Saturday, July 26, 2014

Grown Up Movie Star (2009)

“You can't ground me for being a lesbian!”
“Yes I can.”
“Hypocrite! Can I at least use the phone?”

            I always enjoy getting into an actor or actress that is on a TV shows I am currently watching. As any good, loyal fan would do I go through their filmography and try to find as many movies or other TV shows they were in as I can. I like doing this with an actor or actress because you never know if you are going to find a movie you like or maybe you will find a movie you never thought in a million years you would ever sit through. Also you never know if you will find a movie that will inspire you in some way. I always tend to find and like the movies no one has ever heard of and they tend to be the ones I like the most. They are almost like finding a treasure. Another reason I like watching movies in an actor or actress’s filmography is because you get to see what other things they have done besides the TV show you are used to seeing them in on a weekly bases. For the past few months I have been a raging fanatic of the show Orphan Black and bow down to the ridiculous awesomeness of its star Tatiana Maslany. Since I am a huge fan of Maslany’s I of course have been going through her filmography. The most recent of her films I have watched is Grown Up Movie Star.  
            Ruby Fry (Maslany) was in the car with her mother when she decided to finally leave their small Canadian town for Los Angeles to make it as an actress. When Ruby got out of the car her mother just took off and left her and her sister with their dad. Ever since that Ruby has been acting out in any way she possibly could. Most of it is out of curiosity, wanting to grow up quickly, and some of it is down to being a rebellious teenager.
            In school Ruby meets a boy from Colorado. She is fascinated, at first, that he is from the United States and asks him if he has ever met anyone famous and much to her dismay he never has. She dreams of joining her mother in LA and becoming a famous actress. Her dad’s friend Stewart is a photographer and begins taking what he calls head shots of her. As part of her curiosity Ruby begins to think about sex. She goes about asking and even having it the wrong way.
            While trying to figure herself out, Ruby has to deal with the realization that her dad is actually gay. She and her sister are already mad at their dad for once being a professional hockey player who blew his career by smuggling drugs over the border. Because of this their dad has never been able to take them to Disneyland where they have always wanted to go as a family.
            Ruby’s dad has it with her after she got into some big trouble. He calls the mother to tell her that Ruby is coming to live with her. The mother meanwhile is a crack head living with another user in some hotel. Ruby is looking forward to going to LA but when her dad almost beats Stewart to a pulp trying to protect her and her sister and gets arrested Ruby realizes she loves her dad and would be lost not living with him.
            The acting by everyone in this movie was brilliant. Of course Tatiana Maslany is the stand out. The girl was in fact so good in this movie that she won the World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Dramatic/Breakout Performance for Grown Up Movie Star at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010. Maslany was very good. I give her all the credit in the world because I think she was supposed to thirteen in this movie when in real life in 2009 she was twenty-four. She is just beyond insanely talented for her age (at the time of this writing Maslany is twenty-eight). The rest of the cast was great. The characters were very well written and very well acted especially the part of Ruby’s grandfather whose scenes were crazy.
            Grown Up Movie Star is an oddly dramatic, sad, kind of tragic movie yet it has some dark humor in it. I have seen a few movies that have been made in Canada and they all seem to be dark and twisty (Orphan Black is exactly the same way with the drama and then dark comedy). I am not complaining because I have liked all the movies including this one. I am glad I found Grown Up Movie Star it is definitely one of those movies that not a lot of people have heard of that I like. It is not one of the best movies I have ever seen but it was good, it was unique. It is definitely a movie I want to own on DVD eventually.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

"Why, he is the prince's jester: a very dull fool; Only his gift is in devising impossible slanders."

            Shakespeare is not my forte at all. In high school when I had to read Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet I wanted to die. Both of them I find to be awfully boring. I did however find a Spark Noted version of Macbeth that had the modern English version and Shakespeare’s English and actually understanding what was being said made the story ten times more interesting. The reason I wanted to read Macbeth was because a movie I really like called Scotland PA is based on that story. When I saw that famed director Joss Whedon had made a modern version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing I thought it was going to be similar to Scotland PA. I was wrong on that point but it turned out to be an interesting version.
            I am not going to go into the plot because the plot totally confused the hell outta me. If you are really interested to know look up the story on Wikipedia. I got the plot a little bit after I read what the story is about.
            What made Whedon’s version of the story interesting is that it is set in modern times with everyone dressed in modern clothes and in a big house with a garden and even a small balcony yet he had the actors say the lines in Shakespeare’s English. At first I was like, really if I wanted to hear the lines spoken in the old English I would have looked up the play on Youtube. But after a while the old English mixed with the modern elements became very interesting.
            The actors were not too bad. When I saw Amy Aker was in the movie I cringed a bit. I am not a fan of hers. The few things I have seen Aker in I thought she was awful. To my surprise Aker was not that bad. She had some funny moments and she was not speaking her lines and just standing there like she normally does. Alexis Denisoff I have never seen in anything before and I liked him he was good. Hearing Nathan Fillion reciting Shakespeare was probably one of the funniest things I have ever heard. He was not bad it was just weird hearing him reciting Shakespeare.

            Much Ado About Nothing was very well made. It looks beautiful in black and white and actually enhances the characters and the stories. I have to say if I was an English teacher I would show this version of the play in my class. It is a great way to keep interested in the story since it is set in our modern times. The modern setting makes the story more enjoyable. Joss Whedon is a very talented director and I really like how he keeps the same actors from either his shows or his other movies in all his projects. Give Much Ado About Nothing a try.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Secrets (1933)

There are some films that are so well made and acted that even if the story is not that outstanding they are still good. Secrets is one of those films where the direction was great and the acting perfect and the story just a touch melodramatic that turned out to be very good.
            In the mid-1800s a young girl named Mary Marlowe (Mary Pickford) is forced to marry a man she does love by her affluent parents. While she and her mother are riding in a carriage to visit her father at work. Riding beside the carriage on a bicycle is a young man named John Carlton (Leslie Howard). There is a bee flying around their heads. Poor John is stung in the eye and falls off his bicycle.
            At the office Mary sees that John works as a clerk for her father. John drops Mary a note to say that if he does not see her that night he will drown himself. That Mary impatiently waits for John in the garden of her house. John finally arrives. They both plan on meeting again.
            Soon, Mary’s father finds her letters to John. He fires John and refuses to give him any recommendation for other clerk positions. He tells Mary that she is a disgrace to the family and will not hear her protests against marrying the man they have chosen for her. The father also tells her that if he sees John around her he will have the young man whipped and dragged out of town.
            A party is thrown for Mary’s engagement. John sneaks onto the property and catches Mary’s eye by the back door. Mary pretends to faint from too much excitement so she can be carried up to her room. She sends her maid, the only person on her side about John, to find him in the garden. Before she can turn around she hears something at her window. John found a ladder and climbs up to her. He tells Mary that he is going away to California there is nothing in New England for him and he wants to make money so he can come back and marry her. Mary does not want to wait that long she wants to go with him. He tells her their life will not be easy they will be starving and she will have to do everything herself. Mary does not care just as long as she can be with John. As John helps her change, her father comes upstairs to check on her. Mary hides John behind her clothes on the floor! They manage to get away by climbing out of the window and they elope that night.
            The journey out west was difficult but once they settle down they are happy in their home with their baby son. John plans on becoming governor of California one day.

            One day while John is away, a band of cattle thieves comes to the house looking for food. Mary tries to make them go away but they threaten the baby. On their way home, John and his friend Sunshine run into their cattle and the thieves. When John returns neither he nor Mary mention what has happened at first. John asks his wife if she would want to go back to New England. Mary replies she would never dream of it. They both finally talk about what has happened with the thieves. Mary mentions to John about taking the law into their own hands as the only way to stop the thieves. John rounds up some men and goes after the thieves.
            John is away for two days. When he comes home a doctor is at the house for the baby who has been sick with a fever. He has gotten some of the thieves including the brother of the head of the thieves. The doctor tells John to prepare for a war. John asks the doctor to send Mary and the baby back to New England if anything happens to him.  Not long after the doctor leaves the thieves come looking for John. Mary braces the room where the baby is and goes out into the front to stand by John. The thieves want John to surrender himself or they will come in and kill everyone. Mary refuses to let her husband surrender. If he does she will come out with him she will go with him she could never live without him. She yells out to the thieves that John is not coming out. A gun fight erupts. Mary goes to check on their son who has not made a sound. The baby has died from his fever. Mary sits in their room holding the baby with tears in her eyes. When John comes in she just tells him their son is sleeping. She puts the baby down and goes back out to the front. She grabs the other rifle since Sunshine is hurt. She hears someone on the roof and comes back to find the head thief coming in through the window aiming his gun to shoot John. Mary points the rifle at the thief and kills him. Help soon comes in the form of the doctor and a few other men from town.

            Years go by. John and Mary have four more children and John runs for governor. At a party for the social elite of the town, a Spanish woman comes with an escort. Everyone at the party, including Mary, knows that the woman is the one John has been seen with. Mary is upset and goes into another room. The woman comes in to speak to her. Mary tells the woman that if she really loved John she would not have shamed him at his own party in front of his family and friends. The woman tells Mary that John has wanted to leave her (Mary) but she will not let him to do so and that is ruining his happiness. John comes into the room and tells the woman what he has told her was lies that he loves only Mary. The woman promises to destroy John with letters he has sent her.
            When the woman leaves Mary and John have a talk. She knows there have been other women. There was even one when they were in New York together. He says it might be better if she does leave him he does not want her name and their children’s name to be ruined. Mary sticks by his side even when the newspapers smatter their names all over their pages. Despite the scandal John is nominated to governor.
            As the years go on, John is elected to senator for several years in a row.
            In their old age John and Mary want to return to California. Their children are vehemently against them traveling back to the west. They are more worried for their mother they think she has done everything for their father and he has done nothing for her. Mary comes out of their room where they locked themselves away from the children and tells them that she and John have their own secrets that they have never shared with them. They want to be able to talk about their secrets without their children being around them.
            I cannot even begin to explain how much I enjoyed Mary Pickford in this film. The only other sound film I have seen of hers was Coquette and she was not very good in that. Her voice was awful and her acting was something to be desired. But in Secrets Mary Pickford was fantastic. Her acting was spot on it was not over dramatic or flawed. Her best scene was when Mary Marlowe finds her baby has died. Pickford was heartbreaking in her silent grief. She did not cry over dramatically she just held her baby and cried silently with tears down her face. This was Pickford’s last film of her long career. It is a shame that she did not continue with her career she could have made a few more great movies or could have had a second career as a great character actress. Her career could not have ended better her acting was fantastic. Leslie Howard I am not a fan of but he was actually better good in this as well. Howard usually over acts or just seems like a big moping mess. His character was good he was not supposed to be poetic or sad or philosophical. I thought Pickford and Howard’s best acted scene together was when John helps Mary change her dress. It was like a scene out of one of Pickford’s silent comedies with them scrambling and John hiding under all the undergarments on the floor.
            Frank Borzage’s directing was beautiful. One of the best scenes I have ever seen in a film was when John and Mary bury their son. It was filmed from far away as if we were intruding on this sad moment. We see John take Mary in his arms and walk away from the gravesite. In this scene there is no music, there are no words. Another greatly filmed scene was when Mary finds the baby has died and when she carries the baby’s body out of the fire-engulfed room after the fight. Borzage’s direction and Pickford’s acting combined to make a beautiful scene. The more I watch Borzage’s films the more I see his genius. His direction really enhanced his characters more than the stories.

            Secrets was a very good film. The story was melodramatic as I said but the direction and acting made up for it. I feel that had there been other actors who played the characters or another director that it would have wound up as a forgettable melodrama. I was not crazy about the story line where John cheats on Mary and she then forgives him when he confesses that the other women meant nothing to him that he loves her more than anything. Other than that the story was alright. I liked the story most when Mary and John had met and when they travel and settle out west. Secrets is currently available to view on Youtube in parts. I highly suggest heading over there and watching the film as soon as you can.