Half of A Yellow Sun starring Chiwetel Ejiofor & Thandie Newton (TRAILER)

Criss Cross (1949)

Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) watches his ex-wife
Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) watches his ex-wife

Tagline: The savage drama of an amazing double double-cross! 

This meaty film noir is a follow-up to The Killers (1946).  It reteams German director Robert Siodmak with star Burt Lancaster (age 35 here), who once again finds himself in a deadly love triangle.  Lancaster, cast against type as a loser, Steve Thompson, a man who returns to his native LA after a year of wandering about the country.  He doesn’t call up his ex-wife, Anna (Yvonne De Carlo), but they bump into each other. Steve still “has her in his blood,” much to the dismay of his mother.  Maybe it was bad luck?  Or fate?   

Anna (Yvonne de Carlo) & Slim (Dan Duryea) in the club
Anna (Yvonne de Carlo) & Slim (Dan Duryea) in the club

She’s all right, she’s just young.  -Steve

Hah! Some ways, she knows more than Einstein.  -Mrs. Thompson

Anna and Steve rekindle their relationship for a time, but then she sneaks off to marry gangster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea), who operates out of a local bar/nightclub.  Steve almost can’t believe his ears when the sympathetic bartender breaks the news.  Does Anna only care about money? 

That's young Tony Curtis!
That’s young Tony Curtis!

This is also the film debut (not credited) of Tony Curtis, who dances in the rhumba scene.  Later, Curtis and Lancaster would costar in Trapeze and Sweet Smell of Success

Steve is warned to stay away from Anna by old pal/cop Pete (Stephen McNally)
Steve is warned to stay away from Anna by old pal/cop Pete (Stephen McNally)

I should have been a better friend.  I shoulda stopped you.  I shoulda grabbed you by the neck, I shoulda kicked your teeth in.  I’m sorry Steve.  -Pete

This film is unusual for the genre, because Steve is not a loner, with no one to look out for his well-being.  He has a loving family- mother, jovial little brother, and future sister-in-law. He has a good friend in Lt. Pete Ramirez, a cop he’s known since childhood.  The many minor characters lend flavor to this film. 

Steve's fellow armored car guards at work
Steve’s fellow armored car guards at work

In time, he draws himself into Slim’s sphere, proposing an armored car heist.  This heist involves a elderly co-worker who’s seeing his widowed mother.  The main action scene was very well-done, as it looked quite modern. 

Love…  love!  You’ve got to watch out for yourself!  -Anna

The last scene of the film
The last scene of the film

He [Siodmark] fragments the narrative through flashbacks, counterposing the hopes of Lancaster’s return home with the desperation into which he has fallen.  He also slows down for virtuosic sequences that only a great director could bring off: a long scene when the heist is being plotted, with the bored DeCarlo smoking cigarettes (“It passes the time”) while the railway criss-crosses the window behind her; and an equally long one in the hospital, involving a cranked-up bed, a tilted mirror on the bureau, and a visitor in the corridor- a good Samaritan who turns out to be his worst nightmare.  -IMDB review excerpt

Anna is not like a typical femme fatale, as she’s not the planner.  Steve takes agency in the robbery, though he never wanted anyone to be killed, if possible.  He thinks naively, as he “wasn’t born into this” (Pete comments).  He cared about love, not the money.  The last quarter of the film is atmospheric, intense, and very well done.  Anyone can become a fool for love, even Lancaster.  Look at how young/sad/lost Steve looks when he sees Anna in the club (dancing carelessly) after so long.  This is a fine performance, layered yet accessible.

Jason Brown & Patrick Chan: “Artists” on Ice

Jason Brown (USA)

Did you watch Jason Brown’s (USA) SP last night?   The 19 y.o. boy-next-door performed VERY well, impressing BOTH the crowd & judges at Sochi. 

Here is the 2014 U.S. Nationals vid that is now almost at 4 million views: 

A younger (16 y.o.) Jason talks about his daily routine to local TV station:

Patrick Chan (CAN)

23 y.o. gold-medal hopeful Patrick Chan (& fellow countrymen) discuss Canadian Men’s luck at Olympics:

One-on-one interview w/ Patrick (by then 2-time World Champion) on Canadian TV:

2013 World Championships SP:

2013 World Championships LP:

I totally fell IN LOVE w/ his skating here!  A younger (19 y.o.) Patrick, mature way beyond his years (artistically), performs his SP at 2010 Vancouver Olympics:

One of Patrick’s influences is (no doubt) the great Ukranian skater Viktor Petrenko, one of my faves.  The sense of romance/storytelling he creates ice is reminiscent of fellow Canadian Kurt Browning.  Here is his LP at 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where he made a mark, but was out of medal contention (due to a few errors and fall on triple axel jump): 

Phillip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014): Thoughts on the “flawless” actor

PSH starred opposite DeNiro in "Flawless" (1999)
PSH starred opposite DeNiro in “Flawless” (1999)

Study, find all the good teachers and study with them, get involved in acting to act, not to be famous or for the money.  Do plays.  It’s not worth it if you are just in it for the money.  You have to love it.  -Advice to young actors

One afternoon several years ago, I was bored and flipping through channels for something to watch, when I first came across Phillip Seymour Hoffman (PSH) in the indie drama Flawless (1999).  He plays flamboyant (loud/proud) drag queen Rusty Zimmerman who lives on the same floor as Walt (Robert DeNiro), a cranky/homophobic ex-cop.  Since Walt has suffered vocal chord damage, his doctor (Madhur Jaffrey) recommends singing  lessons.  Of course, Rusty loves singing, and herein begins the (unlikely) friendship.  I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how these two opposites would get along!  There was humor, too, as the two hard-headed men launched insults (many quite funny) at each other.  PSH brought such a fire to RustyWho is this guy, and why didn’t I know more about him!? 

PSH as a home health care nurse in "Magnolia" (1999)
PSH as a home health care nurse in “Magnolia” (1999)

PSH took on a totally different role in Magnolia (1999)- he was Phil Parma, a nurse who took care of a dying man.  This wasn’t a big role, and the film was confusing/annoying to many people.  However, the kindness and quiet dignity of Phil stayed with me.  Here I discovered one of the recurring themes of PSH’s career- turning the notion of traditional masculinity on its head.  

 I’m waiting for somebody to say I’m at least cute.  But nobody has.  -On Hollywood’s view of his appearance

PSH was a pale blonde, stocky, and not very tall- lacking the looks of  a typical leading man.  However, this became an advantage to PSH, who immersed himself into each role (unencumbered by vanity). 

PSH as yuppie Freddie Miles in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999)
PSH as yuppie Freddie Miles in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999)

Actors are responsible to the people we play.  I don’t label or judge.  I just play them as honestly and expressively and creatively as I can, in the hope that people who ordinarily turn their heads in disgust instead think, ‘What I thought I’d feel about that guy, I don’t totally feel right now.’  – On his responsibility as an actor

How many actors can steal a few scenes from Matt Damon!?  PSH did just that in Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley (one of my favorite films), playing yuppie snob/jazz lover, Freddie Miles.  He was shallow, but no dummy, so had to be dealt with by Damon’s character.  PSH only needed a few lines/moments to establish his character.   

PSH as a writer in "State and Main" (2000)
PSH as a writer in “State and Main” (2000)

PSH played Joseph Turner White, a humble/somewhat befuddled novelist/screenwriter in David Mamet’s sly comedy State and Main (2000).  It was a rare role- he got a love interest.  Joseph was dealing with the fact that Hollywood producers had a very different view of the story he created.  He was making money because of the film, but felt uneasy about being a sellout.

PSH as the title character in "Capote" (2005)
PSH as the title character in “Capote” (2005)

The much-respected character actor finally achieved leading man status with “Capote” (2005).  I didn’t know much about Truman Capote, but thought the film was quite atmospheric.  I especially liked the scenes were PSH was working alongside Catherine Keener (who played writer Harper Lee, Capote’s close gal pal). 

PSH as a CIA agent in "Charlie Wilson's War" (2007)
PSH as a CIA agent in “Charlie Wilson’s War” (2007)

I really loved PSH’s role in Charlie Wilson’s War!  He plays Gust Avrakotos, a brash/whip-smart CIA agent and first gen Greek-American.  Some in the agency have questioned his loyalty, due to his ethnic background, we learn in one scene.  PSH and Tom Hanks make a dynamic duo.  Below is my brief review (from earlier blog post):

I also saw Charlie Wilson’s War (over in Lincoln Center area).  It was GREAT!!!  There were MANY laughs, as well as things we can relate to (in our time).  Tom Hanks was EVEN better than usual, but Phillip Seymour Hoffman was TERRIFIC!  Honestly, whenever I see that guy, I wonder how he gets so deep into character!  He is not even middle-aged yet… WOW! 

PSH as Father Flynn in "Doubt" (2008)
PSH as Father Flynn in “Doubt” (2008)

The theatrically-trained actor got to marry his first love with film in Doubt (2008), based on the stage play by John Patrick Shanley, who grew up attending Catholic school in 1960s BronxPSH worked with rising star Amy Adams and the fabulous Meryl Streep- one of the highest points in any actor’s career.  (Shanley wondered who was an actor who could “stand up to Meryl Streep?”)  Here is my review of the film. 

PSH won the Best Actor Oscar in 2006 for "Capote"
PSH won the Best Actor Oscar in 2006 for “Capote”

I’m probably more personal when I’m acting than at any other time. More open, more direct. Because it allows me to be something that I can’t always feel comfortable with when I’m living my own life, you know? Because it’s make- believe.  -On his process

PSH consolidated his rep as one of the finest actors under 40 with Capote (2005).  He won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award as Best Actor.  In 2006, he was awarded the Best Actor Oscar.  When I heard (on NPR) that he had died, I didn’t think it was true!  How can someone his age die without any warning?  I didn’t know about his personal life or struggles with addiction (alcohol at a young age, then heroin).  Sadly, the flaws were offscreen, and couldn’t be edited out.