Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Resolutions: Cinema Style

Once more unto the breach!

Yes, it's a new year, and with new beginnings come those resolutions. This time, I intend to use some cinematic inspiration.

1.Get Organized! 
Somewhere between this:
and this:
Must not go all crazy-eyed Sleeping with the Enemy

are my orderly closets and kitchen cabinets.

2. Loose Weight!
Somewhere between this:
The hilarious Rebel Wilson in "Bridesmaids"
and this:
Angie - please eat!
is a reasonably thinner and healthier me (just gotta get in there and drag her out).

3. Figure out a way to age gracefully
Ah, this is a hard one, but the clock keeps ticking. So, I would like to avoid this:

and shoot for this:
my hero
4. Get more sleep!
We all know how hard it is to get enough sleep and how very important it is. But too much is no good:

and not enough is even worse:

5. Watch more movies!
This one is easy.

I'll just do it! After all, I'll feel better, be more rested and be totally age-appropriate and organized.

Wishing you all the very best of everything in 2013. I have a feeling it's going to be spectacular!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Fantasy Christmas

I usually avoid writing about television, this being a movie blog and all that. However, television was the medium that introduced me to classic films, fed my dreams of Hollywood and remains, still, through DVDs and TCM, my main venue for viewing movies. It was also the first breeding ground of my fantasy life (you know, the one where I grow up and marry Cary Grant). So, this Christmas, instead of lovely starlets posing for Christmas publicity photos, I offer my fantasy Christmas family (1960s-style with a little give and take over the decades).

Make Room for Daddy was my favorite TV show as a kid. First of all, Danny Williams and his family lived in this very sophisticated New York apartment with 2 levels! It seemed very appropriate for a nightclub entertainer of Danny's caliber to be living in such a nice place. I never understood why Ricky Ricardo, who appeared to have a good thing going at the Tropicana, forced Lucy to live in that crummy apartment.
"Ricky, don't be so cheap!
Get outta that crummy apartment and live a little!
I related to this show because people were always yelling at one anther and wise cracking, which is kind of how my house was. The house that Dr. and Donna Stone lived in seemed as far removed from reality to me as the land of Oz.

Danny reminded me of my dad. He was not a nightclub entertainer, but he was beleaguered by a bunch of us whose mouths knew little restraint.

Marjorie Lord as Kathy was, to me, the perfect TV mom. She was loving and chic. Plus, my own mom was a redhead and I always thought they were the prettiest ladies. 
My brothers were considerable older, but they were wiseguys like Rusty. My resemblance to Linda was mentioned frequently.

I am swapping big sister Sherry Jackson's Terry for Sally Field's Gidget - just because it is my fantasy.

A special seat at the family table wound have to be  saved for Uncle Tonoose. He is by far my favorite uncle and I love him dearly.

My TV aunt that comes for Christmas is Samantha Stevens. That might mean that Endora is either Danny's or Kathy's mom, but I can't go there. Anyway, she is one of my favorite aunts because she is so beautiful and stylish and seems to have some special powers. I hope I grow up to inherit her nose (but if Danny is my dad, well.... I guess she is related to Kathy). Only Darrin #1 accompanies her in my fantasy.

My other favorite aunt is Susie MacNamara (of Private Secretary). Now, I only got to see this show on morning reruns, but I was always enamored of Ann Sothern's working girl. She was single, stylish and supporting herself. I want to sit right next to her. I realize that her boss, Mr. Sands, was Gidget's father, but that does not happen in my fantasy. Thought - get outta my head!!

And so, that is my happy Christmas family. Rusty, Gidget and I would get up early and unwrap our gifts (Rusty and I both get an a Viewmaster and an Etch a Sketch, Rusty also gets Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots and the Game of Mousetrap. I am so happy with my Easy Bake Oven and the dolls that looks just like me! Big sister Gidget is thrilled with her paisley skirt and go go boots).

It was a marvelous Christmas and many years later I return home. Danny and Kathy still live in the same apartment and I am now Ann Marie, aspiring actress, fashion plate and daddy's girl.

Hoping your holiday season is filled with love and peace and the warmth of family and good friends (real and imagined).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Sumptuous, Passionate and Utterly Cinematic Anna Karenina

If you are dazzled by beauty, daring, and creativity, I think you will like the new cinematic stab at “Anna Karenina.” While I looked forward to seeing this, the weight of the earlier performances of both Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh seemed too much for the frail little shoulders of Keira Knightley. How could she compare?

First, let me say that reading this book in high school was NOT a happy experience. It was just so long, and all of the artifice of Imperial Russian society seemed so – well – artificial. Why couldn't the characters just say what they mean? Ah, youth…… And so Director Joe Wright’s challenge: not only to squeeze this hulking epic story of intertwined relationships into an approximate 2-hour story, but to make it look and feel fresh. I am happy to report that he has succeeded. Another straightforward retelling of Anna’s story would have been just so boring, no matter how gorgeously filmed. Instead Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard have elected to frame this story of the human heart so chained to the artifice and hypocrisy of society with the proscenium arch of the stage. It is bold, it is daring and it is gorgeous. And – it just feels right.

Well, we all know how it ends (Anna, the train and all that), but the characterizations offer some thrills:

Keira Knightley as Anna

Unlike the dignified beauties, Garbo and Leigh, Knightley is an artless, even coltish young woman playing the part of a respectable married lady. She seems content with her priggish husband and clearly adores her young son, but when the outlandish beauty of Count Vronsky is placed before her, she is consumed by an uncontrollable and feverish passion that ultimately wrecks her life. She tries so hard to live by the rules, but the rule of desire is just too much for her. She is, after all, so young.

Jude Law as Karenin

This is my favorite performance in the film. I hated this character in the book, and played by both Basil Rathbone and Ralph Richardson (in the Garbo and Leigh version), he is a cold-hearted prig. Jude Law (almost unrecognizable) plays the deceived husband with compassion. Yes, he's a bore, but he loves Anna and is heart-broken by her deceit. I felt sorry for him - something I never felt for this character when reading the book or watching the other film versions of the story.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vroksky

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is so outlandishly pretty as Anna's lover, Count Vronsky, that I found myself chuckling in order to relive the discomfort of such beauty in a masculine form. He is discomforting, not to mention callow, thoughtless and selfish. He is disturbing. Based on her wardrobe and accessories, Anna loves beautiful things. How could she not want to possess this jewel?

The film also gives time to the Levin/Kitty romance, which balances the destructive love of Anna and Vronsky.

Was it perfect? Probably not. But, it dazzled my eyes and thrilled my imagination and that's why I love the movies.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

True Classics Limericks - Part Deux

These are yet more entries in the
True Classics Limerick Contest
Click HERE and check out all of the 
fun and  fabulous entries!

(I just can't help myself!)

The Apartment

A man with a key had appeal
To his boss - for his love nest - that heel!

But he loved the operator
Of the corporate elevator

So for her, he'd just shut up and deal.

Blazing Saddles

Western dinners are made over coal
And cowboys eat beans in a bowl.

Who knew that a fart
Would be viewed as high art?

But such laughter is good for the soul.

Thanks, True Classics, for the fun!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

True Classics Movie Limerick Contest: My Inner Poet Says: Sunset Boulevard

This is my entry in 
True Classics Limerick Contest
Click HERE and check out all of the 
fun and  fabulous entries!

Sunset Boulevard

A Joe who couldn't pay for his car

Crashed a Sunset crib quite bizarre.

The mistress was spunky,

But he mocked her monkey,

So she plugged him for dissing a star.

(Sorry Norma!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Taking the Long Way To...Gary Cooper

Yup, I've been a real chump about appreciating Gary Cooper. It took me long enough, but, finally, here I am - just loving the man.

It's really not my fault. My first introduction to Gary was his work during the 1950s, the time when Hollywood starred its aging leading men with young female stars and didn't think the world would think it was icky. First up was 1957's "Love in the Afternoon." Now, I just adored Audrey Hepburn as the romantic young heroine, but the creepy-crawly factor of an aging Cooper chasing her around his Paris apartment bordered on gross. He did not age in a debonair way like his old Paramount rival, Cary Grant, and was just too old for her!!
Sir, please send a younger model to my room!
He was wonderful in "High Noon," but, again, way too old for Grace Kelly. Plus, I'm not a big western fan and I only thought of him as a cowboy star. I next saw a younger version of him in "Saratoga Trunk," with Ingrid Bergman, but it was so bad that I just could not get the appeal. However, I knew I had to be missing something because of all the things I had read about him. In his early days in Hollywood he was famous for his physical beauty and his appeal to a bevy of sexy hot women. Really? That tired looking old guy half-heartedly pursing Audrey with all of the sophisticated charm of Donald Trump? Really? 

His first big Hollywood affair was with Clara Bow. Clara was a mega-star at the time and she knew a good thing when she saw it (she famously praised him for not only his physical endowments, but for the fact that he allowed her dogs to join them in the  bath). Gary shared the screen with her in "Children of Divorce," "It," and, more impressively, "Wings."

Clara and Gary in 1927's "Children of Divorce"

Gary's other conquests - pre and post marriage - included Lupe Velez, Countess Carla Dentice di Frasso, Ingrid Bergman, Marlene Dietrich and Patricia Neal.  His love affair with Lupe Velez was apparently a volatile one (she was, after all, the Mexican Spitfire) and she and Dietrich went toe to toe over Gary during the filming of "Morocco." Another famously hot lady, Tallulah Bankhead, said that she went to Hollywood to film 1932's "Devil and the Deep" only to "fuck that divine Gary Cooper." It seems she achieved her goal. So, what made Gary so hot? I had to find out! And, so I did.

Desire: 1936
As the decent guy who falls for jewel thief Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper's appeal is on full display. He is American to the core, shy and forthright, but never simple. He the American hero who is just complicated enough to have a sophisticated appeal. All I can say is - sigh!

Ball of Fire - 1941
He's so shy
As the nerdy professor who is bewitched by street smart Barbara Stanwyck, Cooper is a hunky delight. While it's just a teensy bit hard to believe that he doesn't know how hot he is compared to his fellow bookworm professors, he just melts my heart. Plus, he sure is a good kisser for a guy whose nose was always in the books.

Meet John Doe - 1941
Isn't he kissable?

Could any other actor portray this uncommon common man with such humility, honesty and humanity? And dig that stray hair that falls across his forehead.

The Pride of the Yankees - 1942 
The luckiest man in the world

Anyone not moved by the story of Lou Gehrig can't have a heart. A perfect part for Cooper, for he is the 20th century American hero ideal. 

So, okay, Gary, I am on board now. Your stardom lasted from the late 20s until your death in 1961. You were the real deal, a genuine Hollywood star. Irving Berlin got it just right in his song "Puttin' on the Ritz":

Dressed up like a million dollar trooper

Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper (super duper)

Super Duper Gary Cooper ♥