Monday, December 29, 2008

Here's Looking At You, Kid

I'm a couple days late, as I'd planned on doing a Bogie post for Christmas in honor of his birthday, but you know how the holidays can slip away. But considering that even his birthday, like so much else about the man, is a point of curiosity and misinformation, maybe it doesn't really matter.

After all, he's one of the least likely to appear on my favorite leading men list. The lisp. His big, old, basset hound head. His funny walk. He's named 'Humphrey' for crying out loud. And yet, he's damn near at the very top of my favorite leading men list. The lisp! His big, old, basset hound head! That funny walk! He's named Humphrey for crying out loud! I love it. Love it all. Who else had the balls to "bogart" one of James Cagney's cigarettes and therefore have their name become a permanent fixture in stoner slang -- as a verb. Who else, not only in his time, but even now, could ever so perfectly embody romantic pessimism. James Dean became the rebel without a cause, but Bogie was the rebel with a cause. His characters were troubled and tempestuous, and yet also deeply moral and principled. He had no trouble playing the brutal gangster or the tough-guy hero, or, most winningly, the reluctant hero.

He played both Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade and is a true icon of vintage film noir. How hard-boiled was his Spade? He didn't just punch out Peter Lorre while Lorre was holding a gun on him. He did it with a laugh! Seriously, a brilliant and winning touch. And as Marlowe? Tough and ethical, and yet the viewer has the joy of watching not just his Marlowe fall for his client, but watching the sparks fly (again) as Bogie fell even harder for Lauren Bacall.

Speaking of the great dame Bacall, Bogie was also the founding father of the original Hollywood "rat pack," of which Sinatra was a member, and which Bacall appropriately named. Bogart, he once said that the "trouble with the world is that it's three drinks behind." How could I, of all people, not adore that philosophy?

Much of his personal history is still in dispute, clouded in myth by the studios. His real birthday? How he got that lip injury that gave him the lisp? Also, one of his most repeated quotes (Play it again, Sam) was never even spoken. What is not in dispute is his influence and stature, even today, as a legend and icon. He ranks #1 on the AFI's list of greatest screen legends. And if you don't know why, the biggest favor you could do yourself is to sit back and take in a few of his classics.

And among those classics, is, of course, the most classic, Casablanca. Of course, I have to pick this as his defining role, as it embodied so many of the characteristics he was drawn to portray. Now, that said, I have to admit that Casablanca, for reasons I can't fully understand, is not one of my favorite films or roles of his. I just don't connect with the film. I love Bergman. Love Bogart. What's not to like? Swarming Nazis, a hot nightclub, a bitter club owner. And yet, for his best work, I prefer Charlie Allnut in African Queen, or, frankly, Dixon Steele in In a Lonely Place. But I understand why Casablanca resonates through the decades in a way these other films don't. There's both melancholy and romanticism in the movie, and disillusionment gives way to idealism, giving you the best of everything that Bogie so easily personified within that seemingly lurid, tough exterior.

So even though it wasn't my personal favorite, it remains the zenith of his incredible career as it shot him forever from leading man to the stratosphere of true star. The public embraced him as never before. I guess you could say it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Friday, December 19, 2008

British Invasion

Man, I've been slacking in blogging, eh? I wish I could blame my oh-so-fabulous life with all sorts of busy and important goings on, but that's just not the case. I have been enjoying myself, but it seems that the more laid-back my schedule gets, the less I do to fill the time. I actually sit around and watch movies, and then instead of talking about them or writing about them, I make some popcorn and watch more. So, all I can really say about that is this. When I do, then, make the effort to write about one of my top picks, you can rest assured that I have done my due diligence and you can place a lot of confidence in the fact that although I'm just blabbing on about superficial crap, it is at least thoroughly researched crap.

So, though I don't claim to be an Anglophile of any sort, I have watched and weighed all the delightful nuances of modern hot Brits to bring you this little hidden-gem suggestion. Even I can't deny the earnest intensity of Colin Firth, or the scoundrel charm of Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones's Diary, particularly when they're engaged in their slaptastick fist fight.

And I have no problem with the new Bond, Daniel Craig, as I've been on to him since Layer Cake.

But, for me, if I'm going to look across the pond, I'd most likely be gazing at Clive Owen. I don't think I really need to talk about his assets, do I? Pretty self-evident with this guy. I mean, he doesn't mesmerize me to the point where I'll try to convince you that Shoot 'Em Up is a decent flick. But I sure don't mind watching it, either. Though, slight digression here, a nearly identical flick, Hitman starring the riveting Timothy Olyphant was sneered at by audiences, mostly because the movie didn't resemble the vastly popular game it was based upon, and so the gamers didn't support it. And yet, it's a completely watchable, and even pretty enjoyable movie. If you're in the mood for some serious action, check it out.

But Shoot 'Em Up got roundly panned, and it's understandable why. On paper, it all sounds good. Paul Giamatti as an arch villian, Monica Bellucci as the hottie, and Clive shooting everything in sight. And yet, well. A lot of Clive's movies have turned out that way. He took a turn in a twisty psychological thriller that could've done better, but he starred opposite Jennifer Aniston, and for whatever reason, her movies always flop. He played opposite Julia Roberts in Closer, but that whole movie just turned out to be a mean-spirited dirge. He made a couple classy pictures back-to-back with the highly underrated Inside Man and then the somewhat overrated Children of Men. But both pictures had a slow and lumbering feel, something Clive seems drawn to, which is what makes it so refreshing to check him out in the unexpected Greenfingers. He's been Sir Walter Raleigh and King Arthur, and was made for his role in Sin City. Gosford Park? Critics ate the shit up; it's an English Manor-Manner whodunit by Robert Altman, but it's not a satisfying film for everyone. I actually liked it quite a bit, which is saying quite a lot, but it's still not my top pick.

Often, Clive picks characters or scripts that are, to say the least, morally ambiguous. And in that vein was the lifeblood of Clive's blossoming film career: Croupier.

I actually think Clive's gotten better looking over the years since this movie, but he certainly wasn't anything to kick out of bed even then. But he's also perfect as the dual characters Jack and Jake in this neo-noir that's absolutely riveting. As a failing writer, Jack takes a job as a croupier at a casino and begins to write a novel about it. A dark meditation of fate vs. free will, this is equal parts thriller and philosophical drama, and Clive is hypnotic, completely pulling this movie together with nuances that aren't charming or sexy, but instead is cunning and enigmatic. It gives him enough credibility to be able to skate by on his deep voice and insouciant charm in Hollywood crap like Shoot 'Em Up. And believe me, I know my crap.

Tied with a Bow

Dexter completed another season, sending Jimmy Smits back to the unemployment line as Michael C. Hall picked up another Golden Globe nom along with two more guaranteed seasons to come.

What I love about this show and its finales? It really makes a clean cut and then wraps things up as neatly as one of Dex's victims. It just keeps hiking the suspense all season, and it has fallen into the habit of releasing most of the tension in the penultimate episodes with the big climax, and then the final eps reach for some more, but basically still end up bringing the audience back down. It's a bit different than the usual format in this respect, and there can be moments where I think the final ep was a bit of a letdown because of it. But, overall, I'm getting to like this format, because it is overall satisfying. And this year, they did manage to leave a few splatters to be mopped up next season.

I will miss Jimmy, and though I loved this season, I am hoping they find a new angle next season instead of repeating this now well-worn storyline. I have confidence they will. After all, this show has pulled off the nearly impossible. I now think of Lauren Velez as "LaGuerta" instead of as "Gloria."

Castrocopia's Christmas Mix

Oh, I'm so pleased and honored to have been included in Castrocopia's Christmas Non-Shuffle. The best part is that compare me to liquor and garnish me with lemon. Or is that with a Lemon? Either way, it completes me.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Easily one of the better series finales of all time. It was just like the show -- wacky, sad, hilarious, and probably at least a little bit offensive to many different people. And, ultimately, it was filled with love.

Denny Crane!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Page 56 Tag

I was just tagged by the charming and talented Myfanwy Collins.

And here are the rules...

RULE ONE, I have to grab one of the books closest to me, go to page 56, type the fifth line and the next two to five lines that follow.

The book closest to me right now was a gift, and I'm in the middle of it, and I'm loving it! It is Declan Burke's The Big O.

She looked up, licking at some brown dribble hanging from her upper lip and growling way back in her throat.
"It's okay, hon," Karen said, taking Anna's face in her hands, cupping her beneath both ears and kissing her on the forehead. Anna squirmed pleasurably and wriggled free of Karen's grasp, the huge tongue lolling in anticipation of a game.

RULE TWO, I have to pick five people who love books. My five picks are:

Citizen Jane
Dennis Mahagin
Donna George Storey
Mick Halpin (the giver of the gifted book that's quoted above)
Jen Hayley