Thursday, December 31, 2009

Favorite Movies of 2009

Admittedly, I don’t make it to the theater as much as I’d like to these days. Many reasons exist that contribute to my theater-going deficiency, namely the cost of seeing a movie at the cinema, the growing number of consistently rude and chatty people in the audiences, and the somewhat meager, lackluster fare that’s available today. However, I did make it out to theaters to see nearly 30 movies in the past twelve months, so given that 2010 will soon be upon us, I’ve decided to pull together my favorite movies of 2009 (so far). It seems I’m all about lists this December.

Now, these films aren’t my proclamations for “best movies” of the year, just those that I thoroughly enjoyed and ones which managed to rise above most of the fluff and drivel. This also can’t be considered a comprehensive list, as I still have a post-it note here with at least ten movies that round out my must-see films of 2009. Nevertheless, I give you my favorite flicks (thus far) of 2009:

Sunshine Cleaning
In truth, Sunshine Cleaning is a 2008 movie, but it didn’t hit wide release in theaters until March of 2009. This quirky, Indie drama follows Rose (Amy Adams), a single mother desperately searching for the finances to send her precocious son to a private school. In order to raise the money for tuition Rose teams with her sister, Norah (Emily Blunt) to start a biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up service. As the sisters work to clean up the messes left behind by the chaotic lives of others, they must learn to reconcile their own differences and overcome a troubled past if they hope to prosper in their newfound venture. The film deals with some dark subject matter and poignantly explores grief and family dysfunction but maintains a positive outlook and contains some solid situational laughs. Alan Arkin also turns in another noteworthy supporting role as the sisters’ eccentric father.

The Hangover
Listed third on Moviefone’s poll of 2009’s best movie of the year, The Hangover was the summer’s big comedy smash hit. When three friends (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis) finally regain consciousness after a riotous night of bachelor-party carousing, they can't seem to locate their friend, Doug (Justin Bartha), who's supposed to be tying the knot in a matter of days. As the trio frantically searches for Doug, they begin to unravel the crazy shenanigans that occurred the night before in their drunken escapades. The Hangover is a flat out funny movie, chock-full with humorous situations, hilarious dialogue, and a breakout performance from Zach Galifianakis as Doug’s scruffy, soon-to-be brother-in-law.

Up, Disney-Pixar’s latest in a line of impressive animated films, follows 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner), who sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. By tying thousands of helium balloons to his house, Carl flies away on his voyage with Russell, an 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer, unexpectedly in tow. Together, the improbable duo embarks on a thrilling adventure full of unfamiliar terrain and jungle creatures. The nearly four minute montage in the beginning of the film is some of the finest filmmaking I’ve ever seen and Michael Giacchino’s score beautifully complements the lush images, making it my favorite film score in years.

Julie & Julia
This movie chronicles the story of Julia Child's start in the cooking profession in Paris (1949) alongside that of blogger Julie Powell's year-long challenge (2002) to cook all the recipes in Child's culinary classic “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Writer-director, Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail) has a gift for making movies that are simple pleasures and Julie & Julia is no exception. Like the food within it, this movie provides comfort and warmth powered by its superb cast. Meryl Streep’s cheerful performance as Julia Child proves once again that she can nail any accent and Amy Adams as Julie Powell does a fine job of “playing into a cliché so that it becomes tolerable, even viable” as Michael Phillips so deftly put it. Stanley Tucci shines (once more) as Child’s adoring husband and Jane Lynch’s brief appearance as Child’s sister adds even more charm and laughs! Julie & Julia has already nabbed two Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture and Best Actress – Musical or Comedy.

District 9
I’ll admit, I was a little weary going into this sci-fi thriller that seemed to be garnering so much buzz. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to see that District 9 lived up to all the hype. When aliens land on Earth (over Johannesburg, South Africa, to be specific), the human inhabitants of the area force the “Prawns” into a rigid containment zone known as District 9. In time, Wikus Van Der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is selected by his company to lead a field operation and forcibly evict the population of aliens from the refugee zone. The events that take place during Wikus’ inspection of the alien slums leave him in a precarious position, isolating him from his family and colleagues and causing him to rely on the help of the Prawns. District 9 rises above the typical alien invasion movie and, instead, writer-director Neill Blomkamp delivers a unique, semi-documentary style film that is both provocative and innovative.

In the Loop
This political satire, based on the popular British TV series, “The Thick of It,” chronicles the (fictional) coordinated build-up to the Iraq war through a series of absurd meetings between U.S. and U.K. assistant secretaries of state and defense. When a docile British Cabinet Minister, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) makes a series of slip-ups and inadvertently appears to back the war on prime-time television, he immediately attracts the attention of the Prime Minister’s venomously belligerent communications chief, Malcolm Tucker. Soon, the Brits find themselves in Washington, where diplomatic relations collide with trans-Atlantic spin doctors and a game of back-and-forth political discourse quickly spirals into an insurmountable “mountain of conflict.” In the Loop is a scathing, but sharp comedy that’s definitely worth seeking out!

Inglorious Basterds
I’ve steered away from most Quentin Tarantino films, not believing he’s as great as others (and the director himself) like to believe. So I was hesitant to see Inglorious Basterds, but, instead I came away from it fairly impressed. In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds," led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) are chosen explicitly to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. Meanwhile, in Paris, a Jewish cinema owner, Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) is forced to host a Nazi movie premiere. Seeing a golden opportunity, both Shosanna and The Basterds plan to carry out a score-settling scheme to take out the group of high-ranking Nazis, but “The Jew Hunter," Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) could be the one adversary to stand in their way. Tarantino gives viewers a new, audacious take on a World War II story with a provocative alternate ending, combining different elements to create an interesting nod to the art of filmmaking. Christoph Waltz’s performance was chilling and fantastic, one that will quite possibly bring him Oscar gold.

Where the Wild Things Are
A lot of anticipation and buzz surrounded Spike Jonze’s long-awaited adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book. While faithful to the look and feel of the book, Jonze also added his own special touches to Where the Wild Things Are, exploring so adeptly the imagination, emotions and basic needs of young kids. In Where the Wild Things Are that young kid is Max who envisions running away from his mom and sailing to a far-off land where large talking beasts crown him as their king, play rumpus, build forts and discover secret hideaways. Along the way, Max’s collected experience as a young child come together in this imaginary world he’s created and is represented in the Wild Things around him. Ultimately, Max moves to take control of his world and figure out the right thing to do. Jonze creates a beautifully realized film from Sendak’s book, especially with the significant technical achievement of the creatures, a combination of computer-generated effects and muppetry (costumes created by The Jim Henson Company). The soundtrack from Karen O also lends to the wonderfully exuberant feeling of the film. Essentially, viewers (of any age) can identify with the essence of childhood (both the good and the bad) captured in this unique rumpus!

Up in the Air
Selected by the National Board of Review as the Best Film of 2009 and already receiving six Golden Globe nominations, Up in the Air has certainly garnered widespread accolades. Director, Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking, Juno) continues to surprise and delight at the helm of each new film. Up in the Air is a smart, timely adult dramedy that follows Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a man who leads an empty life out of a suitcase and racks up major miles flying around the country firing employees on behalf of companies. When an arrogant young college grad, Natalie (Anna Kendrick) develops a method that will allow termination without ever leaving the office - essentially threatening the existence Ryan so cherishes, he’s determined to show the naïve girl the error of her logic by taking her on one of his cross country firing expeditions. As Natalie starts to realize the disheartening realities of her profession, Ryan begins to see the downfalls to his own way of life. Vera Farminga, who plays fellow frequent flyer, Alex, with whom Ryan bonds, is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary actors and she proves why with her solid performance in this film. And George Clooney is always nice to look at (along with his fine acting). Do yourself a favor and go see what all the buzz is about with Up in the Air.

Sherlock Holmes
Guy Ritchie has had his share of flops and, though I’d never seen any cinematic adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's infamous characters, I was a little worried that Ritchie would reinvent them with an updated, edgy, rough and grimy touch…and he did…but it works! Sherlock Holmes pulled in $65.4 million in its opening weekend, making it the best Christmas opener in history. The movie definitely has a contemporary feel to it, with fast-paced, swashbuckling action sequences, quick cuts, dazzling special effects, and rapid dialogue (though full of Holmes’ usual wit). In this incarnation, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Watson’s (Jude Law) most recent case concerns Lord Blackwood, a man who murdered in the name of his black magic. Finally hanged for his crimes, it comes as an unpleasant surprise when he literally rises from his grave. And so it is up to Holmes and Watson to find him and stop him before his killing spree devours the whole of England. Ultimately, Sherlock Holmes should be enjoyed for what it is: a rollicking good time! It may not rake in a bunch of awards, but it’s an entertaining crime adventure.

2009 movies still on my list to see:
(500) Days of Summer, A Single Man, An Education, The Young Victoria, The Lovely Bones, It’s Complicated, Invictus, NINE, Precious

Have a very Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best in 2010!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Festive Yuletide Flicks, Part 2

As promised, I’ve listed a few of my other favorite movies to delight in during the holiday season.

Christmas Vacation (1989)
In this yuletide installment of National Lampoon’s vacation movies, Clark, the leader of the Griswold clan, is determined to provide his family with the most perfect Christmas ever. Clark decides to invite his whole family to have 'the most fun-filled, old-fashioned family Christmas,' but all the good intentions in the world can't save the Griswold family from disaster. Clark's continual bad luck is worsened by his obnoxious family guests, but he manages to keep up his holiday cheer knowing that his holiday bonus is on its way. When Clark’s bonus isn’t quite what he expected, he snaps and soon his perfect Christmas looks to be in jeopardy.

Who can’t identify with the crazy antics of the Griswold family and the hilarious mishaps that pop up during the frenzy of the holidays? This modern classic is fueled by a side-splitting script from the late, great John Hughes, delivered with the skillful wit and comic timing of Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold. The terrific ensemble cast also includes Beverly D’Angelo as Clark’s wife, a young Juliette Lewis as Audrey Griswold, Diane Ladd and John Randolph as Clark’s parents, and Doris Roberts as the snobby mother-in-law.

Christmas Vacation is chock full of memorable scenes and quotable lines. Stand out moments include the hilarious return of Cousin Eddie (played by scene-stealing Randy Quaid), the scrounger who totes his misfit family around in a beat-up trailer, and Mae Questel's appearance as batty, old Aunt Bethany. Be sure to make Christmas Vacation an annual, fun-filled family tradition for you and yours!

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Countless versions of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas tale exist, but of all those I’ve seen, the Muppet’s account stands as my favorite! Undoubtedly everyone is familiar with Dickens’ story about an elderly miser, Ebenezer Scrooge (played here by Michael Caine) who is held accountable for his reprehensible ways during night-time visitations by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

The comical team of Gonzo and Rizzo the rat narrate the tale amid a beautiful, Dickensian setting. All the favorite Muppet characters make an appearance, including the always loveable and endearing Kermit playing Bob Cratchit; Fozzie bear as Fozziwig, the rubber chicken manufacturer; and the two curmudgeons, Waldorf and Statler as the ghostly Marley brothers.

Michael Caine makes a very believable Scrooge, effortlessly portraying the heartfelt transformation and redemption from miser to generous patron. The gentle humor and slapstick gags characteristic of the Muppets presents a light and refreshing perspective to this seasonal favorite. Furthermore, Paul Williams' musical score and songs are very catchy, leaving the viewer with a lasting memory.

The Muppet Christmas Carol provides a whimsical, zany holiday treat for one and all!

Home Alone (1990)
Another family comedy for the holidays written by John Hughes, Home Alone follows an eight year-old, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) who is accidentally left behind while his family flies to France for Christmas and has to defend his home against idiotic burglars.

Talented character actors, John Heard and Catherine O'Hara play Kevin’s parents, with Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as the buffoon criminals and a small, charming performance by the great John Candy as the “Polka King,” Gus Polinski.

The location is part of what makes Home Alone a personal favorite of mine. Shot and set in a northern suburb of Chicago near my hometown, watching this movie always makes me a little nostalgic. I was also close in age to Macaulay Culkin, who hit it big with this holiday smash, so I always tried to imagine what I would do with that big house all to myself. While not entirely believable, the crazy hijinx and gags along with another notable supporting cast make Home Alone an enjoyable yuletide flick.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Not typically known as a holiday movie, Bridget Jones’s Diary (based on the hilarious, best-selling novel by Helen Fielding) is the story of an everyday, 30-something woman living the single life in London. As part of her New Year’s resolution, Bridget (Renée Zellweger) decides to keep a diary to try and take control of her life. The events that ensue in her year-long pursuit are nothing short of hilarious, awkward, and charming. What makes Bridget Jones’s Diary one of my favorite go-to movies is its imperfect heroine and the fact that it so perfectly captures the inner workings of the female mind (especially the single female)!

Along with its great script, Bridget Jones’s Diary boasts a wonderful cast. My favorite contemporary British character actor, Jim Broadbent plays Bridget’s sullen father, while the amusing Gemma Jones plays Bridget’s dotty mother. And, of course, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant play Bridget’s two suitors, keeping the audience guessing as to who’s Mr. Right and who’s Mr. Right Now.

Again, Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of those movies that only has a few Christmassy parts, beginning and ending during the holiday season, with a wonderful, snowy conclusion. Yet this movie is so appealing on so many levels. It’s one of the few movies in which I can stomach Renée Zellweger’s acting, but, I’ll be honest, I really adore it because I loves me some Colin Firth (even in his “ridiculous reindeer jumper”)!

Though Bridget Jones’s Diary may be considered a “chick flick,” it’s still a witty, irreverent and engaging film and the audiences can’t help but to like Bridget, “just as she is!”

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Director Vincente Minnelli's musical masterpiece, starring Judy Garland, tells the story of the trials and tribulations of the tight-knit Smith family, depicting the passing of the seasons of one year in St. Louis on the eve of the 1904 World's Fair. The Smith’s live a happy, simple life until a shadow falls on their domestic bliss when father, Alonzo (played by the lovely Leon Ames) proposes to move the household to New York where he’s been offered a new job. The family’s daughters, Rose, Ether (Garland), Agnes and Tootie (played oh-so-memorably by the adorable Margaret O’Brien), all try to come to terms with their impending move to the east coast, but mourn the thought of missing out on the great World’s Fair and leaving their beloved St. Louis.

The yuletide classic, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," originated in Meet Me in St. Louis, stands as the primary reason I consider this movie a holiday season must-watch. Judy Garland’s expressive and heartfelt rendition of this song remains my favorite version. This song was especially poignant at the time of the movie’s release in 1944, as millions of young American men found themselves far from home during wartime, and millions of families back home missed them terribly.

Meet Me in St. Louis is a classic, heartwarming musical expertly directed by Minnelli and beautifully told by the endearing cast of characters…and all in glorious Technicolor!

Stalag 17 (1953)
This World War II movie (based on a Broadway play) takes place one week before Christmas in 1944. The setting, as you may’ve guessed from the film’s title, is a German prison camp housing thousands of enlisted American airmen, somewhere along the Danube River. A spy is discovered to be living in Barrack 4 after an escape attempt fails, resulting in the deaths of two inmates. The prisoners suspect Sergeant J.J. Sefton (William Holden, who won an Oscar as Best Actor for this role), an unscrupulous inside dealer who trades almost anything with the Germans for extra privileges. After Sefton is beaten up and made an outcast, he becomes determined to find the real spy and the result is a fusion of intrigue and betrayal.

In Stalag 17, Billy Wilder illustrates, once again, his exceptional skills as a director at mixing broad comedy and high-tension drama. While the subject matter at the heart of the film is serious, the everyday escapades of the bored and restless prisoners manages to bring vitality to the movie, led by the two Barrack clowns, Animal (Robert Strauss) and Shapiro (Harvey Lembeck). The action takes place leading up to Christmas, with the zenith coming on Christmas Day. Despite the conflict within the camp (or perhaps because of it), the prisoners take time to celebrate Christmas in their own way, holding a party within the Barracks. Stalag 17 is a highly entertaining film that’s a mystery, a thriller and a dark comedy all at once, and one that I can’t help but get the itch to watch during the holidays! “At eaaaase!”

Wishing you all the best during this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Festive Yuletide Flicks, Part 1

Along with a multitude of others, the holiday season is my favorite time of year. It’s a time of joyfulness, peace and goodwill. To me, movies, like the holidays, serve as pastimes that offer a similar sense of imagination, leisure, and magic. In that vein, I decided to pull together some of my favorite movies that celebrate the holidays, in some form or another. Some of these festive flicks might take place solely during the holidays and some might just have a few Christmas-y parts that still create a merry mood.

White Christmas (1954)
A perennial favorite in my family, this musical comedy (shot in gorgeous VistaVision) follows a showbiz team (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) that meets a pair of song-and-dance sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen). The fellas travel with the sister act to a Vermont lodge where the ladies are scheduled to perform a Christmas show. The foursome arrives at the New England inn and encounters an old friend who’s down on his luck. A series of romantic mix-ups ensue as the performers join forces to help deliver a bit of a Christmas miracle.

White Christmas is an enchanting and timeless holiday classic with a beloved Irving Berlin score, including favorites like “Sisters,” “Count Your Blessing Instead of Sheep,” “Mandy,” and the title song, “White Christmas.” Aside from the highly enjoyable performances from the four leads, the delightful character actress, Mary Wickes steals every scene she appears in as the comical hotel housekeeper. Listen for Bing Crosby’s amusing turns of phrase that add to the charm of White Christmas, particularly in the largely adlibbed "midnight snack" scene with Rosemary Clooney. Fifty-five years later, and this cinematic gem remains a go-to holiday favorite!

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
For as long as I can remember, my big brother would watch this classic every Christmas Eve. When I was young, it seemed too long and bleak for me, so I never gave it a chance. But a few years ago, I finally gave it a viewing and now, It’s a Wonderful Life holds a big spot in my heart as one of my favorite films ever (not just for the holidays). Aside from my eternal adoration of the movie’s star, James Stewart, I consider It’s a Wonderful Life to be one of director Frank Capra’s finest.

Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, a decent man who's spent a lifetime giving up on his dreams in order to helps others and support his hometown of Bedford Falls. When a guardian angel named Clarence (played by the delightful Henry Travers) finds a dejected George about to jump off a bridge, he shows George what life would've been like had he never been born.

In true Capra-esque style, we learn that, even if the cards are stacked against us and despite the sacrifices and challenges life throws at us, these experiences are not in vain. While those around George may have found wealth and glory, after all he’d been through, George was a well-respected man with a loving family who upheld his principles. The people he'd sacrificed for were willing to support him and help him in his greatest time of need because they admired him for his selflessness and values. He built a meaningful life for himself, helping others along the way. And, as Clarence reminds us, “No man is a failure who has friends.”

Elf (2003)
A more modern holiday favorite, I can recall happily anticipating this movie while studying for my college exams back in 2003. It promised an original Christmas story with some heart and humor and it didn’t disappoint. Elf tells the story of Buddy (Will Ferrell), a grown man who was raised as an elf in the North Pole. Gradually becoming aware of his differences from the other elves in Santa’s workshop, Buddy decides to leave for New York City to find his birth father.

This journey to an unknown world presents lots of new experiences and encounters for the sweet-natured Buddy that viewers get to experience through his ingenuous eyes. Along the way, Buddy’s infectious charm brings joy and Christmas cheer to the young-at-heart and a renewed sense of belief to the cynics.

Elf is a fun and silly family Christmas movie with moments of syrupy (please excuse the pun) merriment and exaggerated gags, yet stops short of being overly preachy, nicely balancing between sentiment and cynicism. Buddy the elf reminds us how to enjoy the holidays with child-like revelry and completely immerse ourselves in Christmas cheer, which helps make the season brighter!

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Along with Elf, this holiday classic helps bring cheer to the skeptics and captures the magical Christmas spirit for believers. At the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the stand-in for Santa shows up smashed and unable to fulfill his duties, so Macy’s events coordinator, Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) finds the perfect replacement, an eccentric, old bearded gentleman. The kind man is amazingly convincing as jolly Saint Nick and his services are expanded, being recruited as Macy’s store Santa. Doris soon learns that this man calls himself Kris Kringle and claims to be the actual Santa Claus. The cynical Doris, who discards all notions of belief and fantasy (passing on the same opinions to her young daughter – played by Natalie Wood), grows apprehensive, especially when the old man is committed to an asylum for insisting he is the real Sinter Klaas.

Doris’ neighbor, Fred Gaily befriends Kris Kringle and agrees to represent him in the fight to secure his release. What ensues is a spectacular hearing in which people's beliefs are reexamined and put to the test.

Edmund Gwenn gave an utterly enchanting performance as Kris Kringle and was justly awarded an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his role. Miracle on 34th Street is a whimsical holiday classic that underlines the blind faith and innocent wisdom often found in children and those who delight in the holiday season. Rather than protest about the commercialism that has overshadowed the holiday for years, this movie encourages viewers to adopt a sense of make believe and fantasy and make room for the possibility of a Christmas miracle!

Love Actually (2003)
This romantic dramedy features an all-star ensemble cast and tells the stories of a handful of separate, but intertwining relationships in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Set almost entirely in London, these relationships of romantic and platonic love span all ages and social levels, with some characters falling in love, some falling out of love, and some who are lonely, but still holding out hope for that special someone.

Love Actually isn’t strictly a holiday movie, but it’s theme of the ubiquity of love and varying degrees of goodwill is especially meaningful at Christmastime. The movie’s refreshing, light-hearted mix of sentiment and humor make Love Actually an enduring favorite for any time of the year.

Eloise at Christmastime (2003)
This television movie, based on the legendary children's books by Kay Thompson, follows little rabble-rouser Eloise (Sofia Vassilieva) during her Christmas escapades at New York’s Plaza Hotel, which she calls home, along with her faithful Nanny (Julie Andrews). Mr. Peabody, the owner of the Plaza, welcomes his newly engaged daughter Rachel home for the holidays. When Eloise learns that Rachel is an old flame of her friend (and Plaza waiter), Bill, she sets a plan in motion to help bring the young former couple back together. Other hijinx ensue, paired with an exhausting, but glorious holiday shopping spree, some fun Christmas musical moments, and plenty of laughs.

My mother read the “Eloise” books to me and my sister as we were growing up, so it was fun to see the characters come to life in this TV movie. Julie Andrews perfectly embodies the demure, but sometimes spunky character of Nanny, summoning that cheeky Cockney accent from her My Fair Lady days. All things considered, Eloise at Christmastime is a light, cheerful jaunt for those looking to brighten their holiday spirits.

Some more of my yuletide favorites will follow, but until then, feel free to share some of your go-to holiday movies!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Classic Film Lover’s Dream….Crushed!

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) recently announced that they will launch their first-ever classic film festival in April 2010 in Hollywood. This inaugural event will include more than 50 screenings of classic films, special red carpet events and celebrity appearances. Hollywood and its history will be celebrated throughout the TCM Classic Film Festival. In addition to screenings, the festival will tell the story of Hollywood through films, guests and special events throughout the weekend. The festival will involve several venues in Hollywood, including screenings at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Egyptian Theatre. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which has a longstanding role in movie history and was the site of the first Oscar® ceremony, will be the official hotel for the festival as well as a key venue for festival passholders.

Festival passes officially went on sale today. The hope and reverie that formed with the revelation of this classic film lover’s dream festival was soon crushed when reading the details that continue to be announced. Prices for this unprecedented event range from $500 to $1,200 for four-day passes.

Before the price options for the passes appear, TCM dangles these tasty classic film treats in their press release:

The spectacular events will include the world premiere of a newly restored edition of George Cukor’s music-filled 1954 drama A Star is Born; the North American premiere of a restored version of Fritz Lang’s 1927 science-fiction silent masterpiece Metropolis; and a 50th anniversary screening of the influential French classic Breathless, the film that launched Jean-Luc Godard’s career.

As my friend scb so aptly put it upon reading of the festival pass prices, “Geep! It's appropriate that the film title just before the prices is ‘Breathless’ because that's how the prices make one feel!”

TCM’s primetime host, Robert Osborne said in a previous release, “This new festival will give those who love movies a way to connect with each other. It is a first-of-its-kind chance for TCM fans to experience the network in-person, meet others with the same interests and immerse themselves in a wide array of classic films.”

Unless Mr. Osborne and the people at TCM think that their typical, loyal fans are rolling in dough, I don’t see how they can expect a good majority of said viewers to make the trip out to Hollywood (one of the most over-priced tourist destinations in the world) for this festival, over which many of us fans are desperately salivating! Aside from the high price-point of the festival passes, attendees will have to pay for lodging, airfare, food, etc. – spending close to (if not more than) $2000 when all is said and done. This fact alone means, sadly, I won’t be making a trip to Hollywood this April. This isn’t Sundance and we’re not expecting Robert Redford, just Robert Osborne (don’t get me wrong, I love ya Bob)!

Hopefully in subsequent years, the TCM Classic Film Festival will work out the kinks and offer more reasonable prices for devoted fans. Perhaps in the coming weeks, TCM will unveil individual or open ticket pricing options. One can still dream!

In the meantime, is anyone planning on splurging and attending this inaugural fest?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Calling all Hitchcock fans

Yesterday, /Film uncovered a rare interview with the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Taped in 1973 for the “Tomorrow Show,” host Tom Snyder sat down with the famed director for an hour-long discussion on Hitchcock’s background, his films, and some of the ideas and experiences that fed into his work.

The interview provides fans with new insights into the mind, views and drollness of one of the 20th century’s most gifted filmmakers.

To view the entire interview (in six parts), visit /Film.

Another great site for Hitchcock enthusiasts (and film aficionados in general) is “Saul Bass on the Web.” This great new site is devoted to the work of talented title designer, Saul Bass who designed the credits and title sequences for more than 60 films, including Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960) – of which Bass co-directed the very famous shower scene. Bass also created titles for such films as The Seven Year Itch (1955), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), West Side Story (1961), Bunny Lake is Missing (1965), Big (1988) and Casino (1995).

The site is still in beta, but it’s a great resource on Bass’ career and tremendous visual creativity.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

There is Nothin' Like a Dame

Today marks the 74th birthday of acting legend, Dame Julie Andrews. Since her childhood in Walton-on-Thames, England, Ms. Andrews has been entertaining millions with her singing, acting, and dancing. She starred in such Broadway hits as “My Fair Lady,” “Camelot” and “Victor/Victoria.” Ms. Andrews began her film career as the iconic nanny in Mary Poppins (1964) (winning an Academy Award for Best Actress), following with a string of other hits, including The Sound of Music (1965), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), and 10 (1979), along with her Emmy-winning TV show, “The Julie Andrews Hour” (1972). In recent years, she’s been reintroduced to a new generation of audiences as royalty in The Princess Diaries and Shrek movies. In addition to her many screen credits, Ms. Andrews has been an author of children’s books since 1971, with such popular titles as “Mandy,” “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles,” “The Great American Mousical” and “Simeon’s Gift.”

Here’s a look at the delightful Dame over the years:

Happy Birthday, Julie!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Best Things...

Since it’s Friday and the weekend is mere hours away, I’m very excited, I almost feel like dancing! This feeling quickly brought to mind one of my favorite musical sequences and I wanted to share it! So, even though Christmas is still three months away (exactly three, as of today), here’s the adorable Danny Kaye and the lovely Vera-Ellen showing us why “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” from White Christmas (1954).

Talk about dancing with the stars!