Showing posts with label Silver Screen Classics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Silver Screen Classics. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Forrest Gump

I have really enjoyed the Silver Screen Classics series this year and I honestly can't believe how fast ten weeks has gone by!  I hope that the Megaplex Theatres will continue with this series every year because it is so much fun to see classic films on the big screen where they were meant to be seen.  The final film in the series was Forrest Gump which is a film that I did not particularly enjoy when I saw it on the big screen the first time.  I know that I am in the minority with my opinion and most of my friends think I am completely pretentious.  Last night I decided to give it another chance and tried to watch it with an open mind.  It is a beautiful movie with an incredible central performance by Tom Hanks.  It is definitely one of his most affecting performances and I did get a tear in my eye when he talked to Jenny's grave about how smart their son is.  The rest of the cast, including Sally Field, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, and Mykelti Williamson, also do a great job.  The soundtrack is definitely one of the best out there, featuring incredible songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Mamas & The Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, and Buffalo Springfield among others.  My problem with the film is the story itself.  I am unable to suspend my disbelief enough to accept that a man with intellectual disabilities could have such an impact on the history of the U.S. through sheer dumb luck.  He most certainly did not inspire John Lennon to write the song "Imagine" (I almost walked out of the theater during that scene the first time I saw it because that just offends me on so many levels).  Forrest doesn't do anything but react to the tumult around him and I find him to be an incredibly static character.  Also, as someone who likes to question everything, I find the message to be somewhat alarming because Forrest is rewarded time and again for simply doing what he is told while Jenny, who stands up for herself and challenges the status quo, is seemingly punished at the end.  This film is just not for me and that is all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: High Noon

High Noon, the next installment in the Silver Screen Classics series, is another film I remember watching in college.  I vaguely remember writing a paper about the political overtones found in it.  Last night I got to see it on the big screen with my Dad which was really fun because he remembers watching it on the big screen with his Dad when he was a little kid.  Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is leaving his job as the marshal of Hadleyville, a western frontier town, after marrying Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly) who is a Quaker.  Just as they are leaving town the news arrives that Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), an outlaw who Kane sent to prison, is on the noon train and looking for revenge.  Amy begs Kane to leave with her but he refuses to run because the new marshal hasn't arrived yet.  Kane's deputy (Lloyd Bridges) abandons him because he didn't recommend him as the new marshal and all of his attempts to round up a posse from the tavern and the church are met with hostility until he is forced to face Miller and his gang alone.  What I love about this film is that it isn't a typical western with lots of action but a tense character study of a man who won't abandon his principles.  The shots of the train tracks as the town anticipates the coming of the train and the shots of the ticking clock are extremely effective at building suspense (the action happens in real time).  The shot that slowly widens to reveal Kane standing all alone in the deserted town square is incredibly effective at conveying the futility of his final stand and the battle with the outlaws is quietly powerful rather than thrilling.  The final shot of Kane throwing down his badge as the townspeople emerge is also a great moment.  My Dad clearly enjoyed this film and grabbed my arm at several key moments!  What a hoot!  At the end he told me that they don't make movies like this any more!  They certainly don't!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Citizen Kane

The next selection in the Silver Screen Classics series was Citizen Kane.  This film is such a masterpiece that almost everyone has seen it (I saw it for the first time in a college film studies class) but, believe it or not, I have actually seen it on the big screen before.  It was re-released in honor of its 70th anniversary at a local theater and I thought it was amazing.  I had the same opinion last night.  After newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) dies, a journalist tries to learn the significance of the last word spoken by Kane before he died.  He reads the memoirs of Kane's guardian (George Coulouris) and interviews his closest friend (Joseph Cotten), his business manager (Everett Sloane), and his second wife (Dorothy Comingore), who are all unreliable narrators, to find out who the man behind the headlines really was.  The narrative is told though nonlinear flashbacks as Kane acquires his first newspaper, builds a publishing empire, marries the niece of a president, runs for governor, becomes embroiled in a scandal, loses his reputation supporting his second wife's opera career, builds the opulent palace Xanadu, and then, finally, dies alone.  It is a cryptic portrait a complicated man who has everything but the one thing he desires: love.  I love this film for the sheer scope of the narrative, the powerful performance by Orson Welles, and the ground-breaking cinematography.  It is a masterpiece and I am so glad I had the opportunity to see it once again on the big screen.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Breakfast at TIffany's

Seeing Breakfast at Tiffany's, the next selection in the Silver Screen Classics series, last night was just what I needed after a long and difficult day.  I absolutely love this movie and this was the first time seeing it on the big screen which was an absolute delight!  The beautiful Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, a New York society girl with a past who is only looking for $50 for the powder room from the many men she dates rather than love (I love how she classifies them as rats and super rats).  George Peppard plays Paul Varjak, a disillusioned writer who is being kept by an older woman (Patricia Neal).  Both characters are simply doing what they need to do in order to survive.  They meet when Paul moves into Holly's apartment building and they soon become friends.  When Paul eventually wants more, Holly rejects him thinking that it is better to be a free spirit rather than trapped in a cage.  I know so many people who love this movie!  Most people will cite Hepburn's luminous portrayal of an interesting character.  Others will mention the iconic little black dresses designed by Givenchy.  Still others point to the Academy Award winning score featuring the song "Moon River" by Henry Mancini.  For me, the appeal of this movie is the simple love story.  Two flawed characters bring out the best in each other and I love the scene in the rain after Holly realizes this.  I had such a lovely time watching this movie and I'm so glad I got to see it on the big screen.

Note:  I know that many people find Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi to be offensive but I think he is so funny!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The next film in the Silver Screen Classics series was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  My Mom and sister came along with me to this screening and we had so much fun!  I mean this film stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford so what more could you ask for on a Monday night?  They are both so handsome and charismatic and their chemistry is what makes this movie so great and so much fun to watch.  All of their banter had my Mom giggling through the whole thing!  The film follows the exploits of Butch Cassidy (Newman), the Sundance Kid (Redford), and the rest of the Hole in the Wall Gang as they rob a series of trains.  Cassidy and the Kid get separated from the rest of the gang and are pursued by a posse hired by the owner of the railroad.  They hide with the Kid's girlfriend Etta (Katharine Ross) and the three of them decide to run away to Bolivia where they rob a series of banks in some highly amusing scenes.  When a bounty is placed on their heads they attempt to go straight by guarding the payroll of a mine but eventually start robbing the mines.  They are finally captured in an epic shoot-out in a Bolivian town square.  Even though they are committing crimes throughout the whole movie, the characters are so endearing that you want them to succeed and you hope that they somehow make it out of that shoot-out alive.  In addition to the two lead actors, I really loved all of the Western scenery (it was filmed in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Mexico), especially the scenes shot in Zion National Park which is one of my favorite places on Earth.  After watching The Princess Bride it was fun to see another funny and charming movie written by William Goldman (he won an Oscar for this screenplay).  We had such a great time watching this classic film on the big screen and I recommend it highly.

Note:  Speaking of the Sundance Kid,  I was able to get a pass to the  2018 Sundance Film Festival yesterday.  It was quite the ordeal because the website crashed due to the overwhelming response.  My friend Marta and I surreptitiously tried to order passes during a meeting after school to no avail but we were both successful eventually!  I am so excited!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: All The President's Men

The next film in the Silver Screen Classics was All The President's Men, a favorite of mine that I've never had the chance to see on the big screen until now.  I always find it to be absolutely compelling because it shows the reality of investigative journalism without any embellishment or any spoon feeding.  Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) happens to be assigned the arraignment of five men caught burglarizing the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex.  He suspects a larger story is at play and begins investigating.  Because he is rookie reporter he eventually enlists the help of rival Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman).  They meticulously follow lead after lead, including clandestine meetings in a parking garage with a source known as "Deep Throat" (Hal Holbrook), to eventually topple the presidency of Richard Nixon.  My favorite scene (which is the climax of the film, in my opinion, because we all know the outcome) is when Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards) decides to support Bernstein and Woodward when an important source denies a claim.  This film is not for everyone because it definitely focuses on the minutiae of what reporters go through to find evidence, such as sifting through thousands of call slips for books requested from the Library of Congress or looking through dozens of phone books to find a way to contact a source, which today's generation might find dull.  In my opinion, every single scene is weighty and important and there is such an atmosphere of menace as the puzzle pieces are slowly put together.  The other problem that some may have with the film is that the investigation may appear rather nebulous if one is not familiar with Watergate.  I was definitely the youngest person in my screening but as a student of history all of these names were very familiar to me.  Both actors give gripping performances but I found Dustin Hoffman to be especially mesmerizing on screen, particularly in a scene where Bernstein tries to get a terrified witness to talk to him.  This movie is a classic that deserves to be seen on the big screen!

Note:  I kept thinking that the scandal that brought down Nixon's presidency would probably not even make the front page news today.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: The Bridge on the River Kwai

As with Lawrence of Arabia, another film directed by David Lean and generally considered to be a masterpiece, I had attempted to watch The Bridge on the River Kwai multiple times on TV and I never seemed to make it through because I always fell asleep.  I guess that Lean's films are just meant for viewing on the big screen because last night, at the screening for the next film in the Silver Screen Classics series, I was completely riveted!  In the early days of World War II, the Japanese are trying to construct a railway line from Bangkok to Rangoon.  A group of British prisoners are tasked with building a bridge over the River Kwai that will connect the line.  What I found so fascinating about this film is the notion of honor in wartime.  The commandant of the POW camp, Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) must get the bridge completed by a certain date or he will be forced to commit ritual suicide and compels all of the prisoners, including the officers which is against the Geneva Conventions, to work.  When the British commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), refuses to back down, he must give in.  There is a particularly affecting scene where Saito weeps over losing face.  Nicholson considers it a matter of honor for the British army that the bridge be well-constructed and oversees the work diligently despite the fact that the bridge will most likely hinder the Allied war effort.  Another prisoner of war, U.S. Commander Shears (William Holden), has no honor and does whatever is necessary to survive, including taking a lighter from a dead soldier's body to use to bribe Saito for special privileges.  He ultimately escapes, which Nicholson finds dishonorable.  He is compelled, against his will, to lead a group back to the jungle to blow up the bridge. While both Saito and Nicholson descend into madness and are ultimately destroyed (The scene where Nicholson yells, "What have I done?" is brilliant), Shears, who has no honor, has the most honorable death trying to save a fellow soldier.  This film is very tense and dramatic and I'm not entirely sure why I would always fall asleep while watching it!  Guinness gives an outstanding performance (he won the Academy Award) as the uptight Nicholson but I also really enjoyed Holden's portrayal of the devil-may-care Shears.  The cinematography is lush and beautiful and I also loved the use of sound.  This film is a masterpiece and I highly recommend it!

Note:  The prisoners whistle "Colonel Bogey" as they march and I had the tune in my head the rest of the night!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity, the next film in the Silver Screen Classics series, is the other film that I have never seen before.  It is always such a treat when you see a classic film for the first time on the big screen!  Considering that it won eight Academy Awards, I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.  The narrative revolves around a company of soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the days leading up to Pearl Harbor.  Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) has just transferred to the company and the commanding officer, Captain Holmes (Philip Ober), wants him to box on his team to secure himself a promotion.  When Prewitt refuses, Holmes makes his life miserable by giving him unreasonable orders and extra duties.  Prewitt's only ally is Private Maggio (Frank Sinatra) who takes him to a gentlemen's club where he falls in love with a hostess named Lorene (Donna Reed) who refuses to marry him because of his lowly status in the army.  Sergeant Warden (Burt Lancaster) essentially runs the company for the always absent Holmes and eventually begins a clandestine affair with Holmes' neglected wife Karen (Deborah Kerr).   She wants him to apply for a promotion so she can divorce Holmes and marry him but he refuses.  These private dramas are soon overshadowed by the bigger drama of the Japanese attack and their lives are as ruined as Pearl Harbor.  All of the performances are incredible, although I do think that Frank Sinatra steals every scene he is in, but the scenes feel more like vignettes designed to showcase each individual actor rather than as part of a cohesive story.  Every character in the film is tragically flawed and each one contributes to his or her downfall, especially Sinatra's character, so none of them are very sympathetic.  I was also a little bit disappointed in the iconic kissing on the beach with crashing waves scene.   It happens early on in the movie (blink and you'll miss it), rather than as a happy ending, and then immediately afterward the couple has an argument.  Not very romantic at all!  I know this film is considered a masterpiece by most people but it was not what I was expecting.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Cool Hand Luke

The next movie in the Silver Screen Classics series was Cool Hand Luke.  It has been a really long time since I first saw it and I was thrilled to see it again on the big screen.  It is awesome to revisit a film and see something new which is what happened to me last night.  I appreciate this film so much more upon a second viewing many years after the first.  Lucas Jackson (Paul Newman) is sentenced to a Georgia road gang after some petty vandalism and disorderly conduct.  He is a devil-may-care sort of guy with a ready smile and a penchant for talking back to the guards.  He wins the respect of his fellow prisoners by standing his ground in a fight, winning a round of poker by bluffing (which is how he gets the nickname "Cool Hand Luke"), eating 50 hard-boiled eggs in an hour, and getting a road tarred two hours early.  He becomes a reluctant hero to the men by repeatedly trying to escape but after the third such escape the guards break him with beatings, solitary confinement, and other forms of torture.  When he begs for mercy, the men lose hope in him. After his final attempt to escape, he is shot by the guards but dies with his mischievous grin on his face, thereby giving some hope back to the men.  In my opinion, Luke is a Christ figure who willingly sacrifices himself for the men so they have the will to go on.  He has a dramatic scene in a church at the end of the film where he asks God why he has forsaken him and there is even a Judas figure who betrays him by bringing the police to him and arranging a deal for surrender.  I never really noticed any of that the first time I watched it.  Of course there is the now iconic line, "What we've got here is failure to communicate."  When I mentioned that I would be seeing this film to my Dad, he immediately quoted that line to me!  I loved Paul Newman in this role because he is so charismatic that it is easy to see why the gang comes to admire him so much.  That smile!  I also really enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces in the supporting cast, especially Harry Dean Stanton (who recently passed away), George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper, Ralph Waite, and Wayne Rogers (from TV's M.A.S.H).  It is a true classic and, as ever, I am so happy I had the opportunity to see it on the big screen as it was meant to be seen!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the first film in the Silver Screen Classics series, is one of two that I have never seen before, on the big screen or otherwise, so I have really been looking forward to it.  Based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same name, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof explores one pivotal night in the lives of a wealthy Mississippi family who have come together to celebrate the 65th birthday of the patriarch who happens to be dying of cancer.  Over the course of the evening, many different revelations bring the dysfunctional family closer together in some emotionally charged scenes.  Paul Newman plays the alcoholic younger son who wants to relive his glory days as a football star, Elizabeth Taylor plays his sexually frustrated wife, and Burl Ives plays the patriarch known as Big Daddy.  All three give stellar performances but, once again, I was so impressed with Elizabeth Taylor because her character's loneliness is palpable in every scene no matter what what she is saying.  I think she is a much better actress than people give her credit for.  This film is fraught with so much tension but there are also some highly comedic moments.  I laughed every time Madeleine Sherwood, who plays the wife of the older son (known as sisterwoman), was on the screen, especially when she has her bevy of children perform for Big Daddy to convince him to give her husband control of his fortune when he dies.  Her facial expressions are hilarious!  Even though there is not a lot of action, beyond throwing things in the heat of an argument, I was absolutely riveted.  I'm so glad I finally got to see this classic film, especially on the big screen.

Note:  Paul Newman was incredibly handsome in his prime!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Silver Screen Classics 2017

I am so excited that my local Megaplex Theatre is offering the Silver Screen Classics movie pass once again because I enjoyed it so much last year!  This series is a lot of fun because you get to see 10 different classic movies, one per week, for just $10.00.  This year the movies that will be included are: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cool Hand Luke, From Here to Eternity, The Bridge on the River Kwai, All the President's Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Citizen Kane, High Noon, and Forrest Gump.  I've only seen two of them on the big screen (and there are two that I've never seen before) so I'm really looking forward to all of them.  I was so excited that I bought my pass the day the series was announced (and so did my two best movie buddies).  Check back every week for a review of each movie or, better yet, go here to get a pass for yourself if you live in the SLC area.

Note:  They are screening each movie at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm each day at each participating theater so it is much more convenient than last year!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Silver Screen Classics: The Searchers

The final film in the Silver Screen Classics series was The Searchers, the classic Western directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne.  Westerns are not my favorite genre (although I did really love this film) and, even though it is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time, I thought it was incredibly melodramatic and there were many times when I had to stifle a laugh.  After the Civil War, a confederate soldier named Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns to his brother's homestead in the Texas wilderness.  Soon, a neighbor's cattle are discovered to be missing and a party, including Ethan, are dispatched to locate them.  They soon realize that it was a ploy by the Comanche to lure the men away from their families.  When Ethan returns to the homestead he discovers that his brother's family has been murdered and that his young niece, Debbie (Natalie Wood), has been taken captive.  Ethan vows revenge and spends the next five years searching for his niece, almost to the point of madness.  I know that this film was released in 1956 and times have definitely changed but I was quite dismayed by the stereotypical way the Comanche were portrayed.  I was also bothered by the racism evident in the film.  Ethan even considers shooting Debbie when he discovers that she has been living as the wife of the chief because he would rather see her dead than living as a Comanche.  Another criticism, which I found highly amusing, is the scenery.  Even though the film is set in the Texas wilderness, it was very obviously filmed in Utah.  I recognized many of the landforms!  Finally, I found the acting to be completely over-the-top, especially Jeffrey Hunter's portrayal of Martin Pawley, the adopted son of Ethan's brother.  Wayne's laconic style of speech elicited much laughter from the audience, especially when he uttered the phrase, "That'll be the day," which he did several times.  I'm glad that I had the chance to see this film, even though I don't quite understand the appeal, as well as all of the other films in this series.  I have definitely enjoyed spending my Wednesday evenings in a darkened theater watching these classic films on the big screen.  I hope that the Megaplex does another series soon!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Silver Screen Classics: Driving Miss Daisy

Despite amazing performances by Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, and Dan Aykroyd, I did wonder why the movie Driving Miss Daisy was included in a series called Silver Screen Classics.  In my opinion, it hasn't been around long enough for it to be considered a classic.  In fact, I remember seeing it on the big screen when it was first released so it can't be that old!  Nevertheless, it was screened as part of the series last night and I found it to be charming and incredibly affecting.  After his mother, a wealthy southern widow named Daisy Worthen (Tandy), crashes her car and loses her driving privileges, Boolie Worthen (Aykroyd) hires Hoke Colburn (Freeman) to be her chauffer and thus begins a touching story about the developing relationship between two people who, on the surface, couldn't be more different, but end up as friends.  There are so many touching scenes, such as when Daisy tells Hoke that he is her best friend and when Hoke lovingly feeds her after she has been moved to a rest home, but it is also quite funny!  I laughed out loud when Daisy says that she hopes she doesn't spit up when attending a Christmas party thrown by her son and his social-climbing wife (Patti LuPone).   As previously mentioned, both Tandy and Freeman give wonderful performances with many critics hailing it as Tandy's best (she won the Academy Award for Best Actress).  Freeman is so affecting that I frequently had tears in my eyes during his more powerful scenes, especially when he chastises Daisy for making  him wait to use the bathroom.  I remember being very surprised by Aykroyd's performance when I saw it the first time because I was used to seeing him in comedic roles.  I definitely enjoyed seeing it again so I guess it deserves to be called a "classic."  After all, it did win the Academy Award for Best Picture!

Note:  There is only one more film left in the series!  It has been so much fun and I hope the Megaplex does it again!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Silver Screen Classics: Singin' in the Rain

Last night's screening of Singin' in the Rain was simply delightful!  This is one of the movies in the Silver Screen Classics series that I have actually seen on the big screen before (it was re-released in theaters in 2002 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the film) and I enjoyed it just as much last night as I did watching it then.  Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a silent film star in the 1920s along with his bubble-headed partner Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen).  When the studio decides to transition to "talkies," Lina's obnoxious voice and terrible acting threaten to ruin the picture.  Don decides to dub Lina's voice with that of Kathy Seldon (Debbie Reynolds), an aspiring actress he recently met, and chaos ensues when Lina finds out!  All of the big song and dance production numbers are amazing (the audience applauded after every single one) and I especially loved "Make 'Em Laugh" performed by Don's sidekick played by Donald Sutherland, "Good Morning" performed by Kelly, Sutherland, and Reynolds, and, of course, the iconic title song performed by Kelly.  There were many moments when I laughed out loud, most of them involving Hagen, and I particularly enjoyed when Lina had to go to a vocal coach!  I think it is a great movie, widely considered to be the greatest movie musical of all-time, and it seems that many agree with me because there literally wasn't an empty seat in the theater.  Watch it, preferably on the big screen, if you have the chance!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Silver Screen Classics: North By Northwest

The classic North By Northwest is one of my favorite films of all time and it was my first introduction to the genius of Alfred Hitchcock.  It was also one of the first movies that I ever owned and one of the first movies I had to replace on DVD when I got rid of all my VHS tapes.  I have probably seen it over a hundred times but never on the big screen.  I was thrilled when I realized that it was one of the selections on the Silver Screen Classics movie pass and I have been eagerly anticipating this screening since I got it.  One of my favorite scenes is when Alfred Hitchcock himself misses a bus after the opening credits and then I learned that he always appears in his movies!  Ad executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for the agent George Kaplan and is pursued by a Russian spy (James Mason) trying to smuggle microfilm out of the country.  He inadvertently puts the real agent (Eva Marie Saint) in jeopardy so they must work together to stop the spy.  From the drunken car chase along the edge of a cliff to the iconic scene with the cropduster to the dramatic ending on top of Mount Rushmore, this film is thrilling and it is arguably one of Hitchcock's best.  Cary Grant is suave and debonair while Eva Marie Saint is icy cool and I particularly enjoy all of the sophisticated banter between the two of them.  They just don't make leading men like Cary Grant any more!  I love this film so much and I had a lot of fun watching it for the first time on the big screen last night.  It was the perfect way to begin the long Thanksgiving weekend!

Note:  Apparently I am not alone in my admiration of this film.  The theater was packed on a snowy night in SLC! 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Silver Screen Classics: Giant

Wednesdays are becoming my favorite day of the week because I look forward to the Silver Screen Classics movie all day.  Giant, the selection that I saw last night, is a movie that I've wanted to see for a long time because it is widely regarded as one of Elizabeth Taylor's best performances and it is the final film James Dean completed before he was killed in a car accident.  It is an epic generational saga about a Texas rancher named Jordan Benedict (Rock Hudson), his fiery wife Leslie (Taylor), and his rival Jett Rink (Dean).  I have to admit that this film is not at all what I was expecting.  I thought it was a romance involving a love triangle between the three central characters but, while there is definitely a rivalry between Benedict and Rink, it is more about tradition (the cattle barons) vs. progress (the nouveau-riche oil tycoons) and there is a major subplot about the racism of Texans towards Mexican Americans (it is odd to me that Texans praised this film when it was released).  I also have to admit that I didn't entirely like Dean in this film.  I had certain preconceived notions about Dean's persona as a "rebel without a cause" but his performance is completely overwrought and his delivery is oftentimes unintelligible (although Rink's discovery of oil is an incredibly iconic scene).  I'm not really sure what the big deal is about his portrayal (other than the fact that his life was cut tragically short after this role).  I would, however, agree with the critics and say that this is, indeed, one of Taylor's best performances.  Her portrayal of Leslie is both spirited and sensitive and I sometimes think that her turbulent personal life overshadowed her talent as an actress.  This movie is starkly beautiful with incredible shots of the vast and empty Texan plains and I loved the Victorian mansion which is seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  Even though it was not what I was expecting, I'm glad that I finally had a chance to see this classic film.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Silver Screen Classics: Doctor Zhivago

I love the movie Doctor Zhivago.  I used to own a copy on VHS, before I got rid of most of my belongings in the Great Purge of 2015, and I've seen it more times than I can count!  However, I have never seen it on the big screen and the opportunity to do so was one of the major reasons I decided to get the Silver Screen Classics movie pass.  I saw it last night and it was amazing!  Doctor Zhivago is an epic love story set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution (I think this movie is where my fascination with Russia began).  It tells the story of the doomed love affair between Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif), an idealistic doctor and poet, and Lara Antipova (Julie Christie), a young woman involved in a disastrous affair with an older man and then a loveless marriage to a fiery young Bolshevik.  What I loved most about seeing it on the big screen is the striking art direction.  The  Bolshevik demonstration, with the participants wearing black and carrying red banners set against gray buildings and white snow, is brilliant and I am always struck by the snow and ice in Varykino (it was filmed in Spain and the ice is actually beeswax).  I also really loved the costumes, especially the pink ensemble with gray fur worn by Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin), Zhivago's long-suffering wife, as she gets off the train from Paris and the red dress worn by Lara during an assignation with Komarovsky (Rod Steiger).  I've heard that Julie Christie hated the dress which director David Lean used to advantage in the scene with Steiger.  The soundtrack by Maurice Jarre, which features the balalaika, was instantly recognizable to me, especially "Lara's Theme."  I was in dire need of a distraction and this film fit the bill perfectly.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it again!

Note:  Every movie that I've seen with this pass so far has had an intermission, which is so much fun.  The VHS of Doctor Zhivago even had an intermission!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Silver Screen Classics: Ben-Hur

Out of all of the selections with the Silver Screen Classics movie pass, I was most looking forward to seeing Ben-Hur.  I recently saw the remake and it was unfavorably compared to this adaptation so I wanted to see for myself which one had the best chariot race.  The William Wyler version has a similar plot to the new version.  Messala (Stephen Boyd) is a Roman tribune who returns to Jerusalem as the new commander of the Roman garrison.  He has a joyous reunion with his childhood friend Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), a wealthy prince in Jersusalem.  Massala asks Judah to help him quell the rebellion that is brewing in Jerusalem but they soon quarrel when Judah refuses to spy on his people.  During a parade for the new governor, a tile falls from the roof of Judah's house injuring him and Judah, along with his mother and sister, is arrested.  Messala sentences Judah as a galley slave while the fate of his family is unknown and he vows revenge.  After several years, Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins), a Roman consul, is assigned to Judah's ship and notices his will to live.  Arrius unlocks Judah's chains just before a battle allowing Judah to escape the sinking ship as well as rescue him.  In gratitude, Arrius takes Judah to Rome where he learns how drive a chariot.  Eventually, Judah returns to Jerusalem to seek his mother and sister.  When he, erroneously, hears that they are dead, he challenges Messala to a chariot race.  After the race, he finds his mother and sister and, inspired by the ministry of Jesus (I thought it was a bit strange that the audience never sees Jesus' face), forgives the Romans for what they have done to him and his family.  This movie is epic in every sense of the word!  It had the biggest budget of any movie up to that point with thousands of extras, horses, and costumes and a crew of 200 to create over 300 sets.  It was the highest grossing film of 1959 and won 11 Academy Awards.  While I think the sea battle is a bit more impressive in the remake (because it was shown from the perspective of the galley slaves), I have to give the chariot race to this movie.  Even with the superior filmmaking techniques utilized in the latter film, this version is incredibly intense and dramatic, especially when several charioteers are trampled.  Like all of the previous films, it was spectacular to see this on the big screen and, once again, the audience enthusiastically applauded at the conclusion.

Note:  An older couple sitting next to me couldn't believe that I had never seen this movie before.  When I mentioned that I had recently seen the remake and was curious as to how the two would compare, they said they eagerly awaited my verdict.  When I told them that I liked this chariot race better, they cheered!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Silver Screen Classics: Gone With the Wind

I have been having so much fun with the Silver Screen Classics movie pass!  I look forward to the movie every week!  Last night's selection, Gone With the Wind, was so much fun!  The first time I saw it was when I was spending the summer in Canada with my Aunt June.  She couldn't believe that I hadn't seen it before and made me watch her copy on VHS (she also made me watch Casablanca, Now Voyager, The African Queen, and Notorious).  I immediately fell in love with the characters of Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), the strong-willed daughter of a Georgia plantation owner during the Civil War and Reconstruction era, and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), the blockade-running scoundrel who meets his match.  Vivien Leigh is absolutely perfect as Scarlett and I loved the duality of her performance: sometimes the indulged and spoiled little girl and sometimes the strong woman who will do anything to survive.  Her facial expressions change in an instant!  Clark Gable is incredibly dashing as Rhett, yet I was most most impressed by his vulnerability because he truly does love Scarlett despite her obsession with a weaker man.  It was simply amazing to see this film, in all of its Technicolor glory, on the big screen and I was particularly impressed by the long shot of all of the wounded Confederate soldiers as well as the burning of Atlanta.  While the scenes of Tara and Twelve Oaks weren't as grand as I remembered them to be (they looked almost like postcards), I thought the red-carpeted staircase in the Butler's Atlanta mansion was spectacular.  I have to admit that I was a bit bothered by the glorification of slavery (although I did love Hattie McDonald's Academy-award winning portrayal of Mammy) after seeing more realistic portrayals in Twelve Years a Slave and The Birth of a Nation but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of this Hollywood classic.  Once again, it was such a fun crowd (I have been one of the youngest in the audience at these screenings) and everyone cheered when Rhett uttered the immortal lines, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"  I can't wait until the next film!

Note:  This film is four hours long!  It's a good thing there is an intermission!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Silver Screen Classics: The Sound of Music

Last night I officially started my fall break by seeing The Sound of Music on the big screen!  I can't think of anything better than that!  This movie is one of my sentimental favorites and I think the same could be said of a lot of people because the theater was absolutely packed (it was the second movie for the Silver Screen Classics movie pass but anyone could buy a ticket to this screening).  It was a very enthusiastic crowd and people would cheer (and occasionally sing along) when each instantly recognizable song would begin.  My favorites are "The Sound of Music," "Edelweiss," "The Lonely Goatherd," and "So Long, Farewell."  Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer are so wonderful as Maria and Captain von Trapp and I had forgotten just how handsome Plummer is in this movie, especially when he dances the Landler.  The children are absolutely adorable, especially little Gretl (Kym Karath).  She always looks like she is concentrating so much on the lyrics and choreography!  This is the first time I've ever seen it on the big screen and I was blown away by the gorgeous scenery, particularly during the "Do-Re-Mi" sequence!  I've been to Salzburg once before (I even did The Sound of Music tour!) but now I want to go back!  Seriously, I had a huge grin on my face during the entire movie and I clapped, as did everyone in the audience, when it was over.  It was so much fun!

Note:  I think everyone in the entire world loves this movie except for my Dad.  For some reason, he absolutely hates it!  When we would go on long road trips when I was young, especially to Canada during the summer, we would all get a turn at picking the music.  Once, my sister Marilyn (who loves this movie more than anyone I have ever met) picked the soundtrack of The Sound of Music and we were all singing at the top of our lungs.  My Dad pulled the car to the side of the freeway, got out, and started walking.  We had to promise not to play it ever again before we could convince him to get back in the car!
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