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Thursday
Jun192014

Oh What a Night! What's on your cinematic mind?

What movie are you thinking about? Please do share. Summers never have the unifying film experience that winter does (i.e. the Oscars). So I have no idea what anyone is interested in.

What's on my mind? I need to see the second half of 22 Jump Street (long uninteresting story but I've only seen half of it) and I just got out out Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys. More soon on that one though for now I'll just stay positive and say that I'm in love with Erich Bergen (who plays one of the members, the songwriter) and I thought I was going to be in love with Renée Marino (who plays Franki's wife) but we broke up before the end of the movie. Christopher Walken is wonderful but you'd know that even without seeing it I suppose. 

Wednesday
Jun182014

A Year with Kate: State of the Union (1948)

Episode 25 of 52: In which Kate confronts Angela Lansbury onscreen and the Blacklist offscreen and manages to beat both.

 Early on, I stated that sometimes Kate’s career seems charmed. I’d venture 1948 is one of those charmed years. As we saw last week, Song of Love failed--Kate’s first failure at MGM.  Yet some strange circumstances and good luck landed Kate in State of the Union, based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. I say “good luck” because in the fall of 1947, the storm that would become the Hollywood Blacklist was brewing, and Kate nearly got caught in the center of it.

Though not as cloyingly obvious as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - no light from the Lincoln Memorial in this film - State of the Union nevertheless delivers the classic Capra Corn package: nostalgia, patriotism, and a happy ending snatched from the jaws of tragedy at the last second.  Spencer Tracy plays Grant Matthews, a self-made businessman who abandons his political and marital morals in order to run for president. Matthews is Mr. Smith if he’d met a lobbyist on his way to Washington: an idealist and a patriot, but also an egotist with political aspirations. In a word: corruptible.

Despite this refreshingly layered central character (played with well balanced self-awareness by Spencer Tracy), Capra fills the rest of the cast with his favorite stereotypes: the amoral politician (Adolphe Menjou), the conniving vamp (Angela Lansbury), the wise-cracking journalist (Van Johnson in top form), and most importantly the long-suffering matron, in this case Matthews’s wife, Mary (our own Kate).  When Mary arrives (30 minutes in) she acts as Grant’s conscience, arguing loudly for him to practice honesty over chicanery. Kate shines in the comedy but can’t deliver the patronizing Capra monologues well--they come off as shrill and rushed. Unfortunately, she’s one shrill voice among many: the agriculture lobbyist, the labor lobbyist, the judge, the newspaper syndicate owner, etc. The theme of Capra’s State of the Union seems to be, “Every time a cash register rings, a lobbyist gets his wings.” That is, until a True American Patriot can stand up to the corruption.

Protesting HUAC

The idea of a righteous man standing up to a corrupt oppressor is part of the American identity, but it was also what so many of the actors, directors, and writers who were blacklisted in the 1940s and 1950s had attempted to do. When the Hollywood Ten stood in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in Fall of 1947 and refused to testify about their political beliefs, they were not only criminally charged, but also shunned by the terrified studios. Among those Kate worked with who would face HUAC and the blacklist were Ring Lardner Jr. (Oscar-winning writer of Woman of the Year), Donald Ogden Stiers (The Philadelphia Story and Without Love), and Dalton Trumbo.

Kate herself would face her biggest backlash that fall. In the November 1947, just days before the Hollywood Ten and the Waldorf Statement, Kate’s name was popping up with alarming regularity as a possible Commie next to names like Charlie Chaplin and Paul Robeson. Always one to stand by her convictions, Kate had made an unpopular political speech in May (wearing a red dress), and now insisted on joining the Committee for the First Amendment to protest HUAC. By the time Song of Love opened, Hedda Hopper was gleefully reporting that Kate’s image on movie screens was being stoned by patriotic patrons. Fortunately, Kate was already shooting State of the Union, a movie where she declares twice that she is a Republican, and stands--however woodenly--as the nationalistic moral conscience of a film made by a decorated hero. 

This is what I mean by luck. HUAC didn’t go after A-List stars (too risky), but if Kate had starred in a few more flops, or if Claudette Colbert hadn’t gotten sick and had to drop out of State of the Union, or if Kate socked Adolphe Menjou on set for being a Friendly Witness to HUAC instead of being WASP-y and polite, Hepburn may not have stepped into Capra’s flagwaving film in October 1947. As it was, State of the Union was a success when it opened in 1948. Kate was (at least affiliated with) a patriot, so she stayed an A-List celebrity, and the Communist rumors slowly faded. It was like getting a seal of approval from a bald eagle. It’s a pity though. I’d have loved to see Kate smack Adolphe Menjou.

 

Previous Weeks: A Bill of DivorcementChristopher StrongMorning GloryLittle WomenSpitfireThe Little Minister, Break of HeartsAlice Adams, Sylvia ScarlettMary of ScotlandA Woman RebelsQuality StreetStage DoorBringing Up BabyHoliday,The Philadelphia StoryWoman of the YearKeeper Of The FlameStage Door Canteen,Dragon SeedWithout LoveUndercurrentThe Sea Of GrassSong of Love 

 

Next Week: Adam's Rib (1949) - In which Tracy and Hepburn's best comedy shows that love, life, and law are a circus.

 

 

Wednesday
Jun182014

"Big Eyes" Sneak

Tim Burton with Lisa Marie and her comissioned portraitEarly test screenings of Big Eyes have started, Tim Burton's Christmas movie and the word is very positive.

The film stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz as an infamous pair of artists... of sorts. Margaret Keane was the artist but it was Walter Keane who got the credit for the well known paintings of sad children with ginormous eyes. In fact, as "Sage" points out in the test screening review at Head Over Feels in a great piece of trivia I was hardly aware of, Burton is a long time fan and commissioned a portrait of Lisa Marie, his former muse, who once cut such an indelible figure in his movies. (I think she's best in Ed Wood and Mars Attacks!)

Anyway, you should read the post if you're interested since there's a lot of Oscar talk (Amy= sure thing / Christoph = probable category fraud) but I like this part:

The story of the Keanes is so bananas that there’s nothing to do but keep it and the ’50s themselves center stage. Burton’s stylistic touches are there and all the more effective for their restraint. We first meet Margaret as she and her daughter are frantically packing up to escape, we assume, her first husband. She piles her things into a big boat of a pastel car and drives it down her calm, colorful, and symmetrical suburban street – very Edward Scissorhands. Vancouver streets are transformed into a swinging, San Francisco drag. Margaret pushes her shopping cart through cartoonishly perfect grocery store aisles. She locks herself away in her studio to paint in secret, like a princess in a tower. The costumes and styling are truly breathtaking...Burton adds touch of the fantastical that I won’t give away; it works and does nothing to downplay the drama of Margaret’s real story.

Hearing words like "a touch of" and "restraint" is really weird in this era of Burton films. Perhaps I should pick back up that BurtonJuice retrospective I started but only just barely before abandoning?

When I was in Boston in May worrying about my then half completed Oscar charts,  I ended up eating brunch with friends in a tiny charming restaurant that had a Keane print ("The Waif") on the wall. I immediately thought "I should tweet this for Big Eyes omen/countdown sake" but forgot.

(The girl in the foreground is one of my best friend's sisters. But I apologize to the oblivious strangers behind her but they were in the shot!)

Do you think Big Eyes is Burton's Oscar ticket or another Big Fish with large holiday hype and some ardent fans but no Oscar love? 

Wednesday
Jun182014

Say What, Emma & Ethan?

The first still from a movie called Regression starring Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson. You captioned it and dialogued it. It's time to name the winner, who chooses the new banner theme.

"I'm sorry it has to come to this, but......five points WILL be taken from Gryffindor."
-Jake D 

Choose your banner theme, Jake!

Wednesday
Jun182014

Beauty Break: Bewitched Elizabeth Olsen

Flaunt magazine, which always has amazing photoshoots of gorgeousity, is featuring Elizabeth Olsen right about now with a profile article and a photoshoot. I've been smitten since that eery girl-without-a-center performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene but it didn't hurt that when I met her on the Oscar campaign trail that year she was even more beautiful (skin of creamy flawlessness) and we talked Michelle Pfeiffer since she's also a pfan. But I digress...

These days she doesn't have to wait for her phone to ring with movie roles though we've yet to see a role or performance from her as stellar as that quadruple named indie breakthrough. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jun182014

8 Steps of Daily Life/Blogging Chez Nathaniel

I am bad at math. There's actually 10/11 steps

 

1. Waking up to too few comments, tweets, shares, likes

2. Coffee

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jun172014

Visual Index ~ Goldfinger (1964)

For the mid season finale of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, and since we've been revisiting 1964 for its 50th, we're looking at the James Bond classic Goldfinger (1964). After selecting the movie I began to worry that perhaps the early image of a dead beauty suffocated in gold paint was too iconic to have people looking elsewhere but trust this crowd to keep their eyes open and receptive to varying beauties. Or maybe the Best Shot club (open to all -why haven't you joined?) was just purposefully avoiding it due to its fame? 

Click on the images for the corresponding article...

GOLDFINGER'S BEST SHOTS
9 shots chosen by 12 secret agents of blogging
(in chronological order within the film)

The image, created by Robert Brownjohn is nearly prophetic and totally inadvertently so... 
-The Movie Scene  *new participant* welcome!


Girls, Girls, Girls..."
-The Film's The Thing 


The all-time perfect collision of the things that, to my mind, make Bond Bond..."
-Antagony & Ecstasy 

Margaret:  Sexy, sexy violence.
Anne Marie: I suppose that’s what happens when you bring your work into the bedroom.
-We Recycle Movies 

What I always loved about James Bond is his ability to get under the skin of his opponent - to instinctively know which buttons to push..."
-The Matinee 

 A cramped space that nonetheless is full of detail...
-Drew Byrd *new participant* - welcome! 

Hamilton and director of photography Ted Moore shoot much of this film from wide-angles, which makes the film look "big"..."
-Entertainment Junkie 

There's something beautiful about the Bond movies when they slow down..."
-Basket of Kisses via TFE  *new participant* - welcome!

Three layers of depth here..."
-Allison Tooey 

One of the most fascinating things about this iteration of James Bond is how ineffective he is...
-Film Actually 

Goldfinger, however, does know how to pop some colors..."
-Coco Hits NY 


We need to talk about James Bond's cock in Goldfinger..."
-The Film Experience 

Please check out these fine articles. I really enjoyed this finale - some really funny and interesting pieces this time. This is our midseason finale. If you'd like 'Hit Me' to return in July, please do comment and support the series through comments, shares, tweets, and likes.