Posts Tagged ‘Billy Wilder’

The ApartmentBest holiday movie ever?  Well, here’s my vote (at least for grownups): The Apartment.  

Not a traditional choice, but there you go.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out — one of Mr. Wilder’s finest, and that’s saying quite a bit.

(Yeah, Pocketful of Miracles or A Christmas Story are pretty strong contenders too, for sure.  Of course, there’s lots from TV too, like the tradition of holiday episodes from ER or Dr. Who or How the Ghosts Stole Christmas from The X-Files.) 

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Sabrina_1954_film_posterToday there was an elegantly designed Google Doodle about one of the most celebrated costume designers in moviemaking history: Edith Head.  Here is an article from the Christian Science Monitor that features an excellent embedded video in which Edith Head discusses her work with Audrey Hepburn, one of the most stylish actresses of Hollywood history.  Edith Head’s story provides intensely interesting insights into the workings of the studio system — in her case, it was primarily at Paramount Studios (including numerous Hitchcock pictures).  In fact, to check out her work at Paramount, I would recommend to go right to one example of a black and white movie and another in color.  For B&W, check out the delightful Sabrina, directed by Billy Wilder and starring Hepburn, Humprey Bogart, and William Holden, and in color, the s’wonderful Funny Face, directed by Stanley Donen and starring Hepburn and Fred Astaire.

It should also be noted that Edith Head was certainly one of the inspirations for the unforgettable Edna Mode from The Incredibles, directed by Brad Bird (and who also voiced Ms. Mode).  She is quite an appropriate character all about design in a movie that is so seamlessly designed while brimming with the energy and spontaneity of the best creations that Hollywood craftspeople labor to bring to life.

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I Fidanzati or The Legend of the Holy Drinker? - a tough choice!

I Fidanzati or The Legend of the Holy Drinker? – a tough choice!

For a bit of a different post today, in the wake of all of the picks we saw this past Sunday of last year’s “best movies” (well, at least the ones that got their angles right with the Academy voters), I was prompted by students to share a piece that I wrote a little while back.  Every now and then, folks will ask “well, what is your favorite movie?” and I can immediately answer “One?  Oh, I could never pick just one… but let me think about it and I can give you a few…”  So here is my answer.

Dozen Favorite Films  (in baker’s alphabetical order)

The Apartment: Billy Wilder

A Canterbury Tale: Powell & Pressburger

Children of Men: Alfonso Cuarón

Dr. Strangelove: Stanley Kubrick

The Fiancés:  Ermanno Olmi

The General: Buster Keaton

Gigi: Vincente Minnelli


And Vertigo? Of course…

The Great Race: Blake Edwards

Hearts & Minds: Peter Davis

The Mirror: Andrei Tarkovsky

Night of the Hunter: Charles Laughton

Princess Mononoke: Hayao Miyazaki

War Requiem: Derek Jarman

When I was asked for one favorite, it had to be five, then ten; in the end, it was a dozen.  I decided that I wouldn’t choose more than one film from any director.  Tomorrow, the list will be completely different.  In fact, it will be five minutes from now.  A memory will surface, seeing a seat in a theater, recalling an instant of passion or creative sparks.  A righteous stirring, an inspiring leap, a deep wash of red or green or blue, a whispered line or angry burst – films by Jean Renoir or Frank Borzage, Preston Sturges or Wes Anderson, François Truffaut or Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang or Carl Dreyer, Max Ophuls or Kenji Mizoguchi, Akira Kurosawa or Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh or Bill Douglas, Michel Gondry or Alexander Payne, Jacques Tati or Roman Polanski, Larisa Shepitko or Tenguiz Abouladze, Ingmar Bergman or Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda or Bertrand Tavernier, Delmer Daves or Dimitri Kirsanoff, Yuri Norstein or Ladislas Starevich, Aki Kaurismaki or Federico Fellini, Louis Malle or Ken Loach, John Cassavetes or Ousmane Sembene, Stanley Donen or Alexander Mackendrick – through the swell of music married with dissolve to close-up, or the shades of black and white as they sear upon our cornea, or the flow of a camera moving across a magic hour landscape as we travel across our own fields and back yards; and smiles, chomping popcorn and sipping a soda in the dark, overturning a chair with laughs or gripping it with white knuckles; then, a face slides upon the screen, and we connect with it for that instant, more than we can comprehend, until we may turn to one that we truly know and suddenly be seized by a moment of understanding, sliding outside of our selves in suspension of awareness, of holding the angle of their gaze, of the contour of their soul, until it abruptly slips, and we are once again in the familiar perspective, but with this sacred memory.

Mine for 2013

Winner for 2012

Now that I’ve just posted this, it makes me want to produce some lists – yeah, I know they’re everywhere these days with the digital-crunching brave new netverse obsessed to convert everything to some hierarchy of numbers, but… they’re still pretty fun.  So maybe there could be some for sound design, musical score, cinematography, acting… and so forth.  And what is your favorite movie?

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