Archives for August 2011

Cool Off With the Classics

Another month has gone by and it is time for another Go, See, Talk Blog-a-Thon. This month, the theme is “Cool Off With the Classics.”

Here is the idea:

This is essentially a Top 10 list of oldies but goodies; only catch is that they have to be in black and white. The period should be from 1930 through the 1950s …. Just a fun list of classic films you’d watch to beat the heat.  Anything goes as long as it’s black and white.

A couple of items of note:

  • This is a hard task for me since I basically cut my teeth on the classic, so I am basically going off the top of my head with the “top ten” of the  moment. Ask me another day and the list would very likely change.
  • No matter where the film is in terms of running time I just have to stop and watch it 🙂
  • I had to “cheat” a little – I limited my number of Hitchcock titles to two (2), mainly for the sake the readers’ sanity and also to shine a light on other films that deserve some well due recognition (in my hypocrisy, you will see that I did not make such a rule for Cary Grant).
  • In getting the pictures for this feature, I noticed all my posters are in color! Oh the irony! But rest assured, the movies are B&W.

So without further ado – here is my list:


Notorious (1946) Hitchcock at his most romantic. Nothing beats the pairing of Grant and Bergman – they are lovely together


His Girl Friday (1940) A fast-paced, unmatched newsroom comedy, that keeps you on your toes and constantly engages your funny bone. Try to keep up!


The Third Man (1949) Orson Welles at his finest. Fantastic cinematopgraphy/photography. One of the reasons I cannot wait to get to Vienna in the near future.


The Ox Bow Incident (1943) My attitude towards the western genre was forever changed as a result of seeing this film. A timeless morality tale.


You Can’t Take It With You (1938) Capra doing what he does best – making you appreciate all that life has to offer. Really inspiring to the free spirits of the world.


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What Do You Think? (A Summer at the Movies)

With the Labor Day holiday fast approaching, the summer is about to officially come to an end. It was far too fast for my liking.

Looking back I did not actually go to the movies as much as in previous summer. I must look at that I make necessary adjustments in the upcoming year 🙂

Anyway, if I were asked to reflect on this summer, overall I would have to say that it was an alright summer which offered up a few surprises, but was mainly spent looking in the rear view thanks to my participation in various memes, blog-a-thons, and other film series. I cannot complain.

How has your filmgoing summer panned out? Were you (dis)satisfied with the films that were on offer at your local?

What do you think about the fall season? Any recommendations? I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Wallace & Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

This week’s movie is a slightly tricky one for me. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is an Academy Award winner, when upon its release, was number 1 in the US Box and maintained a worldwide number 1 for a few weeks after its release. So that begs the question – how could it be considered overlooked? Here is one reason:

  • As an adult, I rarely watch animated features. And I am certain that there are others out there like me. This is one film that I think appeals to kids and adults alike but not in that overtly post-modern way that many of the recent spate of animated features is designed. So despite its relative commercial and critical success, it is safe to say that there is a nice slice of the movie-going public that have not had the pleasure of seeing this film.

I have been vaguely aware of the adventures of Wallace & Gromit, but my general impression is that W&G were not widely popular in America.

You do not have to be a fan of the series to get into the plot, but it might help to know a little background about Wallace and Gromit. In Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) is running a company called Anti-Pesto, which specializes in humane pest control. The annual vegetable competition at Tottington Hall is around the corner and the townspeople want to protect their veg from all forms of pest. Wallace soon gets a call from Lady Tottington (voice of Helena Bonham Carter) to handle her rabbit infestation problem. Wallace then gets the idea to use one of his “inventions.” The use of his Mind Manipulation-O-Matic appears to have been success; however, there is a “malfunction” that has rather disastrous consequences.

Also adding to Wallace’s problems is competition for the affections Lady Tottington in the form of Lord Quartermaine (voiced by Ralph Fiennes).

This film was part of a 5-picture deal with Aardman Studios signed with DreamWorks studio (included the 2000 Chicken Run and the 2006 digital animation Flushed Away). I have also heard anecdotes and read that DreamWorks was trying to pressure Nick Park and Steve Box to make some changes — to which they did not succumb. Due in part to the “modest” success of this film in the domestic box office and the aforementioned creative differences between the studio and the filmmakers, the partnership ended in 2007.

I found this to be a very entertaining in spite of my general reservations to full length animated features.

Incidentally, I would also recommend the following Wallace & Gromit adventures:

If you have seen it let me know what you think.

 

Sources: Wikipedia, Aardman Production website

What Do You Think? (Bloopers and Outtakes)

Oh what an exciting life I do lead. When I am not waxing poetic about films, I am often glued to the television watching documentaries, True Blood or … British television, plenty of British television. Among my favorite pasttimes is to watch classic Eastenders episodes. What does this have to do with movies you may ask?

Well, let me get to the point. This past week I have been spending some time in a sort of “YOU TUBE LOOP” — watching several outtakes from the show. While they are really fun to watch, it does in a way pull the curtain on the by giving me some behind the scenes action. For example a scene that evoked such an emotional response, loses some of its magic when you see the principle actors flubbing the lines — it is no longer a seamless finished work of art.

This got me thinking about bloopers and outtakes in the movies.  Sure, I watch the ones that usually are part of the closing credits to a film, but anything further I really do not delve into. I suppose it is for the same reason.

I was just wondering what your feelings about watching bloopers and outtakes does for you? Does it add or take away from your cinematic experience?

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Midnight Lace (1960)

This week’s contribution to Sweet Freedom’s Overlooked Films is in honor of 87-year Doris Day releasing a new album, I have decided to choose one of my favorite films featuring her – Midnight Lace. I previously listed this film as one of my favorite films set in London.

One reason why I like this film (and her in it) is that it is a departure into the realm of drama for her. For many audiences the mere mention of the name Doris Day conjures up images of a bubbly perky miss singing along and romancing Rock Hudson. But here in Midnight, she attempts to break that typecast. The result — the “All American Girl” goes abroad.

Midnight Lace‘s plot is pretty formulaic, with shades of Hitchcock, Gaslight and several other derivatives, but that does not make it any less entertaining. Kit Preston (Day) is a newly married woman living in London with her husband Tony (Rex Harrison). One of the early scenes tells us that all is not going well for Kit – in the midst of the London fog, a frightening voice calls out to her … with threats of her demise. Distraught, she goes to Tony, who attempts to reassure her that she should dismiss this encounter and “just relax.”

As you can imagine more strange “happenings” occur with an increasing level of frequency and menace, which is matched with Kit’s increasing paranoia. Throw into this scenario the appearance of a handsome stranger (a pretty wooden John Gavin – probably the one element I could do without) and nosy Aunt Bea (Myrna Loy, another personal favorite) and you have all the elements of a story that courses through several twists and turns with an ultimate payoff that may surprise many. For others, it may be a bit predictable, but I still think that is a film that if you have not seen, it is worth giving it a try.

Abridged Credits:
Director: David Miller
Screenplay: Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts, Janet Green (play)
Principle Cast: Doris Day (Kit Preston), Rex Harrison (Tony Preston), John Gavin (Brian Younger), Myrna Loy (Aunt Bea), Roddy McDowall (Malcolm), Herbert Marshall (Charles Manning).
Runtime: 109 minutes

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Sources: Wikipedia, tcm.com

What Do You Think? (Accents in Films)

I am always fascinated by accents (or lack thereof) in films. On a related matter, I have read a lot about this week’s film release of One Day, which stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess and is directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education). David Nicholls adapted his best-selling novel for the screen. David Nicholls also wrote the novel and screenplay Starter For Ten. Although I did not read this novel, I did enjoy the film.

Now back to One Day. Much is being made about the success or failure of Anne Hathaway’s efforts at a Yorkshire (Leeds) accent. As a self-confessed Anglophile, I am able to distinguish between some (I repeat SOME) regional accents from the greater United Kingdom; but I am a far from an expert. I defer to folks who are from the area to make that distinction. However, based on a couple of clips I have seen of the movie, I am left a bit perplexed. To my ear, her voice is a bit “whispier” than in its American incarnation, but it does not sound too distinctly British, much less from the north of England.

The Guardian newspaper (UK) posted a pretty entertaining piece on their movie blog on the very subject. My personal favorite was listening to Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I say all this with the accepting that I can only imagine how challenging it is for actors to not only take on the challenge of embodying another character but to have that compounded with trying to master an accent foreign to them. I get occasionally and momentarily distracted when I hear non-Americans working to tackle the accent, especially when you get down to regions – notably the Northeast (Boston and New York). In spite of this, I have been able to enjoy the films even in light of being less-than-convinced by the accent that I hear (Emma Thompson in Dead Again immediately comes to mind).

The real question for people who have a problem with the accent, will this deter you from seeing the film? More generally, have you ever let your accent reservations affect your ability to enjoy a film?

Please share your comments below.

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Conversations with Other Women (2005)

For this week’s selection I am moving a little forward in time – to 2005. This is a selection that may not go over well with many of my readers, but it is a film that in spite of itself I enjoyed.

Conversations with Other Women is a film which focuses on a meeting at a wedding between two people, portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart respectively. The conversation eventually leads up to Ms. Carter’s hotel room where all is revealed over the film’s 84-munite run time. In a series of flashbacks, we discover that there is more to this meeting than pure chance.

This is a very talkie “independently-spirited” movie that is to be sure. But like I said in the introduction, in spite of this cliche, I really did enjoy it. The principle reason for my enjoyment has to be the central performances. For most audiences Helena Bonham Carter is known to play “mad as a hatter” type roles. But here she proves to the audience that she is most assuredly an actor of great depth and nuance. Never that I was in doubt 🙂 I know that some people are not too wild about Aaron Eckhart but I like him here. In fact I like him in general.

Equally worth noting is that this film is Hank Canosa’s feature film debut. And with a budget of 450,000 USD, we are getting every penny’s worth.

 

Sometimes You Lose Something in Translation ….

I will not pretend that this is an original idea for a post. In fact, this post is based on research/postings of stuff I compiled through the internets.

Another inspiration for me putting this list together is courtesy of a fellow LAMB-er, Ruth at Flixchatter. Although her post is looking at a single film promotion targeted at a Western market, it got me on a tangent and thinking about the age old issue of movie titles being lost in translation. In other words, English based movie titles that are translated into other languages. Before I get into my Top 10, here are a few honorable mentions. (Note: some titles may contain spoilers)

 

Honorable Mention:

The Shawshank Redemption becomes Excitement 1995 in China

Knocked Up becomes Slightly Pregnant in Peru

Die Hard With a Vengance becomes Die Hard: Mega Hard in Denmark

 

Top 10

10. Leon: The Professional becomes This Hit Man is Not as Cold as He Thought in China

9.  Grease becomes Vaseline in Argentina

8. GI Jane becomes Satan Female Soldier in China

7. Nixon becomes Big Liar in China

6. Leaving Las Vegas becomes I’m Drunk and You’re a Prostitute in Japan

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Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Night Train to Munich (1940)

Night Train to Munich deftly blends romance, comedy and suspense to create a great piece of entertainment. Much credit to this must go to director Carol Reed (of The Third Man notorietyfor his ability to combine all of these elements together.

The plot is somewhat generic for WWII espionage thrillers of the period with a few added twists and turns for good measure:

A Czech scientist has some information the Nazis want. As he and his daughter attempt to flee the impending occupation, the daughter (portrayed by Margaret Lockwood) is apprehended and sent to a concentration camp. She eventually “escapes” and heads to England to find her father, who is hidden somewhere in the country. While there, she comes in contact with British intelligence primarily in the form of Rex Harrison. All of this sets the narrative in motion in a race against time to prevent the Nazis from getting their hands on the Czech scientist’s secret.

As previously stated, the plot is somewhat generic for a wartime espionage thriller. Taken in its proper context, this makes sense. The year is 1940 and the film represents a propaganda-styled film designed to boost the morale of a nation deeply in the throws of a war against Germany; at this time England literally must feel like an island unto its own as it is about a year before the United States officially enters the conflict.

According to my research, Carol Reed looked at this film as a “sequel” of sorts to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, made two years earlier. While Night Train to Munich shares many similarities to its predecessor, chiefly (1) a main part of the action takes place on a train; (2) the cast includes Margaret Lockwood and the popular Charters and Caldicott (portrayed by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, respectively); (3) it features a death-defying climatic sequence of events.

But that is where the similarities end. Notable and welcomed additions to this idea are the presence of Rex Harrison and Paul Henreid. In the case of the latter, Henreid puts on display his fine acting ability and succeeds in convincing the audience that he is a bona-fide “baddie.” This portrayal is in stark contrast to his later heroic turns in both Casablanca and Now, Voyager (both from 1942).

Night Train to Munich takes its audience on a fun and thrilling ride from the Czech Republic to England and Germany.

While you may occasionally catch it on cable (I recently watched it on Turner Classic Movies), it is also available on Criterion DVD at several online retail outlets.

 

To Catch A Thief™ Barbie® Doll (Hitchcock Kitsch)

As a fan of Grace Kelly and Hitch this is a perfect combination – check out the To Catch A Thief™ Barbie® Doll.

Image Credit: Barbie® and Mattel©

This is definitely an improvement upon a previous Hitchcock/Barbie collaboration. My initial excitement concerning this piece of Hitchcock kitsch was almost immediately tempered by one cold hard fact – plainly stated, that “Birds” doll is rather creepy. I could not get past Barbie/Melanie staring (and smiling) blankly off into the horizon whilst being attacked by birds. EEWW

On a related matter, let me know what you think about movie related kitsch and tie-ins … do you own any:

  • Books
  • Dolls/Figurines/Toy Sets
  • Games
  • Clothing
  • Other sundry items

 

UPDATE *8/8/2011: Looks like Total Film covered this territory a couple of years ago with their feature 9 Surprising Moving Barbies. ENJOY!