Funny Face

Posted on February 9, 2009 at 8:00 am

A
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating: NR
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: Some mild sexism reflecting its era
Date Released to Theaters: 1957
Date Released to DVD: 2009
Amazon.com ASIN: B004IK30LO

My second DVD pick of the week for Valentine’s Day is the other new Audrey Hepburn release, “Funny Face,” a gorgeous musical set in Paris with Fred Astaire and songs by Gershwin. The title tune, and “How Long Has This Been Going On” and “S’Wonderful” have become standards, and the non-Gershwin numbers like “Think Pink” and “Bonjour Paris” are lively and well-staged.

It’s the story of a shy bookstore clerk with an interest in French philosophy who gets invited to Paris as a model and agrees to go only because it will give her a chance to meet the philosopher she most admires. She thinks that fashion is silly and superficial. But the photographer (Astaire, playing a character based on Richard Avedon) shows her the passion, dedication, professionalism, and artistry required and the philosopher shows her that he does not always practice what he preaches. The film is a delight. Be sure to watch for a rare screen appearance by Kay Thompson, the author of the “Eloise” books, as the magazine editor, and some real-life supermodels spoofing themselves.

Funny Face

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Meet Me in St. Louis

Posted on October 27, 2008 at 8:00 am

This episodic story of the Smith family in the St. Louis of 1903 is based on the memoirs of Sally Benson.  Its pleasures are in the period detail, the glorious songs (including standards “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) and the loving and nostalgic look at a time of innocence and optimism, where a long-distance call was almost as thrilling as having the World’s Fair come to your very own city.  We see the family over the course of a year, celebrating Halloween and Christmas, riding the ice truck in the summer and building snowmen in the winter.  They face the prospect of having to leave St. Louis so that  Mr. Smith can accept a promotion.  They wonder whether the older girl’s two boyfriends will propose.  They treat each other with great loyalty and affectionate tolerance.  And then they live happily ever after.

The Smith’s older daughters are Rose (Lucille Bremer) and Esther (Judy Garland).  Rose is attracted to Warren Sheffield, and a bit impatient because he has not proposed.  Esther has decided to marry “the boy next door,” John Pruitt (Tom Drake), even though they have not yet met.  When the girls have a party, their two little sisters (Joan Carroll and Margaret O’Brien as Agnes and Tootie Smith) creep downstairs.  Tootie is allowed to do one song with Esther (the cakewalk “Under the Bamboo Tree”) before being sent back to bed.  Esther asks John to help her turn out the gas lights before he leaves, to have some time alone with him.  The next day, he joins her as she and her friends ride on the trolley, and when he catches up with them, she sings “The Trolly Song.”  Later, Warren escorts a visiting out-of-town girl (June Lockhart) to another party, and Esther and Rose conspire to fill her dance card with the least appealing partners at the dance.  When she is revealed to be so friendly and tactful that she gets Rose and Warren back together, Esther has to take all of her dances.  Tootie is heartbroken about moving to New York, and while the rest of the family tries to hide it, they are, too.  Mr. Smith gives up, they stay in St. Louis, and when the fair opens, they are there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ2Q8_P_msg

One of the movie’s most evocative scenes is Halloween, celebrated very differently in those days, but like today the one night of the year where children have the power to frighten the grown-ups.  Agnes and Tootie dress up in rags and “kill” the people who answer the door by throwing flour at them.  Director Minnelli skillfully shows how spooky and at the same time thrilling it is for the girls to be out after dark.  When Tootie is successful at “killing” the grouchy neighbor, she is heralded by the other kids, and blissfully announces, “I’m the most horrible!  I’m the most horrible!”

This is one of the most loving of all movie families.  Everyone in it treats all of the other members with trust and affection, even, when it comes to Tootie, indulgence.  They are interested in each other and take each other’s concerns seriously, whether it is the seasoning of a sauce or choice of a future spouse.  Only the poor father is rather left out. He is not told about the long distance call, and no one is pleased with his promotion.  But in a way, that is just a reflection of the family’s devotion to him and to the life they have together in St. Louis.   And the lovely duet he sings with his wife, “You and I,” shows that it is their relationship that is the foundation of the family.

Minnelli began as an art director and designer, and his use of color is always fresh and fun — there isn’t another director in history who would have thought to put Esther in purple gloves for the trolley ride, but once you see it, you can’t imagine any other color.

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Based on a book Comedy Family Issues For Your Netflix Queue Inspired by a true story Marketing to Kids Musical Romance

21

Posted on July 22, 2008 at 8:00 am

The real-life story of a group of MIT math whiz kids who won millions playing blackjack gets the glossy Hollywood treatment here — a poor but worthy son of a single mother who needs money for med school tuition makes a better movie than a bunch of smart alecks who just want to make some big money. 21%20sturgess.jpg
The result may not be real, but it is solidly entertaining. If it were a hand at blackjack, call it an 18. Jim Sturgess (“The Other Boleyn Girl,” “Across the Universe”) is enormously appealing as Ben, the honest, shy, hard-working kid with the brain of a supercomputer who finds himself a high roller in one of the world’s most glamorous settings. Kevin Spacey, who also produced the film, is the charismatic but enigmatic professor with the system. Blackjack is the only game in Las Vegas that can be reliably beaten. The trick is card-counting, which requires memorizing both every single card that is played by any player and doing constant calculations according to a meticulous formula. The group improved their chances by working together, which required the use of various signals and disguises. But casino owners do not like card counters, and since they have the authority to ban any individual from playing, the real gamble for the MIT hotshots was winning enough to make it worthwhile but keeping a low enough profile to be able to come back.

(more…)

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Based on a book Inspired by a true story

The Great Debaters

Posted on May 12, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Great%20Debaters.jpg In 1935, the debate team from a tiny all-black college took on the top white team in the country and they won. This is that story, Oprah-fied to be sure (Winfrey’s company produced the film), but powerfully told by director Denzel Washington, who also stars as the team’s coach, distinguished poet Melvin B. Tolson.

(more…)

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Drama Genre , Themes, and Features Inspired by a true story Reviews

Arranged

Posted on March 17, 2008 at 8:00 am

B
Date Released to DVD: March 11, 2008
Amazon.com ASIN: B00116VG3M

This quiet little independent film is the story of the friendship between two New York City schoolteachers, an Orthodox Jew and a Muslim, who transcend the assumptions of those around them. They quickly realize that they have more in common with each other than they do with the very secular teachers at the school, who see them as relics from a past best forgotten.

The two young women recognize the historic and modern-day conflicts between their groups. One of the sweetest moments in the film is when they use their students’ assumption that they must hate each other for a learning opportunity about tolerance. The two women are respectful of each other’s traditions and supportive of each other’s devotion to faith and family. But they share their fears and frustrations with one element of tradition that makes both of them uncomfortable — the highly parent-directed courtship system that most contemporary young women would consider hopelessly anachronistic.arranged.jpeg

What makes this movie especially endearing is its own respect for the choices made by the women to honor but find their own way within the traditions and observances of their religious faiths. Lovely performances by Zoe Lister Jones and Francis Benhamou and the quiet intimacy of low-budget film-making bring us inside the story so deeply that the beautiful final image fills our hearts with a resonance that lasts for days.

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Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Inspired by a true story Romance Spiritual films
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