Sunday, July 31, 2011

"The Buddy Holly Story" 1978

The Buddy Holly Story
“The Buddy Holly Story”

I’m sure I’d seen this movie before, but the viewing that sticks out in my mind is a night back in the fall of 1988. My husband and I were dating at the time. His roommate was out of town and he invited me over so he could cook for me and watch a movie. He had a copy of “The Buddy Holly Story” that had been taped off of cable. He made me hot sausages sandwiches with a side of popcorn.

I learned a couple of things about my husband that night. He isn’t big on side dishes. He can cook really well. And he listens to music like know one else I know. I am completely and totally musically handicapped. I can’t whistle. I can’t snap my fingers. I am completely tone deaf. My husband is unbelievable. He hears music in a special way, the tone, the notes and all the layers. This is how I imagine Buddy Holly listened to music.

This movie takes me back to the night.

Gary Busey, pre-accident and pre-bat shit crazy, is brilliant. He embodies the ego and has the talent to back it up. He pursues everything in this film with a single-mindedness, be it his music or the woman he loves. It is as if he knows he can't waste any time. The movie messes a little with the true story, but overall it is a great biography.

The supporting cast is great, but the movie is all about Buddy.

My favorite scene is where Buddy goes to see Maria Elena’s aunt to ask if he can date her. He has put on a suit, slicked back his hair and is playing as respectable as he can. He is polite and courteous. He thinks he has it. Then at the elevator, the aunt blows his cover. “I loved you on American Bandstand Buddy” as the elevator closes.

I also love that this movie ends on a high note. It is the last night, he talks to his wife, his old bandmates are on their way to join him. Then as he rocks, the screen freezes and we know what happened. Only 22 years old, gone to soon.

A couple of years ago I was in Clear Lake and decided to go to the crash site. I had my mom, sister-in-law, niece and nephew with me. My nephew is a musician. We plugged in the iPod and played the four or five Buddy Holly songs and searched back roads for the site. It wasn’t easy to find. Even with GPS. It was kind of comforting that there weren’t signs and glitzy touristy things.

It was in the middle of a cornfield, a path worn from past visitors. The only sign that you were on the right track was a giant pair of horn rimmed glasses on the side of the road. We trekked the half mile or so to the memorial. A guitar shaped granite memorial marked the spot. All around it were little mementos fans had left. My mother was the only one who had even been alive when Buddy Holly died, but we all knew who he was.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Catch Me If You Can" 2002

“Catch Me If You Can”.

I saw this movie when it came out on Christmas Day 2002. I had seen the trailer and while I wasn’t a huge Leonardo DiCaprio fan, I loved Tom Hanks and could watch him in anything. It turned out to be an extremely pleasant way to pass a holiday night.

I love the con in this movie. No one in the movie is wholly honest with anyone else. Christopher Walken is a smooth conman who is always on the edge of making it, but is his own worst enemy. Leo, as his son, takes the cons to the next level. He is slick and smart, looking people in the eye with a cocky grin. Even Tom Hanks, as Carl Handratty is conned by Frank Jr. and then lies back to him about his personal life.

Frank Abagnale Jr. is a real person who pulled many of the real cons depicted in the movie and more that weren‘t. I love to see a true story and the way it is brought to life on the screen. The focus of the movie was Frank’s need for his father to feel successful and for his parents to be together. Every attempt is met with resistance by his father.

So begins the clever dance, Frank Jr. crisscrossing the country, staying one step ahead of Carl. But Frank needs a connection from the one person who seems to care. Every Christmas Eve, Frank knows Carl will be at his desk. Carl becomes more obsessed, Frank more creative.

I love the scene where Carl has discovered that Frank is just a kid. He has been interviewing the mother and is leaving in pursuit. His mother grabs her checkbook, ready to take care of this silliness only to discover that Frank has scammed more than a million dollars.

This movie takes me back to that quiet Christmas night, sitting in the dark with my husband and son. It is a great popcorn movie. The banter between DiCaprio and Hanks is great. Christopher Walken steals every scene he is in. Even Martin Sheen glows with a rare exuberance. It is a good movie and that’s why I have it in my library.

Friday, July 29, 2011

"What A Way To Go" 1964

“What A Way To Go”

I woke up this morning, had the day off and decided to see what was on TV. I found a movie that was in my DVD collection and had to watch it. “What A Way To Go” starring Shirley MacLaine and a host of Hollywood leading men. This was made in 1964 at the height of Shirley’s first career. She would come back in the eighties to win an Oscar for “Terms of Endearment”. In this she is at her quirky, cute, lovable best.

Shirley plays Louisa May Foster who is a romantic that has read Thoreau and wants a simple life with a man she loves. Her mother wants her to marry Leonard Crowley played with cocky assurance by Dean Martin. Louisa hates his money and materialism. She dates him but under duress. He owns the town and thinks she is part of the package. Louisa runs to the one man in town not owned by Leonard, Edgar Hopper played by Dick Van Dyke. She is thrilled to be living her dream of a simple life. Edgar is lazy and easily distracted. She imagines their life like a silent movie with lots of pratfalls and kissing.

But then Leonard stops by their little home and insults the Hoppers. This drives Edgar to start working hard to prove he isn’t a loser. Soon Louisa is left alone as Edgar drives himself into the ground trying to bring Leonard down. Which he finally does and after calling Louisa to tell her the good news, he drops dead, leaving a rich widow.

Louisa runs off to Paris to try to get over it. She gets into a cab driven by Larry Flint, played with hot angst by Paul Newman. Larry is a starving artist who is always eating. He has created a machine to paint canvases to music. Louisa imagines their life together as a romantic French film. One afternoon, instead of the hip music that Larry plays, Louisa drops a classical record on the player. The resulting painting is a smash hit and suddenly Larry is the toast of the town. His art is everywhere, including on Louisa. She waits on the sidelines as his career zooms into the stratosphere. Then he is killed by the very machine that made him rich, leaving Louisa even a richer widow.

Ready to forget, she is picked up by millionaire playboy, Rod Anderson Jr. played suavely by Robert Mitchum. Louisa is scared to try again, but decides that since Rod is already made his fortune, she won’t lose him. This starts a hilarious segment of wonderful costumes as Louisa embraces her new life, which she sees as a “love story where you can’t wait to see what she’ll wear next”. There are a number of incredible costumes including a backless number that defies gravity. When Rod checks into his office and discovers that somehow his fortune has tripled while he’s been wrapped up in Louisa. His rage at this makes Louisa panic. She has been through this before. She finds out about his farm roots and beloved cow he had as a boy and suggests they return to that life.

So they buy a farm, some chickens, a cow and a bull. After a welcome party with some moonshine, Rod enters the wrong stall to do some milking. The bull is not happy and soon Louisa is a widow again with another 150 million in the bank. She runs off to try to forget.

Louisa has decided that she is a curse for the men she loves. She stops at a roadside diner and is romanced by a singer, the charming Gene Kelly. As Pinky Benson, he has been doing an act in which he sings in full hobo clown for the last fourteen years. When Louisa hears his first wife left because of his utter lack of ambition, she falls in love again. There life is like a romantic Hollywood musical. They have their golden time until Louisa decides to throw Pinky a birthday party. She encourages him to skip his clown makeup for one night so he isn’t late for his party . Suddenly he is transformed into something completely different. He is swept into super stardom with lightning speed.

Louisa waits on the sidelines as he makes records, movies and insists everything around him be painted pink. At the premier of his latest movie, we see that his ego has exploded to the size of a planet. Slipping out the side door to leave, he hears the fans chanting his name and can’t resist. Louisa watches in horror as Pinky is trampled to death.

Finally Louisa ends up in a therapist’s office. The doctor, played by Bob Cummings is trying to figure out why Louisa wants to give her fortune away. He listens to her story and falls in love with her. She finds the courage to tell him know and ends up running into Leonard, who has become a janitor. But a Thoreau reading janitor. Louisa falls one more time.

We flash forward to a simple farm. Leonard is on a tractor, more interested in reading than plowing. Louisa is taking care of their four children, Leonard Jr., Jonathon, Geraldine and Butch. Then Leonard’s plowing hit’s a bump and suddenly oil is shooting into the sky. Louisa stands in the yard watching in horror. Then the oil company pulls up, yelling that its their oil line that Leonard hit.

“Oh Leonard, my failure, my wonderful, wonderful failure!”

This movie is pure fun. It makes me smile every time. Shirley MacLaine is incredible. You believe that she would have all these men fall head over heels for her. I don’t know why it isn’t as well known as “The Apartment” or “Sweet Charity”. I enjoy it because it combines old Hollywood glamour of the fifties with the darker comedies coming into vogue in the early sixties. I waited a long time for it to come on DVD and it was worth the wait.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"American Beauty" 1999

“American Beauty”

I went to this movie on my annual movie marathon to watch all the Best Picture nominees. I wasn’t familiar with Kevin Spacey. I hadn’t seen “The Usual Suspects”. I knew Annette Bening, but wouldn’t call myself a fan. I knew her mostly from her supporting role in “The Great Outdoors”. Not exactly cinematic gold. This movie changed my mind about both of them. It is a perfect marriage of the actors and roles.

From the opening scene we know that Lester Burnham is going to die. We spend the whole movie waiting for that inevitable moment. Kevin Spacey is a revelation in this movie. He starts out a wilted man going through the motions of his life. Then one night he goes to see his daughter perform in a half time show and sees her best friend.

Suddenly everything about his life becomes crystal clear. His job is a dead end, his brittle wife doesn’t love him and his daughter is mortified by his mere existence. Angela Hayes, played by Mena Suvari, represents his youth and all his broken dreams. The responsibility of life is suddenly too heavy to carry, so he tosses it aside.

Lester seems taller immediately. He has a goal and grabs it with both hands.

Carolyn’s hard mask is controlled chaos. She is determined to be seen in a certain way. Her defining scene is when she is selling the house. She strips to her undergarments to clean it with a frantic intensity. Her announcement that she will sell this house today is a mantra from her fragile soul. She needs to succeed. She needs to overcome her childhood. She is afraid to show any vulnerability and her husband’s midlife crisis starts showing the cracks in her fa├žade.

Jane is numb. She has been caught between her parents for so long, just trying not to be noticed that when Ricky incites feelings it shocks her. When she exposes herself to him at her window she is baring her soul to him. In her Ricky sees his soul mate, another person so lonely that they need to cling to one another to survive.

Ricky is also caught between loving his parents and needing to get away from them. His vacant mother and his father who can’t be summed up in a word. Chris Cooper as Frank Fitts was amazing. When he enters the garage that last night and kisses Lester it is shocking. Kevin Spacey is gentle and non-judging, but something inside of Frank Fitts shatters in shame.

Angela presents herself to Lester hoping he will make her feel beautiful and wanted. For a moment he has what he wanted the whole movie. The seductive sex kitten is there asking to be loved.

It is an incredible scene. She lays exposed and Lester can’t believe his luck. He moves in, ready to the fantasy and touch his own youth when she apologizes in advance for her lack of experience. Suddenly the light changes and Lester sees the young girl, a child really laying in front of him. He realizes he can’t take her.

He makes her a sandwich. He tells her she’s beautiful.

When she leaves the room he sits at the table looking at a photo of Carolyn. It is a Carolyn we’ve never seen. She is happy. A gentle smile falls onto his face at the precise moment he is shot.

I walked out of this movie knowing I had seen something truly special. I had gone with my sister. I turned to her and said “Wow”. She rolled her eyes and said, “What a pervert, I can’t believe he was going to have sex with that girl.”

It was eye opening for me. I was flabbergasted that two people could see the same movie and walk away with such different impressions. From that moment on I only went to romantic comedies with my sister. The good ones I save for myself.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Gone With The Wind" 1939

“Gone With The Wind”

This is hands down my favorite movie. I can’t remember the first time I saw this movie. But I have watched it at least once a year for as long as I can remember. I have also read the novel more times than I can count.

Vivien Leigh personifies Scarlett O’Hara. She is the belle of the county and never really, despite everything she goes through, gets over losing it. She isn’t afraid to fight and scrape to get what she needs or wants. Scarlett is the original Steel Magnolia.

Scarlett and Melanie have the same blind spot. It is love. Scarlett can’t see who really loves her. Scarlett thinks Ashley is the love of her life and can’t see that she was made for Rhett. She can’t see that Melanie is her best friend. She even takes care of Tara without realizing that she gains strength from it. Melanie can’t fathom that anyone she loved didn’t feel the exact same way back.

Hattie McDaniel was Mammy. She was quoted once as saying, “I’d rather play a maid than be one.” She did more with a look and a sigh than most actresses can today.

Leslie Howard brings to life Ashley Wilkes. A man whose sense of honor and downright politeness keeps him from just telling Scarlett she is nice enough but he loves his wife.

Clark Gable is just cool. There is no other word. I love when he goes to Scarlett after Frank dies. The flowers from the funeral are still in the house and he casually tucks one in his lapel. Scarlett can’t hide anything from him and he calls her on her lies.

“I can’t spend my life trying to catch you between husbands.”

There are endless moments, small details that come together to make this an incredible film. I love the old movies for what they implied but never said aloud.

But most of all, I love that it isn’t a happy ending. Scarlett started on the steps of Tara, surrounded by her beaus, the world at her feet. Her only desire to go to a barbeque. She ends the movie all alone on the steps of her Peachtree mansion, her illusions shattered and the love of her life has vanished into the mist.

But her last words are those of determination. She will rise again. Scarlett O’Hara can’t be beaten down by war or poverty. She will scrape for Rhett the way she dug in the ground for food.

I have read the sequels, but they don’t do this amazing character justice. This movie won awards and 72 years later is still a classic. A delightful tale of a time…Gone With The Wind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Clay Pigeons" 1998

"Clay Pigeons"

I went into this movie in an ideal way. I had no clue what it was about. In the first ten minutes Joaquin Phoenix is confronted by his best friend for sleeping with his wife, gets framed for murder and covers it up. And then it gets crazy.

Just when things couldn’t get any worse, in walks Vince Vaughn and turns the dial up to eleven. Because as the infamous Lester “The Molester” Long he is all lanky, lethal charm in a cowboy hat. Soon the bodies are piling up and Joaquin Phoenix’s Clay has the bad luck of finding more than his share of them.

Lester is seductive, drawing people in so that they are dead before they realize they’ve made a mistake.  Then the FBI rolls in with Janeane Garofalo playing a great character who is smart and cynical.

There are so many great quotes.

“Clay, do me a favor. Stop finding dead bodies.”

“Your deputy’s name is Barney?”

“Barney, stop poking the body with a stick.”

“Don’t call me cowboy.”

“The P word, Clay. Patience.”

This movie is dark and funny. Vince Vaughn is a character he’s played before, but only on the surface. Under the goofy laugh and charming smile, there is a darkness that is barely held in check. Here is a pre-Dexter serial killer that you almost root for. But not quite.

I have a hard time watching other Vince Vaughn movies, wondering when he is going to use a butcher knife on Jennifer Anniston, or set Jon Favreau up for murder.

My favorite moment is near the end. The only scene between Vince Vaughn and Janeane Garofalo. They are sitting at a bar and he slowly peels away at her rejection like it’s a banana. He leans in for the kill. She leans too, wanting to hear what he has to say. Then the spell is broken and he is out the door before she realizes what happened. She barely has time to chastise herself before realizing the very person she was pursuing almost seduced her.

But finally it ends at a crossroads. There are many in this film. Each turn is delicious and multi-layered. I can watch it over and over. It is a great ride.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Muriel's Wedding" 1994

“Muriel’s Wedding”. It has great actors. It has ABBA music. And it makes me cry every time.

Muriel is a mess. She is a liar and a thief. But she ultimately wants to be accepted and wants to fall in love. Her mother is on one edge of sanity, her philandering father on the other. She has been told all her life that she is useless. Is it any surprise that one day she decides to marry a complete stranger just so she can have a wedding and be a success?

I first saw this movie when I was working for a video distributor. I would get advance copies of movies coming out and would watch them in anticipation of selling them to video stores. Miramax used to do great meetings with prizes, so it was to one’s advantage to have watched all their films. I hadn’t heard of the movie. It was my introduction to foreign films. I don’t remember winning any prizes, but this movie was amazing.

From the opening scene, when Muriel is at the pseudo friend’s wedding, I was hooked. I saw a kindred spirit in Muriel. Here was a girl that just desperately wanted to fit in and be with the popular girls, even years after high school. When she is arrested at the wedding it sets off a chain of events that change her life.

I love that Muriel is a liar. She lies to everyone, even her best friend, Rhonda. In fact the whole friendship is based on a lie. But she exudes vulnerability. Toni Collette smiles and it is heartbreaking. Rachel Griffith is incredible as Muriel’s best friend, roommate and ultimately her redemption. She is fearless and saucy.

So many moments without words. The mean girls jumping at the chance to be in Muriel’s wedding. Muriel’s tragic mother, who crumples before our eyes. Rhonda sitting in the corner alone.

This movie led me to others starring these two incredible actresses. Rachel Griffith was the reason I started watching “Six Feet Under”. “The United States of Tara” was Toni Collette’s tour de force and it was cancelled too soon.

I love the triumphant final scene. Muriel has decided to stop lying. She leaves her false husband, tells her father that she isn’t useless and rescues Rhonda. They ride down the road, leaving their past behind and yelling goodbye to it with such joy and hope it never fails to make me smile.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Ghostbusters" 1984

I had my son pick a random movie from the collection for my first post. He pulled out "Ghostbusters".
Ghostbusters came out in 1984. I was fifteen. I remember going to see it with my brother and younger sister. There was a genuine scare when the ghost in the library popped out. You couldn't turn on MTV without seeing the Ray Parker video. And if anyone said, "Who you gonna call?" the answer was obvious.
I still quote so many lines from this movie.
"Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!"
"Are you the keymaster?" (Which is also a line from "Say Anything", a post for another day).
"Don't cross the beams. It would be bad."
"That is one big Twinkie."

You have Bill Murray at his smart aleck best, Rick Moranis turning into a dog, and the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. It is a fun and funny movie. But why is it in my library?
I have a lot of movies from the eighties in my collection. Movies in the eighties were about sillyness and heart. They had bouncy pop soundtracks and big hair. If a couple was arguing at the beginning of the movie, you just knew that they would be in love at the end. There wasn't a lot of angst in the eighties movies. Hollywood saved that for the nineties.
This movie made me want to visit New York City. I still want to and will get there someday! It is a great movie to watch on a lazy afternoon. And it makes me want s'mores.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Plan-My Life in Movies

I have about 600 DVDs in my house. Each was chosen for a reason. It is a movie that I enjoyed enough to want to watch again. So, I plan to take one of them off the shelf every day and remember where I was when I saw it. I will write about what made it resonate with me and hold a place in my library.

I LOVE MOVIES! I read Entertainment Weekly. I have movie blogs on my RSS feed and know more celebrity gossip than I will admit in polite company. I am addicted to the Internet Movie Database. I have watched every Academy Award ceremony in full since 1982. One year I watched the first hour on a tiny handheld television while in a bowling league. It was the year Mira Sorvino won the best supporting actress for "Mighty Aphrodite".

In 2007, I realized that a planned cruise would start on awards night and made a panicked call to the travel agent to make sure it would be available on the ship. Luckily it was.

So, this is my mission with this blog. To write my life story through the movies that have inspired me, made me laugh, made a cry and had a part in making me who I am