Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Movie Alphabet - part II

Finally got some time to do the next thrill-packed installment of my list . . . not all sources scanned as well as I would have liked!

E - "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)

For the record I LOVE all the Star Wars flms! In spite of the flaws, and there are many, it is one hell of an achievement in film and it's all so ingrained in our culture now that it's hard to remember back to a time when there was no Star Wars! But Empire is my favorite. All the elements of the Star Wars universe came together perfectly on this one, a wonderful mix of drama, romance, adventure, action, humor and mind blowing special effects all masterfully directed by Irvin Kershner with a great screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett.
And then of course there was . . .

Although CGI Yoda totally kicks ass, nothing can compare to the charm and magic of what Frank Oz and company did in this film. Mark Hamill's convincing interraction with Yoda was also a big reason why we all bought it onscreen.

"The Force is with you young Skywalker . . . but you're not a Jedi yet."

A rather menacing figure! Luke's confrontation with Vader is a living intensity! I've seen it dozens of times and I still get right on the edge of my seat! I love it!

For me, the lynchpin of all 3 of the first films is Mark Hamill. It's interesting to watch episodes 4-6 in one sitting and see how he grew as an actor and how the Luke character evolved. He's a damn funny guy in interviews too and who can foget his classic voice acting for The Joker and Solomon Grundy on the Batman and Justice League cartoons!

F - The Fountainhead" (1949)

"It's the things that we love that enslave us and I'm not easy to bring into submission"

"That depends upon the strength of your adversary Miss Francon"

Ayn Rands' incredible novel came to the screen in a fairly watered down but still very interesting and entertaining way. Casting was spot on in my opinion. Coop, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey, Kent Smith and Henry Hull were perfect. Only Robert Douglas, as a far too masculine and aggressive Ellsworth Toohey, strayed far from Rand's original concepts. Many smaller characters, sub plots and all the religious stuff never made it into the film but what DID make it was the essence of the Howard Rourke character and, although Coop was pretty heavily criticized at the time the film was released, I personally feel he gave a performance very much worthy of the character. That and the incredibly electric chemistry between him and Patricia Neal makes this well-worth multiple viewings.

"Mr. Roark, we’re alone here. Why don't you tell me what you think of me in any words you wish."

"But I dont think of you."

Director King Vidor, novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand and Gary Cooper on the set. Ayn Rand was, in the words of psychologist Nathaniel Branden, one of the most brilliant and misunderstood figures of the 20th century. Like her or hate her, she was a unique and utterly fascinating person. I've read the Fountainhead 3 times since 2002 and I am always captivated by the characters, plot and concepts contained in it. I've seen the film at least 10 times by now and always find myself compelled by Howard Rourke!

"If you want to be the kind of man that does things for people, then you must be the kind of man that gets things done, but you must LOVE the doing, NOT the people!"

The scenes of Rourke and Domnique at the Quarry are not at all subtle in their sexual symbolism! Apparently Eleanor Parker lobbied heavily to get the part of Dominique and she resembles the character in the book much more than Patricia Neal but it all worked out very well in the end.

G - "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966)

"I've never seen so many men wasted so badly"

My favorite Clint Eastwood film and one of my all-time fave films period! A rip-roaring action extravaganza, the quintessential Spaghettie western and just plain out great fun! I've seen this so many times I know every scene by heart and can just hear Ennio Morricone's incredible music and know what scene in the film is playing. Director Sergio Leone really hit the bullseye with "A Fistfull of Dollars" and the film was so popular and Eastwood's "Man with No name" character was so compelling that 2 more sequels were made, each expanding on the previous in budget and scope of story. Yet in the end we still know as much (or as little) about "No Name" as we did in the first film!

"200,000 Dollars is a lot of money . . . we're gonna have to earn it"

I love the touches of wry humor and epic scope of this film. A HUGE production and Sergio's scrupulous attention to period detail makes for a strange mix of realistic settings and mythical characters. There are some amazing set pieces and battle scenes and the final shootout in the graveyard is so far into "legend" status now, my trying to describe it with words would be ludicrous!

"Even a tramp like me, no matter what, I know there's a brother out there who'd never refuse me a bowl of soup"

Eli Wallach as "The Ugly" aka "Il Bruto" aka "Tuco the Rat", gives the most memorable performance of his incredibly long career. Tuco is a VERY resilient fellow and finds himself in all manner of situations thanks in no small part to Eastwood's "The Good" aka "Il Bueno" aka "Blondie"! There's no doubt about it, Leone cast Wallach because of his unforgettable turn in John Sturgess' classic "The Magnificent Seven". I love the scene with Tuco at the mission and his emotional confrontation with his brother, who's a priest. Those little touches added a lot to this film I think.


Eastwood poised to ride off to Hollywood! I am very sad that I could not find ANY good shots of Lee Van Cleef for this posting as I think he also gave the performance of his career as "The Bad" aka "Il Cativo" aka "Angel Eyes". His first scenes in the film are totally awesome!! Van Cleef was in a zillion films, mostly westerns and thanks to the 2 he made with Sergio he had work in Italy and Spain for years afterwards! I think his last film was John Carpenter's "Escape from New York".

H - "Humoresque" (1946)

Ok, I am a HUGE John Garfield fan, so let's get that understood right away! I think he's the single most under-appreciated actor of his era and it's very hard for me to pick a fave film of his but this one is certainly in the top 3 or 4. A first-rate Warner Bros production from start to finish and Garfield and Joan Crawford are downright amazing!

Director Jean Negulesco is one of my fave post-war film makers. He made a whole slew of off-beat and interesting pictures at Warner's in the mid to late 40's including "Nobody Lives Forever" with Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald, "3 Strangers" with Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Geraldine Fitzgerald, "Deep Valley" with Ida Lupino and Dane Clark and "Johnny Belinda" with Oscar winner Jane Wyman, Lou Ayres and Charles Bickford, but this is my favorite of all his films. Probably the last time Joan Crawford really looked beautiful on screen, just before what i refer to as her "automoton" phase where she looked more like an android than a human being!

Original sheet music for the film. The score by Franz Waxman is almost like another character in the film! Isaac Stern did the amazing violin playing. If you havent seen this one yet, check it out, it's well-worth the time!

1 comment:

J.B. said...

More Gary Cooper, please. Siiiigh...