New Year's Movie Meme

December 28, 2011

The Girl with the White Parasol has a little movie meme for New Year's and I thought it would be fun to participate! I haven't done one of these in a while (I think the last one I participated in was the one I co-hosted with Millie) and I really enjoyed it! So, here are my answers, and Happy New Year!!

1. What is your all-time favorite Grace Kelly costume?

I love the blue gown she wears in To Catch a Thief! In a way it also reminds me of the one Deborah Kerr wears in An Affair to Remember.

2. What classic film would you nominate for a remake?

None of them... modern remakes give me the heebie jeebies! Although, that being said, I love some classic remakes like The Maltese Falcon, An Affair to Remember (no idea how this keeps coming up), and His Girl Friday.

3. Name your favorite femme fatale.

Barbara Stanwyck in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. I know most people, if choosing Stany's best femme fatale role, would pick Double Indemnity but goodness, that hair. I will never get over the hair. (I don't even care if it was part of the character, intended to look cheap, etc. It distracts me like ca-razy)

Runner up: Audrey Totter in Lady in the Lake!

4. Name the best movie with the word "heaven" in its title.

This is one of my all-time favorite romances! Also, I think it's a terrific example of powerful acting. It's absolutely amazing what Charles Boyer and Bette Davis can convey without speaking. You get the impression that their love is deeper than any other love that ever existed, yet they never speak of it and they never express it. It's left unspoken, but oh-so-palpable.

5. Describe the worst performance by a child actor that you’ve ever seen.

"Shaaaayyyne! Come back Shaaaayyyyne!" Ahh that little kid annoys the heck out of me!

6. Who gets your vote for most tragic movie monster?

I know it's not technically an old movie (at least I hope not, since I was already 3 years old when it was released) but I think it's a classic nonetheless. And I really can't think of a more tragic movie monster.

7. What is the one Western that you would recommend to anybody?

The Ox-Bow Incident. Westerns aren't my favorite genre, but I could watch this one a dozen times. It's not a typical western... more debate about law and order than cowboys and Indians, but I think it's a must-see western and a must-see classic film.

8. Who is your ideal movie-viewing partner?

My cat. I'm not a huge fan of watching movies with other people, just because I like to lose myself in the film. I like to be able to stare goofily at my screen when there's a happy ending or start bawling with mascara running down my cheeks during sad scenes without feeling self-conscious.

9. Has a film ever made you want to change your life? If so, what was the film?

Movies in general changed my life, but I don't think any particular movie made me want to change my life (if that makes sense?) Overall film has had a huge positive influence on me, but I can't think of one single movie that made me alter anything about how I live.

10. Think of one performer that you truly love. Now think of one scene/movie/performance of theirs that is too uncomfortable for you to watch.

Dirk Bogarde. With the most dreadful mustache in movie history (and that's including all of THESE.) It makes the last part of Esther Waters unbearable for me to watch!

11. On the flip side, think of one really good scene/performance/movie from a performer that you truly loathe.

Really not a fan of Edmund O'Brien as a leading man, but I think he did a fine job in The Barefoot Contessa.

12. And finally, since it will be New Year's soon, do you have any movie or blogging-related resolutions for 2012?

I need to watch more movies! In 2011 I watched a pitiful amount of movies because my schedule was so hectic, but I intend to make up for that in 2012. It seems like a small goal, but at least one a week would be an improvement!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

December 24, 2011

I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday season! See you in 2012! :)
xoxo Kate

A Classic Movie Christmas

December 11, 2011

A little video I put together with classic film clips, featuring Christmas-y and winter-y scenes! I had so much fun making this!! I've actually been planning on making a video set to this song (Goldfrapp's version of Winter Wonderland... I know, I know, I can't seem to stop making videos set to their music!) and I'm so glad I finally found time to do it in time for Christmas this year! :)

And in case you missed it, here is my New Year's video from last year!

They shoot horses, don't they?

November 28, 2011

One of the reasons I stopped blogging here for a while was because I was finding it so hard to think of something to say after I watched a really good film. I'd know it was good, I'd feel completely moved and I'd want to share my feelings here, but I wouldn't have the words. That happened to me again today after watching They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

I don't even know how to describe it. It was so incredibly sad and heart-wrenching. The acting was beyond good. I'm a big fan of Jane Fonda and Susannah York, and I've seen quite a lot of their films, but I've never been more impressed with their acting than I was today. They were so raw, but not over the top. They were just so REAL. Here are two actresses that are very familiar to me as stars and personalities, and they were so engrossed in their roles, so accurate in their portrayals of tired, exhausted and desperate women, that I completely forgot they were acting.

If you don't like depressing movies, definitely avoid this one. But otherwise, I highly encourage you to check it out. Although I don't recommend watching it when you're feeling particularly down in the dumps... it is seriously downbeat, and after watching it I felt pretty mopey for a good couple hours! Incredibly in awe of what I had just seen and overwhelmed by the amazing acting, but mopey nonetheless.

Celluloid and Canvas - James Mason

November 27, 2011

As part of my lifelong mission to convince the world that James Mason was a lovable sweetheart in real life, and not at all like the creeps he portrayed in movies such as Lolita and Georgy Girl, I present this fact: James Mason loved cats. So much so that he wrote a book about them with his wife. (Cue simultaneous aww's!) "The Cats in Our Lives" is a little tribute to all of the cats that Mason & his wife, Pamela Kellino, had known. Mason actually illustrated the book, as well!

It's been out of print for some time, and sat on my amazon wishlist for years without ever ending up in my shopping cart. Its rarity seemed to always go hand in hand with a pretty steep price. So I was absolutely over-the-moon with excitement when my brother gifted me a copy for my birthday this month!! I didn't even know until I opened the book that Mason had illustrated it! As soon as I saw all of the beautiful pen & ink drawings of furry felines, I blurted out "I have to scan this for my blog!"

And so here they are, all of the illustrations in "The Cats in Our Lives" by James Mason! If this doesn't convince you that he was a sweet old chap, I don't know what will! ;)

fanatic guilt

November 18, 2011

As I walk by my record collection I can see his eyes peering up at me, hypnotizing me, calling me to pick up his record and listen. I shift my focus to avoid eye contact, grab my Marianne Faithfull Broken English album and quickly, guiltily, place it over his. I can't stand to look at him right now.

Such is the anguish of fanatic guilt; when you spend months, years (or in my case almost a decade) obsessed with a celebrity to the point of embarrassment, only to have that obsession start to fade. There was a time when I listened to nothing --and I mean, nothing-- but Frank Sinatra. Dean Martin's voice would only seep out of my speakers if it was accompanied by Frank's in a duet. The only way that a David Bowie song would reach my eardrums is if his music was playing in a supermarket or my parents had popped in one of his cds in the car and I could not escape. I was the most fanatic of fans, to the point that his face was plastered around my room, screen-printed on my t-shirts and taped to my first cell phone as a make-shift case.

Every year on December 12th my family and I would celebrate his birthday by watching a double feature of his movies and a concert while eating pasta topped with sauce that I made using Sinatra's recipe. For every Christmas from 2000 to about 2009, my presents were entirely Sinatra-themed. I relished Christmas shopping because it was the one time of year when I could hear his voice loftily floating through the air without having put it there myself.

And so I felt a bit of a sting the other day when my mom recalled an event from a few years ago and added "that was during your Sinatra phase."

Was it really a phase? And was it really over? I sulked a bit and marched up to my bedroom. As I sat on my bed I noticed a Pogues record on my turntable. A quick glance at the art adorning my walls would prove that I'm a fan of Anna Karina, Giulietta Masina, Louise Brooks, Sunday in New York, Dirk Bogarde and Jane Fonda but you'd never guess that I like Sinatra. The only presence he maintains in my bedroom is a magnet on my bulletin board, tucked under a photo of my cat, and a pile of records that haven't been touched in years.

I can see his eyes peering up at me, hypnotizing me, calling me to pick up his album and listen. But, wracked with the guilt of a fan who has let her interest slip away, I can't stand to look at him right now.

Project Keaton

October 31, 2011

My *incredibly* last minute submission to Project Keaton! I had meant to do a full post on the film Limelight to go along with this but I've just been so insanely busy this month I thought a little drawing was better than nothing at all :)

I had also wanted to do a huge post on my top 10 favorite scary movies by Halloween but didn't get to that either. I do have the list ready, though! I'll include them here and maybe next month I'll try to come back and edit this to include why these movies give me the chills! :)

3. The Vampire Bat (1933)
4. The Uninvited (1944)
5. The Birds (1963)
6. The Haunting (1963)
7. The Innocents (1961)
8. Doctor X (1932)
10. Don't Look Now (1973)

ps. the drawing is available in my society6 shop

Sunday in New York tribute

October 03, 2011

This tribute is so long overdue.. Sunday in New York is my absolute favorite film of all time! I know I've mentioned it on here countless times, but somehow I never made a tribute video until now. If you've seen the movie hopefully the video will really make you laugh! :)

If you *haven't* seen the movie.. what the heck? I've been pestering you about it for almost three years now. Hop to it! ;)

Scream of Fear

September 23, 2011

I don't remember what the movie was, but when I was a little girl I caught part of a horror film that my parents were watching. It was from the 1960's or 70's, and all I remember was a dead body hanging upside down from the ceiling with blood dripping onto a table. The scene probably wasn't even that gruesome, but to my tiny innocent mind it was absolutely horrific! I've always been pretty sure that it was a Hammer film. I have no idea if it actually was, but I've kind of avoided them ever since.

So imagine my surprise when I accidentally watched one tonight (once I saw HAMMER FILMS in the credits, I winced with fear, but decided to keep going because of the amazing cast) and absolutely loved it! It wasn't the least bit gory. In fact, it was exactly the kind of scary movie that I adore! Psychological trickery, unexpected twists and a spooky atmosphere can be so much more terrifying than blood and gore. Honestly, I think the unseen makes bloody monsters jealous.. it can send ten times the amount of shivers up backs, give double the amount of goosebumps and cause three times as many nightmares. I watched this movie alone, in the dark, and it scared the living daylights out of me, without one "eww, yuck! Quick, avert your eyes!" sort of scene.

Scream of Fear has an all-star fantastic British cast headed by Susan Strasberg, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee and Ronald Lewis. It's about a wheelchair bound girl who, after her companion mysteriously dies in a drowning accident, goes to visit her father that she hasn't seen in ten years. When she arrives, she's told that he left in the middle of the night on an urgent business trip, leaving her alone with his new wife, the chauffeur and a suspicious French doctor. I can't really give away much more than that because the thrills start right from the beginning!

Scream of Fear is available in a (very inexpensive!) Hammer film box-set on Amazon here.


September 16, 2011

I've been re-watching a lot of my favorite Cliff Robertson movies this week. I'm having a tough time accepting the fact that he's gone... I never saw any of his later films, so to me he was still a young, healthy, vital guy in his 20's or 30's. Now that he's gone, my only surviving classic movie crushes are Rod Taylor and Robert Redford (I guess I seem to have a thing for people who co-starred with Jane Fonda.)

But aside from being a handsome fellow with a voice that sends shivers up my spine, he was also an AMAZING, highly underrated actor. For proof, look no further than his role as the mentally challenged sweetheart Charly in the 1968 movie of the same name.

Charly is a full-grown man with the mental capacity of a child. But with the help of his night school teacher, played by Claire Bloom, he gets to participate in a trial operation to improve his capacity for learning. While the initial operation is a success, it has a huge side effect that Charly never saw coming.

The film itself is definitely a heartbreaker. But while the overarching storyline is sad, it's a few poignant scenes and Cliff Robertson's earnest portrayal of Charly that will make your eyes well up.

In the beginning, Charly never understands when he is the butt of a joke, because it's beyond his comprehension. When his co-workers fill his locker with bread dough, then gather around laughing when Charly can't figure out what's going on, he laughs too.. not understanding that they are laughing AT him, not with him. But after his surgery, when his intelligence begins to grow, he says, "I was wondering why the people who would never dream of laughing at a blind or a crippled man would laugh at a moron." His realization that his "friends" were actually making fun of him all these years is one of the saddest moments in the whole film. Sure, intelligence enables him to understand physics, chemistry and history.. but it also opens up a world of hurt that he never even knew existed.

Cliff Robertson does such an outstanding job of portraying Charly throughout all of his mental stages in the film. His progression from innocent childlike wonder to mature, adult understanding is so natural you hardly notice it's happening at first. Even his facial expressions and body movements reflect his current intellect. While I had a very hard time understanding how Geraldine Page was nominated for an Oscar in my last post, I'm not the least bit surprised that Cliff Robertson won best actor for this role.

You can get Charly on Amazon here, or it's also on youtube here. I'm also working on a video tribute to Cliff Robertson, so hopefully I'll have that up sometime this weekend.

Summer and Smoke

September 15, 2011

Have you ever watched a movie, decided it was definitely one of the worst movies you'd ever seen and headed over to imdb to read some reviews, only to find everyone has rated the movie 10/10 and that it was nominated for multiple Oscars? This was my experience with Summer and Smoke.

The film is about a repressed Preacher's daughter named Alma --played by Oscar nominated Geraldine Page-- who has been madly, obsessively in love with the town delinquent, John -- played by Laurence Harvey-- since she was five years old. The movie opens with a very stage-like scene of the two characters as children. Alma is already strangely prim and proper for a toddler, and John starts his lifelong pattern of using her obvious crush as a way to tease her. Fast forward 20 years and not much has changed. Alma is still living at home with her father and her mother who had a nervous breakdown while Alma was in high school. John has just returned from Medical School, having acquired a seedy reputation on his trip home, stopping at gambling halls and keeping company with loose women. Throughout the rest of the film John keeps leading Alma on while he's going steady with Rosa -- Rita Moreno in a painfully stereotypical role.

Laurence Harvey wasn't bad at all, except that his fake southern accent kept disappearing every now and then.. but I expect that of almost any movie where the actors take on fake southern accents. Pamela Tiffin played one of John's love interests, and she was really cute and fit the role well. But everyone and everything else bothered me. It was heavily dramatic, very theatrical and stage-like. An almost-40 Geraldine Page was, I think, terribly miscast as a "young old maid" in her early 20's. She overplayed the part tremendously and I honestly could not believe she was nominated for an Oscar!

I think I must just have very bad good-acting radar. I can't even count how many times I think a performance was God-awful, only to find out the actor was nominated for an Oscar. Or a quick search for "terrible actors name, bad movie" yields hundreds of articles raving about what a fantastic character study it was, and how the actor was able to express a million things with one slight eye movement in the fourth scene.

Aside from the acting, the story itself was not too bad. It's by Tennessee Williams, after all. But I think the weird treatment of repression just sticks in my craw. Almost every film I've seen that deals with a repressed woman treats the character as if she is literally psychotic. In Summer and Smoke, Alma constantly runs to the doctor in the middle of the night due to panic attacks for which he gives her tranquilizers. Her eyes are constantly darting about, unable to focus unless John is in view. In Repulsion, a repressed Catherine Deneuve goes absolutely mad. In Psycho, the male is the one who is repressed and he goes on a mini killing spree while the skeleton of his dead mother is locked up in the basement. Repression is terrible, but from most movies you'd get the impression that anyone who hasn't been in a romantic relationship must be harboring an extreme mental illness.

The character of Alma could have just been a girl with a crush on the boy next door who is painfully disappointed by his constant teasing and rejection. She didn't have to also be a borderline insane woman who gets violent panic attacks whenever the thought of sex crossed her mind. I think it adds an unnecessary element to a story that would have been fine without it.

While Summer and Smoke was *definitely* not my cup of tea, I guess in retrospect I can understand why so many people might love it. The plot was constantly interesting and occasionally mesmerizing in a strange sort of way. So if you're in the mood for some melodrama and good old fashioned [over-dramatized] repression, it's available on netflix instant.

Banjo on my Knee (1936)

August 08, 2011

Banjo on my Knee is the story of a "land girl" played by Barbara Stanwyck who marries into a family of river dwellers. On her wedding night, some guy gets fresh with Stany, and her new groom, played by Joel McCrea, pushes the man overboard. When he doesn't immediately resurface, everyone assumes he's dead and Joel decides he has to go on the lamb and leave his new bride at home.

The cast is jam-packed with my favorite stars. Barbara Stanwyck is amazing as the lonely out-of-place newlywed, and her understated performance is spectacular as usual. Walter Brennan plays her father-in-law, a super sweet lovable old guy who plays folksy favorites on his "contraption," an instrument made out of old bottles and do-dads. And then there's Buddy Ebsen tap-dancing and singing along to the music. Oh, and singer Tony Martin makes an appearance as a restaurant entertainer, appearing in the credits as "Anthony Martin."

They all make up for Joel McCrea. Oh, Joel. He's one of my favorite actors, but by golly do I despise him in this movie!!! He's such a hot-headed mess; insanely jealous and abusive. I've seen this movie a dozen times, and each time I hate his character even more. The worst part is that I don't think you're supposed to hate him! The movie is definitely structured to make you root for Stany & Joel getting together in the end, but I guess my modern mind makes me wish she could escape the inevitable abusive relationship she's getting herself into.

The absolute *best* part of this movie, hands down, is the music. It's not quite a musical, more like a drama with some musical numbers thrown in (and they all seem to fit, not like people just randomly burst out into song in mid-sentence.) And Barbara Stanwyck did her own singing! I wish she did this more often, because she had such a unique, beautiful voice.

The Long Dark Hall (1951)

August 01, 2011

Last night I re-watched The Long Dark Hall, a great early 50's British mystery starring Rex Harrison and his wife at the time, Lili Palmer. It's a fantastic courtroom drama, where family man Rex is wrongly accused of murdering his mistress (okay, so he was only sort-of a family man) while the real killer still lurks about. I love that you know right from the beginning who the real killer is. The suspense isn't in the "whodunnit" but in wondering whether or not an innocent man will be sentenced to death for a murder he didn't commit, and if the real killer will strike again.

There's one thing, though, that makes the casting of this movie kind of odd. In 1948, Rex Harrison's girlfriend, actress Carole Landis, committed suicide while he was married to Lili Palmer. His involvement in her death -- mainly speculation over whether or not he had anything to do it, and whether he had destroyed a suicide note she had addressed to him -- created a media frenzy at the time. I haven't read into the scandal much more than the quick wikipedia glance, but I can imagine that recreating a similar storyline in a movie only 3 years later with his offscreen wife playing his spouse in the movie, must have been incredibly eerie! Knowing the backstory definitely makes you see Lili Palmer's performance in a whole new light, too.

A Matter of Innocence (1968)

July 12, 2011

As you probably already know, I'm a pretty big Hayley Mills fan so when Casey & I found a dvd of this rare film, I HAD to see it! Being a fan, I was really hoping for something to rival the greatness of The Trouble with Angels or The Moonspinners, but this was definitely a flop. Not just a "what a bad movie" kind of flop, it was pretty much indescribable. I think Leslie Knope sums it up perfectly:

Hayley Mills plays a plain young girl (read: she wears glasses and her hair is not in a fancy updo) accompanying her aunt on a trip to Singapore. Not long after they arrive, her aunt has a heavy lunch that results in her sinking to the bottom of the pool when she climbs in on the ladder. It's the most bizarre death I've ever seen in a movie, and yet it was so funny that my stomach actually hurt from laughing so hard. (I should probably add here, so as not to seem like a total lunatic laughing alone in my bedroom over the death of a woman in a movie... I was watching this with Casey, Millie and Sarah during a chat. They were equally hysterical ;-D)

The movie just keeps sliding downhill from there... Hayley gets un-plained (read: contacts & a fancy updo) and begins dating a very strange hotel escort who seems to be moonlighting as a pimp/pornographer/drug dealer?! And I am 100% positive they changed his name repetitively throughout the film. I won't give away much more (I haven't actually given away anything yet.. honestly all of this takes place in the first 15 minutes or so of the movie, if you can believe it!) in case you want to see it. As strange and mind-boggling as this was, I'd still recommend it. Not every film has to be Citizen Kane, right? There are some wacky little weirdos that deserve some love, and I think this is definitely one of them. It's bizarre but definitely fun to watch, especially if you have some friends to watch it with who love bad movies just as much as you do ;-D

Avanti! (1972)

July 01, 2011

Avanti takes place in beautiful Italy, where Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills (playing a character with the adorable name of Pamela Piggott) are visiting to retrieve the bodies of his father and her mother, who were killed in a car crash in a small Italian town. Lemmon plays a quintessential frazzled American businessman, Wendell Armbruster Jr., who is shocked to find out that his stuffy father had been visiting Italy annually not for business, but to engage in a long-term affair with Piggot's mother.

Pamela's laid back, serene attitude towards the whole situation annoys Wendell like crazy. He's so caught up in the hustle and bustle of funeral arrangements that he has trouble appreciating the quiet beauty of Italy. But his father's death gives him a second chance at life, when he comes to understand just why his dad needed this peaceful getaway, and the company of a sweet, loving girl.

I really can't even count how many things I love in this movie. The scenery is stunning, Juliet Mills' performance is so good you'll wish she starred in 800 movies, and the perfect balance between subtle comedy and poignant drama is remarkable. But I think my favorite part is this scene in the beginning where Juliet Mills opens the curtains, letting the light shine in the mortuary. It's just take-your-breath-away poetic. It looks almost like a classic renaissance painting in Edward Hopper's style, and captures the entire mood of the film in one single shot.