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Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

Before nodding off last night, I began watching the 1942 movie Casablanca for what might be the the nine hundred and fifty first time. It’s one of those films that is easy to jump in and out of because there is always something to relish at any given moment– a memorable scene, shot, line or piece of music. It is chock full of small pleasures that totally add to a greater whole.

Perhaps the greatest of these pleasures is the performance of Dooley Wilson who plays Sam, the star performer at Rick’s Cafe Americain. His musical performances light up the screen, most notably the song As Time Goes By which has taken on legendary status.

Watching and listening to it last night made me think about how it was a fitting song for the end of the year, a wistful looking back as the clock marches on.

The song was written in 1931 by Herman Hupfeld for a Broadway show, Everybody’s Welcome, that had a short run. It went on to have modest success as recording by a number of record labels and orchestras. Herman Hupfeld was a minor songwriter of the era who you wouldn’t think would be the composer of a song that would turn out to be one of the great classics of the American songbook. He wrote some popular songs of the time that have long faded into the dustbin of history. I’ve included one at the bottom just to give you a taste.

As Time Goes By almost didn’t make it into the movie. The musical director, Max Steiner, was opposed to its inclusion but was overruled by the movie’s producers. Then in post-production they considered dropping it but because star Ingrid Bergman had already cut her hair for another part, they couldn’t possibly reshoot the scenes that already contained the song. So, it remained and became one of the most memorable parts of a true classic.

I wonder how the the film would have felt without it.

So, for this New Year’s Eve day, here’s the original along with that other Herman Hupfeld classic, , When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba. Have a good New Year’s eve.


 

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Celluloid HeroesI have always been a big fan of the movies.  I’ve written here in the past how I will often paint while an old movie plays in the studio, especially some of the older classics that were often based on great ideas and great dialogue.  They are not distracting in most cases and it’s easy to pull thought and emotion from these films that finds its way into my work.  It’s hard to not want to inject more feeling into whatever I am at work on when I listen to some of the lines from The Grapes of Wrath or so many other great films.

Tonight are the Oscars, that night when Hollywood celebrates the past year’s top films.  I have watched faithfully since I was a kid even though recently I seldom have seen many, if any, of the nominees.  It usually takes a year or so after the awards for me to catch up on them and in some cases I lose interest in pursuing them.

Sometimes when I do catch up on them I regret not having gotten to them sooner but often I am glad I waited  because the film just wasn’t that good or simply wasn’t my cup of tea.  But it’s always been like that.  In the heyday of Hollywood they produced more than their share of bad movies.  It’s easy to think otherwise because we see the classics over and over.  A bad movie is a bad movie regardless of the time in which it was made.

But let’s not focus on bad movies.  Let’s hope that there are movies this year and in the future that will inspire and move us.

It seems like every year there is some sort of controversy with the Oscars and this year is no different, with all of the the acting nominees having a decidedly pale complexion.  I don’t have any answers except to say that filmmakers are missing out on a quickly growing demographic by not developing more films that simply tell good stories with people of color in larger roles without resorting to portraying them as gang bangers and drug dealers because that is not the experience of the overwhelming majority of this segment of the population.

It’s up to writers, especially those of color, to create work that goes beyond these stereotypes.  If they can create compelling stories featuring people of color that appeal to the common human experience to which all people can relate, these films will be made.

I believe it can and will be done eventually.

That being said, let’s have a little Sunday Morning music with a Hollywood theme, one of my favorites from one of my favorite bands.  It’s Celluloid Heroes from the Kinks.  Have a great Sunday!

 

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He Who Gets Slapped gifI found myself awake late one night this past week watching a film I’d seen a couple of times before.  It was He Who Gets Slapped, a silent film from 1924  which was the first film made by the then new movie studio MGM.  It stars Lon Chaney in a pretty grim and tragic story ( it is based on a Russian play after all) that is sometimes hard to watch and hard to turn away from at the same time.  On this particular night I couldn’t look away.

The basic premise is that Chaney plays a brilliant scientist who is screwed over by a wealthy man who steals both his ideas and his wife, humiliating him before a crowd of the foremost scientists who laugh at him.  This humiliation spurs him to retreat and become a clown called He whose act is to be masochistically slapped by an entire troop of clowns, his pain sparking the laughter of the crowd night after night.  Of course, there is wonderful revenge and the rich guy gets his just reward but it is by no means a happy ending or a feel-good film.

Lon Chaney ClownBut a great film it is.  The imagery of the clowns in the film is quite remarkable and haunting.  Whenever I see this film or Chaney’s other dark clown classic, Laugh, Clown, Laugh,(it was on right after He but I couldn’t take that much pain in one sitting) I am not surprised that many people have coulrophobia, the fear of clowns.  It made me  do a quick search for some GIF’s with clowns and putting them together is quite creepy.

Try to have a great day after taking a gander at these joymakers.

He  Clown Clowns and Globe He Who Gets Slapped Clown Laugh Clown Laugh gif

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The-Best-Years-of-Our-Lives-  Dana WinterVeteran’s Day is coming up and I thought I might have an image that somewhat represents the experience of some vets on their return home.  In the 1946 movie, The Best Years of Our Lives, Dana Andrews‘ character, Fred, struggles on his return to his hometown and comes across a local airfield where they are junking old war planes from the recently ended World War II.  He crawls into an old B-17 bomber and takes his former seat in the front turret of the plane where he was a nose gunner.  He vividly relives for a brief moment the terror that was still haunting him, tainting every moment of his life.  The haunting image of Andrews appearing ghost-like in the nose of that B-17 is a powerful one in a movie filled with powerful scenes, one that doesn’t sugarcoat the experiences and hardships of the returning vets.  It remains relevant to this very day.

I thought for this Sunday’s musical interlude, I would play something in the spirit of this upcoming holiday.  It would be easy enough to play something patriotic but this isn’t really a holiday of nationalism and a call to arms.   No, this is a holiday that celebrates an end to war , namely World War I when the holiday was originated as Armistice Day, and honors the service of all soldiers with the hope that they will soon return home and resume their lives there.  This holiday honors those who have served and sacrificed so much, not the wars to which they are sent.

The song is Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya which is the original tune on which the Civil War era  song When Johnny Comes Marching Home is based.  While When Johnny Comes Marching Home is more celebratory and martial in tone, Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya is pointedly anti-war and mournful.  It was supposedly written in the 1790′s as a protest to the British imperialist invasion of Ceylon, present day Sri Lanka.  It tells of a young woman seeing her lover , who left her after their illegitimate child was born to join the army,  returning from war.  He is much changed in appearance and she mourns for his loss.

This is a very emotional version of the song from British opera and folk singer Benjamin Luxon accompanied by American Bill Crofut on banjo.  Have a great Sunday and gives some thought to the men and women who have given their time and their selves to serving their countries.  Let’s vow to treat them better.

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Thought today deserved a lighter touch.  As I’ve  said here, I’ve always been a big fan of the movies, enjoying most aspects of the crafting of them from their direction to the cinematography of the films to the acting that takes place.  One aspect that I’ve always enjoyed is the movie trailer, a condensed version of the film that gives a preview of the film without really giving away the entire story.  Well, ideally.  There is a real art and rhythm to the best movie trailers that really jumpstarts a movie to life, sometimes coming off far better than the actual film. 

The modern movie trailer has become a different sort of animal than the older trailers that used to more gently promote the film with a genial sort of hyperbole.  Today’s movie trailers are often way over the top, with volume turned up to eleven (for you Spinal Tap fans out there) and enough fast paced scene changes to induce epileptic seizures.  I’m not so much a fan of these. 

After this years Oscar awards, comic Jimmy Kimmel  had a special version of his late-night talk show and on it he unveiled the trailer for his film, MOVIE: The Movie.  It combines every modern stereotypical movie genres into one gargantuan film that feature the willing participation of some of filmdom’s biggest stars such as Meryl Streep, George Clooney and Tom Hanks, to name just a few.  Oh, and Matt Damon, as shown at the top here.

Anyway, if you enjoy movie trailers, you might get a chuckle from this epic (?) production.

 

 

 

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At the Movies #1

I watch a lot of movies in the studio when I am painting, mostly older films from the 30’s and 40’s because of their strong use of dialogue.  That’s important because I can’t always look at the screen.  But the beauty of the language and the way a story is told makes up for the sometime lack of visuals.  Every so often I want to share a quote or a moment from some of my favorites.  This is from Jimmy Stewart’s character, Elwood P. Dowd in the classic  “Harvey”:


“Years ago my mother used to say to to me, she’d say, ‘In this  world, Elwood, you must be’ – she always called me Elwood – ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant’  Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

Something to think about.  Thanks, Elwood.

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