Tag Archives: Movies

Actor: Humphrey Bogart

Bogart and Bacall together. Uploaded by doctormacro1.info.

Bogart and Bacall together. Uploaded by doctormacro1.info.

Humphrey Bogart had a decade of acting in Hollywood before he got his statuette. No, I don’t mean Oscar – I’m talking about the Maltese Falcon. After performing mostly supporting parts in 40 films over 11 years, Bogart’s true breakthrough role came in1941 after George Raft turned down the role of Sam Spade.

Then the following year – Casablanca. Movie magic. Bogart was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to some guy named Paul Lukas for a movie called Watch on the Rhine. Yeah, whatever. Still, Bogart was established as an A-list star, and the roles offered by the studio improved significantly.

Doesn't he make you want to wear a hat? Uploaded to Photobucket by PandaPaw08.

Doesn't he make you want to wear a hat? Uploaded to Photobucket by PandaPaw08.

And you can’t remember Bogart without discussing Lauren Bacall. They met during the production of To Have and Have Not in 1944 when she was just 19 and he was a married man of 45. Their relationship grew during the making of their second film together, The Big Sleep. After his divorce, the couple was married in 1945 and remained in love until Bogart’s premature death from cancer at age 57.

If you enjoy old movies, you’ll recognize this roster of excellent films Bogie made. The Big SleepThe Treasure of the Sierra MadreKey LargoThe African Queen (for which he finally won that Oscar)…and my favorite, The Caine Mutiny. Bogart’s portrayal of Captain Queeg as a paranoid, unstable and unsympathetic man is one of the wonderful performances of any era.

Today’s video highlights the climactic scene in The Caine Mutiny when Bogart displays Queeg’s madness with exquisite subtlety:

Film: Citizen Kane

Charles Foster Kane is destroying the special interests! Uploaded on Flickr by peternoster.

Charles Foster Kane is destroying the special interests! Uploaded on Flickr by peternoster.

It’s generally acknowledged to be the finest film ever made. And you’ll get no argument from me. If it were technically brilliant but emotionally cold, I wouldn’t buy it. And there are lots of movies that reveal or remind us of deeper truths, but don’t change the way we look at film. What makes Citizen Kane so remarkable is that it did both.

By now you know that Kane’s dying word was “Rosebud.” (How anyone knew that fact when Kane died alone was never explained by director Orson Welles.) The film then goes back through his life, as reporters try to learn what the newspaper mogul meant. Along the way, Kane buys a string of newspapers, runs for political office, has an affair, and is destroyed by the very fortune that he held in contempt.

Look, a ceiling in a movie. Uploaded by classicmoviefavorites.com.

Look, a ceiling in a movie. Uploaded by classicmoviefavorites.com.

Citizen Kane was written by Welles and Joseph Mankiewicz, and was loosely based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. The movie made Hearst furious, and he would not allow any of his newspapers to run ads for the film. As a result, the movie was not widely seen at the time of its release, and was a financial flop.

Welles was just 25 years old when he made Kane. That could be one reason he wanted to develop new techniques, even remake the way films were made. With cinematographer Greg Toland, he created a lens to make foreground, middle ground, and background all remain in sharp focus. He had many low-angle shots that revealed ceilings, a rarity in movies made on sound stages. The extended scene at the dining room table that chronicled the breakup of Kane’s marriage was a brilliant use of set and costume changes. And on several occasions, props were split apart and then rejoined immediately to allow the camera to pass “through” them seamlessly.

There are lots of interesting quotes in the movie, my favorite coming when his financial advisor Mr. Thatcher tells Charles that he lost a million dollars. Kane answers, “You’re right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place in…60 years.” And what do you know, that scene happens to be available on YouTube:

Film: Fargo

Frances McDormand as Sheriff Marge Gunderson. Uploaded by destgulch.com

Frances McDormand as Sheriff Marge Gunderson. Uploaded by destgulch.com

No one who’s seen this film will ever look at a wood chipper the same as before. You betcha.

It’s a movie that begins by claiming it’s “based on a true story,” then concludes by saying all persons and events are fictitious. It follows Brainerd, Minnesota sheriff Marge Gunderson as she unravels a kidnapping that evolves into a series of murders. Marge is very pregnant, and in one outdoor scene she thinks she’s going to be sick. She bends down, but then after a few moments straightens back up. “Well, that passed,” she said. “Now I’m hungry again.”

William H. Macy as Jerry Lundegaard. Uploaded on Flickr by hypostylin.

William H. Macy as Jerry Lundegaard. Uploaded on Flickr by hypostylin.

I think it would have been entirely appropriate to cite the upper Midwest Scndinavian accent as one of the film’s co-stars. The movie would¬† have been lame without the frequent “ya” and “you betcha” and “the heck do you mean” throughout.

Frances McDormand and William H. Macy were familiar faces as secondary characters before Fargo, but they were unbelievably good in this movie that turned around both their careers. Marge Gunderson and Jerry Lundegaard are two of the most memorable characters in recent movie history, and the Coen Brothers did a brilliant job putting those fabulous words in their mouths.

Fargo was nominated for seven Academy Awards, won two (Best Actress – McDormand and Best Original Screenplay), and Joel Coen won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival.

If you’re squeamish, or want to avoid language problems, better watch this one on TV where it’s sanitized a bit. This video features the accent that made the film so much fun to watch.

Film: Animal House

The great Tim Matheson as "Otter." Uploaded by onlineducation.net.

The great Tim Matheson as "Otter." Uploaded by onlineducation.net.

Let’s total up the number of Academy Award nominations Animal House accumulated. Hmm. None. Then surely it’s on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Best Films? Uh, nope. Then how did it make this list?

Because it has one classic, memorable scene after another. The pledge party with Mohammet, Jugdish, Clayton, and Sidney. Dean Wormer putting the Deltas on double secret probation. Flounder shooting a blank gun and frightening Neidermeyer’s horse to death. Belushi piling food on his tray in the cafeteria line. The frat boys taking their dates to an all-black club.¬† The toga party.

I grant that guys probably love this movie more than women. (I mean, more than most women love this movie.) And some will say its humor is sophomoric. Yes. It is. I wouldn’t be surprised if “sophomoric” was invented to describe Animal House. And the producers and writers would probably take it as a compliment.

Uploaded by supak.com

Uploaded by supak.com

John Belushi, fresh after making his mark on Saturday Night Live, owned every scene in which he appeared. Director John Landis had to limit Belushi’s scenes so as not to diminish his impact. But I loved Tim Matheson as Otter. He was perfect as the smooth-talking president of the frat. “Hi, Eric Stratton, rush chairman. Damn glad to meet you.”

Donald Sutherland was the highest-paid cast member, earning $40,000 for his role. The movie cost $2.7 million to make. To date, it’s cleared over $140 million, making it one of the most profitable films ever. I’m not a fan of teen sex comedies, but I think Animal House is so much more than that. It’s one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Relive some of the best bits in this 10-minute video:

Actor: Steve Martin

"Not mother?" uploaded by growabrain.typepad.com

"Not mother?" uploaded by growabrain.typepad.com

Steve Martin has come a long way since his days entertaining crowds at Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. He became a stand-up star, a Wild and Crazy Guy, an actor in bad movies, an actor in good movies, an Academy Awards host, a successful playwright, and a best-selling author.

uploaded by jimdayshow.com

uploaded by jimdayshow.com

Recently, though, he added another first that probably thrilled him as much as anything in his career. On May 30, 2009, Steve made his banjo debut at the Grand Old Opry. He performed songs from his new musical CD, The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo.

As for his movies, this is my blog so I get to say what I think of his choices. (You can disagree in the comments.)

The Good: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Little Shop of Horrors, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Housesitter, The Spanish Prisoner.

The Bad: Parenthood, The Pink Panther.

The Ugly: Pennies from Heaven, Sgt. Bilko.

His play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, challenged the idea that he was a lightweight comic. And his books have been funny and yet challenging.

Steve Martin could have remained the Wild and Crazy Guy, the stand-up comedy genius, and done quite well for himself. But he has so much more depth to his creativity. It’s time we recognized him for the multitalented genius he really is.

Kid Stuff: Superman

Uploaded by Xurble

Uploaded by Xurble

“Faster than a speeding bullet…More powerful than a locomotive…Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” Everyone knows that was the opening to Adventures of Superman, the TV series that ran from 1952-58. Although Superman came to this planet involuntarily, he clearly belongs on our list for preserving “truth, justice, and the American way.”

Superman made his first comic book appearance in Action Comics #1 in June, 1938. (By the way, if you happen to have an original one up in your attic, I’ll be happy to buy it from you for, oh, say $20. I want to be fair.) The Man of Steel was an instant hit, becoming a daily strip the following year, and a popular radio program the year after that. It was on the radio series that cub reporter Jimmy Olsen and Kryptonite were introduced.

George Reeves portrayed Superman in the TV series, filmed in black and white the first two seasons and in color the final four. The tone of the series seemed to shift with its color, from an almost film noir look with lots of action and violence to a softer series with caricatured villains and an almost campy humor.

Uploaded by carola hoo

Uploaded by carola hoo

After years in the cultural background, Superman came to the fore again thanks to the movies starring Christopher Reeve. Reeve starred in four films about the Kryptonian, the first two of which were quite good.

Since those years, Superman has been featured in another TV series, this one starring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. He’s still to be found saving the planet in continuing comic books, as well as in the adventures of others (Supergirl, e.g.).

Will there ever be a better opening to a television series than this:

Film: The Best Years of Our Lives

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by Uncinefilo

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by Uncinefilo

It’s amazing that this movie was made in 1946. It’s remarkable that the country could face such subject matter so soon following the end of World War II.

Three veterans return home to a small town from the war, and each encounters a different challenge in reentering civilian society. Al (Frederick March) can’t adjust to being a hardnosed banker. Fred (Dana Andrews) comes home to realize the wife he took before going overseas hasn’t waited for him. And Homer (Harold Russell) lost both hands in a fire, and now believes his fiance only stays with him out of pity, not love.

It’s a profound screenplay (Robert Sherwood – Oscar) brought to life by a talented director (William Wyler – Oscar) and a talented cast (March – Best Actor, Russell – Best Supporting Actor). To achieve as much realism as possible, Wyler used veterans behind the scenes as well, in props, grips, and mixing.

World War II had a definite conclusion and a signed surrender treaty. Now we fight enemies that don’t wear uniforms and don’t abide by civilized rules of war. So our wars are only over when we feel safe enough to say they are. Our soldiers come home one at a time, rather than all at once. But that doesn’t mean their adjustment problems are any less difficult than those veterans whose stories are told in this film.

That’s what the best movies do – give us timeless reminders of the human condition. And on any day – but especially on this day – this Best Picture gives us another chance to appreciate anew all those who served their country

Film: To Kill a Mockingbird

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by jibber jabber

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by jibber jabber

With this entry in the list, I celebrate both a book and a movie. Both have moved so many people, affected so many lives. And the movie was a faithful adaptation of the novel, as Harper Lee said of Horton Foote’s screenplay, “I think it is one of the best translations of a book to film ever made.”

Harper Lee earned the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961, and even today there are more than 30 million copies in print. Consider what you’d do if your first novel turned out to be considered Best Novel of the Century (Library Journal). If you were Harper Lee, you’d never publish again. But you’d receive many honorary degrees, and eventually the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The movie was nominated for Best Picture, and enabled Gregory Peck to win the Best Actor Oscar. It came in at #25 in the American Film Institute’s rankings of the greatest movies of all time. And the character of Boo Radley marked the screen debut of a modestly talented actor you may have heard of named Robert Duvall.

To Kill a Mockingbird has been enjoyed, studied, and cried over. I don’t care how many times you’ve seen the film, it kicks you in the solar plexus every time. Harper Lee never published again, because she knew she could never top her first effort. In that respect, it was a blessing and a curse for her. For us, though, it’s a heartwrenching reminder of where we’ve been as a nation, and an encouraging reminder of how far we’ve come. As Atticus Finch tells Scout:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Actor: Paul Newman

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by dagomatic

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by dagomatic

Which era Paul Newman do you like best? Young, pretty Paul, as seen in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Hustler? Paul in his prime, notably with Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting? Or mature Paul, in The Color of Money and Nobody’s Fool?

There’s no wrong answer; he was always great. His portrayal of Frank Galvin, an alcoholic lawyer brought back to life by a challenging case in The Verdict, is one of my all-time favorite roles.

Of course, you may know another Paul Newman. The one who at the age of 47 began a career in auto racing that he continued into his 60s. Or the one who started Newman’s Own food company, donating more than $250 million in profits to charitable organizations. Or the one who started the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps for seriously ill children, now helping more than 13,000 kids annually.

Paul Newman was a great actor, and a great man. It’s not often you can put those two qualities together in the same sentence.

Actors: The Three Stooges

Photo courtesy of Flickr, posted by artiefacts.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, posted by artiefacts.

Moe. Larry. And Shemp. And Curly. And Shemp again. And Joe Besser. And Curly Joe. The makeup of the Three Stooges evolved, as did their career through vaudeville, to movie shorts, to feature films, to television, to animation.

Some people think the Stooges are a guy thing. And it certainly seems true that men find them funnier than women. (Uh, I mean men find them funnier than women do.) They were masters of slapstick, and were among America’s highest paid entertainers later in their career.

Now it’s reported that the Farrelly brothers (There’s Something About Mary) are planning a new Three Stooges movie. All you need to know is that Sean Penn is scheduled to play Larry, and Jim Carrey will be Curly. If the movie is funny, it’ll be a first for the Farrelly brothers.

Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

Americana: Movie Popcorn

Photo courtesy of Flickr, posted by m-o-o-n.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, posted by m-o-o-n.

A lot of people can’t go to a movie in a theater without gettting popcorn. It’s as much a part of the experience as air conditioning turned down way too cold, and the kids behind you who won’t shut up.

Although I’ve tried to avoid it for diet reasons, I still love “buttered” popcorn. I prefer to think of it that way, instead of “butter-flavored liquid fat.”

Oh, here’s an experiment. Next time you’re at the multiplex and want some buttered popcorn, listen to what the licensed professional concession attendants ask. You’ll say, “I’d like some buttered popcorn and a small Coke.” The LPCA will respond, “Do you want butter on that?”

Happens almost every time.

Actor: Jimmy Stewart

uploaded by leftsideoftheroad.files.wordpress.com

uploaded by leftsideoftheroad.files.wordpress.com

I almost met Jimmy Stewart, once. Okay, I had absolutely no chance of actually meeting him, but he did pass by me within a few feet.

It was at the Virginia Film Festival, back when it packed some punch. I went with my friends Shawn and Sandy Murray to see an incredible double feature: It’s a Wonderful Life followed by To Kill a Mockingbird. Gregory Peck was there to discuss Mockingbird, but the highlight was seeing Jimmy Stewart talk about one of my favorite films. It was an amazing afternoon for a film lover.

Seldom does one actor appear in so many all-time classic films. Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonRear WindowThe Philadelphia StoryRope…Anatomy of a Murder. Ninety-nine movies, according to imdb.com. And each time that distinctive voice, that guy-next-door demeanor, that winning personality shone through.

No, I never got to meet Jimmy Stewart. But I knew him, all right. Knew him like a best friend.