Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Music from THE A WORD (Sundance)

Best Biopics

Frances Foster Jenkins was a pretty terrific biopic. By the end of the film, you understood each character's motivations and you had respect for a woman who could not sing, but did. You knew enough about her life to fill in any gaps.

What are your favorite biopics? What movie got it right?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Forgotten Films: SABRINA

Hepburn and Holden
I guess my forgotten films are never truly forgotten. That would mean digging up some film I probably had little interest in then and now. But SABRINA (directed by Billy Wilder), in a sense, was a revelation, because I had forgotten how witty, weird and wonderful it was. Of course Bogart looks like Hepburn's grandfather, but she was often cast with men much older. And he's not a convincing romantic lead in this. But the film looks so good and there are so many small bits that work. It has a sense of humor-witness the scenes in culinary school in France, and the ones of Bogart's father trying to get the olive out of the jar. And the music is transcendent. As are Heburn's clothes.
You know the plot so I won't go over it. I enjoyed this film immensely and even Phil had to admit it had "something." Certainly vastly superior to the remake with Harrison Ford.

Footnote: During production of the film, Hepburn and Holden (who plays Bogart's playboy brother) entered into a brief, but passionate and much-publicized love affair.Also Bogart wanted Bacall to do the part and was angry during the entire shoot. Thirdly, Wilder wanted Cary Grant for the role, who turned it down. So lots of behind the scenes angst.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Night Music: From the music THE A WORD (Sundance)

Waitresses on Film and TV

As you might expect, there are a ton of waitresses in film and on TV. Always memorable was the one in FIVE EASY PIECES.In HELL AND HIGH WATER, there are two great ones. On Broadway right now, there is a musical based on the Keri Russell film WAITRESS. MILDRED PIERCE, of course, started as a waitress. I remember male waiters on FRIENDS and FRASIER. But the women seem more memorable.

Who is your favorite waitress? On the screen that is.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Forgotten Books, August 19, 2016

Fool's Gold, Dolores Hitchens

This was one of the books I read in anticipation of a panel in New Orleans. I think it is probably fairly indicative of the type of book found on spinner racks in the forties and fifties. The three main characters are all in school learning a trade. The girl (Karen), leaks the fact, that a man who rents a room in the house where she lives has a big stash of money in his room. One of her friends (Skip) immediately begins planning a theft and his friend, under his influence, agrees to help him. The girl is too gob-smacked over the boy to not go along with this.
Skip is too dumb not to tip his hand to bigger players and loses control of the job. The writing was good enough but I didn't quite believe that any of these kids, that sat behind desks at school in the daytime, and who largely came from decent families, would fall into this so easily. I am thinking this is just not my type of story. But it may be yours. Hitchens wrote many novels and the second I read I liked a lot more.

Sergio Angelini, THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL, John LeCarre
Les Blatt, MALICE IN WONDERLAND, Nicholas Blake
Brian Busby, GAMBLING WITH FIRE, David Montrose
Bill Crider, THE GOBLIN RESERVATION, Clifford Simak
Martin Edwards, THE SEAT OF THE SCORNFUL, John Dickson Carr
Curt Evans, ACEDIA, THE NOONDAY DEVIL Ursula Curtiss
Richard Horton, THE REBELLIOUS STARS, Isaac Asimov, AN EARTH GONE MAD, Roger Dee
Jerry House, THE BRASS RING, Lewis Padgett
Margot Kinberg, THE DINNER, Herman Koch
Kate Laity, THE DAIN CURSE, Dashiell Hammett
B.V. Lawson, SHE SHALL HAVE MURDER, Delano Ames
Steve Lewis, THE JEWELS THAT GOT AWAY, Gary Matterom
Todd Mason, FANTASTIC STORIES, 1971; Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1971
J.F. Norris, THE WOMAN ON THE ROOF, Helen Nielsen 
Mathew Paust, THE DISCOMFORT ZONE, Jonathan Frantzen
James Reasoner, THE CASE OF THE HESITANT HOSTESS, Erle Stanley Gardner
Richard Robinson, THE VIRGIN IN THE ICE, Ellis Peters
Gerard Saylor, U.S. WORLD WAR II AMPHIBIOUS TACTICS, Gordon Rottman
Kevin TIpple, THE END OF EVERYTHING, Megan Abbott
TomCat, THE JUDAS CAT, Dorothy Salisbury Davis; WINDS OF EVIL, Arthur Upfield
TracyK, Forgotten Books Not Yet Read

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

(Not) A Funny Movie

We saw a movie on Monday, one we hoped would make us laugh. Sadly it did not. SAUSAGE PARTY was jut too vulgar and repetitive to make us even smile much. Plus it's half-baked try at adding some philosophical meaning rang trite and hollow. Maybe we are just too old to find constant profanity and talk of sex amongst food items humorous. Certainly the rest of the 20-something audience found more to love.

What is the last movie that really made you laugh?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Forgotten Movies: LAURA

Well, certainly not forgotten. But I hadn't seen it in 30 years and I was again swept away what must surely be one of the greatest films of the genre. Beautifully cast with Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, and Judith Anderson, Preminger brought a magic touch to it. Such good dialogue and so little fat in it. Great theme song by Raksin with help from Ravel. It couldn't be better.

A little info about the painting here.  

This portrait is truly stunning. But there's more to the story of it. The movie is based on the book by Vera Caspary, published in 1942. The description of the portrait in the book is significantly different than this portrait. Notably, the description reads, in part, "Jacoby had caught the fluid sense of restlessness in her body, perched on the arm of a chair, a pair of yellow gloves in one hand, a green hunter's hat in the other." The difference is significant because the book version of the story paints (if you'll pardon the pun) quite a different picture of the three main characters: Lydecker, McPherson and Laura. In the film, Laura is all feminine elegance (as she is portrayed in the portrait) and McPherson is all masculine bravado. But the book (written by a woman, mind you) emphasized that Laura was a "modern woman" which was code at that time for a woman who lived with the freedoms of a man. And while the movie alludes to McPherson's leg injury, the book tells us that he spent a year in the hospital recuperating and that during that time, he read many books and became more cultured and sensitive, as a result. This book is about two people stepping out of their assigned gender roles and being intrigued by each other as a like-minded, fully evolved human. Part of McPherson's fascination with the portrait (one might assume from context) is that it was NOT traditionally feminine or elegant. Laura has gloves and a hunter's hat, meaning she is ready for sport, not an evening on the town. She is active, athletic. And it is significant that she (and the artist) chose to portray her in this way and NOT in elegant evening wear. So, beautiful as this portrait may be, it is an example of Hollywood watering down an interesting, complex and progressive story into tired old gender cliches. Read the book. It's way more inter