Tagged: Film

Happy Halloween!

I can’t come up with anything as cool as Fabrizio del Wrongo’s slideshow of vintage horror movie posters, so I’ll leave you to it.shiver-of-the-vapmires-french

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Purple Bananas.

No. No. No.  Just no.

A list of Woody Allen’s greatest movies, with no mention of Bananas or The Purple Rose Of Cairo?

Funny story: Bananas was actually responsible for my premature birth. My mom was on bed rest for the last two months of her pregnancy. A work colleague of hers came over for a visit, and began describing the infamous newsstand scene. (Very, very NSFW)

He started laughing, and she started laughing, and she laughed so hard that her water broke and she had to be rushed to the hospital because I JUST WOULD NOT WAIT.

Purple Rose could be defined by the single word: bittersweet. It is charming and hilarious and hopelessly romantic and idealistic and heartbreakingly sad. I’m not the biggest Mia Farrow fan, but this is the performance of her career. Jeff Daniels in the dual role of the matinee-idol screen star and his onscreen alter ego is simply pitch-perfect. The story is a fantasy, but has a weird air of inevitability to it. Why CAN’T movie characters walk off the screen and into the real world? In a way it makes perfect sense but it retains its goofy fantasy aspect. You want it to be true, even as Cecilia realizes, it can’t possibly be true.

In case you can’t tell, I love it to bits.

I agree with two of the other choices: the brilliant and morally profound Crimes and Misdemeanors at #4, and Hannah and Her Sisters at #3. I happen to think that HAHS is possibly one of the most New Yorkish of movies, more so than Annie Hall, which never much grabbed me.  By that I mean it has the soul of the city permeating every frame, not merely that it is set in the city. (A list of excellent New York films would include obvious choices like Saturday Night Fever and Taxi Driver, but also the ageless Ghostbusters.) Plus Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest, and the luminous Barbara Hershey, who has never received the acclaim that is due her.

Woody Allen’s father in the movie (“How the hell do I know why there were Nazis? I can’t figure out how the can opener works!”) is played by Leo Postrel. In another example of the multiple ways that Woody Allen has tangentially had an impact on my life*, Leo was responsible for introducing my mom to my dad, way back in the early ’70s.

There is one other Woody flick I wish had made it onto the list: Oedipus Wrecks, the third and only worthy episode of New York Stories.

Oh. My. Gawd but that is one side-splitting, labor-inducingly funny movie.

Woody and his mother, from Oedipus Wrecks.

*Someday, dear readers, I’ll tell you about the time I smacked Soon-Yi Previn Allen. Forty years on and she is still the only person in my life I have ever physically struck.

Talkin’ in the rain.

Cropped screenshot of Jean Hagen from the trai...

I keeen’t steeeeend it!  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Awesome bit of movie trivia I learned today:

Singin’ In The Rain‘s plot is partially motivated by the ear-splitting Brooklyn screech of silent film actress Lina Lamont, as played by Jean Hagen. Her studio manager and co-star deem her voice manifestly unsuited for talkies, so they hire ingénue Kathie Selden to dub her.
In fact, Debbie Reynolds, who played Kathie, was judged not to have an elegant enough voice for the task. So in the scenes where Lina appears dubbed, it is actually Jean Hagen’s normal speaking voice.
Count that as your knowledge gained for the day.

Oh, and Gene Kelly has a fighting chance of being the hottest male film star in history, in my biased opinion. Just sayin’.

And Cyd Charisse in the “Gotta Dance” interlude.
Wow. What a dame. Or was she a broad?
Either way, her slinking it up in her green little nothing of a dress, wordlessly seducing Gene Kelly, all the sexier and more risky because of what it couldn’t show.  Imagination trumps bald, literal nudity.

Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. This scene is sixty different kinds of freakishly sexy.

Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. This scene is sixty different kinds of sexy.

Where the devil are my slippers?

I had an epiphany the other night. Many classic musicals have a not-so-hidden subtext about gender roles and power. Consider the three most popular shows by Rodgers & Hammerstein:
“The King and I”: Lower-status woman falls for a higher-status wealthy older man.
“The Sound of Music”: Lower-status woman falls for a higher-status wealthy older man.
“South Pacific”: Lower-status woman falls for a higher-status wealthy older man.

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Of course if you prefer Lerner & Loewe, you could always try the classic “My Fair Lady”, or perhaps “Gigi”: Lower-status woman…

…you get the idea.
Is this a big coincidence, or is the enduring popularity of these films and shows premised on the fact that they endorse the customary sex roles? Are they loved by women and men not in spite of their traditional romantic love arrangements, but because of them?

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None of the heroines in these shows are pushovers. They are all, to varying degrees, “spunky” intelligent women who have plans for their lives quite different than where they end up. And they all are eventually successfully wooed by dominant men.

“My Fair Lady” is a special case. It has the structure of a romance, but for most of the work, the protagonists openly loathe each other. Higgins is possibly cinema’s most charming misogynist: he has no fewer than two songs devoted to explaining how horrible women are:

Why is thinking something women never do?

And why is logic never even tried?

Straightening up their hair is all they ever do.

Why don’t they straighten up the mess that’s inside?

Let a woman in your life and your serenity is through,

she’ll redecorate your home, from the cellar to the dome,

and then go on to the enthralling fun of overhauling you…

At the end of it all, the most romantic thing Higgins can think of to say about Eliza is that he’s grown accustomed to her face. (Well gee, thanks for that.). And Eliza’s motivation for returning is more opaque still. She has a shot with the cute if somewhat foppish Freddy Eynsford-Hill (a “beta” male, to use the trendy parlance.) She could have a perfectly nice bourgeois life with him. He adores her. And yet, she returns to the man who has essentially created her new persona. Higgins may be a pompous alpha shit, but he understands the new Eliza better than anyone, because she is him. Albeit in much, much nicer clothes.

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What do you all think?