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Entries in Judy Garland (17)

Thursday
Mar272014

The Linkettes

Wonkette crazed religious rightwing preacher says that Frozen will make you gay. And a witch!
Pajiba saves me the trouble of doing a Yes No Maybe So on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) traiser
24 Frames Per Second Mynt Marsellus follows up on that "screenplays you must read" article we were discussing the other day with 5 screenplays by women or people of color to add diversity to it. Fine choices
People Emma Watson looks great in menswear

In Contention on the final James Gandolfini film The Drop from the director of Bullhead
The Exploding Kinetoscope demands that you take Summer Stock (1950) more seriously. There's more to that Judy Garland film than "Get Happy"
Los Angeles Magazine James Franco on his poetry and being on that "leaked" list of Lindsay's lovers...
TFE ...icymi we discussed that list here
Gilt City if you have $175-$235 to spare you can see Cate Blanchett, Isabelle Huppert and Elizabeth Debicki in The Maids on stage here in NY. Good goddess, what a trio. That's above my pay grade but if you see it, do tell me how magical it was. (Cheaper worse tickets go on sale and will surely sell out instantly) on Monday. 
MNPP [nsfw] JA's off to Italy but first a bath and a Mr Ripley reminder
AV Club... whoa. OCD VHS recordings are being put to good use in San Francisco 
Film School Rejects "are you hating movies properly?"

Today's Must See
Oooh, I don't know how I missed this yesterday but Just Jared posted set pics from Suffragette the new Carey Mulligan/Meryl Streep political period piece. FWIW, because no site ever gives credit on these things when they post set pics, the costumes are by Jane Petrie, a relatively new Costume Designer whose previous credits include genre pictures like An American Haunting, Moon and 28 Days Later. But she's moving straight into prestige films. She's got Suffragette as well as the Stephen Frears Lance Armstrong biopic if that one stays on track. 

Meryl in "Suffragette"

Today's Must Read
Ester Bloom, who wrote a couple of pieces here at TFE a few years ago, has a terrific essay up on Flavorwire about the sexuality (or lack thereof) in Wes Anderson's films and how Grand Budapest Hotel is and isn't a significant departure in this regard. Consider this bit.

Anderson is famous for fawning over his symmetrical landscapes the way other directors dote on their female stars; if he is turned on by anything, it seems to be dioramas. The people who fall in love in Anderson’s universes are either actual children, like the awkward tweens of Moonrise Kingdom, or metaphorical ones, like the emotionally stunted Herman Blume of Rushmore and Richie Tenenbaum of The Royal Tenenbaums. And all hearts break in the end.

It's a really good read so click on over

Tuesday
May072013

Team Top Ten: Oscar's Greatest Losers (Actress Edition)

Hepburn won 4 Oscars. Every win leaves a trail of four lossesAmir here, to bring you our newest Team Top Ten. You may remember we tackled the best directors of the new century in our first episode and each first Tuesday of the month Nathaniel and all the contributors will vote on a new list. This time it’s all about two things I’m sure you all love as much as we do:

...Actresses & Oscar.

This is a list of the greatest performances that lost the Best Actress award. We’ve looked at the pool of 337 performances that were nominated for an Oscar in that category but failed to win and we ranked them in the order of our individual preference, irrespective of the actresses that won in any given year.

It was quite a heavy task, as you can imagine. How would you go about choosing only ten among so many stellar turns? 80 different performances managed to get at least one vote from our contributors. Actresses who have had multiple unsuccessful nominations were generally the victims of an internal spread of votes. Meryl Streep is the most glaring example, of course. Four of her performances garnered votes, but none was popular enough to make the cut. Katharine Hepburn’s performances were similarly divisive, though one of them stood head and shoulders above the rest as you will see below. There were surprising inclusions and even more surprising exclusions but the main takeaway was consensus over performances that have found their place in the critical canon. Only 6 ladies from this new century made the top 30, which is reason to rejoice, in my opinion -- old treasures aren’t forgotten just yet.

Swanson gave good face.

Nathaniel will share runners-up and some juicy trivia and stats because this experiment really deserves a lot more than a list of ten names. For now, however, here are the actresses Team Experience deems the greatest Oscar losers of all time:

THE 10 GREATEST BEST-ACTRESS-LOSING PERFORMANCES
are after the jump...

surprise! Holly Hunter made the list

10. Holly Hunter (Broadcast News, 1987)
Lost to Cher in Moonstruck

"The leads in so many romantic comedies blend together into a blandly likable blur. Not so with Holly Hunter in Broadcast News. She takes the trope of the hardworking professional woman who is great at her job but unlucky in love, and imbues her with a crackling specificity. Far from sanding down her rough edges, Hunter embraces them, from her crying jags, to her stubbornness, to her clumsy grabs at love, to that southern accent she makes no attempt to disguise. Hunter’s Jane Craig topped my ballot because she is the gold standard against which I measure all other romantic comedy performances."
- Michael C.

nine more iconic performances after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Apr242013

Best Shot: "A Star is Born"

I have a confession to make. I only selected A Star is Born (1954) for this week's edition of 'Best Shot' as an excuse to talk about one of the all-time greatest movie scenes. I'm talking All Time All Time. The scene is the shot and the shot is the scene and the scene justifies the whole movie's title... although it might be more accurately titled A Star is Reborn. I can't let it stop me that several people have already chosen it as their Preferred Shot though this will have the unfortunate effect of making a quite extraordinary whole movie look a little front-heavy since The Scene comes very early in the film.

Take it honey. Take it from the top...

And so she does, glancing over sheet music, humming the melodic line, and easing herself into her spotlight as the mood sweeps over her. She then unleashes one of the great Garland performances, which keeps shifting incandescendantly between three separate modes: tossed off AM rehearsal goof with the boys, fully detailed showmanship of a PERFORMANCE to come, and internal musical reverie. Judy Garland is giving three spectacular performances at once all of them bleeding into each other organically in this one continuous shot. It wouldn't be half as moving or incredible if George Cukor had broken it up into little bits.

But who needs to jazz up a scene with different camera angles when "The World's Greatest Entertainer" is giving you so many character angles already?

The night is bitter. The stars have lost their glitter.
The winds grow colder. Suddenly you're older.
And all because of the man that got away.

No more his eager call, the writing's on the wall.
The dreams you dreamed have all gone astray.
The man that won you, has run off and undone you.
That great beginning has seen a final inning.
Don't know what happened. It's all a crazy game! 

Coupled with the very smart screenplay, which aptly describes this very performance immediately afterwards as filled with "little jabs of pleasure" and George Cukor's astute understanding of what to do with Cinemascope (the mise-en-scène throughout the movie is A+), it's a performance for the ages. Garland's emotionally intricate performance (her best ever as she's just as good in the "book" scenes) is, if you stop to really consider what's happening in the frame, explicitly choreographed in every way possible to provide this bracing cocktail of performance, rehearsal, improv, and narrative while also hitting so many marks which work with very smart choices in Art Direction and Cinematography. Consider, for instance, that the dominant color in this scene is red which was also used to character Norman Maine's drunken madness in the film's opening scene but here the red is suddenly warm and cozy rather than garish and unnerving.

That this shot/scene feels so genuine, spontaneous, and possible rather than like a set piece engineered to mechanical perfection is one of the great miracles of Hollywood Showmanship. The crazy part is this: the movie's just begun! Big glitzy awesome musical numbers for Garland are still ahead of us and Vicki Lester hasn't even been "Born" yet but no matter; Judy Garland came roaring back to life right here.

Quite unfortunately just as this killer scene hooks you into the film for the long haul -- and it is a long haul as running times go though the movie is gripping -- it stops looking like a movie and starts looking suspiciously like film stills. I didn't even know it was National Preservation Week when I selected this film for this date in the series. Let's call it a happy accident and thank film preservations everywhere for their efforts. A Star is Born was notoriously butchered during release when the studio suddenly decided they wanted a tighter running time and started chopping scenes. So the movie that Oscar voters screened and voted for (six noiminations but absurdly shut out of Picture & Director) was not the version that many Americans saw in late 1954 and early 1955 as it made its way around the country. The version that's most readily available now is this Frankenstein version which tries to stitch in the missing scenes where they would have appeared in the film.

Esther Blodgett becomes Vicki Lester, contract player. They don't want to see her face!

On one level it's thrilling that these shards of old scenes are there since the movie itself is so wise and "deliciously sarcastic" (thanks, Vince) about The Hollywood Machine in all of its devouring glory. But I think the reason that A Star is Born is so enduring -- and I swear it improves on each viewing it's so sophisticated -- is that it combines this biting wit with genuine empathy for the Willing Human Casualties of that machine.

On the other level, these half-scenes distract me from the pleasure of the picture and I'd almost rather watch the compromised version that survived. A Star is Born tries to make peace with its own compromises in the Maine marriage, very movingly. On this particular viewing I was quite struck by two bookend shots from Esther's Vicki makeover. 

If I can't have the whole "Man That Got Away" shot, I'll take this second one as my best shot

In this first shot, Norman is forcing Esther to wash off the horrible studio mandated makeup but she objects already convinced that she has an "awful face" and "no chin". Norman only objects to the first comment and Esther finally laughs aloud at his aggressive but supportive commands. In the second shot, Norman is still controlling her but he's unearthed her natural beauty and "extra something" that stars have and has forced her to see her it. Maine's occassionally violent always controlling Svengali instincts are maddening but the complexity and tragedy of the marital drama in A Star is Born is that "Esther Blodgett" has always needed his heavy hand to finally realize her inner "Vicki Lester" and she may be truly lost without him. By the movie's end she's abandoned both women in favor of "Mrs. Norman Maine."

NEXT: DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) on May 1st

Nine Stars Waiting For Their Big Break...
She Blogged By Night on Norman Maine... "like a child with a blow torch"
We Recycle Movies "How A Star is Born Changed My Life" 
Film Actually gets uncomfortably privy to Norman Maine's headspace
Cinesnatch Vicki Lester Steals a Moment
Antagony & Ecstacy on the Judy Garland Meta Narrative (and more)
Amiresque shares four vivid memories of this picture
Dancin' Dan a master class in how to shoot a musical sequence 
Alison Tooey sees a good sense of distance between the characters
The Film's The Thing looks at ALL THREE film versions. Overachiever!
...or see all the choices Sequentially 

Wednesday
Apr242013

Visual Index ~ "A Star is Born" Best Shots

For this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot challenge I asked participants to look at A Star is Born (1954) though they could sub in the Janet Gaynor 30s version of the Barbra Streisand 70s version or the Clint Eastwood/Beyoncé ver-- oh they haven't made that one yet -- if they were itching to watch one of those instead. In the end you know we always come back to Judy G.

Here's what the Best Shot club chose in semi-linear narrative order (I cheated a bit to fill it out as there were far too few entries today). But since the movie was famously post post-production with now infamously missing sequences, who knows?! 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mrs Norman Maine and... A Star is Born (after the jump)

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Mar062013

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "The Wizard of Oz"

A brief preface for new readers: "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" is a series in which we invite all movie lovers to share their choice of 'best shot' from a single pre-selected film on their own web space (twitpic, blogger, tumblr, whatever) each Wednesday night. The joy of the series is seeing the same film through multiple eyes. "Best", not just Beauty, being in the eye of the beholder.

I love the sepia opening scenes more than I can say...

So, what is the takeaway image of The Wizard of Oz (1939) for you? How do you define best and does that definition change with each movie? My choice and several others are somewhere over the rainbow after the jump

Click to read more ...