Five Shots: Spring Tease

Are you tired of the dead hues of winter? Me, too. Here are five shots + two of spring with hope it cheers you up. Which one do you like best?

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1. Lilacs in a Shadow
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2. Sprouts on a Branch
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3. A Pair of Monarchs
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4. A Hairy Yellow Friend
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5. An Atypical View
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6. A Thirsty Hummingbird
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7. Pink Lilacs

L13FC: U.S. Civil War Films

cindylucky13banner-1Welcome guests, and my co-host Pete from England, who has a genre passion for the U.S. Civil War. “I claim to have seen almost all of them during my 64 years such as Buster Keaton’s The General(1926), Gone With The Wind (1939), The Red Badge of Courage (1951), and The Horse Soldiers, with John Wayne leading the Union to victory, in the 1959 epic.” Those are some popular ones, but Pete’s knowledge about this genre is impressive. Ask him anything.

Pete and I talked about how we should approach the subject. What makes a great war movie? Is it the accurate reenactments like Gettysburg (1993)? Is it the band of brothers who provide an insight into the situation like Glory (1989)?  Perhaps it’s the personal stories of those caught up in the crossfire? Maybe the most memorable Civil War stories include all of these elements.

 Pete says: 

Ang Lee might not be your first choice to direct a film about the American Civil War, but his wonderfully sensitive film Ride With the Devil (1999) emerged as one of my favourites of the genre. Instead of focusing on one major battle, or concentrating on the issues of racism, slavery, or state’s rights, it looked at a totally different part of the war, the bitter border conflict between Kansas and Missouri, neighbouring states on different sides of the conflict.

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Tobey Maguire grew up to give a surprisingly good performance, as the young Confederate who soon becomes disillusioned with the pointless killings, and just wants to get away to a quiet life. British actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers delivers a memorable turn as the villain of the piece, all smouldering gaze, and hate in his eyes. This group of Confederate raiders, known as Bushwhackers, fight against the neighbouring Union sympathisers in Kansas, nicknamed Jayhawkers. They hide out during harsh winters, and use the support of friendly local people to give them shelter, and bring them food. Yet they constantly argue amongst themselves, diverse characters wanting to lead the group down different paths. The action sequences are few and far between, but all the more convincing for that.

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When they decide to join the notorious Confederate officer William Quantrill, he leads them on his fateful raid into Kansas, to attack the Union town of Lawrence. Here Lee really gets to flex his directorial muscles, with panoramic shots of the epic battle in which 200 civilians and soldiers were massacred by the victorious Confederates, and intense scenes that follow in the aftermath.

This may not be the first Civil War film you think of, but it is undoubtedly one of the best.

 Cindy’s Thoughts:

I’m still jealous of author Charles Frazier whose debut novel about the Civil War was a literary sensation in 1997. Cold Mountain was successful because it had something in it for everyone. Civil War battle scenes; complexity in the plot with the allusions to Homer’s, The Odyssey;  and the universal themes of survival, loneliness, and love. The novel contained a kaleidoscope of quirky characters. Then came the movie version in 2003. What a sensory treat!

The assembled cast was a dream team: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Donald Sutherland, Eileen Atkins, Brendan Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Ray Winstone, Kathy Baker, and Ethan Suplee. While everyone did their part well, I was most impressed by Renee Zellweger who won a Best Supporting Oscar for her performance as Ruby. Add the period details of the 1860s, the rolling hills of an Appalachian setting, the distinctive bluegrass sound intrinsic to the culture, and the changing seasons to film–what could be better than to film the black and white of winter on the mountain ledge with black crows and black coats approaching around the bend?–it sure aided the director, Anthony Minghella, to create a cinematic masterpiece.

 Eccentric characters intersect the lives of two lovelorn protagonists Ada and Inman played by Nicole Kidman and Jude Law. Ada is a young Charleston socialite and companion to her dying father. Educated beyond the expected norm, her life is free to pursue reading, needlework, drawing, and the piano. When her father dies, she is left to fend for herself on the 300-acre farm. Enter Ruby, a forceful young wildcat the neighbor hires to aid Ada in the running of the farm. Ruby is the opposite of Ada. Uneducated, self-reliant, and assertive, she is a perfect foil to Ada. The two become a dynamic duo, a feminine force of efficiency.

Inman is a wounded deserter after surviving the Battle of Petersburg. He walks for hundreds of miles to return to Cold Mountain, NC, back to Ada. Along the way, he meets philosophers and oracles. A blind man imparts wisdom. An old hag surrounded by her herd of goats rescues Inman and nourishes him back to health. What makes the movie outstanding are the guest performances by powerful actors. Each vignette showcases an ethical dilemma. Take Natalie Portman’s character who appears as a single parent whose baby is dying. Alone in her cabin, she faces invasion and rape. She is completely convincing and her situation is heart-wrenching. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays one of his best roles as a decrepit preacher whose lustful passions get him into a lot of trouble. He’s the comic relief showing the absurdity of man. He’s hysterical.

What’s your favorite Civil War film? What’s an image or scene that has stayed with your over the years? 

L13FC: Al Pacino the Mentor

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A hearty thanks to everyone for a whole YEAR of Lucky 13 Film Club discussions! I am pleased to wrap up the year with one of my favorite movie bloggers, MARK at MARKEDMOVIES. Al Pacino is one his favorite actors and after thinking about an angle for approaching Pacino’s prolific career, we opted to narrow the focus to a theme–roles where he mentors younger, promising actors.

Mark says: 

When you think of the great Pacino performances, or the genre that he’s most renowned for, your memory will most likely be drawn back to the crime/cop films that he’s appeared in. That’s not to say that Pacino hasn’t tackled a diverse range of roles but it’s difficult to forget about the ones he’s most synonymous with: The Godfathers, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface or Heat; maybe even his grandstanding, comic-book, mob boss in Dick Tracy?! However, there are two that stand out from these aforementioned classics, yet somehow don’t quite get the same kudos and sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Carlito’s Way and Donnie Brasco are two Pacino great crime characters, but they’re also among a few of the last films that Pacino was involved in that were truly excellent pieces of cinema. Pacino’s, Carlito Brigante, is an aging Puerto Rican gangster who finds it’s a hard and fruitless task to shake off his shady past. As “Lefty” Ruggiero in Donnie Brasco, he is a tragic character, an aging gangster who has always been a criminal bottom-feeder, overlooked and past his prime. Both characters somewhat represent the career of Pacino himself: a criminal image he couldn’t shake off and another one so over the hill that he wasn’t taken seriously anymore.

With this in mind, Pacino was going through a period in his career in the 1990s when he would work with younger leading actors. He was well into his 50’s, but he  consistently seemed to pair-up with actors in their 30’s. Not just any younger actor, though. These were actors that were just hitting their stride: Sean Penn in Carlito’s Way (1993), John Cusack in City Hall (1996), Keanu Reeves  in The Devil’s Advocate (1997), Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco (1997), and Russell Crowe in The Insider (1999). It’s a trend he would continue later in 2003 with Colin Farrell in The Recruit, Matthew McConaughey in Two For Money (2005), and Channing Tatum in The Son of No One (2011) – although the last two films are better forgotten about.

As you can see there has been a pattern among the films of Pacino and his support for the newly established leading man. It was the work of Penn, Depp and Crowe that benefited most, though. Unlike the other actors mentioned, Pacino didn’t just support them, they played a major contribution to the films themselves and in many ways complemented Pacino as much as he complemented them. Al has openly admitted to enjoying working with younger performers because he’s humble enough to admit that he can also learn from them. There could be another reason for him lending his support on such a regular basis, though, but you’d have to consider his own experiences to see why… 

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It’s fair to say that it was playing Michael Corleone in The Godfather which catapulted Pacino’s career. However, the legendary Marlon Brando (as well as the producers) apparently weren’t keen on working with this relatively unknown, young actor and thought that Coppola was making a mistake. As we can now see, history has proven that Brando and Co. couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m just speculating here, but maybe this rejection from such an influential screen giant is what influenced Pacino to  work prominently with younger, up-and-coming talents? Pacino took a different approach than Brando, and it’s admirable to see that Pacino had as much faith in other younger actors and recognized the power of a veteran actor paired with young talent. There’s an underdog story to Pacino’s success as an actor, and who doesn’t love an underdog?

Cindy’s thoughts:

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I enjoyed the partnership between Al Pacino and Chris O’Donnell in Scent of a Woman(1992). With characteristic gusto, Pacino deserved his only Oscar for Best Actor by playing the cranky, retired Army Ranger Lt. Colonel, Frank Slade. (Nice use of a character’s name, eh? He’s quite frank in speech and formidable as a stone.) Charley Simms (Chris O’Donnell) is the flustered, poor kid trying to survive at an East Coast prep school. George Willis Jr. (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the fleshy, slimy nemesis.

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A leader in the military executes codes, sets expectations, and manages the brotherhood of soldiers. In this way, soldiering is like playing a crime boss; it’s easy for us to see Pacino in the role. Emasculated by his forced retirement, Frank over-compensates for his blindness, and who better than Al Pacino to act out that kind of pain with a booming voice and some hefty scene-chewing? Charley and Frank need each other much to their surprise, and their blossoming father/son relationship feels genuine. It is a delight to see the soft side of Frank, whose romantic sensibilities with women on the dance floor and attracts rather than repels. Frank “sees” the beauty within, and this sight allows him to see the integrity in Charley demonstrated during the riveting trial speech that saves Charley. Did Frank have this ability when he had sight? Perhaps, but I like the redemptive irony of the motif. It added a dimension to his character. It is a fine screenplay by Bo Goldman and one of my favorite Al Pacino performances.

As a veteran actor to emerging actor or character to character, Al Pacino’s role as mentor is interesting. Which film do you like best? 

L13FC: Musicals

It’s June 13. ROBIN and I are happy you joined us to comment about the Lucky 13 Film Club topic, MUSICALS. From the stage to the screen or made for the film, musicals have been a part of cinematic history since 1927’s The Jazz Singer. Once theaters were wired for sound, silent films added pre-recorded scores and songs, and it only took a few years before the infant heartbeat boomed with enthusiasm by the end of the 1930s.

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Cindy’s thoughts

What I’ve noticed about musicals are the intense reactions you get when you talk about them. I happen to like Chicago. Others can’t stand it. I happen to like Les Misérables and others claim it’s atrocious. Really? Hugh Jackman sang his heart out. What more could you want from an entertainer? Please don’t make me watch Meryl Streep in Into the Woods or Mama Mia. However, Robin, my co-host, likes it a lot. I’m one of the few out there who yawns during Disney animations. Yes, even The Lion King. Why is Frozen so beloved? I never liked Beauty in the Beast. When it comes to musicals, my favorite decade is the 1970s. I was a teenager and thought the rock musicals were cool. However, my favorite musicals come from the 1960s: West Side Story, Cabaret (1968/72), and The Sound of Music. Still, I prefer the voice of Barbara Streisand over Julie Andrews. Besides our subjective tastes, can we all agree Bob Fosse transformed the musical more than any other director/choreographer? Probably not.

Bob Fosse His trademark featured dancers posing on mundane props like chairs, steps, and ladders. Dancing duos and trios, quads or the entire chorus linked visually in silhouette or by movement with exact precision. His staging used the extremities like hands and fingers to stress a beat. His sexual vision blended humor and acrobatic mastery. Whispers and pillow talk built to fortissimo eruptions that sparked the imagination and claimed the senses. He made sex on the stage and the screen artful, funny, and interesting.

West Side Story: The choreography paired with the orchestral music of Leonard Bernstein is so powerful, I’m simultaneously energized and drained every time I experience the magic expressed by the two opposing gangs. The bold jewel tones worn by the Sharks contrast with the gang’s reserved, cool demeanor. The washed out colors of the Jets contrast with their boisterous, brash personality. Their dancing reflects that duality. There’s nothing better than the opening segment of the musical choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

What are your favorite musical scenes?

Robin’s impressions 

The film, A Chorus Line (1985)  was an entertaining adaptation of the Broadway production. The story is about how people who are singers and dancers end up in lesser parts as in a chorus line rather than the leading singer or main character. Sir Richard Attenborough took the screenplay and gave it a few boosts of energy while some say he took away the homosexual entendre and watered it down. The plot includes a director played by Michael Douglas in his handsome prime, who interviews a diverse cast of various ages and ethnic groups. The book was made into a screenplay by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante.The music was written by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban. While it was nominated for Academy Awards, Tony’s and Golden Globes but was “beat out” by great competition in 1985.

I love “One,” which I hum when I meet someone who enchants or interests me and I think, “One, singular sensation. . . ”  Cameron English singing, “Who Am I Anyway?” resonates. Charles McGowan sings, “I Can Do That,” with verve and gusto. A new song, “Surprise, Surprise” was nominated for Best Song. It replaced but had some lines taken from original Broadway version of, Hello 12, Hello 13, Hello Love.” Interestingly, Alyson Reed is 58 now, playing a variety of guest TV roles and characters such as a mother from Mad Men, Modern Family and in the older television series, (one of my favorites) Providence. Alyson sings as Cassie, “Let Me Dance for You” and another favorite, “What I Did for Love.”
From Richard Attenborough’s autobiography, he interviewed “a woman with the last name of Ciccione” and rejected her in February 1984, for the Broadway version of this. Are you freaking out yet? I did! She later became known by her own “singular sensation” name–Madonna.
I would give “A Chorus Line” film version 3 out of 4 stars.
My one-liner review would be: “This film had punch, pizzazz and poignancy all wrapped up with lovely music.”
The main advantages of the movie Rent(2005) are the fabulous ensemble cast members and Chris Columbus directing this film version of the Broadway musical. Columbus was able to get six leading actors who performed and sang in Broadway version. My favorite songs are “Seasons of Love” which talks about how many minutes and hours are in a person’s lifetime. It embraces the closing mantra, “No Day but Today.” There are several apartment dwellers behind on paying rent in this story plotline, and they struggle with sexuality, gender identity, drugs, and the AIDs disease in the specific time frame of the late 80s. One of five people who chose to put their money into this Tribeca Productions was Robert De Niro.
My true ending song was when the cast stand a few feet from each other and sing the beautiful ensemble song, “Seasons of Love.” Jesse L. Martin’s voice and Idina Menzel‘s (Frozen) are my favorites but each is invaluable to the song. I rate Rent all 4 stars.
The third movie, Mamma Mia, makes me smile as I think about how much better this becomes as a film than as a stage production. I mean, it is filmed on a Greek Island! Once you have seen the hayloft scene with Meryl Streep or her scene with Pierce Brosnan on the rocky cliff by the Aegean Sea, it would be hard for me to reign in my love for this frivolity and to put it back inside theater walls. The musical play was written in 1998 by Catherine Johnson and performed at the West End in New York City in 2001. The film was directed by Phyllida Lloyd and released in 2008. The music was composed by the Swedish band, ABBA. Meryl Streep’s Donna is relaxed and playful. Donna owns a villa on the Greek island Kalokairi. When Donna had a daughter, she didn’t think ahead to Sophia’s wedding day. As the wedding date approaches, the bride wants to know who will walk her down the aisle. Once Sophia gets the names, she invites all three of her mother’s lovers to come to the island. Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, and Colin Firth are the men who are potentially Sophie’s father.
What songs from any musical are seared into your heart and mind? Why are they important? 
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 LET’S TALK. 

I enjoyed exploring John Kenrick’s MUSICALS101.COM to gather dates and information about the history of musicals in film. It’s impossible to break down the decades and give a summary worthy of the genre. Therefore, here’s a hodge-podge overview, omitting many classics, many actors, many directors, and trends. The purpose of the following list is to trigger your memory and to offer an impetus for discussion.

1930s.  Busby Berkely makes the camera move with the dancers. 42nd Street revives interest in the musical. 1930 Production Code censors films in general. MGM owns Micky Rooney and Judy Garland. RKO claims Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Walt Disney‘s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The Wizard of Oz. 

1940s.  Shirley Temple, Danny Kaye. Bing Crosby & Bob Hope’s Road series. No one topped MGM’s star Judy Garland during the decade with sixteen musicals and fourteen feature films. Her marriage to top director Vincente Minnelli propelled her talents. Gene Kelly was at the top of his game and so was Frank Sinatra.

1950s.  Says John Kerrick: “The 1950s were both the brightest and the saddest years for the Hollywood musical. The genre reached its zenith, with two musicals winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. At the same time, television drew millions of customers away from movie theatres and sped the death of the studios that had made lavish screen musicals possible. How sharp was the change? In the mid-1940s, 90 million Americans went to the movies each week – by the late 1950s, that figure had dwindled to 16 million. This coincided with the U.S. Federal courts forcing the studios to sell off their nationwide theater chains. Shaken by these changes, a long-profitable system fell apart with amazing speed. By the decade’s end, the major Hollywood studios disbanded most of their full-time employees, from the rank and file tech crews to the stars, writers, and directors.”

20th Century Fox: Rogers and Hammerstein classics Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific. 

MGM Greats: An American in Paris, Singing in the Rain, The Band Wagon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Gigi. 

1960s.  Julie Andrews and Elvis Presley. The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night. Adapting Broadway musicals to the screen: The Music Man, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Funny Girl, Sweet Charity, What a Way to Go. Oliver!

1970s. Bob Fosse‘s Cabaret and All That Jazz. Rock rules: Jesus Christ Super Star, Quadrophenia, Tommy, The Rose, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Grease. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. 

1980s. The Blues Brothers. Footloose. A Chorus Line. Purple Rain. Yentel. The Muppets. Little Shop of Horrors. Victor-Victoria. Hairspray. The Little Mermaid. 

1990s.  Disney’s New Golden Age. Beauty and the Beast. Alladin. Pocahontas. The Lion King. 

2000s. Chicago collects the Oscar for Best Film, 34 years after Oliver! in 1968. Moulin Rouge. 8 Mile. Phantom of the Opera. Rent. The Producers. Sweeny Todd. Mama Mia. Dream Girls. Walk the Line. 

2010s.  Les Misérables. Frozen. Into the Woods. Jersey Boys. 

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What are your favorite musical scenes?

What songs from any musical are seared into your heart and mind?

Stephen Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Webber? 

The best musical pioneer?

Jeff Bridges: The Lucky 13 Film Club

0001-60259980Hello, friends! My appreciation goes to Aussie movie buff, Lloyd Marken, for co-hosting April’s Lucky 13 Film Club. Please, check out his site found HERE and start following. We began a dialogue discussing our mutual admiration for Jeff Bridges. Trying to whittle down ten, top performances is a subjective list, so we invite you to discuss which characters or films he has starred which left a lasting impression.

Lloyd’s picks: 

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Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

 

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot: Jeff Bridges is on fire here whether dressing up in drag, gradually revealing the extent of his inexperience and vulnerability or sporting a big smug smile on his face around the opposite sex. While the young actor is unafraid to reveal more about his character as the film goes on, I can’t help but go back to his first scene talking to Eastwood. Jeff plays it movie star cool like Clint with very short clever remarks as the two men feel each other out but the grin on his face says it all, he’s itching to make a friend. What do you think? Did Bridges steal the movie from right under Eastwood?

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Starman

Starman: My favourite scene in this film may be where Bridges’s alien conveys the feelings he has developed for Karen Allen. I’ve got to hand it to his first scene though which shows his alien getting used to moving in this newly formed human body, reacting to Karen Allen and his surroundings while mute and with no facial expressions. The lighting and Bridges’s performance is so spot on in this moment at making him seem expressionless that it almost looks like prosthetics were used. At one point after Allen comically passes out when he recites the UN Secretary General’s message, the alien goes over and mimics Allen’s deceased husband who is playing on a family Super 8 movie. Bridges as the alien playing off Bridges as the husband-it’s a bravo moment. Did you find Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges had believable chemistry as an alien and Earthling in love?

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The Fisher King

The Fisher King: Bridges is well known for his generosity to his fellow performers, each one of my five films whether he gets star billing or is in a supporting role feel like he cedes the films to the other actors, such as Hailee Steinfeld or Karen Allen. In The Fisher King he is undeniably the lead character and has the most arc but again he plays the straight man to Robin Williams who is allowed to go big under Terry Gilliam’s direction. Bridges alternatively is the audience surrogate coming out of depression bewildered by the world of his new-found friend but growing to care more and more in spite of himself. Unlike a lot of his films what I recognize in his performance here is a great deal of rage. Whether it is cast away lines shared with a homeless man receiving change “He didn’t even look at you.”; hostility towards Williams to leave him alone; or redirecting the anger at himself. A modern-day fairy-tale told with big emotions, The Fisher King sports Robin Williams at the height of his powers but it is held together by Bridges. Was Jeff Bridges’s performance understated to you or larger than life? Is The Fisher King still a classic because of the performance by Jeff Bridges or Robin Williams?

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Iron Man

Iron Man: Laugh all you want but his Oscar win for Crazy Heart and his nomination for True Grit come after he plays the villain in this comic book movie. Unlike RIPD, Bridges can be loud here in a good way–check him out railing against Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark in their climatic fight. It’s the little bits though that enrich the movie like the way he holds a tumbler of whiskey while threatening Gwyneth Paltrow or snatching some pizza in a wonderful riffing scene between actors or riding around on a Segway smoking a cigar. When menacing, he’s suitably dialed down and restrained and a million miles away from The Dude in The Big Lebowski. Don’t dismiss his performance here because it’s a Marvel comic book movie. He’s seldom played villains and never on such a large-scale production and it deservedly put him back on the world stage. Have I made a strong case for Iron Man’s inclusion or what wild card would you like to see him receive more praise for? Jagged Edge? Against All Odds? How about his villainous turn in The Vanishing?

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True Grit

True Grit: The Dude from The Big Lebowski will always be synonymous with Bridges, but for me, with his second collaboration with the Coens, he creates a performance just as iconic. Often framed as larger than life with a glorious accent and booming voice, pay attention and you’ll see he is powerfully silent in many scenes like watching Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie cross the river. His last words onscreen are “I’ve grown old.” There’s a fatalistic aspect to the character who has lived the type of life where he should’ve died long ago and he’s seen plenty, too.  With no family and nothing to do except get older, he’s happy to drink where he can and take the easy way out whether it’s shooting first or not burying corpses in the hard winter ground. Yet when the time comes, Cogburn rides forth against four men–old, fat and blind–partly because he is hurt by their words about his eye and partly because he’ll die like he always lived-without fear. This is a ‘real man’ but there’s a softness there, too, like when he tells Mattie to look away before he cuts her hand to suck out the snake poison. Did his performance in True Grit make you fall in love with Rooster Cogburn? Was it too broad for your tastes? 

Cindy’s thoughts: 

Jeff Bridges has a natural acting style that combines a winning smile with bemused expressions. As a child television star (Sea Hunt) he transitioned from television to films and has glowed with star power for over forty years. Since 1971, his early films show the exuberance of the athletic youth. In his middle years, he stretched his range to include all genres and a variety of characters with varying degrees of success. Now he is 66, and his talent and popularity has had a resurgence caused by recent roles as older, complicated men. He has enough accolades from the film industry to retire as a Hollywood legend. Fortunately, he is in no hurry to retire.

A major theme exists with all his characters and might define why he has been a success for decades–even when the film is a mediocre one, and there have been several, his characters portray the bewitched, bothered, or bewildered. They search for the truth. They are on a quest to solve a puzzle or find salvation. As a protagonist or anti-hero, we hope he succeeds when it seems impossible to do so. 

Crazy Heart
Crazy Heart

In his 2010 Oscar-winning performance, not only is it one of Jeff’s best, it’s a great film overall because of the performances by the ensemble cast, especially Maggie Gyllenhaal. Did Bridges think of Kris Kristofferson when he created Otis “Bad” Blake? He looks and sounds like the salty country-folk star. I remember living in Northern Virginia and sightings of Robert Duvall were common because he resides on a huge farm at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, and he frequents local diners. Here comes newbie writer/director Scott Cooper who befriends Duvall, and he agrees to produce the film. Reminiscent of Tender Mercies (1983), and Robert Duvall’s only Oscar win,  Scott Cooper’s script and direction have me wondering why we don’t see more of him.

Bad Blake: [Lying on bed strumming guitar lightly] You know that song? Hmmm?
Jean Craddock: I can’t remember who did it.
Bad Blake: That’s the way it is with good ones, you’re sure you’ve heard them before.
Jean Craddock: You wrote that?
Bad Blake: Yes, ma’am, just now.
Fat City
Fat City 1972

Speaking of Kris Kristofferson, who set the mood with the opening song, Stacey Keach gave a memorable performance as Tully, the destitute boxer in Fat City. John Huston directs and captures the Californian forgotten like a visual version of a John Steinbeck novella. The supporting efforts by Oma (Susan Tyrrell) and baby-faced Jeff Bridges are perfect.

The Last Picture Show, 1971
The Last Picture Show, 1971

One of the best films of the 1970s and the best from director Peter Bogdanovich and writer Larry McMurtry, this male coming-of-age story about a depressed Texan town and the inhabitants who are dying to leave it or might as well be, is really about the performances of the ladies: Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, and Eileen Brennan make it an exceptional film. Still, Jeff Bridges’s Duane, full of testosterone and whine, earned him his first Oscar nomination and set him up as a shirtless heartthrob for years to come.

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American Heart 1992

Jeff Bridges plays, Jack, and ex-con who waffles to establish a life and figure out how to be a dad to his son Nick, played by Edward Furlong. The two were a great team and their performances were authentic and heart-wrenching in American Heart. 

The Coen Brother's 1998 Cult Classic
The Coen Brother’s 1998 Cult Classic

Twisted, clever, and endearing and stuffed with a great cast and one-liners I still hear today, I can’t walk past the half-and-half in the grocery store without thinking about Kahlua. A bowling alley is the perfect place to meet Jesus. Yes, definitely, “The Dude, abides.”  Here are 21 facts you might not know about The Big Lebowski found HERE.

For me, Jeff Bridges playing down-and-out characters leave a lasting impression. There are so many films Lloyd and I haven’t talked about. Do you like him as the lover? As an anti-hero? Or the laid back loser? 

Hitchcock: Foreign Correspondent

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In 1939, Producer David O. Selznick signed Alfred Hitchcock to a seven-year contract bringing the British director to Hollywood. Selznick either produced or lent Hitchcock over to other studios, but during their time together, their four collaborations enhanced each other’s filmography. It started off with a bang with a Best Film win at the Oscars for Rebecca. Another Hitchcock film competed that year with six nominations but didn’t win, Foreign Correspondent.  

The 13th Academy Awards in 1940 had some amazing competition:

BEST FILM                                   

Rebecca (Won)
All This, and Heaven Too
Foreign Correspondent  
The Grapes of Wrath
The Great Dictator
Kitty Foyle
The Letter
The Long Voyage Home
Our Town
Philadelphia Story

 BEST DIRECTOR 

John Ford, Grapes of Wrath (Won);  Alfred Hitchcock, RebeccaSam Wood, Kitty Foyle; and William Wyler, The Letter

I have not seen Kitty Foyle (Ginger Rogers won Best Actress) or All This, and Heaven Too, and it would be difficult to pick a winner, but I sure enjoyed The Letter starring Bette Davis.

Foreign Correspondent is a thriller-love-international story involving Huntley Haverstock (Joel McCrea) who’s sent on his first assignment from the New York Globe to interview key political leaders and question them whether Europe will go to war. He falls for Carol (Laraine Day) and befriends another reporter Scott Ffolliott (George Sanders), and the three weave around plot twists and awesome set designs before crashing into the ocean at the story’s end. Nominated for an Oscar for their writing, Joan Harrison and Charles Bennett created a screenplay rich with comedic bantering at a fast tempo. Alfred Hitchcock provides the thrills and suspense whether his protagonist hides in a windmill, escapes via hotel ledge, or pursues an adversary through a sea of umbrellas. How did Hitchcock manage the plane crash? As a guest on the Dick Cavett show, Hitchcock revealed, “I had a test pilot go out off Santa Monica. And dive with a camera on the front of the plane toward the ocean. Pull out at the last moment.” In 1940, this was innovative.

It’s the marvelous cinematography by Rudolph Maté, the production designs and the special effects by Alexander Golitzen, Paul Eagler, and Thomas T. Mouilton that make Foreign Correspondence wonderful to watch. Hitchcock’s silent era foundation has a place here–messages, maps, hotel signs, road signs, and telegrams silently convey the narrative. His attention to details is one admirable reason why he’s great after all these years. 4/5.

Which Selznick-Hitchcock film is your favorite? I haven’t seen The Paradine Case.
Is it as good as Spellbound? 

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