Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Preview: Lemmon and Wilder

"I'm terribly fond of Jack. We understand each other very well and it's a pleasure to work with him. He is a thinking actor, but not an argumentative one. By that way I mean if we start shooting at nine o'clock, he would be there at 8:15 and would come to my office and say, "Hey, I've got a great idea! Look, why don't we do this? Blah, blah, blah, blah." And I just look at him, and he says, 'I don't like it either.' And he walks out."
-Billy Wilder on Jack Lemmon

We are in the home stretch, folks. Summer is coming to a close, school has started again and temperatures are dropping back down to a mere 100 degrees or so. Okay, so the heat hasn't really abated yet, but that's okay. The Summer Series is now in its last week, and they're not letting up either. And what better way to refresh oneself during these tepid days than something light. How about some high caliber comedies, courtesy of the great Billy Wilder and each with a twist of Lemmon. Jack Lemmon, that is.

Over his career, Bily Wilder had a diverse career from charming comedies (Sabrina) to darker fare (Sunset Boulevard) to dramas (Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Stalag 17). Yet, Wilder's bread and butter was that signature charm of his witty comedies, and Jack Lemmon was a frequent collaborator.

Some Like It Hot was the first film that they worked on together, and fifty years later it is widely considered one of the best comedies of all time. Jack and Tony Curtis are two guys on the run from the Mob, and travel disguised as women. Things get interesting when the fellas travel with a female band and become enamored with the vocalist in the process. Oh, did I mention she's played by Marilyn Monroe? So categorize that infatuation under "duh."

While I recognize that some do like it hot, we've been suffering through over 70 days of 100 degree temperature this summer. Insult my manhood if you want, but some of us like it air-conditioned.

From an awards standpoint, The Apartment stands as Bill Wilder's most lauded film. The winner of Best Picture of 1960, it stars Jack Lemmon along with Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray. Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter, an insurance agent who is another faceless drone at his company. But he possesses a key to success that is questionable ethically and morally. He lends out his apartment to executives to take their mistresses for their liaisons. Wait a second. 1960? New York City? Affairs at big corporate businesses? Don Draper would be so proud.

Alas, Baxter finds that this method of climbing the corporate ladder is not without its own dangers.

The film is a showcase for both director and star. Wilder flaunts his brand of dark humor, and Lemmon embodies that role of an everyman that he often does to perfection.

During his career, Billy Wilder earned over 20 Academy Award nominations, with eight of those nods for Best Director. Although Jack Lemmon never won Oscars for these collaborations with Wilder, he went on to become the first man to win both a Supporting Actor Award (Mister Roberts in 1956) and Best Actor Award (Save The Tiger in 1973) in the course of a career.

Thinking back, it's hard to believe both of these men have been gone for nearly ten years now. Lemmon passed in 2001 and Wilder in 2002. Then again, the term "gone" is hardly accurate. The sense of joy that they left behind on film is eternal, and feels fresh no matter how many times you revisit these movies. It's a rare gift that we are able to laugh at ourselves in the bleak times. And that, dear friends, is what Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon have left for us: the ability to smile in the face of adversity, and then laugh heartily at the circumstances of life itself.

Since I am likely to laugh so hard in an air-conditioned theater that I still get flushed and feel warm tears streaming out of my eyes, then I have to admit I was wrong. In that regard, I guess I do like it hot, after all.

Showtimes for the films:

Some Like It Hot
Monday, Aug 29th
Tuesday, Aug 30th

The Apartment
Monday, Aug 29th
Sunday, Aug 30th

Final Notes about the screening:

Some Like It Hot (Some Don't) Fan Drive Benefitting Family Eldercare

"Some Like It Hot” but some don’t, especially in their “Apartment” or homes. With Central TX’s unrelenting 100+ degree days this summer, the challenge to relieve low-income seniors, adults with disabilities and families with children from life-threatening heat is especially critical. That’s why the Paramount is hosting a fan drive benefitting Family Eldercare in conjunction with their summer film series screenings of Some Like It Hot & The Apartment. Drop off a new fan to the Paramount theatre the day of these screenings and receive a free film pass.*

*One film pass per donation, may be used for screenings at the time of donation or for any other regularly scheduled Paramount film accepting film passes through printed expiration date on film pass.

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

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