23 March 2011

Elizabeth Taylor: 1932-2011

Today is a sad day. Early this morning, Elizabeth Taylor passed away from heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. She was 79 years old.

Born on February 27, 1932 in London to American parents, she moved to America at a young age and, after seeing a Shirley Temple movie with her mother, decided that she wanted to be an actress.
In 1944, she got her first starring role playing Velvet Brown in MGM's National Velvet. She was catapulted to stardom and made many films for MGM before the age of eighteen.
Velvet and the Pie, National Velvet

In 1950, Taylor starred alongside Spencer Tracy in Father of the Bride and a year later, she starred opposite Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun. Together, these two films would establish her as a legitimate actress.
A Place in the Sun, 1951
During the 1950s she would turn in many incredible performances in great films: Giant; Raintree County; Suddenly, Last Summer; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958
Suddenly, Last Summer. 1959

In 1960, Taylor won an Oscar for her performance as ill-fated call-girl Gloria Wondrus in Butterfield 8. Hardly her greatest performance, she was awarded an Oscar due to the fact that she had just faced a near death battle with pneumonia and undergone an emergency tracheotomy. Taylor was the first to acknowledge this fact and in fact, despised her performance and the movie itself.

In 1966, she won the role of a lifetime when she starred opposite Richard Burton in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Many people were surprised that she had undertaken such a role. This character was a middle-aged, overweight, drunken, vulgar woman who was anything but glamorous and beautiful. But Elizabeth pulled it off splendidly, gaining weight, dressing in frumpy clothing, wearing no makeup, and sporting a messy, ratty mop of graying hair. She shocked critics and audiences alike, and was rewarded with her second Best Actress Oscar.
I'm going to make the biggest goddamn explosion you ever heard

In the early 80s, Taylor spent less and less time on her career, and devoted much of her time to AIDS research and awareness. Long before it was fashionable for celebrities to champion causes, Elizabeth Taylor took a stand and devoted herself to educating the masses about AIDS. Before, people were so afraid of getting AIDS, because they just weren't educated as to how the disease is spread. Others thought that only gays could get it. Elizabeth helped to educate them, and it is in part thanks to her that people learned that AIDS knows no race, creed, color, gender, or sexual orientation, and that you cannot get AIDS from regular, ordinary contact with an AIDS victim. In 1993, she would be rewarded with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her efforts.

Of course, you really can't talk about Elizabeth Taylor without mentioning her stunning, flawless beauty. Observe:
"You will kneel..On your knees"


All in all, Elizabeth Taylor was a beautiful, caring, generous, talented woman who lived about twenty five lives in one. Hopefully now she can rest some. 
Goodbye, Elizabeth. We'll miss you.


This song is off the Inglourous Basterds soundtrack, but I think that the music perfectly suits Elizabeth.

13 March 2011

I've heard it called the easiest way. I wonder who thought of that. I know one thing- it couldn't have been a woman.

Waterloo Bridge, 1940

 This is my favorite Vivien Leigh film. Ever. I like it more than Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire. Put together. Which is saying a lot, being that those are two of my favorite films. But as much as I love those two films, I really honestly can say I like this one better. And I think she's superb in it.

She plays Myra, a ballerina who meets Roy, a soldier during an air raid (played by MGM's pretty boy in residence Robert Taylor) falls in love with him after a whirlwind courtship, and plans to marry him. Unfortunately, it's wartime, and he is called to the front in France. She misses a performance in order to see him off but misses him, only getting a glance of his train pulling out of the station. Subsequently, she is fired from the ballet company. One day, while reading the paper, she sees Roy's name among the casualties list. Out of work, hungry, and desperate, Myra turns to prostitution in order to survive. While strolling though the train station one night in an attempt to pick up a client, she sees Roy among the returning soldiers. Ecstatic at seeing her, Roy is ready to pick up the pieces and finish where they left off. But for Myra, it's not so easy.

I credit this as Vivien Leigh's greatest performance, as I have mentioned before. Of course, I am in no way disregarding her performances in Gone With the Wind or A Streetcar Named Desire. To do so would be completely asinine. However, her performance in Waterloo Bridge is a much more laid back, subtle performance. There are scenes where she doesn't say a word and just acts with her eyes. The scene where this is best illustrated is when she sees Roy amongst the returning soldiers at the train station. She squints ever so slightly, as if she's making sure she's seeing what she thinks she is. Slowly, her eyes widen in shock, disbelief, and horror
image courtesy of www.vivandlarry.com

I'm not sure how much control she had over her career in terms of choice of roles, but I think it was a really smart decision to do this film after Gone With the Wind. It's a completely different character than Scarlett O'Hara, and she proved with this film that she was no one-trick-pony, and that her Oscar was no fluke. It's such an amazing, beautiful performance, and I can't for the life of me figure out why she didn't receive an Oscar nomination for this film. 

If you haven't seen this film, do yourself a huge favor and get yourself a copy. I highly doubt you'll be disappointed.

08 March 2011

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

V for Vendetta, 2006

London, in the not-so-distant future. A totalitarian regime now rules the country, depriving every citizen of their basic freedoms, setting ridiculous rules, and arraigning those who do not comply. However, revolution is brewing, in the form of a man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask known simply as V (Hugo Weaving).

After Evey (Natalie Portman) is rescued by V from London's secret police, known as the Fingermen, she becomes his accomplice in the fight to gain back the people's stolen freedom. But as V's tactics and ideas become more radical, she begins to wonder if V is a hero or a criminal. 

Based on the graphic novel of the same name, V for Vendetta is one of those movies whose story was, is, and always be relevant. The idea of a government going too far and taking away a person's basic liberties is never far fetched. Just as timeless is the idea of oppressed citizens demanding their rights and making the decision to take them back. And it quite possibly has the best message of any film ever:

People should not fear their government. The government should fear its people

Since I don't believe in spoiling endings of amazing films, I will not give away the ending, except to say that V for Vendetta's ending is definitely one of the best you'll ever see.