Flick Favorites

For all of you who enjoy movies set in bygone times, films with strong female leads, I bring a list of recommendations. Period dramas I have enjoyed for their wardrobe, décor and cinematic style. Films I like to revisit for their characters and storylines. Films I have enjoyed for their music and cast. Films released in recent years or back in the 1990s.

  1. Agora, starring Rachel Weisz as Hypatia, a female mathematician, philosopher and astronomer in late 4th-century
  2. Anna and the King, starring Jodi Foster as Anna Leonowens, an English school teacher in Siam in the late 19th century
  3. Being Julia, starring Anette Bening as Julia Lambert, a popular actress in London in the late 1930s
  4. Doubt, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams as two nuns in 1960s New York (Bronx)
  5. Driving Miss Daisy, starring Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan, a resolute widow in the 1960-70s
  6. Enchanted April, starring Miranda Richardson, Polly Walker, Joan Plowright and others as a bunch of English ladies who spent their holidays in Italy in the 1920s
  7. Fried Green Tomatoes, starring Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker as two friends who are mastering life in the Great Depression
  8. The Great Debaters, starring Jurnee Smollett as Samantha Booke, the first female member of her college’s debate team, set in the mid 1930s
  9. A Little Princess, starring Liesel Matthews as Sara Crewe, a lovely rich girl who loses everything when her father dies in WWI
  10. Miss Potter, starring Renée Zellweger as Beatrix Potter, the famous writer and creator of Peter Rabbit
  11. Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen, A Danish lady who emigrates to Africa in the early 20th century
  12. Paradise Road, starring Glenn Close, Julianna Margulies, Frances McDormand and many others as female POW in Sumatra during WWII
  13. Tea with Mussolini, starring Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Lily Tomlin and Cher as five expatiates in Italy in the 1930s through 40s

This list, of course, is far from complete. So whatever you miss, please feel invited to share your favorite flick with a strong female lead! 🙂

Academy Awards 2012

This is the out-of-the-ordinary post about the Oscars, a show that always comes with a lot of emotions, deserving recipients and a whole bunch of silver medalists (because it’s already a boost to be nominated).

So who are the lucky winners?! I’m sure you’ve all already heard it but I’m still as excited as can be:

  • Best Film: The Artist
  • Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
  • Best Actress: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
  • Best Actor: Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  • Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
  • Best Song: Man or Muppet (The Muppets)
  • Best Score: Ludovic Bource (The Artist)
  • Best Costume Design: The Artist

That makes ten favorites of mine in my top ten categories. I never thought I’d get to see this – I mean, what are the odds?! But 2012 had big love for new vintage and retro, including a nine-time Oscar host to run the show.

So I’m raising my glass to toast to The Artist as the first silent movie that won Best Picture since 1929. I know it’s ingenuous to hope for a long-term revival of class, simplicity and style, but right now I want to celebrate the overwhelming reception of a film that has won over critics, movie makers and a worldwide audience alike. Congratulations to Michel Hazanavicius and his team, and thanks for creating this gem of a true modern classic.

The 2000s

The 2000s

The new millennium started with a scare that influenced pop culture as much as everyday life. 9/11 in 2001 and the beginning of a lasting financial crisis in 2008 – the 21st century’s first decade did not live up the promise of a pampered life. But like in most crises, pop culture, fashion and the media took the turn towards entertainment. Reality shows seemed to increase by the minute, an interest in the clothes and trends of the 1980s was reborn with a vengeance, long retired musical acts from the 1990s celebrated their revivals and tabloids ran scandals and mayhem about an endlessly growing teenage starlet generation. Comebacks now referred to returning artists who had taken a break from their work for sometimes less than a year and everyone who knew how to submit an application to a song contest was labeled a star. New rules applied, enforced by social networks, youtube and the ever-growing internet media. Andy Warhol’s famous prediction that in the future everyone would claim fifteen minutes of fame seemed to turn into reality.

Apart from scripted reality, TV also offered a whole new set of new shows such as CSI (and its respective spin offs), Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, NCIS or Lie To Me. The credo was to present established genres from a new angle with characters who are skilled, a tad odd but also likeable. There’s no such thing as too screwed up as long as the characters excel at work and find a way to communicate with their peers. Slowly but thoroughly the nerd turned into a new hero and women were allowed to be just as silly, pitiful or sorry as men. The Gilmore Girls met the voice of an entire generation of young women and The O.C. brought soapy material back to prime time. Fantasy and science fiction was still on the rise, offering a variety of shows with strong female leads such as the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Dark Angel or Pushing Daisies. Brothers & Sisters, Monk, Castle and The Good Wife used more traditional ways of presenting their genuine leads, nicely blending school-book storytelling with a fresh set of ideas. Veronica Mars, The Closer or Rizzoli & Isles offered a new insight into women of the new century, a lot less grim and sexed-up than some of their predecessors but every bit as empowered.

Another TV trend was the publication of shows on DVD – contemporary ones, short-lived hits or vintage shows such as Perry Mason, The Donna Reed Show, Bewitched or I Love Lucy. As an addition to on-going re-runs on TV or Hulu, those retro shows attracted an audience already familiar with their favorite childhood stars, ranging from baby boomers to a generation that had fallen in love with the classics in the 1980s and 90s. The shows offered an alternative to the different values, aesthetics and storytelling of contemporary shows that were sometimes perceived as unsuitable for families or plain unoriginal.

At the movies, Pixar was still one the rise slowly pushing old-school animation out of the market with films such as Monster Inc. or Finding Nemo. Serial adaptations were popular such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight or The Chronicles of Narnia, showing a preference for a blend of fantasy and improved special effects. Action movies, buddy films, comic book adaptations and science fiction sagas also met the audience’s increasing interest in fairytale worlds, video game aesthetics and escapism. The 2000s also brought on a growing interest in Meryl Streep’s diversity in films such as Mamma Mia!, Doubt or Julie & Julia. There was also room for Nancy Meyer’s love stories that featured a mature cast of stellar actors, such as It’s Complicated or Something’s Gotta Give, as well as for numerous other romantic comedies. All in all, the 2000s featured a diverse list of film titles, including The Inconvenient Truth, Lions for Lambs or The Visitor. Like in previous decades, popular successes were not the only contribution and it will be interesting to see where this new decade of the 2010s is headed.

Respect for Acting

As y’all may know by now, Friday is miscellaneous day. So today I am writing about one of my favorite topics: acting.

Acting can be a fun hobby but it is a tough job if you do it for a living, if you are a working actor fishing for parts or a newcomer who is barely scraping by. Personally, I love to act and I have great respect for everyone who does try to live by it. It is one of those creative professions that is often underestimated all the while it is the most popularly celebrated job in all of Hollywood.

Actors are predominantly associated with the projects they are working on although in essence they do not shape the film, play or program as much as is often insinuated in interviews and features. Without actors a script will not come to life however, no matter how good an idea the director has or how much money the producer provides. It is a very interesting job actually, exhausting at times, following orders yet breathing life into a character so it will be distinctively your own creation.

In my experience, every actor has a different approach, background and method to work with. And no matter how much training you get, every actor has to find what works for her (or him for that matter) best. So apart from never-ending practice, singing, dance or voice lessons, joy and the necessity of an undying craving to perform, careful observation and second hand experience may do wonders for your style.

“Eight Women of the American Stage – Talking about Acting” by Roy Harris (with a foreword by Emily Mann) and “Actors at Work” by Rosemarie Tischler and Barry Jay Kaplan (with a foreword by Mike Nichols) are two books I can recommend in this context, from the bottom of my heart. They give beautiful insight into the process of acquiring a part by a variety of great American talents such as Meryl Streep, Donna Murphy or Mary McDonnell.

Furthermore, I can highly recommend Uta Hagen’s “Respect for Acting” and “Challenge for the Actor”, two books that made a big difference for me and opened my inquisitive mind. Multidisciplinary shaped as I am, it was a great addition to the different methods I looked into in classes and on stage. Uta Hagen’s approach really pushed me forward and made me feel at home emotionally. It was the one method I finally connected with.

For everybody who prefers to see and hear more about her method, “Uta Hagen’s Acting Class” is also available on DVD. In my opinion, the DVD is a worthy investment and a helpful addition to her second book, “Challenge for the Actor”. “Theater of War” may be another adjuvant purchase. The documentary features Meryl Streep’s 2008 Central Park performance of Mother Courage and her journey of mastering that challenging character.

I really wish there was a book featuring my favorite classic actresses with interviews on their acquired wisdom in and expert approach to acting . Most of them got their training on the job and successfully so, and maybe that’s their legacy for anyone who wishes to follow in their footsteps – there’s no such thing as a studio system anymore, but individual classes are available everywhere and if you’re lucky the one or other extra or stage job in your area.