Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Help Me! I'm Blogging and I Can't Shut Up!

Thanks to Jennifer at Peak of Chic, I've discovered the fantastic and magical watercolours of Harrison Howard. I have just become completely enchanted with his work - so fanciful and detailed and simply beautiful. To see more of his work - be sure to check out the "Shell and Flower People" in his gallery! - click here and prepare to be delighted!

Well, as all good things supposedly come in threes, here is my third film noir recommendation for the week: Stranger on the Third Floor. This is a rather weird little movie ... but, still a good tale and well-shot. I don't know why it's almost unknown. There are some breaks from classic film noir - instead of a dazzling bombshell of ill-repute, the leading lady is squeaky clean and honest. And the leading man isn't a fallen good guy seduced by money and a dame; he's a straight as an arrow hero, falsely accused of murder. The background of the movie is almost as good as the film itself! Peter Lorre was a very well-known character actor, but was never a "leading man" and never received top billing - until Stranger on the Third Floor. He was on load to RKO, and had two days left on his contract. They put him in this noir, in a relatively small role with lesser-knowns in the leads. He shot all his scenes in two days - and received top billing! Also, the leading lady, Margaret Tallichet, was Mrs. William Wyler and was one of the top five actresses in line for Scarlett O'Hara. She made only two films the year after Stranger on the Third Floor - and retired from films forever. Another piece of casting that adds to the strangeness of this film is the casting of Elisha Cook, Jr. As opposed to his usual second-banana henchman and hard-boiled criminal, here he plays an innocent boy sent to the gas chamber for a crime he didn't commit. His scenes protesting his innocence are quite good and he's remarkably believable! Director Boris Ingster has created a taut, concise (it's only a shade over one hour long), and exciting little thriller. He only made a couple more movies before moving on to produce television programs. One other little tidbit: this movie has one of the most bizarre dream sequences I've seen. I know I haven't told you much about the story - but it's so short that I feel giving a synopsis would let too much out of the bag. Just try to rent a copy of Stranger on the Third Floor and enjoy!
And, using my big ol' sleeves to fly my way to the 21st century ....
Two newer movies that had me engrossed from beginning to end.

First, Gran Torino, with director-star Clint Eastwood. Almost a perfect movie about the death of the ubiquitous America Dream. Eastwood's Polish blue-collar worker raises irrascible curmudgeon to an art form. He is possibly one of the most disagreeable characters you're going to run into - ever. Again, the story is very simple so I don't want to spoil the film by exposing too much here. Eastwood entertains and teaches us through a simple - and sometimes violent - story of melting distrust, surprising affection, spirituality, honour and bravery, and respect. This is a film that I believe a family should watch together (warning: some very strong language). There is much to be learned from this film. And, of course, it's also a plain old fashioned good movie!
My second contemporary film is I Loved You So Long, starring Kristen Scott Thomas, in perhaps her best performance ever. This movie is tough going - it's very emotional and touches - no, dwells - on some very unpleasant aspects of life. It has much to say about family, children, society, and the way they find importance in our lives. Ms. Scott Thomas plays Juliette, a woman just released from prison after 15 years. Again, I don't want to reveal what she was there for, as it's an important disclosure moment in the movie - but it's tough to hear. Her journey to find her place in a family that had disowned her, and a place of acceptance in society, is at times humorous - at others heartbreaking. The entire cast is first-rate - though it's clear this film is a showcase for Ms. Scott Thomas, and her Oscar nomination could hardly have come as a surprise. I'm glad I watched this with someone, as I wanted to talk about it when it was over. It brings up as many questions as it answers. It gets a big five stars out of five from me!
I love Victorian fashion. I had no idea that flotation devices were sometimes used as hair ornaments.
Isn't this a wonderful image?! While searching for images to use on a Mad Hatter's hat for an art swap, I came across this very realistic rabbit hole shot. It's a still from a very early (1903) turn of the century silent version of Alice in Wonderland. I think it's the first time I've ever seen the rabbit hole look so natural (if enormous), and vaguely creepy - as it should, in my opinion!
I also found this delightful clip from yet another early 20th century (1915) version of Alice. The sets were quite ominous -and the early special effect I found believable. Enjoy!

Okay, I'm off to work on some art pieces - I have three things that really must be finished up soon! I've been spending too much time this summer lazing around and watching movies! ... and enjoying way too many naps!
Have a lovely day - and try to find time to make something beautiful!
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(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥

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