Friday, January 29, 2010

For the Weekend: Here and There

Hello, everyone. Thank goodness it's Friday again. And time to relax with a few great movies as well...

We lost a great actress last Friday, Jean Simmons.  No, not the KISS singer, but the 50s and 60s actress who starred in movies like "Guys and Dolls" and "Spartacus."  I'm going to talk more about her on Monday, but TCM has changed it's schedule tonight in memory of her.  They will be showing three of her films - "Great Expectations" (1946), from which she got the part of Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet;" "Elmer Gantry" (1960), with Burt Lancaster about a drifter-turned-evangelist; and "The Happy Ending" (1969), about a married woman's attempt to find happiness without her family, for which Simmons recieved an Oscar nomination.  The trio of movies starts at 8pm EST.

Also on TCM this weekend is the film that I mentioned inspired the design of the pirate ship in "The Goonies" - Errol Flynn's "The Sea Hawk" from 1940.  A true swashbuckler in every sense of the word, it tells the tale of Geoffrey Thorpe, the Sea Hawk himself.  Hired by Queen Elizabeth I to defend the seas against the Spanish, Thorpe falls for one of his captives (Brenda Marshall).  Plenty of romance and adventure soon follow.  Also costarring Claude Rains, it airs Saturday, 1/31, at 11:30 pm EST.

And for my sister-in-law and everyone in need of a good romantic comedy, I recommend "Born Yesterday" (1950).  The ever-cheerful Judy Holliday stars in what I believe to be her best film ever, with great costars like William Holden and Broderick Crawford.  Holliday plays a corrupt tycoon's (Crawford) mistress who starts to be tutored by Holden, only to become smarter than anyone thought.  In the process she falls for Holden and discovers Crawford's true character.  It's a wonderful part that she orginated on Broadway in 1946.  And no one could have played it better.  "Born Yesterday" can be streamed instantly on Netflix or seen here.

Have a wonderful weekend, and I'll see you Monday! 

(Post-tidbit: Flynn's costumes in "The Sea Hawk" were actually reused costumes from his previous year's film, "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex," about the romance between Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Goonies: Treasure Time!

Good enough for you, it’s good enough for me, it’s gooooood enough, good enough for me-e, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeaa-ah. Oh Cyndi Lauper. Her song has been stuck in my head all weekend long. But I don’t mind one bit as I write about today’s favorite movie. You guessed it – “The Goonies”.

Released in 1985, it is the adventurous story of group of kids, known as the Goonies, who follow a map in search of a legendary pirate’s lost treasure. It stars Sean Astin (pre-Samwise Gamgee), Josh Brolin (in his big screen debut), Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Joe Pantoliano, and many more great actors. Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Richard Donner, this became a true cult phenomenon.

Now I’m sure most people know this movie well, at least every kid who grew up in the 80s. What a dream adventure! With the popularity of the Indiana Jones movies, this was the archeological race for the pre-teen crowd. You didn’t need a PhD. You didn’t need to worry about Nazis (just the Fratellis). All you needed was a bike, some friends, and a lot of luck…oh, and Sloth. Also, what kid doesn’t love pirates!? I thoroughly believe this movie is the reason for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. We 80s kids grew up and became the storytellers ourselves, with kids of our own. What parent wouldn’t want to share some of that adventure and fun we experienced with our kids? I definitely remember wanting to go on my own treasure hunt myself. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many caves in the small Texas town where I grew up.

Oddly enough, though, this movie wasn’t considered a success in 1985, at least not in the sense that the creators were hoping. Screenwriter Chris Columbus had just come off the success of his previous film, “Gremlins,” which grossed $145 million, and the studio was hoping for a repeat. Sadly, “Goonies” only managed to gross $61 million. However, it has grown into such a cult favorite today that there are even fan festivals in Astoria, Oregon, where the film was shot and takes place.

And who wouldn’t want to celebrate those moments, like Data (Ke Huy Quan of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” fame) sliding down into the Walsh house, right through the screen door. Or Chunk (Jeff Cohen) breaking down under torture and spilling out every bad thing he ever did (click here to view). Or even the moment we finally see the pirate ship. By the way, that was a fully-built ship, with all the masts and levels complete, sitting in a full lagoon. (It was modeled after Erroll Flynn’s ship in “The Sea Hawk,” the film Sloth watches in his cell.) No green-screen digital effects like in today’s movies (though there are some obvious painted-effects moments, but hey, it was the 80s.)

Donner and Spielberg tried to keep the filming as fun and true as possible for the kids, and you can tell in their acting. The filming mainly took place in sequential order, which is rare in films, over 5 months. None of the kids were allowed to see the pirate ship before they filmed finding it, to keep their reactions pure. Spielberg even treated them to some amazing perks during filming, like inviting Michael Jackson and his family to the set to meet them, then sending them to Dodger stadium to watch his Victory tour. Or after filming, flying them all to Hawaii to surprise Donner with a wrap party barbeque.

And this was an adventure the cast and crew never wanted to forget. Donner kept pirate One-Eyed Willie’s head and the model of the ship in his office. Sean Astin was allowed to keep the treasure map, but sadly, one day many years later, his mom Patty Duke found it and thought it was just a crumpled piece of paper and threw it away. Some of the kids even tried to take some of the doubloons home, but unfortunately they were caught and had to give them back. And if you want a truly special keepsake from this movie, try and find the 12” LP single of “Eight Arms to Hold You,” the song playing during the deleted octopus scene. Thought by the creators to become a huge dance hit, the single was cut. Unfortunately, it bombed miserably, so the LP is one of the rarest collectibles in Goonie trading.

So if you’re still in that nostalgic mood, or just want to watch something that’s about nothing but pure fun, check out “The Goonies” this week. Because Goonies never say die.

(Post-tidbit: After filming, the pirate ship was offered to anyone who would take it, but no one wanted it. Can you believe that?! Who doesn’t want their own pirate ship?!? The ship was consequently scrapped because of this. *sniff*)

Friday, January 22, 2010

For the Weekend: Childhood Nostalgia

I must admit that I absolutely love the internet. The things you can find on there…amazing! Because of the movie I’ve already chosen for Monday’s post, I’ve been in a super-nostalgic mood these last couple of days. In my efforts to fill that need, I managed to find some classic movies from my childhood that I haven’t seen in years. So, I am suggesting a couple of them for you this weekend – “The Journey of Natty Gann” (1985) and “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” (1991).

“Natty Gann” takes place during the depression, and tells the story of a young girl who travels west on her own to reach her father in Washington, who had to go there for work. It stars 15-year-old Meredith Salenger as Natty (short for Natalie) and a 19-year-old John Cusack, as well as Ray Wise as her father. “Wild Hearts” is also a depression-era tale. It is the true story of a young woman (Gabrielle Anwar) and her life as a diving girl in a girl-and-horse high diving act, costarring Michael Schoeffling (“Sixteen Candles” hunk) and Cliff Robertson.

Both films, having been made by Disney during their resurgence back into a cultural superpower, are great family film-fare. I admit fully that I am a Disney kid, and proud of it. I remember when The Disney Channel first went on the air (you know, when you had to pay for it). It was one of my favorite channels to watch, and I saw both of these movies for the first time there. Back then, Disney was great at telling stories with strong, independent female leads. None of this Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus kind of stuff. They made movies for the stories, not the profits. Both “Natty Gann” and “Wild Hearts” are great films for young girls, from an era long passed.

So, this weekend, take a break and embrace those memories of younger days…or create new ones with your kids. It’s family-friendly weekend here on Diary of a Celluloid Girl. Both films are on DVD, or you can catch “The Journey of Natty Gann” here and “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” on Netflix. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

(Post-tidbit: Meredith Salenger made a cameo appearance in Disney's "Race to Witch Mountain" (2009), playing a television report named...wait for it - Natalie Gann.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Apartment: A Real-life Story

It's a gloriously rainy day here in Los Angeles today, the perfect weather to stay at home and enjoy a good movie...or at least write about one.  Today's movie of discussion - Billy Wilder's "The Apartment" (1960) starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.  This gem of a movie by Wilder and his writing partner I.A.L. Diamond was the follow-up to their enormously successful hit "Some Like It Hot."  There was a lot of pressure on them to make something equally as good...and they succeeded.

"The Apartment" tells the story of Lemmon's character C.C. Baxter ("C for Calvin, C for Clifford") and his inventive way of rising to the top in the corporate world.  He lends his apartment out to executives in his office so that they can have a secret, secure place to go for their adulterous affairs.  Except for the occasional lack of sleep, everything is fine until the girl he longs for (MacLaine) ends up being one of those mistresses.  When she takes an overdose of sleeping pills while in his apartment, everything becomes more complicated, yet clearer for Baxter.

This is my favorite Billy Wilder film.  I love "Some Like It Hot" as well, but there's something about "The Apartment" that warms my heart unlike the other.  There is no way to classify this film.  It's a comedy, drama, wonderful love story, and sad satire of our world all at the same time.  Wilder and Diamond managed to create one of the most well-written scripts out there with this film.  To cross genres so smoothly and yet keep the strength and heart of the story consistent throughout is a amazing feat.  Basically, they wrote real life.

Wilder got the idea for this movie back in 1945 after seeing the film "Brief Encounter." He kept thinking about the unseen guy who kept lending out his apartment to the leads for their affair.  But due to film censorship, he wasn't able to get it made until 1960.  Yet even then the adulterous theme was controversial.  That didn't seem to matter though come Oscar season.  "The Apartment" was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won 5 of them, including Best Screenplay, Best Director, and the ultimate win, Best Picture of the Year.  This film ended up being the last completely black and white film to win a Best Picture Oscar as well, with "Schindler's List" in 1993 being the closest to break that record.  ("Schindler's List" is not completely black and white though.)

Two of the Oscar nominations were for Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, and it's their talent and chemistry that make this film feel so real.  Lemmon is a favorite for me because he has a great talent of being every man.  There's nothing about him in looks and movement that make him stand out, which works for his roles.  He is always able to blend into his characters yet retain what makes him lovable.  Shirley MacLaine is also a favorite of mine, because she is always a joy to watch.  There is something about her that is innately light and natural, even when she's serious.  Click here to view a scene of their chemistry.

Wilder worked hard to make this film as real as possible, including giving his actors only a few pages of the script at a time, so they wouldn't know the ending, as well as changing scenes a little here and there to fit the actors' real personalities themselves.  Of course sometimes that wasn't always true to form.  Fred MacMurray, who played the cold-hearted scoundrel who breaks MacLaine's heart, used to tell a story about the aftereffects of this film.  He once had a woman come up to him and hit him with her purse, calling him a horrible adulterer after this movie premiered, which was completely against his personality.

So if you're in the mood for a good story that rings true even today, rent "The Apartment" now (or click here) and enjoy one of the strongest gems in Hollywood's film vaults...opinion-wise, that is.

(Post-tidbit:  This screenplay was later adapted into a Broadway musical by Neil Simon and Burt Bacharach, called "Promises, Promises."  Bacharach's hit song "What Do You Get When You Fall in Love?" is from this play.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

For the Weekend: A Little Mystery

There's nothing like a good puzzle so I have a few mystery suggestions for you this weekend.

First off is "Murder, She Said" (1961) starring Margaret Rutherford as Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in this adaptation of the author's book 4.50 from Paddington.  As you might notice, this movie inspired the title for the television show "Murder, She Wrote."  Also, you get to enjoy watching an earlier version of Angela Landsbury's character on that show, Jessica Fletcher, who was supposedly based on Miss Marple and Agatha Christie herself.  Though Christie wasn't happy with this movie's interpretation of her book and character, she still dedicated her book The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side to Rutherford, who played Miss Marple in 3 more movies after this.  You can catch "Murder, She Said" on TCM, Saturday, 1/16 at 8:30 am EST.

For something more modern, try "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer.  In the style of Raymond Chandler, this romping mystery was a critical darling in 2005.  It was also the directorial debut of Shane Black, writer of "Lethal Weapon 1 & 2".  This is on AMC, Sunday, 1/17 at 3:00 am E/P.  Though it will most likely be edited for content, it's still a great jump-around mystery to watch, as well as Downey Jr. at the start of his "comeback."

Finally, if you just want to watch something simple and retro, check out "Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear" starring the king of 90s slapstick Leslie Nielson on  You'll definitely have flashbacks of days gone by as you watch this very 90s-style comedy, including watching OJ Simpson act.

So, I hope this adds a little fun and suspense to your weekend. And as the tagline to "Naked Gun" says, "If you only see one movie this ought to get out more."

(Post-tidbit:  Before playing Jessica Fletcher, Angela Landsbury played Miss Marple herself once in the movie "The Mirror Crack'd", based on the book dedicated to Rutherford.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: The Ultimate Buddies

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another glorious Monday (ugh).  Why must they keep coming around?  Well, at least we have another great movie to talk about - "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" from 1969, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

This movie tells the story of the friendship between two famous outlaws, Cassidy (Newman) and Sundance (Redford).  Directed seamlessly by George Roy Hill, written wonderfully by William Goldman, and shot beautifully by Conrad L. Hall, this is one of the best westerns out there.  It has even appeared on 6 of AFI's Top 10 Movie lists!

I know what you're thinking, "Wait, you're a girl! Why would you love this movie?"  Well, like I said, put a good story in front of me, no matter the genre, and I will soak it up.  And this is definitely that.  But I also have the influence of my dad and brother to thank for my excellent range of film taste.  Both of them introduced me to so many great movies when I was young and impressionable, that I think that's one of the main reasons why I can pinpoint a good movie experience.  For "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", it was my dad mainly.  He loves to quote lines from his favorite films, and this movie contains one of the best - "Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?"  Just thinking about him saying it makes me giggle.  And to me, it's the little things that make films great.  So to you two, I thank you.

Now, to the movie watching experience itself, oh what a joy the first time I saw it!  I can't be exactly sure, but I think this was the first time I ever saw Paul Newman act.  If anything, it was definitely the first time I truly noticed him...and I was forever hooked by him.  He had a style that seemed so smooth and natural, so elegant, and yet just like everyone else.  When he died, I was solemnly quiet for a week, because not only had we lost one of the best actors ever, we also lost one of the most decent human beings in the world too.

Newman's chemistry with Redford is also amazing to watch.  Definitely considered one of the quintessential "buddy" movies ever, it was the beginning of some wonderful relationships.  Not only did we get to see Newman, Redford, and director George Roy Hill together again in "The Sting" (which I will be talking about more later), Hill worked with Newman again on "Slap Shot" and Redford with Hill on "The Great Waldo Pepper" (also written by William Goldman).

I love how many great lines are throughout "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" too.  Goldman wrote some great stuff, like "you just keep thinkin', Butch. That's what you're good at" and "boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals."  But it's also the excellent spot-on execution of the lines by Redford and Newman.  They don't say them as if they're profound or corny.  They are just words, words that these guys would have said casually.  These are some of the wonderful acting lessons that come from this movie as well.  (Click here and here to see some of these scenes.)

This was also the start of the anti-hero movement in movies.  I mean, we're cheering on the bad guys here.  This was a true sign of the times though.  Right in the middle of the Vietnam War, America was anti-establishment, anti-government, anti-rules.  Our heroes fighting against the establishment hit a chord with audiences that hasn't let go yet.

So, if you're in the mood for a little bit of the west, some anti-regulations, and one of the first true bro-mances on film, check this movie out.  You won't be sorry.

(Post-tidbit: Paul Newman did all his own bicycle stunts during the "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head" music montage, except for the crash into the fence, which was performed by the cinematographer Conrad L. Hall...all because Newman's stunt man couldn't stay up on the bike.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Weekend Suggestions: Happy Birthday, Elvis

In case you're in the mood for some more Celluloid Girl over the weekend, I decided to start Suggestion Fridays.  Each week, before the weekend starts, I'll give you a few ideas of things to watch on TV or such, to wet your movie whistle. So today, we honor Elvis Presley, the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

Today would have been Elvis' 75th birthday.  And TCM is celebrating all day today with an Elvis marathon.  Sure, most of his movies have the same plot - boy needs money for boat, race, whatever, but falls for the girl, causing distraction and light-hearted chaos to ensue, with a bit of spontaneous singing thrown in here and there.  But each is still a delight to watch, due to just that fact.  There's no complicated plot twists, no downers that can't be fixed.  Just good ol' fashioned fun. 

"Viva Las Vegas" is my favorite because you get the added pleasure of Ann-Margret AND Vegas.  Who wouldn't want to spend time in Vegas with those two?!  But if you can't catch that tonight, try to catch any of the other 10 Elvis showings today. 

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and I'll be back Monday with a new film to discuss.

(Post-tidbit: From the time they met to the day he died, Elvis always sent Ann-Margret a room-full of flowers whenever she opened up a show in Vegas.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Now, Voyager: Romance for the Ages

Hello, everyone! Did you all have a happy New Year's? I hope so. Of course with each new year comes our New Year's "resolutions." I put that in quotes because, as my friend Danielle says, resolutions have become weak statements. They should be called New Year's goals, so that we have a definite end in sight to watch for, hunt for, and finally, conquer or achieve.

So, as one of my New Year's goals, I plan to write about one of my favorite films every week. Each Monday (to help with those Monday blues), I will discuss another movie that I enjoy. There will be some film facts, trivia tidbits, etc. But mainly I will be discussing the joy of watching the film itself. And don't worry, I'm sure to have plenty of movies in my infinite Favs catalog to keep us going through the year.

Movie #1 of the year is the 1942 classic romance "Now, Voyager" starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains. The reason I decided to talk about this movie first is the fact that it has only recently become one of my favorite films. So as a new comer to the list, it seemed appropriate to start out the new year. For a long time, I had avoided this movie due to its immense number of now-cliche scenes and dialogue, much the same way I had avoided "Casablanca." Finally though, thanks to a friend's insistence, I broke down and watched it on TCM Essentials....And I was forever lost to the movie.

Bette Davis plays Charlotte Vale, a Boston spinster (thanks to her mother) who, after a nervous breakdown, gets help from Claude Rains' Dr. Jaquith. He helps transform her into a beautiful person, inside and out. On her first voyage out into the new world in her new form, she meets Jerry (Paul Henreid) and they fall madly in love. Yet due to Jerry's sense of honor toward his troubled wife, the two can never be together.

This is the movie that brings us lines like "Don't let's ask for the moon when we have the stars" and scenes like Henreid lighting 2 cigarettes at once, then giving one to Davis. All classic images and sounds that have been mocked throughout the years. I mean, who wants smoke blown in their face while trying to look romantically into some one's eyes. The thought alone makes me cough. And those lines, so melodramatic in the single form.

However, with the talent of Davis and her chemistry with Henreid, you get lost in their world. Davis fought for this role and thank goodness she did. Even I admit that Davis can be a bit much to watch, over the top in today's form. However, this is one of the true gems in her career, showcasing an amazing talent. "Now, Voyager" even became her biggest box office hit ever. So I dare you to sit down, watch this movie, and not get carried away by her performance. Yes, some parts are still a little melodramatic, but all-in-all, it's a movie that reminds you how strong love can truly be.

(Post-tidbit: Both Rains and Henreid immediately followed this movie with "Casablanca"...literally. Rains finished "Now, Voyager" and started "Casablanca" the following morning.)