Friday, September 12, 2014

Actors and Actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood: A Quiz (1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Pt. 1) and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Let's Be Cops" and the DVDs "Only Lovers Left Alive," "Fading Gigolo" and "Cuban Fury" and highlight the book "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.]

But First


Three different events inspired me to write this blog post.

First a Facebook argument, er...discussion about the relevance of actors and actresses from the 30's and 40's and 50's, what I like to call "The Golden Age of Hollywood."  Mike, a friend of mine and Hubby's, put up an homage to a movie from the 50's, and I stupidly remarked, "Who cares,?" a rather inflammatory thing to say to a classic movie enthusiast, to say the least. His classic movie enthusiast friends came at me like the bats in Dracula's cave.  But what I really meant to say was a lament.  I am also a classic movie enthusiast, and I care about all of those actors and actresses, but I don't think anyone else under the age of 50 does. Few remember who the greats of the past were, and the older we get, the more of us who DO remember, fall away.  How do we keep their memories alive in the younger generation?

(My friend Mike weighs in on that question and our earlier Facebook discussion in a great article "As Time Goes By, Why Don't the Fundamental Things Apply? on the Something Else! Reviews website.  Check it out).

The second event that inspired me to write this post was coming across the book "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."  (see my review at the end of this blog post).

Guess how many of them date back to the mid-century and before?

And finally, I have to admit, I am a hopeless addict to the many quizzes that show up on Facebook such as "If you were a donut, what donut would you be?" (something with sprinkles) and "What Star Wars Character are You?" (I don't want to say).  

A recent one was "How Many Popular Actresses Can You Name?

You had to recognize the actress through a series of pictures with multiple choice answers. The movie enthusiast that I am, I know my Emma Stone from my Sharon Stone and my Julia Roberts from my Emma Roberts.

I got 10 out of 10. 

But then I thought, OK I love movies, and I am in touch with what's going on now, and I know all of the current popular actresses.  But what about the movies of the past, many of which are honored in the 1001 book? These are the movies that have stood the test of time.  And what about the actors and actresses who starred in those movies? Are they forgotten? Do you know your Audrey Hepburn from your Katharine Hepburn and your Robert Alda from your Alan Alda

Would you recognize their pictures?



Well, let's see, my fellow quiz takers. 

How well will you do on this one?


Actors and Actresses
of the Golden Age of Hollywood -

How Many Can You Name?
 
 
 
 
 
a.  Vivian Leigh
b.  Leslie Caron
c.  Hedy Lamarr
 
 

 
  
a. Barbara Stanwyck
b.  Claudette Colbert
c.  Carole Lombard
 

 
a.  Greer Garson
b.  Myrna Loy
c.  Maureen O'Sullivan


 
a.  Ava Gardner
b.  Linda Darnell
c.  Leslie Caron
 

a.  Joan Crawford
b.  Bette Davis
c.  Tallulah Bankhead


a.  Bette Davis
b.  Carole Lombard
c.  Joan Crawford



 
a.  Olivia De Havilland
b.  Deborah Kerr
c.  Debbie Reynolds
 
 
a.  Joan Bennett
b.  Rita Hayworth
c.  Lupe Velez

 
a.   Pat O'Brien
b.  Jimmy Cagney
c.  Edward G. Robinson


a.  Burt Lancaster
b.  Kirk Douglas
c.  Robert Taylor


a.  William Holden
b.  Robert Taylor
c.  Ray Milland

 
 
a.  Tyrone Power
b.  William Holden
c.   Robert Taylor
 
 
a.  Kirk Douglas
b.  Burt Lancaster
c.  Tyrone Power
 

a.  Jimmy Stewart
b.  Ray Milland
c.  Joel Macrea



a.  Laurence Olivier
b.  John Gielgud
c.  Clark Gable
 
 
 
Didn't know very many of these people,
did you? 
 
You can recognize Emma Stone, but you can't recognize Rita Hayworth? 



No offense to Emma Stone or any of the other young actresses and actors, but will they stand the test of time that these actors and actresses from the Golden Age have? 
 
 
Now here are the answers.


b,a,b,a,b,c,b,b,b,a,c,b,a,c,a


Scoring:

13-15  You know your classic movie stars.  Thanks for keeping their
            memories alive.

10-13  Looks like you keep up with your classic movies on TCM but keep
            watching.  You can do better.

7-10    No, you can't retake it

4-7      Shame

0-3      My little poodle, Tarquin, did better than that and he was drunk
           at the time (I know, I've used that before, but I think it's funny. I
           think that will always be my low scoring scolding response for my 
           quizzes)



And here are the reasons why you should know who these people are. 

Remember those 1001 movies you need to see before you die? 

They were in them.

(some of which I have highlighted below with some classic moments and fun remembrances).

And if you consider yourself a movie buff, you should know their names.

How many of these movies have you seen?


Leslie Caron                         "Gigi"  (1958)

Classic:  The song "Thank Heaven for Little Girls."  I don't think that one would fly today.


Barbara Stanwyck           "The Lady Eve" (1941)

Classic:  Fred McMurray's pratfalls.  A classic in the screwball comedy genre.


Myrna Loy                               "The Thin Man" (1934)

Classic:  Asta the dog.



Ava Gardner                "The Barefoot Contessa" (1954)

Classic:  Ava's beauty.

 

Bette Davis                           "All About Eve" (1950)

Classic: Bette saying as only Bette can, "Fasten you seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"




Joan Crawford                  "Mildred Pierce" (1945)
                                                        (the movie, not the dog)

Classic: Long suffering mother with an evil daughter and those shoulder pads!







Deborah Kerr               "From Here to Eternity" (1953)

Classic:  Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster lying on the sand kissing as the surf rolls over them.  Made my young heart go pitter patter.  Still does.







Rita Hayworth                       "Gilda" (1946)

Classic: Rita singing "Put the Blame on Mame" while doing a sexy dance (tame by our current standards, hot for 1946).







Jimmy Cagney            "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942)

Classic:  Cagney tap dancing. Out of character for an ex-gangster type.




Burt Lancaster                       "Elmer Gantry" (1960)

Classic:  Shirley Jones as a prostitute (remember "The Partridge Family?"  Shocking!  Mrs. Partridge! How could you?  Well, she did and won an Academy Award.  And she still got to play Marian the Librarian!)






Ray Milland                            "The Lost Weekend" (1945)

Classic: The shadow of the bottle hidden in the light fixture.






William Holden                       "Sunset Blvd." (1950)

Classic:  Gloria Swanson uttering, "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille," as she sinks into madness.




Kirk Douglas                           "Spartacus" (1960)

Marcus Licinius Crassus (Olivier) attempting to seduce Antoninus (Tony Curtis). (This scene was considered too racy and cut in the original but restored to the 1991 re-release).




Joel Macrea                             "Sullivan's Travels" (1941)

Classic:  Veronica Lake's iconic hairdo - her bangs falling over one eye was considered very sexy and became a fad.






Laurence Olivier                      "Rebecca" (1940)

Classic:  Mrs. DanversCreepy, creepy, creepy.


Hitchcock's only Academy Award - for Best Picture - not Best Director.


These were just some of the actors and actresses of the Golden Age of Hollywood who starred in some of the greatest movies ever made.  These actors and actresses defined what was great movie-going for almost 40 years.

Quizzes aside, how do we keep their memories alive?

They deserve to be remembered.


Now on to The Week in Reviews

***In Theatres Now***
 
 
 
 
Two losers (Jake Johnson and Damon Wayons Jr.) dress up as cops for a costume party and soon find themselves pretending to be real cops.

Ryan (Johnson) is an ex-college football star who hasn't been able to make much of his life since then. Justin (Wayans, Jr.) is a video game designer who can't get his ideas heard and is too timid to ask out a waitress he is interested in (Nina Dobrev).  Ryan and Justin are invited to a costume party and go dressed as policemen.  Our "heroes" find wearing a police uniform has its perks, and suddenly they get the respect they have been craving.  They discover that when you are a cop, people do what you say.  Women are attracted to you.  So they decide to "be cops," responding to actual calls, only to find out that also has its drawbacks.  Policemen get themselves into dangerous situations and our guys are no exceptions.  They soon find themselves tangling with some very bad guys.

I know.  Don't ask.  Well, OK, we had free passes for a preview of the upcoming film "The Maze Runner," but got there too late to get in.  We were there anyway, so decided to see something else.  The timing was right for this one.

And you know what, it was funny. 

Johnson and Wayans star together on the TV show "New Girl" and their chemistry saves the film, which has a rather obvious plot and conclusion.  They play it all straight, which adds to the comedy. Despite the fact that these characters are idiots, they are endearing idiots and you root for them.  Think "Beverly Hills Cop" meets "Dumb and Dumber."

Wayans is Damon Wayons son and it is amazing how much he looks like his Dad and has his Dad's comic timing.  Johnson is hilarious and cringe-worthy as the guy who always makes the wrong decisions.  Keegan-Michael Key is hilarious who you may recognize from "Mad TV" is hilarious as the informant, Pupa. I almost didn't recognize him at first.

Rosy the Reviewer says...it passed my test for a comedy, which is.. "Did I laugh?"  Yes.  However, it will be just as funny at home on DVD.


***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
 
 

British vampires in Detroit.  Bloody delicious.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play long time lovers Eve and Adam.  What constitutes a long time?  Try eternity.  They are vampires.  He is a successful musician surrounded by his guitar collection, a bit of a luddite and seriously depressed living in Detroit (a dead city, get it?).  Eve is in Tangier hanging out with Christopher Marlowe (yes, that Christopher Marlowe).  Marlowe provides Eve with the best blood you can get.  But Adam's depression is worrying so Eve travels to Detroit (night flights, of course) to be with her lover. All is going along swimmingly for them until Eve's mischievous sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) descends upon them and screws everything up.

We get to see how modern vampires might survive today, dealing with the 21st Century, of which Adam and Eve do not approve. Both have their blood supply situation figured out, blood that when taken puts them in a heroin-like trance.  They take night flights so they arrive at their destination before dawn and they enjoy blood popsicles

This is another witty and ingenious film by writer/director Jim Jarmusch.  I saw his first film "Stranger than Paradise" in 1984 and was hooked. I still have vivid memories of Eszter Balint (another Eve) walking around New York City deadpan with a huge boom box blasting out "I Put a Spell on You."  That film was followed by "Down by Law," (1986) "Mystery Train, (1989) "Night on Earth" (1991) and others and all had the same quirky, intelligent and humorous tone.  In this latest effort, lots of black humor.

After draining the blood of one of Adam's musician pals, Ava says she feels sick to which Eve replies, "What do you expect?  He's from the music industry."

Eve says to Adam, "How can you live for so long and still not get it?"

There is also a very funny scene as they try to dispose of a dead body.

There is much name-dropping as Jarmusch has some fun with inside jokes, such as Adam and Eve's visit to Jack White's home, mentioning having known Mary Wollstonecraft and Eve's passport using the name "Daisy Buchanan."

This almost felt like a satire on the Twilight series. It could be the Twilight characters all grown up. Vampires trying to exist side by side with the Zombies (their term for humans) without having to get their hands bloody, as it were.  All very civilized until driven by these modern times to act out.

The cinematography is moody and decadent, the music strange and atmospheric, all adding up to a fascinating glimpse into the lives of a couple of erudite, arty immortals.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a vampire movie like you've never seen and one of the best films I've seen all year.
 



Fading Gigolo (2013)
 

John Turturro writes, stars and directs in this Woody Allen style film about an aging Lothario who becomes a gigolo to make some cash.

Bookstore owner Murray Schwartz (Woody Allen) is selling his book store, and it just so happens that his doctor (Sharon Stone) had mentioned to him that she wanted to do a menage a trois with her friend (Sofia Vergara).  This somehow prompts Murray to think that pimping out his friend, broke florist Fioravante (Turturro), would be a great way for both of them to make a little money.  

It crosses your mind to ask what Stone and Vergara would see in Turturro, but somehow he is seen as a specimen of female understanding. It's a stretch.  However, his relationship with Avigal (Vanessa Paridis, longtime partner of Johnny Depp and now his ex), a Hasidic widow, is sweet.  Liev Schreiber as Dovi, a member of the Hasidic community's safety patrol and who loves Avigal from afar, rounds out the cast.

Woody Allen's influence on Turturro is evident from the jazz soundtrack to some very quirky "Allen-esque" elements, such as Murray unexplainably living with a much younger African American woman and her children, and of course, Woody himself with his usual quirkiness and funny way of throwing away his lines.

But despite all of that, the film doesn't come together, though it was an interesting idea and the acting was fine. There was promise here.  This was Turturro's fifth film as writer/director and was more mainstream and accessible  than his earlier works.  Maybe the next one will be a winner.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film has a sweetness about it, but the best things are Woody and the music.
 

Cuban Fury  (2014)
 

Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost) is overweight, bored and unhappy, but once he was the reigning young salsa dancer in the UK.  That dream was cut short by some bullies. His love for his new boss (Rashida Jones) revives his love of dance as he sets out to win her.

Bruce and his sister took the UK salsa world by storm as kids, but an unfortunate encounter with some bullies who took issue with his sequined shirt while on his way to the National competition (they made him eat his sequins) led Bruce to give up dancing.  Now he is overweight and working at a lathe factory.  But when he meets, Julia, his new boss and discovers she loves salsa dancing, he decides to give it another go.  He meets up with his bitter old teacher, Ron, (Ian McShane ) to ask for help, all the while being tormented by his co-worker, Drew (Chris O'Dowd) another bully, who also is interested in Julia.  How does our hero overcome the bully?  Why, in a dance-off, of course!

Based on an idea by Frost, this is your typical story of am endearing schlub triumphing over the cool mean kid, but it's charming and funny, mostly because of Frost.
 
If you are a fan of British comedy, you will recognize Nick Frost as part of that whole hilarious Simon Pegg trilogy:  "Shaun of the Dead,"  "Hot Fuzz"  and "World's End."  Pegg even plays an uncredited role here as a driver in a car park (see if you can spot him).

More comedy is supplied by Bejan (Kayvan Novak), a fellow salsa dancer, who is supposedly Persian, maybe gay, maybe straight, we're not sure. Bejan schools Bruce in what to wear, shaved chest, fake tan and all.

O'Dowd is funny as the bullying co-worker and Rashida Jones is delightful as as the source of Bruce's and Drew's affections. Olivia Coleman, who I loved so much in the mini-series "Broadchurch," rounds out the cast as Bruce's sister and ex-dance partner.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...a sweet, predictable film in the mode of "Rocky" and "The Karate Kid," but for dance that even guys will like.  It's not going to win any awards, but I smiled through the whole thing.
 
 

***Book of the Week***
 
 
 
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die  by Steven Jay Schneider (2013)
 
 

A beautifully produced book featuring 1001 "classic" films.

This book is sure to spur debate among movie lovers. But as said in the preface, this "was never intended as a 'best of' collection," though many of the films were culled from "Sight and Sound's" Critics Top 250 and Directors Top 100 greatest films polls. Some films were excluded if they didn't pass "the test of time," or if one film was thought to be the best example of an artist's work.

I for one think that the early comedies of Peter Sellers are conspicuously missing - "The Party" and "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas" are particular favorites of mine and even "The Pink Panther," a more popular film, is also absent.  I think comedies often don't get their due respect. But that said, this is still a movie lover's dream. 

Which films do you think are missing? How many have you seen?

Rosy the Reviewer says... check in with me next Friday for Pt. 2 of "1001 Movies You Need to See Before You Die" for highlights and to find out how many I have and haven't seen.
 
 
 
That's it for this Week.
 
 

See you Tuesday

for


"What I Did on My Summer
Stay-cation:
My Summer in Concerts"




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