More, More, More…

19 Jul

Okay, so last time I shared  a few of a few of my favorite movies in five categories, including Favorite Alfred Hitchcock Film, Favorite Animated Film, Favorite Musical, and Favorite Guilty Pleasure from the 1980s. Now, let’s add five more categories and call it a day.

6. Favorite Black and White Film: Of course, I grew up watching a black and white TV, so I was in high school–or at least junior high–before I realized that most of The Wizard of Oz is in color.   My point is that I’ve seen a lot of black and white movies in my day, many of which I later found out were in color.  I actually love black and white films, so this is tough, but I’ll just go with Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), a Max Opuls movie starring Joan Fontaine and Louis Jourdan. I plan to write about this movie extensively in the future, so I’ll get back to you on that. Runner-up: Oh what the hell–it’s hard for me to resist Manhattan (1979).

Moira Shearer: Lovely to look at in The Red Shoes

7. Favorite Trippy Color Film (pre-1960): I suppose that both Fantasia and The Wizard of Oz qualify, but my eyes are most captivated by The Red Shoes (1948). Why? Well, for starters, I love the color red, and the multiple reds in this update on the old Hans Christian Andersen tale, about a young woman who literally dances herself to death while wearing the titular shoes, do not disappoint. Everything about this convoluted triangle set against the competitive world of ballet (well before The Black Swan), is amped to an intense–operatic?–level that some viewers might find dated, sexist,  and/or way too over the top, but I actually find exhilarating. After all, film is a visual medium, and leading lady Moira Shearer, with her blazing red hair and deep blue eyes, was definitely made for Technicolor. Incredibly, The Red Shoes was not nominated by the Academy for its color cinematography (Jack Cardiff); however, it did win for “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color” for the team of Hein Heckworth and Arthur Lawson, as well as a Best Score for a Musical or Comedy (Brian Easdale). Additionally, the film, which was co-directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, was nominated for Best Picture, Best Editing, etc. If you haven’t seen it lately, or if you haven’t seen it at all, you should put it on your list. Honorable Mentions: Blood and Sand (1941), a movie about bullfighters in which even the name evokes sensational color; Leave Her to Heaven (1945), a little piece of film noir heaven painted in bold Technicolor, and The Quiet Man (1952), director John Ford’s deliriously romantic Irish romp. All three won Oscars for Best Color Cinematography, but I also want to recognize  1955’s This Island Earth, a piece of mid-century candy colored science fiction hokum about aliens and flying saucers that never ceases to delight. It might take some work to find a copy, but if you do, you’ll be lucky indeed!

Promenade Sentimentale

8. Favorite French Film: It’s Diva, the 1981 Jean-Jacques Beineix caper–for lack of a better word–about a sweet-faced messenger (Frédéric Andréi) who stalks a lovely opera singer (Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez), to the point of making illegal recordings of her concerts and stealing her gown. Of course, this young man’s indiscretions seem relatively harmless once ruthless Asian pirates begin threatening him. Plus, there’s a whole other crisscrossing subplot about narcotics, prostitution, and dirty cops. This is simply one of the most exciting movies I’ve ever seen with smashing visuals, a cool chase scene, and a top notch score by Vladimir Cosma. It was a huge hit back in the day, and it won plenty of awards in France as well as in the U.S, but for some reason it fell through the cracks with the Academy. The cinematographer Philippe Rousselot went on to further glory with Hope an Glory (1987), Dangerous Liaisons (1988), and Sherlock Holmes (2009), among others; he won an Oscar for 1992’s A River Runs through It. Runner up: Does Cousins (1989), the American remake–filmed in scenic British Columbia–of Cousin Cousine (1975) count? I saw both versions, by the way.

Witherspoon (l) and Phoenix (r) walk the line

9. Favorite Love Story (Hetero): Of course, Casablanca (1942) and Gone with the Wind (1939) are among–wait for it–the usual suspects. On the other hand, Gone with the Wind is tricky material best left for another day; meanwhile, Casablanca shows Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at their absolute best: he’s touchingly vulnerable, and she’s so much worldlier at 27 than many of today’s actresses are at the same age (because they’ve been coached that prolonged girlhood is the way to go) that the 15 year age gap between the two doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Plus, the ending is complicated in the way that true love often is. I also dig the way the way that the forces of nature seem to erupt almost every time John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara come within inches of each other in The Quiet Man (1952).  I don’t think Hollywood is as interested in real love stories these days unless they’re more like romantic comedies–and don’t get me started on The English Patient (1996)–but The Notebook (2004), starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, seems to have garnered quite a following, and it is beautifully done. No complaints there. Here’s two more among the top of a considerable heap: Walk the Line (2005) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1983). The former tells the true story of the messy relationship between country singers Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). What these two people go through before they find happiness is heartbreaking–hurtful, destructive even, to their own friends, families, and loved ones–but, once again, that’s how true love often is. Cash was plagued by demons, and Carter, while not a saint, was forthright and well grounded in a way that Cash craved. By now, we all know how their story ended: after years of unsteady courtship, Cash proposed to Carter onstage; the two married shortly afterward. Despite numerous ups and downs, the two stayed together until the ends of their lives, both of them passing away in 2003. Witherspoon won an Oscar, and Phoenix should have as well though he was, indeed, nominated; both won Golden Globes.  Finally, when Mel Gibson was far from a household name in the states (for better or worse), he teamed up with the then arguably better known Sigourney Weaver in Peter Weir’s The Year of Living Dangerously. There is a lot of intrigue going on in this one, so it’s not necessarily a love story in the strictest sense; moreover, it is perhaps best remembered for Linda Hunt’s triumphant Oscar winning performance as “Billy Kwan,” but it deserves to be watched just to see Weaver and Gibson in a pairing that is practically combustible. I don’t remember if The Year of Living Dangerously even has an “explicit” love scene, but I don’t think that matters so much when two good looking performers have such undeniable chemistry.

Imagine Headey (l) and Perabo (r) in their own sentimental walk because that's what lovers in romantic films do

10. Favorite Love Story (LGBT): A few years ago a young friend of mine turned me on to the British film Imagine Me & You (2005), starring Dallas born Piper Perabo (now on the hot TV show, Covert Affairs) as a young bride who becomes fantastically smitten with her  florist (Lena Headey) on the very day she is set to marry the dishy Matthew Goode. Oh, my! How will it all end? Imagine Me & You doesn’t linger on the issue of sexual orientation, but it does make a great case for the part of romantic love that is unknowable, and, I would say, unstoppable. The women and the men in this movie are for the most part easy on the eyes, and it generously mixes heartbreak with humor. The encounter in the park is a nifty comic gem. Runner-up: Adam & Steve (2005), which I like because it shows two well adjusted, if slightly damaged men (played by Malcolm Gets and Craig Chester), trying to figure out how to engage in a relationship that fits the way they want to be rather than a mere imitation of a traditional hetero relationship, and I respect that. Plus, it’s funny as hell. Chester wrote and directed, btw.  Runner up #2: Trick (1999).

Well, that’s all for this week. Thanks for your consideration…

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4 Responses to “More, More, More…”

  1. K.J. 19 July 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    As always, a joy to read. Remind me to show you how to make it so that the articles automatically populate to your Facebook feed. Of course, I would have to say that I generally agree with your selection for LGBT love story, but my own personal feelings say that “Latter Days” is one of my favorites.

    • listen2uraunt 19 July 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      Hi Kenny,
      Thanks! I think I finally figured out how to make it automatically generate on Fb. You’re the second person today who has mentioned Latter Days to me…I guess I need to screen it.

      See ya tonight!

  2. Anita 02 August 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Love your favorites list. I am taking notes. 🙂

    • listen2uraunt 03 August 2011 at 6:28 pm #

      Yay! But of course, I saw many of these favorites with you, lol.

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