Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Window Motifs in Movies

One of the things I like best about movies is the talent of the cinematographer and the amazing shots that add depth and interest to the story. The window is a common visual motif in movies. It can express isolation and loneliness, or it can serve as protection or a barrier between people and events. Windows also symbolize vision, watching, seeing or witnessing. Some of my faves:

Rear Window(1954)
Lars Thorwald suspiciously looks out the window of his apartment where he may have committed the perfect crime. The film is not only a murder mystery, but reveals the window as an eye to the world where anything can happen. 

Psycho (1960)
Norman Bates is reflected in the motel office window, foreshadowing his two personalities.

Love Story (1970)
Oliver and Jenny drink hot cocoa at the skating rink just before she goes to the hospital. The view of the skating rink symbolizes freedom and joy, just the opposite of the grief and loss that await them. In another scene, Oliver looks in the window of a travel agency showing airline tickets to Paris, where Jenny had always wanted to go. The window symbolizes his soon-to-be separation from her.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Nurse Ratched is behind the window in the nurses' station symbolizing her emotional distance from the patients.

Taxi Driver (1976)
This movie uses the window motif all the way through. Windows symbolize Travis Bickle's vision of the world. When he applies for a job, a window depicts two separate realities -- the reality of  "normal" people and that of Travis, trapped in paranoia and loneliness. Through the windows of his taxi he observes and comments on the "scum" of the streets. When Travis notices Betsy through the windows of the campaign office, he is inspired to attempt a normal relationship, but his inner demons won't allow it. 

"Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars, 
sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man."

"I first saw her at Palantine Campaign headquarters at 63rd and Broadway. 
She was wearing a white dress. She appeared like an angel. 
Out of this filthy mess, she is alone. They... cannot... touch... her."

The Pianist (2002)
Szpilman is a Jew hiding in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation. He watches the comings and goings of the Nazis through the window, symbolizing his isolation as a Jew and as a human being. In another scene, Szpilman and his family are eating dinner and outside the window they watch in terror as Nazis murder their neighbors in the street. 

These are just a few. What are your favorite "window" motifs in the movies? 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Coming Out of Hibernation

Things have been crazy here in Wyoming. I've been playing around with my new Netflix subscription and watching movies I'd never heard of and movies that I never thought I'd see again.

Some of my most recent finds include:

The Trip (2010) with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. A British "mockumentary" that threw its arms around me and squeezed out the giggles. Steve and Rob go on a road trip in Northern England to visit restaurants for a newspaper piece. I'd never heard of these British actors and they were hysterical. One of my favorite scenes was when they were trying to one-up each other with their impersonations of Michael Caine. "She was only 15 years old..."

Breaking Bad -- I haven't been obsessed with a TV show this much since Seinfeld. The finale was Sunday night and it did not disappoint. I predict this show will have the legacy of being one of the best shows in television history.

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad

Ingmar Bergman's Persona, Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and Silence. These films were on DVD and included amazing extras about Bergman's creative process and his masterful filmmaking technique. The cinematography is stunning.

The Silence (1963)

Woody Allen: A Documentary (2012). Okay, if you know me at all, you know I am a huge Woody Allen fan. This documentary was fascinating. It covered his early years as a comedy writer and filmmaker through his latest films set in Europe. Everything you've always wanted to know about Woody Allen but were afraid to ask.

Woody Allen

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Breaking Bad

Okay, so for the past few weeks my son has been telling me I need to watch "Breaking Bad." I'd been putting it off because I've been busy with work, family, home improvements and various and sundry summer activities.

When I finally got around to watching the pilot episode I had not anticipated a new TV show addiction. Seriously, this show is THE BOMB!

In the last few days I've watched three complete seasons - back to back.

So why do I like this show? Let me count the ways:

The story is compelling and plot lines are unexpected.
Fascinating characters.
It's a blast seeing Walt's moral compass go on the fritz.
The acting superb.
The show is set (and shot) in beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico - I used to live in New Mexico.
The cinematography is absolutely stunning!
Flashbacks work to enhance the story line.
Visual motifs (water, pink teddy bear, book "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman)

As of today, I am just starting season four and am covering my eyes and ears to protect myself from spoilers that seem to be everywhere right now.

Interestingly, I had just started to watch the "Fly" episode of season three yesterday and had to hit "pause" to kill a fly that got inside the house. I can't stand flies buzzing around. I'm OCD about that. The same time I was trying to kill the fly, Walt was trying to kill a fly in the lab. Weird.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Lake House

Back in 2006, Hubby and I went to see “The Lake House” with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. No, it wasn’t a double date.

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon when we walked through the doors of the darkened theatre and found seats in the back row. As I looked around, I noticed that most of the people were older couples. Except for a squad of teenage girls that giggled throughout the show. And, of course, there was the lone guy you seen in every movie house in America, sitting dead center with a giant popcorn and large Mountain Dew wearing a “Stupid Is As Stupid Does” t-shirt.

The movie was a romance. A man and woman fall in love ... but an obstacle keeps them from being together. So far, so good.

The obstacle is not what you would expect. One of them dying a slow, painful death from stepping barefoot on a rusty nail? Parents that would rather see their kids joy-riding on the Titanic than to marry? A Park Avenue princess twisting her ankle in the Outback and being captured by renegade armadillos and offered as a sacrifice to a massive stone statue of Sylvester Stallone?

No, the problem is much more severe: Keanu lives in the year 2004 and Sandra lives in the year 2006. Yeah, you heard me right. Time is “not” on their side.

They “meet” at a secluded lake house on the outskirts of Chicago and communicate by writing letters and placing them in the mail box. I didn’t get it, either.

As a woman, I took note of Sandra’s cute outfits and perky hairstyle. She dyed her hair black for this movie. (Is she going gray in real life? Inquiring minds want to know.) She plays the part of a doctor and has virtually no life outside the hospital. I wonder how she manages to find time to flirt with Keanu with all those handwritten letters. It’s the 21st century. Ever heard of email?

Keanu is an architect. Handsome. Sexy. The perfect man. Not a trace of “Bill and Ted” dudism or Matrix mystery. Dressed to kill in L.L. Bean togs, he looks so cool traipsing through the woods in his Acadia hiking boots and multi-pocket cargo jacket with detachable hood and flannel lining … available in camel, chestnut, navy and hunter green.

All the elements for a tear-jerker romance are there: a beautiful, successful, neurotic woman whose loathsome boyfriend is a nerdish, self-absorbed yuppie; a sensitive man with rugged good looks and gentle eyes who was mistreated by his neglectful father; and a lovely house on a lake nestled in a scenic woodland with scurrying squirrels, twittering bluebirds and the unabomber.

The nemesis is time itself. Two people living in the same city in different years. In the end, the lovers meet at the lake house. Don’t ask me how the time thingamajiggy worked out because I don’t know. All that matters is they “lived happily ever after.”

As we left the theatre, hubby and I discussed the film and the concept of time travel. We had this same discussion in 1985 with “Back to the Future” (how in the world did “old” Biff know how to operate the De Lorean time machine, go back to 1955 to give himself the sports almanac, and then fly back to the future? Huh?)

Hubby was quick to point out that there were no car chases, explosions or female nudity. Be we knew this going in. The big question: Did it make sense? The big answer: No. But we liked it anyway.

Later at home as we snuggled on the couch watching the Rockies and the Dodgers game, we came to the conclusion that we are perfectly content sharing the same time dimension. Although, hubby really liked the idea of me living in the future and mailing him scores to baseball games that haven’t been played yet.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Conversation

So I'm browsing through my Netflix streaming videos and find a fabulous movie called "The Conversation," directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gene Hackman. Released in 1974, the story is about a surveillance man who gets caught up in a murder plot. Other cast members include the pre-"Star Wars" Harrison Ford, John Cazale (from "The Godfather") and Cindy Williams ("Laverne & Shirley" fame).

First of all, this was one of Gene Hackman's best performances ever. His character, Harry Caul, is paranoid, introverted, and secretly plays jazz on his sax in his living room. Hackman skillfully brings this intriguing character to life.

Another fascinating thing about the movie is that in 1974, surveillance technology was pretty primitive compared to today, so it was interesting to see the use of dial telephones, bulky recording devices and reel-to-reel tapes.

What really knocked me out was the incredible cinematography. The shots were stunning. I particularly liked the shot of Harry near the staircase in the hall way at Amy's apartment which revealed his suspicious nature and his awkwardness in social and romantic situations. A cool cinematic technique I've seen in other films was used here as well -- the camera is fixed on a stationary object in the room as the actor moves in and out of of the frame and speaks off screen. All I can say is "mind blown"!

I checked the IMDB and found out that the cinematography (director of photography) was done by Bill Butler and Haskell Wexler - UNCREDITED! Why, I wonder, were they uncredited? Was it because of a legal issue? Did they not want their names attached to the film? Inquiring minds want to know.

If you've never seen this movie, check it out. You'll love the surprise twist at the end.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tennis Anyone?

I love to play tennis and summer in Wyoming is the best time to be on the court. So while I'm out there getting my Serena Williams on, I'm thinking about movies with memorable "tennis" scenes. Here are a few that made the list in my book:

Lucas (1986)
Corey Haim falls in love with Kerri Green on the tennis court.
Unfortunately she only has eyes for the captain of the football team.
Nevertheless, Lucas tries to impress her with his over-sized brain
and his condemnation of all things superficial.

The Muse (1999)
Albert Brooks and Jeff Bridges play tennis, but Jeff never gets
the ball over the net. No worries. He gives Albert the phone
number of a Muse who looks a lot like Sharon Stone.

Strangers on a Train (1951)
Farley Granger is a professional tennis player who meets
Robert Walker on a train. Murder is the topic of discussion. 

The Stepford Wives (1975)
Tina Louise loved to play tennis until she became a Stepford robot.
  "I think there's something in the water that turns us into house-fraus!"

Annie Hall (1977)
Diane Keaton meets Woody Allen for the first time on the tennis court.
Love blooms. She learns that he's been in psychoanalysis for years
and he discovers that her grandmother is Jew hater.

Match Point (2005)
Jonathan Rhys Meyers experiences "Crime and Punishment"
up close and personal. Did someone say "murder"?

Bridesmaids (2011)
The girls take it out on the court. This is war not "Love"!

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Luke Wilson can't handle the pressure.

So what are your favorite tennis scenes in the movies? 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Tai Lung Escapes

One of the best animated sequences ever is in Kung Fu Panda when Tai Lung escapes the Chorh-Gom prison. 

Oh, yes. And here's a bit of trivia from the film:

The Kung-Fu/Wuxia convention where attacks on the correct nerve/Chi points can cause paralysis and other effects is adopted although it is not explained in the film, and the jade figurine topped sticks on the shell worn on the imprisoned Tai Lung are positioned at the traditional Chi energy points of the body. The sticks are intended to keep the villain from accessing the power from those points, which is why he was first concerned about removing them before attempting to break his chains. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Food in Movies

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about food in movies. It seems like every movie has food involved at some point. What are your faves? Here are few memorable food scenes that come to mind:

YEAST (Baby Mama)
Kate and Rob eat yeast on their first date. "All right, here's your blue-green algae and a yeast bowl for the table."

TATER TOTS (Kate & Leopold)
Kate serves tater tots to Leopold. "I'm ready for the next course."

Norman serves Marion a sandwich. "You eat like a bird."

HAMBURGER (Pulp Fiction)
Jules eats a Big Kahuna Burger just before he blows Brett away. "Hamburgers! The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast."

LINGUINE (The Odd Couple)
Oscar smashes a plate of linguine against the wall. "I'm not cleaning that up!"

Paulie tosses the Thanksgiving turkey out the door. "You want the bird? Go in the alley and eat the bird!"

APPLE PIE ALA MODE (When Harry Met Sally)
Sally orders apple pie. "But I'd like the pie heated, and I don't want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side, and I'd like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it's real. If it's out of the can, then nothing."

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Seventh Seal

Death and Antonius play chess.

 An historic week for this film buff. I saw Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" for the first time. My MIND is BLOWN!

Thanks to my wonderful son who gave me a Netflix subscription recently, I've been having a blast watching movies that I've always wanted to see. "The Seventh Seal" was at the top of the list.

The cinematography is unbelievable. My mind is reeling (no pun intended).

The dialog is captivating, and along with the amazing visuals and motifs, the themes of death, faith and God's silence are sublimely expressed. I watched it twice and am going to watch it a few more time before I return it.

So what's the movie about? The story is set in the Middle Ages during the Black Plague. A knight named Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) and his squire return home from the Crusades. On the way, Death (Bengt Ekerot) approaches Antonius to take him away, but Antonius challenges Death to a game of chess: If Antonius wins, he gets to live. If Death wins, Antonius will die. Antonius meets a family of traveling performers, including Jof (Nils Poppe), an acrobat who has visions and can see into the spiritual realm. Antonius struggles with questions about God and the meaning of existence. He wants to make his life count for something. In the end, he helps Jof and his family escape Death.

Death approaches Antonius.

A girl condemned to be burned at the stake for being a witch.
Antonius asks her to summon Satan so he can ask him about God.

Antonius unknowingly confesses to Death who is posing as a priest.  

Death leads his "victims" in a Dance of Death.

As a die-hard Woody Allen fan, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would see an Ingmar Bergman film. If you know anything about Woody Allen, you know that Bergman is his greatest inspiration.

Interestingly, Max von Sydow was cast in the Woody Allen film "Hannah and Her Sisters," playing the artist lover of Lee (Barbara Hershey).

Next on Netflix: Ingmar Bergman's "Wild Strawberries" and "Cries and Whispers.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Best and Worst Mothers in the Movies

Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday

In honor of Mothers' Day, I'd like to present my inconclusive list of "The Best and Worst Mothers in the Movies."


Renee Zellweger in Jerry McGuire

Julia Roberts in Erin Brochovich

Jennifer Aniston in Marley & Me

Jennifer Lopez in Enough

Sally Field in Not Without My Daughter


Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest

Shelley Winters in A Patch of Blue

Mary Tyler Moore,in Ordinary People

Louise Latham in Marnie

Annette Bening in American Beauty

Do you have any to add to the list?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Iron Man 3: The Panic Attack Episode

Little did I know when I sat down in the theatre this weekend that I would be watching one of the best Iron Man movies EVER! Off the HOOK!

Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man takes on "The Mandarin," played by Ben Kingsley, who looks and sounds like Ringo Starr. I am not kidding. RINGO STARR!

You can tell a good script by the flaws of the main character. Tony Stark is such a character and in this movie his major flaw is his unexpected panic attacks. Has any superhero in the history of the universe ever suffered panic attacks? I think not.

Funny line:
Maya asked Tony if he remembered what happened that night in 1999.
TONY: I don't remember what I had for breakfast.
JARVIS: A gluten-free waffle.

So there you have it. A superhero who has panic attacks, is gluten-free and saves the world. Oh, YEAH!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zygoma

Welcome to the 2013 A to Z Blogging Challenge! 
 Memorable Movie Props

Django Unchained (2012)

Zygoma refers to the zygomatic bone, also known as the cheek bone in the human skull. Leonardo DiCaprio expounds upon the intricacies of "Ol' Ben's" skull at a dinner party.

What do you do for a headache?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yellow Pages

Welcome to the 2013 A to Z Blogging Challenge! 
 Memorable Movie Props

What Women Want (2000)

Mark Feuerstein thinks Mel Gibson is losing it when Mel, in desperation, searches through the Yellow Pages for an exorcist.

What would be a good slogan for an exorcist advertisement?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for X-ray

Welcome to the 2013 A to Z Blogging Challenge! 
 Memorable Movie Props

The Fugitive (1993)

Harrison Ford disguises himself as a hospital janitor in his search for the one-armed man. Pursued by the tenacious Tommy Lee Jones, Harrison takes the time to save a boy's life by looking at his chest x-ray and sending him to the surgical unit. Thank you, doctor!

Can you share a story about human kindness?

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Whip

Welcome to the 2013 A to Z Blogging Challenge! 
 Memorable Movie Props

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Harrison Ford displays his skill with the bull whip. Weapon of choice for the archeological adventurer. Perhaps it inspired Devo's hit song "Whip It." Perhaps not.

Any Devo fans out there?