Monday, November 16, 2020

Topaze

The 2020 Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon is an event honoring the prolific Barrymore family of actors, especially the siblings John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore, hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the link at the host site.

Topaze

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The Barrymore clan of thespians dominated the American entertainment field more than any other family in the 20th century. The modern representative, Drew, is very much active; she currently has a daytime talk show on TV.

The clan goes back at least as far as the 19th century and possibly further than that—this article gives you an overview—but classic movie fans are perhaps most familiar with the triumvirate of siblings John, Ethel and Lionel. I’ve talked about Ethel before; for this year’s blogathon I’ll discuss John.

His father Maurice was a Broadway actor and a middleweight boxer, and was the first in the family to assume the stage name Barrymore (he was born Herbert Blythe), after English actor William Barrymore. John’s mother was also an actor, Georgiana Drew; the Drew name has also been handed down the generations. John was the youngest of their three children, after Lionel and Ethel.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Movie theaters need bailout ASAP

“...We’re pushing for a $15 billion grant program for businesses that have had a substantial hit because of the crisis. These include stages, concert halls, movie theaters. Under the legislation, if you were in business and doing well in 2019 and then got shut down and hammered in 2020, you can get grants of just under half of what your earned revenues were in 2019. That would be the bridge that provides enough liquidity to keep these companies alive until we get to the other side of this thing.”

Not much more for me to add. This interview covers it all.

Thoughts?

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Netflix new release roundup for October ‘20


Good movies can still be found this year through streaming sites, and my site of choice remains Netflix. I suspect the overwhelming majority of this year’s Oscar candidates will come via the streamers, so here’s what I’ve been watching over the past weeks. 

Da 5 Bloods. The surviving members of a Vietnam platoon return to Vietnam forty years later to find the remains of their commanding officer, as well as to reclaim a cache of gold they appropriated during the war. Spike Lee captures the beauty of modern Vietnam well, its cities as well as its jungles, and the story is relevant, as you would imagine one of his joints to be. Delroy Lindo’s finest work has always been with Spike, and this may be his best performance ever, MAGA cap and all. A Best Actor nomination is all but assured. Also, how wonderful it was to see the late Chadwick Bozeman one more time, in a key supporting role, to remind us what a treasure we lost in him. Even in a normal year, this would be one of the year’s best.

The Old GuardHighlander meets Unbreakable: a race of immortal beings live in secret, righting wrongs around the world. They encounter a new one of their kind at the same time a pharmaceutical company wants to discover what makes them tick. Gina Prince-Bythewood was known for romantic dramas like Love and Basketball and Beyond the Lights. Who knew she had an action movie in her? And this one hits on all cylinders: Charlize Theron, who has been making a pretty good post-Oscar career as an action girl, rocks it in this one: kicking ass left and right, but with a vulnerable and human side to her as well. A multi-culti cast that goes all over the world, in a movie that could be the start of a new franchise—once The Virus is under control, of course.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things. I feel about Charlie Kaufman’s new film the way I did when I saw Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!: there was definitely a singular artistic vision here, at work in a story that starts out relatively mundane and ends surrealistic and utterly bizarre, but I’ll be damned if I can interpret any of it. My guess is it’s a meditation on aging and the deterioration and fragmentation of memory, though it seems to start as the woman’s story and ends as the man’s, which didn’t make sense. Like Mother!, I went into Thinking blind, assuming all I needed to know was the writer-director and his rep (I have got to stop doing that). Ludicrously talky, it bored me silly in places but I kept thinking well, sooner or later there’ll be an explanation for all this. There wasn’t, not that I could tell.

Rebecca (2020). The critics were less than charitable to this latest version of the world-famous Daphne DuMaurier novel memorably adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, but I didn’t think it was as mediocre as they said it was. The set design of Manderley was thrilling, as were the location shots, and weird dream sequences aside, I found it watchable. Lily James is less mousy as the nameless protagonist than Joan Fontaine, and Armie Hammer felt a bit less cold and uptight than Laurence Olivier, but Kristin Scott Thomas as Danvers was the best part for me. It won’t make me abandon my Criterion DVD of Hitch’s version, but for what it is, it’s alright.

More on the other side.

Shaken and stirred


...by the news, that is. 

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I had watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on Netflix. Hadn’t seen it in years and I wanted to see if it held up. It did, more or less.

But of course, Connery... Sean Connery... will be remembered for much more than that. When No Time to Die eventually gets released (the current date is April 2, 2021), I fully expect it to be dedicated to the memory of the man who helped kickstart one of the greatest film franchises ever and embodied one of the greatest film characters for a generation, and maybe for all time—no disrespect to his successors. James Bond was a product of his time, and though times may change, and characters may evolve with them, the original legend can never truly die.

I’m more familiar with Connery’s later work, of course, especially The Untouchables, where Brian DePalma and David Mamet embellished the legend of real-life hero Eliot Ness by adding a hard-nosed Irish cop who teaches Ness how to bring in Al Capone “the Chicago way.” Larger than life role in a larger than life movie. No doubt in my mind Connery earned the Oscar.

Connery was one of the dwindling number of true movie Superstars remaining. Once they’re gone, the book will have closed on their reign forever.

Maddy’s obit is quite professional

Saturday, October 31, 2020

I Drink Your Blood/I Eat Your Skin

I Drink Your Blood 

I Eat Your Skin

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The closure of movie theaters this year as a result of The Virus has led to a resurgence in drive-ins. Here’s a first-hand account from this past summer of a mother taking her family to a drive-in. In Queens, a drive-in has been born (with a Brooklyn extension), plus a local diner set up one in Astoria. Others have sprung throughout the tri-state area.

Years ago, I wrote about ways drive-ins could improve, and while my suggestions would be less feasible in the face of a pandemic, I still believe they could work in normal times. As things stand right now, drive-ins are a nice way to retain the traditional theater-going experience.

In the 60s and 70s, drive-ins were repositories for, shall we say, more adventurous cinematic material, the kind that appealed to younger audiences. Horror films were among the more popular genres. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Love Among the Ruins

The Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon is an event celebrating the lives and careers of the famed Hollywood couple, presented by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood  and Love Letters to Old Hollywood. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the links at the host sites.

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Katharine Hepburn made more TV movies than you might suspect for an actress whose film career began in 1932 and was almost as active in the theater throughout her life. 

Her migration to the small screen began after the death of Spencer Tracy in 1967, probably not a coincidence. All told, she made nine films for television, beginning with a remake of The Glass Menagerie in 1973 and ending with One Christmas in 1994, her final film role.

In 1972, Hepburn appeared on The Dick Cavett Show and was asked if she would ever make a film with Laurence Olivier, the legendary British actor who was so big they named an acting award after him. Hepburn smiled and said, “Well, neither of us is dead yet. Even though you may think so.”

And that set certain wheels in motion...