Monday, December 17, 2012

BMFI's Holiday Gift Guide for Movie Lovers

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Manager, BMFI

Happy holidays from all of us at Bryn Mawr Film Institute! Have you trimmed the tree and baked the cookies, but are still looking for the perfect gifts? Here are some of our favorite film-related gifts to give and receive.

Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit
Suggested by Patricia Wesley, Director of Development and Communications

The Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit game challenges your memory of characters, places, elvish languages, and plot points of the great J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy PLUS your knowledge of Peter Jackson’s film adaptations. Surviving a round of this game is the litmus test for prospective suitors in our family.

Swag from the All American Girls Professional Baseball League
Suggested by Nicole Redman, Executive Assistant

A League of Their Own is one of my favorite movies. The All American Girls Professional Baseball League has some great merchandise for the female sports fan, including some fun callbacks to the film, like this t-shirt. Plus, the proceeds support the non-profit AAGPBL Players Association.

Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco by Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal
Suggested by Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education

This book is a wonderful gift for any serious Hitchcock fan, and especially for those who enjoy his Bay Area-set films: Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Vertigo (1958), and The Birds (1963). In addition to wonderful then-and-now photographs, behind-the-scenes dirt, location maps, and an introduction by Hitch’s daughter, Patricia, this book is a great help when planning a Northern California itinerary. Just ask my wife, who saw far more of Bodega Bay (setting of The Birds) than she bargained for during our trip to San Francisco.

Overlook Hotel Hat
Suggested by Valerie Temple, Programming Manager

Fans of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining are sure to appreciate this funky knit hat, the pattern of which is meant to emulate the garish carpeting of the Overlook Hotel--the creepy manor featured in the film. The bold print may not be everyone's cup of tea but this distinctive piece is sure to bring some much-needed color to the bleak winter months. Remember: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!"

Serenity "Aim to Misbehave" Apron
Suggested by Devin Wachs, Public Relations Manager

I'm fan of Joss Whedon's work, especially his show Firefly and subsequent film, Serenity. I gave a similar apron as a gift last year to another fan so that they could cook with abandon and show their loyalty to the "browncoat" cause. I think Mal's example might have even encouraged them to take more risks in the kitchen!

PS. Of course, Bryn Mawr Film Institute has gift cards, gift memberships, tickets for a night out on the town at The Best Exotic Oscar Party, and raffle tickets to win a seven-night stay in Rome. To assist you with your last-minute gift purchases, the Box Office is open early every day this week.

Devin Wachs is the Public Relations Manager for Bryn Mawr Film Institute. She joined BMFI in 2005, following her graduation from Bryn Mawr College. If you send BMFI a message on Facebook or Twitter or are interested in onscreen sponsorships, she's the one who'll be in touch!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Erin Korth: Why I Love THE SOUND OF MUSIC

In celebration of our enormously popular annual The Sound of Music Sing-along on Tuesday, December 18, BMFI Intern Erin Korth shares why she loves this "utterly irresistable" classic. Check back for more posts from BMFI staff and community members that discuss the films we love.

Why I Love The Sound of Music
By Erin Korth, BMFI Intern
I joined the musical appreciation club a bit late in my movie-watching career. For years my parents were haunted by the sounds of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on permanent repeat, and while I did enjoy the occasional musical film outside the animated genre, if it didn't involve a dancing candlestick, I generally wasn't interested. That's since changed.

There is something about the musical genre that gives it an aura of timelessness. Watching the luminous Julie Andrews charm her way into the hearts of the von Trapp clan, even for the first time, feels like sinking into a warm and well-worn armchair, and while my first time watching The Sound of Music was just a few years ago, I think on it with the fondness of having loved it all my life. 

Julie Andrews fills the hills with "the sound of music" in the 1965 film.
But what is it, exactly, that makes this film so utterly irresistible? 

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer
Is there anything more toe-curling than watching the steely-eyed Captain von Trapp fall for that indecently optimistic Maria? He’s miserable and wry and she makes clothes out of his curtains, and by the middle of the film I’m head-over-heels for the love story I never even saw coming (because she is a nun, after all). The snappy duo share screen time and hero credentials with an almost draconian evenness. Christopher Plummer sulks in the background as Andrews melts the hearts of Austria with her guitar and her inability to take orders from anybody, and after the wedding (the film’s figurative and literal midpoint), Plummer plays with all the good humor and coifed hair of a proper Disney prince, defeating the Nazis, and even crooning a tearful goodbye to his beloved Austria in the process. Plummer likened working with Julie Andrews to “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day Card, every day.” I can only say that watching the couple spring across screen with all of their smiles, scowls, and songs has much the same effect.

Maria and Captain von Trapp share a moment while dancing the ländler.
Triumph against the odds
Let’s face it; despite the flowers and frolicking on the movie poster, this film is pretty dark. There's Maria, who wants so badly to be a nun, but just can’t find the self-discipline. The young von Trapp family is subject to the misguided parenting of the grieving, widowed Captain who doesn’t know how to relate to his children. Lurking behind the beautiful scenery and iconic songs is the ever-present Nazi party, with their very clear message for the von Trapps: join or die. Yet even the impending danger does not detract from the just-plain-happiness that underlines this wonderful story. Maria and the von Trapps find joy in music and each other, and in the end, defeat the bad guys with a song and a morning hike over the Swiss Alps. It doesn’t get much more uplifting than that.

Spoiler alert: the von Trapps have a happy ending.
The sound of all that music
Even before I saw the film, bought the soundtrack, and noted it on my top ten list of favorite movies, I knew at least three Sound of Music songs by heart. This wasn't due to my love of show tunes, but simply by merit of having been a child at one point in my life. Much like that theme of familial happiness that overshadows even the threat of Nazism, each song in The Sound of Music has such joie de vivre that they have no trouble becoming instant and often-sung classics. Whether it be learning the notes of a scale, braving a thunderstorm, or lamenting with Liesl about all of the things I still don’t understand, each time I watch this film I fall in love completely and all over again with the joyful, achingly catchy music, “whether or not I should”.

The family "do-re-mi"s their worries away.
Are you a Sound of Music fan? What are some of your favorite musicals?

Get your toes tapping with Maria and the von Trapps at BMFI’s two sing-along showings of The Sound of Music on Tuesday, December 18 at 7:00 pm and 7:15 pm. Free popcorn if you wear a costume!

Erin Korth is currently an intern at BMFI and a thesis-writing senior at Bryn Mawr College, studying English and Film Studies. Along with The Sound of Music, some of her favorite films include It's a Wonderful Life, The Sting, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Bringing Up Baby, Titus, and The Hurt Locker.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Adapting ANNA KARENINA: Social Charades on Screen

In honor of the new film adaptation of Anna Karenina, which starts today at Bryn Mawr Film Institute, BMFI Intern Mireille Guy takes a closer look at Joe Wright's production and a few of the previous film versions of Tolstoy's tragic novel.

Adapting Anna Karenina: Social Charades on Screen
By Mireille Guy, BMFI Intern

Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina is not a retelling of Tolstoy’s classic, but rather an adaptation that brings out the beauty and tragedy of the story while bearing its director's mark. The familiar doomed love story is seen through a different lens, thanks to the brilliant screenplay by Tom Stoppard.

Keira Knightley stars in Joe Wright's Anna Karenina, which starts today at BMFI. Jude Law and Matthew Macfadyen, period piece veterans, co-star.
Tom Stoppard’s screenplay draws out the conflicts within the plot in a sometimes ironic and always clever fashion, revealing the social charades in which the characters engage. Director Joe Wright takes advantage of these social pretensions by using a theater as the setting for most of the film, stating that:

“They were living their lives as if they were on a stage, and this gave me the idea to set the majority of the film in a theater.”

A theater and a stage are used as the setting during
the majority of the film.
By doing this, the audience is continuously reminded of the charades constantly being staged by the characters. Although the theatrical setting also serves a reminder that we are watching a story with an already established ending, it highlights the conflict between characters and reminds us of the social rules controlling them.

The costumes reinforce the staging, bringing to life late 19th century Russia, the height of the Russian Empire. During this period, the aristocracy was constantly looking west to France for the latest culture and style, parading around the Winter Palace in wild gowns and French hairstyles. Costume Designer Jacqueline Durran, who also designed costumes for Atonement (for which she won an Academy Award) and Wright's Pride& amp; Prejudice, holds true to the Russian aristocracy's obsession with all things French and brings this social charade to the forefront of audience's minds.

The film’s lavish, grandiose design, star power, and the bold staging create a refreshing adaptation while remaining true to the themes Tolstoy incorporates into his novel.

Other Film Adaptations
Tolstoy’s epic, tragic love story has drawn the attentions of many filmmakers. Each adaptation both reflects the time and place it was made as well as holds true to the themes and emotions Tolstoy's novel evokes.

Here are a few of the many adaptations of Anna Karenina:

Anna Karenina (1914)
This early film adaptation by Russian director Vladimir Gardin emphasizes the train sequence, with the train rushing towards the camera and filling the frame.
Love (1927)
Greta Garbo plays Anna Karenina in this silent film adaptation that features an alternate happy ending. This was the first film shown at the Seville Theater, Bryn Mawr Film Institute’s home.

Anna Karenina (1935)
Greta Garbo reprises her role as Anna Karenina, this time with sound and the original tragic ending.

Anna Karenina (1948)
Filmed during Hollywood’s Golden Age, this adaptation stars Vivien Leigh.
River of Love (1960)
An Egyptian adaptation of Anna Karenina co-starring Omar Sharif.  

Anna Karenina (1977)
This BBC series includes ten 50-minute episodes, allowing for it to elaborate on the book's plot.
Anna Karenina (1997)
Filmed completely on location in Russia, this theatrical version includes a great soundtrack that includes music by Tchaikovsky.

Mireille Guy is a sophomore at Swarthmore College currently interning at Bryn Mawr Film Institute.