Thursday, March 26, 2009

Errol Flynn’s Grandson for Nautica

 

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His name is Luke Flynn and he has no illusions about his acting abilities, unlike certain celubuspawns.

Oh Tatum O’Neil, such a pity…

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Whoa Nelly! Katharine Hepburn

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After almost two weeks of laziness, I finally felt compelled enough to post this 5 seconds after stumbling upon it!

Meow! How old do you think she is in this picture? (Of course, this woman is forever young).

I am so used to seeing the great Kate with her high collar up to the chin and trousers covering her legs that seeing her her bare shoulders and with a nipple slip!!! is completely shocking and jarring!

I love personalities who have the power to surprise you continually.

I wish I was one of those people who continually challenge themselves.

Jane Fonda experienced Kate’s wisdom and remembered these words from Great Kate:

"You've earned my respect. You've stood up to your fears. If you don't do that, you become soggy."

Happy Monday everyone! Time to step out of comfort zones.
:)

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Love in the Afternoon (1957) or Seduction Techniques on Your School Girl Crush

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I guess it is the week of Audrey Hepburn here in the classic film blog community.  Graciebird posted her take on Roman Holiday on Monday, while Dex at Hollywood Dreamland posted his Audrey Hepburn poll results on Wednesday.

The movie I voted for came in 4th out of the five possible choices of favorite Audrey Hepburn performance during the fifties.

Okay, I have to agree that Audrey may not have delivered her best performance in this film, but it is the one film that affected me personally. It scares me to think that many Audrey Hepburn fans may overlook this gem.

I saw it when I was just fourteen. A bad case of insomnia caused me to turn on the television.  Love in the Afternoon was playing, already 1/4 of the way through.  I did not know who Gary Cooper was nor cared that Billy Wilder directed it.  But I was entranced forever.

THE STORY
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Set in Paris, Love in the Afternoon tells the story of Ariane Chevasse, the daughter of a private investigator, played by Maurice Chevalier.  Ariane’s mother is dead and the two seem to rely on each other. Ariane has her cello and is very eager to find out more about her father’s line of work.  Her father refuses to tell her any details about his sordid job.

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Enter a paranoid client who thinks his wife is having an affair.  His suspicions are confirmed by Monsieur Chevasse.  The client’s wife is having an affair with a wealthy American playboy named Mr. Flannagan (Gary Copper with a bad facelift). Upon hearing this distressing news, the client sets out on a vendetta to shoot Mr. Flannagan. Ariane overhears this conversation.

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Ariane tries desperately to warn Mr. Flannagan, to no avail since he’s too busy seducing married women to answer the phone.  Ariane must go to the Hotel Ritz Paris and save him herself.  Needing to avoid the murderous jealous husband in the hallway, she has to climb through a window in one hotel room to get to the Mr.Flannagan’s room.

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She saves his life and he is forever indebted. Of course, Ariane falls in love with Flannagan.

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Now act two is the magical part. Since Ariane is the daughter of a private investigator, she utilizes all her resources to get her an unfair advantage over the man she is in love with.  Armed with the confidential dirt her father has dug up on Flannagan, Ariane goes back to him in secret.

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And the conflict with her attraction to Flannagan gets clearer.  She is merely a naive little girl whose never been in a relationship, whereas Flannagan is an experienced heart breaker.  In order to balance the scales, she peddles fabricated love affairs to him.

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At the impressionable age in which I watched this movie, I just thought that Ariane was such a genius.  She actually tamed this wild man. She got him to fall in love with her, only to string him along like a puppy dog.

CONNECTIONS
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I guess one could say that this movie is the bridge between Sabrina and Breakfast and Tiffany's.  Sabrina was all about the fairy tale fantasy about romance, while Breakfast at Tiffany’s was about the reality of romance and how with experience comes heartbreak.

In between Sabrina’s idealism and Holly Golightly’s pessimism is Ariane.  Ariane is where we see that Audrey Hepburn romantic persona develop into maturity.

In Sabrina, she goes to Paris to Culinary School and to try and get over David.  Well, I always wished that we got to stay in Paris a little longer and see Sabrina develop from an ugly duckling into a swan.  Well, Love in the Afternoon is set all in Paris and I’d like to think that this is what Sabrina’s time there might have been like.

Audrey Hepburn filmed this movie at the same time she was filming Funny Face (1957).  I cant help but think how exhausting this must have been to film this movie while filming a musical.

MY PERSPECTIVE
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Although not the best Billy Wilder movie, or Audrey Hepburn’s,  I think it should be given a chance.

I wish Gary Cooper’s plastic surgery could have gone better or have never happened.  He is such a dreamboat.  I strongly feel that his work is affected by this facelift.  He seems insecure and through out much of the movie, he is kept under dark lighting.  Damn the people who made him think he was an actor who has to rely on his looks.  I always thought he had talent. I wish he didn’t listen to the person who suggested the facelift.

For me, Love in the Afternoon encapsulates the magic that Wilder and Hepburn began with Sabrina.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stage Beauty (2005) or How a Desdemona Should Die

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I have often seen this movie on the DVD shelves and always felt reluctant to pick it up.  I finally did and I wish I had picked it up earlier…or perhaps it is a good thing that I reserved some anticipation for it.StageBeauty-6
Stage Beauty tells the story of Ned Kynaston (Billy Crudup), a British actor who famously played women’s roles in 17th Century London, where women were banned from performing on stage. Conflict arises when his personal assistant, Mariah/Margaret Hughes (Claire Danes), begins to perform.  Soon, King Charles II (Rupert Everett) imposes a law reversal where all women’s role must only be played by women—putting Kynaston out of commission.
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Kynaston is forced to either leave the stage or play male characters…which is a bit of a problem since he was, since his youth, plucked out by some mentor for his feminine beauty and trained specifically to act like a woman. His feminine mannerisms are hard to get rid of.
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In one excruciating scene, he makes a plea to the king to allow him to act as a woman again. “It is not a question of acting a man. I can act a man—There’s no artistry in that. There are things I can be as a woman that I cannot be as man.”

I beg to differ.  In my opinion, men’s roles are much harder since society puts so much constraints on how a man should be.  How can an actor cry like a man, realistically?  How can a man show to an audience that he feels weak and vulnerable, when in real life a man usually hides it when he feels weak?

This movie reminds me a lot of Shakespeare in Love (1998), and I can’t help but view Claire Danes as a mini Gwyneth Paltrow. Yet let’s not forget, Danes did Shakespeare way before Gwyneth did in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996).

Whereas Shakespeare In Love revolved around a stage performance of Romeo and Juliet, Stage Beauty revolves around a performance of Othello, more specifically, the scene where Othello kills Desdemona. This scene is performed twice; once in the beginning of the movie with Billy Crudup in drag as Desdemona and Tom Wilkinson with his face blackened as Othello, and the other in the end with Crudup as Othello and Danes as Desdemona. The contrast is stark.  The first performance is mannered and artificial, while the second performance is realistic, where the theatre audience are so convinced by the performance that they, and we, actually think that Desdemona is dead (which she very well might be considering the circumstance). In parallel, the first performance could be like watching Sir Laurence Olivier (to a lesser degree), while the second performance compares to seeing a Marlon Brando- like moment.
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This movie is directed by Richard Eyre (Iris, Notes on a Scandal). I am very excited by this man and cannot wait to see more of his work.  He has a unique ability with British cinema, in which he has a relish and respect for the English language in such an uncompromising manner.
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I also continue to be blown away by Miss Danes remarkable talent.  I have been a fan of her way back since My So Called Life.

On a side note of intrigue, fairly surprising to me, Billy Crudup left his girlfriend of seven years, Mary Louise Parker (Weeds, Angels in America), who was seven months pregnant. Less than a year later, Danes and Crudup announced that they were dating…only to split up in 2006.
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Now I shouldn’t want to judge neither parties since I or none of us can really comprehend their circumstance, but I can’t help but undermine Crudup’s character or feel bad for Mary Louise Parker—whom I adore to death.

Another interesting side note: Billy Crudup and Claire Danes were in another movie together before this. Both lent their voices in the English version of the Hayao Miyazaki film, Princess Manonoke with Crudup as the heroic Ashitaka and Danes as the free-spirited San.  Their two characters sorta fall in love.

This movies is based on real life events..although it may not be historically accurate, it does serve to entertain and provide excellent insight.

Robert De Niro is a Producer in this movie. I wonder if that whole thing in Flawless, with Philip Seymour Hoffman in drag, stuck close with him years after…StageBeauty-7
The film also stars Richard Griffiths (Uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films and that perv teacher in History Boys) and Ben Chaplin, who plays the guy who has a taste for women in drag—or the “woman on stage” as he likes to put it.

Rupert Everett as King Charles II is constantly surrounded by Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.  In one scene, his mistress gives him a blow job in a bed full of Spaniels.

I can’t believe I wrote this much about a movie I felt so reluctant to see. If you do decide to watch it, if you are one of those people – like me—who so desperately want to like (or at least understand)Shakespeare, then I promise you that you will be delightfully surprised by this movie.

I watched it three times already.

I Love You, I Love You Not (1996)

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I haven’t seen this movie for a while but I just wanted to give it some needed attention.

The film stars Claire Danes, Jude Law, Jeanne Moreau and to a lesser degree, James Van Der Beek.

It tells parallel stories of a teenage girl and her grandmother. The young girl, Daisy(Danes) has problems at school because she is Jewish.

While her grandmother, Nana (Moreau), tells stories about her youth in a concentration camp.

For me, this film is unique because of its cast.  I love seeing Danes interact with the fabulous Jeanne Moreau. Also, I love the chemistry between Danes and Law.

I couldn’t help but note that Jude Law has had that “receding” hair line since his younger years. I don’t mind it, I actually like it.  I think it suits him very well.

I find it very interesting the roles that actors choose to play.  I wonder why Danes and Moreau agreed to star in this movie…

In the same way I used to wonder as a teen why Dawson Leery chose to be in the football movie that is Varsity Blues, when in Dawson Creek, he was always obsessed with horror movies and thrillers.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Obsession of the Day: Lew Ayres

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I would like to call to attention the man known as Lewis Ayres, Lew for short.


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I fell in love with this man since I saw him make an entrance, hung over, as Katharine Hepburn’s cutely spoiled, alcoholic brother in Holiday (1938).

I got to obsessing about him after I posted something about his role as a naive boy who has a crush on Greta Garbo in The Kiss (1929).


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He has quite an impressive body of work, having also starred in All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).


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He was nominated for a best actor Oscar for Johnny Belinda (1948) but lost to Laurence Olivier in Hamlet (1948).

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He was married to Ginger Rogers from 1934 to 1940.

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And how can I resist a man in ice skating leotards…easily, but you know, I’ll make an exception for him and Jimmy Stewart in The Ice Follies of 1939. I haven’t seen the movie but I am very intrigued since Joan Crawford also stars in it (she did all ranges of movies didn’t she? Westerns, horror, film noir, Mannequin with Spencer Tracy…) I have no idea where to begin hunting down for this movie.  I am dying to see it if only for the novelty of seeing these three stars in those costumes.

Ginger Rogers as a wife?  Ice skating movie in tights, with Jimmy Stewart? Let the gay rumors start.

Okay, maybe not. This is not that kind of blog.

Either way, I just find him so adorable! I want to go take him home.

The Kiss (1929)

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The red poster is from
Art Deco.

Despite being such a Garbo fanatic, I think this may be my first post that deals with one of her movies!

As was the case for blogging about Ingmar Bergman, I had an unrelenting fear that I would never do her work any justice.

Well, I have to face that fear and I have just come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t fear, for I, or anyone, could ever talk about her movies in a just manner.  (Except perhaps for her biographer, Barry Parris, who has actually earned that right, having spent half his life investigating the Divine one’s life). So I won’t try.TheKiss1929Garbo
The movie is The Kiss.  It is to be Garbo’s last silent picture (although, as you all may already know, this movie has the music dubbed into the film or something, but you don’t hear Garbo or anyone speak or sing so we’ll call it a silent picture).

Oh and it also should be noted that this is MGM’s last silent picture.

I ramble about sound because the very fine gentleman that is Mr.Jonas Nordin had just wrote a wonderful post that deals with the advent of sound.

Now, onto the movie.  The story is fairly simple.

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Garbo is in a loveless marriage with a rich old man. 

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Garbo falls in love with a smooth lawyer that is Conrad Nagel. He is a man with morals and doesn’t want to be a home wrecker.  She is defenseless woman afraid of her husband’s bitter temper. They leave their affair unfulfilled.

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To keep her mind off her lost love, Garbo enjoys the company of a young college boy who walks their dogs, who is played by Lew Ayres. Garbo enjoys the attention but calls him a foolish boy.

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One night, before leaving her, the boy asks her for a kiss.  She feels sorry for the boy so she humors him.  TheKiss1929Garbo-8
The husband walks in on their innocent kiss and finds a gun.
 
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A whole trial erupts and Garbo is in the middle of yet another intrigue/ love triangle. Actually, it is a love rectangle since there are three men and a woman  involved? Help me out someone.

Pretty crafty huh? I saw this movie on TCM and Robert Osborne mentioned that at the time of the film’s release, Garbo and Charlie Chaplin were the last stars to make huge profits from silent movies, (Chaplin’s film, City Lights (1931) wasn’t a talkie since he did not talkie in it).

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I love this film. Thinking about it now, this movie has all the elements of a good Garbo movie, except that she plays a contemporary woman as opposed to a woman in stuffy costumes.
(The Garbo/MGM factory is present which includes lighting by William Daniels, gowns by Adrian and set design by Cedric Gibbons.)

I love her chemistry with Conrad Nagel. Despite popular opinion, I have to say that he is my favorite Garbo leading man. He matches her coolness and aloofness.

I want to note that Nagel’s character is named André Dubail. I so couldn’t help but connect that with Armand Duval, Robert Taylor’s character in Camille (1936).

This Kiss did not feel like a regular silent movie for me.  I thought the pace was quick, and I now only found out that the movie is only 62 minutes long, or at least the version I watched on TCM was.

This movie is out only in VHS. Sigh.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona (2008) or How to Sexualize Americans Abroad

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Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz make out, ‘though in a dark room while developing photographs.Penelope Scarlett Barcelona
Scarlett’s character, Cristina, goes on to say that she doesn’t want to define her sexuality into categories.

Okay so I find this Woody Allen film incredibly unique. It has the spirit of an old-school European film only with the occasional English subtitles. Woody mentioned in the September 2008 issue of Interview magazine, that he felt like he was making an incredibly European film,with scenes of biking along the country side  and with a picnic basket (Suddenly, my memories evoked Bergman’s Wild Strawberries (1957), Truffaut’s Jules and Jim (1962)  and to some degree, The Sound of Music (1965)—You know, the scene where they are wearing the green drapes, singing do-re-mi and biking by those green trees).
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I read this Allen article after seeing the movie on a Tuesday 2:00 matinee.  I entered the theatre late, a little after Woody Allen’s signature opening credits. The audience consisted of me, and two middle-aged women—one of them wrapped in a hobo lady’s scarves and the other, with her luggage, seemed to be burning time while waiting for her flight connection or train. I sat in the back row by the door. Through out the movie, I tried to laugh as loud as I could during the appropriate moments.  The scarves lady chuckled at random moments. After the movie ended, I held the door for them, and the scarves lady had a delighted smile on her face. She said to me, “That was very amusing” as we exited through the lobby.

Now I consider this a genuine cinematic experience.  This is what a good film should do—involve the audience and help them form some indescribable unity among strangers. The film requests the audience to get involved.
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With that concept in mind, I can’t help but be reminded of the magic of the movies.  This particular film was pure escapism for me and those two other broads. The premise of Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona centers on two young American women abroad: Vicky (played by Rebecca Hall), a type-A personality who is very WASPy, upper middle class Midwestern with a clear direction in life and a strict moral code; and Cristina (Scarlett), an aimless blond, experimental and frustrated with how to artistically express herself.
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These two women soon encounter an entrancing Spaniard painter in the form of Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) who asks them for a threesome and a weekend at some place where they have to use a small plane to get to. Vicky, who’s engaged to some stockholder type/ Knicks fan as well as has a zipper on her vajayjay, naturally says no.  Cristina, like any drunk young American (except she’s more classy ‘cause she’s drunk off wine instead of Buds or Jell-O shots) considers the proposition. Well, Cristina got too wasted and after one kiss with Juan Antonio, vomits and is out of commission for the rest of the weekend,in bed in her hotel room. Vicky is forced to go sight seeing with Juan Antonio where he is seduced by the Spanish air and  gives in to desire, bedding with the Latin lover. She doesn’t tell her bed ridden best friend about her brief indiscretion.VickyChristinaBarcelona-5
Okay so they fly back to Barcelona, where J.A. ends it with Vicky, because of a philosophy that is repeated throughout the film, that only unfulfilled love can be romantic. Besides, the J.A. was being very realistic, they were too incompatible.  She was tight and he had a horny genitalia. They would only end up fighting.
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So that WASPy fiancé of Vicky’s decided to follow her to Barcelona and decide they want to wed there.  Meanwhile, J.A. sexes up Cristina and asks her to move in with him. They have fun, live the life Boheme, drinking lots of hard liquor and going to coffee shops with other artists of poetry, literature, sculptor—you know, the European equivalent of a Soho Starbucks crowd.
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Then Penelope Cruz makes her grand entrance as J.A.’s suicidal ex-wife, María Elena. At first, things are rocky, with M.E. consistently badmouthing Cristina. After some struggle, they somehow manage to work together and soon they have a ménage a trios. Very Jules et Jim.
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If you are familiar with how Woody Allen films work, you should by now understand how long his dialogues could be and how they require a little patience (It was a labor for an ADD ridden guy as me to re-watch it on DVD).

I believe what makes this movie so magical is the collaboration of these wonderful personalities. I mean, why else would I have dragged my butt away from my laptop and into a movie theatre?

And as an afterthought, after getting pictures, I couldn’t help but think that Woody Allen had seen Scarlett Johansson’s Gap Ads from a few years back. Subconsciously of course…or maybe, just a coincidence. Either way I just thought of connecting the dots.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Summertime (1955) or You Can Never be too Old for a Foreign Affair

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After reading Raquelle’s post about Rome Adventure (1962), I suddenly felt very nostalgic about Roman Holidays. One of the stars of Rome Adventure is Rossano Brazzi, who also stars in Summertime.

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Summertime, tells the story of a spinster(or should I call her a bachelorette?), Jane Hudson, (Katharine Hepburn) on a vacation in Venice. She finds a chance with love in the form of a shop keeper played by Rossano Brazzi, who is far younger than she is(cougarlicious way before they invented that term).summertime1955-5  
Now, I absolutely adore this film and am therefore not subjective.  This film has the best backdrops of Venetian Italy.  Forget travel guide videos from PBS, this movie has the real Venice as seen through the lens of David Lean.  He accomplishes this by not merely sticking his camera at familiar tourists spots, but he captures certain aspects of the culture.  There are scenes under the heat of high noon where all the vendors are taking their siestas and another scene where Brazzi’s character takes Hepburn to a secluded part of Venice, away from the tourist attractions, where people hang their laundry.summertime1955-4
It is hard to believe that I am watching a motion picture since almost every single frame feels like a painting.

This is David Lean’s personal favorite of his films and I don’t blame him! He got a top script and Katharine Hepburn and Venice!

After watching this movie, I couldn’t help but think that that other Hepburn’s Roman Holiday was but a mere child's play or fairy tale.  Summertime is for grown ups.
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I made a music video a while back.  I have been getting a lot of complaints in regards to the music I used, but I found the song fitting. (I told them to make their own gawd dern music video if they didn’t like mine.)

So here it is: Heartbreak and self-sacrifice, love and Venice, gondolas and Katharine Hepburn.

Don’t miss the cinematic end of the video with the train, so romantic Hollywood! Not cliché at all the way Lean and Hepburn do it!

Note: After re-editing and butchering this masterpiece of a film, I couldn’t help but grasp a better understanding of Lean’s Genius and of Hepburn’s talent.  I highly recommend the process to anyone who loves a particular film so much.