Monday, February 23, 2009

Are Musicals Back?

Well, probably not anymore than they were like 7 years ago when Chicago came out, but still, I enjoyed the musicals tribute on the Oscars last night mostly because it involved more than one Judy Garland clip!



I also enjoyed Queen Latifa's performance for the In Memoriam segment. It was painful to think that I may be responsible for at least three of these deaths.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sunset Blvd.


If you haven't seen Sunset Blvd., I strongly recommend that you do. Yes, it's really weird. Yes, that Gloria Swanson is a total nut-job. Yes, it's awesome. I watched it for the second time ever last weekend for Old Movie Night, and it was better than I remembered. And it was especially fun to watch with a group of 20-somethings who were completely disturbed by most of it.

If you don't know the story, which you should, it opens with a dead man in a pool. That's how you know it's going to be great. We then go back some time to find out how this fellow ended up in the pool. Joe Gillis (William Holden), a handsome, young Hollywood hopeful narrates the story of his accidental meeting with the insane, washed up movie star, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). For whatever reason, he gets sucked into her weirdness and things spiral out of control from there. It slowly builds as Norma gets more and more crazy and poor Joe tries harder and harder to get away from the madness.

(Sidenote: Is it just me, or are there a lot of crazy movie characters with a variation of the name Norman? Norma Desmond, Norman Bates ... Hollywood has doomed the name!)

Also adding to the insanity is Norma's creepy butler Max (Erich von Stroheim). He's always lurking in the shadows and seems to have some weird, unhealthy obsession with Norma.

Clearly, it has the makings of a great film: A big old mansion, an insane old actress with crazy eyes, a dashing young man trapped by the old lady, and a creepy butler who plays the organ.

The group at old movie night seemed to enjoy it. Despite some mocking laughs at Norma's weird facial expressions and some plain old corny dialogue, it seemed to go over really well. It's definitely a film that holds up. As my insightful (and cute!) boyfriend said, it's kind of like a really long episode of The Twilight Zone. It's plenty creepy, but not really a scary movie.

We were so inspired by Norma's crazy eyes that we took a Norma-inspired group photo:


To make things even more interesting, check out the imdb.com trivia for the movie. Good stuff. And take a look at their trivia for Gloria Swanson. Turns out her on screen persona isn't that far off from real life. And Carol Burnett's parodies of the movie is always entertaining.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Judy + Mickey


I stayed home sick from work today and finally got the chance to look through the Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney boxed set I got for Christmas. It includes 4 movies—Babes in Arms, Strike Up the Band, Babes on Broadway, and Girl Crazy— plus a while disc of bonus material, PLUS these fancy little behind-the-scenes photos. I'm not sure what one would ever do with them, but they're still great!

Today I watched Babes on Broadway which is my favorite Judy/Mickey movie. Then I moved onto the bonus disc, which turned out to be awesome for one reason: The Judy Garland Songbook, "A Chronological Cavalcade of Musical Numbers." Yeah, it's basically like Judy Garland music videos which is kind of a dream come true for me considering I generally just fast forward straight to the songs in most Judy movies. I'd say the entire set is worth it for this feature alone, especially when it's only like $30 on Amazon.com.

The curious thing about this Judy Garland Songbook is that they failed to include "Over the Rainbow," the most famous Judy song EVER, but chose to include "Friendly Star" which I believe to be one of the worst songs in the history of the world. I mean really, if they're going to include a lame song from Summer Stock, there's no doubt it should be "Howdy Neighbor, Happy Harvest." But apart from that one strange oversight, all the other songs are quality and they range her very first short film at MGM to "Born in a Trunk" from A Star Is Born which opens and closes the entire set of songs.

The bonus disc also includes the TCM's Private Screening interviews with Mickey Rooney which I have yet to watch, but I'm sure are everything one would expect from a crazy old Mickey Rooney. I'm looking forward to checking that out!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Oldies at The Grammys

I watched the Grammys last Sunday night for three reasons: Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and Neil Diamond. (Yes, I like Neil Diamond. I've come to terms with it and you can too.)

I was pleased that they chose to bring back some of the oldies for those of us who have no idea what these new songs are. I kissed a girl and I liked it?! No, give me Neil Diamond. I was a little concerned that they stuck poor Stevie Wonder with those Jonas Brother kids, but I think it turned out to be one of the best performances of the night. Stevie can make anything amazing.

Paul's performance was decent. Not amazing, but Paul is always cool.

Neil Diamond started off a little questionable. I was worried he was going to do that weird talk/sing business for the entire song, but luckily, things got better. The crowd was very into it and it was overall a pretty good performance for a corny old man.

And here's Stevie and those Jonas kids.