Search This Blog

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sally Potter, Director and Indie Film Maker

The month of March just flew by, perhaps women need 2 months? On this last day, a tribute to Filmmaker Sally Potter. You can follow Sally on her website: which includes a blog and casting call updates. 

Eloquent, temperamental and gorgeous cinematography graces Potter's film work. Her characters have depth and create drama with out loosing any of the natural movement of beings in conflict or joy. 
 "Orlando" (1992) - My first glance of Tilda Swinton in an adaptation of Virginia Woolf's novel. Lovely vistas, delicate but thorough characterizations. Be forewarned this movie might compel you to read Woolf's work and then begin an obsession with Vita, Leonard and Lytton. 

"The Man Who Cried" (2000) - All I can say is, look at that cast list: Christina Ricci, Johnny Depp, Cate Blanchette, John Turturro, Oleg Yankowskiy. Another cerebral historical film by Potter turned into a beautiful rendered story of conflict and joy. 

"Yes" (2004) - Interesting and again so beautifully filmed. Potter creates those small moments that give huge insights into need and motivation. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bountiful Curves

          Hollywood myth would have it that women must must (must) starve, exercise and 'control' (themselves) their weight with drugs, tricks and surgeries. Come on ladies let us laugh in the face of those who don't get it, won't ever get it and don't deserve it!! IT is the lusciousness of shapely WOMEN. Not too thick, not too thin, not too hot and never too cold but just right. Don't buy into it. The desire for real women of body, mind and spirit is out there.

Abrasive and shocking, Mo'Nique keeps pushing forward to find her niche.She has conquered Radio, Television and film.

"Phat Girlz" (2006) - Fun woman fronted comedy - low budget but meaningful. Mo'Nique is showcased to enhance her funny, powerful womaness.  

OH how scary she is is "Misery" and "Deloris Claiborne" - still a little creepy even after all these years. Another amazing, amazing actress Ms. Kathy Bates is captivating in a true sense of acting with an "it"  factor that means you can't take your eyes off her if she is a scene. Yes, even "Water Boy". 

"Love Liza" (2002) - Sad, hard to watch, as Phillip Seymour Hoffman suffers through the loss of his wife with confusion and denial. Kathy Bates still manages to control her scenes by the sheer force of her personality. With eyes that tell everything you need to know. 

Scarlett Johansson has great potential to be the MOVIE STAR. An actress who can move easily from glamour to home town girl. Her film choices have created for her a distinctive variance in characterizations and display her ever growing talent.

"A Love Song for Bobby Long" (2004) - Surprisingly well crafted vehicle that might be considered a John Travolta film. Yet, its obvious this piece, developed from the Ronald Everett Capps novel 'Off Magazine Street', is Scarlett's from the moment you first see her on screen. The male characters circle around her in various stages of curiosity, fear and love. All the actors build upon each others characters to develop an easy, dramatic work. 
p.s. Wonderful scenery of New Orleans before Katrina.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Art of Crazy

Deep dark thoughts penetrate the brain and bring raw emotions to ebb and flow at the surface in awkward stages. Nervous energy, obsessive patterns, and the inability to move through the world with a natural pace. Characters of this nature are a gold mine to the actress. The ability to pull forth endless emotional depth, becoming much more than the usual backboard for male focused films or a decorated piece of staging. 

"Gaslight" (1944) -  What is wrong with Paula? A delicate disposition or an over active imagination? Its wonderful to find out, a little bit spooky, a little bit amusing, a lot twisting plot. 

"The Snake Pit" (1948) - At the arch of a fabulous career Olivia De Havilland portrays an unfortunate woman with no memory of how she came to live on ward Five.

"Three Faces of Eve" (1957) - Sort of a cheesy titillation film gives Joane Woodward a chance to exhibit some solid acting moments. Despite the over the top dialogue, Woodward establishes each face as an individual entity.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Movie Stars

Ms. Jayne Mansfield was famous for being famous. Never really a movie star, she managed to hone a career from a few small but excellent performances and numerous appearances (and a few notable scandals). Now in the earliest days of the 21st century that legacy continues. Non celebrity celebrities turn up everywhere.

Feeling very much out of the times, the question is "WHY?" Even in Jayne's era, the scandals made her interesting, but there was a layer of talent and an 'it' factor to build upon. It was only after Marilyn, Ingrid, Liz and many other celebrities came into the public focus as hard working talented actors that any interest lie in their human Faux pas. A shudder at the idea of false celebrity and scandal for its own sake.

A tribute to real movie stars with scandals, romantic entanglements and shocking secrets: 

Katharine Hepburn 

"Bringing Up Baby" (1938) - Delightful subtle funny Cary Grant is chased relentlessly by the campy stumbling Katharine Hepburn. Their easy grace in the slapstick scenes are movie star / professional actor events that should not be missed.

 Ingrid Bergman 

"Notorious" (1946) - There is no connection (?) between appearing in a film with Cary Grant and real life scandals.......Notorious is a typically RIVETING Alfred Hitchcock film, you seriously can not take your eyes off the screen. Ingrid is beautiful, strong, intelligent and brave while at the same time being delicate, fearful and uncertain at every turn. 

Sophia Loren 
With only minor blips of rumors Ms. Loren lives free of shocking details, yet, appears in scandal based films. 

"A Breath of A Scandal" (1960) - Many famous scandals ruining careers or forcing the political / royal resignations are based not on the acts themselves but the public knowledge. Plenty of acts are known among the 'group' but once it is out to the public the persons of fame or power must be punished. Ms. Loren plays out this reality with a certain style and tilt of the chin. Rumors, hints and jealousy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Bride, The Witch and The Loveable Comedian

What can you do after becoming the most famous bride in filmdom? With only a few minutes on screen, the Bride steals the movie. Expressiveness showing every bit of emotion and purpose with out saying a word. 

Ms. Elsa Lanchester builds a lengthy career of variation and consistency despite being best known for one of her earliest Hollywood films.

Colorization by Scott Mitchell
"Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) - 'To a New World of Gods and Monsters' toasts Dr. Pretorius to the new venture of creating a mate for the damaged and lonely monster. Karloff builds easily upon his first portrayal of the creature -a role that emanates from the talented soul of silent films. The Bride, cleverly built upon as the climax of the film, is crafted by Lanchester as a few mere moments of raw curiosity, lust and fear flicker into a new life. 

"Bell, Book and Candle" (1958) - Part of a cult that might remind Lanchester of her parents Bohemian lifestyle, she carried off brilliantly the goofy, silly and delightful character of the witch-mother. One of her truly memorable parts.

Into the sixties, Lanchester continues to treat audiences to campy fun in,

"Mary Poppins" (1964) 
"That Darn Cat" (1965) 
 "Easy Come, Easy Go" (1967) Yes, its Elvis and Ms. Lanchester is her extra quirky self.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Suddenly, Last Summer

A blog regarding Elizabeth Taylor's films would fill up 20 pages, at least. So we'll just go with the first one I viewed and the one I don't mind watching over and over.

"Suddenly Last Summer"(1959) - Creepy, confusing and not quite there.....Watching this film as a pre-teen on late night television, I was left feeling like I wasn't getting something...It couldn't mean what I thought it might mean? Plus, there was awkwardness in the performances - which was odd for several of my favorite actors. The editing was strange and the performances seemed stilted, as if everyone was stepping carefully on their own lines. 
Watching much later as an adult, I still had the same feeling. No one was really saying anything as they stumbled around being uncomfortable. Montgomery Clift is the only one who appears sedate and translucent in his scenes. His character is the calm sense of reason while everyone around him has secrets. Unfortunately, the flashbacks aren't dreamy enough and take up too much screen time, the editing is a little rough and the voice over 'tells' the story instead of the film 'showing' what happened.

"A Place in The Sun" (1951) - Delightfully trashy and over dramatic, this film brings the expertise of Director George Stevens (Guanga Din, Giant) and the naive temperance of Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and newcomer Shirley Shrift (now calling herself Shelley Winters) into small scenes full of human drama. Focused so much in their own worlds, as young people often do, these three become a sad, lonely, uncertain triangle. Emotion fills the screen. So much fun to watch every so often, it never looses its intriguing features of showing off these talents and creating a terrific movie.

The real life attraction and love 
between Monty and Liz 
is palpable in every scene they share.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An actor is something less than a man, while an actress is something more than a woman. Richard Burton .

Its almost impossible to just talk film when reflecting on the life and work of Elizabeth Taylor. One of the very first mega stars followed in a crazy frenzy by reporters, Elizabeth both resented and used the invasion. The affairs, the scandals, the raucous love and especially her relationship with Richard Burton kept us following La Liz.  However, Hollywood Queen is only one of her interesting attributes.

One of her fascinating features was her ability to develop long term friendships. Mostly with men, these friendships were based on loyalty, humor, shared experiences and privacy. In this area the public is granted only small tokens. For the most part her relationships with friends, other than the occasional red carpet appearances, were kept quiet and personal. Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson, Michael Jackson and Roddy McDowall, to name a few, show up here and there through out her public life , keeping the base relationship behind the scenes. These friends maintained a silent steady vigil, as did Elizabeth, about their alliance. She had the gift for choosing people close to her who kept her secrets as she kept theirs. 

 As one of the last remaining icons of an era long past, Elizabeth Taylor represents the legacy of Hollywood and the aura of a true movie star. Her life, work, romances and friendships will continue to draw us in and intrigue the public forever. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I thought she would out live us all

More legend than woman, its hard to believe the passing of the iconic, loyal, interesting, amazingly talented and beautiful LA LIZ....Ms. Elizabeth Taylor who's life would make 5 movies passed on this morning.. ......My heart goes out to her family and close friends as well as her loving fans. 

From pretty child star in a Hollywood system to independent woman, actress and creative force. Our collective appreciation for her work will carry her legend forward. 

With Love and Admiration


If she's in it, I'll Watch it

There are very few actors moving from genre to genre, from Indie to mainstream or Film to Television, who create a following. Personally its usually directors that pull me in - but exceptions have to be made for these 3 actors. If she's in it, the film really should be viewed. 

The casting directors of the now gone, "As the World Turns" had an eye for talent. Marisa Tomei, Meg Ryan, Lauryn Hill and Parker Posey to name a few.
"Henry Fool" (1997) - Quirky and cute, Parker carries this film like many of her roles as off the cuff. Appearing to breeze through the scenes you can't stop watching her. 

In 1975 a short lived sitcom "Hot L Baltimore" brought out the bright light of many terrific actors. Chonchata Ferrell sat on a stool quipping wisely to her friends and the occasional passersby in an unforgettable performance.Today as the smart ass housekeeper on a well known sitcom, Ferrell continues to steal her scenes out from under the 'stars'. 

"Mystic Pizza" ( 1988) - Another vehicle that launched numerous actors to front and center. Vincent D'Onofrio, Julia Roberts, Anabeth Gish and Lili Taylor romped around in small town angst. The wise, loving and funny Farrell's character provided the group with a sense of belonging. Not a great film, but it has its moments and is perfect for mindless rainy day film watching. 

Like Ms. Posey, our next actress is an Indie film favorite.  Lili Taylor played in such cult favorites as "Short Cuts", "Pret a Porte",(oh that wonderful Robert Altman), "Four Rooms" (if you haven't seen this, definitely watch it- for the true film buff- watch it alone!) and "Pecker"(thank you again John Waters). 

"I Shot Andy Warhol" (1996) - A Valerie Jean Solanas, Taylor is larger than life, dramatic with out being a caricature . She smoothly shows the break down of a woman with purposeful intentions and avoided creating a parody. While her methods resulted in condemnation Salonas was attempting to create a vision and become a part of a generational wisdom. Mental illness turned her ideas into rants, but many should at least empathize with the voice in her work.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sister Sister

Patricia and Rosanna Arquette

The entire Arquette family is a collective of the unsual and gifted. Patricia carries a mysterious element that is almost funny in her recent role as Mrs. Dubouis in the TV series "Medium". Sometimes its equally as unclear how to take her sister Rosanna, as quirky just doesn't cover anyone in this group.

"Lost Highway" (1997) - Typical of David Lynch, this film is confusing, fun, and as has moments of being extremely uncomfortable to watch. The consistant feature is that Patricia Arquette is fasincating to watch no matter what she is doing.

"Big Bad Love" (2001) - A sad and wonderful story set off perfectly by such great casting. Arliss Howard, Debra Winger, Paul LeMat and Rosanna Arquette blend perfectly into their roles.

Emily and Zooey Deschanel

"Bones" (TV show) - A really cute show allowing David Boreanaz the opportunity to be "Angel" with out the drudgery of hours in the make-up room. Emily stands out however as the practcial and unstenitmental character loosely based on the Kathy Riechs forensic investigator.

Unfortunately her big screen performances have so far been small and honestly do not stand out. In "Cold Mountain" it was a fleeting moment walking down a dirt road. Other than that Emily's segments are not memorable. (Yet).

"The Good Girl" (2002) - Funny enough after everything I have written about Jennifer Aniston's choice of film, this is a really good piece. With a surprisingly admirable performance by Aniston. It is Zooey, as the quirky co worker that gives the lighter side of human to the piece. She is bubbling over with 20something angst while still oozing with delight.

Natalie and Lana Wood

Mysterious, sweet, uber talented sisters, even their birth names create a sensation and a 'oooooh' factor to their personal story as well as their acting life. Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko and her younger sister, Svetlana Nikolaevna Zakharenko began careers as little girls.

"Inside Daisy Clover" (1965) - With a myriad of great films behind her, Natalie brings to this film a knowledge of skill, a sensitivity to the story and a easy transformation from the scuffed up young wanna be to the semi-sophisticated ingenue. An amazing list of co-stars including Ruth Gordon and Robert Redford, doesn't bring this film out its cookie-cutter mode. But its still fun to watch.

"Diamonds are Forever" (1971) - It appears the expectation might have been for Lana, already famous as she begun her career, was expected to step right into Natalie's shoes. Creating a Hollywood dynasty isn't always easy. She is a decent actress with incredible beauty - moving directly into second banana and starring roles couldn't have been easy for any younger sibling. That doesn't mean that Lana gets lost in this film among the other 'Bond Girls' but it also doesn't push her into stardom. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Beauty of Aging

Its really unfair to use an actress to share the beauty of aging and the diversity of the perfect body. Yet, its also one of the best ways to show that women are wonderful at any time of life, in any physical composition and with a variety of style. These few actresses are past what is considered typically in their prime and they carry it so well. Remember to never underestimate the grace and quality of knowledge and experience. 

Helen Mirren has a varied and amazing career. From "Caligula" to "White Knights" to "Prime Suspect" with several Shakespearean performances mixed in, she brings a calm yet severe element to the production. 
"Gosford Park" (2001) - One of the fabulous Robert Altman's last films, the cast is unbelievable. Helen Mirren again gives her self away to an intense performance. So much goes on, so many good people it should be watched twice in order to follow the dialogue and performances clearly. Altman lets his films move forward with so many elements and long camera shots its like watching real life. 

Judi Dench, who is so adorable in the British sitcom "As Time Goes By", leaves none of herself in her roles. She moves so effortlessly inside various characters its difficult to name a favorite performance. 
"Mrs. Brown" (1997) - First, there is no getting past that costuming enhanced and clarified this film. Secondly, the choice of Billy Connolly was brilliant for the role of John Brown- that glint in his eye and level of humor bubbling at the surface gave a needed relieve to the severity of Queen Victoria. It must be noted that the love affair between Her Majesty and her husband Prince Albert appears to have been a grand relationship. The couple had nine children and her mourning was acute. As for Ms. Dench, her quiet, deeply felt portrayal of the Queen isn't hampered by the reserved nature of the Victorian sensibilities due to her ability to disappear within the character. 

The very American classic, Joan Allen, can become completely any role she takes on. Unlike Judi Dench who absorbs the roles, but still looks of Judie Dench - Ms. Allen has looks that makes her unrecognizable in many roles. 

Top: Joan Allen in "Pleasantville" 
Bottom: Joan Allen in "Death Race" 
"The Upside of Anger" (2005) - Nothing like the romance between 2 bitter alcoholics in a Detroit suburb.  Michigan native Mike Binder gleans interesting insights and improves upon the reality of a local scandal. Ms. Allen embraces this role, surpassing the other actors with a clean, sharp performance. 
Iconic American actress Diane Keaton started sophisticated cross-gendered clothing trends with Woody Allen's "Annie Hall"  that still carries through today. She appears to bring so much of her own quirky characterization to each role. 
 "Marvin's Room" (1996) - The sad dysfunctional family unit comes across too vividly in this Scott McPherson play turned film. Emotionally frantic, as is Leo DiCaprio's early acting style bounced nicely against the flighty Meryl Streep and the stalwart itchiness of Diane Keaton. As the calm family anchor, Keaton brings everything together as she falls apart. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Happy Birthday Wish for Dana Owens!

For some reason film makers keep attaching Queen Latifah with oddly placed white guys like Steve Martin and Jimmy Fallon. Its unclear if they think she can carry them to a new level of their careers or if Hollywood just doesn't know what to do with her as a power house woman. While her ensemble pieces show some of her best work,  starring roles prove her likability and ability to carry a film. 
 "Set it Off" (1996) - One of the best female action pictures, Queen Latifah shows how easily she plays a scene and her generosity towards acting in a group setting. 

"Hairspray" (2007) - While a remake of this film couldn't possibly be better than the original (oh, Thank you John Waters!), Queen L stands out superbly as Motor Mouth Maybelle (Ruth Brown held the role in the 1988 film). First of all she looked amazing, Plus a great choice to sing those songs! 

"Mad Money" (2008) - Not a top film, very cheesy over done plot - its more like everyone really wanted a paycheck that month than looking to make a humorous or interesting picture. Great actresses with a silted script and choppy direction.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Em's have it ....

Popular names do go in cycles, is it any wonder we have young actresses with variations of the EM? Some might remember the onset of the three named actresses, admittedly its still confusing to note the Mary Beth, Jo Beth, Mary Louise, Mary Stuart variations. Today let's honor the newer stream of  possibly confusing Em's;
Emily Blunt is the one from;
 "Sunshine Cleaning" (2008) - Sisters try to succeed, despite their own inner personal issues, cleaning up crime scenes. Good performance by Blunt as well as Amy Adams. The stand out is Clifton Collins, jr. 

Emily Browning is the one from;
 "A Series of Unfortunate Events" (2004) - Not a bad adaptation of the first 3 Lemony Snicket tales, which in this case means books....Emily Browning does personify the character of Violet. She looks like and carries a mysterious intelligence as the character was written. Can't wait to see her in "Sucker Punch" (2011) & "Sleeping Beauty" (2011)!! 

Emma Watson is just so Hermoine;

"Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001) - A terrific if not perfect adaptation of the first Harry Potter tome. The books are way better than the films, although you don't have to have read anything to appreciate the fun adventure of the movies. 

Emma Stone is the one from; 
 "Zombieland" (2009) - Adorable yet slightly unusual, Emma Stone works strongly against the fun smirky Woody Harrelson and the up and coming cutie personality of Jesse Eisenberg.

Emma Roberts is the daughter of Eric and niece of Julia;

"Nancy Drew" (2007) -  A cheesy / cutesy version of the amateur detective series, this Emma is almost too picture perfect. Not a horrible film but doesn't 'catch' your attention and make you want more. Plus they cast her too young - preteens and tweenyboppers want someone to look up to- Now at age 19, she might be a better version.