Hugo (2011) Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s  HUGO is a film lover’s dream. A homage to those early days of cinema when virgin movie audiences would jump from their seats frightened the oncoming train would  burst right through the screen and run them over.

The film is based on the children’s novel, “The Invention of Hugo Caberet” by Brian Selznick. The last name should sound familiar. Brian is a relative of the late Hollywood producer, David O. Selznick whose classic films included “Gone with the Wind,” “Spellbound,” “Rebecca” and “David Copperfield.” It must have been some kind of organic fate that attracted  the filmmaker, connoisseur and historian Scorsese to this woven tale of fantasy and celluloid love.

Enchanting is not a word that comes to mind when discussing Martin Scorsese films but I cannot think of a better one to describe this affectionate look at the early days of a new art. The name Georges Mêliés will mean little if anything to most current filmgoers, it’s a name almost lost in the passage of time. An early pioneer in the art of film,  Mêliés  short works were innovative gems of science fiction and fantasy using cinematic techniques like stop motion, time lapse photography, dissolves and editing to create early celluloid magic with works  like, “A Trip to the Moon” (1902) and “The Impossible Voyage” (1903).   

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These Amazing Shadows (2011) Mariano and Norton

 The PBS series, “Independent Lens” is giving film lovers a real holiday treat on December 29th with the television debut of the documentary, “These Amazing Shadows,” an entertaining and informative look at the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Unlike the Oscars and other award shows the National Film Registry is not just an excuse to create another list or TV special.  The films chosen have “stood the test of time,” as one of the interviewees tells us early on. They represent a group of films that are culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.

The selected films are far reaching in range from the Hollywood classics you would typically expect like “Casablanca,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Searchers,” “The Godfather” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” to many  less recognized works ranging from the avant-garde, to historically important home movies along with some unexpected rarities and oddities. From the spectacular large Hollywood productions down to scratchy 8mm films and everything in between, the National Film Registry has collected and preserved works that tell our history, celebrate our lives and reflects what we as Americans were, are and how film, whether they are works of art or entertainment, reflect our lives, influence our thoughts and define our culture. Continue reading

Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964) Howard Hawks

In a CBS Sunday Morning segment a while back, there was a piece on Cary Grant where Director and Film Historian Peter Bogdanovich told a story about how Grant and some friends went to a show one evening. Grant forgot his ticket and said to the ticket taker, “Excuse me, I forgot my ticket, I’m Cary Grant, is it okay if I go in?” The ticket taker took a good look at Grant and replied, “You are not Cary Grant!”  This leads me to what is the most obvious problem with Howard Hawks 1964 comedy, “Man’s Favorite Sport?” starring Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss, which is, it needs Cary Grant, instead we get Rock Hudson, and Rock Hudson, with all due respect, is not Cary Grant.  Then again, who is?

Howard Hawk’s was one of the masters of screwball comedy. Back in its heyday of the 1930’s and 1940’s Hawks made some of the best in this sub-genre with films like “Twentieth Century,” “Bringing up Baby,” “His Girl Friday” and “I Was a Male War Bride.” Three of these four films happened to have starred Cary Grant. Grant was romantic, suave, debonair, and yet he could take a pratfall just about as good as Chaplin or Keaton. He also had a way with a line of dialogue that made even average lines sharp as a switchblade. He would have been perfect to play the bumbling Roger Willoughby in what would turn out to be Hawks final comedy. Grant and Hawks almost came to an agreement to work on the film together however, before signing contracts Grant opted out to make “Charade” instead with Audrey Hepburn.  Continue reading

Rear Window (1954) Alfred Hitchcock

L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart), a photojournalist for a big time magazine is confined to his Greenwich Village apartment in a leg cast due to an accident during a photo shoot when he got a little too close to the action on a race track. His long period of convalescence is stifling. Use to being on the move, traveling to exotic places around the world, Jeffries is bored and frustrated by his inability to get around. A brutal heat wave with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees only adds to his aggravation. Bored out of his mind, Jeffries spends his days and nights, voyeuristically spying on his neighbors whose apartments are visible from his window facing the courtyard of his housing complex. The tenants are a diverse group of New Yorkers whose lives he becomes fleetingly acquainted with. They include a newlywed couple, a struggling songwriter, a lonely woman, he dubbed Miss Lonely Heart, a young beautiful dancer he nicknamed Miss Torso, and some married couples, one with a dog, another who sleep out on the fire escape, and especially one unhappy couple, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) and his ailing wife.

 Jeffries girlfriend, Lisa Freemont (Grace Kelly), a high fashion model, is pushing him to settle down and get married, a concept Jeffries reacts to as if it were allergenic. Jeffries begins to focus on the Thorwald’s when he notices Mrs. Thorwald, who was always in her bedroom, has seemed to have disappeared and Mr. Thorwald, a salesman by trade, began to be going out at odd hours of the night with his sample case in hand.

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