Topic: They just don't make them like they used to
This weekend I watched 3 films, Sunset Blvd, LA Confidential, and Cat on a Hot Tine Roof. All very good films I would recommend.
Sunset Blvd 1950, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 1958, and LA Confidential which was set in the 1953 and done in that style. All three dialogue driven with exquisite acting and no reliance on special effects, or worn out recycled storylines. All three featuring real characters with real dilemmas yet still capturing the essence of a glamour of the times and of human existence. And all communicating much more than the mere dialogue.
Sunset Blvd, featuring some great scenes. When the truth comes out about Norma's first husband, the way Joe's meeting with Betty goes towards the end, and the final scene as Norma is lead out with its silent movie quality. All brilliant
Cat on the Hot Tim Roof, Paul Newman's body language, the secret about Big Daddy's condition...who knows and who doesn't and their reactions before and after knowing, then towards the end when Big Daddy talks about his childhood and his empire. Maybe the best performance of all was Big Momma not pivotal to the ploy but damn near perfect support work ...as a Southerner I know this type of old lady and she nailed it perfectly. And the final lines, "Lock the door Maggie" and the casually thrown pillow so much more powerful as acted than a million "You Complete Me's".
LA Confidential although not that old ...1997...did capture much of the essence of the era reminding me a bit of another Film about the era I love Chinatown. Kevin Spacey leaving the 50 on the unfinished drink, Danny Devitto's gossip rag, Kim Basinger, an actress I always felt was long on looks but short on acting was perfection in both this go around, doing largely with looks and body language what she never was able to pull off with dialogue in her other films. The line " Are you asking me for a date, or an appointment?" was so perfect. The only criticism I have is at the end of the final shootout as it was a bit too cliche.
All three movies emphasized glamour and even the dirt behind it needed for the glamour industry. They were about the characters and not the setting but that made it about the setting in return. They let you take in the environment rather than pushing it on you and feel like you were having everything shoved down your throat to make time for a bunch of special effects or chase scenes. The filming techniques were brilliant and added to this. The first appearance of Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the lingering shots of Paul Newman's Blue eyes, Kevin Spacey's style in L.A. Confidential, Kim Bassinger's Shape revealed but not too much like an almost nude stiptease rather than a porno. The transformation of the pool area in Sunset Blvd as Joe's presence brings it back to life with a nice shot for the ladies of William Holden climbing from the pool to be toweled off, his tuxedo, the cigarette case and Norma's cigarette brand, and that glorious 1929 Isotta Fraschini.
I have to wonder why we cannot have more modern films with a touch of that glamour that are not set in a different era. Reality has it's place but so does glamour. I think part of the answer lies in that we have decided to exclude glamour from our culture to a large degree. We aren't really comfortable with a modern film where the sexes are very distinct and a woman's femininity and her embrace of it is seen as a strength, and the same for a man's masculinity. The men have to be more sensitive and vulnerable to everyday things, and the women have to be more fierce and strong not only internally as in the days of glamour but externally as well, everyone of them as beautiful as a Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake but with the temperament of a Katherine Hepburn African Queen. The modern good guys are nearly always fooled by feminine wiles but rarely if ever wise up on their own or immediately see through them like the harder more masculine lead men of the past, and aside from few modern era gangster films a woman who is slapped by a man never deserves it, like delivered by Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, or by Russell Crowe in L.A. Confidential. Now I'm not advocating the romanticising of striking women on a regular basis but it needs be something that we are not afraid of letting the male lead do if the female character really deserves it, rather than waiting for the female good guy to come along for a more politically acceptable punch out of the bad female character.
Just look at any entrance some of the leading actresses of today make onto the set of a talk show, they walk like tom boys for the most part except for any latin ones (who are nearly always (except Rosie Perez) the exception that proves the rule), these are Hollywood stars who seem totally uncomfortable in heels and a dress. I cringe everytime I see Emma Stone or Emma Watson, or Jennifer Lawrence appear on these shows. Even drop dead gorgeous Scarlett Johansson lacks the old grace. Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, and company would probably commit suicide the next day if they ever walked onto stage like that unless they were drunk or drugged. I can think of one non latin exception, Lucy Liu...that woman walks very much like a glamour queen of old. The men have the same thing although not as pronounced and a few have managed to maintain the old standards...Daniel Craig, Robert DeNiro, Ben Kingsley, and George Clooney (don't like his acting much, hate his politics, but he has a great sense of style) come to mind. If men are becoming more like women and women more like men, then glamour is dying, in society as well as in the cinema and a bunch of transvestite imitating Lady Gagas playing dress up is no substitute.
Fell free to label me a sexist bastard for the post if you like, just calling it like I see it.