Sunday, November 9, 2014

Laggies (2014): Oh, yeah, Seattle.




So, my laptop is broken, and this is being written from a Kindle (senior year of college is hard with a broken laptop), but I simply had to urge everyone to go watch Laggies.

Guys. It was filmed in glorious Washington. My beloved home is all over it. A girl I know is an extra in it. Keira Knightley's character is named Megan (cough cough my real name cough cough). SAM ROCKWELL is in it!

Go see it. It's not necessarily a life-changing great film--unless it is. I mean, there is an insanely talented cast (Chloe Grace Moretz, queen of my heart) and crew, and evergreen trees everywhere. What more could you want?!

I must confess there is a horrible, horrible, greatly disappointing aspect of the film. I mean, I hate to even remind myself of this, but...

SAM ROCKWELL DOES NOT DANCE IN THIS FILM.

I don't understand how that's possible. It must have been accidentally cut. Maybe, there was a post-credits scene that I should have waited for?! I just don't even know anymore.

But, despite this grievous error, there is so much to love in this charming, fun movie. No rain though, which was a little odd. And, Sam's character carried an umbrella around which was super funny. But, whatevs.

Go chill and  watch this movie and then move to Seattle and feel better about life, because trees.

That is all.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

The African Narrative.

In recent days, you have probably heard about the Ebola virus in West Africa.

It has finally become newsworthy; although, the disease has been in Guinea since February. It has not suddenly gotten worse, it has just finally become "interesting" enough to spread awareness on.  It has also exposed, once again, the very disturbing narrative that is often thrust upon Africa--Sub-Saharan Africa in particular.

Before I talk about that, I want to give a bit of a back story. West Africa is a very important place in my life. It is a place where I have spent a lot of time. Sierra Leone, in particular, I consider to be my adopted home--and where I plan on living and working eventually. I have strong connections with many people in Sierra Leone, and deeply love its culture.

This is why I am so grieved to see the same story of Africa again and again.


Sometimes, when I give presentations on Sierra Leone, I will begin with this or a photo like this, and ask for people's responses. Common reactions are sick, poor, sad, pain, and helpless.

And, I understand those responses. They are natural; they are usually well-intentioned and kind-hearted. Before I ever went to Sierra Leone, as a well-intentioned, kind-hearted fourteen year old, I thought the same thing. Plus, I had world-changing plans to save every poor, starving child by my knowledgeable self.

What I did not consider, before I stepped off the plane and my world view was changed irrevocably forever, was that I was not the superior being coming to rescue some living statistics.

That is the common narrative thrust on Africa: a continent full of living (but mostly dying) statistics. Oh, they have faces--sad, starving faces to use at fundraisers to try and save some of these statistics.

But, here's the thing. That is NOT Africa's narrative. The people of Sierra Leone are not defined by their poverty or their circumstances (and they do not all have the same circumstances either).

They are defined as human beings. People with the same diverse emotions, personalities, abilities, perspectives--with every quality that makes up a person.

The African narrative is made up of every life and every story that every person chooses for their own person.

But, that is not easily definable. It also calls into question why so many people could allow so many other people to live in extreme poverty; often lacking basic human rights like clean water, healthy food, education, and medical care.

This is why the current narrative of the Ebola epidemic so disturbs me. The disease has been spreading in West Africa for months. Steadily, hundreds of people have been dying, yet there was very little awareness or coverage. Suddenly, the coverage is here, but the story has often focused on how it could easily reach Europe or America. I have been hearing and seeing the same refrain: "It's just a plane trip away!"

I want to say, but you are also just a plane trip away from an entire continent of fellow humans.

And, if I were putting it in completely mercenary terms, ignoring Africa doesn't just "hurt" Africa. Ignoring Africa is ignoring millions of strong, resilient people with creativity, ingenuity, and ideas that benefit the whole world.

It disturbs me that people discount this emergency because it is "typical" or "normal" for people to die in Africa. It disturbs me that millions of diverse people are all painted with the same faceless statistics. It disturbs me that people can give no dignity, respect, or empathy to an entire continent of people.

I write these things, neither as the spokesperson for Africa (I am in no way setting myself up as the only perspective), nor as a perfect, selfless human being. I wrote about my previous well-intentioned ignorance. For many people, I know that is the same way.

But, we cannot stay ignorant.

The people of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and all of Africa deserve our empathy and respect--not because they are "poor and sick," but because they are people.






Get involved:

President Koroma of Sierra Leone has declared August 4th to be National Stay-At-Home Day--dedicated to education, prayer, and reflection. If you can, set aside a moment for prayer or reflection.

Donate to immediate disaster relief:

Samaritan's Purse

Red Cross

Mariatu's Hope (They also provide excellent, long-term hygiene education that helps to prevent things like this from happening.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Art of Love (1965): A Portrait of a Psychopath



Okay. What.

I decided to watch this movie after noting the title on James Garner's IMDb page. It was from the '60s and I had never seen it. EXTRAORDINARY. Then, I saw that it costarred Angie Dickinson (queen of my heart!) and Dick Van Dyke and was some kind of ridiculous, crazy, slightly "edgy" comedy from the 1960s: MY FAVORITE.

Little did I know.

It has never been released on home video, which I thought was a little suspect, but fine. I found it on Youtube, and I was off. It started out typically enough, with some fun animated credits. I also saw that it was written by Carl Reiner and directed by Norman Jewison, which was both exciting and made its lack of video release even more odd.

It all became clear.

This movie is the most brilliantly ridiculous depiction of the quick unraveling of a psychopath ever released in brightly lit comedy form.

The movie appears to follow the conventional nice, ineffectual guy with his charming, jerk friend set-up. (I should start proclaiming spoilers at this point, probably).

Dick Van Dyke is a struggling artist who is told that his paintings would only ever sell if he was dead. James Garner is his writer friend who basically lives off of charming everyone around him into giving him money, food, etc. They get drunk one night and write a suicide note for Van Dyke, joking that his paintings will sell then. Through some Hardcore Shenanigans (TM), an accident happens and everyone including Garner thinks that Van Dyke has committed suicide.

And the jokes are on!

Dick Van Dyke ends up showing back up at his and James Garner's apartment, but by then, Garner has figured out how to make money off of this and he decides to exploit his friend and make him paint and hide off at Ethel Merman's Slightly Racist Nightclub (just one of a popular chain).

At this point you're supposed to feel bad for poor, confused Dick Van Dyke. He has a cold and is sneezing, he's uncomfortable, everyone thinks he's dead, he has to wear a terrifying disguise. James Garner, of course, is raking in the money, living at the hotel, stealing Dick Van Dyke's fiance from America. The normal stuff. He's playing the lovable jerk.

But, he goes too far. He unleashes the psychopath, formerly known as his best friend and roommate.

Dick Van Dyke goes off the actual deep end as only Dick Van Dyke can.

He literally snaps in an instant. At first he's angry and threatening to kill James Garner, and then, he's just smiling and quietly leaves the room chuckling to himself.

AND HE FRAMES JAMES GARNER FOR HIS MURDER.

And, not in a normal way.

No. He plants human teeth in the incinerator at their apartment. He cuts open his finger to get blood all over a "murder" knife, and smears it on Garner's coat. He plants a tie a strangulation weapon, and uses elaborate disguises to get the police to track all of this down.

He sees that James Garner has been arrested for murder and laughs maniacally, saying, "Sweet!"

Elke Sommer, who knows the truth, urges him to go to the police. He refuses, saying that he wants him to sweat a little.

He attends the trial in an elaborate disguise. When Garner is convicted and sentenced to the guillotine, he cackles and dances a jig just outside the courtroom. He is urged to save his former friend, and says that he is going to wait until just before the blade drops.

The audience peers into Dick Van Dyke's eyes and is traumatized.


James Garner is sick with fear and proclaiming his innocence like Dr. Richard Kimble. He sits and waits for his execution for a week. Finally, he is led out to his death. Madame Defarge is literally sitting out there knitting and yelling "Guillotine! Guillotine!"

The camera cuts to Dick Van Dyke engaging in a slapstick car chase trying to get to the execution on time. He runs through the streets and bangs into things as only Dick Van Dyke can.

James Garner's hands shake as he attempts to hold a final cigarette. He starts to whimper as only James Garner can.

Dick Van Dyke continues to jump from vehicle to vehicle.

James Garner is strapped into the guillotine. The executioner is frail and old, and sadly whispers about no more capital punishment; his hands quiver as he reaches to drop the blade.

Dick Van Dyke comes crashing in, Garner is released, everyone hugs, Van Dyke goes off to "rescue" Elke Sommer from a life free from psychpaths, and all is well and normal.


Until he is provoked again.


Seriously, everything I wrote above happened in even crazier happenstance. There was literally Madame Defarge randomly popping up places cackling and knitting. There was also the implication that the hilarious art dealer was a Nazi with stole paintings. There was a sight gag of James Garner sawing up and incinerating a mannequin. Carl Reiner showed up as an indifferent French lawyer.

What I'm saying is: good movie? OR BEST MOVIE?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

James Garner.



James Garner has died at the age of 86. 

Soon the many articles and obituaries and remembrances will be coming. They will use words like effortless, charming, and beloved. Certainly, James Garner projected an aura of effortlessness. He was also probably the most charming person to ever exist. And clearly beloved.

However, he was also so much more, and that is why his loss to the film and television world is so--real.

He was immensely talented; perhaps too seemingly effortlessly talented to ever win an Oscar. He was enduring, with memorable roles throughout five decades. He was extraordinarily human and empathetic.

For me, his greatness came from his ability to simultaneously be comfortably endearing and uniquely surprising. Maverick and Rockford are awesome because you genuinely just like them, but they aren't tired cliches or the same thing over and over.

He is one of my favorite actors, and I am always looking for random movies of his to watch--simply because he is so compelling.

He is even compelling enough for me to thoroughly enjoy some random hippie comedy from the late '60s costarring Debbie Reynolds (?!).

Really, any performance is worth watching and enjoying, but I particularly love his film output in the 1960s. A glance at his IMDb page shows an insane amount of incredibly diverse output. Of course, there is The Great Escape, The Children's Hour, The Americanization of Emily, Support Your Local Sheriff!, and Grand Prix.

But, there is also Boy's Night Out (the best); his comedies with Doris Day (my heart); 36 Hours (fascinating and little known); The Wheeler Dealers (a movie built entirely on the realistic premise that James Garner is the most charming human to ever exist); Marlowe (hardcore); Mister Buddwing (randomly great); and my personal choice: Duel at Diablo, which is peculiarly brilliant--and one the most underrated great westerns of all time.



And that doesn't even cover all of his films from that decade!

Support Your Local Sheriff! is an intensely personal favorite. It is absolutely perfect in every conceivable way.


But, anyway.

I don't really know quite what to say except that James Garner's work astounds me. Bret Maverick is perfectly lovely and wonderful, and Jim Rockford is entirely immortal (figuratively and literally [he got beat up a lot]). I remember the first time I did an ill-advised Rockford turn in my car--it was a life experience.


Above, when I wrote that he was comfortably endearing--I'm referring to that fact that people easily form a connection to his characters and by extension, him.We want to hang out with Rockford; SOME of us already pretend that we do. That is a talent. And, he could have simply used that charm and had a long and memorable career. But, he didn't. He was also completely unique and surprising. The diversity of roles exemplified his own ability to create entirely new perspectives.

To be, at the same time, a person capable of expressing deep pain and dark cynicism, but also able to make other people look forward to watching Polaroid commercials is something that is difficult to comprehend.

He was truly a wonderfully brilliant and talented artist and person. He will be missed.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

TCM Film Festival 2014: or *piercing scream* IT'S MAUREEN O'HARA! Part II

Part I of festival coverage.

{Relatively quickly...two weeks. I don't want to quibble over slight variants.}

Anyway, we move into official day one (aka Thursday) of TCMFF.

Shameful side-note: It's rather hilarious, because my time at the festival feels so surreal and timeless, I'm actually having a small amount of trouble placing dates to moments. I am literally keeping track by photos of what I was wearing at the time.

One of the absolute highlights of the day was randomly seeing Ben Mankiewicz at the Roosevelt. Cut to us basically cowering in the shadows like idiots; forcing Casey to go say hello to him (she had met him the night before at a party); having his insanely cool wife take a photo of us; and then walking out into the world pretending he was our best friend (I'm not saying that I created nicknames for him that I obnoxiously annoyed everyone by insisting on using, but Manksy is a definitely a "thing" now).


 Sarah, Casey, Prince of TCM, Hermie the Elf, Nicole, and Kate.

I should probably go in a more chronological order.

The day started early...maybe. I don't actually remember waking up, but I do remember eating breakfast--which was strange, because this poor college student never eats before 11AM. However, it was food and it was free, so this poor college student knew what to do.

We then headed all super-chill over to the TCM bus tour; prominently displaying our TCM passes, of course. As we waited in the forecourt of the Chinese Theater, pondering such questions as why Steven Seagal has his footprints immortalized, we engaged in some conversations with fellow loiterers about the significance of color in Vertigo.

I also got to meet a couple of film bloggers, Raquel and Laura. This was insanely cool, but also incredibly crazy. People I've read online for years were suddenly just standing there, and I recognized them. And they were there. CRAZY TALK. It was awesome and you should check out both of their excellent coverage of the festival (bonus: Laura describes the Non-Fleshies me as being charming).

The classic Millie doesn't have control over her limbs and oh what we're taking a photo pose.

Anyway. The tour (a three hour tour. a three hour tour). It was cool. Although, apparently, I have very visible facial expressions (HONESTLY? WHO KNEW?!), and was called out several times. I was asked early in the tour by the guide to state my favorite movie. Panic was clearly rising. Kate aggressively (jokes. Kate is the gentlest person ever) whispered that I should say The Lost Weekend, so I did. Of course, officially, I want to retcon and say that there is an asterisk next to that title which connects to about 147 other films (also my favorites).

Phew! Now that that is cleared up. The tour was delightful, and gave me some Ralph Meeker in Kiss Me Deadly footage. Always an A+.

This was not pictured in the tour, but I don't like to go too many blog posts without including an angsty looking Ralph Meeker, so this is merely placed to fill a quota.

Also, I may have gotten a bit excited about being at the Bradbury Building. It has been featured in many great films. BUT, ALSO THE ARTIST WAS FILMED THERE. A REALLY IMPORTANT SYMBOLIC SHOT IN THE FILM AND JEAN DUJARDIN WAS THERE WITH ALL THE FRENCH PEOPLE. AND I WAS JUST REALLY MANIC.

I honestly don't know what's going on with my face here, but Jean Dujardin.

The rest of the tour was absolutely perf. Some of the places we went by just smelled like classic film. And, if I'm being completely honest, the entire time I was in LA, I pretended that I was merely living in an Adam-12 episode--so seeing the city really helped keep up the illusion. (Also, seeing Hollywood High made me feel like I was in a low-budget, 1950s juvenile delinquent movie. So many emotions.)

Oh, and we totally wandered around Union Station: looking not at all like tourists. WE WERE FILM NOIR FEMME FATALES. CAN'T YOU SEE?!

P.S. Sarah and I are jokes. 
P.P.S. I made a gif of it, so I don't know what that makes me.

I know we made it back to Hollywood Blvd eventually, because everything ends up back at the boulevard eventually (plot twist: it's purgatory).

We wandered about. Literally almost walked into Leonard Maltin (no control over her limbs Millie). Stumbled across the street and joined a crowd looking at the other side of the street at red carpet arrivals.

Before anything interesting happened, this happened.

What a joker. 
Unnecessary side-note: I saw a Jack Sparrow impersonator chatting with a "normal" Johnny Depp impersonator and it was a moment.

Then, the stars began to arrive. Can I just say that Margaret O'Brien is the coolest human ever. I have a desperate need to BE HER. She was rocking a blue strapless gown, blue lipstick, and stinkin' blue hair. SHE ALSO HAS A NOSE PIERCING. SHE IS THE COOLEST.

photo credit: TCM
 Look at her and George Chakiris barely containing their disdain for us unworthy peasants! 

Many other wonderful people arrived, as well. Including Kim Novak, who legitimately looked straight at us for thirty seconds, but I'll talk more about her when I get to that time she called me a member of her family. I did, however, text my mother about sighting Kim. Her reply: "OH MY GOODNESS! I just screamed so loud that Dad thought something was wrong!"

I do think it's important to talk about a special arrival. This limo pulled up and we were pretty wound up at that point. I was sure that it had to be Jerry Lewis, but we couldn't tell. We were staring through under the car at feet moving for at least two minutes--anticipation rising. The crowd we were surrounded by were clearly just your basic tourist, because they had no idea who anyone was but Alec Baldwin. We paid them no heed.

Slowly the limo pulled away; we felt like recipients on a home renovation show. My persona probably appeared to be closest to that of a rabies-inflicted animal. 

SUDDENLY THERE WAS A FLASH OF BRIGHT RED HAIR, THERE WAS SCREAMING, WE COULDN'T CONTROL OURSELVES. We involuntarily shouted Maureen's O'Hara's name like we were original flavor Beatles' fans. Random tourist lady asked who she was, I merely stated, "IT'S MAUREEN O'HARA." She replied, "Oh, cool." Before slowly backing away.

For perspective, this is all we saw (and this is the zoomed in version). But, oh my.

We then ended the night by meeting Ben "the Wiz" Mankiewicz, and generally skulking about the boulevard. We popped into our now favorite local grocery store, where my previous efforts to convince the NFs that I didn't eat the "Washington" kind of food they knew I ate were dashed by my purchase of a family sized block of tofu, organic brown rice cakes, and sliced smoked gouda cheese.

I was content. Life was good. I chatted with Kate about world issues and low-rated television programs until 3AM.

Tune in next time to hear ABOUT MOVIES. And adorable British directors, and Speechless Millie (tm), and being twenty feet away from someone who once directed Bradford Dillman in a movie.






P.S. Bonus photo of me standing on Deanna Durbin's star, next to my namesake Ray Milland's star, and generally not knowing what to do or how to feel!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

TCM Film Festival 2014 or: HOW DO I LIVE LIFE NOW? Part I

Note: Part I of my coverage of the TCM Film Festival, because really, this post would be too frighteningly long. And, I sorta wrote the first half a week before the second half (finals. *shakes fist*), BUT PAY NO ATTENTION. This is like the pre-festival edition.-Millie

So yeah. Last week happened.

And, it was, in fact, an entire week ago (err two weeks ago)--it feels like yesterday/twenty-three years ago. (It has a rather timeless quality to me.) However, I do know that it really did happen, because three things remain with me: a glad heart, a burnt nose, and a renewed sense of blogging purpose.

Above all, the TCM Film Festival reminded me of how much I obsessively love the film lovers community. YOU ARE ALL GREAT PEOPLE.

Unfortunately, I had been a bit out of the community for the last few months because of being a full-time student/almost full-time member of the workforce. I missed you all. All my classic film thoughts were stuck inside. I was unable to share with those physically existing around me, because no one cared about the Top Ten Greatest Vincent Price Mustaches or Why Dana Andrews Deserved an Oscar Every Year of His Life. No one cared for my Michael Caine in The Italian Job or Elizabeth Taylor in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof impressions (both are brilliantly spot-on, or so I've been told by no one many people).

Anyway, Millie the Cat is ALIIIIVVVVEEEE. She's ALIIIIIVVEEEEE, [insert your name here]!

Warning: I should clearly make multiple short posts about the festival, but I am too gleefully excited, and this will in all probability be 80,000 words long. Your mission should you choose to accept it...

Pre-Festival:

The story begins long, long ago. It was 2008 and I was 13 years-old. I was on a family vacation, and for the first time ever, I had my own room at the hotel. Furthermore, said hotel had TCM. It was a magical experience, and I watched so many movies--staying up all night long, every night. One film in particular was so lovely, I wanted to own it terribly: Hide-Out (1934). I googled, but could not find it anywhere, so I posted on the TCM message boards under the haphazardly created handle (I probably would have put more effort in, if I had known how it would stick with me): ILoveRayMilland. Someone there told me the bitter truth of its nonexistence on DVD, but I decided to stick around the message boards. I LOVED IT THERE. I also managed to meet a couple of fellow youngsters: Sarah and Simoa. Somehow or another, my name was shortened to Millie (from Milland), and a legend was born.

Anyway, flash-forward a year, Sarah starts a blog. And,in my perpetually copying state, I start a blog. I meet many wonderful bloggers, including Kate, Nicola, and Casey. We, the Nonfleshies (not in the flesh friends), at some point decide that we should all meet up in five years in some dramatic Cary Grant on the Empire State Building moment.

This festival was our moment; our time to shine; the day of destiny.



l-r at the Sunday in New York screening: Kate, Nicola, Bruce Dern, Sarah, and Casey.

Anyway, after an excitedly dramatic meet-up that included me sitting next to a random baggage claim for two hours waiting for ANYONE to arrive while I just kept refreshing flight arrival information on my Kindle, I finally saw all of my lovely Insta-Fleshies. We had a crowded, bonding ride to the hotel. And then, we ate food (of course) and wandered about. Two stand-out moments (excuse the insane narcissistic amount of photos of me in this post):


Stop laughing. This was a very important moment my life. I had fulfilled my family's destiny, with the help of Sarah (seriously, my family was like, "oh cool, you're going to Hollywood? Have fun. STEAL JOHN WAYNE'S FOOTPRINTS BECAUSE LUCY AND ETHEL AND LIFE").


David Janssen and I. This is unedited in all its glory, because it alone truly displays my undying, slightly creepy adoration for my beloved Dr. Richard Kimble. Also, popsicles: a truly notable occasion.

I'm gonna stop here, because I really need to post this, but expect the next installments relatively quickly. It will include the time I went literally insane because I was standing in the same space once occupied by Jean Dujardin, late night chats with the Katester, meeting other bloggers (whoooo), becoming a member of Kim Novak's family, crying during Godzilla, and many more exciting tales.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Awful Reviews.



Okay, so my TCMFF post is coming soon. It's gonna be like 85,000 words long, so prepare your minds and souls.

But, before I finish that magnum opus, I had to post a link to this site that is literally making me laugh uncontrollably. It's called Awful Reviews and it replaces positive critical reviews on movie posters with negative Amazon customer reviews. And, it is literally the most ridiculous, but strangely brilliantly funny thing I have ever seen.


http://awfulreviewposters.tumblr.com/post/82502395196/to-kill-a-mocking-bird

http://awfulreviewposters.tumblr.com/post/82506688240/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly


http://awfulreviewposters.tumblr.com/post/82502445450/casablanca

No Maryland Monroe. I'm literally choking over here.


Stay tuned for my complete coverage of the TCMFF, meeting the Nonfleshies (they were mediocre at best [just kidding! ten out of ten would recommend]), creating nicknames for Ben Mankiewicz, and hanging out with Anna Kendrick in the bathroom at the El Capitan.

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