Sunday, May 3, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 6:01 PM

Her last movie was released in 1968. Her last album was released in 1994. She turned down the part of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. And she turned down all other professional offers that would woo her away from her animal-rescue work. So it's happy news that Doris Day, 87, is releasing a new recording next month, My Heart.

One of the tracks is the standard "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries," produced by her late son, Terry Melcher, the legendary producer of The Byrds, The Beach Boys and Ry Cooder. Another is the Joe Cocker ballad "You are So Beautiful."  One wishes that one of the songs she sang with Sly Stone were in this collection.

In her heyday as a recording artist, Day had a voice as rich and velvety as that of Ella Fitzgerald. Martin Melcher, her third husband, encouraged her to record upbeat songs (think "Que Sera, Sera") rather than the ballads that demonstrated her vocal and emotional range. Still, in her best movies like Love Me or Leave Me and The Man Who Knew Too Much she was able to show the breadth and depth or her acting and singing skills. Those are my favorite Day movies. I'm particularly fond of her rendition of "Secret Love" in Calamity Jane and "Mean to Me" in Love Me or Leave Me. You?

Carrie Rickey @ 6:01 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 10:34 AM
Kevin Smith (left) and Tim Burton.

Fanboys and critics are cruel about the work of directors, but evidently not so cruel as other directors are -- if Flavorwire's collection of the 30 nastiest director-on-director insults is any indication. (Hat tip, Anne Thompson). Even the supremely unflappable Clint Eastwood flips one to Spike Lee.

My favorite take-down is Jean-Luc Godard's of Quentin Tarantino: "Tarantino named his production company [Band of Outsiders] after one of my films. He'd have done better to give me some money."

Also amusing is the serve-and-return between Tim Burton and Kevin Smith. After Smith tweaked Burton for stealing the ending of Planet of the Apes from a Smith comic book, Burton snorted, "Anyone who knows me knows I would never read a comic book. I would especially never read anything created by Kevin Smith." To this, Smith retorted, "Which, to me, explains [effing] Batman."

Carrie Rickey @ 10:34 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, August 15, 2011, 2:25 PM
Gloria Steinem, subject of a new documentary

Tonight at 9 pm HBO airs Gloria Steinem: In Her Own Words, an hourlong documentary as sage and sprightly as its subject. In the film, Steinem, now 77, reflects on her 50-plus years surfing feminism's second wave. And looks forward to future outrageous acts and everyday rebellions. As she joked last Thursday after the preview of the film at the HBO screening room in New York, "For many of you, this is a home movie."

Peter Kunhardt's portrait is both an engaging introduction to an extraordinary figure and a memorable odometer clocking the miles women have marched from the 1960s to the present-day.

Steinem comments on the snapshots of herself as the long-stemmed "career gal" in 1960s Manhattan. She  highlighted her hair because she wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's). She went undercover as a Playboy bunny to expose the physical and emotional abuse of The Playboy Club. In the Mad Men era, she was one of many prominent "Mad Women." Steinem was (and is) plainspoken, persuasive and as powerful as she is pretty.

Carrie Rickey @ 2:25 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 5:44 PM
Natalie Wood resucitates James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause/

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raymond Nicholas Kienzle, whose nom de camera was Nicholas Ray. While Rebel Without a Cause (1955) is his most famous title, his filmography is crowded with rebels, beginning with Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell as the young outlaws in They Live By Night (1948) to John Derek's juvenile delinquent in Knock on Any Door (whose ambition is to "Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse" to Jeffrey Hunter's Jesus in King of Kings (1961).

Some random thoughts on Ray:

1) What draws me to Ray movies is their human intimacy. Even when he works in widescreen formats, it's the landscape of the human face and body that most interests him, not the geological landscape. When he was a fledgling theater and radio producer in his native Wisconsin, Ray was tapped by Frank Lloyd Wright to come to Taliesin, the architect's Utopian "learn-by-doing school" in 1932. Ray would later say that his preference for the "horizontal line," was his tribute to Wright's aesthetic.

Carrie Rickey @ 5:44 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, August 9, 2011, 3:15 PM
Patrick Swayze uses Jennifer Grey as a free weight in "Dirty Dancing."

 Dirty Dancing is like The Godfather. It's a classic and you don't mess with it or otherwise try to improve, rethink, or update it. It's a great story. Period. But in a twist worthy of a 1930s Hollywood musical, Kenny Ortega, who choreographed the 1987 Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey dancing romance set in the Catskills during the 1960s, has been named the director of a Dirty Dancing update.

To paraphrase the film's most memorable line: Nobody puts Baby in a reboot!

While I genuinely enjoy the snap and crackle of Ortega, who directed Newsies (a musical starring the very young Christian Bale), High School Musical (introducing Zac Efron) and was involved with the Michael Jackson tour that never happened because of the star's untimely death (This is It), how do you take Eleanor Bergstein's autobiographical story and transpose it to another period?

Carrie Rickey @ 3:15 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, August 4, 2011, 12:22 PM
James Earl Jones presides over the Field of Dreams

Yesterday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that James Earl Jones, the voice of America, will receive an honorary Oscar at a November ceremony where Oprah Winfrey will get the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Does this mean  that the most resonant bass is officially an EGOT,  winner of the so-called Grand Slam of entertainment, given to possessors of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony?

Let the record show that Jones won an two Emmys in 1991 (for Gabriel's Fire and Heat Wave), a Grammy in 1976 (spoken word, for Great American Documents) and two Tonys, in 1969 for The Great White Hope and in 1987 for Fences. (Jones' one competitive Oscar bid was in 1971 for the film version of Great White Hope.) His honorary Oscar would make him an EGOT, right?

Wrong, according to the Los Angeles Times,  which sniffs that EGOT status goes only to winners of competitive, not honorary, awards.

Carrie Rickey @ 12:22 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, August 3, 2011, 3:09 PM
Lucille Ball as "Tiger Lily" White in "Dance, Girl, Dance"

Lucille Ball, the long-stemmed looker born  August 6, 1911, came to Hollywood when she was 22. For two decades. mostly at RKO Pictures, she was cast as dime-a-dance dames, b-girls and burlesque queens, ever the wisecracker, never the star. But she had the last laugh.

In the early 1950s, the studios lived in dread of television, refusing to sell their old films for broadcast or permit their stars to appear on the small screen. Nevertheless Ball and her husband, bandleader Desi Arnaz, took their radio show to television, renaming it I Love Lucy. Five years later, she and Arnaz bought the RKO real estate holding for their thriving TV studio, DesiLu. Like other smart, outspoken actresses (Eve Arden and Ann Sothern come to mind), Ball was a big-screen also-ran who became a queen of the small screen. This is not to say that Ball's big-screen career was negligible.

Her television career will be celebrated this weekend on MeTV, which between Friday and Sunday will air 100 episodes of I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show.

Carrie Rickey @ 3:09 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, August 2, 2011, 2:49 PM
Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp in What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

As an executive once explained, a bankable star is one whose name a banker recognizes. Now the most bankable actor? I would have guessed Will Smith or Tom Hanks. I would have been almost right: America's favorite Everymen made the Final Five in Forbes' 2011 analysis. Guess who are the Top Three? Think before proceeding to the next paragraph.

Number three on the list is America's favorite arrested-development case, Adam Sandler. Number two is the country's favorite eccentric, Johnny Depp. Number one is America's most-haunted. That's right, Leonardo DiCaprio. (That's Depp and DiCaprio in the accompanying photo, in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, where Depp played a smalltown Romeo who takes care of his mentally-retarded younger brother.)

DiCaprio? The gloom-shrouded, brow-knitting actor whose last three films -- Revolutionary Road, Shutter Island and Inception -- had him playing a character complicit in his spouse's destruction or madness -- is in many ways a surprising figure to top this list. His latest films haven't delivered the reliably upbeat takeaways of Hanks' and Smith's goal-oriented movies. Nor do DiCaprio films have the slapstick or laughs provided by Sandler and Depp. While Di Caprio was the heartthrob of Romeo + Juliet and Titanic, nothing about his recent efforts that would draw audiences hungry for romance.

Carrie Rickey @ 2:49 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
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