Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 09 - The best soundtrack/score to a film

I have more than 50 movie soundtracks on CD.  And I'm supposed to choose a "best" one?  Riiiiiiiight.

Okay, I'm going to go with the soundtrack for my favorite movie, The Man from Snowy River.  It's composed by Bruce Rowland, and I absolutely love it.  In fact, it was playing in the background with both Dano and Mercy were born.  I find it soothing, exciting, restful, and stimulating.  I know every song intimately, and I've been able to play the main theme on the piano from memory since I was 11 or 12.  Beautiful, beautiful music.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 08 - The best opening/closing credits

This is such a tough one for me, I've spent all day ruminating on it.  And I've decided the niftiest opening credits I can think of are for 2006's Casino Royale.  I love the somewhat retro feel to them, which is appropriate for a reboot of a franchise that began in the 1960s.  And I love how the cartoon characters shatter into card markings -- it's just nifty.  Instead of describing it, here, just watch it yourself if you want:

As for best closing credits... they may not be the best, but I love the funky claymation closing sketch during the credits for A Life Less Ordinary (1997).  You can watch them here on the animator's website.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 07 - The best plot twist/ending

Without a doubt, my gold standard for plot twists and surprise endings is The Sting (1973).  If you haven't seen it, well, I'll try not to spoil the ending for you so you can go watch it and get the full effect of the twists.

The Sting sparked my affection for con men, which began when I first saw this as a teen and led directly to my love of Sawyer on Lost.  It's also the best example of a twisty ending that I've ever seen, one that makes the audience cheer instead of feel cheated.

Shaw, Redford, and Newman

It all starts when Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) and his partner Luther Coleman (Robert Earl Jones, father of James Earl Jones) con the wrong guy.  Luther gets killed for it, and Johnny wants revenge.  To get it, he looks up Luther's old partner, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), and the two set up a long con to take down the man behind Luther's murder, big-time crook Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw).

 That's all I can say about the plot without spoiling you too much.  So instead I'll mention how much I love the score, which is full of ragtime classics by Scott Joplin, and the costumes, both of which make this period piece loads of fun.  Newman and Redford look awesome in Depression-era clothes, both casual and dressy, and I like them both in this even better than in their other great film together, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).  Personally, I prefer Newman over Redford, but they're both great in this.

Oh, and it definitely deserved the 7 Oscars it won, in my humble opinion :-)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 06 - Favorite actor/actress

My favorite actor is pretty obvious:  John Wayne.  If you've read this blog at all, or even just scanned through my list of labels, you'll figure out I'm a fan.

But why?  Partly, it's because I grew up with his movies.  Partly, it's because he made a lot of westerns, my favorite film genre.  And partly, it's because I do admire a lot of the things he stood for personally, like being proud of America.  He portrayed a lot of strong, capable characters who wouldn't give up on someone or something just because everyone else did, and I guess I relate to that stubbornness too ;-)

My favorite actress, on the other hand... that's tougher.  I admire a lot of actresses and enjoy their performances, but there isn't really one that stands out above all the rest.  Who to choose?  Sandra Bullock?  Meg Ryan?  Lauren Bacall?  Debbie Reynolds?  Nicole Kidman?  Barbara Stanwyck?  It's a hard decision.  In the end, I guess I'll go with the one actress who has never, ever disappointed me in any role:  Maureen O'Hara.

Whether her characters are getting kidnapped by a pirate, helping a paralyzed husband regain his ability to move, or parenting twin teenagers, Maureen O'Hara is always classy and sassy.  Like John Wayne, she played characters who stood up for what they believed and gave as good as they got.  She also managed to look drop-dead gorgeous pretty much all the time.

And lucky me -- my favorite actor and actress made five movies together!  In Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952), The Wings of Eagles (1957), McLintock! (1963), and Big Jake (1971), the two of them shared a chemistry of equals, each holding their own opposite the other's strong personality.  In real life, they formed a friendship that lasted until John Wayne's death in 1979.

John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in Rio Grande (1950)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day 05 - Favorite love story in a film

I'm a sucker for a good love story, so this is a tough one.  I guess I'll go with an obvious one, Jane Eyre (1983).  Okay, this is actually a mini-series, but it's my favorite filmed version of my favorite book, so I'm saying it counts.

It stars Zelah Clarke as Jane Eyre and Timothy Dalton as Edward Rochester, and while Clarke fits the book's descriptions of Jane being short, unassuming, and plain, Dalton is physically all wrong to play Mr. Rochester.  He's tall, handsome, and nicely built, while the Rochester in the book is short, ill-proportioned, and not much to look at.  But Dalton so perfectly captures Mr. Rochester's personality that I have to forgive him his good looks.  He broods so perfectly, you see, plus he growls, rants, cajoles, and glowers in precisely the right proportions -- he's the perfect Rochester in everything but appearance.  (This is just like how Hugh Jackman is completely wrong, physically, to play Wolverine, but he portrays Wolvie so sublimely I don't care that he's not nasty, brutish, and short.)

Anyway, Jane Eyre is all about the romance and how it brings Jane to life in ways she never imagined, turning a lonely governess into a happy bride-to-be.  Then, of course, the whole thing falls apart and we're all desperately sad for quite some time.  But an unhappily ended romance could never be my favorite, so you know everything gets sorted out in the end.

I first read Jane Eyre in high school, and between it and Rebecca, I became a firm fan of May-December romances and Byronic Heroes, the broodier the better.  Got a dark past, sinister secret, irresistible charm, and a desperate need to be cheered up?  I'm all yours.  Fictionally speaking, of course -- in real life, I married the least-Byronic guy you'll ever meet ;-)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 04 - A film that makes you sad

The obvious answer here would seem to be Hamlet, any one of the seven versions I own, right?  I mean, it's a tragedy after all.  And I do generally cry at the end.  But it leaves me feeling satisfied and cleansed, not sad -- it's really a cathartic play for me.

No, the absolutely saddest movie I have ever seen is The Fox and the Hound (1981).  I have only seen it once all the way through, when I was in college, and I bawled the entire time.  Even more than I cried the first time I saw Moulin Rouge!  Buckets of tears.

When I was a kid, I had lots and lots of little Disney record-and-storybook sets.  I loved most of them, and learned how to work a turntable by the age of 3 so I could listen to them without needing a parent around.  I loved most of my records, except for three that scared me and one that made me cry.  The latter, of course, was The Fox and the Hound.  Tod and Copper swear that they'll "always be the best of friends," and then the evil grown-up world forces them to become enemies.  If there's one theme that is guaranteed to make me sad and angry, it's enforced growing-up, and since that's the point of this whole movie, I pretty much hate it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 03 - A film that makes you happy

Man, I've neglected this blog for a long time again, huh?  Between moving to a new state, then spending weekend after weekend house-hunting so we can get out of the apartment we're currently in (and dislike), and running about after Dano and Mercy... blogging has fallen by the way side.

Anyway, this is a tough one to answer cuz there are a lot of movies that make me happy.  Loads of them.  So I'll pick the one that's currently making me happy:  Gunfight in Abilene (1967).  Since yesterday was Bobby Darin's birthday, I started watching this last night after I put the kids to bed, then finished it tonight.  Of the 8 or 9 Bobby Darin movies I've seen, I love this one the best, and I'm so lucky to have a copy -- they sell for like $75 now, but my dad picked this copy up for peanuts years ago.  I reeeeeally wish they'd put it on DVD; I'd buy like six copies.
Bobby Darin as Cal Wayne (I adore his hat!)
Bobby Darin plays Cal Wayne, who, while he was a Confederate officer during the Civil War, accidentally shot his best friend, Dave Evers.  When he goes home to Abilene, he feels so guilty about that death that he lets the friend's older brother Grant Evers (Leslie Nielsen) steal his girl Amy (Emily Banks) and bully him into resuming his old job as sheriff, even though he's vowed never to use a gun again.  The rest is your standard cowmen-vs-farmers story, but throw in Don Galloway as his deputy, and it's an hour and a half of happy me :-)

Emily Banks was in one of my fave Star Trek eps, "Shore Leave," as the imperiled Tonia Barrows, and of course Don Galloway was in nine million westerns, both TV and film, including another one I love: The Rare Breed (1966).  He was also a regular on Ironside, and every time I see him, he makes me smile.

So, there you go, one movie among many that makes me happy :-)