One of the most romantic films ever put on celluloid; this film has been copied, remade, emulated, talked about and cried over since its release. The story originated as Love Affair, a 1939 film directed by Leo McCarey and starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. Then came this 1957 film, re-directed by McCarey. Then came Sleepless in Seattle, which was a pseudo-remake, followed by 1994’s Love Affair, which was back to being a traditional remake…just updated for the latter part of the 20th Century. Why all of these retellings? Well, it’s a good story and as close to a perfect romance as you can get. There’s everything here…comedy, tragedy, high drama, passion, sex appeal, tears, etc. Out of all of the versions, this one reigns supreme. Why? Two words: Cary Grant. Not to slight Deborah Kerr. She’s excellent here, but come on. It’s Cary Grant.

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Well, the wait is finally over for one of the last remaining hold-outs of DVD conversion. Douglas Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession is out of DVD…and a Criterion Collection edition, no less. A masterpiece of classic cinema, Magnificent Obsession is one of the best melodramas ever filmed. And Sirk’s use of color and light enhances every second of this one! RUN, do not walk, to your local store and buy or rent. It is a MUST see.

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When you hear about gangs in New York, do you automatically think of the Sharks and the Jets? When is the last time you heard someone say that they feel or look pretty when you didn’t think of West Side Story and the infamous song I Feel Pretty… “I feel pretty…oh, so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and bright…” If you don’t know that song, you might want to watch or even re-watch this film and I promise that soon, you will humming at least one of its many catchy, timeless tunes. Trust me, this film is contagious. More than most musicals of its era, this one is filled with songs and characters that are actually memorable. True, there is some corny stuff here but it wouldn’t be a 1960s musical with some sentiment. Part of the “difference” of West Side Story comes from the music itself…a score and songs written by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Both men perfectly capture the rhythm and energy of New York, but without forgetting about the grime and grit that goes along with any urban setting. Speaking of New York, this one is actually FILMED there…on the streets themselves…not on a set, like most musicals (and even many non-musical movies) of the day. So, the Jets and the Sharks are fighting about territory we REALLY see and can REALLY feel. The story, for the few who do not know, is really a modern day re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed who were doomed from the get-go. Whereas Shakespeare’s couple had feuding Italian families to hinder their romance, here it’s rival gangs and, more importantly, different cultures that get in the way of the young lovers’ happiness (Tony is in a White gang…The Jets…and Maria’s brother, Bernardo, is leader of the Puerto Rican gang, The Sharks). The real draw to this one, though, is the music…which is good since this is a musical, right? I promise after you hear a few bars of America, you will be singing along for weeks…“I like to be in America…OK by me in a America…”

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As far as film adaptations of novels go, this is one of the best. Which is very odd since the film only covers a little more than half of Emily Bronte’s classic novel of the same title. The movie ends and avid Bronte readers must wonder…hey, what happened to the second part of the story??? And, then you’re probably wondering about me and why I called this one of the best film adaptations since it only is an adaptation of half a novel. To state my case, I will say that even though this movie is WAY too short and it does not cover much of Bronte’s original plot, the movie is a beautiful, vivid portrait of the love story between the star-crossed lovers Catherine and Heathcliff. So what if it ends in the midst of Bronte’s story (I can almost imaging her rolling over in her grave…) since the part of the novel that is filmed here is pretty close to a perfect rendition of the book. Director William Wyler follows the book closely and uses the sets to his full advantage, lavishing showing the vastness of the Yorkshire landscape. From there, actors Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon take over and enter the souls of the characters, making us believe that they are really dying inside without each other. Olivier’s performance as he is driven to madness without Catherine is one of the best he ever gave. So, for all you Bronte fans out there, do not discard this one because of its fatal flaw of cutting off the story too soon. The part that IS filmed is pure magic and well worth seeing.

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Everytime I see this one, for some reason I always forget the twists and turns it takes, which is good since that of course increases the suspense for me. This is a prime example of wonderful melodramatic noir films of the post-WWII era…maybe even the best example. Not as serious as Laura, (or as good) and not as over-the-top as some (such as the Joan Crawford campy classic Mildred Pierce), The Postman Always Rings Twice is a perfect mix of murder and sex. Based on the short novel written by the same author as Pierce and another murder/sex film noir classic Double Indemnity, James M. Cain, Postman finds drifter John Garfield drifting to a roadside gas station/café owned by a older guy and his sultry, younger wife, Cora, who puts the D in DAME and the X in SEX. Lana Turner has never had to play up her sensual self as much as in this film…she seems to just sizzle each time the camera is on her. And Garfield does a good job of catering to her…not being able to resist, but putting up just enough resistance to lead to trouble. Basically, a great potboiler for those cold, lonely nights.

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The Lady Eve is fun. After seeing Stanwyck in a variety of Femme Fatale roles, it’s highly enjoyable to see her back at her comic roots. And, boy does she shine here as the daughter of a con-artist who is trying to score one big grift. Henry Fonda is perfectly befuddled as her prey…I’ve never really seen Fonda in a comic role like this before and I haven’t seen him since in anything that can come close to topping this. Both actors are simply brilliant in this one. Basically, Fonda plays a wealthy, naive young man on a cruise heading up the Amazon so study his love of snakes. Enter Stanwyck and her father (played by the always-great Charles Coburn) to try and “lure” Fonda into a trap to milk him out of some of his millions. Classic Preston Sturges at his finest!

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OK – Loretta Young won an Oscar for her performance in this film. So, right off the bat, you might think that you’re going to see a piece of high-caliber cinema…more high-brow than fun. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. This movie is pure FUN! It’s a charming, innocent romantic comedy that stars Loretta Young as Katrin, the only daughter of Swedish immigrants who…you guessed it…own a farm. She saves up enough for nursing school in “Capital City” and heads into the real world of skyscrapers and scam artists. After losing her money to the latter, she goes to work in a mansion owned by the matriarch of a political family…who also happens to live there with her single, attractive son. WOW! What a coincidence! Please don’t think I’m poking fun at this film…but to be honest it’s more of a guilty pleasure than anything. It’s not high art and Young, even though she is just perfect as Katrin, this is not an Oscar-worthy role, per se. Oscars are won for Shakespeare and for The Lion in Winter, not sweet films where the smile doesn’t leave your face throughout. So, if you are looking for an entertaining, delightful film that you might have missed, check this one out. It’s sure to please!

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Surprisingly, I didn’t see this one until I was in my 20s. I used to think Bogart was a rough, unappealing creature…that is until I saw 1954’s Sabrina and began to see him as a softer, more compassionate soul. He possesses a knack for charming women off their feet, while being just a bit brash about it. He’s still rough and tough when he needs to be, but he knows when to bring out to tough guy and when to bring out his softer side. In Sabrina, I got a sneak peak at this behavior. In Casablanca, Bogart had it perfected…his character Rick Blaine is the romantic leading man to end all romantic leading men—not because he’s OVERLY sensitive but because he’s JUST sensitive enough. Now for the story…basically it’s about a nightclub owner in Morocco during WWII (Bogart) who reunites with an old flame (Ingrid Bergman, looking her best) that he fell in love with in Paris during the German occupation of France. Complications are plentiful, such as that the “old flame” is married…to a member of the French Underground, no less, which makes him trouble to the Nazis in Casablanca. But…really the details of the plot are pretty irreverent. Why? Well, how come even though the story is rich and filled with subplots and interesting characters, people only remember the relationship between Bergman and Bogart? And even though this film is a WWII intrigue thriller, why is it mostly know for being strictly a timeless “love story?” Rent this one and see if you can put answers to these questions…

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The ladies are all back…with their beaus…and they’ve all hit NYC by storm once again. I was never THAT into the show – I had seen an episode here, a clip there – so I was worried if that would effect how I liked the movie. Well, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) does a nice recap in the beginning of the film that pretty much makes sure fans and novices alike are relatively on the same page. And after that, WATCH OUT! It’s a wild ride of emotions, fashion, music, posing, clubbing, love and hate. The major critical complaint about this one has been that it’s too long. But, I would disagree with that, saying that the time passes quickly and there really are never any lulls. Another criticism I’ve heard is that it’s shallow. HELLO! The TV series was shallow! So, did we really expect the movie to become this deep, philosophical study? We would not go see something like that, but we would see this…something fun and light. This is not a heavy movie. It’s a good movie for girlfriends to see together and compare notes about after. It’s not going to come up on Oscar night (except maybe for costumes!). It’s fun. Just like the show was. We really wouldn’t have wanted them to change anything, did we?

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All I had heard about this movie is that it’s about a man who gets younger, rather than older. And that is an important part of the film…but it is far from the crux of the film. The film, at its true heart, is a love story, which is well-done, not contrived and very well plotted. This surprised me for several reasons. David Fincher is not exactly the “go to” guy for your Hollywood love story. He’s a action/thriller/gritty/dark director who’s films always have an edge. Here, I feel Fincher’s edge is the fantasy of the aging backwards gimmick, since the love story he creates is simple and gentle…a touching masterpiece of on-screen romance. This is the type of love story you would see with Tracy and Hepburn…magical and real. It reminded me a little of William Wyler’s Roman Holiday, which, like this film is known more for another aspect of the film (in Wyler’s case, his movie is known more for being a comedy) than for the more touching, more vivid true sentiment of the film. Fincher’s fantasy aspect adds emphasis to the love story, just like Wyler’s comic aspects of Roman Holiday accentuate the doomed relationship between Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. In addition to this multi-layered story, the performances by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett have never been better…especially Pitt, who convinces us every step of the way that he really is a man who was born old and will die young.

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