Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New To Classic Film? 6 Movies To Get You Started

If you're a member of Gen Y, it's pretty easy to know absolutely zilch about classic films. Unless they were played in your house growing up or you cultivated the interest on your own, you might never have been exposed to them.  We've put together a list of 6 films that can serve as an introductory set to the Golden Age of Hollywood.  These 6 were chosen not just because they are great films, but because they'd make an easy transition for a viewer not used to the style of classic filmmaking.  So if you'd like to see more of Casablanca than just the parts featured in When Harry Met Sally, read on.

North By Northwest (1959)
Alix says--  A good introduction to Hitchcock. The mystery keeps you in suspense and keeps the film at a good pace. Also a good classic color film for those leery about black and white.

Lindsay says--  Tons of interesting locations, lots of action sequences, a vibrant Herrmann score, and the legend that is Cary Grant.  

All About Eve (1950)
Alix says--  One of my all time favorites. The characters are memorable and it has a fantastic script that shows off classic film dialogue at its best.

Lindsay says--  Scripts don't get much better than this.  We quote this movie all the time and you have too if you've ever said "buckle your seatbeats..."  A
fantastic cast.

Casablanca (1942)
Alix says--  This film has it all: romance, comedy, drama, and suspense. Lots of great acting, one liners, and excellent use of black and white film that will leave you wanting more.

Lindsay says--  There's a reason this is the classic movie.  I find more humor in this film every time I view it.  Watch this so that next time you hear someone say "Here's looking at you, kid", "Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship", "Round up the usual suspects", or "Play it again, Sam" you'll know what they're talking about.  And then you can be a know-it-all and tell them that "Play it again, Sam" isn't actually the line.

On The Waterfront (1954)
Alix says--  Watching this film will make you want to see more of Marlon Brando. A simplistic plot but it keeps your interest and is never boring.

Lindsay says--  A compelling film.  The characters still seem so modern, even though it was made decades ago.  Like Al said, you will be hooked on Marlon Brando after watching this movie.  

Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Alix says--  One of the best uses of black and white film, perfect for someone who isn’t used to it. The characters and film background will pique your interest in classic film culture.

Lindsay says--  A film noir with style.  Shot in a similar style of today's films, with intrigue and tension from the very first frame.  

The Thin Man (1934)
Alix says--  A very funny film even 75 years later and a great introduction to classic comedies.

Lindsay says--  A murder mystery with a sophisticated sense of humor featuring a new kind of detective.  Witty banter, a dog named Asta, and a cocktail (or two...or three...) for good measure.  

Monday, June 29, 2009

Review: The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner

Co-Starring: Edmond O'Brien, Marius Goring, Warren Stevens
Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Other notable contributors: Joseph L. Mankiewicz - screenplay, Jack Cardiff - cinematography

Favorite scene:  Verbal sparring match between multi-millionaires Kirk Edwards (Stevens) and Alberto Bravano (Goring).

Favorite line:  "A press agent is many things, most of them punishable by law." - Harry (Bogart)

Raves:  Mankiewicz can write great lines.  Lines that are not only funny or clever, but thought-provoking.  He makes interesting observations on all aspects of life, the important and the trivial, usually through the use of narration -- think the Mankiewicz-written exposition in All About Eve as performed by George Sanders.

Rants:  The ending.  I won't spoil anything in case you haven't seen this one yet, but the ending almost ruined the movie for me.  The ending is bizarre and seemingly out of place with the tone and context of the rest of the film.  I was watching it with my roommate, who three-fifths of the way through jokingly shouted out a random guess at how it would end.  We laughed at her preposterous suggestion and then gasped with horror  when her guess proved to be correct.  

My take:  I was disappointed, mostly by the ending.  It's too bad, because I think very highly of Mankiewicz as a writer.  You let me down, Joe.  Side note - I was pleasantly surprised to find Marius Goring adeptly playing the role of the suave, South American businessman Bravano.  Goring is a usually fair haired actor well known to myself for playing the role of Sir Percy Blakeney in the 1956 television series "The Scarlet Pimpernel".

Recommended if:  you really, really like Joseph L. Mankiewicz and your dog chewed your copy of All About Eve and A Letter To Three Wives is on loan to a friend
Modern-Day Counterpart:  Ending aside, Save The Last Dance (2001).  Both feature a dancer who ventures into a new world with the help of a trusty confidant.    

Review: Wife vs. Secretary (1936)

Starring: Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow

Co-starring: James Stewart, May Robson, George Barbier
Directed by: Clarence Brown
Other notable contributors: costume design by Adrian

Favorite scene: Linda, Loy’s character (the wife), and Whitey, Harlow’s character (the secretary), exchange a long look at the end that sets everything straight.

Favorite line: “Don’t look for trouble where there isn’t any, because if you don’t find it, you’ll make it.” - Dave

Raves: It’s really the stars of the film that make it worth watching. Gable and Loy are great as always, but I really enjoyed Jean Harlow in a role where she isn’t just the blonde bombshell. Jimmy Stewart also does a great job in a supporting role as the boyfriend of Jean Harlow’s character, Dave.
Rants: The wife being jealous of the husband’s secretary isn’t the most original plot.

My take: What I really love about the film is how differently the two couples are depicted. The scenes between Harlow and Stewart are especially wonderful and its unfortunate they never made another film together. Also, although the title suggests a comedy, I see the film as really more of a drama with fun parts.

Recommended if: you’re looking for an easy to watch film with some great stars.

Modern-Day counterpart: The only modern counterpart I could think of would be Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) based on the love triangle between characters. Anybody have a better suggestion?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Review: High Society (1956)

Starring: Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra

Co-Starring: Celeste Holm, Louis Armstrong, Louis Calhern 
Directed by: Charles Walters
Other notable contributors: Cole Porter - music, Helen Rose - costumes

Favorite scene:  Pre-wedding party.  Grace Kelly's character, Tracy, has a little too much champagne and funny lines follow.

Favorite line:  "I'm sensational.  Everybody says so!" - Tracy

Raves:  While I love films in black and white, High Society was made for Technicolor.  The brightly colored sets and rich costumes add to the sprightly tone.  The Cole Porter songs are lighthearted, hummable little ditties that move the film along at a nice pace.  My favorite one, "Well Did You Evah?" features Frank and Bing duetting and dancing in the library.  A line in that song makes reference to the real-life changing of the guards in popular music:
Bing ad-lib: "buh bum bum bum" 
Frank: "Don't dig that kind of crooning, chum"
Bing: "You must be one of the newer fellas"

Rants:  Very few.  Can be a little silly at times.  

My take:  Grace Kelly,  Cole Porter tunes courtesy of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, vibrant Technicolor, the plot of The Philadelphia Story - what's not to love?  While the original 1940 non-musical version has better actors in the three leading roles (Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart) High Society is more fun.  I watch this film about once a month.  

Recommended if:  you're looking for a fun, lighthearted movie for a sunny afternoon and you don't mind musicals.

Modern-Day Counterpart:  My Best Friend's Wedding (1997) - both have a strong, central female character with a lesson to learn and good use of music.

As Louie Armstrong says, "end of story!" 



Hello and welcome to Anatomy of a Classic!  We're two sisters who share a love of classic movies and a penchant for discussing and debating them.  Atypical for classic movie fans, we're both in our early 20's.  Feel free to write us anytime.