A Tribute to Paul Newman (1925-2008)

 

 
“There is a point where feelings go beyond words… I have lost a real friend. My life – and this country – is better for his being in it.”

-Robert Redford

 

 (You can purchase an art print of the above picture at Allposters.com.)

“He was my hero.”

-Julia Roberts, who served on the board of Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang

 

“I was blessed to have known him. The world is better because of him. Sometimes God makes perfect people and Paul Newman was one of them.”

-Sally Field (starred with Newman in the legal thriller Absence of Malice.)

 “Paul was an American icon, philanthropist and champion for children. We will miss our dear friend, whose continued support always meant the world to us. Our prayers and thoughts are with Joanne and the Newman family and the many people who Paul impacted through his endless kindness and generosity.”

-A statement by Senator Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton

 “If my eyes should ever turn brown, my career is shot to hell,” Paul Newman once joked.

 

“Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?”

-Newman regarding his lasting marriage to Joanne Woodward

 

Yowza- domestic life looks smokin’ hot here!

“Sexiness wears thin after awhile and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that’s a real treat!”

-Joanne Woodward

“He learned to use that flawless face, so we could see the complexities underneath.”

-Manohla Dargis, New York Times web site 

Classic, elegant, engaging- words like these fit Paul Newman to a tee.  Not only remarkably handsome- striking blue eyes, chiseled face, athletic physique- he used the power of celebrtity to do many good works.  Like many great actors (that I admire), Newman started out in theater in his early 20s.  Quickly, Holywood noticed his gorgeous looks; he tried to go against the “sex symbol” image (not unlike protege and friend, Robert Redford). 

Brando and Newman at a civil rights rally (sometime in the early 1960s).

He was called “the next Marlon Brando”; both men studied at The Actor’s Studio.  Brando was known for his mercurial emotions (both on and off-stage); while Newman was subdued and cool.  But there was something under the surface, making him all the more interesting to watch! 

Newman realized that doing typical leading man parts (which hit big at the box office) would enable him to do projects (plays/small-budget films) which showcased his range of ability.

Above is a still from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  with Elizabeth Taylor.  Wow, shouldn’t the set be on fire?  Seriously, Newman (who played depressed alcoholic Brick) is intriguing in this film, especially in scenes with Burl Ives (the overbearing Big Daddy).

 

In the eyes of mainstream Hollywood, Paul Newman took a risk with Hud- a memorable film where he played the swaggering, lay-about son of a Texan landowner.  Newman showed that charm can be dangerous.  Perhaps Hud’s anger towards his father affects his (bad) decisions?  Though he is a shallow character (not a tortured soul), Newman makes Hud very engaging.  Co-star Patricia Neal, the housekeeper that Hud hits on, does a great job also.  Noted film critic Pauline Kael wrote: there are some men who “project such a traditional heroic frankness and sweetness that the audience dotes on them, seeks to protect them from harm or pain.”

The Long Hot Summer is one of my mom’s favorite Newman movies.  The dialogue is terrific: fast, snappy, intelligent; the story was adapted from a novel by William Faulkner.  Newman and Woodward fell in love during the filming of The Long Hot Summer.  It’s an (unusual) love story involving two people who seem like total opposites.  Newman plays Ben Quick (great name for the character, you’ll see), a mysterious, charming, nearly-penniless man who is kicked out of one Southern  town.  He happens upon another town, and quickly makes himself useful to the wealthy patriarch of the community- Will Varner (Orson Welles).   

 

Mr. Varner’s daughter Clara (Woodward), a single, sensitive schoolteacher, has a strong dislike for Ben from the moment she meets him.  She feels that he can’t be trusted- an obvious opportunist in her mind.  Though he knows very little about Ben, Varner puts him in charge of the town’s general store.  Varner has a son (Jody) and daughter-in-law Eula (a very young Lee Remick) who also live with him in his mansion; they are newlyweds.   

 

But, the old man doesn’t see much of himself in his son, and soon thinks of Ben as family.  Varner’s lady-friend Minnie Littlejohn (a very funny Angela Lansbury) also seeks to be part of the family.  When her father (not so subtlely) suggests that Clara and Ben would make a good pair, she is horrified.  He wants grandkids to carry on his name, power, land, etc. To Clara, Ben represents heat, uncertainty, and other things that “nice girls” keep repressed.  Her blatant hostility doesn’t turn him off; he looks at her with unguarded interest.  “Miss Clara, you slam the door in a man’s face before he even knocks on it,” he says with disappointment.  During the picnic scene (see above photo), Clara clearly states what she is looking for in a husband.  She has not been saving herself up for a man like Ben, she insists.  Hmm, you shall see…  Below are some great lines from the film:

Ben and Clara discuss their (potential) relationship:

Clara: You’re too much like my father to suit me, and I’m an authority on him.
Ben: He’s a wonderful old man.
Clara: One wolf recognizes another.
Ben: Tame us. Make pets out of us. You could.

 

Varner talks about his youth:

Will Varner: I was young myself once. I used to hide in the greenery and hoot and bellow.
Clara: I’ll bet you did. I’ll bet you stayed longest and yelled loudest.
Will Varner: Your mama listened.

 

Varner confronts Ben about his past:

Will Varner: I got influence. I’ll dog you, boy, wherever you go. I’ll break you.
Ben: No, you won’t. You’ll miss me.  [Ah yes, very true!]

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“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (2007)

The “definitive” Queen Elizabeth of modern film (Cate Blanchett), director Shekhar Kapur, and the Queen’s “master of intrigue” Lord Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) return to create a strong sequel.  The costumes, especially those of Elizabeth, are some of the MOST beautiful, intricate things ever seen!  The unusually high camera angles often used reminding the viewer of bigger forces at play in the world (God?  Destiny?) than the machinations of rulers.  There are new chracters to explore as well: sailor/adventurer/privateer, Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen); beautiful, sweet, young lady of the court (Abbie Cornish); the religiously fanatical King Phillip of Spain (Jordi Molla); the steely Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton).

This is my second viewing of the film; I saw it in the theater this past winter.  It’s the kind of film you MUST see in the theater to appreciate fully.  Kapur envisions this film as light (Elizabeth) vs. dark (Philip); he explains this in the Special Features of the DVD.  Elizabeth is now a mature woman and a confidant ruler, but her country is in trouble.  Spain has an incredibly strong navy (the Armada had more than 2,000 ships), the Inquisition (which Elizabeth says will take away “freedom of conscience and thought”), and a ruler who seeks to glorify God by conquering Britain.

At home, the Virgin Queen must deal with cousin Mary, who has many Catholic supporters plotting for Elizabeth’s demise.  Mary is imprisoned, but still sending out letters to the world.  England is about 50% Catholic, but the queen vows “I will not punish thought- only action.”  Elizabeth stood for religious tolerance, even when her Privy Council said that she should be more tougher on disloyal subjects (speaking/writing against her).

One day, while walking with her ladies from church, Elizabeth meets Raleigh.  He gallantly drops his cloak in order to cover up a puddle.  She is definitely amused and intrigued by the man, as is Beth (her favorite lady-in-waiting).  Raleigh is handsome, bold, and has been to the New World; he presents to the court Native Americans, potatoes, tobacco, and gold (captured from Spanish ships, of course).  You may know that Virginia was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth.

Raleigh speaks with Beth Throckmorton, one of Elizabeth’s closest ladies.

Raleigh was known to be one of Elizabeth’s “favorites” in real life.  In this film, Elizabeth is drawn NOT only to the (very charming) man himself, but to the life of adventure her leads.  She has never been away from British shores, and yearns to see more of what is “beyond the court.” 

In the above picture, Elizabeth is enthralled as she listens to Raleigh’s account of life at sea.  This section of the film reminded me of Shakespeare’s tragic play, Othello.  (Desdemona fell in love with Othello because of his stories.)

Raleigh wants the Queen’s favor; however, he also shows concern for her as a person and friend.  Though the hair, make-up, and clothes (obviously) proclaim him the “hero” character, the acting is mostly in Clive Owen’s eyes.

Sir Walter Raleigh (he was knighted by the Queen) aboard his ship, The Tiger.

Some people have complained about the (big) show of emotion in one scene involving the Queen, Beth and Raleigh.  (I understand that, because I thought it was a BIT too much as well.)  But who among us is always in control?  The Queen is NOT ONLY a ruler, she is a woman (who probably would’ve liked to have a husband and family- like most other women of her day).

The dialogue was pretty good, but there were a few places where I thought it could’ve been more subtle.  Modern audiences are NOT as dim as MANY screenwriters think!  The acting, especially by Cate, is VERY good.  In my opinion, this actress can play ANY role.  Geoffrey Rush is strong (as always) but low-key.  He was known as “the spymaster” who had eyes and ears all over Europe; his main concern is the Queen’s safety.

What struck me the most was the beauty of the locations (especially the many different cathedrals), the visual effects, and the scenes between Cate and Clive.  They had a good connection that was based on respect, I feel.  The music was not overly dramatic, unlike in many “epic” scale films.  Check out this film ASAP!

New Movie I Want to See!

 

Appaloosa

A Western starring Ed Harris (also director), Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons, & Renee Zellweger

Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch (Mortensen) are long-time friends who make their living as lawmen (police for hire) in troubled, frontier towns like Appaloosa, New Mexico.  Their lives are complicated by murdering landowner (Irons) and young widow (Zellweger).

First of all- WOW, what a talented cast!  And Harris and Mortensen were TERRIFIC together in A History of Violence.  You could clearly see that these two actors LOVED working together in that film.  I also feel that they have similar style of acting (low-key).  Their looks also suit the Western genre, especially in Harris’ case.  I’m curious to see Irons as an American bad guy, too!

 

Excerpts from recent New York Times review:

“Mr. Harris can be an imposingly serious actor, his face hard and unyielding as quarried stone, but there is often a saving glint of mischief in his eye.  …He leavens the atmosphere of costumed rigidity and somber stoicism with sly, relaxed humor.”

“…Mr. Mortensen’s performance resides almost entirely in his eyes, which register tiny, unmistakeable nuances of surprise, suspicion and amusement.”

 

 

Check links below for more info:

http://nytimes.com/movies

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0800308/

What I’m doing these days…

I’m exercising (What a shock, right!?):

 

Stationary bike (usually between 20-30 minutes depending on energy level)

 

Yoga (1 hour 2 X a week)

 

Step/Aerobics (1 hour 3 X a week)

 

 

I’m reading:

 

Mr. Knightley’s Diary by Amanda Grange

 

Jane Austen’s Emma from the viewpoint of Mr. Knightley; a fun, easy read; I LOVE the book cover!

 

Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon

 

A paranormal romance novel- we can’t be serious 24/7, can we?

 

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

 

A play by Tennessee Williams; I LOVED the film!

 

Time magazine

 

 

I’m watching:

 

Angels in America

 

A HBO mini-series (only $10 from vendor in Union Square); it stars: Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary Louise Parker, Jeffrey Wright, Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman (I especially liked his character), and Patrick Wilson (Wow, amazing looks AND talent!  He shines in his role.  Nothing like Phantom of the Opera here.)

 

Elizabeth I

 

A beautiful, intelligent, and (surprisingly) relateable mini-series; see previous post for review.

 

 

 

Weeds (Season 2)

 

Yes, as a reader commented on this blog- even better than Season 1!  There are MANY twists and turns…  In this show, Justin Kirk plays MLP’s brother-in-law. 

 

 

 

Let me know what YOU are doing!  Anything interesting? 

 

 

 

Movie Review: “Days of Heaven”

There is a pervading sadness to the movie, like a memory of something wonderful that could have been, that should have been, that almost was, and is all the more tragic because it was in your hands but slipped through your fingers. This is not a movie for everyone, but if you believe that film can be one of the highest forms of art, this is the film to see. 

–IMDB review

What is it really about?  Fleeting beauty. There aren’t any random shots in the film at all, each frame and edit is a word or period for thought and mood. What joys and disappointments to be found in life. The churning machines, the lighting, the chatter, the dialogue-free actions… 

–IMDB message board 

 

This is a very visually engaging and beautiful film that came out in 1978.  It was directed by Terrence Malick (mostly known for The Thin Red Line and The New World).  If you know his work, don’t worry, this movie is not overly long (only 94 minutes) and languorous!  The acting is subtle and the dialogue is simple, but you’ll be drawn in by the hopeful young characters and the natural beauty around them.  Oh, and the characters are beautiful, too!   

In the opening, Bill (Richard Gere- young and very striking), his girlfriend Abby (Brooke Adams- also youthful, but bright; wife of multi-talented Tony Shalhoub), and Bill’s pre-teen sister Linda (the narrator) are struggling to get by in pre-WWI Chicago. 
Bill, who has a short temper, gets into a fight (for no apparent reason) with an older man at his job; he unwittingly kills the man.  The self-made family travel (via train) to work on a wheat farm (during harvest time) in the Texas panhandle.  Bill and Abby, who are deeply in love and very comfortable with each other, pose as brother and sister in order to prevent “talk” about them.  

The Farmer (Sam Shepard- also a noted playwright; I think he resembled Viggo Mortensen as a young man) is wealthy, but looks sad and lives alone in his huge house (no relatives; single).  He becomes interested in Abby; Brooke Adams’ beauty is in her large expressive eyes.  The Farmer asks another employee about Abby, then one day, gathers up courage to speak to her.  After harvest, he suggests that she stay on to work on his farm.  The work would be easier, and it would be a more stable life.

When Abby mentions this idea to Bill, he doesn’t get jealous.  Bill overheard the doctor saying The Farmer doesn’t have long to live.  The family becomes friendly with the lonely man.  Very soon, we realize that The Farmer is in love with Abby.  The Farmer, who is kind and gentle, could give Abby a financially secure life.  But what will happen after she decides to marry The Farmer?  Will Bill be able to handle it?  (It’s not easy to be part of a love traingle!)  

 

I really like the shot below because it shows the harshness of their lives, though they are beautiful and young. 

The last 30 minutes are very interesting; the action picks up a lot!  Sam Shepard suits the role of a farmer very well with his tall, lean build and shy, quiet demeanor.  His character is easy to sympathize with!  Brooke Adams and Richard Gere look comfortable doing the hard labor of farmwork.  Gere grew up on a small farm in upstate New York.  You can believe that Abby and Bill are a loving couple, but their relationship is not (totally) secure.  I found her to be a very watcheable character.  It’s too bad that there wasn’t more dialogue- that’s what I like best in films.  However, you could see the conflict in the characters’ eyes, faces, body language. 

 

Check out this film when you’re in a reflective mood, or looking for something different from the ordinary.