A New Hope

June 29, 2014

Yesterday me and Kyle went to see Star Wars at The Film Forum in New York. He dressed up like Darth Vader and I did my best impression of a 1960's storm trooper.

I was originally trying to channel c3po with a gold glittery dress that's tucked away in my closet and hardly ever gets to see the light of day, but without any other accessories I just looked like I was going to a fancy party. After lots of last-minute closet rummaging I put this together and I was pretty happy with how it turned out! Once I stood next to Kyle... er.. Darth Vader.. I think it was more obvious that I was supposed to be a storm trooper.

It was really fun seeing Star Wars on the big screen. My experiences at the Film Forum tend to be really hit or miss. I'd say about half of the screenings I've attended have had wonderful, respectful audiences. When I went to see Dr. Zhivago two weeks ago you could have heard a pin drop in the theater. It was wonderful! When I saw the original Japanese Godzilla back in April, everyone was horribly disrespectful and kept laughing at things that weren't even remotely funny. If you've seen the Japanese version you know that it's a lot more serious and less B-movie than the American version. It didn't deserve that kind of reception.

Star Wars fell somewhere in between. Obviously a lot of Han Solo's lines deserve a little chuckle, but people seemed to be laughing AT the movie, not at the funny lines in the movie (if that makes sense?) I mean serious stuff, like when poor little r2d2 is damaged towards the end. I thought Star Wars would have been immune from this kind of thing?? It didn't ruin the screening for me like the Godzilla audience did, but it was still really annoying.

After the movie we decided to take advantage of Kyle's costume to get some photos around the city. We ended up walking to a lot of the major tourist attractions for a little series of Darth Vader going sight-seeing. My personal favorite was his selfie in Times Square, ha!

Torn Curtain (1966)

June 10, 2014

I consider myself a pretty big Alfred Hitchcock fan, and I think I've seen almost all of his movies, give or take a few silents... and Torn Curtain. I'm not entirely sure how it eluded me all these years but, until this week, I had never seen it. I've always heard that it wasn't too great, so I popped it into my DVD player with incredibly low expectations. And I was pleasantly surprised!

I thought it got off to a slow start and didn't really grab hold of me until we - the audience - were fully informed about what was going on. I've always thought that was one of the best trademarks of a Hitchcock movie, that you're aware of things that the main characters aren't. You know that there's a murderer about to whip back the shower curtain, but Janet Leigh has NO IDEA. Once I was in the know, though, I thought the movie was incredibly suspenseful and classically Hitchcockian.

The movie stars Paul Newman (the obsession continues) and Julie Andrews as an engaged pair of scientists about to attend a conference in Copenhagen. Paul Newman's character starts acting kind of fishy and before Julie Andrews can say "iron curtain" she's caught in an unexpectedly traitorous predicament. And that is when the movie starts to get really good.

Honestly there was a part of me that was just like "Oh my gosh, Paul Newman, just tell your finance what you're up to and end this charade! For the love of God just tell her already!" Secrecy as a plot device is always a major pet peeve for me. Of course, a lot of movies depend on misunderstandings or confusion to move the plot forward, so honesty might not always be the best policy when it comes to screenwriting. There were several moments in Torn Curtain where the suspense rested completely on the lack of communication between Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. It definitely added a layer of anxiety to the first hour or so of the movie, but it's still very annoying that Newman's character would hide such a ridiculously important secret from someone who was his intellectual equal, and his partner in life.

Unnecessary secrecy aside, Torn Curtain way exceeded my expectations. Maybe it's because my expectations were so low that I was able to enjoy it so much, or maybe it's just a really great, underrated movie that deserves a second look. Either way, I think it's definitely worth a watch. Oh, and (to ruin what could have been a perfectly serious review) Paul Newman is shirtless again, so there's that. ;)

It's available to rent on amazon here.

The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957)

June 07, 2014

This probably seems contrary to what everyone who knows me would think, but initially I was put off by the title of The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown. I thought it might be one of those comedies that was a little silly, a little fluffy, but not really funny. Boy, am I glad I decided to watch it anyway. For several reasons --

The movie is actually hilarious, heartwarming and really cute. Jane Russell plays an over-the-top movie star/sex symbol who gets kidnapped on the night of a big premiere. Her kidnappers don't seem to know what the heck they're doing, so Jane Russell helps them out. At the beginning it seems like an obvious spoof on the big-name blonde stars of the era, but her performance becomes much more down-to-earth as the movie wears on. Even 60 years ago people still needed reminding that film stars are humans, just like us.

Jane Russell's costar in the movie is Ralph Meeker. His name rang a bell because a couple years ago, Millie went through a crazy Ralph Meeker phase and I'd been meaning to (with obviously little determination) see one of his movies ever since. And now I get it. I absolutely, totally, 100% get why she went bananas over this guy. He's kind of like a rougher version of Frank Sinatra, without the singing. He was ridiculously perfect playing the slightly inept, but well-meaning kidnapper. After The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown I kind of binge-watched every Ralph Meeker movie I could get my hands on this week. Me and Millie watched Kiss Me Deadly on Wednesday and it's mind-blowingly awesome, kind of confusing, and absolutely riveting. I'd write a review of that one too (because, really, you need to watch it) but Millie already wrote the best one ever right here.

But back to the movie. In addition to Jane Russell and Ralph Meeker (sigh.) it had a fantastic supporting cast, snappy dialogue and (spoiler!) with the exception of one of the last lines in the movie, Jane Russell's character was a headstrong, iron-willed (and fisted!) gal. So watch it for the laughs, the romance, the story, or Ralph Meeker's smile (mostly that last one.) but just watch it.

Say Anything (1989)

May 31, 2014

I've spent a good portion of my life sitting in front of flickering images produced before 1980. I just prefer "old" movies (although I guess technically movies made after that are considered old now, aren't they? even *I* might be considered old now, mightn't I? ack!) for any number of reasons -- their timelessness, the fact that I can usually watch them with my parents and not have to hide under the couch cushions during any of the scenes (you know what I mean) and some undefinable quality that just attracts me in a way that modern movies don't. That being said, I've been trying to play catch-up for the last two years and finally watch all of the modern movies that most people would consider must-sees. I've enjoyed a lot of them! I still prefer the oldies (but goodies!) but I'm really having fun with this project.

One of the movies on my to-watch list was Say Anything (1989.) I've heard about the scene pictured above and I know the film is a staple in the lives of basically everyone from my generation. This week I finally watched it, and I really liked it! Do I need to touch on the plot? I feel like everyone (except me, until this week) has seen it. Just in case -- John Cusack plays a lovesick guy who is hung up on the school "brain" and finally asks her out right after graduation. Despite having a graduation party scene, it really wasn't a typical high school movie (although I'll be the first to admit - despite my aforementioned dedication to old movies - I'm a big fan of She's All That) and the plot went places that I wasn't expecting. Which was a good thing!

This is probably insane but I think my favorite thing about it was (SPOILER!) the fact that she didn't run downstairs and jump into his arms when Peter Gabriel's voice came streaming through her windows. It just would have been too typical, you know? I also loved that her reasons for going back to him were ambiguous, but he didn't even care. It was so much more satisfying to see her return to him in a moment of desperation and to have him accept her in spite of that, instead of a hokey "I couldn't live without you" kind of thing. You know everything will turn out all right but it can be implied instead of written in bold letters, underlined, and covered in glitter.

The only disappointment for me was the dad's storyline. I really liked him! It was kind of heartbreaking to find out he was guilty. Otherwise I thought it was an incredibly fantastic movie (actually, I really have no qualms with that plot twist, I just liked the character and was sad that his story turned out the way it did.) If you haven't seen it yet, you can rent it on Amazon here. So you really have no excuse not to watch it tonight. Go! Hurry! Turn on the tv and enjoy a really nice Saturday night movie :)

The Prize (1963)

May 24, 2014

The Prize (alternate title: Paul Newman, Where Have You Been All My Life?) is a 1963 comedy-thriller that takes place at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm. I had seen it described as Hitchcock-esque -- one Amazon reviewer even said it was more Hitchcockian than the Paul Newman movie that Hitch actually did direct, Torn Curtain. I think these comparisons are kind of thrown around a lot and (with the notable exception of Charade) rarely hold up. In the case of The Prize, there were a lot of similarities plot-wise, but not so much style-wise. The cinematic perfection that defines a Hitchcock movie is clearly absent here; the direction even feels a little bit sloppy at times. But the plot should definitely delight fans of the Master of Suspense.

An alcoholic American writer finds out that he's won the Nobel Prize for literature and reluctantly attends the ceremony in Stockholm to collect his 50,000 dollars. Less than 24 hours pass before he's caught in a web of international intrigue with his beautiful blonde escort. There are definitely shadows of North by Northwest here (the screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman, who also wrote NXNW) -- ominous, lanky henchmen; Leo G. Carroll; even a nudist convention scene (I'm serious) that's clearly reminiscent of the auction scene where Cary Grant summons the police. I'm pretty sure they made it take place at a nudist convention just so Paul Newman would have a reason to remove his shirt. (Not that I'm complaining.)

The movie got off to a slow start, setting up the plot and introducing the characters as tediously as possible, but once it got going it was really fun! A couple of the suspenseful scenes actually startled me so much that I jumped in my seat! And (needless to say?) Elke Sommer and Diane Baker have some pretty fantastic 60's outfits in the movie. It's no Hitchcock... but it's pretty close.

TCM Film Festival Part 2

April 27, 2014

I got a decent amount of sight-seeing done on this trip, so I'm looking forward to concentrating a bit more on the actual festival when I go back. I saw eight films total which I think is pretty pale in comparison to most festival-goers. I think even all of my friends saw more movies than I did (I can't blame sight-seeing for that though, I just overslept every morning. And skipped one movie for a mid-day nap. oops!)

The first movie that I saw at the festival was The World of Henry Orient with Paula Prentiss in attendance! I've seen it before but I don't remember finding it as funny as I did this time. The film is about two teenagers who stalk a pianist around New York City. The teen girls have a very Mary Clancy-Rachel Devery dynamic, with one kooky adventurous troublemaker and her slightly-less kooky stooge. The pianist was played by Peter Sellers. If you think he's usually too over-the-top, in this movie he is not. If you think he's perfectly lovely in his other movies, in this one he's just as awesome but a little toned down. Either way, he's brilliant. And his love interest is a nervous, paranoid married lady played by Paula Prentiss.

Do you ever think that somebody's acting is just SO funny that laughing doesn't seem like a sufficent expression of how joyful they make you feel? I wanted to invent a new form of comedic appreciation for how funny Paula Prentiss was in this movie. The movie is available on amazon instant watch here.

This is just an awesome mural that I saw on Hollywood Blvd.

The second movie that I saw was Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My dad is a big fan of 1950's science fiction movies so I knew he'd disown me if I didn't go see it, lol ;) In all seriousness, though, I love me a 50's sci-fi too, and I was pretty excited about seeing this one on the big screen!

I've been to quite a few classic film screenings at repertory theaters and so many times I've been disappointed and annoyed by how many people in the audience laugh at things that aren't funny. I assumed that most people coming to this festival would probably be more respectful, but I was still very apprehensive seeing a movie like this in a theater. Thankfully, the audience was amazing. Nobody laughed, except at lines that were obviously intended to trigger a giggle. The credits were met with applause, and you could hear a pin drop when the movie was playing, it was so quiet. I wish that every movie-going experience could be like this one! The movie is available on amazon instant watch here.

The next movie that I saw was a midnight screening of David Lynch's Eraserhead.

This is me, Millie and Sarah pre-Eraserhead.

This is Sarah, Millie and me post-Eraserhead.

I'm a big fan of Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet so I thought -- yay! David Lynch! I'm in! But this was much more disturbing than I could have imagined. I don't even know how David Lynch imagined it. I'm not sure I can even really describe it? It starts out having a semblance of a plot -- a man finds out his girlfriend is having a baby and they get married. At dinner with his girlfriend's parents he cuts into a cornish hen and the little chicken starts convulsing and oozing a thick liquid. Later on, the baby (which looks kind of like an alien/hairless horse hybrid?) is just constantly crying, in a pitch that lies somewhere on the border between a human infant and a velociraptor. Large worms shaped like pieces of funnel cake start falling from the sky and slithering around. A head explodes.

I'm sure that its reputation as a cinematic masterpiece is apt and I'm just missing something -- I generally try to have an open mind about movies, even disturbing ones, but I just didn't get it. I had a lot of fun attending the midnight screening with my friends, though, and it's going to be a lifelong memory, for sure. Not my favorite movie of the festival though, ha! It's available on amazon instant watch here.

TCM Film Festival Part 1

April 19, 2014

The first day was pretty amazing. My friends and I have known each other for five years but this was our first time getting together as a group. We've been discussing it ever since we met, dreaming about our "five year epic meetup" but I think all of us were doubtful that it would ever actually happen. We all have busy lives and the thought that everyone would be able to drop what they're doing for a week to meet at the same time seemed so unlikely! But when the TCM Film Festival idea came up, we all jumped on board. We originally met through our classic film blogs and it was just SO fitting.

Left to right: Millie, Me, Nicole, Sarah, Casey

On our first day we went out to eat at a cute little restaurant and then split up temporarily. Casey got to go to a really cool TCM social networking party, and the rest of us played typical tourists on Hollywood Blvd. I majorly freaked out at Grauman's Chinese Theater. I've been dreaming about seeing Frank Sinatra's handprints since I was thirteen, so that was beyond exciting for me. (That's me with Frank's prints in the picture at the top.)

Some of the highlights of the trip were seeing Alec Baldwin in person (Jack Donaghy!) falling in love with The Beatles at the Hard Day's Night screening, seeing my all time favorite movie, Sunday in New York, on the big screen (I wept with happiness, omg!), two midnight screenings (I've been trying to get people to go to midnight movies with me forever and nobody ever wants to do it with me!), late night chats with Millie, and I finally got to go to Disneyland!! At the end of the trip I also got to meet up with Danielle and Diana, too! All in all this was one of the best weeks of my whole life. I can't possibly fit everything in one post so I'm going to break it up by day.