Thursday, March 31, 2011

Movies - March 2011

March has been busy, but a week at the beach with a stack of DVDs helped me get caught up on a few things I had been meaning to watch. The article I wrote about Rango ended up drawing a lot of traffic over on Examiner, and it's now closing in on 2000 hits. I hope it will overtake the Leslie Nielsen obit soon because I feel terrible making money (even just a little) off of someone's death. It seems ghoulish that people only want to read about classic movie stars when they die. Anyway, here's the March movie viewing log.

River of No Return (1954) - Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe make a pretty good Western
The Wizard of Oz (1939) - showed this one to my LearningQUEST group for part of our series of musicals
The Phantom of the Opera (1925) - seen it before, but enjoyed watching it again.
Rango (2011) - the whole family really loved this smart take on the spaghetti Western. Can't wait for the DVD to come out so we can analyze it more minutely.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) - The kid picked this one, and I didn't care for it. The book is much better.
The Scar (1948) - Almost unwatchably dull. Poor Paul Henreid! Also known as Hollow Triumph.
Vertigo (1958) - Having been to San Francisco a few times since I last saw this film, I appreciated it a lot more! It's like a twisted love letter to that gorgeous city.
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) - Kid picked this one, but we all loved it. I'm a sucker for the campy charms of 50s sci-fi horror.
Young Frankenstein (1974) - Another kid pick. She has been quoting it ever since. Like Frederick Frankenstein, I might have created a monster.
On Dangerous Ground (1952) - Gorgeous melodramatic noir, with even more gorgeous Ida Lupino.
They Drive by Night (1940) - Bogart and George Raft drive trucks, with more Ida Lupino (I have a thing for her right now).
Gunga Din (1939) - Boy, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom makes WAY more sense to me now! Cary Grant is cheeky fun, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. is unbearably handsome.
The Philadelphia Story (1940) - One of my favorites; showed it to the kid for the first time, and she loved it, too. Hepburn, Grant, and Stewart are a tough combo to beat!
Woman of the Year (1942) - Hepburn and Tracy in their first pairing. I liked it while I watched and then was bothered more and more by the implications after it ended.
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) - A kid pick; she does love Shirley Temple. This time Gary Cooper and Gloria Stuart join the team.
La Strada (1954) - I mean to watch more foreign cinema. Good thing there's a lot of it on Netflix Instant right now. Really found this Fellini picture engaging, but was amused that film historian David Thomson has such disdain for it.
The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941) - Apparently Davis didn't like this team-up with Cagney, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Funny, she LOOKS like she's having a good time, except for when she falls on the cacti.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

More LEGO lighting for noir and horror

Our LEGO club met today, and I gave a short talk about LEGO photography, a hobby which conveniently rolls several of my passions into a single activity. A friend of mine who has a nicer camera than I do came over afterwards, and we played around with lighting and different exposure lengths and lenses to take these shots.

My obsession with The Third Man (1949) continues unabated, so we tried some different shots inspired by stills from that film. The first one shows Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli menaced by the shadow of Orson Welles as the mysterious Harry Lime. I like the way the original shot highlights Harry's role as a "third man" in the romance between the two protagonists. The second shot recalls the first time that we see Harry Lime in the picture, suddenly illuminated in a shadowy doorway and smiling enigmatically at Cotten's confused hero. My friend, Le, used a very long exposure to get this one lit up, and I enhanced its shadows and highlights in Picasa afterwards.

Once we realized that we could shoot great closeup images using the long exposures, we decided to try it with a few other minifigures. I had seen someone else do some gorgeously spooky shots of the mummy fig, and I do think ours turned out well, too. Just for fun, we took one of a Ghostbuster being stalked by a ghost. I got the Ghostbuster decals and equipment from Brick Forge, and they really look great. One day we'll have to do a whole series of photos from that film (if I can get enough decals for the whole team!).

Friday, March 4, 2011

February 2011 film log

February was busy! I am still behind trying to write about several of the movies, and I didn't get to watch as many as I would have liked. Here's the count, with links for the ones I managed to review over at the Examiner column.

Footlight Parade (1933) - Cagney sings and dances with Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler

Top Hat (1935) - Fred and Ginger up to their usual tricks

Swing Time (1936) - More Fred and Ginger; I actually like this one better than Top Hat, partly because their characters are called "Lucky" and "Penny"

The Lodger (1944) - Part of my ongoing obsession with Laird Cregar, this time playing Jack the Ripper
Hangover Square (1945) - More Cregar, and the best ever use of Guy Fawkes Day in a movie

Monkey Business (1952) - Cute comedy with Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, plus a smart chimp and a ditzy Marilyn Monroe

Shock (1946) - Psychological thriller with Vincent Price, sadly not as good as it should have been

The Card (1952) - Delightful minor film with Alec Guinness and Glynis Johns, typical small budget English picture with smart dialogue and wry humor

I Wake Up Screaming (1941) - Betty Grable and Victor Mature do noir to the tune of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" - not a great film, but it does have Laird Cregar!

Libeled Lady (1936) - William Powell and Myrna Loy steal the movie from Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow, but they all seem happy at the end - a fun one for Powell & Loy fans

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) - A Laura reunion for Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney; he's a rotten cop with a thing for punching suspects, and she's a nice girl with lousy taste in men

The Illusionist (2010) - Sylvain Chomet animated picture from France; a beautiful elegy for Jacques Tati, Vaudeville age performers, and traditional animation

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) - James Whale directs Karloff and Clive again, this time with Elsa Lanchester's eye-popping bride added to the mix