by HELEN GEIB
Free-Talking Series: Next Post
[Note: The monthly Free-Talking post is updated every five days, give or take a day every now and then.]
MARCH 28, 2011- MARCH, OR WHY I REALLY NEED TO SEE A GOOD MOVIE NEXT WEEK
I realized something this week that’s got me pretty depressed over the state of multiplex moviegoing.
Now, as everyone who’s likely to be reading this post knows, I’m a committed theatergoer. I pay good money to see a movie at the multiplex just about every week. I do that because I enjoy Hollywood movies. I really do. I prize the things they’re reliably good at, like technical artistry and spectacle. I like a lot of the popular actors. I even happen to particularly enjoy some of the currently popular genres.
I’m really pretty easy to please too. I’ve even been accused of turning into another Roger Ebert.
What I realized that has me so depressed is that despite all of that, it seems like I hardly ever walk into a movie anymore expecting it to be good.
Instead I go in hoping it will be better than I think it will be and expecting at best to find enough to enjoy to make it worth seeing.
There wasn’t anything in particular about the new movies I saw in March to trigger this realization other than their Hollywood-fare-of-the-last-few-years averageness: one good not great; two modestly entertaining for genre fans; and one lousy. That’s what an average month looks like now. That’s what I’ve come to expect. And that’s not good.
So why is the accompanying still from Days of Heaven, you ask? I drove to Bloomington yesterday to see a revival screening at the IU Cinema. It was glorious. I’ve been waiting to watch it on the gamble that Terrence Malick has enough of a cult following that I’d someday get the chance to see it on a big screen. It was worth the wait. I don’t expect I’ll be able to hold out until the next revival screening for my second viewing.
MARCH 21, 2011- (RANDOM) TRAILER OF THE MONTH
MARCH 16, 2011- DEFINING FAVORITES
I was super excited when I first learned about The Warlords. Was it because of the grand and fascinating historical backdrop? Because it was directed by Peter Chan? Maybe the reported budget, big enough to mount a 19th century-set war film in style? All positives, but no. It was because it stars three- count them three- of my favorite actors: (pictured left to right) Jet Li, Andy Lau, and Takeshi Kaneshiro.
The Warlords proved to be an excellent film with excellent performances; a career-to-date best from Li, even. However, I know I would have enjoyed it (very nearly) as much even if it had been half as good a movie as it is, for the sole reason that it features those particular actors in good parts.
The dictionary definition of “favorite” is “a thing regarded with special favor or preference.” That accurately describes my feelings, yet somehow seems inadequate. The actors- and nearly all of them are actors; actresses are in a small minority- I call my favorites are people I can’t get enough of. (On-screen. It has zilch to do with them as human beings, and please don’t tell me what they’re like in real life, because I do not want to know.)
It’s not unrelated to their talent and skill, not by any means, but it goes beyond that. There are equally-to-more talented and skilled actors out there. There aren’t a lot who are more attractive, but that’s not it either. I admire and appreciate many actors’ performances, not to mention good looks, without making a point of seeking out their work, and without watching my favorites- there’s that word again- among their films over and over and over again.
besotted: infatuated, obsessed, doting
That definitely comes closer to capturing it.
Helen’s all time favorite actors and actresses: the three guys already named, Toshiro Mifune, Francis Ng, Olivia de Havilland, John Garfield, Mary Pickford
Now when it comes to directors, I know my favorites by my compulsion to see every one of their films. There are individual films by other directors that I prize equally-to-more highly, but the favorites are those whose work most consistently moves, impresses, excites… pick your superlative of choice. I have to watch and re-watch every work, minor to masterpiece. Of course, I enjoy them; loving their movies is a “favorite” prerequisite. But I also aspire to a fuller understanding of the films themselves and the director’s artistry.
Helen’s all time favorite directors: Johnnie To, Akira Kurosawa, John Ford
How do you define movie favoritism? Who are some of your favorite actors and directors?
MARCH 11, 2011- A FEW GOOD BLOG POSTS
Roderick Heath at Ferdy on Films makes the case for Michael Mann’s Miami Vice as contemporary noir in this contribution to the film noir blogathon
Mondo 70: A Wild World of Cinema examines The Illusionist (2010) as “a film by” Jacques Tati
A top-50 film noir countdown continues at Wonders in the Dark
MARCH 5, 2011- CONNECTIONS: FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933)
Footlight Parade is a musical featuring three set-piece numbers by Busby Berkeley. The big numbers play back to back through the film’s concluding half hour, with just a few bits and pieces of song and dance numbers leading up to the tripartite finale. It’s convenient to slap the “musical” label on the whole kit and caboodle however, since the first hour defies easy categorization. The short running time packs in a lot of plot and a lot of characters, and it all races by at the speed of Cagney. Meanwhile, “Warner Brothers pre-Code” gives the flavor of the proceedings.
Footlight Parade in Pictures
Jimmy Cagney is prologue impresario Chester Kent. A prologue is a short stage production that goes on between shows at a movie palace.
Chester’s working triple overtime cranking out new productions, his partners are cooking the books, and a mole in the organization is selling his ideas to a rival company.
Joan Blondell is Chester’s loyal secretary Nan. She’s madly in love with him, a fact to which he’s completely oblivious.
It will take him most of the picture to figure out what we can see from the start: they were made for each other. Among other reasons, she’s the only one who can keep up with him.
Gold-digger Vivian also has her eye on Chester. Nan doesn’t sympathize with Vivian’s worries over her financial future. As long as there are streets, she’ll always have a job.
A romantic subplot stars Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. It’s not quite their typical juvenile and ingenue roles. She’s a show business pro. He likes her, but she won’t accept him until he stops being a kept man.
A gallery of Warners’ character actors liven up the proceedings. Here, Frank McHugh shows off his cat-walk.
The mind-blowing Berkeley numbers showcase his prurient staging…
…and kaleidoscopic arrangements of scantily clad chorus girls.
However, the showstopper is the climactic “Shanghai Lil” number. Nobody puts it over quite like Cagney. Keeler follows along.
The number ends on a high note as Berkeley outdoes himself with this double-barreled patriotic flourish.
MARCH 1, 2011- DID OSCAR GET IT RIGHT THIS YEAR?
My personal yardstick for Oscar “rightness” is how much the nominations and awards (but especially the nominations) annoyed me. The annoyance factor was relatively low this year so I give the Academy a pass. How do you rate the Oscars for movie year 2011?
Who was overlooked in the nominations? Would you have voted differently? What were the highs and lows of the broadcast?
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