Saturday, December 6, 2014

She's Just Not That Into Him

Last month I wrote about men who just weren't that into their women. Examples of the films were Madame Bovary, A Place in the Sun and The Heiress. The three women in these films were all jilted by their lovers. So now we need to get even, don't we? The following films all include women who jilt the men. 

This is Claudette Colbert in all her wedding finery right before her wedding. You can tell she's not very happy. She's marrying the wimpy pilot who actually flies what looks sort of like a helicopter to the middle of the estate where the wedding's taking place. Ellie (Claudette) makes her way all the way to the alter but at the last minute bolts to a waiting car and a waiting, handsome Clark Gable. I love the scene where she's running across the grass with her filmy veil flying in the wind.

A very similar scene happens in The Graduate. Katherine Ross is also right at the alter when she hears Dustin Hoffman yelling from the choir loft of the church. She screams, "Ben!!" and then also bolts and ends up with Ben (Dustin) in a bus which carries them away to...not sure where.

Julia Roberts is the quintessential Runaway Bride. She doesn't appear to be into anyone, having made several trips to the alter, only to make her getaway. Until, of course, she meets Richard Gere.

Have I forgotten any jilters? Do you have a favorite? I was also thinking of Sabrina - she doesn't actually make it to the alter. But she does jilt William Holden, so I guess that counts.

Monday, November 10, 2014

He's Just Not That Into Her

I recently watched Madame Bovary on TV and I was struck with the comparison of that film and The Heiress. Both films have a scene with the love sick woman waiting in the road with her bags packed waiting for her lover to pick her up and carry her away. There are probably lots of films with this particular theme, but I'm going to focus on three.

First is Madame Bovary, based on the controversial novel by Gustave Flaubert. It's amazing when you see this film today how tame it is. Emma (Jennifer Jones) has a 4-year affair with Rodolphe even though she's married and has a small child. He promises to carry her away to Italy. She's to meet him with her bags packed at midnight and there she is, waiting, waiting. A carriage drives up only to keep on driving and not stopping for her. Rodolphe never shows. He just wasn't that into her.

The same exact scene appears in The Heiress. Catherine (Olivia de Havilland), a wealthy heiress who is very plain with not a whole lot of personality meets Morris (Montgomery Clift) and he seems to be smitten. But her father insists that he's only after her money. Catherine doesn't think so and decides to elope with him. She packs her bags and waits and waits only to be left, pretty much just like Emma. Morris just wasn't that into her. But she does get her revenge. You'll have to see the movie to see the

A Place in the Sun features Montgomery Clift again (the cad!). In this film he plays George who proposes to Alice (Shelly Winters). Then later meets and falls in love with Angela (Elizabeth Taylor). Alice is all packed and plans to meet him at the lake (where he's cavorting with Angela). George takes Alice out in a boat and she kind of actually falls out of the boat (?) and drowns. George just wasn't that into her.

The moral of the story is to never pack your bags unless you're absolutely positive he's that into you.

Do you have a favorite film where he dumps the girl?

Next month - films where she dumps him. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My 3 Scariest Horror Films

No, The Exorcist is not my scariest film, although it was pretty darn scary. But I'm thinking of the films that scared me when I was little. These wouldn't be considered traditional horror films. The three that frightened me the most were:

I think I was 4 or 5 when I saw it. I couldn't take it. Bambi's father getting in the big horrific fight, his death, the forest fire. Oh. Upsetting. Then Bambi and his mom were left all alone to brave the elements. Now that would scare any little kid. Disney always ended his films on a happy note and includes endearing creatures like Thumper and Flower so you're not completely in a state of funk. There was at least a little comic relief and a happy ending.

Joan of Arc
The Ingrid Bergman version
This film scared me so much my mother had to remove me from the theater because I was crying so hard. The battle scenes and the trial were bad enough, but when she was burned at the stake - yikes. I just couldn't take it. I had nightmares for days.


The Bad Seed
You thought Linda Blair was scary in The Exocist - try Patty McCormick in The Bad Seed. Her head didn't swivel around and she didn't throw up. But she terrified me. What a wicked little kid she was. And the little tune that she plays on the piano over and over! This film is from 1956 so I wasn't too young - about 14. I should have been old enough to handle this one. But I wasn't. And I've seen it recently on television and it still scares me to death.

There's no blood and guts in any of these movies, but the one thing they all have in common - fire. From the forest fire in Bambi, the burning at the stake in Joan of Arc and you'll just have to see The Bad Seed (if you haven't already) to see how fire plays a part.

There's my 3 scary picks. What films scared you as a child?

By the way, have a happy Halloween.

Monday, September 1, 2014

One Take Wonders

Ever since I saw Touch of Evil, I've been interested in films with long takes. I'm not sure how many filmmakers choose to use long takes, but Orson Welles definitely wanted to. He wanted a nice seamless, edited-free scene. So Touch of Evil opens up with a three-minute, twenty-second tracking shot which is widely considered by critics as one of the greatest long takes in cinema history. But they hadn't seen the big daddy of them all yet. We'll talk about that one later.

Here's the whole opening scene to give you an idea. See if you see any cuts or edits:

Another unique film is the one below which is amazing because of when it was shot. It's the 1905 film going down Market Street in San Francisco. This was just before the big 1906 earthquake hit.

But here's the big daddy of them all. It's the film Russian Ark by filmmaker Alexander Sokurov.  

He and his crew broke boundaries with this dreamlike vision of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. It's the first feature-length narrative film shot in a single take (on digital video, using a specially designed disc instead of tape). 

Not only do you get a tour of the gorgeous Hermitage, but you also can brush up on your Russian history as each scene deals with a different period of time and includes such notables as Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and the Romanovs. 

The cast rehearsed for months to time their movements just right. But the 90 minute film was shot in just one day. Tilman Buttner was the director of photography who was responsible for capturing the film in one single Steadicam shot.

Hope you enjoyed these one shot wonders. Are there any others that I don't know about? Let me know in the comment section.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Films from the North West of France

Now why would I want to select films from this particular region of France and not Paris? Mainly because I just came back from a trip and spent 10 wonderful days exploring Nantes, The Loire Valley and Brittany. So I thought I'd do this post about movies that were filmed in those areas.

It turns out that Jacques Demy is from Nantes (the 5th largest city in France) and has filmed some of his movies there, in particular, Lola. He used the restaurant La Cigale as a setting for the film. We were lucky enough to have dinner in this spectacular restaurant that is just oozing art nouveau:

Watch for it in this trailer from the film - it's in the scenes where Lola and the girls are dancing with the sailors:

Another Demy film that uses a similar French location is Umbrellas of Cherbourg. I didn't get to Cherbourg on my trip. Maybe next time. Here are scenes from one of my favorite films - not so much for the singing which can be a little off-putting for some people, but for the glorious color of each shot:

Then we have the film Le Havre. This one is not by Demy but it was filmed also in the North of France, Le Havre. The location for this film is a little grittier than the other two, but it's a wonderful film.  I recommend it highly:

These three films aren't particularly cimilar in plot. But they were all shot in a cimilar region of France. What better reason to tie them together along with being able to mention my trip.

Let's see, where will my next trip be? Maybe Italy where we can explore all the locations of Fellini.
That would be another dream trip.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Good Old Summertime

It's July and just the start of summer. Time to go on vacation with the kids, to the beach, mountains or desert - in the country or out of the country. It's going to be fun. Aren't summers always fun? Is this what you think? Well think again. Here are three films that will make you want to stay home this summer.

Who can forget the summer of '77 when The Son of Sam was loose, causing havoc in NYC. Makes you think twice about having a wonderful summer. But even staying home wasn't really safe. This is a chilling film by Spike Lee starring John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody and Miro Sorvino.

And if that film doesn't discourage you from having a pleasant summer, try this one. It's Suddenly Last Summer with Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift. I've always been haunted by this film. It's so Tennessee Williams. A southern gothic tale that will surely keep you up nights. You might want to cancel your travel plans to any Moroccan beach. And be sure to check off "cannibalism" as an option you DON'T want as part of your summer tour.

Then how about a nice vacation on the beach at Martha's Vineyard? You surely will change your mind for that plan after you've seen this film for the 10th or 12th time. It will still scare the swimming suit off of you. It's Jaws the scary Steven Spielberg film starring Richard Dreyfuss and crew. Maybe it's not a good time to rent it or see it on TV. Wait until winter!

I hope I haven't ruined your summer vacation plans.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The T-shirt in film - Now you don't see it, Now you do

After seeing It Happened One Night on TCM for what seemed like the hundredth time,  I started thinking about the white t-shirt in film. And when you think of t-shirts in film, you first think of Clark Gable doing a strip tease in front of Claudette Colbert. When he takes off his shirt, gasp, no undershirt - just bare skin. (they didn't call them t-shirts in those days, they were undershirts with no sleeves - t-shirts were named Tee shirts because they have sleeves and they're in the shape of a T).

In the weeks after the film’s release, sales of men’s undershirts nosedived. 

Or did they? And if they did, was it because of Clark Gable's strip tease?  According to Snopes, "the tale about Clark Gable and the demise of the men's undershirt industry is another example of how easily a piece of information can become an accepted "fact" whose validity is never questioned despite any real evidence that it is indeed true. 

Perhaps rather than looking for a cause-and-effect relationship here, we should regard the decline in undershirt-wearing (if one did indeed occur) as yet another instance of a common phenomenon: Popular figures who reflect shifts in societal norms come to be seen as the causative agents who brought those shifts about, even though they were already well underway.  So maybe when Clark Gable appeared sans undershirt in It Happened One Night, he was following a trend, not starting one. Or just maybe there was no trend at all, and the whole story was concocted by a publicity agent as a ploy to bolster Gable's appeal at contract renewal time."

No one knows for sure when the 1st T-shirt was invented. Some say the navy brought them out in 1913 and then again during WWII.

The first use of the word "T-shirt" in print was in 1920 in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "This Side of Paradise." Protagonist Amory Blaine is setting out for New England, "the land of schools," and his list of supplies included "six suits summer underwear, six suits winter underwear, one sweater or T shirt."

The 1950s saw T-shirts in several films. Here's examples of the three best. First there was Marlon Brando in 1951s A Streetcar Named Desire.

In 1955 came James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. You can just see a peak of his t-shirt in this video of the film - but it's fun to watch the milk bottle scene!


Following Brando was Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof from 1958. Here's what he looked like, but there was noYoutube video of him in a T-shirt. You'll have to watch the whole movie to see him in his glory.

You too can pretend you're T-shirt-worthy and ready for your closeup, just try this on for size:


Monday, January 6, 2014

3 reasons not to become a filmmaker

Did you say you wanted to give it all up and go to film school? Think again. Think seriously. This is a very bad mistake.

Here are three examples of why you should never become a filmmaker.

The following are documentaries that will surely scare you away.

First we have Heart of Darkness, about the making of Apocalypse Now. After you see what Francis Ford Coppola went through, you will tear up your film school application into a million little pieces.

Here's another documentary that will make you grateful that you're in some humdrum job and not out on location somewhere working on an impossible film like Fitzcarraldo. This one is called Burden of Dreams. Watch it and I guarantee that your dreams of becoming a filmmaker will be dashed.

And if those two examples aren't enough, try this one. It's called Lost in La Mancha and is about the making of Terry Gilliam's dream film about Don Quixote. It's an absolute nightmare. The previous two films actually got made, but Gilliam's never did.

Now you're cured right. Say after me three times "I never want to go to film school!"