Been & Going

[Why Watch This- Retro Movie Reviews] Wish You Were (Still) Here

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For my Year End Top 10 list I decided to list the top 10 actors/directors that I wished hadn’t died in 2014. We lost a lot of really talented people in 2014, sigh. People that were memorable to me, people who gave me some good memories, some more than others. Anyway, here is my very personal list of those I’ll miss the most:

10. Bob Hoskins– perhaps best known in the U.S. for playing the grumpy PI opposite a cartoon rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Hoskins made some well-known gangster movies back in his home country of England. Most memorable to me, probably because it’s the only one I’ve seen, is The Long Good Friday, a film I wrote a whole post about here. Bob Hoskins also holds the #2 spot on my “Best Shower Scenes Ever” list for the same film. Maybe someday I’ll let you know what #1 is.

9. Marian Seldes- OK, she’s mostly known for theatre, though she did some film and TV. I will forever remember her from anWWT-Dec 30- Marian opera I saw called La Fille du Regiment. It was at the Met in NYC but they were broadcasting it live to movie theaters here in LA, so I technically saw her on the big screen. She wasn’t even singing, spoke every line and STOLE every scene. I’ll never forget the way she said the line: “The BOBsled team!” Pure gold.

8. Alain Resnais- the unmatchable French director who directed Hiroshima Mon Amour, a surprisingly watchable and moving little film about memory and war and stuff.

7. Mike Nichols- there was a time when I was in college when The Graduate was my jam (and before you think I’m 100 years old, it was an old movie then too). The feeling of isolation and loneliness that permeates every frame of this movie really spoke to me at that time of my life. And if it’s on TV and I’ve got nothing else going on, I can still sit and watch it from start to finish. Oh, and I used to totally torment my college roommate when every time we would walk across the glass enclosed entryway into our dormitory, I would run up to the big glass window, pound on it and yell “Elaine! Elaine!” Her name wasn’t Elaine. I can’t really explain it.

6. Philip Seymour Hoffman– how do you just pick one? He was great in Capote, fabulous in The Talented Mr. Ripley, fantastic in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, I could go on and on and on. He was great in everything. What a loss.

5. Robin Williams- one of the biggest losses of 2014. Everyone has their favorite, mine is The Fisher King. Wow what a good movie that is, and Williams is in the role that was made for him, maniac and tragic at the same time. When you watch it, you’ll wonder why he got the Oscar for Good Will Hunting and not this.

4. James Garner- guy was in a lot of TV and film, but my fave will always be Victor/Victoria. Garner plays the gangster kingpin that falls for Julie Andrews’ lounge singer. Catch: She’s a woman who pretends to be a man who performs in drag as a woman! Whaaat?!? Gender politics, musical numbers, it’s got it all!

3. Harold Ramis- as a director I have to go with Groundhog Day, as an actor, then Ghostbusters. Both are really Bill Murray’s show, but Ramis is a great straight man to Murray’s wackiness.

2. Rik Mayall– I know, I know, The Young Ones was a TV show, but it is a TV show that you should watch. Right now. I’ll wait. Mayall played Rick (I know, a stretch, right?) the pimple faced “People’s Poet” of the house. He was always my favorite and I’m sad to think he is no longer with us. Why are the kids crying? Because Rik, the people’s poet is dead.

1. Lauren Bacall- what can I say about Lauren Bacall? We share a name. When I was 5 I used to tell people that I was named after Lauren Bacall because when I told my Dad that I hated my name and nobody in the whole world had my name, he said “there’s a beautiful actress named Lauren Bacall.” And then, when he found out I was telling people I was named after Lauren Bacall, he made me stop and told me that I wasn’t named after her, we just have the same name. Whatever…I  was 5. Even though she had a lot of life after her first husband Humphrey Bogart died, she will forever be linked with him. My favorite Bogie and Bacall movie? Probably Key Largo. I wanted to like To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, but they were kind of dumb. That doesn’t mean I won’t watch them every single time they come on TCM.

[Why Watch This] The Long Good Friday

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showerYou may have never heard of The Long Good Friday. Maybe you were born in the eighties, maybe you don’t follow British cinema from the late 1970s, maybe you didn’t realize that this was Pierce Brosnan’s first film and also the film that made Bob Hoskins a star. Maybe you didn’t realize that by watching this film, you can finally fulfill your lifelong ambition of watching Bob Hoskins shower for three minutes while awesome synth music is playing. So there you go, you’re welcome.

The Long Good Friday is a period piece extraordinaire. Harold Shand, played by Bob Hoskins is having a really bad couple of days. The London gangster has just returned from a trip to New York where he was trying to partner with the mafia in a real estate development deal that will make his “Corporation” more boat“legit.” He and his wife, played by Helen Mirren, are hosting two American representatives from that group to close the deal and things start going awry. First the car that is driving Harold’s mom to church explodes. Next Harold’s close friend and associate is knifed in a swimming pool locker room (by Pierce Brosnan! this is Pierce Brosnan’s first film! He doesn’t speak!). More bombs go off and Harold has to figure out who’s behind it before the mafia get nervous and backs out of the deal.pierce

The Long Good Friday was written by Barrie Keefe, an investigative reporter who spent a lot of time with London gangsters in the 1970s. In the movie, Harold Shand’s plans to develop the Canary Wharf docklands areas of London in order to get the Olympics to come to London, was inspired by the plans of the Krays. Yes, the Krays, Ronnie Kray and his brother, something or other Kray who terrorized London in the 1970s. And, perhaps more importantly, Ronnie Kray is the subject of Morrissey’s song The Last of the Famous International Playboys. Sing it with me: “The last of the faaaaammmmoooouuus in-ter-na-tional playboys/ the last of the faaaammmmmmoooouuuss…” etc. etc. And yes, all of life and art can somehow be tied back to a song either by The Smiths or Morrissey and if you haven’t figured that out yet go listen to Louder Than Bombs a few times and we’ll go get some hot pot in Koreatown. Hotpot, that’s a thing, right?

phraseAnyway, back to The Long Good Friday. The movie was originally written to be part of a tv series, but then lots of stuff happened and ultimately it ended up being released in theaters under George Harrison’s company Handmade Films. And, as a side note, if you watch the Criterion Collection version and you suddenly get excited by the X rating that shows before the beginning credits, don’t. I think an X rating meant something different in England in 1979, because there is only mild nudity, light violence and absolutely no swearing in this movie. And I can’t guarantee that about the swearing, because I can’t say I understood every word uttered through Mr. Hoskin’s east side London accent. But I suppose the surprising lack of violence, nudity and cussin’ was due to its television origins. I only bring it up because it is considered the forefather of the British gangster film, which I guess is a thing. Like Guy Ritchie, you know that guy that made all those British gangster films, aren’t they known for foul language and extreme violence? I don’t know because I never saw them, but I’m just pointing it out because I think it’s ironic.

This is a great film. Especially if you like 1970s style cinema: long close ups of people’s faces, awesome synth music, plots that are endreally really unnecessarily complex. The IRA is somehow involved, I think, and I’m not just saying that because they’re bombing stuff. But it’s good, so watch it!