Archive for May 2nd, 2008

A Cradle Song ©

Calm is the sea;
Rivers are tired
As this day draws near
At the end of tether.

Sweet dreams attend
Child, sleep well;(2)
Dream shall sleep follow
As your head to pillow.

Day is well done
So are my chores;
Cradle knows too well
A Child must sleep well.


( lyrics and music-benny)

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Unlearn Memory

I know not where this winding road would end;
Some wayfarer’s sure sense of the road
Had this sea of green part in twain.

I know not how this flight of clouds would end:
In tears or in peace made up? It matters
Not if some good came out of rain.

I know not where our best selves would end:
Some for coinage exchanged; ideals unseen
Took wings while we held to bullion?

I know not if life did with death end:
What is mortal, in tatters we lay aside;
Press on ad infinitum with what remain?


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Director: F.W. Murnau
Genre: Costume Horror, Gothic Film, Horror
The film that brought one of German cinema’s masters to international attention, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) is also one of the best screen versions of -Dracula, even if the Bram Stoker source received no credit. so much so that Stoker’s widow went to court, demanding in vain that the Murnau film be suppressed and destroyed. The character names have been changed to protect the guilty (in the original German prints, at least), but devotees of Stoker will have little trouble recognizing their Dracula counterparts. I cite this movie not because it is one of the best 100 films but because of its influence on later generations of film- makers. Eschewing the elaborately artificial studio-bound sets that gave most German Expressionist films their luridly somber mood, Murnau used actual central European locations for his vampire tale, thereby he anticipated neo-realism of Renoir and Rossilini. Murnau created a foreboding atmosphere through such cinematic techniques as negative exposures and stop-motion photography. Shot by Fritz Arno Wagner, the dramatic shadows and low angles that made Max Schreck’s vampire tower over his environs. The effect of the low angles was not lost on Orson Welles and Gregg Toland when they made Citizen Kane (1941). Though some critics have noted that the stop-motion effects have not aged particularly well, Nosferatu’s air of almost apocalyptic doom remains timeless, and Murnau’s combination of real locations and a superhuman monster is a key precursor to, among others, Alfred Hitchcock’s horror of the everyday and familiar.
The film begins in the Carpathian mountains, where real estate agent Hutter (Gustav von Wagenheim) has arrived to close a sale with the reclusive Herr Orlok (Max Schreck). Despite the feverish warnings of the local peasants, Hutter insists upon completing his journey to Orlok’s sinister castle. While enjoying his host’s hospitality, Hutter accidently cuts his finger-whereupon Orlok tips his hand by staring intently at the bloody digit, licking his lips. Hutter catches on that Orlok is no ordinary mortal when he witnesses the vampiric nobleman loading himself into a coffin in preparation for his journey to Bremen.
(Murau shot this scene in fast motion in order to indicate the villain’s supernatural powers but succeeded only in making it amusing rather than frightening.  Moral of the above? Think cinematically. Whether attempting supernatural or a poetic evocation of lost childhood for example the film must draw audience emotionally along.)
By the time the ship bearing Orlok arrives at its destination, the captain and crew have all been killed-and partially devoured. There follows a wave of mysterious deaths in Bremen, which the local authorities attribute to a plague of some sort. But Ellen, Hutter’s wife, knows better. Armed with the knowledge that a vampire will perish upon exposure to the rays of the sun, Ellen offers herself to Orlok, deliberately keeping him “entertained” until sunrise. At the cost of her own life, Ellen ends Orlok’s reign of terror once and for all. Rumors still persist that Max Schreck, the actor playing Nosferatu, was actually another, better-known performer in disguise. Whatever the case, Schreck’s natural countenance was buried under one of the most repulsive facial makeups in cinema history-one that was copied to even greater effect by Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake – Nosferatu the Vampyre. Yet in the Herzog version, the crucial difference is that Nosferatu becomes more and more decayed and desiccated as the film progresses. Essentially a retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Herzog traces the blood-sucking progress of the count as he takes over a small German village, then attempts to spread his influence and activities to the rest of the world. All that prevents Dracula from continuing his demonic practices is the self-sacrifice of Lucy Harker, played by Isabelle Adjani. Director Werner Herzog used the story to parallel the rise of Nazism. The film was lensed in the Dutch towns of Delft and Scheiberg. Nosferatu the Vampyre was filmed in both an English and a German-speaking version; the latter runs 11 minutes longer.

( ack:Hal Erickson, Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide)

Max Schreck – (Graf Orlok, Nosferatu)
Alexander Granach – (Knock)
Gustav von Wangenheim – (Hutter, His Employee)
Greta Schroeder – (Ellen Hutter)
G.H. Schnell – (Harding, Shipowner)
Compiler: benny thomas

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Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!
Perhaps the most famous Bette Davis line, from a movie stuffed with great lines. Mankiewicz gives us acerbic dialogue, sharp and glittery as a knife throwing display. One might wonder if the lines made the actors scintillate better or the other way round. George Sanders especially was a surprise, dripping acid as the penetrating self-aware critic, Addison DeWitt – a name that might have been lifted from a Restoration Comedy.

I’m Addison DeWitt. I’m nobody’s fool, least of all yours.

Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) manages to worm her way into the world of her idol, Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis). She works her way up from personal assistant to understudy to star. She is not always as nice as she seems. But she has what is needed to suceed in the “theatuh”.

Wherever there’s magic and make-believe and an audience – there’s theater. Donald Duck, Ibsen, and the Lone Ranger. Sarah Bernhardt and Poodles Hanneford, Lunt and Fontanne, Betty Grable, Rex the Wild Horse, Eleanora Duse – they’re all theater. You don’t understand them, you don’t like them all – why should you? The theater’s for everybody – you included, but not exclusively – so don’t approve or disapprove. It may not be your theater, but it’s theater for somebody, somewhere…

All About Eve got 14 Oscar nominations, a record not equalled until Titanic, forty-seven years later. Showered with Oscars, this wonderfully bitchy (and witty) comedy written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz concerns an aging theater star (Bette Davis) whose life is being supplanted by a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing ingenue (Anne Baxter) whom she helped. This also introduced audiences to a new young actress called Marilyn Monroe(sadly, she would die 10 years later) who, for all her sex-symbol status shall be clueless to acting to the end.
I mention this rather uncharitable remark since this movie is all about acting, and Monroe is way behind others in that department. We get three sterling performances from Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and from George Sanders and each delineate character differently and the film greatly takes off as a result.
It’s true that Bette Davis has the showier role in ALL ABOUT EVE, and she bites into her role and never lets go. Whereas Anne Baxter, in an understated, more subtle performance, really had the more difficult role and even Bette herself admitted so when talking about the film. Actually, Bette–in real life–was a lot like the diva Margo Channing. It was no great stretch for her to play the role as brilliantly as she does. There are stories about the behind-the-scenes making of the film indicating how Celeste Holm refused to speak with her except on camera and poor George Sanders was subject to one of her hissy fits at a party celebrating the film after he won his Oscar. A classic from Mankiewicz, a legendary screenwriter and the brilliant director of A Letter to Three Wives,The Barefoot Contessa, and Sleuth,Thelma Ritter also gets a chance to speak some dazzling lines.
Relish the climatic post-Award dinner scene in Eve’s apartment, after Margo has told her “You can always put that award where your heart ought to be.” Enter young actress, Barbara Bates, another “Eve” who worships the actress. The scene where she drapes Eve’s cape over her shoulders, Sara Siddons Award in her hands, admiring her reflection in a three-paneled mirror hinting of the sly ingénue who is out to climb over Eve given a chance.
The movie is an unforgettable study of a few women and their men. Without a doubt, one of the most interesting and perceptive show biz dramas Hollywood ever made. (ack: Tom Keogh)

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Bette Davis Margo Channing
Anne Baxter Eve Harrington
George Sanders Addison DeWitt
Celeste Holm Karen Richards
Gary Merrill Bill Sampson
Hugh Marlowe Lloyd Richards
Gregory Ratoff Max Fabian
Barbara Bates Phoebe
Marilyn Monroe Claudia Casswell
Thelma Ritter Birdie Coonan
Walter Hampden Aged Actor (Speaker at Dinner)
Running Time: 138 minutes
Academy Awards
Won (6)

* Best Film
* Best Director
* Best Supporting Actor (Sanders)
* Best Screenplay
* Best Costume
* Best Sound

Nominated (14)

* Best Actress (Baxter, Davis)
* Best Supporting Actress (Holm, Ritter)
* Best Art Direction
* Best Cinematography
* Best Editing
* Best Music


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