Bekki’s view on the Room

The first time I watched A Room With a View was in high school.  I had this little Swiss Mennonite woman who was my German teacher.  She also lead my “SALT” (Sharing and Learning Together) group.  One day she brought A Room With a View for us to watch.  I was curious.  This movie leaves things unsaid, and makes you have to work for it.  I didn’t really like it as a 14 year old.  I only got a really huge kick out of seeing my teacher try to cover the screen with her little hands during the bathing scene.  Her tittering laugh and her excuses that it was so European and just good fun will be with me every time I watch this movie.

Somewhere mid-college I read the book, and wanted to rewatch it.  I was just amazed at how beautifully the world was recreated.  Merchant and Ivory had since done the two more in the loose series, Howard’s End (Also a E.M. Forrester Novel) and The Remains of the Day (based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel). I had seen both movies and was impressed, so I came back to see A Room With a View for the 2nd time.  I loved it.  I think I rented it from the Video store about 3 times a year.

Still, to this day, I love this movie.  I love Helene Bonham Carter’s Lucy was just that lovely combination of naiveté and spoiled rich girl.  I love it when Mr. Beebe, quite possibly my favorite character, speculates that when she lives as passionately as she plays the piano, she will really be something to behold.  She really does become in this movie, despite herself.

Daniel Day Lewis’s Cecil is delightfully snobbish.  So repressed, and yet quite the catalyst in Lucy’s becoming. I love Rupert Graves as Freddy.  It’s hard to believe it is the same actor who plays Inspector Lestrade in the brilliant 2011 Sherlock reboot.

Far and away the best actor in the movie is Maggie Smith.  I love her turn as Poor Cousin Charlotte, whose bumbling chaperonage turned into a lasting friendship.  I loved her foray though inner city Florence with Dame Judy Dench’s portrayal of hack authoress Elinor Lavish.

Such a good movie.  I revisit it on a regular basis.  It is so delicious.

That bathing scene doesn’t hurt either 🙂

The Hours

Nicole Kidman won an Academy Award for this, but I think Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep both did a far better job.  Which is not to say that Nicole Kidman was horrible, but if you’re in a movie wither either of them, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be outclassed.  And both?  Yes, you’re pretty much guaranteed to not be the best.  Or second best.

Anyway.  This is a depressing as all hell movie but at the same time a really, really good one.  It’s set in three different time periods—the ’20s (with Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf), the ’50s (with Julianne Moore as Laura Brown) and the early 2000’s (with Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan).  Mrs. Dalloway is a recurring theme through the movie—Virginia Woolf is writing it, Laura Brown is reading it and Clarissa Vaughan is inadvertantly living it.  I read Mrs. Dalloway right after seeing the movie for the first time (right after it came out on DVD) but I don’t remember anything about it.

I think it was Thoreau (or Emerson; I always get them mixed up) who said that we live lives of quiet desperation.  That is definitely true in this movie.  Everyone is miserable and suicide is a recurring theme.  (It’s no spoiler to say that Virginia Woolf kills herself, and we see it in the beginning of the movie; I won’t go further into Laura and Clarissa’s lives because that WOULD be a spoiler.)

This is such an amazing movie and I need to start watching it more often than once a decade.

Stevil

When A Room With A View premiered in 1986 the first digit of my age had just turned to a “2” and there was absolutely zero chance that I would have gone to see it in a theater.  Zero. Zip. Nada. I can guarantee you that I would have just gone to see Aliens again instead.

This was the one film in August’s list (other than the just-released Savages) that I had no previous experience with either as the novel or film. I had a vague expectation that it took place in Italy… and that there was a room… and that it likely had a view… and that it was probably some sort of love story… and… that’s it. I had no idea who was in it or what time period it took place in. I’d gotten to having a “4” as the first digit in my age without ever…

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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies picks.  It’s also one of their 10 Best Courtroom Dramas (the actual best).

I re-read the book earlier this year for book club (one of my fellow members hadn’t read it) and it was just as wonderful as I remembered.  I saw this movie well before I read the book (I was in advanced English the year the AP kids read it and AP the year the advanced English class read it in high school) but when I finally did read it, we fell in love.

The book (and movie) combine two of my favorite things: coming-of-age narrative and courtroom dramas.  It’s set in the south and deals with all these hard issues but through the eyes of a child (so in that way, similar to Emma Donoghue’s Room—but even better).

And the movie has the added bonus of starring Gregory Peck who is, I believe, one of the best actors ever.

If you haven’t read or seen this, do so.  NOW.  You will be so happy you did.

Sometimes the adaptation outdoes the original material…

Stevil

One common conversation among bibliophiles is how film adaptations so often fail to live up to the books from which they are derived. Words like “depth”, “nuance”, and “characterization” are usually included in any comparison, with the film nearly always on the short end. So, it was with some interest that our Flick Buddies topic for August was literary adaptations.

There were two films that I thought demanded a special shout-out because I think they are better than the book from which they were derived.

The first one is Jaws, which is such a tremendous and landmark film that I imagine most people don’t even know that it was originally a novel. It is probably my favorite film, period. I’ve posted about it a couple of times, here and here. My guess is that I’ve probably watched it from start to finish a dozen times, so it’s…

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Jaws

I just finished watching Jaws for probably the sixth or seventh time.  It’s one of my favorite movies and I think it’s held up very well.

I’m not sure why I love it so much.  Part of it is that it’s very scary but most of it is that it’s just a good movie.  (And I do appreciate very good movies.)  Quint’s speech about the shark that killed his crew gives me chills, no matter how many times I’ve heard it before. 

It was just released on Blu-Ray for the first time and if you have a Blu-Ray player, you definitely need to upgrade for this movie.  It felt like a totally new movie—it was very pretty.

And, as Entertainment Weekly noted, the blood is very red.

I’m sorry that Bekki didn’t love it, but that’s okay.  I love it enough for both of us, and I’m pretty sure Jenny loves it enough for an entire city of people. 😉

Bekki Jaw’s about Jaws

And yet another cringe-worthy admission:  Up until this very moment, I have never seen Jaws. 

*ducks and covers*

This is quite the iconic movie, and it had it’s moments.  It was great to see the origin of some of pop cultures great moments “That’s some bad hat Harry” and “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”  to name a few. 
Yet, for all that I’d never seen the movie before, I knew what was about to happen, and who was about to get chomped. 

This movie was So. Very. Predictable.

That being said.  I thought Spielberg did a great job building suspense, and keeping you on the edge of your seat.

And to close, a word of warning:  When a huge, angry shark-puppet is eating your boat, that is not the time to destroy your radio in a fit of pique. I’m just saying. That might contribute to your ultimate demise. 

Hitchcock Goes Black and White (Strangers on a Train with Bekki)

How much would this stink, someone very crazy murders the very woman keeping you from happiness in your new wife. Then you find yourself embroiled in a crime you did not commit, yet cannot prove it.  Shudder.  My worst nightmare. Being completely innocent, but unable to prove it, and having it seem like I’m so very guilty.

Despite the fun of seeing Hitchcock’s cameo in this film (that is a very big string bass, sir) I spent most of this movie biting my nails.

It was a good film, and Robert Walker, as Bruno Anthony, was deliciously unhinged.  He really did a number on Guy Haines, almost unraveling his life to the point of complete destruction. Kudos to his prospective family, the Morton’s, for sticking by him, and not washing their hands of the supposed murder. Babs was my particular favorite.  She was a ray of sunshine and quite the loyal girl in this film.  Such a delight.

This was my second black and white Hitchcock film.  I liked the way you can see his traditional ways of growing suspense.  He used darkness to his advantage multiple times in this film.  This fit black and white film much better than Rebecca did. Making the tennis game, usually  not a very suspenseful sport, the means by which we measured success of the plans was very good.  Hitchcock has intriguing ways of building suspense and keep you on the edge.

I liked this film a lot. It’s probably my second favorite of the ones we watched this time around.

Contact

Contact was Steve’s pick for Literary Adaptations month.  I had seen it before, but not since I saw it in the theater (which was, what, almost 20 years ago?)

I remembered liking it, but I didn’t remember much about it.  Imagine my supreme delight to remember that it was a dead dad movie.  (Thanks for that, Steve.)

There are so many facets to this movie—science vs. religion, the similar argument of logic vs. faith, the question of whether or not we’re alone in the universe—but really? Dead dad movie.

In terms of cinematography, Contact has completely gorgeous scenes.  (It reminded me of Tree of Life, actually, in that some of the scenes are just absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.)  And the acting is top-notch.  (Obviously, since Jodie Foster carries the movie.  But Jena Malone, who plays the younger version of Foster’s character Ellie, is also very good.  There’s also Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, Angela Bassett and, God love him, Bill Clinton as “the president.”)

This is an incredibly good movie, one that has flown under a lot of radars.  I haven’t read the book that the movie is based on (and probably am not going to) but the movie is definitely worth watching.

Flick Buddies: North By Northwest (1959)

Steve here:

North By Northwest (1959)

Like Kelly, I will shamefully admit that I had never watched North By Northwest until this past week. And like Kelly I’ll be free to admit that this was a HUGE MISTAKE on my part.

Freakin’ Biplane!

What a film. In it, the dapper Madison Avenue executive Roger Thornhill is mistaken for undercover agent George Kaplan and before he knows it he’s mixed up in a cross-country trek involving kidnapping, murder, international spies, the heads on Mount Rushmore, and of course, romance.

Was the cast perfect? Maybe. I mean, has anyone ever been as cool and suave as Cary Grant? I doubt it. James Mason was at his breathlessly sinister best, a young Martin Landau was excellent as the creepy henchmen, and Eva Marie Saint was perfect as the beautiful (and deceptive) Eve Kendall. An aside: I couldn’t get over how much Saint reminded me of Anya (Emma Caufield) from Buffy. Also, I bought into Grant’s and Saint’s attraction waaaayyy more than I did with say the one between Paul Newman and Julie Andrews in Torn Curtain.

Grant trumps Mason. Or does he?!?!?

Probably the most iconic scene (which I’d seen out of context before) was when Thornhill is lured out to a barren field in Indiana and attacked from the air by a crop-dusting biplane. The filming is fantastic – the pale sky against the brown dirt and Grant in his fine suit. The slow turns of the biplane arcing into the sun are absolutely filled with menace.

Things I liked most: The biplane attack. Thornhill avoiding assassins by causing a ruckus at an art auction. James Mason’s cool confidence. The snappy dialog. Thornhill’s desperate attempts to break up Mason’s getaway.

Things I didn’t like: Was there anything? I’m still thinking about it…

Things that are still with me: The realization that I will never, ever be as cool as Cary Grant.

Grade: A+