In the Spring of 2008, we decided to tackle music and genre with what would prove to be our most successful series to date. The first three weeks were Musicals with scores by George and Ira Gershwin, the next three were Westerns with scores by folk-rock legends and the final three weeks were movies about musicians with colors in the title (AKA Red + Blue = Purple).
We began the day before Valentine's Day with
Shall We Dance (Mark Sandrich, 1937)
-- We kept getting this mixed up with Swing Time, which is Astaire & Rogers with a Jerome Kern score. I think every draft we did of the flier had the wrong title until we finally caught it.
-- This was the seventh pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in a film, and the first musical scored by the Gershwin brothers.
-- The Gershwins were nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar for "They Can't Take That Away From Me" but lost to something called "Sweet Leilani" from something called Waikiki Wedding.
-- I've currently got it ranked as the 5th best film of 1937.
February 20, 2008
An American In Paris (Vincente Minnelli, 1951)
-- Winner of six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but it failed to win Best Director for Vincente Minnelli, with George Stevens winning for A Place In The Sun instead. Stevens, of course, directed Swing Time, which we kept mixing-up with Shall We Dance. Minnelli eventually won for another Paris-set, and much inferior, musical, Gigi.
-- Gene Kelly's "Broadway Melody" sequence at the end of Singin' In the Rain was an attempt to top the 18 minute ballet set to Gershwin's "An American In Paris" that concludes the film
-- #9 on the AFI's list of top American Musicals, #39 on their list of Romances and #68 on their list of the Best American Films of All-Time. Currently my #5 film of 1951 (but I probably will move it up to #1 when I get around to it).
February 27, 2008
Funny Face (Stanley Donen, 1957)
-- The second of three Metro Classics to star Fred Astaire (along with Shall We Dance and The Band Wagon) and the first of two films directed by Stanley Donen and starring Audrey Hepburn (the second being this week's Charade).
-- Co-star Kay Thompson, who plays the fashion magnate who urges people to "Think Pink" with "bazzazz" was most famous as the auther of the Eloise series of children's books, which I never read, but apparently were (are?) popular.
-- Fred Astaire was 58 years old at the time the film was released, Audrey Hepburn was 28. Which is weird.
-- Astaire's character is based on photographer Richard Avedon, who was a consultant on the film and was responsible for many of its images, including the title sequence.
-- #43 on my list of the Greatest Films of All-Time, and my #15 film of the 1950s.
March 5, 2008
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
-- The soundtrack includes three songs by Leonard Cohen, who is really old and yet recently had to go on tour because someone stole all his money while he was living in a Buddhist monestary.
-- The film takes place in Washington and was shot outside of Vancouver, BC.
-- Ranked by the AFI as the 8th Best American Western of All-Time; ranked by me as the 66th Greatest Film of All-Time, the 10th best film of the 1970s and the second best film of 1971.
March 12, 2008
Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (Sam Peckinpah, 1973)
-- The score is by Bob Dylan, who also has a supporting role as a quiet guy who wants to join Billy's gang. One of his most popular songs is from this film: "Knockin' On Heaven's Door".
-- Peckinpah was a notoriously lunatic and contentious director and lost control of this film during the editing stage. Consequently, it survives in several versions. The one we played was the "Director's Cut". I think it's really underrated and a great companion to Peckinpah's other reworkings of the Western genre, Ride The High Country and upcoming Classic The Wild Bunch.
-- The screenplay was by Rudy Wurlitzer (who also wrote Two-Lane Blacktop, which isn't yet a Metro Classic but is great nonetheless). Wurlitzr's unproduced screenplay Zebulon was an inspiration for Dead Man.
-- I have it ranked as the 8th best film of 1973 and the 50th best film of the 1970s.
March 19, 2008
Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995)
-- We played this on film for the first show, where we discovered a scratch running through the soundtrack that create an annoying buzzing sound through the entire film. We had to run the second show digitally. This is why repertory on film is dying.
-- The soundtrack is by Neil Young, who improvised the score while watching the film by himself in a studio.
-- This was Robert Mitchum's final film. We need to play more Robert Mitchum movies.
-- Ranked #78 on my list of the Greatest Films of All-Time, I also have it as the 7th best film of the 1990s and the #1 film of 1995.
March 26, 2008
The Red Shoes (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
-- Our second highest-grossing Metro Classic to date, behind only Casablanca.
-- The long central ballet sequence was extremely influential, inspiring Gene Kelly and Vincente Minnelli and convincing MGM that those two could get away with including a ballet in their own film, An American In Paris.
-- Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Motion Picture Story, it won for Best Score and Best Color Art-Direction.
-- #8 on the BFI's list of the 100 Greatest British films; Ranked by me as the 16th Greatest Film of All-Time, the #2 film of the 1940s and the #1 film of 1948.
April 2, 2008
The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)
-- We originally were going to play Krzysztof Kieślowski's Three Colors: Blue in this spot, but for some reason I don't recall we couldn't book it. This worked equally well as a movie about music with the color Blue in the title, though.
-- The film was a big hit on its initial release, ranked by Box Office Mojo as the #10 Post-1974 Musical, and the second highest grossing film based on Saturday Night Live characters (behind Wayne's World).
-- I have it ranked as the 7th best film of 1980.
April 9, 2008
Purple Rain (Albert Magnoli, 1984)
-- To date the only Metro Classic that I hadn't seen before we showed it. Mike assured me that it was great though, and it was.
-- Director Albert Magnoli also directed Tango & Cash, which I still think is hilarious.
-- Won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, which is a cool category that didn't last very long.
-- I have it ranked as the 13th best film of 1984. The soundtrack, however, might be the best ever.