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Entries in RIP (114)

Monday
Aug292016

RIP Gene Wilder (1933 - 2016)

Comedy legend Gene Wilder has passed away, after complications with Alzheimer's disease. He served as Mel Brooks's leading player, producing such classics as Blazing Saddles, The Producers and Young Frankenstein. After those films, he also frequently starred opposite Richard Pryor. But to many he will always be remembered for the hilarious sly cruelty of his Willy Wonka, a performance that seen from a childhood gaze is awe-inspiring and warm only to become more delectably rotten in adulthood.

After the passing of his wife Gilda Radner (Wilder also had his own battle with cancer), he mostly stepped out of the spotlight, leaving those mentioned behemoths to speak for his legacy. For me, his Frederic Frankensteen is the one that sticks - all barking neuroses and feigned composure while lampooning the heightened acting styles of Universal horror classics. The performance is so physical and modulated to extremes that his comedy becomes like a set piece, a spectacle worth coming back to again and again.

What are your favorite Gene Wilder memories?

Thursday
Aug182016

Arthur Hiller (1923-2016) and "Making Love"

Arthur Hiller with his Jean Hersholt Huminatarian AwardOscar nominated Canadian born Hollywood director Arthur Hiller died yesterday at 92 years of age. Though he's best remembered for the 1970 mega-hit Love Story  -- so popular in its day it would have been equivalent to a Jurassic World at the box office today (no really) -- his career was actually quite varied. He did dramas, romances, buddy comedies, period pieces, you name it.

Among his best known films which is your favorite?

  • The Americanization of Emily (1964)
  • The Out of Towners (1970)
  • Love Story (1970)
  • Plaza Suite (1971)
  • Man of La Mancha (1972)
  • Silver Streak (1976)
  • The In-Laws (1979)
  • Making Love (1982)
  • Author! Author! (1982)
  • Outrageous Fortune (1987)
  • See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) 

Outrageous Fortune was probably my favorite of his films - Bette Midler & Shelley Long were so funny together --  but the film that's the most interesting, historically, is Making Love as it was the very first mainstream LGBT film...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug162016

Monty (1998-2016)

Our first photo together in December 1998, before The Film Experience existed. I lost my furbaby today (apologies that scheduled blog events are delayed). You knew him as a highly elusive cat pundit (he was most active in the prediction game from 2010-2012) but he was never easy to pin down on movies and Oscars.

Some of his classic posts:
Bridesmaids
127 Hours, Conviction, and Never Let Me Go
Hitchcock 
Olaf from Frozen 
Jennifer Aniston in Cake 

He did love a few movies unreservedly including Microcosmos (1996), Dancer in the Dark (2000), and Paddington (2014) but mostly he ignored them, preferring to imagine he was my only love. I already miss him terribly.

Saturday
Aug132016

RIP Kenny Baker (1934 - 2016)

Kenny Baker, the actor inside R2-D2 in each of the Star Wars films, has passed away at 81. Share your favorite R2-D2 moments and insights in the comments.

Monday
Jul252016

Marni Nixon (1930-2016)

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that Marni Nixon, beloved voice of Hollywood's supersized musicals of the 50s and 60s has died of breast cancer at 86. It was a long and good and musical life, if never celebrated enough by the culture she gave so much to. It had been our long held dream to see her given an Honorary Oscar which must now be a dream unfulfilled. Because I don't have the words today, I thought I'd share a piece I wrote ten years ago on how special Marni Nixon was to me, a baby cinephile growing up with musicals as my favorite form of cinematic bliss.

Marni Nixon is my Kathy Selden
by Nathaniel R 

Toward the end of Singin' in the Rain (1952), which chronicles Hollywood's seismic shift from silent films to sound production, a hilariously dim and screechy movie star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) gets her comeuppance. She has cruelly locked the sweet voiced Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) into a contract to provide her a suitable movie voice. Lamont is after self-preservation: she can't make sound movies with her own unappealing voice, but she also cruelly takes pleasure in preventing Kathy from pursuing stardom. At a live performance Kathy stands behind a curtain, her dreams in tatters, as she sings for Lina. But Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) pulls the curtain on the act in progress, rescuing his new girl from obscurity and dooming his former co-star to a fast fade.

Singin' in the Rain is many things: a true musical masterpiece, a stellar romantic comedy, and the best movie Hollywood ever made about Hollywood (give or take Sunset Blvd). It's a completely absorbing viewing experience but for this: Every time I see it my mind drifts away to Marni Nixon during this particular scene. Kathy's story isn't exactly Marni's. Marni wasn't forced into submission as the silents were dying. But she was the songbird woman behind the curtain for beloved movie musicals and she was born in 1930 as the silents were emitting their death rattle (Hollywood studios had halted silent film production by 1929. Only a few emerged in movie houses of 30s). Marni Nixon was to be a famous voice but not a famous face ...just like the almost-fate of the fictional Kathy Selden.

Click to read more ...