MelissaW.

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About MelissaW.

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  1. Watching Song of Love this morning and struck by the scene where Clara races through a performance so that she can run backstage and breastfeed her baby (complete with a closeup of nursing baby curling its toes in satisfaction!) and wondering if anyone can think of any similar scenes in classic film, where it's obvious that the mother is breastfeeding. (I work on a maternity floor and mentioned the scene to the lactation nurses, and they wanted to know if there were other examples, but I was drawing a blank.)
  2. MelissaW.

    The Fall (2006) by Tarsem Singh

    He's a virtuoso with an unerring eye for composition. It's true that the visuals in this particular film can overwhelm the story at times and can also dazzle to the point where you miss the significance of the scene or the intended symbolism. But that's really a high class problem with a simple solution. You just have to watch it again. I would love to see it on the big screen. It never came to my backwater town.
  3. I feel like I'm cheating on classic films, romancing this newer film behind their backs, but this movie has rocketed to the top of my favorites list and that's saying something since my "top ten" hasn't changed in about twenty years. I'm posting about it here on TCM because it is about an early Hollywood stuntman and is a paean to film making and ought to be of interest to classic film devotees like y'all. (Astute viewers will recognize tips of the hat to A Clockwork Orange, The Bicycle Thief and others.) Set in a hospital on the outskirts of Los Angeles around 1915, Hollywood stuntman Roy Walker is recovering from a stunt gone horribly wrong. Bedridden and unable to walk, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a five-year-old immigrant girl, Alexandria, who has broken her arm while picking oranges. He begins to tell her an "epic tale of love and revenge," the story of the Masked Bandit and his four sidekicks, all out to murder the evil Governor Odious for the wrongs he has done them. As he tells the story, it grows large in the vivid, childish imagination of Alexandria and the scene shifts from the quiet, softly lit hospital to dazzlingly beautiful locations around the world as the story unfolds, cast with characters from Alexandra's own experiences. But Alexandria is no passive listener. She calls Roy on inconsistencies and exerts her influence to alter the course of the story, going so far as to switch the Masked Bandit from her father (who has been murdered in real life) to Roy, with whom she has fallen in love. But as the story progresses, it becomes clear that Roy has a dark agenda and Alexandria desperately inserts herself into the story when she realizes how very high the stakes truly are. Okay, you say, this sounds familiar. And it's true that other films have employed a real world frame story around fantasy sequences. But what makes this one different is that this real world story is not a frame. The two stories are inextricably linked and all of the elements and events in the fantasy inform on the real world and what is going on in Roy's fractured psyche. Best known for its dazzling visuals (which only use CGI effects to remove anachronisms like power lines), this film is often unfairly dismissed as empty eye candy. But it is so much more than that. At heart, it is an intimate love story and a testament to the redemptive power of storytelling and the great responsibility we take on when we invite someone into our lives, regardless of our agenda. Rich in symbolism and metaphor, it is a film that requires audience participation and rewards multiple viewings. Everything in it means something. It is a treasure box of myriad drawers filled with little gems to discover. It's not a perfect film. The reason for Roy's great despair is not established well enough to completely support the ultimate resolution. But I found on subsequent viewings that I was prepared to fill in the missing beats for myself because the rest of it is so beautifully, refreshingly different. And some of the supporting performances are awkward, but the performances of the two leads is a remarkable and often unscripted collaboration of great sweetness and tenderness. I can't recommend this undervalued, unusual gem highly enough!
  4. MelissaW.

    Tyrone Power - Centennial birthday on May 5

    I'm not going to disagree on your choice of great films but I also want to acknowledge really wonderful performances in films that weren't necessarily great or important, such as This Above All, which to modern eyes is all overwrought patriotism and WWII propaganda but it includes a rare performance from Power that isn't as mannered as his other dramas at the time. In particular, the scene in the train where he is visibly shaken by Joan Fontaine's transformation when she changes clothes. And then there were the light, throwaway comedies. I personally think Power had brilliant comedic timing that was unfortunately overshadowed by his looks. Even in early films like Cafe Metropole, Second Fiddle and Love is News, where he's still finding his footing, he's adorably funny. And later, he's wry and self-effacing in Luck of the Irish. People who knew him often talked about his sense of humor and his personal charm and I think it comes through in films like those, where it seems to be smothered in costume dramas and swashbucklers. What makes his performance in The Mark of Zorro so appealing isn't his heroic Zorro so much as his marvelously limp and ineffectual Don Diego. There's a certain melancholy "might have been" that goes along with being a Tyrone Power fan.
  5. MelissaW.

    Ball of Fire Slang

    Good question.
  6. MelissaW.

    Ball of Fire Slang

    I get the Story of Alexander Graham Bell reference and all but did anyone outside this movie really refer to the telephone as "the Ameche"? I want to believe that it's true.
  7. MelissaW.

    Movie you love that everyone else can't stand

    And Airport. And Airport '75. (But I draw the line there.) It makes a great double feature with that other slice of Michael Pare cheese, Eddie and the Cruisers.
  8. MelissaW.

    Book vs Movie

    I recently finished Washington Square (Henry James), the novel on which the play and subsequently the movie The Heiress was based. It started off wonderfully for me, with dazzling language. I particularly loved the deeper insights into the character of Aunt Pennimen: "She would have liked to have a lover and to correspond with him under an assumed name in letters left at a shop." And the nature of Catherine's relationship with her father: "Whenever he addressed her, he gave her pleasure; but she had to cut her pleasure out of the piece, as it were. There were portions left over, light remnants and snippets of irony which she never knew what to do with, which seemed too delicate for her own use." The movie follows the book for the most part up until the point of Morris asking Catherine to marry him and that's when the book failed for me. Not only did the language suddenly fall off and the story became repetitive (too many conversations between Catherine and her father about the same old thing,) but the dramatic line went flat where in the film, it climbs. In the book, there is no planned elopement and so there is no betrayal of Catherine by Morris and also no opportunity for her to set him up and betray him in her own turn. Instead, Morris simply goes off and Catherine broods dully for years. She never comes to a full understanding of how her father truly feels about her (there is none of that wonderful confrontation over the will in the movie) and also never understands that Morris was playing her (and it's beyond clear in the book that he most definitely was playing her and would have treated her shabbily had they married.) He does come to her again after a long period, possibly twenty years, and she does reject him but it is done in a kind of dull sadness and not with the intent to hurt him or get her own back. She is not allowed either of the marvelous lines she has in the movie, no "I was taught by masters" or "Bold the door, Maria."
  9. MelissaW.

    Movie you love that everyone else can't stand

    1984's "rock and roll fable" (that's more rock than roll) Streets of Fire. It's bombastic, sexist, over-the-top and occasionally silly. But it takes itself completely seriously and I love it for that and for a powerhouse soundtrack that features songs by Jim Steinman (Meatloaf), Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty and Ry Cooder. Okay, so Diane Lane lip-syncs to at least three different voices and Rick Moranis was badly miscast and Michael Pare sounds like his dialogue was dubbed by someone whose first language was not English and Willem Dafoe looks like Bob's Big Boy gone bad and in the end, violence is the answer, but there's something here of the classic Hollywood Western. It's High Noon in a rock-and-roll comic book format. My favorite guilty pleasure next to The Greatest Show on Earth.
  10. MelissaW.

    Gone With The Wind

    Well, it was a radish, not a turnip. Perhaps if you view again with that in mind and the deep thematic significance of the radish as opposed to the turnip, it might all make better sense.
  11. MelissaW.

    Babies, Only Babies

    Let's say for the sake of this discussion, under the age of two. (At my age, anyone under thirty is a baby, so you are wise to ask for clarification.)
  12. MelissaW.

    Babies, Only Babies

    This is rather frivolous, but I can't help it. This baby in Bachelor Mother is the cutest baby I've ever seen. He's so responsive and charming. The moment when he reaches out for Charles Coburn's hand is so perfectly timed. If there is a cuter baby in classic film, I'd like to know about it! Which one is your favorite baby?
  13. I am reading Rupert of Hentzau, a sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda and kind of wishing I hadn't started it because it mucks up the lovely ending of the first story. If you've seen the movie versions, at the end, the king is all about how he's going to try to be a better king and I BELIEVED HIM. But in this book, his health is wrecked by his ordeal and he has become spiteful and embittered at the memory of how much better Rudolph Rassendyll was as a king than he can ever hope to be. Queen Flavia is miserably unhappy and makes several foolish mistakes that get her in hot water and in need of rescue. And Fritz von Tarlenheim is the biggest idiot in Victorian literature.
  14. I *LOVE* when she does that with her hair. It is a master-stroke of characterization. It's especially great that we don't even really see the hair, but Regina does and she must deal with it. One thing the stark white makeup does is make her teeth look ghoulish (back in the day before everyone in Hollywood had bleached white Chiclets for teeth.) So that when she smiles--which is usually an unpleasant thing--her teeth are much darker than her face and add to that monstrous quality.
  15. I love some of the older British miniseries, like Poldark (based on the Winston Graham novels--Graham also wrote the novel on which Hitchcock's Marnie was based) and Brideshead Revisited. Have a soft spot for Flambards and Robin of Sherwood. Can't get on the Downton Abbey bandwagon because the characters are so horrible and tension is rarely sustained. Also, the writing goes from derivative (entire first season cribbed from Upstairs, Downstairs) to outright plagiarism. Did anyone else notice the bit in the first season that copied the flower show scene from Mrs. Miniver almost word for word?

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