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Entries in Rebel Without a Cause (6)


Showbiz History: The Lion King, Keanu as James Dean, and NPH's Undies

six random things that happened on this day in showbiz history (June 15th)...

1960 Billy Wilder's five-time Oscar winner The Apartment had its world premiere on this day in New York City. I just watched it again recently. Shirley Maclaine and Jack Lemmon are perfect in it, don'cha think?

1967 Another premiere, this one for the WW II action drama The Dirty Dozen, an antecedent of a kind to Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds.

1991 Paula Abdul's "Rush Rush" hits #1 (it'll stay there for six weeks). Keanu Reeves does a James Dean thing in the Rebel Without a Cause (1955) themed video. Paula does Natalie of course but no Sal Mineo counterpart? Fail!

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On This Day: Silly Walks, Full Frontal Oscar Nods, and Bell-Bottoms

Is today your birthday? If so you share it with multiple Oscar nominees and winners, the great John Cleese, the US President with the cutest name, Macy's Department Store and the NYC subway system.

That's quite good company which we'll explore after the jump (warning: one NSFW photo ahead) on this day in showbiz history...

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Team Top Ten: Back to School Edition

Amir here, bringing you Team Experience’s latest top ten list.

It’s hard to think of a genre that gets less respect than the high school film, but try contemplating a list of the best high school films of all time and a never-ending stream of classics seems to rush forward. That’s exactly what our team decided to do this month, and to make things difficult for ourselves, we expanded our horizons to include school films about kids of all ages, from all countries. After all, teenagers aren’t the only ones going back to school next week. What about the younger kids?

As it turned out, our team was more enthusiastic about this poll than any we had done before. With more ballots and more votes than ever before, this list was a real hoot for me to compile; and the range and quality of the films that were left off the final ten only serves to highlight the wealth of options at our disposal. From bonafide classics like Splendor in the Grass and If…, to influential foreign films like Zero for Conduct and Where Is the Friend’s Home?, to more recent films like Elephant and Perks of Being Wallflower, to documentaries like Hoop Dreams, back to school gives everyone with any cinematic taste something to savor. And those are just the stuff that didn’t make the cut! Well, those along with Grease, Boyz n the Hood, American Graffiti, Heathers, Wet Hot American Summer, Back to the Future, Dead Poet’s Society, and… you get the picture.

So, without further ado...

 Team Experience’s Top Ten School Films

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The Rebellious Evolution of Natalie Wood

It's Natalie Wood Week as we celebrate what would have been her 75th birthday (today!). Here's Abstew from 'The Film's The Thing'...

I love the tag line: "...And they both came from good families!" Oh, no! Where did we go wrong?!?The legend of James Dean looms large over the seminal 1955 teen-angst film, Rebel Without a Cause. With his red windbreaker that would soon become his trademark, furrowed brow and pensive gaze, his hobby of drag racing goons that would dare to call him chicken, and dealing with square parents that just don't understand, Dean cuts an impressive figure. The film is so closely linked to the star's iconic status that you'll forgive me that sometimes I forget the other talented stars that also occupy the film. (But, then again, I'm a huge James Dean fan. I've even been to his hometown of Fairmount, Indiana where there's not one, but three different museums dedicated to him. You can compete in the annual James Dean look-alike competition! It's also where he's buried. You can still go to his family farm and see his tombstone.) But, of the three films that Dean starred in, Rebel is the only one he didn't receive an Oscar nomination for.

The film was, however, nominated for a trio of awards including a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Sal Mineo as his pal, Plato, and a Best Screenplay nomination for the Director, Nicholas Ray. Has any film captured the superb agony of being a teenager so precisely?

I don't know what to do anymore. Except maybe die."

It's final nomination was for Best Supporting Actress, giving Natalie Wood her first bit of Oscar recognition. Hers is not, maybe, the first name that spring to mind when you think of Rebel, but her career owes as much to it as Dean's does...

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Hit Me: Natalie Wood and "Rebel Without a Cause"

It's time to wrap up the Hit Me With Your Best Shot season with a 1955 classic. Why this one? Well, today would've been Natalie Wood's 73rd birthday and we love ourselves some Natalie Wood. She was, in fact, Nathaniel's first actress obsession, an obsession formed in the late 70s while watching TV airings of various 50s & 60s movies (with an emphasis on West Side Story which has its 50th anniversary this fall!).

Natalie suddenly died in 1981, drowning as you know, after falling from a yacht during a break from filming her last picture Brainstorm (which was later released in 1983). Wee Nathaniel was heartbroken. Enough with the third person but I needed the distance; this one hits so close to home. Let it suffice to say that it was the first time I'd ever lost anyone I loved, virtual or otherwise. I hadn't even lost a pet at that point in life! The heartache maybe felt as formative as Natalie's in Splendor in the Grass; a first love never to be forgotten if you will.

Today we're talking about Rebel Without a Cause (1955) because it gave Natalie her first of three Oscar nominations and because we've been thinking about "first love" and high school lately. (See, we've recently started rewatching Angela Chase falling for Jordan Catalano on Netflix.)

The Nicholas Ray movie -- part of that unassailable James Dean Trinity -- is a spectacularly enduring piece of teen angst. It's as mesmerizing and febrile with feeling today as we assume it was in 1955 even though it's now most decidedly a period piece. But this happens to all contemporary entertainments... the period part I mean. (The enduring part only happens to the lucky or the brilliant. Have you seen My So Called Life lately? It's just as great 17 years later only now it's as much a period piece as Rebel -- it's soooo '90s.) Time marches on.

Best Shot

This beautifully sustained shot (it lasts for over a minute) captures two era-defining icons of youth in what can accurately be described as langurous mutual auto-eroticism. Judy (Wood) and Jim (Dean) barely ever look at each other in this sequence, letting their bodies and their voices do all the communicating. But aren't they still in their own little worlds, only dreaming of colliding?

Directors rarely hold the camera on two faces simultaneously anymore and that's nothing but one of the greatest losses for the cinema. All great movie stars are auto-erotic, their principal love affair being with the camera rather than co-stars, but when they share a frame the power can feel infinite. (For a comic counterpoint example of this same face-pressing double whammy magic, see The Lady Eve with that sensationally funny scene where Barbara Stanwyck babbles incessantly while rubbing her face against an overheated Henry Fonda.) In this case the dual star magnetism doubles as youthful dreaming, disconnected from reality, though Judy and Jim are, in fact, speaking about connection. Judy is philosophizing about friendship, character, and love. She's about to launch into her famous "I love somebody" speech, the "somebody" is telling as she's caressing a man who is still more of an abstraction than a reality to her. Jimmy interjects.

We're not going to be lonely anymore. Ever ever. Not you or me.

The scene is heartbreaking for any number of reasons both for what precedes it and for what follows (poor Plato!), but mostly because you recognize it as a false prophecy, born of the loneliness it's trying to banish. Judy & Jim have long long lives ahead of them even if Dean and Wood didn't. Loneliness never stays away for good.

Rebels of the 'Best Shot' Cause

  • Film Actually sees Rebel for the first time and contemplates that issue-heavy love triangle.
  • Movies Kick Ass "Let's not ask the moon" is there a world larger than teenage problems?
  • Clearly Up To No Good --- this is really cool. It's four themed photo folders. I love "Plato's Closet" and "Living on the Edge". Lovely
  • Awww the Movies the looks.
  • Stale Popcorn a dynamic shift in "family"

My First (Three) Dean(s)

JA from MNPP here with my follow-up to last week's query regarding the fact that I'd never seen a James Dean film and how you all should tell me which one to watch first, by poll. And tell me you did - with 44% of the vote Rebel Without a Cause, his second film with his most iconic performance, came out on top, besting East of Eden (at 37%) and Giant (at 18%). I wasn't exactly surprised by these results.

Most likely when you think Dean, you think this:

That red jacket / white tee / jeans ensemble is Marilyn's white dress flying up on the subway grate; it's Elvis' bedazzled jumpsuit and Audrey Hepburn's little black dress eating a danish in front of Tiffanys. If you're gonna start somewhere with James Dean this seems like the likeliest place to start. Which... well knowing I'd thrown myself at having to write about something so iconic it's sold more stamps than my college education cost, probably squared, was a little intimidating. What is there left to say?

Thankfully the film, while dated, does remain a fascinating, loose, alive thing. Fifty-six years of rebellious teenagers later the movie that crafted the mold somehow manages to remain just enchantingly weird. There is an otherworldly sort of spell it casts over you - there's something very apt about the planetarium setting that the film uses repeatedly. It gives you this epic space - literally all of outer space - with the beginning and the ending of the world exploding around you. But it's a manufactured apocalypse at the same time - you're not under the night sky at all. You're enclosed in a tomb of sound and fury - an echo chamber of gee whizz bang. That sounds a lot like what most of my teenage dramas all turned out to be.

Not that these kids don't have real problems. But the melodramas they play out, coupled with the actors very serious performances, takes the film into a very odd space. It's as heightened as a Douglas Sirk film, only you swap out the acting style of Rock Hudson for James Dean, which... well that's a swap. Having only seen clips of Dean's films before but never a full from-start-to-finish performance from him until now, I've got to say it really and truly was a revelation. I'm sure he was astonishing to watch on stage as well but the man was made to be placed in front of a movie camera. His face is so alive! From every angle - shoot him from the back and you can feel what he is feeling, as if he's shooting pulses of emotion from his scalp.

It seems vulgar to just straight-up gush, but as some of you said would happen in the comments I was so enamored with Dean that as soon as Rebel was finished I put in East of Eden and as soon as East of Eden was finished I put in Giant. And I've now seen them all! (That's why it took me a couple extra days to get this to you - it took me two nights to finish Giant. That is a very long movie.) And now that I've seen them all Dean's legend makes complete sense to me.

I made a joke before having seen the films about the similarity of his characters names - Jim Stark, Cal Trask, and Jet Rink - what seems amazing now, having seen the films is how completely separate these three fellows are to me. It struck me about half-an-hour into East of Eden (what a marvelous film East of Eden is, and how ashamed I feel for having only just seen it) that the Dean I was watching didn't at all seem to be the icon of teenager rebellion that I'd just been confronted with in Rebel and I'd been expecting out of all of Dean's performances. And then you get to Giant and you're watching something completely different still, and yet no less hypnotic, pour out of him.


Oh sure there are the loose similarities that connect the three - young men who seem incapable of fitting in with their surroundings, battling against the forces they see closing in on them, the slights real and imagined, all while maintaining a glorious head of hair - but the details that Dean carves out with body language and with his voice, with Jet's easygoing horse-rider's strut or Jim's tendency to jump around like an extra in West Side Story or the seemingly unwitting cruelty that coils Cal up, it was a surreal and exhilarating experience, watching all in one fell swoop.

So whaddya know? Dean was no fluke, no false advertisement. And when his scenes in Giant came to an end I felt the shadow of sadness that audiences since 1956 must sense, knowing that's all there will ever be. Still, even though the thought of all that could've been is maddening, it feels as if there's so much I'll be able to wring from just these three in repeat viewings. It'll be a pleasure.