5 Phenomenal Movie Phone Calls

I originally did this particular Phenomenal 5 over a year ago. Honestly, it was one of the most fun lists to put together, but hardly anyone saw it. Thankfully to you all, my blog has grown some since then and I’ve been waiting to share it again for those who have missed it. So why wait any longer? There have been so many great movie moments involving phone calls and almost every single genre has their share. Putting this list together was a lot tougher that I expected and there are some great scenes I had to leave off. But such is the nature with the Phenomenal 5, right? So as always, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but there’s no denying that these movie phone calls are absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “TAKEN” – “a very particular set of skills”

I liked “Taken” even though it kind of flew off the rails closer to the end. But it also provided one of the most memorable movie phone conversations you’ll find. Liam Neeson’s daughter and her friend are abducted while on a trip to Paris. Neeson’s character is a CIA field agent who we quickly find out has “a particular set of skills”. In a brief but incredibly intense phone chat with the abductors, Neeson presents them an offer (if they let his daughter go free) and then a stern warning (if they don’t). It’s a scene that became the signature moment in the film and one that I can’t help but love.

#4 – “DIAL M FOR MURDER” – “Hello?…Hello?…Hello?”

I still struggle with why ANYONE with an ounce of sanity would want to kill the beautiful Grace Kelly, yet that was Ray Milland’s plan in this Hitchcock classic. As his accomplice hides behind the drapes, Milland lures Kelly out of bed with a phone call from the party he’s attending. He then listens on the phone as his hired hand strangles his wife. Foolproof plan right? Of course not, this is Hitchcock, remember? This key scene turns Milland’s devious plans upside down and launches one of cinema’s best thrillers.

#3 – “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN” – “You know how this is going to turn out, don’t you?”

One of the very best scenes in the Coen brothers’ brilliant “No Country for Old Men” is the phone conversation between Anton Chigurh and Llewelyn Moss. It marks the first time the two have had any communication and the intensity is simmering. The scene’s slick dialogue and clever tone is vintage Coen brothers but it also works thanks to great deliveries from Bardem and Brolin. From the startling first ring of the phone to the slamming down of the receiver at the conversation’s end, this movie phone call nails it.

#2 – “DR. STRANGELOVE” – “I agree with you, it’s great to be fine”

How can you have a list of top movie phone calls without including the hilarious conversation between United States President Merkin Muffley and Soviet Premier Dimitri Kisov from “Dr. Strangelove”. In this classic Cold War spoof, a base commander goes “a little silly in head” and orders his planes to attack the U.S.S.R. President Muffley, wonderfully played by Peter Sellers, makes a courtesy call to Premier Kisov to let him know the base commander “went and did a silly thing”. The entire scene is just Sellers and he not only plays his character but also brilliantly sells us Dimitri, who we never hear. It’s a laugh out loud funny sequence and one of several great moments from the movie.

#1 – “SILENCE OF THE LAMBS” – “I’m having an old friend for dinner.”

Who can forget the phone call at the end of this Oscar-winning crime thriller? After finishing a gruesome and intense serial killer case, the film ends with Clarice enjoying herself at her FBI graduation party. While receiving several commendations and pats on the back, she’s told she has a phone call. At the other end of the line is Hannibal Lecter. He congratulates Clarice on her success then drops the classic yet still disturbing line “I’m having an old friend for dinner”. Anthony Hopkins, decked in a blonde wig and tilted hat, then walks off after Chilton. The film ends with Clarice simply repeating “Dr. Lecter….Dr. Lecter….Dr. Lecter…”. It’s one of those endings that leaves you uncomfortable but it’s also an ending you won’t forget.

What are your thoughts of my 5 Phenomenal Movie Phone Calls? See something I overlooked? Disagree with my choices. Please take time to share you picks or opinions.

5 Phenomenally Beautiful Actresses from the Golden Age

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Over the years I’ve grown to love the Golden Age of cinema more and more. As my love for movies has matured, I’ve found myself appreciating film history and the great classics that came from that special time. I also discovered just how many beautiful actresses there were during that period. So I thought it would be cool to do a Phenomenal 5 that looked at the beautiful women of the Golden Age of movies. Talk about hard, this could easily be a Phenomenal 20 but you know the rules. As a point of clarity, by the Golden Age I’m referring to the end of the silent era all the way to the early to mid 60s. Now that’s a lot of years so obviously this isn’t the definitive list. But these five Golden Age actresses are without a doubt phenomenally beautiful.

Debbie Reynolds#5 – DEBBIE REYNOLDS
There was always something so adorable about Debbie Reynolds. She had such pep and energy but she was also a beautiful actress. Now some may point to the fact that Reynolds made several movies past the Golden Age. I would counter that by saying the bulk of her best films came within that wonderful era. She made her first film in 1948 but it was “Singin’ in the Rain” from 1952 that made her a star. In this classic her beauty matches her song and dance skills as she steals one scene after another. She would go on to make 22 films throughout the 1950s and she seemed to get prettier with each one. Whether she was dancing alongside Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain” or roughing it on the frontier in “How the West was Won”, Debbie Reynolds was an astounding beauty.

Marilyn Monroe#4 – MARILYN MONROE
Seriously, did you expect me to have a list of Golden Age beauties and not include Marilyn Monroe? For many, she is the first name to pop up when having a conversation about beautiful actresses. While I think you can debate Monroe’s acting abilities, there’s no denying that she was a gorgeous woman. In fact some believe her popularity as a major sex symbol was greater than her popularity as an actress. What ever the case, Marilyn Monroe became a cinematic icon and her beauty adorned magazine covers, wall calendars, and several great films including “The Seven Year Itch” and “Some Like it Hot”. Sadly Monroe died at the young age of 36 with so much ahead of her. But she left us with memories of one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the big screen.

GRACE KELLY#3 – GRACE KELLY
Not many women can say they had an opportunity to be a celebrated actress and a royal princess. Well Grace Kelly could and you can add ‘one of the most beautiful women in film history’ to the list as well. Kelly only appeared in eleven pictures but many became true classics. She appeared in two of my very favorite Alfred Hitchcock films “Dial M for Murder” and “Rear Window”. She also appeared in other wonderful movies such as “High Noon” and “To Catch a Thief”. Regardless of the movie, she was absolutely stunning and it’s hard to take your eyes off of her. She retired from acting at the early age of 26 and went to be the Princess of Monaco. She had a tragic end to her life but she left behind so many reminders of her great talents and her incredible beauty. There’s no way I could leave her off this list.

Audrey#2 – AUDREY HEPBURN
While she may not be one of the sexy blonde bombshells that took Hollywood by storm, to me Audrey Hepburn is one of the most beautiful actresses of her era or any era. It was easy to be attracted to Hepburn’s peppy and graceful charms on the screen. It was even easier to be mesmerized by her physical beauty – the dark hair, the big eyes, the darling smile. Her sprightly attitude fits perfectly with her glamorous appearance and throughout her movies you couldn’t help but be swept away by her presence. From her early films such as “Roman Holiday” and “Sabrina” to later Golden Age films like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Charade”, Hepburn dazzled audiences during her amazing run. Some may downplay this choice, but I think Audrey Hepburn is nothing short of stunning.

Ingrid 600#1 – INGRID BERGMAN
I still remember the first time I saw Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca”. I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen in the movies. Nothing has changed. I still feel the same way. Much like Kelly and Hepburn, Bergman had an undeniable grace and elegance to her. But she also had a beauty that could command and sometimes take over the screen. Her look wasn’t showy or overtly sexy like Monroe and others. The Swedish beauty possessed a subtle and natural allure. Don’t believe me? Well just watch her in “Casablanca”, “Gaslight”, and “Notorious”. Bergman would often times take on roles that would require her to hide her beauty. But even then you couldn’t help but recognize her as a gorgeous leading lady.

So there are my five choices. So many other beautiful Golden Age actresses come to mind. Who did I miss? Please take time to share your pick.

5 PHENOMENAL JIMMY STEWART FILMS

One of my favorite movie actors of all time is the great Jimmy Stewart. Throughout his career which spanned almost 60 years, Stewart compiled an incredible resume full of some truly classic movies. Known as an everyday man, Stewart had a great charisma and a wonderful likability on-screen. But his greatness wasn’t just restricted to the movies. He had an impressive military career serving his country during World War 2 and the Vietnam War. But keeping with his movies, I thought I would show this great actor some love by looking at five phenomenal movies of his. Now it’s hard to call this the definitive list. But I have no problems saying that these five Jimmy Stewart films are simple phenomenal.

#5 – “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”

This is the movie that made Jimmy Stewart into a big time movie star. “Mr Smith Goes to Washington” is the story of a simple but honest man who is sent to Washington to fill the position of a recently deceased Senator. Supposedly Stewart’s character would be easy to control and corrupt but that doesn’t turn out to be the case. This gem from Frank Capra caused a huge stir in Washington with several Senators and other government officials slamming it for daring to address possible corruption in our system. Regardless, Stewart is fantastic and his performance earned him a much deserved Oscar nomination.

#4 – “Vertigo”

Heralded by many (including the new Sight and Sound Magazine’s Greatest Movies list) as the best film of all time, this Hitchcock and Stewart collaboration has reached an iconic status. Personally, I don’t see it as the best movie of all time or even the best Hitchcock film but there’s no denying how wonderful Stewart is in the picture. The story is intriguing and suspenseful although at times slow and with a unfullfilling conclusion. But watching Stewart handle the material is a joy and I still say that his performance is the best thing about the film.

#3 – “The Philadelphia Story”

In 1940, Jimmy Stewart played in one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time – “The Philadelphia Story”. Teaming up with greats Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, Stewart still shines as a reporter who ends up in a tangled and sometimes hilarious web of love with Hepburn in the center. Grant and Hepburn are just as good as you would expect but I love Stewart’s performance. This is a great film and Stewart won his only Best Actor Academy Award for this role.

#2 – “It’s a Wonderful Life”

By now everyone knows “It’s a Wonderful Life” because of its status as a Christmas classic and I certainly wouldn’t take anything away from that. But it’s also a brilliant movie that’s driven by Jimmy Stewart’s fantastic work as George Bailey. From his onscreen chemistry with the gorgeous Donna Reed to his believable fall and eventual rise, Stewart owns every scene. He’s surrounded by a superb supporting cast and Capra’s direction is spot-on. But “It’s a Wonderful Life” wouldn’t be the classic it is without Jimmy Stewart.

#1 – “Rear Window”

While “Vertigo” gets most of the love between Stewart’s collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, “Rear Window” is my personal favorite movie from Stewart as well as my favorite Hitchcock film. Elaborately staged and at times incredibly tense, “Rear Window” confines Stewart to one room where he becomes a voyeur, peeping into the lives of his numerous neighbors. He soon suspects one neighbor of foul play and as the story unfolds we wonder if he’s right or if he’s allowed his snooping to manufacture something that’s really not there. Stewart has a tricky role but he nails it and this is one of those movies that I can sit down and watch at any time. Stewart and Hitchcock at their best.

There ya go folks. My 5 phenomenal Jimmy Stewart movies. So what are your thoughts on this tremendous actor? Are you a fan or is he not your cup of tea? Please share your thoughts.

REVIEW: “Dial M for Murder”

Classic Movie SpotlightDIAL MIt may not be the most acclaimed Alfred Hitchcock film, but “Dial M for Murder” is an intelligent and capable murder mystery adapted from Frederick Knott’s play. While there are special Hitchcock touches throughout the film, it’s Knott who really makes this such a memorable picture. He wrote the screenplay and kept most of his original work intact. The movie sharply resembles a play particularly by the fact that the majority of the film takes place in one single setting, a London apartment. Also, the dialogue flows in a way that favors what you would see on stage. But it’s that same dialogue delivered by some really strong performances and mixed with Hitchcock’s slick use of the camera that gives this movie it’s appeal.

“Dial M for Murder” explores the idea of the perfect murder. Ray Milland plays Tony Wendice, a professional tennis player who has enjoyed a lavish lifestyle thanks to his wife Margot’s wealth. After growing frustrated with Tony’s constant absence and busy schedule, Margot (Grace Kelly) begins a fling with an American writer named Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Tony finds out about the affair and fearing the loss of his meal ticket, he plans the murder of his unfaithful wife, leaving him her fortune. It’s a foolproof plan, carefully thought out to the smallest detail. But what may look good on paper doesn’t always translate well into real life.

The story is straightforward but structured and it pays great attention to the details. Clues are littered throughout the film with almost every seemingly small action from the characters having some type of relevance. It’s such a tight-knit and well-crafted story and watching it unfold is very satisfying. The story never trips over itself and Hitchcock let’s Knott’s script do most of the heavy lifting. The dialogue drives the film and it doesn’t rely on twists, turns, or red herrings. In fact, the narrative moves in a fairly straight line and never strays from it’s path. But I found it effective especially considering the movie is basically a single location cinematic play.

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A movie of this sort only works with strong and grounded performances and “Dial M for Murder” certainly has them. I love watching Ray Milland’s shrewd and savvy Tony. He perfectly relays Tony’s arrogance and overconfidence in a way that never feels disingenuous or overwrought. He has a remarkable screen presence and is perfectly cast. Speaking of screen presence, the gorgeous Grace Kelly is mesmerizing. Whether it be her physical beauty and elegance or her graceful and authentic performance, Kelly steals almost every scene she’s in. I also loved John Williams as Inspector Hubbard. He’s fun, smart, and never misses a beat.

I suppose the location restrictions and the straightforward story could be considered faults especially for those comparing this film to some of Hitchcock’s other movies. But I loved how Hitchcock keeps the Wendice’s apartment fresh with inventive camera shots and clever angles. I can also appreciate the direct although conveniently tidy narrative. It’s an intelligent film that puts a solid story in the hands of some fantastic actors and lets them go from there. I always have fun with “Dial M for Murder” and it’s strongest message is this – keep up with your latchkey!

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

“REAR WINDOW” – 5 STARS

Classic Movie SpotlightREARAlfred Hitchcock’s suspense thriller “Rear Window” is revered by many as one of the director’s finest films. You would have a hard time getting me to disagree. “Rear Window” is a voyeuristic mystery picture that takes place in one single confined location and is all shown from the perspective of the main character. It’s an interesting approach to storytelling but one that’s very effective. There are many recognizable Hitchcockian touches throughout the picture yet it retains a uniqueness that separates it from most of his other films.

The story is seen through the eyes of L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries, an accomplished photographer who is confined to a wheelchair after breaking his leg while on assignment. He spends his time observing his neighbors through the window of his small Greenwich Village apartment. It grows into an obsession for him as he becomes infatuated with what he sees while peeping through their windows. Jeff is a man filled with insecurities and he seems more comfortable living out his life through the lens of his binoculars. In many ways he’s a sad individual who has so many good things within his grasp yet he lacks the confidence to reach out and take them. He begins to suspect a possible murder in one of the apartments and the second half of the film follows his attempt to either prove it or be disproved.

Hitchcock hits head-on the peeping tom mentality that certainly existed then but that’s even more prevalent in today’s reality tv-fueled society. Jeff crosses the boundaries of simple curiosity into full-blown voyeurism and we are right there with him. I found myself just as riveted by what’s on the other end of the binoculars as he was. Several people try to tell Jeff what he’s doing is wrong including his beautiful girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and his home nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter), but even they fall victim to this creepy temptation. Yet it’s hard to look down on these three characters. Hitchcock exposes some levels of the same voyeuristic compulsions within the audience as we watch things unfold with the same curiosity-driven intensity as Jeff, Lisa, and Stella. Hitchcock causes us to ask if we’re really that different from them?

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I was also intrigued with the way Hitchcock introduces and develops some of his characters. We get to know several people simply by watching them through Jeff’s window. There’s the beautiful Miss Torso, a dancer who occasionally practices in her undies and parties with several male suitors; Miss Lonelyhearts, a sad, depressed woman who has dinner dates with imaginary men; Mr. Thorvald and his bedridden wife; a struggling songwriter, a newlywed couple, and several others. What’s amazing is that we learn a lot about these characters simply by what we observe. It’s a beautiful method of storytelling that adds so much to the picture.

“Rear Window” was filmed on what was at the time the largest constructed set at Paramount. The entire picture takes place in this elaborate neighborhood and, with the exception of a small courtyard, it’s close-quartered construction gives it an almost claustrophobic feel. Hitchcock’s camera sleekly captures the characters as they move from window to window and down strategically placed hallways and alleys. Equally impressive is his skillful use of lighting combined with sound that’s centered around a natural ambiance. Simply put, “Rear Window” is a technically savvy picture that accomplishes a lot within a small compact environment.

For my money “Rear Window” is some of Hitchcock’s best work. It’s straightforward and mysterious at the same time and features characters that are more complex than they appear on the surface. It’s really a simple story that’s a little slow out of the gate but soon has you peeping over Jeff’s shoulder gazing into the living rooms of his neighbors. The intensity ratchets up in the final few scenes and the payoff is very satisfying. “Rear Window” is certainly near the top of Hitchcock’s resume and features a special brand of artistry that’s impossible to dislike.

VERDICT – 5 STARS

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