Thursday, 27 December 2012

2012: A look back

Hello, my pals and gals!
Holiday, a New Year's Eve movie

I hope this post wont bore y'all to tears, but I don't think I'll be able to help but get slightly personal.
So, the year of 2012 winds down to an end, and I must admit that I'm sad to wave goodbye to my favorite year in the eighteen in which I've existed. All I can say about it is that life surprised me with how good it can be. Really, what can be better?
A series of very important things happened, starting on February 14th, that instantly became my favorite date after my birthday. I've decided to celebrate it every year, because it wasn't the start of my life, but it was the start of a new life, a new me, with a new outlook, a new vision and all new reasons to be in this world. I've never been happier.
Allow me to expand.
On February 14th I was the third youngest person in my state to be accepted into medical school. After a long year of studying and struggling 24/7, I was given the biggest and greatest gift I've ever gotten. I was to start in August and to have the six months of rest I so longed for. I had decided to do two things on this break: first, discover a new hobby. And second, think about nothing else other than lil' ol' me, enlighten myself on who I am, who I wanna be and what I want my life to represent. sounds selfish and, to be honest, it is.
All my life, I have nurtured ideals of great achievements, great self-sufficiency and a great future ahead of me. To help me along the way, I've always had, I'm proud to say, a capacity to channel my energy toward a goal and I've always been the most impetuous and stubborn person I have ever met. It was this year when I had a first taste of my dreams coming true. After 12 years of feeling absolutely isolated in the same school, I realized the value of my individuality in this world. And, my first goal, "to find a new hobby", had much more to do with it then I ever realized.
It turns out my "new hobby" was just what I've been babbling about for the past six months: classic cinema, which eventually wound up to cinema in general. This beautiful form of expression inspired me like nothing else did. It introduced to me a new world, one that comforted me, showed me a different, more beautiful and poetic reality, in which I could seek solace and a fuel to continue. And, most importantly, it reminded me of what if felt like to be fascinated, after a hard year's studying for the robotic and mechanistic university entrance test. I was finally able to put all that behind me and remember that I can marvel at the world again. Not everything is the endless bore fest that 2011 represented to me.

Greta Garbo in my first silent, "The Mysterious Lady"
Let's take a look back into what happened with classic cinema and me in 2012:

February 14th: I get accepted into med school, and stumble upon a Casablanca DVD. And then it begins.
February 17th: A woman named Katharine enters my life and, by George, did she stay. Bringing up Baby did the trick.
Late March: I go to Paris for a three-month long French course.
Early April: I get a hold of Me, Stories of my Life. Thank you for this one, K. H.
April 21st: I turn eighteen in Paris and watch The Philadelphia Story, my favorite movie, for the first  time.
Mid-May: The professors of my university go on strike.
June 8th: This blog begins.
Late August: I win my first Award involving classic film, with one of my proudest pieces ever: Katharine Hepburn and the rise of feminist cinema.
December: Professors go off strike the longest strike of their history. I've seen only two movies since.

It'll be difficult, as I have very well realized recently, to keep this hobby that became so important to me after university fully took over my life. But I need to face the hardship and carry on watching films, researching about them, writing about them, finding new people and new stories that may inspire me and make as big a difference in my life as these ones had.
And this is why in my New Year's Resolutions (yup, I'm one of THOSE people), there are some related to film. Let's see?

2013: A look forward!

Kate frowning at the fact that I barely have time for her
anymore. I'm sorry, dear. 
Resolution numero uno: Commit! I will try to watch at least one movie a week. I know after a hard week's studying, one gets lazy and even a precode of an hour and fifteen minutes seems too long. But I want to learn, and there's no other way than sitting my backside on the couch and engaging the art of filmwatching.

Resolution numero dos: Branch out! As time went by, I slowly realized that there's more to cinema than 1940s noir flicks with powerhouse ladies and rugged fellas. I will commit to exploring the silents, pre-codes, foreign, independent, and even contemporary (!) films. There are great films in every place and every time in history and I'm convinced that one cannot have a full cinematic experience without furthering one's self in these areas.

Resolution numero tres: Productivity is key! This one doesn't apply only to film, but I find that in my free time, I always seem to idle around, on Tumblr (those of you who share this poisonous social network with me know what I mean), so I've decided to channel my time toward doing actual things. When the day is over, I feel good and productive, not like I spent my whole night off scrolling down.

Resolution numero cuatro: Get organized! I need to organize the movies I've seen. Make a list, with ratings and so forth, of movies I've watched, movies I want to watch, who are the main stars, who directs, who produces, and that will make it easier to link information and cross-reference later. I'm gonna explore my options during the end of the year: Pen and paper? A website? Should I start using my iCheck Movies account? Or is there an app for it?

Resolution numero cinco: Focus on my favorite people. Filmography! Filmography! Filmography! I have not finished Katharine Hepburn's filmography. Hell, I have not finished anyone's filmography. I need to work on those of the above-mentioned redhead, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart, Greta Garbo and Barbara Stanwyck. Wish me luck.

Resolution numero seis: Ask my readers (that's you guys!) what they wanna read about. So, this is how I'm wrapping up this post. What would you like to see in 2013? Movie reviews? Articles? Stories about the lives of the stars? Tell me in the comments, I'd love some feedback!

Thank you for staying with me in 2012, and I'll see y'all next year.

So long,

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

10 Reasons To Go For The Silence

Hello, my pals and gals!
That's it. The day we all feared has arrived: I've become a silent screen aficionado. It started with my Greta Garbo obsession, and me being completely hypnotized by her mystique and power, without the use of her words. Of course I started with the very best, but the fact was that it wasn't Greta who was seducing me that day (Ha! Can you imagine it?), it was the entire universe of the silent pictures. I explored and branched out as much as I could and I realized no film fanatic should go years and years without even giving these films a chance.
I realize most of you here are movie buffs and have been so for much longer than I have, so chances are you are already familiar and well-acquainted with all I'm about to say. But I also realize that silent films are not as far-reaching as one would expect: I've met movie fanatics who have never even seen a silent flick. This post is for them.
And here are 10 reasons to go for the silence:

1. A whole lotta acting

If you think in the Golden Age resources were limited, in the silent era they were minimal. Imagine what it was like to be an actor without being able to rely on voice, color and special effects to show your emotions. Most human emotion is expressed in subtleties we pay only subconscious attention to, namely, veins popping, slight changes of color in our faces, a voice that gently raises. None of these could be expressed in the poor image quality of silent movies. So, the actors had to exaggerate and pantomime their way through a film. It wasn't just a lot of acting, that no second-rate thespian can tackle, it was also a whole different kind of acting, one that cannot be seen in movies today, not even in fabulous replicas such as "The Artist" (2010). Here's an excellent article on silent acting using four examples.

2. Made history

I hope I don't get shunned by the movie community after I admit that I am not a huge fan of "The Birth of a Nation" (1915). I could not get past the blatant racism throughout the flick and the whole thing seemed too long and draggy for me. But it felt good watching it, because I knew that I was witnessing cinema history being made. The silent films, or rather, all the films made in the 1920s or before, were innovative pictures, pictures with techniques that had never been used before. Tricks that today are commonplace among filmmakers were nothing but experiments in the hands of those pioneers. It's never uninteresting to see how they used them, and how they laid the first rocks in the path to modern cinema. 

3. The infamous transition 
Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Singing in the Rain (1952)

The Artist (2010)
More movies, books and articles were made about the infamous transition between silents and talkies than any other even in film history and it's not hard to see why. Nothing shook the cinema world so vigorously as the birth of sound. The type of acting changed and the biggest stars of the day were suddenly inadequate at best. Their voices counted, their tones counted, their accents counted. Why did Greta Garbo survive so fabulously well, but yet her handsome co-star figuratively and literally (!) died not long after the advent of sound? What was it about the silent films that made them die off so permanently? Or rather, what was it about early sound that allowed it to take the screen by storm? It didn't work the same way with color, that slowly crept through in the thirties, while still allowing pictures like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", as late as 1966 to still be black and white. I believe silents have a magic that no sound will ever encompass and we will never know the reason for their sudden death. 

4. Stars you don't know
The hauntingly beautiful Pola Negri
Have you ever heard of Clara Bow? Pola Negri? Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.? These were stars that acted almost strictly on the silent screen. They, too, had fascinating lives, extraordinary ability and were capable of telling lovely stories. They, too, deserve a chance. 

5. Stars you do know under a different light
Norma Shearer and John Gilbert on "He Who Gets Slapped" (1924)
Greta Garbo. Norma Shearer. Joan Crawford. Charlie Chaplin. They could talk, but they could also pantomime. I'll never forget the shock of seeing Norma Shearer for the first time on a silent film. For me, silents always seemed like a whole different class, like a parallel world within cinema and when I saw that familiar face, I yelped. "How did she get there? How did she cross over to the silent world?!" It's very interesting to see how your favorite stars are able to change themselves so radically as to fit the silent star mode. It's even more interesting to realize that this is how they started, and the transition you imagine was the other way around. Comparing Norma in "He Who Gets Slapped" with the Norma in "The Women", fifteen years later, is mind-blowing. It's like two different actresses.

6. Soundtracks

Before I watched my first silent, I thought it would get annoying to listen to literally non-stop music for an hour and a half. But it turns out the soundtracks are so wonderful that it's not in the least tiring or over-the-top. It's usually very suave music, but that accompanies the scene's mood and environment. This video is one of my favorite silent movie songs: The Waltz on Flesh and the Devil (1926).

7. Modernity

Trust me when I say the universe shown in silent pictures comes closer to our modern lifestyles than the movies made during the Hays Code. This characteristic is shared by pre-code films since there was no Code to speak of, and movies were free to express reality exactly like it was. Obviously, movies are fantasies, and by definition, unreal, but there's no comparison between the sexual and visual modernity of the pre-codes and post-codes. I'm not saying full-on promiscuity or pure graphic violence, but the ridiculous frustrating standards, such as "not kissing for longer than three seconds", were gone, and so these pictures had a wonderful naturalness to their love stories.  

8. Twenties culture
Louise Brooks, the ultimate flapper

I'm a really modern girl and I cringe at the idea of living in the past, but I simply adore the 1920s. If I had to live in the past, this is the decade I would choose without second thought. The flappers, the Charleston, prohibition, the suffragettes, the female struggle, the artists, the writers; everything about that era is so attractive to me. There is no way to watch a silent movie without experiencing the reflection of the culture of that decade and it's not only fascinating, but thrilling to watch. 

9. Great films

Isn't it that simple? Great films were made in the silent era. Films worth watching, films you'll enjoy. What other reason does one need?

10. You will be surprised

Silent movies are not the most talked about thing in the world. Not many people know about them. It's an uncommon, different hobby. And you'll be surprised at how fun it is. 

So, how's about sharing your first silent movie experiences in the comments?

So long,

Friday, 21 December 2012

"Why I would kiss Cate Blanchett's feet if I had the chance" and other tales about legacy

(That was a long title.)

Hello, my pals and gals!

I told you you'd be seeing more of me now that Christmas break is in and I have finally taken a breather from my busy routine. I'm here inspired by my friend Rianna, over at Frankly My Dear (I feel like you hear more about her here than at her own blog), who made a post about Lifetime's disastrous "Liz and Dick" and how biopics may ruin or enhance a dead star's legacy. I'm going to take it a step further. Other than biopics, how else can we carry on a star's legacy? How do we keep them from being forgotten? Who has done it right? Who has done it wrong? These are the questions we will be answering in...
Marcela's Old-Time Tales About Legacies And So Forth
Ready, set, go!

Tale #1: Why I would kiss Cate Blanchett's feet if I had the chance

Catherine Elise Blanchett is a young (some people don't consider 43 young  - I consider 105 young, so bare with me) actress from Melbourne, Australia, and if I ever had the chance, I would kiss her size 10 and a half feet like there's no tomorrow. And here's why.
First, for the bad news: Most people under 30 today do not know who Katharine Hepburn was. I have had to listen to my hero being less-than-gracefully called "that old fart", "KathErine What's-Her-Face", "whoever the hell has more Oscars than Meryl Streep".
I used to think the fans were alone in our task of carrying on the legacy of our favorite dead stars and making sure they weren't completely drowned into oblivion and I used to worry we wouldn't suffice for the task. However, I was secretly afraid of the media taking hold of Kate's image and distorting it completely, thus preserving an unreal and unflattering image to which the new generation would gave free access to. When my friend told me about "The Aviator", I cringed. I thought no one would be able to play Katharine Hepburn. "Katharine Houghton Hepburn, of all people!" I would say, "It's gonna be a train wreck " I would've been prophetic had I made a like prediction about Elizabeth Taylor, but luckily, I was wrong about Kate.
I got a hold of the movie as fast as I could. The actress recruited to play her was no less than Cate Blanchett. I knew who she was, was familiar with her work on Lord of The Rings, and, not being a fan of the trilogy, I anticipated a disappointment when I pressed play. But from the first time she took the screen (and I use the verb "take" purposely), I was blown away. The accuracy of her portrayal is breath-taking.
Let's look at this scene.

Despite the Hepburn family being portrayed a little exaggeratedly, in my view, all eyes are on Cate. From the clothes, the makeup (or lack thereof), the obvious Bryn Mawr accent, her screaming to her family from the car, down to the way she runs. Her laugh at 1:46, "The press can be a damn nuissance", "My goat, my goat". The fascinated look she throws Howard at 3:10 has an uncanny resemblance to her look to Spencer Tracy. Blanchett and DiCaprio beautifully complemented each other.
Here's how she looked, dressed to the part (and what a beautiful doll that Aussie is!): 

Notice the eyebrow. Standing ovation, Scorcese. 
Cate Blanchett saw an opportunity to help keep Katharine Hepburn alive and she took it. She did justice to The Great, and, although no one will ever touch Ms. Hepburn, Blanchett has given the world the right idea about who she was. Now, people will see The Aviator and they will hear about Katharine Hepburn from a trustworthy source. This is why, us, fans of the first lady of cinema, would all kiss Cate Blanchett's feet if we had the chance. She carried on the legacy. And now that she was so memorable in her performance, there is no question of who to ask if and when a biopic is ever planned, knocking the Lohan possibility off the table. She won an Oscar for it. Cate's first, Kate's fifth. I can almost see her nodding approvingly from up there.

Smile away, Aussie. You deserved it. God bless Cate Blanchett. Phew.

Tale #2: "An Elegant Spirit" and the power of Sean

Sean Hepburn-Ferrer is a very lucky man. He grew up with a mother that was also his best friend. A mother who, by loving him, taught him about the power of love. A mother who raised him on the standards of altruism, respect and an almost angel-like selflessness. Audrey Hepburn's only dream was to be a mother, and no matter how many people he knew, she remained the idol of her son Sean and the unmatched love of his life. Sean never shied away from speaking about his mother and about the daily delight of living with Audrey Hepburn; and after her passing devastated his world in 1993, he took over her duties as a good-will ambassador. To this day, Sean Hepburn-Ferrer is one of the leading executives in funding for the under-privileged children of the world. The "Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund", of which he is now in charge, is associated with Unicef, still working towards ending hunger in Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia. Audrey's most important legacy - what she did for the children - is well taken care of.

However, there is one more of Sean's achievements worth noting. After her death, he knew her story would be told by many people - people who wanted to feed off her tragedy and people who might not have been privy to all the facts. So he was faster than them: He wrote "Audrey Hepburn - An Elegant Spirit", his mom's definitive and complete biography, from the adoring and flattering eyes of a son. It remains one of the most beautiful portraits ever painted of a public personality and it reduced me to tears. 

Tale #3: "Mommie Dearest" and the art of pissing off fans

To divert from Sean Hepburn as radically as possible, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Christina Crawford. Christina Crawford is one of the adopted children of Hollywood actress Joan Crawford and the only one of the four who ever had acting aspirations, which already says a lot about her relationship to Joan. 
It is a known fact that Crawford was a strong disciplinarian at home. She had high standards for her children, she expected a lot from them, and I wouldn't call her an overall great mother. But, that's nothing compared to the child-abusing alcoholic picture that Tina attempted to paint in her "book" (I'd rather call it a rag) "Mommie Dearest". She published it slightly north of a year after her mother's death, and the world was appalled to find out one of their favorite actresses was a child beater. At the time of the release, Joan's old friends Barbara Stanwyck, Bob Hope, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Myrna Loy, Katharine Hepburn and even Bette Davis have denied most of the stories. Since then, there has been a disastrous movie with Faye Dunaway, based on the writings of Tina, and, as much as I hate to say it, Joan's reputation has been tainted forever with a black stain.
What also happened since then was that Christina admitted to lying or exaggerating about most of the child abuse stories on that book. I put myself through most of it, and I soon realized what a terrible piece of writing it is. She reads far too deep into Joan's letters and complains to great lengths about normal parenting problems. It sounds to me like she needs a reality check.

Tale #4: Lauren Bacall and the best children ever

Since the day Humphrey Bogart died, in 1957, Lauren Bacall has vowed to keep his memory and his legacy for as many generations she was lucky enough to witness. She was 32 years old then, and she's a great grandmother now, but her diligence and determination is still the same. However, when you're imprisoned by an almost 90-year-old body, a wheelchair and a lonely apartment in New York City, there comes a time when you can only do so much. So, when the matriarch became too old to handle the Bogart Estate, along came the rest of the clan, eager to bring their father back to life, even if only metaphorically. I speak of Stephen Humphrey Bogart and Leslie Howard Bogart, the children of Bogie and Betty. 
They (especially Steve) now run the Estate, appear in tribute nights, edit books, promote film festivals and do virtually everything they can to keep their father alive for years to come. In this task, Steve stands out as the primary manager of the Bogart Estate. He has lived a fairly normal life until adulthood, but when his mother started growing too elderly to work, he decided to dedicate his life to his father's memory. 

What's remarkable about it is that Steve was eight and Leslie was five when Bogie died. They couldn't have had a very clear idea of who their father really was out of their own personal experiences. Most of what they heard came from the loving words of their mother, which probably made him an even bigger hero in their minds. Watch this video of Steve talking about his dad at the Casablanca 70th birthday celebration, earlier this year. He is 64. 

Let's remember, however, that Lauren Bacall is alive and doing what she can. I'd like to take this opportunity to urge you fellas to send her some love this Christmas season. She has been alone for a while and needs the comfort and loyalty of her die hard fans.  

Thanks for reading y'all, and I hope to see you here again soon!

So long,

P.S. By the way, since we're speaking of Casablanca, I'd like to share this video I recently found of a Brazilian pianist playing "As Time Goes By". It's gorgeous and I hope you like it as much as I did. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Let's talk film noir.

 Hello, pals and gals! Guess who's out of her cave? (Me, not Rita Hayworth)

Well, it turns out Med School came back with a blow - a harder blow than I expected. To be precise, three exams in two weeks, each with over 150 pages to study. But, I don't believe in complaining and this is the path I chose, so, as my gal would say, press on! (If you are the new readers I just got, this is my gal and thank you so very much for following!)

As an apology for my extended absence, have this shot of yours truly looking into an aorta, no less, through the microscope. I look like a 5-year-old who wants to be a mad scientist. Considering I am an 18-year-old who wants to be a mad scientist, no surprises there.

Today I had a little time to spare, so I decided to come see you guys and, not only read about how the Classic Film blogosphere has been doing lately, but also to talk to y'all about film noir. As you probably know, I engaged in an experiment in the month of November: I decided to join the Noirvember movement, in which classic movie fans everywhere unite to dedicate the second-to-last month of the year to the genre of film noir. I watched ten noir classics and I am now here to share my thoughts.  

"I was born when she kissed me, I died when she left me, I lived a few weeks while she loved me.", says Humphrey Deforest Bogart, looking straight ahead, sitting next to a horrified Gloria Grahame, who shivers at his presence. Despite his strong and rugged exterior, Bogart was at the height of his sex appeal (being explored further and further by filmmakers since "To Have and Have Not", in 1954), and Gloria's character, despite being afraid of his inconsistent and aggressive behavior, could not stay immune. This scene, my friends, is the spirit of film noir. 

If there's anything I discovered about film noir is that it mixes two cinematic elements at opposite ends of the spectrum. Darkness and light, love and violence, attraction and fear. Hyper-masculine leading men who can't control their anger, but that also carry an absurd amount of allure and carry themselves in a nearly irresistible way, not only to his female co-stars but also to the women in the audience. This may be the Bogart lover in me talking (I'm not gonna lie, she is a huge part of me), but "In A Lonely Place" to me, represents the essence of my favorite type of male character, one that Bogart mastered like none other. I like to call them the "sexy bad guys". Maybe I should make a post about them like I did with the powerhouse ladies, what do you guys think? Post or no post, the truth is: these characters fascinate the hell out of me. How do they bring out such polarized emotions at the same time? I'm disgusted at their violence and intolerance, but I'm aroused by their strength and firmness. I'm terrified at their sick need to stay dominant, but I'm fascinated by their intelligence. They are not at all the type of men I would like to get associate with in real life (as if I, of all people, would ever be able to be with a misogynist) but they certainly are a fascinating bunch, and a psychological analysis of their behavior makes for a great discussion among film lovers. They are a consistent element of film noir. 

When it comes to story lines, I am no softie. To me, the longer it keeps me on the edge of my seat, the better. Of course, there are moods and moods in life, each one appropriate to one type of movie, and of course sometimes I love to kick it with a good old-fashioned screwball comedy, but noir, mystery and suspense are still my favorite genres. I couldn't help but fall in love with those plots, of intricate crime stories, passionate affairs and blood-curling twists. Like the plotting of her own murder that an invalid woman discovered over the telephone, pitch-perfectly materialized by Barbara Stanwyck, who has yet to show me a less than spectacular performance. The same actress portrayed the stone cold Phyllis Dietrichson, in her most famous role and rightfully so: Nothing short of chilling. Stanwyck certainly had a knack for film noir, and she plays both the victim and the villain with equal mastery. As far as other leading ladies go, I was also impressed by Rita Hayworth's femme fatale in "Gilda", who put the blame on mame with delicious unforgettability. Gloria Grahame and Mary Astor were very pleasant surprises, especially the latter, who reminded me of an older and more serious (wait for it) Lauren Bacall. Teresa Wright did a great job on Shadow of a Doubt, but that movie has only one name written all over it and that name is Alfred Hitchcock. 

Out of all these movies, if I had to pick the best, I would be in a terrible threefold dilemma: In a Lonely Place, The Maltese Falcon or Double Indemnity. All three, five out of five. I must say, however, that, I would not give any of these pictures less than a 4. All of them were wonderful, all of them made me glad I was watching them and any of them are worth your time. Once again, here's the list: 
1. Double Indemnity (1944) 
2. In a Lonely Place (1950)
3. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
4. Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
5. Out of the Past (1947)
6. Suspicion (1941)
7. Gilda (1946)
8. The Roaring Twenties (1939)
9. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
10. High Sierra (1941) 

Well, pals and gals, this will be it for this morning. I go on a short Christmas break on Friday, so expect to see more of me around here! Meanwhile, which one of these is your favorite film noir? What do you think of the ones I mentioned? Tell me all about it in the comments! 

So long,

Friday, 7 December 2012

A delayed tribute

I was supposed to post this on November 30th, but then my internet wasn't working, and I forgot about it. So, here it is. Hope y'all like it!

Happy 72nd wedding anniversary!


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Just a heads up

Rembrandt, "Dr. Tulp's Anatomy Lesson" (1630)

Hello, my beloved pals and gals.
This is just gonna be a quick announcement post. Just something you fellas oughtta know. After a looooooong general strike in all Brazilian Federal Universities (one of which I happen to attend), I go back to my routine of corpses and test tubes tomorrow. I will be keeping this blog (Obviously! As if I can live without you guys!) but the frequency of posts will be slightly decreased. Hope y'all understand - saving lives comes first. 

I'll keep squeezing time in my busy schedule for my passion for classic film and I'm still gonna read as much as I can of you wonderful film bloggers out there. Thank you for understanding, bearing with me, and staying with me through thick, thin and useless posts such as this one. 

In time: I will be posting my collective review of film noirs this week. I had a lot of fun doing Noirvember! 

So long,