Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 22 - Favorite documentary

Oh boy, another tough one.  I definitely have a favorite documentarian:  Ken Burns.  But how to choose a favorite documentary from his body of work?

I'm gonna go with Jazz (2000).  I really love The Civil War and Baseball too, and all three of those gave me a much deeper appreciation of different aspects of my country's history.  The War was also quite cool, especially since I love learning about WWII.  But of those four, I would rather watch Jazz again before the others.  It gave me a new favorite musician -- Wynton Marsalis -- and helped me understand a lot of the music I would otherwise have shrugged off or ignored.  Thanks to it, I own 4 of Marsalis' albums.  This was pretty much an obvious fit for me, as the trumpet is a huge favorite of mine.

Yeah, I know this is supposed to be about my favorite documentary, not my favorite jazz musician, but I love how Ken Burns picks one really personable, knowledgeable person to sort of anchor his longer documentaries around, be it Shelby Foote in The Civil War or Buck O'Neil in Baseball or Wynton Marsalis in Jazz.  In this case, it led me to develop a taste for Marsalis' music in particular, but the series as a whole is also quite awesome, even if you're not particularly interested in jazz music.  I myself still prefer swing to jazz, but I like jazz a lot better than I used to now that I understand it a little better, and that's definitely thanks to this documentary.

Here's a very young Wynton Marsalis twenty years ago on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, just for the fun of it and cuz I watched this show all the time when I was little.  I'd outgrown it by 1992, but it's still nice to go back and revisit the neighborhood now and then :-)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 21 - Favorite film from your favorite actor/actress

Finally, a very easy one to answer!

As I said here, my favorite actor is John Wayne and my favorite actress is Maureen O'Hara. While they made five films together, none of those are my favorites from them.  So today I get to talk about two movies in my favorite genre:  Westerns :-D

My favorite John Wayne movie is also my third-favorite movie of all time:  The Sons of Katie Elder (1965).  It tells the story of four brothers, John (John Wayne), Tom (Dean Martin), Matt (Earl Holliman), and Bud (Michael Anderson, Jr.) Elder, who come to town for their mother's funeral, only to discover that something is quite rotten in Sweetwater, Texas.  They work together to figure out just how their father lost the family ranch and their mother died in poverty, trying to make up for neglecting their parents for so many years.  While doing so, they run into a stellar bunch of character actors, everyone from Paul Fix to George Kennedy to Dennis Hopper.

I had a small version of the poster for this movie hanging up in my living room in our last apartment, but I don't have room for all my pictures in this house, so I had to sacrifice it.  It wasn't a very good poster anyway -- it was a repro and looked like it was printed from somebody's home computer.  Instead, I bought a couple photos from this on Ebay and am in the process of finding a good frame for them to put above my fireplace.

John, Tom, Matt, and Bud Elder

Why do I love The Sons of Katie Elder above all other John Wayne movies?  I think it's the interplay between the brothers, the task of avenging their father's wrongful death, the idea of "we'll do what's right even if we're not the right people to do it."  And the score, by Elmer Bernstein, is fantastic.  You can hear part of the main theme here -- it never fails to bring a goofy grin to my face or brighten my day.

As for my favorite Maureen O'Hara movie, it's The Rare Breed (1966).  It follows British widow Martha (Maureen O'Hara) and her daughter Hilary (Juliet Mills) as they accompany their prize Hereford bull, Vindicator, to his new home in Texas.  They, in turn, are accompanied by Sam "Bulldog" Burnett (James Stewart), who may or may not be planning to actually deliver the bull to its new owner, Alexander Bowan (Brian Keith).  Along the way, they have a couple of nasty run-ins with Harry Carey Jr. and Jack Elam, and eventually join up with Bowan's son Jamie (Don Galloway).  Then winter comes, and Martha and Hilary are stuck at the Bowan ranch in Texas because of all the snow.  Hilary falls in love with Jamie, while both Alex Bowan and Sam Burnett try to win Martha's affections.

A vintage magazine ad for The Rare Breed got chosen as one of the things that would grace my limited wall space here, so you know I'm pretty fond of it.

Maureen O'Hara, Brian Keith, Jimmy Stewart

My love for this movie is all about the cast and characters.  Seeing O'Hara, Stewart, and Keith interact is pure fun, and Mills and Galloway are both sweeties.  This is one of the first westerns I can remember watching, so it was pretty formative of my love for the genre.  The plot isn't stellar, the pacing might be a bit draggy, but I enjoy being along for the ride anyway.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Day 20 - A film you wish someone would make

I wish Hollywood would make more original movies and fewer remakes and sequels and spin-offs.  There's no Casablanca II or The Searchers Return or It's a Wonderful Life 2:  Zuzu Goes to Camp.  If classic Hollywood's filmmakers knew better than to cash in on hits by running them into the ground, why can't modern Hollywood?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Day 19 - The most hilarious film you've seen

If by "most hilarious" you mean "movie that made me laugh until I cried, and still makes me laugh every time I watch it," then I'm going with The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming (1966).

This is the story of a Russian submarine that gets stuck on a sandbar outside a tiny New England village because the captain (Theodore Bikel) wanted to see what America looks like.  It makes me imagine what The Hunt for Red October (1990) could have resulted in if Captain Ramius had succeeded in sailing up to the coast and opening his hatch one morning.

Anyway, Lt. Rosanov (Alan Arkin) and a bunch of crewmen come ashore to see if they can beg, borrow, or I suppose steal a boat to get their sub off the sand bar.  The film centers around Walt Whittaker (Carl Reiner) and his wife Elspeth (Eva Marie Saint), who are vacationing on the little New England island with their two children.  When the Whittakers don't believe Rosanov's claim that the sailors are Norwegians, the Russians pull out their weapons and force them to give up information and the keys to the family car.  Rosanov heads to town to find a boat while one of his men stays behind to guard the Whittakers.

Everyone in town panics when they find out there are Russians Right Here, Attacking Us!  Police Chief Link Mattocks (a superbly tired Brian Keith) and his deputy (Jonathan Winters) try to keep people calm and get them organized, respectively.  In fact, Winters' plea, "We've just got to get organized!" almost made it onto my top ten list of movie quotes the other day.  Through the rest of the movie, the Russians skulk, the Americans bumble, and Walt Whittaker tries to prove to his son he's not a coward or a traitor.

Alan Arkin, Eva Marie Saint, and Carl Reiner, with a couple of smitten teens in the back seat.

None of that sounds terribly funny, does it?  In fact, the same scenario could make for an intense Cold War thriller.  But everything is played for laughs, not fear, with the underlying message that we could all get along if we'd just stop freaking out about the fact that we're supposed to be enemies.

Alan Arkin as Lt. Rosanov
You know how sometimes an actor and a role just seem so perfect for each other that nothing else they ever do seems to quite match up?  Like Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones or Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow.  As far as I'm concerned, that's the case for Alan Arkin as Lt. Rosanov.  I've seen him do some very good acting in other movies, but nothing has ever seemed quite so right for him as this role.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Day 18 - A film that you wish more people had seen

Um, but not everyone likes every movie.  In fact, I was just discussing this on Facebook with a friend from college -- he and I are both total movie buffs, and yet of the ten movies I quoted yesterday, he'd seen two.

Instead of promoting one film, I'll just suggest that you watch a movie someone has recommended that you thought was totally not something you'd enjoy.  You never know -- you might find you dig it!  And stretching your horizons is always good.

Or you could go read a book.  Also a splendid idea.  See?

Bobby Darin, State Fair (1962)

Johnny Depp, Benny and Joon (1993)

Elijah Wood, Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Rudolph Valentino, The Conquering Power (1921)

Josh Holloway, Lost (2004-2010)

Vic Morrow, Combat! (1962-1967)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Day 17 - Favorite film quote

One?  Hah.  Here are ten, though definitely not in any particular order, as they're all quotes I use a lot and dearly love:

o  "I think you've got the situation pegged, Jake." -- Jason McCullough, Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)

o  "What's the first thing you do when a horse bucks you off?" -- Clancy (Jack Thompson)
"You don't let him beat you, you get straight back on." -- Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson), The Man from Snowy River (1982)

o  "Oh dear, it seems I'm off to a poor start." -- Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), Cars (2006)

o  "Know what 'fat chance' means?" -- Walter Eckland (Cary Grant), Father Goose (1964)

o  "But why is the rum gone?" -- Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Pirates of the Caribbean:  The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

o  "Cowards!" -- Jack Butler (Michael Keaton), Mr. Mom (1983)

o  "I don't know, I'm just making this up as I go." -- Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

o  "It seems he had a very good time." -- Warden Gad Hassan (Omid Djalili), The Mummy (1999)

o  "It's too early in the day for killing princes." -- Achilles (Brad Pitt), Troy (2004)

o  "It's lavish, but I call it home." -- Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), Laura (1944)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Day 16 - Film character you relate to the most

Wow, really?  Again with having to pick just one -- this is really tough, y'all.

Hmm.  One character I relate to more than any other.  Sabrina Fairchild?  Anne Shirley?  Lucy Eleanor Moderatz?  Margy Frake?  Esther Smith?  Fiona Campbell?  John Geyser?  Wolverine?  Joan Wilder?  Evy Carnahan?  Jack Aubrey?  Rachel Lapp?  Mary Horton?  Adrian Balboa?  Justin McLeod?  Eowyn?  Laertes?  Emmett?  Sam Burnett?  Elena Montero?  Jim Craig?  There's some of me in each of them.  Or some of each of them in me.

Okay, if I had to pick just one... I guess I'd pick Evelyn "Evy" Carnahan O'Connell (Rachel Weiscz) from The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001).  She's bookish, intelligent, and brave.  Prettier than me, by far, but she doesn't rely on her looks anyway, she relies on her brain, and that's very me.  I'm shyer than she is, but I think we equal each other in clumsiness -- that scene in The Mummy where she knocks over every single bookshelf?  So me.