Thursday, 4 July 2019

May & June Favorites

I have always wanted to do a «monthly favorites» type of post on this blog, but I kept putting it off some reason or the other. Last year, though, I finally decided to do it. I will be doing one of these every month (or every two months) and I will include literally everything that I have loved or that has made me happy during that time, be it a film, a song, a book, a TV show or even an item of clothing. Here are my May and June favorites.

Favorite TV show: Fleabag (2016-2019)
I watched Andrew Scott's interview on The Graham Norton Show (about damn time he was invited!) and one of the things they talked about was his character on a TV show called Fleabag. I have never heard of it, but everyone was raving about it, so I was curious to see it, especially when Andrew's character was called The Hot Priest (I'm not joking, that's the actual name of his character). I binge-watched the whole thing and I am obsessed with it. It's honestly one of the best shows I have ever seen. It's a comedy, but it's also really tragic and heartbreaking. And it's clever and witty and irreverent, but also genuinely touching and devastating at times. Phoebe Waller-Bridge wrote it and she also stars in it (as Fleabag, that's the name of her character), and she is phenomenal. One thing I really like about it is the fact that she keeps breaking the fourth wall and that really makes the show unique and ever more special. The second season is my favorite because I love Phoebe's scenes with Andrew. They have amazing chemistry and rapport. I was so sad that they didn't end up together (spoiler alert!), but the finale was outstanding nevertheless. I really hope Phoebe writes another season (even though it won't have Andrew Scott in it), because I need more Fleabag in my life.

Favorite actress: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
This woman is an absolute genius and I am slightly obsessed with her at the moment.

Favorite actor: Andrew Scott
I have had a humongous crush on Andrew Scott ever since he played Moriarty on Sherlock (2010-2017) and his character in Fleabag just made me love him even more. He is just ridiculously talented and handsome and sexy and funny and cute and I adore him to bits.

Favorite song: «Body Talk» by Foxes
This song came up on shuffle on Spotify and I was instantly hooked. It has a sort of 80's vibe to it that I love and I listened to it pretty much non-stop throughout May.

Favorite random thing: Spotify's Pride Classics playlist
June was Pride Month and Spotify made a series of playlists to celebrate it. I've been listening to the Pride Classics one NON-STOP and I love it so much! It's just a bunch of uplifting songs that make want to get up and dance all day. Go listen to it, if you haven't yet.
And that's it. These are the things that I have been loving lately.
What are some of your favorite things at the moment?

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Top 15 Favorite Films of the 1960s

The 1960s were a decade of social and political unrest. The civil rights movement opposed blacks and whites in a war against unfair treatment of races. The LGBT community demanded a right to be different, while female activists stroke down barriers to women's personal freedom and professional careers. Young people rebelled against the establishment and denounced the Vietnam War, which was killing thousands of people every day. John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Che Guevara were assassinated, Chairman Mao starved 30 million people to death, Neil Armstrong became the first man on the Moon, the Berlin Wall divided Germany in two, The Beatles started the «British Invasion» and Woodstock became the biggest music festival in the world.

The «Swinging Sixties» changed Hollywood as well. From spaghetti westerns and sophisticated spy films to racy comedies and science-fiction epics, movies began to break social taboos and turned increasingly dramatic, unbalanced and hectic. This was the beginning of the New Hollywood era that brought down the infamous Production Code and revolutionized the motion picture industry. These are, as of now, my top 15 favorite films of the 1960s. Please bear in mind that this is my own personal opinion, which is obviously limited to the films I have seen so far. If you are interested, check out my favorites from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

#15: They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)
Directed by Sydney Pollack | Starring Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Susannah York, Red Buttons, Bruce Dern and Gig Young | ABC Pictures

In this Depression-era melodrama, a group of disparate characters try to make some money by participating in a dance marathon run by an opportunistic emcee. I think this is one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen, but I also think it is the perfect depiction of the desperation and hopelessness of the Great Depression.

#14: A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
Directed by Daniel Petrie | Starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands and Stephen Perry | Columbia Pictures

A Raisin in the Sun follows a black family as they attempt to improve their lives with an insurance payout after the death of the father. Although it features an all-black cast (and an incredibly talented one at that), the film's storyline is universal and proves that family is more important than anything else. I have seen this film twice and I am astounded that Sidney Poitier did not receive an Oscar nomination for his performance.

#13: Marriage on the Rocks (1965)
Directed by Jack Donohue | Starring Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, Dean Martin, Cesar Romero, Nancy Sinatra, Tony Bill and Joi Lansing | Warner Bros.

This film is a hoot and a half. But then again, it's a Rat Pack (sort of) film, so of course it would be. It goes something like this: Deborah Kerr is married to Frank Sinatra, who, in attempt to spice up their marriage, takes his wife on a second honeymoon to Mexico. But things get a little lost in translation and Deborah Kerr ends up divorcing Frank Sinatra and marrying his best friend, Dean Martin. It is genuinely quite funny.

Directed by Gene Saks | Starring Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Charles Boyer, Mildred Natwick and Herb Edelman | Paramount Pictures

Free-spirited Jane Fonda marries stuffed-shirt Robert Redford. At first, it's all rainbows and unicorns, but then things go a little south because he's apparently too «prim and proper» for her. But don't worry, it all ends well after he proves he's not so uptight after all by literally walking barefoot in the park for her.

#11: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Directed by Arthur Penn | Starring Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons and Michael J. Pollard | Warner Bros.-Seven Arts

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway epitomize the fast and fury of the counterculture by playing the 1930s legendary couple of bank robbers, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. With a little help from Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons and Michael J. Pollard, Bonnie and Clyde was one of the many films that brought down the Production Code and started the New Hollywood era. I have seen it twice, and it's a damn good film!

Directed by Elia Kazan | Starring Warren Beatty, Natalie Wood, Pat Hingle, Audrey Christie, Barbara Loden and Zohra Lampert | Warner Bros.

Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood are madly in love with each other, but their love almost destroys them both and they end up going their separate ways. I'm still a little miffed that they didn't end up together.

Directed by Stanley Kramer | Starring Spencer Tracy, Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Montgomery Clift and Judy Garland | United Artists

Maximilian Schell tries to defend four Nazis who stand accused of crimes against humanity, but Spencer Tracy tells him to suck it. Go, Spencer, go. In all seriousness, this film is outstanding, but also really disturbing because it's a reminder of the atrocities perpetrated under the Nazi regime. Everyone in the cast is phenomenal, especially Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift, who, in my opinion, should have won Oscars for their performances.

#8: The Great Escape (1963)
Directed by John Sturges | Starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson and James Coburn | United Artists

In this three-hour epic, Steve McQueen and company escape from a German POW camp during World War II. It was based on a real mass escape that occured in 1944, in which British and Commonwealth airmen broke out of Stalag Luft III, although the plot deviates significantly from the historical events. Regardless, it is a really good film and Steve McQueen is really good in it. This was actually the film that made me fall in love with him.

#7: The Longest Day (1962)
Directed by K. Annakin, A. Marton and B. Wicki | Starring John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton and Richard Todd | 20th Century Fox

As you have probably realized by now yes, I love World War II-related films. This one in particular is one of my personal favorites, and it is about the D-Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944. Fun fact: one of the actors in The Longest Day, Richard Todd, was actually one of first British officers to land in Normandy and he participated in the assault on Pegasus Bridge, which is depicted in the film. Todd was offered the chance to play himself, but instead he took the part of Major John Howard, who commanded said assault.

Directed by Robert Mulligan | Starring Natalie Wood, Steve McQueen, Edie Adams, Herschel Bernardi, Harvey Lembeck and Tom Bosley | Paramount Pictures

Natalie Wood has a one-night-stand with Steve McQueen and becomes pregnant. She tries to have an abortion, but he doesn't let her go through with it. In the end, they fall in love with each other, with bells and banjos and everything. I think it's a shame that this film is not very well-know. It's a proper good one!

#5: Two for the Road (1967)
Directed by Stanley Donan | Starring Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney, Eleanor Bron and William Daniels | 20th Century Fox

Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney play a married couple who reflect on their relationship while on a road trip to Southern France. This is one of the best romantic comedies ever made. Miss Hepburn is an absolute star (as always) and I was quite charmed by Mr. Finney. I had never seen an Albert Finney movie prior to watching this one last summer, but I became slightly in love with him. I really have to watch more of his films.

#4: This Property is Condemned (1966)
Directed by Sydney Pollack | Starring Natalie Wood, Robert Redford, Charles Bronson, Kate Reid and Mary Badham | Paramount Pictures

Like They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, This Property is Condemned is set during the Great Depression. It tells the story of a young woman stuck in a small town, who falls in love with a handsome stranger working for the railroad. Look, it's Sydney Pollack, Natalie Wood and Robert Redford. What more do you want?

#3: Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Directed by Jonh Schlesinger | Starring Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Sylvia Miles, John McGiver and Brenda Vaccaro | United Artists

Jon Voight is a young Texan (he's not a cowboy for reals, but he's a real stud) who moves to New York to become a prostitute. Dustin Hoffman is an ailing con man without a penny to his name. By a strange twist of fate, the two begin a «business relationship», which soon develops into a strong bond. This is honestly one of the best films I have ever seen in my life. It's a bit disturbing, but Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman are perfection.

#2: The Americanization of Emily (1964)
Directed by Arthur Hiller | Starring Julie Andrews, James Garner, Melvyn Douglas, James Coburn and Keenan Wynn | Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

This is another World War II-related film and it's so good! (It's written by Paddy Chayefsky, so of course it would be.) It's set in the weeks leading up to D-Day and it follows a cynical U.S. Navy officer who falls in love with an English driver. If you don't want to fall madly in love with James Garner, I advise you not to watch this film.

Directed by Blake Edwards | Starring Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Martin Balsam, Buddy Ebsen and Mickey Rooney | Paramount Pictures

Breakfast at Tiffany's was one of the first classic films I saw and it remains one of my personal favorites. Audrey Hepburn plays a New York socialite with a dark past, who becomes interested in the struggling writer living in her aparment building. To this day, I still call George Peppard «Fred-baby».

And there you have it, my top 15 favorite films of the 1960s. Were you surprised by some of my choices?
What are some of your favorite films of the «Swinging Sixties»?

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

March & April Favorites

I have always wanted to do a «monthly favorites» type of post on this blog, but I kept putting it off some reason or the other. Last year, though, I finally decided to do it. I will be doing one of these every month (or every two months) and I will include literally everything that I have loved or that has made me happy during that time, be it a film, a song, a book, a TV show or even an item of clothing. Here are my March and April favorites.

Favorite TV show: Skam France (2018-)
I know I named Skam France my favorite TV show in February, but it continued to be one of my favorite in March and April. It is so good! It's currently in the fourth season and it's supposed to end after that, but I'm still hoping that they make at least two more seasons.

Favorite TV show #2: Druck (2018-)
Druck is the German version of Skam and I am slightly in love with it as well. Like Skam France, Druck took the original storyline and put their own spin on it. The French version is still my favorite remake of the original show, but Druck is really good as well.

Favorite TV show #3: Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
I've watching Game of Thrones since the very beginning and I can't believe it's coming to an end. There's only three episodes left before the finale and I'm already dreading it. I don't know what I'm going to do without Jon, and Pod, and Davos (yes, I love Davos), and Sam, and Jamie and Brienne, and Gendry and Arya... By the way, how badass is Arya? She freakin' killed the Night King! She actually killed him! It basically took her two seconds to do what Jon has been trying to do for two seasons.

Favorite song: «Remember» by Seinabo Sey & Jacob Banks
This appeared in last scene of episoe 3x09 of Skam France and I was obsessed with it for days afterwards. It's a beautiful song and it fitted the scene (and the show) perfectly.

And that's it. These are the things that I love/was obsessed with throughout March and April.
What are some of your favorite things right now?

Sunday, 7 April 2019

The Third Doris Day Blogathon: «Romance on the High Seas» (1948)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Curtiz, Romance on the High Seas (1948) the the story of Elvira Kent (Janis Paige) and her husband Michael (Don DeFore), who suspect each other of cheating. For their wedding anniversary, Elvira books a cruise to Rio de Janeiro, but Michael suddenly cancels the trip for business reasons. Seeing an opportunity, Elvira pretends to go alone, but in fact sends Georgia Garrett (Doris Day), a singer she had met at the travel agency, in her place and under her name. By secretly staying behind, Elvira hopes to find if Michael is indeed having an affair with his attractive new secretary, Miss Medwick (Leslie Brooks). Michael, however, is suspicious over his wife's willingness to take the trip alone, so he hires private detective Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) to see if she is sneaking around behind his back.

Peter joins the cruise and, as part of his job, becomes acquainted with Georgia. The singer, following the instructions of the real Elvira, keeps up the charade by pretending to be Elvira to everyone, including Peter. He reports to Michael that «Elvira» is definitely travelling alone and, to her dismay, Elvira discovers nothing suspicious about her husband. Peter and Georgia began spending all their time on board together and they gradually fall in love, which causes conflict for both of them. Meanwhile, Georgia is almost exposed when her pianist friend, Oscar Farrar (Oscar Levant), unexpectedly arrives on the ship. When she sees him, Georgia claims to be sick and stays in her room. Despite her efforts, Oscar discovers her new identity and visits her cabin. Peter sees them together and he believes that he has finally discovered Elvira's lover. Arriving in Rio, Peter, still thinking that Georgia is Elvira, tells Michael that he has fallen in love with his wife. Michael immediately flies to Rio and Elvira's uncle Lazlo (S. Z. Sakall) advises her to do the same. After much confusion, Georgia is hired for a high salary as a singer at a hotel in Rio, and Peter learns her real identity. The couple is happy reunited, as are Michael and Elvira.

Romance on the High Seas began as a scenario penned by Argentine screenwriters Sixto Sondal Ríos and Carlos A. Olivari named Musical Romance. The property was initially purchased by Warner Bros. in 1939 and acquired by Michael Curtiz for $75,000 in 1947. Curtiz, the esteemed director of such acclaimed pictures as Casablanca (1942), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) and Mildred Pierce (1945), had made an agreement with Warner Bros. under which the studio and his own production company were to share the costs and profits of his subsequent films. However, his first picture under the new arrangement, the noir The Unsuspected (1947), was a critical and financial disappointment. But Curtiz believed that he could not produce two unsuccessful films in a row and set his eyes on Musical Romance, which he thought would make a «perfect» Technicolor musical comedy. Jack Warner agreed and greenlighted the project with the working title of Romance in High C.

Judy Garland was the first choice for the role of Georgia Barrett, but her erratic behavior and subsequent nervous breakdown during the making of The Pirate (1948) convinced Curtiz that she was not worth the risk. The director eventually got Paramount to agree to a loan-out of Betty Hutton, but she became pregnant and had to leave the project. Curtiz then considered newcomer Lauren Bacall, but she was not interested. After the «disaster» of Confidential Agent (1945), Bacall distrusted any recommendation endorsed by Jack Warner. Curtiz also tried to borrow Kathryn Grayson from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, but the studio refused. Ready to pull out the remainder of his hair, he tested Marion Hutton, Betty's older sister. Although she was a successful big band singer and had made several screen appearances as a vocalist, Curtiz felt that she was not right for the part.

Doris Day in a studio publicity still for
Romance on the High Seas
Meanwhile, Doris Day had become one of the best known pop vocalists in America. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Day grew up dreaming of becoming a dancer, but an injury to her right leg during a car accident curtailed those prospects. While at home recovering, she discovered that she could sing and was soon performing on local radio programmes. Day eventually caught the attention of jazz musician Barney Rapp, who gave her a job as a vocalist with his orchestra. After working with Rapp, she joined Les Brown's band and scored her first hit recording, «Sentimental Journey», released in early 1945. Her popularity continued to increase with six other Billboard top ten hits and a tour across the United States with the Les Brown band.

By early 1947, however, Day's future was uncertain. The swing era had peaked and her marriage to saxophonist George Weidler had come to an end. Believing that her dreams were over, a depressed Day prepared to return to Cincinnati to work at a local radio station. Before she left, her agent, Al Levy, convinced her to attend a party at the house of composer Jule Styne, who, along with lyricist Sammy Cahn, had a vested interet in locating an actress-singer for Curtiz. Day remembered being cornered by Levy, Styne and Cahn and pitched to go to Warner Bros. to audition for Curtiz.

A reluctant Day went to the Warners lot on April 16, 1947, accompanied by her agent. When she met Curtiz, she told him that she knew nothing about acting and was unenthusiastic about being in the film. She later recalled, «Nothing mattered to me except my personal life and my personal life was a melancholy ruin.» Day warbled a few lines of George and Ira Gershwin's «Embraceable You,» but then broke down in tears and retreated to the ladies room to compose herself. After Day returned and sang a bit more, she started crying again and apologized profusely to Curtiz. Instead of being furious, the director was charmed by Day. «You're very sensitive girl,» he said in his characteristically broken English. «To be good actress is to be sensitive [...] I sometimes like girl who is not actress. Is less pretend and more heart.» According to Day, Curtiz then gave her a marked-up script, instructing her to memorize several lines and return to the studio the following morning for a series of screen tests.

Jack Carson, Michael Curtiz and Doris Day
between takes on Romance on the High Seas

Day's first screen test for Romance in High C consisted of three scenes with Don McGuire, who was subbing for Jack Carson, already cast as private detective Peter Virgil. Right away, Curtiz «knew he had his star.» Later that day, she was informed that she had the part and then signed a seven-year contract with Michael Curtiz Productions. The film was subsequently renamed Romance on the High Seas and filming began a few weeks later, in early June 1947.

Curtiz initially tried to shape Day's performance into a «brassy Betty Hutton hybrid,» but he quickly realized it was a bad idea. In addition to preserving Day's natural character, he was determined to protect her confidence. He flatly refused to allow her to view any of the rushes. When she asked to see how a printed scene came out, Curtiz told her, «I like it [...] and that's good enough for you.» Shortly before production began, Day began taking acting lessons from a drama coach, Sophie Rosenstein, but Curtiz put an halt to it. He explained: «You have very, very strong personality. Is you. Is unique. That's why I don't want you to take lessons. You a have a natural thing there in you, should no one ever disturb. You listen to me, Doris. Is vey rare thing. Do not disturb.» Day accepted the director's counsel and maintained a deep respect for Curtiz throughout her entire carrer.

Romance on the High Seas was released on June 25, 1948 and was a great hit, grossing $2.1 million domestically. Doris Day turned into a instant star, with the song «It's Magic,» written by Styne and Cahn for the film, reaching number two on the Billboard chart and receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. Curtiz was so pleased with his discovery that he rushed Day into another picture, My Dreams Is Yours (1949), again with Jack Carson.

This post is my  my contribution to The Third Doris Day Blogathon, hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood. To view all entries, click HERE.