The Parnassus Times

April 5, 2008

The List is Life: #88

88.

The Dame;

Joan Crawford.

Perhaps most readily remembered for her feud with Bette Davis which came to a head in 1962 with her being blown off the screen in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? and maybe forever tainted by the damning portrait painted by a bitter daughter in Mommie Dearest, the career that Joan Crawford enjoyed for over 30 years beginning at the dawn of the sound era seems to have been generally forgotten. She was an Academy Award winning actress with numerous acclaimed films under her belt, she worked with major directors and major performers. In Mildred Pierce she gave one of the more iconic performances of the golden era, and a decade later in Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar, she took the lead as the westen was turned on its head, with strong women in the central roles. One of the greatest of the greatest age, she has insured that she’ll never be forgotten.

The Dude;

Paul Schneider.

Entering into the acting profession at the age of 24 (making him a late comer by todays standards) in the films of David Gordon Green, George Washington and more notably as the lead alongside Zooey Deschanel in All the Real Girls, Paul Schneider has in a just a few short years established himself as one of the more accomplished supporting actors in the movies today. In 2005 he took a side role in Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown and with his quirky small town simplicity, literally stole the show from the leads. Then in 2007 he had what could be termed a breakthrough year, with polar opposite roles. Firstly appearing as the villainous Dick Liddil in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a supporting role that he filled with both sinful sleaze and unabashed charm in equal degree, and an almost entirely opposite turn as a quiet, loving brother trying his best to cope with an awkward situation in Lars and the Real Girl. He’s a wonderfully subtle, assured and diverse actor whose career is certainly heading for great heights.

The Director;

Sydney Pollack.

I would venture to say that Sydney Pollack’s finest accomplishments have come in front of the camera rather than behind it. Always taking small roles in movies, he has on more than one occasion, ended up being the finest member of the cast, perhaps most notably in his tiny role in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. However none of these on screen accomplishments can take away from the fact that Pollack is an Academy Award winning director and producer. It was his Robert Redford-Meryl Streep epic Out of Africa that brought him this acclaim, but from where I am sitting his finest work comes in smaller, more character driven movies, where the performers, not the wondrous grandeur take centre stage. As the tagline to his 1969 Jane Fonda vehicle¬† They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? declared, “People are the ultimate spectacle” and rarely is that more in evidence than in Sydney Pollack’s films.

The Picture;

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)

Though most widely remembered for the grandiosity of the final sequence, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a film that is at heart one of his most intimate and human films. Driven at full force by a wonderful performance from Richard Dreyfuss, who won the Oscar for 1977’s The Goodbye Girl, but should probably have picked up the award for this film. It is a performance both comic and dramatic, filled with the wondrous curiousity of an overgrown child yet at the same time shot through with a certain darkness in its examination of a mans obsession and subsequent neglect of his family. It is that performance around which this film is built; there are brief moments of alien spectacle propping it up throughout, making sure that we remember that we are truly not alone in this one, all mysterious, all beautiful to behold but ambiguous in intent, and it all builds to a wondrous crescendo, that magnificently glorious finale in which all is revealed, truly epic spectacle, human curiousity and those 5 beautiful notes.

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March 15, 2008

The List is Life: #97

97.

The Dame;

Cate Blanchett.

A decade on from her breakthrough role as Elizabeth I in Shekhar Kapur’s biographical drama, Cate Blanchett has firmly established herself as one of the most respected and acclaimed actresses in the business. Here is a woman who can play seemingly any role from virginal young British queens to male American rock stars, one Oscar already under her belt and many more sure to follow. Though the accusation of cold and mechanical has often been shot her way, the Australian has shown immense talent in the utterly free flowing and naturalistic Veronica Guerin, a very underappreciated and underseen film that may just be her best performance to date.

The Dude;

Marcello Mastroianni.

One of the great stars of European cinema, Marcello Mastroianni was one of the most naturally charismatic and effortlessly cool stars to ever stride across the silver screen. This was a man from a small Italian village, a man that during the second world war was interned in (and escaped from) a Nazi prison. Yet all this could not stop him from achieving international fame and the reputation of Italy’s finest actor. Despite being one of only two actors to win the Cannes film festival Best Actor award twice, Mastroianni is most remembered for his perfectly underplayed but endlessly effective starring roles in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, two of the sixties most revered and iconic films, thanks in large part to him.

The Director;

Claude Chabrol.

When talk of the French New Wave is brought up, it is the names Godard and Truffaut that are most readily heralded, yet in 1958, aged just 28, Claude Chabrol directed his debut film Le Beau Serge, and with this small town examination of opposites he is the man who essentially kicked off the movement that revolutionized French cinema. In the half a century since then, Chabrol has continued to probe the depths of humanity as well as establishing himself in the mystery and thriller genre as a sort of French Hitchcock. Though most of his peers have either passed away or simply passed their best, Chabrol continues to work efficiently into his 78th year.

The Picture;

Titanic (James Cameron, 1997)

Everyone knows the statistics, 1.8 billion dollars at the international box office (that’s roughly 700,000 ,000 dollars more than it’s nearest rival. 700,000,000 is about the international box office gross of Michael Bay’s Transformers) a record equaling 14 Oscar nominations and a record equaling 11 Oscar wins. Yet at heart it is all very simple, this is a story about rich and poor united in the face of the most immense human tragedy, a story about the destructive nature of man’s continuing struggle to ascend to immortality, a story about breaking free, about love. It is, in the end, of the same stock as the old romantic epics in Hollywood history, and more than worthy of that status. It is a modern classic, that blends both blossoming romance and epic disaster to create one of the great stories in cinema. The ship may have sunk to the bottom of the ocean, but as far as the film goes, there is nothing but ascension on the horizon.

March 11, 2008

The List is Life: #100

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — cigarettesalesman @ 10:50 pm

So in my seemingly infinite boredom I recently took it upon myself to create lists. I created 4 lists, top hundreds, of my favourite films, directors, actors and actresses and over the coming days, weeks, months…hopefully no more than that…I shall unveil them here for your amusement, and almost surely, disgust. So without further ado, let’s get the show on the road…

100.

The Dame;

Julie Andrews.

With the glorious voice of a Goddess, and bags upon bags of effortless charm and seemingly infinite grace, Julie Andrews has remained strong in the industry for over 40 years. With numerous legendary characters and many marvellous movies under her belt, she has certainly assured that she shall never be forgotten.

The Dude;

Dennis Quaid.
A movie star in the classical mold. Not a performer with the greatest deal of range, but the sort of sturdy and assured performer who will basically deliver again and again, and who will always provide you with his own brand of masculine charm. When he’s on top form, he’s a riot to watch, and more than capable of stealing entire movies.

The Director;

James Cameron.

A consummate entertainer, James Cameron is a filmmaker with almost limitless ambition. Whether creating his own iconic franchise with the first two Terminator films, adopting another and following Ridley Scott’s atmospheric horror masterpiece Alien, with one of the most glorious achievements in the history of action cinema with Aliens, or going epic and turning in the box office and awards juggernaut Titanic, a film with accomplishments so grand it has taken him over a decade to return to making feature films, James Cameron always seeks to excel, always seeks to push boundaries, and all talk of monstrous ego’s aside, that’s always worth admiring. One thing’s for sure, he’s certainly never boring.

The Picture;

Red River ( Howard Hawks, 1948 )

With the debut of the magnificent Montgomery Clift, the first signs of a wicked heart under the All-American hero that was John Wayne, and the legendary Walter Brennan on fabulous form, Howard Hawks turned in his first classic of the Western genre. Both epic in scope and intimate at heart, with a very telling human story at its centre, Red River is one of the fine exponents of the classical Western both saying its piece about its nation, and at the same time, never failing to entertain for the entirity of its running time.

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