The Apartment — Without Lemmon and MacLaine

Posted on January 4, 2019 at 10:18 pm

This fascinating video essay shows us what the Oscar-winning Billy Wilder film “The Apartment” would look like without the actors, revealing the role that the setting plays in telling the story.  After all, that is the name of the film.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

TCM Salutes Fred MacMurray

Posted on January 5, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Turner Classic Movies is leading off 2016 with a great choice for their star of the month: Fred MacMurray. I grew up watching him as the genial single dad in “My Three Sons,” and the inventor of flubber (flying rubber) in “The Absent-Minded Professor.” It was only when I was a teenager that I discovered he was outstanding in films that included dark comedy (the fiendish boss in “The Apartment”), light romantic comedy (“Take a Letter, Darling”), westerns (“The Trail of the Lonesome Pine”), musicals (“Where Do We Go From Here?”), Disney family movies (“The Shaggy Dog”), touching love stories (“Remember the Night”), and the film noir classic, “Double Indemnity.”

MacMurray worked with top directors including Edward Dmytryk (“The Caine Mutiny”), George Stevens (“Alice Adams”), Mitchell Leisen (“No Time for Love”), Billy Wilder (“The Apartment”) and Preston Sturges (“Remember the Night”) and actors Barbara Stanwyck, Humphrey Bogart, Marlene Dietrich and, in seven films, Claudette Colbert, beginning with “The Gilded Lily” (1935). He co-starred with Katharine Hepburn in “Alice Adams” (1935), with Joan Crawford in “Above Suspicion” (1943), and with Carole Lombard in four films: “Hands Across the Table” (1935), “The Princess Comes Across” (1936), “Swing High, Swing Low” (1937), and “True Confession” (1937). Here we see him go from insurance salesman to murder accomplice because Barbara Stanwyck is so impossible to resist. “I wonder if you wonder.”

On Wednesdays this month, TCM will show some of his best films, including “Double Indemnity,” “Too Many Husbands,” “Remember the Night,” “Woman’s World,” and “Callaway Went Thataway,” plus one of my favorite goofy movies, “Kisses for My President,” where he plays the husband of the first woman President.

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Actors Film History For Your Netflix Queue
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Movies to Ring in the New Year

Posted on December 26, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Rotten Tomatoes has a list of New Year’s Movies.  Garry Marshall’s new all-star New Year’s Eve is by no means a classic, but it is sure to become an annual tradition.  Here is my list of  New Year’s Eve favorites.

When Harry Met Sally…is a sweet, funny love story starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal as two people who took a very long time to realize they were meant for each other.  A series of New Year’s Eves punctuate their developing relationship.

Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn star in Holiday, about an idealistic young man whose engagement to a wealthy girl is supposed to be announced at a New Year’s Eve party. Hepburn plays the girl’s sister, whose support for the engagement gets complicated when she begins to fall for him herself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eKBdR_1GY0

The Apartment, the bittersweet comedy about an ambitious man who lets the executives at his company use his apartment for their assignations won the Oscar for Best Picture. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine star in this Billy Wilder classic.

The pilot episode of Futurama takes place on New Year’s Eve in the year 3000, and yes, Dick Clark (well, his head) makes a cameo appearance.

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Holidays Lists
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The Worst Movie Bosses

Posted on July 6, 2011 at 9:00 am

This week’s release of “Horrible Bosses” made me think of some of the other terrible bosses in movies.  Here are some of the bosses we love to hate on screen.  Who am I leaving out?  And which movie boss is most like your all-time worst boss?

The all-time bad movie boss champ has to be Kevin Spacey, who adds to his list by appearing in “Horrible Bosses” as a cruel, manipulative, and paranoid company president.  I’m going to limit him to two on this list, but could choose others as well.

1.  Kevin Spacey in Glengarry Glen Ross There’s no meaner workplace in cinema history than this brutal and back-stabbing real estate company.  Spacey’s electrifying performance shows that his self-loathing is only exceeded by his contempt for everyone around him.  (Special credit to Alec Baldwin for a stunning turn as a guy from the home office brought in to give a pep talk:  “Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”)

2. Kevin Spacey in Swimming With Sharks Reportedly, this screenplay was inspired by the author’s own experience.  The assistant in the story gets his revenge on his sadistic bully of boss by torturing him, but in real life he just put his most appalling behavior up on screen.

3.  Gary Cole in Office Space He doesn’t yell.  He does not insult his staff.  He is just massively inconsiderate, making inane and dehumanizing and agonizingly insincere “requests.”  I don’t know which is worse — the cover on the TPS reports or Hawaiian Shirt Day.  (Special credit to screenwriter Mike Judge, the movie’s screenwriter, as Jennifer Aniston’s boss at Chotchkie’s, who tells her she should have more than the minimum flair.)

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

4. Sandra Bullock in The Proposal Everyone is terrified of this greyhound-slim and rattlesnake-mean editor, who can make the slightest error into a career-killer.

5.  Fred MacMurray in The Apartment Jack Lemmon discovers that the only way to get ahead in this enormous insurance company is to let the boss use your apartment for his assignations.

6. Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl She pretends to support her assistant’s dreams for advancement, but instead, she steals her ideas.  I love her line about why she is sure her boyfriend (Harrison Ford in a magnificent performance) will propose: “We’re in the same city now, I’ve indicated that I’m receptive to an offer, I’ve cleared the month of June… and I am, after all, me.”

7. Dabney Coleman in 9 to 5 Based on interviews with many working women, Coleman’s character was designed to exemplify just about every awful characteristic: lazy, sexist, dishonest, incompetent, and predatory.

8. Alistair Sim in A Christmas Carol Until he learns a lesson from the three Christmas ghosts, Scrooge is a demanding, nasty, and of course very cheap boss who keeps poor Bob Cratchit underpaid and shivering in the cold.

9. Charles Laughton in Mutiny on the Bounty Based on a real-life story, Laughton plays Captain Bligh, whose cruel treatment of his men led to a mutiny, putting him off the ship in a launch.  (The real-life Bligh was exonerated after making it back to England in what is still an un-matched feat of navigational skill.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtmV2tpbnjA

10. Denzel Washington in Training Day Ethan Hawke plays a young police officer assigned to work with Washington’s character, a corrupt narcotics detective who manipulates and blackmails him, drawing him into a quagmire of corruption.  Washington won an Oscar for his dazzling performance of a man who loves control but is losing his capacity to maintain it.

Dishonorable mention: Paul Giamatti as Howard Stern’s boss in “Private Parts,” Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada,” Laura Linney in “The Nanny Diaries,” and Tom Cruise in “Tropic Thunder”

Many thanks to David Apatoff and Christopher Orr for sharing their suggestions.

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