Saturday, April 26, 2008


This is a movie that makes you realize how hard it must be to make a movie because this one should have been fool-proof and it fails almost frame by frame. It bears the most superficial resemblance to the original with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne and the remake (AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER) in 1957 with Cary Grant and Debohra Kerr.

With the exception of Gary Shandling and then hearing Kate Hepburn say "fuck a duck," there's not an ounce of humor in the movie. Nor is there emotion. I mean, if you're going to cut the comedy, then let the melodrama run on all cylinders. Instead we have the romance of two very dreary people whose only common attraction is that their former mates were drearier. When we see Benning after the accident, while Beatty is still waiting up in the Empire State building, she can't even talk, she has to send yes or no messages by blinking. Why? Debohra Kerr was in HYSTERICS shouting "Nick, I have to go meet Nick!" Is it true those in charge in Hollywood think people can't take anything so lacking in cool as someone screaming for their lives?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


That's the question that hangs almost from the start in this very mannered, very purple story by Alfred Hitchcock. By comparison it makes VERTIGO as conventional as NOTORIOUS. "Tippi" Hedren (yes, I never noticed her name is billed in quotes) beats the part down just to show it who's in charge. And, for an odd character in the midst of really dreary people, she's the only one acting in a realistic way. Sean Connery and Diane Baker give very bad imitations of Dana Andrews and Lizabeth Scott. And I think that's the problem with MARNIE. It's noir and needed to be told against the black and white backdrop of the 1940s. Maybe with Lana Turner, Otto Preminger directing.

There's almost no humor, though a very funny line Marnie gets off when the Baker character asks her how she takes her tea ("In hot water, with a tea bag") is barely audible. There is unintentional humor in the Very Serious performance of Louise Latham as Marnie's mother. Her hair and make-up along with certain facial and vocal mannerisms makes me wonder if Carol Burnette didn't pick up some ideas here for the harridan Bernice she played in The Family segments of the her tv show. Strangely enough, Latham's character in MARNIE is also named Bernice!

When we do find out whatever happened to Marnie, it gets pretty engrossing, though, as in the end of PSYCHO, there's much made of tiding up lose ends with clinical, quasi Freudan explanations (by Connery). The one captivating part of MARNIE (besides the up-to-snuff Bernard Herrmann score) are the many visual takes of Marnie's hair, specifically the BACK of Marnie's hairdos. I knew this showed up in VERTIGO too, so I Googled for an answer and found this neat page that gives a good overview of what must have been one of Hitch's darkest and depraved secrets. Sad to say, he took it to the grave with him:

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Just watched MY FAIR LADY, I think, for the first time, that is, straight through. And the stars and the Cecil Beaton's settings are really marvelous. But the story is inteeeerrrrrminable. Amazing what capacity for time and space we had once upon a time. It was the same when I watched an old episode of the David Frost TV show from the 70s. There they were, Yvonne de Carlo and Alexis Smith, telling long stories in complete sentences. And because even I have fallen in step with our clipped modern tempo, I watched with apprehension afloat, thinking someone was not going to be able to get out of the sentence or the story they were telling.

Only flaw with MFL is the obvious, jarring way Marni Nixon comes on whenever Audrey sings. She looks lovely and acts the hell out of the part. But, ah, if only Jack Warner had taken a chance on Julie Andrews, the movie would have gotten double acting Oscar honors. What a joke that was on him when she won the award that night for MARY POPPINS. I remember Harrison accepting his award and thanking his "two Fair Ladies."

My darling THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE has just come on TCM. That is another rare bird they don't hatch any more. True, honest to goodness cool wit and style in every square of inch of it, from the writing to the high-comedy acting, to Vincente Minnelli's razor sharp direction, to ultra lux Pierre Balmain clothes for Kay Kendall. And Kay Kendall. The only funny woman in the movies who was also a great beauty, with great sweetness and a kind of goodness that permeated her every move. Even "the kids," John Saxon and Sandra Dee pick up on the suave signals and do themselves proud. And what a sexy man was John Saxon. He really smolders in this.'

Some happy/not so happy endings from this cast. Kay Kendall was already fighting lukemia and she died a few short years later. Lansbury was yet to do many more years of yeoman's work before she broke out of the supporting mold and became an overnight Broadway star when she opened in MAME. Sandra Dee became an alcoholic and a recluse toward the end of her life. Rex Harrison kept on a rich and rewarding career till very late, till the very end of life. I don't know what became of John Saxon, but something tells me he married Well and lives in a temperate climate with servants.

I met Sandra Dee once in the mid 70s when she was appearing in something like AGATHA SUE, I LOVE YOU! (or was it THE PAISLEY CONVERTIBLE?) at a dinner theatre in Chicago. This was the beginning of the end of her A-list fame and the start of a retreat from the world. I met Harrison signing autographs outside a Broadway theatre where I had just seen him and Stewart Granger and Glynnis Johns in THE CIRCLE, a Somerset Maugham play that you thought every other minute was going to give a seizure of ecstasy because it was so exquisitely drenched in a self-assured elegance i knew we were probably watching for the last time. And I think we did.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Maybe 300 used DVDs at the used books store, and the only one I could take home was THE HOURS. Which I already have in NY. But which seemed like just the right dish for the state of mental and physical exhaustion I was in. And it was. Not as disturbing as I remember my first viewing of it in a NY theatre, where I was so worn out from the upheaval that I had to stay in my seat long after the closing credits ended. I remember leaving the theatre, going down the escalators, knees buckling. Well, nothing like that on this viewing. But it's still a deeply disturbing and very beautiful movie.

I had forgotten that the Julianne Moore character is pregnant and that it's (one of) the reason for her wanting to do away with herself. I had forgotten that all 3 women kiss other women in each of their segments, all out a desperate and nearly unimaginable loneliness. I had forgotten that food plays such an important role in all 3 segments. I had forgotten David Hare's script is so precise, a word that doesn't readily come to mind when I think of David Hare. I should like to read Michael Cunningham's book again very soon, see how it was re-stiched for the movies.

I should like to read MRS. DALLAWAY, or rather, try to read MRS. DALLAWAY again. I tried several years back and didn't get very far. But in the special features of the DVD of THE HOURS, Michael Cunningham says that the book is "an ordinary day in the life of an ordinary person as told by a genius. And at the end of the book you realize that everything you need to know about human life is contained in any day of anyone's life."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


• All those awards for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and it's the same movie the Coen brothers made 12 years ago, the one called FARGO. Meanwhile, a really human, great piece of filmmaking, ATONEMENT, barely gets a nod for original soundtrack.

• Did Marion Cotillard have a speech prepared at all? Why can't the non-English speaking contenders know enough to be ready with a few words? Or in her case, at least honor Piaf for inspiring the movie and her performance. "You rock my life" wasn't quite it.

• I'm definitely flat out of the loop. I didn't know who 75% of the presenters were.

• All the women were dressed in the best of taste, makeup and jewelry, head to toe. But they were all going strapless and looked like they were dressed by one person. The only women whose clothes told you something about themselves were Tilda Swinton and JUNO's writer Diablo Cody, a name obviously meant to be lived up to. Her outfit turned out to be by Dior. But Dior-on-acid compared to Cameron Diaz's baby-pink dream and demure Dior. Diablo took one for a moment in time, back to the old Cher appearances, when one could never guess what she'd turn up in. Diablo's coda as she was finally swept off the stage by emotion was a thanks to her family for loving her exactly the way she is. Boy, was I was jealous.

• The Best Song FALLING SLOWLY is made up of 4 notes. But I was bored even before the granola couple started. Folkies are back, if this couple is any example of it. Damn dressing for the occasion or even combing your hair. Do I sound like my parents now? Anyway, all the songs were dreary, even the one with a gospel beat. Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Jimmy McHugh, I could hear you all collectively turning in your graves.

• There's usually one real and poignant moment in the show every year. Tonight it was Javier Bardem, lapsing into Spanish and dedicating his award to his mother (in the audience) and family and to Spain. There was a third instance of winners thanking parents, Daniel Day Lewis and the composer of ATONEMENT did as well.

• Another moment came later when a 98 year old production designer received a special award and gave a slow, measured speech, which probably made for the only suspense in the whole evening. We're really too conditioned by too many soundbites these days to know how to deal with complete sentences.

• Julie Christy, the one bona-fide Star in the room, and all she did was seat in the audience. But maybe she declined participation. The red carpet man obviously didn't know his ass from his elbow and spent the12 second segment on Sara Polley, ignoring Julie Christy, looking pleasant and composed, like she was waiting to get a ride home after the interview was over.

• No Legends presenting or receiving tonight. No Loretta Young or Olivia de Havilland. I suspect, with a heavy heart, that there are none left. Well, there's always Cyd Charisse, and she still looks sensational. Good thing Debohra Kerr got her Oscar just in time.

• It would have been too much to expect that either Ruby Dee or Hal Holbrook would win. But these are the dark horses (no offense, Ruby) that sometimes come through when the vote between the usual suspects get split.

• Passe thought it may be in 2008, it was still a feel-good moment when Scott Rudin thanked his partner and called him "honey" in front of a billion people.