Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight

For Magnum Photos I wrote about W. Eugene’s Smith moving photographs of Charlie Chaplin as he made Limelight (1952), the most personal film of his career:

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Photo by W. Eugene Smoth (1952)

The LA Diaries 2019 #5: TCMFF Day 2

The first full day was five-movie day of joy beginning with the delicious Merrily We Go To Hell at a packed Egyptian Cinema. Sylvia Sidney and Frederic March in Dorothy Arzner’s pre-code based on Cleo Lucas’ 1931 novel called I, Jerry, Take Thee, Joan. Reporter and playwright Jerry Corbett and heiress Joan Prentice marry after a whirlwind relationship, toasting their nuptials “Merrily We Go To Hell,” which more than sets the tone of their marriage. As Jerry’s success increases, so do his alcohol addiction and Joan’s heartbreak, while the loose rules of their ‘modern marriage’ only aggravate the physical and mental decline of both. The movie is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching at times, and I absolutely loved it.

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That was followed up with one of my all-time Disney faves, Sleeping Beauty, which provided the perfect opportunity to see my girl Maleficent in all of her resplendent glory. I think i was the only person who cheered when she came on screen…and it was lovely to have the animators Jane Baer and Floyd Norman in attendance, who shared their memories of working on the movie as Disney in-house animators.  (ND’s photo came out better than mine!)

Onto Sunrise, a movie I had not seen for some time but continues to mesmerize, which I followed with the powerful, always impactful Do the Right Thing at the IMAX. I was excited for this one, not only because I had never seen Spike Lee’s groundbreaking movie on anything other than a television screen but for the pre-movie discussion with costume designer Ruth Carter, Joie Lee, and casting director Robi Reed. 

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Walking out of the movie at 11pm in a little daze following the power Do the Right Thing continues to hold, it was straight back into the TCL multiscreen for some midnight fun. I was determined to do both midnight movies this year, cramming in as much of the festival as possible and they did not disappoint! Two very different movies playing on the Friday and Saturday night that attracted a loyal following and entertaining audience reactions. Santo vs. the Evil Brain was the Friday night showing and my very first Santo movie. A joy from start to finish starring the Mexican wrestling champion who is practically a superhero encountering his own brainwashed brain! See, a joy! Plus, the movie had one of the best car chases I had seen onscreen (not for any of the reasons you may think, and not what you would expect for a ‘chase’, but it was fantastic). Masks and treats were handed out before the movie, and we whooped and cheered the whole way through. A fun day.

 

The LA Diaries 2019 #4: TCMFF Day 1

I had a great first day of TCMFF, mainly because it was different from how I have spent my time in previous years. The films always start in the early evening, and because I don’t do the red carpet or sit in the bleachers, I have no need to really be any place until the first show. Seeing the red carpet rolled out and set up in the morning and afternoon is always fun (especially if you’re eating lunch with a view), trying to cross the street or bypass the Boulevard in the afternoon is not so much, and becomes impossible the closer the clock approaches four. But I have all the detours memorized — you just need to add another five minutes to a two-minute coffee run.

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Instead of hanging around and soaking up the festival atmosphere, Kendahl and I followed up our plans from the previous night and jumped in a Lyft headed downtown for the final day of the Art of the Motion Picture Design Exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM).

 

Now in its 27th year, the exhibition brings together some of the most phenomenal movie costumes from a host of Academy Award-winning films. Amongst those on display included Ruth E. Carter’s award-winning work on Black Panther (I gasped), pieces from Avengers: Infinity War (I was hyperventilating by now — and this was in the first room), Ocean’s 8, Solo: A Star Wars Story, A Simple Favour, Crazy Rich Asians, and so many more! Here’s a snippet of what was on display.

 

With a couple of hours to spare after we finished, we nabbed another Lyft back to the station and caught a train back to Hollywood to avoid the rush hour traffic and arrived back in plenty of time for the first movie. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) at The Egyptian — what a way to kick off the festival!

The final film of the night was The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, a screwball romantic comedy (and first-time watch for me) starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple. Temple is the smart high school student who develops a crush on cad artist (Grant), the man who her Judge older sister (Loy) had met in her courtroom the previous day. Obviously, they end up attracted to one another, much to the dismay of Rudy Vallee. It’s funny, a fresh take on a reliable formula, and just delightful. A great first day of the fest.

The LA Diaries 2019 ​#3: The Night Before

 

The day before the festival is always fun; the sense of anticipation in the air palpable. Everybody is excited, happy, energized for what lies ahead. We start seeing each other on Hollywood Boulevard as we walk between The Roosevelt and bites of lunch or dinner, as we stroll between hotels or to pick up supplies that take us through four days of solid movies. Time becomes irrelevant.

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And then the day before becomes the night before, which always kicks off in style. The combination of the historic hotel, classic movies and the City is an intoxicating combination, on this night more than any other. So, I don my glitter heels, and I have a great time before it all gets crazy, before the movies start and before everybody is tired or on their way home. Because this is the night we have looked waited for since we arrived home from the previous year’s events. And when the party ends at the Roosevelt, we head to Boardners until 1am. The night becomes the early morning. TCMFF has begun.

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Captain Marvel​​: Thought we’d show these boys how we do it. You ready?

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*WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS*

It has taken twenty-one films and eleven years, but we finally have a woman headlining a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ever since Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel insignia flashed up on Nick Fury’s pager in the closing seconds of Avengers: Infinity War, we knew we were in for a treat. And she has not arrived quietly.

If you follow me on Twitter and/or are friends, you will know how excited I have been for the release of Captain Marvel. But not everyone has shared my enthusiasm.  Brie Larson kicking ass and looking awesome in the movie’s trailer was met with ridiculous criticisms from men. I read everything from “her voice is too soft” to “why is she so moody?” Most recently, Larson’s calls for more media diversity during her press tour were met with trolling, abuse, and a bewildering determination for this movie to fail before general release. However, all of these aspects have fed into the film’s message, because, essentially, Captain Marvel is about a woman facing the man (or Larson facing the men on the internet) and declaring “I have nothing to prove to you.” And Captain Marvel explores this beautifully.

For six years, “Vers” has been living on Hala as a member of the elite Starforce, defenders of the Kree civilization against their Skrull enemies. Her memory is sketchy; she glimpses her past life as a pilot, and her traumatic childhood, knowing that these are the keys to something more. Trained by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) to control her emotions and photon-blasting hands, he uses her strength as a weapon against her, insisting “control your emotions, emotions are weakness,” a mental shackle to suppress her full potential. In the real world, she would be deemed ‘uncontrollable,’ ‘difficult,’ ‘stubborn,’ and asked to ‘tone it down.’ Belittling powerful women appears to be universal.

The movie steps up in humour after Vers crash lands on C-53 (Earth) and meets a two-eyed Nick Fury. This intergalactic saga becomes a fun buddy comedy set in 1995, complete with grunge and pop soundtrack as more memories of her past life begin to take shape. Larson and Samuel L. Jackson have great chemistry, as do Fury and Goose, a ginger cat/Flerkin who, let’s be honest, steals the movie (I should write a post just on Goose, right?). I loved seeing pilot Carol and wanted more of that, just like I wanted to see more of Carol’s childhood on screen and more of her friendship with Maria Rambeau (the very underused Lashana Lynch). I am hopeful this will be explored and developed further down the line, especially now Carol has recovered her past.

The most powerful moment in the film occurs in the third act. Facing Yon-Rogg, who still addresses her as Vers, she finally shakes off his manipulation, casting off her given identity and telling him “my name is Carol.” It’s a victory for the women who feel they must make themselves smaller, not take up too much space, or are compelled to downplay their personality and abilities.

Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s spin on Phase One era Marvel takes the MCU, albeit momentarily, away from the more overtly lavish movies of late, while the key message should not be taken for granted. Sure, it did not need to be verbalized quite so much, but its strength cannot be denied. I loved Captain Marvel, and can’t wait to rewatch. And I’ll very likely write more soon.

Additionally, it is very much having a Captain America: The First Avenger effect on me: the more I rewatch and reminisce about TFA the greater my affection grows, and Captain Marvel appears to be going in the same direction. There are striking similarities between both movies, and they both share similar characteristics.

In an interview with Polygon in 2018, comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, whose groundbreaking 2012 ‘Captain Marvel’ comic book series was the primary source material for the movie, said something that stuck with me for months and, in hindsight, is perfect about the film:

“Carol falls down all the time, but she always gets back up — we say that about Captain America as well, but Captain America gets back up because it’s the right thing to do. Carol gets back up because ‘Fuck you.’”

We see this on screen: Carol throughout the years falling and picking herself back up again. Nothing can keep this woman down. I cannot wait to see what she will do in Avengers: Endgame next month (the thrilling mid-credits scene was A TREAT!!!). Carol Danvers is here to stay, and she is will only soar higher, further, faster, baby.

 

 

 

New-To-Me Movie Round-Up: February​

I spent February watching fewer movies than in January. Ironically, out of the ones I did watch, many were either re-watches for work-related things, or they starred Melissa McCarthy and were directed by Ben Falcone (there was a season on TV). I intend to up my quota and get back on track during March.