Weekend Viewing Roundup & Musings on BAFTA Awards 2014

Hi everyone! Did you have a nice weekend? It’s another long weekend for me as I got Monday off for President’s Day. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time as Winter storm is brewing as I’m typing this, glad I didn’t have to drive in this Wintry condition.

Before I get to my thoughts on BAFTA, here’s a summary of what I saw this weekend:

How’s your Valentine weekend? Hope you didn’t have to endure see Winter’s Tale. If you’ve read my review, then consider it a warning. I know it’s early, but it could easily end up being one of the biggest duds of 2014.

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On V-day, my hubby and I opted for a simple dinner and a movie, home cinema to be exact. I’ve been wanting to re-watch Austenland since I saw it last August and so that’s what we did. I still enjoyed it and my hubby liked it, too, there’s a reason I love my man 😉

On Saturday night, we went to see RoboCop, a second time for my hubby as he went with Ted last Monday. He liked it well enough he didn’t mind seeing it again with me. Y’know what, I quite enjoyed it. It’s not as violent as the first one, and it’s not an all-out action movie either. In fact, there’s quite a lot of backstory for the character that made me care about the ‘man inside a machine.’ There’s a lot of heart in this reboot, the humanity aspect as well as his relationship with his family is explored quite well I think. Joel Kinnaman is pretty good in the lead role in that he’s got a commanding presence and effortlessly likable. I might actually give this 3.5/5 if I were to review it, and I agree with Ted that Gary Oldman is my favorite performer in the ensemble, he just always elevates everything he’s in.

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I completely missed seeing this LIVE yesterday. I was out and about that by the time I realized BAFTA’s on, it’s already too late. So this morning I was playing catch up on the winners via The Guardian. Let’s start with the acting honors:

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

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Thrilled to see Chiwetel Ejiofor and Cate Blanchett in the Best Leading Actor/Actress category. Both did a superb performance in 12 Years a Slave and Blue Jasmine respectively. I had been rooting for Sandra Bullock before I saw the Woody Allen film, but once I saw Cate’s performance, there’s no doubt in my mind that she should be sweeping all the awards. Classy Cate paid a tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman … “Phil, your monumental talent, generosity and unflinching quest for truth in art and life will be missed by so many people. You raised the bar continually so very, very high and all we can do in your absence is try to continually raise the bar. Phil, buddy, this is for you, you bastard. I hope you’re proud.” [per Deadline] We truly missed a great talent, but it really took one to know one.

Congrats to Barkhad Abdi, what a year it’s been for the former Minneapolis limo driver! Though I think he did a fine job opposite Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, I had wished that Daniel Brühl would get the honor. Same with Sally Hawkins who should win instead of Jennifer Lawrence who’s absent from the festivities. I’m more disappointed in that than Brühl not winning. I’m REALLY hoping the Academy does right by Hawkins and give her the well-deserved honor.

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Oh… one of my top 3 favorite British Dames Helen Mirren was honored the BAFTA Fellowship Award, yay!! I LOVE that Prince William joked that he should call her ‘Granny,’ referring to her award-winning portrayal in The Queen. I read about her charming speech in that she offered her gratitude to a great teacher who encouraged her to be an actor.

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Now to the question of Best Film of the Year.

Best Film: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best British Film: Gravity

Seems that there still is no clear winner and come Oscar I think it’ll still come down to a thriller set in space and a slavery drama. Interesting that there’s a Best Film and Best British Film category, which went to 12 Years a Slave and Gravity respectively. As quoted by Deadline, Alfonso Cuarón said backstage that, “There are rules that make a film eligible for Best British Film. Gravity definitely has all the requirements, except a couple of Mexicans that came here — legally! — and a couple of American stars. It was shot in this country, developed in this country, and with cutting-edge technology developed by British artists.” I have no qualms about the eligibility stuff, obviously the BAFTA deems it eligible and that’s that. Gravity deserves all the kudos, it won six out of the possible 11 noms, including Best Original Score, Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), Visual Effects, Sound AND Best Director honor for Alfonso Cuarón. It’s my number 1 film of the year so I’d be happy if it sweeps the Oscars as well!  

Other BAFTA winners I’m thrilled about: 

Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Animated Film: Frozen
Best Production Design The Great Gatsby
Best Costumes: The Great Gatsby

BAFTA_JoshuaOppenheimerHuge congrats to Joshua Oppenheimer for winning Best Documentary!! It’s the only documentary that I included in my Top 10 films of the year, and Joshua was gracious enough to grant me an interview. I told him I would be rooting for him come award season, so I’m super thrilled that he’s also up for an Oscar! I love that he dedicated his award to his anonymous crew, “I dedicate this award to them. This film couldn’t be made without people who risked their safety and changed their careers to work on it. Professors, human rights leaders. … They stopped everything they were doing to work on the film, knowing they couldn’t take credit for their work.”  [per Deadline]

Yay for FROZEN, another one of my Top 10 favorites! It’s no contest they will win Best Animated Film at the Oscar, it’s a shoo-in at this point. The production design and costumes of The Great Gatsby are definitely the major highlights of the film so kudos to Catherine Martin! Seems that she’s gotten far more honors in her husband Baz Luhrmann‘s films than Baz himself.

So this is the last major award ceremony before the Oscars on March 2nd. BRING. IT. ON!


So what did you see this weekend? Thoughts on the BAFTA winners?

FlixChatter Review: 12 Years A Slave (2013)

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In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

I saw this film two months ago and it was an early screening at 11 in the morning. I made the mistake of going back to work after this, as I was so shaken by it I could barely concentrate on even the simplest tasks. It’s the kind of film that’s perhaps seen alone or at least not with a big group of friends, because it would leave you so speechless afterwards that one would not be good company for a lively conversation.

The title says it all, it’s an incredible story of a formerly-free black man ended up sold to slavery and having to endure it for twelve agonizing years. Based on an autobiography written in 1853, the fact that Solomon survived this ordeal doesn’t exactly make this retelling any less harrowing, director Steve McQueen makes sure of that. The way the story is told is pretty straight-forward, we see Solomon with his family in Saratoga Springs, New York. An educated man and trained violinist, he lives a good life with his wife and two kids, until one fateful day when two men claiming to be from a touring circus duped and drugged him. That following morning, Solomon finds himself chained to the floor, no doubt it’s the start of the darkest decade of his life.

This is the first film of British filmmaker Steve McQueen that I saw. As I wasn’t familiar with McQueen’s previous works, the main draw for me is Chiwetel Ejiofor and he absolutely delivered. It’s as if I wasn’t watching an actor simply playing a role, Ejiofor became Solomon and everything from his mannerism to his soulful gaze lends authenticity to the character. What happened to Solomon is tragic and he’s a victim to be sure, but there’s a defiant strength in him that’s so compelling. “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.” He says, at one of the pivotal moment in his journey, and as life deals him one nasty blow after another, he clings to that glimmer of hope that one day he’d live again.

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McQueen doesn’t spare us the goriest and most vicious details of Solomon’s, as well as his fellow slaves. It’s truly an emotionally—and at times physically—draining experience watching this film as we’re subjected to several unflinching & sadistic violence that seems to go on forever. Though I appreciate the fact that McQueen doesn’t sugarcoat the story to make it more palatable, at times the extensive whipping scenes feels like it overpower the story. The whipping scene is bound to be one people talk about most, but there is also one incredibly disturbing scene involving Solomon half way through the film. It’s particularly harrowing not only because of the act itself, but the reaction of his fellow slaves around him. McQueen kept this scene on screen for a long time, too long for comfort, and that’s exactly the point. Yet it’s not just the brutal violence that really tug your heartstrings, I was practically sobbing watching the scene where Solomon was trying to write but simply couldn’t make the ink solid enough to use. It made me think how I’ve taken for granted the seemingly-simple things I have in my life.

The film intermittently shifts its focus from Solomon to the slave owners, particularly Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), whose brutality is matched only by his own wife (Sarah Paulson). In many ways, Mrs. Epps is actually scarier than her husband. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, they say, and boy it’s never more true here seeing a woman so madly-driven by jealousy that she couldn’t even recognize the intense suffering of fellow human beings. The subject of that sheer jealousy is Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) as she’s the subject of Epps’ sexual urges. Her scenes are the toughest to watch, even the scene containing only dialog between her and Solomon is utterly heart-wrenching.

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This film has one of the best ensemble cast of the year and the actors delivered solid performances pretty much across the board. Paul Giammatti and Paul Dano played against type portraying some evil characters, though Dano overacted in his brief scene that it made me cringe. Benedict Cumberbatch gave Solomon a fleeting hope as a compassionate slave owner, but in the end he didn’t really make any real difference. There’s much buzz about the Kenyan newcomer Nyong’o with her devastating performance and she deserves them, but I think Paulson deserves equal kudos for portraying such a wicked persona convincingly. Speaking of which, it’s hard not to think of Epps as a devil-incarnate, yet there’s something in Fassbender’s eyes that somehow make us believe he’s not a soulless creature. Alfre Woodard has a bit part here as well, though I wish her character were explored just a bit more. Lastly, Brad Pitt, who also produced the film, showed up towards the end and it was clear even from the promos that he’s made to be the hero in the film. Well, I’m glad to see his character appears in the film though I didn’t think anything of it about his performance. The heart of the film is no doubt Ejiofor, portraying a man who’s down but not defeated, he somehow remains hopeful despite seemingly-impossible odds. I sure hope this role opens even more doors for him in leading man roles as he’s certainly got the talent and charisma.

As powerful as this film is though, it’s not exactly flawless nor would I call it a masterpiece in the same vein as say, Schindler’s List. As my friend Terrence pointed out in his review, I too feel that the treatment of time passing is way too subtle. I didn’t even notice so much about Solomon aging, which should’ve been more obvious in a matter of 12 years under such duress. John Ridley’s screenplay felt a bit too poetic at times which lessened the sense of realism. I also wish there were more continuation with certain scenes and characters, i.e. the flashback scene where Solomon was approached by a slave whilst he shopping with his family, as there’s no follow-up to that encounter later in the film. I also wasn’t too impressed by Hans Zimmer‘s score. For the life of me I simply can’t remember what it sounds like now, perhaps it was a bit too similar to his previous works.

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Final Thoughts: Even with the flaws, I still think this is a brilliant film that merits the praises it’s been receiving. McQueen’s meticulous direction with his no-holds-barred approach proves that he’s one of the most talented filmmakers working today, quite a feat considering this is only his third film. This film shows the absolute horror of what the worst of us are capable of, enhanced as well as contrasted by Sean Bobbitt‘s breathtaking cinematography. This is one of those essential films that ought to be seen. Even if it may take you days to recover from, it’s such a worthwhile cinematic experience.

four and a half stars out of five
4 out of 5 reels


What did you think of 12 Years A Slave? I’d love to hear what you think!

October Movie Watching Recap and Movie of the Month

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Hello November! It’s also the weekend daylight savings ends here in Minnesota, so we get an extra hour to do whatever we wish, yay! Well, since I’ve been suffering with a cold the past week (yes that meant I was sick during my vacation plus I also twisted my ankle on my second night of the trip), most likely I will be using that extra hour to rest.

But hey, don’t cry for me, folks. It was still an awesome trip to NYC, which was to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding, the first of two wedding festivities (the 2nd one will be in our hometown Jakarta). LOVE New York City in Autumn, the foliage hasn’t quite peaked yet, but the leaves colors are just gorgeous! I didn’t get a chance to visit as many places due to my twisted ankle though, so we’ll likely be back next year!

Before the ankle-twisting incident... Visiting Belvedere Castle in Central Park and goofing around w/ my sister-in-law on the BIG Piano at FAO Schwartz
Before the ankle-twisting incident… Strolling w/ my dear hubby in Central Park, visiting Belvedere Castle, and goofing around w/ my sister-in-law on the BIG Piano at FAO Schwartz

I’m also happy to report that thanks to TCFF, it’s been a GREAT movie-watching month for me. Check out my 2013 TCFF coverage by clicking the tab at the top of the blog, there are surely some movie gems you wouldn’t want to miss!

Well, here are some of my posts this past month:

New-to-me Feature Films Watched (in alphabetical order):

12 Years A Slave

August: Osage County

Beyond Right and Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness (doc)

Captain Phillips

Dark Knight Returns Part I and II

Everybody’s Fine (for the Robert De Niro Blogathon)

Forev

Gladiators: The Uncertain Future of American Football (doc)

How I Live Now

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Nebraska

One Chance

Parkland

RUSH

The Armstrong Lie (doc)

The Fifth Estate

The Big Noise

The Search for Simon

Trust Greed Bullets and Bourbon

Winter in the Blood

Check out which of these films made my TCFF Top Five

I still have some TCFF screeners I have yet to see as I had to lend them to fellow blog volunteers, so there would’ve been more films on this list had I got around to watching them. On top of the films listed above, I also watched a total of 8 short films during TCFF: The Family-themed Shorts that includes A Better Life, as well as Hot and Bothered.

I was planning on going to The Counselor‘s screening but couldn’t make it as it was at 10 in the morning. But after reading the dismal reviews, it’s perhaps best that I just rent that one later. Besides, that might be too dark and disturbing to see before going to work, ahah. No rewatches for me either this month, though we did get our Pacific Rim Blu-ray a couple of weeks ago that we’ll be watching this weekend!

SpidermanTurnOffTheDarkOh, whilst I was in NYC, my hubby and I also got a chance to catch Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway. It was pretty decent and the theatrics was pretty entertaining, and Justin Matthew Sargent was good as the lead. I do think Marvel’s web slinger is much more suitable as a feature film, plus they made some changes to the story that I wasn’t too keen on. The music by Bono is not bad, though the only one I really dug is Rise Above, here’s a sample:


I’m glad I saw it, but unlike say, The Phantom of the Opera, it’s not a show I’d want to see over and over again.


Movies of the Month:

I knew it would be hard for me to pick just ONE Movie of the Month in October, there are simply too many excellent films. Well, after much deliberations (in my head that is) it came down to a tie between these two:

AugustOsageCty_Collage12YrsASlave_CollageInteresting that both feature a star-studded ensemble cast, and both has Benedict Cumberbatch in it. I didn’t plan on that (nor did I plan on seeing THREE films this month that stars the awesome and mighty popular Brit, not that I’m complaining). Both films feature a brutally-honest look into its subject matter, both physically and emotionally, and at times it’s tough to watch. Kudos to directors Steve McQueen and John Wells for their daft hand in crafting such challenging films.

As for the performances, the true star of August: Osage County and 12 Years A Slave are Meryl Streep and Chiwetel Ejiofor, respectively. I have a feeling Streep is a shoo-in comes next year’s Oscar, but I sure hope Ejiofor would get a shot, he sooo deserves it. I hope to review both of these soon and will post ’em when the embargo is lifted, but I highly recommend both films which will surely get a lot of mentions come award season.


Well, that’s my monthly recap folks. What’s YOUR favorite film you saw in October?

Five for the Fifth: AUGUST 2013 Edition

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Hello folks, welcome to the 8th Five for the Fifth of the year!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item, observation, trailer, actor/director spotlight, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. August 5th is Neil Armstrong‘s birthday. The first man on the moon would’ve been 82 today. When he died almost exactly a year ago on August 25 (see my music-themed tribute here), some articles (like this one) reported on an [inevitable] biopic on his life. Not sure what have become of that project, which is baffling to me as Hollywood LOVES biopics, and Armstrong seems to have a story worth telling, aside from his accomplishments in space engineering.

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This Guardian article from 2008 had some casting ideas, but I think some of those might be moot at this point. One name they threw out was Viggo Mortensen, which would be awesome, even if at 54 he’s too old to play Armstrong when he first landed on the moon, which was 38.

Thoughts on this project? Who do you think would be a good fit to play Neil Armstrong?


2.  In my June Five for the Fifth, I mentioned about 2 Guns in my question about Mark Wahlberg. Well, that movie tops box office this weekend with $27 mil. Not bad considering its budget is only $61 mil. I guess both Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg can open a movie on their own, so combine the two together, I’m not surprised the film does well.

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The movie is more of a rental to me though. Terrence gave it a 3 out 5 stars, so it’s not horrible, but not something I have to see on the big screen. I quite like buddy action flicks though, that’s a tried-and-true genre that relies on the charm and chemistry of the cast. Some of my fave buddy action/comedy flicks are Lethal Weapons, Tango & Cash, The Other Guys, Hot Fuzz, and most recently, 21 Jump Street.

How about you, what are YOUR favorite buddy action flicks?


3. Some of you who’ve read my July Recap knows that The Act of Killing documentary is my Movie of the Month. I’m still mulling it over after seeing it last week.

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After chatting with the filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer and attending his Q&A at Walker Art Center this weekend, I have a better appreciation of the filmmaking process, though it’s certainly a film one would be hard pressed to comprehend. I will post my review and interview w/ Joshua later this week, but here’s the trailer:

So far the film has garnered all kinds of accolades and awards from all over the world. It’s Rotten Tomatoes rating is currently 97%, the summary reads like this: Raw, terrifying, and painfully difficult to watch, The Act of Killing offers a haunting testament to the edifying, confrontational power of documentary cinema. Trust me, it’s no hyperbole and it’s easily THE most haunting documentary I’ve ever seen, and I’m not saying that because the subject matter focuses on my homeland Indonesia. I can’t recommend this enough folks, especially if you like history or simply compelling stories that’s told in an inventive way. I certainly hope it’d be nominated for an Academy Awards next year.

Speaking of recommendations, what has been the most memorable documentary you saw in the last 12 months?


ChrisEvans_incar4. Actors venturing into directing films are nothing new. We’ve certainly seen some movie stars garnering accolades for directing AND starring in their films (George Clooney, Ben Affleck, etc.), and now Chris Evans is attempting to do just that. Per SlashFilm, the Captain America star reportedly will direct and star in a romantic drama called 1:30 Train. Here’s the initial plot of the film:

Two strangers who meet in Manhattan and spend one night together as the conflicts in their own lives become the basis for their exploration of each other and themselves.”

Some sites are describing it as being in the vein of Richard Linklaters’ Before Sunrise, which intrigues me, Hollywood needs more compelling romantic dramas instead of rom-coms. Now, I’m warming up to Evans as an actor, I mean he’s not a stellar actor by any means but I like that he tries to mix up different genres. He’s fitting in an apocalypse thriller Snowpiercer (hopefully it’ll get a US release date soon), and now this, in between his Avengers gig. Curious who’d be cast as the love interest, but in any case, I wish him the best of luck on this project!

What do you think of Chris Evans’ directorial debut idea? Does the film appeal to you?


5. Now, I know it’s only August, nominations isn’t going to start for another four months. But hey, since they’ve already announced that Ellen DeGeneres will host the Oscars next year (which is awesome as she’s FUNNY without being mean-spirited!), I think it’s fair game to talk about Oscar predictions… or wish list.

The one film that’s a shoo-in come award season is Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years A Slave. 

12 YEARS A SLAVE is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.  Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.  In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life.

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The cast is incredible, but I’m especially thrilled to see Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead role!! I’ve been championing the talented Brit for years, he was on my list of foreign actors to watch (along with his co-star Michael Fassbender!). I’m sincerely hoping that this film would come to Twin Cities Film Fest in October (ahead of its limited release on December 27), as MN-native Bill Pohlad is one of the film’s producers.

Oh man, I cried just watching the trailer! I better pack a box of tissue when I watch the film. I LOVE that Benedict Cumberbatch is in this as well, this is the second time he’s doing a slavery-themed film, the first one was Amazing Grace, which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen yet.

Our resident Oscar expert Josh @ Classicblanca has put up his Oscar predictions last week, and I’m thrilled to see he’s predicting Ejiofor under the Best Actor noms. I’d love to see Fassy get a nom in Best Supporting Actor category too, since he was overlooked last year, but I REALLY want Ejiofor to finally get his dues after years of memorable, supporting performances. I know that after seeing him in Endgame, he’s definitely a capable leading man.

P.S. In the Best Actress category, I’d love to Cate Blanchett get a nom as well. I mean, just from seeing a trailer and clip of Blue Jasmine, she’s certainly in top form being the chameleon actor that she is!

Well, now my last question to you is: Which actor (or actress) would you love to getting a nomination come award season?


That’s it for the AUGUST 2013 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these subjects.

Classic Flix Spotlight: Steve McQueen – Acting vs Reacting

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Greeting all and sundry! After the wonderful comments and responses to my previous ‘First Impressions from Second Stringers‘. I’ve decided to take a few moments to delve into the allure and mystique of an actor who for years applied his talent and trade into the consistent definition and refinement of his several characters on television. Before branching into films. To meticulously evolve into the absolute embodiment of rebellious cool during the 1960s and early 1970s.

To that end. Allow me to introduce a retrospective and hypothesis into the inner workings and machinations of the guy every kid and young man wanted to grow to be. And every contemporary girl and young woman wanted to be with.

Steve McQueen: Acting vs. Reacting.

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I first noticed Mr. McQueen as bounty hunter, Josh Randall in a repeated episode of the Sam Peckinpah written western series, ‘Trackdown’ from the late 1950s. In it, Randall helps Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman (Robert Culp) track down a philandering husband. The two don’t hit it off at first, since Randall seems to enjoy his job and its reward money a bit too much. Though there seemed to be an ease about this young unknown rookie as he traded lines and shared action with the more established Culp. A surety and lack of fear that was both refreshing and intriguing.

McQueen in The Magnificent SevenOthers must have thought so as well. Remembering Mr. McQueen as he slogged through an entirely forgettable take on Harold Robbins’ potboiler novel, ‘Never Love A Stranger’. And his B-Movie introduction in the Sci-Fi classic, ‘The Blob’. Before given the chance to romp and play with Frank Sinatra and assorted other heavy hitters in the John Surges directed, Burma/Thailand, OSS WWII film, ‘Never So Few’ in 1959. Only to return under Sturges’ protective wing for another classic that launched many careers, ‘The Magnificent Seven’.

It is this film where I believe Mr. McQueen began to find the benefit of being miserly with his words. Keeping his face placid or with a hint of annoyance should the need occur. Then responding to whatever actor with which he was sharing a scene. Using as few words as possible His moments as Vin with Yul Brynner’s Chris early on in the film is an homage to subtle up staging. With Mr. Queen using deft, remembered tricks. Like shaking the shotgun shells before chambering them in his borrowed 12 Gauge scatter gun . And taking off and angling his beaten, sweat stained hat to supply some needed shade on their caisson ride up to Boot Hill. Vin’s quick, quiet loss at the saloon’s roulette wheel. And his silent counting of their desired number of gunslingers on his fingers as it grows. These small gestures and glances would quietly outnumber Mr. McQueen numbers of spoken lines. Yet seemed to carry close to equal weight, Recurring again and again his later films.

SteveMcQueen2Which brings us back to Mr. McQueen getting his own television series, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’. That ran for three full seasons of 94 episodes from 1958 to 1961. And propelled Mr. McQueen’s bounty hunter, Josh Randall and his cut down Winchester lever action ‘Mare’s leg’ into house hold familiarity. Opening an opportunity for Mr. McQueen to try his hand at service comedy in ‘The Honeymoon Machine’. A 1961 compact minor gem where Mr. McQueen plays a Navy Lieutenant who uses his assigned ship’s computer to figure the odds and how to beat the many gaming tables of a Venetian casino. Sharing some great lines with civilian computer scientist, Jim Hutton and his fiance, Paula Prentiss.

Then being given the lead role and top billing amongst a plethora of proven character actors in a great, though oddly little known WWII drama, ‘Hell Is for Heroes’ from 1961. Directed by Don Siegel and written by Richard Carr and Robert Pirosh. Who would later achieve critical and audience acclaim for his long running WWII series, ‘Combat!’ for ABC television. In the film, it seems that all Mr. McQueen’s character does is react.

His Pvt. Reese has been under stress and combat for so long. It seems the only time he is relaxed is when he is on the front lines. Where he soon finds himself with the stalwart Sergent, Fess Parker. Veteran squad leader, Harry Guardino. Street wise hustler, Bobby Darin. Brainy southern Fix It guy, James Coburn. Always reliable Mike Kellin. And late arrivals Bob Newhart and Nick Adams.

Together, these soldiers have to keep a massively larger number of Germans occupied on the Siegfried Line prior to a major attack. The problem is that no one really cares for their situation or fellow man. And for Mr. McQueen’s Reese even less. They all just want to be somewhere else and go home. Those that are stopping them are the Germans. And if Germans need to be killed, that’s fine with Pvt. Reese. To facilitate this, Reese is equipped with the most phallic looking of sub-machine guns. An M-3 Grease Gun with flanking magazines taped upside down around the weapon’s main feed. Used propitiously through patrols and an aborted night attack on a bunker-ed German machine gun nest. As this gritty, character driven minor masterpiece concludes in a way that no one sees coming!

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Leaving Mr. McQueen in the WWII vein for an aerial stock footage laden quickie titled ‘The War Lover’. Where Mr. McQueen plays an Air Corp Captain and B-17 pilot with a near death wish. Opposite a very young Robert Wagner as his protege and co-pilot. Setting the stage for one Mr. McQueen’s most memorable roles. As Hilts, ‘The Cooler King’. Again under John Sturges’ direction and backed up by a ‘Who’s Who’ of young and established talent from both sides of the Atlantic. Amongst such company and with a propensity to be given some of the production’s best lines and scenes. Plus Mr McQueen’s ability and willingness to set up a near show stopping, groundbreaking motorcycle stunt cemented him firmly in the firmament of untouchable ‘Cool’.

Something he would easily maintain through three rather formulaic films. ‘Soldier in the Rain’ opposite Jackie Gleason in 1963. ‘Love with the Proper Stranger’ with Natalie Wood and Edie Adams. And ‘Baby the Rain Must Fall’ with Lee Remick. Aided by a theme song more popular than the film. Before given the chance to stretch his talents and romp and play with the then veteran big boys.

Eric Stoner in The Cincinnati Kid

As Eric Stoner. ‘The Cincinnati Kid’. A young and enormously talented player of stud poker. Who holds makers for half the players in Depression Era New Orleans and is very much a local legend. Until a player with an ever larger reputation, Lancey Howard; wondrously, confidently and resplendently played by Edward G. Robinson steps off the train. A showdown is to be had and the Kid starts gathering up markers for his buy in and stake. Getting sound advice from his mentor, Karl Malden as ‘Shooter’. While being used as a pawn by Rip Torn’s ‘Slade’. An arrogant and sleazy southern gentleman who wants payback for losing to Howard in previous games. Trying to stay true to Tuesday Weld’s ‘Christian’. And avoiding the sensuous clutches of Shooter’s far too young and beguiling wife, Melba. Wickedly played by Anne-Margaret. More than enough distraction to throw any mere mortal off his game, but this is Steve McQueen at the near top of his game. In a showdown that many have likened to the one between Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason in ‘The Hustler‘, but with a much higher cool factor. The stare downs between Mr. McQueen’s confidence and Edward G. Robinson’s placid poker face quickly builds palpable tension until the last card is played.

Mr. McQueen’s cool and penchant to react return in 1966’s ‘Nevada Smith’. Playing a half breed Indian looking to kill the three men who killed his parents. With the aid of Karl Malden as a traveling gun salesman, Mr. McQueen is taught how to shoot, read and learns enough tricks to keep him alive through a stretch in prison to find one of the killers during their escape. And the other two in cow towns across the West. In a fair adaptation of the Harold Robbins novel. Then onto one of his most under rated roles as Machinist Mate Jake Holman in Robert Wise’s ‘The Sand Pebbles’. Assigned to the USS San Pablo as it operates along China’s Yangtze River during the 1926 era of ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’. Butting heads with the ship’s captain, Richard Crenna. Holman breaks a lot of small, traditional rules around the ship’s engines which irritates the crew and the locals. While falling in love with a Missionary’s stunning daughter, Shirley Eckert. Played by Candice Bergen in a well thought out and executed period piece, history lesson and anti-war film.

McQueen & Faye Dunaway - The Thomas Crown Affair

Which brings the cool back to the fore in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’. Where Mr. McQueen plays a handsome, rich, influential bank executive who decides to hire a crew of four specialists who do not know each other to rob Crown’s own Boston bank. The heist goes off smoothly and four bags are dumped in trash cans and picked by Crown in his Rolls Royce. Which brings in Paul Burke, a federal investigator who is out of his league. And takes umbrage when Faye Dunaway shows up as insurance investigator, Vicki Anderson. Who is much more than she appears to be. The game is afoot as she politely question Crown over a game of chess. That makes a splendid introduction. Shared in flirtatious silence before more adult entertainment is hinted at under Norman Jewison’s deft touch. The game of high end Cat and Mouse continues through resplendent Massachusetts locales. Until Crown comes up with another plan that no one would expect. In a wondrously opulent ode to conspicuous consumption and elegantly dressed ’60s cool!

SteveMcQueen BullittThat’s knocked down a few notches status wise for Mr. McQueen’s next venture into reaction in Peter Yates’ ‘Bullitt’ . As blue collar San Francisco Detective Lieutenant Frank Bullitt. Given the task of protecting an organized crime witness for an up and coming, politically cunning District Attorney, Walter Chalmers. Played with arrogant, near sneering glee by Robert Vaughn. Whose future and career depends on the informant, Johnny Ross testifying in court after the weekend. Creating a large enough burden on the shoulders of Bullitt. His boss, Captain Sam Bennett (Simon Oakland). And Bulltt’s partner, Delgetti (Don Gordon. Never better) as well as assorted underlings assigned to the flea bag hotel protection detail.

A weight that shifts precipitously when the informant, Johnny Ross (Pat Renella) unlocks the door for his and the detail’s demise via a team of shot gun assassins. A description is given by one of slowly dying detail detectives as Bullitt arranges for the deceased Johnny Ross to be listed in the morgue as a John Doe. Which doesn’t seem to slow the team of killers down as they try to find Ross and finish the job. Giving Bullitt a quickly glimpse at them. Annoying the heck out of Chalmers as Bullitt tries to put the pieces together and asks Bennett to be put in charge of the murder investigation. Bennett gives Bullitt close to carte blache and leads are followed the next morning. After waking with a hangover in the goofiest pajamas on earth. Waiting for his immursion unit to heat water for instant coffee. Giving Don Gordon’s Delgetti some of films better lines as motel managers are questioned and Ident-I-Kit drawings are put together. While Bullitt seeks out a cab and its driver (Robert Duvall) and dots are connected and snitches contacted. To determine Ross’s foot steps around San Francisco after fleeing Chicago with two million dollars stolen from his older, mob connected brother.

The pressure increases as Bennett is subpoenaed outside Sunday services by Chalmers and his milquetoast associate and Bennett’s boss, Captain Baker (Norman Fell). Something is not adding up as Ross’s trail ends at a middle of nowhere motel. On his way home, Bullitt sees the two shooters in their Dodge Charger and the great grand daddy of all car chases begins in amongst and over the many tight turns, narrow streets and hills of San Francisco. Then out on the highways. Weaving in and out of traffic at well over seventy miles per hour. Dodging shotgun blasts as Bullitt finally manages to nudge the killers’ Charger into the gas pumps of an off road gas station and a huge explosive fireball.

With Jacqueline Bisset in Bullitt

Shaken and stirred, Bullitt invites his girlfriend, Cathy (Jacqueline Bisset, never sexier!) to spend what is left of the weekend with him. Which includes a trip back to the motel. Where Bullitt discovers a murdered woman, Dorothy Simmons (Brandy Carroll). Along with two passports, travelers checks and two tickets from San Francisco International to Rome. Before the room becomes a taped off crime scene, Cathy stumbles in and is shocked to see what Frank deals with. And what he could become.

The passport numbers are faxed to both Customs and State as a pow wow of all the heavy hitters is brought together. As the question of who the John Doe in the morgue really is? And who leaked the information to Chicago about John Doe’s fleabag motel while under protective custody? Leaving Chalmers little else to do once the John Doe is identified as Albert Lee Rennick. Except try to smoothly lie and go into a defensive diatribe aimed at Bullitt. Who tolerates the rhetoric and replies, “You work your side of the street. And I’ll work mine.”

Unburdened of Chalmers, Bullitt and Delgetti go to SFX and open up Ross’s luggage and find that Ross exchanged his tickets for Rome for a same time flight to London. Calls are made and the 707 returns to the departure gate. Delgetti stays in the terminal and Bullitt gets on board. Sees Ross, who escapes through the rear exit door and runs for it. Bullitt gives chase. Finds Ross inside the crowded terminal. Catching Ross just feet away from freedom. Catching rounds from Bullitt’s .38 Colt Diamondback between the terminal’s sliding glass double doors.

McQueen and Ali MacGraw - The Getaway

Capping off a pinnacle of macho coolness that would run long after his death in 1980. Mr. McQueen would continue ti ride high as Formula race car driver, Mike Delaney in the near documentary style, ‘Le Mans’ two years later. Coming under Sam Peckinpah’s masterful touch as rodeo rider, Junior ‘JR’ Bonner in ‘Junior Bonner’ and as just released heist man Doc McCoy. In the ahead of its time, Walter Hill and Jim Thompson scripted heist gone bad film, ‘The Getaway’ with Ali MacGraw. Then turn in a very understated performance as petty thief, Henri Charriere who befriends a near unrecognizable Dustin Hoffman, Louis Dega in ‘Papillon’ on their way to a French Guyana penal colony (Devil’s Island) and their escape attempts from there.

Overall Consensus:

SteveMcQueen9I think Mr. McQueen may have struck onto something by remaining quiet and giving some more memorable lines away to others. Creating a sense of drama while letting his facial expressions do the talking. A trait I’ve noticed by other actors, particularly Clint Eastwood, Jeff Bridges, Joe Mantegna, and the late Jack Lemmon and James Coburn. Actors confident enough in their talent and abilities to let silence speak volumes.

Kudos also to Mr. McQueen for having the savvy to use credibility and cool as a commodity and bargaining chip in ‘Bullitt’. Especially his and Peter Yates’ behind the scenes negotiations to get Warner Brothers out of their studio and back lot confines. Venture down to San Francisco and shoot on location for how ever long a scene or the completed project required.


Check out Jack’s profile page and links to his other reviews


What do you think of Steve McQueen and what’s your favorite McQueen movie(s)? Do share ’em in the comments.

Guest Post: Favorite Movie Set in Boston

By Becky ‘Prairiegirl’ Kurk
When I was invited to guest blog on FlixChatter so rtm can have a well-deserved Christmas break from her “baby,” and heard the topic was to choose a favorite movie filmed in/around New York City or Boston, I was game. I love Boston! I remember visiting Faneuil Hall Marketplace, taking a historic city walk (Freedom Trail), seeing Boston Harbor and Boston Commons, and, of course, visiting the original Cheers bar (it’s very long and narrow, nothing like the wide-open set in the TV series, but going down a flight of stairs to enter it is faithful to the original). Other extraordinary places in Massachusetts are The Berkshires, Cape Cod and Plimouth Plantation.

So, to start my task, I perused all three links rtm offered to help me get started, and this one proved to be the best: Wikipedia: List of films set in New England

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

And to my surprise, after looking through all the lists, I realized my favorite movie filmed in Boston is The Thomas Crown Affair with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. Faye Dunaway was fresh off the success of Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and Steve McQueen had been nominated for a Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar for The Sand Pebbles (1966). McQueen’s physical presense in this movie reminds me of Daniel Craig’s recent role in the 2006 Bond film Casino Royale. It was very sad that he died in his prime at the young age of 50 in 1980 of mesothelioma. I was only 15 years old and still in junior high when TTCA was released, and was way more interested in the Beatles and boyfriends than movies at the time.
I’d heard of the film many times, but only saw it on TV about a year ago. Turns out is it one of those semi-classic movies that lives up to its reputation. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be ‘sophisticated.’ IMDb lists its genre as Crime/Drama/Thriller/Romance, but it’s heavier on the drama and romance, Both McQueen and Dunaway have their witty moments (having said that, PLEASE don’t compare this to The Tourist. TTCA is truly everything Tourist should have been, but was not, even though I liked the movie.) I read that the director’s (Norman Jewison) commentary on the DVD was worth a watch, so next time I see this will be on DVD so I can check out his commentary. And, true to my assignment, it has a long list of filming locations in Boston.
The storyline, according to IMDb:
Four men pull off a daring daytime robbery at a bank, dump the money in a trash can and go their separate ways. Thomas Crown, a successful, wealthy businessman pulls up in his Rolls and collects it. Vickie Anderson, an independent insurance investigator is called in to recover the huge haul. She begins to examine the people who knew enough about the bank to have pulled the robbery and discovers Crown. She begins a tight watch on his every move and begins seeing him socially. How does the planner of the perfect crime react to pressure?
And here’s a selection of clips from the film:

I could spend a lot of time and wear and tear, but since the movie has been around for a long time, and there are so many good reviews of this intriguing film on IMDb, here’s a link directly to those reviews.
And a few excepts to get started on:
Unforgettable 60’s cool: The film itself is well crafted, beautifully photographed and brilliantly directed, it also has a great score.

Tense, stylish, serious:
The performances of the entire cast are exemplary. McQueen’s clipped manner builds the tension and intensifies the effect of his weakening to Vicki’s seductive moves during the chess game.

An Affair To Remember:
The chess game between “King Of Cool” Steve McQueen and 27-year-old Faye Dunaway in the most provocative dress possible is one of the sexiest and most exiting without-actual-sex-involved scenes ever filmed.

All around perfection:
Amazing movie. I give movies a 10 when I can come up with no suggestion at all to make it better. The cinematography, editing, dialogue, acting, costumes, locations and most of all direction of this movie are perfect.
It’s a battle of hubris between McQueen and Dunaway and the film does keep you in some suspense as to who will win out.

Stealing With Style:
The Thomas Crown Affair garnered won Academy Award for Michel LeGrand’s song, The Windmills of Your Mind. It’s a stylishly done caper film and I guarantee you won’t be able to anticipate the outcome.
While checking this out, I found out there was a 1999 remake of TTCA with Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo. While I like both actors, I doubt they could ever match McQueen and Dunaway in this movie. See the 1968 film. You won’t be disappointed.
***
So, have you been to Boston? Live there? Have traveled/visited there? Seen The Thomas Crown Affair? If so, tell us!