Monday, June 7, 2010

Happy Birthday James Ivory

Oregon's own James Ivory, along with gay partner (like they were gay together) producer Ismail Merchant (what, you didn't know that?) and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, his Merchant Ivory Pictures became synonymous with classic period films in the 80s and 90s. His career didn't begin with The Remains of the Day, or even The Bostonians, but for the purposes of this post, let's pretend it did.

The Bostonians: saw it, don't remember much. Vanessa Redgrave rebounded from her 70s Oscar controversy with a Best Actress nomination (it was the year we liked, REALLY liked, Sally Field, so she lost, but all things considered it was an honor for Redgrave to be nominated). Its other nomination was for Costume Design.

But Merchant Ivory BECAME Merchant Ivory with the first period piece that I actually enjoyed: A Room With a View. (Well, if you could Amadeus, then maybe it's the second.) I don't think I stayed awake through the movie the first time I saw it, but I definitely enjoyed it and ultimately have seen the whole thing. Also, don't go to the movies with me at night. I am going to point out this, taken directly from the movie's Wikipedia entry:
At this point in the movie, it should be noted that there is a swimming scene with continuous male frontal nudity and a chase scene that surprises the women main characters, who are surprised by seeing three nude men running through the woods.
I wonder if this has anything to do with my enjoyment of the movie... More importantly, would this warning exist if this had been about boobies? You decide, penises included in this trailer.

It won 3 of its 8 Oscar nominations, including Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's first win for Adapted Screenplay.

There are movies in between Remains and Howards End, but let's skip those. I'm being the stereotypical Merchant Ivory fan now, and they don't even know Slaves of New York exists (they are lucky).

There is no apostrophe in Howards End. I didn't care for it on first viewing, but much later grew to appreciate it. It picked up 6 Oscar nominations, winning 3 including Emma Thompson's near universal acclaim as Best Actress, and Jhabvala's second Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Redgrave is amazing, but she disappears after the first hour of the movie. Even still, Marisa Tomei? Sigh.


But I think, oddly, that my favorite is the under-appreciated The Remains of the Day. The acting from both Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson (both Oscar nominees) is amazing in its subtlety. Truly they are repressed Brits. He lost an Oscar to Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. Don't get me started...

Aside from the acting, the movie is pure elegance. The editing, the cinematography, the art direction--it's just a perfect little movie, that had the unfortunate timing to come out the same year as Schindler's List. Ergo 8 Oscar nominations, 0 wins.

Supposedly Ivory roomed with a former coworker's dad when they went to the University of Oregon together, so I am possibly 3 degrees of separation from Ivory (and 4 from 2-time Oscar winner Ruth Prawer Jhabvala). If I don't have to actually try to get in touch with him, then let's say that's for sure.

Happy birthday dude! Rock on!

1 comment:

Leland said...

Have I ever told you that he had a cabin below ours? I played with his kids and saw him skinny-dip on more than one occasion.