Actors and Actresses

Sexy, oops, I mean, Mean Villain…

…gosh, what’s on my mind? This is the Great Villain Blogathon…right? And I’d put my name down for Prince John from Robin Hood (2010)…right? And, my mind is clearly elsewhere because I got sidetracked…right? Wrong…because…actually, the real villain here is not Prince John (Oscar Isaac)…he’s merely being, should we say, gently guided, by the sexiest nastiest man with ulterior motives. Oooh….but there’s just something about Godfrey, who just wouldn’t be the same if played by any other actor than Mark Strong.

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I’d very quickly realised that Prince John is simply a spoilt brat who wants his way. And he’s too busy having his way (not with his wife) to really pose any threat. Yes, he might have his moments, purely out of having some sort of power kick, but Godfrey, he’s there ever so subtly, or not, steering things. Weaseling his way into everything. Being English “when it suits me” French when that works better.

Godfrey has this presence from the very start. He’s clearly not phased by airs and graces, so comfortable is he around Philip of France during their (and our) first encounter. With that introduction comes…a perfect piece of music that will forever be associated with him…this one:

…it is Godfrey for me…staccato, slightly evasive, yet with an underlying hardness, energy, gradually increasing in drive, just like this man…all to gradually crescendo to a point where he eats the human blood stained oyster. The things people do. He encourages his men to plunder from the dead and doesn’t hesitate a moment to yank on the lance embedded in a dying knight. All in a day’s work it seems. And he’s so smooth when he does this.

And if his initial presence isn’t enough, somehow the scar on his cheek from Robin’s arrow simply makes him meaner in terms of personality as well as looks. Oh, and according to seasoned expert Prince John, the “ladies will love you all the more” for it. It amplifies his sexiness, oh no, did I write that again? “villain-ness” while he’s always listening, always scheming:

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Addressed as “my Lord” by both the French and the English, this man will casually instruct his men to get rid of someone or patiently wait in the sidelines for an opportunity to present itself. Strategically positioning himself during court meetings, saying just the right things, while Prince John is too busy dealing his family and greed issues. Wait…isn’t that an ever so slight (sly) smile on his face as he is about to officially serve the crown? Nicely played Godfrey, nicely played:

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“Choose carefully the spot Godfrey, where you would place your dagger”, so obvious to everyone including William Marshal (William Hurt). A man to be wary of.

Villain Banners 2019This must be one of the most heartless villains…who gives an old man news of his son, proudly telling him that “I’m the one who killed him” (left in a French ditch)??? To entice a fighting reaction from a blind man…plain mean.

Yet, at the end of the day, things must come to an end for him. And, while cowardly trying to race from the battlefield, this villain has had lots of personality. He has a certain presence that doesn’t even need his “signature” theme music. You notice him in all the scenes he’s in. He’s so bad yet somehow I feel drawn to him. He has the blatant audacity to pursue his goals. The way he holds himself. Confident, almost elegant. And while I obviously don’t support his behaviour, it is this type of character, acted perfectly by Mark Strong, that allows that “guilty pleasure” of being drawn to the bad guy. Because, that’s what movies allow us. Escapism.

For my previous entries to the Great Villain Blogathon, pop past Villain, Villain on the wall (here) and Meanest of the Mean…Ma-Ma (here). I’ve also written a piece on Mark Strong as a character actor in A Strong Character… (here)

And of course all the other entries to the Great Villain Blogathon can be found here (Shadows and Satin), here (Speakeasy) and here (Silver Screenings).

Here some impressions together with his theme song:

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“Rome! By all means, Rome…”

Roman_Holiday_poster“I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live”. These the words of Princess Anne (Audrey Hepburn) after her 24 hour (give or take) adventure in Rome. With a man, I might add. Unchaperoned. Tsk tsk. This is Roman Holiday (1953).

Princess Anne is on a tight schedule of appearances and events during an official visit to Rome. Having had enough of this one evening, and being lured by the wonderful music and dancing outside the residence walls, she sneaks out to do exactly what she feels like doing for a change. However, the effects of the new drug she’s been given to help her sleep and be happy only kick in once she’s well on her way in this big city. Sleeping on a bench, reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck, ahhhh….swoon, as always) comes across her, mistaking her as being drunk. Sleeping off her “hangover” in his apartment (due to circumstances) as he rushes off to work to discover the identity of this woman. And, being a reporter, also sees this as an opportunity for his big story. Hoping for exclusive, personal insight into the princess he takes her out for the day with the pretense of doing something nice for someone. And of course, they fall in love…supposedly.

RomanHolidayI say “supposedly” because I’m not really convinced with this one. They have wonderful chemistry but for me, they part more with respect and possibly friendship rather than love. Maybe you might think differently. Even the ending, to me, feels less like lovers parting. More like her having grown from the experience. Anyway, doesn’t really matter as the focus is the wonderful Audrey Hepburn. She takes on this role so wonderfully… balances that naive girl with the groomed royal so well. And we sympathise with her…she just wants to live, to be left alone, to do what she wants. To experience the everyday like the residents of Rome do (actually, the city is irrelevant). I absolutely love watching her start to relax and have some fun. Especially at the dance down by the boats…ah, that guitar part is something to behold. Ms Hepburn is definitely deserving of her Oscar (Best Actress in a Leading Role) and Golden Globe (Best Actress – Drama) wins for this role. I can’t believe that Audrey Hepburn was supposedly a newcomer…wow, now that is an actress…or should I say artist?

RomanHolidayDirected by William Wyler, it also stars one of my favourite leading men…Gregory Peck. Oh, sorry…I got distracted there…Eddie Albert also stars. Oscars were also won for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story and Best Costume Design (I absolutely love the outfits). Oscar nominations also included Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Writing – Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Black-and-White) and Best Film Editing.

For some more posts on the wonderful Audrey Hepburn, head over to Sister Celluloid for her Audrey at 90: The Salute to Audrey Hepburn Blogathon

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Fonda…the bad guy…

fondathon-2-text1Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), one of my favourite Westerns. And the perfect entry to focus on Henry Fonda for The Fondathon, hosted by Sat in your Lap.

Fonda is Frank. Totally ruthless. What more proof do you need when his “introductory” scene is one of gunning down a whole family…even the little boy frozen to the spot who you’d hope would be saved? But no…not Frank.

He’s got his orders. The family that he’s just disposed of…well, the land is in prime railway territory and business is business. Railroad baron business. Problem is…there is a young widow around. And she’s on her way to the exact piece of land. The killings are pinned on outlaw Cheyenne (Jason Robards) who befriends widow Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale). Together with Harmonica (Charles Bronson), he sets out to find the real killers. Of course, there’s more to this than meets the eye…Harmonica has his own motive…

Henry Fonda is just excellent. He has this perfectly calm coldness to him. Accentuated by the eyes. Especially in the close-ups. And there are plenty of those. Sergio Leone presents us with such wonderful visuals in this one. In fact, I believe those eyes are what the director really wanted to stand out. To be recognisable. As Fonda. From what I’ve read, Fonda arrived on set with a fake moustache and brown contact lenses…and that didn’t fly with Leone.

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“People scare better when they’re dyin'”…what a ruthless character. And once again…he’s so casual around the unexpected business events. Things he didn’t plan on. And Fonda is absolutely, totally convincing. The real, nasty bad guy.

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What I hadn’t realised until now (my lack of Henry Fonda knowledge) was that this role didn’t fit in with what he was typically cast as. He was always the good guy. And here’s something interesting I found on IMDB: Henry Fonda originally turned down the role of Frank. Director Sergio Leone flew to the United States and met with Fonda, who asked why he was wanted for the film. Leone replied, “Picture this: the camera shows a gunman from the waist down pulling his gun and shooting a running child. The camera pans up to the gunman’s face and…it’s Henry Fonda” (until then, with one exception, Fonda had only been cast in “good guy” roles. Leone wanted the audience to be shocked).

But, not knowing this in the first place, I was still shocked at how ruthless a man can be. Fonda or not. I guess…at the end of the day, the actor totally managed to convince me . What sheer acting brilliance.

So, this being my first Fonda film, to me, he’ll always be the bad guy stereotype and I’ve yet to discover him as the nice guy. I’m sure I’ll be shocked…

For my other thoughts on this one…head on over here…here.

Now…head on over to Sat in your Lap for the other Fondathon entries here.

Der Rote Baron (2008)…on this 100 Year Anniversary…

Red-baron_movie-posterI’m totally, emotionally drained. My mood is sombre. I’m quite angry…at the futility of war. It is just disgusting.

I tend to avoid watching war movies, not because I want to ignore that fact that these things happen but because I struggle to watch the atrocities, the lives being wastefully taken, the horror of it all…and the list goes on. But, as World War I ended 100 years ago today and Maddy from Maddy over at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting the World War 1 Blogathon, I decided to watch a movie I’ve long wanted to see…Der rote Baron (The Red Baron). I’ve just finished…hence my tender emotional state…but…it is an excellent movie.

The Red Baron is about the ace fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen (superbly played by Matthias Schweighöfer) who, as a child dreams of the freedom he might find up in the air. Born into aristocracy, he has the opportunity to follow this dream and so, during The Great War, finds himself using his skills for his country. We find ourselves following his ascent to the skies in his red plane but also in his status. He is known as the Red Baron not only because of his skills and abilities but just as importantly, because of his camaraderie with those around him. Initially, this is more a game for him…a means to live out his passion for flying, he even mentions that the objective is “..to bring down aeroplanes, not men”. At the beginning of the movie the atmosphere is lighter, with our young pilots having quite a number of cocky one-liners. As our story and therefore the war progresses, von Richthofen‘s eyes are opened to reality. This largely initiated by Käte (Lena Headey), a nurse desperately helping those less fortunate on a daily basis. As more and more of his pilot friends fall from the skies it all starts hitting home.

Excellent acting from all involved…so much so that you’ll find yourself sitting there feeling the losses, the decisions, the horrors of war. Der rote Baron doesn’t give many gruesome battlefield scenes but I think the emotional ones, the conscious decisions given and orders taken, those scenes are as powerful as any. It also tends to stay away from taking any sides but rather focuses on what would have been experienced by anyone, regardless of which side they were on.

 

Written and directed by Nikolai Müllerschön, it also stars Til Schweiger, Joseph Fiennes, Maxim Mehmet, Hanno Kofler and Volker Bruch amongst others.

When watching these things, I mourn the general destruction and loss of life…not only the human ones but also that of the environment, the fauna and flora. It makes me hope like crazy that at some point someone will learn from the past so that nobody ever needs to experience something like this again.

It is only fair that we honour the real man behind the movie too (along with everyone else fallen in battle).

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For more entries to Maddy’s Blogathon head on over here.

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Notorious…my 3rd Ingrid Bergman movie

If you thought you saw this post and then it was gone (last month)…you weren’t imagining things. I was hopelessly early…so, here it is again…this time on the right dates:capture-d_ecc81cran-2018-06-03-acc80-17-37-24I have a confession to make…gosh…how do I say this…ok, the best is to just get it out there: I’ve only seen Ingrid Bergman once before (oops, I lie…twice before)…but only ever one Alfred Hitchcock movie, sometime last year. Spellbound it was. And, wait! There’s more. Uhm, I’ve never seen a single Cary Grant movie before. You’re probably shaking your head in disgust. I’ll just put it down to too many movies, too little time. But wait! That’s all being changed as we speak…yep, I’ve just started watching my second ever Hitchcock movie that has Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant starring. Impressive, huh? So now, let me go watch…

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I’ve now added to my “Seen” list. Notorious is the latest addition. I’ve also added to a genre I’m not at all familiar with…film noir. Need to find some more of this genre. And much more Ingrid Bergman.

What more can I say other than…what a wonderful actress? Here she takes on the role of Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a Nazi spy. Deemed perfect to carry out an undercover operation within a group of Nazis, she is recruited by agent Devlin (Cary Grant) who fairly quickly falls in love with her. Part of her job is to gain the trust of Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) who once had a crush on her, which she tells Devlin she didn’t pursue. Would you expect anything else than a love triangle with this kind of setup? All surrounded by espionage and plots.

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Ingrid Bergman comes across so natural, so convincing. She’s absolutely perfect. I have read though that she was actually very nervous and insecure during this second time working with Hitchcock but that Cary Grant was a guidance to her, thus helping her through. This quite interesting as in the movie there is also this guiding.

I’m really enjoying Ingrid Bergman’s work…the three roles of hers I’ve seen have all been great. I’m looking forward to some more….I’m tempted to do The Bells of St. Mary’s next…purely because a while back I saw a Blogathon poster with a scene from this movie and it looked wonderful.

For more Bergman, head on over to The 4th Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon here.

 

Retirees in full force…

Red_ver7That’s exactly what we have in R.E.D. That is Retired, Extremely Dangerous. So dangerous that they need to be knocked off. Oh yes…you read right…

Former Black-Ops Agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is going about his much slowed down life. The regular highlight being him tearing up his pension cheques so he has an excuse to chat to pension office administrator Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). In the early hours of one morning all that changes when he is targeted by some assassination team. Needing no further excuse to actually meet Sarah (he believes whoever is trying to kill him is a threat to her because of their phone calls) he surprises her one evening in her apartment. She naturally thinks he’s totally crazy and won’t go with him…but he has his means.

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Together they round up Frank‘s former team in order to get to the bottom of the assassination attempt…Joe Matheson who’s supposedly dead for about the umpteenth time but very much alive (Morgan Freeman), cellphone-sattelite-technology-of-any-sort-phobe-conspiracy-theorist Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) and femme fatale Victoria (Helen Mirren). The retirees.

They make for one feisty foursome. And their respective personalities and idiosyncrasies make for an entertaining team. Frank is trying to deal with his new-found “broad” that he quite likes (and has to convince Marvin not to knock her off – Marvin believes everyone is out to get him). Marvin, well, need I say more with John Malkovich in this role??? He’s absolutely nuts but often right with his hunches. Joe is the perfect balance to this team and I like his calm, intelligent reasoning – figures that he was the former mentor of Frank…but he’s perfectly mischievous in his retirement home too. And Victoria…she’s a woman to be scared of despite the posh appearances…”I kill people, dear” she explains to Sarah.

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Add Sarah, who actually quite enjoys the whole “secretive” thing, William Cooper (Karl Urban), the CIA Agent instructed to track and kill Frank, exRussian Agent Ivan Simonov (Brian Cox), Henry, the Records Keeper (Ernest Borgnine) and you’ve got a movie that is a joy to watch.

I always find myself grinning in the two scenes where William Cooper tells Frank…”Grandpa”.

So, if you’re up for something fun and light but still in the action direction, give this one a watch. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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For some more Foursomes, head on over to MovieMovieBlogBlog and The Favorite Foursome Blogathon.

Unsuspecting Crush…

RI Banner 2018Trying and trying to decide on who to write about I think I’ve developed a totally unexpected crush…he’s kind of snuck up on me. Cheeky bugger. Can’t believe it. And here I was looking through all (not that many, I’m not that shallow) my “obvious” crushes, desperately trying to decide who got the chance this year for the long awaited Reel Infatuation Blogathon. I didn’t even realise I had developed a crush on him until my conscious asked me why I kept watching a specific movie, hang on, rephrase that…specific scenes in a specific movie (you’ll cringe when you hear which one) over…and over…and over…and over…and…oh you get the idea. Definitely crush, right? I guess that’s how it goes with these things. They hit you full strength when you least expect them.

Even weirder…why one particular person and not another? I mean, what makes a person who is not normally one’s “type” be the object of a crush? Totally bizarre. Must definitely be something more than just their looks. Well, I guess that’s the thing…people aremore than just looks. Here’s my latest crush…

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It all started in a way that these things often start with me…that is…not knowing which movie to watch and not really thinking too hard, on goes an “arb” one…in this case, on went…oooh, do I even admit to this…hmmmm….gosh, I’m so embarrassed….ok, fine…Austenland (2013). I’d never heard of it before and I sure couldn’t imagine JJ Feild as a romantic lead. I mean come on, he was that bastard Thax, who (spoiler alert) cut his fellow comrade’s Achilles tendon to save himself from starving wolves. I was so happy when he met his deserving death in that role (Centurion (2010)). Anyway, movie starts, I’m a bit sceptical about this whole setup in general but I keep watching. I vaguely acknowledge Mr Henry Nobley (Feild) because, he’s the prejudged backstabber of course.

Hang on…I’m watching that introduction of him (peering over a book, pretending not to be interested, but totally intrigued) for the second, hang on, third, or is it fourth time?

Nobley12 (2).PNGOh, the joys of technology where you can go straight to the scene you want. Next thing I know I’m on the scene where he brings heroine in from the rain…second, third…oh sod it…however many-eth time. Oooh, and the ending…how romantic. But then…I guess, it is understandable that he is so wonderful because the character he is based on is the perfect gentleman in Jane Austen’s works. How could I not fall for him? And I have you know…I’ve fallen for the gentleman for a change. And you thought after the last two years’ entries I’d bring another bad boy along…huh? Huh? See?

I’m going to have to head on to spoilers now…sorry…just to point out the reasons that won me over…

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How he gazes at Jane so discretely but just wonderfully…aaahhhhh….There’s something about those “disbelieving” looks he gives from time to time that just…I don’t know…look good…damn good…and they are always to bring a bit of reality back to the ridiculous situation (you’ll understand when you watch).

Having just told Jane that while he finds Austenland quite grotesque he likes the simplicity of Jane Austen’s world where “love is straightforward and lasting”. Now a guy like that’s a keeper. Adding the cherry on top in this scene, who wouldn’t have a big humongous crush on a guy who delivers a genuine line “Jane, you are my fantasy.”? Even Jane thinks that only happens in movies:

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“Jane, you are my fantasy”

As for a guy who wears a “I ♡ Darcy” t-shirt for his girlfriend…need I say more? Actually, all along, he just goes with the flow and comes across totally at ease with Jane. No pretenses. Just himself. Even when admitting he was really bad in the play that was put on.

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Confirmation that this is a character that’s won me over and not the actor is when I go out looking for other roles for fueling the wonderful feeling and never find them. Because, it is after all, that particular character who has a way about him. Otherwise, I’d have developed a crush on Thax in the first place and trust me…I was disgusted by his actions. But Henry, ah, he’s so sweet. *Sigh*

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Thax? Oh no, whew, just Mr Nobley in costume…

And now you expect me to concentrate? Really? Actually, I’m still trying to figure out how this one wrangled his way into the Blogathon.

As for the movie itself…it is just wacky and over the top. Totally ditsy and silly yet good fun to watch and dare I say, has some clever moments. You may be a bit confused with the pictures i.e. the setting sometimes appearing period piece other times not. Don’t be confused. It all comes together.

Thanks to Silver Screenings, Front and Frock and A Small Press Life for another wonderful year of making us all giddy and starry eyed…

For my previous years’ entries check out Sexy Crush…Peaky Blinders’ Tommy Shelby and Crushing on Will Scarlett and Lucky Luciano.