Ten Best Movie Posters

Original movie posters are a hot commodity and some are very valuable. Imagine Rocky, E.T., or Jaws framed on your wall.  They are time stamps speaking volumes about our culture, and old school illustrators and graphic artists have my utmost respect. My choices are not a list of my favorite movies but rather a list of admiration for the design and the emotional reaction I have when I see the poster. In no particular order, here are ten favorites:

rockyhorrorpictureshow

The red lips belong to Magenta played by Patricia Quinn.

Perhaps the most quotable film ever? Certainly the most interactive with its audience.

Lips: Michael Rennie was ill The Day the Earth Stood Still / But he told us where we stand / And Flash Gordon was there in silver underwear / Claude Rains was The Invisible Man…

A Saul Bass famous  design.

1958. A Saul Bass famous design.

1927. Designer Heinz Schulz-Neudamm's masterpiece is a worth a million.

1927. Designer Heinz Schulz-Neudamm’s masterpiece is a worth a million.

I liked this article of “The 10 most expensive movie posters in pictures” printed in THE GUARDIAN

Can’t get enough of James Bond movie posters? You can read more about Dr. No HERE

The original poster is the upturned helmet designed by Bill Gold. Oliver Stone apparently maximized the Willem Defoe martyrdom shot into a new poster. It was a brush stroke of genius.

Hildebrandt Brothers

Hildebrandt Brothers

I have a fondness for Hildebrandt Brothers’ illustrations. Maybe you missed my post devoted to their artwork? It’s right here:  Hildebrandt Brothers.

2006, English movie poster

2006, English movie poster

I loved this Spanish, Alice in Wonderland adaptation and how it functioned as a social allegory. How creepy is that entrance? 

Poster-taxi-driver

According to IMDb, Jeff Bridges was considered for the role of Travis Bickle. Could he have acted the part as well as Robert DeNiro?  

Bill Gold's  1956 US theatrical release poster

Bill Gold’s 1956 US theatrical release poster

il_570xN.433119016_rxiy

Thanks to my friend ALEX RAPHAEL who got me thinking yesterday about movie posters. If you could own one, original movie poster, which would it be? 

The First Line in Fiction

book250

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”

Thanks to my friend Allen at Wayne’s Journal who shared with me a list compiled by Jason Parnham “50 Best First Sentences in Fiction” found on-line at Gawker Review of Books. It included Stephen King’s thoughts about voice and how important that first line is for luring the reader to read more. King claims it’s the style or voice that captures the interest of the reader, not so much the genre or the character. Whether to mystify, show a time or place, with few words or with many, every reader is attracted to a style of writing that is clear in that first sentence.

Here are a few of my personal favorites. Can you name the author?

1. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

2. “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”

3. “All this happened, more or less.”

4. “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

5. “When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared around the, extending upon his countenance like the rays on a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.”

6. “The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.”

7. “When Caroline Meeber boarded the afternoon train for Chicago, her total outfit consisted of a small trunk, a cheap imitation alligator-skin satchel, a small lunch in a paper box, and a yellow leather snap purse, containing her ticket, a scrap of paper with her sister’s address in Van Buren Street, and four dollars in money.”

8.  “The terror that would not end for another 28 years, if it ever did, began so far as I can know or tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”

9. “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

10. “In a hole in the ground their lived a hobbit.”

Most of you know I enjoy writing. Here are some of my openers: 

A. “He reached for the hand that was not there with an ache to grab his thumb, trace the outline of his fingers, or scrape off a lengthy fingernail.”

B.”The aged horse smacked a cloud of flies away from its haunches, and the tip of its tail stung Kay’s arm, waking her from her daydream.”

C. “Peeking out from behind the velvet curtain, she counted twenty-five, faceless heads in the dimmed house.”

D. “Embossed with the letters G. H., he lifted the leather glove off the hotel dresser and rubbed the soft hide with his hand and listened to the blood that gurgled from her neck.”

* * * * * * * *

1. Charles Dickens: A Tale Of Two Cities (1859)

2. Franz Kafka: Metamorphosis (1915)

3. Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five (1969)

4. John Irving: A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989)

5. Thomas Hardy: Far From the Madding Crowd (1874)

6. Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

7. Theodore Dreiser: Sister Carrie (1900) 

8. Stephen King: It (1986)

9. Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre (1847) 

10. J. R. R. Tolkien: The Hobbit (1937) 

Many of you out there love to write. What are your personal favorites? What have you written?

Philip Glass and The Hours (2002)

He’s prolific and complicated, an influential American composer, a genius whose distinctive style of creating melodic patterns of diatonic harmonies transfers from the operatic to symphonic, from concertos to film scores. Critics over the decades have disliked his repetitive sequences of notes or his assaulting experimentation. He cares not, for his art is an expression that cannot be harnessed or altered to suit the fancies of others. Here is an informative article about Glass by Tom Service from The Guardian, “A Music Guide to Philip Glass” . 

Personally, I like his piano etudes, his Violin Concerto no. 1, his String Quartet no. 3 “Mishima” and most of all, his film scores. Another interesting way of exploring Philip Glass is by watching the 2007 documentary by Scott Hicks, Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts.

The Hours

Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer winner is an excellent book, but this is a rare instance where the film version is equal, if not surpasses, the reading experience. This is due to the acting, the editing, and the score. The film blends the lives of three women separated by time but united with problems of depression, alienation, suffocation, and the hardest part of life–getting through the hours when each one feels like a drop of water on the forehead. With a superb cast and subtle, sensitive performances by everyone:  Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Stephen Dillane, Allison Janney, John C. Reilly, and Miranda Richardson, the score functions as a sad waltz corresponding to the plight of three women who seek freedom from their pain. Suicide is a major theme. Death a constant companion. While these are heavy topics, the script adapted by David Hare, connects the three women in a single day, echoing insights given in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. One way this is accomplished is through the editing. Each woman performs the same daily task. The lost look in the morning, the reflection at the mirror as if to say, “Must we be together, again?” Or, the arrangement of flowers throughout the home does not comfort or bring cheer.

Nicole Kidman never looked or acted better in this Oscar-winning performance as Virginia Woolf. Julianne Moore played the 50s suburbanite wife who can’t bake a cake and whose needy son somehow senses her life is a fraud. Meryl Streep’s Clarissa needs to take care of her dying friend to feel alive while the dying friend experiences the mother he never had. The warped co-dependent relationship is executed with Ed Harris with painful results. This is a beautiful, symmetrical, and satisfying film.

Other Philip Glass scores I love:

The Truman Show (1998)

Martin Scorsese’s Kundun (1997) “Potala”

Notes on a Scandal (2006) 

The Illusionist (2006)

The Fog of War 

What about you? What are your favorite Philip Glass contributions? 

Janis Joplin

MusicCrumb

Forty-five years ago, I was seven and my hippy uncle came for a visit and brought his albums with him. I was drawn to the artwork of Cheap Thrills. It was the first album by Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company. It remains one of my favorite albums of all time. She appeared on the rock scene singing blues with a raw power. She claimed she never wrote a song down on paper. Her gift was improvisation on stage as she effortlessly hit the right note and kept up with the rhythm of her band. Her extensive range and ability to roar with soulful belting or whispering moan impressed anyone who heard her.

a-janis-joplin

Her songs are about lost-love, desperation, and loneliness from men who made promises they could not keep. Although these are melancholy topics, Janis did not hold a grudge. She expressed hope and optimism on the stage. She made love to her audience with great passion and tenderness. That kind of intimacy and transcendence made her, in my opinion, a very brave woman. Her personal credence was to be real; success did not change her. She played no games with the media or tried to portray a refined version of herself. As a rock star, she rarely wore makeup or succumbed to materialism. Janis understood your pain, and her geniality added to her potent energy. She was genuine and that made her a sister of mine. What a role model. What a powerful legacy.

If you are curious about her brief career and want to see live footage including her stand-out performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival (I love Mama Cass’s wowed expression during “Ball and Chain”), I recommend the 1974 Canadian documentary by Howard Alk called Janis: The Way She Was.

Janis_Joplin_Big_Brother_and_the_Holding_Company

Behind the voice on the edge of the spotlight, Big Brother and the Holding Company kept up with her in style. I love guitarists Sam Andrews and Peter Albin, and drummer David Getz.

While “Piece of My Heart”  and Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” are probably her best known songs, I never tire listening to the guitar or the voice of Joplin in “Summertime” from Cole Porter’s Porgy and Bess. It’s a perfect example showing the wide range of sounds you get from listening to her songs.

On October 4, 1970, at the age of 27, Janis Joplin overdosed on heroin. She would have been 72 this October. For me, she never died.

What a Way to Go (1964)

Shirley MacLaine is a one-woman show in this goofy, dark comedy about a lady whose four husbands can’t help but make loads of money and then abruptly die. Edith Head had full reign and a limitless budget, it seems, creating exotic, costume ensembles–some of the best of her career. Though she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume, I’m surprised one of her eight golden statues wasn’t for this film. Rarely will you find a film where the costumes speak for the character and take on a life of their own. The more outrageous the lifestyle, the more outrageous the outfits and wigs. Whether she went to the bank, lounged at the pool, or wore her furs, Shirley looked fabulous. Love gushing colors and opulent production sets? Love wacky comedy and a cast of Hollywood A-listers that rival the costumes? Then you’d like J. Lee Thompson’s, What a Way to Go. 

fefa8f78efaccebc97a46614402b277d

Zany films take time to get into them. If you approach it as a Greek Comedy, it is easier to swallow the farce that borders on the absurd. What a Way to Go features stereotypes, the woes of relationships, and should not to be taken seriously. There’s a prologue, five acts, a deus ex machina at the climax for a happy ending. It is in line with the 1960s trend for big budget, sexy, wacky plots that wear thin.

Shirley MacLaine plays Louisa May. She is her own narrator who confesses about her curse to a shrink played by character actor, Robert Cummings.  She has $218,000,000 dollars she is trying to give back to the IRS because she thinks she bewitched and caused the death of four husbands. Always wanting the simple life, she thinks she has found her perfect mate. Unfortunately, they are corrupted by greed and attacked to death by the instruments of their obsession.

There’s a pattern to Louisa’s storytelling. After she gets her husband, there’s a sub-play giving homage to a genre of the film industry. The mega-star matches perfectly with the character he represents. This repetition is clever even if it chops up the story line into bite-sized morsels, and it begins to feel more like a variety show. I think it’s subjective whether you like the format or not. It’s different, and few films can boast of the star power of the cast.  What fun Shirley MacLaine must have had with these gents!

phot9846

Dick Van Dyke has always been a slap-stick, vaudevillian actor, so he plays the goofy first husband to perfection. Louisa asserts their marriage felt like being in a silent film, and this cues the black and white tribute. Ironically, Love Conquers All is their motto, and it proves fatally wrong.

MacPAULway-to-go!-screenshot

Paul Newman, as husband # 2, represented the spirited American bohemian in France espousing the definition of the artist with avant-garde approaches to creating real art. Larry Flint and Louisa pay tribute to French cinema. With their vignette, I smiled throughout as camera angles mimicked all that is stereotypical of sexy French cinema. The parody continued with the corruption of Larry Flint when he rubs elbows with the elite of the art world. Andy Warhol said, “Art is anything you can get away with” and it’s relayed here in the ludicrous costumes Louisa wears. They are works of art created by her husband. His demise is fitting, and by this point, I’m buying into the film and enjoying it.

Robert Mitchum played Rod Anderson, Jr., the maple syrup tycoon, who had already earned his fortune, so Louisa thought she couldn’t ruin his life. This segment of the film pokes fun at Old Hollywood’s grand pictures that featured the super-wealthy and their exotic lifestyles. The parody was fantastic, from the couple sleeping in a champagne glass to the arrival of Louisa in another over-the-top ensemble. I loved it. However, nothing compared to the next marriage with her fourth husband, Pinky Benson.

WAWTG8

Who knew Shirley MacClaine could dance? She stepped in line with Gene Kelly and looked as graceful as any previous partner. Since the film was a farce in the first place, you can’t really call Shirley MacClaine’s melodramatic performance (whenever she cried) as well acted, but when you consider all she had to do as the central character, I thought she was magnificent. Her dancing really blew me away.  No wonder she was offered a few year’s later with her dancing musical, Sweet Charity (1969).  Gene Kelly–sigh–this was the one act where I thought the male actor acted instead of acting ridiculous. I cared for him as the salt-shuffling clown whose demise was predictable.

7-What-a-Way-to-Go

Dean Martin plays his iconic self. He’s a playboy with a drunken smirk on his face. Louisa hates Lennie Crawley. It’s a powerful emotion. That’s all I’ll give away in case you haven’t seen this crazy, beautiful film.

Five Shots: 4 of 4, Bear Canyon Lake

DSC00974[1]

Here’s the last set of pictures I wanted to share from a mountain escapade featuring lovely Bear Canyon Lake. Jim fished, I hiked, and Bear swam. I love mountain lakes, don’t you?

1.

DSC00975[1]

The trout were jumping.

2.

DSC00985[1]

Bear: Throw me the stick, already!

3

DSC00986[1]

4.

DSC01002[1]

The cloud action was superb.

5.

DSC01057[1]

painting fallen trunks

6.

DSC01060[1]

reflections and bands of color

Which one do you like best?