Saturday, April 19, 2014

Garbo and Dietrich On The Small Screen

Greta Garbo
Marlene Dietrich

Now this I would watch! A TV series centering on the intersecting lives of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich is being developed by Annapurna Pictures. It’ll be powerhouse producer Megan Ellison’s first foray into television, and if her eye for great films is any indication, it’s sure to be a success. In case you don’t know, Ellison was behind two of last year’s accolade-heavy films – American Hustle and Her – and she became the first woman to score two Academy Award noms for Best Picture. (She’s also the daughter of a billionaire…and she’s a year younger than me. BRB, crying.)

But anyway, back to this glorious project. According to Variety, the yet-to-be-titled story is set in Hollywood’s Golden Age and explores the two icons’ relationships with the likes of Tallulah Bankhead, Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant and John Wayne. It seems they had a lot of similarities beyond their fiercely penciled eyebrows and affinity for rocking sick pantsuits. Who would you tap to play Swedish siren Garbo and German star Dietrich? I’m already playing casting director…

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gene Kelly: All the Right Moves

Most people know Gene Kelly as a dancer, an actor, occasional singer and perhaps someone who enjoys a rainy day more than most. Some might even know he was a groundbreaking director and choreographer, too. But there’s a lot people don’t know about the handsome hoofer from Pittsburgh. And that’s where the Film Society of Lincoln Center comes in. They’re currently in the middle of a two week retrospective on  Kelly. This August just happens to be the 100th anniversary of his birth.

I was lucky enough to attend an Evening with Gene Kelly at the Walter Reade Theater last night, hosted by Kelly’s wife, film historian Patricia Ward Kelly - a thoroughly fascinating woman in her own right. Various film clips of some of Kelly’s most famous musical numbers were punctuated by Patricia’s insightful commentary, revealing anecdotes and warm recollections of her late husband. She also dug into stacks of boxes on stage and pulled out some of Gene’s old things to share with us - choreography notes, sweet valentines Gene wrote to Irish shillelagh he kept by his bedside.

Perhaps what most surprised me to learn, and maybe it shouldn’t have, was Gene’s voracious appetite for knowledge and his fierce intelligence. According to Patricia, Gene spoke multiple languages (French and Latin, among them) and liked to quote poetry. The two of them seemed to have quite a connection, despite their 46 year (!) age difference. When they met in 1985, Patricia was 26 and Gene was 73. She didn’t even know who “Gene Kelly” was! She got to know the man behind the star, and that’s who she was able to show us last night.

After all these years, Gene still has the power to captivate. During the clips they showed, there were audible gasps from the audience (“He’s sooo good looking!” “He makes it look so easy!”).

And indeed, he did make it look so easy. Here are my favorite examples:

The "Alter Ego" dance from 1944's Cover Girl

"The Newspaper Dance" from 1950's Summer Stock 

"The Roller Skate Dance" from 1955's It's Always Fair Weather. Because he's tap dancing. On roller skates.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Liz & Linds

Ok, so the first official picture isn’t totally horrible. As you may well know, Lindsay Lohan is gonna attempt her best Elizabeth Taylor impression for the upcoming Lifetime movie Liz & Dick. The network released a promotional photo, featuring Lohan in full Liz hair and makeup, and co-star Grant Bowler as Richard Burton. Also released yesterday and today were some paparazzi photos from the set, which were, um, considerably less impressive. But, hey, at least it looks like Linds is showing up for her scenes! Not like my expectations are very high for this project anyway. What do you think of the photos? Will you be watching this movie, like me, solely for the trainwreck aspect?

Update: Here's another pic of Linds in character.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

On Display: The Art of the Movie Poster

I’m a serious fan of the old movie poster. One look around my room and that’s apparent.  A movie poster hangs from every angle - from A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on one wall to East of Eden and The Hustler on another. My room’s a veritable classic movie poster gallery.

So when I heard Film at Lincoln Center was displaying their own movie poster gallery, I jumped at the chance to check it out. Presented by Turner Classic Movies, the exhibit at the Furman Gallery, called “Style and Motion: The Art of the Movie Poster,” featured a variety of original film posters from the Mike Kaplan Collection. Incidentally, Kaplan is an acclaimed designer/art director of movie posters - and an avid collector of posters from around the world (a guy after my own heart).

Last month, recent guest blogger Nicole Turso and I visited the gallery to check it out. The exhibit wasn’t very large - but it was free, and total movie poster eye candy. I snapped some pics of my favorites. An interesting tidbit: The American in Paris poster once belonged to Gene Kelly himself! Needless to say, I would wallpaper my house with these if I could.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Guest Blogger: Oh, The Horror!

by Nicole Turso

Ed. Note: On the Marquee's guest blogger today is Nicole Turso! I enlisted her help to do a post about classic horror films, because when it comes to horror, there's a gap in my movie knowledge. Because I am a total chicken.

Lea Michele in Creature from the Black Lagoon
As a classic horror movie fan - news of a remake with today's popular actors can really make you into a raving lunatic.

When Hollywood decided 1976's "The Omen" was due for a re-boot, my blood boiled knowing Gregory Peck and Lee Remick would be replaced by the likes of Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles (Sorry, guys). 

And while Naomi Watts is a decent match for Hitchcock's golden girl Tipi Hedren - remaking "The Birds" was another one of Michael Bay's bird-brain ideas (Along with yet another Transformers flick).

Well, now some of the more iconic horror images are getting the Ryan Murphy treatment on the pages of the latest issue of Elle.

Kate Mara in Carrie

Murphy proved his horror chops with FX's "American Horror Story" - as did stars Connie Britton and Kate Mara. Now Murphy puts his muses to the scenes from his favorite thrillers.

Connie Britton in The Omen
And since Murphy's poptart comedy "Glee" has been frighteningly-bad lately, it only makes sense Gleeks Lea Michele, Dianna Agron and company would join in on the horror romp.

Dianna Agron in The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Some of this fan's favorites: Britton as Damien's petrified mother in "The Omen", Mara just before the pig blood hits the fan in "Carrie" and Sarah Paulson as both Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in my all-time favorite creepfest "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

Sarah Paulson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What's New is Old Again!

This is officially amazing. Illustrator/designer Peter Stults imagines what modern-day movies would look like if they were made during past Hollywood eras - and then he creates movie posters for them. My personal fave? The re-imagining of the Ryan Gosling flick Drive starring James Dean! The poster series is called "Movies from an Alternate Universe."

 The series also includes posters for The Hangover starring Dean Martin, Jack Lemmon and Jerry Lewis and Avatar starring William Shatner and Natalie Wood, among others! This was too good not to share!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Artist Paints a Nostalgic Picture

It’s black and white. It’s silent. And it’s French. But don’t let that turn you off from The Artist, probably one of this year’s most pleasing big-screen gems. What it’s lacking in dialogue, it makes up for in vibrant performances, an expressive score and deft visual cues. Part Singin’ in the Rain, part A Star is Born and part Charlie Chaplin film, The Artist gives us nostalgia without feeling stale.

It takes place in 1927, when motion picture making is on the brink of sound. Hollywood’s biggest silent film star is George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a dapper fella who can rock a tux and charm an audience with a raise of his eyebrow. He’s got the movie-going public - and the studio - in the palm of his hand and he knows it. At one of his big premieres, he quite literally bumps into one of his biggest fans - a pretty young thing named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). Their picture gets snapped together and just like that Peppy becomes George’s “mystery girl” in all the papers.

Her newfound “fame” is just the confidence boost she needs to audition as an extra on George’s latest film. George and Peppy have instant chemistry - they both can go toe-to-toe on the tap dancing floor. The seasoned actor sees the eager young ingenue’s allure and takes her under his wing. But just like in A Star is Born, the student is destined to outshine the teacher. Especially when the rise of talkies begs the need for fresh talent.

It’s not that George gets pushed out - he simply refuses to get on board. While the studios start cranking out films with the latest sound technology, George dismisses it all as a passing fad and sets out to make his own silent film. His refusal to move into the future is what ultimately makes his future a bleak one. He must forgo his pride or face living in obscurity forever.

In less capable hands, The Artist could have been a gimmicky mess - a parody of sorts. Or it could have been too, well, artsy, thus alienating the average moviegoer. But filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius has done his homework. He knows what made the classics great and he applies those elements to his own film, giving all the old timey tricks a more polished finish. There are barely any words - just the occasional title card to give context to a scene - but the film is still a rich experience. The score plays throughout, and there’s even a dream sequence where sound is used for clever effect. You never feel as if anything’s missing. 

He may have been silent, but the Oscar buzz for French actor Jean Dujardin is almost deafening. He’s perfect for this part in every way. He has Old Hollywood good looks, but much like the actors of that time, his face also has character. He uses expression and body language so well that you forget he’s not saying anything at all! His George Valentin goes from cocky to desperate, and all the while you continue to like him.

Dujardin has an equally adept partner in Berenice Bejo, who plays Peppy. With a glowing smile and a buoyant personality, it’s not easy to see why Peppy becomes a big star. We begin to feel the same adoration for her as her audience in the film.

There are also appearances by some familiar American faces, but they almost seem out of place here. John Goodman plays a big-time studio exec, James Cromwell plays George’s trusted chauffeur and confidante, and Penelope Ann Miller plays George’s neglected wife. The movie’s feel was such a throwback, I really didn’t expect to see anybody I recognized. But perhaps the award for best supporting character goes to George’s dog, a trusty terrier much in the vein of Asta, the loyal pup from The Thin Man series of the 1930s or George, the mischievous dog in Bringing Up Baby. The scrappy scene-stealer was a treat to watch - and he also plays a pivotal role in the story.

My one gripe is that George’s fall from grace drags on a bit too long. It takes a while for him to fully hit rock bottom and find the strength to pick himself up again. You may get frustrated with him as he rejects Peppy’s well-meaning attempts to help get him back on track. But, as I said, the film is ultimately a crowd-pleaser, and you’ll be smiling ear-to-ear by the end. I certainly was. Sometimes, silence really is golden.

You can also find my review on!