Summer Films: South Pacific

LIZ: First off, when I say South Pacific, I am referring to the 1958 movie, not the 2001 TV movie or the play, neither of which I’ve seen. Now that I’ve made that disclaimer, on to the movie.

I love the music (how could you not like a Rogers and Hammerstein collaboration?). “I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy” are a lot of fun and have catchy tunes.

I must admit to having sung the former with a good bit of feeling at times. “Some Enchanted Evening” is, of course, a romantic favorite.

I like the cast too. Bright, cheerful Mitzi Gaynor is perfect for the nurse in love. The sailors are a great comic relief, about a 101 pounds of fun worth actually.

Pretty much the only thing I didn’t like about the movie was the storyline … It just felt preachy. The lieutenant lost my sympathy leading Liat on when he had a girl back in the States, and I just didn’t see why Nellie had such a problem with Emile having had a Polynesian wife. Side note: The play actually won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1950. I know Carousel, Singing in the Rain, and The Sound of Music are just a few of the musicals that aren’t all laughs and giggles, but I still have a hard time putting musical and drama together in a movie description.

LIZ GOES INTO SHOCK: I did a little snooping on IMDB and discovered that most the voices in the movie were dubbed! The lip-syncing was excellent, but WHY? The scene where Emile sings (you think anyway) “Some Enchanted Evening” to Nellie loses something knowing that it’s faked. Don’t get me wrong, I like the actors, but surely there were enough singer/actors to cast people who could actually perform the role in its entirety. Mitzi Gaynor actually does her own singing, by the way.

Conclusion: It’s not my favorite Rogers and Hammerstein musical, but it has great music.

JAZ: Nellie Forbush is terribly, passionately, ditzily, hopelessly in love with Emile De Becque.

But something’s keeping her from marrying the handsome, millionaire, golden-voiced, charming French-accented man of her dreams.

Handsome, millionaire, golden-voiced, charming French-accented De Becque (The one on the left). Not crazy about the pleated khaki pants, though. 

Is it that they’ve known each other a mere two weeks? Or that he’s twenty-ish years older? Or that he killed a man in France? Or that he has two “mixed” children, which would bother most women in the WWII era?

No, it’s the fact that his long dead and gone wife was Polynesian (“I lived as I could,” he explains apologetically).

Why? Beats me.

In other racist news, Lt. Cable can’t seem to wrap his mind around marrying Liat, the beautiful Vietnamese woman he loves.

Basically South Pacific revolves around their getting over their prejudices. But for a film all about intercultural tolerance, there’s amazingly little of it going on.

Apparently De Becque’s true name is “Frenchman,” because that’s what he gets called 99% of the time. Forbush condescendingly asks the children several times if they understand her, despite the fact that they’re trilingual and she knows only one measly language. And (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) only the suitably lighter-skinned couple ends up together. Cable dies tragically in battle, thus dooming the one possible interethnic marriage. What does that say about the film’s true stance on racial prejudice?

Oh, and what’s up with all the color filters?

Yellow!

Orange!

Yellowy orange! Yeah!

Beaver liked the grass skirts. He said they made him hungry.

We give this film 3 carrot sticks out of five. For the awesome song and dance numbers.

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Happy Birthday, Errol Flynn!

Liz, ever informed, told me that today is Errol Flynn’s 104th birthday. If this talented Aussie has never crossed your path before now, let me remedy that at once:

You’re welcome.

Who needs Russell Crowe when you’ve got Errol Flynn?

 In The Seahawk.

Anyway, Beaver and I couldn’t let this day pass without a post (and dessert) in his honor. He suggested cake. We settled for a cupcake instead.

beavererrol Happy Birthday, Errol Flynn!

Summer films: Some Like it Hot

Liz: It’s summer, so we’ve chosen two movies with beach settings—two very different movies.

some-like-it-hot

Speaking of settings, one of the interesting things about this week’s movie, Some Like It Hot, is the shift from prohibition era/gangster-filled Chicago to a peaceful Florida beach. It felt like a shift in time as well as place. But as Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon were being hunted by the mob, a shift in place was an absolute necessity for them, and since they couldn’t really shift in time as well, they disguised themselves as women—in a female band headed to Florida.

Trouble of a less violent nature, but worse than those high heels they had to wear, finds them in Florida as Tony Curtis falls for fellow band member Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon is pursued by a millionaire.

But, at least, no mobster would ever look for them in an all women band, right? No, they wouldn’t look, but gangsters take holidays too.

Jaz: For this post I would like to introduce you to my classic film companion: Beaver the guinea pig.

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He’s a little shy with strangers.

What with the general viewing public’s short attention span, it gets harder and harder to find willing victims. Beaver will watch anything, provided he has something to munch on.

beaverSLIH

Beaver thinks Tony Curtis makes a convincing female.

Technically Some Like it Hot isn’t a summer film, since everything happens around Valentine’s Day. Most of it happens on a sunny Florida beach, though, so that works for me. The film is a comedic masterpiece, largely due to Jack Lemmon’s performance: tango dancing with Joe E. Brown, a flower between his teeth, Lemmon in the midst of the girl band’s midnight bunk party, Lemmon likening Monroe’s movement to “jello on springs.”

 Tony Curtis’ millionaire act made me laugh too, especially since his stuffy accent sounds almost exactly like Cary Grant’s.

This was my first introduction to Marilyn Monroe – or perhaps I should say her character role.  Ditzy, unbelievably naïve, with a weakness for tenor sax players and wearing a dress that reminds me of ancient Minoan fashion. You know, the ones that highlighted the women’s … er … curves.

No, this isn’t the dress.

If you cut through the comedy, you can glean some nice social commentary on society’s objectification of women (which is interesting, considering how Monroe’s image is Hollywood’s epitome of objectification). In one scene, Lemmon storms into the room after getting pinched in the elevator. “Look at that! I’m not even pretty!” he gripes to the mirror. Curtis: “They don’t care, just so long as you’re wearing a skirt.”

Beaver gives this movie 5 carrot sticks (out of 5). I concur.

Bibliomaniacs, Bollywood & Brits

“Too few people,” writes Eugene Fields in The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac, “seem to realize that books have feelings.”

If that’s true I have a few miffed – if not positively irate – books in my possession. Louann Brizendine’s The Female Brain adorns the coffee table, neglected for weeks (given the topic, I’m sure it understands). I picked up Julie Powell’s “Cleaving” two weeks ago and now it’s hidden under Breakfast at Tiffany’s and School of Rock. But The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (nonfiction, Allison Hoover Bartlett) saw eager page turning and I’m proud to say I have reached page 112. Aha!

Anyway, that’s what I started reading in May. Bartlett describes the antique book culture, bookstores, libraries, so vividly I want to rush out and buy armloads of books. Smell the pages, feel the coarse paper on my fingertips … And then I remember the books I read as a young child, books like King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, Piggins, Wednesday is Spaghetti Day, and my very own copy of Madeline my mom bought at a Houston book fair.

Piggins the mystery sleuth/butler. 

That’s when I sympathize with bibliomaniacs. But book theft? No way.

I also read the Harry Potter series voraciously over the past two months. After that I saw several film adaptations, and have this to say: they are but poor shadows of the originals. I prefer my imagination.

After that I watched the French film Le Concert (breathtaking music, moving, humorous), British film The Scapegoat (promising beginning, dull ending), Indian film Barfi! (off-beat, thought-provoking, beautiful), and started on the Japanese anime series titled One Piece (funny and weird).

Note: The Scapegoat reminded me of a Mexican telenovela called La Usurpadora: Two women who look alike switch places with not-so-unforeseen consequences. If you’re choosing between the two, I suggest checking out the telenovela.

Current Readings

Hi everyone! Jaz and I are taking May off from our normal themed movie and book reviews. I didn’t want you to think we’d forgotten about Our Mutual Friends, so I’ve put together a short list of the books I’ve been reading and the movies I’ve been watching.

Book02_watcherinthewoods_hiresBooks:

Death in Dahlonega by Deborah Malone

Genre: A cozy murder mystery.

Comments: Very entertaining. Recommened.

Watcher in the Woods (Dreamhouse Kings Book 2) by Robert Liparulo

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Comments: Loved it! I speed through it and rushed to the library for the others in the series.

House of Dark Shadows, Gatekeepers,Timescape, Whirlwind, Frenzy (Dreamhouse Kings Books 1, 3, 4, 5, 6) by Robert Liparulo

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Comments: Enjoying them just as much Watcher in the Woods. I highly recommend the series. Full of action and time travel to interesting, though bloody, times in history.

Up next: A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion Series) By Francine Rivers

Genre: Historical Fiction.

Comments: I loved Redeeming Love, so I have high hopes for this book.

Movies

The Firefly (1937)

Genre: Musical.

Comments: Allan Jones and Jeanette MacDonald are spies for France and Spain, respectively, during Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. Great music, wonderful actors, and intriguing storyline.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)

Genre: Comedy

Comments: Amusing.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (TV 2002)

Genre: Mystery

Comments: The best parts of this movie were the scenery and the actors. There was something likeable about them. However, Richard Roxburgh is no match for Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. I’ve seen other versions of this story, and I read the book (a long time ago). This version was actually disturbing, mainly because a character was violently killed off who I don’t remember dying in the other versions. Her death was unnecessary. In addition, the obviously computer generated hound kept those parts that should have been scary from really being scary.

 

What have you read or watched lately that you’d like to talk about?

Silents: The Artist

Liz: The Artist: 2011 award winning silent film about silent film star George Valentin struggling to transition to talkies and rising star Peppy Miller who tries to help him.

It sounds strange to say, but I like George Valentin’s face. He has a great smile and looks like someone from time period of the movie—the late twenties to early thirties. The film felt as if it were shot during that time. The costumes, the movie studio, the bits of silent films on the silver screen, all reminiscent of Singing in the Rain, made the movie fun to watch regardless of the plot.

The Artist was well done with regards to acting and cinematography. I loved the music, and the occasional use of sound (in a dream and at the end) was brilliant (Jaz: agreed!) and worked great with George’s trouble moving from silent to talkie pictures.

I didn’t like that George was married when his attraction to Peppy became obvious. He didn’t cheat on his wife, but he did treat her poorly. “I’m unhappy,” his wife said. “So are millions of us,” he replied. She wasn’t perfect either, but I don’t blame her for leaving the arrogant fool. I really wanted to like the guy, but there were times when it was difficult. In fact, several times I wanted to shake him and remind him he was married or tell him to get over himself, quit moping and get back to work. Although I can’t approve of Peppy’s infatuation with the married George, I admire her devotion to him even after he loses his career, his wife, his money, and his self-respect.

I also thought George’s love of the spotlight and his depression were overplayed a bit. I got the idea well before the plot moved on.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie and would watch it again.

Jaz: I’m just going to say it: Jean DuJardin is no Gene Kelly. Okay … Dujardin had to learn tap for The Artist, whereas Kelly started dance lessons when he was eight. So I can’t really compare them. Dujardin’s performance was pretty impressive. Still, with all the obvious parallels to Singin’ in the Rain (falls in love with a cute extra, tap dancing scenes, similar appearance, silent-talkie shift) it’s hard to ignore.

Now that that’s out of the way, The Artist is a great film. Clever, tongue-in-cheek, and the cinematography is refreshing. Some scenes are heavy on the melodrama, as when Dujardin maniacally burns reels of film, but who doesn’t like the occasional bit of melodrama? Especially in black and white. I’ve always thought the latter allows for more creativity in the film medium.

Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo’s talent and chemistry work well, so much so that the supporting actors didn’t steal the show. And that’s saying something, because Clifton the chauffeur (played by James Cromwell) and Jack the dog were ridiculously likable.

The Artist got a lot of critic attention – less so from American audiences on its opening weekend. When I went to see it there were about four other couples in the theater. Sigh. Silent films just don’t make a lot of noise with U.S. audiences anymore…

12 Classic Films for the Bucket List (Before You Kick It)

Snap out of West Side Story. Ditch Gone with the Wind. And don’t even think about playing Casablanca. They’re already on hundreds of lists. Why rehash the obvious? It’s boring. So without further ado:

1. Lilies of the Field (1963) Based on the novel by William Edmund Barrett, the film follows the story of a wandering jack-of-all trades (Sidney Poitier) who comes across a group of German nuns convinced he’s been sent by God to build them a church. I love this film.

2. My Man Godfrey (1936). A ditzy socialite (Carole Lombard) hires a hobo living in the dump as the family’s butler, then promptly falls in love with him. Whether he returns the affections is more doubtful, especially considering the utterly irrational in-laws he would be stuck with …

 3. Bringing Up Baby (1938) A prim paleontologist (Cary Grant) wants a sponsor to donate one million dollars to his museum, but messes it all up after getting mixed up with a harebrained woman and her leopard. My first screwball favorite.

 4. Rebecca (1940). Joan Fontaine plays a young, naïve bride tortured by the lingering presence of her husband’s deceased first wife. And also by the super creepy Mrs. Danvers.

5. To Have and Have Not (1944) This was Bogart and Bacall’s first film, and smolders with chemistry. Bogart rents a charter boat to tourists in Martinique and is asked to smuggle out resistance fighters. He refuses, but then has a fateful encounter with a pickpocket. Bacall was 19 (19!) when she filmed this.

6. It (1927) Clara Bow has definitely got “it” in this silent film. She plays a strong, independent working female set on getting what she wants … one of which happens to be the company’s head honcho.

7. Interrupted Melody (1955). This film is based on the life of Australian opera singer Marjorie Lawrence, who was struck by polio at the height of her career. It has fantastic famous opera scenes and stars the talented and gorgeous Eleanor Parker (the evil baroness from The Sound of Music).

 8And Then There Were None (1943) Psychological thriller based on Agatha Christie’s mystery. Ten guests are invited to a house on a lonely island and are killed off one by one. It’s creepy and suspenseful.

9. Carefree (1938) What list is complete without a film starring the iconic Astaire/Rogers duo? This one involves a psychologist, hypnosis, and skeet shooting gone hilariously awry. (Shall We Dance is another good film, and features the catchy “potato, patahto” song.)

10. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947). Gregory Peck plays a journalist who decides to experience anti-Semitism firsthand by saying he’s Jewish for two weeks. It’s thought-provoking and gives a revealing look at anti-Semitic sentiment during the 40s.

11. Seven Chances (1925). Critics and hardcore classic film buffs rave about The General, but do you ever hear much about Keaton’s Seven Chances? It’s got great visuals, obvious when the hero runs down a canyon in the midst of rocks that look like giant meatballs. Plus he gets chased by an angry horde of wannabe brides.

 12. Naughty Marietta (1935) Another film for the opera fan, starring Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. MacDonald plays a French princess who runs away to New Orleans to avoid marrying a stuffy old Spaniard. There’s a great scene with singing marionettes (they’re cute, really).