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Ash Wednesday (1973)
Liz, Liz, Liz
Apparently, Elizabeth Taylor hated being called "Liz" but that didn't stop Mike Todd from naming his plane "The Lucky Liz", the plane that crashed and killed him. After his death Elizabeth leased a home in Tucson a few blocks from where I lived but she never stayed there the crowds were so bad. A girl I was dating happened to see Elizabeth at her girlfriend's home in Tucson and said she was more beautiful than you could imagine. The girlfriend's parents were Loews - the people who owned MGM and Elizabeth hid out at their home until she was able to leave Tucson. The house Elizabeth rented was owned by a customer of my dad's company, a TV sales and service concern, and it was quite posh but nothing compared to what Elizabeth was used to. Years later when I was working in the industry I would meet Elizabeth and her husband, Richard Burton, in Mexico. It was quite an experience. Rumor has it that Burton did not want Elizabeth to make this film but I am glad she did. In one scene after another she never looked so beautiful and that's really what this film is about - looking at the most beautiful woman in the world.
Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton
Anything that Taylor & Burton do together is interesting and Boom stands right up there in that it definitely keeps your interest. The story is not one of Tennessee William's strongest or most dramatic but it is certainly above the average in terms of what it says although that is a bit murky to say the least. The Taylor character alas is not sympathetic and for a lead female that is a great disadvantage even if it is Elizabeth Taylor. Burton is a perfect foil for Taylor's hysterics and in fact looks better than one would expect considering the amount of drinking Burton was doing during this period and which eventually killed him - after all he was Welsh and booze is their poison.
The Charge at Feather River (1953)
Guy Madison is All You Need
Guy Madison may well be the best looking "guy" in the movies and the way he was discovered supports that idea. He was sitting in an audience and an agent just happened to spot him. Guy was on leave from the service and was quickly signed and shot his one scene in a Selznick film of all things then returned to the service apparently unaware that he was on the verge of stardom. In this film Guy does what he does best - just looks good - who cares about the story or the other actors -Guy is like some mythological figure out of Greek or Roman history - you just cannot get enough of him - and he never disappoints - whether it's left profile or right or full frontal Guy Madison keeps the blood flowing and the old heart pumping just when it needs to pump.
Hammersmith Is Out (1972)
Taylor & Burton Top Themselves
By the time Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made this film in 1972, they were the most famous stars in the world as well as the richest. In short, they could do anything they wanted and at this point in their career they did one odd thing after another and this film may well be the oddest. There may be a parallel for it, but I cannot think of any. As the film progressed I kept thinking how odd the story was and also how original. I cannot think of a single film before it that comes as close to how original this film is. I can certainly understand why Taylor and Burton decided to do it. It simply was unlike anything they had ever done before. Telling the story in a review is pointless because it is virtually impossible to actually tell it, there are so many twists and turns and I think this is the one thing that is compelling about the film is the fact you just do not know what happens next and when it does happen you are always surprised. And it definitely keeps you at the edge of your seat but at the same time it is also very funny so I think it can at least be called a black comedy.
Elizabeth the Great
Once again Elizabeth Taylor proves she was the greatest actress of her time. This off-beat,virtually unknown film is a triumph all the way around. But it is Taylor who carries it virtually in every scene. An Italian film with a stunning Italian cast, especially the men everyone of whom is a knockout. Your eyes will dance every which way trying to keep up with the hunks in this film. There is one scene in particular where the stud is wearing overalls that zip right down the front and which are unzipped immediately whereupon the action takes place in the front seat of a car and the windows do steam up fast. Yikes! Only the Italians could create such a sensuous, utterly erotic setting for the likes of Elizabeth Taylor. No American film ever quite make her such an object of desire, but then American films are so kindergarten anyway.
Money, Women and Guns (1958)
Jock Mahoney Shines
This film is very unexpected. Almost from the beginning it just does not seem like a western and it really is not. It's a first rate drama that just happens to have a western setting. There's no gun shooting, no chases, no brawls - but there is serious dialogue that grips you immediately. The story is also very unusual, hardly the kind of matinée western Universal was famous for. But through all of it Jock Mahoney is absolutely luminous he is so handsome, dashing, and sexy. You just cannot take your eyes off him. Kim Hunter, the woman Jock falls for is a perfect foil for him. He is interested right away but the idea of settling down is more than he can take. What happens and how it happens is a delightful surprise.
Sweet Bird of Youth (1989)
Taylor at Her Best
The success of a film is based on one thing and one thing only - chemistry - and Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Harmon positively sizzle in this film. You cannot take your eyes off them. The casting is right out of heaven. The story, of course, is pure Tennessee Williams, sordid and nasty and southern, but who cares when you're looking at two utterly gorgeous creatures like Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Harmon. The story really takes a back seat to this production which is quite lavish and hardly has the look of a television movie which is what it was. With a top flight director like Nicholas Roeg, how can you miss? You can't! Valerie Perrine in a supporting role really stands out. She is absolutely luminous and holds her own with Taylor in their scenes together. The supporting cast generally is excellent but Taylor and Harmon just cannot be beat when they are together they are so extraordinary.
This horrid piece of tripe was on HBO and I just happened to be traveling and stayed at a motel that had HBO so because Maggie Smith was in the film I made a point of putting it on my very busy schedule. Yuck! What a waste of time. I hated this film from the very beginning. I hated everything about it. Most of all I despised the utterly implausible and absurd premise of retirees going to India of all places to retire! India???? Give me a break! And where is the nearest hospital??? As a retiree myself I demand and need basic services immediately available at a moment's notice - such as a hospital, supermarket, gas station, etc. And just where are these basic services in India???? And poor Maggie Smith. Good God! That woman needs some work - I have never seen a goose neck like hers. I could not take my eyes off it - it was like an alien attached to her body and I kept thinking it was going to take over her face it had such life to it. I stuck it out for about 45 minutes than gave up!
The Group (1966)
Not the Worst Film of All Time But Close
Ugh! I stuck it out for 45 minutes shaking my head at what I perceived to be the most muddled script in the history of film. What a mess! The poor writer was utterly lost and had no idea where he was going or what he was doing. There are so many things wrong with this film that it's really difficult to sort them all out. Let's see. The casting sucked big time. The women weren't so bad but the men were uniformly horrid - boring, dull, homely - you name it - not one of them got my juices flowing. On top of that the women - and there were way too many women - were for the most part pretty to look at but they had the depth of snails. Who cared if one of the girls lost her virginity? Or if another was a lesbian? There was so much going on that getting to know any of the characters with any depth was impossible. I actually got dizzy trying to figure out who was who and what was going on. Yeah, okay, so it was probably break-through feminism in the movies (it was 1966, after all) and there probably should have been a female director but they didn't have any in 1966 so poor Sidney Lumet was stuck with the job and all he did was direct traffic.
A Little Night Music (1977)
La Liz is La Grand
For La Liz fans this film is a jewel because probably for the first time in her long career she actually sings - the song of course - Send in the Clowns - was written for a non-singer like Taylor so she was perfect for it - but what she achieves when she sings that great song is a drama and passion that hits one very hard right to the heart - La Liz is great because she has always been great - she's a natural - one of those talents who surpasses the ordinary and no matter what she does she brings us to another place we can only imagine. Elizabeth Taylor was the greatest of all stars because from the very beginning she had something no one else had - a unique quality so sublime, so rare, and so enchanting that when she's on the screen you just don't see anyone or anything else.
Pillow Talk (1959)
It Does Not Get Any Better Than This
There are some films that are absolutely perfect in every way and this is one of them. No matter how many times I see it, I just enjoy every moment, savoring it like a delectable pastry. The fact that the script won an Oscar is indicative of how good the film is. When Doris Day talked to Rock Hudson about the script she said it was very funny and she was right on the money. Apparently, Hudson had some misgivings about doing a light comedy when he had developed into a top flight dramatic actor. He was the top male lead in movies at the time and did not want to do a thing to damage his reputation, but Day convinced Hudson the film would work and they would have fun making it and they did. And they became fast friends too with Day standing by Hudson even during the darkest days of his life with AIDS. The fact that Day and Hudson followed up this film with an equally good one with Lover Come Back is even more incredible. Between Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back Day and Hudson established themselves as one of the great romantic pairs in film.
Gone with the Wind (1939)
The Greatest Film of All Time - Yeah, Right
Okay, so GWTW is considered to be the greatest film of all time with the largest audience of any film ever made, blah, blah, blah. But let's get real folks and look at GWTW in modern terms and face a few facts. First of all, and most important, is the story and what a story it is. It's like a civil war version of any soap on television. The story is simply not original. Scarlett O'Hara, the heroine - if she can be called that - is utterly loathsome. I mean she does not have one single redeeming trait. She's the classic woman you love to hate - the kind of woman Joan Crawford cut her eye teeth on and Joan Collins elevated to a high state of hysteria. Please! But there is so much that is absolutely annoying about the film aside from the fact all you want to do with Scarlett is put her over your knee and give her a well-deserved spanking. Of course these days you can't possibly do such a thing - you would be charged with felony assault and locked up in the local slammer for a year! But I digress. The music about drove me up the wall. If I had to listen to the GWTW theme one would time I would be running into the sunset never to look back. Clark Gable of course is superb - but then he's always superb. But look at what he went through to give the performance he did? The original director, George Cukor, bothered Gable so much that the actor had the director fired. By the time Victor Fleming came aboard he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown having just completed The Wizard of Oz - in fact Fleming did have a nervous breakdown when GWTW was completed. But the real problems with the film lay squarely in David Selznick's lap. His obsessive dedication to the novel show in every scene which are over blown and over the top every time. The story is not that big but Selznick has turned it into a story of Biblical proportions and in the process simply turned the film into something grotesque and horrible.
This Means War (2012)
Reese is My Girl
Okay, it was too loud, too violent, too absurd, too preposterous, too jumpy and a lot of other too things but hey folks it had my girl Reese and she can do no wrong in my book - I just love looking at her - I love everything about her - there is something so unique and wonderful about her that no matter what she's in she's more than great she is a STAR - and that's what separates the greats from the not so greats. Who can explain it? If it were understood they would have factories producing them but the fact is a star is something almost mystical as though it were created in some far away place, some sublime heaven somewhere. Oh, and it has two cute fellows by the names of Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, but no matter how cute they are and they are both very cute they just couldn't even begin to stand up to my girl Reese.
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
I'm a big fan of George Stevens. I think A Place in the Sun is one of the great films of all time. What he did with the close-up in Sun is nothing short of miraculous - he literally reinvented the close-up and in the process elevated Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift to stellar status. When I first heard that Stevens was making the story of Christ, I was baffled. My first question was why? It may be the greatest story ever told but it is also the oldest. Is there a single person on this planet who does not know the story? Then when I saw that Stevens was casting every star in the world for the film I was truly incredulous. How could any film with all those stars not collapse just because of the sheer weight of so much star power? Mike Todd succeeded with Around the World in Eighty Days but that film was nothing like Jesus' story and in fact lent itself to so many stars each one of which was perfectly cast and it was fun to look for them as the mammoth production unrolled. But Jesus' story is hardly the kind of vehicle to lend itself to such theatrics and ultimately the ploy simply becomes part of the overall problem with the film. It ends up being just too ponderous in too many ways to be enjoyable. It's way too long and has way too many scenes that just do not make any sense. The script departs from scripture in a most annoying way, for example, when an apostle's coat is stolen and Jesus lectures him on giving everything he owns away. Just does not work and it's not even according to scripture.
The Constant Nymph (1943)
Odd Ball To Say The Least
I watched about 45 minutes of this long lost cult classic more out of curiosity than anything else. I couldn't help think it was the strangest film I ever saw. Nothing seemed to work - at all. I couldn't make head or tail of the characters or the story and all I kept thinking was why there was so much running around by barefoot girls. Finally, when I realized that Joan Fontaine of all people was one of the scampering girls I was really shocked. This was the girl from Rebecca? No way Jose! But yes it was and so I kept watching just to see why in heaven's name Joan Fontaine was cast as a starry-eyed teen who would go all weak in the knees the moment Charles Boyer showed up. Finally, I stopped watching and went to TCM to read the full synopsis of the film and learned everything I needed to know. It was written in 1924 by a woman and apparently became an instant classic women's tear-jerker which was made into films and plays and heaven knows what else. That was enough for me not to go back to the film.
Standing Room Only (1944)
How Can You Beat Fred MacMurray and Paula Goddard?
I watched this film for two reasons and only two: Fred MacMurray and Paula Goddard - both of whom I adore and always have. It doesn't make any difference what they do, they're always wonderful and an absolute delight to watch. That's what star power is about - you can't keep your eyes off them because there is something almost mystical about how they demand your attention. And to top it off the script was done by Karl Tunberg who just happened to write the screenplay for the remake of Ben-Hur - which ironically lost out in the adapted script category while winning every other nomination it had for a total of eleven wins. Poor Karl. I'll bet he was half-way out of his seat to accept his Oscar when those fateful words were announced: Rome at the Top.
The Graduate (1967)
This film marks the beginning of the fall and decline of Hollywood which parallels the state of the nation as the result of President Kennedy's tragic death. The country really never recovered from JFK's death and wandered aimlessly into the Vietnam debacle. The Nixon era followed and it seemed to the world that the once steady and straight United States had become a travesty of itself. Only Ronald Reagan was able to pitch the union straight again but by then Hollywood was beyond repair and has been a mess ever since. But it was Mike Nichols with this film who more than anyone nailed the last nail into Hollywood's coffin. This amusing beautifully wrapped package of perversion began a series of similar films with similar themes - Reflections in a Golden Eye, Suddenly Last Summer, and so forth. Glittering silver screen treatments of sordid, depressing and ultimately revolting plots. The true greatness of Hollywood can be seen from the mid-thirties to the mid-fifties. Picture after picture inspired and moved audiences to a higher plane of consciousness. This picture along with others like it simply denigrate the virtues of life and reduce them to fodder for egomaniacs like Nichols who have no moral or ethical view.
Three Young Texans (1954)
Worth the wait!
This was a very hard film to find. It took me years to track down a copy. I'm a big Jeffrey Hunter fan. In this film, Jeff overhears that some card sharks ( Michael Ansara & Aaron Spelling) are trying to blackmail Jeff's father. The blackmailers plan to rob a train that has
a federal payroll & force Jeff's father to join them with the robbery. Jeff disrupts their plans by robbing the train himself & puts the money in a safe place. His girlfriend ( Mitzi Gaynor) and his buddy ( Keefe Brasselle) find out what Jeff did. Keefe decides that he wants to keep the payroll money for himself while Jeff wants to return the money to the feds. Keefe joins up with the villains ( bad move) and Jeff goes after them to clear his and his father's name & also to save Keefe from the bad guys.
The Dying Gaul (2005)
This glossy, slick Hollywood homage to artsy-fartsy films is as hollow as a drum. It falls apart virtually in the beginning when the studio head asks the struggling writer who his agent is! Please! How did struggling writer's script even get into studio's heads office? Craig Lucas, the guy behind this pointless tripe, was abandoned at birth and found in a car in a parking lot in Atlanta, Georgia. Well, gee whiz, no wonder this film is such a mess - what infant could overcome such an horrific entre into the world? Everything about this film is gorgeous except the pointless plot which meanders every which way until you don't know which way is up. Oh sure it has its erotic moments and this is the dead giveaway because you realize you have been manipulated into a sexual menage a trois that would embarrass a Playboy bunny. Skip this one folks. This is pure undiluated Hollywood in all its all that glitters is gold except in this case its pure tinsel.
Raintree County (1957)
I feel really guilty because my partner of 40 years, who is an avid film collector, fished this tape out of his vast repository (5000 films) and set it up so I could watch it. Since his media center is in one room and our eating space in another (the kitchen)I was running back and forth between the movie and my breakfast lasagne waiting breathlessly for La Liz's entrance which I caught just in time between bites of food and of course she was ravishing as always and utterly the center of attention in every shot, everyone else fading into the woodwork - there will never be a star to equal her! But alas the script is a muddled mess and there is no question the studio (MGM)could not have found a worse writer than they did - I looked him up here and he did nothing to warrant being asked to adapt Raintree County from the book which he did along with the book's author. Right off the bat both the story and the central character (The Professor) are just plain silly with heartthrob Clift running off into a swamp in his Sunday Best for absolutely no reason and the professor running off with some man's wife. What all this has to do with the main storyline is anyone's guess, but after reading the synopsis of the story here I realized that poor MGM in its quest to film a sequel to GWTW failed miserably with this pathetic attempt. As the old saying says, you can't go home again!
Now & Later (2009)
Size does matter
The male lead in this film is a doctor in real life and apparently quite accomplished in a number of fields. What he is doing in this miserable piece of tripe is beyond me. This guy must really want to be an actor which would be great if he could only act which he cannot. He's tall, dark and handsome and sports quite a package which is shown in all its glory, yet you never really believe this guy because he cannot stop being a doctor. There's even a scene where he's in bed with another man as well as a woman and even then it's almost as though he's in an examining room. When he takes hold of the other fellow's appendage I fully expected him to pull out some medical instrument to deal with the matter, but he does not. Yet one has the distinct feeling that the slab of beef in his hand is simply there for examination and nothing else. The female lead in this film is almost beside the point, playing second fiddle to the doctor's package which gets most of the attention in the film.
Amores Possíveis (2001)
Will Drive You to the Nut House
Okay, I ordered this film because I had just seen the male lead in The Man of the Year and thought he was absolutely the bee's knees - and I still think he is even after this disastrous film. But oh boy this film is a perfect example of when a bunch of women get together to make a movie. It is so female. By the end of this film I was ready to have my period and I'm not even female. Geez, give me a break. I never saw so much heart-rending, soul-searching mumble jumble in my life that spouts from the female lead here. Yikes! It's all I could do to keep up with her roller-coaster of emotions which washed over me like a wayward tsunami. The supporting cast was fabulous - especially the male lead's male lover and the male lead's mother who had me in stitches she was so funny. There is one hilarious scene where the mother comes in to wake up the male lead and discovers a punk lady under the sheets who the male lead doesn't even know is there. That really cracked me up.
This film has it all. Stunning locations, gorgeous actors, fun story and lots of action. It's a combination of Hitchcock and Sturgis. It's a homage to Hollywood's Golden Age. Hepburn and Grant would have played the parts. Or Lombard and Gable. The story is absurd, but who cares. The two leads are so incredibly beautiful, so much fun to watch together that the story spins along its merry way and you don't think twice about it. Supporting cast is also wonderful. But the real star of this picture is Monaco. Not since Grace Kelly got married has the kingdom looked so pristine, so jewel-like. Only the French could have produced such a soufflé of delight as this film.
Mysterious Skin (2004)
From the first moment of this film I was absolutely riveted. Talk about an out of body experience. It was as though I had been abducted by aliens and was suspended in space, an infinite limbo, orbiting a hunk of unknown origin in this case with a name Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Good grief Charlie Brown where did this guy come from? And he's not even buff - but who cares - I've seen enough pecs and abs to last a lifetime. What G-L has is much more important that buff body parts - this guy has character and mystery unlike any young actor on the scene today - when he's on film he sucks the life out of the frame so that all you see is him - pulling you into his orbit with such force you have no choice put to go along for the ride and what a ride - incredible.
The Artist (2011)
Duh. What am I missing?
I could not get this film online as I usually do, but one afternoon while strolling through my neighborhood electronics store there it was and I grabbed it. Couldn't wait to see what all the fuss was about. After all, it won best picture so it had to be good, right? Dead wrong. Bamboozled by Hollywood again. I'm so peeved. First of all, it's the oldest story in the books, in fact it's a rip-off of Singing in the Rain. Hello. Is anyone awake? Ugh. I could not believe it. I truly thought I had Hollywood's number, that they wouldn't pull the wool over my eyes again, but with The Artist, they did and I just cannot believe it. I gave up 45 minutes into the film and put it in my "Never watch" pile. Which means one step from the garbage can.