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- Retro Movie Reviews] How to Marry a Millionaire

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How-to-Marry-a-Millionaire-Marilyn-Monroe-Betty-Grable-Lauren-Bacall    Despite its title and overall premise, How to Marry a Millionaire, is actually a charming movie. But let me get it out of the way first, in honor of my “Gender in Film” college professor. Sure, yes, oh la-di-da, three models living in a swanky New York City apartment with a scheme to land themselves millionaire husbands isn’t exactly a feminist manifesto. But, I mean really, if they did make a movie of a feminist manifesto, would you want to see it? Probably not.

But as Drew Barrymore pointed out in this film’s intro during her “Essentials” segment on Turner Classic Movies, isn’t it nice to have a movie with three strong female characters and they are all getting along? Yes, Drew, yes it is. And even if you disagree with their motives and their goals, this was the 1950s after all, and we have three smart women living in New York City going after what betty and marilynthey want. You’re gonna make it after all! <hat toss>

Lauren Bacall plays Schatze Page (why does she have such a weird name? who knows?). Schatze is the brains behind the operation. She finds the beautiful New York apartment that was recently vacated By Freddie Denmark (David Wayne) who had to move to Europe to escape the IRS. She moves in two of her fellow models, Pola (Marilyn Monroe) (why does she have such a weird name? who knows?) and Loco (Betty Grable) (why does she have such a weird name? who knows?) (Wait, this one they explain, apparently she did something loco once).

Schatze got stiffed by her last husband, a car hop that had lied to her and said he was rich. No more, now it’s caviar only for this girl. The three of them proceed to find themselves rich men to marry, financed by selling the furniture in the apartment they are renting.

Loco meets a rich married man who lures her to his “lodge” in Maine. When she discovers it’s his personal cabin they then realize she has the measles and they’re stuck there for 2 weeks while she recovers. When she gets better her married man contracts measles as well. In the meantime, Loco meets Eben (Rory Calhoon) the local fire ranger and falls in love. He’s not rich! Oh no!

Pola meets a one-eyed man who pretends to be an oil tycoon. Pola is blind as a bat, and refuses to wear her glasses in front of men,Alexander_D'Arcy_and_Marilyn_Monroe_in_How_to_Marry_a_Millionaire_trailer because as Dorothy Parker once said: “Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Luckily, however, she is saved from the fact that he is a fraud because she accidentally boards a plane to Kansas City instead of the plane to Atlantic City she was supposed to board to meet him. Get it? She’s blind! Anyway, she ends up sitting next to Freddie Denmark (what a coincidence!) who is also blind as a bat. Freddie likes girls who wear glasses. They fall in love. He’s not really rich and may be going to prison soon! Oh no!

Schatze meets an aging millionaire (William Powell! Who doesn’t love THAT guy!) who wants to marry her. The problem is that htmam5she is in love with Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell) who she thinks is another poor car hop. He’s not rich! Oh no! But wait, he really is rich, he just pretends not to be and wears a weird twill jacket all the time and carries around a golf club everywhere he goes. Clearly the two signs of a deadbeat car hop. (What is a car hop by the way? Does anyone really know?)

Valuable lessons are learned all around, the girls all end up with the boys they love, and SURPRISE, Tom is loaded to boot. Nothing but fun, I tell you. To top it off we got some great Cinemascope action. This is the first film shot in Cinemascope and the second released. They use it well, the shots of the apartment with its broad windows and excellent views of Manhattan are stunning. And, there’s even an overture segment at the beginning where they show a WHOLE orchestra play a WHOLE song. Show offs. Technicolor, Cinemascope, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and William imagesPowell? You simply cannot go wrong, it is impossible, so go watch it.