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Posts Tagged ‘elizabeth taylor

A Place in the Sun (1951)

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So that George Stevens is pretty cool, huh?

George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) lands a job at his rich uncle’s factory, perks excluded.  His humble beginnings spark a relationship with his fellow packaging buddy, Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) in his “eff this” mindset against the taboo no-relationships-in-the-workplace policy.  Alice, or “Al”, is fixated with George, dazzled with his dashing good looks and personality (who wouldn’t be?)  Things get crazy when George meets the enchanting Angela (Elizabeth Taylor), a high-society beauty with rich friends and influence to boot.  Alice is all-but thrown out the window once the chemistry between George and Angela starts fizzling.  But Alice isn’t done with George.  Not even close.  She’s determined to win him back, and she’s got a pretty convincing argument after she ends up pregnant.  But George has other plans.  [don don don…]

This was not was I was expecting.  I expected some sweeping romance between Clift and Taylor, with lots of passionate kissing and emotional music and beautiful scenery.  While this isn’t entirely untrue, haunting romanticism and tragedy encompass the plot.  When Elizabeth Taylor died just a few months ago, this was the first movie I wanted to watch since I had never seen it before (and it’s another one I can check off the AFI top 100 list…)  Go even further back to when I discovered Montgomery Clift, my mom told me that I needed to see A Place in the Sun if I wanted to see one of the most beautiful on-screen couples ever.  Boy was she right.  Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, two beautiful people with beautiful faces and beautiful bone structure, were meant to be together on screen.  I’d argue that this is one of Taylor’s most beautiful films.  She’s classy, refined, and elegant.  And Clift is, well, movie-star dreamy.  Don’t judge.  I am a girl, you know.  I won’t tell you whether or not I drooled at his on-screen presence.  I’ll leave that up to you to figure out.  All handsomeness aside, he’s fantastic in this role.  Just sayin.

The real hero here, however, is George Stevens (won an Oscar).  Somehow he manages to paint the movie on screen.  The cinematography (also won an Oscar) is magnificent and breath taking.  Every camera angle contributes to Stevens’ ideals and overall feel of the story line.  I also feel like Stevens has a remarkably sensitive approach to the subject which, by the end of the film, is pretty grim.  He allows us to connect with the characters and feel the angst and pain.  But he also reminds us of what it’s like to be in love, and that confused hormones aren’t just reserved for teenagers.

This is a remake of the 1931 film An American Tragedy.  Though I have not seen the original, it intrigued me that Stevens’ version features a different title. A Place in the Sun.  After I finished, the title seemed to take on an entirely new meaning.  It was poetic.  Sunshine and warmth in the midst of tragedy.  Finding solace in the heat of a new and exciting relationship and forgetting about the pressing problems of life.  On such a high, one wouldn’t believe how fast it could come crashing down.  But oh it does.

One must not forget Shelley Winters – she’s not easy to overlook with her plain features and feisty, whiny mannerisms.  You can relate to her insecurity concerning the L-Taylor and her bubbling hope that things will work out with George.  Her performance, though not as widely recognized for her lack of star-power, is a highlight and earned her an Oscar nom.

Haunting and tragic, A Place in the Sun is a beautiful film, albeit kind of difficult to watch by the end.  8/10

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Written by laurenthejukebox17

June 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

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Wow, those folks have routier parties than I do.  And I’m the one that’s in college…

Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf? Virginia Woolf… Virginia Woolf… Okay, who IS Virginia Woolf?  She’s not really a part of the actual movie.  She was a writer – that much I know from working in a bookstore.  Upon learning a little more about her, she was known for her stream of consciousness style and psychological themes.  To say “who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf” as though she was Disney’s big, bad wolf, is to suggest that you might be afraid of those things that you can’t accept.

Kind of wish I’d understood that before I watched the movie.

Martha and George (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton), a couple with some serious tongue issues, have returned late from a dinner party at Martha’s father’s home – the president of  some local New England college.  George is a history professor.  He speaks very well.  Martha drinks a lot.  She also thinks it’s cool to invite a young couple over for drinks at two am without informing the husband.

The good-looking Nick and his mousey wife Honey (George Segal and Sandy Dennis), a recently hired biology professor and a naïve blonde, aren’t sure how to react to the volatile atmosphere that is their host’s home.  The rest of the film details the events of the evening.  On the menu: Martha lewdly flirting with Nick, George testing Nick’s verbal skills, the whole party tip-toeing around conversing about Martha and George’s oddly absent son – whose birthday is the following day, Honey getting sick and super drunk, playing fun games such as Humiliate the Host followed by Get the Guests, and basically everybody getting more drunk and crying and shouting and stuff.

My honest reaction upon the revealing ending was, “huh, it’d probably be good to watch that again with a better vision of what went on there.  …  Actually, I think I’d rather never watch it again.”  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is certainly an incredible tale.  But it’s a downer.  Not that I’m judging anyone who does drink, I must admit I have never been more grateful that I don’t.  I can’t say that I comprehend exactly the what’s up of, you know, intoxication, but I’ll admit that this situation is NOT my idea of fun.  This is what AA is for guys.  The entire film is mesmerizing, but not necessarily enjoyable.

The best thing here is the performances.  Our four leads (so, the whole cast?) were all nominated for Oscars with the two ladies taking the cake.  All four were deserving of the acclaim – Richard Burton was definitely my favorite performance, but I can’t argue with Paul Scofield winning that one for A Man for All Seasons.  The writing is, of course, impeccable but Burton’s delivery is witty and even entertaining.  Like any person with a gifted tongue would be able to, he hides his own torment and anguish through his insulting monologues.

Elizabeth Taylor can act, guys.  She put on around 30 pounds for the role, and abandoned her famous beauty for this role of a slob.  Her foul mouth and obnoxious mannerisms are fascinating.  She embodies the monstrous character in such a way that gives her life – you can see the potential that Martha had to be tender and kind.  George Segal and Sandy Dennis are also incredible, their ups and downs and insecurities are perfectly emulated.

Through those performances, we get to study the relationships between each couple and as an entire group.  Why Martha and George were married in the first place, who knows.  It’s nothing but put-downs, insults, humiliation, cussing, and zero mutual respect.  Casting Burton and Taylor was genius – you’ve always got that notion in the back of your mind about their real-life relationship=fascination to a whole ‘nother level.  Nick and Honey, seemingly in love at first aren’t quite so peachy-keen with each other it turns out.  He married her because he thought she was pregnant, and for her money.  I guess that’s cool, she’s pretty high-strung I’m not sure who would marry her out of love.  No offense.

Mike Nichols directs this very well – his first film crazy enough.  Again, the casting choices were awesome.  The story, based off the Tony-award winning play, is well played out and greatly paced.

I must admit, there are very few things wrong with this movie, as you may have gathered with all this good stuff i’m talking about.  But it’s so dark and awful, it’s hard to enjoy so much hate and without any real resolution to happiness.  It’s certainly worth watching for the feat that it is, but it, by no means, will ever be a favorite of mine.  “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” “I am.” 6/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

April 11, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Giant (1956)

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Giant is a giant of a movie.  It’s three and a half hours long and covers two generations of Benedicts, even introducing a third.  It stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean – three very beautiful people.  Man, I’ve asked myself so many times what James Dean’s legacy would be if he hadn’t died… That kid knew how to act and this movie is no exception.  He’s still one of my favorite actors and I adore all THREE of his movies, but he was just getting started!  So sad.

Jordan “Bick” Benedict (Hudson)  is the top dawg in Texas, head of the famous Benedict ranching family, owner of Reata ranch.  He goes to Maryland to buy the horse War Winds and falls in lurve with the brunette hottie, Leslie (Taylor).  She comes back with him to Texas.  Bick’s sister, Luz (Mercedes McCambridge) runs the coop, doesn’t like Leslie, is kinda mean to her horse, but likes the poor cowboy Jett Rink (Dean).

Things get a little crazy when Luz is killed, gives some land to Jett and Jett becomes the big-shot oil tycoon of Texas.  The plot is centered around the rivalry between the Benedict family and Jett.

I’d almost say that this is my favorite epic.  It closely rivals Ben Hur – and that’s a childhood favorite of mine.  Anything longer than three hours gets slow, let’s be honest.  Even Lord of the Rings has the four hundred endings.  But Giant manages the time fairly well, and maintains a steady pace throughout the film.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still freaking long (everything’s bigger in Texas) but it gets the job done in a satisfying, and moving way.  One of its major keys to success is that the cast is smaller than most epics.  We have a clear-cut idea of who all the characters are and their role in the story.  We aren’t scrambling to remember all the forty grandchildren and the five different groups of bad guys.

Elizabeth Taylor is beautiful, oh she’s beautiful.  Even as an old lady towards the end she’s still got class.  Leslie the character is also admirable – she’s feisty and opinionated, anything a girl like me can look up to. I’m not a super-feminist by any means, but I like her fight for a place amongst the boys and respect any such women.

She is hardly the star though.  Rock Hudson is also excellent in his role as the patriarch of the fam.  He’s tough, kind of stubborn, but a good guy.  The Benedict offspring are also well-played.  Carroll Baker is great as Luz II.  Totally didn’t realize that it was DENNIS HOPPER in there until AFTER I’d watched the entire thing though.  I don’t think that makes me an idiot totally.  He’s quite handsome in this – not that he isn’t in his later roles but, ya know, if you’ve seen Hoosiers as many times as I have you’d understand.

James Dean… is awesome.  The method actor that showed the world how to method act.  You feel sorry for him, then you hate him.  His career was abruptly ended during filming, but his performance is nonetheless incredible.  I’d have given him the Oscar – though Yul Brinner’s totally a bare-chested stud I’ll admit.  Either way, James Dean will always be a cinematic icon, even if he’s only got three movies to his name.  Why is it that the talented ones have to die so young?  No one’s going to wonder what Miley Cyrus’s career would have been like if she were to die tomorrow.  But whatever.

Enough with my James Dean praise.  Besides the spectacular acting, the cinematography is spectacular.  If anything were to invite me to Texas and the ranch-life it’d be this movie.  Everything is consistently beautiful, oh how those roaring hills call to me.

George Stevens should also be recognized for this film’s legacy.  The overall feel of the film is moving and sweeps you off your feet.  It’s a great adaptation of an Edna Ferber novel.  Each scene is memorable.  Bick’s final fight in the restaurant, Jett’s lament to Luz, Leslie chewin’ out the boys.

This is a film worth investing three and a half hours for.  And I don’t say that lightly.  If only for James Dean. 9/10


Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

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Oh Elizabeth Taylor.  You were such an icon.  You kind of ruled the movie industry.  And your life was such a soap opera.  But you’re still amazing.  RIP, lady.  Sadly, there are quite a few of her movies that I haven’t seen yet.  Nothing like a death to get you rolling, so here I am.

First of all, Paul Newman’s in this movie.  I’m kind of in love with that blue-eyed hunk.  Taylor plays our “cat on a hot tin roof,” Maggie, and is married to Paul (his name is Brick) an alcoholic ex-football player.  I don’t know about you folks, but initially I thought that Maggie was our bad guy character.  She’s sassy, standoffish and rude.  You’re not quite sure if her pleas for affection from Brick are out of sexual selfishness or genuine love.  But then the story slowly unfolds and turns out Brick’s kind of a bum.  And an ignorant jerk.  Maggie’s still sassy and rude and standoffish, but she’s got good intentions.

Their marriage is on the rocks (and childless).  Brick’s father “Big Daddy” (Burl Ives) is dying of cancer.  The house is full of screaming “no-neck” kids.  Brick’s brother Gooper (Jack Carson) and wife (Madeleine Sherwood) are idiots, bickering over who gets what when he dies and trash talking about Brick.  Big Mama (Judith Anderson) is just freaking out.  It’s all a big mess – everyone’s lying to everybody and nobody is getting along.  Except the oblivious kids maybe.

All of this tension is even more eminent transpiring in such close quarters and all in one sitting.  Everything takes place in a aingle evening.  It’s hard to tell how long Brick has been dealing with this crisis of identity and basically how long he’s been completely self centered, wallowing in his problems and reliving “the glory days.”  In some ways, it seems like the story is unveiled almost too organized.  Problem- digging into man’s subconscious- solution-type of deal.  Could all of those deep psychological issues be fixed with one pow-wow with the pops?  Just a thought.

But this is still a great movie.  Based off the Pulitzer prize winning play by Tennessee Williams, the script is still good though apparently deviating dramatically from the original (like a prominent homosexual theme?)  The acting is also great and I’m ASTONISHED that Burl Ives wasn’t nominated.  He was my favorite part (well, except for looking at Paul Newman that is…)  Elizabeth Taylor is a firey spirit as always and she’s perfect for the role.  Newman is also excellent – proof that he has range as an actor.  It’s one of those movies where every single person is perfect in their role.  I also enjoyed Judith Anderson’s performance as Big Mama.

The selling point is the ever-present tension.  It literally fogs your screen it’s so heavy.  And man, who wouldn’t feel stressed with all of that bickering and chaotic children.  It’s excellently directed by Richard Brooks.  The climax between Brick and Big Daddy is the explosion after a ticking bomb.  It’s perfectly set and the ending is dang satisfactory.  Full of sizzle.  Yes, I just used the word sizzle.

And did I mention that I love Paul Newman’s blue eyes? 7/10


Written by laurenthejukebox17

March 26, 2011 at 7:52 pm