Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hitchcock Thriller Tops AFI Mystery List

If the American Film Institute hadn't named Vertigo as the top mystery film of all time during last Tuesday's CBS television presentation, I would have been forced to make a citizen's arrest.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this haunting thriller boasts an absolutely perfect performance by Jimmy Stewart as a detective with a fear of heights who falls under the spell of the woman he's been hired to follow. And Kim Novak is at her best playing the gorgeous lady responsible for Stewart's overpowering obsession.

As in all of Hitchcock's movies, Vertigo boasts exquisite suspense, but this time it's coupled with Stewart's best-ever acting, which teaches us an unforgettable lesson about the dangerous implications of obsessive behavior.

It's interesting to note that three other Hitchcock films also made it to the AFI Top Ten list of movie mysteries: North by Northwest, Rear Window, and Dial M for Murder.

Here's a BIG shout out to the master of movie mysteries, Alfred Hitchcock!

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Monday, June 16, 2008

'South Pacific' Still a Winner

Last night while watching the Tony Awards on television, I was delighted when Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific earned well-deserved recognition as the year’s Best Musical Revival. Because I’m one of the lucky people who saw the original musical on Broadway, this brought back some welcome memories for me.

Back in 1949, I was attending Barnard College in New York City. Oh, how I wanted to see South Pacific! Everyone raved about it. But getting tickets for the hottest show in town would not be easy. However, I heard “standing room only” admissions were available if one arrived at the box office before it opened. That’s why -- on a chilly fall morning -- I mustered enough courage to sneak out of my dorm at 3 a.m. and line up at the theater. Hooray! I managed to make the cut for one of those coveted tickets.

That evening, Mary Martin’s legendary voice thrilled me as it projected all the way to the back row where I stood in awe of her performance. I can imagine Martin’s disappointment when the Nellie Forbush movie role went to Mitzi Gaynor, but Gaynor also did a great job. Still, neither of these actresses showed as much pep and vitality in the bouncy “Honey Bun” number as my sister, who later surprised me with her musical talent in a local homage to this great Broadway show.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Last Hit Man

In The Last Hit Man, Joe Mantegna gets the chance to show off his considerable acting range. He portrays an ultra-professional hit man who finds out he’s dying after the impossible happens to him, one of his hits goes wrong. His character struggles about whether or not to tell his daughter, played by Elizabeth Whitmere, who drives him to his assignments, knowing full well what his business is. Complicating matters is the appearance of a younger hit man, portrayed by Romano Orzari, who wants to learn as much as possible from Mantegna’s character -- after flubbing a very different assignment of his own.

I think this movie, shot in Canada in only 15 days, contains one of Mantegna’s best performances. Cold and calculating in some scenes, he then changes into a caring father or a helpful mentor in others -- and I believed every bit of it. Mantegna tosses off humorous, wry dialogue as only he can -- which he probably learned from appearing in so many wonderful David Mamet plays. More a character study than the action-packed movie promised in some PR for the film The Last Hit Man is a must-see for Mantegna fans. Fortunately, it’s available now on DVD.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Chick Flicks -- Who Needs 'Em?

"Sex and the City: The Movie" earned over fifty million dollars at the box office during the past weekend. Some critics are calling it a “female empowerment event” rather than a movie. They might be right. At the screening I attended, applause rang out every time something good happened, and most viewers (almost entirely women, of course) clapped enthusiastically as the end credits rolled. Audience reaction during the latest Indiana Jones adventure seemed tame compared to the warm reception for this popular chick flick.

Nowadays only a few films are made with women’s interests in mind, so when something like "Sex and the City" shows up, we turn out to see it in droves. We love a good romantic comedy like "My Best Friend’s Wedding," an emotional tear-jerker like "Terms of Endearment" or a female buddy movie like "Thelma & Louise." Filmmakers should take notice of this fact. Wouldn’t it be great if they decided to make more quality films that appeal to women instead of trying to please teenage boys and their dates so much?

On Tuesday, June 3, noted film critic Rebecca Murray will join Nikki Starr and me on “Movie Addict Headquarters” for a discussion of "Sex and the City" and other chick flicks. Rebecca reviews films for, a top ten Internet site which is part of the New York Times. She also conducts celebrity interviews and covers the Academy Awards as well as countless movie premieres and other Hollywood special events.

This BlogTalkRadio show airs at 4 p.m. Eastern Time, 1 p.m. Pacific Time, and an archived segment will also be available. During the live broadcast, listeners are invited to call in with their comments or questions and to participate in the chat. What’s your favorite chick flick? Which actors and actresses perform the best in films of this genre? Did "Sex and the City: The Movie" live up to your expectations? We’d love to hear from you.

Listen to the MAHQ June 3rd episode by clicking on the link below on or after the scheduled time:

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