My Movie Suggestions for Valentine’s Day

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Dangerous Beauty

A film that is smart, beautiful, and charming- just like the real-life Venetian poetess it’s based on, Veronica Franco (the gorgeous Braveheart gal- Catherine McCormack).  When Veronica is unable to marry her girlhood love Marco Venier (the gorgeous/dark Brit- Rufus Sewell) b/c of social/monetary reasons, she is heartbroken.  Her mother (the gorgeous French/Brit- Jaqueline Bissett) tells her that there is another way to be w/ her man.  Veronica becomes a courtesan… and one of the most educated women of her time!

 

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This film has great music, locations, and dialogue.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118892/

 

 

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It Happened One Night

This is a classic must-see w/Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert- clever and quirky!

 

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[after Ellen stops a car by showing her leg]
Peter: “Why didn’t you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped forty cars.”
Ellie: “Well, ooo, I’ll remember that when we need forty cars.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0025316/ 

 

 

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Mississippi Masala

This is a sweet, slow-burn, “boy and girl next door” romance from Mira Nair.  It’s about two family-oriented people (Indian and black) who fall in love in a small Southern town in the early ’90s.  (It’s COOL to see Denzel playing a regular guy!) 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102456/

 

 

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The Apartment

An unconventionally GREAT  film w/ Jack Lemmon and Shirley MaClaine.  Who says there are no nice guys in NYC? 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053604/

 

 

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When Harry Met Sally

A movie about two NYC pals who fall in love- modern and VERY funny! 

Harry: “I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098635/

Movie Review: “Room at the Top” (1959)

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The English factory town is dreary, but Joe Lampton has landed a job with a future.  To have something to do at night, he joins a theatrical group. His boss’s daughter, Susan, is playing ingenue roles on stage (and in real life). She is attracted to Joe, and Joe thinks about how much faster he will get ahead if he is the boss’s son-in-law.  This plan is complicated by his strong desire to be with an older woman who also belongs to the theatrical group.  Alice is French and unhappily married to a wealthy and powerful older man.  Joe believes he can get away with seeing both Susan and Alice.

IMDB synopsis

Hey readers,

It’s ALMOST Valentine’s Day- good or ill, depending on how your personal life is going!  Don’t look for good clean romance in this controversial (for its time) Brit film!  The anti-hero (Hey, some women LOVE bad boys!) is played by an intense, enigmatic, and engaging actor- Laurence Harvey (who I’ve seen in The Manchurian Candidate). 

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I learned that Laurence Harvey was born in Lithuania; this explains the sharp features.  He grew up in South Africa, and eventually came to the English stage.

Harvey was born to play Joe Lampton, if not in kin, then in kind. Lampton was a working-class bloke who dreams of escaping his social strata for something better. It was a perfect match of actor and role, as the icy Harvey persona made Joe’s ruthless ambition to climb the greasy pole of success fittingly chilling.

 -Excerpt from IMDB  bio

25 y.o. Joe (Harvey) has recently gotten a job as an accountant in a factory in a small industrial town.  He shares a small flat (as the Brits call an apt) w/ a co-worker, and is friendly with the guys around the office.  The audience slowly learns that there are MANY layers to Joe, though he seems quiet and guarded at first. 

From the moment he glimpses his boss’ bubbly young daughter, Susan, he can’t keep her out of his head.  He eyes her hungrily- a prize to be won.  Though she has a steady man in her life, the inexperienced Susan is quickly drawn to Joe.  “I’ve never met a man like you,” she says with wonder in her eyes.  While Susan ponders what Joe is REALLY like, another woman catches his eye.  

Alice (Simone Signoret- an Oscar winner for this role) is a blonde, buxom, older woman w/ a sad look in her eyes.  When Joe snaps angrily at another man for mocking his working-class roots, Alice goes to console him.  From her expressions, you can see that she relates to him.  Soon they are a VERY hot item!  (This movie contains dialogue and romantic scenes QUITE different from other ’50s films.)

Though Susan wants to see Joe, her family and friends treat him like an interloper to their moneyed circle.  Joe replies politely to these snobs, but his anger is bubbling underneath.  George, another man who likes Susan, mentions his own war record.  We learn that even during wartime, not all men were treated equal! 

Joe lets the rage out when he’s with Alice, but it doesn’t scare her.  Alice stands up to him, saying that he is a “coward.”  Joe is insecure about his background.  He holds double standards, too.

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Joe shares some tender and happy moments with Alice, giving his calculating side a rest.  You may wonder if he really DOES love her!  Signoret does a terrific job of portraying a passionate, vulnerable, yet also strong woman.  Her character really pops off the screen; she kept it “real” (as the kids would say).  Harvey has a strong physical presence and a sense of danger about him- fitting for this role.  He makes Joe a very compelling young man!  Both actors handled some great/snappy dialogue and played emotional scenes very well. 

Check this film out if you want something different, multi-faceted, and intelligent.  Room at the Top is about ambition, lust, love, morality (different for men than for women), and above all- social class. Accent is sometimes tied to class; Joe switches to his Northern accent (Sean Bean has one!) when he’s angry or talking with family.  But at other times, that accent is much lighter.   The posh set don’t have such an accent, or they hide it!  (Joe is NOT the only one in the town w/ a contradictory nature.) 

Morality is underlying everything, too.  Joes’ roommate/friend warns him that flaunting an affair in this little town is dangerous.  People start to talk- Alice does NOT escape unscathed.  Susan’s patience and virtue are also tested by Joe, but she thinks they can live happily ever after.  Go see for yourself what happens!

Movie Review: “AmericanEast”

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Hi all,

You may not have heard about this film; it premiered last year at the Arab American Film Festival in NYC.  Tony Shalhoub (Wings, Big Night, Monk, etc.) spoke about  AmericanEast on opening night.  I wanted to go to see him, but didn’t reserve a ticket early enough.  Tony acted and executive produced this movie.

The main character is an Egyptian immigrant/father of 2/small businessman named Mustafa (Sayeed Badreya: both a director and actor; recently seen in Iron Man).  He owns and runs Habibi’s Cafe in the Little Arabia neighborhood in West Los Angeles.  Mustafa prays on Fridays at the mosque and tries to keep the old cuture alive; he ALSO believes strongly in “The American Dream” and in cooperation between religions/races/etc.  His future dream is to make “real Egyptian food” in a big upscale restaurant with his close friend Sam (Tony Shalhoub), a successful Jewish-American businessman.

Mustafa is honest, hard-working, and protective of his friends and family.  He approaches life with a big smile.  He isn’t comfortable with religious/political discussions at his little cafe.  But since 9/11, life has become very difficult for his community…

Mustafa’s  young friend Omar (Kais Nashif: a handsome Paul Rudd-type), a cabdriver/actor, keeps getting cast in terrorist roles.    The degrading, stereotypical roles are “killing my soul,” Omar admits to his agent.  Fikri- an Iraqi Christian (Erick Avari- a veteran of many films) and Murad (Anthony Azizi)- who favors hip-hop styles discuss Middle East conflicts at the cafe, somtimes too loudly.  Sam, who is often harrassed by the angry Murad, tells Mustafa that “certain elements” will not be welcome at the new restaurant.  “It’s not a social club,” Sam says, but this group of people care for and support each other.

Son (after stepping away from prayer): Who’s a good Muslim?

Mustafa: Muhammad Ali is a good Muslim!

Son (exasperated): He’s a black guy!  Who’s like me?

Mustafa (slowly and softly): “I’m Egyptian… and… I’m a Muslim.  Doesn’t your father count?”

On the family front, Mustafa’s pre-teen son feels conflicted about being Muslim.  His younger sister Salwah- a nurse and beautician (Sarah Shahi) is not quite ready for arranged marriage to an older first cousin (fresh from Egypt).  Tensions at home and in the wider world (w/ police, customers, etc.) slowly wear away at Mustafa.

If this sounds interesting to you, then check out AmericanEast.  (There is even a cool animated sequence explaining the birth of Islam and the roots of the Middle East crisis.)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0808148/

Movie Review: “Fanny” (1961)

Put a little smile on your face…

 

It’s a movie that stands on its own. It’s sentimental but in a very endearing way, not sickeningly sweet.  I recommend this movie highly for charm, humor and a look at parental domination, a relevant issue even today.

-A reviewer on IMDB.com

 

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Hey all,

This is for those of you who need some cheering up- like me.  I’ve pretty much become a cranky/depressed/couch potato these past few weeks.  I know I need to start working out again, but the economy and my job situation are keeping me down.  

 

So, I felt a bit better when I saw Fanny, nominated for Best Picture in 1961.  It’s about young love, community (set in Marseille, France), friendship, and MORE!    The title character is Fanny (Leslie Caron- also see in Gigi, Damage, and Chocolat), a sweet/honest/beautiful teen girl who helps her widowed mother sell fish on the waterfront.  She’s deeply in love with a young man (a bartender who works with his dad) she grew up with, but he desperately wants to go to sea.  Will he choose love or ambition? 

 

This film has GREAT music, too!

 

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All the best,

EMMA.

Movie Review: “Sweet Bird of Youth” (1961)

Hey readers!

Are we all ready for MORE Paul Newman?  He’s not a straight-shooting hero in this picture- he’s immoral, ambitious, and even… desperate.  He still looks SUPER-HOT!

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I saw this film last week on TCM; it’s based on a Tennessee Williams play, but not as well-known as say A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on aHot Tin Roof, or The Glass Menagerie.  This film is a MUST-SEE for anyone who likes snappy dialogue, complex characters, and SMART classic stuff!

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Chance Wade (Paul Newman) drives into his little hometown (a tropical Southern locale near the sea) with drunken/depressed actress Alexandra Del Lago (Broadway star Geraldine Page).  At a large/fancy hotel, he checks her in as “Princess.”  He has to carry her up to the room; the staff starts to gossip about them (of course).  Then Chance sets off to locate his boyhood love, Heavenly Finley (a very blonde and thin Shirley Knight; you may’ve seen her in As Good As It Gets).

But getting together w/ Heavenly is NOT easy; her father Boss Finley (a wealthy/powerful politician) keeps tabs on her every move.  Her older brother Tom (Rip Torn- back then he didn’t have red hair) is a violent thug in a suit.  Heavenly’s maiden aunt is the only sympathetic one in the bunch.  Even the servants on the Finley estate warn Chance to stay away.

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We learn (via flashbacks) that Chance was very friendly with the Finleys growing up.  He and Waverly fell in love, and planned to marry.  But her father had other ideas… 

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Chance: I had my picture on the cover of Life magazine! Woo-ha!  And at the same time I was… employing my other talent…

Why is Chance with Princess if he STILL can’t forget Heavenly?  What does he want from her?

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Chance: I like you. You are a nice monster.

I pondered on these questions as I watched:

Why do we find it odd when men use their handsome faces/great bodies to get ahead? 

Why can’t women be in charge of their own bodies?  

How does aging affect women, particularly beautiful ones? 

How/why is a daughter’s behavior tied to family honor?  

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Chance: This is pretty high-class pot. Where’d you get it?
Alexandra: You beautiful, stupid young man. That is not pot.  It’s hashish, Moroccan, and the finest.

Yes, they’re talking about drugs.  This movie deals w/ difficult ADULT matters; it’s NOT a feel-good film.  But you definitely MUST check it out!

Best to all, EMMA.