Tuesday, November 29, 2011

REVIEW: THE SCHOOL BOY AND HIS MYTH

My Week With Marilyn
Directed by Simon Curtis
Written by Adrian Hodges

The world knows Marilyn Monroe for her legend: the voluptuous blonde bombshell that had Hollywood at ‘hello’. She is one of few people who have reached this mythic level – heightened also because she was taken from her public at the peak of her fame, suspended in the airs of eternal youth.
When Michelle Williams was cast as Marilyn Monroe in the slice-of-life, sentimental romance My Week with Marilyn, I imagine she was first flattered, then terrified. Taking on one of the most – if not the single most recognizable icons in Hollywood history is a risky move, to be sure. Fortunately or unfortunately for Williams, it was a career-making role in an otherwise forgettable film.
Williams is a believable Marilyn and a gifted actress, if not a classic beauty. She brings mystifying childlikeness and the frailty of a porcelain doll to the power-house sex symbol, but there is no denying she is a confusing choice (one of many head-scratchers in the casting department). Her body, padded into an hourglass shape, is hugely out of proportion and, aside from her dewy white skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair, there is little likeness to Marilyn at all. Sure, it may be an impossible challenge for a casting director, but perhaps a better choice might have been a new face – an undiscovered talent whose freshness and novelty might have added a sense of wonder and curiosity. But in these economic times: no star, no budget, no movie.
To say the film is about Marilyn Monroe is slightly misleading. Though Marilyn hovers over the film like an angel or a myth, and is undeniably part of the plotline, the film is predominantly about the youthful fantasy-come-true of the fresh and freckled Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne). Clark, who runs away from a distinguished family to “join the circus” of the film industry, joining the crew of Laurence Olivier’s latest film The Prince and the Showgirl, is played with easy likability. He is uncomplicated, full of youthful energy, charming determination, and heavy innocence. But for all his sweetness, Colin lacks the emotional complexity required to make him relatable. The simplification of his youth is appealing at times, asking the audience to oo and ahh over him without finding any true empathy. When Marilyn does take interest in the boy (it is difficult to believe he is all of 23 years old), it seems highly unlikely, which may be part of the appeal.
Colin’s relationship with Marilyn helps to make him indispensable on set. Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), another victim of poor casting, uses Clark as a tool to help the self-indulgent Marilyn make it to work on time, or at all. Olivier, commander in chief of the film production, as well as Marilyn’s on-screen love interest, is done justice by Branagh inasmuch as he physically and verbally recalls the him, but Branagh’s general roundness has nothing to do with Olivier’s still-chiseled features, which made him one of the most handsome men to have lived. Still, Branagh’s performance is a source of power in the film and, despite it being an occasionally chauvinistic power, the film begs for it.
As Marilyn’s faulty new marriage to playwright Arthur Miller dissolves, her connection to Colin Clark deepens. They begin their off-set romance, consisting of simple, innocent outings, and pleasant conversations. The scenes of Marilyn without make-up, barefoot, or naked in the bathtub, do very little to humanize the mega-star. Although Williams gives her an impressive vulnerability, she is always seen behind the veil of her fa├žade, even if it is transparent. Low angle shots of men watching Marilyn on camera help to solidify her as un-human, or perpetuate her as a myth. The result is a charming, simple film about the realization of a school-boy crush.

Monday, November 28, 2011

WELCOME TO THE WORKING WEEK (HIGHLIGHTS OF THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND)

Violet roses at the farmers market

Orange and Grapefruit samples

California winter days - view from outside my apartment building.

View from inside my apartment lobby - distinctly more festive.

James Turrell exhibit at the Kanye Griffin Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica

Goodbye kiss.

Thanksgiving. The official initiation of the holiday season. The usual suspects are already at their tricks, scarves and winter coats are omnicient (despite being unnessesary), and the air smells of nutmeg. And although everyone isn't warm and cozy, the holidays are often a time to put your ego aside and assume your position in the family. My weekend consisted of cooking, seeing pleasantly surprising films, enjoying the schizophrenic weather, spending time with old friends, future planning, and a tearful goodbye. Welcome to the working week.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

GRATITUDE


Last night I hosted a mini/pre Thanksgiving at my house, which, although lovely, was not so mini. I have enough turkey and potatoes to last me through the year. The thought of starting over tomorrow makes my stomach turn, but two Thanksgivings give me twice the excuse to think on what I'm thankful for. The list is long this year. Much appreciation to you for reading, as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

WHAT IT TAKES TO TANGO

 Eartha Kitt and James Dean
 David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor

 Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin

 Yves Saint Laurent and Carl Lagerfeld

Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball

 Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson

Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol

Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke

photos via: awesome people

Monday, November 21, 2011

REVIEW: J.EDGAR

J. Edgar
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Dustin Lance Black
Produced by Mr. Eastwood, Brian Grazer and Robert Lorenz
Released by Warner Brothers Pictures.
Running time: 2 hours 17 minutes.




Clint Eastwood’s latest biopic chronicling the life of the 20th century FBI front-man, J. Edgar Hoover, is a sympathetic account of the man behind his public persona. Hoover, played by a seriously stern Leonardo Dicaprio, is gifted humanity by Eastwood not exclusively, but predominantly through his relationship to Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). Eastwood directs the film with a slow and steady hand, paying respect to the half-century Hoover devoted to the zealous protection of his country. And although the film runs long at 2 hours and 17 minutes, it is not quite long enough to condense history in a way that makes clear sense. Of course, pre-existing knowledge of America history helps, but nonetheless; the swift, seamless jumps between various decades are blurry at best. The film travels back and fourth in time so frequently that, at times, it is difficult to grab hold of the frame and anchor you in the story.

Still, Eastwood’s treatment of the subject-matter is elegant and without judgment – questioning Hoover’s morality without reprimanding it, empathizing with a man’s passion instead of criticizing it.

The film is saved by moments of undeniable and surprising tenderness. This relief is provided by the stoic, gentle-but-stern advice of Hoover’s mother (Judi Dench) and his fragile, cloudy relationship with Clyde. From a mother and son waltz in a hotel room, a bloody kiss in Del Mar, to Hoover’s cross-dressing after his mother’s death – these little moments give Hoover his humanity – a humanity that is totally crushed under his larger-than-life public persona.

Hoover was undoubtedly a difficult character. He established some of the most important modes of criminal investigation in history, but not without flaw. He was hard-headed, narcissistic, hot-blooded, and often hypocritical, engaging in plenty of overlooked illegal behavior. The film treads these lines carefully, paying homage to both aspects of the man without dipping into liberal or conservative pools. It remains neutral. The neutrality is delicate, but also frustrating. Nothing is hammered home. No point is driven clearly forward through the plotline. The audience is not told anything, just forced to think.  

Dicaprio gives Hoover his deserved severity and strength, at times touching at vulnerability, but the performance to recognize is not from the mega-star, but his supporting actor. Armie Hammer steals the show with a natural, tender, and true performance. His stature and his voice immediately draw attention, but he handles the controversial aspects of Clyde with elegance and subtlety. He ages seamlessly and so convincingly, we forget it is even the same actor. He has a full-bodied awareness of age. Hammer’s performance is seemingly without effort and wonderful to watch. Naomi Watts lends her talents to Hoover’s backbone secretary, Helen Gandy, whose relationship with Hoover hovers somewhere between blind devotion and careful criticism.

The film is a heady historical whirlwind, with rhythm and style and intellect. The majority of the film has its roots in political drama and ethics, but it ends a story of love, friendship, and human devotion.  

WELCOME TO THE WORKING WEEK









The weekend passed too quickly, as it always seems to. Friday, the American Cinemateque had a series of silent shorts: Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, the Little Rascals, and the like. The films were scored by live piano music, which made the evening feel like a real event. Saturday was filled with auditions - more than I've ever booked in a single day. And although I only made it to a few, it feels great to have the opportunities. Sunday morning was rainy and overcast, but my boyfriend and I braved the LA weather and went Thanksgiving shopping at the open-air farmers market. We then rewarded ourselves with a lazy, long brunch. We later went to a screening of J. Edgar at the Directors Guild of America. The theater at the DGA is truly incredible - it shows how quality changes the experience of watching a film. This week I have multiple friends coming in to town for the holiday. I hope I can find the time to share with all of them. I'm looking forward to a couple days off work, but the week is undoubtedly bittersweet. Although it will be full of high-caloric treats, I have to say goodbye to my love when he leaves for his job in New York on Thursday. Welcome to the working week.

photos via: Hoodoo

Friday, November 18, 2011

HAPPY WEEKEND

Photo: Edouard Boubat, 1947

"We should meet in another life, we should meet in air, me and you"
-Sylvia Plath

The working days dragged their feet this week, but the nights were well worth the wait. A definite highlight was making dinner and carving pumpkins (yes...a month late, but whatever) with a first-time carver. Sometimes those simple activities are most memorable. I was called in at the very last minute for two shoots this week, neither of which followed-through: either because it wasn't in my best interest, or because the notice was late. Still, it's frustrating to book work in such a frenzied fashion - I figure my time is best spent on projects with more thought and preparation. There will be others, I'm sure. Tomorrow alone I have booked 5 auditions. Although I won't be able to make all of them, it feels good to get the call back.  Even though work bleeds into my weekend, there's a silent film short series, art to see, and Sunday brunch on the beach. Happy weekend!

REVIEW: SKINNED

Review: Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In
117 mins, Rated R
Now Playing

Only a visionary director can stamp a film with his signature in the first frame and, well…Pedro Almodovar is a visionary director. In his latest cross-genre feature, The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito), he returns to his early fascinations with the sexually perverse, conceptions of beauty, magical realism, and moral ambiguity. The first few minutes of the film establish its position in the history of art. The credits introduce time and place, Toledo, Spain – birthplace of legendary Spanish painter, El Greco – 2012. Already, Almodovar establishes an invisible cord between past and present, between the historical and the contemporary. The camera then follows a narrow path up to a secluded house, already alluding to the mansions of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, and Citizen Kane – an allusion that is further strengthened with the discovery that deranged genius, Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) houses a secret in the attic. Ledgard, played by a uncharacteristically nuanced and emotionally detached Banderas, walks up the grand staircases, past numerous oil paintings of reclining women. He enters his bedroom and sits in front of a massive screen, displaying yet another reclining body from behind. The camera scans the body and all the curves that define it as feminine. And although this screen, similar to the paintings, recalls the works of Ingres, nothing is as it seems. The screen is not a painting, but a surveillance camera, watching Ledgard’s caged prisoner: a beautiful woman called Vera (Elena Anaya). Robert’s unusual and confusing relationship with Vera is one of many secrets introduced at the outset of the film. As the plot unfolds, past and present are woven together, constantly revealing new elements (and new perversions) to the secrets. Almodovar delicately plants the seeds of the mystery throughout the film, which is – at points – difficult to follow, but – as is often the case in his films – there is a brilliant moment of revelation, where at once the clues make sense and the secret is revealed. In this case, the more knowledge, the more discomfort, as the film transitions from drama to a sci-fi psychological horror film. Still, there are elements of comedy, beauty, tenderness, tragedy, lust, and magical realism that only a director like Almodovar can handle (and get away with). The result is a film that is meticulously crafted, thoroughly uncomfortable, painfully beautiful, and – ultimately – heartbreaking. GO SEE IT.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING

 Presley.
JFK.
 Cash.
 Dean.
 Grant.
 Hayes.
McQueen.

 De Niro.
Peck.

Get it. Got it. Good.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

PHOTOPLAY



I finally received the shots from my New York shoot! Above are a couple of my favorites. Good news is I've been using these shots for less than two days and I already have an offer from a management company in Japan. Even though some may have called me ridiculous, I'm glad I trusted my instincts. The photographer himself told me that the unifying characteristic in every successful person he's shot is that they don't stop until they have a "yes". I like to think myself included in that category, but time will tell.

PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST

 Scorsese
 Jobs
 Travolta
 Charles
 Taylor
 Jackson 5
 Jimmy Cliff
 Hopper
Martin

Photography by Norman Seeff, more HERE

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

VIEW FINDER: MELVIN SOKOLSKY


Ali MacGraw

Susan Strasberg (L),  Natalie Wood (R)



Twiggy


Lena Horne (L), Chet Baker and Wally Coover (R)
All photos by Melvin Sokolsky: see more HERE and HERE