You remind me of a man. - What man? - A man with a Power - What power? - The power of Who doo - Who does? - You do - Do what? - Remind me of a man etc"

Not much to say about a movie like this - except that I enjoyed watching it and I would watch it again.
3 out of 5 stars

review: On the Waterfront

I had seen this movie before - when I was in high school - and I did not appreciate it then. I didn't understand its brilliance at the time.
I watched it tonight - and I understood.
There is a reason why this movie is a classic. There is a reason that the "contender" scene has become ingrained in our culture. I guess it has become rather flip now - but watching this scene; its so powerful.. It is the best moment of that story. Two brothers in a secluded taxi cab arguing with life and death, pride and honor at stake. It is beautiful.
Everything in this movie is superb. It is so realistic - so gritty, so hard. The actors are so phenomenal, they just amplify the story and spark the screen. Karl Maden is the toughest priest I have ever seen, and that moment where he is asked if he was willing to go all the way is so powerful. And Lee J Cobb just explodes.
This movie is incredibly respected. It is in the National Film Registry, the Vatican included this on their list of greatest movies of all time. It was nominated for 12 Oscars, winning 8 of them - and is on 6 AFI lists.
But one of the unsung heroes in this film is the screenwriter. Yes it is beautiful acted, beautifully shot, beautifully directed, but the story came first - and Budd Schulberg gave them a wonderful story to tell. He gave them a world in which to work in, names, backgrounds, lives. Sometimes people really forget that what they see on screen is a story someone is making for them.
The political underside to this movie is interesting too. True or not, this movie does give the impression of being a parallel to Kazan's naming names in the Communist hearings. It seems like this is his attempt to explain why and how it felt for him. Not knowing the circumstances, I can't really comment on his actions. But I do think it is also interesting to note that Arthur Miller, who did not give names at these hearings, is also said to have put his views in several of his plays - one being the famous The Crucible and another being his own longshoreman story, A View From the Bridge. I can't help but think that people benefit when there are battles with art.
That aside, all I can say is this movie is one that you just have to see!
5 out of 5 stars

Etiquette (EP): Greetings & Good-byes

Heres a simple, easy answer to any Introduction that leads to a conversation: "How do you do?" Almost any form of this is acceptable. And, the proper answer is usually in return "how do you do?" Strange isn't it, that we are not actually required to answer this question?

Some generals here:
* Good moring and Good Evening are greetings while usually Good Afternoon and Good Day are farewells. Good-bye and Good Night are mostly just said among friends and family.
* Important! In Church- a person should not greet another unless it is a wedding. Greetings and Good-byes and all unneccessary conversation should be left outside the sanctuary.
* A gentleman stands when revieving a lady and does not sit down until the lady does.

On shaking hands: intimate friends rarely are required to shake hands on meeting. Gentlemen always shake hands with each other - ladies are not required to do so. One should not shakes hands with outdoor gloves on - particularly if it can be removed. Personality in a handshake is key. The ideal is brief, slightly strong, and warm.

The hat question: this is for men only. Remove a hat: in public places like the church or restaurants, in a home, or in the presense of a lady - and obviously, for the national anthem! Lifting the hat: this is for strangers only. In meeting strangers in passing, when returning a dropped object, when offering a seat to a lady (which he always should!) - the situations are too many to name - generally, uf he says "thank you" or "excuse me" it should be accompanied by a tip of the hat.
Bowing: A formal bow is very distinct, used on public or formal occassions (actors, take note!) - basically clicking the heels (or making the motion of that) as bending at the waist. The informal bow is similar, only done with more ease. A woman's bow is more of an elongated head nod with a smile. Apparently in Europe the man bows first, and in the US a woman is supposed to - although admittedly, no one really follows this rule anymore.

This section is one of those I find fascinating - but one you don't see practiced much anymore. Although a modern day nod is basically our version of the passing bow. Shaking hands hasn't changed as much as bowing. Obviously the whole hat thing has changed greatly. Most men don't wear anything else but baseball caps anymore, and those that do, it seems like less and less have any idea about hat tipping and taking off etiquette. Those that do are mostly cowboys and old men. It seems like that kind of gentlemen is a little ... I don't know arcane (?) these days.

Its not like I haven't seen these practices before. I am a classic movie lover, so yeah, I have seen how people behave throughout the ages - and the glamor of Hollywood made sure the gentlemen and ladies were trained in proper etiquette. So, anyone who has seen anything of old hollywood or period films has an idea of etiquette. Basically we learn by observation. This leads me to wonder: when did this decline start? Or is this really a decline? Maybe it is just a shift. Studying etiquette out of context is really interesting. When I read something like this, I can't help but think how this would seem to someone less aquainted with these "customs."

I know, random thought, but hey.

review: Notorious

This is one of the hottest romances. Grant and Bergman are electric. This is the romantic in me talking, but I swear their first kiss takes my breath away. I don't really know if there is a single person better at making love to a woman on screen better than Cary Grant. I think very highly of the Bogart/Bergman romance in Casablanca, but even that pales in comparison to this. I would love to trade places with Bergman and nustle into his shoulder. I swear, everytime he kisses her - my heart skips a little. Grant is an amazing actor in that sense. When he kisses on screen you can see right into his character. Because a kiss is not just a kiss, there is always something behind it, and Grant shows us what is behing the kiss.
The story is really good - an international spy thriller kind of thing. Not Hitchcock's most powerful story, but darn good one.
Acting is phenomenal. I like Bergman in these slightly stronger roles. Not that I don't like her in Casablanca, but she's a lot less weak in this movie. As I said, Grant is amazing. It is interesting to see him in this kind of film - especially after watching so many of his comedies. There is next to nothing to laugh at here and he still commands the screen. You don't notice as much in some of his other movies, but Grant is also a very simple actor - a very readable one; you can tell every inflection he has - but you think you are the only one seeing it. That scene where he coaches her out of bed is so amazing to watch him in. Rains, of course, is wonderful - he is an amazing actor. The perfect non-villian, villian. You can see him being tortured by his mistakes and by what he has to do to her. The supporting cast is also quite wonderful and Leopoldine Konstantin - who plays Rains' mother is so damn creepy. She is the evil one, no doubt.
As par with international spy thrillers, the designs are usually, rightfully always very rich. In movies like these you are almost always sure to have elaborate and very beautiful sets, costumes, etc.
As far as how honored this movie is: it is part of the Criterion collection, in the National Film Registry, and nominated for 2 Oscars.
I personally think it deserves more.
4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, March 25, 2010

review: Mr. Deeds goes to Town

Oh Frank Capra - how I adore the work you do! Capra is a director for the "real man" - most of his work is about real people in extraordinary circumstances. This is no exception.
The basic plot is that a small town man inherits $20mil from a distant relative. Suddenly everyone has heard of this local yokel and everyone wants a piece of him. Enter a cynical newspaperwoman who goes undercover to write sensational articles about the man. As par, she falls in love with him. Then things take a turn for the worse and ... well you'll see.

The thing about Capra's films is that they are not considered artistically beautiful. More like, simplisticly beautiful - in every aspect. No outshining stars, no overtly complicated anything - but simple, honesty with a small touch of realistic fantastic.

There is not much to this movie. It's just fun - and you find yourself rooting on the little man. Which is the genius of Capra's work. Especially in the 1930s when it was so important for the common man to feel a little good about who they are and what they do. During the Depression, movies like these brought people hope. It took them out of their troubles, gave them some good times and much needed laughter, gave them someone to identify with, to cheer for. - gave that someone onstacles, and showed them triumphing. It was inspiring.
Sorry, I realize that was a little dramatic, but I have a soft spot for Depression era culture and the effect it had on people.
It was reviewed reasonably by critics and box office, won 2 of the 5 Oscars it was nominated for. It is also honored on 2 AFI lists.
Good watch; real cheer value!
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Etiquette (EP): Introductions

Trust me when I say that I hope this is as complicated as it is going to get.
Introductioons are a little tricky. There is moment in the movie Pygmalion (see review) where the professor drives his pupils to tears as he grilled her on what to call whom in an introduction or a conversation. This is kind of like that. All these rules, and at the end, you get the general idea, but the very specifics are mind boggling when hit with it all at once.
So, I think it wise to point out that I do not intend to reiterate everything from the book. If that is what you want, please go buy the book and you will have everything. I just intend to share some general information and commentary.

First off a couple simple rules:
* younger is introduced to older, less important is introduced to more important, but above all, a gentlemen is presented to a lady (unless in the case of royalty and the like)
* call people by title if possible. For royalty use Your Highness or Your Majesty. For religious affiliations, there are too many to name, but include "Your Emmence" "Your Holiness" and the like. Also tough in religious circles is how treat the various individuals, but mostly it just seems complicated for Catholics and royalty.
* inflection is key - remember it is not always what you say, but the manner in which you say it.
* Do not say: "shake hands with" or "I want to make you aquainted with"
* if you don't know the person's name, it is best not to ask right away, but rather find a third person and ask them later. As this is not always avoidable, when in doubt be polite as you say it.
*on shaking hands: gentlemen always; women choose to extend hand or not, but if a hand is offered, one must shake it.
* on introducing oneself: this is not done unless there is a reason. Like "don't you know mutual aquaintance?" or in general, asking them if they know you or remember you, while giving them your name. The point is to always have a reference for a reason they should know you, otherwise it is presumptuious.
* Important: never ask "you don't remember me, do you?" It is rude to try and put a person in an awkward position.

Introductions certainly seem to have lost their touch these days - but the more that I think about it, I can not remember the last time I was introduced to somebody. For instance, a woman would never consider introducing herself to an unknown man (at least not without bringing a common friend or a link between the two of them) - that would be presumptuous. Also asking people if they know the other person is okay, except that you should never ask a woman if she knows or has met a man. I know this comes from suggestion of scandal to an interest to protect the woman's name, but I guess in this day and age it does seem a little unnecessary.

There is also a little tirad about introducing people by first name only - except for the young to each other. This is a point with which I kind of agree with. I hate wearing a nametag with my first name on it. I'll admit that I am a little old-fashioned about this, but I would rather have the right to decide if someone knows me by my first name of not. I was one of the kids who loved it when I was called Miss Rankin by my teachers. That comes with a certain amount of respect, I felt, and to this day I kind of get a thrill when I hear myself being called "Miss" and not just "Teresa" by strangers. Besides, if I want people to be casual with me, I will tell them what they may call me.

The all important section for me was When to Rise, as this has always been a question of mine. Although, in this section, I will only get part of an answer. I am sure there will be more of these as we go along, but as far as introduction rising goes, this is it: The host family of a party rises on all occassions (unless old) and stay standing until the person is seated. But here is the overall rule: a gentlemen stands as long as the hostess, or any other lady does.

The part that I disagree with most in this section is the Halfway Introduction of a Domestic Employee. Basically it says that you do not introduce them - and if you have to, by first name only, unless the employee has long been in family employ and/or is held with "affectionate esteem" Okay, so I sort of agree with that, but then again, I can't imagine being okay with calling them by their first names towards a stranger. It would just seem too informal and carries a lack of respect. This is kind of in corelation with my thing about nametags.

So, what comes after Introductions? Generally, you want to say "How do you do?" and most will respond with the same phrase, although it is perfectly alright to answer the question before asking it in return. I personally hate it when people ask how you are and then immediately move on before letting a person answer. For some reason, according to Post, one should not answer "Pleased to meet you" or "Charmed" or "Glad to make your acquaintance" Although it does not say for sure why, only that it has gone out of style. After that initial bit of introductions, the rest is up to the art of conversation, which I am sure will be explored later.

Considering how much I left out, this is not bad, but I will leave you with a couple of helpful introduction phrases to try and use other than "this is":
"... may I present ..."
"... I have the honor to present..."
"... I should like to introduce you to ..."
"... I would like you to meet..."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

review: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

For just a second, I want to lean away from the film itself and focus on one of the extras on the DVD I am watching. It is a cartoon from that time called "Old Glory" and yes, you got it, it is about American History. It starts with Porgy having trouble with the Pledge of Allegiance. He say he doesn't understand why he has to learn it, and then falls alseep to dream of Uncle Sam telling him our nation's history. He then wakes up and proudly salutes the flag and says the Pledge. It is a wonderful cartoon and it is something that makes you very proud to be American. Something a lot of people needed to see in those time - something I think we all need to see and hear today more often.

But the other point: Keep in mind, this was in 1939 - and so, the pledge Porky says is missing that phrase that so many people make a fuss over: "under God" This is a whole side matter, but I do think it is important to mention that this phrase was put into use in the 1950s during the Red Scare and the Communist witch hunts of the time. That is why I don't like the phrase - or rather, it is not that I don't like the phrase, but rather I don't like the intent of which it is used. And I don't like people thinking it is unpatriotic to not say the phrase now. Its not unpatriotic, its just not religious.

That aside - back to the film:
You just gotta love the early Technicolor films. There is something so spactacular about the color that even today's films can't match. The color is just so rich - even the browns and so forth. One of the films 5 Oscar Nominations was for Color Photography
I like this movie, and I don't. I like it because it has a lot of stars and is beautiful with its color, but I also think this is a little overacted. But not in a way I like. I don't mind a little bit of dramatics, but there is something about this movie that rubs me the wrong way.
I think Bette Davis is a genius - she is so transformative - but she's a little too bombastic for me in this. Maybe that is how she is supposed to be. I've never seen a calm portrayal of Elizabeth, but this borders on a little psychotic at times. This makes her a bit of a scene stealer - and I guess maybe she should be considering her real life counterpart - but that doesn't make for a very good film. Flynn is Flynn - I have only seen him in one type of movie as the charming swashbuckler - which he does well - but again, sometimes it can be a little much. One thing (and I feel bad about saying this), I don't believe they are in love at all. There are moments when I see them portraying love and acting so wonderfully, but you are aware it is acting. It does not seem real. Not to me, anyways. I will say that their sparring is quite believable though. This might be because Flynn and Davis did not like each other much. They were two very different people, so that naturally led to conflicts. And then apparently, the director, Michael Curtiz was rather hard to work with. So yeah, the tension scenes were quite good because I image there was a lot of tension on the set.
I guess the biggest thing I have against this movie is the politics. That is really all it is: politics. Trying to tell a love story about two people who aren't really in love because of politics is just a bad combination. What I mean by that is that this is not a love that just couldn't be - but a love that is not willing to be. Elizabeth and Essex say they love each other deeply, but neither one is willing to put aside their ambition, to give it all up to be with one another. It is a failed romance - and that is just hard to watch. And then there is Lady Penelope - I just can't understand why Essex would not fall in love with someone who so utterly loves him. It just doesn't makes sense. I guess what I mean by that is that they don't seem to have a past, a history, together, so there is no reason why we should believe that they love each other.
The supporting cast is amazing. Think of it: Alan Hale, Donald Crisp, Olivia deHavilland, Vincent Price, and a brand new Nanette Fabray (Fabres).
I don't know, but somehow this movie just did not click with me.
2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

review: Everything is Illuminated

Liev Schreiber as a writer and director. Wow. Who knew? I knew he was an actor, but I had no clue that this movie was his baby. Right from the get-go I had a really good feeling about this movie. I initially picked it up because I love Elijah Wood as an actor. I think he is brilliant. But as the movie started (before Wood was even seen) during the credits and into the opening I could see that this was going to be the director's glory. There is something in the opening that I just love ... Now to see what the rest of the movie holds.

I love this movie! I must, Must, MUST have this in my collection. I was surprised that the movie was not a concentrate on the main character, but a journey of people. It was sensitive and meaningful without being too much of a crying movie. I mean, I cried, but I wasn't racked with sobs like some movie. I don't know how this is done, but I was able to experience and understand the horror without being caught up in it. This is a good thing. So often I target on emotions without considering them. But, with this, I was considered everything. For me, it was a thinking movie.
It is so gorgeously done. Everyone in the cast does an amazing job. It is beautiful from beginning to end - the design is fascinating and the artistic direction of the movie is just something you have to see to appreciate.
No kidding, this is:
5 out of 5 stars

Book Review: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (w/ an examination of what I believe)

Warning: Spoiler Alert!
I can't really talk about this book without discussing its very core - so if you plan on reading it, don't read this or your experience will be ruined.
Its no secret: I love the Robert Langdon series of Dan Brown's books. His ability of take fact and blend it with fiction makes for wonderful reading. Because of reading Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code, and now, The Lost Symbol, I not only have a greater appreciation for art and history, I also have learned things. I love novels that teach you. It is the entertainer in me - the prefered method to teach while you entertain. And Dan Brown certainly does that.
Also, some might think this strange, but I find it quite natural, I have also begun to think more about my own personal religious beliefs in relation to the plot points of his books and the controversies that surround them. I remember the big hype that went up around The DaVinci Code and I still think it is utterly ridiculous. However, controversy provokes thought and discussion - which I love. Strangely enough, it is this book which has caused me to think more about religion than the other two have.
It might help to let you know what the book is about.
A truly American mystery. And yet, still universal. This book finds Professor Robert Langdon delving into an old Masonic myth to try and save a good friend of his. The book deals with religion, thought, the origins of the US, science, and of course, mysteries and symbols.
It is a good read. Rather long at points, but still very good. The only down side to Brown's use of intellectual truths is that, sometimes it gets to be a little too much. I never was one for understanding science, so there were a couple times in the book that I was rather bogged down. That being said, it was still a page turner - especially the last fourth of the book. And again, it is a thrilling mystery with a couple of really ingenius plot twist that you just don't see coming.
But the really interesting part for me has nothing to do with symbols and US History. The part that really makes you think is universal. Let me boil it down: the idea that men are gods - that we can be godlike if we can tap our true potential. This crosses in with Noetic Science - which is the science of human thought. Part of it, I believe. I do think the human mind is the best thing about us - and I am sure there is untapped potential there. Growing up Lutheran, I can easily see how many people would have a problem with this concept. If we are gods, then there is no reason to praise our Creator. However - there is also this thought: God is just a word; a name we have given a very powerful something. Even if that something is just a thought - like this book says, thoughts are powerful. And there must be something to it if every culture in the world believes in some form or other of a powerful Being (that may not be the right name for it) We all believe in something greater than ourselves, something .
It is hard to describe what I believe without getting into very controversial grey areas that some people do not appreciate. I know just by talking about some of these things that I would have people damning me and some people praying for my soul. Be that as it may, here goes: I believe in God - a powerful Being, that created all of us. I believe He is all-powerful and all-knowing. I believe He gives us free will because he loves us. And I believe that our belief, or our faith in this Being is most powerful thing we have. I don't really believe in a single God for a single religion, and everyone else is wrong. I don't believe the Bible should be taken literally, but I do believe that the stories and the ideas within them are a guidebook to living a good life; a life that will be rewarded not only in the end, but by its own means. (Basically, I mean that being "Good" is its own reward). I do believe in Heaven and Hell - but I DO NOT believe that mankind has the right, has the power, or should believe that we can influence others in that respect (what I mean is that we don't have the power to damn people or to proclaim them to heaven). That is God's judgement, not man's. As I read over this, I noticed something. Another belief that I have. Something that makes little sense to the pattern I have established above. This is the Christian in me: I believe in Jesus. I don't know if I believe everything written about him in the Bible, but I do believe he was a good man who died for our sins.
I know this is much more than your usual book review - but what good is talking about a book if you don't include a little personal "how it affected me" bit. This is what this book made me think about.
All in all, I love this book, and I will soon add it to my personal library.
4 out of 5 stars

Etiquette (EP) - Introduction

Okay, so I tried this once before, and with little success. I started a blog about working my way through etiquette books. That failed. Why? #1: because I lost the password to my own blogsite and I can't get back to it. Whoops! #2: I tried so hard to force myself into it; it was like homework - something I had to do, and it lost all of its fun. Couple that with getting busy (as I sometimes do) and then there was a couple months where I didn't have the book with me ... well, I sort of began to resent my research project and cast it aside. I know, I know, I am terrible.
So what makes me think this go-around will work out? I don't. But I'm not pressuring myself to get it done; I have the book; and I still have the desire.

"What desire?" you ask. I may have already talked about it before, but here it is again. I have always wanted to be a Lady. When I was little I was fascinated by being proper and good. That little girl inside of me still wishes that. It seems like, in this day and age, there can be no such thing. I mean, really think about it - when is the last time you heard of a real gentleman or a lady? They don't seem to exist anymore - at least not in the way we think of them. Not the old-fashioned tip-your-hat, calling-cards, social-engagements, Mr. -and-Miss, pleased-to-make-your-aquaintance kind of way. There are still vestiges of it in our society (thank God), but with our advancement in equality and human rights, we have also become much more casual. This is not a bad thing, but we've also seemed to lose the charm of those dear days gone by as well.

So, what a girl to do? I admit here and now that I will probably never be a Lady in the way I have always wanted to be. But that leads to a question: how can you be a Lady in today's world? Which leads to a lot of other questions. So, I want to study it. And as I have no access to classes on this sort of thing, I decided to try my own hand at it. And how do you usually start to learn something? You begin with history.

And so, by chance, one day at a flea market I found a copy of Emily Post's "Blue Book of Social Usage": Etiquette. Okay, so this is a far cry from the beginning of subject at hand, but it would be an easier jumping off point for me. A kind of place to begin. From here, depending on what books I can find, I can jump forward in time, or jump back and go further into the social etiquette of different time periods. So really, all of this depends on the availability of textual material.
So we begin with chapter one: "The True Meaning of Etiquette" Right away, I must confess, I am a little prejudice because of the modern day interpretation on what etiquette is. Even my own sister thinks little of what it is beyond the daunting: "which fork" question - and most others see it only as something you need when you are getting married (no kidding, in the etiquette section in most libraries more than 50% of the books have to do with weddings -at least, in my experience).

Post goes head to head with this myth right away and points out that etiquette is more than just a single correct thing to do or say in any particular moment. Etiquette is more like guidelines for the polite - and more than that, it is simply knowledge that has been passed down to us for practical use. She goes further to point out that everyone can benefit from displaying proper, courteous behaviour. Now there is a word that few people think about these days: courteous. Really, it all stems from the desire to be kind to others; to treat them with polite respect. Maybe the problem today is the root of that: people just don't seem to what to do that anymore.

In our advancement, we have come to the idea that respect has to be earned. I don't argue that point completely. But I also do think that everyone is entitled to respect. I know that is contradictory - but it also works well. There is a level of respect that every person deserves - Everyone. Call it common courtesy, I guess. It does not matter how well or how little you know a person, or like them, it shouldn't matter. Everyone deserves to be treated with at least a little dignity. But beyond that, a person has to earn greater respect, which most of the time leads to being liked or loved. You can not like a person at all, despise them, even, but you need to respect them. Unfortunately, most people don't take that attitude. which often stems from misunderstanding and can lead to not so nice things.

Anyway - sorry about the hiatus there. But be prepared for those little sidetrips - I make them a lot.

I particularly like her feeling that etiquette is really " the code of instinctive decency, ethical integrity, self-respect, and loyalty." She also notes that a person should be judged by who they are, not what they have. She also makes a lot of observances that can be boiled down to this simple idea: one has to be willing in spirit to have etiquette. That is half the battle. A person can never be a true lady or gentlemen without wanting to be - and that one should not be self-conscious of the act. So, basically, want to be good without flaunting the fact that you are. (By the by, this is getting to sound more and more like something from the Bible. Is that just me? Well, no one ever called Jesus rude, so maybe there is something to that.) Granted, these things have to be practiced - so you can't be wholly unconscious of it - but the goal is for these polite gestures and ways to become instinctual.

So, *gulp* here we go. Off into the world of Emily Post...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Talk of the Town

Considering it was nominated for 7 Oscars and was incredibly popular in its day, I was rather surprised to I had never heard about it or read about it.
Its a comedy - but you wouldn't have been able to tell that by the beginning montage of the movie. I thought it was going to be a rather serious courtroom kind of drama.
But, once you get into it, you can see that this is an interesting comedy mixed with a nice hint of a drama.
But I can see why I haven't heard of it: its not incredibly memorable. Not compared to the classics. However it is a pretty good movie. A nice lesson on law mixed with a little romance.
I don't quite know why I don't like this more. I love Cary Grant and I like Jean Arthur, but this movie is just ... forgettable. I just watched it the other night and already I am lukewarm about it.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

To Have or Have Not

:D I love Bogart! And for their first film together (and Bacall's first ever) they sizzle. I don't really know why I like this movie so much, its not an amazing story - its just so-so.
There are some amazing moments though - including the very famous "You know how to whistle, don't you Steve?" bit. Oh yeah, and one of the best exits ever made on film by Bacall.
To be honest, the romance kind of outshadows everything else. Not saying that the rest of the movie isn't good, but chemistry and the work of two very fine actors is hard to top. But you do have Walter Brennan, who does a fine job playing not much of a role. His character just doesn't make much sense, but he still makes him a character we love. The movie has a little bit of the Casablanca feel - but just a little in the storyline. I haven't read the story, but apparently a lot of changes we made to make it more adaptable to Hollywood - also to make it as much as a star vehicle for Bacall as possible.
Again, I don't know what it is, but I do like this film.
4 out of 5 stars

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stagecoach 1939

If the previous film (the Shootist - see review) is John Wayne's entire career in one film, than this movie is the entire genre is one film.
It is excellent!
John Ford. John Wayne. Claire Trevor. Thomas Mitchell. Andy Devine. Donald Meek. Etc. This movie is jam packed with talent. John Ford put his iconic stamp on it. All you have to do is watch it, and you know it is his work. Especially his use of photographing the landscape. That is what makes this a western epic. Something I love about westerns is that it is a truly American genre. Its all ours.
Also keep in mind this year: 1939. The golden year of Hollywood. More epic, landmark films came out of the time than most other years. If nothing else, there is a grandeur about that year.
Something else you should know: this is the first time that Monumental Valley was featured in a picture. This piece of land is now known for its grandeur through classic western movie - and it is interesting to see the first time if was used - and to such wonderful effect. How yeah, and the stunts are freakin' amazing! Mostly done by one man. The other thing is some of the camera shots. First of all, the famous first entrance of Wayne in the film. You have to see it. It's brilliant. Ford did an amazing job on getting Wayne to be the center of the film. He was always cutting to Wayne to get his reaction - so you are incredibly in tune to what he thinks and how he feels - it's just brilliant. And then there is the run over the camera shot with the horses. I have a hard time thinking about how they got that shot without breaking the camera a couple times. Really, the work done on this film artistically is amazing.
This movie was a unique story for a western. It was much more fully developed than most of the B westerns made of the time. This is what was called the "psychological western" or "adult western" This movie takes a look at some social issues as well as the general good vs evil. But there is a twist there. You come to learn that no one is pure good or pure evil, which was really landmark for the time. Again, this is one of those put a mix of people in a small space kind of movie. Except the brilliant aspect is it isn't a small space, it is the wild west. Yes, in a stagecoach for most of it. But all of these people are bound together whether they want to be or not, on a journey.
Basically, you have the driver, the lawman (riding gun for the coach), a young army wife determined to join her husband, a dunken doctor and a scarlet woman who has been run out of town, a meek whiskey drummer, a banker with a secret, a young rebel, and a mysterious stranger whose reputation taints honorable intentions. A wonderful array of characters and actors to play them. The really interesting the similarities and differences between the ways each of the characters views honor and respect. The stranger's respect for the army wife is apparent, and he does all her can to make her comfortable from a southern sense of duty a gentleman owes a great lady. Which is wonderful, no doubt. But then you have people like Ringo and the doctor, who don't account for whether a woman is considered a lady or not, but treat them as such because they are women. Social prejudice plays are large role in this film - and that, above even the Apaches is the great obstacle these people face. Not the landscape, not the "savages" (yes, this movie is a bit prejudice in that way), but each other.
This story was so successful that it was remade several times. This version was nomiated for 7 Oscars, winning 2 of them. It is in the National Film Registry and on AFI's 10 Top 10 Genre list. How it is not honored beyond that floors me. However, it has gained its reputation of immense proportions over the years. Between the acting, the direction, and the wonderful camera work, it's a beautiful film.
It's a favorite of mine and if I could put more than 5 stars on, I would, but since we have limits:
5 out of 5 stars

The Shootist

John Wayne's last film. And it is brilliant. It is especially significant considering Wayne's deteriorating health and the loss of Bacall's husband a couple years before.
Part of that significance and brilliance is brought to light by the actors. Wayne and Bacall are from the older generation of Hollywood. They are stars for a reason. There is a particular scene that I love. When Wayne tells Bacall that he has cancer. It is so powerful. You can see them channeling emotions and it is really touching. Then you have the younger set - the up and coming Hollywood - including Ron Howard. You also have Henry Morgan and James Stewart, how much better can you get? This movie really seemed like a death of some kind. The end of an era of filmmaking. You have to see the movie to understand how amazing it is.
It is iconic. It is also beautiful and it makes a couple of statements worth making. About the essentials: life, death, and dignity. This movie has more meaning in one scene than most do in an entire film nowadays.
It also has some of the best lines. One of my dad's favorites: Once Wayne gets confirmation of his condition: Wayne "You told me I was strong as an ox" Stewart "Well, even an ox dies." Then there is a lot of fun banter between Bacall and Wayne. The best is: Bacall: "John Bernard, you swear too much." Wayne: "Like Hell I do."
Its such a wonderful film. That last day - I can't help it, I cry - every time.
See it - it is a masterpiece of film making and one of the best last films a person could make. The movie is John Wayne's whole career in a single movie. An icon. John Wayne goes out with class.
5 out of 5 stars

I leave you with one last quote - because I think it is so important - a creedo of JB Brooks: "I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them." Granted this is coming from a "shootist" but it is a standard of dignity, of requirement of respect from people.

The Maltese Falcon

My actor crush on Bogart continues to grow. I've seen this movie before, but it seems like a perfect night to rewatch a classic with one of my all-time favorite leading men.
This is considered by many to be the gem of all film noirs. I can't say for sure if it is the best, but it is certainly a jewel in the crowning glory of the genre. It certainly was acclaimed in its own time, being nominated for 3 Academy Awards. It has registered its long time fame also, being included in the National Film Registry as well as 5 AFI lists.
You just can't get much better in anything. Acting, design, cinematography, etc, etc. Some of the shots in this movie are utterly amazing. Bogart being as amazing as he is, Lorre - I can't say enough about how much I love him as an actor. Sydney Greenstreet in a role that just epitomizes the type of character that he is remembered for. Astor does very well at being a tricky actress. You can hardly ever tell when she is lying and when she is not - until she really puts on an act. That isn't easy to do, and she does it pretty well.
But the star of this movie is the story: so many twists, and the best part is, you'll be shocked at the ending - it just blew my mind the first time.
Not much else I can say except that the movie speaks for itself.
4 out of 5 stars


Okay, so what to tell?
Well life has not really been kind to me lately. I didn't get a tech gig at CSFAC's 'All My Sons' I was (and still am) incredibly disappointed by that. Oh well, life goes on. Then I find out that Corporate of Rumbi Island Grill is closing our location. Ten days notice. Just, bam, you're done. I'm pissed. I really liked working there. So, now I am out of a job again. Just what I needed. And looking for another one has not been very fruitful -especially considering that I am looking for something that will last me only until Playhouse starts again.
Upsides: we've moved way out into the "country" but in a nice little community area. Something Ranch. Very nice - up and developing place. Houses are selling like hotcakes out here. It really is nice. I love the place.
Oh yeah - Steph (my sister) is pregnant. The only bad thing about this is that they found out about it two days before Chris was deployed. For a year. So, sadly, he will miss almost everything. They are hoping that he will be able to take his leave sometime close to the due date and then they can induce labor so he can be there for the birth. They are thinking sometime in November. As far as I can tell/was told, everyone is incredibly excited. Especially future (once again) Grandparents. Really, I am just happy that everyone else is happy. I won't lie and say that I am thrilled with the situation that Steph is in. If he weren't gone it would be a totally different story. Oh well - they have to be up to it, they don't have a choice. And really, when the blessing of a baby is involved, who wouldn't be thrilled?
Let's see - what else? I'm considering expanding my reviewing to books and music too. But I really don't know much about how to review those kinds of things. Never really has stopped me before though. I'v recently become a little obsessed with Spring Awakening (the musical). I got the script and I have just been pouring over it. It is once of those scripts I would LOVE to work on. Although, considering all factors, I probably never will. Still, one can dream.
Picture time! Just some of the pics I have taken within the last couple months.

Homeless on the stage - outdoor theatre in a park downtown.

CSFAC theater - isn't it gorgeous?
Steph and Chris getting ready for the farewell military ball.
The adorable couple.
The new place! Allie enjoying the backyard -especially the leftover bits from the housework. This is one of the reasons why I nicknamed her Trash Collector.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rio Bravo

Feeling a little homesick. So what do I do? I pop in a John Wayne movie. Miss you Dad!
John Wayne is as familiar to me as Disney is. The Rankins are big fans of John Wayne, so I grew up watching most of his movies. The most familiar to me is 'McClintock' and I would be watching that, but I don't have it with me, sadly. I re-discovered this movie a couple years ago, and came to love it, especially when I got old enough to appreciate its humor.
The story is hardly original, but I guess really it is, as this was the first in a spawn of movies based around a similar storyline. All of which I love. According to Hollywood lore, this film was made by Hawks and Wayne in response to 'High Noon' Apparently, they did not much care for the situation of everyone refusing to help the Sheriff - so, you will notice, the Sheriff in this film has loyal backup and a lot of people offering to help.
The best aspect of its movie is the moments of lightheartedness. The humor is simple, but brilliant and perfectly timed. Also, the songs. Think about it: there is a scene in the jail during the hold up that is so much fun. In the room are Walter Brennan, John Wayne, Ricky Nelson, and Dean Martin - each of these men had at least one album in their lifetimes - although John Wayne's was not a singing album so much as a narrated patriotic tribute. Of course, with Nelson and Martin in this film, you just knew there had to be a song or two. Like I said - a lot of fun.
This movie has a little something for everyone. A good old western with a fair amount of shooting and action. Humor that everyone can appreciate. A good story. Established stars and some hot newcomers for the younger crowd (for the time).
Acting wise, all are pretty good. Characters are the stock kind, but the actors really bring them to life. Dean Martin is really interesting to see in this film. For a man known for his musical comedy team films, he does a wonderful job playing a straight role as a ex-drunk. Wayne is amazing as always. He's iconic, really. Walter Brennan is my favorite though. He is so much fun. His laugh especially - and his singing. Dad told me that Brennan sings like my Grandpa Rankin.
So there is a lot of nostalgia in this film for me.
That aside, this film has one of the best beginnings of film. All silent. When something like that happens, you know that the first words are going to be important. The first words of the film: "Joe, you're under arrest." Perfect considering that the entire plot centers on this statement. You have to see it to appreciate it. I know I am a bit buyist, but I think you should see it.
4 out of 5 stars

12 Angry Men (1957)

I love this movie! I love the play. I love the type of story - put a bunch of strangers in a space together and something is bound to happen. The specifics of why they are there always differ, but I have hardly ever been disappointed by this type of story.
This movie is a gem. I don't know what exactly it is; I don't think it is one element, but all of them. The acting is wonderful - All of the amazing character actors and Henry Fonda at his best. It is incredibly important that all of these personalities be as varied as they are. And because that have to be that different, each actor has to make them as real as they can be - especially in a movie where belief and indecision are so vital.
I have a cinematic weakness for this story.
The stage version vs filmed versions is a bit of a topic. On one hand, the stage version is better because of the live intensity. You can't match that in film. Also, if staged right, the enclosure of the space and the intimacy can give a real sense of the atmosphere. On the other hand, staging can also be very awkward in the wrong space. Presenting this in proscenium in a big problem. in film, you have the elegance of camera angles and film edits. This is part of the reason why I love this film. In a movie where space is everything, the use of close-ups, medium and long shots become art. Being able to zoom in on a person's eyes while realization creeps over them. That is gold to a movie like this.
So yeah, I kinda like the movie. And a lot of people agree with me. It is honored by inclusion in the National Film Registry. It also has a place on 5 AFI lists, as well as Fonda being on one of their 100 Stars list. It was nominated for three Oscars, but lost to 'Bridge on the River Kwai' (see review) for all three, which also is a classic, so it was in very good company.
5 out of 5 stars

Bringing Up Baby

Utterly delightful!
It is amazing that this movie was a box office bomb when it came out. Hepburn was labled 'Box Office poison' and Hawks was fired from the next movie he was going to direct also starring Cary Grant, Gunga Din (see review). However, as with many greats, it was only a matter of time before it would be realized for its true potential. This movie was so wacky, it was way ahead of its time.
Trying to explain the story does the movie no justice because the plot is just utterly ridiculous (and I mean that in a wonderful way) To boil it down a scientist (Grant) meets up with a mad-cap heiress (Hepburn) and has a series of misadventures incolving a brontosaurus' bone, a dog named George, and a leopard named Baby.
It is just utterly fantastic! You have to see this one! It's a typical screwball comedy with a particularly wacky story, fantastic acting, and a good ole time! It has therefore been awarded many honors including selection for the National Film Registry as well as being included on 4 AFI Top lists!
Trust me, it is worth it!
5 out of 5 stars

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

This is one of those movies I was forced to see one too many times when it first came out - so I naturally have an aversion to it. I thought I would give it a watch to see if that aversion still exists. It does - but only for certain parts of it. The not so good parts.
That aside, this is a great movie. A good story - wonderful actors - and a little bit of that crazy southern-ness. Southern family secrets - it's so Williamesque - except that it ends pretty happily.
I know the story is all about the women in this film - but it is the men that really interest me. These poor men - they just hold on for dear life with these crazy women! James Garner is just wonderful as the dad. Actually, everyone is wonderful. It is an amazing cast - not a single outshining performance - a true ensemble.
The design is also brilliant - as well as the direction, writing, and cinematography. Really, it is a beautiful film.
4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Transformers & Transformers 2

These are my guilty pleasures. I gotta say it: I love these movies. I'm pretty sure that a lot of it has to do with my first experience of seeing both of these films. But nonetheless, I have watched them a couple times on my own and I still like it.
Which leads me to a confession:
I refused to see this movie at first. I was wrong. I admit it.
What is it that I like about these movies? I really don't know for sure. It taps into a certain part of me that loves action movies. They're thrilling. Also: Shia LaBeouf. I hated him in what little I saw of 'Even Stevens' but then I saw him in a Disney movie and I was impressed. And when I say him in these movies, I was surprised at how he grew up. I could take or leave Megan Fox - but the surprise of the film was John Turturro. I love him as an actor. He doesn't always take great roles, but he does great in them.
There are a lot of downsides to this movie. Some of the characterizations are a little too stereotypical. Kinda pathetic. Which makes some of the language a little corny, but overall, not too distracting. But, in defence, it also has some very awesome moments of dialouge too. But the overall star of these movies is the sound. Holy cow, the sound designers/editors/mixers are fricken geniuses! Sadly, it was only ever nominated for Oscars - how they didn't win for visual/sound effects is beyond me.
Despite some of its failings - I really do like them - they're my sci-fi, action-adventure geek out movies.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars


This is the first movie I did not watch for my own sake. Obviously.
Steph (sister) and Chris (her BF) and I sat down to watch this movie. It was ... interesting.
The story is basically about a group of people who all end up at a hotel during a terrible storm/flood. It also is about a very dangerous criminal who may or may not have a mental illness.
It's interesting and twisted. Very twisted.
It would have been very really great, if you couldn't utterly predict almost everything.
That aside, its pretty interesting. John Cusack is just amazing (as an actor). I have seen him in a lot of movies and he doesn't always play a type. Ray Liotta is wonderful as well - he plays a wonderfully creepy could-be bad guy. Amanda Peet is - well I never really liked her in almost anything - she is tolerable, but nothing special
It was an okay watch for a first time, but not something I would ever really care to see again if it weren't for Cusack and Liotta.
2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Friday, March 19, 2010


Okay, I love 'My Fair Lady' so I love this movie. Because, aside from the music, it is almost word for word, exactly the same.
At first I was hesitant, because the only character I had ever seen Leslie Howard play was the quiet, easy-going, daydreaming intellectual. Didn't know if he could do Higgens any credit. Well he did, and he is delightful! Still playing the intellectual, he is loud, boisterous, and a bit of a bastard - all of which we love him for. Everyone else does an okay job, but Leslie Howard is why you watch the movie. Wendy Hiller is okay, but she just can not compare to the elegance and charm of her musical counterpart (on stage or screen).
It was nomiated for 4 Academy Awards, winning for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay).
It's quite charming, so
4 out of 5 stars


Can I really say enough about this masterpiece? Nope!
I love this movie! When I was little I just sort of liked it, but now that I am older I can more fully appreciate its beauty and genius. This was a standard in Elem School, watching sections 3 or 4 times a year in Music Class. We also watched the dinosaur portion when we were studying the prehistoric age in science. So, yeah, I know it well.
It wasn't until I watched the featurette on the making of it that I realized the social significance of the piece during its time. I won't go into all of it, but Disney at the top of his game teamed up with Leopold Stowkowski (who was a rock star of the classical world at the time) and music critic Deems Taylor, who was the music parrallel to the best sports commentators of today.
You would think this would be instant magic. And it was, but it was a limited popular success. Still, it became a classic later down the line with its subsequent releases (thank goodness for that!) What fascinates me is that all of this began as just another Silly Symphony. But after a little while it became clear that the cost would be too much for a short, so they decided to make it a feature concert.
It won 2 Special Academy Awards (one for Disney and one for Stowkowski) It was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry and AFI honored it on its original Top 100 list as well as naming it #5 of the Top 10 Animated films.
The music selections are brilliant, the art is beautiful, and most of it is just fun! I take exception to the dinosaur part and Night on Bald Mountain - which, even after years, I still don't like - it freaked me out as a kid, and I guess that sticks with me. Although, I will admit that I can at least appreciate it now - and I do.
My personal favorite will always be the Nutcracker Suite. They are all so brilliant and beautiful. And who doesn't like the pastoral selection with the baby pegasus' and a fat, drunken God on a donkey? And the whole, meet the soundtrack is utterly brilliant! But the most beautiful is the ending with the Ave Maria. I'm 23 years old and it still brings me to tears.
Really, with this movie you can not go wrong. And this is something EVERYONE should see at least once. Sometimes when I hear a good piece of music or listen to a beautiful concert, I think: maybe if people had exposure to things like this, there would be more love of beauty, and therefore, more peace. Has that ever happened to you? Just sitting back and listening to something so beautiful that you can't imagine such things as war, pain, hunger, want, fear, and things like that. It's the best feeling in the world to be overtaken with beauty in art, and Fantasia is the best example of that.
5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, March 4, 2010

review: Sweet Bird of Youth

Whew. Tennesse Williams does it again.
This is not 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,' but it certainly has something. I haven't read the play, but reading the synopsis, there are some very big changes - as all Williams movies do. Because of censorship, two very big plot points are missing - and that changes this dramatically. Now, my favorite 'Cat' is also very different between book and play, but I think they did a better job adapting that script than this. The super-imposed "happy ending" in Sweet Bird is just a little too unbelievable. Whereas, in Cat, it is certainly possible with an immediate "happy" that actually only solves a single problem for the moment and it is rather grave future outlook if you think about it.
Enough comparison between the two.
Sweet Bird is about a young hopeful (Newman) trying to make it in Hollywood. He has failed at this, and so, in a last attempt, he begins a bit of an unlikely affair with an aging starlet (Page). With hope on the rise, he goes back to his hometown to get the girl he left behind (Knight). The problem is her father (Begley) who is as corrupt a politician as they come, spouting about purity and holding up his daughter as a sort of virginal goddess. It's really a sickening story. But it is intriguing too.
Newman is, as always, wonderful. He is sex appeal. But he is also more than that. He is funny, manipulative, calculating, hurting, and understanding. Page is also pretty good (She was nominated for an Oscar for her role as well as Knight - although the only winner was Ed Begley), she plays the rollar-coaster aging starlet very well. Knight is as pure a character as an adaption of a Williams character can be. Those who know William's work know what I mean. Actually, no, the most sincerely pure is Laura from Menagerie, but even she is jaded in a way - but what I really mean, I guess is that Knight was cheated by the censorship, the rewriting, and the conventions she had to comply to. I would love to have seen a more jaded performance, but - that's Hollywood for you.
As much as I love Newman and Williams, the best I can give the film is
3 out of 5 stars