Home of the all-around movie/book/TV/music geek girl. 21 years old; college student majoring in Film with a minor in Art History. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Fan of (in alphabetical order): Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, Blackadder, The Blacklist, Doctor Who (and - to a lesser extent - Torchwood), Elementary, Freaks and Geeks, Grimm, Harry Potter, House, Indiana Jones, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Inspector Lewis, James Bond, Jane Eyre, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Law & Order (all kinds), Lost, LOTR, the Millennium trilogy (Stieg Larsson); Murder, She Wrote; The Nanny, Paul Newman, The Office, Once Upon a Time, Parks and Recreation, Project Runway, Pushing Daisies, Saturday Night Live, Sherlock, Three's Company (though I am usually laughed at for that), The Twilight Zone, Undeclared, Tom Waits, The Who, movies in general (especially older movies but not exclusively), analyzing movies via a blog (http://theironcupcake.wordpress.com) and many other awesome things. I think I'm an INTJ, if you know about MBTI.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #281: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) - dir. John Cameron Mitchell
Although I felt that this rock odyssey was a little slow to start and that the animation sequences detracted a little from the live-action performance, at some point the film seemed to get into its groove. John Cameron Mitchell was really excellent as the star, director and screenwriter. There aren’t any other performances in the film that come near it. Michael Pitt is good, but nothing special, as the uber-religious boy who uses Hedwig and tosses her away. Miriam Shor wasn’t bad as Yitzhak, but I think the bigger issue I had was that the film doesn’t show enough of the relationship between Hedwig and Yitzhak. (I gather that some of that is in the deleted scenes.) It would’ve helped to show more of that dynamic. But even so, Mitchell is well worth watching. The concluding scene with Mitchell and Pitt is so well-done. The ending is open to interpretation, but it’s interesting for some discussion.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #280: Rome, Open City (1945) - dir. Roberto Rossellini
I’m really glad I saw this at the Film Forum earlier tonight; even though it was the last day of its showing, extended five days beyond its original 9/12-9/25 dates, I was only ticket #15 (Film Forum numbers all their tickets) out of all the tickets that had been sold today, and I was at the third show of the day. I guess Italian Neorealism isn’t a big deal for the Greenwich Village crowd. Anyway, the film has many actors in memorable performances: Aldo Fabrizi, Anna Magnani, Marcello Pagliero, Vito Annichiarico, Harry Feist (one of the more vicious Nazi portrayals I’ve seen in a while), Giovanna Galletti (playing a character named “Ingrid,” no less), Francesco Grandjacquet, Eduardo Passarelli, Maria Michi (who reminded me of Jane Greer), Carla Rovere, Joop van Hulzen, Ákos Tolnay and Turi Pandolfini were all very good. What I had some trouble with was how the film never resolved Francesco’s storyline (we could take guesses, but it was just dropped to follow only what was happening at the interrogation headquarters) and, earlier, the Don Pietro’s musing while talking with Pina that perhaps the citizens may have brought the war on themselves because of past sins. I understand that the character can take certain liberties with religious queries and questioning the ways of God, but it just seems so bizarre for anyone in the path of war to think that innocent civilians could possibly have caused what the Nazis and the fascists were doing. Other than that, the cinematography by Ubaldo Arata, including all those shaky moments on the city streets, is excellent and the score by Renzo Rossellini sometimes reminded me of Nino Rota’s stirring score for La Strada a decade later. Speaking of: Federico Fellini co-wrote the screenplay with Rossellini. Impressive talents at work here.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #279: Stolen Holiday (1937) - dir. Michael Curtiz
This entertaining but slight trifle stars the always lovely Kay Francis, more becoming than ever in the beginning of the film when she has a very modern, short and slicked-back hairstyle and wears rather “mannish” (to quote another character) clothes. Francis looks terrific in those Orry-Kelly costumes. Claude Rains also cuts quite a charming figure. Unfortunately it’s such a silly story (although it is based on real events) that only the actors make it worth watching. (Bonus points for having Kathleen Howard, who played W.C. Fields’ wife in his best 30s films, It’s a Gift and Man on the Flying Trapeze.) Most of Heinz Roemheld’s score sounds like rehashed versions of other tunes in more popular movies. Curtiz certainly made better films in the late 30s, in particular The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. This one isn’t bad, but I see why it’s one of the forgotten titles of Francis’ and Rains’ careers.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #278: T-Men (1947) - dir. Anthony Mann
Counterfeiting doesn’t sound like the most exciting topic for a film noir, but John Alton’s cinematography and the work of some the actors involved elevate this film. Dennis O’Keefe and Alfred Ryder do good work as the treasury agents who go undercover, while Wallace Ford has perhaps the best role in the film as “The Schemer” being tailed. Mary Meade, June Lockhart, Vivian Austin, Charles McGraw, Jane Randolph and Art Smith are also memorable. The story plays out pretty predictably and the narration by Gayne Whitman is annoying, but as I say, the photography and the framing of many of the shots make it all worthwhile.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #277: Brewster’s Millions (1945) - dir. Allan Dwan
This comedy has some good moments and some which are duds. Dennis O’Keefe does pretty well in the screwball vein, maybe better than he did in the crime drama/noir Raw Deal a few years later. Helen Walker is good, and I really like her voice, but her character doesn’t get to do much other than look worried or annoyed. June Havoc, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson and Mischa Auer all have some fun in their screen time (and there’s even a bit part for Grady Sutton as a flustered Broadway costume designer), but Gail Patrick and Neil Hamilton are wasted in nothing roles. It’s an amusing film, but I think I might enjoy the 1985 remake with Richard Pryor and John Candy more.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #276: Penthouse (1933) - dir. W.S. Van Dyke
This little Pre-Code oddity stars one of the most popular gents of his day, the charming Warner Baxter, as a lawyer who enjoys fighting for the rights of gangsters, chorus girls and the like. He successfully defends Nat Pendleton, who plays quite possibly the most loveable gangster I’ve ever seen on film, always referring to Baxter with the pet name “angel” and once seen trying his hand at a jigsaw puzzle. Interesting character for an interesting actor. In fact the film is full of interesting actors: Myrna Loy as Baxter’s love interest (although she’s forced to wear a really ugly dress all throughout the film), Charles Butterworth as Baxter’s flustered butler (his usual type of character), Mae Clarke in a truncated role as a bitter girlfriend (I’m fascinated by her natural, unpretentious acting style), Phillips Holmes in a standard pretty-but-pointless performance as the guy who jilts Clarke, Martha Sleeper as the woman who dumps Baxter for Holmes, George E. Stone as a Mob man and Theresa Harris in a bit part as Clarke’s maid. It’s not a particularly memorable film in my opinion, lacking any wit or strong characters (except for Pendleton), but it’s worth seeing for the many talented actors involved.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #275: 20,000 Days on Earth (2014) - dirs. Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard
Amazing. Absolutely amazing. What else can I say? You don’t need to already be familiar with Nick Cave’s music (I myself only recently started listening to the songs on From Her to Eternity, The Boatman’s Call and Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus) because you’ll be totally transported by the sights, sounds, philosophies and great little jokes peppered throughout the film. It’s more than just a documentary about a musician; it’s a blend of fiction and nonfiction, reality and fantasy, memory-based truth and wishful thinking. It all combines into a really outstanding theater experience. I found myself loving all the strangely poetic songs from the Push the Sky Away album and the Sydney Opera House finale, which grows louder and more beautiful with each passing moment, needs to be experienced in a theater (the Film Forum has excellent speakers). Seriously, go see this movie. It’s my new #1 favorite of 2014 for sure.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #274: Frank (2014) - dir. Lenny Abrahamson
Fascinating movie? Sure. Great? No, I’m not certain that it is. Michael Fassbender might actually be an even better actor with the papier-mâché head than without it. He’s good, as is Maggie Gyllenhaal, who I liked better than usual because she actually has an interesting character, unlike other stuff I’ve seen her try in like The Dark Knight and Won’t Back Down (although, to be fair, she had some great moments in Secretary and I don’t remember whether or not her character had “character” in Stranger Than Fiction). Both actors succeed in their roles because they’re not always easy to understand. (Gyllenhaal makes the sex scene she’s in simultaneously hilarious and a little frightening.) Domhnall Gleeson, on the other hand, has a more complicated character: he serves as our protagonist and yet he is ironically out of place and in some ways unlikeable because he is too “normal” and ready to sell out for success. As in another movie I saw this year, Chef, social media plays an important role in advancing the plot. (I’m waiting for the day when Twitter becomes passé and it looks even sillier than it already does to see Tweets onscreen.) At least in Frank there’s a sense of mocking in the ridiculousness of Gleeson’s Tweeting (“#livingthedream”). Other high points of the film: Scoot McNairy as the band’s disturbed manager, Tess Harper and Bruce McIntosh in their brief scene as Frank’s parents, Carla Azar as the drummer (clearly the most musically talented of any of them) and François Civil as the French bassist. Neither Azar nor Civil has much in the way of screenwritten substance, but Civil gets bonus points for being incredibly attractive. (I believe “newly appointed mayor of babe city” was the technical term I jotted down in my post-movie notes.) The film is let down by its third act, which I guess works out the only way it could have, but it kind of deflates the bubble of eccentric charm that the film had going for it. I understand why the film went where it went, and the ending does make sense in its strange way, but I still couldn’t help feeling disappointment. Frank is worth seeing, though, especially for the song that ought to be a hit single, “I Love You All.”
P.S. My aunt and I were the only people at the show at Landmark Sunshine Cinema. That was OK, but I’m reminded of why I haven’t been there since 2007: it just has a too-too-indie vibe that I can’t stand. MoMA, MoMI, BAM and the Film Forum are easier to deal with.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #273: Grand Illusion (1937) - dir. Jean Renoir
I must say that my viewing of this film was undercut somewhat by the fact that a former film professor spoiled the ending by showing it to a class I was in last year. I think it might have had more impact had I not remembered it so clearly. In any case, Jean Gabin is terrific; he truly had a face made for cinema. Marcel Dalio was also wonderful, as usual. The performances by Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay (better than I expected), Erich von Stroheim, Julien Carette and Jean Dasté are good too. Overall I prefer The Rules and the Game and Elena and Her Men, but I can understand the impact of the film and how it is yet another fine example of Renoir’s humanism.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #272: The House of Rothschild (1934) - dir. Alfred L. Werker
George Arliss gives a powerful dual performance as both the father and ruling son of the Rothschild banking family in this drama made on the edge of when the Hays Code was put into place. Darryl F. Zanuck was daring in his choice to make a film with Jews as its heroes, presenting anti-Semites (Boris Karloff’s character in particular) as the villains. The romantic subplot involving Loretta Young (why did she wear a blonde wig - to make her look even less Jewish?) and Robert Young is cute but it detracts from the plot. Besides, we never see the romance having greater implications in terms of prejudice; we only hear about what might happen if the two get married. Many great character actors also appear in the film, including C. Aubrey Smith, Helen Westley, Reginald Owen, Alan Mowbray and Arliss’s own wife, Florence Arliss. The Technicolor sequence at the end of the film is also quite impressive for the time, so kudos to cinematographer J. Peverell Marley. I don’t know if I would call this a great film overall, but the content of it is quite important. It would be easy to write off Arliss’s performance as Meyer Rothschild as a stereotype, but the message has meaning: there is a great need for the Jewish people to be able to walk the world with dignity and respect.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #271: Torrent (1926) - dir. Monta Bell
Greta Garbo is luminous in her American film debut, all of 19 years old but already a commanding presence onscreen. Ricardo Cortez plays Garbo’s well-meaning but ultimately spineless lover whose romantic intentions are constantly being thwarted by his mother (Martha Mattox) and the family lawyer (Tully Marshall). The melodrama is nothing special, but Garbo is worth watching, as always. The film itself is absolutely gorgeous with stunning cinematography by William H. Daniels, especially when the tint is purple or blue. The storm scene is pretty spectacular, like a trial run for Noah’s Ark two years later. Garbo would make a much better film that same year, Flesh and the Devil, but Torrent is worth a watch too to see the great actress at the beginning.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #270: Neptune’s Daughter (1949) - dir. Edward Buzzell
This bright MGM musical is a showcase for their most bankable leading lady at the time, Esther Williams, a swimmer par excellence. Red Skelton is wonderful, of course, as a masseur who poses as a polo player from South America in order to woo wacky Betty Garrett. Ricardo Montalban is charming as the sportsman pursuing Williams, while Keenan Wynn is quite good in a restrained role as the businessman in love with Williams too. There’s also Mike Mazurki and Mel Blanc in funny supporting roles, as well as the music of Xavier Cugat and his orchestra (get a load of “Jungle Rhumba” for the best performance). The Technicolor cinematography by Charles Rosher and the costumes (particularly the swimsuits) by Irene add to the fun. As you might expect, the plot is totally ridiculous, but it’s an entertaining film for sure. Plus it introduced “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #269: The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) - dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer
OK, so I finally saw this classic. Um… it’s not my kind of movie. I’ve seen some other Dreyer films and I can’t say I’m surprised that I didn’t like this one either. On purely technical levels I can understand and appreciate why the film has had the impact that it has had, but in terms of my own personal reaction, I didn’t have much of a reaction. Maybe if I had tried watching the film with the “Voices of Light” soundtrack, I would have had a more immediate feeling for the film, but I felt it would be better to try the film silent because that Dreyer did not originally pick out a specific score. I suppose that somewhere down the line I could try the film again with the music, but that’s not going to happen for a while. Rudolph Maté shows, as usual, his talented cinematography and Falconetti is certainly memorable for those gigantic, watery eyes of hers. Those images of her are so iconic, considered so important a part of film history, that I can’t tell if I’m genuinely impressed by her acting or not, or if maybe the cinematography accounts for too much of how the performance is seen. (In other words: am I impressed by her acting or by how Maté captures reflects light in her eyes?) At least now I can say that I’ve seen the film, but I have yet to ever find a Dreyer film truly appealing. I guess that’s the same way other people feel about Bergman, Renoir, Malick or other philosophical filmmakers.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #268: Five Star Final (1931) - dir. Mervyn LeRoy
I thought that this film was really good, depressing as it is. There are so many actors in it that give really fine performances, including Edward G. Robinson (I always prefer him in non-gangster roles), Marian Marsh, H.B. Warner (excellent), Anthony Bushell, George E. Stone (always entertaining), Frances Starr, Ona Munson (there’s some sad irony in the scene she discovers and exploits at the Townsend apartment), Boris Karloff and, perhaps most of all, Aline MacMahon. I also noticed Polly Walters, who I saw in Blonde Crazy last night, here in an uncredited role as a truly apathetic telephone operator, as well as Harold Waldridge (whom I remember from Blessed Event) as an office boy. I appreciated the camerawork by Sol Polito, especially in the shots of Walters’ face behind the phone wires, a shot of Starr’s shadow on the bathroom wall, a shot of Stone on the phone with his feet up on his desk in front of him and a great panning shot of Robinson toward the end. I prefer Five Star Final to Blessed Event, another newspaper film from the same era, because Final is more emotional and seems to take the human consequences of sensational headlines more seriously. The language, like Stone’s use of ethnic stereotype nicknames and Robinson’s glass-door-shattering tirade against his boss, is surprising even for the Pre-Code era. And the scenes between Robinson and MacMahon are absolutely fabulous because they were both such pros.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #267: Triumph of the Will (1935) - dir. Leni Riefenstahl
I had to watch the infamous propaganda film for a grad school class. It’s an invaluable document for sure, one which is chilling in its presentation, but it’s just so stomach-churning that it’s hard to watch with anything but my own subjective understanding of the issue. Also, I was watching with my mother, who is a sort of unofficial WWII scholar - unofficial in the sense that she’s never published any books, but she knows more on the subject than anyone I’ve ever met, including the hundreds (if not thousands) of books she’s read on the topic. Neither of us can watch a film like Triumph without the context of being Jewish and well-read on many aspects of the Third Reich. There is no doubt that Riefenstahl had a good eye for visuals and she captured a moment in time that none of us should ever forget, but in her case I would never mistake good craftsmanship for any appreciation of her as a person. I still find it hard to believe that she didn’t get sent to the Nuremberg Trials with all the other Nazis because what she did with this film was plenty damaging even if she wasn’t literally getting up on a stage to give speeches herself.