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Friday, May 21, 2010

It's been awhile since I posted. I've been busy enjoying my yard, planting perennials and planning improvements. Although a very small space, I seem to spend a lot of time fussing, planting and weeding. Having grown up in New York City without a sandbox or dirt to play in, I am relishing my new found love of gardening. This is all well and good because there have been very few films worth seeing. With that in mind, searching the library's DVD racks I found some old favorites.

Ninotchka(1939) with Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas is great. Garbo plays a stern Russian agent sent to Paris on official business and finds herself attracted to a man who represents everything she is supposed to detest. It was her first full comedy, and demonstrates her great talent. The film, written by Billy Wilder, deliberately criticizes the Soviet Union, depicting it as rigid and gray compared to the free and sunny life in Paris and the west. Much of the marketing surrounding Ninotchka played on Garbo's super-serious image, suggesting she had never laughed or played comedy on film before. Released in 1939 in the United States, the movie was released during WWII in Europe, where it became a great success. It was, however, banned in the Soviet Union and its satellites. Despite this, it went on to make $2,279,000 worldwide.

Woman of the Year (1942) with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy is another. Two newspaper reporters, Tess and Sam, working on the same newspaper take a dislike to one another but eventually find themselves falling in love and marrying. Tess, a very active woman and one of the most famous feminists in the country, is elected "woman of the year." Being busy all the time, she forgets how to really be a woman and Sam begins to feel neglected. The final scene in their kitchen is one of the funniest I've ever dialog, no music, just perfect timing. This is the first of nine films Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy made together. They met for the first time on this shoot. In the 1993 documentary Katharine Hepburn: All About Me, Hepburn herself recalls she was wearing high heels at their first meeting with Tracy and producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and said "I'm afraid I'm a bit tall for you, Mr. Tracy". Mankiewicz then responded, "Don't worry, Kate, he'll cut you down to size."

The Apartment(1960) with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine should not be missed. They were both so young, so fresh, such bright just can't keep your eyes of them. Climbing the corporate ladder in an insurance company in New York City is easy particularly if you allow your bosses to use your apartment for extramarital affairs. This arrangement goes terrible wrong when love creeps in. A commercial and critical hit, grossing $25 million at the box office, the film was nominated for ten Academy awards, winning five, including best picture. Some funny tidbits : Wilder generally required his actors to adhere exactly to the script, but allowed Jack Lemmon to improvise in several scenes: in one scene he squirted a bottle of nose drops across the room and in another he sang while making a meal of spaghetti. In another scene where Lemmon was supposed to mime being punched, he failed to move correctly and was accidentally knocked down. Wilder chose to use the shot of the genuine punch in the film. He also caught a cold when one scene on a park bench was filmed in sub-zero weather.

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