“These Are a Few of My….”

11 Jul

Because I am so passionate about movies, and because I spent such a long time in the movie business, I am often asked to name my all-time favorite movie, but the truth is, I think I have seen waaayyy tooo many movies in the course of a lifetime to limit myself to one absolute favorite; moreover, I love a lot of movies for a great many reasons. I don’t even think I could limit myself to a list of 10 or 20 all-time favorites, but what I can do as a way of introducing myself is make a list of my favorite movies in a variety of categories, so here goes:

  1. As noted, if I had to name a single, absolute, all-time favorite movie, I would be hard-pressed to be that specific; however, I could likely narrow my focus to a select list of finalists that would include The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Days of Heaven (1978) near the top of the heap along with Harold and Maude (1971). I can state with absolute confidence that the latter actually changed my life.  I could also add  The Piano (1993) and Tootsie (1982) to the slate.  If you had asked me in 1978 what my favorite movie was, I would have said Julia (1977). Beyond that, I can only think to rank movies by category.
  2. Favorite Hitchcock movie:Truth be told, Alfred Hitchcock is probably my favorite

    Grace Kelly and James Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window

    director, and of his many films that I love, none gives me greater pleasure than Rear Window (1954).  This is a great late-night offering, with real star wattage in the form of Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, not to mention wisecracking–if slightly morbid–Thelma Ritter, and the spine tinglingly creepy Raymond Burr; meanwhile, don’t forget about poor Miss Lonelyhearts, played by Judith Evelyn. Hitchcock was nominated for Best Director for this one, but, oddly, members of the Academy forgot to nominate the Art Direction/Set Decorating team of  Sam Comer, J. McMillan Johnson, Ray Moyer, and Hal Pereia, who create a realistic, lived-in, multi-dimensional world within a rather confined space. Runner-up: Notorious

  3. Favorite animated film:  Of course, “Disney” is pretty much synonymous with animation, and on that account  One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) and The Little Mermaid (1989) immediately come to mind.  I love the “sketchy elegance” of the former, and the lushness and the rich score of the latter. I was awestruck  on multiple levels by the sheer ingenuity of “Under the Sea” and the swoony romanticism of  “Kiss the Girl” upon first viewing of The Little Mermaid, so much so that I don’t even mind the way the Disney version tinkers with Hans Christian Andersen’s more meditative ending.  My non-Disney pick would have to be the arguably little known Gay Purr-ee, a 1962 production released by Warner Bros. that tells the saga of a charming, if naive, female cat on the prowl in Paris of the Gay Nineties. The movie is as notable for its vocal talent (Judy Garland, Robert Goulet, Red Buttons, Hermione Gingold, Paul Frees, Morey Amsterdam, and Mel Blanc) as it is the music of Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, who famously collaborated on The Wizard of Oz; Arlen also co-wrote Garland’s “The Man that Got Away” with Ira Gershwin for the 1954 remake of A Star is Born.  Finally, Gay Purr-ee stands out for the way that it apes the styles of such painters as Degas, Modigliani, and Seurat.
  4. Favorite Musical: Where to begin? Technically, The Wizard of Oz is a musical as is The Little Mermaid, and even Mary Poppins, all of which I love, but perhaps no musical fills me with more delight than The Music Man.  This one has got it all, beginning with Meredith Wilson’s glorious score, to stellar performances from the likes of Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, and an irresistible little

    Shirley Jones and Robert Preston lead a parade of "Seventy Six Trombones," and more, in 1962's The Music Man.

    cuddlebug named Ron Howard, along with Oona White’s intricately energetic choreography.  Oh sure, it’s corny as hell, but it’s also sincere, and it benefits from top of the line, studio production values (in this case, Warner Bros). Of course, credit must be given to director Morton DaCosta, who scored a Directors Guild nomination though he and Preston–who won a Tony for originating the role of Harold Hill on Broadway–were overlooked by members of the Academy. On the other hand, the movie was nominated for a total of  6 Oscars, including Best Picture. Runner-up (among stiff competition): The Sound of Music. I love this movie because even though it is based on a pretty incredible true story, it seems to have nothing to do with real life. No, it’s so much better, so much cleaner, than the real life, and that’s quite a feat. I ask you, has fake rain against the panes of glass in a Hollywood soundstage  gazebo ever looked more dazzling? No? I rest my case. Meanwhile, has it really been almost a decade since I was floored by Chicago? (We’ll “unpack” Singin’ in the Rain and a few others at a later time.)

  5. Favorite Guilty Pleasure from the 80s: American Dreamer (1984) stars JoBeth Williams as an amateur novelist who wins a trip to Paris, gets bumped on the head, assumes the identity of her favorite character, and finds herself in the middle of a nefarious plot! She also parades around in spectacular 1980s designer fashions and is joined in her escapades by dishy Tom Conti, at once dashing and befuddled. I recall that the reviewer in Cosmopolitan (Guy Flatley, if not Liz Smith) wrote something to the effect that if Oscars were awarded to actresses sheerly for having a good time onscreen, JoBeth would be well deserving for her work in American Dreamer.  As much fun as the movie is, I’ve always believed that it didn’t perform better at the box office because the somewhat thematically similar Romancing the Stone, starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas, opened earlier the same year and was such a huge hit that American Dreamer simply could not compete against the audience goodwill generated by  Turner and company. Too bad, but I prefer this one: guilty. (Dis)Honorable Mentions: The Man with One Red Shoe (1985), Burglar (1987), and Troop Beverly Hills (1989).
Well, these are a few of a few of my favorite things. Next time, I’ll add a list of five more categories, and that will have to suffice for a list of my 1o favorites for the time being. Of course, looking at the above list, one might think that I haven’t seen a movie in awhile, or maybe I just don’t appreciate more recent offerings. Nothing could be further from the truth, I assure you, but every new movie I see is constantly competing for space in my memory against dozens, hundreds, of other movies that are as fresh in mind as the day I saw them. That noted, going back to Days of Heaven, I’m blown away by director Terrence Malick’s latest, The Tree of Life.
Thanks for your consideration…
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5 Responses to ““These Are a Few of My….””

  1. Lezlie King 12 July 2011 at 3:45 am #

    Good to see you blogging & I couldn’t help but stop to comment.

    If I were to ever have a tiny waist again I’ve always said I would have a dress made just like the one that Grace Kelly wears in ‘Rear Window’…you know the one with the black bodice & flowing white tulle & chiffon skirt with the delightful branch embroidery falling from the waist. Luscious! Edith Head was brilliant!!

    And ‘American Dreamer’ is one of my all time favorites. So much so that any time I happen to have another female captive at my house for at least 3 hours I pop it into the DVD player. That gives us 2 hours to watch it & then 1 hour to relive our favorite parts of it while we nosh.

    • listen2uraunt 12 July 2011 at 8:54 am #

      Thanks, Lezlie! I’m glad you found my blog. I too love the Edith Head/Grace Kelly dress in Rear Window, and while I’m gaga over American Dreamer, per my post, and do indeed prefer it to Romancing the Stone, I still enjoy Romancing the Stone, just not as much as A.D.

  2. judith.dumont@gmail.com 12 July 2011 at 9:13 am #

    I was sure you were going to mention “Sound of Music” based on the title of the blog entry alone…I as SO GLAD you started a blog for movies! You are the movie queen after all. How do I subscribe? I do feel like you’ll have an “Ode to Tom Cruise” entry at some point…

    • listen2uraunt 12 July 2011 at 5:53 pm #

      Hmmmm, thanks, Judith! I don’t know how to subscribe just yet. Kenny helped me get started. Perhaps I’ll email people when there is an update???

  3. judith.dumont@gmail.com 12 July 2011 at 9:14 am #

    And by “as” SO GLAD, I meant “am” SO GLAD…damn grammar.

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