filmmaven's coffee chat

a morning discussion of film and popular culture over coffee



Spooky, weird and creepy — Movies that Hollywood borrowed and did almost as well…..

Let the Right one in (2008, Swedish, Dir: Tomas Alfredson) — I start with this interesting movie because its one that I adore —  – I saw the American version first and then was so blown away by this …..As with most incredible films, it doesn’t do much- there is so much mood, tension and design set up just through the place ( a frozen tundra with minimal daylight) that adding the actors and dialogue is like extra chocolate drizzle and two cherries on top of your incredible desert. Everything here works, the pacing, the editing, the sound, the actors, blending together to create a realistic spooky film that at the same time creates so much anticipation and is so mildly relaxing. Yet, its a complex human story about love, acceptance and fear. There are no answers just a beautiful story. So when comparing it to the American version, I’m tempted to say don’t bother ….but ……

Let me in (2010, USA, Dir: Matt Reeves) — What can I scared…be very very scared. This film does what many can’t, replicates its original by using place (a hot, fun filled New Mexico) to juxtapose the idea of dark hidden feelings and lives led away from the sun. Doing almost the same thing as the Swedish version of using the allowance of space / place to lead the story. The casting is what changes this from a simple, oh yea, I saw this ..into a OH NO! What the h…..? Even when you already know what to expect, you spend the film sitting on the edge of your seat. Will it, won’t it, is it, can they…..I won’t tell you. Just watch both films and then go….Wow….so good.

Nosferatu (1921 Germany dir: F.W.Murnau) — While not really Dracula (they could not obtain the rights and changed names etc..the film was ordered destroyed after the law suit, but a few prints remained -what we see is probably not the entire director cut of the film) – and difficult to compare – this film is the essential vampyre picture and the birth of horror monster films as a genre. I think you will THINK, no its black and white AND foreign so ….but seriously….this is an absolute must watch movie, if you are a film geek or a monster kid or just like scary movies.

Dracula (1931, USA, dir: Tod Browning, Karl Freund) — someone recently ranted about using over the top sexuality in Vampire culture today- stating that as monster movie fans as kids we were never subjected to the idea. I laugh in your general direction. Every monster kid I know was in love with the Bride, and was there ever a better ill fated lust story than Dracula and Lucy? As a feminist writer I could certainly make a strong correlation between the idea of awakening sexuality in the last 1800’s and the death of female characters in monster movies.  But ….I won’t..I will simply say that the German film Nosferatu took the story from Bram Stoker and visualized it in a way that every filmmaker since has not read the book for themselves but simply borrowed from the 1922 version. And that is not a bad thing. Bela is both gentlemanly and awkwardly seductive in this 1931 film – he knows what he needs and appears as most geeks would, surprised and yet determined to get the girl.


BAD MOVIES ….you must love …..

Can I express the delight about BAD movies in mere words? How do I give you a turn of phrase to say this is emotionally, philosophically, musically, and culturally important and you should fall in love with it the way that I am? Then it becomes a question of tempering the excitement and expression so that you’ll be interested but not so set up for the idea of it that it can’t meet what is in your (our) heads ….

First, there is just bad so that its really funny …..Like ….

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) Dir; Ed Wood – really I love this and you should too …its funny and so sweet..and truly a good BAD movie that you watch with awkward questioning…is he serious? MOvie Poster

Then there is bad but it should be good and I don’t know why everyone doesn’t like it …….

Howard the Duck (1986) Dir: Willard Huyck – It’s just that the 1980’s were awful all around …with hair too big and those horrible shoulder pads? Everything from film to clothes to music seems to be a stoner’s elaboration of the 1940s…..

Howard duck

and of course…..the really good and why is this panned? I liked it ….

Jersey Girl (2004) dir: Kevin Smith – Its really not just that I adore Kevin Smith and he can do no wrong …don’t even think it…or say it …..I really loved this film.  Its true; Ben Affleck is stiff and completely lacking in charm in this role…but that works….he is supposed to be a really flawed human being in an uncomfortable place between what he should be, what he wanted to be and what he can be. and yet ……Raquel Castro as Gertie is beyond adorable, George Carlin is perfect as the grumpy grandpa and Liv Tyler is sweet, awkward and stoic. If the film had done the Hollywood angle and been focused on how he really gets back into being that rich guy and falls in love…it would be a better Hollywood / popular film but that wouldn’t in my opinion make it good. But let me just thank Kevin Smith for the amazing kids play sequences from Sweeney Todd …That is freaking brilliant. (We will talk about the cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond in a upcoming column) jersey

and lastly …there are really bad movies that I just don’t get it …Why is this considered good?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – Dir: David Fincher — I sat in the theater watching this film and being so excited about actors and moments; Jared Harris is always delightful to watch and his scenes were wonderful. Cate Blanchett had scenes that were visually stunning and Taraji P. Henson was heartwarming. Unfortunately, there were so many moments went I felt like , yah yah yah …get on with this ….and the people around me were tearful or laughing or sitting in rapt silence. My companions kept going over and over it as we walked out and still more at dinner…..and I was quiet, just thinking …mulling it over….what was it that I didn’t connect with? The premise is silly, but that has never stopped me from enjoying a movie. I respect David Fincher as a filmmaker so I still struggle with the elements for me that read no emotion in the film…I felt like I was watching people act. button


I’ve been aware of not really saying anything to you about coffee – I write in the morning, early before the rest of the house is up and I enjoy my first cup of coffee while I think and begin to commit to the idea of the column. This week its a blessing to have my favorite bean from Detroit Bold aptly named, “Woodward Ave”,  a quiet, reserved but slick coffee with just the right amount of darkness and a smooth quality. Which does in turn remind me of our topic for today, Mr. George Sanders.

Often the right bad boy. You can’t call him just bad because there is no leather jacket and certainly he is not a criminal type or a hooligan. So endearingly smooth and pretty while at the same time around the edges he is dark and mysterious. His words are never the truth but not actually a lie.

The first time I was aware of him I admit I didn’t pay close attention, I was too busy wondering who the beautiful girl was in the scene…..she was there only moments and then …well….I was caught up in the brilliance of Bette Davis in “All About Eve” (1950) so both George Sanders and Marilyn Monroe were swept aside.


It was later when I was on a Daphne Du Maurier (The Birds, Don’t Look Now)  kick that I saw him in “Rebecca” (1940)


and it hit me…this was the same actor in my all time favorite bad film, “Psychomania” (1973, UK 1971).

gs p

What a thrilling chore it was trying to stay awake for late night horror fests from the GHOUL show (1970’s tv host)  which is even funnier now when you realize television went off at 1am. What a masterpiece of bad horror film making …just delightful! Motorcycle riding, leather jacket punks with loud hip music, witches, and frogs. The editing is terrible, the film somewhat disjointed but what a fun and exciting story. Mr. Sanders added just the right ouch of upper crust English backbone to an otherwise silly movie.

Now yes, I do also have to include that Mr. Sanders was indeed in “Batman” (TV 1966) as Mr. Freeze, what 50s and 60’s working actor could resist that offer?

I offer you three highly recommended George Sanders films that you might not have seen and every film connoisseur must watch:

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz –  An interesting juxtaposition to put Rex Harrison and George Sanders as competition for the heart of a woman in roles that are basically identical except that one rouge is alive and very slick  but the other is dead while being both loud and rough. How does a woman choose between these two potential lovers? Well, the safer path is most definitely with the dead one.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) -dir. Albert Lewin – Such a wonderful adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novel. They do a superb job of creating mood and spirit for the idea of light, easy lifestyle of the spoiled rich and keeping a dark horrid secret.

The Black Swan (1942) – dir. Henry King – Must watch for so many reasons, Tyrone Power of course and Maureen O’Hara, but also notably the work of cinematographer Leon Shamroy (Cleopatra, 1963) who provides an elegant tone to a fairly common pirate sword fighting story…one of those films you read the joy of going to work through the performances.

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