The Tourist (2010): A Return to Glamour

One of the closest things we'll get to a classic Hollywood film in today's era, and that is the main reason I adore this movie. It combats the gritty realism of modern movies without seeming stupidly impracticable. It's stylish and hilarious and classy and modern and exciting and...makes you feel as though you're watching a classic film!
Glamorous meeting on a train in France.
The most outstanding thing about this film is its seemingly effortless glamour. One of the special features is titled "Bringing Glamour Back" and I think that's quite an accurate statement. The visual palette is stunning and the costumes are timeless and sophisticated. Style is where this film shines.

Note the Dior-esque suit!
It hearkens back to the golden era of Hollywood with both its look and settings--several scenes in the film bring to mind classic Hitchcockian moments. Innocent man being swept up in a well of international intrigue? Check. Meeting with a mysterious femme fatale on a train? Check. Glamorous setting such as a national monument or the French Riviera? Check! The almost constant use of motorboats reminds me of that scene in To Catch a Thief, while the subway station bit was straight out of Charade. Perfect.

Gorgeous white gown...looks like something out of the 30s.
Angelina Jolie is at her most sophisticated and Johnny Depp, in one of his more normal roles, still never fails to charm (awkward Frank is adorable!). Paul Bettany is one of my absolute favorite actors, reliably buoyant and dry, and we get a surprise appearance from James Bond himself, Timothy Dalton (appropriately enough in Venice). Music by James Newton Howard, light and sophisticated this time round.The cast is stellar and it seems they pulled out all the stops for this movie...except one:

The classic thriller twist!

Now if you've been studying how to write thrillers, as I have, you might say that the twist wasn't bad, but perhaps...rather poorly executed? It came off much better with a second viewing, though. And I must say, the decided return to glamour was enough for me. It's also worthwhile to remember that the Tourist is meant to be a rather light, frothy, romantic, humorous thriller. Simply ravenous--uh,erm, I mean, ravishing. Modern movies would do well to take a lesson from the Tourist.


the Ox-Bow Incident (1943)


*Henry Fonda was incredibly handsome as a young man. I've never liked him. But his voice is oddly comforting.

*There's Henry-Harry-Morgan. Is he in, like every movie ever made? He can never decide how to credit himself so I just call him Henry-Harry-Morgan. That, or Nostril Morgan. Because let's face it, those suckers are BIG. Not that it looks unattractive, by any means...

*I love Dana with wavy hair. LOVE LOVE LOVE. It's so light and fluffy. Pity he couldn't use his natural hair all the time.

*Anyone who thinks Dana is a stonefaced mumbling actor has obviously never seen this film. Anyone who thinks he's incapable of range needs to watch this and then Laura (and then the Best Years of Our Lives, for good measure).

*His breakout role, and no wonder. What a performance! Why was he not at least nominated for Supporting Actor? Ugh. Dana's crying and now I'm crying.

*Love the beginning theme music, with the chorale and the preacher. Very soulful. I also liked that the preacher was African American, and although he talked with the "dialect" given to all African American roles at the time (or so it seems) the inclusion of him as the voice of conscience is very unusual.

*After watching the ending, this film is really starting to remind me of Mister Roberts, another Fonda flick. Only Jack Lemmon was the breakout role in that performance. He actually won the Oscar. 

* The whole subplot with the girl seemed pretty superfluous. Whatever.

*And were we never told how Kincaid was hurt? What was up with that? Am I missing something here?

*Headcanon: Henry Fonda's character ends up marrying Donald Martin's wife and Henry-Harry-Morgan stays on as cowhand.

*This film isn't very long, but it packs a punch. I think it's probably one of the few motion pictures ever that deserves a remake. The issues brought up in the film are still applicable today, I feel. And they need to be brought to a new audience; unfortunately this movie isn't very well known. I have no idea who would star in it though. Despite the fact that Henry Fonda got top billing, his character isn't really the main character--there are no main characters--and his character is a very slack protagonist too. He sort of blends in during the middle of the film and pops back out at the end.


Dana Andrews: Fedorable Man

 **WARNING: This post contains extreme fangirl feels and gushing over fedoras. Proceed at your own risk.

So...in my continuing quest for the good guy, the everyman, the boy next door (so far I've racked up Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, Eddie Bracken and Jack Lemmon--not to mention Captain America) I have now fallen for yet another--Dana Andrews. *cue cymbals*

I watched Laura (1944) and the Best Years of Our Lives (1946) both in the same week, and both for the first time. Before that I had no idea Dana existed; he is not exactly well-known. (Pity.) I mainly picked up Laura because Gene Tierney the Eternal Goddess of Perfection was in it and I had heard everyone raving about it and everyone likes a good murder now and then, don't they? (Who knew I was going to like the detective even better. ;)

I have now determined that Dana is like a less-famous, more...shall we say, virile...version of Jimmy Stewart. That devastatingly handsome grin! That deep-as-bass voice! THAT FEDORA! Which brings me to my newest vocabulary acquisition: fedorable. That's a word. It means looking adorable in a fedora. Look it up in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of Dana. THAT WORD WAS MEANT FOR HIM. He was born just to wear a fedora. If he did nothing except wear a fedora he would have accomplished his life's purpose.

(Let me stop right here and just apologize for this incoherent set of ramblings from my addled fangirl brain. :D)

For the most part Dana seems like a solid family man who tried to live with integrity--and succeeded, apart from his alcoholism, which he duly confessed and triumphed over later in life. He even seemed to enjoy his miniscule star status, getting upset with preferential treatment from the adoring public. What can I say, I love the ordinary guy. He seems relaxed and easy-going, not letting his inner self out too much but a deep thinker underneath (what I would give to read his diary entries--yes, he kept a diary!). How do I know all this? Read the articles here! Plus--get this--he was trained as an opera singer!! I WANT TO HEAR HIM SING. I also really really really want to see all the other movies he starred in with Gene Tierney. I love that duo. It's just perfect.

I also love the characters he plays--men who are seemingly tough yet with a shade of vulnerability that they struggle to keep hidden. He can be cheerful, he can be moody, but most of all he's relateable. And handsome. ;) In fact the first thought that struck me was that he looked like an older Jack Lemmon! And speaking of Jack Lemmon, Dana has what I call the "Jack Lemmon complex"--just the normal guy. But so extraordinary underneath! Aren't all ordinary people like that? It's amazing.

aaaaand you guessed it---fedorable.
 He needs to be more well-known. And we need more of his movies on DVD!! He's just so...manly. Where are all the manly men/actors today? (Don't answer that, we'll start a whole politically-charged discussion on here and I'll end up with a headache and a frustrated blogger complex.)


The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

I want to live in this movie.

I remember seeing it when I was about 10 or 11, on television, but I don't have many clear mental images of it. I knew there was a sea captain, and a lovely cottage by the seashore, and that it was a delightful movie and I liked it very much. But for some reason I never thought to rewatch it until last week!

What a terrible mistake that was. Because, you see, upon the second viewing I was utterly enraptured from the first haunting frames to the final credits. Lovely, romantic, melancholic without going overboard, bittersweet, charming--all the things I love best.

Gene Tierney is, of course, breathtakingly gorgeous and lovely as Lucy Muir. I wish I could be like her. I love her character--I think Lucy Muir is pretty much the epitome of turn-of-the-century loveliness--with spunk! She really represent the ideal of the time period.

Rex Harrison--well, I never cared for him as a person but as an actor, he's swell. And particularly on top of his game here; his voice suits the gruff sea captain to a T and he made me fall in love with the character. I love how he quotes "Ode to a Nightingale" and says he based his house on it...at least, I think that's what he says. I can't quite remember, I was too entranced and startled to hear the line "in faerie lands forlorn" because Nightingale is my all-time favorite poem and that's the last place I expected it to turn up. Quite the unexpected delight.

And what can be said of George Sanders, always brilliant as the charming cad, the oily "parlor snake"? Of course I don't like the characters he plays but I do happen to like him as an actor, very much...and I love his voice. Better than Rickman's. ;)

Shining brighter than any of the impressive leads, however, is the atmosphere of the film. It keeps you utterly under its spell. Something about the seaside is so romantic and captivating, I suppose...and now I'm starting to sound like Lucy Muir. ;) But it's true! I can't even put it into words, just...oh my goodness. I know, I sound like a romantic, sentimental sap. ;)

I think part of its charm is the fact that the screenwriter included so many of the quaint, prim Victorian attitudes and characterizations (for example: the fact that "blast" was considered a swear word makes it even funnier every time the captain "indulges". I do not think it would be as funny if they actually used a swear word) . This is not something you see really well done in any period film of today, which really takes away from the films in my humble opinion. The only possible exception I can think of off the top of my head is Sense & Sensibility (1995). They kept the patterns of speaking, the manners (courtesies upon entering & exiting the room, etc.) and a lot of other things that definitely seem outmoded and old-fashioned to us--but they fit the time period of the film.  I think most modern filmmakers fear that if they retain the "old fashioned-ness" the audience won't relate as well to the characters...my theory is, as long as the emotions of the character are still emotions felt by people today, audiences will be able to relate. And keeping the "modes" of the time period only serve to add to the escapism effect that cinema (then and now) aims for. Just my little rant. ;)

I love how Lucy and Daniel never really say or do anything that lovers say or do...that is, their love is quite unrequited in a sense, as it is never consummated by physical touch of any kind, no matter how slight. I suppose you could say it is a love affair of soul or intellect only...and that only adds to the romance, rather than taking away from it. They never so much as touch one another's hand, and yet you can tell inexplicably how much they have grown to love the other person and how hard it is for them to move on and realize that their love can never be. Bittersweet romance, the kind I like best. ;) (Case in point: Roman Holiday!)

And one thing rarely seen in (any) film: truest love. The kind of love that does what is best for the other person because you care for them that much...even if "what is best" does not include you at all. Poor Captain Gregg. He truly, truly loved her, because he put her needs above both of their wants and his deepest longings, because he knew they could never be. True self-sacrifice. What a wonderful theme to see in a film.

Stagecraft: the costumes were lovely, I found myself liking them even though I've never had a fondness for turn-of-the-century fashion. I fell in love with the "garden" dress, the short-sleeved white one trimmed in flowers that Lucy wears when she meets the "parlor snake" on the cliff above the sea (the scene where he shows her the painting). It's so lovely! It's a dream of a dress and I am planning on making one just like it as soon as I can find some sheer material.

Also extremely notable was the incredible soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann. It is truly breathtaking. It sounds like the sea, bold, romantic, sweeping, melancholic, bittersweet. All the themes of the film, really. ;) I was quite surprised to hear the first strains of the soundtrack over the 20th C. Fox logo instead of the usual logo music--and I think this adds very much to the film's incredible atmosphere and the sense of "sweeping you away" from the very first frames. Gorgeous.

I would love to see this resurrected as a stage play. I think it would be quite good. As long as they keep the "Victorian-ness" of it (maybe nix a few of the remarks made about women; I don't see those going over very well) and let me play Mrs. Muir! Haha. But it would be delightful! I'm seeing Benedict Cumberbatch in some role...maybe George Sanders' although he would make quite a dashing Captain Gregg. Oh don't mind me, I'm seeing Benedict Cumberbatch everywhere these days. ;)

So, all in all...an utterly entrancing film, now my 2nd favorite (after Roman Holiday); definitely one I will return to again and again. Bravo.


Heartbreakingly, Hauntingly Beautiful: Part 2

Just some more lovely soundtracks I've found of late!

Track: Brooks Was Here
Film: the Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Composer: Thomas Newman
Favorite Part: the whole thing! So lovely and...effervescent, in an odd sort of way. Love Thomas Newman.

Track: Circus Fantasy
Film: Water for Elephants (2011)
Composer: James Newton Howard
Favorite Part: 0:15-1:00 is so magical and lovely. Like Christmas almost. Mr. Howard sounds like he took a lot of inspiration from Thomas Newman for this soundtrack.

Track: Romantic Flight
Film: How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Composer: John Powell
Favorite Part: the whole thing!! This has to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. Especially 0:48-1:08. Just magical, overwhelming and lovely.

Track: Central Park
Film: King Kong (2005)
Composer: Thomas Newman
Favorite Part: 3:15-3:49 and 4:10-4:23. I love how wintry, smooth and ice-skate-y this whole track sounds...very soothing.

Track: I've Seen Hell
Film: North and South miniseries (2004)
Composer: Martin Phipps
Favorite Part: I can't pick. This is just an amazing track. Breathtaking.


Heartbreakingly, Breathtakingly, Hauntingly Beautiful

One thing I really enjoy about modern films are the soundtracks. I love to listen to instrumental music when I'm studying, daydreaming or falling asleep; but classical can get a bit intense! Soundtracks run the gamut and there is music to fit every mood, emotion, and style. My favorite pieces are magical-sounding, enchanting and have a twinge of bittersweet; they give me cold chills! Something to break the heart and lift the spirits, simultaneously. Thank God for the gift of music--it feeds the soul!

Film: Peter Pan (2003)
Track Name: Fairy Dance
Composer: James Newton Howard
Favorite Part: 2:33-2:39

Film: Black Beauty (1994)
Track Name: Memories
Danny Elfman
Favorite Part: 0:56-1:05

Film: the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Track Name: Journey to the How
Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams
Favorite Part:  0:00--1:48

Film: the Village (2004)
Track Name: the Gravel Road
Composer: James Newton Howard
Favorite Part: 0:00-2:10

Film:Tuck Everlasting (2002)
Track Name: Tuck Everlasting Theme
Composer: William Ross
Favorite Part: 0:00-0:34

Film: Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Track Name: Prologue
Composer: Alan Menken
Favorite Part: the whole thing! It's a pity I couldn't find a version without narration, but it's spectacular either way!

Film: the Polar Express (2004)
Track Name: Seeing is Believing
Composer: Alan Silvestri
Favorite Part: 0:00--1:38, especially 1:05-1:20

Film: the Blue Lagoon (1980)
Track Name: Love Theme
Composer: Basil Paledouris
Favorite Part: 1:39-1:55 and 2:19-2:29