Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New York, New York

Since I'm leaving for New York tomorrow, I thought I'd make November's selections films about New York.

I'll be staying in Brooklyn so, of course, my first selection is for one of my favorite all time films, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. If you haven't seen it, you're really missing out. Peggy Ann Garner gives the best performance ever as a young girl trying to grow up in a very harsh environment. The film is an adaptation of Betty Smith's 1943 best selling book. It's a beautiful story and if you decide to see it, get your hanky out. It's a real tearjerker.

My second selection is another all time favorite, Dog Day Afternoon. The story plays out in a Brooklyn bank and on the street in front of the bank. Where else but New York would you have citizens on the side of the criminals?  "Attica, Attica".  The performances of Al Pacino and John Cassale are the best ever. The story is so far fetched you'd think a writer would be nuts to come up
with it. But it's actually based on a true story. Unbelievable. You really have to see this one too.

Film number three is Woody Allen's Manhattan. It's not my favorite all time movie, but it has the best scenes of New York, the best New York kind of music and is just fun to watch. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Films in Which Body Parts Play an Important Part

You'd think there would be lots more movies about body parts. I thought of three but I'm sure there are more. If you can think of some, leave a comment below about your favorite body part movie.

Here are my three picks:

Gap-Toothed Women by Les Blank. This film is from 1987 and focuses on the benefits or problems that diastematic (I learned a new word!) women have with the gap between their front teeth. How esoteric is that? Lauren Hutton is featured in the film as well as others who display this feature. I'm not sure how you can see this whole film. Netflix doesn't have it. But you can go to Les Blank's website and order a copy. I also noticed some are for sale on Amazon, but pretty expensive. Maybe just seeing the trailer will be enough for you.

Here's an academy award winning body part movie. It's from 1989, directed by Jim Sheridan and starring the amazing Daniel Day-Lewis. The film is My Left Foot, The Story of Christy Brown. Lewis won his first Oscar for this film and Brenda Fricker, playing Brown's mother won Best Supporting actress. It's a wonderful film, not easy to watch, but very inspiring.

So far we have teeth and feet, how about hands? The most famous set of hands in film belong to none other than Edward - Edward Scissorhands, that is. I absolutely loved this film when I first saw it. And who wouldn't like Johnny Depp in any movie? He was amazing in this one. I can't even imagine what he went through with those scissors strapped to him for all of his scenes. I read somewhere that he dated Winona Rider during the filming and had "I Love Winona" tattooed (not sure where), but when they broke up, he had the tattoo changed to "I Love Wine". Ha. What a guy.

Those are the three October selections just in time for Halloween. Get it? Body Parts, Halloween.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Films in Which Men Think They Can Mold a Woman

Isn't this every man's dream? To be able to create the perfect woman? This sculptor is trying and I think he's accomplished his goal. But I'll bet he can't do the same with the little woman at home.

I've selected three films in which men are trying to do this very thing - create the perfect woman.

How about Professor Henry Higgins trying to mold Eliza Dolittle into a duchess in My Fair Lady. He succeeds in the end, but Eliza gets the last laugh. She gets her man and probably a much better life than if she hadn't been molded.

For a real treat, check out Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday. In this film, her gruff and uncouth boyfriend (Broderick Crawford) doesn't do the molding himself. He hires a tutor for her (William Holden) to do the molding for him.

And finally the greatest molder of them all - James Stewart in Vertigo. Because of his odd obsession with Madeleine, he wants to transform Judy to resemble Madeleine (don't ask, see the movie!). He does a great job of transforming her. I can't tell you what happens next, just in case you haven't seen this film.


Enjoy these three moldy films and let me know which man is the best at creating the perfect woman. Or  tell me if you have another choice for a film to fit this theme.

If you live anywhere near Oceanside and want to see some really great films, join the North County Film Club. Click here for future films:  North County Film Club.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Prisons you would not want to find yourself in

Remember going to Knotts Berry Farm and going to the Ghost Town Jail where you would secretly tell Sad Eye Joe to tell something funny to one of your unsuspecting friends or relatives. Ha Ha. We used to laugh for hours about the look of surprise on their face when Joe would say something like "Hi Gil, I hear you're visiting all the way from Chicago. Do you want to come in and share my cell". Or something like that.

That's when jails were fun. But how about some movies about prisons that aren't so fun. Here are the three worst prisons in films (my votes for the worst, that is), maybe you have other choices.

From 1932 I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang starring Paul Muni. This is one of those unfair, hopeless kinds of prison films that just make you want to punch out every bad guy in the prison.


An even worse prison is the one Steve McQueen finds himself in the 1973 film Papillon. It's another one of those hopeless, helpless situations that just keep you squirming in your seat. Dustin Hoffman is wonderful in this film - Remember his super, thick glasses?

This is one of the best worst prison films you'll ever have the misfortune of seeing. This is a scene from the film that is so chilling. You'll never smuggle drugs again after you see this. The film is Midnight Express from 1978 and stars Brad Davis

I'd say "enjoy these films" but none of them are exactly enjoyable. But they sure are good. They're just the best of the worst prison films. One interesting note is that all of these films are based on true stories.

If you want to see other great films, check out the North County Film Club.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Worst Casting Mistakes of All Time

The Lone Ranger is coming out this week. I'm kind of anxious to see it even though I'm not much of a Westerns fan. But who could resist seeing Johnny Depp with a big black bird on his head? Can't wait. But then when I think about it, I wonder why Johnny Depp was cast as Tonto. Has Hollywood learned nothing from their past sins of bad racial typecasting?  I saw Depp interviewed about the movie and in his defense, he now says he's part Native American. Maybe a drop or two like most of us.

But this got me to thinking about some of the worst casting mistakes in film history and there are many, too many to mention all of them. These are some of the worst:

Kathryn Hepburn in 1944's Dragon Seed where she plays the Chinese, Jade. Take a look:

Or how about Marlon Brando as Sakini in Teahouse of the August Moon?

Then there's Sam Jaffe as Gunga Din. The makeup job harkens back to minstrel shows - he looks more like Al Jolson than an East Indian!

In 1968 William Shatner starred in the film White Comanche. He played dual roles - brothers, one a white man and the other a wannabe native America. Was he miscast or what? The Indian brother looks nothing like an Indian except that he wears a head band. I guess the wardrobe mistress gave up on this one. Good thing she didn't work on the Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp - she would have given him a simple head band and not that impressive bird!

Maybe one of the worst castings is Mickey Rooney In Breakfast At Tiffanys. His role of Yunioshi is an insult to all the Japanese actors that could have had that part. He was just ridiculous in that film. I wonder whose idea it was to cast him. Mickey Rooney doesn't show up until the end of the trailer so have patience.

I could go on and on with other examples, but I think 5 is enough. Let me know if you'd like to add to this list.

Don't forget to check out next season's films for the North County Film Club.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mum's The Word

Max Von Sydow
After the events of Boston this past week, I was inspired to do this Cimilar Cinema post about people who can't talk. Mainly because of the bomber in the hospital not being able to speak. It was reported that he was writing his answers, but later it was said that he was just shaking his head yes or no.

So here are some films with characters that can't or won't talk.

The best example would be Holly Hunter in Jane Campion's The Piano. Didn't Holly do a great job in that film? It must be difficult to act without dialogue. I kind of wish she hadn't talked in "Top of the Lake". That was really inane dialogue. But it sure was a great show. If you haven't seen The Piano, you really should. It's a great film (in my opinion, anyway).

Alan Arkin was just as convincing in his role of Singer in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I loved this book by Carson McCullers. The film, as usual, isn't as good as the book, but still is a very intense, engrossing movie. (this isn't the official
trailer, just a scene from the film).

Then there's Max Von Sydow, the mute grandfather in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Von Sydow doesn't have to act in a film to be appreciated - he just needs to be. What a presence he is. I hope he lives to be 115 and keeps on "being" in lots more films. I've loved him ever since The Seventh Seal and continue to love him as he ages like a very good wine.

So there you have it. Three really good films where one of the characters doesn't talk. Can you think of any others?

Speaking of really good films, how about joining The North County Film Club. Click here for info

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ode to Photography

I've been thinking a lot about photography lately. About how easy it is these days to get such good shots with digital cameras, Iphone and Ipads. Wow, how times have changed. This led me to think about movies about photography.

I recently saw an interesting documentary about a New York photographer. You're going to love this one. It's called "Bill Cunningham New York":

Then go back to 1966 for the iconic photography film "Blow Up". This is Atonioni's first film in English. Starring David Hemmings as a hip London photographer, this is a mystery film which is solved in the dark room. It's worth a peak just to see the 1960s fashions.

The third film is not particularly about photography but the title itself fits with this theme. It's the 1955 film "I Am a Camera". Christopher Isherwood is played by Laurence Harvey in this film based on the Berlin Stories. Julie Harris is miscast as Sally Bowles, but it's interesting to see her really inadequate lip synching. You can watch the whole movie through You Tube.

Hope you enjoy the April selections.

If you're interested in seeing really good films and you live in the Oceanside area, check out the North County Film Club. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Films that Start with the Ending

I really like films that start with the ending. Then you don't have to guess what's going to happen. This is especially nice when a film is really complicated. All you want to know is how the plot got from point A to point B, who cares if the ending is revealed? Well, that really depends on the film.

There are lots of movies that start this way. I've picked three favorites.

Sunset Boulevard
That beginning scene of William Holden lying flat in the swimming pool is such a stunner. Who wouldn't want to see what that's all about? Billy Wilder, the writer director was such a genius. And what a great role for Gloria Swanson. That was her life. I always wondered why she agreed to do this very unflattering role.

Double Indemnity
What a "fun" movie this is. It also starts with the ending - Fred McMurray spilling the beans to Edward G. Robinson. If you haven't seen this perfect example of film noir, you should definitely put this one on your list. Just to see Barbara Stanwyk's wardrobe is worth the price of admission.

American Beauty
The best thing about this movie is Annette Bening. How she didn't win the academy award for this is beyond me. And Kevin Spacey - wow. I think he's the most underrated actor. He can play just about any part and is always great. (did you see him in Shipping News? I rest my case).  This film isn't fun to watch, it's mighty depressing, but all of the acting is first rate. And it starts with a hint of things to come.


Enjoy the beginning of the year with these films that begin with endings.  

And if you haven't heard enough about backwards movies - check out this website:

If you live anywhere in the Oceanside area, be sure to join us for the 2013 season of the North County Film Club. The first film of this season is "The Way" starring Martin Sheen, Jan. 13, 3:00 at the Digiplex Market Place Theater, Mission and College.