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!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Take on My Week With Marilyn

You’d have to be pretty brave to take on the role of iconic sex symbol Marilyn Monroe. Thank goodness Michelle Williams seems to have courage to spare. In My Week with Marilyn (out Nov. 23rd) she embodies the blonde bombshell with a confidence that most young actresses couldn’t even dream of achieving. She has the Marilyn “wiggle” down to a science - achieved, she said, by practicing walking with her knees tied together. She has the Marilyn sparkle - her childlike abandon. And on the flip-side, she evokes the Norma Jean insecurities. The vulnerability and the need to be loved. The desperate desire to be a person of worth. It’s this duality - Marilyn vs. Norma Jean - that elevates Williams’ performance from mere imitation to a deeper representation of a person’s humanity.

My Week with Marilyn is not a Marilyn biopic - it’s more of a Marilyn snippet. A glimpse into a period of her life as seen through the eyes of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a young, eager third-assistant director on her film The Prince and the Showgirl, which began filming in London in 1956. The story is based on Colin’s diary from that time in his life, and includes his observations of the star as she allows him to get close to her and as he becomes more and more infatuated with her.

The film is mainly split between on-set antics and off-set moments. On set, Colin watches wide-eyed as the film’s director and star, Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), butts heads with the difficult Marilyn. Olivier fumes as she shows up late, brings along her own “acting coach” of questionable credibility, and botches her lines time and again. The Prince and the Showgirl was notorious for its tumultuous on-set atmosphere, mainly due to the fact that Olivier and Marilyn just didn’t understand each other. He admired her vivacity and innate talent, to be sure, and Marilyn respected and was intimidated by his serious acting background. But even that couldn’t break the ice between them. Olivier was reportedly so fed up by his Prince and the Showgirl experience, that he pretty much abandoned directing after that.

But here’s the thing, when Marilyn got it right, boy did she get it right. There was no denying her charm - even Olivier could see it.

Off set, Marilyn had a whole other set of problems, and we see Colin as he slowly becomes privy to them. Her recent marriage to playwright Arthur Miller is already on the downslide, she’s clearly addicted to alcohol and pills, and she’s surrounded by enablers.  There are moments when Williams is able to show the needy, fragile and troubled girl underneath the star sheen, and I’m glad the movie didn’t shy away from that.

And speaking of the star sheen, Williams’ makeup, hair and styling is impeccable - and quite a necessary element when you’re playing someone who was so stylized in her public persona. The scene that best illustrates this is when Colin and Marilyn are confronted by paparazzi during a spontaneous outing. She turns casually to Colin and asks, “Shall I be ‘her’?” and just like that, she “turns on” Marilyn Monroe - sexy swaying, playful winking and all. “Playing” Marilyn Monroe was perhaps her greatest role, but that ease of switching gears was also probably her downfall. She opens up to Colin at one point, admitting that all the men in her life see her as “Marilyn Monroe,” and once they figure out that’s not really who she is, they leave.

The film on a whole is not spectacularly original. A young man falls for a beautiful woman completely out of his grasp, learns some life lessons, comes of age. He forgoes a pretty, pert costume assistant (Emma Watson) to chase Marilyn’s affections and in the end gets his heart broken. But the audience doesn’t really care about Colin - at least not when he’s sharing the screen with the magnetic Williams. She pulls focus, much like Marilyn did in all of her films, and she’s marvelous to behold.

Bookended by two sensational song and dance numbers seamlessly performed by Williams, My Week with Marilyn reaffirms Marilyn Monroe’s timeless appeal - and solidifies that same quality in the radiant Michelle Williams.

You can also find my review on!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wood's Death Revisited!

I first wrote about this last March and now it seems Los Angeles authorities have officially reopened their investigation into the mysterious death of Natalie Wood – almost 30 years to the day it happened. 

Boat captain Dennis Davern is pointing the finger at Wood’s husband, Robert Wagner, saying Wagner was “responsible” for his wife’s death. Davern claims he was asked by Wagner not to turn on the boat's search light or call a nearby restaurant after Wood went missing from their boat off the coast of Southern California's Catalina Island. It was already known that Wood and Wagner had been fighting that night, but police said today that Wagner is not a suspect in her death.

For now, cops have not revealed much about their investigation, but they did say they received new, credible information that was enough to warrant a second look. I've always been fascinated with this case and I'm anxious to see if they uncover anything new.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Piper Laurie Winner!

Ok, so I guess there aren't as many Piper Laurie fans as there are Steve McQueen fans out there. But we still have a winner for the Learning to Live Out Loud book contest! Much thanks to DanielBay26 for entering! Even if you didn't enter this time, check out the book - it's sure to be an interesting read. And if you haven't discovered Piper Laurie yet, go Netflix The Hustler immediately! 

Friday, November 4, 2011

CONTEST: Win a Copy of Piper Laurie's New Memoir!

Attention people who like free things! I’ve got another book contest for you! I scored a brand new copy of Piper Laurie’s memoir (released in stores earlier this week) called Learning to Live Out Loud. It chronicles her rise in Hollywood, and her transition from contract roles to more creatively fulfilling projects. Plus there are some juicy revelations – like how she hooked up with Ronald Reagan on the set of her first movie, and later had an affair with Mel Gibson! Scan. Da. Lous. You know you wanna learn more.

Laurie is a three-time Oscar nominee, for The Hustler, Carrie and Children of a Lesser God, and had a memorable role on the TV show Twin Peaks. My personal favorite Piper Laurie role is Sarah Packard, Paul Newman’s doomed lover in 1961’s The Hustler.

I want to know what YOUR favorite Piper Laurie role is and WHY. Flip through her IMDb – chances are you’ve seen her something (esp. if you're an old movie fan)!

**Put your answers in the comments below OR tweet or Facebook them to me! I’ll pick my favorite answer NOVEMBER 11th. Winner gets a copy of the book! (Only U.S. residents please. Sorry!)**

Special thanks to Crown Publishing for providing On the Marquee with this amazing book!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Steve McQueen Winner!

A winner has been selected! Congrats Perfect Number 6 - you won a copy of Steve McQueen: A Biography! She's got a blog too called No Time Like The Past (which includes a really cool post on how to dress like Steve McQueen) - so check it out. Thanks to all who entered and if you didn't win this time, don't worry. I'll have ANOTHER contest up shortly!

Monday, October 24, 2011

When The King Met The President

How’s this for unexpected? Variety has just revealed that Eric Bana has signed on to play Elvis Presley in the new flick Elvis & Nixon. For some reason, I would’ve never pegged Bana as the Elvis Presley type, but now that the casting’s been made, I can sorta picture it! Last time someone portrayed Presley in a high-profile way was when Jonathan Rhys-Meyers won a Golden Globe for the 2005 TV mini-series Elvis.

It’s this movie’s premise that’s the real source of intrigue here, though. Apparently, in 1970, Presley wrote a detailed, six-page letter to President Richard Nixon, requesting a meeting with him. Presley had the notion that Nixon should appoint him “Federal Agent-at-Large” in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Would anyone really trust The King of Rock ‘n Roll with that position? Well, ok, maybe Nixon would.

Presley and Nixon did in fact meet - on December 21st of that year - but unfortunately Presley did not secure the federal agent job. No hard feelings though. The King brought Nixon presents - including a Colt 45 pistol (ya can’t make this stuff up) - and showed him family photos during their brief encounter. Nixon reportedly found the whole thing totally awkward.

Danny Huston is set to portray Nixon in the film, and The Princess Bride star Cary Elwes is making his directorial debut. This bizarre tale seems primed for a big-screen retelling. I certainly had no idea this strange meeting ever went down, but I’m completely and utterly amused that it did.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Contest: Win a Copy of the New Steve McQueen Bio!

Got some good news for all you classic movie buffs/bookworms out there! I’ve managed to snag a copy of the upcoming Steve McQueen: A Biography by Marc Eliot. The book comes out October 25th, but you can win you’re own copy right here on On the Marquee! The in-depth bio chronicles McQueen’s film and early TV appearances, his relationships, his battles with addiction and - here’s something that intrigued me - his obsession with Paul Newman and how it shaped his career.

We’ve talked a couple of times on this blog about which modern day actor should play McQueen in a biopic. While Hollywood seems to have settled on Jeremy Renner, I wanna hear what you guys think! Tell me which actor you believe would be best at playing McQueen and why. Best answer wins the book! Simple as that.

**Leave your answers in the comments section (along with name and email) OR feel free to tweet or Facebook your answers to me!**


Special thanks to Crown Publishing for providing On the Marquee with this amazing book!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Coat of Armor

In the film Drive, which opened in theaters September 16, Ryan Gosling plays a Hollywood stunt driver by day, getaway driver for hire by night. He’s a hard-to-read loner without a name, but it could be argued that his identity is right there on his sleeve - the sleeve of his satin scorpion-emblazoned bomber jacket. The jacket is elevated to iconic status by film’s end. He never takes it off, even as it becomes increasingly tattered and bloodstained the deeper into trouble he gets. Needless to say, I was intrigued by this “iconic jacket.” The concept is decidedly retro - and totally cool. Here are my two fave examples.

Marlon Brando as Val “Snakeskin” Xavier in The Fugitive Kind (Instead of a scorpion jacket, he had his prized snakeskin outerwear.)

James Dean as Jim Stark in A Rebel Without a Cause (The red jacket that revolutionized rebellious teens’ wardrobes.)

UPDATE: You can now buy Gosling's scorpion jacket! Halloween, anyone?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Guest-Blogger: Daniel Meets Audrey

Hello, I am Daniel Bayley, a film-student and co-writer for the blog, Bayley and Napoli At the Movie Theater. I am so happy to be able to write for one of my favorite blogs, On the Marquee, and get to share with you a little story about my past week discovering a classic film star everyone adores (and now I do too)... Audrey Hepburn.

A few years back my sister came home with a new purchase from Best Buy. Elated, she showed me her new DVD box-set. To my disinterest, it was only the Audrey Hepburn Collection. She told me I had to see the classic films it included (Breakfast at Tiffany's, Roman Holiday, and Sabrina). I told her I would when I got around to it.

Welp, I will estimate it took about 3-5 years for that to happen (wow...time flies), but here I am: A 21-year-old film student discovering Audrey Hepburn as a sheer talent. I know I'm preaching to a choir that has probably seen the entire classic lexicon of Hepburn's films and have admired her screen-talent for years, but let me just say I could not be happier to join this club. Let me take you briefly through my little journey.

I started last week by popping in Blake Edwards' 1961 film, Breakfast At Tiffany's. It was one of those nights where I felt, "Well, I've watched all my dvd's...might as well put on something I've been meaning to get to." With the opening credits set to "Moon River," I was immediately entranced. As Hepburn walks past Tiffany's along the streets of Manhattan, this classic tune plays and I had not heard it til just then. This could easily jump into a personal list for the Top Ten Best Songs for a Feature Film. It fits perfectly. It's quiet, swift, and heart-felt. This is exactly how I felt the film was. Our young Ms. Hepburn meets her charming neighbor, George Peppard, and he falls in love with her. Peppard's character sees her for who she truly is. Sees past her beauty and falls for her, strengths and faults and all. But Hepburn makes this character so likable and so delightfully watchable, the film is completely hers. I could watch the scene of her playing "Moon River" on guitar on a fire-escape all day.

A few days later, I threw on Roman Holiday, with some excitement I might add. This was #4 on the American Film Institute's Top 10 Romantic Comedies List. Gregory Peck was in it. What could go wrong? My answer is....nothing. Nothing went wrong. It was perfect. It's rare to find a perfect film and I feel like I can safely say this is a perfect romantic comedy. Hepburn's breakthrough, Oscar-winning performance is as a princess who escapes her royal agenda for a night out in Rome. She bumps into Gregory Peck's American newsman character who takes her in. They spend the next day together. Peck's character begins to gaze upon her as merely a story and an opportunity of a life-time (getting a close and juicy, in-depth interview with a Princess), but instead finds himself falling in love with her. She is adorable in this we do too. Hepburn handles her character brilliantly. We believe her as an elegant royalty who is just young enough to feel the angst and rebellion of the planned and trapped life set out for her. Watching her delight unleashed upon the city opposite a strong and stern lead like Peck makes this film an experience. Something to fall in love with again and again. William Wyler, our director, photographs the entire film on location in Rome, making it almost a character itself for our two leads to play against. If I have not gotten my feeling across enough yet...let me say it one more time. Roman Holiday is not only a wonderfully captivating film to enjoy's a wonderful film to just watch. A strong recommendation to throw this at the top of your Netflix Queue.

So finally I found myself watching Sabrina two days ago. This one I found to be my least favorite of the three, sadly. I will just briefly say that Hepburn's character was not my favorite to fall in love with (maybe I was expecting to and that hindered my enjoyment), though she is quite strong along-side the likes of William Holden and Humphrey Bogart. Bogey steals the show here. He plays Linus, who is just a man from a rich family who loves Hepburn's "Sabrina", though she is strongly infatuated with his brother, played by Holden. Your sympathies as a viewer go right to Bogart's strong presence and sad demeanor falling in love with her. Although I found myself only watching Bogart, maybe viewers only see "Sabrina" and therefore this film is a worthy entry into the box-set.

I remember seeing My Fair Lady many years ago in a middle-school music class. I did not pay too close attention to it but I cannot wait for it to reach my DVD player soon. I want to keep my Hepburn-kick going. She just carries something with her when she is on screen. It's a beauty, a class, and a presence I can not put my finger on. All I know is that she carries good movies and has made them something special. As I end this blogpost, I go and Youtube the instrumental "Moon River" film version to play me out. I hope you all will do the same, wherever you are.

"Everything I learned I learned from the
— Audrey Hepburn

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Star is (Re)Born!

Hollywood most definitely believes in reincarnation. Just look at the never-ending parade of remakes. Moviemakers don’t even have to go back that far in search of subjects. We’ve got a remake of Footloose (ugh) coming out this fall, a remake of Dirty Dancing that's in the works (guess everyone’s agreed to pretend that Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights never happened, eh?)...they’re even rebooting the Spiderman franchise a mere four years after Tobey Maguire peeled himself out of the suit.

But there’s one movie in particular that has never seemed to be able to rest in peace: A Star is Born. It has had numerous incarnations over the years and Hollywood doesn't seem to be sick of it yet! I’ve only seen one version - the original. Released in 1937, it starred Janet Gaynor as an aspiring Hollywood actress taken under the wing of an alcoholic has-been actor played by Fredric March.

The '37 one was the first-born, if you will - yet it’s not even the first search result for A Star is Born in IMDb. That honor goes to the 1954 musical remake, starring Judy Garland as the wide-eyed wannabe and James Mason as her movie star mentor whose own career is on the downward slide.

Cut to 1976 and the story is updated with Barbra Streisand as an up-and-coming singer who falls for a fading rock star (Kris Kristofferson).

Now it’s 2011 and Clint Eastwood is looking to put his own spin on the decades-hopping flick. Get this - Beyonce is being touted for the starring role. First it was rumored that Will Smith might play opposite her, then it was Leonardo DiCaprio, now it’s being reported that Christian Bale is considering the role. But the Oscar-winner has a lot of other options on his plate, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets crossed off the list soon too.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think Beyonce’s a good choice? Who would be a good male lead? Dunno about you but I can totes see Hugh Jackman in the role.

Friday, August 26, 2011

It's Always the Quiet Ones!

Shhh! Hear that? It's the sound of Oscar buzz rising up out of the silence. The silence of this particular movie - The Artist. Believe it or not, it's a new silent film set to hit theaters October 19th. It premiered at Cannes this year to rave reviews and has even been garnering some early awards season chatter. The black-and-white film is set in the 1920s and follows a silent movie star dealing with the impending rise of talkies. The official trailer was just released, and I couldn't keep it hush-hush. So check it out, and tell me your thoughts!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chaplin Family Tree

Nearly 100 years after Charlie Chaplin silently but swiftly captivated the film world with a cane, a bowler hat and a keen understanding of slapstick, his granddaughter awaits her turn in the spotlight. Yup, Charlie Chaplin has an actress granddaughter - her name’s Oona Chaplin. She’s 24 and doesn’t have many credits to her name as of yet, but here’s why you should pay attention: According to Access Hollywood, she’ll appear on the second season of HBO’s Game of Thrones - a buzzworthy show that’s racked up a ton of Emmy noms this year. Plus, with a family tree like hers, she’s sure to go far.

Get this: In addition to having Charlie Chaplin for a granddad, Oona’s grandmother and namesake Oona O’Neill (above) was the daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill. Chaplin married Oona O’Neill in 1943, when he was 54 and she was just 18. Can’t say the marriage was a sham though - they had eight kids together and remained married until Chaplin’s death in 1977.

Oona’s parents are actress Geraldine Chaplin (below) and Chilean cinematographer Patrico Castillo. No need to ponder her path - sounds like it’s predestined!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Marilyn Gets a Poster!

Behold! It’s the official poster for My Week with Marilyn, the film I’ve been excited about ever since I found out Michelle Williams was on board as the iconic blonde bombshell. Incidentally, the film was recently announced as the centerpiece of the 2011 New York Film Festival and will premiere on October 9th (the fest runs from September 30th through October 16th). The NYFF is also presenting special screenings of the 1959 epic Ben-Hur and Nicholas Ray’s 1973 film We Can’t Go Home Again. Needless to say, I’m itching to get tickets.

Whatcha think of the poster? FYI, it's a recreation of Monroe's arrival in London to begin filming on The Prince and the Showgirl.


Monday, May 9, 2011

All About That Dialogue!

So last weekend I was flipping through the channels and - surprise, surprise - I landed on TCM. All About Eve was on, right at the part where Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is furiously ranting in the theater after finding out that Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) was made her understudy. It’s not the first time I’ve seen the film, but again it struck me - this script had bite. (Joseph Mankiewicz’s Best Screenplay Oscar was well-deserved.) The dialogue - especially Margo’s lines - was crackling. Literally pops right off the screen. I swear you can almost see sparks flying from Bette’s mouth when she talks.

Almost everyone knows the movie’s famous line, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” But I wanted to document some others, if only for the fact that while I was watching, I kept saying in my head, “I need to write that down!” I’ve also included some handy notes on how to work these lines into your everyday life. It might get you some weird looks - or it might get you cast in Broadway play. Not quite sure, haven’t tested it...but here goes.

Next time a guy asks to buy you drink, respond the Margo way: “I'll admit I may have seen better days, but I'm still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut.”

Next time someone accuses you of being insensitive, call upon this exchange between Bill (Gary Merrill) and Margo: Bill: Have you no human consideration? Margo: Show me a human, and I might have!

Next time someone points out your ego, tell it like Addison DeWitt (George Sanders): “We all come into this world with our little egos equipped with individual horns. If we don't blow them, who else will?”

Next time someone tells you shut up, throw ‘em this Margo gem: “Peace and quiet is for libraries!”

Next time someone comes on too strong, say what Bill said to Eve: “What I go after, I want to go after. I don't want it to come after me. Don't cry. Just score it as an incomplete forward pass.”

Ooh zing!

Wanna learn more about All About Eve? I recommend the book All About All About Eve by Sam Staggs. You’ll learn juicy tidbits like how Bette Davis’ unfortunate case of laryngitis gave Margo her signature whiskey-throated rasp, plus you’ll find out what she really thought of her costars. In the meantime, what are some of your fave lines from All About Eve?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Crowning McQueen!

Way back in the blog - we’re talkin’ January 2009 - I told you about a potential Steve McQueen biopic that was supposedly in the works. Well today I can officially tell you that it’s...still in the works. But! There have been some new developments.

In my first post I mentioned some possible candidates for the “King of Cool,” including Daniel Craig (my fave pick at the time), Damien Lewis and Cam Gigandet. Now, the Hollywood Reporter is revealing that Jeremy Renner and his production company have put the wheels in motion to finally get this McQueen flick rolling. Renner seems to be a good fit. I never considered him at the time because, well, who the hell knew who he was before The Hurt Locker? But he could certainly play a hellraiser - which McQueen was in his day. Let’s just hope we’re not sick of him before this movie makes it to the screen. After all, Renner has at least four new films coming down the pipeline: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, The Bourne Legacy (yup, he’s replacing Matt Damon), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (huh?) and Ice Age 4. Ok, so he also clearly has McQueen’s active nature. Full speed ahead!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Siren Centerfold: Elizabeth Taylor (2/27/32 - 3/23/11)

I heard about Elizabeth Taylor’s passing today along with the rest of the world, and I immediately knew the tributes to this Hollywood icon would be instant and endless. Because it wasn’t just the death of an actress - it was the end of an era. And while I’m aware my own personal tribute will get lost in the sea of all the rest, it’s simply an On the Marquee necessity to commemorate such a beautiful, talented, tragic figure.

Taylor was many things to many people. The truth is, some knew her as Liz “White Diamonds” Taylor, others knew her as a perpetual husband-trader (9 in all), some knew her as a fervent AIDS activist and still others may have only recognized her as being one part of Michael Jackson’s eccentric entourage. But to most she was the gorgeous girl with the violet eyes who dominated Hollywood with her roles in films like A Place in the Sun, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Giant, Cleopatra and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

To honor her, I bring you an old On the Marquee standard - the Siren Centerfold.

Strikingly beautiful from a young age, Taylor made her first movie appearance in 1942's There's One Born Every Minute, at the age of ten. Two years later, National Velvet turned her into a bonafide child star.

Taylor was the epitome of Hollywood royalty. She was the first actress to earn $1 million for a movie role (Cleopatra) and she's also owned some serious bling, including the 33-carat Krupp Diamond. Not to mention she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999.

Though she may not always have been loyal to her husbands, Taylor was a loyal friend. When her bestie, actor Montgomery Clift, was in a nasty car accident after leaving a party at her house one night, Liz was the first one on the scene and saved him from choking on his own broken tooth.

"If someone's dumb enough to offer me a million dollars to make a picture, I'm certainly not dumb enough to turn it down," she once said.

We'll miss you, Liz!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ethical Entertainment?

So director George Lucas apparently thinks he has the power to raise the dead. He’s certainly a high and mighty presence in Hollywood, but he ain’t no God. Here’s the deal: A bizarre rumor began floating around the internet back in December that the Star Wars creator has been buying up the rights to dead movie stars, so he can “bring them back” with the use of new technology. Imagine James Dean and Marilyn Monroe co-starring in a new film together. Weird, right? And kind of creepy.

A Lucasfilm spokesperson quickly shot down the story, but according to ABC News, it might not be as far-fetched as we think (or hope). CMG agency, which has represented the estates of such late movie legends as Ingrid Bergman, James Dean, Errol Flynn and Bette Davis, said they have indeed reached out to Lucasfilm. No word on whether any definitive deals have been made, though.

Up until now, dead stars have appeared only as digital cameos in films - like Laurence Olivier in 2004’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, or Marlon Brando in 2006's Superman Returns. Could a digitally rendered likeness of one of these films greats carry an entire movie? Or, more importantly, would anyone even see a movie like this? It’s almost like cloning or cryogenics - it prompts ethical debate. Shouldn’t we preserve the memories of these stars and just leave well enough alone? Computers can capture their likeness, but not their essence. It’s like when Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Inception realizes his dream wife will never be the real thing. “I can't imagine you with all your complexity, all your perfection, all your imperfection,” he says. Yup, these digital characters would be just a shade, and therefore just not good enough.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Valentine With Heart

Michelle Williams is my idol. There, I said it. We’re both September 9th Virgos, so maybe that has something to do with it, but mostly I admire her for her exceedingly brave and interesting screen work. And her adorable pixie haircut. And quirky-cute fashion sense. You get the idea.

In her latest film Blue Valentine, which opened Dec. 30th, she gives perhaps the rawest performance of her career opposite Ryan Gosling. They play a couple whose relationship is on the brink of collapse, and we see their love story play out in both the past and present. I had the privilege of covering the press junket for the film, and got to ask Williams about a project I’ve mentioned several times on the blog - her role as Marilyn Monroe. The role is daunting to say the least – Marilyn is the iconic bombshell, after all – and Williams realizes that. When I spoke to her, she had just completed the film My Week with Marilyn about two weeks earlier and she said she still had “one foot in it.” I got the impression that the roles she takes on are generally hard for her to shake (she said she even kept her character’s wedding ring from Blue Valentine).

When asked why she decided to step into Marilyn’s shoes, she considered her answer very carefully.

“Because I am a glutton for punishment,” she said before searching for a more complete explanation. “A few things. Because for some reason I won’t let myself shrink from a challenge and I think that’s how I find myself in these situations, making these movies. While my intellect is saying ‘Retreat, retreat, retreat,’ my heart is already there. Luckily, I guess, that’s the stronger decision making mechanism and that’s what ultimately wins. I think when I read something I like to have two reactions going at the same time - one is an inkling that I can play that part and the rest is that it’s a mystery and it compels me to untangle it. So they’re kind of opposed to each other, but if they’re both up and running at the same time, that’s how I make a decision.”

From the looks of things, her heart hasn’t steered her wrong yet.