Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Set in a Hotel


Thursday! Less than week and half until I'm off for Winter Break! 

I often joke with some of my colleagues about the long breaks we get every winter, what with the two week break that often extends, intermittently, into January and February with snow and ice. Cabin Fever is real, and we often liken it Stanley Kubrick's locked up wintry hotel in The Shining. It can get crazy. It looks something like this: 



So, I guess you know where I'm going with one of my picks this week as part of Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. Sorry. It has to be done. I mean...Movies Set in a Hotel? There's only so many places my brain goes. 

Here are my picks: 

The Shining
Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1980

...or this: 


The only Stanley Kubrick film (of the ones I've seen) that I can actually say I love, The Shining is quite simply one of the most terrifying mind fucks of a film of my movie life. I needn't say much about the plot. Jack Nicholson is badass and classic crazy as the Overlook Hotel's newest off-season caretaker. Shelley Duvall, as his wife, is scared out of her mind, quite literally, if lore holds true. And that kid...equal parts creepy, knowing, and lovable. Plus, Scatman Crothers, and that terrifying music. Good God! 

For Love or Money
Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld, 1993


As 90s romantic comedies go, there are few better for me than For Love or Money. Michael J. Fox charms it up as Doug Ireland, the smooth-talking concierge at a fictional upscale NYC hotel. He is also a lonely dreamer, planning to build a new hotel of his own. He schmoozes and glad hands and always knows what to say, whether its with the midwestern schmuck (Michael Tucker) on a last-ditch second Honeymoon with his wife (Debra Monk) or the mobster with a heart of gold (Dan Hedaya) or the slimy, rich businessman (Anthony Higgins) he plans to hit up for seed money. The problem is his potential financier is dating the girl of his dreams (Gabrielle Anwar). This is a fun romantic comedy. I miss Michael J. Fox. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dir. Wes Anderson, 2014


Ralph Fiennes was robbed of an Oscar nomination last year. In a great year for leading men, it was Fiennes as M. Gustav H., the concierge of the Grand Budapest in the time between the great wars, that took the prize for me. This is an astounding work from my favorite filmmaker with large doses of hilarity and wit, touches of pathos, and a production design unmatched in recent years. 

Side Note: I got into a conversation with a former student of mine, an 11th grade budding film buff (I taught him when he was in 7th grade), who said this was the only Wes Anderson film he'd seen. I immediately offered my Criterion Blu-Rays. I handed them off today. It warms my heart to be able to share Wes Anderson's work with a young movie guy. He texted to me last night to say he watched Rushmore (the one nearest and dearest to me as a teenager...and still today) and that he loved it. 

20 comments:

  1. Cool story about your former student. Hope he enjoys them all. Reminds me, though, I still need to see Rushmore, myself.

    As for the movies you picked, I know for sure that two of them are excellent: The Shining and TGBH. Haven't seen the other. It came out at a time when I was actively avoiding rom-coms unless I was in the company of a young lady. By the way, Fox still shows up on The Good Wife from time to time.

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    1. Dude. See Rushmore. Report back immediately. Lol.

      Yeah. Rom-coms have their time and place. I only watch them when my wife wants to, generally. I was just an early 90s kid who loved everything Michael J. Fox touched. Have never watched The Good Wife, but I love it when he pops up. So hard to watch him. So inspired by his grit, though.

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    2. Thanks for watching rom-cons with me.

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  2. That's really cool of you to lend your DVDs to a student. I LOVE the Shining. I can't believe I didn't pick that one myself. It slipped my mind. Grand Budapest is also very good, but I haven't seen For Love or Money

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    1. Thanks. Anything for the kids. The Shining was a must.

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    2. Yep, so cool of you to lend them out. Especially Criterion blurays. They're so beautifully packaged.

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  3. Three great choices even if I don't love them all.

    I respect what Kubrick and Nicholson achieved with The Shining more than I can say I loved it. Perhaps I expected too much since the book set the bar so high but this is probably the best rendition that could have come out of any adaptation.

    For Love or Money is a sweet film mostly because of Michael J. Fox and his special charm. It's such a shame his illness has robbed him of the facile grace that was so innate in him. The few times I've seen him of late he still has an easy likability but there's no question he struggles with his issues. An admirable person, he has a lot of pluck.

    Grand Budapest seems to be the title of the week. I liked it, and Fiennes in it, but I can't say I'd ever watch it again...a common reaction to Wes Anderson films for me. It's a beautiful looking film for sure.

    I like how you were able to tie your opening notes into a lead up to your first choice, I don't have anything so clever but my second and third picks are among my favorite films. Here are mine for the week:

    Bobby (2006)-Intermingling stories set in the Ambassador Hotel on June 4th and 5th 1968 as several groups prepare to attend the Democratic presidential primary rally at which Robert F. Kennedy will speak and will ultimately have a tragic outcome, his assassination. Filmed at the actual locations that events occurred just before the hotel was demolished.

    Evil Under the Sun (1982)-In an absolutely gorgeous island hotel in the Adriatic a group of wealthy people sun themselves and bitch at each other until one of them turns up murdered. Thank goodness Hercule Poirot is among the guests and can put the "little gray cells" to use solving the crime. Hugely enjoyable version of Agatha Christie's mystery with Peter Ustinov a perfect Poirot-clever, urbane, canny and sly. The entire cast seems to be having fun with a brilliant Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith making great sparring partners with dialog dipped in venom. Amazing costume design.

    Dear Heart (1964)-In New York for a postmaster's convention Geraldine Page, a single kind hearted postmistress meets traveling salesman Glenn Ford who is staying in the same hotel. Tired of the road he’s become engaged to a pushy woman more out of a longing to put down roots than passion. Now an unexpected spark ignites between the two strangers, what to do? Sweet, gentle comedy/drama of two lonely souls slowly realizing they are meant for each other. Great supporting cast includes Angela Lansbury and both the actresses, Alice Pearce and Sandra Gould that eventually played Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched.

    Honorable Mention-Week-End at the Waldorf (1945)-Glossy remake and relocation of Grand Hotel to New York's Waldorf-Astoria. Slick and well-acted by a star studded cast, Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Edward Arnold and Van Johnson among them, but missing both the grit and pathos of the original.

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    1. I still to this day have never read the King novel. One day, perhaps. Agreed on Fox all the way. Grand Budapest is down on my Wes Anderson list, but I love all of his work. He was just one of the first new talents that hooked me into film, coming up in the film world as my tastes were growing as a teenager.

      As for your picks, I avoided Bobby for some reason. It seemed a bit overstuffed or something. The story always interested me though. Love anything involving the Kennedy family in any way. Haven't seen any of your other picks, but, as usual, they all sound great.

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  4. Grand Budapest is the most Wes Anderson film Wes Anderson has made so far. I don't love it as much as others seemed to (Moonrise or Tenenbaums is still his best), but I do love it. And you are so right about Fiennes. No one else could have played that part like he did, and he was PERFECT.

    The Shining I still don't think I've ever seen all of, and I've certainly not seen it all the way through, but what I have seen is really good. Poor Shelley Duvall I think is very unfairly maligned for her performance. It's maybe the best Scared-As-Shit Performance (to borrow the MTV Movie Awards parlance) ever.

    I haven't seen For Love or Money, but if you miss Michael J. Fox, watch The Good Wife on CBS. He's a recurring guest star and he's pretty great.

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    1. Yeah. I'd say he really dropped the total Wes Anderson experience into that film. It's down on my list as well, though. For me, it's Rushmore. That was the one that got me first. But I love all them.

      Shelley Duvall is great in The Shining. Her ability to play pure terror on her face is amazing.

      Not sure if The Good Wife is something I'd be into, but I've heard great things. Maybe I'll check it out. Love when Fox pops up. His cameo in Curb Your Enthusiasm a few years ago was priceless.

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  5. I knew Grand Budapest would be everywhere today but I still had to pick it and I agree with Fiennes was robbed. I never saw For Love or Money but it sounds like it would be a fun one to see. I knew The Shining would be picked also. I love that creepy film but it is Christmas so I didn't want to choose it. Scatman Crothers was great in the film and felt he was robbed to get whacked as soon as he came to the hotel. I always laughed at his art work on his wall.

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    1. The casting of Scatman Crothers is the best. And his death scene is terrifying. I think the wintry atmosphere of the film makes it good for this time of year. Haha! But it is a bit heavy and dark for the Christmas season. For Love or Money is a good for when you're looking for something light. I'll never get over Fiennes' snub. That was the one that hurt last year.

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  6. Great picks! Haven't seen For Love or Money but its Michael J Fox as a concierge - SOLD!

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    1. Thanks. Yeah. See it. It's a lot of fun.

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  7. Out of all the films mentioned here, I've only seen The Grand Budapest Hotel.

    And I agree with you that Ralph Fiennes got robbed of an Oscar nod for The Grand Budapest Hotel. It's definitely one of Wes Anderson's best films. Out of all his films, I still need to watch Bottle Rocket, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, & Fantastic Mr. Fox. Of the ones I have seen, here is how I rank them:

    Moonrise Kingdom
    Rushmore
    The Grand Budapest Hotel
    The Royal Tenenbaums

    I'll try to watch the rest of the Wes Anderson films soon. Thankfully I have every single one of his films (& I have all of his Criterion Collection Blu-rays. The Criterion Collection has now sent me on a never-ending path of movie history.)

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    1. Get on it, man! A lot of Criterion titles are movies I have no interest in whatsoever, but there are some great ones. So many to see.

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    2. I'm gonna get on it soon! Thankfully, Christmas vacation is starting up in 2 days. So I will have 2 weeks to watch the rest of the Wes Anderson films.

      And I also agree with you. I have no interest in a lot of Criterion titles. But there are a few that really interest me. Hopefully, they release Ghost World on DVD & Blu-ray soon, & Criterion should also re-release Once Were Warriors & The Player on DVD & Blu-ray (since they were Criterion Laserdisc titles.)

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  8. I was just making sure you put The Grand Budapest Hotel on here. I shouldn't have had any doubts.

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