Saturday, December 31, 2016

Film and Book Tally 2016

Well, this year was utter shit, wasn't it? Loads of celebrities dropping like flies, politics becoming an absolute joke...if it wasn't for a few personal bright spots (took some college courses, went to a few film festivals, became a member of the Women Film Critics Circle), I would've written this whole year as nothing more than a mess.

Anyway, onto what I indulged in this year. I saw more movies this year but read less books. Still, at least I made the most of these crummy twelve months. (Apparently grieving over celebrities can be best treated by watching movies. Who knew?)

My list starts after the jump:

Friday, December 30, 2016

Kings Go Forth

The usual formula for Hollywood fare back in the 1950s often followed these elements: get a couple of big names in top billing, have a nice blend of action and romance, and keep it all under two hours. (The latter is ignored when epics are involved.) Seriously, randomly pick out five titles from the decade, and at least three of them fall under this type of picture.

Delmar Daves' Kings Go Forth ticks off every box. It has a story told many times before (two men fighting over a woman) but does it manage to stand out from similar works? (It's also set during World War II, another common setting amongst films at the time.)

Amongst its top-billed stars are Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, all of whom had established themselves as serious actors in previous years (Sinatra in From Here to Eternity, Curtis in Sweet Smell of Success, Wood in Rebel Without a Cause). Though here in Kings Go Forth, they don't really have much to do here. (A paycheck project for one or all three of them, perhaps?)

But a major theme throughout Kings Go Forth is racism (Wood's character is of mixed race). But the film is more interested in the romantic rivalry at hand than any form of social commentary. (At least Curtis did The Defiant Ones the same year.)

Kings Go Forth is more or less the expected fare of the time, requiring its location to be exotic and its actors to look impeccable. Substance-wise the film doesn't have much to offer but still, it's a good enough escape from reality. (Hey, it had tough competition that year.)

My Rating: ***1/2

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

BOOK VS MOVIE: Fingersmith/The Handmaiden

There's always something dark lurking beneath composed demeanors. A warm smile can mask a cruel heart, Pure evil could be hiding behind the face of someone you trust.

It's worth mentioning that it's usually men that are cast in such a light. But who's to say those of the fairer sex have souls as pure as fresh-fallen snow? As we've seen with the likes of Gone Girl, they aren't all sugar, spice and everything nice. To quote Jane Austen's Persuasion, we none of us expect to be in smooth waters all our days.

Sarah Waters' Fingersmith follows such a woman, a petty thief coerced into becoming the maid for a wealthy heiress. What at first appears as a scheme to make off with the heiress' fortune slowly evolves into something much more deceptive in nature. (And if you're familiar with Waters' other work, you know what one thing will be expected.)

Updating the setting from Victorian Britain to 1930s Korea, Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden stays mostly true to Waters' novel. But how Park depicts the women's bond makes it clear that a straight man is at the helm. (Haven't we learned anything from the behind the scenes drama of Blue is the Warmest Color?)

It's clear that Waters and Park have different perspectives for the same story (Waters more diabolical, Park more sensual) but which of the two works is better overall? Both are sympathetic towards the women's connection (especially considering the time periods they're set in) but only more so with just one, which is the victor of the two.

What's worth checking out?: The book.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Gentleman Jim

In the span of just a few years, Errol Flynn went from a complete unknown hailing from Australia to one of the biggest box-office draws in Hollywood. But after playing the swashbuckler who knows how many times, he wanted to show his audiences there was more to him.

One of the results was Raoul Walsh's Gentleman Jim where Flynn plays boxer James J. Corbett. Yes, he has the same amount of charisma he had for his collaborations with Olivia de Havilland but there's something more to Flynn's work here. (Could it actually be acting?)

Of course with this being a film about boxing, Gentleman Jim requires a lot of physicality from its leading man. And since he wanted realism, Flynn did his own stunts. Such exertion from him caused concern from leading lady Alexis Smith -- who was fully aware of Flynn's nights of debauchery -- but Flynn said thusly: "I'm only interested in this half. I don't care for the future." (Worth mentioning that Flynn had a minor heart attack during production.)

But as shown the previous year with They Died With Their Boots On, Walsh utilizes the talent within Flynn, something Michael Curtiz seldom tried to do with the leading man. It's no surprise that Flynn much preferred working with Walsh over Curtiz.

Gentleman Jim is a showcase for Flynn's talent, proving there was more to him than as the dashing leading man. It's almost a shame that Hollywood didn't give him more opportunities. But as least he got those few fleeting moments as a serious actor.

My Rating: ****

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Kirk Douglas 100th Birthday Blogathon


Olivia de Havilland isn't the only the only legendary actor still around to celebrate their 100th birthday this year. There's also a lad from New York named Issur Danielovitch turning triple digits today. You may know him better by his screen name: Kirk Douglas.

To celebrate, Karen over at Shadows and Satin is hosting a blogathon. Usually for posts like these, I cover (if there are any) the Oscar-nominated performances of said subject. (Douglas himself is a three-time nominee.) But considering it was nigh impossible for me to find a copy of Champion on DVD, I decided instead to focus on a single film from Douglas' extensive career. Which one, you may ask?

(1957, dir. Stanley Kubrick)

While it's the next (and last) collaboration between Douglas and Kubrick that's more well-known, that doesn't render Paths of Glory as a film no one should see. (For Christ's sake, Kubrick is in the director's chair; that alone should warrant some level of interest.)

(More after the jump!)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Agnes Moorehead Blogathon


Crystal over at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting another blogathon, this time about actress Agnes Moorehead. (Coincidentally, she was born on this day back in 1900.) For my contribution for it, I decided to write about (perhaps to the surprise of no one) her Oscar-nominated performances. Moorehead was nominated four times throughout her career but she was always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Anyway, the movies she was nominated for are:

(1942, dir. Orson Welles)
Lost to Teresa Wright in Mrs. Miniver
(1944, dir. Tay Garnett)
Lost to Ethel Barrymore in None but the Lonely Heart
(1948, dir. Jean Neglusco)
Lost to Claire Trevor in Key Largo
(1964, dir. Robert Aldrich)
Lost to Lila Kedrova in Zorba the Greek

More after the jump!