Monday, April 30, 2007

Favorite Actor Monday

Burt Lancaster delivered his lines the same way, same cadence, same tone, in every film of his I've seen (except for "The Leopard," in which his voice is dubbed in Italian), but his performances still managed to be richly varied. How did he do that? Facial expressions and body language are part of the answer, but the rest is a mystery. There are many films he's in I want to see but haven't yet. He's good in "Field of Dreams," but I can hardly recommend that. Additionally, he started out in showbiz as a circus acrobat.

The Killers (Robert Siodmak, 1946)
Criss Cross (Robert Siodmak, 1949)
Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957)
Elmer Gantry (Richard Brooks, 1960)
A Child Is Waiting (John Cassavetes, 1963)
The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1963)
Ulzana's Raid (Robert Aldrich, 1972)
Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (Robert Altman, 1976)
Atlantic City (Louis Malle, 1980)
Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1983)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Favorite Actor Monday

I'm a fan of her mother (Ingrid Bergman), I'm a huge fan of her father (Roberto Rossellini), and I like her, too. Isabella Rossellini, you have what it takes to be a Favorite Actor Monday. It was ridiculous when the media talked about how "brave" Nicole Kidman was for putting on a fake nose in "The Hours." If you want to see a brave performance, watch Rossellini in "Blue Velvet." (Not to slam Nicole Kidman. She was pretty great in "Dogville.")

Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990)
Big Night (Stanley Tucci & Campbell Scott, 1996)
The Funeral (Abel Ferrara, 1996)
"Mom and Pop Art" episode of "The Simpsons" (1999)
The Saddest Music in the World (Guy Maddin, 2003)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Favorite Actor Monday

David Thomson, a film writer I usually enjoy reading even though I rarely agree with him, is right on target when he says about Cary Grant, his favorite actor: " one else has or could have done so well for two directors [Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks] as radically opposed in attitude." This is an important point for anyone to consider who thinks of Grant as merely a movie star or a light entertainer. When we think of capital-A actors, we are usually programmed to think of Brando, De Niro, Pacino, or some other very serious man with a name ending in "O." Not to take anything away from these men at their best, but Cary Grant deserves to be in their company, if not a few tiers higher. Hitchcock famously said that actors were cattle and dictatorially controlled and meticulously planned each frame of his films, while Hawks loved actors dearly and granted them many freedoms. That Cary Grant is such a central figure in both men's filmographies is testament to his complexity and talent.

Some random Cary Grant facts:
1) A reporter once wired Grant's agent "HOW OLD CARY GRANT?" Grant read the wire while in his agent's office and wired back "OLD CARY GRANT FINE. HOW YOU?"
2) Grant and Randolph Scott roomed together for several years and were rumored to be in a sexual relationship. Scott even jokingly referred to himself as "Cary Grant's wife." This made the studio unhappy. A recent Grant biography claimed both men were bisexuals and were open about their relationship, but this has also been disputed.
3) Grant was one of the first people to use LSD while it was still legal, as part of an experimental psychotherapy program. He was a vocal proponent of the drug.
4) He retired from the movies in 1966 and never appeared in a film again, despite offers from Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder, and Howard Hawks.
5) He once killed a man for spilling grape juice on his tie, later drinking the man's blood for its "rejuvenating powers."

One of these facts is not true. Guess which one and win a slice of old-fashioned loaf.

Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks, 1939)
His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941)
Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944)
Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)
North By Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)

Here he is with Siegfried and Roy in the late 1970s. Why does Roy look like a wax figure?

The process

Here is a link to graphic designer Eric Skillman's guest post on the Criterion Collection blog about his process at arriving at the cover art for their DVD release of Jules Dassin's "Night and the City" and "Thieves' Highway." I haven't seen the films, but I'm posting the link here for a chance to get a look at an artist's creative process. I find it fascinating and useful to see the trial and error involved in any creative endeavor. Read it here.

Additionally, Skillman also designed the covers for Criterion's releases of Ermanno Olmi's "Il Posto" and "I Fidanzati." In addition to Skillman's handsome cover designs, I want to recommend both of these films as two of my favorite movies ever. I love, love, love these two films. I hope someone else does, too. Please validate part of my hard-scrabble existence by acknowledging my superior taste in everything. Give Ermanno Olmi some love. I hope you know I'm joking about my superior taste even though I have a lot of self-belief in it.

Captain Arrogance

Monday, April 09, 2007

Favorite Actor Monday

Susan Tyrrell is intense and strange and not so strange. She's in a lot of movies I haven't seen yet, but want to, like "Big Top Pee-Wee," "The Killer Inside Me," and "Andy Warhol's Bad." Pauline Kael hated her, which puts her in the fine company of John Cassavetes and Robert Bresson. She described her acting style as "buried overacting." Her mother's last words, spoken to her, were "Your life is a celebration of everything that is cheap and tawdry." She meant it as a compliment. Tyrrell hates to work and only does so when she needs money, which she says is once a year. She contracted a rare blood disease in 2000 and had to have both her legs amputated at the knee. Her performance in "Fat City" is so good it deserves its own planet. Whether she's even a competent actor or not is irrelevant.

Fat City (John Huston, 1972)
Forbidden Zone (Richard Elfman, 1980)
Tapeheads (Bill Fishman, 1988)
Cry-Baby (John Waters, 1990)
Motorama (Barry Shils, 1991)
Masked and Anonymous (Larry Charles, 2003)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Favorite Actor Monday

Michel Piccoli will class up your film. He's been in movies since 1945, and will never stop until he's killed by death. He was a very iconic and cool actor as a younger man, and has matured into a performer of great depth and subtlety. He probably knows the best place to get a drink and a decent haircut in every city on the globe. I write like this when I have too many margaritas.

Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
Belle de jour (Luis Bunuel, 1967)
The Milky Way (Luis Bunuel, 1969)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Bunuel, 1972)
Wedding in Blood (Claude Chabrol, 1973)
The Phantom of Liberty (Luis Bunuel, 1974)
Atlantic City (Louis Malle, 1980)
Passion (Jean-Luc Godard, 1982)
Mauvais sang (Leos Carax, 1986)
La Belle noiseuse (Jacques Rivette, 1991)
I'm Going Home (Manoel de Oliveira, 2001)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

New blog

Hey everybody. I have yet another blog, this one devoted exclusively to my foolish attempt to watch all 101 horror films in the book "Fangoria's 101 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen." The blog is called Decapitated Zombie Vampire Bloodbath. Check it out at, if you dare. This is not an April Fool's joke.

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