Drama, Modern TV

Mad Men (2007-2015) Chronicling The Decade Of Change

Photo0137I love this series! It is a great favourite and it is a series that I never wanted to end when it was on. This series sucks you in and doesn’t let you go. I never wanted to be let go! This is one I will never get tired of watching again, again and again. It has so much to offer and is one of the best written and acted series in TV history.

This is one of the classiest looking series that has ever been made. Exquisite period detail,  beautiful costumes and sets manage to recreate a bygone era. You can practically smell the fresh flowers on the dining room and restaurant tables, taste the alcohol and smell the cigarette smoke.

It has well written and well developed characters whose lives we witness being changed and affected by the decade of change. We share these peoples good times and bad. We laugh and cry with them, are shocked and traumatised with them, and by the end feel like we know these people and have gone through their change with them.

For seven seasons this series let us witness the huge amount of change that America (and in many cases)that the world saw during the 1960’s.  The series starts in 1960, and ends in the early 70’s. We begin with men and women living a certain way, and doing certain things only because that’s what their parents did before them and it is expected that they follow in mum and dads footsteps. What the people growing up in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s wanted was irrelevant, they did what was expected by their elders and by society at large. 

As Mad Men goes on we see unhappy people stuck in jobs that grind them down, we see people wearing public masks to hide their mounting unhappiness with their lives, and when the 60’s arrive we see all this begin to change. We see racism thankfully start to become a thing of the past thanks to the Civil Rights Movement, and we see black people finally get to become equal to white people. We see the characters react to real life events unfolding on the news, such as the horrific assassinations that shocked the country (and indeed the world)of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King. We see the changing fashions and music. We see peoples attitudes to sex and marriage change. We see the peace and hippie movement begin. We see women finally being equal to men and not being expected to be stuck in the kitchen or having babies.

I’ve always found it interesting to see how advertisers come up with the ideas for their various ad campaigns. This series lets us follow these characters and shows us how that creative process works, and it’s one of my favourite parts of the series watching the ideas unfold on screen.

I also like how in a way the series is itself one big advertisement for different ways of life. It presents to us the seemingly perfect and idyllic early 1960’s, where although there is racism, sexism and other unpleasantness, everything is the best it could be, from service in restaurants, to the quality of products, to peoples manners, to the care people took in their jobs and in maintaining their homes, and how everyone was supposedly happy and content. It also shows us the later part of the decade when the shackles came off and people started living for themselves, life wasn’t as restrictive, men and women (of all colours)were treated as equals and it seemed that anything was possible for a time.

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We see our characters begin to change and grow as individuals. Some start off as likeable and then become less so, for some the opposite is true. For most of the series Don always gave off the impression that advertising was his life, as the series went on he became less enthusiastic about it and started to care more about his personal life and in just living. Joan and Peggy both shatter the glass ceiling and rise through the ranks of their company, both these women also find happiness in being career women. Roger learns to take life slow and appreciate every moment, he also embraces the hippie/free love movement and gets what these kids are all about. Betty finally starts to follow her heart and focus on what she wants to do. Pete starts off as arrogant and quite unpleasant, and by the series end is one of the most likeable characters, he has grown, matured and changed his ways.

Mad Men was created by Matthew Weiner. The series title is a phrase that advertisers used to describe themselves during the 50’s. The series follows a group of Madison Avenue advertisers from the fictional firm of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is the Creative Director for the firm and one of the firms partners. He is a successful, handsome, smooth man who always makes you think he is control. He could sell ice to Eskimos and cigarettes to non smokers. His whole life is a façade though, as we later learn he is not who we think he is at all. He is a womaniser despite being married and having a perfect family. He sleeps with many women and cares about them all.

Don is married to the beautiful Betty (January Jones), Betty is a former model and looks like Grace Kelly. As the series goes on we see that Betty is a woman wearing a happy mask to the rest of the world, she is deeply unhappy and wants more than just being a mum and wife.

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) is an ambitious woman desperate to prove herself equal to her male colleagues. Peggy first joins the company as Don’s secretary, but soon joins the creative team and later rises higher through the ranks. She and Don become very close friends and the deep bond between them isn’t really definable. At times you think they might get together romantically, at other times they are like brother and sister. I would call them soulmates. Scenes between them are my favourites from the whole series.

Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)is a young account man who has lots of ambition and lots of resentment and rage bubbling up inside of him. As the series goes on I think he is the character who undergoes the most change and he becomes one of the most likeable characters from the whole series. Pete has a crush on Peggy which is complicated when he gets married.

Sal Romano(Bryan Batt)is the art director for the firm. Like Don, Sal is hiding a big secret. Sal is homosexual and cannot for one second afford to let that secret slip. This brings him much heartbreak and pain as the series goes on.

Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks)is the firms office manager and later becomes a partner. A former secretary, Joan knows how to keep the office running like clockwork, she has a knack for resolving disputes and unpleasantness. Joan is not a gal to get on the wrong side of. Joan is a very beautiful and sexy woman who is clever too, many men focus only her physical qualities and underestimate her mind (I assure you they regret that).

Roger Serling (John Slattery)is one of two senior partners of the firm. He is a witty man who has some of the funniest lines of the entire series. Roger is a WW2 Navy veteran who drinks and smokes to excess. He also cheats on his wife. Roger doesn’t just treat his women as one night stands though, he really does care for them and offers help and friendship even when they are no longer involved. He has been in a long term affair with Joan, and she is the woman he should be with, they just can’t seem to make that commitment.

Lane Pryce( Jared Harris, the son of Richard Harris) is possibly the most tragic character in the entire series. A Brit who becomes a partner at the firm when it’s taken over by the company he worked with. Lane comes to love his colleagues and warms to American life.

Lane develops a crush on Joan and he always tries to look after her. Living in America affords him the personal freedom he was denied in the UK. He has a controlling and cruel father (seen in a chilling guest appearance played by W. Morgan Sheppard)and is slowly breaking free of control to be his own man.  When he gets into debt in season 5, tragedy and heartbreak lie around the corner for him and for us.

Megan Draper (Jessica Pare)is a secretary who is an aspiring actress. Megan becomes Don’s second wife after he and Betty divorce. Megan is outgoing, stylish and a very modern woman. Megan loves Don but won’t be the stay at home wife that Betty was to him.

Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) is the head of the firms media and TV department. He was ahead of his colleagues in recognising how big TV was going to become. He starts off as a very likeable character, but by the end was one who I disliked very much.  He became full of himself and selfish.

Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton)is a likeable character throughout the entire series. Ken is a good guy and is respectful of people, he doesn’t really join in that much with the office banter and opinions of many of his male colleagues. Ken is an aspiring author and it’s later revealed that he has had some short stories published.

Stan Rizzo (J.R Ferguson) is the art director in the later part of the series. He is a very relaxed and fun loving guy. He is in love with Peggy.

Bert Cooper (Robert Morse)is the head of the firm. He is best friends with Roger and has a thing about people having to be in his office in bare feet. He is eccentric but takes a keen interest in the day to day running of his firm. When he makes rare appearances at meetings or shares feedback it is time to pay attention.

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Other characters include Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis)an opinionated liberal who can be both likeable and unlikeable.

Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka)is Don and Betty’s eldest child, she is forever at odds with her mum, but as the series goes on finds newfound respect for her.

Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley)is a political adviser who later marries Betty, he is a good man and loves her very much.

Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray)is a copywriter who is struggling against his alcoholism, as the series goes on he is fired from the company but has regular appearances throughout the series. Freddy is close friends with Peggy and Don.

Glen Bishop ( Martin Weiner, the son of the series creator) a seriously weird kid who has a major crush on Betty and Sally. He is quite freaky, but in season 7 he has changed to someone quite different.

Duck Phillips (Mark Moses)is a recovering alcoholic who clashes with Don, falls for Peggy and is not someone to be trusted.

Michael Ginsberg ( Ben Feldman)is a copywriter who struggles socially and is later shown to be suffering from severe psychotic problems, if you go back and watch the series you will pick up little hints in Feldman’s performance that show us all is not quite right with Ginsberg.

Photo0140I love the whole series, but my favourite seasons are 4,1,3 and 5. My favourite characters are Joan, Don, Roger, Peggy, Lane, Betty, Sal, Megan and Pete.

My favourite of Don’s women? Rachel Menken(Maggie Siff)they love each other so much and she is so lonely, such a shame how their time together ended. I also love Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton)she is really the only one who knew the real Don, and she accepted him completely.

My favourite moments? Roger’s LSD trip. Peggy comforting Don in The Suitcase. The famous carousel photo pitch delivered by Don. Betty and Don’s date night when in Rome for the Hilton hotel campaign. Joan’s speech about Vietnam to the man who was sexually harassing her in the office. Betty in her nightgown casually shooting at pigeons. Don and Joan’s conversation at the bar in the episode Christmas Waltz. Megan and Don’s argument at the Howard Johnson restaurant which leads to her running away. Betty and Don’s final phone call.

The following ten episodes are my favourites from the entire series.

The Suitcase. The Wheel. The Milk and Honey Route. The Grown-Ups. Hands and Knees. Christmas Waltz. At The Codfish Ball. Souvenir. Commissions and Fees. Far Away Places.

A series with so much to offer, featuring powerful performances and well developed characters. This also has a fantastic soundtrack comprising of classic 60’s songs and instrumentals. Never seen this before? Make a dinner reservation with Don Draper immediately.

Be sure to buy the Blu-ray boxset to see the series looking its best on screen. There are many interesting extras in that set to enjoy too.

I’d love to get your thoughts on this series and its characters. Please leave your comments below.

 

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Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon Will Soon Be Here

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Just a reminder that we will be discussing all things Alfred Hitchcock next week. Beginning on Friday the 4th of August and continuing until the 6th. You can post your entry on any of those three days. I will be putting up a new Hitchcock Blogathon post on each of the three days. I can’t wait to read what everyone has written.

If you would like to join in with this there is still time. Click here to sign up and learn more about the Blogathon.

 

Fantasy, Romance

The Princess Bride (1987)

There are some films that you automatically grab from the DVD shelf when you’re sick, or when you are feeling sad and are in desperate need of something comforting to turn to. The Princess Bride is one such film for me. This film never fails to leave me with a smile on my face. In this film wrongs are made right, love conquers all and good triumphs over evil.

Rob Reiner directs this film which is based on the 1973 novel (which I’ve yet to read)by William Goldman. The film presents us with a fairytale filled with romance, action, adventure, courage, revenge, giants, pirates, fun and magic. It is also a very clever parody of the various genres contained within it. The film has you laughing at lines and scenes that are clearly sending up these sorts of stories. Children will love this for the story, adults will also love it for that, but can pick up the parody side of the film and find even more to laugh at.The film also brings to mind the swashbuckling films of the 30’s and 40’s.  This and Stand By Me are my favourite films from Rob Reiner.

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The film begins in the bedroom of a young boy (Fred Savage)who is sick in bed. His granddad (Peter Falk)comes over to read him a story. That story is The Princess Bride. The first few lines make the boy think this is a romance story, and he is far from interested in it. As the story continues he starts to enjoy it and he (and us too)are soon completely hooked by the story. We see the story he is being read unfold before us on screen.

The Princess Bride tells the story of the beautiful Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright in her film debut). Buttercup has been chosen to marry the handsome, vain and cold Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), but she does not love him. Years ago, Buttercup was in love with the gentle farmboy, Westley (Cary Elwes)who has long been believed to be dead after a ship he was on was attacked at sea.

When Westley returns to her (now in the guise of  a mysterious man dressed all in black)their love cannot be denied. When Buttercup is kidnapped by Vizzini( Wallace Shawn)an intelligent, criminal mastermind who is desperate to start a war with Prince Humperdinck, Westley sets out to rescue her. Vizzini is helped in his kidnap plot by gentle giant, Fezzik (Andre the Giant) and the athletic, and super skilled swordsman, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin). Inigo is also searching for a six fingered man who murdered his father. Inigo has perfected his sword skills, not for fame or for glory, but so he can be good enough to fight and kill his fathers killer.

Cary plays Westley as a mix of Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks, athletic, suave, cool in the face of danger and certain death, throwing witty lines around all over the place. He  steals every scene he is in and gets you wanting to know more about his character. Westley is heroic, intelligent, perceptive and brave. All he does, he does for love.

Robin is enchanting as the young woman desperate to be with her true love. For a film debut, Robin gives an amazing performance. You would not guess this was her first time in a film. Her performance is all in her eyes, and she steals many a scene with just a look. Buttercup is a strong woman and is true to her only love throughout the film, wealth and status mean nothing to her, only her one true love means anything.

Mandy Patinkin gives my favourite performance in the film, as the man desperate to avenge his fathers murder. Mandy has your heart breaking for his character one moment, and then has us all cheering when he fights and stands up to injustice the next. I love the way he delivers that famous line throughout the film “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to die!” He says it differently throughout, but each time he delivers it, the line packs an emotional punch and is truly one of the great lines in cinema history. Apparently Mandy pictured the six fingered man as the cancer that killed his own father, so when he says that line it’s like he is seeking revenge on that vile disease.

Chris Sarandon plays Humperdinck as a villain who you love to hate. He is vain and pompous, and yet he is also intelligent, a skilled fighter and tracker, and is not someone you want to cross. He steals every scene he is in. I love the way he says this line “Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan. I’ve got my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped.” Cracks me up every time.

Chrisopher Guest is perfectly cast as the Princes right hand man, Tyrone. A skilled torturer and swordsman, he takes immense pleasure in killing and inflicting pain. Christopher plays the character so well that you want to boo and hiss each time he makes an appearance on screen.

Andre The Giant is loveable as Fezzik. He makes him brave and strong, but has Fezzik has slow reactions so isn’t much use in a fist fight, but he tries hard! It is a credit to Andre that he doesn’t let you see how much pain he was in. He was suffering back pain and was in agony throughout the shoot, but you would never know it to watch him. Andre died in 1993.

Wallace Shawn is hysterical as the cunning man of great intellect whose wit and words are his greatest weapons. I love the way he says “inconceivable!” all the time. He’s always been one of the great character actors and this is one of his greatest performances.

Peter Falk is perfect as the granddad who you wish was your own. This man knows the power of a good story and he knows the boy will soon be drawn into this tale. Falk acts as the narrator and guide in the film and is a welcome presence throughout.

Small appearances by Mel Smith , Peter Cook and Billy Crystal add to the comedy in the film, with Crystal  coming up with much of his own dialogue.

Fred Savage does a good job as the young boy who starts to see that books are magical, and reading is just as good (if not better in many cases)than watching TV or playing video games. I love the bit where he’s disgusted by the fact that this could be a kissing book. 🙂

The film was made on location here in the UK. I think that was a good choice as the landscape brings to mind a fairytale/medieval land. I recently visited Haddon Hall, in Derbyshire which was used as the location for Humperdinck’s castle. That was quite an experience, and I urge you to visit not only because it was in the film, but as it is one of the few remaining medieval castles. This was also featured in Jane Eyre (2006)and The Priory School(an episode of the Return of Sherlock Holmes TV series.)

A beautiful score by Mark Knopfler adds greatly to the film. This is such a fun film and is one that can be enjoyed over and over again and never gets old.  Isn’t this true of all fairytales? I also really like how the film captures how you see a story in your head when reading a book.

My favourite scenes are the following. Inigo in the forest asking his father’s spirit to guide his sword. Westley and Buttercup’s conversation on top of the hill where he says “life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” The sequence in the fire swamp. Westley and Inigo’s swordfight (both Cary and Mandy practiced for months and became very skilled with swords, and that really is them both for the whole of that exciting sequence.) Vizzini and Westley matching wits over the poisoned cups. Buttercup in the eel lake. Inigo finally getting to face the six fingered man.

I also think that if the events of this film had been a reality that the ending would have been considerably different. Towards the end of the film you get a sharp slap from reality as characters start dying or getting seriously injured. In reality I think Inigo and Westley would have died from what happened to them, Buttercup would have gone through with her threat and Humperdinck would no doubt have passed himself off as the big hero. I’d say the ending we get in the film is much better, even if it is only a crowd pleasing fantasy. Hey, aren’t dreams always thus?

Writing all of this has made me eager to watch this again. “As you wish”, my DVD player says to me. Alright then, I will. 🙂

What are your thoughts on this film?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Cinema, Tributes To Classic Stars

Your Favourite Vivien Leigh Film Performances?

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Vivien has long been a favourite of mine. Much more than simply being enchanting, delicate and beautiful; Vivien could make your heart break for her characters one moment and get you cheering for them in the next. On screen she could be fragile, gentle, strong and fearless, and whatever she appeared in she always stole each and every scene she was in.

Despite her incredible acting talent, Vivien actually only ever starred in 20 films. She also enjoyed huge success in the theatre, and she was one of the most acclaimed actresses of the British theatre. I only wish she had starred in more films.

Which of Vivien’s performances/films are your favourites? I love the following the most.

1- Waterloo Bridge (1940) This tale of love and tragedy is set in London during WW1. Vivien plays a young ballerina who falls in love with a British officer (Robert Taylor), only to descend into heartbreak and poverty when she receives tragic news. There is a twist that will have you sobbing. A beautiful and moving love story. Vivien makes your heart break for this woman, and we are all left wanting the best for her. I like how Vivien makes you feel how torn up is she is in her mind, wrestling with her conscience about the choice she has made.

2- Gone With The Wind (1939) This is the first film of Vivien’s that I ever saw. I have been a fan ever since I first saw her performance here as the defiant Southern belle. As the flirtatious and defiant Scarlett, Vivien is a force to be reckoned with. As she falls in love and lives through the American civil war, Scarlett earns our admiration for her courage and strength in the face of extremely trying times.

3- That Hamilton Woman (1941) Vivien is excellent here, as the real life Emma Hamilton, the outgoing mistress of the heroic Lord Nelson. This film focuses on their famous affair, and it sees Vivien acting alongside her husband Laurence Olivier.  This is one of my favourite romance films and it is one I wish had been longer (although I’m very happy with what we got.)

I think Vivien gave her best performance as the fragile, and quite delusional Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. I think she truly deserved her Oscar for that one.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your favourite Vivien Leigh films?

Comedy, Drama, Romance

The Apartment (1960)

This review contains spoilers. So if you haven’t watched this film, please don’t read on any further.

 

I love this film. I love the performances, the story, the characters, and most of all, I love the bittersweet blend of laughter, cynicism and tragedy that the film depicts. This is Billy Wilder at his best. What’s not to love?

There is a great story out there about just what it was that inspired Billy Wilder to make this film.

The story goes that he was quite intrigued by the man in Brief Encounter who lets his friend Alec (Trevor Howard)use his apartment to bring Laura (Celia Johnson) back to. Billy was completely fascinated by this man loaning his home out, so that this couple could basically get together to meet there for sex. He wanted to know more about that man, and more about what would make someone do that. Thus The Apartment was born in Billy’s mind.

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A perfect mix of cynicism, comedy, tragedy and romance; The Apartment focuses on the best and worst of humanity. The film is all about men and women using others and being used, and in some cases continuing to allow themselves to be used. It looks at why people use others, and why some let themselves be walked over (they have no choice, they like the control their actions give them, they want the outcome their actions will deliver etc).

At the time this film was set, stories like this one(hopefully not loaning out your home for passionate rendezvous)were commonplace. Bosses slept with their secretaries, women were judged on their looks, and some men thought that women were only around so that they could have sex with them. Drinking, lying and cheating were as common as drawing breath. Billy’s film captures all of that perfectly, he holds up a reflection of life to us that would have been very familiar to many in the audience of the 1960’s.

The film also shows us that there is goodness to be found in such a world, even if you sometimes have to dig a little deeper in order to discover it.

C.C Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a clerk at an insurance company in New York. Baxter wishes more than anything to climb that corporate ladder, and he will do whatever it takes to get up it quick. Baxter lends his apartment out to senior male staff at his company so they that they can go there and be with their mistresses. Due to his seedy service Baxter is soon promoted in the company, and he is feeling very pleased with life indeed.

When Baxter lends his apartment to the boss of the company, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray)it suddenly dawns on him just what he has been doing and he hates himself for it. Why the change of heart? Because Sheldrake’s mistress is the fragile elevator girl,  Fran Kubelik(Shirley MacLaine). Baxter likes Fran very much, and when he sees how badly Sheldrake uses her something inside of him snaps.

When Fran attempts suicide in his apartment, Baxter must choose between his career and own selfishness, or looking after Fran and being a good guy.

There are two key sequences in the film which I think signal Baxter’s self revulsion. In these scenes we see him slowly begin to change and become a decent guy. The first is the famous mirror sequence. He sees Fran’s broken hand mirror, and when he tells her it’s broken, she says ” I know. I like it like that. It makes me look the way I feel.”

When she says those words the look on Baxter’s face speaks volumes, he looks like he’s just been punched in the stomach. He sees the pain he is helping to inflict by allowing these men to take the secretaries and other women to his apartment to use for sex. Baxter has never thought about what happens to these women afterwards, but when he sees Fran’s state of mind it dawns on him what the reality is. Straight after those words the phone rings and it’s Sheldrake asking him if he’s remembered to stock up on some food and drink in the apartment. When Baxter answers him it is with a tone of revulsion and hatred. Slowly he is beginning to change to a decent man.

The second is when Baxter comes home to find Fran unconscious after taking an overdose. She has finally figured out that Sheldrake won’t leave his wife for her. At that moment we see he is torn apart with worry and fear. With the help of his neighbour Doctor Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen), Baxter helps save Fran’s life and nurses her back to health.

Jack Lemmon is at his best here as the selfish man, always happy to oblige his bosses who suddenly develops a conscience. If anyone other than Jack had played this role, I’m really not sure how well the film would have turned out. One moment we hate Baxter with a passion, the next we’re laughing at or with him, the next he’s breaking our hearts and ours are breaking for him. That is all because of how Jack plays the role, the looks on his face (particularly the scenes of self loathing later in the film when what he’s been doing finally reaches home to him.) As the film goes on Jack conveys to us how his experiences and realisations are making him more aware and less self centred.

Shirley MacLaine makes your heart break as the mistreated Fran. Shirley lets us see the inner pain this woman carries around with her, but which she doesn’t show to the world (until the famous mirror sequence.) From the way Shirley plays the character, I believe Fran knows the men she goes with are heels, but for some reason she can’t stop herself from going with them. Fran loves Sheldrake and it really damages her when she realises she is just the latest in a long line of meaningless conquests to him. Shirley’s performance is all in her eyes, we see how weary and depressed she is, and we see the brave face she puts on each day pretending all is well in her life.

Fred MacMurray is cast wonderfully well against type here, as the sleazy, hardhearted boss who treats women as objects for his pleasure only. He doesn’t care about their feelings, but he can make them believe he does. MacMurray is loathsome here and it is only the second time in his entire career he was cast in such a role.  The first against type performance was also for Billy Wilder, in the Noir classic, Double Indemnity. On the strength of his performance in both films it is very strange to me that he never again got roles like this. He proves what a talented dramatic actor he was. There was much more to MacMurray than comic performances. He conveys to us that his character is selfish and will never change. Remorse? That’s a word this guy doesn’t even know exists.

Jack Kruschen is hysterical as the bemused neighbour of Baxter’s who thinks his neighbour is some sort of playboy. Why does he think that? Because of the different women coming in and out of his apartment all the time. Kruschen knows that this man is a good guy really (a Mensch)and his belief in this is proved right at the end. Jack is very good in the scenes where he is treating Fran, making you believe he knows what he is doing as a Doctor.

Edie Adams steals every scene she is in as Sheldrake’s secretary, Miss Olsen. She tells Fran that Sheldrake won’t care about her and is just using her. Miss Olsen used to be his lady and has never gotten over her time with him. Edie shows us this woman’s pain and depression and her despair at seeing what she went through happening to someone else. Like Shirley’s performance, Edie’s is another that is all in the eyes. Keep an eye on her when she is in a scene.

I like how the film shows how messy relationships are, and that heartbreak and disappointment is sadly more commonplace than lasting happiness. The film shows us that happiness is possible though. Live in the moment, value every shared moment of joy, don’t hurt one another, be there for each other through the good and bad, and really work at building trust and a bond, then you will know happiness. At the end of the film we see Baxter redeemed, and are left feeling more positive having seen some good people and good actions in this world.

I have to mention the famous ending to the film. Many take the ending to be a romantic one. I actually have a different view. It is clear that these two love each other very much, and Baxter admits as much in the final lines. I actually think that these two are soulmates and are that special person that the other needs in their life. I don’t think romance is on the cards for them though.

I think they are and will always remain the best of friends. They will always be there for one another and will support and help each other. A bond of friendship is love too, and I believe friendships are as meaningful and deep as any romance can be. When Fran says “shut up and deal”, I think she is saying lets just take things as they are. Maybe we will progress to romance, maybe we will just stay as friends, but for now lets just stay as we are and enjoy this moment. Somewhat similar to the ending of Now Voyager “don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”  Basically, they have everything they want and need right there, they don’t need to be romantic in order to love each other. So what that they don’t kiss? They are happy, and we know they will always be there for each other. That’s a happy ending if ever I saw one. It always leaves me with a smile on my face.

The film won five Oscars, including one for best picture. Sadly no awards were given to any of the actors.

My favourite scenes are the following. Baxter trying to watch Grand Hotel, only to grow more and more annoyed by the adverts that keep playing on the TV (if he watched TV today, he’d throw the set away I’m sure.) 🙂  The mirror discussion. The sequence involving the woman who looks like Marilyn Monroe. The entire final part of the film. Miss Olsen speaking to Fran.

I have to say as well, that I always get a real laugh from the scenes where Baxter is waiting outside his own building! Because his apartment is in use! How much of a pushover do you have to be to actually agree to something which stops you from being able to go into your own home? Baxter got wise in the end though, so I’ll forgive him for his stupidity.

What are your thoughts on this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

Blogathons

The 007 Blogathon: It’s A Wrap!

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I want to thank each and every one of you for taking part in this. There have been so many terrific reviews and articles submitted, and they have all been a real pleasure to read.

Truth be told I was very nervous about doing this, as it has been my first time hosting a blogathon; I needn’t have worried though as you’ve been so supportive. Great to meet so many fellow Bond fans too!

I invite you all (I know some of you are already signed up)to take part in my Hitchcock blogathon in August. Details of which can be found here.

Thank you so much again.

Maddy x

 

Blogathons

The 007 Blogathon Begins

Bond Blogathon 3

Check back to this post over the next three days to read all the entries for each day. I will update this page each day adding the new entries as I get them sent in.

The time has now come for us to discuss Britain’s most famous secret agent. If you will all take a seat (and collect a dry martini from the waiter)we will begin…

007 Blogathon Entries: Day 3

Lifesdailylessonsblog shares her great love for Timothy Dalton and – The Living Daylights.

Crackedrearviewer shares his love for Sean Connery as Bond and discusses- Goldfinger.

The Humpo Show writes about his – Least favourite Bond film.

Realweegiemidget looks at five actors who – could be Bond.

Cinemaessentials takes a look at – The Spy Who Loved Me.

Bond Blogathon 2

007 Blogathon Entries: Day 2

Hamlette’s Soliloquy shares her love for – Goldeneye.

Old School Evil introduces us all to – James Bond Jr .

The Spac Hole looks at actresses who – should have been Bond Girls.

Bond Blogathon 1

007 Blogathon Entries: Day 1

Thoughts All Sorts shares her love for – Casino Royale. Plus Daniel Craig in swimming trunks. 🙂

RealweegiemidgetReviews takes a look at – Spectre.

Vinnieh takes us through a history of the Bond girls – The evolution of the Bond girls.

I share with you – My ten favourite Bond films.

 

 

 

Blogathons

The 007 Blogathon: My Ten Favourite Bond Films

Bond Blogathon 1

This is my own entry for my 007 blogathon. I will be putting up the post for all your links later on today. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I won’t be around much tomorrow, so if you have finished your entry and were planning on posting during the 21st, would you be able to leave your links today? Thanks so much.  🙂

I’m a huge fan of the Bond films (and the novels)I love pretty much all of the films in this series. There are some exceptions to that love though; Die Another Day, Diamonds Are Forever, Octopussy and A View To A Kill are all pretty dire in my opinion. From that list Octopussy is about the only one with any rewatch value to me, and I will check it out if it comes on TV, but it is certainly not a favourite.

Listing backwards and starting at number 10, I now proudly present my all time favourite Bond films.

 

 

 

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10-  Licence To Kill

I consider this the darkest and most violent of the Bond films. James Bond is seen here in ruthless revenge mode. In this film he is seeking revenge for his friend Felix Leiter. Leiter was maimed and his new wife Della was murdered on their wedding day. Dalton does a good job at conveying Bond’s disenchantment with the service he has worked so loyally for over the years.

Dalton also conveys that Bond is not messing around on this mission, there will be blood shed and he will take no prisoners. I love his relationship with Agent Pam Bouvier, and I like that she is a real kick ass gal, who can more than take care of herself without Bond’s help.

Sadly this was Dalton’s last appearance as 007 and I feel so sorry for him that he never got to make at least two more films. He is the closest to the Bond of Fleming’s novels and (years before Daniel Craig did it)he gives us a cold, but tender, steely and ruthless Bond.

 

 

 

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9- For Your Eyes Only

Bond helps Melina, a young woman determined to avenge her murdered parents. Bond tries to talk her out of her quest knowing the emotional/psychological baggage that comes with taking a life. He also has to get some stolen equipment back, which is linked to British Nuclear submarines and is also being sought by the Russians. I’d say this is the grittiest of Moore’s Bond films.

I like Bond’s relationship with Melina very much, there is a real affection between them and he tries to help her see she is not alone. This also has one of my favourite Bond theme songs. The scene where Bond and Melina are dragged behind a boat is one of the best sequences in any of the films I think.  I love how he tries and keeps her spirits up, even when it seems they will die because of being tied up and dragged behind the boat.

I love the ski jump sequence and subsequent chase scene in this. Edge of your seat stuff for sure. The mountain climb sequence later in the film is also so suspenseful. I also think this film features one of Moore’s coldest Bond moments – where he deliberately pushes a car over a cliff with a man still in it! Moore’s Bond could be cold and ruthless at times too, but sadly everyone seems to focus on the comedy of his films.

 

 

 

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8- Dr. No

The first ever Bond film and the first outing for Sean Connery. This is one of the best and one of the most enjoyable of all the Bond films. Sean is in control, strong and sexy as Bond, there is a coldness to him and you wouldn’t want to mess with him. Bond goes to Jamaica to search for a fellow agent who is missing. Bond soon finds his life threatened as he investigates a mysterious scientist, known only as Dr. No. Teaming up with fisherman Quarrel and the bikini clad Honey Ryder; Bond sets out to defeat this mysterious man who is terrorising many.

The “you’ve had your six” scene is one of the greatest moments in the series history. Honey’s entrance, walking out of the sea is unforgettable. This is the film that started it all and we as fans all owe it a debt of gratitude. Beautiful location work. No theme song either, just that awesome instrumental Bond theme.

 

 

 

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7- Casino Royale

Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond. This did for the series what Dalton’s introduction did back in the eighties; it made the series realistic, gritty and believable once again. If you have never read the novels you won’t be familiar with Vesper Lynd, it is she who made Bond the man we all know today.

This film shows us how and why Bond became like he is in the rest of the series. If you ever wondered why (for the most part)he treats women as objects of pleasure, one night stand material only, then this film will explain why. This is a thrilling and dark film. Bond has to play a high stakes poker game to win money that will go to fund terrorists if won by anyone other than him. The villains he comes up against in this are linked to the organisation he will come to know as SPECTRE.

Daniel Craig does a good job of showing the man beneath the tough, cool exterior. The scenes between Bond and Vesper are some of my favourites in the entire series. The shower sequence where he comforts the traumatised Vesper is so touching.  The chase and crane fight at the beginning is a real favourite, it has me watching through my fingers!

 

 

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6- From Russia With Love

One of the best films in the entire series. This story has a realistic tone, which gives you the feeling that this could have really happened to any spy. Bond is being hunted by SPECTRE, who have baited a trap involving a Russian cipher clerk who says she wishes to defect to the West.

Bond comes up against the insane Rosa Klebb (and her flick knife shoes!)and the even more insane and deadly Red Grant. Grant is my favourite of all the Bond villains. Why? Because he is the most believable, he is also Bond’s match, and he calmly stalks his target until he is ready to take him down. The train fight between them is outstanding, so suspenseful and keeps you on the edge of your seat. This film also features my favourite instrumental piece (thanks John Barry)which can be heard when Bond steals the Lektor decoder.

 

 

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5- Goldeneye

Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as Bond. Brosnan has the edge of Dalton and Connery, and the humour in the face of threats of Moore. This film is sort of a mix, it blends the realism and concerns of Dalton’s era, with the humour and big set pieces that had become such a part of the series over the years.

The opening stunt jump up on the dam is one of the most impressive and jaw dropping of the entire series. This film is the first to feature Judi Dench as M. I love the dynamic between her and Bond and now she has become an integral part of the series herself. 

Bond goes to Russia to try and stop a cyber attack being brought about by using a satellite weapon system called Goldeneye. He comes up against a former 00 agent who he believed to be dead.

This film also features one of the best bad girls in the series. Who is she? Xenia Onnatopp.

 

 

 

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4- Live and Let Die

Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond. Cool, can be ruthless and deadly when necessary, but prefers words/quips as weapons, and fires them off faster than bullets from a gun. Moore’s Bond was very different to Connery’s, and he brought more humour to the role. This film and some of his other earlier ones do show him as quite callous and cold though, it’s not all laughter despite what some of the critics of this Bond era say.

Bond is in America helping the CIA  take down a Caribbean dictator. Bond has to deal with Voodoo magic, Harlem gangsters, crocodiles, a cranky Police Sherriff, and the beautiful tarot reader, Solitaire. This has one of the best scores of the entire series. There is an edge of your seat river boat chase. Yaphet Kotto is chilling and steals every scene he is in, as the terrifying villain (I have to admit that his end is daft and hugely laughable though.)

 

 

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3-  The Living Daylights

Timothy Dalton’s first outing as Bond takes us back to the realism and grit of the novels, and of the early Connery films. After the humorous Moore years, Dalton gave us back the Bond we were supposed to have. Dalton’s Bond was dark, ruthless, tough and all about the mission. Sadly his films were not that well received, but over the years have become rightly praised and loved. It is a shame that Daniel Craig has praise for essentially playing Bond how Dalton played him all those years ago.

Bond is looking into the murders of some fellow 00 agents. He also investigates whether or not a KGB agents defection is real or staged. He befriends the agents girlfriend, Kara, and soon determines the defection is all staged and that this is all linked to his murdered colleagues.

I love the relationship between Bond and Kara. It is so tender and you feel that Bond is sorry that he has to deceive her.

The title song for this is my favourite from the entire series. I love Dalton’s portrayal of Bond and think he is the closest to the agent originally conceived by Fleming. He deserved more than two films. He was the right Bond, but he came along at the wrong time.

 

 

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2- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

George Lazenby’s first and only appearance as Bond. He has often been called the weakest of the Bond’s, but I think that is not so and is quite unfair. He is tough, cool, cold and does very well in the fight sequences. I also think he gets the best intro shot of any of the Bond’s. We first see him driving a car and lighting a cigarette, but only see glimpses of him, parts of his face and his hands etc. I just love the way that sequence is shot. Then of course, we get the famous “this never happened to the other fella!” line just before the title sequence, a knowing wink to Connery’s era.

Bond travels to Switzerland to track down Blofeld (now played by Telly Savalas). He soon discovers a plot to contaminate the worlds food supply and then hold the governments of the world to ransom. Bond also finds himself falling in love with the suicidal Tracy (Diana Rigg). Bond helps Tracy find a reason to live and decides to give up his spy work to marry her. Sadly tragedy lies just around the corner for this couple.

A beautiful score, some of the best stunt/fight sequences in the entire series, and beautiful locations all add together to make this a great film. I love the growing relationship between Bond and Tracy and how she soon becomes more important to him than his work as an agent. Telly Savalas is ice cold as Blofeld. I thought Donald Pleasence did a great job of making Blofeld insane, but his portrayal was very over the top. Savalas made Blofeld more real and he has a dangerous edge to him.

The final scene still shocks and moves me, no matter how many times I watch.

 

 

And now for my all time favourite Bond film….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1- Thunderball

I love this film so much. This is another of the plots that comes across as being very believable. The film also has a realistic and gritty look to it. The location work in the Bahamas is gorgeous. This is Connery’s fourth Bond film, and by now he had well and truly settled into the role.

Bond tracks down two stolen atomic bombs. They have been taken by SPECTRE, who plan to threaten a city with destruction by the bombs, unless world governments agree to pay them a huge ransom. Bond traces the weapons to the Bahamas and soon encounters SPECTRE’s number 2 agent, the ice cold, eye patch wearing Largo (Adolfo Celi). He also encounters the beautiful, and deadly SPECTRE agent, Fiona Volpe(Luciana Paluzzi).  Bond also helps Largo’s abused mistress, Domino.

This has one of the best scores in the series, some very impressive underwater sequences, the best (in my opinion)bad girl (Fiona), and possibly the coldest villain (Largo). Connery also delivers that very famous line here – “I guess he got the point” , right after he spear guns a henchman. Fantastic soundtrack too.

 

As a bonus here are my top 5 Bond novels.

1-  Casino Royale

2- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

3- Thunderball

4- The Spy Who Loved Me (this comes across as almost like a fan fiction wish story. The main character is a woman, and the book is mostly about her. She is having a really bad time due to some bad guys, Bond come along, saves her and romances her. The fact is this came from Fleming and I love it even though it’s not your typical Bond story.)

5- Dr. No

What are your favourite films and novels from the Bond series? What are your thoughts on the films I’ve discussed? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

Uncategorized

The Unpopular Film Opinion Tag

Catherine, over at Thoughtsallsorts has tagged me for this. I appreciate the tag, and many thanks for this.  This tag was started by Richard, over at TheHumpoShow .

The Rules

1 – Pick 3 films that are well liked by most people, except by you.
2 – Tag 5 or more people to get involved.
3 – Thank the person who tagged you.

Well, where (and how)do I start this?

1 – I’m a big fan of David Lean, but I cannot stand Doctor Zhivago! I like the visuals and the music but that is as far as my love for this one goes I’m afraid. For some reason most of the acting comes across as stiff to me and I just don’t care one bit about Zhivago and Lara. It seems really dull too, which I consider to be hugely unusual for a Lean film.

2-  I like Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Baz Luhrmann, but I felt that Australia was a mess! I think it tried to tackle too much instead of just focusing on a couple of things. While Nicole and Hugh have some lovely scenes I just can’t get emotionally invested in their characters or care when bad things happened to them. I so wanted to like this and I have tried to rewatch it several times. It still does nothing for me I’m afraid.

3- My third choice isn’t a film but a TV series. True Detective has talented stars, one of the best theme tunes in recent years, and some awesome photography. It had such potential, and I was so looking forward to it when it came out. I sadly had the opposite reaction to many viewers who praised it highly.  What we get is a convoluted plot that reaches David Lynch levels of weirdness. At first I was hooked, a few episodes in I had lost interest, by the end I was just open mouthed in disbelief and shaking my head in confusion.  My final verdict on this one? Plain weird!

I tag the following bloggers.

Charlene over at Charlene’smostlyclassicmoviereviews

Paul over at Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies

Fritzi over at Movies Silently

Virginie over at Thewonderfulworldofcinema

Janet over at Sister Celluloid

Please feel free to join in, even if you haven’t been tagged by anyone taking part. You can leave your answers here in the comments below, or you can write a post on your own site. Have fun!

 

Blogathons

Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon: Dragonwyck (1946)

Til death us do part blogathon

Theresa, over at cinemavensessaysfromthecouch, is hosting this blogathon all about murders that occur in a marriage. Be sure to visit her site to read all the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I’m writing about the 1946 film Dragonwyck. The film is directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and it is based on the 1944 novel of the same name which was written by Anya Seton.

Where do I begin with this one?  Well, I have to say upfront how much I love this film. I like how it is a mixture of genres, romance, melodrama, suspense and horror are all mingled together to great effect; there’s even a subplot about the ghost of a Van Ryn ancestor who haunts the house! Truly this film has something in it for everyone.

I think Price gives one of the best performances of his entire career in this, and it annoys me that his performance here is rarely mentioned when his best film performances get discussed.

I think that it is such an atmospheric film and I think that the set design for the house interiors is absolutely stunning. This gothic film reminds me somewhat of the story of Jane Eyre. A young woman falls in love with an older man, who she (and we)feel sorry for and believe to be desperate for a different life. There the similarities to Bronte’s tale ends though, as Dragonwyck begins to transform into a dark mixture of murder, drug addiction and madness.

I also think that the murder plot (and attempted murder)we see in this film, shows similarities to Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder. The murder plot here is practically perfect; it’s downright scary just how close the killer comes to getting away with their crime(like the one planned by Milland’s character in the Hitchcock classic), the first murder goes unsuspected, it is only when another is attempted later that a doctor becomes suspicious and the first is uncovered.

The film is set in America, in the 1840’s. Miranda Wells (Gene Tierney) is a young, sheltered woman who is raised in a God fearing, farming family in Connecticut. Miranda longs for adventure and to be able to see more of the world, than just the small part of America she was raised in. Miranda’s mother (the ever terrific Anne Revere)receives a letter from Nicholas Van Ryn (Vincent Price)a distant and wealthy relative.

Nicholas invites one of the Wells daughters to live at his house (Dragonwyck) and act as companion for his daughter. Miranda accepts the invitation and she and her father, Ephraim (Walter Huston)travel to the city to meet Nicholas. Her father disapproves of him, but Nicholas soon charms him and he permits his daughter to go and work for Nicholas.

Soon Miranda finds herself falling in love with Nicholas and the beautiful house known as Dragonwyck. Nicholas returns her feelings and likes her honesty and outspoken nature. Her presence seems to lift him out of himself and become less distant. She seems to be the medicine he needs to be happy. Nothing can come of their love though, as he is married to the self centred (although as we later learn obviously deeply unhappy and unwanted)Johanna (Vivienne Osborne).

When Johanna suddenly falls ill and then dies, it would seem that nothing can stand in the way of Nicholas and Miranda’s future happiness. Only the sight of a rare and deadly orchid plant in Johanna’s bedroom seems out of place, and its presence plays on the mind of the attending doctor, Turner(Glenn Langan). Being unable to prove foul play, but nevertheless highly suspicious the doctor (from a distance)keeps an eye out for the new Mrs. Van Ryn. Later when Miranda also falls dangerously ill, his suspicions prove to be founded in truth. But just who is the murderer? I won’t go into detail about that so as not to spoil the film for anyone who has yet to see it.

This is a dark and atmospheric tale of love, desire, murder and unhappiness. The film looks stunning visually, and the set design and costumes are sumptuous and impressive. One of my favourite films from the 1940’s and a great choice to watch if you’re looking for a spooky tale of murder. Murder is terrifying as it is, but to discover a murder is being planned by someone close to you is another thing entirely and this film captures that.

My favourite scenes are the following. Miranda going to attic and discovering the truth about Nicholas (some powerful acting by Price in that scene). The ball sequence, particularly where Nicholas dances with Miranda and basically says who cares what his neighbours and friends say. Ephraim and Nicholas meeting in the hotel. The doctor telling Miranda he will look after her now. Miranda’s first meeting with Johanna and the house staff.

Price is excellent as the reserved Nicholas. He makes you believe that this man has a terrible life and longs to break free of his dull society. His transformation towards the end of the film is quite a shock and he makes it so convincing and dark.

Gene Tierney is superb as the young woman falling in love for the first time in her life. I also like how she makes Miranda not care one bit for convention and that she always speaks her mind. Miranda is very much her own person.

Vivienne Osborne has the tough job of playing both an annoying and sympathetic character and she does this very well. She manages to make us both pity and dislike Johanna.

Spring Byington provides solid support as the almost otherworldly housekeeper of Dragonwyck. There’s also an appearance by a young Jessica Tandy as a crippled maid who helps Miranda.

Anne Revere and Walter Huston are excellent as Miranda’s parents. Anne does a good job of playing a woman who wants her daughter to be happy and have adventures, but doesn’t want to go against the husband she loves when he says Miranda can’t do certain things. Walter perfectly captures the gruff but loving dad act perfectly.

If you haven’t seen this one yet, then I highly recommend it to you. I’d love to get your thoughts on this one. Please leave your comments below.

Click the link below on the 24th to see all the live posts. https://cinemavensessaysfromthecouch.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/till-death-us-do-part-2/