Thursday, June 15, 2017

Some Like It Hot (1959)

These days we are fortunate for the opportunities to see classic films once again in a movie theater. While the films are projected digitally, it does not take away from the theatrical screening experience. Many classic films are as relevant today as ever. Turner Classic Movies is on pretty much all the time in my home. Their partnership with Fathom Events is a true boon to film lovers.

This week, I screened Some Like It Hot for only the second time ever. And it was my first time seeing the movie on the big screen. What really struck me was the amount of innuendos which were cleverly crammed into the movie. I also realized how much more cellatious Lemmon's character was over that of Curtis. I mean, his character was one randy dude!

To briefly recap, two musician bachelors (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) are looking for any opportunity to make money. They discover an opportunity to play with an all female orchestra and decide to dress as women to join them. In the process they become witnesses to a mob hit and remain on the run from some mobsters out to rub them out. During their time performing in Florida (which was actually filmed at the Hotel Coronado in San Diego), both men fall for fellow orchestra member, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe). There are a bunch of rich older bachelors staying at the hotel and one of them falls for Daphne aka Jerry. Jerry then encounters the world of being objectified as a woman as well as it's benefits. Joe works hard to get Sugar, eventually adopting a Cary Grant affect and pretending to be a wealthy oil tycoon. The mob inadvertently catches up to them and hilarity ensues. The (musical?) comedy Some Like It Hot, conjures many images from pop culture with its iconic moments. The most common is Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon dressing as women. Or perhaps Marilyn Monroe singing, "I Wanna Be Loved By You." To me, the most impressive thing about this film from director Billy Wilder is that it basically blew apart what was left of the Hays Code. That list of restrictive, censored topics that for a couple decades were banned from films.

Time has also brought the homosexual themes depicted within the film to the forefront. While I would not say that they were intentionally placed there at the time of production, you can't help but wonder what was going through the mind Jerry's (Lemmon) character. He got so excited when Osgood Fielding III had proposed marriage to her/him. Joe (Curtis) had to remind Jerry that he was actually a man after spending so much time reinforcing to him earlier about being a woman. Was Jerry merely caught up in the role as a woman, or did he actually enjoy the male attention?  Joe goes from being a man pretending to be a woman, only to meet a woman he's interested in and then having to pretend to be an entirely different man to woo her. Crossdressing helped him meet women, but it would not work to close the deal with one. I'm sure there have already been many essays written on this topic. Some of those can be found here. Essentially, the movie hints at homosexuality, studies the male gaze, speaks to female objectification and misogyny, and finally, condemns male insensitivity. Wraps it all into an nice bow.

The whole gangster storyline was good for framing but totally secondary to the story. This element was added by Billy Wilder himself. The original storyline was adapted from a French film called Fanfare For Love from 1936, which followed the story of the men dressing as women but did not feature men on the run as part of the plot.

Fun fact from Wikipeda: Marilyn Monroe worked for 10% of the gross in excess of $4 million, Tony Curtis for 5% of the gross over $2 million and Billy Wilder 17.5% of the first million after break-even and 20% thereafter. The movie made $40 million in it's initial run.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

All About Eve (1950)

There is a list of films that I should have seen by now, but just haven't gotten around to watching. This became glaringly apparent over a decade ago in film school. While my list is shorter, it is certainly still lengthy. One of the films I have been meaning to watch was All About Eve (1950). Luckily, it was this month's film selection for the TCM and Fathom Events collaboration. I couldn't pass up the chance to see this on the big screen.

You've certainly heard the famous line from Ms. Bette Davis, "Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy night!" The movie is a backstage story revolving around aspiring actress Eve Harrington. Looking shabby, Eve shows up in the dressing room of Broadway mega-star Margo Channing, telling a melancholy life story to Margo and her friends. Margo takes Eve under her wing, and it appears that Eve is a conniver that uses Margo. The story twist was unique for it's time, but it is one that has been replicated multiple times since then. Davis's famous "buckle up" line was an admonishment to the crowd at her party, as well as the audience watching the movie, as we are about to see the story arc unfold. And while, the story twist may be familiar, the theme of the story, which is critical of the world of show business, still holds true today. Be careful what you wish for when it comes to fame, because you might just get exactly what you want.

The film set a record at it's time with a 14 Academy Award nominations and one six. Bette Davis did not win for Best Actress, likely due to the fact that both Davis and co-star Anne Baxter were both in the Best Actress category. I'm not alone in stating that this is by far, Davis's best work. Baxter wasn't bad, but her screen time paled in comparison to Bette Davis and those eyes. Interestingly, in the 1970s, the film was made into a musical called Applause and Anne Baxter eventually took over the Davis role, Margot Channing in the show.  
Tonight was also the debut of Feud, the mini-series about What Ever Happened to Baby Jane and the rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. The series has homages to films by both women and even the pilot episode has tributes to All About Eve. Ever since the end of the studio system, we just don't have stars the size of Bette Davis anymore. All About Eve is absolutely a film that anyone who says they love movies, should see. I can't believe I didn't get around to watching this sooner.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

See the Oscar Nominated Shorts Now

This Sunday is the Academy Awards. The Shorts categories are unique because so few people ever actually get to the films. All shorts, live action and animation are available for viewing today On Demand. Below is the trailer.

Shorts®HD is the global home to short film, where short stories come to life in stunning high definition. Shorts®HD obtains only high quality live action, animation, and documentary movies from the world’s most famous film festivals and independent suppliers. Through the acquisition of these films, the channel offers professional short filmmakers an unparalleled commercial medium to develop their careers. ShortsHD™ is available on DIRECTV (Channel 573), and AT&T U-Verse (Channel 1789), US Sonet (Channel 292), CenturyLink prism (1789) and Frontier Communications (Channel 1789).

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Monster Calls (2017)

As I've aged, I do find myself more open to being moved emotionally by movies. I remember back in the summer of 1982 watching E.T. in a crowded theater. I was 6 and everyone but me seemed to be crying during the scene of E.T. dying. I even had my aunt lean over to tell me that it was ok to cry, which I thought was weird since I didn't have anything moving me to tears, there was a fake alien on screen in a dramatic death scene. Maybe it's because I was only 6, with just 84 months of life experience. I really don't remember being emotional in a moving screening until 1994 watching Schindler's List in a sold out theater just after Christmas. That movie moved me to tears.

Fast forward to last night. Yes there have been many other films to effect me emotionally, but last night hit me hard when my kids and I watched A Monster Calls. The movie is based a popular children's fantasy novel that's become required reading for middle school aged children. I had not heard of the book, but I did see the previews which looked regrettably familiar to the recent Spielberg flop, The BFG. However, these are not the same movie and have next to no similarity to one another other than they are both based on popular books and have very large menacing looking but friendly creatures romping about. Otherwise, these are two different movies.

This story follows a young boy with his dying mother coming to terms with the inevitable reality that life goes on, even when loved ones pass away. Children often don't have the ability to cope with the understanding and emotions involved in losing a loved one, especially a parent. In this story, the troubled boy, known mostly around town for having a sick mother, is visited over several nights by a large tree which comes to life and comes to him to tell three metaphorical stories to explain aspects of life to him. The fourth story must be told by the boy to the tree, where the boy is required to share his nightmare. The boy overcomes bullying, a demanding grandmother, an absent father and losing his mother.

The boy, Conor O'Malley is played by Lewis MacDougall, who has a face for film. Felicity Jones is the mother with the terminal illness. With an inconsistent British accent is Sigourney Weaver. Liam Neeson voices and via motion capture, portrays the giant humanoid yew tree who visits Conor nightly. I brought my 10 and 11 year old children. The younger child was somewhat bored because of the slower pacing of the film but in the end, we discussed the movie and they both walked away with a strong message from it.

Lastly, getting back my mention of feeling emotional, I lost my mother unexpectedly when I was 23 and she was just 44. Any films with mom's dying get to me, this film particularly hit me because the boy's nightmare is losing his mom. My childhood nightmare was my mother dying and it eventually came true, while I was no longer a child, I still could not have been emotionally prepared for what I experienced with her sudden death. There was a very cathartic element in this movie for me, which caused me to weep during the film with large tears rolling down my cheeks. It truly is rare for me to me to experience any emotions anymore, especially as strongly as A Monster Calls caused me to feel last night.