Liebster Award

June 24, 2015

Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood nominated me for a Liebster Award (thank you Michaela!!) It's been so long since I did one of these, probably not since I started blogging in 2009, so I'm really excited about it! To participate you have to answer 11 questions, share 11 facts about yourself, nominate up to 11 other bloggers and come up with your own 11 questions for them to answer. Here are my answers to Michaela's questions --

1. Who is your second favorite actor/actress, and why?

Gah! It's so easy to answer first favorite but SECOND favorite is tough! Right now I'm really hooked on Monica Vitti. I think she's mostly known for her dramatic roles (like in L'Eclisse and L'Avventura) but I think she's hilarious in comedies. She has a real gift for reaction faces and her inflection (even when she's speaking in a language I can't understand) is always so wry and playful. My second favorite actor is probably Gary Cooper. I love him so much that it's almost become a running joke in my family now that whenever we're watching a movie from the 30's or 40's my parents will say "This movie would be so much better if Gary Cooper were the star." because I've said that SO OFTEN. But seriously, think of a movie and then replace the male lead in your mind with Gary Cooper. The movie is better now, isn't it? ;)

2. Favorite on-screen duo?

I'm going to be super cliche and go with Fred and Ginger. A runner-up would be Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews.

3. Which actor/actress/director/etc. do you wish wrote an autobiography?

Maurice Ronet. There's technically a biography on him, but a) it's not an autobiography and b) as far as I know it's only available in French. I'm super obsessed mildly interested in him at the moment and he lead such a fascinating life. If you have a minute take a peek at his wikipedia page!

4. If you had the money, what film-related item would you buy in an instant? Memorabilia, a theater, old costumes...?

The first thing that comes to mind is Audrey Hepburn's black lace ensemble from How to Steal a Million. I'd also love to own the painting of Gene Tierney from Laura, or the painting of Rex Harrison from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Oooh, or the painting of Barbara Stanwyck from The Two Mrs. Carrolls. YES, that one. It's one of the most startling scenes in the movie so I don't want to post a picture here and spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the film yet, but this is the painting I'm talking about. I might actually need to paint my own version of that for myself because I love it so much!

5. What is your personal favorite flick from 1939?

Dark Victory, with Bachelor Mother being a close second.

6. Splashy 1950's musicals or gritty 1940's films noir?

Gritty 40's film noir, all the way!

7. Is there a director you wish got more attention, during their time and/or today?

You know, I don't think there is a director living or dead more under-appreciated than Alfred Hitchcock. lol j/k. I think William Wellman should be more known today. He was so incredibly versatile. I usually associate him with socially conscious pre-codes like Heroes for Sale, but he's also the guy behind The Ox-Bow Incident and Lady of Burlesque and Nothing Sacred. The man could do comedy, drama, western, basically anything, and do it well.

8. Who do you think was Fred Astaire's best partner?

Ginger Rogers!

9. If you were allowed only one movie-related book, what would it be?

This is a tough one! I think I'd have to go with The Cats in Our Lives by James Mason and his wife Pamela Kellino. It's such a unique book, with illustrations by James Mason. I received a copy for my birthday a few years ago and it's one of my prized possessions.

10. Favorite Disney film? (I'll include Pixar.)

101 Dalmatians, with Pixar's Up being a very, very close second. I also really love Big Hero 6 and I could see that squeezing into my top tier of Disney favorites as the years go by.

11. Is there a movie you're ashamed to admit you hate/love?

A movie that I'm ashamed to admit I love... hmm... I've already unabashedly flaunted my love for She's All That on this blog before so it's not easy to come up with something even more embarrassing than that! lol :)

I'm going to pass on the 11 facts about me because tbh I've shared way too much about myself on the internet already. For my nominees I'm going with my classic movie blogging besties who don't blog nearly enough nowadays. Maybe this will force them into doing a new post (muahahahahaha!!)

Nicole from Vintage Film Nerd
Millie from Classic Forever
Casey from Noir Girl
Sarah from The Wicker Bar

And my 11 questions for them are as follows:

1. If you were stuck on a desert island with one actor, who would you pick?

2. If you were stuck on a desert island with one actress, who would you pick? (Note - this is not necessarily your favorite actor/actress, but someone you'd want to spend months, years, possibly the rest of your life eating coconuts and building sandcastles with)

3. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only watch one movie on repeat for the rest of your life, which would you pick?

4. If you were stuck on a desert island with any movie character, who would you pick?

5. If you could watch a movie with any two actors/actresses stuck on a desert island together, who would you pick? If you've got some free time, elaborate a bit on the plot!

6. Who is the last actor you would ever want to be stuck on a desert island with (cough, Tyrone Power, cough)?

7. You're stuck on a desert island with Edmund O'Brien. What actor shows up in a giant pirate ship to whisk you away to safety and/or a life of adventure on the high seas?

8. If you were stuck on a desert island with a movie cook, who would you choose -- Felix from Christmas in Connecticut or Mildred from Mildred Pierce? Who would make the most out of all the coconuts and tree bark?

9. If you were stuck on a desert island with me, what movie would you force me to watch? I can't get away! I can't escape! I HAVE TO WATCH IT!

10. You're on a life raft with Herbert Marshall, Joel McCrea and Laraine Day but your weight is sinking the raft. Do you: a) sacrifice yourself to save these three amazing actors or b) push one of them into the water. If you chose b, who did you push and why?!

11.If you could choose any movie animal to be stuck on an island with, who would you pick? Some ideas -- Asta, Lassie, Pongo, Perdita, The Pie, Cat (from Breakfast at Tiffany's)

Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge

May 20, 2015

Raquel from Out of the Past is hosting her annual Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge. This will be my first time participating and I'm really excited about it! I made up a little list on goodreads of all the books I'd like to try to tackle this summer. I'm going to start off with Hellraisers (The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed) since it's the only one that I already own. I have a horrible habit of buying way more books than I could possibly read in my lifetime, so I'm going to make myself wait until I finish each book before I purchase the next one.

If you'd like to participate too you can sign up for the challenge on Raquel's blog, right here. I think it'll be so fun! She's even giving away a nifty prize pack to one lucky winner, which will include my Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz fan club buttons! (They're also available in my shop here.)

If you have any film book recommendations, I'd love to hear them! :)

On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who... was really desperate to see a movie

May 16, 2015

I'm sure this happens to everyone all the time -- you see a screenshot or still from a movie that catches your fancy so you check to see if said movie is available anywhere to rent or buy. When you like classic movies, a lot of the time you hit a dead end nearly as soon as you start looking. I have a nice collection of movies I've recorded from TCM or traded with friends and a ton of older movies are finally getting dvd releases thanks to companies like Warner Archive. But there are always some elusive films that you just cannot seem to track down, no matter how hard you try.

Which brings me to La Cintura di Castita, or On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who...  This 1967 Italian comedy is set in the middle ages, stars Monica Vitti and Tony Curtis and, to the best of my knowledge, it is not available with English subtitles.

My quest began where all DVD quests usually begin - Amazon. Then I checked youtube, ioffer, ebay, etc. with no luck whatsoever. Then somehow I ended up on Italian Ebay, where I found one person selling a copy with Italian subtitles. I immediately bought it. I do not speak Italian.

Before it even arrived in my mailbox I was already researching ways to generate English subtitles out of thin air. Did I have to have somebody transcribe it? Did I need to learn to speak Italian? It turns out, that wasn't necessary. If you're ever in a similar jam, here is what I did (you can just skip over this part if you want to read about the movie instead!)

First I bought the foreign DVD. Make sure that it has closed captioning in some language, it doesn't have to be your own language. Mine came with Italian subtitles. Then rip the DVD to your computer using MakeMKV. I already have 4Media DVD Ripper, which I love, but the output is .mov which won't work here. When you have your .mkv file, use the program Subtitle Extractor to generate an .srt subtitle file. Then, upload the video file to youtube (I actually also ripped the film using 4Media and uploaded my .mov file to youtube, before I realized I had to have an .mkv file for the subtitles) and set it to unlisted or private. Still with me? Then click on the little "cc" closed captioning icon in the video settings. Choose the native language spoken in the film (for my movie, I picked Italian), and then upload your .srt file to youtube. Now, go to watch your video and click on the "cc" icon in the player. This will start playing the foreign subtitles. Then click on the little gear icon, which opens up the video settings. In the settings, click on the menu "Subtitles/CC" and select the option "Translate captions" and then choose English. Youtube uses Google Translate to automatically translate the closed captioning into whatever language you chose. Now obviously anyone familiar with Google Translate will know that the captions aren't going to be 100% accurate, and sometimes it'll be downright goofy, but for the most part it worked and was definitely accurate enough for me to actually understand the movie.

Now you're probably wondering, WAS IT WORTH IT, KATE?? WAS IT?? I spent hours trying to track down this dvd, researching ways to add subtitles, tying up my computer with tons of trial and error, ripping and re-ripping, uploading and downloading, all for one film that, admittedly, looks kind of silly and has pretty lackluster reviews on imdb. And I don't even really like Tony Curtis?!

But I think it was worth it. It's not the best movie ever made, of course, but it was enjoyable and (see blog header) Monica Vitti is never not awesome. I'll give a brief synopsis but keep in mind, I was reading Google Translate generated captions so it's entirely possible that I misunderstood the entire film, lol ;)

The movie takes place in Italy during the crusades. They reluctantly knight Tony Curtis, a man from humble beginnings who wouldn't normally be knighted unless the country was as desperate for soldiers as I was for this DVD. They send him off on a horse and he is granted ownership of the land from the starting point of his ride to as far as he can go. He stops just short of Monica Vitti's little farm house, where he's so tired from riding that he plants his sword in the ground and then slumps down next to it. Tony Curtis being really tired is a strange recurring plot point in this movie. He literally fell asleep while he was being knighted in the beginning. Maybe the movie should have been called "On my way to the crusades I fell asleep"

Anyway, Monica is really smitten with sleeping beauty so she decides to move his sword to the edge of her property while he's napping, that way he'll own her land too and he'll be her master. But when he comes back a few days later and tries to seduce her, she's having none of it. When it was her decision to make, she wanted him. But now that he's forcing himself on her, she isn't so interested anymore. There's a good half hour or so where this movie actually seems pretty progressive for a sex comedy set in the most repressive time period ever. Monica asks her dad why women are forced to sleep with men and he replies that women are like dogs, and they need to do what their masters request. But when Monica tries to get her dog to kiss her, the dog refuses. "At least dogs can say no," she remarks.

And that's where the feminism ends. I mean, at one point Monica Vitti gets to dress up like a knight and jousts a man off of his horse but mostly from here on in it's kind of standard 60's morality (and by 60's I mean 1360's)

*Spoilers* I should mention here that Tony Curtis' character is SUCHHHH a jerk. Oh my gosh. The first time that his character is fully conscious, he decides to tax the wind (seriously) and he hangs a man who once saved his life when he was a child. Then (I'm *pretty sure* but could be wrong because, google translate) he has an orgy with the wives of the poor townsfolk? Then there's the whole trying-to-force-himself-on-Monica-Vitti thing. After she refuses his advances, he has his men hunt her down, then ties her naked to a wheel in his castle and spins her around while a bunch of gross lusty men watch. THEN he lets her loose and sends all of the aforementioned men to go chase after her. When, after all this, she still won't sleep with him, he puts her father's head on the chopping block and gives her the choice between marriage or a dead dad. I feel like you need to know all of this because, at least for me, it makes it impossible for me to believe what happens next.

*Still more spoilers* After they get married (because obviously she didn't let her dad die) she opts to participate in Tobias Nights, which is a 3 day period of chastity and prayer after a wedding. Even though they're supposed to be praying, Tony keeps trying to kiss her or sleep next to her. The next day, she goes to a wise man and explains her predicament. The wise man is shocked! "The lord of the manor had a thousand ways to bend you to his will! He could make use of force, cruelty, could chain you to your bed, you know? Or whip you, possess you with violence." He goes on to tell her that, basically, because Tony Curtis did not rape her on their wedding night, he must love her! Monica's character has been pretty sassy up until this point, so I half expected her to roll her eyes and laugh in his face. But instead she's cooing "oooooh this means he loves me! he LOVES ME!" and then runs off to consummate the marriage immediately.

*Still not done with the spoilers, sorry guys* Keep in mind, Tony Curtis' character here is literally slime. If I was in charge of google translate, his character's name in the credits would look like this:

Slime ................................... Tony Curtis

How on earth does not raping her mean he loves her? What even?? And how on earth would love even matter after all the other horrible stuff he did to her? I mean, he tried to kill her father. Geez louise. And just when you think Slime couldn't get any worse, he does. Consummation is about to happen at any second, when all of a sudden his commanding officer shows up. The Emperor needs him in the crusades immediately. Seriously, drop everything and suit up right. now. So Tony Curtis does what any kind, loving, supportive new husband would do. He kisses his bride and tells her that he trusts she'll remain faithful while he's away. LOL, J/K. He slaps a chastity belt on her and takes the key along with him. *End Spoilers*

Obviously I had some problems with the movie. Tony Curtis plays one of those characters with absolutely zero redeeming qualities, not in a cool evil villain way, but in a really smarmy, obnoxious way. It has its good moments, but then it also has plenty what-the-heck moments, where you cannot believe that someone wrote this and multiple people acted it out and someone edited it and the director was like "Yup, this is good to go!"

That being said, and maybe this is just the time and effort that went into watching this movie talking, I did actually enjoy it. It's such a weird film, which is always a plus. It takes place in a time period that I'm possibly kind of obsessed with. And, this bears repeating, Monica Vitti is so stupidly amazing. I mean, I couldn't even understand a word she was saying but I could tell that her inflection was spot-on. And the scenes with the dog that share the same haircut as her honestly make the whole movie worthwhile.

If you're as strangely obsessed with seeing this movie as I was, but don't want to put in quite as much effort, here is the link to where I uploaded it. Just make sure you translate the captions so you can (kind of) understand them ;)

Citizen Kane

May 15, 2015

The Garden Theater in Princeton is doing an Orson Welles retrospective in May and June, and last night they showed Citizen Kane. I'd only ever seen it on a little tv screen, but I just knew that it was one of those movies that would blow me away when I finally saw it as it was intended to be seen, on the big screen. And the experience did not disappoint.

There are a handful of movies that are generally considered to be the cream of the crop, the best movies EVER made. Citizen Kane usually tops that list and, although I often get in disagreements over which movies really deserve to be included in this elite group, I make no argument over Citizen Kane. It really lives up to its reputation, and seeing it at the movies was something I'll never forget.

As much as I love Citizen Kane there was one issue that kept circling around in my brain all day. It's probably way too silly and ridiculous of a pet peeve to even mention but I'm going to say it anyway -- what is it with people in movies knocking over furniture and throwing books off of shelves when they're angry? I had totally forgotten about that part of the movie until it was unfurling itself before my eyes last night and it just seemed way too cliche to be included in a film as great as Citizen Kane. Even Kane himself seemed too smart to resort to that kind of action when he was angry. He could have come up with something so much better. He could have marched down into the mausoleum living room and tossed every single jigsaw puzzle piece into the blazing fire. He could have set all of his many zoo animals loose on an unsuspecting Florida. Or, if he really had to go the destroy-things-in-a-room route, he could have flailed his arms around all through the house, knocking over each and every Greek statue until every last symbol of his quest to buy all of the beauty in the world was lying in pieces on his cold marble floor.

Other than that one tiny squabble, I feel like it really is a perfect movie. There are so many moments where you feel a wave of cinematic satisfaction wash over you, like everything is in harmony because this scene or this line of dialogue was just THAT GOOD. When Jedediah returns the check with the declaration of principles. When you've seen the movie before and Kane is telling Susan about going through his mother's old things, you just KNOW that Rosebud was sitting there among her possessions. When Thatcher tells Kane "You're too old to be calling me Mr. Thatcher," and Kane replies "You're too old to be called anything else." YES.

Finally, can I just gush a bit about the title card? It's so simple, but especially compared to the cookie cutter title cards from the same era (example / example / example) you can just feel that you're about to witness something unique. I also love how the credits are saved for the end of the movie -- you're met with this bold, bright white title buzzing over a black background and then it cuts straight to the movie.

I have a busy few months ahead of me, so I don't think I can attend every Orson Welles movie that's playing at the Garden, but I'm going to try to make it to see The Stranger on June 3rd. If you're in the area you should definitely consider going! They're also showing It Happened One Night and Shadow of a Doubt in June as well! I'm so thrilled to finally have a movie theater that shows classics in my area. It's a dream come true! :) If you're interested you can check out their upcoming films right here.

Sullivan's Travels

April 18, 2015

The Film Forum in NYC is having a Preston Sturges festival at the moment, so me and Nicole made a trip into the city to see Sullivan's Travels on the big screen! We were originally planning on seeing Christmas in July, Easy Living and Remember the Night as well but some scheduling conflicts arose and we had to narrow it down to one movie. It ended up being a blessing in disguise though because after we shifted our schedules around we ended up being in the right place at the right time -- we ran into Jane Krakowski in a little stationery shop while we were in New York! Me and Nicole are both big fans of 30 Rock and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt so we were pretty excited! I'm sure I seemed crazy, raving about 30 Rock as if my life revolved around it (it does) but I feel like it's such a rare privilege to be able to tell someone you admire how much you love their work.

But, enough gushing about modern tv -- this is a classic movie blog, after all ;)

Sullivan's Travels is one of my all time favorite movies. I tend to use the phrase "favorite movie" liberally, but in this case it really is in my top 5, and it has been since I blogged about it way back when I first started Silents and Talkies in 2009. It was one of those rare posts where I actually wrote about the meaning behind the movie and its place in cinema history rather than just going on and on about how much I love it. Honestly everything I would want to say about the movie was already said in that post, so if you want you can check it out here.

The movie-going experience itself was absolutely perfect. The audience responded in the correct ways (laughing at funny scenes, dead silence during the sad scenes) which (as I've blogged about numerous times before) can sometimes be a problem at The Film Forum. It seems to me like the audiences have behaved better during afternoon or morning screenings, so I'm going to try to schedule my visits accordingly from now on and see if that helps.

I'm not sure what it is about seeing movies in theaters, but emotionally I seem to respond more than I would if I was watching at home. Sullivan's Travels is technically a comedy, but its depiction of human suffering is as heartbreaking as any of the dramas from the same era. While it has always moved me during the countless times I popped in the dvd at home, this time I was fighting back tears. By the same token, I think I laughed harder at the humorous scenes and I even appreciated Veronica Lake's performance more than I ever have before. There's something about her delivery, especially in her first scene in the film, that is just so perfect I can't even describe it.

Basically, I just felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the movie, an actual desire to give the movie a big hug and say "Thank you, Thank you!" I almost wish I could run into the movie in a little stationery shop and pour my heart out to the movie, tell it how much I loved it and how important it was to me.

Gambit (1966) aka my one true love

March 18, 2015

Let's file this under "movies that I had on dvd but never watched because I am a stupid, stupid fool." Part of me is a little bummed that it took me so long to finally watch it, thus depriving myself of a really fun movie to rewatch over and over again -- probably costing myself at least a dozen viewings over the last few years. But part of me is really excited to have found Gambit this late in the game. It seems like very few new-to-me classic movies knock my socks off these days. I've already discovered most of my tried-and-true favorites by now and nothing new ever seems to impress me enough to share space on my All Time Favorites list with Sunday in New York and Doctor Zhivago.

As you can probably tell, Gambit has made The List. I have NO idea how it eluded me for so long but I finally watched it today and I am so ridiculously smitten. I want to write it love letters and send it flowers. I want to take it for long walks on the beach and buy it dinner. I really, really like it, you guys.

Our meet cute almost didn't happen -- I wanted to watch Cry Wolf (A spooky Barbara Stanwyck movie with Errol Flynn not being a pirate) but the DVD was missing. So I started flipping through my DVD binder and came across The Happy Thieves, an art heist movie starring Rex Harrison and Rita Hayworth. Which reminded me how much I really love movies about stealing art. Which led me to search for more movies of that sort on google. Which is how I found Gambit.

I won't give much away (even though the poster encourages you to go ahead and spill the ending) but suffice to say, it's about an art heist. Michael Caine plays the criminal mastermind, fluctuating between effortlessly suave and slightly peevish. Shirley MacLaine is his partner in crime. If you're watching this for the first time and think she's being wasted as merely arm candy in the beginning, just stick around and you'll be pleasantly surprised. I promise.

Gambit reminded me a lot of one of the veterans on my All Time Favorites list, How to Steal a Million. I don't throw that comparison around lightly, and it's not just because their plots are both centered around thefts of priceless works of art. They have a similar pace, their stars have great chemistry, the actual heists leave you biting your nails with suspense, and the twists are fun and unexpected. And much like How to Steal a Million, I can see myself watching Gambit dozens of times and enjoying it completely each and every time.

I'm not sure if this is as funny out of context, but I found this one exchange from the movie so funny. Michael Caine's delivery is just so perfect, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be one of those lines that I quote at random moments for the rest of my life -- "Always interested in seeing something extraordinary."

My Six Loves (1963)

March 16, 2015

One of the movies I watched for my Pi Day themed marathon was My Six Loves, a comedy-ish movie starring Debbie Reynolds, Cliff Robertson and David Janssen. Let's be real, the main only reason I picked this for my no. 6 film was Cliff Robertson. It's one of those "I'll watch anything -- and I mean ANYTHING -- just because so and so is in it" kind of things. Not to sound like a crotchety old hag, but movies about bands of children aren't usually my cup of tea. They need to be accompanied by a dashingly handsome Cliff Robertson or maybe a debonair Dirk Bogarde in order for me to buckle down and watch.

And buckle down I did. Cliff Robertson's gravely voice was absolutely the best part, as it always is (oh, and he wears one of Debbie Reynolds' floral robes at one point - and still looks ridiculously fetching, I might add) I'd give this movie 5 out of 5 stars if I was rating it on Cliff Robertson's voice alone. What can I say, I love a good gravel. However, this movie also had a plot and characters and once I factor those in my rating drops considerably.

There are some movies with elements of sexism that I can conveniently overlook for the purposes of entertainment. I wince a bit when Jane Fonda's character casually accepts the fact that she'll be giving up her job as soon as she's married to Robert Culp in Sunday in New York but it's still my favorite movie. My Six Loves came out the same year as SINY, 1963, but its sexism seems more dated and more prevalent. It's an obvious message to "career girls" that you'll never be happy, truly happy, until you have a husband and some young-ins' to look after. It isn't even remotely subtle about the message, either. [spoiler alert] Debbie Reynolds is struggling between returning to the stage where she’s had a successful career since she was 14 years old, or staying in the country to raise 6 orphans with the local preacher (who can totally date, no chastity to be found here) played by Cliff Robertson. For a few brief moments, she decides on Broadway — returning to the great white way to begin work on a new play. But then our gravely voiced preacher bursts into rehearsals to tell Debbie that one of the orphans has run away, and she needs to come back to look for him. When trying to explain why Debbie needs to return, he not-so-delicately states that “She’s a woman. It’s about time she acted like one.” Ok, now this is where any thinking, rational modern lady would be like “WHAT THE WHAT?!” Um, even in 1963 I’m pretty sure you were just as much a woman if you were working on a career, looking after a household, or doing both. But being a movie still firmly grounded in 1950’s morality, Debbie naturally agrees. “I MUST GO TO THE CHILDREN! AND RECLAIM MY WOMANHOOD!,” she doesn’t say, but definitely implies. [spoiler over]

Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s my frame of mind or the movie itself that dictates how sensitive I am to sexist overtones in film. Like I said, Sunday in New York isn’t the most progressive feminist movie but I still find it hilarious and watch it way more than any normal person should. Maybe I just didn’t find My Six Loves funny enough, so I picked up on the serious dialogue a little more than I would otherwise. Or maybe I just haven’t watched enough movies from 1963 and I have some serious misconceptions about how much movies were still shaming women who didn’t want to be housewives at the time.

Either way, this is one movie where the sexism seemed a little too heavy handed and prevented me from really enjoying the movie. I will add though that David Janssen’s character was pretty cool (when they’re tying to figure out where one of the children would have run away to, Janssen remarks “Miami if he’s got any sense.” He also sat on a picnic blanket in a suit-and-tie, drinking champagne and looking amused at the goings-on around him. I can see why Millie is smitten.) and also I’ll give some (not a lot) points for Debbie Reynolds seeming to genuinely want to be a career girl, even if biology and society and everything else in the world was conspiring against it.

All that being said, movies are always products of the time in which they were made. I don’t expect 2015 morals in a 1963 film. But sometimes it’s tough to throw all of your modern sensitivities out the window when you’re watching classic movies. And it’s difficult to hear the words “She’s a woman. It’s about time she acted like one.” even when those words are uttered by the most gloriously gravely voice there ever was.

Pi Day movie marathon

March 09, 2015

If you're a fan of Pi Day, then you already know that this year is pretty exciting. Usually Pi Day occurs on the date that represents the first three digits of pi -- 3/14. But THIS year, the date will be 3/14/15. And at 9:26:53 it will be the only time in our lives that the date and time will coincide with the first 10 digits of pi. Pretty exciting stuff!!

On 3/14/15 I'll be in Princeton celebrating -- my beloved hometown goes all-out for Pi Day since it's also the birthday or our most famous resident, Albert Einstein. But on Sunday, I'm going to extend the celebration with a pi-themed movie marathon! I thought I'd share my picks here in case you'd like to join me in my possibly-pathetic devotion to this mathematical holiday!

Here are some alternate picks in case you don't have access to these movies (also, you can use one of the other options for 5 and 3 if you want to do 10 digits of pi instead of 8, but that'll make for an even longer marathon)

1: One More Tomorrow, One Foot in Heaven, And One Was Beautiful, One Man's Journey, One Sunday Afternoon

2: The Two Mrs. Carrolls, Between Two Worlds, A Tale of Two Cities, Breakfast for Two, Trouble for Two, Two Women, Two for the Road

3: The Three Faces of Eve, A Letter to Three Wives, Sergeants 3, Three Godfathers, Three Comrades, These Three

4: Four Men & A Prayer, Four Wives, Four Mothers, Four's A Crowd

5: Five Star Final, Five Fingers, Five Miles to Midnight, Five Graves to Cairo, Five Came Back

6: My Six Convicts, With Six You Get Eggroll, The Deep Six, Six of a Kind

9: The Man With Nine Lives, Nine Girls

Happy Pi Day! :)

The Dark Mirror (1946)

February 08, 2015

Have you ever heard of seasonal affective disorder? If you get very down-in-the-dumps every February when winter seems like it'll just never end, that's SAD. I, however, seem to come down with SCD, seasonal cinema disorder. Okay, I invented the term but I'm pretty sure it's a real thing. Whenever fall rolls around I always feel a sudden urge to watch ALL THE HORROR MOVIES EVER. In the summer, on hot balmy days when everything seems to be moving slower than usual, I feel a strong compulsion to marathon frothy 60's comedies. And in the dead of winter when daylight lasts for two hours tops, and the chill in the air cuts straight to your bone, well, that my friends is film noir time.

Today I watched the psychological film noir, The Dark Mirror, starring Olivia de Havilland and Lew Ayres. I've had this on DVD for years and somehow never got around to watching it until now. Which is absolutely crazy -- how do you have this movie in your collection and not watch it immediately: Lew Ayres. Film Noir. Olivia de Havilland playing twins. LEW AYRES.

I really love when classic movies delve into twindom. It's so fun to watch one person playing two different roles in the same film and (for the most part) the scenes in which both girls are in the same frame are so seamless that it's absolutely remarkable considering the technology that was available at the time. It's not like they had computers in the 1940's to just cut+paste one Olivia de Havilland next to the other Olivia de Havilland.

I wouldn't say this movie was exceptional (as far as film noirs go, it's no Laura) but it was very enjoyable and I didn't predict the twists. Lew Ayres was his usual wonderful self playing a Dr. Kildare-esque psychiatrist who specializes in the study of twins. That comes in handy when twins Ruth and Terry are caught up in a murder investigation and the detective needs somebody to help figure out if one of them might be guilty.

The one thing that really set this movie apart was the way in which they differentiated between Olivia de Havilland's two characters, Ruth and Terry. In most twin movies, the girls will have completely different looks, or one will have a mole, or their hairstyles will be different, etc. In The Dark Mirror, Ruth and Terry look exactly the same. They dress the same in almost every scene in which they are together. They wear the same hairstyle. Even their nightgowns match! The one thing that helps you to tell them apart is their jewelry, and it's pretty awesome.

All of their belongings are monogrammed, even the compacts they carry in their handbags. And they have matching monogram brooches to wear when they aren't sporting their insanely wonderful name necklaces. If there was an award for "Best Use of Telling Twins Apart in a Motion Picture" this would win, hands down.

Laura (1944) and musings on movie-going

January 24, 2015

A few years ago someone asked me what my favorite movie-going experience had been, and I couldn't name even one that I had really enjoyed. Being a classic film fan with limited access to independent theaters meant that my experiences had been few, and unfortunately the disrespectful audiences meant that those few experiences had all been pretty bad. And then 2014 happened.

Last year I saw some of my favorite movies on the big screen (I still think I dreamed it -- pinch me?!) like Dr. Zhivago, Young and Innocent and Sunday in New York. I went to the TCM Film Festival and enjoyed every film surrounded by moviegoers with an equal (or possibly even more fervent) reverence for classic movies. My local theater, The Garden in Princeton, came under new management and started playing classic movies. (Seriously, am I dreaming?) All told, last year I managed to see 17 classics on the big screen. And with the exception of a mildly disrespectful crowd at the Film Forum (the original Japanese Godzilla isn't funny, what is the matter with people?) I enjoyed every one of those experiences immensely.

All that to say -- if I was asked the question again, if I had to choose my favorite movie-going experience now, with 16 great ones under my belt, my visit to The Garden this week to see Laura would definitely be it.*

Until last year, I always thought that the best way to watch a movie was at home, preferably in pajamas, surrounded by cats and junk food (or, more accurately, some form of potatoes.) But now I'm officially a big-screen convert. Why is it that a movie flickering on my 30" tv screen can impress me, but the same movie displayed in 52' Cinemascope can knock my socks off? Why is it that when I hear biting dialogue at home I giggle, but that same dialogue blasting through surround sound speakers gives me a full-on belly laugh?

Laura has been one of my favorite movies for a long time (thank you, intense Dana Andrews phase circa 2008) and I've seen it more times than I could count. I've always thought Clifton Webb's dialogue was absolutely hilarious, and I swoon (oh, how I swoon) when Dana Andrews is on screen. But seeing it at the movies was like seeing it for the first time. I knew all of the twists and turns, and yet they surprised me. The dialogue was as familiar to me as an old friend and yet it passed through my ears as if it were a new acquaintance. And.. let's just say swooning intensifies when the apple of your eye is 20' tall.

I can't say anything about Laura that hasn't already been said. It's a film noir masterpiece. It's beautiful, suspenseful, clever, witty, dark, slightly twisted and very addictive. Maybe I've been spending too much time binge watching things on Netflix (I have) but I felt myself wanting to play the next episode when the movie was over, desperately wishing that this wasn't the end. Of course the good thing about good movies is that, despite their lack of a second episode, they're ripe for re-watching over and over. And if this experience has taught me anything, it's that you're never so familiar with a movie that you can't enjoy it as much as you did the first time around. Especially if you're seeing it at the movies.

*That is, if I hadn't seen Sunday in New York on the big screen, introduced by Robert Osborne in person, accompanied by my very best friends in the whole world. Nothing else will ever top that. But saying Laura is my second-favorite would have been kind of anti-climactic, sooo...

Also, oops, I just realized my title has almost the same name as Laura's blog