2013 CAPA Summer Movie Series (Columbus, OH)

It’s my favorite time of year in central Ohio, or nearly. CAPA, our local arts organizing group, has announced its lineup for the 2013 Summer Movie Series held in Downtown Columbus’ historic Ohio Theatre. For those of you unfamiliar with this seasonal gem, the June 28 through Aug. 25 series features a plethora of classic movies shown in the theater that was originally built as a movie house and is now used for concerts, ballets, etc.

Among this year’s offerings are two Hitchcock movies, which you know delights me. The wonderfully amusing The Trouble with Harry, To Catch a Thief and the Jimmy Stewart rendition of The Man Who Knew Too Much will certainly be on my schedule.

Other prize showings include An American in Paris, Grand Hotel, Citizen Kane, Bonnie and Clyde, The Thin Man, 1974’s The Great Gatsby, and Touch of Evil.

I have been notoriously bad about achieving all the CAPA Summer Movie Attendance goals I have set in years past, and I won’t pretend this year will be any better. I do hope to at least catch the Hitchcock flicks, but I’ll admit The Man Who Knew Too Much won’t be at the top of my list.

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Feature: Liebster Award

MacGuffin Movies has received its first form of recognition: A Liebster Award from R.C. at  The Shades of Black and White.

The requirements for receiving such an honor include sharing information about myself and selecting others to also be honored. This all happens in sets of 11. So to start, 11 things you might not know about me:

  1. I love cats and am borderline crazy cat lady.
  2. I’m getting married next year on Oct. 12 to that Ryan guy I sometimes mention in my posts.
  3. I tend to hold grudges over silly things, especially of celebrities. It took me a long time to get over creepy pictures The New Yorker ran of Katharine Hepburn upon her death and finally accept the woman as a great actress.
  4. I ideally would like to name my children after favorite actors. Marlene is at the top of my list.
  5. Eric Blore is my favorite character actor, followed by Edward Everett Horton.
  6. I love kissing scenes and am always disappointed in old movies when they end without sealing the romance with a smooch.
  7. I’ve gotten really into birding recently, and love that movie The Big Year.
  8. I’m an avid shopper of ModCloth.com where I can actually find fashions that remind me of those I see in classic movies.
  9. I watched Bridesmaids constantly this spring when it was playing on HBO. The same is starting to be true of What’s Your Number.
  10. As possibly indicated in the previous note, I have a slight guilty pleasure streak with crappy and predictable romantic comedies.
  11. I have what might be deemed a collection of hats. I can’t help but buy cloche-style and other bygone-style hats from places such as Goorin Bros. I only wear them in the winter.

The next task is to answer 11 questions posed by my nominator, R.C.

  1. Who is your least favorite actor? Clint Eastwood. Although I admit I have avoided his movies like the plague, I think his performances have always appeared to be rather the same, and annoying.
  2. Despite the fact that you don’t like the actor, do you have a film that you really like with him starring in it? I can’t name any performances, but I do love Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which he directed.
  3. A popular film that you’ll never be able to understand why it’s so popular? Any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and West Side Story.
  4. A film that you really, really want to see, but haven’t yet had the chance to? Up until recently the answer would have been Wings, but its release on Blu-Ray has meant DVD access for me. Now that distinction goes unexcitedly to the Audrey Hepburn movies that are out of print, such as Love Among Thieves and Bloodline, which are necessary to complete my viewing of all her movies!
  5. What film of your favorite actress is your least favorite? Audrey Hepburn’s The Unforgiven. Her prim French-English accent does not work for her half-white-half-American Indian character.
  6. A favorite actor or actress who didn’t make as many films as you wished that they had? Grace Kelly, no question.
  7. Do you have a film that, if not anything else, you love the dialogue? Probably Charade. It’s full of wit and romance. Any of the Thin Man movies are also dialogue gems.
  8. Favorite film composer? Bernard Hermann. He did a lot of Hitchcock flicks, and who doesn’t love those scores.
  9. Do you have a film that you love, but didn’t like the way it ended, and so you wish you could remake the ending to suit what you believe should have happened? I know Splendor in the Grass had to end with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty unable to get back together, but did it HAVE to be that way!?
  10. In your opinion, who do you think is the most underrated actor and/or actress? Joseph Gordon Levitt. I think people are starting to catch onto his talent now that he is doing more mainstream flicks. I’ve been watching his indie stuff for years, and he’s picky enough with his role selections that you know you’re in for a good movie if he’s in it.
  11. A film that no matter what, you’ll never watch it? Any of the follow ups to Paranormal Activity. The first one destroyed me for any horror movie involving demon-like creatures.

Now for my 11 picks to receive the award:

  1. Tales of the Easily Distracted
  2. Classicfilmboy’s Movie Paradise
  3. The Lady Eve’s Reel Life
  4. Via Margutta 51
  5. The Great Katharine Hepburn
  6. Backlots
  7. My Love of Old Hollywood
  8. Carole & Co.
  9. Classic Film and TV Cafe
  10. Silver Screenings
  11. vinnieh

And the questions they must answer:

  1. Who is your favorite character actor and your favorite movie of his/hers?
  2. If there is one locale from a movie you could visit or live in permanently, where would it be?
  3. What is your least favorite movie genre and what is your favorite movie that falls into that category?
  4. Is there any movie star whose offscreen life you would want to lead?
  5. Which actor/actress’ life outside of movies do you find the most tragic?
  6. What is your favorite biopic/docudrama?
  7. What fashion seen in classic movies do you wish would resurface?
  8. Have you ever met a celebrity, and if not, who would be a priority person to bump into?
  9. What movie do you love but would like to recast.
  10. Are there any actors whose films you avoid? If so, why?
  11. If you could live your life inside a movie, what genre would it be?

Thanks, R.C. and best of luck to my honorees!

Splendor in the Grass

Wowza!

Splendor in the Grass (1961)

     I watched Elia Kazan‘s Splendor in the Grass last weekend and have not been able to stop thinking about it since. I find with any era of movies, the ones you keep talking about or mulling over hours and days later are the ones that will find their place in movie history.

     Director Kazan reminds me how fantastic he was at telling tales of young, somewhat tragic romances set in bygone times. The raw emotional part James Dean gave us in his first movie East of Eden was guided by Kazan who does the same here for 24-year-old Warren Beatty in his premiere role.

     Beatty and Natalie Wood are teenagers in a Kansas town during the 1920s. The setting is starkly different from the flapper era we often see depicted in films set in big cities. Few girls in the high school have taken up the flapper look and those who have also take liberties with their sexuality. Beatty’s Bud is a football star and top tier in popularity at the high school. Wood’s Deanie has been steady with Bud for some time and her shy personality derives it social standing from being on Bud’s arm.

    Splendor in the Grass opens on the couple necking in a convertible next to a river dam. Deanie is caught up in the moment but nevertheless refuses Bud’s increasing intensity. Sexually frustrated, Bud punches the car and takes a walk. He returns the girl home where Deanie’s mother gently probes about how far the couple has gone in their relationship and insists nice girls do not have the urges Deanie is subtly conveying she cannot deny.

     The sexual repression Bud is experiencing seems to initially convey his feelings for the pretty Deanie are not beyond physical, but he tells his wealthy oil baron father that he wants to marry the girl. The father has no particular problem with Deanie and her middle-class family, but also warns his son about the consequences if he were to get her into “trouble”. The man suggests that his boy instead find a “different” type of girl to go around with in the meantime.

     When Bud asks Deanie for a break in their relationship and rumors abound about his encounter with a flapper in their class, Deanie flees from her classroom in hysterics. She is furious with her mother for insisting she remain pure knowing all too well she has lost her man because of her prudishness. She cuts her hair into a bob and attends a school dance on the arm of one of Bud’s friend. At the event, however, Deanie offers herself to Bud only to be rejected in yet another hysterical scene. The incident leads Deanie to the dam where she tries to drown herself.

     The events have left Deanie in a mental state requiring institutionalization. Bud knows all is his fault but is forced by his father to leave for Yale. There the boy neglects his studies and finds a sympathetic companion in the daughter of an Italian restauranteur.

     Deanie, meanwhile, is recovering fine at the mental facility and has made close acquaintance with a man from Ohio who plans to become a doctor. After two years in the facility she is released and plans to marry that doctor, but returns home and seeks one last encounter with Bud.

     SPOILER I could not help but get choked up in watching the final scene in East of Eden. Bud’s circumstances have take a dramatic turn and he has created a life farming his family’s old ranch. Deanie arrives in a pristine white dress and hat symbolic of a bride. She meets Bud who is dirty from working the fields and we see not only the contrast in their lives but also know that as much as we want Bud to embrace the young woman, he cannot do so without soiling her dress (and probably her mental state). We can see all the emotional innerworkings of our main characters’ minds and feel for the life they lost together. Bud presents his ex-girlfriend to the pregnant wife and child slaving in his tiny kitchen and our hearts break as Deanie holds and expresses how fine the baby is while Bud looks on. It is too late for this couple and we will never get the ending we so hope for. SPOILER

     The permissibility of sexual expression had certainly changed by the time the 1960s arrived. The passionate scene we face on the picture’s opening is slightly uncomfortable in its frankness, but the passion the characters show for one another throughout is refreshing compared to older, restrained movies on the subject of love. Beatty is so dreamy as Bud, we women can understand why Deanie idolizes him. Wood meanwhile is delicate as the pretty girl who, although she has friends, derives most of her social standing from her relationship. As the couple walks down a crowded school hallway, our eyes are drawn to the softly smiling Wood despite Beatty’s towering over her and the crowd. Their classmates greet each of them individually, but we can see by the girl’s grasp on her man’s arm that she defines herself by this relationship.

    I often find it hard to convince myself to re-watch a movie that evokes such sadness, but Splendor in the Grass is well worth it. The acting is off the charts and the story so intriguing given the natural comparisons one draws between today’s morals and those of the 1920s. I cannot recommend it enough.

  • Splendor in the Grass is set for 2 a.m. ET June 23 on TCM.

Cinematic Shorts: Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Wowza!

Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)

     I’m not sure how I stumbled upon watching Here Comes Mr. Jordan the first time, but it was a fortuitous incident. This flick is probably my favorite Robert Montgomery movie, which competes with Mr. and Mrs. Smith for that top spot (and you can understand my dilemma because the other has Carole Lombard in it). I would say no other film shows off Montgomery’s comedy capabilities in the way this feature does. He plays a character totally unlike the military and society dreamboat roles in which he was typically cast.

     As Joe Pendelton, a successful boxer, Montgomery plays a dimwitted man more concerned with keeping his body “in the pink” and defeating a boxing rival than anything else around him. Towards the film’s start, Joe crashes his self-piloted plane, and heavenly beings take him away. The trouble is, the heavenly worker assigned to his case, Messenger 7031 (Edward Everett Horton) takes him before the plane hits the ground, and as it turns out, Joe was destined to survive the crash. The damage is done, however, and Joe is delivered to Mr. Jordan, played by Claude Rains, who must find a suitable body for the man to live out the remainder of his scheduled life.

     Joe is given a temporary spot occupying the body of a man who is about to be murdered by his wife and her lover. He’s an older, wealthy bloke who also has some unkind dealings that involve a beautiful young woman, with whom Joe will fall in love. All sorts of absurdities happen as Joe, looking like the old man, tries to convince his boxing agent (James Gleason) of his real identity and get the old body “in the pink” to defeat his rival in the ring.

     If the story sounds familiar, that’s because it was based on a play called “Heaven Can Wait” that was later done into another movie by that name starring Warren Beatty. This original also inspired a sequel, but Rains was not interested and Montgomery was serving in the military, so the Mr. Jordan part was recast and Rita Hayworth was used as the mythical muse of the performing arts to interfere with goings on of a theatrical production. It was quite a let down.

     Going back to Here Comes Mr. Jordan, I can not say enough about Montgomery’s performance. His low-brow accent accompanies humorous dialogue to give the impression of a man who has been knocked out a few too many times. That is not to say his ignorance is not endearing. Montgomery’s facial expressions also add to this character’s hilarious persona as he stumbles through a whole host of accidental circumstances. I highly recommend this flick for anyone who enjoys comedies.

The messenger explains why Joe and his lucky sax aren't on earth where they should be.

Source: Robert Osborne

Feature: My Momentary Celebrity Obsession – Robert Montgomery

My craze over Robert Montgomery has been going on for some time now, more than a year, I would say. Like Carole Lombard, I was first exposed to Montgomery in Hitchcock‘s only purely comedic American endeavor, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The movie is a riot, and I regret the duo did not work together more. Montgomery won me over by being both funny and unrelentingly handsome/charming.

Robert Montgomery

Not long thereafter I caught Montgomery in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, based on the play (which would later become a Warren Beatty movie) “Heaven Can Wait.” He plays a boxer whose life is taken prematurely and so the folks in heaven try to find a suitable body in which he can complete is life expectancy. It is possible Montgomery has never been more funny, and the role earned him an Oscar nomination.

Romantic comedies were Montgomery’s milieu when he came to Hollywood around 1929 from the stage where he hooked up with George Cukor, thus facilitating his segue into film. He typically was cast as the socialite playboy who always got the girl despite how much of a heel his characters could be. He pressed for more dramatic roles and really showed his stuff in The Big House in which he plays a jailhouse snitch. He also got a great break when cast against type as a conniving killer in Night Must Fall, which earned him another Oscar nomination.

Montgomery would serve in the Navy during WWII and played several military parts on screen as well. When Director John Ford became ill and unable to finish directing The Were Expendable, in which Montgomery starred, the actor took over directing some of the PT boat scenes. He was officially credited as a director in 1947’s Lady in the Lake, which was shot in a first-person viewpoint from Montgomery’s character. The only time one actually sees the man is when he looks in a mirror.

Montgomery went on to host a television show, “Robert Montgomery Presents” and even had a job as President Eisenhower’s unpaid consultant, giving advice to make the leader look his best on television. This gent is also father to Elizabeth Montgomery, whom we all know as Samantha on “Bewitched”. He died from cancer in 1981 at age 77.

I have a list going of his movies that has proved a difficult feat to work through as most are not available on DVD and TCM does not air enough of his stuff. Nevertheless, I relish the opportunity to watch anything he has done.

Source: TCM.com

Bonnie and Clyde

Ring a Ding Ding

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

A movie such as Bonnie and Clyde is one that makes me pause and realize that only through film could a true-life story of murderous bank robbers leave the viewer rooting for a criminal. This flick is more than a yarn of lovable villains, however,  thanks in large part to one of my favorite aspects of filmmaking: the editing.

My Faye Dunaway vocabulary is fairly limited, but (excluding Mommy Dearest) it seems the actress has a tendency to be ogled by the camera lens. A great bit of editing presents itself in Bonnie and Clyde that reminded me of a particularly memorable scene from The Thomas Crown Affair. In this case our main characters are newly acquainted and Bonnie questions Clyde’s (Warren Beatty) legitimacy as an armed robber. The latter draws a gun from his jacket and holds it at waist height. What follows is a clever bit of film assembly and expression by Dunaway as close-up shots and short takes are cut together depicting the woman’s excited gaze as she glances at what we know to be the gun but by the direction of her eyes could just as easily be Clyde’s genitals. One can draw the natural analogy between guns and male members in addition to Dunaway’s caressing of the gun barrel to conclude this short exchange has little to do with the weapon. The use of close ups never allows the viewer to see Dunaway and the gun in one shot, so one can never be sure on what her glance is fixated.

It is Dunaway’s petting of the gun that had me thinking of the famous chess scene from The Thomas Crown Affair. This much longer interaction between Dunaway, Steve McQueen and some chess pieces has the same seductive effect both on the audience and McQueen.

     Lastly, one could not discuss Bonnie and Clyde without covering the final death scene. I do not feel I’m issuing any spoilers here as most are aware the tale of the two murderous thieves ends poorly for the pair. Excellent editing and emotion again come into play for this sequence. Once the characters pull their car off the road and Clyde exits the vehicle, a number of things occur:

  1. A flock of birds flutter out of the shrubbery across the road, seemingly disturbed by something therein.
  2. A vehicle approaches from the opposite direction causing nervous glances between the car and the bushes from Ivan, the man who knows what is about to occur.
  3. Ivan dives under his tractor.

Quickly inserted between these shots is a close view of the foliage across the street from the position of our anti-heroes. The viewer knows what lies therein but Bonne and Clyde do not until we visually see them putting the previously mentioned pieces together. What next occurs are close ups of the characters faces as they realize their fate, prepare for it and convey their feelings for each other. Make note how the close up on Bonnie’s face endures slightly longer than the others as her expression softens. This clip is a bit long, so skip to about 3:30 in.

Source: The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing

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