Jumping on the bandwagon (and NOT) with my 2008 movie list

So, like a lot of people at the end of the year, I'm making up a list of movies for 2008. I looked through this list of 2008 releases to see how many I've watched. Any guesses? It's a whopping three! I saw:

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
Iron Man (unfortunately)
WALL-E (a couple times)

(I do still want to see some more on this list, like Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.)

Yes, three movies in a year would be rather pathetic for a movie blogger, but I did watch tons of other, older movies. This just goes to show a few things about me. Firstly, I am out of the habit of seeing movies in the theater. It used to be an almost weekly event for me, but living in NY for a while (with low funds and high ticket prices) cured me of that. I had to get more selective about what I watched, and became more content to wait to see things when they came out on video.

Also, I think it's possible that I'm just not a movie critic at heart. Sure, I enjoy ripping a bad movie to shreds and analyzing all the details of a good movie, but I'm not trying to be the next Roger Ebert or anything. Nobody pays me to sit through a crappy movie, and if they offered to I would probably tell them no anyway! I don't watch movies that I think from the start will stink. I also don't usually like being shocked, scared, or offended, which for me rules out (even popular) films with lots of language, sex, and violence.

Finally, this just reinforces my stand as a classic movie lover. While I only managed to see three new releases this year, I did see many new-to-me classic movies. Although I wasn't keeping track and therefore may be leaving some out, here's a list of old movies I sought out or discovered in 2008 (links are to my reviews):

Boomerang! (1947)
The Doll
The Grapes of Wrath
Jane Eyre (1944)
Rachel and the Stranger
The Thief
The Thin Man
The War of the Worlds (1953)
Witness for the Prosecution

Not that I didn't watch any newer movies, here's a few more recent movies that I watched in 2008:

Across the Universe
Eat Drink Man Woman
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
P.S. I Love You

I watched these newer ones with more mixed results than the older movies. I also re-watched tons of favorites, as I do every year, but I won't even try to include them here. So, that's my list. Where else could you find WALL-E and The Grapes of Wrath together for 2008?


How did you get into classic movies?

The poll is closed and the results are in. In answer to the above question, 8% of respondents got into classic movies thanks to school or a film class, 33% got started with recommendations from friends or family, and the majority (50%) found old movies on TV. That leaves another 8% that fell in love with classic movies some other way. (Yeah, that only adds up to 99%, but that's the numbers my poll gave me.)

This brings up other questions that can't be so easily gotten in a click-to-answer poll:

For those that found old movies on TV, what channel were you watching? TCM, AMC, or just a late-night showing of something classic?

For those who didn't find their answer on the poll, how did you discover classic movies? Video rental? Something else I haven't thought of?

For everyone: Was there one movie you can point to as being the first old movie you really got into? A movie that made you take notice and think, what other wonderful classics have I been missing?

As for me, I grew up watching old movies, so my answer would be family recommendations. But I've also benefited from video rentals and old movies on TV (especially TCM) for rounding out my classic movie knowledge. There are so many movies I have seen so many times since I was young that I can't remember my first reactions to them (Citizen Kane, Some Like it Hot, The Maltese Falcon) but there are a few that I remember discovering later, sometimes on my own, and loving the fact that I found them (The Hustler, Out of the Past, The Major and the Minor).

Whether you answered in the original poll or not, feel free to weigh in with your answers here.


My answer to the 20 Actresses Meme: I like Actors better

There's a 20 favorite actresses meme going around. It started at The Film Experience blog. I've had a terrible time trying to come up with a list of my own. Not because there are so many actresses out there, but because I've realized that there aren't a lot of actresses I think are really great. How can this be? I don't know. Maybe I am jealous watching someone else get the leading man of my dreams. Maybe I am jealous of really beautiful women. Maybe as a girl, I've just learned to be catty to other girls. Isn't that sad? Whatever the case, I have come up with a list of 20 actresses that don't (usually) annoy me:

That's Leslie, Lee, Marilyn, Cate, Grace; Katharine, pre-botox Meg, Ingrid, Tina, Judy; Meryl, Natalie, Ginger, Mary, Amy; Hayley, Gwyneth, Judy, Agnes & Lauren.

Cate Blanchett has the distinction of being the only one on this list whose movies I don't own. I just think she is a good actress (and she doesn't irritate me).

My favorites on here are Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman & Ginger Rogers.

As I was making this list, I decided it would be much more fun to make a list of favorite actors. I thought, surely someone is bound to answer back the top 20 actresses list with their top 20 actors, right? It might as well be me. And so I made this list, and it was such a breeze! Here come the men:

That's Clark, Henry, Gene, Joseph, George C., Spencer, Humphrey, Dana, William, Jack; Cary, Paul, Jimmy, Ray, Orson; Marlon, Kirk, Sidney, George & Alec.

You'll see this list was made with only classic movie actors. So as a bonus, here's another five new(er) actors I happen to like:

Jude, Harrison, Ewan, Leo & Tom.

If I tried to narrow this list down to top favorites, it would probably be Spencer Tracy, Jack Lemmon, Humphrey Bogart, Dana Andrews, Cary Grant, Ray Milland, Orson Welles, Jimmy Stewart, Paul Newman & Tom Hanks. See how much more generous I am to the males?

If you want to make your own list, feel free to choose actresses or actors or both. If you do actors, please link or comment here with your lists. I'd like to see some more testosterone about. Let the 20 Actors meme begin!


Overlooked Oldies: Holiday

Giving the label "overlooked" to some movies seems to me a risky thing to do. It begs for people to pounce on the choice, saying "That's not an overlooked movie! Everyone has seen that! What are you talking about?" My purpose in making a list of Overlooked Oldies is to highlight some movies that are worthy of watching even though they haven't gotten as much attention as some other classics. They might not be the most obscure films ever, but they're not the movies on the top of everyone's classic must-see lists, either. If you haven't seen the movies that always seem to make these lists (like Citizen Kane and Casablanca) by all means do so. My selections are meant to supplement and round out such lists.

Now I'll stop being defensive and share my next Overlooked Oldies pick: Holiday. Not The Holiday or Roman Holiday, just Holiday.

This 1938 George Cukor movie stars Cary Grant as Johnny Case, a self-made man recently engaged to the beautiful Julia Seton (Doris Nolan). Since their courtship has been brief, he knows very little about her, and is thus shocked when he goes to meet her family and finds out how rich they are.

The other Seton children are Linda (Katharine Hepburn) and Ned (Lew Ayres). The sibling relationships can be summed up in this bit of dialogue:

Linda: "Well, I know you wouldn't expect it of a man in father's position, but the fact is, money is our god here."

Julia: "Johnny, it isn't true at all."

Ned: "No? What is then?"

Julia is the most like her father and shares his reverence for riches while Linda is fed up and looking for something else to do with her life. She is thus known as the black sheep of the family. Ned tends to agree with Linda although he appears to have given up on his dreams, spending his time drinking instead of fighting his father. It's quite heartbreaking to watch him, actually.

The movie is not named for any holiday celebrations (although there are two very different New Year's Eve parties in the film). The title instead refers to Johnny's goal of taking some time off to enjoy life. He's been working since he was ten and is now ready for a break to find out why he's doing it. His plan is this: "Retire young, work old. Come back and work when I know what I'm working for."

Julia and her father have other ideas for Johnny and try to pressure him into a new job and way of thinking. More understanding of Johnny's plan is sister Linda. You can probably guess how things will turn out, but it is still fun to go along with these characters for the ride.

Other things that make the movie enjoyable: the moments that showcase Cary Grant's acrobatic skills ("Can you do a back-flip-flop, can you really?") and Johnny's down to earth friends Nick and Susan Potter, played by Jean Dixon and wonderful character actor Edward Everett Horton.

If you've seen and enjoyed The Philadelphia Story and Bringing Up Baby, don't miss Holiday, another great pairing of Grant and Hepburn.


What's Tom Hardy doing in Marie Antoinette?

The first time I saw him was as Shinzon, the evil Picard clone in Star Trek: Nemesis. With the veins popping out on his bald head, the crazy costume and his creepy agenda, he is a loathsome offensive brute, yet I couldn't look away. There was something about his quiet power, the smoldering intensity reminiscent of early Brando. "Who is this guy," I thought, "and what does he look like with hair?"

The answer to both questions came when I watched The Virgin Queen. As Robert Dudley, the childhood friend and love interest of Queen Elizabeth I, Tom Hardy is alternately charming and manipulative. Even though I knew Elizabeth never married, I found myself wondering how she could resist such a man. His portrayal leaves open for interpretation whether Dudley was more interested in Elizabeth for herself or for her power as queen. ("Cannot a man love both?" is his answer, which probably amounts to the truth.)

Now for my third Tom Hardy spotting and the reason for the title question of this post. Confession: I was much more interested in Marie Antoinette when I heard that Tom Hardy had a role in it. Though small, his few moments on screen as Raumont are charged with the strength of his presence. He appears in one short scene at a party where, after being thanked for providing the oysters, he plays along with a silly guessing game while the queen and Count Fersen make eyes at each other. In the following scene, Raumont expresses to the queen's friend his disapproval (and jealousy?) of Marie Antoinette's interest in the count. It goes a little something like this:

Raumont: "Our queen seems rather fond of looking at Count Fersen."

Queen's Friend: "Well, he's easy on the eyes."

R, after a piercing look in the count's direction: "Don't you think she favors him too clearly?"

QF: "Just because it is not you."

R: "Don't you think it unbecoming to our queen, I mean, he has quite the reputation."

QF: "He amuses her and she likes to be amused. There's nothing unregal in that, Monsieur."

The funny thing is, this exchange wouldn't have been entirely out of place in The Virgin Queen, as just these sorts of things could have been said about Elizabeth and Dudley. The lines feel a bit hypocritical, coming as they do from the man who played another queen's favorite. It is almost as if Robert Dudley has appeared in a new century with a new costume, still wanting to be as close as possible to whatever queen is at hand.

Given that this scene amounts to the meat of Tom Hardy's role in Marie Antoinette, it seems that he is in the movie specifically for a little inside joke. I don't know how many people saw both Marie Antoinette and The Virgin Queen and made the Tom Hardy connection, but I for one found this moment rather amusing due to the casting choice.


Movies + LEGO = Fun

The Toy Zone has posted 20 Classic Films Recreated in LEGO. Although I must question the label "classic" given some of the movies, it's still a pretty cool list and makes me want to recreate a movie scene with LEGOs. (Can I say LEGOs, or is the plural still LEGO, like deer or something?)


One Hybrid Movie Meme

Don't know where they started, but I found two movie memes here and here. I am merging the best bits (that is, the questions I want to answer) from each into one hybrid movie meme.

1. One movie that made you laugh: The Palm Beach Story

2. One movie that made you cry: A River Runs Through It

3. One movie you loved when you were a child: The Wizard of Oz

4. One movie that you have seen more than 10 times: Citizen Kane

5. One movie you've seen multiple times in the theater: Apollo 13

6. One movie you walked out on: Cabin Boy

7. One movie that you can and do quote from: Joe Vs. the Volcano ("I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?", "I'm not arguing that with you!", "I have no response to that.", "Brain cloud," with the accompanying hand gesture over the top of the head.)

8. One movie you loved, but were embarrassed to admit it: 13 Going on 30

9. One movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't gotten around to watching yet: Ninotchka

10. One movie you hated: Signs

11. One movie that scared you: Touch of Evil

12. One movie that made you happy: Stranger Than Fiction

13. One movie that made you miserable: The Conversation

14. One movie musical for which you know all the lyrics to all the songs: Oklahoma! (yes, even "Pore Jud is Daid")

15. One movie that you have been known to sing along with:

16. One movie you would recommend that everyone see:
12 Angry Men

17. One movie character you’ve fallen in love with: William Holden as Paul Verrall in Born Yesterday. (I think it's the glasses.)

18. One actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie: Dana Andrews

19. One actor that would make you less likely to see a movie: Can I choose a writer instead? Anything adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel. (Sorry, Nicholas Sparks.)

20. One of the last movies you saw: Across the Universe

21. One of the next movies you hope to see: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

If you want to play along, consider yourself tagged!


Ten Great Things About Old Movies

I had been thinking about doing a list of reasons why I love old movies. Then I found two cool lists of love for classic movies on Another Old Movie Blog and Self-Styled Siren. These lists don't bother to mention the obvious (good writing, acting, etc.) but instead focus on the little things that make watching the classics so enjoyable. I decided to follow suit with my own list of things I love to see in old movies.

1. Hats
From the classic top hat or fedora to the ridiculously tall, pointy, floppy, or drape-y numbers, I am fascinated by hats. Sometimes a poor hat is sat upon, and this always makes for some funny moments. I love that no matter what other craziness is going on, people remember to put on their hats. Why did we ever stop wearing them?

2. Real-looking people
Sure, old movies have their share of unusually pretty people. But I rejoice every time I see an actor (character or star) with some odd little quirks and imperfections. I'm not saying that nobody ever had work done in the old days, but at least the actors in classic movies don't seem totally propped up by silicone and botox.

3. Glorious black & white!
Ok, maybe this is a bigger point than some others, but in our world of sensory overload I appreciate the simple contrast of light and dark and the soothing shades of gray. Some things just look better in black and white.

4. Special effects (or the lack thereof)
Sometimes old movie special effects are so bad they're good, sometimes they are so slight that they still require plentiful use of the imagination, and sometimes they are nonexistent, allowing the focus instead to be on character building, witty dialogue, and actual plots and stories!

5. Train travel
Self-Styled Siren mentioned trains on her list and I have to concur and expand on that because there is just so much to love about trains in old movies. Shots of the wheels on the tracks and going through tunnels, hiding from the porter, sneaking into a sleeping car or someone else's berth, eating with a stranger in the dining car, those awkward moments of passing someone in the tiny hallways... ah, movie train travel!

6. Obsolete jobs
Seeing elevator operators, gas station attendants, soda jerks, milkmen and switchboard operators is always bittersweet; they remind me of simpler times past and the illusion of job security all at the same time.

7. The corner drugstore
The corner drugstore is the place to be for sharing a soda, making a phone call, or getting a full meal. Pot roast, pie, milk, and some snappy advice from the guy or gal behind the counter -- all this for less than a quarter.

8. Comeuppance
Some people probably don't like the censorship involved with the old movie Production Code, but I happen to like the subtlety and lack of explicit sex, violence and bad language that it enforced. I especially like when the bad guys get what's coming to them, although this doesn't always mean that the law has to be involved. There are lots of creative and artistic ways old movies use to show that crime doesn't pay. (I guess this just appeals to my sense of justice.)

9. Old cars and driving scenes
Cars don't have to be aerodynamic to be cool! I love the way old cars look and always enjoy driving scenes in classic movies. Conversations in cars are great, too, either when characters pull over to really talk or when they chat away while driving. Who needs to look at the road when the car is stationary anyway, with the scenery projected in the background and a machine providing the wind in your hair?

10. Use of the phrase "Take it easy."
Hearing someone get told to chill out in this way gets me every time.

Go ahead, tell me what I missed.
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