For Cinephiles

Cinephile noun cine·phile | \ˈsi-nə-ˌfī(-ə)l  \ : a devotee of motion pictures (From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

This will be an occasional blog dedicated to the cinephiles amongst us; those that love the movies. Not because they are works of art (although some films definitely are), not because they are “socially important” (although, again, some are), but because they are just so much fun to watch.  And not necessarily watch alone, but with other people and then discuss filming techniques, acting techniques, directing techniques, stories about the production or casting.  Maybe there is good gossip about how the actors and director got along, or how the actors got along.  There could be little in-jokes the writers or director put into the movie.  If you get the drift of the above, then you are the kind of “cinephile” I am talking to.  You call them movies not “films.”  You would rather watch a Hitchcock film over the latest artistic trendy film, you know that Swedish experimental art movie that lasts five hours and has a two-hour scene of, literally, paint drying. Real fact: in 1964, Andy Warhol once made a film 8 hours and 5 minutes long called Empire - a black-and-white silent film that consists of eight hours and five minutes of slow motion footage of an unchanging view of the Empire State Building. If you are the kind of cinephile that loves a movie that has a great story, great directing, and great acting and entertains as well as enlightens then this is the blog for you.

The purpose of this blog series will be to present to you the purchases by the library of newly released editions of great movies on DVDs and Blu-ray for you to enjoy once more. So without further ado, the titles; happy viewing!

The Magnificent Ambersons – This was Orson Welles’ second film after Citizen Kane.  This 1942 film was Welles’ adaption of the 1912 Booth Tarkington Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. The movie stars many of the same actors that appeared in Citizen Kane and came from Welles’ stable of steady actors from his radio show company, Mercury Theater on the Air -  including Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorhead, and Ray Collins. This movie was to mark the beginning of Welles rocky relationship with Hollywood as the movie studio, RKO Studios, felt that his movie was too long and had retained the final editing rights to the film.  They cut over an hour from the film and reshot the end to result in a happier ending. Welles had decamped to South America at the request of the U.S. government to shoot a film as part of the wartime Good Neighbor Policy and complained bitterly when he returned that the studio had ruined his film.  Welles and Hollywood had a love/hate relationship for the rest of his life as he would hustle to find ways to finance his movies, resulting in a sporadic release of Welles-produced and directed films through the years. Even through the film was edited and reshot against Welles’ wishes, this film is often regarded as among the best U.S. films ever made. Inside jokes: news of the increase in automobile accidents is featured prominently on the front page of the Indianapolis Daily Inquirer, part of the fictional chain of newspapers owned by mogul Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane. Also appearing on the front page is the column "Stage News" by the fictional writer Jed Leland, with a photo of Joseph Cotten, who portrayed Leland in the earlier film.

My Man Godfrey – This 1936 screwball comedy was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Actor (William Powell), Best Actress (Carole Lombard), and Best Director (Gregory La Cava).  The story has a scatterbrained socialite hiring a vagrant as a family butler, only to fall in love with him. Produced in the middle of the Great Depression, the film contains social satire of the class system of rich and poor and humanizes the homeless community of the 1930’s. In 1999, the film was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 2000, the film was ranked #44 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 funniest comedies, and Premiere Magazine voted it one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies of All Time" in 2006. Fun Fact: Powell and Lombard had been married in 1931 and had divorced in 1933.

The Princess Bride – This 1987 Rob Reiner-directed comedy starred Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, and Christopher Guest. The screenplay was by the great (and recently deceased) William Goldman, adapting his own novel of the same name. The movie used the framing device of a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading a fantasy adventure to his sick grandson.  The fantasy tells the story of a beautiful young woman called Buttercup from the land of Florin and her farmhand Westley who finds himself falling in love with his mistress.  Westley goes off to find fame and fortune to prove himself worthy of Buttercup and the two have marvelous adventures with pirates, outlaws, wizards, giants and other fantastical folk till true love prevails.  The movie was a modest box office success but has since become a cult classic due to the VHS, DVD and home theater market.  Fun Facts: the movie produced many quotable lines that the actors still have shouted to them by fans years after the film.  Wallace Shawn has said he can hardly walk down the street without someone shouting “Inconceivable!” at him, a line said a number of times by his character in the film. Here is a link to a story in Slate magazine about the screenwriter/novelist William Goldman that contains a great insight into how he adapted his book into the movie.

Sisters – A 1972 suspense movie directed by Brian De Palma and starring Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, and Charles Durning. The plot focuses on a French Canadian model whose separated, conjoined twin is suspected of a brutal murder witnessed by a newspaper reporter in Staten Island. The marketing for this film highlighted the similarities to Alfred Hitchcock films and De Palma has cited Hitchcock as an influence on him.  In fact, several of his films have received that same Hitchcock reference including Dressed to Kill, Blowout, and Black Dahlia among others.  Critics have cited the influences of Hitchcock films Psycho & Rear Window in this and other De Palma movies. De Palma even uses Bernard Herman, the regular composer of Hitchcock soundtracks, for his soundtrack in this film.

Some Like it Hot – This 1959 comedy is frequently listed in many sources as the funniest movie ever made. It stars Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe and was directed by Billy Wilder.  Set in 1929, after witnessing a mob hit, Chicago musicians Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, in landmark performances) skip town by donning drag and joining an all-female band en route to Miami. The charm of the group’s singer, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe, at the height of her bombshell powers) leads them ever further into extravagant lies, as Joe assumes the persona of a millionaire to woo her and Jerry’s female alter ego winds up engaged to a tycoon. The film was based on a 1951 German film Fanfaren der Liebe (Fanfares of Love) which was a remake of an older French comedy, Fanfares d’Amour (1935). Both these films had just one small segment that involved men dressing as female musicians to make some money, but Wilder and his co-writer I. A. L. Diamond liked only that part of the movies and expanded on it for their script. This movie was made during the conformist Eisenhower 1950s and its non-conformist subjects cross-dressing and implied homosexuality caused it to be made without the approval from the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hayes code, that had ruled motion pictures since the 1930s.  The success of this film drove the final nail in the coffin of the Hayes code for good.  Fun Fact: Wilder wanted to make the film in black and white for stylistic considerations, but Marilyn Monroe had a contract stipulation that said all her films were to be made in color.  Despite Monroe's contract, she agreed to it being filmed in black and white after seeing that Curtis and Lemmon's makeup gave them a "ghoulish" appearance on color film. Here is a link to “13 Sizzling Facts About Some Like It Hot” from Mental Floss.

And lastly, as we are a library, there should be a rule that every blog we produce should have one book.  Here is a book for the movie lover in all of us:

The Coen Brothers : This Book Really Ties the Films Together by Adam Nayman – This is the perfect first book for the first Cinephile blog.  The Coen Brothers make movies that cause people to think, that are technically beautiful, and most of all, are very entertaining.  The book has chapters devoted to each of their films, going over the planning and making of each film, and offers critical insight and entertaining fun facts. The book also lives up to its title as it draws a line from one film to the next and shows how the Coen Brothers address the same themes in each film, and how each film builds upon the films before in terms of themes, technical aspects, and other topics.

- Larry McNamara, Acquisitions and Cataloging