The scene below is from the Marx Brothers 1935 film A Night At The Opera, which has a plot too convoluted to explain in a few sentences but is really funny. This is partly because it was co-written by one of my favorites, George S. Kaufman, and partly because the Marx brothers are always amusing. In this scene they infiltrate the New York Opera and chaos ensues, only a bit of which is shown in this clip. Otis Driftwood (Groucho), called upon to open the opera with a few impromptu remarks, lets loose: "Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the street, drinking in the saloon, and necking in the parlor."
The clip below is from Baz Luhrmann's 1992 movie Strictly Ballroom. It is the first of his Red Curtain Trilogy which also includes Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge (2001). It was Luhrmann's first movie and was filmed in Australia using mostly unknown actors, and is actually my favourite of his films (I never made it all the way through his Great Gatsby). Some scenes- mostly the flashbacks- are done in a style which viewers will recognize as later being employed in Moulin Rouge. Strictly Ballroom takes place in the wacky world of competitive ballroom dancing, something Luhrmann knows a lot about since he used to compete in his youth. It is essentially a Cinderella-like story about Fran, a shy and awkward girl in the beginner class at a local dance studio who has a crush on Scott, the son of the studio owners. Scott is a gifted dancer but is tired of the restrictive rules of ballroom dancing, wanting to develop new routines and steps. When he uses some of his innovative steps in a competition, the crowd loves it but the judges are not amused and penalize him. Enraged at losing the competition due to his recklessness, his dance partner Liz quits which leaves Scott partner-less only a couple months before the Pan-Pacific Championship. His mother starts frantically auditioning partners for him, determined that he compete and win. Of course, no one thinks of Fran in relation to the Pan-Pacific until she summons the courage to tell Scott that she likes his new steps and asks him to teach them to her. He does so, mainly because he's furious with his parents and everyone else. To his surprise, Fran rises to the challenge and, through her family, he is introduced to a style of dance which has nothing in common with ballroom competition. Scott decides to compete in the Pan-Pacific with Fran and the dance they've developed just as his mother announces that she's found him the perfect new partner. After much drama, Scott and Fran make it to the dance floor only to have the scandalized heads of the dance federation literally pull the plug on them.
Strictly Ballroom is a whole lot of fun from beginning to end, with its eccentric characters, tacky dance outfits, tongue-in-cheek humour and over-the-top divas. Scott and Fran are a nice young couple whom it is easy to root for against the hidebound and often corrupt dance federation leaders. The supporting cast is delightful as well, providing much of the fun and silly humour to be found in the movie. All in all, Strictly Ballroom is a frothy and feel-good film, and a delightful way to spend an hour and a half.
The film clip below is from the 1940 movie Rebecca, which is a gothic tale of mystery, obsession, and possible murder. Joan Fontaine plays an inexperienced young woman who marries wealthy, brooding widower Maximilian de Winter (Laurence Olivier). Arriving at his huge estate called Manderley, she makes the acquaintance of the creepy housekeeper Mrs. Danvers who is obsessed with Maxim's late wife Rebecca. She keeps Rebecca's rooms like a museum- or shrine- and creepily caresses Rebecca's clothes, fantasizing about the past. All I can say is, if it was me, those clothes would all be in boxes on their way to the Salvation Army and that crazy chick would be out on her ear.
Galaxy Quest is the 1999 comedy which is a parody of science fiction TV shows (Star Trek). It stars Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Tony Shaloub, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell as the cast members of a long-cancelled space show entitled Galaxy Quest. It has become a cult classic and the actors find themselves typecast and, unable to get roles outside the genre, mostly getting by on what they make from public appearances and fan conventions. As it turns out the Thermians- an alien race- have been watching reruns of the show from afar and, having no concept of fiction, believe Galaxy Quest to be news reports. The Thermians are currently being hunted and eiminated by a group led by Sarris, a ruthless alien warlord; they decide to travel to earth and, using holographic projection to disguise themselves as human, convince the heroes of Galaxy Quest to save them from their enemy. The problem is, of course, that the Galaxy Quest crew are actually a bunch of washed-up, embittered actors who merely played heroes on TV. Galaxy Quest is a really fun- and funny- send up of science fiction and its fans and has been embraced as such by them. This is because, while it pokes fun at the genre and those who obsess over it, the film is never mean spirited about it. Galaxy Quest comes off not as malicious mockery, but as good natured ribbing, laughing with the fans, not at them.
Johnny Belinda is a movie which was released in 1948. It stars Jane Wyman as the title character Belinda McDonald, a deaf-mute girl living with her father and aunt in rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The film is adapted from an earlier play by Elmer Blaney Harris who based it on actual events which occurred on Prince Edward Island, where he owned a home, rather than Cape Breton Island. In the movie, Belinda exists in a lonely world of silence, presumed to be stupid by her family and the community. This changes when kindly Doctor Richardson sets up a practice in the area and takes an interest in the deaf girl, teaching her sign language and some lip reading. Then, just as things are looking up for Belinda, she is attacked and sexually assaulted by a local thug. The consequences of this traumatic event are far-reaching and tragic. The subject matter of Johnny Belinda was considered quite controversial at the time because under the Hays Code rape was not allowed to be depicted in movies. Johnny Belinda was the first film for which this restriction was waived. Jane Wyman, who won an Oscar for her performance, learned sign language for the role and insisted on performing with her ears blocked in order to give a realistic portrayal of deafness. In the scene below, Belinda is praying after the death (murder) of her father.
Here are a nephew and niece bird watching together excitedly. Personally, I've never much liked birds. They're fine outdoors, and I actually do like to watch the ospreys back home swooping down and grabbing fish out of the lake, but I'd rather not have them up close and personal. My dislike probably started at an early age, influenced by my grandmother. My grandparents' driveway had a big tree overshadowing it and birds used to sit in its branches and er, relieve themselves upon the car. My grandmother would come out of the house, glare in distaste at the bespattered vehicle, and say in a tone of loathing, "Dirty birds!" We heard her say it so often that it's become a family expression. I had reason to echo her sentiments when, during high school, I worked at a local daycare center. One of my jobs was to clean the budgie and hamster cages, which I didn't enjoy. The two budgies seemed to take a peculiar delight in waiting until I had filled their water trough with clean water, then perching on the side of it and pooping in it. "Dirty Birds!"
At least once a year at Sullivan's Pond- home of many water fowl- there is a report of some unwary pedestrian stranded atop a park bench, having been chased up there by a hostile goose. Generally the goose then circles around the bench, hissing, lunging and trying to bite so that the benched individual is completely demoralized and unable to escape. And don't even get me started on swans, with whom I had a run in at Lake Windermere in England. The thuggish birds expect tourists to feed them and can get aggressive if you don't. I saw one reach right into a baby stroller and snatch a cracker out of the poor child's hand, then poked his head back in, looking for more as the child sobbed, either in fear or because he no longer had a cracker.
If you've ever been to Trafalgar Square in London, then you know that the statues and surrounding buildings are routinely covered in pigeons. When I was there, someone eating their lunch dropped part of it on the ground. Suddenly, the sky darkened as hundreds of birds took flight and dove for the fries. It was not my favourite moment in London, and it called to mind The Birds, Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 horror film about birds gone bad. I've seen this movie once: I don't want to watch it again. One other incident which I experienced reminded me of this film: once while still at home, I was in the kitchen when one of my sisters yelled from the living room that there was something in the fireplace. I went into the room and sure enough, I could hear something moving around in the fireplace (which has doors on it). Not knowing what else to do, I opened the doors and a bird, which must have fallen down the chimney, flew out and started flapping hysterically around the house, slamming into walls. My sister and I opened the doors and, grabbing towels, waved and flapped them, trying to herd the bird outside. We eventually got him out, but it was really hard, and our nerves were considerably frazzled. The clip below from The Birds is a bird/fireplace episode which is way, way worse than ours:
The 1962 movie What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? tells the story of Jane Hudson, who years before had been the famous and adored child star "Baby Jane". As she grows up though, she's no longer so cute- just an older and rather unpleasant actress. Meanwhile, her ignored and neglected sister Blanche becomes a movie star as Jane's career is failing... until one night when, in a suspicious car accident, Blanche's spinal cord is severed and she is left without the use of her legs. Fast forward a number of years and Blanche and Jane are living in Blanche's house on the money she earned during her movie career. Wheelchair bound, Blanche is helpless to escape the cruelty an alcoholic and increasingly insane Jane who in her fantasies is still "Baby Jane," performing for her adoring public. I can't remember now if I saw Baby Jane before or after I saw The Watcher In The Woods... either way, Bette Davis scarred me for life.
This film clip is from the 1949 movie Adam's Rib. It stars Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as a married couple who also happen to be lawyers. After a woman attempts to shoot her husband because he's cheating on her, she is arrested for attempted murder. Tracy's character is a prosecutor who is assigned the case and, to his shock, his wife- Hepburn- takes on the accused as a client. Sparks fly in the courtroom and then inevitably at home as the two argue their respective cases. The scene below shows Hepburn's chatacter (Amanda Bonner) questioning the "other woman" about her affair with the married man. The other woman is played by the always great Jean Hagen, whom many will know from Singin' In The Rain.
The original King Kong movie was released in 1933. It stars Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot- and, of course, the big hairy ape Kong, an early example of stop animation. As pretty much everyone knows, the story revolves around a film crew which sails to a remote island to film a movie and runs into more trouble than it bargained for. The local yokels are about to sacrifice a young village girl as the "Bride of Kong" when they catch a glimpse of actress Ann Darrow (Wray) and decide that Kong would prefer the blond chick. Understandably reluctant to hand her over- she's under contract, after all- the crew returns to the ship, only to have the natives sneak on board and kidnap Darrow, ceremoniously giving her to the big ape, who is enchanted by the screaming beauty. The crew- led by Ann's love interest Jack Driscoll- attempts a rescue which goes rather badly as they are attacked by a number of prehistoric creatures and then by Kong himself, which occurs in the scene below:
I mentioned in my review of the short story The Most Dangerous Game that the film version of it was filmed on the same set as King Kong, at the same time- one filmed during the day and one at night. Also, Fay Wray starred in both. Below is a photo from The Most Dangerous Game from a scene which takes place on the same giant log which features in the above King Kong scene:
Okay, so I watched Lars And The Real Girl last night and I really enjoyed it. It has a weird and wonderful charm about it and is alternately laugh-inducing and touching. I'm not going to say too much about it right now because I intend to review it in a while, so I'll just post the trailer for the film below: