24 November 2010

Magical Musicals No More?

Where have they gone? The musicals. Some claim the genre is now dead, and that it is only kept alive, hidden in an immortal time, and brought back from our memory when nostalgia seems to take over. The magic has died, apparently. Or has it?

Sure, musicals are still seen in our modern society – after all, Broadway still exists – so the magic cannot be entirely dead, can it?

Actually, we do have some good examples of musical creativity in this century: Rob Marshall’s successful “Chicago” (2002), Baz Luhrmann’s popular “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), and other hit-musicals such as “Dreamgirls” (2006) and “Sweeney Todd” (2007) - and even new geeky high school tv series "Glee" (2009-present) - among others. Yet, so few, compared to the number of musicals the studios once made.

"Chicago" (2002)

In the heyday of musicals, that is, about the ‘20s-‘50s, people flocked to the cinema to watch Fred and Ginger do their famous light-footed dance steps or to see Gene Kelly turn art, passion and emotions into dance. Then, during the late ‘50s and in the ‘60s, musicals started to be a bit worn out and though some had touched heavy topics from real life, the good old musicals were soon replaced by film genres that dealt with social problems and the more harsh facts of life. Time was changing and people just weren’t the pleasing kind anymore. They wanted to be slapped in the face with reality and questions of morality, sexuality, politics and ethics. There was a revolution going on; not just in the world, but also on the screen. Films like “The Godfather”, “Taxi Driver” and “The Deer Hunter” came in the ‘70s and confronted everyone with their blatant images and messages. The other side of the coin was shown. The darker, dirtier and more tabooed side. And it affected the musicals which were made in that time. Step dancing, bright colors and cheerfulness weren’t enough anymore. During the ‘70s and ‘80s, rock and pop became more prominent, bringing new dance steps to the screen and with storylines more fitted for the younger audience; some satirical, others not. You could ask yourself, if the motive of these musicals was to please the crowd; utterly pragmatic and up to the beat, or if they could still manage to capture the soul and feelings of their generation?

"An American in Paris" (1951)

Another genre that we don’t see much of anymore is the gay (lively) screwball comedy. We miss that film genre, surely? It’s not that I’m asking that we should copy what they did then (it’s not possible to even touch those magnificent pieces of film work!). But shouldn’t we at least try to dig up some of those sassy, ironic and sharp lines, attitudes and characters which were so prominent in the ‘20s-‘40s screwball days? The wonderful battle of the sexes where you didn’t have to talk about or show sex but just used your inner wipe and sexuality through guts, stubbornness and wit? Where you showed your weaknesses as well as your strengths without making it stereotype or melodramatic? Where your personality and self-irony were major contributing factors for all the bantering, flirting and falling in love? It was short, wisecracking, ironic and light, but hilarious as hell because they used wit, quirks and cleverness to get what they wanted.

"The Philadelphia Story" (1940)

Well, needless to say I miss this certain zest in our current time. I haven’t seen much of it yet, not in films at least, whereas television series, such as “Cheers” (1982-1993), “Moonlighting” (1985-1989), "10 Things I Hate About You" (2009-2010) and “Bones” (2005-present), have got the upper hand in the matter. The Brits are still running the business with their self-proclaimed self-ironic humor. It’s somehow always a blast. And the Americans are actually not so far behind, as the state of their country often makes room for a good satirical and political joke (but hey, what country doesn't?).

Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis)

"10 Things I Hate About You"
Kat Stratford (Lindsey Shaw) and Patrick Verona (Ethan Peck)

Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) and Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel)

So, perhaps musicals and screwball comedies are not so dead, after all. They’re just not … in the center anymore. The film industry is constantly changing and expanding and that’s a good sign, I guess. Yet, I still think we shouldn’t let ourselves be totally devoured by the consumerism and the norms of our society when we want to entertain, renew and please. It will rub off onto the movies, the television and the next generation. Let it not take over-hand, guys. We may swallow up some of our hidden treasures in our hurry.

16 November 2010

Looking forward to ...

"A Dangerous Method"

A British historical biopic directed by David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises), about the relationships between Sigmund Freud (played by Viggo Mortensen), Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender) and Sabina Spielrein (played by Keira Knightley), the woman who comes between them.

Screenplay by Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement).

11 November 2010

The Fashion of Katharine Hepburn

I've always admired Katharine Hepburn. Not just for her brilliant acting, but also for her wonderful no-nonsense attitude and sporty, brassy style. I have always wanted to be like her. She was one of those persons who just had guts - of course, without losing her classy sense. And that was certainly reflected in her clothes. Being slender and atheltic, she wasn't afraid of experimenting with the more adrogynous or masculine side of herself and often dressed in menswear such as jackets, shirts, wide trousers and more comfortable shoes. She was one of the classic Hollywood film stars (besides Marlene Dietrich) who made it fashionable before and during the war for women to dress "casual" and practical with a masculine touch, and I believe she kept her style of fashion until her very dying day. What a gal!

Classy, stylish, original and a great icon!

09 November 2010

Audrey Hepburn - The Epitome of a Human Angel


Oh, sweet Audrey Hepburn will always be my favorite actress! And why is that? What makes her so different from all the other great actresses of that time, such as the other Hepburn (Katharine), Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman or Greta Garbo? Well, the fact is that every time I watch a movie with Audrey Hepburn, she keeps surprising me. Every single time. Her integrety and commitment to her characters and the films she made never seize to amaze me. When you watch her, her intriguing facial expressions are infinite and filled with layers and questions, never  being one-dimensional or intolerant. However, the main reason for my instant love for her, besides her well-balanced, natural, down-to-earth and adorable persona, was that she was accessible. Approachable. She could connect - without much effort - and it's really no wonder people adored and loved her straight away!

At one point, Audrey was able to embody all human uncertainty and sadness in the world, but she was never afraid of appreciating life in all its bearings. A strangely paradox hereto, because in her glowing, penetrating smiles she seemed to carry all the grace, hope and joy of the world.  She had a striking vulnerability and yet an almost angelic strength and a magnetic flair, always deeply sympathetic and unpretentious in her being. She showed a unique, yet universal beauty through her mind and manner as well as body and soul, indistinguishable, and her mesmerizing persona on and off screen seemed to merge into her lovable personality. And as the most generous and unselfish gifts of all she transcended it all to us, effortless and yet with more magic than anyone will ever fathom. 

Even after this written dedication, I'm not sure I really have succeeded in describing the essence of her. The thing is, she is so many things and stands for so many feelings and ideals - glorified or not - that she is almost impossible to define and label. I just know that to me, she was and will always be an icon for all people through all time, being the most unique, genuine and captivating actress - if not person - I’ve ever seen.

PS: I haven't had the chance to see all of her movies yet, but I guess that just means that I will have a lot to look forward to, right? :) I have, however, listed my favorite films of hers so far, but I'll post the list later.

06 November 2010

Should they have won an Oscar?

When you're a so-called film fantatic (a rather self-proclaimed title, sadly), you can hardly avoid following the annual Oscar shows.  Sometimes it's a bore and quite superficial, at other times it's surprising and deep. Apart from all the celebrity stunt stuff and expensive dresses and big names, the magic still lingers on (even though, it's apparently getting bigger for every year ... I wonder what they're gonna do in year 2020 (!)). It's always a good way to get a rough picture of what's going on in the film industry of today. Of course, it's only the most prestigious award you can recieve in this industry - not just for the American cinema but for all countries - and a lot of honour and money are being put into this award show. That shouldn't, however, overshadow the point of the show, which is, basically, to praise and honour the work of art and film making.

Yet, I haven't always agreed with the choice of winners/nominees of some categories (without sounding treacherous hopefully, I've always found the panel of judges rather suspicious whoever they might be). So it happens that I - in my mind, of course - pick my own nominees or winners (not that I claim to be particularly skillful as a judge in this matter), ones that - according to me - have been overlooked or overshadowed by others though time. I often look at the actors' acting in specific moments or at their overall performance during a movie. Are they thoroughly performances, how do they come across the screen and could anyone have done it better perhaps, etc.?

I have collected many favorite magical moments of brilliant acting (many of them are listed on my page "Actors/actresses at their best"). The question is always "WHY do you find him/her brilliant/interesting...?" and so on, but I feel I could write a book about that and it would take up a lot of space. So, I'm actually more interested in your opinions and have therefore listed a few examples below:

Should Tom Hanks have won (or at least been nominated for) an Oscar for his wonderfully hilarious performance in "A League of Their Own?

Should Natalie Wood have got one for her striking performance in "This Property is Condemned"?

Should Paul Newman also have had the chance to be nominated for his brilliant role in "The Sting"?

Could Yul Brynner have won an Oscar for his magnificent character in "The Journey" (1959) where he played opposite beautiful Deborah Kerr?

Or what about Audrey Hepburn for her captivating acting in "The Nun's Story" and/or "Robin and Marian"?

Perhaps you can come up with other examples?

04 November 2010

Twenties Girl = Twenties Crazy!!

Reading Sophie Kinsella's "Twenties Girl" (2009), I couldn't help getting into a '20s mood - that is, I couldn't stop associating with everything regarding the 1920s that I know of! I just love when a book can do such things to you, don't you?

Anyway, I instantly remembered Theater Tuschinski in Amsterdam, Holland, when I went there with my family this summer! My God, what a magnificent and utterly beautiful building!! I was just - WOW, standing there in the middle of one of the most busy streets in the center of Amsterdam literally gaping! I have heard of and seen Art Nouveau (the artistic period at the turn of the 20th century) and Art Deco as "minor" decoration themes indoors, but NEVER as architecture! At least not the size and the beauty as of this! Well, at a distance I first thought it was some modern building housing some sort of haunted attraction, but when my mother told me what it was and that all kinds of famous people like Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich had performed there, I just had to stop at my tracks and swallow my stupid prejudice! Pardon me, but holy smokes!! I know, I tend to get a bit overexcited when I come close to where my heroes and heroines once have walked and talked, and I guess it's a bit nerdy and silly, but I could have stayed there the rest of that day! It was just steeped in history, elegance and magic! I could almost see people all dressed up in their '20s outfits walking into the theater, chattering and laughing, while the pulsating sounds of an authentic jazz orchestra streamed out through the open doors. *Loud sigh* ~_~

The rest of my family was actually long gone at this time, except of my mother who was patiently (or not?) waiting for me until I had got my precious pictures. Sweet of her, but I wished they all had just said: "Wow, let's go in here!" ... At that point, I didn't really care if they didn't wait; an urgent need to be a part of my "historic flashback" (what I like to call it when I get caught up with classic film nostalgia) took over my self-control. I just bashed inside this wonderful building, into the main foyer (see 3rd pic below) and eventhough it was kinda dark I was already feeling as if I had stepped into one of my favorite movies - or at least taken a time machine going almost 90 years back in time! A few staff members of the theater were actually present as I stood there, alone, in the middle of the entrance, goggling, but I didn't care - I just had to get some pictures from it while I still had time. Oh, blast! What I wouldn't have given to just continue into that building of Wonderland!

The entrance of Theater Tuschinski

Absolutely amazing!

The main foyer
(Amazing! Wish I've had more time in there...)
The magical theater
(Which I, sadly, never happened to see)

*Another sigh* ... It was a magnificent experience! 

Anyway, back to the book. While reading, I started reseaching everything linked with the twenties... Art Nouveau, Art Deco, charleston etc. Of course, then I just had to go through almost all of the old silent film stars of the time like Mary Pickford, Lilian Gish and Rudolph Valentino (one of the earliest sex symbols of cinema). The latter is also mentioned in the book, and I will elaborate on his role in this later. I even watched some of Rudolph's most famous movies, "The Sheik", from 1921, and the (better) sequel "Son of the Sheik" from 1926 (filmed just a few months before his tragic death). You can't say he wasn't beautiful and sexy, I dare say! My-my! Though the acting, of course, was a bit theatrical and overdone (it often was in the silent films), the movies were actually rather good, considering the resources and experience in film industry at that time. At one point they even made Rudolph play a double role as both father and son in "Son of the Sheik" (which he must have had much fun doing) and it actually comes out extremely well! Maybe even better than later attempts to make double roles look natural and realistic. Here you can hardly tell it's two clips put together showing the same person, hehe ;)

The reason why I'm talking so much of Rudolph Valentino is actually because the love interest in the book, Ed Harrison (or 'Mr. American Frown' according to our female protagonist), is described to be a bit of a mix between Rudolph and the puppets from the old "Thunderbirds" series... Alright, I thought, how would that go together? That is, these two:

One of the most beautiful men on the
 silverscreen ever, Mr. Rudolph Valentino!
(Google him and I promise you,
you won't get disappointed!)

Virgil Tracy from "Thunderbirds"
(or any other character from
the series whom you might like)

Well, I tried finding a suitable actor who might resemble this "mix" and become a possible contender for the role (if they're ever going to make a film out of the book). So, this is what I've come up with for "Possible contenders for the character, Ed Harrison":

Ethan Peck?
(Yes, it IS Gregory Peck's grandson)

Michael Fassbender?

Montgomery Clift?
Oh, yeah, sorry, he is dead (what a shame,
would have been perfect - looks totally
like a "Thunderbird", hehe)!

Oh, shoot! When we're at the handsome dead guys, we might as well continue!

Gilbert Roland could have been a great
contender for the role as well, right?
(Ironically, also often cast as a
"Latin Lover" like Rudolph Valentino)

Alright, alright! I admit I've run out of ideas! Any other suggestions? It's obvious I'm more familiar with the dead actors than with the living ones, so I really haven't checked all of our living male actors... Perhaps you have someone better in mind?