30 Days, 30 Movies {Day 26} Billy Wilder or (The Apartment)

I happen to share my birthday with two cinematic legends:  Meryl Streep and Billy Wilder.  Maybe someday someone will say, “Hey, I share my birthday with Meryl Streep, Billy Wilder, and that screenwriter who has a blog… You know who I’m talking about?  No?  Me neither, but she’s listed here on Wikipedia.”

The last time I watched this movie it was a gray rainy day, and I cried.  This movie is super depressing on a rainy day.  It’s such a tragically beautiful story and film.  C.C. Baxter is a lonely bachelor working at a corporation.  He lets some of the higher ups use his apartment to entertain their mistresses.  Once the big boss finds out, he blackmails him in order to use his apartment to see Fran, the girl that Baxter likes.  Of course, Sheldrake is married with kids, and keeps Fran around by telling her that he’ll  leave his wife.  Baxter and Fran become friends.  The entire time you want them to get together.

There’s a scene in the movie revealing Fran’s suicide attempt.  Baxter thinks that Fran is still at his apartment because she passed out drunk, but he looks in his medicine cabinet, notices 1/2 a medicine bottle is empty, and looks at her in the reflection of the mirror.  You can see on his face that he realizes what she did.  It is a powerful scene because we find out about it along with Baxter.  It is all action.  It’s the kind of scene that all the people I have learned about screenwriting from would say, “That is an example of good screenwriting.”

Favorite Line: Shut up and deal

Favorite Character: C.C. Baxter

Favorite Scene:  When Sheldrake’s wife kicks him out!

30 Days, 30 Movies {Day 19} Love Triangle or (500 Days of Summer)

Are you surprised?  Perplexed even?  But Tom loves Summer and there is no other guy until the end of the film, and we don’t even get to meet him.  That is true.  However, the love triangle is between Summer, Tom, and SUMMER.  Summer is so in love with herself that she cannot treat Tom like a decent human being.  Tom loves Summer so much that he can’t see that she is desperately, completely, and solely in love with herself.

What makes this movie great is also what makes it agonizing to watch.  Who hasn’t been in a relationship with someone like Summer?  Someone we thought was so great, so perfect, so amazing, and yet even our prepubescent sister can see that they are not that great and completely wrong for us.

My most disastrous relationship like this could not even really be called a relationship because we never actually “dated.”  He liked me, but denied it to everyone and talked smack about me so no one else would go out with me.  Everyone treated me like I was his girlfriend.  He treated me like dirt.  Then he attended my college during our sophomore year because his therapist said that he needed “closure” with me.  Seriously?  He treated me like trash and he is the one who needed closure?

Is there a crazy relationship that reminds you of (500) Days of Summer?  Does it make this movie more or less enjoyable?

Favorite Line: It just wasn’t me that you were right about.

Favorite Character: Rachel Hansen

Favorite Scene: I hate to be cliche, but I love the song and dance number with the animated bird

30 Days, 30 Movies {Day 15} Foreign or (Amelie)

I grew up loving fairy tales.  I even wrote a paper about French fairy tales and feminism in the 15th Century.  Did you know a lot of fairy tales were passed from mothers to daughters?  Some were cautionary tales about womanhood.  One of my favorites involved a woman and an axe.  Amelie is a modern day fairy tale.

Amelie is a lonely waitress who lives by herself and is used to keeping to herself.  When she finds a tin box full of old toys in her apartment’s wall, she goes on a mission to return the box to its rightful owner.  She is able to do so anonymously.  After a successful kind deed, Amelie decides to continue doing random acts of kindnesses a la Year of Kindness.  You can’t do kind things without kind things returning to you.  Amelie gets the biggest return for her kind deeds: deep and meaningful relationships with those around her.

I remember the first time I watched the movie it had a distinct feel to it.  Right away, I felt like I was in a different place and time even though it is set in 1997.  After watching the extras on the DVD, I learned that the director is a fan of the Brazilian artist Juarez Machado.  They showed how his paintings were primarily green and red with something blue as an accent color.  Then they showed scenes where everything was red and green.  Then they showed places they added the blue accent like a car or a digitally added a blue lamp.  After seeing this, it made me feel like I needed to step up my game as a screenwriter and filmmaker.

I will warn you that this movie is French, and if you are uncomfortable with nudity, you should probably not watch the opening title sequence.  It shows a woman’s body growing a baby inside it.  Then there is the part where Amelie thinks there are fifteen people having orgasms at that exact moment.  It’s a little creepy.

Favorite Line: If you let this chance pass, eventually, your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton.

Favorite Character: Nino

Favorite Scene:  When Amelie watches TV, and all she sees is her neurotic thoughts about how her life turns out.

30 Days, 30 Movies {Day 5} Chick Flick or (My Best Friend’s Wedding)

Julia Roberts is the modern day Queen of Chick Flicks.  She is a talented actress and can play any role in any genre, but when she is in a romantic comedy, it turns into box office gold.  Maybe it has to do with the enduring characters she played in her earlier movies (Mystic Pizza, Pretty Woman, Steel Magnolias, etc.).  Even that goofy Runaway Bride did well despite the poster with her lacing up sneakers in a wedding dress.

Although I am not a fan of “chick flicks,” I love My Best Friend’s Wedding.  I think what I love best about it is that the main character does not “get the guy” (I can hear the gasps already).  Not ending up with the guy is more realistic.  I can’t tell you the number of times that I wanted to be the girl who gets chosen, but I was always passed up (until it really counted).  The script is written in such a way that the audience is happy that she doesn’t “get the guy” because she stills wins – she does the right thing and she moves on.  Being strong enough to let go and move on is the ultimate win.  It’s kind of a risky choice as a writer, but it pays off because it is a fresh take on the “chick flick.”  And it is one that everyone can relate to in one way or another.

The best part of watching this movie again (besides the fact that cell phones were ginornous) is seeing Paul Giamante play Richard the bell hop/hotel employee.  Here Paul Giamatte is playing this tiny role in a Julia Roberts movie, and look at where he is today.  He kept at it and didn’t give up.  That was very motivating and inspiring to me to keep after my dreams and go for it!  Never, never, never give up.  Churchill.

Favorite Line:  Who’s chasing you?  Nobody. 

Favorite Character: George

Favorite Scene:  When George has a posh dinner party at his apartment with important, artistic people, and he lets the answering machine pick up.  Julianne’s crazy tirade about trying to break up the wedding makes everyone stop and listen.  Once it is over, George offers everyone coffee and the dinner party is back on.

30 Days, 30 Movies {Day 2} Marilyn Monroe or (How to Marry a Millionaire)

Cupcake and the internet have conspired against me, so this review isn’t going to be very in depth.

Marilyn Monroe made 33 films.  Of the ones I have seen, my favorites are Some Like It Hot and How to Marry a Millionaire (HTMAM).  I chose HTMAM because I’m saving Some Like It Hot for another time.

HTMAM opens with an orchestra performing a medley of music from the movie.  This would never happen in a movie today, which is too bad.  Studio execs would look at six minutes of a musical performance as obligatory, but it isn’t.  That music sets the grandiose tone of this upbeat movie.

Set in “glorious, glamorous” New York City, HTMAM follows three models in their quest to wed a millionaire: Schatze, who recently got divorced from an already married con man, Pola, who never wears her glasses for fear that she won’t find a man, and Loco, a down to earth and a tad ditzy girl.  Schatze tells the girls that most people use more brain power to pick a horse to bet on than to pick a husband.  She warns the girls to use their heads and not their hearts.

I think the best part of this movie is that each girl gets what she really wants most, and it isn’t cheesy.  You don’t shake your head when Pola meets a man who tells her not to be afraid to wear glasses because she is actually prettier with her glasses on.  You don’t want to gag when Loco meets her future husband, and when Schatze does not go through marrying someone for money, you don’t sigh.  It’s not cheesy because the writing is well done.  There is an emotional connection to the characters.  This movie is a classic for a reason.  I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but the screenplay was based on several plays.  I think Nunnally Johnson, the screenwriter, took care in preparing this script and shaping the characters.

The costumes in this movie are simply delicious.  Usually in a movie, there may be one character that I would want to emulate their style.  In this movie, there are three.  The girls participate in an elaborate fashion show, including ten outfits.  If you’re like me and live vicariously through others who live retro fabulous lives like: Casey’s Elegant Musings, Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, and Tuppence Ha’penny Vintage, this movie is a must see.

Favorite Line: “Honestly, Pola, why can’t you keep those cheaters on long enough to see who you’re with?”

Favorite Character: J.D. Hanley, who tells Schatze, “I believe that nothing would be more wonderful for me than marrying you, and nothing worse for you.”  What a guy.

Favorite Scene:  When the girls find out how much money their husband’s have in the final scene of the film

30 Days, 30 Movies {Day 1} Twisted Love Story or (A Life Less Ordinary)

A Life Less Ordinary is a visually stunning film that includes a perfectly groomed soundtrack evoking the exact emotion expressed in the story.  This movie follows two “couples:” O’Reily (Holly Hunter) and Jackson (Delroy Lindo) a pair of angel police officers who have been assigned the task of bringing Robert (Ewan McGregor) and Celine (Cameron Diaz) together.  If they do not complete their mission, they will be stuck on earth forever.  A scary proposition for anyone, let alone angels.

Robert is a janitor for Celine’s father’s company.  After being replaced by a robot, dumped by his girlfriend, and evicted from his home (thanks to angelic intervention), Robert decides to threaten Celine’s father into getting his job back.  He ends up kidnapping Celine.  Celine and Robert strike up an unlikely friendship with Celine becoming the kidnapping mastermind.

I saw this movie as a teenager and loved it.  It opened my eyes to what film could do and how you could weave any kind of story – the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.  Although, I love this movie and appreicate the story, it is not without it’s problems.  The end is pretty much a train wreck.

In Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!, he warns against writing a story containing “double mumbo jumbo.”  That means you can’t have two kinds of magic in a movie- aliens and vampires, for example.  This movie has angels working as heavenly law enforcers, dream sequences, premonitions, a shot through the chest that does not kill, and a drunken vision that never really explains itself.  And don’t get me started on the final converstaion between Celine and Robert; where they break the fourth wall by discussing their feelings and views on love, to the camera, all the while clips from the movie flash behind them.  Yikes.

I can’t mention a fault of the film without mentioning a strength.  One of the strengths that I have yet to mention is the well developed female characters.  The women in this movie are not one dimensional.  They are complex.  Celine is the archetypal modern woman who has been jaded by her past relationships with men causing her to weild her sexuality as a weapon against them.  But she’s more than that.  She resents her father for discarding her mother, and secretly abhors the fact that her father compares her to her mother and assumes that she will sink to her “natural level,” never accomplishing anything or make something of herself.  Holly Hunter’s character is an angel, and unlike her partner, she was not a human before becoming an angel (Can someone tell me where that crazy idea came from?  It’s not in the Bible, so I don’t know how it became associated with Christianity), which makes her curious about the human experience and interested in humanity.

Even though the film ends in a ridiculous way, I still think it is worth watching.  The supporting cast is amazing.  In his acting career pre-Monk, Tony Shaloub perfectly portrays a down and out bar owner.  Stanley Tucci plays Celine’s spurned ex-boyfriend and orthodontist.  At the very least, check out the soundtrack.