I'm multi-tasking with this, the penultimate episode of Season 3 of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, the series wherein we choose the single best shot of pre-selected movies and discuss. Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's masterpiece Singin' in the Rain (1952) is also a member of my personal canon (top ten to be exact) and we're using it to kick off our Gene Kelly Centennial Celebration. I'll be looking at a few more Kelly features next week, but we're starting with his greatest achievement. Weirdly the far inferior An American in Paris which directly preceded Singin' won Oscar's heart with ease and yet they ignored this one. 'I caaaannnnt stan' it').
Singin' in the Rain more than earns its reputation as 'the happiest movie ever made.' I am reasonably certain that I could write about Singin' in the Rain every day for a year and still not run out of things to say. I'm already sad that this article will not include an ode to Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen SO deserved the Oscar and nabbed one of the film's two nominations. Only two!) or an examination of the largely unheralded "All I Do is Dream of You" number which I love beyond all reason and would be the best number in most musicals but is just a little toss off here.
All things considered, the film is lighter than air and swift on its feet both of which are jaw-dropping accomplishments since it's actually incredibly dense. Take the structure for a prime example: this movie about the history of movies (and, oh so casually, the DNA strands the medium borrows from the stage) starts with a premiere of a movie and then flashes back to previous (multiple) films before moving forward to become a movie about the making of new movie which too closely resembles the previous movie "if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all" which then gets rewritten as an entirely different movie with another movie embedded inside of it !!! After all of that, it ends with a poster of a movie that's yet to come... or is possibly the movie we've just watched. Whew. (It's got as many dream layers as Inception, Synecdoche New York or a David Lynch movie but way less fussiness about them.)
Singin' in the Rain's killer combination of joyful buoyancy, masculine athleticism and artistic grace as it leaps from scene to scene are perfectly paralleled in the face, body, and talent of Gene Kelly himself. Kelly is one of my two all time favorite male movie stars, the other being Montgomery Clift. As I watched the movie for the umpteenth time today it suddenly occurred to me that the two of them are a perfect bipolar representation of my own very particular Gemini cinephilia; they're my beautiful big screen avatars of Joy and Despair.
I bring this up because, curiously, for the first time while watching Singin' in the Rain I felt a wave of sudden sadness hit me. I was grinning from ear to ear as "Good Morning" began (the only sane response knowing the bliss to come from the scene's inventive choreography, perfect tripled performance and fluid feeling) when suddenly my eyes welled up and stayed that way for the entire number. This had never happened to me before! As Cosmo, Kathy and Don collapsed on the couch in a big heap of giggling, I felt as simultaneously elated and exhausted as the characters were meant to and as the actors might have been after multiple takes (so few cuts, so much dancing!). But I was laughing through tears because they don't make 'em like this anymore.
BEST SHOT PARTICIPANTS
What a glorious feeling, they're blogging again...
The Family Berzurcher "It’s impossible to ignore the ecstasy of Singin’, but it takes movies very seriously."
Dial P For Popcorn "it makes me shiver... it makes me swoon"
Serious Film "continually reframing the dancers, moving them in and out of shadow"
Antagony & Ecstasy "the lies movies tell are part of what makes them work as movies"
Coco Hits NYC "a playfulness that is just magnetic"
Okinawa Assault "a sequence where gray and black dominate, is just as happy as the scenes with brighter colours in them."
Film Actually "the suggestion of sex is never this overt"
Being Norma Jeane "Cosmo and Lina are just beautiful in this movie. So funny, so brilliant."
Sorta That Guy "It made me laugh, made me want to learn tap dancing, and most obviously made me fall in love with Kelly."
Encore's World "Lina, unable to discern the difference between real life and fantasy"
Pussy Goes Grrr "Show biz is not sophisticated. In fact, it’s crude. It’s stupid. But per Singin’ in the Rain, it’s a glorious, outrageous, beautiful kind of stupidity"
And welcome these 'best shot' first timers!
Arf She Said "I love how the whole film opens up as Don's heart expands."
Kelli Marshall "the one shot of Singin’ in the Rain that gets me every time"
Allison Tooey "looking utterly at ease despite flimsy support"
Lerblacompo "Don and Gene believed in their fantasies so much that it's impossible for us not to believe them, too."
If you didn't participate, tell us about your favorite shot in the film!
Do your feelings line up with any of these joyful to read articles?
[P.S. Next week is the Season 3 finale of "best shot" as we watch "Dog Day Afternoon" together. Best Shot will return in 2013 for a fourth season! Every episode thus far]
Last night I watched __________________ and it left me feeling _____________________________ . If you must know I ate ______________ while watching it.
My New Plaid Pants a funny exchange between David Cronenberg and Robert Pattinson regarding Cosmopolis' prostrate exam scene
Pajiba 7 performances that changed our minds about actors this year
Movie|Line hey girl, it's the Ryan Gosling coloring book
Serious Film chooses his Oscar ballot for Best Actor if the awards were only once an... ever.
Hollywood Robert Pattinson will play TE Lawrence (of Arabia) in a new movie about Gertrud Bell which will star Naomi Watts. She's really, suddenly, fighting for that Oscar again what with all these biopic roles.
Movies Now A Mary Pickford revival is on the way
Arts Beat Raiders of the Lost Ark gets a week on IMAX screens in September. Yay! That'll be fun.
Sad News About Dead Projects
/Film says that Eastern Promises 2 is probably dead. Ugh. I so needed more Viggo as Nicolai in my life. I really did.
Empire Henry Selick, who did such an excellent job shepherding Coraline to the screen had been working on another stop motion film for Disney. They've pulled the plug. God, hadn't they seen Coraline or The Nightmare Before X-Mas? This man is an amazing talent.
Happy News About Dead Projects
Finally Fox has turned the rights to Daredevil back over to Marvel (who'd like all their characters back, thank you) after not getting it together for a reboot (Joe Carnahan had been mapping one out). Daredevil was obviously Fox's sacrificial lamb because they didn't want to give anything Fantastic Four related back and (contractual) time was running out on both properties. It's really too bad that Marvel can't get all their characters back because they're better at the superhero movie making than the other studios are. Plus, imagine the crossover possibilities. This might be shortsighted on Fox's behalf though because Daredevil is not a bad franchise concept at all. It was just that Fox did a T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E job translating it to screens, with horrible casting, horrible movie making, horrible visualization of Daredevil's radar (he's a blind superhero, remember) and horrible everything. Worse yet they sullied the property by pissing away its best story arc on a subpar movie. The Daredevil vs. Bullseye vs. Elektra arc was nothing short of classic scary exciting unnerving in Frank Miller's hands in the comic books. On screen not so much... or rather not at all. If I were in charge (lol. I'm *so* not!) I'd give up trying to reboot Daredevil as a movie but relaunch him with a TV series, part legal procedural, part organized crime drama, part superheroics. You'd only get to Bullseye and Elektra once the series had found its voice and sure footing because you don't wanna be fucking that storyline up; it's gold.
Hey Everyone. Amir here to preview the Toronto International Film Festival. There's less than a month to go before opening night. Those of you who follow the festival’s news regularly probably know that yesterday marked the completion of most of the festival’s strands, so we can officially start salivating all over the program book. Making a “Most Anticipated Films” list is a fool’s errand; TIFF’s lineup is so vast that the list would basically equate to everything that’s left to be screened in 2012 and then some. Titles like The Master, Anna Karenina, Argo (the latter of which I'm anticipating and dreading) and Cloud Atlas will feature on everyone’s list. There are also Cannes leftovers such as Rust & Bone, Reality, No and The Paperboy to be excited for, but I’m dedicating this list, to the pleasure of discovery which is the lifeblood of festivals.
Last year Nathaniel made a similar list of sixteen potential gems in advance of the festival. Some of those were films I would not have watched had he not suggested them, and I’m glad to say that one of them ended up not only as my top film of the festival, but the best film I saw all year. Here’s hoping we can strike gold again with any of these:
Yes, I hate "ties" as much as you when it comes to list-making but I wanted to round things out with an animated film and couldn’t decide between them. We've got a 3D fictionalized telling of Graham Chapman’s life through the perspective of the Monty Python gang or a Patrice Leconte musical about a family who help people take their own lives. Can you blame me for the indecision ?!?
The Midnight Madness program is the one I’ve attended the least over the years, mostly because I see too many films in a day to have the energy at midnight. Yet this omnibus film seems like the perfect campy end to a festival day. Twenty-six directors from all over the world (including Ti West and Ben Wheatley) give us twenty-six alphabet inspired ways to die in a horror film.
Barbara already screened at Berlinale to terrific reactions, but given that it has no Canadian distributor I’m watching. Director Christian Petzold netted a Silver Bear in Berlin and Nina Hoss, terrific in his last two films, returns to star in a third consecutive. The 80s-set story concerns a scientist forced to stay in a rural hospital as punishment by the East German government.
Isabelle Huppert, Terrence Malick, and Seven (or more) Pyschopaths after the jump.
Michael C here. On my list of cinematic obsessions the Alec Baldwin scene from Glengarry Glenn Ross ranks near the top, alongside stuff like the zither music from The Third Man and the ending of Barton Fink. Part of that obsession is my ironclad belief that Baldwin should have won the Supporting Oscar hands down, no contest.
Those who disagree could justifiably point to the complexity of Gene Hackman's and Jaye Davidson's nominated performances that year in Unforgiven and The Crying Game, or, for that matter, the greater range shown by Alec's Glengarry co-star Al Pacino. Baldwin's performance shows no such range. We don't see his softer side, he doesn't reveal any hidden dimensions, we don't even learn his name. He just struts in and delivers a seven minute tour de force of invective.
It's an unforgettable scene but is that enough? Can a one-note performance truly be considered great?
This discussion cropped up earlier this year when Michael Fassbender's supporting turn emerged as the clear stand out from Prometheus. All the praise came with the caveat that as an android, his role lacks the range to attract any real awards attention. To this I would ask, does not the limited nature of the role make his work more impressive? Isn't it a remarkable achievement to hold the audience's fascination while staying inside the confines of playing a machine?
Acting, as we've so often heard, is about making choices, so in the right role is it not sometimes the stronger choice to refuse to show additional sides of a character? Look at Robert Duvall's Colonel Kilgore in Apocalypse Now. Would it make the character stronger if he dropped that guy's invincible confidence to show a few moments of vulnerability? Of course not. That would have been disastrous.
Or better yet, look at Full Metal Jacket's R Lee Ermey. There's a guy who finds precisely one note and hammers on it down to his last second of screen time. At the time, audience's could be forgiven for wondering if Ermey could act at all, or if he could merely dole out colorfully obscene abuse on command. We now know from his work in films like Dead Man Walking that he is a perfectly capable actor, and time has shown that his choices in Jacket to be the correct ones. I will never forget the impact when it became clear during his final confrontation with Vincent D'Onofrio that the bastard was still - still - not going to soften one iota even when faced with a psychotic soldier pointing a loaded gun at him. And isn't leaving a lasting impact on the viewer what great acting is all about?
What's your take on this? Are certain performances barred from top tier status by their narrow scope, or can the right actor be brilliant in even the most limited of roles, a la Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man?. Let us know in the comments.