Poll Results: Favorite Billy Wilder Film

A last minute rush decided the winner for your favorite Billy Wilder film:

– Some Like It Hot: 6 votes
– The Apartment: 5 votes
– Sunset Blvd: 3 votes
– Double Indemnity: 1 vote
– Sabrina: 1 vote
– Stalag 17: 1 vote
– The Lost Weekend: 1 vote

The Apartment got off to a quick lead, but the screwball sensibilities of Some Like It Hot ended up prevailing after all. I guess I underestimated the fans of that film because I figured it would be a tossup between The Apartment and Sunset Blvd. Interesting results. Good to see others such as The Lost Weekend and Stalag 17 get votes as well.

This Week’s Poll: With Magic Mike doing surprisingly well at the box office this weekend, I thought it would be fun to take a look at director Steven Soderbergh’s filmography. With such a long and diverse career, I am curious to see what you guys select as his best film.

Hope everyone has had a great weekend! And Happy Canada Day to those up north!

Poll Results: Best Tom Cruise Film

With the option of voting for *two* films, we had a strong turnout in this week’s poll. Here is what was selected as the best film from Tom Cruise:

Rain Man

– Rain Man: 9 votes
– Minority Report: 8 votes
– Magnolia: 6 votes
– The Last Samurai: 6 votes
– Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: 6 votes
– Top Gun: 5 votes
– Collateral: 5 votes
– Mission: Impossible: 4 votes
– A Few Good Men: 3 votes
– Vanilla Sky: 3 votes
– Jerry Maguire: 2 votes
– Eyes Wide Shut: 2 votes
– Born on the Fourth of July: 1 vote

Say what you want about the man, but Tom Cruise has had a long and massively successful career. His diverse filmography shines through in the results, with a lot of great films getting votes. Rain Man is a deserving winner, no doubt about it.

This Week’s Poll: After entering Billy Wilder into the Ten Best Directors of All Time Relay Race, I just had to do a poll on him. This is especially fitting since Mr. Wilder’s birthday was just this past Friday. He would have been 106 years old. I know there are a lot of Wilder fans out there, so my question this week is, what is your favorite Billy Wilder film? I would love to hear your thoughts on this one.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend! Enjoy it while it lasts.

The Ten Best Directors of All Time [Relay Race]

A couple months ago I had the pleasure of taking part in a great blogathon known as the Ten Best Actors of All Time Relay Race. That meme is still alive and kicking, but Nostra at My Film Views has added a couple more features, with the most recent one being a version specifically for directors. Dan from Public Transportation Snob sent the baton my way, and now it is my turn to join in on the festivities. Here is Nostra’s description of the relay race for those who haven’t been keeping up with it:

So what’s the idea behind the relay? I’ve created a list of what I think are the ten best directors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one director (that is an obligation) and add his own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best directors.
If you are following the relay race it is also a great way to be introduced to new blogs!

And here are the other entries so far:
My Film Views (The originator of the list, and the ten that he began with were: Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Hayao Miyazaki, Darren Aronofsky, Martin Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, Akira Kurosawa, and Christopher Nolan)
Southern Vision (Replaced Christopher Nolan with Krzysztof Kieslowski)
And So It Begins… (Replaced Darren Aronofsky with Ingmar Bergman)
Surrender To The Void (Replaced Steven Spielberg with Lars Von Trier)
Cinematic Paradox (Replaced Lars Von Trier with Paul Thomas Anderson)
Defiant Success (Replaced Krzysztof Kieslowski with Sidney Lumet)
“…Let’s Be Splendid About This…” (Replaced Quentin Tarantino with Abbas Kiarostami)
1001Plus (Replaced Paul Thomas Anderson with Billy Wilder)
Cinema Sights (Replaced Billy Wilder with F.W. Murnau)
Bill’s Movie Emporium (Replaced Martin Scorsese with Werner Herzog)
Public Transportation Snob (Replaced Sidney Lumet with John Ford)

Here is the current list:

Alfred Hitchcock

Stanley Kubrick

Hayao Miyazaki

Werner Herzog

The Coen Brothers

Akira Kurosawa

Ingmar Bergman

Abbas Kiarostami

F.W. Murnau

John Ford

My Removal:

This is always the hard part with these blogathons. With such a great and diverse list this time around, it was even more difficult to remove one of these legends. I dismissed the idea of removing those I am unfamiliar with — in this case, Kiarostami and Murnau — and immediately skipped over the “untouchables” — Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Kubrick. After much deliberation, I decided on removing Werner Herzog. Perhaps this isn’t entirely fair since I am only familiar with his more contemporary work, but I have yet to see something from him that absolutely blew me away. I know he has a lot of devout fans in the blogging world, but I have a feeling he will make a reappearance at some point. I will say this, though — I could listen to that man talk all day long.

My Addition:

Speaking of reappearances, I have decided to enter Billy Wilder back into the race with the hopes that he will get a longer run this time around. I have been on a huge Wilder kick lately (thanks in part to the local theater doing a summer marathon dedicated to his work), and I have fallen in love with a number of his films. I don’t give out 10/10s too often, but he has two films that I would easily go all the way for — Sunset Boulevard and The Apartment. Quite a few of his films are not far off, including Double Indemnity, Ace in the Hole and The Lost Weekend. He is one of the all-time great directors, and I believe he is a worthy addition to this list.

Now I am passing this on to Kristen over at Journeys in Classic Film. Good luck!

Movie Project #5: Some Like It Hot [1959]

Due to the overwhelming success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a second round for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Some Like It Hot [1959]

Some Like It Hot [1959]
Director: Billy Wilder
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon
Runtime: 120 minutes

Nobody’s perfect.

In my last project, I watched two Billy Wilder classics: Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard. I loved both and immediately wanted to see more of his work. While compiling this year’s edition, I was positive that I included two more of his films: The Apartment and Some Like It Hot. I watched The Apartment recently and it blew me away. I was all set to give my first 10/10 for a movie in this project but then I realized that I had mistakenly left it out! Somehow it got lost in the shuffle when I downsized the list to 25 and then bumped it back up to 50. Regardless, I made sure my next viewing was another Wilder film.

Some Like It Hot is quite different from The Apartment (or Double Indemnity or Sunset Boulevard, for that matter), as it is a total screwball comedy. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis star as Jerry and Joe, respectively, a couple of Chicago musicians who unwittingly become witnesses to the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre of 1929. Now on the run from the mob, the duo get the wild idea to dress up as women and take a gig with an all-girl band down in Florida. This is where they meet Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), the lead singer of the band, and both instantly fall in love with her. It’s Joe (now Josephine) who gets the upper hand when Sugar visits him for a late night party, all while Jerry (now Daphne, previously Geraldine) is sleeping in the bunk below.

Upon arriving in Florida, the movie takes an interesting twist as the love subplots start to develop. Joe/Josephine poses as a different man, the alleged heir to Shell Oil, in order to win over Sugar and her love for money. Meanwhile, Jerry/Daphne is dealing with a legitimate millionaire, Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), who is in love with the Daphne persona. Hijinx ensue, as there are so many different personalities at play, and our leading tandem are trying desperately not to blow their covers.

Jack Lemmon & Tony Curtis [Some Like It Hot - 1959]

In 2000, the American Film Institute dubbed Some Like It Hot to be the greatest American comedy of all time. Obviously this is a huge statement, but it also shows just how much comedies have changed over the years. Wilder’s film relies heavily on double entendres and dry one liners, a far cry from the types of toilet humor we are used to now. Even though cross dressing is a major plot point, the film doesn’t rely too heavily on this for laughs. I was a little worried that the movie was going to be a one-trick pony, but thankfully that isn’t the case. Sex is a central figure as well, but the jokes are brought about in a way that aren’t spelled out for us — a refreshing change, for sure.

This was the first movie I saw with Marilyn Monroe in a major role. I had previously seen her in The Asphalt Jungle, but her small un-credited appearance wasn’t enough for me to understand the fanaticism about her. Now I understand. Monroe, despite being notoriously difficult to work with, just oozes sex appeal as Sugar Kane. Just take a look at her solo performance singing “I Wanna Be Loved by You” as proof:

It’s easy to see why both Jerry and Joe are smitten with her.

It’s also easy to see why Some Like It Hot is held in such high regard, even today. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, and I am quickly becoming a fan of Jack Lemmon in particular, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the greatest comedy of all time. I felt the film started to lose its luster once the Chicago gangsters reappeared (even though it was a treat to see George Raft again, as I had previously only seen him in The Glass Key), and it ran a little long for being a screwball comedy. Still, these are minor issues for what is another great title in Wilder’s diverse filmography. And who could ever forget the hilarious closing line?


Movie Project #29 and #30: Sunset Boulevard [1950] and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

Sunset Boulevard [1950]
Sunset Boulevard [1950, Billy Wilder]
Starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim.

Holy hell, what a film! The fact that such a biting satire about the film industry was made in 1950 blows my mind. The movie opens up mysteriously with a dead man floating in the pool. This man, Joe Gillis (played by the brilliant Holden), proceeds to narrate the film from beyond the grave, and the movie follows the events that led up to his demise. While on the run from repo men, Gillis pulls into the garage of what he thinks is an abandoned Hollywood mansion. Well, it turns out that the long-retired silent film star Norma Desmond (the scary-good Swanson, a former silent film star herself) is living there, and she sparks up an interest in the failing writer of Gillis. What transpires is truly bizarre, as Gillis becomes involved in a love triangle with Desmond and a young writer (Nancy Olson).

The world that Norma Desmond lives in is beyond fascinating, as she has clearly lost her mind and is stuck living in the past. She believes she will make a great comeback someday, and her reassuring butler (von Stroheim) refuses to tell her otherwise, fearing she will commit suicide. Her descent into madness culminates with one of the most memorable closing lines ever uttered on film: “There’s nothing else. Just us, and the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark. All right, Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my closeup.”

Sunset Boulevard also has some terrific moments of dark humor, and I particularly loved the brief cameos from silent film stars such as Buster Keaton and H.B. Warner. This was the first time I had heard Keaton speak! There really is a lot to love about this movie, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. 10/10

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939]
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939, Frank Capra]
Starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains.

It says something about a movie’s power when a statement made 70+ years ago still holds relevance today. The always awesome James Stewart stars as Jefferson Smith, a naive Boy Scout leader who is oddly selected to take over as a US Senator after an incumbent passes away. When he gets there, he is enamored with the sights and sounds of Washington D.C., even getting himself lost in the process. He quickly finds out that he doesn’t belong there, as he has no interest in the political bullshit that goes on every day. Still, he perserveres, especially after he finds out about a scandal that would build a dam over his proposed Boy Scout campsite.

As a story of one man fighting for what’s right, it’s hard not to admire the movie. Smith, aided by his chief of staff Clarissa Saunders (Arthur), is a likable guy, and his big moment — a very, very long fillibuster — is quite brilliant. Superbly acted with a great screenplay to boot, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington still holds up today. 9/10