Thursday, October 16, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #54

His Girl Friday (1940)

The rat-a-tat dialogue delivered by Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday is enough to send shivers down one's spine. Based on the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, originally produced on Broadway in 1928, the story concerns a police reporter, leaving the paper to get a respectable job and settle down, only to get caught up in a big criminal case. The newspaper's editor would do anything to have the reporter stay with the paper. The 1940 film version made the reporter a woman and added a romantic angle. One of the first films, if not the first film to have characters talking over each other in overlapping dialogue, His Girl Friday is a prime example of American screwball comedy, and was voted #10 in Total Film's 100 Greatest Films of All Time. In 1993 it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #55

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Normally, I'm not much of a fan of science fiction, but E.T. is so much more than that. It's a fantasy, a family film, but above all else, E.T. is fun. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace and (introducing) Drew Barrymore, E.T. surpassed Star Wars to become the highest-grossing film of all time, until overtaken by Jurassic Park, another Spielberg-directed film. The story famously revolves around a lonely young boy, played by Thomas, who befriends an alien stranded on Earth, who is attempting to return home. The story of how Elliott helps E.T. to return home makes up the bulk of the plotline. Universally acclaimed upon arrival as an instant classic, E.T. is both awe-inspiring and unforgettable.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #56

Gone with the Wind (1939)

The mother of all cinematic classics, GWTW sits at the pinnacle of that peak cinema year, 1939. Based on Margaret Mitchell's best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, it tells the story of Becky Sharp, I mean, Scarlett O'Hara, Southern belle, before, during and just after the Civil War. Volumes written about this film could fill whole libraries (especially entertaining, Memo From David O. Selznick). This film made a star out of then little known British actress Vivien Leigh, cemented Clark Gable's reputation as permanent superstar, and it won all, or almost all the prizes, including the first ever acting Oscar for an African American, Hattie McDaniel, and deservedly so. Still widely viewed 70+ years later, may it live on in the hearts of moviegoers, forever.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #57

Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960)

Speaking of great music documentaries, Jazz on a Summer's Day is absolutely at the top of my list. The only film directed by acclaimed photographer Bert Stern (the character of Don Draper on Mad Men is said to have been based at least partially on Stern), the film features performances from the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival intercut with images of Newport, Narragansett Bay, and the 1958 America's Cup Trials, set in Newport. Featuring outstanding performances from such artists as Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, Gerry Mulligan, Chuck Berry, George Shearing, and my personal favorite, Anita O'Day, the film is as much a pleasure to look at as to listen to. In 1999, Jazz on a Summer's Day was included for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Monday, September 22, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #58

Stop Making Sense (1984)

If what makes for a good rock documentary is intoxicating energy, then Stop Making Sense is a great documentary. Acclaimed director Jonathan Demme filmed the rock band Talking Heads over three days at the Pantages theater in Los Angeles, at the end of 1983, during their tour for the album Speaking in Tongues. We get to see the indescribable charisma, as well as the genius of David Byrne, and the amazing performing chops of fellow "Heads" Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz and Jerry Harrison as they perform in front of a live audience, along with such illustrious guest performers as Alex Weir and Lynn Mabry. Inarguably, one of the best concert movies ever made.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #59

The More the Merrier (1943)

The cutest "meet cute" that there ever was in the movies, in which Jean Arthur sublets half her apartment to housing specialist Charles Coburn during the wartime housing shortage in Washington D.C. He, in turn, sublets his half to young and handsome Joel McCrea, who needs a place to stay before being shipped overseas. That's essentially the entire plot of The More the Merrier, a sweet little movie with no shortage of charm. This was the last film directed by George Stevens before he entered the armed forces. Charles Coburn won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Best line: "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #60

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Gloria Swanson dons the part of her career in her role as Norma Desmond, an aging screen goddess, from silent film days, which closely mimics her real life career. Erich von Stroheim costars as her former director, turned Butler, and keeper. And William Holden plays a failed screenwriter who gets in way over his head when he begins to tangle with the formidable Miss Desmond. An unforgettable film noir, directed by Billy Wilder, and co-written by Wilder and Charles Brackett, the film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and won three, including for Best Screenplay. Frequently cited as one of the best films of the twentieth-century, Sunset Boulevard was included in the first group of films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.