Saturday, July 29, 2006

"Hardly the stuff that dreams are made of"

Kathy Shaidle has a great little post up about "beautiful" celebrities, and her take is very similar to my own:

Time was someone like Winona Rider would have been a beloved character actress/ingenue (or working at the Dairy Queen) than a "sex symbol". Diana Durban or such like. And yet she is the Fantasy Woman of millions of my fellow Gen-Xers. Yes, I know she has that giant shelf o' boobs. But really, isn't Rider just a few steps up from the squinty-eyed, lipless Tatum O'Neal (who I blame for much of this lowering of standards), and her latter day doppleganger, that Bridget Jones girl whose name I can't even remember.

The strangest thing is watching today's mousy actresses make yesterday's mousy actresses look better, the way "crappy" 80s music we all made fun of now sounds genius compared to Coldplay. I mean, stick Lindsay Lohan next to Winona and suddenly Ryder looks like Liz Taylor. We've moved way beyond jolie laide to just plain moche.

TCM has been featuring Elizabeth Taylor during the month of July, and I just can't get over the fact that she is stunning. Like maybe one of the most beautiful people ever. In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof I was totally overwhelmed by the h-o-t-t hotness of Paul Newman and La Liz, and was really hoping that they would have a child, like, not just in the movie but in real life. Talk about most gorgeous offspring.

More Kathy:

Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn and Bette Davis weren't supposed to be "sexy." That was Ava Gardner's job.

Indeed. But were the 1930s-50s just some kind of blip on the beautiful people radar and that kind of beauty just won't be achieved again in Hollywood? I mean, Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Brad Pitt, etc. are very cute, but they're nowhere near as sexy or drop-dead gorgeous as someone like Paul Newman in the 50s, or Cary Grant and Clark Gable in the 30s. Were Hedy Lamar, Ava Gardner, Liz Taylor, and Greta Garbo just flukes? I guess they probably were, and maybe it's nice that today's standard of beauty is more attainable for us mere mortals -- but, well, I'm not sure what I'm saying, except that our Hollywood stars today don't feel like STARS so much as just good-looking people with very little in the way of personality. In fact, I'd say that "stars" in the old-Hollywood style don't exist anymore -- Angelina Jolie is a curiousity, a puzzle, a homewrecker, a freak-a-do, a whatever, but she's certainly not mysterious or glamorous or otherwordly the way Greta Garbo was. Heck, even Liz Taylor has lost her "star"-ness and become just another crazy curiousity in a town of lost dreams.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Movies I watched last week

Raintree Country (Edward Dmytryk, C-)
Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, A)
Waterloo Bridge (Mervyn LeRoy, A-)
Born to Be Bad (Nicholas Ray, B-)
American Graffiti (George Lucas, A)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Kraken!

I was typing out my review for Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest (which I gave a C+) and I was having a rather tough time with it since this movie seems to confuse, frustrate, and fascinate me all at the same time. Of course, that was until I watched Ask a Ninja's review of PotC: DMC in which I realized that The Ninja said everything I wanted to say way better than I could ever say it. So yeah, go watch it if you want to know what I thought of the movie. The review is hilarious and so, so true (although, in all fairness, I did enjoy the movie...I just didn't think it was very good, if that makes any sense at all).

The Kraken!!!!!

Hooray for old movies!

You don't know how excited I am to see that LeaJo has watched and liked The Sting! I'm forever trying to get her to watch older movies, but she's strangely resistant, despite the fact that everytime she does watch an older (pre-1980) movie, she enjoys it. For example, I happened to be at her house watching Rear Window, and she wandered into the room, asked what I was watching (Me: "It's Hitchcock! One of my all-time favorites! A masterpiece! See how he's critiquing the voyeristic urge of the movie-goer?!" -- actually, I'm surprised she didn't run away from me at that point), and sat down to watch for a few minutes. Two hours, several-nails-bitten-off-in-suspense later, she was exclaiming how good the movie had been. "Well," I said. "Of course it was good. It was Hitchcock."

But watch another Hitchcock movie? Sorry, no. Spend a few hours in Casablanca or laugh at Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in drag? No again. Urg! It's very frustrating trying to get one of the younger set interested in old movies, even when they themselves admit to liking the few older movies they've actually, you know, seen.

So, I'm very gratified and excited that LeaJo has watched an older movie (albiet, a color movie) and enjoyed it, and it wasn't one that she had to watch because I forced her to (I believe she was forced by another member of her family). Now, if only I could get her to try Hitchcock again.

Quickie Reviews

Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz & William Keighley, A-)
I can't believe it took me this long to finally see this movie, since A.)I'm a pretty big fan of Errol Flynn, Olivia De Havilland, and Claude Rains and B.)I'm a pretty big fan of the Robin Hood legend. Needless to say, it's great, but what really caught my eye was the brilliant Technicolor. Yowza! That's one good-looking film. I don't think I've enjoyed Technicolor more (except, of course, in Gone With the Wind). Really stunning.

Sergeant York (Howard Hawks, A)
I mostly love this film for Gary Cooper (I watch Sergeant York and Pride of the Yankees nearly every time their on t.v.) and the hilarious scene where York shows-up his superior officers at the firing range. And of course the rah-rah America stuff, which I can never get enough of (hello Yankee Doodle Dandy and Cagney's Cohan). But the scene I really picked up on this time was the conversion scene, where York gets struck by lightning and enters the church to be "saved" and get religion. Now, I'm an anonymous, back-pew-sitting Catholic, so my religious experiences are the furthest thing from York's evangelical, old time religion stuff, and so that scene has kind of a weird/strange vibe for me. But the cool thing is that Hawks doesn't try to soften it, or make it a more mainstream, unobtrusive Christianity -- he lets the whole wild, ecstatic scene play out, and even though it's kind of strange from my religious perspective, it's also strangely beautiful.

Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, A-)
Now, I'm not saying this movie isn't a masterpiece, but I only gave it an "A-" because I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be after watching it. I've heard often that it's Renoir's best, but I LOVE Grand Illusion, so I think I was expecting Rules to be way better than Grand Illusion, and it wasn't, at least for me. I think I need to watch the film again, since I had a headache the night I saw it, and also because Renoir's style isn't always as "obviously" great as some of the more flashy directors (i.e. - Eisenstein or Griffith). So, "A-" for now, may be revised.

Mirrormask (Dave McKean, B, previously B+, but I don't know why I rated it that way earlier, it should have been B from the start)
This movie is so totally strange, imaginative, and inventive in its visuals that it's hard not to like it just on that aspect alone. But I also liked Helena and her story: her fantastic drawings; her purity and goodness; her guilt about her mother; her determination to try and put things right. I went in expecting the movie to look great (Dave McKean, the Henson Co., come on), but I actually ended up liking the story and characters too, and that was something I did not expect. And it's got a little creepiness to some of it as well. Plus, always good to see a movie with a circus in it. The circus is that place where happiness and terror seem to exist in equal amounts -- contradictions and paradoxes (and freaky clowns) abound at the circus.

Cars (John Lasseter, B+)
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie, since I'm not much of a car person (a veritable sin here in the Motor City). But the visuals were gorgeous, the jokes were really funny and/or clever, and the ending had a nice twist to the usual sports movie formula. Cars also tapped into my natural affinity for nostalgia -- I'm a total "back in the good ol' days" kinda gal, and this movie really lays that on pretty thick.

Key Largo (John Huston, B+)
Bogey kinda bored me in this one, but whoa man! do Edward G. Robinson and Claire Trevor make up for it! I feel like this is Robinson's film more than Bogart's, really. I much prefered Johnny Rocco's descent into paranoia over the raging hurricane than I did the world-weary-hero-regains-his-ideals that Bogart seemed to be recycling from Casablanca (it was much better in the earlier film). And Claire Trevor. Wow. That is one very well-deserved Oscar. The scene where she sings in front of everybody in order to get Rocco to give her a drink? Painfully awkward, utterly humiliating -- fantastic. And when Rocco shakes his head to one of his goons and smiles sadistically, and you know he's not going to give her the drink, but she keeps on singing so desperately -- I actually felt kinda sick to my stomach at that point, I was so embarrassed for her, and so disgusted with Rocco. And then Bogey gets up and gives her the drink, and he gets slapped across the face by Edward G. Robinson. Yeah. That's one helluva scene.

The Big Sit

That's what one reviewer is calling Linklater's A Scanner Darkly. I've only read one of Philip K. Dick's novels (Ubik, to be exact), but I've been dying to see a real adaptation of his work on the big screen and not just an excuse for an action flick that so many Dick adaptations turn out to be (I'm looking at you Total Recall, even though I still kinda liked you).

So, just my luck, instead of taking Dick's novel and deciding, "Let's make an action movie," Linklater (who I generally like) decides to turn Scanner into a talky mess just like his talky (but interesting) mess Waking Life. Now, maybe Dick's story is a talky mess (I haven't read it, so I don't know), but surely Linklater realizes it takes more than trippy animation and deep philosophical talk to make a successful science fiction film. I mean, Waking Life was interesting and different, but not the kind of movie one actually "enjoys." That's why I'm surprised no one has attempted to make a film out of Ubik, since I think it has the potential to be visually interesting (necessary for a visual medium like film), in addition to the fact that it has a plot with enough twists to keep audiences interested in all the weirdness.

An old post by The Forager discusses the difficulty Dick's work has had in making it to the screen in some recognizable Phillip K. Dick-like form. The problem with Dick is that he doesn't always have the easiest plots, so plots get grafted onto his stories to make them more mainstream. My fear, however, is that Linklater is going overboard in the opposite direction, making Scanner into just another excuse for a big long conversation about life, the universe, and everything else (plus drugs). Victor Morton's review suggests that my fears have been realized and that Scanner is just Waking Life 2.

Also, this movie needs to be at more than the Royal Oak Main Art, since I don't feel like driving all that way to see it. Hopefully my review will be forthcoming.

Monday, July 10, 2006

some grades for ya

Since The Derelict has started posting grades already, I thought I would share some of my grades for a few movies I have seen recently.

Superman Returns (Bryan Singer): A-
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Gore Verbinski): C+
Everything is Illuminated (Leiv Schreiber): B
The Sting (George Roy Hill): A
Howl's Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki): B+

Reviews for a few of these movies should be coming soon as well.

Quick grades (reviews forthcoming)

Superman Returns (Bryan Singer, B/B+)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Gore Verbinski, C)
Key Largo (John Huston, B+/A-)
Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, A-)
Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz & William Keighley, A-)
Sergeant York (Howard Hawks, A)
Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, A+)
Mirrormask (Dave McKean, B+)
On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, A+)
Nacho Libre (Jared Hess, C-)
Cars (John Lasseter, B+)


We started a blog that was going to focus on fantasy and science fiction in literature, comics, and movies, but it turns out, we're really only interested in blogging about movies in general. So this is the result.

We'll be focusing on many different kinds of movies: recent blockbusters, art house, classic Hollywood, horror, science fiction, kids stuff, et cetera. Our system of grading movies can be found in the sidebar. No public-school-style grade inflation here! A "C" is average; not bad, just average. An "A" is reserved for those really exceptional movies that we absolutely love. I think Bs, Ds, and Fs are pretty self-explanatory.