Tuesday, September 05, 2017

A Few Words About Barbara Pym

Few writers are as quotable as Barbara Pym, twice named in the Times Literary Supplement, as "the most underrated novelist of the century" (by Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil). Barbara Pym's novels spanned the better part of the last half century, and captured a very specific segment of society, that of the genteel middle-class English gentlewoman, most likely unmarried and in her middle years. Ms. Pym was nothing if not charming about many subjects, one of her favorites being the drinking of tea. To wit: "I was so astonished that I could think of nothing to say, but wondered irrelevantly if I was to be caught with a teapot in my hand on every dramatic occasion" and "Perhaps there can be too much making of cups of tea, I thought as I watched Miss Statham filling the heavy teapot. Did we really need a cup of tea? I even said as much to Miss Statham and she looked at me with a hurt, almost angry look, 'do we need tea? she  echoed. 'But Miss Lathbury...' She sounded puzzled and distressed and I began to realize that my question had struck at something deep and fundamental. It was the kind of question that starts a landslide in the mind. I mumbled something about making a joke and that of course one needs tea always, at every hour of the day or night." For more about Barbara Pym, see here.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

My 150 Favorite Films - #1!

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

What, you were thinking Citizen Kane, maybe?
It goes to 11!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My 150 Favorite Films - #2

'I Know Where I'm Going!' (1945)

Involving a headstrong young woman, played by the late, great Wendy Hiller, determined to marry a wealthy older man, when she gets waylaid by a storm off the coast of Scotland (on the way to their wedding). Invariably she meets up with a local Scotsman, played by Roger Livesey, who manages to turn her head. Written and directed by the filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, this romantic comedy embodies charm and grace, and is a vast pleasure to watch.

Monday, June 12, 2017

My 150 Favorite Films - #3

A New Leaf (1971)

There are lines of dialogue in A New Leaf that I have been using in my everyday life for years, among them, "she has to be vacuumed every time she eats," and "I've never spent a more physically destructive evening in my life." Although the director, Elaine May, has all but disavowed this film after the studio took it away from her and recut it, I still think this is by far, the best thing she has ever done, and considering her illustrious career, that really is saying something. The plot, concerning a playboy who spends all his money, and has no choice but to marry a wealthy woman, is but one factor. The acting by May and Walter Matthau is superlative. The denouement is one of the most satisfying ever committed to celluloid. A cult classic and a hidden gem.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

My 150 Favorite Films - #4

Local Hero (1983)

The always reliably excellent Peter Riegert stars in this bit of a shaggy dog story as an oil company executive sent to a remote village in Scotland in order to acquire the town for the purposes of building an oil refinery. Burt Lancaster stars as his obstreperous boss, who sends him because he thinks he is Scottish, having a Scottish-sounding name (MacIntyre). What he finds there, turns out to be lovably eccentric villagers, and a picturesque town far removed from his life back home in Texas. The low-key approach, from writer-director Bill Forsyth, makes for a charming, disarming, quirky and quite engaging little movie, for anyone to enjoy.

Monday, March 27, 2017

My 150 Favorite Films - #5

Reds (1981)

Film icon and maverick Warren Beatty, co-wrote, co-produced, directed and starred in this epic movie based on the lives of American journalists John Reed and Louise Bryant and their involvement with each other and with the Russian revolution of 1917. Diane Keaton costars, along with Jack Nicholson and Maureen Stapleton, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. What sets this film apart from other Hollywood epics is the use of real-life "witnesses," who were active participants in the events recalled in this film and relate the political chaos of the times. Winner of the Academy Awards for Cinematography (Vittorio Storaro) and Best Director, Reds narrowly missed out on Best Film, losing to Chariots of Fire.

Friday, February 24, 2017

My 150 Favorite Films - #6

The Awful Truth (1937)

Leo McCarey directed one of the best film comedies of the 1930's, with one of the best casts around, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, as a soon-to-be divorced couple out to ruin each other's new romances. Co-star Ralph Bellamy gets a chance to shine in the supporting role of Dunne's hapless suitor. In addition to winning, for McCarey, a Best Directing Oscar, the film has also been voted, by Premiere magazine, one of the 50 best comedies of all time, one of the Best U.S. Romances of all time, by the American Film Institute, and been inducted into the National Film Registry. This is a film which can be watched again and again with no loss of enjoyment.