Saturday, July 11, 2009

An Academy Salute to Hal Ashby

In honor of Hal Ashby, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Harold and Maude at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles. Sid Ganis, the president of the Academy, began the evening by honoring Ashby with several of his own words. Cameron Crowe and Peter Bart hosted the event, which was preceded by a performance by Yusuf (formerly known as Cat Stevens). A panel discussion followed the performance and included Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Diablo Cody, Jon Voight, Haskell Wexler and Yusuf.

Harold and Maude is both heartwarming and humorous, deserving of its recognition as a definitive classic which has since acquired a cult following. It tells the story of a morbid teenager, Harold (Bud Cort), who attempts to detach himself from his overbearing mother. Harold meets and forms a unique friendship with Maude (Ruth Gordon) as the two explore life and learn a little something about love.

Harold and Maude is a film often imitated by filmmakers trying to duplicate its dark humor within an existentialist drama. Its influence has inspired the likes of the Farrelly Brothers and Wes Anderson, as well as a handful of other writers and directors. Following the film, the audience was told to remain in their seats. Shortly thereafter, Bud Cort's name was announced as he stepped through the darkness and onto the stage.

It's hard to imagine Bud Cort standing in front of an audience who has just finished seeing Harold and Maude. In our minds, the film is timeless, and Cort is apart of such an imaginative world. Harold's relationship with Maude is both unique and full of affection - their story is both tragic and endearing. 38 years later, the relationship between Harold and Maude is still alive in our hearts and minds, as a new generation of moviegoers are introduced to their story.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Some Like It Hot

In honor of the film's 50th anniversary, The Jules Verne Festival and The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation presented Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot at the Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles. The event focused on Tony Curtis' achievements and contributions to film and Los Angeles in general. Prior to the film, Tony Curtis came onto the stage and received a very well-deserved standing ovation. Curtis began discussing his early career and spoke about his first meeting with Marilyn Monroe. Shortly thereafter, Curtis received an award for his contributions to the city of Los Angeles.

Some Like It Hot tells the story of two struggling musicians, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (John Lemmon), who witness The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. In fear of getting murdered themselves, they desperately try to flee the city. They quickly realize the only job that will pay their way is an all-girl band. Our lead characters hilariously become Josephine and Daphne, and plan to drop the act as soon as they arrive to Florida. Further complications prevent the plan from going through, and so begins the brilliance of one of the funniest films of all-time.

If you have ever wondered what a good director is supposed to do, this is the film to watch. For years, legends surrounded production problems of the film. Legend goes, Marilyn Monroe required 47 takes to perfect a specific line of dialogue. If that's not grueling enough, another scene required Monroe to rummage through some drawers and say "Where's the bourbon?" 40 takes later, Wilder had pasted the correct line in one of the drawers. Unfortunately, Monroe was confused which drawer contained the line, so Wilder pasted it in every drawer. 59 takes later, they finally got the shot. Amazingly, Billy Wilder makes everything look so easy, a true testament to his ability as a filmmaker.

The film plays beautifully, with 1950s sexual innuendo cleverly inserted and often times flying over the audience's head. Some Like It Hot is filled with laughs, so much so that we were unable to hear every piece of dialogue. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon brilliantly play their respective characters and display excellent chemistry throughout the film. If you have seen the film, you know about the classic line spoken at the end of the film. Being in a theater and seeing the film with 2,500 people was sensational; the entire theater erupted in laughter and applause, bringing the classic film back to life.