Happy Birthday Larry David
Today would have been my favourite actor of all time Jimmy Stewart’s 103rd Birthday. Now ofcourse he’s passed on, been gone since 1997, and was gone well before I even knew or saw any of his films.
I was 12 in 2003 when I first saw him in what would become a year later to be my favourite film of all time no less, Vertigo (1958). But when I first saw this masterpiece there were only three things I liked about it: Alfred Hitchcock’s always subperb direction, Bernard Herrmann’s haunting and beautiful score, and Stewart’s performance, but other than that I didn’t really enjoy the film, finding it long, tedious, a tad bit dull and maybe a little pretentious.
But in Stewart and Hitchcock’s next film I watched Rear Window (1954) I not only loved Stewart but the entire film also. It was clever, innovative but also extremely entertaining and easy to follow instantly also.
However in the next film I watched, the Christmas classic of 1946 It’s A Wonderful Life I had the same feeling I had when first seeing Vertigo: film’s ok, but Stewart’s great. Thanfully though like Vertigo It’s A Wonderful Life became one of my all time faves after repeat viewings.
Finally by the time I saw The Philadelphia Story (1940) I was a full fledged Stewart fan and declared him my new favourite actor ever. Before him it was Charlton Heston as I’m also heavilly into The Planet Of The Apes Series, but after seeing him destroy himself in Bowling For Columbine (2002), I needed a replacement, which I most certainly found in Jimmy Stewart. It’s not hard to see why. He’s extremely likeable, has a very interesting demeanor aswell as an inimitable voice, and he perfectly played the everyman, a person that you the viewer could relate to and sympathise with, and he did that well in such films as Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939), Harvey (1950), Winchester 73 (also 1950) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). He played that better than anyone that has come before or since. Tom Hanks was the Jimmy Stewart of the 90s. What the hell happened there? And yet he could also go dark and moody, yet still be fine and not be able to hinder his career. While I have yet to see all his work, and there’s still a few classics I haven’t seen yet, because this country is late or simply don’t get em on dvd here, all but one of his films I have loved and especially loved him in them. Happy Birthday Jimmy Stewart.
Top 5 James Stewart Performances
1. George Bailey-It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
The ultimate Jimmy Stewart performance, and the one he really deserved the Oscar for, Stewart returns to acting after serving in WW2 with this absolutly wonderful performance as George Bailey, a man who does so much for his small town in spite of wanting to leave soo badly, and yet thinking he’s a failure decides to end his life on Christmas Eve. Luckily a Guardian Angel shows him the error he was going to make just in time. Stewart’s performance, as well as the film always puts me in a good mood, and if I ever wanted the perfect normal life (i.e wife, kids, plain yet steady job with decent pay) I’d want to be like Stewart in this.
2. Scottie Ferguson-Vertigo (1958)
Stewart turns in quite possibly the best portrayl I’v ever seen of a man obsessively in love with a woman I have ever seen. A realistic, not crazy, and yet likeable portrayl of one. By the film’s end, scratch that by the second act of the film you should be feeling sorry for him even if he is partly to blame for what happens in the denoument. When I first started to like-like girls I kind of acted like Stewart in this. Maybe I should have continued.
3. L.B. Jeffries-Rear Window (1954)
Turning in another stellar performance for Hitch, Stewart unlike his character in Vertigo was less focused on girls, no despite the fact he had gorgeous Grace Kelly romancing him (God bless her), he was more interested in solving a possible murder of a neighbor by her husband. Has you do. Perhaps being confined to a wheelchair made him slightly stir crazy. Either way Stewart turns in once again another engaging role, and another personal best.
4. Macauley Connor-The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The role that did win him an Oscar, and while he was good as always, he didn’t really have alot of drama to do. This was more of an apology win as he most likely deserved to win the previous year for Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, while Henry Fonda deserved it more that year for The Grapes Of Wrath. But Stewart was very funny as a fast talking reporter, ordered to snoop in on a socialite (Katherine Hepburn) who’s about to remarry. His drunk scenes with Cary Grant are a paticular comic highlight, and then getting to romance Kate Hepburn! Not too shabby for ya Oscar winning performance eh Jimmy.
5. Elwood P. Dowd-Harvery (1950)
Long before Donnie Darko (2001) somehow found an audience, good ol Jimmy was delighting people of all ages (and not just eccentric youths or emos) with the definitive man whose best buddy is a rabbit film. This was also his nicest role too.
Elizabeth Taylor, Hollywood legend and winner of two Oscars has passed away of congestive heart failure. She was 79. It’s kind of hard to believe she’s gone, considering she had been in failing health for at least over a decade. I honestly thought she would be one of those ol celebrity troopers like Mickey Rooney (if you don’t know who he is look him up on IMDb) still livin it up and would finally pass somewhere in the 90s or almost 100, like Karl Malden (again if you don’t know IMDb can help).
While she is obviously a legend from the golden age of Hollywood, a cultural icon, screen icon and just all round great there have been a few classics of hers I still haven’t seen like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), I don’t know why that also has Paul Newman one of my all time faves, Giant (1956), but I intend to round easter this year as it’s an epically long classic, National Velvet (1944), the original Father of the Bride (1950), yep the early Steve Martin 90s comedy was a remake of a Spencer Tracy classic with Taylor as the bride, and it’s sequel Father’s Little Dividend (1951), and A Place In The Sun (also 51).
What I have seen from Taylor are The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954), a long and dated film but also very sad, not least of all was Taylor’s performance as the leading man’s wife, Cleopatra (1963) the extremely long bore of an epic where Taylor plays who else? very, very pretty in it though haha. Unlike the next role I’d see her in and so far the best I’v seen of her, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) in which she plays the loud, obnoxouis, boozy and abusive wife to real life hubby at the time Richard Burton. The Academy also really liked it and awarded her the Best Actress Oscar, her second and last, after already winning for BUtterfield 8 in 1960, though she most definetly won it not because she actually deserved it but because she had been ill with pneumonia and almost died. I next saw her in 1974’s That’s Entertainment in which she was one of many stars who hosted a segment honoring MGM’s classic musical hey day of the 30s-50s, “Boy those sure were the good old days” she would lament. I would next see her in one of my child hood faves, still a popular one for me, and the earliest movie I can remember seeing at a cinema, The Flintstones (1994) in which she played the very camp and rather funny ma of Wilma’s. This would be her final theatrical film.
And so it would be TV she would end up finishing her career on, getting the honor of not only voicing herself in The Simpsons but also baby Maggie aswell (although she didn’t do it for the lame movie) and she also made a very camp appearance in the TV Movie These Old Broads (2001) her final on screen appearance in which she was in a wheelchair, which she would be in for the rest of her life.
Incidentally last Thursday a week before she died, I happened to have found the 3 disc special edition of Cleopatra at a warehouse and decided to buy it not because I like the film, which I don’t, but because it has a fascinating doco on the making of the troubled shoot. Besides That’s Entertainment, this is so far the only true Liz Taylor film I own at the moment. So I think in her honor tomorrow I’ll give Cleopatra another go (maybe with my Mom, who expressed interest) as well as finally getting round to watching the other classics of hers I somehow have missed.
Rest In Peace Elizabeth Taylor. Hollywood and the world has definetly lost another icon today. The golden age of Hollywood may have in fact lost it’s last super star today :( RIP.
8. 30 Rock (2006-)
As the show goes on it appears to get sillier by the minute, and who knows in another couple of years it might be pushed further down if it continues, but this does have three seasons of comic genius (maybe not Arrested genius, but still) where Tina Fey was the funniest lady of TV, along with Alec Baldwin and especially Tracy Morgan.
Season Three. After the very funny but shortened (due to that damn writer’s strike) season two, the show came back with a full season of wild and smart hilarity that was just right.
Favourite Episode: Greenzo (Season 2 Ep 27)
David Schiwmmer guests as an out of work actor given another chance as a friendly environmental spokesman called Greenzo, dressed in a silly pre-school kiddies show costume, who blows it again when he goes too far in the role. Meanwhile Kenneth’s latest party is ruined when Tracy spreads some buzz to get people to go with disatrous results, which is only shown in quick flash backs which literally last a few seconds. Genius. And funny too.
6. The Golden Girls (1985-1992)
A sitcom about four single, elderly women sharing a flat together! How could this possibly be entertaining to me? Well The Golden Girls is one of the funniest shows ever made. With this terrific ensemble of truly talented funny ladies, geniuses all of them they made it possible, along with the killer one liners and just flat out good writing in general (even Mitchell Hurwitz, creator of Arrested Development wrote episodes). While most 12 and 13 year olds would be out hanging with school mates still or possibly discovering love for the first time after school, I’d race home (actually I lived next door to my intermediate school) and watched this every weekday afternoon with my Mom, who got me into this, aswell as Curb (God bless her) aswell as Who’s The Boss?, Happy Days and Get Smart (oh those sure were the good ol days of 2004) but this was the show I enjoyed the most, and it turned me into a TV buff too. Now ofcourse I liked TV well before seeing this, but this was the first show I truly followed properly, looked up the eps, the cast and crew etc. and it paved the way for other shows I’d get into like Arrested, Curb etc. If you don’t believe me on how funny the show is, then check it out, it truly is really funny.
7. The Simpsons (1989-)
Ok who hasn’t grown up watching this and loving it? It’s on TV all the time and is still running today, and will probably out live us all. Probably the greatest show off all time too, and certainy the most popular for sure, and while the show hasn’t been good in like a decade, the decade before that it remained one of the funniest, even delving into drama which was usually sad, and a wide range of celebrity guests, aswell as pop culture references up the ying yang, and popular catch phrases and merchandise too, making this a full fledged phenomenon. So yeah it could be safe to say that The Simpsons is the best show ever and I wouldn’t argue with that. I mean what could be possibly greater?
4. Seinfeld (1989-1998)
Before he did Curb, Larry David established himself by co-creating the greatest show of the 90s. This famously dubbed “Show About Nothing”, also made by star Jerry Seinfeld, managed to pull off alot of comedy gold, famous catch phrases, and the one thing, the absolute one thing this has over Curb: An excellent ensemble aswell as recurring cast of mad characters. Where Curb is Larry’s show all the way Seinfeld everyone’s great and there’s barely a wink link. A comedy classic.
Favourite Episode: The Contest (Season 4 Episode 51)
Larry David won an Emmy for writing an episode about masturbation, and who can hold out the longest and be “Master of their domain”! Check it out.
Favourite Season: Season Four.
Has the story arc in which Jerry and George develop a show about nothing for NBC. Also features such classic eps as The Virgin, The Bubble Boy, The Outing and the afroementioned Contest.
5. M*A*S*H (1972-1983)
Groundbreaking black comedy movie spawned a groundbreaking series. A series that can be entertainingly funny one minute, and then go deadly serious the next, with a terrific ensemble (that changed alot) but somehow never hurt the series, lead by the great Alan Alda as Hawkeye. May have gone on a season or two longer than it should, but it’s finale was undoubtly the greatest last ep ever.
Fave Ep: Goodbye, Farewell And Amen (Season 11 Ep 251)
Six Feet Under may have had the greatest final moments of anything, but M*A*S*H had the better last ep overall. This 21/2 hour long ep shows the war ending, and the gang at the 4077th making their tearful departures. A fittingly long but worthwhile sendoff to the long running classic.
Fave Season: Season 3
When the series was still light, but was beginning to get more serious, as dramatically shown in the season finale Abryssinia Henry in which Col. Henry Blake is given a discharge and is going home and well SPOILER ALERT he’s tragically killed when his plane is shot down over the sea of Japan.
1. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-)
Larry David’s hilarious 30 minutes of awkward hilarity hijinks is, along with Arrested Development, the funniest series I’v ever seen, and while Arrested is the better show, no one is funnier than the main man Larry David himself. Watching him get into scrapes, complain about virtually everything humanly possible, and also get into arguements and fights with practically anyone (and he has) such as women, children, the disabled and celebrities, and always losing is amazing, and the fact that this basic format has been going for 11 years now, and soon entering it’s 8th season and it doesn’t feel old or tiresome is a testament to the genius that is Larry David. Long may he prosper, and may he continue this show until death does he part.
Fave Episode: Interior Decorator (Season 1 Episode 5)
The first episode that I ever saw, introduced Larry perfectly has he tries to make doctor’s appointments, fights with a woman in the waiting room, aswell as an unruly Asian Parking Attendant, his lawyer, and a feisty Interior Decorator, and also tries to get a meeting with Diane Keaton, who makes a voice cameo, but isn’t seen!
Fave Season: A cross between 2 and 3, In which Larry tries to make another series with first Jason Alexander, then Julia Louis Dreyffus, while in 3 he embarks on opening a restaurant with other celebrity investors, was almost in a Scorsese film, gets a kid drunk, compliments a man on the size of his son’s penis, and uses his mother’s death to get out of things. Also features the classic Krazee Eyez Killa episode.
2. Arrested Development (2003-2006)
The funniest, smartest show ever made. I could even go so far as to say that this could very well be the greatest show ever too, this sitcom about an extremely dysfunctional family managed to fill up at least 1000 jokes into a single ep, some you may not get or caught until you watch it again, matched by a great ensemble, but unfortunatly while it was a critics darling, and garnered Emmys, Golden Globes and whatever else it was eligible for, this never caught on with audiences (even most of my friends didn’t get into it until last year) and it was cancelled after 3 seasons. Rumours of a possible movie seem unlikely too. But if you can make 2 Sex And The City Movies and an Entourage one on the way, then you can make an Arrested Development Movie, come on!
Fave Episode: Try every single 53 episodes of genius. There’s not a single weak link in any, and I can’t watch one without the other.
Fave Season: Once again all three seasons are great, and I simply can’t decide. This is just a perfect show.
3. Six Feet Under (2001-2005)
Darkly quirky, sometimes uncomftable, but always fascinating to watch drama series about a family run funeral home, wasn’t afraid to bring often taboo material, make main characters unlikeable, and best of all it’s openness of death is refreshing, the once great Alan Ball (who also wrote the film American Beauty) made a one of a kind series, that even if yes has it went on it started to feel like a soap, was never dull, and when it came to it’s final bow, what a end it gave us.
Fave Ep: Everyone’s Waiting (Season 5 Episode 63)
The final ep, brings the series full circle, wraps up season, and even series arcs has every character has one emotional problem after another, which they neatly managed to get through, and the final moments are hands down not only the greatest, saddest, most powerful final moments of any series, but also my favourite scene of all time be it film or televison.
Fave Season: Season 1, made their best eps in this intro season.
Politics in real life bores me to tears, almost has much as sports (in fact more so) because while some fun can be found in watching two teams competing over a ball, not to menition the insanity of the crowd, no fun can be found in politics at all. The only time I think I’v been interested in politics ever was when Barack Obama ran and won the Presidency of the United States waay back in 2008, but that was really because I wanted and was happy that a black man finally became President of the US.
Only in the movies can politics be fun, and none maybe more so than Warren Beatty’s audacious, sometimes uncomftable, but often funny satire Bulworth.
In it Beatty gives maybe my favourite performance of his career (more so than Bonnie And Clyde (1967) and Dick Tracy (1990) even) as the title character, Jay Billington Bulworth, an unpopular senator who’s running for re-election. Knowing he’s not gonna win and feeling depressed he decides to hire a hitman to put a hit out on himself, since if he suicides he won’t be able to give his daughter his life insurance money. So throwing caution to the wind, he decides to freely speak his mind during his political rallies and attack and offend everyone who’s backing him, while standing up for and embracing the black community, and getting rapidly into hip hop culture and rapping like a mo fo. But this little change of acting ends up boosting his campaign for the better, and the newly changed Bulworth is more popular than ever. Unfortunatly for him he’s still got a hit out on himself, and naturally not feeling depressed anymore he sets out to stop his own assasination, before his campaign is over, or else he’ll be over.
Co-Written and Directed by Beatty aswell, Beatty creates a marvelous satire, and a absolutly funny character. Watching him rap, and very well too, and later on dressing all ghetto and walking the streets at night while NWA and Cypress Hill’s “Insane In The Membrane” scores in the background were comedy genius.
Now for those who know me I absolutly can’t stand rap music. But if it’s done for fun or otherwise like in this, then it is a source of entertainment, and I was throughly impressed with this comedy and highly recommend it.
In A Nutshell
A hilarious satire, with Beatty great as usual, but also extremely funny and a mean rapper too.
**** (Near perfect)
Cute little NZ comedy, is a good veichle for the always likeable and very funny Rhys Darby, who’s great as Doug, a man who’s happy with his life in Auckland in a dead end job working with his mates, with his attractive girlfriend Sarah (Faye Smythe) listening to Queen and collecting the band’s memorabillia. That is until Sarah’s had enough of Doug’s inability to change and leaves him, heartbroken.
One day, while still pining over his breakup he happens to find an injured duck on his roof. Unsure of what to do with it he visits the Auckland Zoo, where he meets pretty English lass Holly (Sally Hawkins) a bird expert. You can see where this is going: Doug keeps the duck as a pet, names him Pierre, a romance blossoms between Doug and Holly, which is made difficult by her son Taylor (Beck Taylor) who doesn’t want his Mom to replace his deceased father, and finally by Doug’s ex Sarah returning to want him back, complicating his relationship with Holly, forcing Doug to have to win her back again in the end.
But it’s a nice, sweet, often funny ride that’s refreshingly uncorny, made good by loveable performances from Darby and Hawkins, and nice uses of Queen songs (which the whole film should have been scored by)
It was also pretty nice seeing my hometown on a big cinema screen for the first time ever, made surreal with popular Brit actress Hawkins acting there. Hawkins, who recently impressed me with Happy-Go-Lucky acting in my home town (where I could have seen her last year!) was pretty damn awesome to me.
But this is Darby’s film, all the way, and once again he delivers in a more realistic loveable loser role than what he usually plays, but still just as funny as ever, but ok not more so than Murray.
In A Nutshell
A sweet little NZ romantic comedy, with a perfect leading role for Darby, and the ever likeable Hawkins, and good use of Queen songs (though oddly not Bohemian Rhapsody!).
*** out of *****
Well I’v finally seen the Oscar winning best picture, finally seen it after all the hype and praise it had been receiving over the past few months and a few days after winning all those Oscars. And was it worthy? No not really at all. Except for Colin Firth, this film was not really something to fuss about. It was a nice, sweet, cute drama, but not extroidanary, and certainly not the best picture of the year. No the only praise this film deserved was Colin Firth’s performance as the stuttering King George VI, faced with an impossible task of being forced to address his country, but not being able to do so. Whatever praise and awards he received he rightly earned. Firth was exceptional and very likeable playing a real life figure, and doesn’t turn him into a caricature at all, but a man to feel rather sorry for. But as for the film itself, it was very by the numbers and unoriginal, and you know exactly where it’s going.
Now I did like this film, I did enjoy it quite a bit. At just under two hours it never lulls, all the other performances are fine, especially Geoffrey Rush as the sympathetic and eccentric Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, who’s hired to help the King, and the scenes with these two and the friendship they develop were my favourite moments in the film. They were both funny and touching. But that’s how far I came to liking it, the rest of the film predictable, usual fare, which would be fine if it wasn’t soo hyped up. Social Network you were indeed robbed of your Oscar.
In A Nutshell
Colin Firth is subperb, but the film was over hyped, and certainly wasn’t the best picture of the year. A worthy watch, just don’t believe all the hype.
*** out of *****