Made up of a series of interviews between Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles, the book covers a variety of topics, from Orson's early and prolific radio career to his later projects like The Trial. While PB's questions occasionally grated on me (and Orson, too, apparently, as he sometimes declines to answer) there's still a lot of good information in the conversations. They talk very little about Orson's personal life but instead focus on his artistic achievements (and missteps) and some of the controversies surrounding them. Orson hates to be asked about symbolism, but is quick to defend himself where he feels he deserves credit.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was the Appendix: The Original Ambersons. It's a summary of the alterations made from Orson's original version of The Magnificent Ambersons. (I had watched the remake a while back hoping to get some insight into what was cut, but this Appendix is a much better way to see what Orson had originally intended.) I must say, I don't think all the cuts made were necessarily bad! While some of the scenes that didn't make it into the film would have added some depth and detail to the story, others (like one where a jealous Georgie imagines Lucy with other suitors) might be better left out. And while the original ending is a little bleaker and might have fit Orson's ideas better, I find the ending in the movie to be sufficiently bittersweet.
This book is a chance to be a fly on the wall listening to the one and only Orson Welles. For extra fun, you can even imagine his melodious voice speaking the words as you read them. It's as close as you're going to get to the late, great genius.
A good friend of mine sent me a package a while back which included some pretty sweet movie-related gifts. There's a fun classic movie poster coloring book, classic movie stickers, and an item I'd been drooling over for sometime: a Moleskine Passions Film Journal!
(For the curious, yes, I have already been doing some coloring-in.)
It took me slightly longer to get started on the film journal, mostly because I love it so much I've been afraid to ruin it! But I started with putting in my notes from the seriously inferior DIY version I had made myself by printing out the page templates from Moleskine.
A few words on what I love about the journal, as well as a few nitpicks. I love that it has three bookmarks for quickly turning to various sections. I love how it has an index in the back where you can fill in what you've put on each page by number (again handy for easily referencing your notes). The main page format is nice for keeping track of lots of movie info; it includes divided spaces for title, year, actors, director, awards, quotes, notes, opinions, etc. There's room on the pages or in the back pockets to stick in your ticket stubs too! And also in the back are tabbed sections and blank pages you can organize however you like, perhaps using the fun stickers that come with the journal.
A few things I would change if I had the power (I'm talking to you, Moleskine!) would include replacing the line for "title in original language" since that's not information I'm going to be filling out that often. Also, the book has a bunch of Festival info and space to record movie events, which may be great for some but which is not something I foresee using often. My biggest complaint, however, involves the alphabetical tabs. I like the idea of them for keeping track of movies seen/reviewed and finding them quickly, but do we really need the same amount of pages under letters like Q and X? (There are only so many X-men movies, after all.)
These little comments are pretty minor criticisms; in general I LOVE my film journal. As is typical for Moleskines, the book opens with a space for you to offer a reward to anyone finding and returning your precious book. Here's mine (but don't go trying to steal it to get the reward):
Jealous? Get your own!
Growing up with two older brothers, there was always a bit of a tug-of-war between me wanting to be one of the boys and wanting to be girly. When we played with our LEGO people, for example, I was not at all happy to be told that to go into space, my girl would have to take off her hair piece and wear a helmet. (Mom had to mediate that one.) And, while there were many things we enjoyed with three main characters, it always seemed that I got stuck with the lousy one in our play-acting. Alvin and the Chipmunks? My brothers were easily Alvin and Simon, leaving me... Theodore? Tron was another case where Tron and Flynn suited the boys perfectly, and who was left for me? Ram. (I know what you're thinking: What about Yori? Well, did she have a lightcycle? Exactly.)
But when it came to Star Wars, we could all be happy. We had the figurines (that would have been worth something eventually if they hadn't ended up, with the exception of one Stortrooper and one Ewok, in the garbage) (which, by the way, my mom still gets unfairly blamed for). My brothers could be Luke and Han, or Han and Chewie, or C3PO and R2D2, or Darth Vader and Obi-Wan, or Boba Fett and Salacious Crumb for all I cared, just as long as I got to be Princess Leia.
So, let's talk for a minute about the coolness of Princess Leia. It hardly seems necessary to explain, but here are some of my reasons for loving her:
"Who is she? She's beautiful." Princess Leia really is a pretty pretty princess, in a non-fussy sort of way. Sure, she spends most of A New Hope in what amounts to a draped sheet with her hair rolled up into what looks like cinnamon rolls. But when she has a chance to clean up, she does it nicely. And she sure knows a lot of fancy hair-braiding tricks that I wish I knew.
She's got attitude. She doesn't seem a bit afraid of Vader or Tarkin, at least not until they threaten her planet. Even when she's on death row and woken up in her cell by a Stormtrooper, her first words are a clever remark. And when her would-be rescuers can't save her, she makes her own (albeit stinky) escape route.
She's got a softer side too. Just because she knows how to sass the Imperials doesn't mean she isn't a nice person. Sure, she may be a bit confused about what type of affection is appropriate between siblings, but she's even got a soft spot for scoundrels, and anyone the Ewoks like is OK in my book.
She speaks Ubese. But then again, so do I."Yatay, yatoh."
Here's just a few other fun Star Wars thoughts I'd like to share:
- I'm an original Star Wars purist, which means that I still prefer watching my unaltered VHS tapes to the "enhanced" DVDs. Yeah, I don't like Greedo shooting first, I'm fine not seeing Jabba until Return of the Jedi, I hate the Boba Fett voiceovers in Empire and the vision of young Anakin with old Obi and Yoda at the end of ROTJ, and more than anything else I can't stand the updated music in ROTJ. The changes in Jabba's palace are bad enough, but the closing music at the celebration on Endor just makes me mad. If I hear the new song, I sing the Ewok version as loud as I can over it. "Yub-yub..."
- Like many fans, I was disappointed by the prequels. The best part of The Phantom Menace to me (well, after Ewan McGregor) was the kids outside the theater dressed up as Obi-Wan and Darth Maul, acting out a perfectly choreographed duel.
- My brother pointed out to me that most of Jabba-speak has the same amount of syllables and inflection as the subtitled dialogue. Now I can't watch it without imagining the English over Jabba's voice in just the same way.
- I really enjoy playing LEGO Star Wars. If you haven't played it, you should, it's great. Guess who my favorite character is? ;-)
First, a quick plug (or plea) for those of you readers that are LAMBs. You probably know it's time again for the LAMMY awards, and I'd appreciate some nominations in these (and whatever other categories) you'd consider me for. Thanks!
Next, I've been tagged by The Movie Ness for the latest meme going around. So here's 10 Movie Facts About Me:
1. When I was growing up, I wanted to be Princess Leia.
2. I'm not big on movie snacks at the theater, but if my friends get popcorn I always end up eating some.
3. I don't remember a time when I hadn't seen classics like Citizen Kane, Singin' in the Rain, Some Like it Hot, etc. I was raised on them.
4. I really hate when people are loud at the theater, talking through a movie. I got mad enough once to tell some people off before moving seats. (At home, though, I don't mind movie talk, as we can always rewind and are often rewatching anyway.)
5. I love spotting character actors from one movie to another. (When I don't know their names, I call them by the previous character name I recognize.) I'm always so pleased to yell out, "Hey, it's so-and-so from whatever-movie!" as if I've just seen an old friend!
6. I still watch my VHS tapes. While I've upgraded a bunch of favorite movies to DVD, I kept the VHS copies and store them in the bedroom (theater 2) for easy viewing.
7. I've never been to a drive-in movie, but I would really like to go. (If only I could find one somewhere!)
8. The only movie I ever went to see by myself was A.I.
9. I wish my life could be more like a musical.
10. I'm excited (and trying to prepare for disappointment) about the Tron Sequel. I want this shirt to wear when I go see it.
And finally, a little while back (on a blog that no longer seems to exist) I played a game where the readers could guess the source of 20 movie quotes. I found it fun and thought I'd try it here as well. I'd like to say no cheating (as in, no help from google!) and although I can't really enforce it, I trust ya'll. Just comment with your answers for each number and I'll mark them off as they are gotten. (Hint: There's both classics and newer movies represented here.) Have fun!
1. Well, here we go, fast and loose. - The Hustler
2. I'll tell you right out, I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk. - The Maltese Falcon (Alex)
3. I like to like what's better to like. - Born Yesterday (NoirGirl)
4. Don't you think that daisies are the friendliest flower? - You've Got Mail (Jess)
5. Lay off 'em, you'll live longer. - The Palm Beach Story
6. No matter what you think you think you think the same as I think. - Adam's Rib (Java Bean Rush)
7. People? I ain't people. - Singin' in the Rain (trulymadlygeeky)
8. It's not a pretty face, I grant you, but underneath its flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character. - An American in Paris (Java Bean Rush)
9. I'm fine all over! - The Apartment (Alex)
10. You ate a lonely dinner, then got into the tub to read. - Laura (NoirGirl)
11. Let us be crooked but never common. - The Lady Eve (Java Bean Rush)
12. Sometimes he said I laughed too much. - The Third Man
13. He's just kissing her for you. - Take Me Out to the Ball Game (Java Bean Rush)
14. What care I for colds when there is such a man? - Sense and Sensibility (Jess)
15. Could you say that in English? - Guys and Dolls
16. I've seen detergents leave a better film than this. - The Muppet Movie
17. I want my two dollars! - Better Off Dead (Alex)
18. Pay the two dollars! - North by Northwest
19. Let's just keep this brain melting stuff to ourselves. - Back to the Future (Alex)
20. There's a double meaning in that. - Much Ado About Nothing (trulymadlygeeky)
Say kids, have you heard the one about the girl tuba player who was stranded on a desert island with a one-legged jockey?
This is the question posed by the Fandango Groovers Movie Blog multi-blog event, Desert Island DVDs. I've decided to play along, albeit with my own spin on things. This event happens to give me a push to write about a similar discussion my father and I have had about picking movies for a desert island stay, but with the additional proviso of choosing the work of only one director.
In a way, I actually find this easier than picking out any 8 DVDs. The field there is too wide. Trying to narrow down my favorite movies to just 8 is pretty painful. Even thinking about what movies I'm happy to watch over and over again, it seems impossible to choose just 8. However, narrowing things down to director, well, now we're getting somewhere.
It would have to be a director whose work as a whole I enjoy and can watch over and over again. Who did I seriously consider?
Vincente Minelli or Stanley Donen - I figure if I were really stuck on an island for the rest of my life, I'd be a bit depressed. Some light movies and musicals might be just the thing to cheer me up.
John Huston - Made some of my all time favorites, yet I'm not sure I'd be happy with his catalog of films as a whole. (Similar story with Orson Welles, Preston Sturges, Howard Hawks and Frank Capra: moments of brilliance but not enough there to sustain me on an island.)
Charlie Chaplin - To be honest, it would be more of a film school island for me if I chose Chaplin's work. I confess I have not seen all of his movies, and being stranded would probably finally provide the push I need. (Although I'm sure I would miss hearing people talk.)
Steven Spielberg - If I had to choose from only modern directors, I might end up picking him, although it would mean I'd end up with movies I like but don't really love.
George Cukor - Would provide a good variety of films with wonderful performances by some great actresses.
Alfred Hitchcock - A definite master with plenty of great films to choose from. But I think his paranoia and suspense would not help my stranded-on-a-desert-island mental state.
In the end, there's really only one choice for me (and my dad). Billy Wilder.
His body of work provides a wonderful variety that I'm sure I would need on a desert island to prevent boredom. (Feel like comedy? Drama? Romance? Noir? Check, check, check, and check.) Mix together some talented actors, witty dialogue, a slightly cynical perspective on people tempered by compassion and a good dose of humor and you've got the Wilder formula for a great movie. If I had to narrow it down to 8 by him, these would be my picks:
That's The Apartment, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, The Major and the Minor, Sabrina, Some Like it Hot, Stalag 17, and Sunset Boulevard. (If you prefer, you could swap in Ace in the Hole, The Fortune Cookie, or Witness for the Prosecution.)
But I'm not the only one getting hypothetically stranded. See what movies everyone else would take.
Who would be your Desert Island Director?
When my husband saw me reading this book, he asked (a bit derisively, I must say) if it was some romance novel. I admitted there was some romance to it, but went on to explain that Hitchcock had made a film version of the story. He concluded that if Hitchcock was involved, there must be something more substantial there.
Rebecca, a classic in either book or movie version, tells the story of a young, naive woman who falls in love with (and quickly marries) one Maximilian (Maxim) de Winter. When he brings her to his estate, the imposing Manderley, their happiness is overshadowed by the presence (not literally) of his first wife, the titular Rebecca. Her memory is kept very much alive by Mrs. Danvers, Manderley's housekeeper, who is still devoted and loyal to the deceased Mrs. de Winter.
For the most part, while condensing things a bit, the movie stays true to Daphne du Maurier's novel. Some changes include a different ending for Mrs. Danvers and slightly different circumstances surrounding Rebecca's death. The book also spends more time with some of the minor characters and presents the second Mrs. de Winter's thoughts in greater depth. (While this sometimes helps a lot in understanding her character, in some cases the book gets a bit long-winded.)
The movie's strength owes a great deal to the perfectly cast actors. Joan Fontaine plays insecure and shy extremely well, and while this same type of performance was out of place in Jane Eyre, it was just right in Rebecca. Although some might ask if his mustache is really necessary, Laurence Olivier hits upon the necessary mix of qualities for Maxim: romantic, mysterious, and troubled. George Sanders, while a different physical type than the description of his character in the book, is perfect as Rebecca's slimy cousin, Jack Favell. And Judith Anderson is deliciously creepy as Mrs. Danvers.
Rebecca herself works best without appearing in either the book or movie. I'm not sure she would be completely believable as a flesh-and-blood character, but as an overbearing presence imagined or remembered, the character works. There's one part in the movie that's particularly effective where the camera tracks along an empty space as Rebecca's past actions are narrated.
Book or movie? Both are worth a look. I personally saw the movie before reading the book, and so had a clear picture in my head of the characters as I read, but I was still quite caught up in the story even knowing the eventual ending. There's enough minor differences from one to the other to keep each version interesting. And, while it's not perhaps one of Hitchcock's finest, this is one that fans of the director shouldn't miss. It did, after all, win the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1940.
If you've read the book and seen the movie, which do you prefer?
I'm also supposed to name 7 interesting things about me. But since I just wrote 5 things about me with the last award I got, I choose to add on only two more here:
6. I just brought home a pet parakeet and have named him Bogie. I'm hoping to teach him to talk eventually. Maybe I can get him to say "Here's looking at you, bird." or even "We'll always have parrots." (I can't help myself.)
7. I actually do think of myself as a creative person. I love to draw, sew, knit, etc. When I was younger, my mom and I sewed up a black and white houndstooth number that looked just like Lauren Bacall's suit in The Big Sleep. I wish I still had it (and that it fit me).
8. OK, I lied, I'm adding on one more thing: I have a separate blog for my crafty/creative side. You can find it here: Wendymoon Designs.
And now, in lieu of nominating more "Kreativ" bloggers, I invite anyone who's already received this award to steal my logo for it. (Just say I made it, if you please.)
On to award number two. This one is the "Your blog is Over the Top!" award which was given to me by Caitlin, Princess Fire and Music herself. Thanks so much!
While I take this as a compliment, I don't know that I really have an over the top kind of blog. So, since I'm also creative, I decided to skip the questionnaire that comes along with this award and instead highlight what I consider to be real Over-the-Top-ness with a top five countdown of over the top movie performances/characters.
Will Varner's a growling, yelling, bombastic guy played to perfection by Welles, whose physical bulk adds to the larger-than-life feeling of this big daddy.
A case could be made for Betty Hutton (and/or Eddie Bracken) in this movie as well, but Demarest holds nothing back with his broad physical comedy here and that earns him a spot on my list.
Let's face it, this whole movie is over the top. The title might have been cut back from having a "Mad" for every star in it, but there's still a powerful group of actors here doing lots of crazy things. There's nothing subtle in how Jimmy Durante kicks the bucket, or Jonathan Winters destroying the service station, or any moment with Ethel Merman. Delightfully excessive and the top of my over the top list.
Anyone who wants to take this idea and run with it is welcome to the Over the Top! Award from me. And now, back to our regularly scheduled movie blogging.
The movie takes a unique, non-linear look at the relationship between these two, showing the ups and downs of their time together as Tom tries to make sense of their break-up. Most of his memories of the past idealize Summer, but a shift in perspective later makes us question all we've seen through his eyes. (We should have known better than to trust someone who misinterpreted the ending of The Graduate.)
Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is slightly emo but earnest, sweet and so clueless that he relies on his little sister for relationship advice. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is quirky and cute, sometimes maddeningly contradictory, but with an aura about her that (almost) justifies Tom's obsession. (Maybe it's her amazing eyes, highlighted by the signature shades of blue she surrounds herself with even in her apartment.)
The movie utilizes nontraditional ways of telling the story, including animation, putting a grieving Tom into foreign films, and, perhaps most effectively, a split screen segment emphasizing the vast gulf between Tom's expectations and reality. The music, good throughout the film, is especially excellent at this moment. ("Never ever saw it coming at all...")
For all its protestations about not being a love story, (500) Days of Summer is still a story about love. And, through its characters, it has some interesting things to say about it. Summer questions the meaning and reality of love, pointing out how most marriages end in divorce. Tom, on the other hand, asserts that you know love when you feel it. (While Tom and Summer seem to exchange viewpoints for a time, in the end they are still who they always were: an idealistic guy and a girl that does whatever she wants.)
If we can't quite see ourselves on one side or the other of this story, as either the hopeless romantic or the fiercely independent personality, we can probably recognize the types and why they make an uneasy match. Tom tries so hard to put Summer into a box as "the one" that he can't see she doesn't really fit. His wise-beyond-her-years-sister sees it: "Just 'cause some cute girl likes the same bizarro crap you do? That doesn't make her your soulmate." (Fair enough. But what does?)
At one point Tom goes on a tirade against greeting cards, movies and pop songs and the way they keep people from saying what they really feel while creating unrealistic expectations. But ultimately (500) Days turns into one of these movies, with an ending that promotes the ideas of fate and soulmates. (While it's not the happily-ever-after of your typical love story, the ending's still blindly optimistic, and maybe a little too cute.)
(500) Days of Summer is unique and fresh, an intelligent and unusual romantic comedy. (It's just not as brave as it pretends to be.)
(Although I could do without a couple of scenes and would probably like the TV edit.)
("Bad Kids" is the only real clunker.)
I leave you with a music video, not from the movie, but with its two stars dancing to Zooey's song "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" from her band She & Him. (I can't watch this without smiling.)
An embarrassingly long time ago, Clarabela at Just Chick Flicks tagged me for the Fabulous Blog Award. I am grateful, though slow to react, and now in honor of award season I'm here saying thanks (I think Just Chick Flicks is fabulous, too!) and passing it on. The rules (there's always rules to these things, you know) are to link back, post, write 5 random things, tag 5 more people...
So here's those 5 things you may or may not be interested in knowing about me:
- Like the person who tagged me, I look younger than I really am. When I was a teen getting kids' menus this bothered me more, but the older I get the more OK I have become with still getting carded. ("Let's just say I'm old enough to know what to do with my young feelings.")
- I love cheese. I've never met a cheese I didn't like. But I do love some more than others. One of my favorites is Manchego. Yum!
- I graduated high school a year early. Not so much because I'm so smart, but because I had the credits and was ready to get out and move on with the rest of my life.
- I stink at real bowling, but I'm really good at Wii bowling.
- I have this strange thing about numbers, being comfortable with some and uncomfortable with others. Like, say the number of blogs I'm following is 30, or 33, or 35, that's all good. If it's 38, it really bugs me, and I seriously consider unfollowing 3 or adding on 2 more. (I said it was strange!)
Kate Gabrielle of Flapperdoodle (Who is currently having an unfounded crisis of confidence in her art, as well as an awesome sale.)
The other girls keeping my Chain O' Movie Reviews going:
KC at Classic Movies
Amanda Cooper of A Noodle in a Haystack
and Sally, who's Flying Down to Hollywood (I only recently discovered this blog, but I love it!)
And, to round out the 5, (good thing it's 5 and not 6, which would bug me) a blog I've enjoyed reading for a while but have only recently gotten around to following:
Insight Into Entertainment
That's all, folks. Feel free to talk about awards in general, or the Golden Globes in particular (Avatar? Really?) in the comments.
Number of movie viewings in 2009:
141 (45 new and new-to-me, 96 rewatchings.)
What's included in this number? See below (links are to my reviews).
Old movies I just discovered (or finally managed to sit down and watch all the way through):
- Anna Karenina (1935)
- The Asphalt Jungle
- Easy Living (1937)
- The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935)
- I'll Be Seeing You -- Watched while I was on a Ginger kick. Crazies on vacation find each other and fall in love, the moral being that if you settle for second best, it may just turn out to be first best. This movie includes what just may be the worst advice ever given by an aunt. The rather pedestrian script is elevated by the acting, especially Joseph Cotten's tender performance.
- Idiot's Delight -- I'd seen the clip of Clark Gable singing "Puttin' on the Ritz" before, but it was neat to finally watch it in context.
- Key Largo -- How did I never see this wonderful film before? I liked seeing a more subdued side of Bacall.
- Kitty Foyle
- The Lady From Shanghai
- The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
- Meet John Doe
- Modern Times
- Random Harvest -- I was surprised at first by how much the movie differed from the book, but really the plot twists in the book would just not work on film.
- The Secret Garden (1949)
- The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) -- Loved Leslie Howard, not so keen on Merle Oberon. Favorite lines: "It rhymes!" "Oh, yes, it's a poem!"
- Son of Paleface -- The enjoyment here was not so much from watching the movie as from making fun of it.
- Stage Door
- The Women (1939)
A surprising number of documentaries:
- The Business of Being Born (recommended for anyone expecting or thinking of having a baby)
- Following Sean
- Man on Wire
- Maxed Out
- Seven Up (a few in the series)
- Word Wars -- Fascinating look at the world of competitive Scrabble, I watched this after I read the book Word Freak. The one moment that sums it all up is the interview of a young boy playing in a lower division of a tournament. When asked if he wants to make it to the top division someday, he explains how he doesn't want to become super obsessed to the point of not having a job (like the characters we've been following all along). Ouch.
- And from Ken Burns: Jazz, The National Parks, Lewis & Clark
- He's Just Not That Into You
- Julie & Julia
- Star Trek
- Up -- I love how Mr. Fredricksen looks like Spencer Tracy, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner era. The brilliant visual storytelling that sets up the background of Carl and Ellie is the best part of the film, and leaves me teary-eyed every time.
Some other new-ish movies I watched:
- Chicken Little
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Flash of Genius
- Last Chance Harvey
- Metropolis (2001 anime)
- Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day
- Music and Lyrics
- Radio -- Touching based-on-a-true-story movie.
- Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
- The Magnificent Ambersons (2002)
- Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist -- I hated this film. Perhaps I'm just not the intended audience, but this movie has the distinction of being the only movie this year I couldn't even watch all the way through. I didn't think it was at all charming but instead found it gross and vulgar and turned it off. (I weep for the future.)
- The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)
- Benji -- I'm a sucker for cute dogs. And "I Feel Love" is such a great 70's theme.
- Breaking Away
- It's Always Fair Weather
(I did a lot of rewatching of old favorites as always, but I revisited these movies more than once in the year.)
- Alice in Wonderland (1951)
- The Apartment
- Double Indemnity
- Gone with the Wind
- The Maltese Falcon
- North by Northwest
- The Third Man
- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
- You've Got Mail