Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fwd: Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge


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Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge


#1,594. Blue Jasmine (2013)

Posted: 27 Dec 2014 09:58 PM PST


Directed By: Woody Allen

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins




Trivia: Louis C.K. originally auditioned for the part played by Andrew Dice Clay. Woody Allen felt that C.K. was too nice to play the role and offered him another part








Woody Allen continues his string of recent hits with 2013's Blue Jasmine, the story of a woman who's lost everything and is trying to get back on her feet, yet is unable to escape the demons of her past.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) had it all. The wife of a successful investment manager named Hal (Alec Baldwin), she lived in an apartment on Park Avenue, wore expensive jewelry, and hosted swanky parties attended by all the best people. That all ended the day her husband was arrested by the FBI, accused of bilking innocent men and women out of their hard-earned money. Soon after he's taken into custody, Hal commits suicide in jail, and Jasmine, flat-broke and with no idea what she's going to do with the rest of her life, suffers a nervous breakdown.

Hoping for a fresh start, Jasmine hops a plane to San Francisco and moves in with her estranged sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), who, along with her ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), was one of the many victims of Hal's fraudulent business practices. A cashier at a neighborhood grocery store, Ginger and her two young sons live in a small apartment, yet despite her meager surroundings she welcomes her troubles sister with open arms. Naturally, Jasmine doesn't approve of Ginger's tiny abode, nor does she think too highly of her new boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale). Determined to become an interior designer, Jasmine lands a job working as a receptionist at a Dentist's office to pay for her computer classes (she plans to take online decorating courses, but doesn't know the first thing about computers). At a party one afternoon, Jasmine meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a diplomat with political aspirations, and before long the two fall in love. But try as she might, Jasmine can't forget the past, which haunts her on a daily basis.

Like his idol, Ingmar Bergman, Woody Allen has shown an affinity for strong female characters over the years, and the woman at the center of Blue Jasmine is no exception. A former socialite who'd grown accustomed to her upper-class New York existence, Jasmine suddenly finds herself living in one of the poorer sections of San Francisco. Though grateful to her sister for taking her in, she can't help but criticize Ginger's lifestyle, and is especially harsh when discussing the men in her life (from the moment she meets him, it's obvious Jasmine doesn't care for Chili). But thanks to the film's numerous flashback scenes (which detail her time in New York before things fell apart), we see that Jasmine's taste in men, though admittedly more refined than Ginger's, isn't all that great, either (besides being a crook, Hal was also a womanizer who constantly cheated on her). Along with revealing Jasmine's past, these flashbacks also shed light on her state of mind, which becomes increasingly more erratic as the story progresses (at times, her recollections are far too painful, causing Jasmine to occasionally talk to herself). Like the character of Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, Jasmine is a tortured soul unable to let go of a past she continues to idolize.

The entire cast of Blue Jasmine is exceptional. Sally Hawkins shines as Ginger, a woman who begins to take stock of her own life once her sister arrives on the scene, and Alec Baldwin is near-perfect as Jasmine's deceptively charming husband. One of the movie's biggest surprises (for me, anyway) was the work of bad-boy comedian Andrew Dice Clay, who, despite appearing in only a few scenes, makes a lasting impression as Ginger's ex-husband. Yet as good as everyone else is, Blue Jasmine belongs to Cate Blanchett, who convincingly portrays a woman unraveling before our very eyes (she'd win both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her turn in this film).

Yet another feather in the cap of Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine ranks alongside Match Point, Vicky Christina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris as one of the director's best offerings of the new millennium.







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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fwd: Numerical Proof that 'Boyhood' and 'Transparent' Were Critics' Overwhelming 2014 Favorites


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Dec. 23, 2014

Numerical Proof that 'Boyhood' and 'Transparent' Were Critics' Overwhelming 2014 Favorites

by Sam Adams

Does the overlap between Top 10 lists mean there are too many of them?

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Matango (1963)

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#1,590. Matango (1963)

Posted: 23 Dec 2014 08:53 PM PST


Directed By: Ishirô Honda

Starring: Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno, Hiroshi Koizumi



Trivia: The film was never released in mainstream American theaters, but probably did have limited exhibition in Japanese-American communities on the West Coast







The creative mind behind such legendary movie monsters as Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra, Japanese director Ishirō Honda brings an entirely new kind of creature to the big screen in 1963's Matango (aka Attack of the Mushroom People), while at the same time demonstrating that mankind is, on occasion, the scariest beast of them all.

A yacht belonging to millionaire Masafumi Kasai (Yoshio Tsuchiya) is caught in a storm. Badly damaged as a result, the ship comes to rest on a deserted island, forcing Kasai and his passengers, including college professor Kenji (Akira Kubo); Kenji's pretty student Akiko (Miki Yashiro); writer Yoshida (Hiroshi Tachikawa); the boat's captain, Naoyuki (Hiroshi Koizumi), and beautiful singer Mami (Kumi Mizuno), to seek shelter until the yacht can be repaired. While searching the island, the group comes across an abandoned science vessel, covered from top to bottom with a bizarre sort of fungus. After locating the captain's log, they discover that the ship's crew was investigating the island's unusual mushroom formations when they mysteriously disappeared. Realizing their supplies won't hold out for long, Kasai and the others start looking for food, only to find very little is available, Do they dare eat the island's vast array of mushrooms, which by all accounts possess a power nobody fully understands?

Many early scenes, including the storm at sea and the group's arrival on the island, set an ominous tone, which grows even more intense the moment the disabled science ship is discovered. Aside from the fungus and mold that's overtaken the entire vessel, there are occasional sightings of a strange creature lurking in its corridors, which may or may not be human. But as Matango is quick to point out, the biggest threat its protagonists are likely to face comes from within. To avoid starving to death, the film's characters start turning on one another, allowing their most primitive instincts to rise to the surface. Food is continuously stolen from a central holding area, while sailor Senzô Koyama (Kenji Sahara), instead of sharing them with the group, sells the dozen or so turtle eggs he found to Kasai for an exorbitant amount of money. The worse things get, the more violent and visceral the characters become, resulting in a tangible sense of dread that escalates with each successive scene. By the time the film's creatures enter the picture (looking pretty gruesome thanks to some effective make-up), the situation has already advanced beyond the point of no return.

A grim, foreboding tale of man's inhumanity to man, Matango is a rare monster movie in that its main characters prove much more frightening than any creature they're likely to encounter.







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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

London in the Raw (1965)

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#1,589. London in the Raw (1965)

Posted: 22 Dec 2014 05:00 PM PST


Directed By: Arnold Louis Miller

Starring: David Gell, Emmett Hennessy



Tag line: "The world's greatest city laid bare. Thrill to its gay excitement, its bright lights, but be shocked by the sin in its shadows!"

Trivia: This movie was inspired by the success of Mondo Cane







Inspired by the success of 1962's Mondo Cane, director Arnold Louis Miller's London in the Raw is a pseudo-documentary that takes us on a whirlwind tour of the great city during the Swinging '60's, everything from restaurants and nightclubs to Beatnik hangouts, all the while exploring sections of London you'd have never found in a travel guide.

Described by narrator David Gell as "a city solidly encamped on the banks of the Thames for 2,000 years", London is, as the film's tagline boasts, "laid bare" in this fascinating motion picture, which at times is as much a straight-up exploitation flick as it is an informative documentary. The movie begins innocently enough with some exterior shots of a Public school, during which narrator Gell praises the British educational system. London in the Raw then makes a quick stop at a clothing store, where an elderly gentleman is being fit for a bright red hunting jacket. From there, the film veers off in a new, and much seedier, direction, stopping at a betting house where you can put money down on the horse races, something that, thanks to what we're told was "recent legislation", is now 100% legal (a few years earlier, gambling facilities like this operated outside the law). In the very next scene, however, we meet a bona-fide lawbreaker: a vagrant playing a tin whistle on the side of the road who could be arrested at any moment for blocking the flow of pedestrian traffic. As he performs for the passersby, a prostitute sticks her head out a 2nd-floor window and beckons to a man on the street, who Gell says, tongue firmly planted in cheek, is "a friend" of hers. This entire scene, designed to draw attention to the laws the police choose to enforce as opposed to those they turn a blind eye to, is one of the movie's more humorous.

Throughout the remainder of its running time, London in the Raw continues its expose of both the "respectable" side of town (a visit to a hair loss center features a graphic, and kinda gross, hair plug procedure) and the back alleys where courtesans and belly dancers apply their trades. Once in a while, the filmmakers discover a location that's downright bizarre, like the restaurant where patrons, after eating their meal, can, if they like, sketch the nude model sitting on-stage. In many ways a milder version of 1975's Australia After Dark, London in the Raw guides us into corners of London that otherwise might have never been explored, and isn't afraid to shine a light on some of the city's shadier sections.







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Saturday, December 20, 2014

GREMLINS: 80'S Classic

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#1,586. Gremlins (1984)

Posted: 19 Dec 2014 11:20 PM PST


Directed By: Joe Dante

Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton


Tag line: "Cute. Clever. Mischievous. Intelligent. Dangerous"

Trivia: Originally planned and scheduled for a Christmas release, the film was rushed into production shortly after Warner Bros. found out that it had no major competition against Paramount's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or Columbia's Ghostbusters for the summer movie season.





Watching Joe Dante's Gremlins during its theatrical run in the summer of 1984 proved an interesting experience. A movie chock full of dark humor, it gave most audience members plenty to laugh about. Unfortunately, I couldn't join in on the fun. Don't get me wrong: I really liked Gremlins (still do, actually), but its title creatures was far too disturbing for this young viewer at the time, and as a result I didn't so much as crack a smile during the entire picture.

As the movie opens, inventor Rand Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is strolling through Chinatown, on the lookout for the perfect Christmas gift for his son, Billy (Zach Galligan). In one out-of-the-way trinket shop, he stumbles across a unique creature called a Mogwai, which he believes will make a good household pet. According to legend, there are three rules everyone who owns a Mogwai must obey: 1) Never expose it to light, 2) Never get it wet, and 3) Never, ever feed it after midnight. But rules are made to be broken, and before Billy knows what's hit him, his Mogwai (who he lovingly nicknames "Gizmo") has spawned a number of duplicates (getting a Mogwai wet makes them multiply), which then mutate before his very eyes (feed them after midnight, and the Mogwai transform into green, scaly creatures with a bad attitude and a penchant for destruction). It isn't long before Billy's hometown of Kingston Falls is overrun with these monsters, and it's up to him and his new girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) to end the reign of terror once and for all.

Despite the fact the gremlins are responsible for all sorts of atrocities (including murder), director Dante clearly intended the film's later sequences to be comedic in nature. While hanging out at a bar where Kate works, the little green bastards have one hell of a wild party, during which they pretty much trash the place (one gremlin in a trenchcoat even flashes Kate as she's scrambling to keep the drinks coming). Still, no matter how funny the film tried to be, I simply couldn't laugh. The reason for this, I think, is that I genuinely liked Kingston Falls, the small town at the center of it all, a place populated by mostly good people (the exception being Polly Holliday's Ruby Deagel, a miserly old broad who, before long, gets what's coming to her). How could I giggle and guffaw as these terrible monsters destroyed this peaceful town, and at Christmastime, no less?

Turns out I wasn't the only one who reacted this way. Along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (released that same summer), Gremlins is credited with helping the MPAA adopt a new rating, PG-13, signifying a film that, while not overly explicit, may contains scenes that very young viewers will find hard to handle. Nowadays, I think the movie is hilarious (my favorite sequence has the gremlins piling into a theater to watch Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), but in June of 1984, it was much too intense for me, and while others in the audience were definitely amused, I sat there horrified by what I was seeing. This may not have been the reaction Joe Dante was shooting for, but I'm betting he'd be somewhat pleased to learn that his "comedy" bothered me so deeply.







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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Zeppelin (1971)

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#1,582. Zeppelin (1971)

Posted: 15 Dec 2014 09:29 PM PST


Directed By: Etienne Perier

Starring: Michael York, Elke Sommer, Peter Carsten




Tag line: "The Great War's most explosive moment!"

Trivia: The air combat scenes were filmed using Lynn Garrison's collection of World War I replica aircraft, originally assembled for 20th Century Fox's The Blue Max






I'm sure that on paper, 1971's Zeppelin had all the makings of a rousing adventure film, telling a World War One era spy story in which an experimental German dirigible is sent on a secret mission to invade Great Britain. To its credit, the movie does feature moments of genuine excitement (especially in its last half), but as an espionage thriller, Zeppelin fails to deliver on just about every level.

It's 1915, and England is under a constant threat of attack from above. In an attempt to destroy the country's morale, German airships, hiding in the clouds and flying thousands of feet higher than any airplane, have been bombing London on a nightly basis, a dilemma the British have thus far been unable to solve. Enter Lt. Geoffrey Richter-Douglas (Michael York), an officer assigned to a low-level clerical position in London. Born and raised in Germany, Richter-Douglas still has relatives in his former homeland, most of whom are aristocrats. In fact, he's so missed by some of his cousins that the family has sent Stephanie (Alexandra Stewart), a beautiful German spy working undercover in England, to lure him home.

Loyal to the Crown, Richter-Douglas immediately reports this to his commanding officer, Captain Whitney (Rupert Davies), only to learn his superiors also want him to return to Germany, where, posing as a British traitor, he can observe first-hand the construction of a new dirigible, the LZ-36, designed by his old friend Professor Altschul (Marius Goring) and the professor's assistant / wife, Erika (Elke Sommer). Once back in Germany, Richter-Douglas wins the confidence of Colonel Hirsch (Anton Diffring), an intelligence officer who does more than show the new arrival the LZ-36; he invites him along on its maiden voyage, a top-secret mission that, if successful, will force the British to sue for peace. During the flight, Richter-Douglas makes every attempt to warn the British of the impending attack, but will his messages reach the proper authorities in time?

Zeppelin begins well enough, showing us one of the many air raids that have been plaguing London since the start of the war. The movie also finishes in grand fashion, giving us a final half hour or so of non-stop action. The problem is what filled the time in-between, which, despite its promising story of spies and double agents, never gathered enough steam to capture my interest. Even Richter-Douglas's "escape" to Germany, during which British troops (to make it look like a genuine defection) open fire on him, comes across as flat. On top of this, Zeppelin has some internal continuity issues that are impossible to ignore, including Richter-Douglas' supposed fear of heights (after establishing this bit of information early on, the film all but ignores it once he climbs aboard the LZ-36) and, even more glaring, the issue of the dirigible's weight restrictions (before taking off, both Erica and the ship's Captain, Von Gorian, played by Andrew Kier, complain that bringing Richter-Douglas along unannounced will dangerously increase the ship's weight, which had been meticulously calculated down to the last pound. Several scenes later, the airship docks with a boat in the middle of the ocean, at which point about 2 or 3 dozen additional German soldiers climb on-board. Surprisingly, nobody discusses weight in this sequence).

In a way, I hate telling you to avoid Zeppelin, due mostly to its effective battle scenes and the superb performances turned in by its cast (Michael York never struck me as a possible leading man in a war film, but he does a fine job nonetheless). Yet I can't really bring myself to recommend it, either, because of the reasons I mentioned above. I can tell you that there may come a time when I'd be willing to watch Zeppelin again.

But it won't be anytime soon.







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Thursday, December 11, 2014

THE STREETS OF NEW YORK (1901)

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#1,577. The Streets of New York (1901, 1903)

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 07:45 PM PST


Directed By: Edwin Porter, Ken Jacobs, A.E. Weed

Starring: A.C. Abadie, Florence Georgie






Trivia: All 3 of these short films have been preserved by the Library of Congress








The other day, Malky Hughes, a Twitter follower of mine, sent me a link to a 3-minute Youtube video that fascinated me. Produced in 1901, this short, simply titled Jamaica Street, Glasgow, is a documentary-style movie in which a camera, set up on the side of the road, captures people going about their daily business, traveling along what must have been the busiest street in all of Scotland (you can check it out by clicking here). After watching this brief film, I started wondering if somewhere in my large collection of DVDs and Blu-Rays I had similar shorts, just waiting for me to discover them. Sure enough, I did; part of the More Treasures from the American Archives collection, The Streets of New York presents a trio of movies, each shot in the opening days of the 20th Century, that act as a window into the past, allowing modern viewers to step back in time and experience a slice of life from an era long gone.

The oldest of the three, What Happened on Twenty Third Street, New York City (1901) was produced by the Edison Company and directed by Edwin Porter (The Great Train Robbery). Focusing our attention down the street, we watch passersby travel from one end to the other, unaware that two Edison employees (A.C. Abadie and Florence Georgie) were about to stage a joke sure to bring a smile to the faces of the lucky gentlemen walking by (think Marilyn Monroe and the subway grate in 1955's The Seven Year Itch). Next up is At the Foot of the Flatiron, also shot along 23rd street near what, at the time, was the largest skyscraper in New York (nicknamed the Flatiron for its triangular shape). Produced by the Biograph Company in 1903 on a very windy Autumn day, we watch as dozens of men and women stroll hurriedly past, all holding onto their hats out of fear of losing them (one unfortunate guy should have held his a bit tighter). Finishing things off is 1903's New York City "Ghetto" Fish Market, for which Edison sent a cameraman to a Jewish neighborhood to capture fish vendors selling their wares to a hungry public. Shot a few floors above the action, this is the only film where the camera moves (panning right to left), which obviously caught the attention of a few people down below (one guy, right at the end, thumbs his nose defiantly at the audience).

These three motion pictures are well over a hundred years old, featuring men, women, and even children who have long since shuffled off this mortal coil (anyone born the day they were made would be at least 111 right now). Most of us think of movies as a form of entertainment, while some appreciate their artistic merits. But films like these serve an even greater purpose, forever preserving a moment in time (moments that, admittedly, wouldn't have mattered much had there not been a motion picture camera present to capture them) and allowing us to experience what those who went before us experienced. Film is, indeed, a great art form and a very entertaining medium, but it's also an invaluable tool for historians. Thanks to the movies in The Streets of New York, as well as Jamaica Street, Glasgow, the mysteries of the past are now a little less mysterious.













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BBC FILMS OF ALAN CLARKE

<center>if charlie parker was a gunslinger,<br>there'd be a whole lot of dead copycats</center>


Illusion Travels By Streetcar #40: The BBC Films of Alan Clarke (1969-1975)

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 09:00 PM PST


The cast for episode #40:

John A. Riley
Brian Risselada
Ryan Sarnowski
Tom Sutpen

This episode was recorded on December 4, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fwd: Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge




Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge


#1,576. True Grit (2010)

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 10:47 AM PST


Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld





Tag line: "Punishment comes one way or another"

Trivia: Fifteen thousand girls applied for the role of the young Mattie Ross







Between them, Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon have garnered 9 Academy Award nominations (six for Bridges, including a win as Best Actor for 2010's Crazy Heart, and 3 for Damon, though his only Oscar was for co-writing the screenplay for 1997's Good Will Hunting). Yet as good as they both are in the Coen Brothers' 2010 remake of True Grit, the film's best performance is delivered by a teenage girl making her big-screen debut.

The father of 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) has been killed by a man in his employ named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), who has thus far avoided capture. In an effort to bring him to justice, Mattie enlists the help of Rooster Cogburn (Bridges), a hard-drinking U.S. Marshal who shoots first and asks questions later. Along with Texas Ranger LeBouef (Damon), who informs them that Chaney is also wanted in Waco for the murder of a U.S. Senator, Mattie and Cogburn head deep into Choctaw Indian territory, where it's believed the fugitive has teamed up with outlaw Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper). Will Rooster Cogburn get his man, or will Tom Chaney once again slip away, perhaps never to be seen again?

In the original 1969 version of True Grit, John Wayne portrayed the ornery Rooster Cogburn, a role that landed him his one and only Academy Award for Best Actor. But with all due respect to the Duke, Bridges takes things a step further, adding dimensions and layers to the character that the '69 film never bothered exploring. The first time we meet Rooster, he's testifying in court, telling of how he was forced to shoot two men in self-defense (a story the opposing attorney picks apart during his cross-examination). At times, Rooster is downright cold-blooded; while questioning a dying man (Domhnall Gleeson), Rooster promises to give the poor guy a proper burial in exchange for information. Later on, when they're preparing to leave, Mattie reminds him of this promise, to which Cogburn replies that the ground is too hard, adding if he truly wanted to be buried he wouldn't have gotten himself killed in the winter. Yet despite his rough edges, we admire Cogburn's tenacity, and are convinced he's the right man for the job. Matt Damon is also strong as the boastful Texas Ranger LeBouef, who, while obviously more intelligent than Rooster Cogburn, isn't quite as good a lawman (at one point, he allows himself to be surrounded by Pepper and his men, forcing a reluctant Cogburn to come to his rescue).

Most impressive of all, though, is young Hailee Steinfeld, who delivers a performance for the ages as Mattie Ross, a no-nonsense youngster who speaks her mind and never backs down; early on, she barters with Col. Stonehill (Dakin Matthews), a businessman from whom her father purchased several ponies just prior to his death. Due to her age and the fact that she's a girl, Col. Stonehill doesn't take Mattie seriously at first, offering her $100 as reparation for the horse Chaney stole (which belonged to her late father). His carefree attitude soon gives way to genuine concern, however, when Mattie instead demands $325 for the horse as well as the ponies, which are no longer needed. When Mattie threatens to contact her family's lawyer to resolve the issue, Col. Stonehill acquiesces, paying the full $325 and looking as if he'd just gone 10 rounds with the Heavyweight Champion of the World. With a confidence that actresses twice her age rarely display, Steinfeld steals every scene, and is, at all times, the film's most fascinating character. Along with its excellent performances, True Grit is also a beautifully shot motion picture, with cinematographer Roger Deakins capturing images that are among the finest of his career (one sequence in particular, where Rooster and Mattie meet up with a traveling doctor in the middle of the woods, a gentle snow falling all around them as they talk, will take your breath away).

It's been years since I've seen the original True Grit, but I do remember it being a very good movie. With their 2010 update, the Coen Brothers have taken this "very good movie" and turned it into a masterpiece.







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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Miracle on XXXIV St.

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#1,573. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Posted: 06 Dec 2014 05:28 PM PST


Directed By: George Seaton

Starring: Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara, John Payne



Tag line: "Capture the spirit of Christmas with this timeless classic!"

Trivia: Despite being set during the Christmas season, Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck insisted that this movie be released in May






One of the most endearing of all Christmas films, Miracle on 34th Street is as joyous and uplifting a motion picture as any the grand old Holiday ever produced.

Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), an executive with Macy's Department Store in New York, finds herself in a jam when the actor hired to play Santa in the Thanksgiving Day Parade shows up drunk. In dire need of a new Santa, she recruits a kindly old gentleman off the street (one who comes equipped with has his own white beard). Impressed with his performance during the parade, Mr. R.H. Macy himself (Harry Antrim) orders Doris to hire this "Santa" to act as the store's official St. Nicholas for the upcoming Holiday season. And who is this actor, you might ask? Why, it's none other than Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), or at least that's who he claims to be (according to his employment records, Kris lives in the North Pole and lists Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and the rest as his next of kin). Despite his perceived delusions of grandeur, Kris proves popular with the kiddies, including Doris' daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) who, though initially skeptical, comes to believe Kris is, indeed, the real Santa Claus.

Unfortunately, some adults have a different opinion of him. Mr. Sawyer (Porter Hall), an employee of Macy's who, at Doris' request, gives Kris a psychological evaluation, thinks he's mentally disturbed and a possible threat to others. Even Doris, who likes Kris, doesn't believe him when he says he's Santa. It isn't long before poor Kris is dragged to Bellevue Hospital, where there's talk of having him committed for good. In an effort to prevent this from happening, lawyer Fred Gailey (John Payne), a neighbor and close friend of Doris', agrees to represent Kris during a hearing to determine whether or not he's to be committed. In a surprise move, Gailey says that not only is Kris perfectly sane, he is, in fact, the one and only Santa Claus! But even if his claim is true, how exactly does Galey go about proving it?

Edmund Gwenn is positively charming as Kris Kringle, the man who may very well be Jolly old St. Nick, and features prominently in some of the film's best moments (aside from the opening scenes that take place during the parade, like when Kris angrily confronts the drunken Santa, there's a later sequence where he teaches Susan how to use her imagination, convincing the young girl to parade around the apartment acting like a monkey). A kind soul who genuinely loves children, Kris Kringle is more than a character in a movie; he's the embodiment of the Christmas spirit, displaying all the compassion and warmth that most people associate with the Holiday season (a scene in which he speaks Dutch to a young girl who doesn't understand English will melt your heart). By the end of the film, we want to believe Edmund Gwenn's Kris really is who he claims to be. And that, my friends, is the true magic of Miracle on 34th Street: it makes believers of us all!

A picture that should be on everyone's holiday watch list, Miracle on 34th Street is as delightful a movie as you're likely to ever see.







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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

1951 version of "A Christmas Carol."

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Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge


#1,568. A Christmas Carol (1951)

Posted: 01 Dec 2014 06:30 PM PST


Directed By: Brian Desmond-Hurst

Starring: Alastair Sim, Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison



Tag line: "Now! The story that has brought joy to millions! A new screen triumph!"

Trivia: This film was released in Great Britain under its original title, Scrooge







As I mentioned in my write-up of 1984's A Christmas Carol, that movie will forever be my favorite take on Dickens' classic tale. That said, I also hold a special place in my heart for 1951's A Christmas Carol (released as Scrooge in the UK), which is as emotionally rewarding as any version ever produced.

It's Christmastime in Victorian London, and the only person not celebrating is Ebenezer Scrooge (Alistair Sim). A mean-spirited miser whose only obsession is his money-changing business, Scrooge refuses to help the poor, and is even cold towards his nephew, Fred (Brian Worth), the only living relative he has left. In fact, it's only begrudgingly that he allows his sole employee, Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns), to have Christmas Day off!

But this Holiday season has something special in store for Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge. Shortly after arriving home on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is haunted by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern), who tells him he must change his stingy ways and start tending to his real "business": the welfare of Mankind. To this end, Marley informs his associate that, during the night, he'll be visited by three spirits: the ghosts of Christmas Past (Michael Dolen), Present (Francis de Wolff) and Future (C. Konarski), all of whom will work in unison to show Scrooge the error of his ways. Will Scrooge learn to open his heart to the world, or is he destined to die alone… and despised?

One way this version of A Christmas Carol differs from the '84 film is the amount of time it spends with the Ghost of Christmas Past. Approximately half the picture (perhaps more) is dedicated to Scrooge's visit to his younger self (played by George Cole), showing us the loving relationship he had with his sister Fan (Carol Marsh), including a scene where Fan is on her deathbed, at which point the elderly Scrooge finally hears his sister's dying wish (one of the film's most poignant moments). As with the '84 movie, Scrooge is also forced to re-experience his whirlwind romance with Alice (Rona Anderson), a penniless girl to whom he was engaged prior to making his fortune; as well as his time spent as an apprentice at the shop owned by the kindly Mr. Fezziwig (Roddy Hughes), who tried to teach Scrooge that there was more to life than money.

But the '51 movie offers us a little more besides, such as the backdoor dealings that made Scrooge and Marley partners, and how, years later, Scrooge refused to visit the dying Marley until the day's business had concluded. These scenes set in the past shows us a kinder Scrooge, but they also reveal how his heart was hardened to the world, and the shame of it all is too much for the older Scrooge to bear (he's continually asking the Ghost of Christmas Past to cease the visions and return him home). The movie does spend some time in the present, including a sequence at Bob Cratchit's house featuring his sickly son, Tiny Tim (Glyn Dearman); and the scenes set in the future are every bit as chilling as they were in the '84 version, but it's Scrooge's past that made him the man he is, and this film takes its time unveiling the events that transformed a confused young man into an angry older one.

Alistair Sim is remarkable as Scrooge (both when he's mean and when he's a changed man), and an added sequence at the end with his housekeeper, Mrs. Dillber (Kathleen Harrison), starts Scrooge's Christmas Day reformation off on a humorous note. But it's the depth of feeling the movie stirs in its audience, helped along by Scrooge's visit to the past, which resonates strongest. A Christmas Carol has always been a moving, life-affirming story, and thanks to Alistair Sim and his wonderful co-stars, this particular version is guaranteed to move you to tears.







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Monday, December 1, 2014

This Box (of) Rocks

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Date: Dec 1, 2014 9:09 AM
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Brave New Films
Dear Terry --

The easiest gift you will give this Cyber Monday!

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Order today, shipping included.

Thanks for all that you do.

BRAVE NEW FILMS

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Friday, November 28, 2014

THE PINK PANTHER (1963)

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Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge


#1,564. The Pink Panther (1963)

Posted: 27 Nov 2014 10:45 PM PST


Directed By: Blake Edwards

Starring: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner



Tag line: "You only live once... so see The Pink Panther twice!!!"

Trivia: Yves Saint Laurent created the gowns for Capucine and Claudia Cardinale. This was the designer's first Hollywood film project







The majority of the Pink Panther sequels, from 1964's A Shot in the Dark all the way up to 1978's The Revenge of the Pink Panther, put the focus squarely on Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the bumbling French detective played by Peter Sellers. This is what makes The Pink Panther, the 1963 original, such an interesting motion picture; unlike the other entries in the series, Clouseau is merely a supporting character in this film. In fact, you might even say he's the villain of the piece.

Despite his worldly demeanor, British playboy Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven) is, in reality, The Phantom, a notorious thief whose specialty is fine jewelry. In an interesting twist, Sir Charles' accomplice and lover, the beautiful Simone (Capucine), is actually the wife of Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Sellers), the very man who has sworn to bring The Phantom to justice! All three converge on a ski resort in the small Italian town of Cortina d'Ampezzo, where Princess Dala (Claudia Cardinale), owner of the fabled Pink Panther diamond, is vacationing. In an effort to steal the Pink Panther, Sir Charles cozies up to the Princess, only to discover he actually has feelings for her. This, combined with the sudden and unexpected arrival of Sir Charles' American nephew George (Robert Wagner), puts the entire plan in jeopardy. What's more, Clouseau, who has no idea his wife is deceiving him, believes he's closing in on the Phantom, and, in an attempt to capture him, doubles the guard around the Pink Panther. Unbeknownst to all, someone else is also after the diamond, resulting in a weekend none of them will soon forget.

Directed by Blake Edwards, The Pink Panther is a sophisticated caper comedy, with David Niven at his dashing best as the worldly Sir Charles. The scenes in which he's trying to woo the Princess have an almost regal feel to them, and his ability to remain calm in any situation is the mark of a true gentleman. Yet as debonair as Niven is in the role of Sir Charles, The Pink Panther belongs to a bumbling idiot, namely Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Despite playing what was essentially a supporting character, Peter Sellers was given ample opportunity throughout The Pink Panther to show the world how gifted a comedian he was; at one point, Clouseau burns his fingers on a fireplace, then tries to cool them in a beer stein that his associate Tucker (Colin Gordon) is drinking from (naturally, his hand gets stuck in it). Yet as funny as the slapstick and pratfalls are, Clouseau's best scenes take place in the hotel room he shares with his wife (one in particular, where Simone is trying to conceal the fact that both Sir Charles and George are hiding in the room, is absolutely hilarious).

Though initially intended as a vehicle for Niven, The Pink Panther will instead be remembered as the film that introduced Jacques Clouseau to the movie-going public, thus earning it a sacred place in the Pantheon of comedy history.







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