Lofts in the Movies

Lofts have come a long way from the days when they housed struggling artists in abandoned industrial buildings. Indeed, Hollywood has helped fuel the fascination for lofts by showcasing their high ceilings, open spaces and expansive windows. For certain directors, loft spaces have been instrumental to the plot.

The sweeping lofts in the horror flick, “The Ring,” contribute to the movie’s dark mood and building sense of dread. Christian Bale, who plays a serial killer in “American Psycho,” uses his gleaming, all white loft as the backdrop for his relentless murdering of prostitutes. His pristine fridge is perfect for storing severed heads. Viggo Mortensen, an artist and Gwyneth Paltrow’s lover in “A Perfect Murder,” plots poor Gwyneth’s demise amongst his paint-splattered walls. And, continuing on the theme that only psychos and crazy people inhabit lofts, Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” certainly rates a mention. Close stalks Michael Douglas after a dramatic rendez-vous in her Tribeca apartment.

Given that it’s Hollywood, it’s not uncommon for starving artists or characters otherwise down on their luck, to live in fabulous apartments. In Adrian Lyne’s “Unfaithful,” Diane Lane stumbles on the art-filled digs of the sexy Olivier Martinez, a French bookseller, living in New York City. Enormous and filled with objets d’art, the loft is seemingly out of reach of Martinez’ modest salary. In a fit of passion, Richard Gere later murders Martinez in his sumptuous flat — perhaps punishing him for not only trysting with his wife but having the hubris to live in such a big apartment. Jennifer Beals in ” Flash Dance,” dances out her frustrations in what looks to be an abandoned industrial warehouse. A welder by day, Beals makes the most of the loft’s wide open spaces to refine her dance moves.

On the lighter side, “Hansel,” Ben Stiller’s male supermodel in “Zoolander,” occupies a toy-filled loft, complete with skate-boarding ramp. Adam Sandler in “Big Daddy,” loafs around in a cushy apartment, living off the proceeds of a lawsuit, before he becomes an accidental and committed father. And, even though Harry and Sally (“When Harry Met Sally”) are supposedly in their late 20s, Harry somehow is able to afford a million-dollar plus pad. In a pivotal scene, Sally helps Harry unroll rugs in his new apartment, flanked by huge semi-circle windows.

Hollywood’s attraction to lofts may have originated with the renegade nature of early lofts. When manufacturers moved out of large cast-iron buildings in New York’s SoHo district in the 1950s and 1960s, struggling artists moved in. At the time, the typical loft had 10-foot to 15-foot ceilings, thick plaster or brick walls, few or no interior doors and walls, cast-iron columns, and factory-size windows. The large spaces, exposed brick and light-filled areas,were perfect for artists pursuing their trade while enjoying city life. Unfortunately, living in lofts was against the law until 1975 because most city districts were zoned for either all-commercial or all-residential use. But for many, the legal barriers only heightened lofts’ appeal.

As lofts continue to figure prominently in Hollywood blockbusters, viewers will continue to seek the perfect light-filled space.

Top 10 Doris Day Movies

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1922, Doris Day aspired to be a professional dancer but a car accident forced her to reassess her career as she spent part of her teenage years in a wheel chair recovering. Taking to singing on radio instead it wasn’t until 1948 that Doris made her first movie as Miss Georgia Garrett in “It’s Magic” (originally known as “Romance on the High Seas”). And so her movie career began which would span 20 years and 39 movies before she left the big screen and went to the small screen with her TV show “The Doris Day Show” which ran from 1968 – 1973.

Often regarded as the “eternal virgin” thanks mainly to a series of movies where the subject of sex was taboo, Day was in fact a very accomplished actress capable of delivering comedy, romance as well as heavy drama and of course was able to sing and dance as well. A seriously well rounded star who was top box-office star for 1963 and is often regarded as the ‘all-time’ top female box office star.

During her career she starred opposite some of Hollywood’s major stars such as Gordon MacRae, David Niven, Clark Gable, Kirk Douglas, James Stewart, Gig Young, Howard Keel, James Garner, Jack Lemmon and of course Rock Husdon whose trio of movies that they made together are some of her most popular.

Whilst it’s fair to say that some of Doris Day’s movies were remarkably similar with a recurring theme of being either a career minded young woman or duped by a man they worked well and made for some marvelous movies made memorable usually by at least one musical scene showcasing Day’s wonderful singing voice.

From out of her 39 movies it is actually quite difficult to narrow it down to just 10 but here is my personal choice for the “Top 10 Doris Day Movies”.

#10 Teacher’s Pet (1958)

The first movie to see what would become a very familiar storyline as Doris Day plays a career minded woman duped by a man pretending to be someone else. Here we watch Doris Day play Erica Stone a lecturer in journalism who ends up being duped by James Gannon (Clark Gable) a bit city newspaper editor who initially wants to give Stone a piece of his mind but ends up falling for her. The trouble is he pretends to be someone else when they meet and you know it will cause problem when his true identity is revealed.

Although “Teacher’s Pet” would be the first of these romantic-comedies which featured very similar storylines it was noticeable for the fact that Doris Day played things straight, whilst still delivering that charming and lovable performance which would fill many of these romantic comedies. Instead we had Clark Gable delivering the comedy as James Gannon with a wonderful array of face pulling with makes “Teacher’s Pet” a hugely enjoyable movie.

#9 Young Man With a Horn (1950)

In all fairness “Young Man With a Horn” or “Young Man of Music” as it is also known is not really a Doris Day movie rather than a Kirk Douglas movie with Doris Day in a supporting role. But the story of Rick Martin (Kirk Douglas) who learns to play the trumpet from legendary musician Art Hazzard and goes on to become a troubled star musician is a brilliant movie full of drama, emotion and music as well as a little comedy.

It is a brilliant performance from Kirk Douglas in the lead role but Doris Day is equally as good even in the lesser role of songstress Jo Jordan who ends up becoming a close friend to Rick. Although she only gets to sing 4 songs in the movie each one is beautiful done and in between each of these songs Day shows what a talented actress she is, so natural in every scene.

#8 It Happened to Jane (1959)

In the same year that Doris Day would make her first movie with Rock Hudson she also made another romantic comedy, this time with Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs. In “It Happened to Jane” Doris plays Jane Osgood a career minded mother who breeds and sells lobsters who finds herself taking on the might of Harry Foster Malone (Ernie Kovacs) the owner of a train line which cost her a lot of money in dead lobsters. With the help of her best friend, lawyer George Denham (Jack Lemmon) she battles Malone in anyway she can but despite her troubles things may turn out alright in more sense than one.

With the exception of “Teacher’s Pet” prior to “It Happened to Jane” the majority of Doris Day’s romantic movies had largely been largely musicals. But here we had Day showing her ability in a more straight forward romantic comedy with barely a musical scene in sight, except for one heavily manufactured one featuring “Be Prepared”. What makes this movie feature in my “Top 10 Doris Day Movies” is the combination of Doris Day and Jack Lemmon who between them light up the screen with a perfect amount of comedy.

#7 The Thrill of It All (1963)

“The Thrill of It All” would be the first of Doris Day and James Garner’s 2 movies together and see once more Doris Day taking on a familiar role of a house wife and mother. During a dinner party Beverly Boyer (Doris Day), wife of obstetrician Gerald (James Garner), regales the hosts with a tale about how she used ‘Happy Soap’ to wash her children’s hair, as it happens her hosts are the owners of ‘Happy Soap’. Before she knows it Beverly is the new face of ‘Happy Soap’ making adverts, appearing on bill boards and being wined and dined at big socials. All of which ends up annoying Gerald who barely sees his wife causing a rift in their happy marriage.

Although their second movie together, “Move Over, Darling” would end up a bigger box-office success I prefer “The Thrill of It All” out of Doris Day and James Garner’s 2 movies together. It’s for the most rather routine with Doris Day playing that beautiful and slightly kooky house wife to James Garner’s tall dark and handsome husband but it’s full of memorable, funny scenes. The fake posing for the billboard and the swimming pool full of suds are two of just many innocently amusing moments in a movie full of them.

#6 On Moonlight Bay (1951)

In her 20 year movie career and despite making several movies which used the same sort of storyline Doris Day only made one sequel which was “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”. The predecessor to it was the beautifully titled “On Moonlight Bay” which saw Day take on the role of Marjie Winfield a tomboy who falls for Bill Sherman (Gordon MacRae). The trouble is that Bill has some unorthodox views on relationships and marriage and also on a few other things which end up annoying Marjie’s father George.

Although “On Moonlight Bay” has a storyline, in fact it has a few storylines it is very much a musical with numerous musical moments featuring either the wonderful Doris Day or the equally wonderful Gordon MacRae and often together. But it is the way everything comes together to make a thoroughly pleasant and charming movie, completely innocent and a lot of fun.

#5 The Pajama Game (1957)

This would be the last of Doris Day’s movies which were firstly musical and drama second but it is surprisingly good fun. Set in the Sleeptite Pajama Factory Doris plays Babe Williams a union rep who finds herself coming up against new superintendent Sid Sorokin (John Raitt) who falls head over heels for her, except business and pleasure start to make things rather messy especially as Babe’s fellow workers want a rise.

“The Pajama Game” has it roots as a Broadway musical and what makes the screen version work is that it feels like you are watching a stage musical. With many of the Broadway cast reprising their roles for the movie and with a vibrant styling which really brings it to life it is a very entertaining movie. And of course it features Doris Day at her feisty best as she plays up against John Raitt whilst delivering plenty of cheerful musical numbers.

#4 Love Me or Leave Me (1955)

During her career Doris Day performed in a few movies which were based or inspired by real people, in “Love Me or Leave Me” she stars as Ruth Etting in a fictionalized account of the jazz singer’s life. Having been spotted by Chicago hood Marty Snyder (James Cagney) Ruth goes from a wannabee singer to a major star, but with Snyder controlling her life the public image Ruth presented was vastly different to her unhappy private one.

What makes Doris Day’s performance in “Love Me or Leave Me” so brilliant comes in hindsight of information that Doris Day revealed in her autobiography. Day herself suffered an unhappy marriage to Martin Melcher who basically controlled her life and much of which almost mirrors what you watch in “Love Me or Leave Me”. As such there is a real sense of pain and emotion in many of the scenes in the movie where Snyder inflicts his rage and control over Ruth. Plus of course being a movie about a singer means we get plenty of brilliant musical moments including renditions of “Ten Cents a Dance” and “I’ll Never Stop Loving You”.

#3 By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)

As already mentioned “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” is the equally beautifully titled sequel to “On Moonlight Bay” and follows a very similar storyline with Marjie Winfield still having relationship issues with Bill who having agreed to marry her before heading off to war returns not quite ready to walk down the aisle. And that’s not the only problem as other member’s of the Winfield household are having a few issues.

To many “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” is inferior to “on Moonlight Bay” and basically just rehashes the whole storyline, which in all fairness it does. But to me it has a lot more charm especially with the wintry setting and memorable ending on the frozen pond with a wonderful family sing-a-long. It also helps that Day is at her cutest best as Marjie easy on the eyes and easy to fall in love with.

#2 Pillow Talk (1959)

It may come as a surprise to some but Doris Day and Rock Hudson only made 3 movie together, although it often feels like more because Day made several similar movies all of with quite similar handsome stars. Their first movie together was “Pillow Talk” with saw Day playing Jan Morrow who shares a party phone line with Brad Allen (Rock Hudson) much to her annoyance as he hogs the line with calls to and from various women. But when Allen finds himself in the company of Morrow he has a bit of fun pretending to be an out of town Texan called Rex Stetson, except what started as a bit of fun turns into more when they genuinely fall for each other.

As already mentioned Doris Day made several similar movies and here again we see her being duped by a man pretending to be someone else. It is the best version of this type of storyline thanks to the amazing chemistry between Doris Day and Rock Hudson making it extremely funny and quite romantic, which in an ironic way is quite funny thanks to certain revelations about both of the stars. And despite the concept of Day being duped by another man had already been done it is the one most people remember with Day delivering her kooky, face pulling comedy to the max whilst Hudson charms his way through every scene.

#1 Calamity Jane (1953)

And finally my number 1 Doris Day movie in my list of “Top 10 Doris Day Movies” and it has to be the award winning “Calamity Jane”. In “Calamity Jane” Doris Day stars as Jane a feisty Indian tracker in the town of Deadwood who likes to boast a little too much. When the owner of the local saloon is desperate to get someone to perform, Jane boasts she can bring back acclaimed stage performer Adelaid Adams from Chicago to perform on their small stage. But having headed off to Chicago Jane mistakes Adelaid’s maid Kate for the big star and returns with her instead. Well it all comes out that Jane didn’t bring back Adelaid but her and Kate become friends leaving to a bit of unexpected rivalry in the romantic department.

From the opening scene with the lively “The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away)” right through to the credits “Calamity Jane” is an out and out classic musical full of big musical song and dance numbers which makes the storyline almost unimportant despite not being that bad. But why “Calamity Jane” is my number 1 movie is because it showcases everyone of Doris Day’s wonderful talents from dancing, singing, comedy as well as a touch of drama and alongside solid performances from Howard Keel, Allyn Ann McLerie and Philip Carey there is not a single dull moment in it’s entire length.

Starting Your Screenplay With a Popular Film Opening

The beginning of your script must always have an original scent to it, while at the same time it must have a feeling of familiarity. Many screenwriters are stumped on this aspect of scriptwriting, and that is exactly why I will be discussing a few of the popular and classic openings to a movie. Let’s get the script piñata and beat the crap out of it, shall we?

THE BIG-BANG OPENING. This is a brilliant format for action-adventure type movies. You can start with a set piece that will place your characters right in the middle of action. When you think most of the action genre, think of the successful James Bond franchise. Generally, Bond will be somewhere doing some abstract mission and beating the crap out of the enemy. This automatically shifts the audience into fifth gear and tells them that this movie is going to be action packed. Remember not to go overboard with the action sequences within your set piece since later on you’ll need to climax the action. If you start high, you’ll have to create an even higher climax. Sometimes overloading the audience with too much action is a really bad idea.

“WHO ARE THEY” OPENING SCENE. In this opener you will not reveal the identities of your characters, but rather allow them to reveal themselves through their dialogue. Your skills in letting the facts seep through dialogue must be impeccable. This is a brilliant strategy to leave the audience guessing who the characters really are. Think of the comedy-crime movie Snatch (Sony Pictures Entertainment) for a second–the opening scene is in the elevator where the bearded Rabbi’s are talking about the Bible. All of a sudden they break into a set piece of robbing a diamond vault, and then finally the characters are introduced. British filmmaker Guy Richie uses other techniques to introduce his characters, but you can learn from his techniques from watching this movie.

“HOW DID WE GET HERE” OPENING SCENE. This opener takes you right to a mini climax in the movie that will be revealed later. This could be your hero on the verge of being sacrificed to a bunch of savage cannibals. Right before calamity strikes, you go to the next scene where your character is in a more normal situation, thus the audience will be wondering how the hell he got to that predicament later.

THE ORIGIN OPENING SCENE. Screenwriter and actor Seth Rogan, in the movie The Green Hornet (Columbia Pictures), expertly implemented this opening whereby he goes to the little curly headed fat kid standing up for the lesser people and being scolded by his father. Remember that this is a very cliché opening so you’ll need to add in your own twists and turns to reveal a deep secret that will give your audience a deeper understanding of how your hero thinks, acts, and reacts to situations.

There is no right or wrong way of beginning you opening scene. Use your creative juices to combine any of the above mentioned scenes to create an original opening. Ultimately it is up to you.

Five Movies That Try Hard Yet Still End Up As Terrible

Here are five movies that try hard but to no avail and so are rated terrible for the effort.

Napoleon Dynamite – 1 Star (Terrible)

Napoleon Dynamite is a nerd in high school who tries to make sense of his life amid a cast of almost totally dysfunctional people. As near as I could tell, there was exactly one normal person in the film.

This film relies on some corny humor to carry it along, but it lacks a central writing flaw in order to gain any shred of competence: the central character in the movie (Napoleon Dynamite, played by Jon Heder) is a nerd that is simply not likeable.

The only honest psychological reaction in the movie is the standing ovation at the end, after Napoleon’s dance skit. I would not pay to see this movie again, and am not a better person for having seen it.

Incredibly, Napoleon Dynamite actually won some lightweight honors, like Best Comedy by the Golden Trailer Awards, Best Movie by the MTV Movie Awards, and three nods for Movie Dance Scene, Movie Hissy Fit, and Comedy by the Teen Choice Awards (I mean, does anyone else have a hissy fit award?).

The Academy and its Oscars (which actually matter) ignored this film like they would a moral code (in other words, as if it was never made).

Napoleon Dynamite is a “cult” film and remains very popular with the younger set; seniors like myself are hardly impressed.

I believe the chief problem with this film is we find Jared Hess, the director, also shares the writing credits (if you can call them that) with Jerusha Hess (I assume a relation). When directors become writers and writers become directors the results are seldom good, as evidenced here.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico – 1 Star (Terrible)

An All Star cast of Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp and Salma Hayek fails to deliver in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Only one word can describe this pitiful attempt at a movie: terrible, just terrible.

These stars were suckered into this one, as it has a bad script, bad directing, bad production, bad make-up and nonsense fight scenes. I grow ill just thinking about how disappointing it was.

Oh, did I mention that the director of this fiasco, Robert Rodriguez, also pulled down the writing credits in this film, and pulled down the film in the process (perhaps he thought he was on track to win Oscars for both efforts; the Academy thought otherwise). Awards for this effort: nada.

Notebook, The – 1 Star (Terrible)

The Notebook is a classic drama about relationships. A wealthy girl has a youthful fling with a poor boy. Her parents try to break up her relationship, and she must decide to follow her heart or follow her family and its wealth. Later, she makes the right choice, and when she is much older, suffers dementia.

The focus of the story is here, at her worst, with her husband reading to her from a notebook, hoping for a miracle that will bring her faculties back to normal. This movie has a beautiful, peaceful, gorgeous opening sunset scene that is gripping, and remains in my mind as the best part of the film.

Notebook never really has a chance to become a good film because of terrible sound management; there are too many key moments in the film where you simply cannot hear the sound, and this is inexcusable in such emotional turmoil.

Normally, when my remote sound key is on 7, it is loud at my house. There are parts in this film where I had to click it up to 23 to hear, and even then it was muffled as the actors had poor diction. A competent movie production team would never have released this film without fixing the volume and quality of the movie’s soundtrack. It is a shame, the movie had potential but will never see the light of day.

Notebook did come with a credible cast of James Garner, Gena Rowlands and Rachel McAdams, and did earn no less than 8 Teen Choice Awards (not Oscars), which was hardly enough to push it to a better result.

Of Human Bondage – 1 Star (Terrible)

Based on W. Somerset Maugham’s novel about a well bred professional’s obsession with a common slut with pretend morals. This film, made in 1934, stars Leslie Howard and Bette Davis, and we are certainly thankful that moviemaking has come such a long way since then.

The Prince and the Showgirl – 1 Star (Terrible)

A showgirl (Marilyn Monroe) and a stuffy prince (Laurence Olivier) work through an unlikely romance.

The Prince and the Showgirl, made in 1957, is best left in 1957; it was too easy to tell that some of the background scenes were paintings.

The most interesting thing in the film was Marilyn Monroe cast with long blonde hair (it was early in her career). Her famous pictures as a glamour girl never showed her with long hair.

I only bring these five movies to your attention so you are not smitten with mediocrity when you sit down to enjoy your movie rental choice. My forewarning is useless, of course, should you invest in any of these films.

Copyright © 2006 Ed Bagley