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Entries in Dick Van Dyke (7)

Monday
Sep252017

The Furniture: Death by Excess in What a Way to Go!

"The Furniture," by Daniel Walber, is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

Any excuse to talk about What a Way to Go! is a good excuse. But the centennial of Ted Haworth is an especially excellent excuse. He was nominated for six Oscars, starting with Marty in 1955. He won for 1957’s Sayonara. Highlights from the rest of his career include Some Like It Hot, The Beguiled, and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.

But none of those movies could hold a candle to the astonishing level of creativity on display in What a Way to Go! The epic 1964 comedy of love and loss stars Shirley MacLaine as Louisa May Foster, a many-time widow and heiress.  Each husband, with one particularly tragic exception, begins the marriage as a near-pauper who wants nothing but love. But their passion inevitably leads them on a wild pursuit of wealth, which tends to end in a coffin. It should be noted, of course, that Louisa herself has little interest in cash.

There are far too many brilliant design elements to fit into a single column...

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Tuesday
Dec202016

Zsa Zsa's Farewell and Other Links...

The Retro Set a "loosely autobiographical review" of 20th Century Women
Variety there's a documentary coming about the men behind the classic "Curious George" books
The Guardian Dick Van Dyke, who is 91 years old, has confirmed that he has a part in Mary Poppins Returns playing the son of one of his two characters in the original (the ancient banker guy apparently rather than the chimney sweep)

Browbeat BAFTA makes a bold move, requiring some degree of diversity to be eligible for awards starting in 2019 (they offer several ways in which you can do that for those worried about artistic freedoms for filmmakers)
Towleroad a list of retailers you should shop at this Christmas since the anti-gay right wing is targeting them.
Decider the year in cinematic smoking 
New Yorker their 16 most read stories this year
Coming Soon Legion, an X-Men spinoff TV series, gets a poster
Awards Daily Vancouver Critics favors Manchester by the Sea in 5 of its 9 categories

Zsa Zsa in the 1980sMore goodbyes... as is 2016's awful habit
Eye for Cinema remembers French actress Michèle Morgan who passed away today at the age of 96 - her credits included Port of Shadows, The Fallen Idol, and Pastoral Symphony (Cannes Best Actress win)
Variety Dick Latessa, who was so wonderful as Mr Turnblad in Hairspray on Broadway, has passed away
New York Times Zsa Zsa Gabor (Moulin Rouge), the last surviving member of the world famous Hungarian Gabor sisters (famous for acting, yes, but arguably more for the 20 marriages between them) has died. She was just two months shy of her 100th birthday! Her sisters Magda and Eva both passed away in the 1990s. Zsa Zsa's last two big screen appearance were cameo apperances as herself in the comedies Beverly Hillbillies (1993) and A Very Brady Sequel (1996). She was the only Gabor sister to have a child but she outlived her daughter Constance Francesca Hilton (yes, of that Hilton family) who died just 13 months ago.

Fun Oscar Trivia: One of Zsa Zsa's nine husbands was George Sanders (All About Eve) and she was married to him during that Oscar-winning career peak. She was considered for the role that went to Marilyn Monroe in that classic.  

Thursday
Oct062016

George Sidney Centennial: Bye Bye Birdie

Our Centennial celebration of director George Sidney continues with Jose on Bye Bye Birdie

George Sidney’s adaptation of the Tony award winning musical Bye Bye Birdie continued showing his prowess when it came to making big, bold, Technicolor musicals. The plot imagines the frenzy surrounding the imminent departure of an Elvis-like superstar, who receives his draft notice, but decides to reward one of his biggest fans with one gift before leaving: a televised kiss. Though the plot’s depiction of how the media thrives on scandals surrounding celebrities was rather prescient (not to mention how it predicts how love and sex would become “prizes” on reality shows) its gender and racial politics have made it one of the most icky musicals of the era.

Its casting proved significant for two reasons: for the big part of Kim MacAfee, the director chose a complete unknown he discovered dancing in a Las Vegas casino. After being selected out of millions, just like Kim, Ann-Margret would go on to become one of the biggest stars of the decade.

In fact just a year after Birdie, Sidney cast her opposite the real life Elvis in Viva Las Vegas -- perhaps as a tribute to how he discovered her and also to Birdie?...

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Friday
Dec132013

Happy Birthday, Dick Van Dyke

Tim here. Saving Mr. Banks opens in New York and Los Angeles today, and Mary Poppins made its debut on Blu-ray this past Tuesday in a "50th Anniversary" edition bumped up a year for maximum cross-promotion effectiveness. Doubtlessly, neither of those events was timed to coincide with the birthday of Mary Poppins co-star Dick Van Dyke, who turns 88 years old today, but the confluence of events was just too perfect to pass up. Let us then spare a moment to thank one of the greatest avuncular figures in American pop culture in this moment when his most important film role has been brought back into the limelight so enthusiastically (though Van Dyke, as a character, is barely a blip in the context of Saving Mr. Banks, taking the form of an unbilled performance by Kristopher Kyer).

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Wednesday
Jul172013

Best Shot: Mary Poppins Makes Your Heart Feel Light

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Mary Poppins never explains anything! That's true of both the character and the film, actually. There's no back story (Hallelujah!) and no fussiness about the how and why of her "magic". (Sadly, this movie would never be made today when the mystery is drained from everything). More surprising for a family film there's very little overstating of its message (though Dick Van Dyke does a little bit of singing it directly to Mr. Banks just to make sure he's clear). If you don't believe me, really watch it again. Despite the imposing length (2 hours and 20 minutes) it's structurally smart and so light on its feet that it simply blows in on the East wind and then floats away when the super nanny's mission is accomplished. Like its heroine, the movie is practically perfect in every way.

"Cheeky" - my favorite shot of Julie Andrews in the film

I'll do my best to emulate her and keep my "best shot" explanation brief -- if only I could sing it! though it's a bittersweet task since, if I was choosing a different shot, I'd get to talk at length about how brilliant Julie Andrews is in the movie. Her Oscar win is one of the most unusual choices the Academy ever made for a Lead Acting trophy (no histrionics, no "clips", nothing one might define as Oscar-Bait) and one of their smartest, too. But I'll have to wax rhapsodic about Julie another time and jump right to my choice for Best Shot.

When I was a kid my favorite song in the movie was "Jolly Holiday". I'm not sure if it was because I wanted to dive into the chalk paintings or if I just found it catchy or if I just loved that incredibly funny moment when all the barnyard animals get solo lines and they each sound EXACTLY like a singing version of that animal should. As an adult I still love the song mostly because its such an accurate description of how one feels in Mary Poppins presence: light and grand... your heart starts beating like a big brass band.

Best Shot -- I wish I could see this on the big screen!

But, as anyone familiar with Mary Poppins know, there's a beautiful melancholy undercurrent to the plot and the feeling which is why I'm choosing this moment, right after the chalk painting adventure when Mary and the children have left Bert in the park. It's gray and stormy now but Bert's mood is unaltered. He keeps dancing in the rain, still enjoying the imagined holiday as the colors lose their shape but glow like memories.

This visual motif with a man in near silhouette with a telling splash of color is repeated again (only more empathically) in both the showstopping "Steppin' Time" number (blue) and when Mr Banks is fired from his job (red) but here is where it most beautifully summarizes the film's smart disposition (both firm and truthful but  loose and magical) and the color Mary brings to people's lives.

When the day is gray and ordinary
Mary makes the sun shine bright!

Mary Poppins warns us over and over again -- though not in hamfisted redundant ways -- that all things are temporary. One day childhood will end. Very soon the chalk paintings will wash away. As soon as the wind changes Mary herself will vanish. Mary Poppins would never say anything as mundane as "seize the day" but in her cheeky way she's making sure that we get that each day counts. She recommends feeding birds, flying kites, and a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

Best Shot Steppin' Time
Antagony & Ecstasy - on Julie Andrews' brilliant star turn
Allison Tooey - the feeling it gives
Encore Entertainment - Mary Poppins needs you to get your act together
Entertainment Junkie - on magical realism
Film Actually - defying logic, physics, and gravity
The Film's The Thing - a familiar silhouette
Manuel Betancourt - Julie Andrews Steppin' Time
Stale Popcorn - actually hates the movie!
Serious Film - praises David Tomlinson's Mr Banks
Victim of the Time - the measure of a woman
We Recycle Movies -on childhood nostalgia

Sunday
Jan272013

Silver Live-Blogging SAG Playbook (The Show!)

Previously: THE ARRIVALS

8:00 The announcer just said Zero Dark Thirty Jessica Chastain is "Zero Dark Flirty". Regret to inform that his was not even the worst pun of the intro. This was not even in the bottom ten of worst puns. Yikes. "Argo Seat Yourself"??? (And you don't even want to know how much television pays writers for this sort of thing. Can I apply?)

8:02 I Am An Actor from Jane Krakowski, Chris Tucker, Helen Hunt, Hal Holbrook, Sofia Vergara. Followed by Nicole Kidman with some hot razor cut flat iron hair to announce... 

8:06 SUPPORTING ACTOR. I predicted Tommy Lee Jones because of the huge audience response he gets in Lincoln. But perhaps I'm too stuck back in November and the TLJ hoopla has ended. The award goes to... oh, wow. Tommy Lee Jones. Who is not there. His absence does him no favors in a possibly very tight Oscar race.

8:08 Bradley Cooper, whose hair is unusually light brown fluffy. (I'm reminded of Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie ...as both Michael Dorsey and Dorothy Michaels) and Jennifer Lawrence introduce their own movie. They use a clip of the "silver lining" monologue over images of the cast. 

8:10 SUPPORTING ACTRESS. Justin Timberlake arrives in his 'suit and tie shit, suit and tie shit ♫' (plaid pattern potpourri but quite fetching)... and tries to do a little dance to the piped in canned show music [more after the jump]

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