Sunday, February 8, 2009

12 Movies Meme

Okay, Vance from Tapeworthy has tagged me to program a movie theatre for 6 nights, with two movies a night. Here are the rules:

1) Choose 12 films to be featured. They could be random selections or part of a greater theme. Whatever you want.
2) Explain why you chose the films.
3) Link back to Lazy Eye Theatre so I can have hundreds of links and I can take those links and spread them all out on the bed and then roll around in them. (I'm not sure what that last part means but a rule's a rule.)

These aren't my 12 all-time favorite films, although a couple of them do make an appearance. And some of my favorite genres, like documentaries, aren't represented at all. But since I always did pretty well on term papers, I decided to go with a theme of compare and contrast. I picked movies that I thought would be interesting to see back to back.

I'm tagging:
The Singleman Party
Theatre Aficionado at Large
Stage Left, House Right
I Can't, I Have Rehearsal
And anyone else who'd like to play along!

Day 1: A cinematic feast - What's Cooking and Alice's Restaurant
Sure, "Thanksgiving movie" doesn't have quite the same ring as "Christmas movie" but it can still serve up a filling cinematic feast. In 2000's What's Cooking, director Gurinder Chadha follows four Los Angeles families - Jewish, Latino, African-American and Vietnamese - as they make preparations for the big holiday meal. They cook, they eat, they squabble. It's a sweet little movie about the foods we love and the ties that bind. I'll admit that Arthur Penn's 1969 film Alice's Restaurant is dated, with its focus on the draft and the counterculture. But Arlo Guthrie is terrific in this adaptation of his song about a Thanksgiving with friends that goes awry.

Day 2: The sincerest form of flattery - The Pursuit of Happyness and The Bicycle Thief
Not every director would have been handed the script of The Pursuit of Happyness and thought, The Bicycle Thief. But Gabriele Muccino clearly and lovingly constructed this 2006 movie starring Will Smith as an homage to Vittorio De Sica's classic 1948 Italian neorealist drama. Some of the scenes are identical, with Smith and his son trudging around the streets of San Francisco in a way that evokes the journey of the Italian father and son in postwar Rome. Both movies are about the struggles of a man in very meager circumstances to provide a better life for his family. Both will tug at your heartstrings as they poignantly and powerfully demonstrate the bond between parent and child.

Day 3: From screen to stage and back - Hairspray and Hairspray
I always liked John Waters' 1988 cult classic Hairspray, about attempts to integrate a Baltimore teen dance show in the early 1960s but I loved it once the story became a musical. For me, this is a screen to stage adaptation that works. Maybe it's not quite as quirky and subversive, maybe it's a little more mainstream, but on stage, with some songs and dance numbers, Hairspray becomes a joyous, energetic celebration. It's still about being true to yourself, a testament to the power of individuals to affect change. I'm very happy that in 2007, Hairspray made the transition back to the movies, this time as a musical.

Day 4: The joy of movement - Billy Elliot and Swan Lake
I love those small British movies about a community banding together in the face of adversity. Billy Elliot, released in 2000 and directed by Stephen Daldry, is set against the backdrop of a miners' strike, so it fits the bill perfectly. And since it's the story of a boy, played by Jamie Bell, who realizes that he loves to dance, what better to pair it with than a ballet? I'm not sure Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake ever made it to movie screens but since you can watch it on a 1996 dvd, that's close enough. I know that traditionally, the swans are portrayed by ballerinas. I'll take Bourne's handsome and agile male swans any day.

Day 5: Leading men - Casablanca and Annie Hall
I would have to say that Annie Hall from 1977, and Casablanca, from 1942, are my two all-time favorite movies. So many memorable scenes, so much quotable dialogue. Sure, it doesn't seem as though Humphrey Bogart's smooth and confident cafe owner Rick Blaine, in World War II Morocco, has much in common with Woody Allen's fumbling and insecure late 20th-century New Yorker Alvy Singer. But both movies are about a man and a woman from very different backgrounds coming together, and the difficulties that arise from those relationships. And in their own way, Bogie and Woody are the perfect leading men for their times.

Day 6: New York, New York - On the Town and Midnight Cowboy
Could there be two more diametrically opposite views of New York City than the ones presented in these two films? On the Town, from 1949, is a lighthearted musical about a trio of sailors (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin) who do some sightseeing and search for romance during a 24-hour shore leave in Manhattan. John Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy, on the other hand, from 1969, is a New York City filled with danger and squalor and places where no tourists venture. We've got Jon Voight and an amazing Dustin Hoffman as two hustlers who become unlikely buddies. Where does the truth lie? Probably someplace in between.


Dale said...

I think I'd show up for the late show on all 12 nights unless you're offering free candy and then I'll double bill the whole thing. Nice choices and 'splanations.

Esther said...

Free candy?! No way. The concessions are where I make all my money. Well ok, for you. ;-)

Margo said...

Love your themes! I haven't seen alot of these movies, so I'll have to get busy.

Vance said...

hmm... man. there are still tons of movies I haven't seen yet I realized. On the Town, Midnight Cowboy, Annie Hall, Bicycle theif, TPoH etc. Man, I'd better get cracking.

Esther said...

Thanks, Margo. Feel free to play along!

Esther said...

You had a great list, too, Vance. It was fun to put together. Thanks for tagging me!