Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Year 2, Day 33 - 2/2/10 - Movie #398

BEFORE: This biopic of Cole Porter ran on cable last week, so it arrived too late to be viewed with the other films like "Ray" and "Walk the Line", and maybe that's for the best. Last night's film ended with Kevin Kline playing the piano (if you ignore the group finale number) and tonight's movie begins with Kevin Kline playing piano - I do love it when something like that happens.

For more movie synergy, check out the list of films that Turner Classic Movies will be playing in February - for their annual "31 Days of Oscar" promotion. I want to keep plugging for TCM, because they've been invaluable in helping me catch up on old movies, which they run uncut and commercial free, usually with insightful commentaries before and after each picture. Anyway, the gimmick is that for 31 days, every Oscar-nominated film they run will share one actor with both the movie before it, and the movie after it.

It's like the world's largest movie chain, and since the list begins and ends with films starring Kevin Bacon ("Only When I Laugh" to "Diner"), it's great if you really want to show-off playing that "Six Degrees" game. Someone over at TCM had a lot of fun putting this list together, I'll bet - and I'm showing restraint by only adding 18 of these films to my viewing list...

I'm proud to say that of the 360 or so films on their Feb. schedule, I've already seen 43, with another 9 in my collection. But add in the 18 that I'll be recording, and that's still only 20% of their line-up.

Check out the full schedule here, you won't be sorry:

You're welcome...

THE PLOT: Inspecting a magical biographical stage musical, composer Cole Porter reviews his life and career with his wife, Linda.

AFTER: This was a different sort of format for a biography, a little like what they did in "Beyond the Sea", with the central character reviewing scenes from his life, as if seen on stage, and then transitioning into the full movie scenes. Here Cole Porter sits in a theater's audience with a mysterious figure named Gabe (Jonathan Pryce) and together they comment on Porter's life, giving stage directions as needed.

As you may know, Cole Porter was married to Linda Lee Porter (Ashley Judd), but preferred the company of men. They had an open marriage, at least for him, and appeared together on the social scene and at his musicals' premieres. So it was a complicated partnership, but the movie depicts a loving relationship, if not a passionate one.

They meet in Paris, and then live in Venice, and Linda gets Irving Berlin to arrange for Porter's first musical on Broadway - so they move to New York, and Linda's happy to get Cole away from his European boyfriends. It's not like there's a big gay scene in New York or anything...

So later she puts pressure on him to compose music for films, and they move to Hollywood. Smart move, since it's not like there's a big gay scene in Los Angeles...

Cole Porter's one of those composers who's written many more songs than I realized - and the movie takes advantage of this by dropping in some of today's artists in cameos, performing Porter songs on stage, in nightclubs, at parties, or in underground men's clubs. So we get to see Elvis Costello perform "Let's Misbehave", Sheryl Crow sing "Begin the Beguine", "Let's Do It" done by Alanis Morissette, plus Diana Krall, Robbie Williams, Natalie Cole, etc. It was a clever way to put a modern spin on some music that the kids today might not know.

With Porter's backstory in place, it's amazing what he got away with in his music - some of the songs seem very subversive without being blatantly sexual - but it gives a new layer of subtext to songs like "Anything Goes", "Love for Sale", and "Blow, Gabriel, Blow". Or is my mind just in the gutter?

Anyway, the film is all about appearances - who did Cole Porter appear to be, as opposed to who he actually was? But I'm not sure that the story really got behind the scenes and into his head. Like we got the who and the when, but not the WHY.

RATING: 6 out of 10 cigarette cases

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