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biopics


wordmaster
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Would anyone like to talk about their favourite biopics?

 

As I was planning my future viewing [with my little notepad and the schedule onscreen - a bit nerdy, but what can I tell you?], I noticed that two films that I have been eager to see are coming up in July, namely: "The Stratton Story" and "Fear Strikes Out" [the latter is especially interesting to me].

 

Memories of biopics I had seen started to reappear: "The Gene Krupa Story" and other less obscure ones...

 

Away we go - remember that it is always OK to think outside the box...

 

I am contemplating starting a thread re: who might be a good candidate for a more modern biopic [a genre that has seemed to have had its day?] and who would we cast in it...

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My two favorites are "Pride of the Yankees" with Gary Cooper and "The Glenn Miller Story" with Jimmy Stewart. I love both the actors and both stories have the type of ending that you don't really get in standard fiction. Everything doesn't end up with "they lived happily ever after." I know that neither is totally acurate historically, but they allow one the chance to escape the way any good film does.

 

CharlieT

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Those are two of my favourites also.

 

I like watching this type of film to try to get a flavour of the time rather than for the historical details of the subject's life...that is where the escapism of movies comes in for me.

 

Maybe that is why the biopic is not in vogue nowadays - how far back in time would a filmmaker of the 21st century have to look, to come up with a suitable subject for such a film? The fifties or sixties? The seventies seems too recent, in my eyes...

 

Are there really any subjects in recent history captivating enough to warrant a movie treatment?

 

[exit stage left, to speculate...]

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Some of the "out-of-the-box" biopics that have stayed with me are:

 

Roughly Speaking(1945) w/ Rosalind Russell as Louise Randall Pierson, a woman who grew up in early 20th century New England dreaming of making a difference in the world. Well, after a business education, a marriage, five children, a divorce and a second marriage to a profligate but lovable dreamer, (played to perfection by Jack Carson), she finds that life had other plans for her. Highly entertaining stuff from Michael Curtiz with a kernel of truth about survival.

 

Juarez(1939) w/ Paul Muni at his stiffest as the liberator of Mexico. What's interesting about this flawed movie are the performances of Brian Aherne, Bette Davis and Claude Rains as Emperor Maximilian von Hapsburg, Carlotta Von Hapsburg and Louis Napoleon, respectively. They're all, in their own ways, ultimately history's losers and Aherne, in what may be his best moment on film, seems to fully realize this, while Davis goes mad, and Rains simply becomes more self-absorbed in his futile effort to keep the appearance of France's La Gloire intact.

 

The Outsider(1961) w/ Tony Curtis as Ira Hayes, one of the Marines and a member of the Pima nation who helped to raise the flag on Iwo Jima. Hayes had numerous problems and was almost destroyed by the attention that his war record garnered him. It's probably one of Curtis' best performances, though I suppose most people would be prefer his biographical work portraying the Boston Strangler. For once, I forgot that I was watching Tony Curtis, movie star.

 

In the same year, Curtis played Fred Demara in The Great Imposter(1961), a real life imposter who faked his way through being a doctor, a monk and a military man, and a prison warden. It may be more entertaining than revelatory about character.

These two parts are probably the only times that I've been able to stomach Curtis, who surprised me with the quality of his work.

 

The Straight Story(1999) w/ Richard Farnsworth. This may not be everyone's cup of tea since very little happens in the course of the film, which deals with one Alvin Straight who ventured out one day to visit his estranged brother. Mr. Straight, whose cataracts prevented him from having a license, drove across several hundred miles on a John Deere rider mower to make this journey. It's about old age, the kindness of strangers, the randomness of life, and regrets. Farnsworth's performance is exceptionally moving, especially in a scene in a bar when he and another old guy touch on, very briefly, their experiences in the war. It may sound like a downer, but it's anything but that, and it's directed by, of all people, David Lynch. Richard Farnsworth should've received the oscar for this, imho. His nomination was especially poignant since he, like Alvin Straight, died shortly after this film was made.

 

Another Farnsworth biopic that I've liked is The Grey Fox(1982) Set in the early years of the 20th century, it concerns an actual bandit, Bill Miner, sometimes termed "The Gentleman Bandit" who was a train robber at a rather advanced age.

 

My Brilliant Career(1979) w/ Judy Davis and Sam Neill, based on a classic novelized memoir by Australian Miles Franklin, the central character that Davis plays is a mass of female contadictions and is blessed/cursed with great intelligence, ambition and not a little pretension. Beautifully acted and photographed. Sam Neill's pretty cute, too.

 

Carve Her Name With Pride(1958) w/ Virginia McKenna as Violette Szabo, a mother and the widow of a French soldier who was a real life WWII heroine who worked as an Allied agent in occupied France and ended her life in Ravensbruck concentration camp. McKenna's beautiful performance presents a reticent woman who finds herself compelled to commit her life to her work in an attempt to make the world a better place, as well as to justify her husband's sacrifice.

This theme was also explored beautifully in the flawed fictional film Charlotte Gray(2001), but I haven't found the haunting power of McKenna's work under the deft direction of Lewis Gilbert (Alfie & The Education of Rita)to be diminished after viewing the film twice. There's a code poem written by British cryptographer Leo Marks which is used throughout "Carve Her Name..." It captures the heroic spirit of this little known heroine and the movie better than I could ever express:

 

The life that I have is all that I have, The life that I have is yours.

The love that I have of the life that I have Is yours and yours and yours.

A sleep I shall have, A rest I shall have Yet death will be but a pause.

For the peace of my years In the long green grass Will be yours and yours and yours.

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Apparently I'm in an epic mood, as the first three that even came to mind were:

 

The Last Emperor, Bertolucci's exquisite telling of the life of Aisin-Gioro Puyi. Nice performances from John Lone, Joan Chen and Peter O'Toole; this was the first movie to be given authority to film inside Beijing's Forbidden City.

 

David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, again with Peter O'Toole. But the real star of this film (other than Omar Sharif) was the desert, with ample support by Maurice Jarre's score. This is the story of Thomas Edward Lawrence and his role in the Arab Revolt of 1916-1918.

 

Attenorough's Gandhi with Ben Kingsley portraying the life of the Indian leader.

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Thank you very much, moirafinnie6, for all those...and thank you for widening my perspective.

 

I think I recall seeing "Roughly Speaking" - it's a picture that I'm often in the mood to see [slice-of-life, and all that].

 

Thanks for the Tony Curtis [bernard Schwartz just doesn't have quite the same ring to it] suggestions; it also brings "Houdini" to mind - one of the first 'old' films I saw and liked as a youngster...yes, fact and fiction have varying percentages in a biopic but I usually don't mind as long as I am entertained...

 

As a Canadian, I can't help but like "The Grey Fox"...

 

Keep 'em coming...and, Jack, you were in an epic mood, weren't you?

"Chariots of Fire" is about as epic as I get...another biopic of sorts.

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I am a HUGE fan of Biopics myself, I think it's interesting to see a real person being portrayed by an actor whether it's an actor they are portraying, or a writer, etc...

 

Of the latter day biopics, on particular favourite of mine is Richard Attenburough's "Chaplin" from 1992. Although there are quite a few error's as to some character's and events in Charlie's life, Robert Downey Jr did a superb job as Charlie Chaplin, and it was a delight to see Geraldine Chaplin (Chaplin's daughter) play her real life Grandmother. Although I was always a fan of Charlie Chaplin, the biopic was a good way to introduce Charlie's movie's to my friend who otherwise would probably have never watched his silent films.( I am a HUGE Charlie Chaplin fan so that is another reason)

 

Another movie which I think was rather good, was Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" . I thought Leonardo DiCaprio did a great job as Howard Hughes, who was definitely one of Hollywood's most interesting stars. What was also great about the film was the fact that it exposed a side of Howard some people may not have known. Personally I did not know much about Mr. Hughes passion for aviation and how he really was an inovative and important part of the aviation field. The battle between insanity and brilliance stands out.

 

I shall probably come up with more as I love biopics but I thought I would start with those, hehe :)

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I love The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, which is apparently quite accurate in many ways. In some ways it is not--it does not portray the innovative African-American bandleader and composer James Reese Europe, who often accompanied the Castles in their dance performances. And Irene Castle, quite the clotheshorse, had fits when Ginger Rogers would not be completely authentic in her hairstyle and costumes!

 

The ending's a bit hard to get through, as Vernon is portrayed by Fred Astaire as just about the ideal husband, and then--well, I won't mess up the picture for you if you've never seen it.

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I enjoy that type of film as well, TMN.

 

I will definitely seek out "Monkey on my Back", as boxing films are a pleasure for me to watch. I just watched Cameron Mitchell in "Tension at Table Rock" this morning [i need a good Western to start my weekend on the right [i]foot[/i] - I almost said 'note' there...] and enjoyed his portrayal of a sheriff with a 'monkey' of a different sort on his back. Having to watch Dorothy Malone as his wife didn't do me any harm either, I must confess.

 

"I'll Cry Tomorrow" is a Susan Hayward picture, if there is such a thing.

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Um, Wordmaster, I've got some good news and, er, some not so good news regarding the future of biopics.

 

Good News: A film is in the works about Hannibal of Carthage!

 

Bad News: The film is set to star Vin Diesel! And the script is said to be in Greek, Latin and Punic ? la "The Passion of the Christ"! And Vin already knows how to ride an elephant! And Mr. Diesel is learning Latin!

 

Do you think he knows the Latin word calamitas yet?

 

I thought of you and this thread this morning when I read this item in the newspaper. Just wanted to share.

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I myself am a fan of biopics, and have a few recent ones in mind that I have enjoyed, some of which are Elizabeth, with an absolutely entrancing Cate Blanchett, The Insider, which was deftly directed by Michael Mann, and showcased spot on performances by both Crowe and Pacino, as well as Christopher Plummer, who is at the top of his form in his portrayal of CBS? Mike Wallace.

 

But of particular note I?d like to mention a film I?ve only recently had the pleasure of viewing, though it?s been out for a few years now, and remained at the back of my mind ever since it was released, and that is Thirteen Days, which details the events of the Cuban missile crisis during thirteen tension-filled days in October of 1962. I cannot herein speak to how good the film is in my view, or how well the leading roles were filled by the three principal stars of the movie. It is just that good in my eyes, and it impacted me very greatly, as I felt like I was a part of the president?s cabinet in some small capacity, privy to the secrets of high level government. That is what films are supposed to do when they are well made--and that is draw you in--and this one certainly delivers on every level.

 

The one drawback, which wasn?t even the case for me, is that we all know how it ends, so there is no M. Night Shyamalan twist ending to look forward to if that?s what floats your boat :) But that is pretty much the case with all biopics, in the event one is familiar with the subject(s) in question.

 

Bogie

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I think that biopics are still very much in fashion. Some recent ones that were successful are Ray, Walk the Line, Catch Me If You Can, and A Beautiful Mind.

 

Sandy K

 

Garbo, if you use a colon followed by a parentheses, it will look like this :)

 

Message was edited by:

sandykaypax

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Garbomaniac, the winky emoticon is a semicolon ; followed by a parentheses ) so that this results:

;)

 

For an unhappy face, just put a colon : followed immediately, (no space between ) by a parentheses ( so that this results:

:(

Or you can make it really upset looking by keying a colon : followed immediately by a zero 0 that results in this:

:0

Here's a link to alot of amusing emoticons:

http://www.computeruser.com/resources/dictionary/emoticons.html

 

Interesting choice of biopics, Sandykaypax. Almost all of them concern lives during the oh, so hectic sixties. Perhaps contemporary biopics may be harder to come by since they seem to require some time for a perspective to develop for both the creators and the audience.

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Moira,

 

My Vin Diesel story:

 

Last year on my flight from LA to San Francisco, I was seated in Aisle 6, Seat 6 -- my usual seat at the very back of 1st Class.

This late arrival booms out in a very deep voice, "You seem to have my seat, sir."..

I looked up and this guy's smiling and saying, "I always sit by the window."...

"I'm in the right seat", says I, "What does your boarding card say?"

With that, the stewardess arrives and tells him to assume his seat as we are about to take off.

"You better look at his boarding card first, as he seems to be lost!", says I.

She looks at it (he didn't seem to know what a boarding card was) and informs him that he is in the seat on the other side of the plane (the other window).......

He laughs and says to me, "Oh sorry, I have dyslexia, you know!!"...... "Ha, ha">>

I smile and say, "Well, we do now!!"

 

When we get off the plane in SF, he introduces himself as "Hey, you know, I'm Vin Diesel."....

"No, I didn't know", says I and leave; not bothering to tell him who I was.

 

Do you think he will find his way from Carthage, through Spain and across the Alps and down to Rome on an elephant???

I am laughing right now wondering if he'll end up in Capetown, South Africa!!!!!!

 

Love,

Larry

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Garbomaniac,

You're quite welcome and I look forward to your future posts with and without the winkies and smiley and sad faces. Keep 'em coming--they make good reading.

 

Lzcutter,

Thanks for reminding me of the movie Capote. It's been on cable this week & last night I talked my sister into watching it with me. I think that the academy may have given the "best" award to the right person, for once. Phillip Seymour Hoffman really made me forget that he was acting--he seemed to be that flawed, manipulative, incisive, shallow, gifted, clever, wounded, self-destructive careerist--and oddly sympathetic person who was Truman Capote. I'm glad I saw it, (and I rarely feel that about contemporary American movies).

 

Larry,

My day started off with a smile, thanks to your Vin you're-in-my-seat Diesel story. It just occurred to me re: the Hannibal movie yet to come--someone will probably play Queen Dido! Hmmm, Angelina might be busy in the nursery and her last foray into the classical era via Alexander didn't pan out too well. I know! Get Jennifer Lopez. Or maybe Janet Jackson, now that she's shed so many lbs. No, no, let's get that younger demographic. Lindsay Lohan, climb up off that nightclub floor and sober up. You're about to stretch some acting muscles you didn't know you had!

;)

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Dear Moira,

 

I had forgotten about poor old Queen Dido.

Let's not resurrect Janet Jackson anytime soon, please!

I actually liked Angelina Jolie in "Alexander" and I thought Colin Farrell at least 'looked' like Alexander, but the movie was a disappointment. Maybe Oliver Stone is to blame for that one??

 

Since Vin Diesel is playing Hannibul, perhaps my sarcastic casting mind will recommend Katie Holmes as Dido......... Perhaps she can help Vin with his Punic, as I wonder if it's one of the languages of Scientology. We'll have to ask Tom........

 

Larry

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