All About Eve (1950)

You Can Always Put That Award Where Your Heart Ought to Be

My roommate Richard must’ve immediately realized his mistake when he made me watch a movie from last year.  In a hurried rush, he ran and grabbed a 62-year-old movie so that he could keep up with his ancient movie watching reputation.  The movie he grabbed is a very famous and well-regarded movie that I had never really heard of, and one that stars an actress I still do not know the appeal of.  This actress is a well-known staple in cinema’s history, but not one I ever really found that appealing physically like a Marilyn Monroe, and since I’d never seen one of her movies I don’t know from any other appeal she may have.  But now I’ve seen one, so let’s see if I’ve figured it out as I review All About Eve, written and directed by Joseph L. Makiewicz, and starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, George Sanders, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Gregory Ratoff, Thelma Ritter, Barbara Bates, and Marilyn Monroe.

Told mostly in a flashback, we go to a time even older than the movie.  In this time, Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is the bee’s knees on Broadway, but she’s getting on in the years and knows what that will eventually mean for her career.  Margo’s friend Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), wife of the play’s author Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), meets a huge fan of Margo’s named Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), and pretty quickly realizes that it’s all about her.  Karen takes Eve to meet Margo, Margo’s boyfriend and director of the play Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill) and Margo’s maid Birdie (Thelma Ritter).  Margo is taken with Eve’s adoration of her and she quickly becomes Margo’s assistant.  Birdie is the first to think there’s something off with Eve, and soon Margo begins to feel as if Eve is more conniving than she lets on.  Everyone else just thinks Margo is being paranoid and they start getting annoyed with Margo’s attitude.  Eventually, Eve becomes Margo’s understudy and stands in for Margo at an audition that Margo was 2 hours late for, giving a performance that everyone finds far superior to Margo’s own.  The real question of this movie is whether Eve is as innocent as she seems, or is she was conniving as Margo believes.

I personally wouldn’t give this movie the perfect 100% that it received on Rotten Tomatoes, but it is a pretty good movie.  Without the same affection for older movies that my roommate has, I found the pacing of this movie to be flawed, but it does have a pretty great conclusion.  The biggest issue I had with the movie is that it was almost two and a half hours and I didn’t get that interested until probably the last half hour of the movie.  It’s a bit of a chore to get through, but I’d say it’s worth the wait.  Though it’s perhaps drawn out a little too much, it’s all set up to the conclusion.  I honestly couldn’t tell throughout the entire movie whether Eve was conniving or was just being innocently dragged along through these situations that made Margo suspicious because she was a crazy old coot.  I began to get my suspicions when she was being interviewed by Addison De Witt, and then the moment it was revealed ending up being a pretty big “Damn” moment.  It was also a thought provoking movie, but it kind of needs a ::SPOILER ALERT:: Do I really need a spoiler alert on a 62-year-old movie?  I guess…  Anyway, in the end it’s revealed that Eve is actually manipulating the entire situation in order to get to play Margo’s part and then get noticed and then get a new part that was promised to Margo.  The thought provoking thing happened after the movie, when my roommate and I were discussing it.  His take on the movie was that Eve was a dirty bitch, the same assumption I feel would be made back when the movie was made.  I had a different take.  Though I wouldn’t have supported the decisions Eve was making, I respect her ambition.  What she did was what seemed to be the only option she had to get ahead.  Margo wasn’t going anywhere on her own, so Eve had to do something.  Granted, what she did was the totally bitchy way to go about it, but it worked out for her.  ::END SPOILERS::

I think the performance in this movie that deserves the most credit is the role of cigarettes.  This movie made me believe that people in the 50’s were under the assumption that they could not breathe unless they did so through a cigarette.  Almost everyone in this movie had a cigarette blazing at all times.  They even wake up and immediately light a cigarette!  After that, Anne Baxter was also very good.  Part of the reason Eve was able to keep her intentions a secret is because of the way it was written, but a good deal of the credit belongs to Baxter.  She acted sweet and innocent throughout the bulk of the movie, but was able to make that turn when it was necessary.  After watching the movie, I can’t honestly say that I really understand the appeal of Bette Davis.  She’s nothing special to look at.  She is a pretty good actress, but I don’t really see anything that blows me away and makes me think she should remain a cultural icon.  Speaking of which, Marilyn Monroe is in this movie!  She’s only in the movie for a hot minute, but she is definitely what makes that minute so hot.  I’ve gone back and forth on my feelings towards Marilyn.  She’s always pretty, and she’s always a star and always draws your eye when she’s on camera, but her weight has fluctuated for a couple of her movies.  She’s about as good as I’ve ever seen her look in this movie.

You have to really invest something into this movie to make it worth your while, but if you can make it to the end it ends up being a pretty interesting movie.  Well written, interesting premise, and some pretty great performances.  It just doesn’t really make an impact until almost two hours in.  But it did make an impact on the lungs of everyone involved in this movie since they all smoked like chimneys.  And Marilyn Monroe is hot.  I guess I could say I recommend this movie, especially since you’ve already been warned about how long you have to wait for the good stuff.  I didn’t get that same warning.  All About Eve gets “If nothing else, there’s applause” out of “Slow curtain, the end.”

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My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Marilyn, Is It True You Wear Nothing in Bed but Perfume?

I had wanted to see today’s movie for a long time, but I don’t think I had first known about it until it was out of theaters.  But I kept seeing videos about the movie on the televisions at Best Buy and my interest was captured.  I didn’t have the greatest of reasons to have any interest in this movie, though.  It seemed like a drama, so that would generally be a turn off.  I also have little to no knowledge of the actress that this movie is based on.  What I did have was a supreme interest in seeing the actress they got to play her be really sexy in the role, and I also had some deeper interest in the movie beyond the superficial that I could never put my finger on, but I’m going to try to put my finger on it right now in my review of My Week with Marilyn, written by Adrian Hodges and Colin Clark, directed by Simon Curtis, and starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Dougray Scott, Julia Ormond, Zoe Wanamaker, Emma Watson, Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper, Derek Jacobi, Philip Jackson, Toby Jones, Geraldine Somerville, Michael Kitchen, and Peter Wight.

Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) has always been obsessed with film and, fresh out of university, resolves to get a job on a film.  He goes to the office of Hugh Perceval (Michael Kitchen) and waits until a job comes available.  Eventually, that job comes in the form of Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and his wife Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond), when Vivien talks Laurence into giving Colin a job as third assistant director on his upcoming production of The Prince and the Showgirl, starring Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams).  Colin begins to handle a few odd jobs around the set and starts to court a wardrobe assistant named Lucy (Emma Watson).  Marilyn’s acting coach, Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker), begins to make the set a hostile workplace because Olivier does not find merit in her particular brand of coaching.  He’s also not too fond of Marilyn’s tardiness and trouble with the lines.  Colin and Marilyn begin to develop a friendship that seems to help her on set by making her a little more cheerful, but her business partner, Milton H. Greene (Dominic Cooper), warns Colin that she will break his heart.

I think I had found myself building this movie up in my head a lot before I finally got to see it.  Something about the movie intrigued me so much that I was actually very excited for it, and counting the days until it arrived at a RedBox.  Now that I’ve watched it, I’m pretty sure I liked it, but I’m still working through why.  I felt like the story may have been a little confusing to me, but there’s also a chance that they went into this movie expecting everyone to be well aware of the life and times of Marilyn Monroe.  All I really know about her is that she sang Happy Birthday to a president once.  That being the case, there was back story that I had to rush to piece together as I watched the movie, and then more things to figure out during it.  I kind of felt as if I should have done some research going into this movie.  I understood basically what was going on, but there were a couple of things that I’m still a little confused about.  At one point, Marilyn wakes up and complains of pain, saying she doesn’t want to lose the baby.  This was about an hour and 10 minutes into the movie and I was previously unaware that she was pregnant.  Even now, I can’t say for sure.  They never came out and said in the movie if she actually did have a miscarriage or if she was just hopped up on pills and confused by a dream or something.  At the end of the movie, Marilyn apologizes to the crew of the movie right after it wraps, and I’m not really sure why about that either.  I thought she was trying to say that she was unable to get the film released or something, but I looked it up online and that movie came out.  And the Wikipedia page (the one true source of all knowledge) did nothing to shed light on the situation.  There were a couple of side stories that seemed to deserve a little more weight, and a couple that never really got tied up.  For instance, what happened with Lucy?  Did they try again after Marilyn left?  I don’t know.  I guess there’s a certain point where a movie has to end and the rest of the character’s lives are open for interpretation, but I sometimes don’t appreciate being confused by a movie.  Generally, it’s a sign of poor writing, but in this situation, I blame it on the subject matter.  The story’s written from one person’s point of view, so the rest of the story could only be his speculation.  Also, I may just be dumb.  All that being said, I tended to find myself fairly riveted by this movie and was paying close attention to it, so I can’t really blame my confusion on my lack of attention.  But I could say that I enjoyed it because the movie invoked some emotion from me, as well as being genuinely interesting to watch.  It was also a beautiful movie to look at.  They seemed to go to all the most beautiful places in the movie, and they were also using the same places, such as Pinewood Studios.  Also, the scene that mainly made me interested in seeing the movie in the first place (a pretty beautifully filmed bit of singing and dancing by Marilyn/Michelle Williams) was right in the opening of the film.

I think the performances in this movie are probably what deserves most of the credit for my fondness for it.  Michelle Williams was pretty amazing as Marilyn.  Not only did she seem to embody the public persona of Marilyn Monroe, but she knocked it out of the park when she was just trying to be herself as well.  She had some good emotional parts and some decent comedic moments as well and, more importantly, really gets you to connect with her and Marilyn Monroe and begin to understand what she was going through.  Kudos should also be given to what I assume is her body double, who got her butt out twice in the movie and it was spectacular.  Spellbinding, really.  I didn’t feel like the male lead, Eddie Redmayne, did very much for me.  He didn’t have a lot of heavy lifting to his performance, and I didn’t like the look of his face, but his performance was pretty real.  Kenneth Branagh was as good as he typically is in movies, getting a couple of opportunities to freak out.  Emma Watson was good (and I’m also in love with her), but her part in the movie wasn’t that meaty.  Another thing that caught my attention about the movie was that it had some pretty huge names in supporting roles and a relative unknown in the lead.  I didn’t know who Eddie Redmayne was before I saw this movie, but Dougray Scott, Julia Ormond, Judi Dench, and a couple other big name actors were in some of the smaller roles in the movie, and I thought that was interesting.  Apparently not that interesting though.  I have a headache, give me a break!

Though I admit a large degree of confusion from this movie, I still walked out being pretty fond of it.  The story lost me in a few parts, but was almost always something I couldn’t take my eyes off of.  It was probably mostly due to a couple of outstanding performances, namely Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh.  Also, Emma Watson is gorgeous.  Michelle Williams is too, but from this point on I would demand she wear her hair Marilyn Monroe style if she wanted to date me.  Make your choice, Williams.  I could understand some people not having that much interest in this movie, but it might surprise you.  I picked it up from RedBox and enjoyed it for slightly more than a dollar, and now I’ll probably be purchasing it.  I think you’ll get more than a dollar’s worth of enjoyment out of it.  And, with that, I give My Week with Marilyn “Come to the set on time tomorrow and show everyone what you can do.  Show Larry that you’re a great actress” out of “Oh, you have that word in England too?”

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Some Like It Hot (1959)

I Always Get the Fuzzy End of the Lollipop

My roommate seems to only be interested in watching movies from right around the time our parents were born recently.  That’s about 90% of what he watches these days.  In fact, the combination of me watching shitty action movies and him watching 60 year old comedies seems to make my Netflix recommendations very confused.  But I’m okay with it, because I do feel like I need to catch up on the old classics as much as I need to watch the new stuff.  Today, he got me to sit down and watch an old comedy classic called Some Like It Hot, written by I. A. L. Diamond and Billy Wilder, directed by Billy Wilder, and starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, George Raft, Joe E. Brown, Pat O’Brien, Joan Shawlee, Billy Gray, Nehemiah Persoff, and George E. Stone.

Two down-on-their-luck musicians named Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) witness a gang hit lead by “Spats” Columbo (George Raft), but narrowly manage to escape.  They concoct a plan to leave town in a group of other musicians.  The problem is: they need to be women.  They become Josephine and Daphne to infiltrate the group.  In the group, they meet Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) and both kind of fall for her.  But, then again, so do we.  They take up a gig playing at a Florida resort.  Joe decides to take on yet another persona to try to woo Sugar, that of a make-believe millionaire named Junior, heir to Shell Oil.  Jerry is not so lucky, getting propositioned by Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown).  Joe and Jerry need to work with their double and triple personalities, and I’m guessing their mob problems aren’t over either.

I feel like this is certainly a fine film, but one that has lost it’s luster over the years.  I found it to be a fairly charming film with an interesting story and good performances, but the problem was that it is a comedy that just wasn’t very funny.  There are parts of the movie that are very dark, and the rest is pretty light-hearted.  It starts off with a big car chase and shootout, then goes into Joe and Jerry trying to find a gig, then back into the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, then into cross-dressing.  The middle is all more light-hearted, but it dips back into some darkness near the end, though it leaves us on a cheerful note.  The movie was probably hilarious back when it came out, but I mainly just found it cute.  I didn’t laugh, but I wasn’t bored.  There were jokes that were so old in the movie that I felt I was missing something.  They’d say something that seemed to be in a joke structure, but I had no clue what the punchline was supposed to mean.  That’s the danger, to me, of watching a comedy that’s almost double my age: we just don’t find the same things funny.  But the movie still managed to be endearing, so it wasn’t like it was painful to watch it.  It did strike me as odd that this was supposed to be happening in the prohibition but everyone had boose all the time.  There was hardly a single person in the movie without a boose connection.  The girls were boosing on the train, there was boose on the rich guy’s yacht, boose everywhere.  The cops seemed to be pretty on the ball though.  Except, I guess, for the cop that gives himself away to Joe and Jerry by using his badge to punch a hole in his cigar.  This guy may not have been that bright.  Then again, they were the only people in a crowded club of law-breakers that saw him do it.  What struck me as being even more strange was how men seemingly treated women in the 50’s.  They seemed to always be a short step away from being rapists.  When “Daphne” tells Osgood that he/she’s not interested, he gets into the elevator with her and tries to get frisky.  When the mobsters started coming on to “Josephine” and “Daphne”, and they say it’s none of their business what room they’re staying in, they grab their key to find the room number and say they’ll keep in touch.  That means men of this time were both nearly rapists AND fully willing to ignore very masculine qualities in their women.

The performances would probably have been some of the best at the time, but even now they’re solid.  Marilyn Monroe, of course, was the character that interested me the most.  On top of being pretty gorgeous, she was also a pretty solid actress.  She said some things that were vaguely funny, but a pretty good amount of the things she said was about her not being very bright by her own admission, which is kind of a sign of what they thought about women around that time.  I also found it pretty funny that most of the times she walked in to a scene, she was accompanied by that muffled trumpet “wah WAH wah WAH wah” sound that accompanies voluptuous women walking.  She was very voluptuous too, leading me to think that she might border on being considered fat by today’s standards.  But her weight apparently shifted around, and I still would’ve given it up, so it wasn’t really a negative.  She still struck me more as cute than hot most of the time.  Tony Curtis would be the second most interesting character to me.  First, he actually kind of makes an attractive woman, and I’m not afraid to say it.  He handled his acting scenes very well also, so I really have no complaints about him in this movie.  I thought it was kind of funny that his big ploy to bag Marilyn was to basically act like women didn’t do it for him.  Back then, being gay was so far outside of the culture that no one probably thought of it, but I thought that was what he meant for a little while.  He basically just meant that he had been traumatized so that women didn’t have the desired effect.  Either way, it worked, and Marilyn was all about making out with him to fix it.  I’ll need to try that myself one day.  My roommate raved about Jack Lemmon going into this movie, but I found him to be really irritating when he was acting as Daphne.  It seemed like he was trying too hard and ended up just working on my nerves.  Also, he did a piss poor job impersonating a bass player.  Tony Curtis was fairly convincing as a saxophone player, but Lemmon’s fingers were basically just going wild on the bass aimlessly.  All of the other characters were fairly minor, but I did think it was interesting how they always introduced the character of “Spats” Columbo by showing his shoes (and his spats) first.

Some Like It Hot is a movie that warrants at least one watch.  It’s a pretty good story and a pretty cute movie, with a couple of good performances in it, but don’t go in expecting a comedy if your sense of humor resembles mine.  I just didn’t find it funny at all.  But it was pretty entertaining and worth at least one viewing, if for no reason other than it’s classic status.  Some Like It Hot gets “You must be quite a girl” out of “You tore off one of my chests!”

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