Wednesday, May 20, 2009

5/17: Manhattan (1979) (4.5/5)

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Sunday night I watched Woody Allen's Manhattan.
Manhattan opens with different shots of New York City to the tune of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue". This had me excited from the first trill of the clarinet, it's my favorite piece of music!

Manhattan tells the story of Isaac, a divorced TV writer who is seeing a girl in high school (played well by a young and gorgeous Mariel Hemingway). He finds out that his friend Yale is having an affair with Mary (Diane Keaton). Isaac is astounded because Yale has a wonderful relationship with his wife, yet he is carrying on this affair. At first he hates Mary, who is very showy in her intelligence, and snoody in her views, calling many great artists like Van Gogh overrated. Nevertheless, he is intrigued, and begins dating her. He also breaks up with Tracy the highscooler, so that she can go to London to study acting. In the end, Isaac and Tracy get back together

Like I said, I was sold on this movie by the fanastic opening and closing sequences, which use most of Gershwin's masterpiece. Here is the opening scene (ignore that this ivdeo screws with the aspect ratio-some people have not respect!):

This was Woody Allen's first foray in to both black and white photography and the widescreen format. Both work very well with this picture (although this could be because most, no all of the movies I watch are black and white). It adds to the artistry of the film. I was especially impressed with the museum scene, arguably Isaac and Mary's first date. The lighting (or lack thereof) is gorgeous in this scene, and I couldn't imagine this being in color.
The people who have posted this on youtube were thinking more about temporal than narrative cuts, but here is the second and more beautiful part of the museum scene:

Surprisingly, this is the least favorite of Allen's films, even though it is considered by critics and hardcore Allen fans to be his best. I think that perhaps this film is so disappointing to him because, as he says in the opening scene, New York is a tough town, and no amount of film in the world could capture it in its entirety.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

5/16: "My Man Godfrey" (3/5)

Saturday night I watched Frank Capra's "My Man Godfrey", and 1936 Universal picture.

From IMDB:
In the depths of the Depression, a party game brings dizzy socialite Irene Bullock to the city dump where she meets Godfrey, a derelict, and ends by hiring him as family butler. He finds the Bullocks to be the epitome of idle rich, and nutty as the proverbial fruitcake. Soon, the dramatizing Irene is in love with her 'protege'...who feels strongly that a romance between servant and employer is out of place, regardless of that servant's mysterious past.
For some reason, I thought that this picture was made later in the thirties (I had my heart set on 1939), so I was left a little disappointed in the quality of humor and direction. Of course, when I noticed that it was in fact made in '36, I cut it a little more slack. I found the direction of "Godfrey" a little sparse and tableau-esque (ie not enough close-ups). In fact, I don't think I could identify a picture of Carole Lombarde in a lineup, because there were little to no close-ups of her, and those weird side curls were always covering her eyes (this is my first Lombard picture).
I did really enjoy Irene's morose retorts after Godfrey turns her down. Everything in her life is meaningless. My favorite things about these scenes are the way she enters the room. She looks at the ceiling, her eyes glazed, and her feet barely lifting off the ground. Perhaps a little more intense direction would have made this even more hilarious.

My favorite part was the fantastic supporting cast. Alice Brady reprises her role as a ditzy, borderline mentally retarded mother who cares more about her the feelings of her piano protege (who only plays one song) than her emotionally unstable daughters. Gail Patrick also shines in this film as the devious and cold-hearted sister Cornelia (a role she would often take, especially in two of my favorites "Stage Door" and "My Favorite Wife"). She did a fantastic job in this picture, but surprisingly never scored larger roles.
Interestingly, this picture featured a few people who had worked or later worked for RKO (I just took a class about RKO so I'm enthralled by them at the moment). Greg LaCava went next to RKO to direct my favorite movie Stage Door, which featured Gail Patrick as Adolph Menjou's lady friend Linda, (one of the) arch-nemises of Ginger Roger's Jean. Franklin Pangborn, a great character actor played Harcourt in Stage Door, and is uncredited as the judge of the scavenger hunt. Alice Brady was also featured in a couple of RKO pictures in the early '30s, inluding the Gay Divorcee.
I liked this film, but found it seriously lacking some type of intangible charisma. It was not as good artistically as its screwball predecessor It Happened One Night, nor as funny as the Irene Dunne/Cary Grant screwballs of the later 30s.

Favorite Quote: "Godfrey loves me! He put me in the shower!"

Here is the 8th part of the picture, including the clip above. It really gets good around the 5 minute mark.

*Little known fact* Carole Lombard was known for having a particularly filthy mouth. My film professor showed me this clip in one of my classes, saying "I think you guys may have a skewed view of the past, because the code kept everything that was really going on OUT of the movies". Here are some very rare bloopers from My Man Godfrey, including a Lombard cursing storm. (NSFW)

Love it!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Welcome to my film blog! I expect this entry to be a little awkward, but whatever! I decided to start this blog after some friends became interested in the fact that I am trying to watch a new movie every day during my summer holiday. Since I dream of being a professor of film studies, I think this would be conducive to my future career! So before I begin yacking about the movies I'm watching, I thought I would give you an idea of me!
I am a student at the University of Oklahoma. For some reason, I am seeking a degree in vocal performance, with a minor in film studies. I want to study Film in grad school, and become a professor. Right now my area of expertise is in the musical (especially depression-era musicals), but I am also interested in cult film.
Above all other things, I love Ginger Rogers. Her grace, elegance, and talent were stellar. While my favorite movie is Stage Door (which I will talk about later), my favorite Ginger Rogers musical is Swing Time. Here is a wonderful number from Swing Time. This is the first number I saw them dance, and I have been hooked ever since:

Just wonderful!

In closing, I hope that you enjoy my ramblings on these films that are new to me, and I hope that I inspire you to find something that you love, as I have.