Dracula with music by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet at Arlene Schnitzer Center, Portland, OR

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What I Like About A Film

What is it that makes us like a film? Everyone has a favorite genre or actor or location or visual style or director that attracts them to watch that movie.  Or watch it over and over again. Here's what I like:

I like James Bond.  It doesn't matter who plays him, I like him.  Who doesn't like a film with fast cars, beautiful women, and exotic locations. Pretenders will come and go but no one does Bond like Bond. James Bond.

I like werewolf films just a little bit more than vampire films. More films have been made about vampires than werewolves but there's just something about a man or woman transforming into a beast and than back that's just a little bit sexier for me. Most vampire films suck. Not all but most. Werewolf films seem to work for the most part. If they made more mummy films, I'd be happy with that, too. Mummies are underrated.

Starting from the golden age to present, I like actresses Valerie Hobson, Olivia DeHavilland, Ingrid Bergman, Donna Reed, Grace Kelly, Gloria Grahame, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, Rachel Ward, Diane Lane, Helen Bonham-Carter, Kate Winslet, Jessica Alba, and Keira Knightley. Some are great actresses; some supporting actresses; some mediocre actresses. There's just something about them that I find irresistible.

Foreign actresses mesmerize me too. Maybe it's because they speak a language I can't understand (but with subtitles, I can!). Catherine Deneuve and Claudia Cardinale come to mind.

I think I like actors more from the past than the present because I don't know so much about their personal lives. I just know them as actors. From the past I like Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, Bela Lugosi, Cary Grant, Orson Welles, Jimmy Stewart. I'm sure they weren't perfect (I know Flynn wasn't) but my memories of them are from their fantastic performances on screen and not the bad things or personal demons they may have done off-screen.

For actors of the modern era, it's not so easy to pick favorites. I guess I would lean toward Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman, Peter O'Toole, Tom Hanks, and Harrison Ford.  I wanted to be Mel Gibson up until about the LETHAL WEAPON films and now sadly, he's gone off the deep end with his off-screen antics. My latest man crush is Tom Hardy.

I like films that take place in frigid, snowy, blizzard like conditions where the characters are isolated from civilization. THE THING (1982), NEVER CRY WOLF (1983), 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007), INSOMNIA (1997 and 2002) even the not very good WHITEOUT (2009) are all set in Alaska or the Arctic. I like films where the protagonists have to deal not only with creatures from another planet or a killer but with the elements as well.

On the flip side, I like films set in an apocalyptic wasteland or desert too. THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981), THE BOOK OF ELI (2010)), and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) reveal a hellish future full of lone heroes and hellish villains.

If a film is shot in Italy or Ireland, I'll probably watch it. For Ireland, THE QUIET MAN (1952) , THE PLAYBOYS (1992), or WAKING NED DEVINE (1998). For Italy, ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953), UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (2003), or THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (1999) make me crazy for Italy. I don't know if it's the accents, the scenery, a combination of both but if the film's location is in Ireland or Italy, I'll probably watch it. Australia is beginning to catch my attention now too.

I like character actors from old films. Ward Bond, Lionel Atwill, George Sanders, John Carradine, Claude Rains, Alan Hale, and Thomas Mitchell to name but a few. They may not get all the glory as the leading man or woman but they make the stars and the story better because they're in it.

I like films made on Hollywood back lots in the 30's and 40's.  The studios could transform a Los Angeles soundstage or back lot into anywhere in the world: Casablanca, Macao, South America, Civil War Atlanta, the Emerald City in Oz, or a European town square near Frankenstein's castle. Eventually, films began to go on location but I love the imagination that production designers and set dressers used to redecorate the major studios back lots.

Film is a director's medium and I love the film auteur: Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean, Stanley Kubrick, John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, Francis Coppola, John Carpenter, David Lynch, Steven Spielberg, John Woo, Quentin Tarantino. When you see one of their films, you know exactly who the director is. The second tier would be Brian DePalma, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, George Miller, and Walter Hill.

To put it succinctly, I like films.

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