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Finally. May 15, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — meganclose @ 2:32 pm

California ban on same-sex marriage struck down

  • Story Highlights
  • Justices say gay couples just as capable as as anyone to raise kids
  • Governor says he will respect ruling, not pursue the matter further
  • Opponent calls ruling “worst kind of judicial activism”
  • State Supreme Court rules law unconstitutional on equal-protection grounds

(CNN) — The California Supreme Court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage Thursday, saying sexual orientation, like race or gender, “does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”

In a 4-3 120-page ruling issue, the justices wrote that “responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation.”

“We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples,” Chief Justice Ronald George wrote for the majority.

The ruling takes affect in 30 days. VideoWatch what the ruling means »

Several gay and lesbian couples, along with the city of San Francisco and gay rights groups, filed a lawsuit saying they were victims of unlawful discrimination. A lower court ruled San Francisco acted unlawfully in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The ruling surprised legal experts because the court has a reputation for being conservative. Six of its seven judges are Republican appointees.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said he is “profoundly grateful” for the decision and for the court’s “eloquence” in its delivery.

“After four long years, we’re very, very gratified,” he said.

Shannon Minter, attorney for one of the plaintiffs in the case, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the ruling “a moment of pure happiness and joy for so many families in California.”

“California sets the tone, and this will have a huge effect across the nation to bringing wider acceptance for gay and lesbian couples,” he said.

Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, issued a statement saying, “Today’s ruling affirms that committed couples, gay and straight, should not be denied the duties, obligations and protections of marriage. … This decision is a vital affirmation to countless California couples — straight and gay — who want to make and have made a lifelong commitment to take care of and be responsible for each other.”

Groups opposing same-sex marriage also reacted strongly to the ruling.

“The California Supreme Court has engaged in the worst kind of judicial activism today, abandoning its role as an objective interpreter of the law and instead legislating from the bench,” said Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues for the group Concerned Women for America, in a written statement.

“So-called ‘same-sex’ marriage is counterfeit marriage. Marriage is, and has always been, between a man and a woman. We know that it’s in the best interest of children to be raised with a mother and a father. To use children as guinea pigs in radical San Francisco-style social experimentation is deplorable.”

The organization said that a constitutional marriage amendment should be placed on the November ballot and that national efforts should be made to generate a federal marriage amendment.

“The decision must be removed from the hands of judicial activists and returned to the rightful hands of the people,” Barber said.

A constitutional amendment initiative specifying that marriage is only between a man and a woman is awaiting verification by the secretary of state’s office after its sponsors said they had gathered enough signatures to place it on the statewide ballot. The parties cannot appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Herrera said, as federal courts do not have jurisdiction over the state laws. “This is the final say,” he said.

In a dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Marvin Baxter wrote that although he agrees with some of the majority’s conclusions, the court was overstepping its bounds in striking down the ban. Instead, he wrote, the issue should be left to the voters.

In 2004, San Francisco officials allowed gay couples in the city to wed, prompting a flood of applicants crowding the city hall clerk’s office. The first couple to wed then was 80-year-old Phyllis Lyon and 83-year-old Dorothy Martin, lovers for 50 years.

“We have a right just like anyone else to get married to the person we want to get married to,” Lyon said at the time.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom called the ruling a victory not just for the city “but for literally millions of people. … What the court did is simply affirm their lives.”

CNN’s Ted Rowlands reported that “huge cheers” went up in San Francisco when the ruling was announced.

In California, a 2000 voter referendum banned same-sex marriage, but state lawmakers have made two efforts to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills.

“I respect the court’s decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement issued Thursday. “Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.”

Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages in 2004, and gay couples need not be state residents there to wed.

New Hampshire, Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut permit civil unions, and California has a domestic-partner registration law. More than a dozen other states give gay couples some legal rights, as do some other countries. Check the law in different states »

“It’s a throwaway line, but I think it’s true: As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation,” Newsom said. “And I don’t think people should be paranoid about that. … Look what happened in Massachusetts a number of years ago. Massachusetts is doing just fine. The state is doing wonderfully.”

The state law in question in the case, which consolidated six cases, was the Defense of Marriage Act, Proposition 22. Oral arguments in March lasted more than three hours.

“There can be no doubt that extending the designation of marriage to same-sex couples, rather than denying it to all couples, is the equal protection remedy that is most consistent with our state’s general legislative policy and preference,” the ruling said.

“Accordingly, in light of the conclusions we reach concerning the constitutional questions brought to us for resolution, we determine that the language of Section 300 limiting the designation of marriage to a ‘union between a man and a woman’ is unconstitutional, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.”

Newsom compared the ruling to the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Virginia case overturning that state’s ban on interracial marriage.

“This is about civil marriage. This is about fundamental rights,” he said.

The ruling may make the same-sex marriage issue more important in November elections.

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain supports “traditional” marriage but opposes a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, saying individual states should decide the issue. He also backs some legal benefits for same-sex couples.

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton both oppose same-sex marriage but support civil unions. They also oppose a constitutional ban.

CNN’s Bill Mears contributed to this report.

All AboutSame-Sex MarriageSan Francisco

 
 
 

 

Fascinating Collection!

Filed under: Film Reviews — meganclose @ 10:24 am

                                   Just one of many in Leonard Schrader\'s collection

Leonard Schrader, brother of Paul, passed away recently.  When a friend was going through the screenwriter’s effects, he found a collection of 8,462 lobby cards.

Check out the collection’s website: http://www.leonardschradercollection.com/

 

Great “Vertigo” Anniversary Article from the New York Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — meganclose @ 8:59 am
May 11, 2008
Film

50 Years of Dizzy, Courtesy of Hitchcock

 

 

“I LOOK up, I look down,” says Detective John (Scottie) Ferguson of the San Francisco police, standing nervously on a stepladder in an early scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”

Scottie (James Stewart) is trying to cure himself of the title affliction, recently discovered during a rooftop chase in which his fear of heights resulted in the death of a fellow officer. So, impatient with his recovery, he gingerly mounts the three steps of the ladder, looks up, looks down, looks up and looks down again, then collapses into the arms of his college friend Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes), who always seems ready to catch him when he falls.

Fifty years and two days ago, at a preview in San Francisco, moviegoers looked up at the screen and saw “Vertigo” for the first time, and maybe some of them looked down too in confusion or dismay, wondering, as in a dream, where they were and how they had gotten there and how they would make it back to safer ground.

With “Vertigo” you never know. It’s a movie that — even if you know that it will always end the same way, tragically — never takes you to that inevitable conclusion by the same route. You feel as if you are wandering, which is the word Scottie and the object of his desire, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), use to describe their days.

Neither, actually, is quite as purposeless as that sounds. Madeleine is chasing the ghost of her great-grandmother, Carlotta Valdes, and Scottie is tailing Madeleine, a private-eye job he’s doing as a favor for another old college chum, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), who is her husband. But it’s a desultory sort of surveillance, which turns gradually and with a mysterious inexorability into something else: a love story in which Scottie and Madeleine wander together, pursuing the past and running, with all deliberate speed, from themselves.

You can’t help wondering what those first Bay Area viewers 50 years ago must have thought as they watched this strange, drifty, hallucinatory romance unfold on the big screen, with the strains of Bernard Herrmann’s lush score — brazenly echoing the “Liebestod” from Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” — swelling on the soundtrack. It wasn’t what they had come to expect from Hitchcock, the beloved portly “master of suspense,” who had been making impishly macabre thrillers for 30-some years and had since 1955 also been the host and impresario of a very popular mystery-story anthology series on television.

“Vertigo” — based on a novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, the authors of “Diabolique” — features one murder and two other deaths, but it isn’t built like an ordinary suspense film. Its only action sequence is the first scene, that rooftop chase. The detective never really investigates the movie’s lone murder because he doesn’t know until just before the end that one has been committed; the killer is not brought to justice.

And Hitchcock doesn’t content himself simply with violating genre conventions. He seems determined to unsettle every reasonable expectation — anything that could give us a footing in the shifty, unstable world he’s creating before our eyes.

A couple of years later he notoriously killed off his lead actress in the first 40 minutes of “Psycho,” but that is only marginally more perverse than what he does with Kim Novak in “Vertigo”: in the first third of the picture, when Scottie is following her, she has precisely one close-up and not a single line of dialogue. And in the movie’s final third, every supporting character drops off the screen, leaving Mr. Stewart and Ms. Novak to work out their characters’ awful fate alone. Along the way Hitchcock also throws in a bizarre, partly animated dream sequence and a startling scene in which, as the lovers kiss, the camera pans 360 degrees around them and the background changes from a small hotel room to the stables of an old Spanish mission, where they had kissed once before. You never do know quite where you are in “Vertigo.”

The film wasn’t a hit in its initial release, and it wasn’t enthusiastically reviewed either. But its stature has increased exponentially in its five decades of screen life, especially in the 12 years since its brilliant restoration by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz; it now routinely places in the Top 10 in critics’ and viewers’ polls of the greatest movies ever made.

For a movie so revered, “Vertigo” hasn’t been terribly influential. The films that try hardest to recapture its twisted, doomy romanticism, like Brian De Palma’s 1976 “Obsession” (with a score by Mr. Herrmann) and Mike Figgis’s 1991 “Liebestraum” (in which Ms. Novak plays a supporting role), always wind up proving that Hitchcock’s dark vision is too wayward, too eccentric to be imitated: there’s never enough wandering in them.

And in a way the wandering is all that matters when you’re watching “Vertigo,” for the first time or the 10th or — like the fictional correspondent of Chris Marker’s beautiful essay-film “Sans Soleil” (1982) — the 19th. This movie isn’t constructed, as most thrillers are, to get us from point A to point B as swiftly and as efficiently as possible. “Vertigo” instead circles compulsively around a set of visual and verbal (and musical) motifs — spirals, towers, bouquets, the words “too late” — which keep bringing us back to the same places, turning us in relentlessly on ourselves. There’s a wonderful scene in which Scottie follows Madeleine through the dizzying streets of San Francisco to his own home. He looks puzzled, utterly disoriented, and the viewer knows exactly how he feels.

Seeing “Vertigo” on DVD is maybe a shade less overwhelming, less deranging, than seeing it as its first audience did, but it has the compensating quality of seeming a more solitary and more intimate experience, and this is, always has been, a movie that makes you want to be alone with it. It’s like Scottie’s surveillance of Madeleine: he watches from a distance, then there’s no distance at all, just him and her, no one else around. Jean-Luc Godard once described the difference between cinema and television as the difference between raising your eyes to the movie screen and lowering them to the TV screen. Whether you look up at “Vertigo” or look down, the effect is the same: You fall and hope that somebody’s there to catch you.

Thank you, New York Times!  (www.nytimes.com)

 

The New York Times’ Original Review of Vertigo

Filed under: Uncategorized — meganclose @ 8:58 am
May 29, 1958

Vertigo,’ Hitchcock’s Latest; Melodrama Arrives

at the Capitol

Published: May 29, 1958

 

YOU might say that Alfred Hitchcock’s latest mystery melodrama, “Vertigo,” is all about how a dizzy fellow chases after a dizzy dame, the fellow being an ex-detective and the dame being—well, you guess. That is as fair a thumbnail digest as we can hastily contrive to give you a gist of this picture without giving the secret away. And, believe us, that secret is so clever, even though it is devilishly far-fetched, that we wouldn’t want to risk at all disturbing your inevitable enjoyment of the film.

If that recommendation is sufficient, read no further. “Vertigo” opened yesterday at the Capitol.

However, if you are a skeptic and want to know just a little more about this typically Hitchcock picture, which has James Stewart and Kim Novak as its stars, let us give you two hints that should be helpful.

The first hint is that the story begins with this long-legged ex-detective, a known sufferer from acrophobia (fear of heights), being hired by a San Francisco magnate to shadow his strangely acting wife. Seems that this chic and silent beauty, who the magnate says loves him very much, is given to mysterious wanderings in and about that dramatic city with the startling views—and, believe us, it is dramatic, as seen in color and Vista Vision in this film.

She goes to the Mission Dolores and places flowers on the grave of a famous San Francisco beauty who died years ago. Then she goes to the art museum, the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Golden Gate Park, and sits staring at the portrait of this beauty as though she were in a daze.

Slowly, the gum-shoe realizes that, somehow, this dizzy dame has spells when she thinks she’s animated by the personality of this tragic lady of the past. And he has no doubt about it when, one day at Old Fort Point, beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, she flings herself desperately and suicidally into the bay. Naturally, our fellow saves her and finds himself falling in love.

Still the mystery haunts him. What is this thing that invades the moody person of his loved one, the wife of another man? And how can he free her from this demon—and from her husband?

That’s all we will tell you! Now—

Second hint: This fascinating mystery is based upon a tale written by the same fellows, Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, who wrote the story from which was taken that excellent French mystery, “Diabolique.” That film, if you remember, told of a terribly devious plot to simulate a murder that didn’t happen.

There! No more hints! Coming or not?

What more’s to say? Well, nothing, except that “Vertigo” is performed in the manner expected of all performers in Hitchcock films. Mr. Stewart, as usual, manages to act awfully tense in a casual way, and Miss Novak is really quite amazing in—well, here is a bit of a hint—dual roles. Tom Helmore is sleek as the husband and Barbara Bel Geddes is sweet as the nice girl who loves the detective and has to watch him drifting away.

One more thing: there is a big hole—a big question-mark—at a critical point. It will stop you, if you’re a quick thinker. But try not to be and enjoy the film.
VERTIGO, screen play by Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor; based on the novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac; produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock for Paramount Pictures. At the Capitol (Broadway at 51st Street). Running time: 127 minutes.
John Ferguson . . . . . James Stewart
Madeleine . . . . . Kim Novak
Judy
Midge . . . . . Barbara Bel Geddes
Galvin Elster . . . . . Tom Helmore

Thank you, New York Times!  (www.nytimes.com)

 

Welcome to the World, Grace Isabella!

Filed under: Uncategorized — meganclose @ 8:50 am

9 lbs 5 oz & 20 inches long!

My fabulous new niece was born on May 10, 2008 at 8:34am ET.  We love  you, Gracie!

 

Sometimes the Same Old Gets Old May 14, 2008

Filed under: Film Reviews — meganclose @ 10:14 pm

       Henry Fonda           James Dean

Many of our favorite actors have certain personas that follow them throughout their careers.  We fall in love with them, and watch role after similar role.  It’s comfortable film-viewing.  We know what to expect (hello, Steven Seagal) and we are rarely disappointed.

However, there have been some exciting moments in movie casting history.  Seeing a hero-by-trade as a villain adds a jarring effect to the film.  Do we look away?  Can we stand to see them playing so against type?  Some of them are disappointing, some are overrated (Tom Cruise in “Magnolia,” Grace Kelly in “The Country Girl”), but often some pleasantly surprise us.

Here are seven of my favorites:

1) Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs.”  His performance was so incredible that he has not been able to escape it in the years since.

2) Henry Fonda in “Once Upon a Time in the West.”  I grew up watching him in “Yours, Mine and Ours” and now he’s a murderous gunslinger?

3) Gregory Peck in “Boys From Brazil.”  Atticus Finch as an evil Nazi.

4) Laurence Olivier in “Marathon Man.”  Now we have Heathcliff as a Nazi, and adding to my paralyzing fear of the dentist.  “Iz it safe?”

5) Robert Mitchum in “Ryan’s Daughter.”  The tough, noir-era guy is now a sensitive, honorable man with an Irish accent.

6) Robert Stack and Peter Graves in “Airplane”: “Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?…Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”

7) Patrick Swayze & Wesley Snipes in “Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar.”  This is a good-hearted guilty pleasure.  Swayze and Snipes in drag — need I say more?

And here are seven transitions I’d love to have seen or would love to see someday:

1) Dennis Hopper in something not psychotic of psychedelic.

2) Charles Bronson as a romantic hero.

3) Peter Lorre as a romantic hero.

4) Lee J. Cobb in anything upbeat and happy.

5) William Holden as a compelling villain.

6) Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson playing anything but the roles they’ve had for the past ten years.

7) James Dean as someone that wasn’t ridden with angst.

 

What are some of your favorites or some casting choices that you’d love to see?

 

Star of the Week: Charles Bronson

Filed under: Film Reviews — meganclose @ 9:45 pm

Charles Bronson

 

Charles Bronson (born Charles Dennis Buchinsky) was born on November 21, 1921 in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania.  He was one of fourteen children born to his poor Polish immigrant parents.  His father, a coal miner, died when Bronson was ten.  At 16, Bronson worked in the mines to help support his family.  This lead to a lifetime fear of enclosed spaces, brought terrifyingly to life in “The Great Escape” (1963).

 

Bronson served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, flying one 25 missions and receiving a Purple Heart.  Afterwards, he used the G.I. bill to study art.  He enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse and was recommended to director Henry Hathaway by one of his teachers.  Bronson made his film debut “You’re in the Navy Now” (1951).

 

At the suggestion of his agent, the actor changed his name from Buchinsky to Bronson.  This was at the height of the McCarthy “Red Scare” era, and the agent was afraid “Buchinsky” would scare studios away.  Legend has it that Bronson got his new last name from the “Bronson Gate” at Paramount Studios.

 

Though many of his early film roles were uncredited, he was noticed by audiences as Vincent Price’s evil assistant in “House of Wax” (1953).  He soon found himself cast in tough-guy action flicks.  Roger Corman cast him as the lead in the low budget “Machine-Gun Kelly” (1958 ) and Bronson starred in his own television series, “Man with a Camera” the same year.


The 1960s seemed to bring upon the on-screen persona that would follow him for the rest of his career.  His characters spoke little but made their mark through lots of action.  He was the gunslinger Bernardo O’Reilly in John Sturges’ blockbuster “The Magnificent Seven” (1960).  The director cast him again as POW Danny Velinski in another smash hit, “The Great Escape.”  Bronson joined another testosterone-packed cast for “The Dirty Dozen” (1967).

 

European audiences were great fans of his minimalist acting style, and he spent time over there starring in several films.  One of the best is the Sergio Leone masterpiece “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968).  Leone later said that Bronson was one of the best actors he had ever worked with.

 

Bronson returned to American filmmaking in the 1970s, when he was cast in his best-know role.  Written with Henry Fonda in mind, “Death Wish” (1974) was a controversial hit.  The actor played Paul Kersey, a man avenging the murder of his wife and rape of his daughter, vigilante-style.  The film spawned four sequels over the next 20 years.

 

Later films include “Hard Times” (1975) with James Coburn and “Indian Runner” (1991), directed by Sean Penn.  His final role was as Police Commissioner Paul Fein in the television movies “Family of Cops (1995-1999).  Much of his work wasn’t loved by critics, but he remained unfazed: “We don’t make movies for critics, since they don’t pay to see them anyhow.”

 

Throughout his career he also appeared in several advertisements for items such as GE Batteries (1957), Japan’s Mandom cologne (1970s), and in print ads for the Motorcycle Industry Council promoting safety and responsible riding (1987).


Bronson was married three times.  He appeared onscreen a handful of times with his second wife, actress Jill Ireland.  He was introduced to her by her then-husband David McCallum during the filming of “The Great Escape.”  Bronson and McCallum acted alongside one another in the film.

 

Though he was known the world over as a hero, he was never thought of as a handsome man.  He himself described himself as looking “like a rock quarry that someone has dynamite.”  The man who looked like “a Clark Gable who had been left out in the sun too long” died of complications brought on by pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease on August 23, 2003, just a few months short of his 82nd birthday.

 

Below are my top five picks of Bronson’s work.

 

Once Upon a Time in the West

“Once Upon a Time in the West”: Known in Italy as “C’era una volta il West,” this is the epic story of a mysterious stranger with a harmonica (Bronson) who joins with a desperado (Jason Robards) to watch over a beautiful widow (Claudia Cardinale) and protect her from an assassin (Henry Fonda).  I could go on and on about this film.  Everything is fabulous – the cinematography, the haunting music, the acting.  Cardinale could not be more beautiful, Fonda is cast deliciously against type, and Bronson and Robards are compelling anti-heroes.  Despite the brutality of much of the film, it is also quite romantic.  The tagline sets it all up: “There were three men in her life.  One to take her…one to love her…and one to kill her.”

 

The Great Escape 

“The Great Escape”: One of the great war movies of all time, this is the story of a real-life escape attempt from a German prisoner-of-war camp.  There is lot of action and all-star cast: Steve McQueen, James Garner, James Coburn, et al.  The film alternates between thrilling, heartbreaking and patriotic, and sometimes is all three.

 

The Dirty Dozen 

“The Dirty Dozen”: The ultimate man’s movie, but exciting for anyone who tunes in.  A U.S. Army major (Lee Marvin) is assigned a thankless task.  He must rain and lead a dozen convicted murderers into an assassination mission during World War II.  This is another Who’s Who of tough guys – Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, Telly Savalas.  Savalas is no Kojak in this one – he is so frightening, it’s almost reason enough for a rental.

 

The Magnificent Seven 

“The Magnificent Seven”: In a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” (1954), a Mexican village hires seven gunmen to protect them from the evil Calvera (Eli Wallach).  Bronson again joins forces with Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and is lead by Yul Brynner.  Lots and lots of fun.  This is another of Bronson’s sensitive tough guy roles, and he excels at it.

 

Death Wish 

“Death Wish”: This is Bronson’s most famous role.  The rape sequence is one of the most brutal and horrifying scenes I’ve ever experience on film.  (And on a weird note, a young Jeff Goldblum plays one of the thugs).  Bronson is sympathetic and proud, and Vincent Gardenia is believable as the police officer hunting him.