Tag Archives: Billy Wilder

Top 100 Films #14 – The Apartment (1960)

 

apartment_026pyxurz#14. The Apartment (1960)
Directed by: Billy Wilder
Written by: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Jack Kruschen

Billy Wilder’s Best Picture winning The Apartment is the cynical old master of cinema at his most heartwarming and endearing.  The film starring the charming Jack Lemmon in quite possibly his most enduring role and a young, hilarious Shirley MacLaine was one of the very first “classic” movies I ever saw, and one that immediately won my heart.  The Apartment tells the story of C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) a down-on-his-luck pushover who rents his apartment to his many bosses so that they can carry out affairs with younger women.  Baxter does so in order to climb the often difficult to navigate corporate ladder, and his strategy pays off in spades.  After falling in love with the workplace elevator girl Fran (Shirley MacLaine), Baxter begins to have a change of heart.  When he finds out that Fran had previously been seduced by his boss Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) and the two had carried out an affair, things become complicated for the love triangle.  The Apartment is Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s strongest writing work together, in my opinion.  The story features much of Wilder’s inherent cynicism, mostly in C.C. Baxter’s view of the world, and in Fran’s dealings with Sheldrake – there’s a lot of hopelessness and bitterness to be found.  Luckily, both Wilder and Diamond also show a deeply human side to their writing, something they would continue to improve on in future scripts. It seems that Diamond brought out the very best in Wilder, making him look past the negatives and create something with spirit and heart.  The love story the two men have crafted in The Apartment is truly touching and multi-layered, making it easily one of the most effective romantic-comedies ever made in Hollywood. C.C. Baxter is one of my all-time favorite screen characters – there’s something I find so compelling about his depressive and cynical, but deeply romantic and well-natured attitude.  Jack Lemmon’s performance as Baxter is incredible, picking up a well-deserved Best Actor nomination at that year’s Academy Awards. Shirley MacLaine’s turn as Fran is equally as complex, with the sweet young woman towing the line between naive and entirely self-aware.  The blossoming romance between both Baxter and Fran is entirely believable, and incredibly sweet – there’s something in the air when the two characters interact, especially in the latter half of the film when they share more screen time.  Fred MacMurray’s supporting role as Sheldrake is probably the most I’ve ever enjoyed seeing the actor on screen – he is perfectly charming and unlikable when contrasted with Jack Lemmon’s endearing C.C. Baxter.  MacMurray was always best used as a supporting player, and Wilder once again uses him to great effect in The Apartment.   The film would go on to win Best Picture, Best Director (Wilder), and Best Writing (I.A.L. Diamond and Wilder) at the 1961 Academy Awards, creating the structure and style of modern romantic comedy films, and paving the way for generations of rom-coms to come.  The Apartment is sweet, intelligent, funny, and deeply moving in a way that Billy Wilder was never quite able to recapture – though his 1961 film One, Two, Three is a personal favorite of mine.

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Top 100 Films #60 – Some Like It Hot (1959)

 

some-like-it-hot-di#60. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Directed by: Billy Wilder
Written by: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond (story by Robert Thoeren, Michael Logan)
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, George Raft, Joe E. Brown

Billy Wilder’s trailblazing comedy Some Like It Hot is regarded as one of the all-time great screen comedies, and for good reason.  Wilder’s uproarious 1959 film stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as Jerry and Joe, or Daphne and Josephine respectively.  The two men are on the lamb after accidentally bearing witness to the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and have decided to take refuge with a train full of female musicians.  In order to blend in more, the two decide to dress in drag so as not to raise suspicion.  Along the way they meet Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), whom Joe immediately falls for, and a wealthy man named Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), who falls for Jerry’s Daphne.  The film’s premise has been spoofed countless times, and several loose remakes have even been attempted, but not a single adaptation has ever managed to match the magic of Some Like It Hot.  It’s a progressive film with both bite and heart – something that Billy Wilder managed to do time and time again.  The script co-written by Wilder and longtime collaborator I.A.L. Diamond is intelligent in its use of the idea of two men in drag, and even goes as far as exploring themes of sexuality and homosexuality – a rarity for films of the era.  Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis have tremendous on-screen chemistry, and play off each other well as Daphne and Josephine.  Jack Lemmon’s reluctant relationship with Joe E. Brown’s Osgood is perfect, but Tony Curtis’ Josephine falling for the beautiful Sugar is the highlight of Some Like It Hot.  The film was nominated for a slew of Academy Awards, including Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Actor (Jack Lemmon), and Best Screenplay (Wilder & Diamond), but was beaten out by films like Ben-Hur and Pillow Talk.  Some Like It Hot’s most famous moment comes in its final minute, where Joe E. Brown’s Osgood tells Jack Lemmon’s Daphne “nobody’s perfect” after finding out that Daphne is a man. The moment is brilliant, progressive, and hilarious, and furthers Some Like It Hot as one of the cinema’s greatest comedies.

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Top 100 Films #80 – Sunset Boulevard (1950)

 

sunset-boulevard#80. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Directed by: Billy Wilder
Written by: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D.M. Marshman, Jr.
Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough

The greatest story of a Hollywood downfall ever told, Billy Wilder’s often bleak, often humorous, always poignant Sunset Boulevard still thrills and amazes today.  Often regarded as one of Wilder’s best films, Sunset Boulevard combines trademark elements of film noir and combines them with a healthy dose of cynicism and pitch black wit to create a truly unique experience.  Sunset Boulevard sees Joe Gillis (William Holden) become involved in a complicated relationship with aging former movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Desmond fantasizes day and night about one day returning to her former glory, being directed on the big screen by greats like Cecil B. DeMille (who appears in the film as himself).  Her fantasies are supported by her personal assistant Max (Erich von Stroheim), who helps to create the illusion that Hollywood is begging for Norma’s eventual return.  Joe deals with the manic Norma and her intensely loyal assistant all while writing a film script with the young Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson).  Sunset Boulevard weaves a complex dreamy narrative that deals with a wide range of themes, including fame and fortune, the yearning to return to one’s prime, and the personal demons of artists.  Gloria Swanson gives one of cinema’s most iconic performances in her portrayal of Norma Desmond, who is at all times horrifyingly delusional and sympathetic.  Swanson perfectly captures the humiliation of being left behind by Hollywood felt by Norma Desmond, as well as her constant vying for a spot at the table among the elites.  Supporting Swanson are Academy Award nominated performances by William Holden, Erich von Stroheim, and Nancy Olson, all of which are more than deserving of acclaim.  Sunset Boulevard is one of Hollywood’s all-time greatest films, featuring incredible direction by one of the all-time greats, a darkly comic script, and multiple iconic performances.  It’s a haunting and unforgettable experience that cannot possibly be given enough praise.

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November Theme – Film Noir

After setting a personal goal to cover one theme for an entire month and actually being able to stick with it, I’ve found an incredible amount of inspiration and motivation in continuing to write about films, whether people out there or reading or not.  Having some sort of theme, no matter how strict or loose, gives me something to look forward to for an entire month, and has already taught me a great deal about writing and about films.  I’ve finally seen documentaries that I’ve been putting off for years now, and I hope to do the same with many different genres, movements, and filmmakers throughout the life of this blog. While I don’t think I’m a terrific writer by any means, being able to have some sort of creative outlet in my life feels incredible, and I plan on seeing this thing out to the bitter end.  There comes a point where endlessly listening to film podcasts, browsing discussions and reviews online, and thinking day and night about movies just isn’t enough, which is why I’ve decided to write.  This is something I’m incredibly passionate about, and boy is it a great feeling to finally get my thoughts out there without constantly worrying about views and being self-conscious of my own writing style.

I’ve decided the theme for November is going to be an introduction to the film noir genre, and will officially titled Noirvember.  You may ask yourself, what exactly is film noir?  Well, that’s a terrific question, and hopefully you’ll bear with me in order to find out.  Film noir is a genre of crime film that was immensely popular during the 1940’s and 1950’s, featuring expressionistic black and white cinematography, shadows, fog, and thick clouds of cigarette smoke, notoriously unhappy endings, fedoras and shabby suits, and most famously femme fatales – strong women who often blur the line between wanting to love and kill our main character.  Film noir is without a doubt one of the most iconic and famous American film genres, sitting beside its polar-opposite neighbor, the Western. These films are concise, fun, full of dread and betrayal on all sides, and are infinitely re-watchable as a result.

The pioneers of the film noir genre include the famous Hollywood bad boy Orson Welles, with films like Touch of Evil and The Lady from Shanghai, Polish export auteur Billy Wilder for the iconic Double Indemnity and Sunset Blvd., John Huston for The Maltese Falcon, The Asphalt Jungle, and Key Largo, and Fritz Lang for Scarlet Street and The Big Heat among many others.  These are films that have often been parodied and poked fun at, but the influence they hold over modern filmmakers is unparalleled, as are the reputations of many of these incredible and timeless works. To keep things fresh, I’ve decided to only tackle films that I have never seen before.  The tentative schedule for Noirvember is as follows:

#1 – Laura (1944) (dir. Otto Preminger) – November 1

#2 – Detour (1945) (dir. Edgar G. Ulmer) – November 5

#3 – The Killers (1946) (dir. Robert Siodmak) – November 8

#4 – Nightmare Alley (1947) (dir. Edmund Goulding) – November 12

#5 – They Live by Night (1948) (dir. Nicholas Ray) – November 15

#6 – The Big Clock (1948) (dir. John Farrow) – November 19

#7 – D.O.A. (1950) (dir. Rudolph Mate) – November 22

#8 – Night and the City (1950) (dir. Jules Dassin) – November 26

#9 – Kiss Me Deadly (1955) (dir. Robert Aldrich) – November 29

#10 – Touch of Evil (1958) (dir. Orson Welles) – November 30

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Lightning Round (week of 6/30-7/6)

June 30, 2013

MV5BMTc0Nzc5MDEzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjc2NTEyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR7,0,214,317_As Good As It Gets (1997)

Director: James L. Brooks

Writer: Mark Andrus, James L. Brooks

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr.

Runtime: 139 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

As Good As It Gets was my first exposure to the films of James L. Brooks, whom I’ve heard many good things about (specifically about Broadcast News), and I wasn’t completely let down when the credits rolled.  Nicholson is incredible here as Melvin Udall, a slightly racist and homophobic writer, and is easily the highlight of the entire film.  Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt both deservedly won Best Actor and Best Actress respectively at that years Oscars, with Greg Kinnear also being nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  After a solid first half of the film, As Good As It Gets unfortunately suffers from an unbelievably cliched and silly last act, somehow leading to Nicholson and Hunt’s characters eventually falling in love.  Even though I still enjoyed the film, its bloated runtime and horribly cliched last act detract from the film.  7.5/10.


July 1, 2013

412_box_348x490_original

Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Writer: Ingmar Bergman

Starring: Ake Gronberg, Harriet Andersson, Hasse Ekman, Gunnar Bjornstrand

Runtime: 93 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Ingmar Bergman’s Sawdust and Tinsel is definitely an interesting film in all respects.  It features a travelling circus stopping in a small town for a show, where the ringmaster Albert Johansson (Ake Gronberg) is trying to reconcile with his wife while maintaining a relationship with his mistress.  The group and mostly Johansson are humiliated by a local acting troupe, soon leading to what might be the end of Johansson’s circus.  The film features a few of Bergman’s familiar faces, but was made before Bergman seemingly found his voice as a filmmaker.  The themes, ideas, and atmosphere are all there, but the film just never becomes the great piece of art it could have been.  Definitely a film I need to re-visit at some point in the future when I may be able to respect it more.  Still recommended to fans of Bergman!  7.5/10.

we_and_the_i_ver2The We and the I (2013)

Director: Michel Gondry

Writer: Michel Gondry, Jeffrey Grimshaw

Starring: Michael Brodie, Teresa Lynn, Raymond Delgado

Runtime: 103 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Michel Gondry seems to be an incredibly divisive filmmaker, and with a catalogue including films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind and The Green Hornet, it’s easy to see why.  The We and the I is definitely an interesting idea, but the execution is significantly less interesting, unfortunately.  The film takes a brief look at the lives of several teenagers who have nothing in common other than the fact that they take the same city bus route on a regular basis.  Some of them are mean-spirited and cold, while some of them are caring, passionate kids.  The problem with the film is that it’s incredibly unfocused, and doesn’t feel like a Gondry film at all (at least not one he’s passionate about), in fact it feels far more like the work of somebody like Spike Lee.  The acting, done mostly by non-actors, is passable, but the film is just too impersonal, too long, and far too unfocused to ever amount to anything significant.  Can only recommend it to fans of Gondry.  6/10.

Some Like It Hot (1959)220px-Some_Like_It_Hot_poster

Director: Billy Wilder

Writer: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe

Runtime: 120 minutes

Views: 2nd Viewing

The American Film Institute (AFI) voted Some Like It Hot as the greatest American comedy of all-time a few years ago, which is an incredibly difficult decision to argue with.  The film is the perfect example of 1950’s comedy, with most of its major jokes delivering huge on the laughs.  The performances from legendary actors Jack Lemmon (who earned a Best Actor nomination for his performance), Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe are all incredibly funny for their own reasons, and the writing is a perfect example of long-time collaborators Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond at the top of their game.  Some Like it Hot feels slightly overlong at some points, but that seems to be a common problem with the films of Billy Wilder.  This is one of my all-time favourite comedies, and one I’ll be revisiting a lot more often in the future.  Just as funny the second time around.  Very, very highly recommended!  9.5/10.


July 2, 2013

Poster-Apartment-The_01The Apartment (1960)

Director: Billy Wilder

Writer: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Jack Krushchen

Runtime: 125 minutes

Views: 2nd Viewing

The second of Wilder’s films I’ve taken the time to re-watch this month certainly didn’t disappoint.  In fact, The Apartment might be one of my all-time favourite films after this viewing!  Jack Lemmon is absolutely perfect as the down on his luck C.C. Baxter, and Shirley MacLaine is incredibly lovely as his co-star, Ms. Fran Kubelik.  Incredible supporting performances from actors like Fred MacMurray, Jack Krushchen, and Ray Walston round out the film and make it one of the best acted movies I’ve ever seen!  The script by Wilder and Diamond is hilarious, touching, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking throughout the film, rightfully earning Diamond and Wilder an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  The film also won Best Director for Wilder, as well as Best Picture in 1960, going down as one of my all-time favourite judgement calls by the Academy in its long and storied history.  I could go on and on with my love for this film.  If you haven’t yet seen it, do yourself a favour and check out this gem of a film.  10/10.


July 3, 2013

These Amazing Shadows (2011)These-Amazing-Shadows-poster

Director: Paul Mariano, Kurt Norton

Starring: n/a

Runtime: 88 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

These Amazing Shadows is an incredibly informative and interesting look at the world of film preservation and the National Film Registry.  It features interviews with industry professionals such as Martin Scorsese, Peter Coyote, Steve James, John Lasseter, Leonard Malton, Rob Reiner, etc. as well as incredible archival footage of the films featured in the Registry.  I highly recommend this documentary to anybody interested in the history of film, as well as its future.  A much better effort than 2012’s Side by Side, which was a massive disappointment.  My only complaint about the film is that it could have gone on for two more hours, and I hate the fact that it didn’t.  9/10.


July 4, 2013

evil-dead-poster-hi-resEvil Dead (2013)

Director: Fede Alvarez

Writer: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues

Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci

Runtime: 91 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Fede Alvarez’s remake of Sam Raimi’s horror classic Evil Dead is a film that seemed to split audiences immediately upon its release.  Some loved the serious nature of the film as well as its non-stop violence, and some saw it as a slap in the face to all horror fans.  I think I fall somewhere in the middle of these reactions.  Evil Dead certainly isn’t an example of a bad horror film or even a bad remake, but it certainly falls short of ever becoming a great one.  Evil Dead is impressive in its acting and special effects, but the screenplay seems to slowly degrade as the film wears on.  One thing I did love about the film was the detox of the films main character, which felt very fresh and original, but also felt like it could have been used much more.  One I would watch again, just based on how much fun it can be at times.  7/10.

Strange Frame: Love & Sax (2013)MV5BMTg1NjUxNzY3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODM3MzQ0OA@@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_

Director: G.B. Hajim

Writer: Shelley Doty, G.B. Hajim

Starring: Claudia Black, Tara Strong, Tim Curry, Ron Glass, Cree Summer, Alan Tudyk

Runtime: 98 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Where exactly can I possibly start with this film?  Strange Frame might be the most unique film I’ve ever had the pleasure(?) of experiencing, both in the best and worst ways possible.  Described as a “Lesbian sci-fi jazz film” on the DVD cover, I had no idea what to expect going into it (other than the three things listed above, which /do/ sound intriguing).  The film features some great sound design and voice acting, but the compliments stop there.  The nonsensical plot, completely inconsistent animation styles, and incredibly flawed logic stop (and absolutely derail) this from being an enjoyable and fun film.  Despite its many, many, many flaws I highly recommend it to fans of science fiction, and those looking for something to laugh at with a group of friends.  5/10.


July 5, 2013

The-Place-Beyond-the-Pines-Poster-UKThe Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Writer: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper

Runtime: 140 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Wow.  After seeing Derek Cianfrance’s film Blue Valentine in 2011, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into a film like The Place Beyond the Pines, and I can’t say I saw anything within the film coming.  The film tells the epic and yet incredibly intimate story of a motorcycle stuntman who is trying to provide for his newly born child, a rookie police officer trying to take him down, the corrupt department he works for, and the future families of both men.  While I didn’t enjoy it as much as Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines establishes Cianfrance as a force to be reckoned with, and solidifies the working relationship between he and Ryan Gosling as an incredible team with endless potential.  Gosling is great as Luke (although never quite reaching the heights of Blue Valentine), Bradley Cooper gives his second incredibly impressive performance of the last two years, and the film is almost impossible to predict.  The only weakpoints of the film are its slightly too-long runtime, and the presence of leading lady Eva Mendes.  I highly recommend this film, as it’s easily one of the best of 2013.  9/10.


July 6, 2013

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010cameraman-the-life-and-work-of-jack-cardiff

Director: Craig McCall

Starring: n/a

Runtime: 86 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

Cameraman is a very respectful and well-earned look at Academy Award winning cinematographer Jack Cardiff.  The film explores the man’s incredible career in both cinematography and direction, and features interviews with some of the industry’s finest.  Highly recommended!  8.5/10.

hot_coffeeHot Coffee (2011)

Director: Susan Saladoff

Starring: n/a

Runtime: 88 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

2011’s Hot Coffee is a documentary that takes a look at the infamous “hot coffee” McDonald’s lawsuit, as well as similar cases in the United States.  The first half of the film is incredibly interesting and informative, but it soon crashes and burns into a boring mess of near conspiracy theories and unrelated cases.  I can’t recommend Hot Coffee because of the last half of the film, when it turns into an almost completely different documentary.  6.5/10.

42 (2013)forty_two_ver5

Director: Brian Helgeland

Writer: Brian Helgeland

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Alan Tudyk

Runtime: 128 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

42 is one of the most well-received films of 2013 by critics and audiences alike, and it’s easy to see why.  The film is about the life of legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman), the first African-American to ever play baseball in the United States.  The film unfortunately dips into highly sentimental territory more than once over its two hour runtime, making the film feel like many other biopics.  The performances are mostly memorable, with the supporting performance from Harrison Ford being the standout of the film.  I don’t have much to say about 42, but I can certainly say that I was slightly disappointed when the credits rolled.  There’s a lot to admire about the film, but at the end of the day it feels like an incredibly standard and safe biopic of a very important figure in sports and civil rights history.  I recommend it to anybody interested in seeing Harrison Ford actually acting, and those interested in biopics.  7.5/10.

hansel_and_gretel_witch_hunters_ver6Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Director: Tommy Wirkola

Writer: Tommy Wirkola

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen

Runtime: 88 minutes

Views: 1st Viewing

When I first saw the trailer for Hansel & Gretel, I must admit that I was rather skeptical about the fairy tale duo hunting vampires and living in a darkly comical world.  Luckily, writer-director Tommy Wirkola makes the film work for the most part.  Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters certainly isn’t a flawless film, but it is certainly the most fun I’ve had watching an action movie in a very long time.  Hansel & Gretel (played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton respectively) are set up in record time, and unleashed into the hilarious world of the film.  The special effects are admirable, as are most of the moments of comedy within the film (most of them not quite being laugh out loud funny, but being respectable enough).  This is a film almost anybody can watch with a group of friends and have an amazing time during.  I must admit that I am looking forward to the potential of a sequel film where more emphasis can be placed on action set-pieces and special effects, rather than setting up our titular characters.  Highly recommended, but only if you know what you’re getting yourself into.  This isn’t a /good/ film, but a very, very fun one.  6.5/10.

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