Saturday, 6 April 2013

Look who's here! I'm still here!

Despite the probability of that slightly contrived Stephen Sondheim reference going completely unnoticed I couldn't resist (Follies anyone?). I really am still here. Vaguely. I just wanted to announce what will be a new series on this blog which was really my mum's idea.

We watched "A Star Is Born" again last night and she came up with a great idea for a series of posts. The series consists of the reviews of five backstage movies. Be it the backlots of the movie studios or the wings of a broadway theatre. These five are as follows, and are to be reviewed in this order: All About Eve (1950), Funny Girl (1968), Singing In The Rain (1952), Sunset Boulevard (1950) and concluding with A Star Is Born (1954). The series is going to be called "Into The Heart Of An Artichoke: Uncovering The Darker Side of Showbiz". I know there are many that I've missed out on that list (I just had a pang of conscience when I realised I'd missed out my beloved "Gypsy") But I thought these reflected the broad spectrum of what these films can be like best.

Credit goes to Lejazzhot for the original image.
As usual I can't make any promises about when this series will run exactly, it will be quite erratic but I would like to get all of those films reviewed and compared in the near future. Hope you'll enjoy!


Thursday, 21 March 2013

Kramer Vs Kramer

Hi guys! I'm very much back from my hiatus. I had my exam week which was very stressful, and I also had that monologue acting competition that I was talking about in my last post... Guess what guys. I WON!!!!! Yay! I was so thrilled. Learned from this experience: I would be so bad at oscar acceptance speeches. They called my name as the winner and I went, "ME?" then skipped up to get my award, smiled like a doofus and gave the audience the thumbs up as they clapped me. Sophisticated I know. Anyway, that's my exciting news. But aside from that, I am socked to announce that the era of films I usually watch has recently been extended to include movies from the 1970s through the 80s. Guess who you have to thank for that? MERYL STREEP. Hope you guys wont mind too much... Anyhow, here's Kramer Vs Kramer.

[my gif]
"Jeff, I'm leaving you," is what Jeff Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) is greeted by one day he returns from work. He's just been assigned the most important advertising account of his career. His wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) packed her bags and left him and their young child.

Jeff is left to cope with his son, Billy (Justin Henry), who he's never had time for (he never had time for his wife, either.) It's extremely difficult at first, but they manage to bond together over their mutual loss of their wife/mother. Jeff becomes Billy's mother, father, best friend and protector. But their whole life is thrown off balance when Joanna comes back asking for custody of her child.

Therein starts a court case which delves deep into the emotional traumas that caused the breakup, and a ferocious fight over who has more of a right to Billy. Joanna gives an extremely emotional and heart-wrenching testimony, and so does Jeff. It looks neck in neck. Who will win custody of Billy?

This is a very special film that spends an awful lot of time exploring relationships. It doesn't need a fast paced plot all the time, the actors carry this expertly. Robert Benton, the director and adaptor, had a difficult time convincing Dustin Hoffman to do this film. Dustin was going through a divorce at the time and he felt the original novel and screenplay didn't deal sensitively enough with the subject matter. So they came up with a solution. Get Dustin to write the script with them.

The direction is beautiful. Raw, but still beautiful. Meryl Streep claims he was a very easy going director who very much let the creative juices of the actors flow. She compared it to the directing style of Woody Allan (she was working on Manhattan, 1979, an Kramer Vs Kramer simultaneously) who would stop her mid-take and say "Meryl... There's, there's a comma... in the middle of that sentence." Meryl replied, "Yes?" "Why don't you use it?" Allan said.

Dustin Hoffman is wonderful in this film. He's very sensitive, which is something I don't usually find him. He really is an extremely instinctive actor. However, sometimes this "instinctive-ness" and "improvisation" went a little too far. There are all sorts of stories or Dustin slapping Meryl streep before takes to get her to be cross with him and Dustin smashing glasses in scenes without telling anyone.

[my gif]
Such a method actor. Apparently, though, he really genuinely was angry and disliked Meryl Streep. I mean, you can see it from this picture.

Meryl Streep is fantastic as Joanna. Her court scene is one of the most moving scenes I've ever seen. I'm sorry I just can't deal. Also, the way she is with Justin Henry is the sweetest thing ever. Also I need hair like that now. It's amazing. Oh my god. Seriously, It's my goal. But I really think she's now definitely on my favourites list. She's an incredible actress. Yay Meryl!!!

 [my gifs]

These two are backed by a fabulous supporting cast. Justin Henry who plays Billy is one of the best child actors I've ever seen. So "instinctive" and emotional. Gotta love him. Especially in the famous ice-cream scene.

[my gifs]

Also very good is Jane Alexander, the recently divorced neighbour of Jeff and Joanna. It's not an easy part to play without it seeming self-righteous and she does a great - and humorous - job. Though, she lost out on an academy award for best supporting actress to Meryl Streep for her performance as Joanna. In all honesty there was no-one else that award could possibly have gone to.

All in all, I loved this film. Can't really think of any negatives. Watch it!


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Sun Will Go On Rising And Setting Whether I Fail In Geometry Or Not.

[Source] (Because this blog was in dire need of some Anne Of Green Gables.)

Unfortunately, Anne of Green Gables, this is not always the case. I've been SUPER busy recently. I have a week of mock exams starting on the 4th of March so I've been revising for them and last week I had three evening performances of a show of covers of pop songs. Yesterday I had an improvisation competition, and tomorrow I have a monologue competition which I will talk about later. That's why you haven't seen too much of me around here recently.

I've been revising quite a lot, and also preparing for these shows/competitions. On top of that, yesterday I got ill with a kind of flu thing. WHY? Hopefully I'll be all better for tomorrow. Two things that have weirdly crossed over is my newfound Meryl Streep obsession and the part I'm playing in the monologue competition. I'm playing Isabella from Measure For Measure, the novice nun who is called from her convent to defend her brother who is accused of having sex with a girl out of wedlock. It's a technical misunderstanding. They are technically not married but he thinks they are...

Funnily enough, Meryl Streep played the part of Isabella in Shakespeare In The Park in New York in 1976 with John Cazale (Meryl Streep's long-time partner). I was like, hell yeah, "Meryl, snap!" I've watched several Meryl Streep films recently, Kramer vs Kramer (1978), Sophie's Choice (1982), Silkwood (1983) and half of Out Of Africa (1985). All were great (except Out Of Africa, amidst the romantic scenes with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep what the hell is happening?). Can't wait to watch more! Heartburn might be next...

Isabella is the typical nun-who-shouldn't-really-be-a-nun, a little bit reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn in The Nun's Story. It's one of the most difficult shakespeare parts I've played so far - even in monologue form. Compared to Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, there is a lot more to cover.

Anyway. Here's some nice eye candy of Meryl Streep playing Isabella. All pictures from Simply Streep.

And here's Ingrid as a nun by Andy Warhol!

Anyway. Just wanted to say there might not be consistent posting until about the 8th of March. Will miss yous alls :)


Saturday, 23 February 2013

Gilda (1946) For Fabulous Films Of The Forties Blogathon

This post is for the Classic Movie Blog Association's current blogathon, Fabulous Films Of The Forties. If you haven't already, go and check out the other posts from my fellow CMBA members!

So, I've come out of my mini-hiatus (which should be over soon...) to bring to you a special post about what is probably my favourite film noir ever, starring one of my favourite ever actresses in one of my favourite ever performances. What could be wrong with that? Undoubtedly, the 1940s was the hight of the popularity of the "Film Noir". Dark films filled with shadows and femme fatales (men in trenchcoats don't go amiss either). 

Gilda, directed by Charles Vidor, is the quintessential film noir in every sense. It features a wonderfully adventurous performance from Rita Hayworth in one of the most iconic screen performances ever, Glenn Ford's quietly disturbed portrayal of Gilda's spurned lover, and some of the most beautiful lighting ever to grace the silver screen. That's what I'd like to write about today.

The story is fairly simple. Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is hired by shady casino runner Ballin Mundson (George Macready) to front the casino. He is taken under Mundson's wing and treated as his companion and henchman. 

Mundson comes back from a holiday, quite unexpectedly, with a new wife. When Farrell and Mundson open the door to her boudoir, one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history is created.

We see in Johnny and Gilda's eyes that there is a history there. The rest of the film is spent with Johnny trying to control the passionate and wild Gilda - under orders from his boss - and the two of them struggling with their suppressed love/hate relationship.

Charles Vidor, director of films "Love Me Or Leave Me" and "Cover Girl", masterfully directs this classic. I've never seen a film more beautifully or menacingly lit. His use of shadows to portray the development of characters is incredible. We first see Gilda in a light off-the-shoulder dressing gown, lit in a white wash that makes her skin seem incandescent. As the film progresses, not only the lighting for her, but also her costumes (by Jean Louis), become more seductive and dark.

One thing most people seem to remember from this film is the "Put The Blame On Mame" scene, in which Rita Hayworth performs a very subtle striptease number which only involves the stripping of her glove. The dress and the slinky black gloves have gone down in history for their influence on fashion.

Glenn Ford gives a sterling performance as the fundamentally flawed and unlikeable Johnny Farrell. From the beginning he is a downright cheat and a gambler. You get the strong impression he has driven Gilda slightly insane with his uncertainty and his mood swings. The way that Glenn Ford's face often shows little or no emotion, gives you the exact impression you want from this character.

Rita Hayworth's performance is historic. She was made to play this part of the temptress, Gilda. It's one of the most unapologetically free performances of a woman on film, and the overall impression of her is inescapably of a powerful woman who isn't suppressed by the men around her. Everyone knows that Rita Hayworth is no Ingrid Bergman, she has nowhere near that versatility, but she has the capability to be awe-inspiring in the right thing. I watch this film and at the end, each time, I want to be Gilda. That shouldn't happen, really, but Rita Hayward is so charismatic that you just want to be her. Also her amazing hair doesn't go amiss.

One thing that really irritates me about this movie, however, is that Rita Hayworth doesn't sing her own numbers. What makes this so annoying is the fact that the person who is dubbed in for her sounds a HELL of a lot like Rita Hayworth. So much that I thought it was her for a long time - and was very disappointed when it wasn't. Tell the truth film companies! Pull a Natalie Wood/Marnie Nixon and get someone that sounds nothing like the actor to dub them so at least we know it isn't them. Jeepers.

This is one of my Dad's favourite ever films, so shout out to you and thanks for showing it to me :D


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

So here's to you, Mrs Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know...

The other weekend my sister went to go and see Les Miserable (I watched it too, I'm probably not the right person to talk to about it. Bloody three and a half hours of Russel Crowe walking along window ledges for christ's sake) and while she was out, my parents and I watched The Graduate (1968) directed by Mike Nichols. Needless to say I've been listening to Simon and Garfunkel ever since. Also Dustin Hoffman is SO SMALL IN THIS.

Benjamin Braddock is 20. He's just come home from college, and he's worried about his future. One night at a party, the beautiful middle-aged wife of his father's business partner, Mrs Robinson, convinces Benjamin to drive her home. At her house, Benjamin utters the legendary line, "Mrs Robinson you're trying to seduce me." Later, Mrs Robinson makes clear that she is sexually "available" to Benjamin, which freaks him out.

Despite his doubts, he is bored and has nothing to do, so he takes up Mrs Robinson on her offer. He becomes quiet and reclusive, guilty about his choice. All hell breaks loose when Mrs Robinson's beautiful daughter, Elaine, comes back for a visit from Berkley. Benjamin's parents pester him into taking Elaine out (although Mrs Robinson makes him promise he won't take her out). He falls in love with Eliane.

But when she finds out that he's been having an affair with her mother, she throws him out of her house and goes back to Berkley. He follows her and asks her to marry him. She refuses at first, after her mother told her that Benjamin had raped her (which is obviously a lie). But she comes around to realising the truth and asks him to kiss her.

Mr Robinson find out that Benjamin has come to visit Elaine and threatens to prosecute Benjamin (he was also told the rape story). He takes Elaine out of school to marry family friend, Carl. Benjamin storms the wedding and Elaine runs away with him.

This was a really beautiful film, both visually and emotionally. The topic could have so easily seemed so yucky and seedy, but they handled it delicately. Mike Nichols's direction is wonderful. He got fantastic performances out of all the actors. You keep forgetting that he's one part of the HILARIOUS comedy duo, Nichols and May.

The themes of the film are the lost innocence of youth, and the way youth and "potential" can alienate you from the world. A sort of delayed teen angst is what comes from the story. The scene where he doesn't want to go and see his parents and he stays at the bottom of his pool in a scuba suit just floating to avoid is family.

Dustin Hoffman is perfect as Benjamin. He was convinced that Mike Nichols was looking for a Robert Redford type (in the original novel, Benjamin is described as tall blonde and very American). Mike Nichols said, "Didn't you find the script funny?" Dustin said yes, and Nichols replied, "Well maybe he's Jewish inside." It's the little accents of his performance that stand out. The way he lets out little nervous squeals when he's worried and when he is banging is hands on the church window he just does little focused taps, very neurotic. It goes down a treat.

Anne Bancroft is genius in the role of Mrs Robinson. Everyone from Joan Crawford to Ava Gardner to Jeanne Moreau was tested for the role, but Anne Bancroft simply was Mrs Robinson. The scene in bed where she describes why she got married is very touching. She lets you see just enough vulnerability. She was only 36 when she played the role, but you would never guess. She looks very young at some points and very old at others. She's perfect for Mrs Robinson.

Another sterling performance is Katharine Ross as Mrs Robinson's daughter, Elaine. She's looks just right to be playing the typical kind of "girl next door" character, but she takes it a whole step further than that and makes Elaine very intelligent and sensitive.

The scene at the end is extremely powerful, mainly because she does so little. It's a real lesson, one that I will definitely be taking, in the power in her stillness as an actress. She doesn't have to do a lot to be impactful.

I realise most people have already seen this film, but if you haven't watch it! It's fantastic.