Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas, My Friends

Wishing all my dear blog friends the merriest of Christmases.  May it be a day filled to overflowing with love, joy, and laughter.

Our family will be hosting a Christmas Eve dinner for anywhere from 9 to 12 guests, and then Christmas Day, we will be having dinner at a Thai restaurant and, afterwards, taking in Steven Spielberg's highly-acclaimed Lincoln...a film which we have heard nothing but words of praise for.  (While our original plan was to see Les Miserables, which is being released on Christmas Day, last night, we changed our least as far as seeing it as a family.  My daughter and I will probably go see it together sometime in January...just the two of us.)

To end our Christmas day, as is my family's tradition, we will enjoy our annual viewing of It's a Wonderful absolute favorite Christmas movie of all time.  George Bailey was indeed a blessed man...just as I am blessed to have each one of you in my life.  A huge thanks to all of you for faithfully reading what I write.  I've loved the feedback and input y'all leave in your comments.  Truly, you all are my friends, and I am thankful for each of you.

Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Film Finds of 2012

A little more than two weeks until we say goodbye to another year (how is that possible...didn't 2012 just begin a couple weeks ago?). Since I will be watching tried-and-true Christmas favorites for the next week and then, after that, satisfying my need for a William Holden fix with my faves of his films, I think it is pretty safe to assume that I won't be watching any additional "new to me" movies before we bid goodbye to 2012.  Therefore, with the possible exception of Les Miserables, which I will be taking in on Christmas Day, my 5-star film discoveries of this year have already been made, and it is time to reveal them to you, my dear blog readers.

As mentioned in last year's "film finds" post, several 5-star movies were part of my viewing pleasure this year.  However, most of those are favorite films that I simply enjoy watching over and over again.  There were, though, six new-to-me movies which I added to my 5-star list this year, and they are my "film finds" of 2012.  Three of the films are from the 1960's and are now among my favorite films of that decade; two of the films star Kirk Douglas, and given that I do not profess to be a fan of Mr. Douglas, I find that rather remarkable; another of the films (which I almost did not watch) has become the absolute favorite film of my beloved John Garfield; two of the films feature Academy Award-nominated performances by the male lead; finally---and this may come as a surprise to regular readers of my blog, for they know I am a "drama gal"---one of the films is actually a comedy.  So, without further adieu, here are my six "film finds" of 2012:

1.  That Funny Feeling---Though I don't ordinarily lean to comedy, I completely and totally adore this delightful little 1965 Sandra Dee/Bobby Darin romance.  After catching the two of them in Come September, I quickly sought out their other collaborations, and this one is my favorite (though not by much, as I 4-star their other works).   A show business wannabe, the lovely Miss Dee is currently working as a maid, with one of her clients being the handsome Mr. Darin.  Since he has always been out when she has been in the apartment, Sandra has no idea what her client looks like, thus, as she seeks to impress her latest beau, she claims the fancy apartment she cleans to be her own.  Only thing is, Mr. Darin is the man she is seeing, and though confused as to what she is up to and why she is calling his apartment her home, he, nevertheless, goes along with the charade.  Yes, this film is totally predictable---but it is also sweet, cute, and loads of fun. (Reviewed HERE)

2.  Guess Who's Coming to Dinner---This 1967 film, is a racial issues romantic drama starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine, Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier.  Bold for its time, this film tackles the subject of a white woman's marriage to a black man.  Spencer Tracy (in his final role) and Katharine Hepburn portray the woman's parents, and though they have long loathed racial discrimination, they are a bit unsettled by news of the nuptials...and not just because of the suddenness of the intended marriage.  Do they really believe in equality as much as they thought they did?  Garnering ten Academy Award nominations, and coming away with two wins (including a Best Actress statue for Miss Hepburn), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a very powerful and moving film. (Reviewed HERE)

3.  The Breaking Point---This 1950 adaption of Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not very nearly missed my radar.  Because I don't care for the Bogey/Bacall film, I almost sat this one out.  However, because of my love for John Garfield and my desire to see his entire filmography, I decided to take a chance on this.  Lucky for me that I did, because I love it!  With my very first viewing, it became my new favorite John Garfield film.  Said to be the most faithful adaption of Mr. Hemingway's novel, this film was thought by the author to be "the best screen adaption of any of his novels."  Further, Mr. Hemingway said, "that Harry Morgan as written had never become anything beyond an idea, but that John Garfield made Harry a person."  (From Body and Soul, the Story of John Garfield, by Larry Swindell, page 229)     (Reviewed HERE)

4.  Detective Story---From 1951, this William Wyler film stars Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker.  The film takes place within a several hour period of one day at a New York City police precinct, mostly focusing on one particular detective---Sgt. Jim McLeod, an angry, hard-nosed man who believes there are no gray areas, only black and white.  Completely intolerant of criminals, McLeod does not believe in softness or in turning the other cheek, and he often behaves violently toward law-breakers in order to force a confession from them.  His obsession with getting the goods on one particular man will have serious ramifications for Jim and his wife.  While Miss Parker received an Academy Award nomination for her role as Mrs. McLeod, this film really was Kirk's all the way. He was brilliant here---truly, I was "blown away" by his portrayal of Sgt. McLeod. (Reviewed HERE)

5.  Strangers When We Meet---Another of the Kirk Douglas films I fell in love with this year.  This 1960 romantic drama also stars Kim Novak, with supporting help from Ernie Kovacs, Barbara Rush, and Walter Matthau.  While married to others, Kirk and Kim embark on a passionate love affair with one another, and they end up falling deeply in love.  Besides stellar acting by both leads, this film has an incredibly beautiful musical score. (Reviewed HERE)

6.  Death of a Salesman---Another brilliant piece of acting from 1951...this time by Fredric March, who received his fifth Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his performance here.  Based on the Arthur Miller play of the same name, this powerful, moving, emotionally-charged drama also stars Midred Dunnock, Kevin McCarthy, and Cameron Mitchell.  The salesman in this film is 60+ year-old Willy Loman, who after 36 years with his company, has just been removed from salary and put on straight commission. Unable to accept that he is just an ordinary man, and disappointed because of how his life has turned out, Willy seeks to push his adult sons to pursue paths he---not they---deems successful.  Mr. March is positively sensational in this role; in fact, it may well be the best performance of his entire career (in a career of many best performances).  The film is very deep and profound, and I believe it will take several future viewings to glean all that I can from it.   Reviewed HERE)

What makes a film a 5-star film for me?  It's a combination of three things...incredible acting, a deeply moving story which touches my heart and/or brings me to tears, and a powerful or bold dramatic story which I just can't get out of my mind.  (For me, comedy, while entertaining, rarely touches my heart...that's why there are few comedies among my favorite movies.)  Usually, all three of those things have to be working together for me to call a particular film a 5-star film.

Anyhow, while I always enjoy watching my tried-and-true favorite movies over and over again, I also love discovering new 5-star movies.  With a few dozen classic films on my "hoping to track down" list, I am counting on a few of them being 5-star discoveries in the coming year.  What about y'all?  Did 2012 find you discovering any new "totally love it" 5-star films?  I'd love to hear about them if you did.  I'd also love to hear your reaction to any of my "film finds of the year."

Happy viewing!!