Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Neil Simon Blogathon begins here!

Today I take your links.

Tomorrow Paddy takes them.

Let's see what you got.

Post your links in the comments or tweet them to me @ratzo318.

Thanks for joining us in saluting this great writer.

My post is on Brighton Beach Memoirs.

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films
California Suite

Caftan Woman
Simon on The Phil Silvers Show

Poppity Talks Classic Film
Seems Like Old Times

Once Upon a Screen
The Prisoner of Second Avenue

Friday, October 12, 2018

Brighton Beach Memoirs

The Neil Simon Blogathon is an event celebrating the life and career of the great American playwright, who left this world for a better one less than two months ago. Paddy and I thank you for joining us. Be sure to check out the rest of the entries this weekend!

Brighton Beach Memoirs
YouTube viewing

The Alvin Theatre, on West 52nd Street in the heart of midtown Manhattan, was renamed for Neil Simon in 1983, so he was a big deal for a long time before the 80s, but growing up, I used to think he was around for less time than that. I vaguely recall seeing ads on TV for his plays, but I had no sense of his history.

I only know his plays from their film adaptations, but I have yet to find one I dislike. I discovered Simon during my video store years in the 90s. It took me awhile to tie the name to the stories, but once I did, I began to notice some commonalities.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Heaven Can Wait (1978)

The James Mason Blogathon is an event celebrating the life and career of the actor, hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. For a complete list of participating blogs, visit the link at the host site.

Heaven Can Wait (1978)
YouTube viewing

Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait has nothing to do with the Don Ameche film of the same name; rather, it's a remake of the Robert Montgomery film Here Comes Mr. Jordan, which must have been a little confusing when it came out in 1978, but whatever. (In 2001, Chris Rock starred in a third version, Down to Earth.)

I wasn't fond of Jordan, not necessarily because of its premise — afterlife bureaucracy condemns a man to death before his time — but because of its poor plotting. Heaven attempts to improve on the original, and in a number of ways, it does, but I was still uncomfortable with the whole theme of fate, and things being "written," not to mention the lack of accountability for the mistakes made by the afterlife bureaucracy.

That said, Heaven was entertaining, in a 70s kind of way. Beatty not only starred and co-directed, he co-wrote the screenplay, with Elaine May.

Beatty was a "New Hollywood" icon. After the tremendous success of Bonnie and Clyde, he positioned himself as a multitasker, writing, producing and directing the films he wanted to make at a time when young filmmakers had an unprecedented level of power in Hollywood.

In the Peter Biskind book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, the pages on Heaven depict Beatty as a "finicky, obsessive" nitpicker. He butted heads with Warner Brothers management over the film's budget before taking it to Paramount, where he fussed over the potential female leads for not being his ex-flame Julie Christie. In the end, he talked Christie herself into the film.

Beatty's perfectionism paid off: Heaven was nominated for nine Oscars, including Picture, Director, Actor and Screenplay.

I didn't think it was nine Oscars worth of great, but I liked the humor, and the way the editing accentuated the pacing, making you really aware of the funny lines when they land. Dyan Cannon was great; she got a Supporting Actress nod — and so was Jack Warden, playing the same character as James Gleason in the original, and like him, getting a Supporting Actor nod.

We, however, are here today to talk about James Mason, taking over for Claude Rains in the role of Mr. Jordan and not doing much other than being stately and dignified.

Mason had a very long career, working steadily from the 30s to the 80s, mostly in high profile films on the big and small screens, including North by Northwest, A Star is Born, Lolita, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and many more.

His story was not unusual for Golden Age actors: started in British theater, then transitioned to the big screen during World War 2; came over to America and found greater fame. With his first wife, he co-wrote a book about cats, and illustrated it, too. Here's The Paris Review on his book, including some of his pen and ink drawings. They're pretty good.

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Other films with James Mason:
Forever Darling

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

New release roundup for September '18


I saw both these films with Virginia and we liked them both. Why didn't I write full posts about them? Because I didn't.

-BlacKkKlansman. Spike Lee has been kinda so-so lately, so it's nice to see such a stylish and entertaining film from him again. John David Washington is the son of Denzel Washington; he had a small role in Malcolm X years ago, according to IMDB. He sounds a lot like his dad, too. The most memorable moment for me was when the "white power" rhetoric of the Klansmen was juxtaposed against the "black power" dogma of the black activists. Unexpected and unsettling — that's Spike at his best. Virginia was particularly interested in the true story angle.

- Juliet, Naked. The latest adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel got mediocre reviews, but I liked it — and not just because I'm a fan. The changes from the book didn't bother me much. As I told Virginia afterwards, Ethan Hawke's interpretation of his character's songs, good as they sounded, can never match the ones I imagined when I read the book. So while obviously we needed to hear his character's songs for the movie, a part of me almost wishes we didn't, if you know what I mean. A nice companion piece to High Fidelity.

Monday, October 1, 2018

A star is linked

Not a whole lot to talk about this month. Cynthia Nixon was robbed, the novel rewrite is going great, and things between me and Virginia are swell. The Neil Simon Blogathon is in a couple of weeks; there's still time to join Paddy and myself for the occasion, if you want in.

Let's jump straight to the links for once!

Raquel answers questions from her readers.

Ivan discusses the century-old comic strip Gasoline Alley and the two films inspired by it.

Jacqueline ponders whether this Depression-era film endorsed socialism.

Jennifer talks contemporary high school movies and compares them with her own experience.

Le writes about a very early Ernst Lubitsch silent film which challenges gender roles.

Variety's coverage of Cynthia Nixon's loss in the New York primaries.

What are Feedspot's choices for the Top 30 Classic Film Blogs?

The Wizard of Oz ruby slippers, after having gone missing for 13 years, have been found!

Gauging the truthiness of films "based on a true story."

Bullwinkle and political satire.

Is it possible liking trash cinema makes you smarter?

Claudette Colbert liked cooking desserts.

Armie Hammer hearts scooters.

Finally, best wishes to Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, who's recovering from surgery.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Twelfth Night (1969)

The Gender Bending the Rules Blogathon is an event which looks at roles where men play women and women play men (and other variations) hosted by The Midnite Drive-in and Angelman's Place. For a list of participating bloggers visit the links at the host sites.

Twelfth Night (1969)
YouTube viewing

I've written about William Shakespeare here before, but only in a limited sense. This seems like a good spot to go in more detail.

In college, I took an acting class and I performed a scene from Hamlet. I thought I had a grasp of the meaning behind the lyricism of the words and the outdated language, but only after I read and re-read the scene a bunch of times. I think you have to see Shakespeare performed by professionals to get a real sense of what's going on and what his characters are meant to be like.

It's a stereotype that the British do him better than anyone else, but he's part of their national heritage. It kinda makes sense! His words just sound better when they come out of the mouths of Patrick Stewart or Judi Dench or Kenneth Branagh — though we Americans are no slouches when it comes to the Bard. I once saw Richard III with Denzel Washington at Shakespeare in the Park, for example, and he was riveting.

Still, when it comes to the Bard, none of these people can compare to that great, great Polish actor, Josef Tura. You've probably heard of him.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Remembering a legend with the Neil Simon Blogathon

I never had the pleasure to see a Neil Simon play live, but it wasn't until the news of his death last month that I looked over the stories he wrote, for the stage and screen, and realized how many of them I've enjoyed. He may not have been flashy, but he wrote delightful, funny and poignant stories about ordinary people like you and me — and I realized a simple eulogy wasn't enough.

Normally I only do one blogathon a year, but I'm breaking that habit in order to give all of us a chance to celebrate the life and career of an American original with this blogathon. And there's no one I'd rather do this one in particular with than my pal Paddy.

So you know the deal: in the comments here or at Paddy's, let us know what you wanna write about: one of Neil Simon's plays, or film adaptations, or original screenplays, or his life in general. It's up to you. We'll collect them all on the weekend of October 13-14. Duplicates are okay.

I'll write about Brighton Beach Memoirs. Paddy's gonna write about some Simon-written episodes of The Phil Silvers Show.

The banner at the top is the only one for now. (Many thanks to Ruth for a last-minute save!)

Amy's Rib: A Life of Film, Murder by Death
The Stop Button, The Cheap Detective
In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, Barefoot in the Park
Once Upon a Screen, Chapter Two
Poppity Talks Classic Film, Seems Like Old Times
Critica Retro, The Odd Couple
Maddy Loves Her Classic FilmsCalifornia Suite
Slightly Scarlet, The Last of the Red Hot Lovers
Moon in Gemini, The Heartbreak Kid (1962)

Realweegiemidget ReviewsThe Goodbye Girl
MovieRob, The Heartbreak Kid/Only When I Laugh