Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Top 5 Top 5 Lists Related To, But Not Including, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Top 5 Robert Zemeckis Films:

1. Back to the Future (1985)
2. Back to the Future Part II (1989)
3. Romancing the Stone (1984)
4. Contact (1997)
5. Forrest Gump (1994)

Top 5 Bob Hoskins Films I Haven't Seen:

1. Pennies From Heaven (The Dennis Potter TV Series, 1978)
2. Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrara, 2007)
3. The Long Good Friday (John Mackenzie, 1980)
4. Zulu Dawn (Douglas Hickox, 1979)
5. Mona Lisa (Neil Jordan, 1986)

Top 5 Christopher Lloyd Films:

1. Eight Men Out (John Sayles, 1988)
2. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
3. Clue (Jonathan Lynn, 1985)
4. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (Leonard Nimoy, 1984)
5. The Addams Family (Barry Sonnenfeld, 1991)

Top 5 Films Prominently Featuring Rabbits:

1. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
2. Harvey (Henry Koster, 1950)
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones, 1975)
4. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
5. Watership Down (Martin Rosen, 1978)

Top 5 Films of 1988:

1. Dangerous Liaisons (Stephen Frears)
2. Bull Durham (Ron Shelton)
3. The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese)
4. Die Hard (John McTiernan)
5. Eight Men Out (John Sayles)

Cartoon for the Evening: Beep, Beep

Cartoon for the Morning: The Brave Little Tailor

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cartoon for the Evening: Rabbit Seasoning

Links: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Tasha Robinson over at the A.V. Club compares Who Framed Roger Rabbit with its source material in a lengthy and enlightening feature called Book Vs Film.

Jeff Lange over at Jim Hill Media reminisces about Roger's ubiquity at the Disney Studios twenty years ago.

Well, it hasn't joined the pantheon of his Great Movies series but here is Roger Ebert's original four-star review from June 22, 1988.

Lastly, two weird bonus photos related to Roger Rabbit.  First, some guy went to the trouble of envisioning what Jessica Rabbit would look like if she were real (his attempts at Homer Simpson and Mario are even creepier):

And a promotional image from the Walt Disney Company's 1983 Annual Report for the upcoming project:

Cartoon for the Morning: Motor Mania

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cartoon for the Evening: One Froggy Evening

Pre-Game Warm-Up: Frank and Ollie

One of the most prominent legends of the Walt Disney Studios is that of the Nine Old Men, Walt's personal nickname for his core animators (the name was cribbed from F.D.R.'s less charitable description of the Supreme Court).  Disney's nine all started with the studio in the early 30s, (except for Les Clark who joined in 1927 working on Steamboat Willie).  They all stayed with the studio for decades.  After Walt's death in 1966 they became the torchbearers for the original guard, preserving the integrity and legacy of animation at the studio.

Two of these Nine Old Men were Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston; classmates, collaborators, neighbors and best friends for seventy-plus years.  They are the subjects of the lovingly produced Frank and Ollie, a low-key, charming documentary released by the Disney Studios in 1995.  The film was directed by Frank's son Theodore, who uses his close relationship to catch many intimate moments between his family and Ollie's, including a touching scene of Ollie's wife Marie dancing happily to Frank's piano playing in his living room.  Interspersed throughout the film are vintage footage from the studio, moments with Disney historians slobbering over themselves in awe of the work Frank and Ollie created, as well as cute vignettes of Ollie acting out a classic animated scene, followed by the scene itself.

In regards to their output here is a list of scenes and characters Frank and Ollie were responsible for:


-The "Pastoral Symphony" in Fantasia
-Pinocchio's nose growing
-Half of the Jungle Book (including the final scene)
-Thumper meeting Bambi
-Pongo licking Perdita in 101 Dalmatians
-The ugly stepsisters in Cinderella
-Rufus the Cat in the Rescuers
-Mr. Smee


-The funeral scene in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
-The spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp
-"I've Got No Strings" from Pinocchio
-The pond skating scene in Bambi
-Captain Hook
-The Queen of Hearts
-Flora, Fauna and Merriweather
-King Louie

Frank and Ollie is a loving portrait of two lives spent tirelessly in pursuit of artistic acheivements.  The film is a victory lap of sorts but it would not be the duo's last hurrah.  A decade after the documentary's release, Frank and Ollie make their last onscreen appearance at the end of Brad Bird's the Incredibles.  What could be more fitting than going out in cartoon form?

Cartoon for the Morning: Two Gun Mickey

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Top 5 Top 5 Lists Related To, But Not Including, Sunset Blvd.

Top 5 Gloria Swanson Films I Still Need To See:

1. Male and Female (Cecil B. DeMille, 1919)
2. Sadie Thompson (Raoul Walsh, 1928)
3. Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (Sam Wood, 1923)
4. Indiscreet (Leo McCarey, 1931)
5. The Affairs of Anatol (Cecil B. DeMille, 1921)

Top 5 Billy Wilder Films:

1. Some Like It Hot (1959)
2. Double Indemnity (1944)
3. Sabrina (1954)
4. The Apartment (1960)
5. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Top 5 William Holden Films:

1. Sabrina (Billy Wilder, 1954)
2. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
3. Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957)
4. The Horse Soldiers (John Ford, 1959)
5. Born Yesterday (George Cukor, 1950)

Top 5 Cecil B. DeMille Films I Haven't Seen But Probably Should:

1. The Ten Commandments (1923)
2. The King of Kings (1927)
3. Cleopatra (1934)
4. Sign of the Cross (1932)
5. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Top 5 Films of 1950:

1. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa)
2. All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
3. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray)
4. Harvey (henry Koster)
5. Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pre-Game Warm-Up: Gloria Swanson Edition

To prepare for this week's Metro Classic, I decided to finally watch some of Gloria Swanson's classic silent films. She started in films at Essanay in Chicago (Charlie Chaplin's studio at the time) around 1914. By the end of the war, she'd moved to Hollywood and starred in a string of films directed by Cecil B. DeMille that by 1921 made her one of the biggest stars in the world. Here's two of those films:

Don't Change Your Husband - Gloria Swanson doesn't get any close-ups in this Cecil B. DeMille film from 1919. This seems a little too early for that kind of thing, at least for him. Most of the scenes play out in two shots, with occasional inserts for close-ups of objects. DeMille keeps it all moving though, so the film ends up feeling as light and pleasant as its story (and there's some wonderful fantasy sequences as Swanson imagines what her new life would be like, they've got the same spirit of spectacle that would eventually take over DeMille's filmmaking). The plot has Swanson dissatisfied with her husband (he's a slob, he appears to eat nothing but onions, he can't dance), so she divorces him and marries the romantic young man who's been wooing her. But the new guy turns out to be even worse! He's a gambler and a drunk and he's cheating on her with a girl named 'Toodles'. Meanwhile, Husband #1 has got himself a rowing machine, shaved his mustache and become even richer as the head of the new Hemp Trust (seriously!). Has poor Gloria learned her lesson? It's really quite a fun film, and it's always good to be reminded that romantic comedy plots haven't advanced one bit in at least the last 90 years.

Why Change Your Wife? - This time, it's the husband (Thomas Meighan, who looks a bit like Joseph Cotton, or a unholy mix of Jude Law and Norm MacDonald) who's dissatisfied, seems his wife is always interrupting his shaving, trying to get him to quit smoking, looks down on his reading movie magazines and turning off his hot new foxtrot music and making him listen to some violin piece called "The Dying Poet". To try and spice things up, he buys her some lingerie, which she's too shy to wear properly, so he goes to a show with the lingerie model (a typical flapper-type). Divorce, followed by the realization that Spouse #2 is even worse, ensues. This is pretty much in the same style as the first film, and Swanson is just as good (still hardly any closeups, though). There's a long, expensive-looking sequence at a hotel pool that features some of the craziest, most impractical swimwear you've ever seen. Swanson I guess was famous at the time for her interest in haute couture, and for being one the first famous fashion stars. Personally, I think most of the clothes are pretty hideous and totally unflattering, but what do I know?

Swanson's success continued throughout the 20s, and by the end of the decade she was still star enough to produce her own films, joining United Artists with Chaplin, DW griffith, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. As a producer, she financed what would end up being Erich von Stroheim's last film as a director:

Queen Kelly - Swanson's first and only collaboration with director Erich von Stroheim, her Sunset Blvd. costar, was this unfinished film. She and her boyfriend at the time, Joseph Kennedy (yes, that one) produced it and she hired von Stroheim to direct. The projected film would have been about five hours long, but she fired von Stroheim about one-third of the way (and $800,000 or so) through. It seems her changed the script without her approval (or the approval of the Hays Office) to have most of the last section of the film take place in a brothel instead of a "dance hall", and knowing it would get censored, Swanson killed it. She went back later (with Gregg Toland) and shot a quick ending to the surviving footage, and Kino's used some production stills to recreate and give a sense of von Stroheim's version of the film. As it stands, neither version is particularly satisfying. The completed section is pretty terrific, with Swanson as a young convent girl (Kelly) whom the Queen's fiancé falls in love with. The Queen herself (Regina V, played by Seena Owen) is crazy and violent and likes to whip people and walks around naked with only a cat covering her breasts. All this is a lot of fun, but in the long version, it would have only been a sort of prologue, with the rest of the film taking place in Africa has Swanson is forced to marry an evil looking guy (an incredibly creepy Tully Marshall), take over her aunt's brothel and become a madam. All that survives of that is the forced marriage sequence, which is suitably horrifying. Swanson's ending cuts out all of that, taking an abrupt conclusion on to the Prince & Queen story.

After that miserable experience, Swanson successfully moved into sound pictures, getting an Oscar nomination for her first one, The Trespasser, which she and director Edmond Goulding (whom Swanson had hired to help her finish Queen Kelly) made in a matter of weeks and was enough of a hit to pay back all the losses on the von Stroheim film. But by the mid-30s, she appears to have lost interest in making movies (she moved to New York at the end of the decade) but instead worked in theatre, early television, fashion, painting, sculpting and writing. The Kino DVD of Queen Kelly has a fascinating special feature of Swanson herself introducing the film and talking about the experience of making and trying to finish it for a showing of it on television. She's totally charming, and seeing just how different she actually was from Norma Desmond reminds you of just how brilliant her performance in Sunset Blvd. really is.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Links: Sunset Blvd.

First we have William Brogdon's review of the film for Variety on April 19, 1950. "B.O.-wise, the ballyhoo possibilities are strong and returns will reflect the selling."

60 years later, we have AO Scott's video review in the New York Times.

Finally, the Internet Movie Script Database has the screenplay for Sunset Blvd.. It has some good lines.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Billy Wilder Rules: the Filmspotting Interview

As any attendee of Metro Classics knows, Sean and I have long been enamored with the great Filmspotting podcast. Based out of Chicago, the show (also broadcast on WBEZ public radio) is hosted by "Art-House" Adam Kempenaar and "Mainstream" Matty Robinson, two witty and knowledgeable guys who would much rather spend fifteen solid minutes diving into the intricate minutiae of a film than simply casting off an up-or-down vote, incorporating one snappy line and getting on with the show. It's their geniality and passion for film that makes the program special. Recently the two have also begun teaching classes on film at the University of Chicago. Their new course coincidentally is on the films of Billy Wilder. In honor of this academic summit and our upcoming screening of Sunset Boulevard, we sent a few questions Filmspotting's way in hopes that they could enlighten us all on the genius of Wilder. They did not disappoint.

1) In your upcoming class at the University of Chicago you will be examining ten major Wilder works, what films will you be showing?

We divided the class into three parts - dramas, comedies and then a group I'm calling 'genre' pics. We start with Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd., The Lost Weekend and Ace in the Hole; then go to Sabrina, Love in the Afternoon, Some Like It Hot and The Apartment; and finish with Stalag 17 and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

2) Are there any in particular that you had to leave out that you wish you could include?

I've always been very curious about A Foreign Affair with Marlene Deitrich, but have yet to see it and couldn't include in the class because it's pretty tough to find. It's not currently on DVD.

3) What will the course be like? How much homework are you guys asking for?

No homework! We offer a little lecture to provide some background and context, play clips from supporting/similar films and then watch the film and spend the rest of the class discussing it.

4) Wilder made so many diverse pictures; what do you consider the hallmarks of his work, something that defines his films time and again?

Honestly, that's something I'm still working out and look forward to continue working out with the class through our discussions. But I think there's a dark side to Wilder, even with some of his most blatant comedies, that often comes through. And personally, I'm more invested in the dramas - he offers flawed heroes who strive to be almost Nietzschean supermen but fail miserably.

5) What is your favorite color?

Boring blue

6) Is there a quintessential Wilder scene that you would show the ignorant world in an attempt to define his style?

Something from Double Indemnity for sure - too many to choose.

7) Are there any Wilder films that disappoint, that don't work for you?

Many, actually. Wilder himself said nobody should bat 1.000. He thought .400 was a good average, and that's probably what he hit for his career. Especially later, there are a bunch of goofy comedies that don't really work or are worth watching mainly as curios - Kiss Me, Stupid, to name one... even The Seven Year Itch, for me, is mostly forgettable. Wilder really didn't know how to function outside the studio system, and The New Hollywood kind of ran over him.

8) If you had to choose between the ability to fly or be invisible, which would you choose?

Fly. And I think anyone who says otherwise is insane, frankly.

9) Which is your favorite Wilder film?

See #6. Can't get enough Barbara Stanwyck.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Coming Attractions: Sunset Blvd

Wednesday, March 24th at 7:00 & 9:10 P.M.

Giveaways: DVD courtesy of Scarecrow Video and a gift certificate to Cinema Books, respectively.

See you there!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Top 5 Top 5 Lists Related To, But Not Including, The Quiet Man

Top 5 John Ford Films That Are Not Westerns:

1. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
2. 7 Women (1966)
3. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
4. Mogambo (1953)
5. Donovan's Reef (1963)

Top 5 John Wayne Films That Are Not Directed By John Ford:

1. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
2. Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)
3. Hatari! (Howard Hawks, 1962)
4. Flying Leathernecks (Nicholas Ray, 1951)
5. True Grit (Henry Hathaway, 1969)

Top 5 Maureen O'Hara Films:

1. How Green Was My Valley (John Ford, 1941)
2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (William Dieterle, 1939)
3. The Parent Trap (David Swift, 1961)
4. Rio Grande (John Ford, 1950)
5. Our Man in Havana (Carol Reed, 1959)

Top 5 Movies Set in Ireland:

1. The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, 2006)
2. The Crying Game (Neil Jordan, 1992)
3. Darby O'Gill & the Little People (Robert Stevenson, 1959)
4. Once (John Carney, 2006)
5. Michael Collins (Neil Jordan, 1996)

Top 5 Films of 1952:

1. Singin' In The Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly)
2. Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa)
3. Limelight (Charles Chaplin)
4. Othello (Orson Welles)
5. Bend of the River (Anthony Mann)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Links: The Quiet Man

Here's film critic Tag Gallagher's website, where you can download his excellent book on John Ford for free as a PDF. It's one of the best books about a director I've ever read.

A 2002 essay about The Quiet Man from EIRE-IRELAND: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Irish Studies.

The next time you're in Ireland, be sure to check out the Quiet Man Cottage Museum on Circular Road in the town of Cong in County Mayo. "The Wayne Family visited. . . so can you!"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coming Attractions: The Quiet Man

St Patrick's Day!  Wednesday, March 17th at 6:45 and 9:15.

Giveaways: Darby O'Gill and the Little People DVD courtesy of Scarecrow Video and a gift certificate to Cinema Books, respectively.

See you there!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Top 5 Top 5 Lists Related To, But Not Including Steamboat Bill Jr

Top 5 Buster Keaton Movies I Haven't Seen Yet:

1. The Cameraman (Edward Sedgwick, 1928)
2. The Navigator (Donald Crisp & Buster Keaton, 1924)
3. Go West (Buster Keaton, 1925)
4. Battling Butler (Buster Keaton, 1926)
5. Spite Marriage (Edward Sedgwick, 1929)

Top 5 Metro Classics Set on a Boat:

1. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
2. The Immigrant (Charles Chaplin, 1917)
3. Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog, 1982)
4. Shall We Dance (Mark Sandrich, 1937)
5. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)

Top 5 Movies Featuring Big Storms:

1. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
2. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
3. Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)
4. Shock Corridor (Samuel Fuller, 1963)
5. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (Hayao Miyazaki, 2008)

Top 5 Movies About Fathers and Sons:

1. Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)
2. The Godfather, Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
3. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
4. The Lion in Winter (Anthony Harvey, 1968)
5. How Green Was My Valley (John Ford, 1941)

Top 5 Movies From 1928 That I Haven't Seen Yet:

1. The Crowd (King Vidor)
2. The Wind (Victor Sjöström)
3. October (Sergei Eisenstein)
4. The Docks of New York (Josef von Sternberg)
5. Four Sons (John Ford)