29 December 2010

Oh Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars.

Now, Voyager 1942

Now, Voyager is probably my favorite weepy romance film ever. There are a lot of really great tearjerker romances out there, but I think that Now, Voyager takes the cake. The story, the cast, their acting, and especially the teaming of Bette Davis and Paul Henried give it that little bonus that gives it that win by a nose.

 Bette Davis plays Charlotte Vale, the daughter of the most famous and wealthy families in Boston. At first glance, you'd think she's middle-aged, but surprisingly, she's quite a young woman. Years of miserable living under her tyrannical mother's reign have led her to become totally spinsterish. She finally cracks under all her unhappiness and goes through a nervous breakdown. Fortunately, kind and sympathetic Dr. Jasquith (Claude Rains) takes Charlotte to his sanitarium where she can recover, and then sends her on a South American cruise to learn how to socialize and give her a shot at making friends with people who have no idea who she is. While on the boat, she meets Jerry Durrance, a man who is unhappily married and staying with his wife for the sake of their daughters. He helps coax her out of her shell and the two end up falling in love. But how long can it last?

Aside from being supremely romantic and wonderfully gushy, Now, Voyager is the perfect example of Bette
Davis's incredible glamor. Never conventionally pretty, Bette Davis was living, breathing, glamor incarnate. And in this film, her transformation from ugly duckling to swan is just as amazing as The Wizard of Oz going from sepia to Technicolor, and just as astounding each time it's seen.

Now, Voyager is one of those sentimental romance films that you really cannot watch without a box of tissues on hand. I think everything about it is great, and side-by-side with Casablanca it leads the way of great romance films of the World War II years.

26 December 2010

What is it you want, Mary? You want the moon?

It's a Wonderful Life, 1946

Being that yesterday was Christmas, I'm going to attempt to keep a kind of theme going on around here. And so I'm going to make this entry about not only one of my favorite Christmas (sorry, holiday) movie, but one of my favorite movies in general- It's a Wonderful Life.

Directed by Frank Capra, It's a Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) a man with big dreams and high hopes. However, none of these big dreams are ever fulfilled because he always puts everybody else before him. While his brother goes to college and becomes a famous war hero, George (who always had aspirations of seeing the world) stays home in the small town of Bedford Falls to take over his father's business. He marries Mary (Donna Reed), the town nice-girl, and has a family, but after the business falls apart, George, distraught, seriously contemplates suicide. Luckily for him, his guardian angel, Clarence, shows up to save his life. George wishes he'd never been born, and Clarence shows him exactly what the world would have been like had he not been born. And it really opens up George's eyes and he learns that his life really is significant. 

I can't watch this movie without crying. I'm far too sentimental for my own good and am rather inclined to cry at the smallest thing. And this movie always does the trick. Especially the message from Clarence that George gets inside a book: "Remember George, nobody is a failure who has friends."

This is one of those movies that everyone really needs to see. It's to me, the ultimate feel-good film and it always helps to remind you that, as lame as it sounds, you really do matter, and you really have made a difference. It's so beautiful, and I think that it should be shown year round, not just around Christmas time.

24 December 2010

It was nice to meet you, even if you are my least favorite vegetable

Howl's Moving Castle, 2004

I was extremely hesitant about watching this movie. I never really cared for Japanese animation, and so I thought that this was going to be just a typical, run-of-the-mill film. How wrong I was. What I didn't know was that this was a film by Miyazaki, and so would be anything but average or run of the mill.

The thing about Miyazaki is that he manages to make his drawings seem alive. You almost forget that  you're watching an animated film- everything looks so real, from the backgrounds and landscapes, to the character's faces. What I really appreciated was that their expressions aren't exaggerated as they usually are in a lot of Japanese animation. 

What's really cool about Miyazaki is that pretty much anyone who is anyone has voiced a character in one of his movies. Howl's Moving Castle features the voices of Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal, Blythe Danner, and Jean Simmons. 

Other filims of interest include Spirited Away (which won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2002, I think), Nausica of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, Kiki's Delivery Service, and most recently, Ponyo. Seriously, check out his work. It's excellent. 

13 December 2010

I'm not the one who's confused, you don't even know who you are!

 The Lion King, 1994

I think that The Lion King is probably Disney's best film. Everything about it is perfect, from the hand-drawn
 animation, to the incredibly lifelike images of the African plains (remember how they drew the sun rising over 
the Savannah?) to Elton John's songs, and the great cast of voice actors (Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and Cheech Marin)- The Lion King is good, old fashioned Disney at its best, when the animation department was untouched by any other studio, and the company had something that it seems to have lost now- pride.

I think that the Lion King has got to be the saddest movie I have ever watched in my entire life. Remember how hard you cried when Mufasa died? I'm not sure I've ever cried harder watching a movie before or since. I've seen this movie so many times, and that scene is still totally heartbreaking. I would say it's the saddest thing in moves ever. The only other scene I can think that would run a close second would probably be when Old Yeller gets shot.
The best part of the movie to me though, is the ending. It is so epic, and so Disney in its heyday. With the animation, and the gorgeous Hans Zimmer score, I still get goosebumps to this day whenever I see it. It's such the perfect ending- Simba ascending Pride Rock as the rain washes everything away for a fresh start. It's so beautiful.

Now that's how to end a movie!

Apologies- I can't understand why there's like 18 of the video clip posted, and I can't get any of them off. Forgive me!

09 December 2010

Heathcliff, fill my arms with heather

Image courtesy vivandlarry.com

Wuthering Heights, 1939

Before I do anything else, I really need to give Wuthering Heights credit for introducing me to Laurence Olivier in all his glory. Before I had seen this movie, I only really knew that Laurence Olivier was married to Vivien Leigh. And I really didn't get him. Maybe I just wasn't as interested in getting to know about him as much as her, but after I saw Wuthering Heights, that all changed.

Now I'd be lying if  I wasn't absolutely floored by how gorgeous he was in this movie. It's ridiculous. Really, it is. Just look.
Courtesy vivandlarry.com

Of course, the gushy, melodramatic love story didn't hurt matters either. Being a girl, I do like an occasional weepy romance film, and Wuthering Heights is one of my favorites.

Although Merle Oberon is not one of my favorite actresses in the least, I do have to admit that she is really beautiful in this film.

This is also a really important film in that it taught Laurence Olivier how to act on camera. (Before this, he was still kind of green, and still really stagey and hammy). The director of the film, William Wyler, really deserves the credit for bringing him down and really getting an incredible performance out of him. (Wyler's directed some of my favorite actors/actresses in some of my favorite movies...Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years of our Lives, Roman Holiday, ect).

Since I watched this movie, Laurence Olivier has become my favorite actor, and I haven't been able to stop talking about this film in general.

If you don't like Laurence Olivier, or want to get to know his work better, watch this movie, because it's excellent.

05 December 2010

Now when I get the sun, I smile

Requiem for a Dream, 2000

I have got to say that I'm quite sure that this is the scariest film I have ever seen in my life. I firmly believe that if kids were shown this film, there would be no more drug problems in this country. 

Requiem for a Dream examines a year in the life of Harry Goldfarb, his mother Sara, his girlfriend Marion, and his best friend  Tyrone and their increasing inability to control their respective addictions and eventually falling prey to them.

Ellen Burstyn plays Sara, and it is such a disgrace that she was passed over for the Best Actress Academy Award. Her performance is flawless, particularly her monologue attempting to justify her addiction:

-I'm somebody now Harry. Everybody likes me. Soon, millions of people will see me, and they'll all like me. I'll tell them about you, and your father, how good he was to us. Remember? It's a reason to get up in the morning. It's a reason to lose weight, to fit in the red dress. It's a reason to smile. It makes tomorrow all right. What have I got Harry? Why should I even make the bed, or wash the dishes? I do them, but why should I? I'm alone. Your father's gone. You're gone. I got no one to care for. What have I got Harry? I'm lonely. I'm old.
-You got friends, ma.
-It's not the same. They don't need me. I like the way I feel. I like thinking about the red dress and the television and you, and your father. Now when I get the sun, I smile.

The whole cast did a really fine job of playing addicts trying their best to keep their addictions under control. They show the desperation of doing anything for a fix, consequences be damned. Requiem for a Dream is an unflinching, in-your-face film that doesn't back down for a second. 

The first time I watched it, I was literally stunned and speechless.  I tried to brighten up by watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail afterward, but it was to no avail. I was still haunted by Requiem for a Dream.I still am. I'm sure I'll always be haunted by it.

02 December 2010

I just wish I could go someplace where no one knows me.

Stand by Me, 1986

 Set in small town in 1950's Oregon, Stand by Me tells the story of four best friends' quest to find a dead body in the woods and become heroes.What starts as a fun time turns serious as the boys reveal their true selves to each other and make discoveries about themselves. I think it's the quintessential coming-of-age story and one of the greatest films about friendship ever made. 

For me, the person who stand out most is River Phoenix. He plays Chris Chambers, a typical tough-guy with a heart of gold. to quote the movie: "He came from a bad family and everyone just knew he'd turn out bad...including Chris."   Chris is terribly intelligent but is practical enough to know that he has no shot of being successful in life.  Accused of stealing milk money at school, he is looked down upon by teachers and parents alike. His tearful confession about what really happened to the milk money is one of the most devastating performances in film history. 

 "I'm just one of those low-life Chambers kids. No one even asked me if I took the milk money that time. I just got a three day vacation. Maybe I was sorry and I tried to give it back. And I took it to Old Lady Simons and told her, and the money was all there. But I still got a three day vacation because the  it never showed up. And maybe, the next week, Old Lady Simons had  a brand new skirt on when she came to school. Just suppose I told that story. Me, Chris Chambers, kid brother to Eyeball Chambers, you think anyone would believe me? And do you think that bitch would have dared try anything like that if it had been one of those douchebags from up on the view if they had taken the money? Hell no. Well...I'm sure she had her eye on that skirt for a long time. Anyway, she saw her chance and she took it. But I never thought.....I never thought, a teacher...oh who gives a fuck anyway? I just wish I could go someplace where no one knows me."

"Would you two shut the fuck up? If either one of you assholes had two thousand dollars, I'd kill you both."
Another character of interest is Ace Merrill, played by Keifer Sutherland. Ace is one of those rare bullies that is actually menacing. In fact, Ace is terrifying. He's completely psychotic and wouldn't think twice about sticking his switchblade right in between somebody's ribs. 
I fell in love with Stand by Me the first time I saw it, because I saw myself and my childhood friends in it. Those four kids did everything that me and my friends did; they teased each other, they fought, they cried on each others shoulders, and eventually, drifted apart. Stand by Me also offers, in my opinion, the most heartbreaking closing line in all of cinema history.

"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?"