Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Anniversary #3!

Maybe this is just indicative of my grasp on time, but I could have sworn today would be my fourth anniversary of starting this blog. Instead, it's my third and I'm pretty proud of the work I've done so far; hopefully you readers agree. For the most part, though, I feel like I haven't even begun to do everything I want to do with this blog -- I have tons of movies to still cover, which is probably endless, but I have an idea for a series that will look at more recent films. Don't get me wrong: I'm all about the classics. But I enjoy some modern movies as well, and the series would likely just be looking at one film every few months. We'll see how it goes. I started a Forgotten Classic series back in my first year of blogging and it fizzled out after about three films.

In addition to the new series, I think I'm going to finally host my own blogathon. I'm not sure when, but my goal is to do it before my next anniversary. I have at least two ideas on my mind, so there may actually be two blogathons from me in the coming year!

Let's all emulate Nick and Nora for today, though, and celebrate another year of exploring the classics together! I hope it's been at least one-tenth as rewarding for you as it has been for me. For those of you have decided to stick around, I sincerely thank you. For those who have just stepped in for a few posts, I'm thrilled you decided to give me a chance. I hope to keep providing informative, intelligent, and enjoyable content for as long as I can, and nothing is more encouraging than hearing from my readers or seeing my page views go up. Thank you, and here's to a fourth year!

With love,

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Day and Sinatra are matchless in... Young at Heart (1954)

Doris Day had a lot of terrific film partners in her career: Gordon MacRae, James Garner, Howard Keel, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon, David Niven, Clark Gable (look out for my review of that film in a few weeks!), and of course, the greatest of them all, Rock Hudson. Now, that list isn't totally comprehensible -- I left a few names out -- but you get the gist: Doris got to act with some incredible talent, and she always worked on their high level. That's why her teaming with Frank Sinatra is so unique. You have two of the 20th century's greatest artists working together and in my opinion, they match each other every step of the way. They have different styles and admittedly different personas, but you can't tell me that both of them weren't trying their damnedest to make the film work.

Is Young at Heart perfect? Goodness, no. Is it an admirable melodrama saved by the presence of its superb cast? Definitely. I recognize that not a lot of people will agree with me. I can't tell you how many negative reviews I've seen of this film. Maybe it's because of Day and Sinatra -- you except some big, cataclysmic explosion to happen before your eyes, and instead you get little, intermittent firecrackers. It's understandable. I had my standards lowered by so much of the grumpiness I was reading that when I saw the actual product, I was able to enjoy it. Hopefully this review will you give you a better sense of what you're getting into.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"My Letter, Her Stocking, and No Key": Dial M for Murder (1954)

Poster art is fascinating to look at. With just a few images and a few words, it has to tell you what a film is all about. Sometimes it can be disastrous or laughable, thanks to an awful portrayal of what an actor looks like or a cheesy tagline (my favorite: "Baby-faced savage in a jungle of intrigue!" [Born to be Bad, 1950]. Excuse me, what?). Sometimes, though, posters can be just right, such as the one above for Dial M for Murder. Initially, I was confused. Doesn't it look like Grace Kelly is being sexually assaulted and she's trying to call for help? That's not the plot at all!

But then I remembered something Hitchcock once said about how he liked to shoot dangerous or murderous scenes like love scenes, how he enjoyed adding a sexual charge to moments that weren't necessarily about sex. That's when the poster clicked for me, because although Kelly is being strangled and is struggling for her life, that scene has always struck me as highly sensual. Perhaps it was coincidental that the poster artist and the studio went for an eroticized image to titillate the masses, only to accurately depict one of Hitch's deepest themes, or perhaps the artist knew exactly what they were doing. Either way, once you read Alfred Hitchcock's name, you know some craziness is about to go down and we'll enjoy every minute of it.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Czech Méliès: Karel Zeman

Over two weeks ago, I returned from my two month-long journey in Europe, where I lived and studied in Paris for a month and then did the same in Prague. (If you're curious about my time in Paris, you can see my post about it here.) Prague was absolutely gorgeous -- possibly the prettiest place I've ever seen -- but I'm afraid I didn't do much learning while I was there. My class on Czech cinema wasn't nearly as informative as I wanted it to be, especially in comparison to my French cinema course, but there is one thing I will always cherish from it: discovering Karel Zeman, the man called the Czech Méliès.

Zeman was an animator from the 1940's up until his death in 1989, a genius who often combined live action and animation to beautiful effect. In 2012, Prague opened its Karel Zeman Museum, also called the Film Special Effects Museum, and it was there during a class field trip that I fell in love. The images I saw were striking and imaginative, with exhibits accompanied by film clips and interviews that give you insight into the behind-the-scenes action and how Zeman was able to achieve what he did. Unfortunately, my
teacher whizzed us through the museum, leaving me no time to absorb the exhibits and thus giving me only a faint idea of what Zeman was about. I was still hooked, though -- I went to YouTube and watched as much as I could, and then during my last week in Prague, I returned to the museum, exiting the gift shop the proud owner of four Zeman films and one documentary.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian

This post could easily just be me drooling over Errol Flynn for a thousand words. I'm kinda sorta really in love with him, and I will protest until my dying day that he was a fantastic, underrated actor. Watching one Flynn film makes me want to watch ten more immediately, a particular addiction of mine that only Flynn can lay claim to. While I can't say I love every movie of his, I can say that I've always loved his performances, and The Adventures of Robin Hood happens to belong to both camps. Quite simply, it is one of the best films period, and so doing a review of it is a bit daunting. Good thing I'm not doing a review!

Because it is Olivia de Havilland's birthday on July 1st, I wanted to focus solely on her in this film. Even if I didn't adore Flynn as much as I do, it would be hard to tear my concentration from him because let's be honest, he is the unequivocal star here. Does he have an incredible cast surrounding him? Oh yes. But Flynn had a high wattage of star power that could blind you, and unfortunately, it has often kept me from appreciating Ms. de Hallivand. That stops today!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Au revoir, Paris!

For the past week, I've been in Prague. I left Paris with a very heavy heart, mainly because I felt like I was just getting to know the city. I'll admit it: the first two weeks were mainly wasted. I was really homesick, I've never exactly been in a big city, and most of the time I just wanted to stay in my room and cuddle up with Netflix. The last week was a rush of trying to see everything I could, and I'm happy to say I think I gave myself a fitting farewell to Paris. There was a lot I missed, but it'll be there the next time I go, so I wasn't too heartbroken over it.

I won't delve into every little thing that happened -- I'll mainly stick to the film-related ones and some others like the monuments. My 8-hour flight to Paris was pretty brutal. I had a hard time sleeping and with just two hours to go, I decided to pull out my laptop and watch Neptune's Daughter to pep me up while I ate my breakfast. (By the way, plane food is the worst. I didn't appreciate the dirty looks the flight attendant gave me when I barely touched my lunch, either. Give me real food, man, and I would eat it!) Anyway, on the third day, we went to Giverny, where Claude Monet's house and extensive garden is located. Luckily, our bus went by the Arc de Triomphe, so I didn't have to hunt it down.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

An all-too-brief look at To Catch a Thief (1955)

Alfred Hitchcock was a genius. You know why? Because he made To Catch a Thief. Many like to dismiss Thief as one Hitch's lesser efforts, but I think that's only because of the magnitude of his filmography. In context of that, yeah, Thief isn't in the top 5. But if you look at the film objectively, taking Hitch out of the equation, it's a fantastic, entertaining movie. I'm sure some of you think I'm nuts. I can't lie, though, I find Thief to be underrated a lot and it is highly unfair. Any director who was smart enough to put Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in the south of France in Technicolor deserves a medal. Add in the fact that the cinematography is perfection, the music is spot-on, and the screenplay is deliciously witty, and you've got a marvelous way to spend your time.