Archives for October 2009

Happy Halloween!

Movie poster for 'Cat People' In the spirit of the day, I have a movie recommendation: Cat People, the 1942 feature produced by Val Lewton. The films saved the studio RKO from financial disaster.

I  have been somewhat ambivalent to the film myself, but other more noted film scholars; published reports indicate that it is one of Roger Ebert’s favorite films. Here is a link to the essay from Mr. Ebert himself.

So unlike most movie recommendations that come fully supported by their author, I submit that you view Cat People and judge for yourself. Feel free to post your comments below.

Happy viewing and Happy Halloween!

 

Programming Notice: East of Eden next Tuesday at 8PM EST

John Steinbeck

It was just this past week when I mentioned my affinity for the literary works of John Steinbeck and how those efforts translated to the screen. Well you will have an opportunity to view it for yourself next week. On TCM (where else), they are showing East of Eden Tuesday night (November 3, 2009) at 8:00PM Eastern Standard Time.

In fact – Tuesday night’s theme in primetime is called Based on John Steinbeck and features the classic films The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, and Tortilla Flat.

 

 

 

Tennis Movies (Hollywood at the Net)

I am a self-confessed tennis junkie. No two ways about it.  I just finished watching a round robin match of the Sony Ericsson WTA season ending the tour season. It got me thinking about movies that features tennis as a sport. Yeah we have baseball, basketball, football (US and World–soccer), race car driving … you name it. In my research I have stumbled upon this really cool website:  Sports In Movies.

I then did the obligatory task of searching under the sport of tennis and this is what the search yielded:

Alphabetical List of Tennis Movies
TITLE YEAR RATING
Match Point 2005 R
Nobody’s Perfect 1989 PG-13
Tennis Anyone…? 2005 NR
Wimbledon 2004 PG-13

Chart Source: SportsInMovies.com

ONLY FOUR MOVIES? How can that be?  Before I rundown this list, there is obviously one significant omission Strangers on a Train. Who can forget this?

Now back to the list … I have seen 3 out of 4 the movies listed (Never heard of “Nobody’s Perfect” until I did the search). And while Match Point features a tennis player, it is essentially a very minor plot point (and part of the title). Tennis Anyone is pretty much a turkey made by folks who obviously love the game and just wanted to make a film about it.  But it has Draco Malfoy’s dad in it so it cannot be too horrific of a watch.

That just leaves Wimbledon. I was at first skeptical about this film because it was in and out of theater, which did not bode well. But I finally caught it on HBO a number of years ago. And I am glad I did. Paul Bettany and a pre-overly famous James McAvoy?  And it is shot in and around London? You really cannot get sweeter than that. Besides it is a cute story with characters who were doppelgangers/composites of real life players. If you love tennis I highly recommend this film.

Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby - Book Signing

You may notice that I write a lot about films based on novels, etc. That is simply because I love to read and I think that movies are a wonderful way to translate the written word. Sometimes it gets it right sometimes it is wrong but since I love both media I like the sincere efforts that are taken on its behalf.

That being said I have another great set of films to reflect on. This time they are based on the work of English writer Nick Hornby. What inspires this you may ask … well I am currently reading one of his books 31 Songs which I am immensely enjoying. During the reading I flipped to the back cover and took note of the four novels listed, I knew of three of the four movie adaptations. I have heard great things about Fever Pitch (starring Colin Firth no less) but have not seen but it is in the Netflix queue. The other two High Fidelity and About a Boy are a couple of my favorite films in recent years. In turn I am now motivated to read these two novels in due time.

Another literature/movie tie-in?

Nick Hornby has lent his writing skills to the film An Education, which is on my “must see” list for the Fall/Winter 2009 season.

Another One of My Faves mentioned in High Media!

Dead of Night

I mentioned this film in last year’s article, Fright Fest.

John Steinbeck in Hollywood

Ma Joad And Son

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

The picture above is just one example of the how the words of John Steinbeck have found their way on-screen. What is wonderful about the translations I have seen, for the most part they properly evoke the heart-wrenching, joyful, all around emotions I experienced when I read the novel. In the case of The Grapes of Wrath, I must admit I never read the novel to its completion; the opposite is true of another of Steinbeck’s work, The Pearl, of which I have not seen any of the cinematic adaptations.

The other works I Steinbeck that I have read are Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, and East of Eden (took me nearly three years with a series of stops and starts in the middle). Although I have read these novel/llas and seen these films, there is not much I recall of The Red Pony on the screen.

I have, however, seen all three adaptations of Of Mice and Men (1939, 1982 and the one in the 90’s with Malkovich and Sinese) and must say that I appreciates to outright loved each version. This goes to the heart of my major commentary for this piece, his stories are remarkable and he has had the good fortune that the adaptations have been in the hand of talented and capable individuals. That is at least the adaptations I have seen.

There is not much to say about East of Eden except that I loved the book and I really liked the movie. The film, directed by Elia Kazan, is a very good example of what can be done when amending the source material to fit the cinematic medium. The book is so rich in detail and history that it would be next to impossible to compress it into a film. I have the feeling that even a mini-series would not properly do it justice. Because like, in the book, the real action does not start until we are well into the narrative.

(UPDATE: Check this out. Looks like East of Eden will be getting something of a makeover)

It may interest some readers of this blog that Steinbeck also wrote Hollywood screenplays. Of particular interest to me is the great character study contained in Alfred Hitchcock’s WWII drama Lifeboat. He was even seen onscreen as the introducer of the short films presented in O’Henry’s Full House, another personal favorite/gem of mine mainly because it contains two of my favorite short stories, The Last Leaf and The Gift of the Magi.

Wasn’t One Enough?

Mama Mia 2?

I thought so!

NEW YORK - MARCH 17:  (U.S. TABLOIDS AND HOLLYWOOD REPORTER OUT)  Musical 'Mama Mia' at the Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre March 17, 2004 in New York City.  (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)

Secret's Out On … The Walking Dead

Imagine my surprise this morning when I was watching Leonard Maltin’s “Secret’s Out” program on the Reelz Channel … it was the Halloween version.

Guess what movie was mentioned? None other than The Walking Dead, yep the somewhat obscure 1936 Karloff vehicle I mentioned here about a week ago. Good to know I am in respectable company!

Happy Belated Joan Fontaine!

This past Thursday Joan Fontaine celebrated her 92nd birthday! In honor of her birthday I will list a few of my favorite films of her.

Rebecca_1940_film_poster

Rebecca (1940) – Her first collaboration with Hitch. I really liked this movie based on one of my favorite novels. I think t captures the Gothic spirit very well.
Suspicion_film_poster Suspicion (1941) – I love Hitch, Grant and Fontaine. Over time, this film may not work on some levels, but it definitely wonderful viewing.
from-this-day-forward From this Day Forward (1946) – This is my rainy day movie standby. It always works on those dreary days as a wonderful pick me up.
Letterunknownwoman Letter from and Unknown Woman (1948) – beautiful film in many regards, in others you think , “How pathetic?” Molly Haskell’s From Reverence to Rape has a very good synopsis of this book.

Island_in_the_Sun_1957

Island in the Sun (1957) – interesting, if not dated look at misogyny. Some will find the ending very interesting, in a curious way.

One thing I will say that while she was successful in their own right, she did not have the same textures and level of cinematic success as her elder sister, This may be because she was successful in so many areas of her life – she is a licensed pilot, champion balloonist, expert rider, prize-winning tuna fisherman, a hole-in-one golfer, Cordon Bleu chef and licensed interior decorator. Though I suspect over the years, some of these accomplishments she relishes less than others.

She is also very famous for her role in another real-life drama.

TCM Star of the Month Alert

GraceKellySet your DVRs. During the month of November, TCM’s Star of the Month is none other than Grace Kelly. Although her film career was remarkably short:

Year Title
1951 Fourteen Hours
1952 High Noon
1953 Mogambo
1954 Dial M for Murder
Rear Window
The Country Girl
Green Fire
The Bridges at Toko-Riki
1955 To Catch a Thief
1956 The Swan
High Society

Almost all of her performances are memorable. Her collaboration with Hitchcock in three of films put her in select company for actors who had repeat performances in his film (Grant, Stewart, Bergman, Fontaine, Peck to name a few).

Of course a great part of hear legacy has to do with her leaving Hollywood to marry Prince Rainier and preside over the principality of Monaco until her untimely death in 1982.