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Cecil B. Demille (#110 of 6)

Katy Perry Walks Like an Egyptian in "Dark Horse" Music Video

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Katy Perry Walks Like an Egyptian in “Dark Horse” Music Video
Katy Perry Walks Like an Egyptian in “Dark Horse” Music Video

As the great Egyptian pharaoh Rameses II declared in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, let it be written that a 21st-century pop star shall release a music video that will ignite a torrent of think pieces examining or denouncing said clip’s cultural appropriation. And so it was.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

It’s at this point we had to ask ourselves, “Is Argo really going to end up a two-Oscar Best Picture winner?” Because while it seems almost certain to buck all sorts of precedent and take Best Picture, which of its six other nominations will be there to back it up? Honestly, the way things have been developing among the guild awards, the only nod that seems entirely out of reach is Alan Arkin’s bid for supporting actor. We’ll cover Best Editing in the next few days, but the movie still seems more of a spoiler than a frontrunner for original score and adapted screenplay*. In theory, that leaves Argo’s two sound bids to prevent the movie from achieving a dubious feat not achieved since Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth. Some of us are going to hedge on our Oscar-pool ballots and give Argo one or both of them, but unless the topsy-turviness of the race infects every category, both it and Lincoln seem to lack the “bigness” this category seems to require.

What’s Happened to Us? Jeanine Basinger’s I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies

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What’s Happened to Us?: Jeanine Basinger’s I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies
What’s Happened to Us?: Jeanine Basinger’s I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies

The cover of Jeanine Basinger’s I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies features Carole Lombard and Jimmy Stewart in a still from Made for Each Other (1939) and, boy, is it gorgeous. Each star with their ambiguous facial expressions, sensual proximity, and debonair dress, the image speaks to an embodiment of classical Hollywood and its underlying ethos of subtle subversion masquerading as affirmation. In fact, much of Basinger’s new book consistently functions in this manner, as one cannot help but be enveloped by the 139 stills and illustrations that so vividly render the period, almost to the extent that Basinger’s prose becomes secondary. Although Basinger claims that her aim—defining historical parameters for explicating depictions of marriage in the cinema—must necessarily revolve around content, the physiological qualities of this particular period of Hollywood cinema holds more resonance than the narratives proper. Discounting a romanticized view of the period runs the risk of stripping away its seductive nature and its ability to transform the domestic; after all, isn’t this a primary motivation for watching a film about two human beings in love? To have the resonance of daily human contact and interaction transcended through cinematic time and space?

If this initially seems a roundabout way to discuss Basinger’s book, it’s because her treatment of the subject is too straightforward for more provocative taste. Rather than historicizing with a revisionist eye, Basinger takes a more traditional historical approach, placing film after film within different or overlapping taxonomies. Much like fellow film historian David Bordwell, her writing is strong, the vision clear, but the parade through periods and themes of filmmaking is more soporific than enlivening, since the categorizations read as matter of fact, instead of being motivated by reaching audacious ends.

On Trend The Changing State of Coming Out in Hollywood

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On Trend: The Changing State of Coming Out in Hollywood
On Trend: The Changing State of Coming Out in Hollywood

She certainly came prepared. The E! correspondents may have told you that Jodie Foster wore Giorgio Armani to the Golden Globes, but her frock was more like a suit of armor, its metallic straps criss-crossing her chest as if she were bracing for impact. Amid an awards show that’s often little more than a boring, booze-soaked, wannabe Oscars, Foster—who, at 50, proved a drastically young choice for the HFPA’s career-defining Cecil B. Demille Award—provided a riveting slice of LGBT history, using the acceptance of her honorary trophy as an opportunity to deliver a coming-out speech…sorta. Everyone knows the story by now: How Foster jokingly announced that she’s “single” after a virtual drum roll of anticipation, how she thanked her longtime partner and two strapping sons, and how she professed the value of personal privacy, declaring that she’s no reality star, like “Honey Boo Boo Child.” Gawker had a particularly douchey field day with the latter portion of Foster’s monologue, viciously berating the actress for demanding privacy as a public figure in a very public forum. The contradiction at which Gawker took aim is glaringly apparent, but while celebrities may sacrifice certain libel rights and anonymous trips to the grocery store, they are not, in fact, required to divulge personal details to the masses. If there’s anything to deride about Foster’s show-stopping moment, it’s that it felt dated, dusty, even quaint.

Claudette Colbert: The Dark Side of the Moon

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Claudette Colbert: The Dark Side of the Moon
Claudette Colbert: The Dark Side of the Moon

As the star of three bona fide comedy classics, It Happened One Night (1934), Midnight (1939) and The Palm Beach Story (1942), Claudette Colbert is at least as well-known as contemporaries like Jean Arthur, Carole Lombard and Irene Dunne, but she was primarily a star for Paramount Studios, which means that many of her films are out of circulation on television. Looking at her filmography, I was surprised to find that there were 22 of her 30s films that I haven’t seen, including interesting-sounding items like Torch Song (1933), where she apparently sings bluesy numbers in her own voice, and The Gilded Lily (1935), where she supposedly does a nightclub act that consists of her admitting that she can’t do a nightclub act. Colbert came across as so worldly and commonsensical that many of her films revolve around how she convincingly talks her way into and out of difficult/unlikely situations, sometimes just for the fun of it. She had a seamless sort of technique which she learned through years on the stage in the twenties, and that technique is what makes her both a bit predictable and finally a little mysterious.