Thursday, March 22, 2007

Friends of the Experience #7

The fundraiser is almost over --so close to the goal! Trying to build a career out of writing leaves one pummelled & bloody but you make it worthwhile. This appreciative, smart and loyal readership I'm getting to know is like a cool glass of water, a bandaid, a sports massage and a peptalking coach all rolled into one. Thank You! Today's spotlight shines on Sam, Michael, George, and Patrick.

Michael in Philly grew up watching the movies during the wondrous 70s, the lucky dog. That was such a smashing film decade. But his favorite comes in 1980.
But the one that cemented my love for the art of film and semi-obsession with the Oscars was Raging Bull. I was 18 when it was released. And everything about it was captivating. The creamy black-and-white cinematography, DeNiro's transformation, Pesci's white-hot rage, Moriarty's ice-cold contempt, the choreography and brutality of the boxing scenes. Above all, the sheer brio and forcefulness of Scorsese's directing. (Incidentally, like Marty, I was raised in an urban Italian-American Catholic home, so I could certainly identify with his worldview).

Of course, on Oscar night, the white-hot rage was mine.
And it only took the Academy another 26 years to make it up to Michael and all of us. Aren't they sweet?

George is next door to me (OK, across the water) in New Jersey and has been a reader for years. George's first "Oscars" was Tatum O'Neal's historic win for Paper Moon and he tells me that before the days of the internet he had no idea how many other Oscar obsessives there were.
I couldn't pick a favorite movie, there are so many (Terms of Endearment, The Birdcage, Room with a View, The Hours are all up there); but I do have a very favorite actress -- Geraldine Page. If you ever have a minute I'd love to see what you have to say about where you rate either her Oscar winning performance or those she did not win for (love her in Sweet Bird of Youth, but especially Trip to Bountiful).

Again, love your site. Still amazes me to see people from all over the world are reading and loving the same stuff I am.
It amazes me too, the response and the community feeling of movie worship. As for Geraldine... It's probably high time I wrote about her. So I'll cook something up but my quick take is: I'm still deciding. But I'll leave you with a positive two-fer. I think she's brilliant in both Sweet Bird of Youth (recent acclaimed diva performances owe her royalty checks) and Interiors. More on Geraldine later!

Sam hails from Texas and picks a southern film to cherish.
I'm almost embarrassed to say so, but my favorite film really has to be Gone With the Wind. I know, I know, it perpetuates racist myths, and the guilty white liberal in me hesitates to admit it, but I can't help it. I grew up in the deep south (SC) and always wanted to be Scarlett O'Hara. I worship at the alter of Vivien Leigh. Bettie Davis said Leigh's performance was the best screen performance ever, and I think that's still true. Hattie McDaniel took a paper-thin stereotype and wrung every bit of life out of it. Everybody was at the top of their game.
I think that's true about Gone With the Wind --a'top of the game' film for sure. In some ways I think Titanic is a perfect modern counterpoint. You can see why people don't like it. You can even see its flaws clearly but it hardly matters because of the movie-movie perfection of it. It's just too much movie to ignore. I last saw Gone With the Wind about 12 years ago but it was my first time seeing it in a movie theater. The hours flew by. I could scarcely believe it when the lights came up.

Patrick sent a donation from Berlin along with an unusual confession to which I actually relate (*buries head*)
The film that made me fall in love with movies was actually Ghost (I was 12 and it was my first time at the movies without my parents...). It's hard to admit for someone who usually loves the likes of Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore, Toni Collette or Helen Mirren, but I've had a thing for Demi Moore ever since. Of course I know she's not a very good actress and has made horrible choices, but all the bad press she got in the second half of the 90s made me love her even more. And for everyone who thinks Ghost was the peak of her career acting wise, I recommend Mortal Thoughts by Alan Rudolph - which is especially good since it also stars Glenne Headley.
I shared this with Patrick earlier but I also have a thing for Demi Moore. A small thing...but it still flickers now and again. I fell hard during St. Elmo's Fire (I was young, don't judge) and remained minorly smitten throughout bad performances, bad films, awesome magazine covers, lots of pregnancies, and strange choices: Living in Idaho? A house built just for her dolls. Divorcing Bruce Willis? Why not! I sometimes wish she was a little more visibly bat-shit crazy (like, say, Sharon Stone) to ramp up her celeb appeal but she was pretty good at being famous during her peak.

Questions for Comment
Who do you find it hard to admit that you love?
What say ye on Oscar perennial Geraldine Page or that #1 film of all time (yes, still) GWTW?


Beau said...

Page was brilliant in 'Interiors'. I'm not crazy about the film itself, I dug it but didn't fall head over heels, but she was one of (if not THE ONLY) element(s) of the film that I thought was/were flawless. Superb.

And I LOVE me my Gone With the Wind and Titanic, most especially the latter. I remember walking out of that theater, blown away. Nothing had ever come that close, hit me that hard and shaken me as that glorious epic. For that passionate reaction, I still continue to defend that glorious film today, even after acknowledging its now obvious shortcomings. (When it wasn't nominated for Best Original Screenplay, I remember telling my mother, "Oh, it's okay. That's just a really minor award that doesn't mean anything."


Beau, that is funny. I'm glad i don't remember saying stuff like that but I KNOW I DID. ;)

yeah and Page is a marvel in Interiors but then so is Maureen Stapleton (*whimper* RIP) as her narrative and thematic counterpart

Dame James said...

I am not ashamed in admitting that "Gone With the Wind" is my all my time favorite film. I have loved it for years and years and can watch it repeatedly without getting bored. And need I even mention the perfection that is Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara. I'll admit that after seeing it again recently there are a couple of cringe-worthy moments in terms of racism, but I believe that everything great about the film balances it out. Just because there are a couple of bad things about it, doesn't mean we should disregard it as a cinematic milestone (and especially because it doesn't get as explicitly racist as "Birth of a Nation").

It's a little strange being on a college campus and talking about favorite films with film lovers who all rave about "Fight Club", "Requiem for a Dream", "Garden State" and anything Wes Anderson while here I am raving about "Gone With the Wind", "Singin' in the Rain" and "Bringing Up Baby".


well James that just means you've seen more movies than them ;)

J.D. said...

I have actually seen Gone with the Wind, and I'm glad I did. It truly is a grand epic picture, and Vivian Leigh is down-right brilliant. So is Hattie McDaniel. And Olivia de Havilland. And Clark Gable. Okay, so everything about it is good. Well, except the raging racism, but what do you expect? It was a film about the 1860s made in the 1930s. It wasn't going to not be there.

Anonymous said...

It's so easy to disassociate the stormy epic brilliance of Vivien Leigh and Gone with the Wind from the naive politics that I don't know why you'd bother complaining.

On the other hand it's so difficult to disassociate the awful dialogue, wooden lead and TV-movie dramatics from the fun bits of people drowning in Titanic that I don't know how you'd find the energy to continue to defend it.

Marius said...

I find it hard to admit that I like Harris Glen Milstead (aka Divine). I like her in "Pink Flamingos", "Polyester," and "Hairspray." She was a riot.


why is Divine a shameful admission? Divine is so one of a kind!

Goran I hear you on Titanic vs. GWTW but they do both fall in that same epic all-time blockbusters that took over the world shortlist. What can i say I fell for Titanic's spell and saw it four times in the theater --it wasn't even my favorite film of that year but still... it's weird that people are always hating.

Anyway... VIVIEN LEIGH. yes. complete brilliance. I'm not sure enough people know this but VIVIEN LEIGH was actually Natalie Wood's favorite actress and since Natalie Wood was mine all throughout childhood Vivien Leigh became my default #2. The Scarlett O'Hara star turn is something else indeed.

Glenn Dunks said...

I watched Gone with the Wind for the time a few months back. I was scared because it was four hours and I thought that was crazy but by the time 3am rolled around and the credits rolled I was stunned. I wanted it to just keep going. Vivian definitely gives one of my favourite perfs ever. I didn't, however, like Hattie MacDaniel.

When older movies were really long it was because they had epic storylines that justified it. Nowadays there are one-joke comedies that are over 2 hours and popcorn flicks that are over 2 and a half and it's just ridiculous.

I haven't seen Jane Fonda in Coming Home, but I wish Geraldine Page had won Best Actress for Interiors and then in 1986, instead of giving Page a payback oscar they gave the Best Actress prize to Whoopi Goldberg for The Color Purple.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'll have to be the first one to disagree here. I HATED Gone With the Wind. I can't get past the embarrassing racism. It romanticized a shameful time in our history.

Apart from the racism, I thought it was way too long. I did like Vivien Leigh. I also liked a lot of the dialogue. But the entire movie was a huge disappointment to me.

Anonymous said...

Re: Hattie McDaniel
The worst winner of Best Supporting Actress EVER. Until I think of someone else. Renee Zellweger, so McDaniel is number two. (smile).
She was no better than the script for playing up to the stereotype - a truly unintelligent and grating performance. Butterfly McQueen on the other hand took the p**s out of the script and the character and turned in a scene-stealing performance (upstaging even Vivien Leigh on the staircase). SHE should have won, though I guess that a Black Female mocking a White Racist movie whilst still being entertaining and gelling with the movie was far too 'modernist' for the Academy. Still would be now, actually...

However, I do love the film despite its flaws if mainly due to Scarlett, the nasty piece of work.

Sam said...

I'm so glad to see all this discussion of my favorite, Vivian Leigh and GWTW. It's a huge, beautifully made entertainment that washes over you.

I grew up near Augusta, GA, where Butterfly McQueen lived most of her life. In the early 60s, a friend of my parents worked at a department store and interviewed her for a custodial position. He was quietly gay (given the time and place) but was overwhelmed to meet her. She said she had a cabaret act, but there wasn't much interest and she had to pay the bills. He asked her to perform at a little cocktail party he was having, and could only pay her a small amount. She readily agreed.

Her cabaret show was terrific. She played the piano, sang, danced, told jokes. She was a pro and everyone loved it. My only regret is that I was too young to go to the party and meet her.


what an awesome story. isn't it crazy how so many actors have such erratically successful lives even if they're part of something so huge?

Sam said...

That would make a fascinating post, in and of itself.

Glenn Dunks said...

Yeah, Hattie Macdonald annoyed the hell outta me. The worst part of the entire movie.