Roger Ebert, Twitter, and Me

This is a picture of my friend Emma at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. I will never be in a picture this cool.
This is a picture of my friend Emma with Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, and Martin Scorsese at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. She held Ebert’s laptop for him during a dedication ceremony. I will never be in a picture this cool.

It is not in my nature to get reflective when someone famous dies. Death is part of life and if you’re fortunate enough, you will leave a good legacy behind. That’s how it works. But my reaction to Roger Ebert’s passing has been completely different. When my friend texted me about his death on Thursday, I was stunned. Not by his actual death; I knew that was imminent. I stunned because I can’t imagine processing a movie without Ebert’s reviews acting as a guide and creating a discourse about cinema. No single person has influenced my interest in film more than Roger Ebert. With every step I have taken in my efforts to learn everything I possibly can about cinema, Roger Ebert has always there and it is strange to think that from this point forward, he no longer will be. Continue reading “Roger Ebert, Twitter, and Me”

Elizabeth Taylor: The Two Films That I Love

Seems like we always spend the best part of our time just saying goodbye.” – A Place in the Sun (1951)

This morning’s news of Elizabeth Taylor’s passing is not entirely surprising. Reports of her declining health have been frequent these past few months. None of that matters though. Everyone should pause for a second to reflect on Dame Elizabeth’s life, her career and her humanitarian work. She was the very definition of a Hollywood icon and one of the true greats.

I’ve written about Taylor’s performances before and I love so many of them. Suddenly Last SummerCat on a Hot Tin Roof. Butterfield 8. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Even Cleopatra.

Like many people, I first encountered Elizabeth Taylor when I was very young. I was barely a teenager, probably younger, when I saw National Velvet.

National Velvet is one of my mom’s favorite movies from when she was a child. We watched it together. (My parents had this amazing way of casually forcing Hollywood classics on me when I was a child.)

I loved (love) the story of a 12-year-old girl and her beloved horse training for the Grand National steeplechase. When things don’t go exactly Velvet’s way, she disguises herself as boy to compete. (In retrospect my mom was probably also giving me some subtle hints about why feminism matters.)  It is Elizabeth Taylor’s natural screen charm, even as a child performer, that makes this movie so wonderfully memorable. I watch it whenever I stumble across it on television.

My absolute favorite Elizabeth Taylor film is the 1951 romantic tragedy A Place in the Sun. It is the only one of her more than 50 films that I have made a point of owning.

Montgomery Clift portrays  factory worker George Eastman, Shelley Winters is Alice, his pregnant girlfriend, and Taylor is Angela, the socialite that comes between them. So much of this George Stevens film belongs to Clift and Winters. Did George ever really love Alice or is does he only desire the money that comes with loving Angela? We never really know. We’re just left with the pain of the many failed romances.

Taylor’s performance in A Place in the Sun cemented her transition to adult roles. How could it not? Just watch:

Every time I watch A Place in the Sun, my jaw drops and I’m left devastated. It’s a heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, and everything I want from a movie of its caliber. Although it is a respected and much loved film, A Place in the Sun never gets the full recognition it deserves.

Then there is this clip of Taylor on “What’s My Line” that is making its way around the Internet.

I watch this clip and realize that what Vincent Canby once wrote about Taylor in the New York Times couldn’t be more true: “More than anyone else I can think of, Elizabeth Taylor represents the complete movie phenomenon — what movies are as an art and an industry and what they have meant to those of us who have grown up watching them in the dark.”

Elizabeth Taylor really was just one of the best actresses Hollywood ever gave us.

Ain’t There Anyone Here For Love? – Here’s To Jane Russell

Damn, I love Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

I love how suggestive it is and I love the female leads, played by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Monroe is delightfully ditzy at Lorelei and Russell is wonderfully savvy as Dorothy. As far as female performances go in classic Hollywood cinema, this duo is one of the finest comedic pairings.

Jane Russell passed away today at the age of 89. Russell is perhaps best known for her film debut in Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw (1943).

The Outlaw surrounded by controversy. A poster revealed too much of the then 19-year-old’s breasts and the Catholic Church kind of freaked out. The controversy made Russell a star and it got one thing right: Russell was one of the most beautiful actresses to grace the silver screen.

I prefer to think of Jane Russell performing “Ain’t There Anyone Here For Love?” one of the musical number’s from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Russell owns the screen with every suggestive glance, her fabulous checkered coat, and the way she sashays across the stage. It’s not for everyone, but I just love it.

What is your favorite Jane Russell moment? Sound off below.

Remembering Pete Postlethwaite

The news of British actor Pete Postlethwaite’s passing has been a blow to the film and stage communities.

How wonderful is Daniel Day Lewis’ tribute to his co-star?

Pos was the one. As students, it was him we went to see on stage time and time again. It was him we wanted to be like; wild and true; lion hearted; unselfconscious and deliciously irreverent. He was on our side. He watched out for us. We loved him and followed him like happy children, never a breath away from laughter. He shouldn’t have gone. I wish so much he hadn’t. There’s a tendency to make lists at this time of the year. When we get to the Best of British, if Pete isn’t at the top of that list, he shouldn’t be far from it.

Day-Lewis starred with Postlethwaite in 1992’s The Last of the Mohicans and 1993′s In the Name of the Father

Fond Farewells of 2010

Jill Clayburgh. Dennis Hopper. Arthur Penn. Jean Simmons. Lynn Redgrave. Eddie Fisher. Eric Rohmer. Lena Horne. Tony Curtis. Peter Graves. Barbara Billingsley. Leslie Nielson. Sally Menke. Patricia Neal.

These are just some of the actors and filmmakers who passed away this year.

Embedded below are two lovely videos, from Turner Classic Movies and Time, that feature clips and quotes from many of the stars and public figures who left a lasting impact on culture.


Vodpod videos no longer available.