Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Today's Blog is a Vlog!: Movie tidbits

Link for Burton and Taylor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0kPNA3djfg

So long,

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Elizabeth Taylor, my diamond


Hello, my pals and gals! It is I, Marcie! I presented a seminar today and it went well thank god, so to celebrate, I come to you with a new post! I come to speak of a woman I learned to love. She walked in by coincidence, and elegantly swept my heart away. 
The story about how Elizabeth and I became friends - this is how I'm beginning to call my favorite stars, I'm well aware of the implications of that word and I still consider its use appropriate - is quite unusual, as it began, of all places, on Instagram
I, having liked Elizabeth for a long time, had found a beautiful picture of her and Richard Burton kissing at a party, and, after I applied an interesting filter, posted it. To my shock, I was bombarded with questions from my friends as for who I was kissing in that picture. Me? 
After I clarified that it was not me, but Elizabeth - although I would not mind kissing Richard Burton, I'll tell you this much - my friends began pointing out similarities in our eye and face shapes, body types and usual hairstyles. We don't look much alike, but the conclusion is that Elizabeth and I are the same "type". Small girl with big eyes, big hair, big brows and big curves, the bombshell type so uncommon in today's media that it almost looks old-fashioned. And fuelled by that fabulous compliment, I began a search on her life and works. It wasn't long before I was hooked on Dame Elizabeth. 

I became addicted to her Youtube interviews. Her sense of humor, her beautiful laugh, her incredible remarks, drove me crazy. She knew what to say and when to say it. "Are you a lady that has shown her talents on the Broadway stage before?" Bennett Cerf asked her in an episode of What's My Line. "Thank you for calling me a lady, and for saying that I have talent, but no!". I was in awe of how genuinely nice she was, and sweet and funny. In one interview in which she talks about her AIDS foundation, the interviewer stopped for a minute and didn't say anything. Elizabeth stopped too. The interviewer finally said "I'm looking at you in this well-lit room and I have to say, you are absolutely beautiful." She gave her a subtle smile and answered "Well, thank you very much". In another interview, this time with Arsenio Hall, he talked about her happy marriage, her success on the screen, her beauty and fame, and said "You probably have everything". She looked him straight in the eye and said: "A girl can always have more". I fell in love with her personality, regardless of her talent as an actress, which I had forgotten all about. It had been probably 7 or 8 months since the last time I saw her on my screen. 

I did a rewatch of Suddenly Last Summer one day when I was not feeling too good about myself and wanted a high dose of Kate, but at this time I also was able to focus on Elizabeth and her impeccable acting. They say the studios failed to provide her with acting classes, so she was a natural, but having done it since she was 10, she must've learned very much. Her performance in that movie took my breath away, and I was determined to see more. As I did a rewatch of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf I knew that she was one of the best actresses in history and should never have left my top ten. But it was when I found an old Cleopatra DVD, that my friend had given me for my birthday and I never got around to watching it, that my heart was truly taken. 

In the movie she sole my heart - with the man that helped her do it.
First, she was so goddamn beautiful. I know I'm repeating myself but I cannot get enough of her beauty, her charm, her elegance. But somehow it didn't distract from her incredible performance - it couldn't, when she was rigorously flawless for four hours straight, from the subtlety to the screams, every single minute she blew you away. It's not easy to play Cleopatra, but Elizabeth did it with mastery, making me glue my eyes to screen every time I sat down to watch it - I had to split it into four parts and watch it on 4 separate days, ah! The things I do for my stars when I have no time for them! Because her scenes with Richard Burton were my favorite (fuelled by an ardent real life romance as I later came to find out), I proceeded to watch "The Sandpiper", another beautiful Taylor-Burton collaboration and another sensual, romantic, and thrilling performance from a couple that is walking towards becoming my favorite.

And now I feel like I discovered her by a sweet coincidence, but she is like one of her beloved diamonds - so precious, so unique, so lucky I am to have her. Such talent, such grace, such loveliness, such qualities that I never expected to find. Burton said it best: "It’s no use pretending that you are an ordinary woman." She is utterly irresistible. 

Elizabeth and I may be the same type of beauty, but there are so many things about her that I envy. Not I nor anyone else in history has equaled the depth of her beauty, the sophistication of her perfect exterior combined with the volatility of her fiery interior. No one has experienced her lighting rise to fame, with the hungry yearning for a normal life boiling inside her ample chest. No one has felt the same degree of childlike emotions trapped inside such a blatantly womanly body. She is a singular masterpiece that no one in their right mind would expect to be repeated. There never has been, and there never will be another Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor. 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

"Mr. Capra Goes To My Heart" (2013)

It's the stuff that films are made of.

The year was 2013, and the main characters were an idealistic girl and a dead movie director. He took all of the hidden desires of the human race, all of our aspirations to change the world and turned them into stories about simple people, people I could know that simply by the force of their dreams became extraordinary. Frank Capra brought to cinema the power of inspiration, the power of idealism and faith.
"In our film profession you may have Gable's looks, Tracy's art, Marlene's legs or Liz's violet eyes, but they don't mean a thing without that swinging thing called courage."
(Frank Capra, "The Name Above The Title") 

Francesco Rosario Capra was born in Sicily and immigrated to America in 1903, at six years of age.  I could speak about Frank's story for ages and it would need not only a post but several posts to capture its total fascination. I am here to speak about his so-called "common man films", which were simply films about everyday men who became extraordinary due to situations they were put in. They had the Shakespearean "greatness thrust upon them", each in his own way. I will talk about Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Meet John Doe and It's A Wonderful Life, but don't forget that the "common man" is a recurring theme in Capra's work - it was the type of man he was and the type of man he believed in, so he felt enormous comfort portraying them.

First, we need to understand Capra's "one man, one film" motto. The motto itself deserves a post of its own, but for now all we need to know is that it implied that a director should be responsible for or at least oversee all parts of the making of a movie, which granted him great creative freedom. For that, Capra injected a lot of his own beliefs and his own ideas into his films.

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town is the oldest in our rank, dating from 1936. It tells the story of Longfellow Deeds, a simple-minded man from a small town who suddenly wins a fortune and has his life completely changed when he moves to New York city to manage it and heartbreakingly falls in love with an undercover journalist hired to write about his life. Longfellow is charmingly portrayed by Gary Cooper and the wisecracking newspaperwoman is brought to life by Jean Arthur. The movie gave me a strange knot in my throat while the journalist took advantage of his innocence, a feeling I never got
Capra, Arthur and Stewart
from a romantic comedy before, but made me realize that the flick had an enormous depth to it, one extraordinarily shown in the faces of the two main stars. The end of it conveys a message of hope, of redemption by love and altruism and a certainty that everything works out in the end. Such message would become a pattern in Capra's work.

The second film on the list is Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, that dates from 1939. Again with the fabulous Jean Arthur, this time co-starring Jimmy Stewart, the movie tells the story of an ordinary man - yet again - who finds himself with an opportunity to occupy a seat in the Senate. His pure and almost innocent intentions go against the very firmly established corruption in the political scene of America, but he does not surrender his ideals. It's almost unrealistic in its idealism, but the warm message of doing the right thing regardless of consequence ultimately makes it a delicious flick. There's no need to praise James Stewart's acting - only to say that in this flick more than all others he is the Stewart we know and love, the man next door with the potential for greatness. Jean Arthur is as charming and as hauntingly beautiful as ever.

Capra and Stanwyck
Then, along comes "Meet John Doe", from 1941. It tells the story of a newspaper woman, played with the usual flawlessness of Barbara Stanwyck, who, in an effort to save her job prints out a fake letter of a man about to commit suicide in protest of the current social situations.  The journalist and her editor fuel the story to the extent of finding an actual man to pose as John Doe, played by Gary Cooper, and start a very real political uproar. The most delicious part of this movie answers to the name of Barbara Stanwyck, who gives the character of Ann Mitchell an irresistible personality and an amazing life-likeness. If you are interested at all in the career of Barbara Stanwyck and has never seen a film with her, this is where I suggest you begin.

Lastly, we will touch the movie that drove me to blinding tears, "It's A Wonderful Life", from 1946. This is so many people's favorite movie that I don't even think I need to be here praising it once again, acknowledging its simple genius and letting every single one of my readers know that you have missed half of your cinephile experience if you've never seen it, but yet here I am. With the perfect casting of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, "It's A Wonderful Life" its the ultimate glorification of the everyday life. The singular feeling of this flick is looking at George Bailey's life and thinking it's absolutely extraordinary, but at a closer look, realizing how utterly normal it is. It gives you an entire new outlook on the common person, at your own everyday life, and how magic can be found in the little things. And, of course the ending, that sound cheesy whenever I describe it to anyone, but which can drive a heart of stone to endless tears.

There's a clear pattern in all of those films, ranging from actor choice (Stanwyck, Cooper, Arthur, Stewart) all the way to basic storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed these four pictures and I can recommend it completely to any one of my readers. As I do all the other Capra movies I've seen and not reviewed: "State Of The Union", "Arsenic and Old Lace", "It Happened One Night" and "The Miracle Woman". Next on the watchlist are "You Can't Take It With You", "Lady For A Day" and "The Bitter Tea of General Yen".

In this post, I've barely touched the tip of the iceberg of Frank Capra's work. I myself am still unfamiliar with most of it and have so much more to explore. One thing is for certain: I will do so with the utmost joy. Perhaps you'd like to join me?