Friday, August 15, 2014

If I'm Not Reading Books I Must Be Watching Movies

Sure beats housecleaning!

Reading books and watching movies are probably my two biggest hobbies. This would explain my tendency to write about these things so often!

  • Iron Man 3
    • I had seen the first movie but not the second one but I figured it probably didn't matter and I was right. By not watching Iron Man 2 you miss a little bit of the Tony Stark/Pepper Potts relationship but whoever the villain was in that movie has no bearing on this one.
    • Ben Kingsley is a hoot as the Mandarin, especially when he uses the Ringo Starr-type voice. I always think of him in relation to his Oscar-winning role as Gandhi (which I never saw) and assumed he was pretty old. Ha! He was in his late 30s when he played Gandhi.
      • I had the same issue with Bernie Kopell when I was a kid. He played Siegfried on "Get Smart" and he definitely looked older than Maxwell Smart. I was surprised that he looked so young when he was on "The Love Boat" 10 years later. Turns out he was only about 30 when he played Siegfried!
    • Anyway, this is your standard Marvel superhero movie. Not my favorite of the bunch but it's pretty good for a popcorn movie.
  • The Avengers
    • So since I was on a popcorn movie kick I continued with a rewatch of this one. Mostly because Tom Hiddleston as Loki is in it. ::swoon::
    • I really wish they would feature The Black Widow character in her own movie. It's hard to take your eyes off Scarlett Johansson when she's onscreen so I think she would have no problem carrying her own superhero movie.
  • Thor: The Dark World
    • More popcorn and more Tom Hiddleston.
    • Chris Hemsworth isn't too hard on the eyes either. And Chris Evans makes a really adorable cameo as Captain America.
    • Did I mention Tom Hiddleston is in it?
  • Wreck-It Ralph
    •  I LOVED this movie and watched it twice. The voice actors are great and it's really cute that the 4 main characters actually look like their voice artists too (John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman and Jack McBrayer). 
    • It takes place in the world of video arcades. Kind of like how the toys came alive in "Toy Story" only when no one was looking? Same thing here. The characters travel between games. 
    • I had CPA Boy watch this with me because he spent a chunk of his youth in video arcades. It's the reason he owns a Ms Pac-Man machine; he bought it from the mall arcade he hung out in in the early 80s.
  • Gravity
    • Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
    • Astronauts in distress! I knew how the story ended and thank goodness. It's one space crisis after another so you are constantly tense to see how each new disaster works out.
    • There's a scene in the movie when Sandra Bullock's character takes off her spacesuit and is just wearing an undershirt and underpants. It made me think: would George Clooney have been willing to film a scene where he strips down to his undies so he could float in zero-g? I cannot presume to speak for Mr. Clooney but I'll bet he wouldn't. 
      • Don't get me wrong. The shot of her floating weightlessly in the fetal position in her undies is beautifully shot and (I guess) symbolic. But I think that shot exists because she's a woman.
  • Frozen
    • I watch the TV show "Once Upon a Time" which features various fairy tale characters. The coming season will include several from this movie.
    • It is a cute movie with a few nice twists and good lord, that "Let It Go" song is catchy. No wonder kids love it. It got stuck in my head for days!
  • Random Harvest
    • Greer Garson and Ronald Colman. I adore this movie and have seen it a number of times. 
    • Ronald Colman plays a World War I soldier who loses his memory and falls in love with Greer Garson. Then his memory returns.
    • Colman is too old, really, to play the soldier. He was about 51 during filming and looks it. But check your disbelief at the door: This is a very romantic movie and well worth watching.
  • Kismet
    • Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Edward Arnold
    • I had high hopes for this one but I didn't like it. It takes place in Baghdad (or the MGM art director's idea of Baghdad). Cute but a trifle.
  • Pandora's Box
    • Louise Brooks and her famous flapper bobbed hair.
    • A silent movie that's interesting solely due to Louise Brooks.You may never have heard of her (she didn't make very many movies) but you will recognize her "look".
  • Emma
    • The great Marie Dressler!
    • By today's standards people would probably call Marie Dressler ugly.  Here she is with her "Min and Bill" Best Actress Oscar in 1931 (along with Best Actor winner Lionel Barrymore).
    • I don't think she is ugly at all but she had no actor's vanity so her characters could be frumpy or even ugly if the role called for it. (She's glamorous playing a retired stage actress in Dinner at Eight.)
    • This movie has nothing to do with Jane Austen's novel. Instead Marie Dressler plays a family's housekeeper and nanny. Then there's a death and a court case.
    • The role resulted in her second Oscar nomination. She was the biggest box office star in the early 1930s! She died in 1934 just as little Shirley Temple came along to wear the box office crown.
  • The Barefoot Contessa
    • Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, Edmond O'Brien, Rossano Brazzi
    • Ava at her most gorgeous and she has a claim to being one of the most beautiful woman ever. Her costumes are stunning too.
    • Bogie is great as usual but you can tell he is not well. The Technicolor that enhances the beautiful Ava also enhances his grayish pallor. He would die of esophageal cancer just over 2 years later.
    • The best part of this movie was that Bogie was not Ava's love interest; he was her friend. That's kind of unusual in movies.
    • I didn't understand just what earned Edmond O'Brien the Supporting Actor Oscar for this film until I looked it up. Three of his competitors were in "On the Waterfront" which won almost every other major award on Oscar night. The 3 guys must have cancelled each other out.
    • But overall I don't think it was great. Too much voice-over describing things instead of showing them. Worth a look though, just for Ava and Bogie.
  • Laura
    • Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Judith Anderson, Vincent Price
    • I was curious as to how Gene Tierney would be in the movie because her character is murdered before the film even starts. Flashbacks!
    • This one had a bunch of twists and turns and concluded satisfyingly. Too bad it wasn't in color. Gene Tierney was another beauty who should be seen in color!
    • Vincent Price has the BEST voice. Just gorgeous.
  • Wings
    • Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Richard Arlen, Clara Bow, Gary Cooper
    • The first Best Picture Oscar winner, this was pretty entertaining. Not enough Clara Bow though. She was gorgeous as well as a marvelously expressive actress but because the focus of the film is often the airplane duels and trench warfare she disappears for long stretches.
  • Gentleman's Agreement
    • Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Celeste Holm, Anne Revere, Dean Stockwell and directed by Elia Kazan
    • Gregory Peck plays a journalist writing a series on anti-Semitism. He poses as a Jew and experiences all sorts of prejudice, overt and subtle.
    • Another Oscar-winning Best Picture. It's pretty good although the romantic plot is kind of ridiculous. They get engaged after knowing each other for about 3 days!
    • Celeste Holm is great in her part but just as her character gets the best scene she disappears for the rest of the movie.
    • The other acting standouts are John Garfield and Dean Stockwell.
    • It's hard to imagine that this level of institutionalized anti-Semitism existed. Clubs, summer camps, hotels, towns, neighborhoods, jobs, universities and many other things had restrictions against Jews. (It's hard to imagine the level of institutional bias against African-Americans or Asians but this is all part of our nation's history too.)
      • In Rona Jaffe's novel "Class Reunion" one of the characters attending Harvard-Radcliffe is a Jewish girl who gains admittance through a quota system.
    • I don't know if this film ever made a difference in reducing anti-Semitism. It opened just as the whole Communist witch hunts were beginning and apparently Jewishness was somehow conflated with Communism. I'm guessing it took until the 1960s for change to come. (Too detailed to go into here and not my area of expertise anyway.)
      • "Fun" fact: There were places known as "sunset towns" until the 1960s. Depending on the part of the country, if you were part of the proscribed minority you needed to get out of town by sunset or face the consequences.

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