IT (Andy Muschietti, 2017)

I’ve been meaning to write about IT for quite awhile…but then I got a little distracted. I saw It the first week it was released, but then I saw Dunkirk the following week and was kind of blown away and had to write about it right way, Tom Petty was dead, then he wasn’t, and then he really was, and I also developed this new hobby of trapping and killing fruit flies (it’s all in the flick of the wrist, honey). With these distractions fading to the background and Halloween (and Stranger Things 2) just around the corner, I think now is the appropriate time to talk about It. 

Let’s get something out of the way: Nothing can compare to the terror of reading the book. Nothing. Now, I’m not one of those snobs who thinks the book is always better than the movie because that’s just not true. Get over it. (I have written about this before.) But the terror and thrill of reading the book is something that is going to be impossible to translate to the screen. I made the mistake of reading It on my Nook Glowlight Plus (RIP my original Nook Glowlight and Barnes & Noble caring about their customers)…I’ll just say that when the back cover states that it should only be read in well-lit rooms, IT MEANS IT!!! If you have any doubts about Stephen King as a writer, read It because not only is It extremely well-written but It is also about much more than a dancing clown named Pennywise.

Now that we have established that is impossible for any screen adaptation to match the novel, we can do what everyone I know has been doing: compare it to the three-hour television mini-series produced in 1990.

As a child, the television adaptation was frightening, but so was the Radio City Hall stage version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (Actually, that’s still a little scary.) For what It was, this version is a decent translation of the novel, albeit constricted by length and television standards (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). After seeing the film version, however, the mini-series appears tame and dated, not to mention sleep-inducing.

On the big screen, there are changes: the childhood portion of the story (which is the sole setting of this adaptation) is shifted from the 1950s to the 1980s. Initially the change startled and bothered me, but the more I thought about it and continued to watch the film, it just made sense. The 1980s is far more relatable — soundtrack, cultural references, etc. — for a film audience today than the 1950s would be. Reflecting on the novel (and the 1990 miniseries), however, there is one part that the filmmakers chose to leave in (without explanation) that is out of place in the 1980s setting — Bill’s bicycle, Silver. The bicycle plays a key role in the novel, and its name derives from The Lone Rangerwhich is a lost cultural reference point for (I’m guessing) the majority of a film-going audience. In the film, the bicycle is still clearly named Silver, but it is unexplained, and there are no shouts of “Hi ho silver away!”, which is just sad (if only because it brings back memories of Captain Sobel in Band of Brothers). But, I guess that is really nitpicking and would only affect you if you’ve actually read the book.

The biggest change — in my viewing — was the fact that IT takes Beverly down into the sewers, luring the other Losers down there. I don’t remember that happening in the book, and it kind of soured my viewing. The filmmakers did, however, choose to omit that one scene from the book, so maybe this alteration was their way of strengthening the bond between Beverly and the other Losers.

Changes (major and minor) aside, the acting from the child actors is superb and a vast improvement from the miniseries (which, again, was decent). They perfectly convey the terror and trauma of battling IT and the bond of friendship between seven outcasts. Yet, my chief criticism of the film, however, has to do with the portrayal of these children — and whether they are 11 or 14 (or whatever age they are supposed to be in this new version), they are under 18 and so they are CHILDREN.

It is rated R, which doesn’t always mean much. With the graphic violence and horror displayed in It, an R-rating makes sense. Apparently, however, an R-rating gives the filmmakers the freedom to drop the f-bomb in every sentence of dialogue, 90% of which is spoken by these CHILDREN. This kind of vulgarity is not only done in poor taste, it is absolutely unnecessary. Yes, King uses language in his writing. Yes, real people talk like that (…but they don’t exactly sound intelligent or cool doing it, no matter what anyone might make you think). And yes, sadly, there are even some children who know and use this kind of language. But you know what? They don’t come out of the womb talking like that. It is learned behavior, and if they don’t learn it at home (which, sadly, some do), they are going to learn it from media. What an irresponsible and tasteless decision on the part of the filmmakers because the language does nothing to make the film better or more believable.

(I spent months researching and writing a 40-page thesis about the Hays Code and how filmmakers of the 1950s and 1960s made BETTER and more INTELLIGENT and more ARTISTIC films by WORKING AROUND CENSORSHIP LAWS AND NOT SACRIFICING THE STORY, so forgive me if I seem like I’m on a soapbox right now BECAUSE I AM. I have zero tolerance and respect for this kind of lazy, vulgar filmmaking, and the more I think about it, the more I dislike this film version because of it.)

I’m really worked up now. I really didn’t plan for this blog post to take that direction. I actually liked the movie when I was watching it…but I’m having a hard time reconciling that positive feeling with the idea of how lazy and tasteless the amount of language in the film is.

So I will returning to the night I first saw the film: IT scared me. I didn’t want to go home alone. I woke up multiple times in the night and was afraid that there was a dancing clown in the corner of my bedroom, or out in the hallway, or in the–heaven forbid–bathroom. I heard mysterious tapping noises in the kitchen. I was really scared. But then I watched the video for Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” for half an hour or more and felt totally fine.

So I guess the point of this blog post turned out to be that Billy Joel actually cures all. Thanks, Billy!  

Advertisements

Survival Isn’t Fair: Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, 2017)

Oh, my dear, dear followers of The Hand of Count Petofi, time has slipped away from us once again! Yet what is six months when you are a vampire or a werewolf or a severed right hand of a powerful warlock damned from here to eternity? Not long at all, I’d imagine. I was a little busy these past few months planning a wedding and getting married, but that is a novel or two thousand in itself. Returning to reality includes re-committing to writing and this blog, so let’s–in the words of the immortal, wonderful George Michael–GET BACK, HANDS OFF, GO FOR IT!

So I finally saw Dunkirk this week and, to be succinct, I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Yet, my movie-going partner, my new husband, had a lukewarm reaction to the film: he would rather watch Wonder Woman a thousand and one times before watching Dunkirk again. (Oh, Wonder Woman is beautiful, he says, but nowhere near as beautiful as you! Oh, yeah, sure.) No worries, my friends, this is not the first fissure in our brief marriage, and his reaction does not mute mine. What is disconcerting, though, is that there are others like him out there that share this opinion. The main criticism of the film is that it is devoid of palpable emotion and strong, developed characters to which the audience can attach themselves. And this, I believe, is missing the point entirely. For Dunkirk is not about that inexplicable bond found only in combat as in Band of Brothers or the journey of self-discovery each man undergoes while Saving Private RyanDunkirk is, quite simply, about survival. The will to survive is your main character, your driving action, your gripping emotion. Toward the end of the film, two evacuated soldiers are thanked for their service. “All we did was survive,” one of them snipes. “That’s enough,” the man replies.

Dunkirk tells the miraculous story of the evacuation of more than 300,000 Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk, where the enemy had forced the troops to retreat. Christopher Nolan tells the story from three different perspectives in a non-linear fashion: one week on land, one day at sea, and one hour in the air. (The confusion this method caused was actually my husband’s chief complaint. He’s, like, so linear. Kinda like a Zebra.) In each story, there is little dialogue, yet there is that will to survive (or, in some instances, the determination to help others survive) and the gnawing suspense: will they make it?

Nolan does not give the characters much to say, much less a background fluffed with reasons why they are fighting or what they are longing to return to back home, and I honestly can’t remember any of their names without looking up the cast list on IMDB (and even then, I have to see the photo in the context of the film unless the actor’s name happens to be Tom Hardy, then I just have to see the photo–for research purposes, of course). Yet the miraculous thing is, to me, it did not matter. I was captivated, from Tommy running to escape a German ambush in the opening scene to Farrier setting his plane on fire and raising his hands in the air, resigned to his fate. I was on the edge of my seat (literally, which my husband found equal parts amusing and adorable), anxious about each character’s fate. I wanted these men to survive. And I didn’t need to know anything about them to feel that way.

Because, as I see it, those men–boys, really–all had a similar story, albeit a different history: none of them really wanted to fight. (“Men my age dictate this war. Why should we be allowed to send our children to fight it?”) Of course they wanted to go home. But they were fighting because they had to. Stephen Ambrose has a great line in one of his books about this exceptional generation of men–how they would have rather been at home, holding a baseball bat instead of a Browning Automatic Rifle, dating, and going to college, but they fought the war, not purely by choice, and they did so with dignity and honor. (I would quote him exactly, but getting married also included moving to a space that does not currently have a separate west wing for all my books, so they remain nine minutes away from my current location.) They did it, and how indelibly grateful the world should be for that.

Dunkirk expresses that without saturating the film with sap: there is heroism in the film, there is fear, there is the reality and complexity of war and you are right there with these boys in the thick of it–yet, it should be noted and applauded, the film refrains from an excessively violent and vulgar portrayal of war. I think I could watch this film a thousand and one times and still be stunned by its technical brilliance, its carefully crafted story, the finest acting, and its riveting and, yes, palpable emotion. And I would still want every man to survive. I, too, would stay. For the French.
dunkirk-screencomment

“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. And even if this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old.”   

Grab Bag, Round 3

It was recently brought to my attention that I had not updated this blog since December 6. I am not going to say it has been because I have not had anything to write about, but I really have not felt compelled to write or made the time to write for publication a priority. I am not going to say it has been because I’ve been too preoccupied (not “busy” — too many people are reportedly “busy,” and I am not one of them) becoming 1% fluent in French, devoting a lot of memory space to what cat treats my cats prefer (is this a warning sign for dementia?), and just generally loving my job and life and cats.

Oh, let’s be honest: I have not had anything to write about. And I can hear one of my writing professors tearing this sad, rambling excuse of an introduction apart. Get to the point! Where is there a kernel of truth in this? So sorry….but I really do remember what cat treats I buy my cats and which ones they prefer! Sigh. Without any further ado or anything in particular to write about…Allons-y! 

I’m glad Casey Affleck won the Oscar for Best Actor. Like really, really glad. 

The Oscars are not perfect because in case you have not noticed the world is not a perfect, fair place. Some of my favorite actors have never been awarded Oscars–some unjustly so (cough, cough Montgomery Clift!!!! cough, cough), some understandably so (Cary Grant was just so effortlessly good, everyone despised Robert Redford for being so good-looking and talented, and I need someone to explain why Richard Burton never won one to me actually)–and so it’s easy for me to be dismissive of the award and to say it doesn’t really matter. But at the same time, The Oscars are a recognition of the finest acting and do occasionally get it right. See: Marlon Brando, Daniel Day-Lewis…and, this year’s winner, Casey Affleck.

Affleck’s win is being reported as controversial because of the sexual harassment allegations made against him. I do not know if the allegations are true. I’m not condoning that behavior, but I do know that his acting in Manchester By the Sea is of the highest caliber. I saw this film in the theater in January, and it has been a long time since I have been so moved and utterly captivated by a performance. He inhabits the role so heartbreakingly completely, it really is hard to believe that he is just acting. His character hardly ever cracks, rarely lets us in, yet Affleck did a phenomenal job of making him real. Pure artistry. So he deserved the award. The award is for acting, not being a perfect human being. End of discussion.

(But can we discuss how it is even possible that he is related to Ben Affleck? Really?! Guess who stole all the acting genes?!!)

While we’re on the subject of actors…

This line was read out of a book I purchased recently: “Leonardo DiCaprio is to Titanic what Clark Gable is to Gone with the Wind.” I’ve been thinking about that sentence a lot. It’s a dumb sentence. Of course Leonardo DiCaprio is to Titanic what Clark Gable is to Gone with the Wind: they’re both the lead actors. Unless the sentence is implying that Titanic and Gone with the Wind are somehow in the same class of movies or that Leonardo DiCaprio and Clark Gable are in the same class of actors, which is an ugly can of worms I do not want to open. Hadn’t Leo’s career kind of peaked with Growing Pains?  Luke Brower, man!! Classic.

And while we’re on the subject of Growing Pains

Maybe I stopped updating this blog because 2016 was so darn depressing. (Jimmy Fallon’s assessment of Manchester By the Sea was so spot-on: the only thing more depressing than 2016.) We lost Mrs. Brady, Dr. Jason Seaver, George Martin, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, and George Michael–on Christmas day, no less–to name a few off the top of my head. Really, when George Michael died, I felt like I’d been knifed. (Quick, which actor told Hedda Hopper the story of his life in one sentence was “I’ve been knifed”? Quick now!) I could not listen to his music for a few days because I just felt so inexplicably sad and his music had always made me happy. I’m over that now–YAY!!–but what a loss. CHOOSE LIFE!

So how was your last Christmas?   

Besides George Michael dying, my Christmas holiday was quite enjoyable. I did not ask for any books for Christmas this year because even though I am a firm believer that you can never really have enough books, my shelf space is trying to challenge that belief. Still, I received two absolutely beautiful books — a stunning annotated edition of Little Women and The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, a never-before-published story by Beatrix Potter, freshly illustrated by Quentin Blake. I love them both (even though it will probably take me the whole year to fully digest the annotated Little Women)–so much so that I felt compelled to write my first Barnes and Noble review of The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots because apparently, there are people in the world who do not appreciate Quentin Blake’s talent as an illustrator aka people who have no taste. Ugh.

That reminds me of how I used to pollute the internet with my Paul Weller obsession…

And how recently, I watched the Showtime documentary about my almost favorite band aka The Jam, About the Young Idea. It was so great and totally re-awakened my love for all things Paul Weller. Once upon a time, Paul Weller was all I cared about. Like really. He stole my soul, and I’m not 1000% sure that he has given it back, but I have stopped stalking him obsessively. It probably helps that I was banned from Tumblr, my main outlet for expressing my Paul Weller obsession (because hey, no one in my vicinity cares about Paul Weller). But I wasn’t banned for being obsessed with Paul Weller. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was the only person on that website who cared about Paul Weller. I was banned for posting pictures of Morrissey. Yep. Steven Patrick Morrissey. You’re the one for me, fatty–you’re the one I really, really love… We should talk about that song sometime. It’s great.

Anyway.

I’ve been listening to The Jam and The Style Council and Paul Weller a lot lately after not listening to him extensively for a couple years anyway, and I still remember every line, every beat. That’s kind of alarming but also comforting. Is there a study on this phenomenon? I love to listen to The Jam when I am angry or frustrated or just have a lot of energy or am just breathing because I really, really love The Jam. Like, can “Going Underground” be my wedding song? And the public wants what the public gets, 
But I don’t get what this society wants! Paul Weller was–IS–an amazing lyricist, and I don’t know if enough people realize that. That guy could pack so much into just one line. Two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude. The world is your oyster, but your future’s a clam. And oh, who could pick just one line from “Town Called Malice”?

And then there’s The Style Council. Oh, The Style Council. More great lyrics, even better videos with Paul Weller’s often questionable haircuts and lamentable lack of dance moves. Really, that man should never have been without a guitar on stage. I could probably devote an entire blog entry to every Style Council video. But I doubt anyone would want to read that. Or would you?

Anyway, I love Paul Weller. Like a lot. And I just recently have been reminded of how much.

Remember when I told you this was my favorite picture of Paul Weller?

Screen shot 2013-01-11 at 3.26.07 PM

Yup. Love this guy. He’s actually really talented and sometimes charming.

I still love Ellery Queen.

And I’m still sad there was only one season of the Jim Hutton series. But I still imagine Jim Hutton as Ellery when I read the Ellery Queen novels (which are a lot of fun to read), and I still watch the episodes over and over again, even though I know how they’re going to end. Why? Because Ellery has an expression for every emotion I’m feeling. Take a look…

I come home to find my cat has poop on her butt…again.

img_0726

I tell my ten blog readers that I’m going to start posting analysis and discussion of Style Council videos: 

vlcsnap-00031

I see Marlon Brando in a Rolex commercial: 

vlcsnap-00039

 

I need a sassy comeback, but can only muster a Melville reference: 

vlcsnap-00022

Did I put deodorant on this morning?

vlcsnap-00035

I realize it is 12:30 in the morning; I am always in bed by nine!

vlcsnap-00003

Me currently:

vlcsnap-00002

I told you I didn’t really have anything to write about. Well, didn’t I? All right. That’s all, folks.

 

Gilmore Girls And Those Final Four Words

Please note: Although this post will discuss details of the original Gilmore Girls series and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, I will be considerate enough to give ample warning of major spoilers. 

When it was announced that Netflix would be producing four new ninety-minute episodes of Gilmore Girls, I was ecstatic. I have watched Gilmore Girls in its entirety so many times that it might actually be part of my DNA. I love the incredibly close relationship between mother-daughter Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, and I love the contrast of that to Lorelai’s own complex relationship with her own parents (who adore Rory and whom Rory adores). I love the quirky, small-town characters. I love the pop culture references. I love that Rory loves to read and write. I love that Lorelai and Rory eat nothing but junk food (as unrealistic as that is) and have movie nights and dance to the Monkees in your underwear nights. As deep-rooted as my love for this show is, then, there was also a great fear that these episodes might be disappointing. Yet, I told myself, it couldn’t be much worse than Season 7, a truly painful experience. The Palladinos, the creators, writers, directors, et al. of the original series, had departed at the end of Season 6, leaving fans to wonder what Season 7 could have/might have/should have been. With their return, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life would provide us with that answer–as well as the final four words of the series, which creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had envisioned from the start. It just had to be good.

Except it wasn’t. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t funny, it wasn’t worth six hours of my life, and it certainly was not a satisfying end to the series. (And I do hope it’s the end this time because I cannot and do not want to take anymore.) In fact, the original series finale of Season 7 (which the cast and crew did not realize would serve as a series finale until the cancellation of the series was announced months later) was more satisfying and true to the spirit of the original show.

Let’s talk about Season 7 for a quick minute. Everyone criticizes Season 7 for its too obvious pop culture references, poor plot lines, and characters not acting liking themselves. I’d argue that all started in Season 6, particularly the latter half. (Upcoming spoilers if you haven’t watched Season 6 of Gilmore Girls–and you’re not missing all that much.) Here are a few I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Luke has a daughter. Really? Like really? Poor plot line. And then…he’s not gonna tell Lorelai? For months? But OH WAIT, he NEVER actually does tell her. Lorelai walks into the diner unexpectedly and meets his daughter, who tells her she’s Luke’s daughter. Would Luke have EVER told Lorelai? This is guy we’re supposed to root for? No, thank you.
  • Lorelai gives Luke an ultimatum about getting married and when things don’t go her way (oh, no!), she runs to Christopher. OK, I get that. But then…she sleeps with him? But Luke’s the one! Yeah, okay.
  • Rory’s whole trajectory since meeting Logan Huntzberger is awful. He’s awful. Why did she date him so long? Remember when Paris described him as the guy “with the hair, and the chin like he’s the fourth Bee Gee”? Oh Paris, I love you. You rule the world.

So really, with the exception of Lane’s storyline in Season 7, all the other major arcs of Season 7 aren’t the fault of Season 7 staff and writers in my view. They’re just trying to muddle through the mess that was left to them. But I digress. Let’s now focus on THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY of  Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

Spoilers ahead for A Year in the Life, but I will provide additional warning when I discuss the last four words and major plot developments relating to it. 

THE GOOD
(Because nothing is really better than good in this show, sadly.)

DEALING WITH GRIEF

Edward Herrmann, who played Richard Gilmore, died in 2014 of cancer. His presence as an actor and his character left a huge hole in the series. Yet, his death (and therefore, the death of his character) brings out the best moments in this revival. (I don’t really like that word. It makes me think of Burt Lancaster of Elmer Gantry…) In this revival (there’s that word again…), only two characters develop or grow significantly–and they do so because of Richard’s death. Emily is completely racked with grief and incapable of dealing with it. Yet, by the end of “Fall” (the final episode in the series), she has dealt with it — by selling her home, terminating her relationship/position with her social circles, notably the DAR (“This is bullshit,” she states repeatedly in an applicant’s interview. Go Emily!), and moving away from her life with Richard to find her own way. Emily was a woman who did everything for her husband–every facet of her life was for him–and now that he’s gone, she has to pave her own way. To watch her do so is immensely satisfying and refreshing.

Similarly satisfying and refreshing is watching Lorelai’s grief reach a resolution. In “Winter,” we learn that she was unable to share a suitable remembrance of her father after his funeral, causing another rift with her mother. Lorelai’s complex relationship with her parents and watching them rarely and momentarily connect and communicate was always one of the most rewarding aspects of the show. And so, when Lorelai makes a heartfelt and emotional phone call to Emily, sharing her favorite memory of her father, it is, without a doubt, the best moment of this new series.

 WHAT’S THE WI-FI PASSWORD?

The world has changed since 2007, and a “NO CELL PHONES” sign is no longer sufficient for Luke’s Diner. This running gag, in which customers ask Luke for the WiFi password and Luke gives a different fabricated, ridiculous response each time, is delightful and 100% Luke Danes. Nice one.

SEEING OLD CHARACTERS AND STARS HOLLOW AGAIN 

 Even when the characters’ presence or interaction with other characters has no substance (see “The Ugly”), and the town’s musical wastes what should be valuable screen time.

PETER KRAUSE AS “PARK RANGER” 

I don’t know if you know, but after Gilmore Girls, Lauren Graham went on to star in the amazingly perfect NBC television series Parenthood, loosely adapted from Ron Howard’s 1989 film. If not, you should watch it because it’s, well, amazing and perfect. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life features a few appearances from Parenthood alums, including Mae Whitman (Amber Holt), Jason Ritter (Mark Cyr), and, my personal favorite, Peter Krause (Adam Braverman). Who’s got the fever? Krause plays Park Ranger, who denies Lorelai entrance into the Pacific Coast Trail without a permit. How perfect is that? There is literally no way Adam Braverman is ever gonna let anybody through without a permit. I love Peter Krause. Or do I just love Adam Braverman? I can’t tell, but this part was great.

Now it’s time for…

THE BAD
(And I’m being exceptionally kind…)

IT’S LONG, BUT IT DOESN’T DO ANYTHING 

First, it’s six hours with no substance or plot or story to be found, anywhere. As fun as it was to see so many of the characters again, few of them added anything to the story. Paris Gellar rules, and she deserved more. She only shows up to answer the “Why don’t Luke and Lorelai have kids?” question. (And really, seeing where Luke and Lorelai are in their relationship by this point, I literally do not care why they don’t have kids.) There’s also Jess. Oh, Jess. Jess is great, I love Jess (who couldn’t love the artful Dodger?), don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t add anything to the (non-existent) story or really move the plot along too much versus his return in Season 6, which prompts Rory’s return to Yale. (Well, he does suggest that Rory write a book…maybe I just wanted more Jess.) Of course, his final, longing glance at Rory is CHALKED FULL of meaning and significance.

On the other hand, Rory’s bump-in with Dean provides something resembling closure for the two and also highlights Dean’s significance for Rory–something the original series kind of let slide away. Time for another quick rant: Dean was a great boyfriend for Rory. And once again, the writing is to blame for his character’s flaws. Many believe Jess is Rory’s intellectual equal–which, hey, maybe he is, but don’t forget Logan went to YALE and wasn’t exactly brain dead–but Dean wasn’t always portrayed as so stupid, like he conveniently was once Jess entered the picture to heighten his allure for Rory. Sure, Dean was never gonna go to an Ivy league school and never aspired to, but he did have an interest in books and the world around him. He did urge Rory in Season 1 to read Hunter Thompson. Anyway, I always liked Dean and disliked Rory for the way she treated him in the end. Quick rant over.

Whereas Dean’s appearance is brief and meaningful, The Life and Death Birgade are the uninvited guest who stays ’til the end. Logan Huntzberger and his friends were meant to show Rory the “fun” side of money, whereas her grandparents had been the stuffy, uptight side. I always hated these guys. They were irresponsible, were disgustingly immature, and had no respect for anybody or anything. Ten years later, they haven’t changed one bit. Thirty-something year-old men who are still acting like they’re in college, buying bars in the middle of the night just because they can? Give me a break. And Rory’s whole tearful goodbye with them and how they meant so much to her was absolutely stupid. She should have moved beyond this, but she hasn’t.

DEJA VU 

Even though the show is lacking substance and story, it sure does love to repeat/re-hash story lines/conflicts from the series, particularly the last two seasons. Here’s a quick run-down:

  • The mess that is Luke and Lorelai. Why are they even a couple?
  • The Gilmores wanting Luke to franchise his diner and Luke not wanting to but not actually communicating that. You are not Charles Xavier, Luke.
  • Rory still being rankled by Mitchum Huntzberger. She is so timid and shaken by his appearance, and it is a sad contrast to the girl who sassed him in the elevator after Logan’s graduation.
  • Rory’s aimlessness and irresponsibility, which she already experienced with Logan and his friends during her sabbatical from Yale. I get it–to a degree. It’s a tough, competitive world out there–especially in her chosen profession. But I expect more from Rory. Not that she has to be a senior editor at the New York Times, but I expect more than frolicking with the Life and Death Birgade and showing up to an interview totally unprepared. I was disappointed in Rory (more of that to come) and didn’t see any growth or change in her at all. She was more like end-of-Season 5/early-Season 6 Rory than what I expected 32 year-old Rory to be. She’s got to get over the fact that everything is not going to go her way in life. She’s been spoiled and indulged and told she was smart and beautiful, and she therefore thinks everything should be handed to her. To quote Hall and Oates, I don’t go for that.

LUKE AND LORELAI? NO, THANK YOU. 

I love Luke Danes. I love Lorelai Gilmore. And for a time, I loved Luke and Lorelai as a couple. Yet, with time, I no longer 100% believed that the two belonged together. Still, seeing the two come together again in the original series finale was fine. But to find them having the same conflicts–hiding things from each other, for example–AND not being married after the hissy-fit Lorelai threw in Season 6/7 (Lorelai repeatedly expressed her desire to be married throughout the entire series, whether that was being like her mother or not) is ridiculous and downright unhealthy. I’m now convinced you don’t really belong together. Sorry. How you continue to be in a relationship–and how anyone roots for you–is beyond me. Literally do not get it anymore.

THE UGLY
(…and it is REALLY ugly)

You should stop reading if you do not want to read spoilers related to the last four words. 

STARS HOLLOW: THE MUSICAL

Although the series as a whole was short on story and substance, this segment of the show lasted way, way, WAY too long. In fact, after about five minutes of enduring what can only be described as torture, I fast-forwarded because I was so sick of wasting my time. I’m not even sure how long it lasted, but it was completely unnecessary. Stars Hollow’s quirky characters and town functions are central to the show and its charm, but this was entirely pointless. Not only did we have to experience one song from the musical but all the songs from the musical and we had to cast it, rehearse it, discuss it, and watch Lorelai have an epiphany (being that she needs to go hike the Pacific Coast Trail and find herself) because of it. So stupid, so unbelievable, and such a waste of time.

RORY AS LOGAN’S MISTRESS 

Yes, Rory (who has a clueless boyfriend named Paul that no one, including herself) is Logan’s mistress. Logan is engaged to marry a French heiress, yet he and Rory still “hook up” every time she comes to London. (By the way, how does she afford that? Must be nice.) Apparently, she didn’t learn anything from the whole sleeping-with-married-Dean fiasco, and she now thinks she can do the whole No Strings Attached (great album) relationship–even though she clearly could not do it before. That is so not Rory. It makes zero sense, and it is completely disappointing. You deserve so much better, Rory.

Now…we have to talk about those last four words. STOP–I REPEAT STOP–if you do not know and do not want to know those last four words.

gilmore-girls-last-four-words1

Rory: Mom?
Lorelai: Yeah?
Rory: I’m pregnant.

I don’t know about you, but I shouted in disbelief and disgust. That is the ending Amy Sherman-Palladino had always envisioned for these two? That is what Chilton and Yale and all those books (why is Rory never reading in these episodes?) and being hit by a deer and all that ambition were for? Don’t misunderstand me: there’s nothing wrong with being pregnant or being a mother. (Granted Rory decides to keep the baby…) I’m just disgusted and disappointed with the way it happened. Logan’s the daddy, obviously. Logan, who’s engaged to another woman, was once described as “Rory’s Christopher” — he is wealthy, reckless, rebellious, immature, but also kind-hearted and somewhat lovable. I just expect more of Rory and want more for Rory.

I understand that it’s supposed to represent everything coming full circle for the Gilmore Girls: Rory paralleling the path of her mother. Remember Rory’s graduation speech at Chilton? “My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be. She filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to Eudora Welty to Patti Smith. As she guided me through these incredible eighteen years, I don’t know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her. Thank you, Mom. You are my guidepost for everything.” And maybe Rory’s journey of having (or, perhaps not having) this baby will lead her to grow and develop as Lorelai did. I just wish it was under different circumstances, i.e. Rory not wasting her time running around with the Life and Death Birgade to the soundtrack of awful Beatles covers.

And it’s just so gimmicky. Ugh.

In conclusion, if you haven’t watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life or are contemplating watching it, heed my advice: Don’t. Just enjoy the first few seasons of Gilmore Girls–it was so good. As for watching A Year in the Life: I wish I hadn’t. (How’s that for four final words?)

Put your life in the hands of this rock ‘n’ roll band…

Oasis: Supersonic has it all: writing a certain song in the amount of time it takes six men to eat Chinese take-out, a speechless Liam Gallagher, ambushing a certain member of the band with a fire extinguisher because of his football preferences,a kiss for the camera, smashing a certain individual in the head with a cricket bat, the story of Abel and Cable, whispers of sausages, and much, much more. But how much do you want it?

The documentary, which played in US theaters for one night only (and that night was this past Wednesday, so sorry if you missed it, but no fear–it’s On Demand and iTunes and My Christmas List), focuses on the rise and early, insane success (covering, roughly, 1991-1996) of rock ‘n’ roll band (remember those?) Oasis, culminating in their historic performances at Knebworth Park. Combining audio interviews (no talking heads here) with Noel and Liam Gallagher as well as other band members, friends, family, and crew with live footage, never-before-been-seen-by-fans’-eyes home footage, and delightful animations, the story of this rock ‘n’ roll band and its two battling brothers is endlessly entertaining,  insightful, and surprisingly moving–just as advertised.

At the heart of Oasis, of course, has always been the combative, true love-hate relationship between Noel and Liam Gallagher. Their tension and explosive dynamic drove the band, while also ultimately killing it. In the film, the brothers offer differing explanations for their difficult relationship. According to Liam, Noel still holds a grudge against Liam for drunkenly urinating all over his new stereo; Noel rebuts that Liam has always resented Noel for his songwriting talent and being naturally assumed as the leader and decision-maker of the band. Noel offers perhaps the best explanation about the differences in their personalities: Noel is a cat, moody and valuing independence, while Liam is a dog, attention-driven and requiring constant attention (“play with me, play with me, play with me, throw this ball for me”).

Home video confirms this: in one of my favorite moments, Noel is intently focused at the mixing board in the studio during the recording of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, and Liam pokes his head through the door, eventually dancing his way through the room, attracting all the attention. Yet, despite all their differences and jealousy, they each acknowledge the other’s strengths (often telepathically, according to Liam)–Liam praising Noel’s talent as a songwriter, Noel declaring Liam “cooler than me” (“There’s not a day go by that I don’t wish I could rock a parka like that man,” he states) and the greatest singer and frontman of his time. And even amidst all the tension and arguments, you can still see the inexplicable love and affection the two have for one another.

antics

“If this ever goes on video, I would apologize, but I’m not gonna ’cause he’s a PRICK!” Noel Gallagher

Aside from the basic differences in their personalities, however, the film highlights another dissimilarity between the Gallagher brothers: what exactly constitutes a great rock ‘n’ roll band. Noel believes in the power of the music and its fans, while Liam firmly believes that no rock ‘n’ roll band is truly great without the antics–being arrested (or, even better, deported–while en route via a ferry, no less), tearing up hotel rooms (“that’s a lot of work,” notes Noel), taking loads of drugs, and, of course, sex. (Never mind that The Beatles did just fine without this kind of lewd behavior–at least in excess or in public.)

During the group’s first visit to the United States, they appeared at the famous Whiskey A Go Go. Reeling from the effects of crystal meth (also known as ninja speed in some circles), the performance was a shambles: the group members weren’t always playing the same song (Noel apparently had a different set list from everyone else), and Liam may or may not have thrown a tambourine at his older brother. Disgusted by the band’s performance and behavior, Noel briefly left the band, retreating to San Francisco to meet up with a girl he’d met at an Oasis gig. When Noel told her he was leaving the band, she responded, “Well, what else are you going to do?” Lacking an answer, Noel wrote “Talk Tonight” and returned to the group. The dynamic between Noel and the rest of the band, however, had irrevocably changed: it was no longer a sense of “us,” it was now a sense of “me [Noel] and them.”

This revelation is one of the most moving and honest in the film. The Gallagher brothers have always been unabashedly honest, but their honesty throughout Supersonic is often startling. For example, the band’s first drummer, Tony McCarroll, has repeatedly been portrayed as incompetent and dim-witted in the band’s history. The Gallaghers (and others as well) concede their cruel treatment of McCarroll in Supersonic. “Whatever he [McCaroll] says is probably true,” Noel admits.

Noel similarly crushes the myth that the band suddenly became cohesive, successful, and talented once he became part of the picture. The band struggled to be noticed–until fate stepped in and the band tagged along to play at a gig in Glasglow with the band of Alan McGee’s ex-girlfriend. “There were seven people in the room, and he was two of them,” Noel later explained. McGee fell in love with the group on the spot and asked if they wanted a record deal. Wa-hey!  

Except there was no celebratory mood of “we’ve made it!” on the ride back home that evening, and the band struggled to record their first album (recorded on two separate occasions and finally successfully mixed by Owen Morris as a seemingly last-ditch effort–“Do whatever you want [with the tapes],” Mark Coyle instructed him). Yet, when fans sang along to the nonsensical lyrics of “Supersonic” on the day of its release at a gig, Noel began to realize the power of the band and its fans.

noelshair

Witnessing Noel’s haircut during his days as an Inspiral Carpets roadie on the big screen alone was worth the price of admission. More of this, please.

Despite the band’s arrogance, Noel, in one of the film’s most touching moments, attributes the dominance of Oasis to the group’s fans. Just as he did not realize he wanted to be in a band until he heard his songs being played back to him by his bandmates (his aspiration, up until that point, had been to simply keep his job as a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets–and, hopefully, get a new haircut), he similarly did not realize the power of his songwriting until hearing countless fans singing “I know a girl called Elsa/She’s into Alka-Seltzer/She sniffs it through a cane on a supersonic train” (…seriously, what?) along with his cocky younger brother. Oasis played to a record-breaking crowd of 250,000 during their two-night performance at Knebworth Park; however, Noel declares, that was not because of anything the band had ever done. It was because of the 2.6 million people who applied for tickets; it was the fans.

daband

Oasis, 1994: Tony McCarroll, Bonehead, Noel, Liam, and Guigsy (who is stoned through 98% of the film, suffering from nervous exhaustion the other 2%).

Yet Oasis is a truly unique phenomenon that will likely never be repeated. Cocksure and controversial, the Gallagher brothers were the most forceful rock ‘n’ roll stars the music world had seen for quite some time (maybe ever)–and hasn’t seen since. They were a group of homely (except for Noel and Liam, who was truly beautiful–and knew it), average musicians (no virtuosos ’round here) from a council estate who gained a record deal by fate, destiny, foreordination, whatever you want to call it. They produced the fastest-selling debut album (up to that point) and the second-fastest-selling album in U.K. history back-to-back, and their incredible songs, as Noel predicted, have (thusfar) lived forever.

Yet, the scale of their success is somewhat lost to our culture, partly because we have nothing to compare it to. When is the last time an individual (never mind, two of them) said exactly what s/he thought (even if it was as unfortunate as “Taking drugs is like getting up and having a cup of tea in the morning”)? When is the last time hundreds of thousands of people gathered to hear a single group perform–and they were actually focused on being a part of the experience instead of being apart from the experience by seeing it through their cell phone camera? No, as Noel states in the film, we live in a celebrity-driven, social media-crazed, self-absorbed culture. The internet is our global village, not the park of an English village with a population not even totaling 5,000. We take images of ourselves, not the world around us. And, Noel ponders in the documentary’s final moments,what does that mean for our history?

Supersonic reminds us of how much Oasis meant (and means) to so many people and what a cultural loss we are currently suffering through. Its only downfall is that it concludes with the historic concerts at Knebworth. Oasis should have disappeared into a puff of smoke at that point, Noel affirms, and Bonehead agrees. (The band instead continued, with various lineups, for 13 more years.) Liam disagrees, arguing that just because you’ve reached a peak and are likely to not go any higher doesn’t mean you just stop and give up. I’m not sure who has the stronger argument, but I do know I still miss this group of arrogant, disruptive, not-the-best-looking group where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, exemplified by thousands of fans, not the lead singer, singing the chorus of one of their best-loved songs. So maybe Liam was right–you shouldn’t just stop and give up. At least not today.

Without Precedent

I often wonder about my love for The Beatles–why it is so inexplicable and embedded in my DNA and how millions of people, different from me in innumerable ways, feel precisely the same. Maybe this ingrained, intense feeling is why fans are so incredibly protective of the band’s legacy and equally critical of anything pertaining to The Fab Four, even if it is a feature-length documentary directed by an Academy Award winner named Ron Howard.

happy_days_lennon

John Lennon, with son Julian, visits Ron Howard and company on the set of Happy Days in 1974.

The producer of the film, Nigel Sinclair, who also produced Martin Scorsese’s documentary about George Harrison Living in the Material World, explained fans’ dual reaction to the announcement of the film: “Ron had people come up to him in the street and [they would] say ‘Mr. Howard, I’m so glad you’re doing the Beatles film.’ Ron said, ‘Of course the subtext is “And don’t screw it up.”’

From me to you (hey, I’m trying my zest here), he does not mess it up.

(My criticisms are few and minute, so let’s get them out of the way. I find the commentary from individuals not part of the Beatles’ circle superfluous, unnecessary, and rarely insightful. Do I care what Sigourney Weaver wore to see The Beatles at Shea Stadium? Not really. Do I care that Jon Savage’s parents wouldn’t let him go to a Beatles concert? Not really. What makes them different from the thousands of other ordinary people who loved The Beatles just as fervently? Oh, right, they are of some renown. Whatever. Get out. Secondly, the film’s tagline boasts that this film is about the band you know but the story you don’t…well, not really. I didn’t really learn anything new, but I did see lots of new photos and footage, and I got to see The Beatles on the big screen, replete with the entire Shea Stadium concert. Horrid snobby portion of this post over.)

Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years tells the story of The Beatles, using their live performances as its focus, which, on the surface, may seem odd, since The Beatles were never exactly synonymous with extraordinary live performances. They didn’t have pigs or light their instruments on fire or create auto-destructive art. Their audiences were not rapt in hearing the words of a lyrical poet, as Dylan’s fans were (a fact he was proud of in his early career, especially when The Beatles’ phenomenon surfaced). For much of their performing career, the music was secondary to the spectacle of seeing The Beatles. By choosing this least-regarded facet of the band, however, Howard is able to more fully reveal how the Beatles progressed and evolved by contrasting it with the circus-like atmosphere of their increasingly stagnant live performances.

foreshadowing

Foreshadowing in Hamburg, 1960: “Their name liveth for evermore.”

The Beatles’ stage performances weren’t always so stagnant, though, and their success was not an accident that happened overnight. Ringo states in the film that playing was the most important thing for the band, and their stints in Hamburg, Germany, allowed them the opportunity to perfect their craft while playing for eight or more hours every night—to unruly, difficult-to-please crowds or to an empty club (empty except for a bearded drummer from another Liverpool group, Ringo Starr). This was their apprenticeship, this is where they learned how to play in front of people–how to mach schau, and when they returned to England, they broke the jazz-only rule at Liverpool’s The Cavern Club, performing a total of nearly 300 times. Having dominated The Cavern Club and garnered a local following, the group was still looking to improve and to move the next step up the ladder.

That next step up the ladder was not what any of The Beatles expected: Beatlemania. Opening with color footage of the band playing in Manchester in November 1963, the film shows the excitement and the burgeoning mania: girls screaming, fainting, and the sheer joy John, Paul, George, and Ringo exude. The film illustrates this joy and excitement perfectly with its abundance of unseen (or, at least, under-seen) concert and interview footage. Fans debate the sexiness of the members (“Ringo’s got a sexy nose.” “George’s eyelashes are sexy.”) and declare their undying love for them: “Paul McCartney, if you’re out there listening, Adrian from Brooklyn loves you.” Fans’ adoration for the Beatles ignites laughter but is genuine—and contagious. Just as contagious and laughter-inducing is The Beatles’ humor—then and now. Just a few favorites: John introduces himself to a reporter as Eric, George uses John’s mop top as an ashtray, George thanks Ringo for his contribution to a fan club record and remarks “We’ll phone you,” and Ringo recalls his inability to hear the band’s music at their concerts, “I couldn’t hear anything. All I could see was Paul’s arse, John’s arse…” Ringo had the best seat, am I right?     

the-beatles

After conquering Europe, the Beatles arrived in the United States, where the madness escalated to a whole new level. While the Beatles complied with the larger venues (and greater profits) and increasingly manic American crowds, they refused to accommodate the demands of segregated venues. In this regard, they were pioneers, standing for what they believed to be right. As journalist Larry Kane, who accompanied The Beatles on their 1964 North American tour, remarked, he was touched by The Beatles’ kindness, their genuineness, and their intelligence.

After 1964, though, The Beatles’ pioneering in the live arena stalled, except by breaking attendance records by playing in larger venues. The opposite was true of their recording career, where they continued to flourish. With each record, they progressed, wrote better songs, and experimented with new sounds and ideas, culminating with the release of Revolver in May 1966. Tellingly, the Beatles never performed any songs from Revolver live, demonstrating how the sophistication of their recording career had overtaken the circus that was their live show.

By 1966, the group’s rosy relationship with the public was fraying. Not only were their performances inaudible but touring had become a life-threatening situation, which escalated with John Lennon’s remark that The Beatles were, in fact, more popular than Jesus Christ. (Real talk hurts.) Even their relationship with the press, who had adored their wit and cheekiness, was verging on hostile. In a clip, one journalists asks The Beatles why they are so “horrid snobby.” Paul, irrefutably the most diplomatic Beatle, answers that they are not snobby but the journalists and their questions are not particularly nice and get what they deserve. (Again, real talk hurts.) Death threats, Beatle burnings, and exploding firecrackers at concerts became the new norm for The Fab Four. They arrived to their final concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966, in an armored truck. They decided they’d had enough–of touring, at least. Still, in these tense moments, you can still see their camaraderie and the joy their music brings.

bb94049abbf3c216dc485c44ee1d4468

Paul McCartney and George Harrison at The Beatles’ final concert in 1966.

Despite all the obstacles this band faced — touring was a money-making venture not an artistic one, their concerts lasted no more than thirty minutes and offered little variation in terms of set lists, and oh yeah, the screaming which made it impossible for them to hear one another — the film shows what a good live band The Beatles were. They could have easily not put any effort into their live shows at all, but they were often in tune and played as a cohesive unit. That unity is a testament to their closeness as individuals and their faith in one another, my favorite aspect of the film.

“I was an only child, and I suddenly felt as if I had three brothers,” Ringo states in the film. Paul gets emotional recalling the first moment Ringo played with the group, and George expresses how he was always glad that they had one another to lean on and share the experience, unlike an isolated Elvis or Sinatra, declaring, “We were very, very close to one another.” This is the band that went from staying in a single cramped room in the back of a theater in Hamburg to occupying the entire floor of the New York Plaza Hotel, where they found themselves gathering together in one room to get away from the pressure of being Beatles and just be with each other.

They loved one another and had faith in each other, just as many individuals around them had faith in them — notably George Martin having faith in their artistic vision to not touch the unorthodox structure and sound of “Tomorrow Never Knows” and Brian Epstein sacrificing so much for them and maintaining his faith in them despite no measurable success for so long (John Lennon once said there was a period where the only people who had faith in the band were Brian Epstein and George Harrison). And by having faith in each other, they inspired others to have faith in one another — so that it didn’t matter if you were black or white, weird or popular, young or old; The Beatles were a uniting force, beautifully encapsulated by the chorus of grown men singing “She Loves You” to celebrate their football club’s victory season. And there it is — that inexplicable feeling of love swelling inside me. I love The Beatles like no other. They are, quite simply, without precedent.

Let’s Movie

Turner Classic Movies’ latest (err…last-year-latest) branding campaign turns what perhaps we typically think of as a passive activity — watching a movie — into a verb. The campaign invites those who love the movies to tune in (but not turn on or drop out) and enjoy movies as they were meant to be — commercial-free, uncut, and presented in their original format — on TCM. TCM has furthermore invited movie fans to share their favorite things about the movies — not a list of your favorite movies or the best movies but instead a list of moments, lines, and visuals that have made a lasting impression on you and encapsulate what you love about the wonderful world of film.

I recently finished reading Furious Love, a book about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It tells of how Burton was initially unimpressed with Taylor as an actress. “She’s just not doing anything,” he complained to Joe Mankiewicz, Cleopatra‘s director. Then Mankiewicz showed him Taylor’s impact onscreen and from her, Burton learned how the visual element of film could often trump the spoken element of theater. Some of my very favorite moments are those subtle, visual moments that you have to watch for closely (sometimes these moments prompt explanation in the list that follows, sometimes they don’t), but still many of the items on this list are simply lines that have often crept into my everyday dialogue. It was surprisingly difficult for me to come up with 100 different items without resorting to citing multiple moments in the same films, so I didn’t. So, in no particular order with no rhyme or reason or much thought at all, here are some of my favorite things about the movies…

1. Brando’s Grief (On the Waterfront, 1954)

Terry Malloy (Brando) has testified against Johnny Friendly, and all of his friends are angry at him–even the young “Golden Warriors” Terry has befriended. Terry, who keeps pigeons, goes up on the roof to check on his pigeons. He finds that they are all dead, killed by the youth who once idolized him. “What did he have to do that for? Every one of them.” Edie (Eva Marie Saint) has again followed him and calls his name, attempting to comfort him. Brando does not face her but turns into the pigeon coop and waves her away meekly with his hand. He needs to grieve alone–just for a moment. And Brando communicates this with a single gesture — Best Actor, indeed.

2. “Hey, Boo.” (To Kill A Mockingbird, 1962)

3. Oscar’s Breakdown (The Odd Couple, 1968)

“I can tell you exactly what it is. It’s the cooking, the cleaning, the crying. It’s the talking in your sleep. It’s those moose calls that open your ears at 2:00 in the morning. I can’t take it anymore, Felix, I’m cracking up. Everything you do irritates me, and when you’re not here, the things I know you’re gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. I’ve told you 158 times I cannot stand little notes on my pillow. ‘We are all out of corn flakes. F.U.’ Took me three hours to figure out that F.U. was Felix Ungar.”

One hundred and fifty-eight times. Not just one hundred, one hundred and fifty-eight. I love the precision and efficiency of the entire script of The Odd Couple: every line has a purpose and nearly every line brings a laugh.

4. The Nose Swipe (The Sting, 1973)

newmansting1

5. “HOT DOG!” (It’s A Wonderful Life, 1946)

tumblr_n60pi4r8gv1s0teago1_400

6. “Ha, ha, ha, ha! My mouth’s bleeding, Bert! My mouth’s bleeding! Zuzu’s petals… Zuzu… There they are! Bert, what do you know about that! MERRY CHRISTMAS!” (It’s A Wonderful Life, 1946)

Alright, have to stop quoting that movie now. Basically everything about It’s A Wonderful Life should be on this list. Every. Single. Thing. Oh, why don’t you stop annoying people! Really, I’m stopping now. Say, brainless, don’t you know where coconuts come from? Oops. Sorry. It’s this old house. I don’t know why we don’t all have pneumonia. Drafty old barn of a place. It’s like growing up living in a refrigerator. I just can’t help it. This film is in my DNA. Why? Because it’s beautiful and perfect and lovely and Zuzu’s petals!

7. Montgomery Clift’s Feeble Goodbye (The Young Lions, 1958)

vlcsnap-00002

Noah Ackerman (Clift) has been drafted, and he says goodbye to his wife, whom he’s just recently met and married. He kisses her and then begins to walk down the street. He turns around half-way, hoping to see her once more, but he can only bare to stare for a few seconds. He slowly turns and begins to walk again, and he lifts his right hand in an effort to wave, but he only manages to raise it to his waist and give a pathetic and heartbreaking wave.

8. “Hubbell, people ARE their principles!” (The Way We Were, 1973)

9. Robert Mitchum’s entire presence in Cape Fear (1962). 

In a word, creepy. It keeps me awake at night. Just plain old creepy.

10. “Po-tat-oes. Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick in a stew.” (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002)

11. “My, she was yar.” (The Philadelphia Story, 1940)

12. “Excuse me.” (The Philadelphia Story, 1940)

Stewart’s unscripted hiccup almost made Grant lose it. Classic. 

13. Maggio’s death in From Here to Eternity (1953)

d894f9ea0f51a4990f377ac74f437882

“But it was the death scene that got them, he knew it. He and Monty had talked about that scene a dozen times. The trick, according to Clift, was not overplaying it. Dying was like snow falling.” — James Kaplan, Frank: The Voice 

I love that quote from James Kaplan’s amazing biography about Sinatra. It sounds just like Clift, and it is so, so, so true. Clift was the master of not overplaying anything–ever–and his effect on Sinatra’s acting was palpable. Sinatra was never better (as an actor, anyway).

14. “Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?” (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969)

2-butch-cassidy-and-the-sundance-kid-quotes

15. What was that? (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951)

tumblr_nq7zunvrue1qa70eyo3_400tumblr_nq7zunvrue1qa70eyo4_400

Just thinking out loud here…should Brando’s body in Streetcar be a separate entry? Not trying to objectify him or anything, but really, it was a work of art, the peak of all male beauty evereverever, something to be treasured and admired for all time and eternity, an inducer of drool and convulsions…

16. Best Dressed – Romper Division, 1964

f3e93fc9f6da0fbc4443a474174272cb

Hey, here’s the King of objectifying: James Bond!

17. “Yeah ho, leetle fish…” (Captains Courageous, 1938)

Ah, Spencer Tracy’s fake Portuguese accent.

18. “Listen, I don’t mean to be a sore loser, but when it’s done, if I’m dead, kill him.” (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969)

Love to.

19. “We all go a little mad sometimes.” (Psycho, 1960) 

20. “God bless you, too.” (The Misfits, 1961)

This scene — Clift’s first appearance an hour into the film — is often cited as one of his best performances by fans and critics alike, its popularity attested by the fact that in Clift’s copy of the script at the New York Public Library’s Performing Arts archive, this one page has been stolen.

What I love most about this scene is how Clift seamlessly uses the phone booth as a prop. The door is casually left open when the conversation is light and non-invasive–Perce boasts of his recent accomplishments in the rodeo and sends his love and greetings to his family back home; the door is hastily closed to prevent his new and old acquaintances from hearing–or seeing, rather–his fractured state–the arguments with his mother about spending his rodeo money and his relationship with his stepfather.

And I think part of what makes this scene–and this character–so real, so very real, is that Clift embodies it almost perfectly. Perce, like Clift (especially at this time in his life), is self-destructive and lonely. He later tells Roslyn his friends and girlfriend abandoned him a year previously, and he has no one talk to. Many of Clift’s friends, too, severed him, particularly after his accident and further spiral into drug addiction, branding him a lost cause. Perce’s relationship with his mother is strained, as evidenced by the phone call; Clift’s suffocating and tumultuous relationship with his own mother arguably fueled many of his deep-rooted and life-long problems. And when Perce emphatically states, “Oh, no, no, no, my face is fine. It’s all healed up. Just as good as new.” Well, my heart just breaks.

The most devastating line of the phone call, however, is reserved for last. The operator has notified Perce his call is about to expire, and Perce hurriedly tells his mother to tell his relatives, whom he lists by name, hello for him. An argument about his stepfather–and his failure to specifically ask his mother to say hello to him–ensues. And subsides. The door is, of course, closed. Perce promises to call at Christmastime and anxiously asks, “Hello? Hello?”, wanting to tell his mother one more thing. The call has been disconnected. “God bless you, too,” he mutters–presumably to dead air.

21. CALVIN: Don’t admire people too much. They’ll disappoint you sometimes.
CONRAD: I’m not disappointed. I love you.
CALVIN: I love you, too.
— Ordinary People, 1980

22. “Shut up and deal.” (The Apartment, 1960)

23. “Lorraine, my density has popped me to you.” (Back to the Future, 1985)

24. “Fiddle-dee-dee!” (Gone with the Wind, 1939)

mamita-y-escarlata

25. “Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969)

26. Sam Spade. That is all. (The Maltese Falcon, 1940)

The movie that made me realize how cool Humphrey Bogart is. Like, so cool. And the Maltese Falcon is my token of choice in TCM’s Scene It. I win every time. Just sayin’.

27.  “Buzzard’s guts, man! I am the President of the United States, clothed with immense power! You will procure me these votes.” (Lincoln, 2012)

Just…Buzzard’s guts, man. And, well, Daniel Day-Lewis is exceptional. When you think about it, he really is the most amazing actor. He is so different and distinct in each role; he immerses himself so fully in each of his roles that he becomes those characters.

28. “I’m obsessed, thank you very much.” (St. Elmo’s Fire, 1986)

Basically, the entire character of Kirby Keager should be on this list. “Quick, what’s the meaning of life?” “Dale Biberman.” Emilio Estevez is great — he plays this character, whose fascination and obsession with this girl is actually quite creepy when you think about it, so earnestly and with such innocence that you are kind of rooting for Kirby when he pulls up to that snow-covered cabin.

29.  “Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” “What d’ya got?” (The Wild One, 1953)

annex20-20brando20marlon20wild20one20the_13

So cool, yet so hot at the same time. Sigh.

Brando said he personally identified with Johnny’s response, that the line reflected his individual feelings and beliefs about life as a whole. Watching The Wild One now, it’s extremely dated, yet the film did represent a specific attitude of its time and spoke to young people of that generation–and perhaps still can speak. I love that a movie, so dated and seemingly obsolete, can encompass a time so completely yet still have the power to be relevant across time and shifting mores.

30. Mike Love elicits sympathy in Love and Mercy (2015). 

Weird, right? Mike Love, whose upcoming memoir Little Douche Coupe is set for release in September, is a total jerk — even in the movies. Watching Love and Mercy the oh, I don’t know seventeenth time, though, I found myself feeling sorry for his character and gaining a better understanding of what he might have been feeling.

In the movie, Mike visits Brian at his home. Brian is playing the beginnings of a song on his piano, which is placed in a large sandbox in the middle of his living room. Pet Sounds has been released, was a disappointing commercial failure (it didn’t even go gold, man), and The Beach Boys are at a crossroads. Brian is obviously hurt and perhaps a little lost, pounding out these chords, searching for something, anything. Mike approaches the piano, and Brian says, staring down at the piano keys as if he’s embarrassed to look Mike in the eye, “I have this song playing over and over in my head. I just don’t have the words or the melody. Do you have anything?” He finally looks up at Mike, and the camera turns to Mike, whose expression reveals how much he craves the companionship and approval of his cousin. Brian wrote Pet Sounds without any input from Love at all and even though I tend to believe that Love probably over-states his contribution to The Beach Boys’ golden formula, he was Brian’s most frequent collaborator. It must have been difficult for him to be cast aside for reasons he could never really understand, and in this moment, I can just see how much he wants to be a part of the songwriting process with his cousin again.

31. Diagnosing Bob (What About Bob?, 1991)

Bob Wiley: Well, I get dizzy spells, nausea, cold sweats, hot sweats, fever blisters, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, blurred vision, involuntary trembling, dead hands, numb lips, fingernail sensitivity, pelvic discomfort.
Dr. Leo Marvin: So the real question is, what is the crisis Bob? What is it you’re truly afraid of?
Bob Wiley: What if my heart stops beating? What if I’m looking for a bathroom, I can’t find it, and… my bladder explodes?

32. “I can eat fifty eggs.” (Cool Hand Luke, 1967)

d52b5cd395fadeb01529b446b573bddc

“Why you got to go and say fifty eggs for? Why not thirty-five or thirty-nine?” “I thought it was a nice round number.”

33. Denys: You’ve ruined it for me, you know.
Karen Blixen: Ruined what?
Denys: Being alone.
— Out of Africa (1985)

I don’t know that a better expression of love exists.

34. Ricky Nelson’s picture falling off the wall in The Parent Trap (1961). 

That is the only appropriate response when someone does not know who Ricky Nelson is, which is, unfortunately and tragically, becoming more and more common. Ya’ll have no sense of history.

35. The first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan (1998). 

I can’t believe those boys–yes, just boys–did that. For me, for you, for the world. Of course they would have rather been at home, going to college, working a job, playing  baseball, but they did it, and I can have never really know what that was like, but the first twenty or so minutes of this movie offers a glimpse.

36. Sonny Corleone beats up Carlo. (The Godfather, 1972)

What can I say? I rather crave violence. I love every minute of The Godfather. And The Godfather II. We don’t really talk about The Godfather III.

37. “Thank you, Mr. Willy. Thank you. You’ve made my day.” (The Goonies, 1985) 

38. “Attention campers. Lunch has been cancelled due to lack of hustle. Deal with it.” (Heavyweights, 1995) 

39. “I could never love anyone as I love my sisters.” (Little Women, 1994)

As much as I love books (considering seeking treatment for my addiction) I’m not a believer in the “book is always better than the movie.” I’m just not. Because the movie offers an interpretation, a vision, and sometimes — like the 1994 adaptation of my beloved Little Women — the actors are the perfect manifestations of the characters that previously only existed on the page and in my head. They are tangible.

40. James Dean in East of Eden (1955)

I never really ‘got’ James Dean until I saw East of Eden. I’d seen Rebel Without a Cause and was unimpressed. Years and years (or so it seemed) later, I finally watched East of Eden and was struck by his layered performance of vulnerability, innocence, romance, and defiance. It’s still my favorite performance of his and the one that made me re-examine him as an actor.

41. The Friendship of Elwood P. Dowd & Harvey (Harvey, 1950)

light-noir-harvey

“Well, thank you Harvey! I prefer you too.”

42. “This is The Voice of Doom calling.” (The Philadelphia Story, 1940)

tumblr_nh779xacqw1s0t6o2o1_500

Your days are numbered to the day of the seventh sun of the seventh sun! Some people think Jimmy Stewart’s win for The Philadelphia Story was just a delayed Oscar for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Maybe. But he’s absolutely wonderful in this movie, delivering this line with the perfect balance of disgust, nonchalance, and humor.

43. “NO SALE” (BUtterfield 8, 1960)

butterfield8_jpg_627x325_crop_upscale_q85

44. “Hey mister, can we have our ball back?” (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964)

tumblr_o5yh2y74pu1s4z0mfo1_500

 

So apparently not everyone thinks this movie is a classic or even funny. My family recently revealed this to me, stating, “It’s funny if you like them [The Beatles].” Uh, what? And what kind of demented and unbalanced individuals don’t like The Beatles? I don’t even wanna know. I love The Beatles, and I love this movie. It is pure joy.

45. “Well, nobody’s perfect.” (Some Like It Hot, 1959)

 

I can’t make it to 100. I’m tired. And I don’t know, it’s a very specific-to-me list that perhaps does not make any sense or have any purpose to anyone else on the planet. But I love the movies. They offer these moments that can be shared, that can bring understanding, that can allow us to suspend disbelief and be delighted by the adventures of a mischievous cat who happens to be the FBI’s leading informant or be startled and frightened repeatedly by a shark that looks slightly fake (even in Jaws 19) or be utterly heartbroken when Barbra Streisand strokes Robert Redford’s hair (she was the only one who believed he could write that second novel, who could push him to write it, who really loved him, goshdarnit!). Watching a movie — really watching a movie — is anything but a passive activity. It’s a verb. Let’s movie.