Monday, February 28, 2011


Now recognized as a pioneer of racial equality in film, Lena Horne was an actress, singer, dancer, and human rights activist. Born in Brooklyn, New York to an upper middle class family, her aspirations in entertainment were met with disapproving remarks from her family. Her family was an eclectic mix of ethnicity: African American, Native American, and European, which would present Lena with strict limitations in entertainment and, especially, film. Before entering the film industry, Horne had a successful career in nightclubs, performing at famed clubs such as the Café Society in downtown Manhattan. It was at the Café Society that Horne re-connected with a childhood acquaintance, Paul Robeson, who educated Horne about her African heritage and culture.  Her big break came in the form of a contract with MGM, making Lena Horne the first African American since 1915 to sign a long-term contract with a major movie studio. She quickly became the highest paid African American Woman in the industry. However, her particular look presented unique challenges. Though she was, by heritage, African American, her skin was not dark enough to land her roles alongside other African American actors. She also found herself losing roles in “white” films because the studio wasn’t ready to show interracial relationships. Despite these limitations, Lena Horne had a lengthy career in film, television, and theater. She devoted her life to civil rights movements and political activism. Unfortunately, her radical politics landed her on the blacklist during the Red Scare of the McCarthy Era and she was temporarily unable to find work in Hollywood. However, her perseverance, fierce talent, and tireless spirit, gave her the career she dreamed of as a child.  She overcame her adversities and is now regarded not only as a talented, beautiful movie star, but an archetypal figure in the fight for racial equality. Credits include: Michael Feinstein's American Songbook (TV series documentary) (2010),  A Life in Words and Music (video short) ("The Lady Is a Tramp") (2007), Take the Lead (performer: "I Got Rhythm Take the Lead Remix", "I Got Rhythm") (2006), Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (performer: "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas") (2004), The Family Man (performer: "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow") (2000), Lolita (performer: "Stormy Weather") (1997), Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (performer: "Stormy Weather") (1997), The Wiz (performer: "Tornado/Glinda's Theme", "If You Believe In Yourself Reprise") (1978), Death of a Gunfighter (performer: "SWEET APPLE WINE") (1969), Meet Me in Las Vegas (performer: "If You Can Dream") (1956), Duchess of Idaho (performer: "Baby Come Out of the Clouds") (1950), Words and Music (performer: "The Lady Is a Tramp", "Where or When") (1948), Ziegfeld Follies (performer: "Love") (1945), Broadway Rhythm (performer: "Brazilian Boogie", "Somebody Loves Me") (1944), Swing Fever (performer: "You're So Indifferent") (1943), Cabin in the Sky (performer: "Life Is Full of Consequence", "Honey in the Honeycomb") (1943), Panama Hattie (performer: "Just One of Those Things" 1935, "The Sping" 1942 - uncredited) (1942), The Duke Is Tops (performer: "I Know You Remember" - uncredited, "Don't Let Our Love Song Turn Into a Blues" - uncredited) (1938).


"Hitler + Handicap + Shakespeare + $100 million = BEST PICTURE"
-A.O. Scott, Oscars 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011


via: hc

“You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.”
-Ernest Hemingway


The impossibly handsome Montgomery Clift made a name for himself by playing dark, mysterious outsiders. His talents on stage and on screen elevated his celebrity faster than most, winning 4 Academy Awards in his short career. Despite his talents, the notoriety and fame lured Clift into a life of excess.  Induced by excessive drinking and drug dependency, Clift was spiraling out of control. One fateful night, leaving a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s house, Monty crashed his car at full speed into a tree, brutally disfiguring his iconic face. Though there were no lacerations that left scars, he never looked the same. Unfortunately, the effects of the accident were not only physical—the event marked the steady decline of the beloved Hollywood heartthrob.  The following is a beautiful piece written by Marcello Mastroianni about the accident

“Those were my moviegoing days. Days when the names James Dean and Marlon Brando still evoked question marks. Yet the true originator of what came to be known as the rebellious twentieth-century anti-hero had already made his entrance. The film was Red River, and the restrained performer with the inner tension and those ancient, melancholy eyes was Montgomery Clift. 

He presence was so unobtrusively strong that it lingered even when he was off camera. And so I kept going back: The Heiress, A Place in the Sun, I Confess, From Here to Eternity, The Young Lions.

And then the distressing news of his accident, his courtships with loneliness, his fits of depression, and his ultimate reclusion. We, colleagues and fans, were all the more saddened because it seemed that all the sympathy in the world could never have helped him. 

In a darkened theater, watching his first film after the accident, I was both curious and apprehensive. Yes, he had changed; the young boy from Red River was ten years older. His eyes were reflecting the experience of a lifetime; than ancient melancholy was now tinged with a personal suffering. Yet the presence was still there and still when he was not on screen.

And that the last film I saw him in, as my moviegoing days are over now. Much has happened since: James Dean’s career began and abruptly ended, Brandoism had passed its apogee, and perhaps the rebellious anti-hero of our days is slightly out of vogue now. But the intensity of Montgomery’s eyes, twenty years later, the wisdom of his Etruscan smile, the tragedy of his personal life make him the never-setting expression of our times, the symbol of difficult duty of living.

- Marcello Mastroianni


 This year at the Oscars, it should be a showdown between The Social Network and The King’s Speech. Both films deserve high esteem, and they are destined to get it, but the question really is; who will pull out ahead. Competing in numerous categories, most notably: best director, best actor in a leading role, and best picture, I’ll be tallying who racks up more awards in total. Last year, the all-powerful Avatar was pushed aside by the low-budget underdog, The Hurt Locker. This year, the two front runners find themselves on a more equal playing field. It’s a toss-up, really, but if all else fails, the gowns are always reason enough to watch.   

Richard Brody of the New Yorker published his picks (and predictions) here.

The greatest honor of winning best picture is joining the ranks of past winners. Here is a comprehensive list of best picture winners since the advent of the infamous Oscar:

2009 - “The Hurt Locker”
2008 - “Slumdog Millionaire”
2007 - “No Country for Old Men”
2006 - “The Departed”
2005 - “Crash”
2004 - “Million Dollar Baby”
2003 - “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
2002 - “Chicago”
2001 - “A Beautiful Mind”
2000 - “Gladiator”
1999 - “American Beauty”
1998 - “Shakespeare in Love”
1997 - “Titanic”
1996 - “The English Patient”
1995 - “Braveheart”
1994 - “Forrest Gump”
1993 - “Schindler’s List”
1992 - “Unforgiven”
1991 - “The Silence of the Lambs”
1990 - “Dances with Wolves”
1989 - “Driving Miss Daisy”
1988 - “Rain Man”
1987 - “The Last Emperor”
1986 - “Platoon”
1985 - “Out of Africa”
1984 - “Amadeus”
1983 - “Terms of Endearment”
1982 - “Gandhi”
1981 - “Chariots of Fire”
1980 - “Ordinary People”
1979 - “Kramer vs. Kramer”
1978 - “The Deer Hunter”
1977 - “Annie Hall”
1976 - “Rocky”
1975 - “One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest”
1974 - “The Godfather Part II”
1973 - “The Sting”
1972 - “The Godfather”
1971 - “The French Connection”
1970 - “Patton”
1969 - “Midnight Cowboy”
1968 - “Oliver!”
1967 - “In the Heat of the Night”
1966 - “A Man for All Seasons”
1965 - “The Sound of Music”
1964 - “My Fair Lady”
1963 - “Tom Jones”
1962 - “Lawrence of Arabia”
1961 - “West Side Story”
1960 - “The Apartment”
1959 - “Ben-Hur”
1958 - “Gigi”
1957 - “The Bridge on the River Kwai”
1956 - “Around the World in 80 Days”
1955 - “Marty”
1954 - “On the Waterfront”
1953 - “From Here to Eternity”
1952 - “The Greatest Show on Earth”
1951 - “An American in Paris”
1950 - “All about Eve”
1949 - “All the Kings Men”
1948 - “Hamlet”
1947 - “Gentleman's Agreement”
1946 - “The Best Years of Our Lives”
1945 - “The Lost Weekend”
1944 - “Going My Way”
1943 - “Casablanca”
1942 - “Mrs. Miniver”
1941 - “How Green Was My Valley”
1940 - “Rebecca”
1939 - “Gone with the Wind”
1938 - “You Can't Take It with You”
1937 - “The Life of Emile Zola”
1936 - “The Great Ziegfeld”
1935 - “Mutiny on the Bounty”
1934 - “It Happened One Night”
1932/1933 - “Cavalcade”
1931/1932 - “Grand Hotel”
1930/1931 - “Cimarron”
1929/1930 - “All Quiet on the Western Front”
1928/1929 - “The Broadway Melody”
1927/1928 - “Wings”

Thursday, February 24, 2011


ABC has extended its contract with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences until 2020. Academy president, Tom Sherak, issued the following statement: 

This contract ensures that the Oscar show will be an ABC tradition for 45 consecutive years, ABC is absolutely the very best place for the Academy Awards, a television event that is beloved and watched by millions of movie lovers all over the world.

For more information, click here or here


 Tonight: Conversations with Oscar Nominees: Colin Firth, Darren Aronofsky, Charles Ferguson, among others. Click here for details.



Apenas te he dejado,
Vas en mí, cristalina
O temblorosa,
O inquieta, herida por mí mismo
O colmada de amor, como cuando tus ojos
Se cierran sobre el don de la vida
Que sin cesar te entrego.

Amor mío,
Nos hemos encontrado
Sedientos y nos hemos
Bebido toda el agua y la sangre,
Nos encontramos
Con hambre
Y  nos mordimos
Como el fuego muerde,
Dejándonos heridos.

Pero espérame
Guárdame tú dulzura.
Yo te daré también
Una rosa. 


I have scarcely left you
When you go in me, crystalline,
Or trembling, or uneasy, wounded by me
Or overwhelmed by love, as 
When your eyes
Close upon the gift of life
That without cease I give you.

My love,
We have found each other
Thirsty and we have
Drunk up the water and the
We have found each other
And we bit each other
As fire bites
Leaving wounds in us.

But wait for me,
Keep for me your sweetness.
I give you too
a rose.  

-Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)


Known as the father of cinematic surrealism, Luis Buñuel was among the first group of directors who used the cinematic medium as a means of artistic expression, instead of simple documentation. His religious upbringing in Aragon, Spain contributed to an archive of perverse themes and images that, even today, read controversial. Collaborations with long-time friends Salvador Dalí  and Federico García Lorca, influenced the style and content of his work, solidifying Buñuel’s status as a surrealist filmmaker. Credits include: La novia de medianoche (1986), That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), The Phantom of Liberty (1974), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), Belle de Jour (1967), Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), The Young One (1960), Death in the Garden (1956), That Is the Dawn (1956), Robinson Crusoe (1954), Wuthering Heights (adaptation / story) (1954), Mexican Bus Ride (1952), The Young and the Damned (writer) (1950), L'Age d'Or (1930), Un Chien Andalou (short) (1929).

“I have a soft spot for secret passageways, bookshelves that open into silence, staircases that go down into a void, and hidden safes. I even have one myself, but I won't tell you where. At the other end of the spectrum are statistics which I hate with all my heart.”
                                                                                                            -Luis Buñuel

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


This weekend I had the unique experience of attending the Society of Martha Washington debutant presentation in Laredo Texas. The event marks the social highlight of the year, when high society gathers and celebrates the colonial history of this border town. It was something like I've never seen, take a look:


via: hc

Humphrey Bogart is the unlikely leading man who turned his brooding, cynical, and quietly vulnerable persona into one of the most iconic personalities in film history.  His strength of character and fierce intellect combine to create an undeniable sexuality, as subtle as his smile. Born in New York on Christmas day, 1899, Bogart got his start in film during the great depression, when theater lost funding. He made a name for himself as a character actor, playing gangsters in films like Angels with Dirty Faces (1938). It wasn’t until films such as High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon that Bogart broke out of his typecast and became a leading man in his own right.  Though he was married four times, he is most famously linked to Lauren Bacall, who he considered the great love of his life. She was only 19 (he was 45), when they fell in love on the set of To Have and Have Not (1944). Bogart’s legacy will live on in his films, which will have women lusting after his dark, mysterious aspect until the end of time.  Credits include: The Harder They Fall (1956), The Desperate Hours (1955), The Left Hand of God (1955),

Wednesday, February 16, 2011



In his memoir, Adventures in the Screen Trade, William Goldman offers the priceless advice: “nobody knows anything.” The memoir, written in the 1980s, gives a clear overview of the screenwriting industry at large, for those who are unfamiliar with it. Almost no one would be more qualified to do so than William Goldman. Having won two Academy Awards for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and All the President’s Men (1976), Goldman imagined (or adapted) some of the most beloved films of all time.  Goldman’s interest in writing began at Oberlin College, where he took creative writing. As he developed his skill as a novelist, playwright, and poet, he finally made the jump to screenplays in 1965 with Masquerade. He is now revered as one of the most influential screenwriters in the industry, not to mention a valuable script doctor. Credits include: Dreamcatcher (2003), Hearts in Atlantis (2001), The General's Daughter (1999), Maverick (1994), Chaplin (1992), Misery (1990), The Princess Bride (1987), Heat (1986), A Bridge Too Far (1977), Marathon Man (1976), All the President's Men (1976), The Stepford Wives (1975), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Masquerade (1965).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


This weekend, “Just Go With It” recovered some of its $80 million budget, opening number one at the box offices.  The film, starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, even out-sold Justin Bieber’s highly anticipated 3D concert-movie. While this box-office showdown has me confused, no doubt, it proves how lastingly bankable certain celebrities can be. Certainly the film itself is not the draw, but its talent. As A.O. Scott states in his New York Times review of the film:

I should start by confessing that I spent a lot of time before the screening of “Just Go With It” — and a few stretches while it was actually going on — trying to remember what the darn thing was called. I may have to look up the title a few more times before this review is done, and the movie is likely to live on in my memory (to the extent that it will) as “that one with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in Hawaii.” Which pretty much sums up both the appeal and the limitations of this passive-aggressive, naughty but nice, sometimes obnoxious and occasionally quite funny late-winter romantic comedy.

Not a rave, to say the least. But the success of this movie got me thinking about the original funny-men. Before Seth Rogan or Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler, the original funny-man, Buster Keaton, was building the foundation for slapstick.

“The Great Stone Face,” as Keaton (1895-1966) was affectionately known, created a comedic style before the advent of talkies. Born into a vaudeville family, he spent his youth on stage. Skeptical of motion pictures (as most theater-people were), Keaton took it upon himself to dissemble and reassemble a camera. With a newfound understanding and respect for the medium, Keaton began his career as a screen-actor and filmmaker.  Without dialogue, Keaton’s comedies required a highly exaggerated physicality. Through creative editing and – what was essentially – mime, the comedic genre was born. Buster Keaton will forever be regarded as the father of comedic acting and has been recognized innumerably for his achievements.  

That Just Go With It (2011) is the 11th consecutive Adam Sandler movie to open first at the box office proves, most certainly, that audiences haven’t tired of the funny-man.   

Monday, February 14, 2011


via: hc

Valentine's Day is notoriously pressure-filled, but Instead of getting lost in expectation or fretting over paranoid projections, let today be a celebration of love (in whatever capacity you have it).

via: nevver

This Valentine's Day, I'm in a place not unlike a movie-set: scenic semi-rural Connecticut. It's a far cry from LA, but any time life is better than the movies, you know you must be doing something right.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Collages by John Stezaker


Screened last night at the Aero Theater.

Gypsy (1962) is the story of a tireless stage-mother and her vicarious search for stardom through her children. Mama Rose (Rosalind Russell), arguably the most difficult female lead in all of theater, requires force and stamina only possessed by a full-fledged powerhouse. There is nothing delicate about her, or the desperate pushing of her children: baby June (Ann Jillian) and Louise (Natalie Wood). The young girls grow up in Vaudeville, never growing roots in any place or to any person. Their ages are kept secret from them, they are overworked, underfed, and never paid. One could easily vilify Mama Rose, but all her abrasiveness is coupled with an undeniable love for her children—a love so strong, it somehow manages to redeem her.

In a rare moment of vulnerability, Rose utters “why do they always walk out”—a painful recognition that she has been abandoned by everyone she’s ever loved, including her baby June—the star of her act, and her life. Left with only the clothes on her back and the child without talent, she forces Louise into June’s act. Louise falls flat, but Rose’s determination is blinding. The act is a flop, ending up in a house of burlesque. At the burlesque house, Louise somehow finds her individuality as a person and as a woman (ironically, as a stripper). For the first time, she knows herself outside the projections of her mother.

The film is full of familiar melodies (composed by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim), the music alone is enough to carry you through til the end. Rosalind Russell bowls over everyone for the majority of the film, but (surprisingly) Natalie Wood steals the show. The subtlety in her performance is beautiful to watch (as is she, I might add). In Gypsy, we hear the real Natalie Wood—her voice was dubbed in West Side Story (1961) with Marni Nixon’s. Although her voice does not posses finesse or training, it certainly adds to her charm.

This film would never work today, it desperately needs editing and feels like a tape-recorded version of the stage play. Nothing new or innovative was added in its adaptation to film, but the story and the music hold-up.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I've withheld from posting something Valentine's Day-themed, but NO LONGER! If you have not seen this clip, it's time you did. Of course, I'd recommend you first see the film in its entirety.

 *Clip from Cinema Paradiso (1988). 
 * This clip is also a perfect example of what a wonderful score can bring to a film. The music carries the entire ending of this movie--it speaks louder than any dialogue could. 

Before the moderately offensive term “chick flick” was coined, love stories would have simply been called romances. Of all the stories told in films, none are more wonderfully larger than life. The most significant unifying characteristic in the highest grossing films of all time (Gone with the Wind, Titanic, Avatar), is that they are love stories (or conceived by James Cameron). If that's not indication of our love of romance, I don’t know what is.
via: nevver
Whether Valentine’s Day inspires loathing or lust, movies are always a safe bet: they can relieve us from the trials and tribulations of love, or remind us just how good we have it.

Playing around Los Angeles this Valentine’s Day:

The Aero Theater: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (2/14)
The Egyption Theater: Dr. Zhivago (2/13)
Beverly Cinema: Moulin Rouge, Marie Antoinette  (2/13-15)
Downtown Independent: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2/14)
Cinefamily: (double feature) Casablanca, My Mondo Valentine. (2/14)

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I asked my friends for their favorite on-screen kisses. Here’s what they came up with:
Penelope Cruz & Scarlet Johanssen, Vicki Cristina Barcelona (via: vickicristinabarcelona)

Johnny Depp & Juliet Binoche, Chocolat

Johnny Depp & Winona Ryder, Edward Scissorhands (via: Michellewthonel)

Ben Affleck & Kate Beckinsale, Pearl Harbor

Rachel McAdams & Ryan Gosling, The Notebook (via: AFCAdam)

Leonardo Dicaprio & Kate Winslet, Titanic (via: Mel Tab)
Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette in True Romance (1993)

Mine? Anyone who knows me would guess: 

Carey Grant & Ingrid Bergman, Notorious