Category Archives: Tributes

Obit: Lizabeth Scott (1922-2015)

Courtesy of fineartamerica.com

Courtesy of fineartamerica.com

The evening of Friday Feb. 6 was a sad occasion for the Film Noir community with the passing of Lizabeth Scott (she actually died on the 31st of January). Her home studio Paramount intended her as a carbon copy of sorts to Veronica Lake and Lauren Bacall (a common practice in the Studio Era to keep their stars in line), but she quickly forged her own personality.

Aided by her smoky contralto voice, slim slinky physique and angular beauty, Scott perfectly fit in with the shadows and grit of Noir. Fans remember her best for her turns as avaricious femme fatales in Dead Reckoning and Too Late for Tears. She gives her best performance in the latter as a housewife who becomes a mercenary murderess when she and her plain, simple husband (soon to be ex) stumble on a bag of major cash intended for a shady character (Dan Duryea).

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Scott totally sinks her teeth into a character that has no redeeming features, pulling off the hard feat of making the audience root for an unrelentingly soulless and unscrupulous dame. As she demonstrates in a scene with her character’s antagonist played by Dan Duryea, she has an intriguing way of feigning submission that comes off as a parody of the construct of femininity. (The New York Times, which almost always trashed Scott’s acting, gave her a glowing review.)

While fans remember Scott’s criminal baddie characters, most of the roles she played were essentially good girls heavily seasoned with spice. Scott, who was a very sophisticated 25, could have been a total misfire as a rebellious teenager who falls for a dangerous criminal in the 1947 Technicolor Noir, Desert Fury. Since the film itself is wonderfully oddball, Scott’s “miscasting” is an asset as she adds a rough sexual tension that might not be present from a more typical ingénue. Her relationship with her mother (played by the fabulous Mary Astor) has a striking hard-boiled love-hate quality with a lesbian subtext.

Courtesy of www.popscreen.com

Courtesy of www.popscreen.com

In Dark City, best known as the film debut of Charlton Heston, Scott gives her most underrated performance as a nightclub singer who is both a part of the criminal underworld and a tender and faithful companion to Heston’s good-bad guy.

She is equally credible as the good girl in the melodrama The Company She Keeps. Scott elevates the potentially soggy character, an altruistic parole officer, with a clear-sighted, unsentimental performance. She is able to hold her own against Jane Greer, who has the far meatier role as the bruised parolee who falls for Scott’s fiancé.

Courtesy of jake-weird.blogspot.fr

Courtesy of jake-weird.blogspot.fr

The moral ambiguity of Film Noir began phasing out by the 1950s as McCarthy and his hysterical anti-commie posse seized Hollywood with their well organized, but pointless witch-hunt. Quality roles for Scott started dwindling as well. She plays femme fatales with humor and charm in Two of a Kind and Bad for Each Other, but the films themselves are dreadful bores.

Unlike most of her studio-era peers (often under duress from the big boss), Scott never married. In the reactionary regressive cult of suburban domesticity that plagued much of 1950s America, Scott was an easy target for a salacious Confidential article, which alluded that she was a lesbian “prone to indecent, illegal and highly offensive acts in her private and public life.” While this story did not outright destroy her career, it didn’t help it either.

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Around the same time Scott developed stage fright (which is not uncommon among seasoned performers) which made acting less appealing to her. Her appearances became increasingly more sporadic until she retired from the biz for good in 1972. She gives a scene-stealing guest starring turn, playfully camping it up as a mysterious, but sexually aggressive widow in a 1963 episode of the TV series Burke’s Law.

Intellectually curious about the world, Scott continued studying literature and philosophy. In interviews, she came across as an intelligent and thoughtful person. Now that Scott is gone, we are nearer to the end of an era of the great femme fatales. Thankfully, their cinematic legacy will live on.

Tribute: Robin Williams’ Best Scenes

Robin Williams Most Magical Moments

Courtesy of pbcvoice.blogspot.com

Courtesy of pbcvoice.blogspot.com

 By Heather Nichols, Tawfik Zone Contributor

Robin Williams wouldn’t want us to be sad about his passing. Instead he’d want us to celebrate the laughs and achievements that are this great man’s legacy. Unfortunately I am a wee bit too young to give more than a nod to Mork and Mindy, although I did enjoy Mork’s cameo episode on Happy Days (it’s weird what TV Land makes available and what they don’t). Before you get on my case about not having Mrs. Doubtfire in my favorite Robin Williams’ scenes, I confess that I haven’t seen it yet. So without further ado here are some of the highlights from Robin William’s film repertoire, at least from the one’s I have seen.

I’ll start with a rather unusual choice, One Hour Photo, which is not the first or even the fifth film that usually comes to mind when speaking of Williams. In fact I can’t remember the entirety of the film because it was late one night on HBO or something like that. One moment stuck out to me, when Williams held a figurine from the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. As it turns out Williams was a fan of the show as well as other fandoms and his daughter was named after the Princess from the Legend of Zelda series. I know it’s a weird reason to like something, but I think he’d approve.

Courtesy of forum.foreignmoviesddl.org

Courtesy of forum.foreignmoviesddl.org

Williams had a way of standing out even in the smallest of roles. Two of which were the Night at the Museum series as the beloved president Teddy Roosevelt and the coveted role of John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. In the latter he spends less than 10 minutes on screen and isn’t even credited, but even in that wild movie, the fact remains you can’t forget about him.

He was also a beloved presence in children’s films, some of which are the best produced of all time. In both the Disney film Aladdin and Steven Spielberg’s Hook, he brought so much fun to the characters through his ability to improvise and his genuine love for making people laugh. The Genie might be one of the most popular sidekicks in the Disney’s film library. It’s amazing that there is over 16 hours’ worth of recording for the character, most of which was improvised by Williams himself. Despite his talent he didn’t consider himself a great singer and yet “A Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” are super catchy.  His Jack Nicholson impression which makes me smile every time.

Courtesy of www.fanpop.com

Courtesy of www.fanpop.com

I said before in my tribute to Bob Hoskins Hook is in my top ten favorite film list of all time For one the cast is brilliant and for another, it takes a kids movie to a very real place and tackles real kid issues without talking down to them. Jack is mad at his father, Peter Pan (Williams) for missing his baseball game and a lot of kids are able to relate to that sort of thing. In the beginning we see how becoming an adult has really seemed to suck the fun out of old Peter but he eventually realizes he’s become too obsessed with work and needs to remember what it’s like to be a kid again to realize what is really most important. And also, who didn’t love that food fight scene?

Love it or hate it, The Birdcage displays some of William’s most hilarious scenes of all time. Many dismiss the film feeling that it accentuates terrible gay stereotypes. You must consider that it’s based off a French play, which was later adapted into an English musical, so naturally that adds to the over the top factor. I understand how the subject can be offensive to some, it’s a side-effect of comedy which we can accept or just ignore. One scene that a friend of mine noted for being a standout is when Williams’ character is trying to get Nathan Lane’s character to act more masculine while buttering a piece of bread. Thankfully some wonderful individual has put this on YouTube because a description alone would not do it justice.

Courtesy of www.bradwarthen.com

Courtesy of www.bradwarthen.com

Good Will Hunting earned Williams an Oscar. All in all it’s a great film. His character gives such insight to people so it’s really hard to pick just one moment. The chemistry between him and Matt Damon is incredible and the lessons he teaches Damon’s character are also being instilled on us, the audience. This just makes this film more awesome. I think people will be quoting the advice in which he states that a person cannot really understand and feel loss until they love something more than themselves.

I have a confession to make, I was 14 and an angry young individual when I first saw Dead Poet’s Society and dismissed it as an overly bloated piece of rubbish. Then I re-watched it a few years later because I noticed one of my best friends was quoting it all the time. I don’t know how I missed the weight of those quotes then, but damn. It should be obvious that with the very word in the title, Dead Poet’s Society has a lot to say on the subject of life and death.

Courtesy of www.fanpop.com

Courtesy of www.fanpop.com

Today more than ever those lines, especially about death ring out as we see Williams not as the teacher he played in the film, but as the tragic student Neil, a character despite outward appearances and being loved by friends, ends up taking his own life. This film is not a bad place to start for anyone who wants to try to understand depression. It shows the overwhelming weight of the illness and how despite all the love, sometimes you get to a place where words can no longer reach. I know I said I wasn’t going to focus on Williams’ death, but I really can’t dismiss the parallels of the movie and Williams’ real life.

He made us laugh, he made us cry, he gave us words to live by and instilled lessons on us but above all else he was a great gift to all and he will be greatly missed. RIP Robin Williams.

Obituary: Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Robin Williams the Lovable Anarchist

Courtesy of www.theexcomedy.com

Courtesy of www.theexcomedy.com

Death is inevitable. However, certain passings such as Robin Williams’ on Monday August 11th, catch us by surprise and leave us totally devastated (for a few days at least). At 63, he wasn’t especially young. He wasn’t even particularly healthy, having open-heart surgery in 2009 and many years of cocaine and alcohol abuse, the latter with which he struggled even to the very end.

Even so his death is a major shocker. In his numerous public appearances, Williams possessed the energy of a solar-powered wind-up-toy. Above all, Williams seemed to be the indomitable survivor, invincible really, with a real zest for life (even when he constantly made fun of his own inner demons.)

Courtesy of www.bohomoth.com

Courtesy of www.bohomoth.com

His death is the Marilyn Monroe for our generation. On the surface, a comparison between the shapely blonde bombshell and the manic and hairy comedian might seem out of whack. In many ways, they had similar career trajectories. Both had highly idiosyncratic, singular talents that endeared them to the masses and catapulted them to superstardom. While the industry realized their uniqueness, very few producers and filmmakers knew what to do with them, rarely capitalizing on what made them special.

Williams caught the world by storm with his dimension-altering performance as the alien Mork in the now-cult late 70s and early 80s sitcom Mork and Mindy. Series creator Garry Marshall realized Williams’ battiness from his first audition where he stood on his head in a chair, and fostered Williams’ freedom of expression, even clearing out chunks in the script to give him time to improvise, later to be joined by Williams’ idol Jonathan Winters.

While most of his fame and fortune came from Hollywood movies, many of the projects water down his insanity in favor of a more conventional patness or they feebly attempt to coopt his wild comic persona, but reduce it to shrillness.

Courtesy of findingthewrongwords.blogspot.com

Courtesy of findingthewrongwords.blogspot.com

One movie performance that stands out is his voiceover work as the Genie. Miraculously, the dictatorial Disney allowed him to ad lib almost all of his dialogue. His presence singlehandedly elevates Aladdin as he counteracts the standard bland Disney tedium with an endearingly unhinged performance.

His lightning-paced stream-of-conscious lines that fuse numerous celebrity impressions (ranging from Jack Nicholson to Walter Brennan to Ethel Merman), accents, ethnicities, stock characters, and cultural references are perfectly suited to the medium of animation, reaching the full potential of the deepest depths of absurdity that is rarely scratched at the surface in animation. In one of the Oscar’s many arbitrary rules, Aladdin was deemed ineligible for a Best Original Screenplay nomination because of Williams’ improvisations, which ironically gave the film its quality.

It’s an unforgivable sin that Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg cheated Williams (who was paid minimum scale) out of the royalties that he more than deserved.

Courtesy of www.hitfix.com

Courtesy of www.hitfix.com

It’s Williams’ stand-up specials and his appearances on talk shows that are of interest. Underneath his warmth and lovability, Williams was just as shrewd and ruthless as George Carlin or Bill Maher at dealing with unpopular and un-PC topics, such as mocking people with disabilities, corporations, and patriotism. Anybody looking for belly laughs must check out his 2002 HBO special Live on Broadway, a brave and hilarious show, especially in dealing with George W. Bush and the Patriot Act so raw after 9/11, when everybody was still angry and terrified. Warning, you will need an inhaler handy as your ability to breathe will be compromised.

You could always count on the rebellious and unpredictable Williams to bring vitality to the staleness of talk shows with his devilish (but ultimately benign) sense of anarchy. Occasionally, there is a savvy host like Johnny Carson or Craig Ferguson that will work with Williams’ insanity. More often than not TV interviewers, unable to keep up with Williams’ intellectual spontaneity, insistently stick to their script of trite questions asked five million times before.

Courtesy of www.smh.com.au

Courtesy of www.smh.com.au

One particularly epic moment of television was when Williams appeared on Inside the Actors Studio. Under the reins of host James Lipton, the program is a dry laundry-list of an actor’s most famous movie/TV roles. Williams wanted no part of this generic line of questioning and in his usurpation, gave the audience a master class in the art of improv, and not to mention, entertained the hell out of everyone.

If I had a magic lamp, my wishes would be 1) Robin Williams would still be here 2) He would be doing a ton of stand-up 3) filmmakers and producers would get their act together and use his gifts rather than suppress them.

Obituary: Nancy Malone (1935-2014)

Courtesy of m.fanpix.net

Courtesy of m.fanpix.net

With her sandy blonde hair, freckles, fleshy round face, and soft feminine voice, Nancy Malone perfectly embodied the girl-next-door ingénue as an earthier Doris Day. She would slide easily in considering that, in the 50s and 60s when she was in her prime acting years, nearly all of the female roles were housewives or virtuous love interests.

However Malone, who passed away on May 8th at 79 from complications of leukemia, took the road less travelled in her roles, particularly in guest appearances on 60s TV shows. At a time when virtually every major female TV character was confined to the house, Malone played the girlfriend to Paul Burke’s Det. Adam Flint in the superior NYC-based dramatic series Naked City. Her character, Libby, had a life of her own as she was an actress and director. The detectives would occasionally enlist her help for her knowledge of human psychology. But more importantly, they were living together, unmarried (and doing it before Marlo Thomas got more famous for doing it in That Girl)!

Courtesy of www.nationalenquirer.com

Courtesy of www.nationalenquirer.com

In the fourth and final season, the writers gave her more to work with and in quite a few episodes Malone demonstrated a lot of gravitas as the relationship between Libby and Adam became more strained following a revelation that Flint had had an affair.

For the most part of the 60s, Malone had shrewd judgment in choosing guest roles on TV shows, finding complex roles with good scripts. On Dr. Kildare, she forcefully played an intelligent and hard-working breadwinner nurse whose career was stalled by both her dysfunctional family and a con-artist they fell for after her ne’er-do-well father died, milking her finances dry.

Courtesy of in2eastafrica.net

Courtesy of in2eastafrica.net

In one of the most underrated episodes of The Outer Limits, Malone and Nick Adams are a duo selected to battle aliens to save humankind. This episode is more philosophical and bittersweet than most of the apocalyptic drivel cluttering the big and small screens today. Although Adams receives top billing, Malone’s character is the heart of the piece as it becomes more about her journey of learning that she can’t save the bad-boy gambler Adams from himself and to find the strength to save humanity on her own.

My favorite performance is on one of the most criminally neglected TV shows, Run For Your Life. Malone is perfectly cast against type as a cold and ruthless criminal stealing the identity of a girl from her small home town (Joanna Moore). She and the morally conflicted Moore (who is blackmailing Malone) share a couple of excellent scenes as we see two intelligent and articulate women sparring, something we don’t see often in scenes other than fighting over a man.

Even in virtuous good-girl roles like her second appearance on The Fugitive, Malone plays them with a refreshing unsentimentality and gives them strong, resilient personalities.

Courtesy of www.libertatea.ro

Courtesy of www.libertatea.ro

Malone, like many of her female colleagues, was dismayed by the lack of good roles for women. During the 1970s, Malone got her start as a junior executive producer at Tomorrow Entertainment, a company newly formed by former ABC executive Thomas Moore, at a significant pay cut. Malone used her position to try to court original scripts, though many times she was ignored, like when she pitched hard for George Lucas’ American Graffiti but the brass passed.

After developing the successful TV Movie Winner Take All, about a female gambler (Shirley Jones), Malone became the first female vice-president at a major studio, as the head of TV development for 20th Century Fox. She went on to form her own production company, Lilac Entertainment, a few years later.

Courtesy of www.latimes.com

Courtesy of www.latimes.com

In the 1980s until the early 2000s, Malone primarily focused her efforts towards directing, where she helmed episodes of shows like Dynasty, Star Trek: Voyager, and Dawson’s Creek. Her most historically significant directorial effort was the 1985 PBS TV movie There Were Times, Dear, which was the first TV film about Alzheimer’s.

In addition to advocating for strong roles for women, Malone was a tireless champion for helping women break into executive and directorial positions, co-founding a nonprofit organization Women in Film.

Courtesy of www.independent.co.uk

Courtesy of www.independent.co.uk

On a personal note, I was very touched when Ms. Malone took time out of her busy schedule to answer a lot of questions I had relating to her experiences about her stint on the show Run For Your Life.

She remained active right until her death, with an independent feature film she executive produced, Little Miss Perfect, currently in post-production.

Tribute: Bob Hoskins and Me

Courtesy of wiiudaily.com

Courtesy of wiiudaily.com

This is written by Tawfik Zone Contributor Heather Nichols

April 29th was a sad day as Hollywood lost one time Oscar Nominee Bob Hoskins. Still he achieved countless awards throughout his career and played some of the most iconic characters from my childhood. I normally don’t do a memoriam piece for a celebrity that dies (the last time I did anything besides a Facebook status mention was in 2006 when I created a whole presentation on Steve Irwin after his death for a Sociology class). As a child of the 90s both Irwin and now Hoskins were a large part of those formative years and I feel I owe it to them to say something about that.

The first two roles most people of my generation think when it comes to Hoskins are 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit and 1993’s Super Mario Bros. Eddie Valiant was my gateway into film noir, I just didn’t know it yet. I used to be on the fence about film noir when I started as a film student, I had seen a really badly acted one in a class and almost dismissed the genre entirely. Then I saw Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity and for some reason Roger Rabbit came to mind so I decided to revisit the film as an adult.

Courtesy of www.wired.com

Courtesy of www.wired.com

I couldn’t believe my parents let me watch that as a kid. To be fair it was playing on rerun when they would go out and my grandparents were “watching” me. I used to change the channel before the villain Judge Doom would make his appearance and that scene with the shoe, which was just as upsetting to me as Artax, the horse from The Neverending Story sinking into the swamp of sadness. Despite the fact a lot of that movie went over my head, I would still watch it, and I think that’s credited to Hoskins’ performance. To a child he seems like a grumpy guy who just doesn’t like cartoons, but as an adult you realize there’s much more substance to the story. I could go on all day about how wonderful a movie this is but it’s actually only my second favorite role he’s been in. No Mario isn’t number one, but we’ll talk about that one too.

A lot of 20-somethings have mixed feelings when it comes to the Super Mario Brother’s movie (it isn’t noted for being a great film). The film might be the sole reason why we haven’t seen another live action adaptation attempt from Nintendo but it was also one of the first, if not the first, attempt to translate a child’s game into a full length feature film. Considering that your source material is about a little Italian plumber trying to rescue his girlfriend from a giant turtle-demon, it is no surprise that the movie was confusing and weird. Still, Hoskins shines in this role. In fact he’s downright brilliant and the only thing that kept this movie from falling horribly on its ass. You believed Hoskins as Mario and you still rooted for him in spite of the badly designed bad guy, over the top bad dialogue, and plot lines that had more holes then Swiss cheese.

Courtesy of markb4.wordpress.com

Courtesy of markb4.wordpress.com

My favorite role of Hoskins might come as a surprise, partly because it’s an underrated film which tends to be the case with a lot of children’s films that aren’t produced by Disney. With a voice acting cast featuring not only Bob Hoskins but also Kevin Bacon, Bridget Fonda, Jim Cummings and Phil Collins I am talking about the Steven Spielberg-produced 1995 classic, Balto. Anyone who knows me knows how big of an animation buff I am, but they also know I’m a stickler when it comes to voice acting work.

For example, my biggest issue with Kung Fu Panda was the fact that they weren’t utilizing voice actors for a lot of the roles. I didn’t have a huge issue with Jack Black as Po, but casting Jackie Chan in a voice over role? He had to be dubbed by a voice impersonator for his own cartoon show!

Courtesy of www.tribunaitalia.it

Courtesy of www.tribunaitalia.it

But I digress. Voice acting is different than acting for live-action and this was a task I felt Hoskins absolutely nailed. In the film he plays Boris the goose who is a surrogate father figure to both Balto and a pair of polar bears. If you’ve seen this film you’ll be able to hear the voice in your head, for some reason he has a Russian-esque accent though the film is set in Alaska, but it works. It makes you feel that Boris has been around and is qualified to be the role model figure in this film.

He also doesn’t come off as annoying which is also what set this apart from a Disney film. Actually none of the characters in this film are annoying. The polar bears are comic relief because they don’t realize they can swim, but they’re not annoying. This film is awesome and I highly recommend it to the whole family as there’s something for everyone. But getting back to Hoskins the reason I like this role slightly more than his in Roger Rabbit is it shows his versatility to be able to both act and voice act and just the character itself. Eddie Valiant wasn’t as accessible to me as a child but Boris was like an adult that’s always giving you advice, who’s got your back. That’s why I have a soft spot for Uncle Boris.

Courtesy of renegadecinema.com

Courtesy of renegadecinema.com

From playing one of the best Smees in a Peter Pan adaptation, to his minor parts on television shows like Fraiser and even to his brief cameo in Spice World Bob Hoskins was one of the best actors from my childhood and I’m sad to see him go. I’m glad that he’s left a legacy in film and I hope that those movies continue to be shown for generations to come. So long Eddie.