Monday, November 27, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

I like Lili Taylor. She can make otherwise bad movies memorable just by being in them. Her lack of super-fame has kept her in interesting roles. I don't have any spiel this week. I just think she's good and worth watching.

Say Anything (Cameron Crowe, 1989)
Habitat (episode of the TV show "Monsters") (Bette Gordon, 1990)
Dogfight (Nancy Savoca, 1991)
Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1993)
Household Saints (Nancy Savoca, 1993)
Cold Fever (Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, 1995)
The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1995)
I Shot Andy Warhol (Mary Harron, 1996) (not such a good movie, but she's good in it)
Kicked in the Head (Matthew Harrison, 1997)
Pecker (John Waters, 1998)
High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000)
Factotum (Bent Hamer, 2005)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman, R.I.P.

"Warren (Beatty) has never said a kind word about 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller' even though he got the best reviews of his career from it. When I die if that egotistical bastard says anything nice about me, then you know he's lying, but I'll haunt him to his grave for the unprofessional way that he treated me and our cast and crew. Other than him I've loved every actor I've ever worked with. ..."
----Robert Altman

Monday, November 20, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Eugene Pallette was a thin leading man in the silent era, but, after a tour of duty in WWI, he came back to Hollywood to find out he'd been usurped by younger, handsomer men. He decided to gain a shitload of weight and become a character actor. His health suffered, but his career flourished. I am immediately overjoyed when I see Pallette in a movie. He was a great comedian, for many reasons. He had excellent comedic timing, especially in his reaction shots and double-takes. He looked funny. He had a funny voice (it's a cliche at this point to call it "froggy," but no other word fits--he was the uber-frog). And, most importantly, he always played characters who were either constantly pissed off or constantly living it up with booze, babes, and huge fat cigars. In his best roles, he played guys who bounced back and forth between these two states of being. I start laughing as soon he appears onscreen, and I laugh even harder when he starts to speak. Pallette was an ultra-right-wing conservative who retired from movies in the late 1940s because he was convinced a Communist invasion was imminent. He moved to Oregon, bought a home in the country that he converted into a heavily fortified compound/bomb shelter/hunting lodge so he would be prepared when the Russians attacked. Many Hollywood stars visited his compound for long hunting and fishing weekends, particularly Clark Gable. Pallette died of cancer in 1954.

The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915)
Intolerance (D.W. Griffith, 1916)
Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg, 1932)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz & William Keighley, 1938)
The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch, 1943)
The Gang's All Here (Busby Berkeley, 1943)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Far from the polished robotic alien "cuteness" or indentured servitude for frighteningly ambitious yet talentless monster parents projected by most child and teen actors, Linda Manz was something else entirely--a human being. She's so good that her performances can be, and often are, mistaken for bad acting. We're so used to the bland professionalism of modern Hollywood celebrity performance that when somebody actually does something, we often get embarrassed and uncomfortable and are unable to respond in any other way but a negative one. We are all complicit in creating an American culture that is almost completely worthless and empty, but it doesn't really have to be that way. If we didn't fill our empty hours with so much useless junk and actively pursue the destruction of everything beautiful and wonderful about ourselves, maybe our current mainstream art and entertainment wouldn't be so loud, stupid, boring, negative, and dead. Maybe we wouldn't have to be such overdetermined spelunkers to find the good stuff. Maybe the good stuff would be everywhere, within everyone's reach, whether they lived in cities or small towns or whether they were fiendishly enthusiastic or mildly curious. Maybe I wouldn't be such an asshole. You know what? It's only a movie. This is true. It's only a movie, or song, or book, or painting, or photo, or sandwich, or high five. But these things add up. Anyway, Linda Manz was a great teenaged actor. Then she retired to have a family and a regular life, which is an underrated and sensible decision. She's been in a few movies as an adult, but mostly, she has better things to do. I wish someone would beat Julia Roberts to death with a lead bat. Are you that someone? Linda Manz is not a bad actor!

Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
Out of the Blue (Dennis Hopper, 1980)
Gummo (Harmony Korine, 1997)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

For a guy whose seemingly one-note delivery is still continually trotted out by hack comics/impressionists, James Stewart played a lot of different kinds of parts in a lot of different kinds of ways. The scene in "It's a Wonderful Life" in which he shares a telephone receiver with Donna Reed is possibly my favorite scene in movies. James Stewart was so damned likable and such a great actor, I can even forgive him for being a Republican. James Stewart, you're alright.

Recommended (there are a lot of Frank Capra and Anthony Mann movies missing, not because I dislike them, but because I have a lot of gaps to fill in the Capra and Mann filmographies):
The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Two Rode Together (John Ford, 1961)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
Cheyenne Autumn (John Ford, 1964) (Stewart's scenes are great in this, even though tonally and narratively they have nothing to do with the rest of the film, and were only added for comic relief)
The Shootist (Don Siegel, 1976)

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