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Everything posted by cinemaspeak59

  1. cinemaspeak59

    Noir Alley

    It's a good list, considering that Hitchcock's work is uniformly excellent. It's nice that Hitch's British films are there. I would have liked to have seen a spot for Saboteur (1942).
  2. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched Action/Adventure

    Mission Impossible - Fallout (2018). This franchise seems to get better with each installment. The filmmakers have found a way to keep the action – land, nautical and aerial – fresh and enthralling. (A fight set piece that takes place inside a posh men’s room is downright operatic). We know about Tom Cruise preferring to do his own stunts, but the entire cast fully believes in, pardon the pun, the mission, i.e. the movie they are making. There are no self-conscious winks at the audience. IMF superspy Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team, which includes neurotic computer whiz Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and tech whiz Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) - the three of them have great screen chemistry, one of the best aspects of the picture - race against time to retrieve stolen plutonium in the hands of an international terrorist ring known as The Apostles. Angela Bassett, playing CIA chief Erika Sloane, views the IMF as an out of control wrecking ball, and assigns Hunt a chaperone of sorts. That would be Henry Cavill’s August Walker, a smooth assassin who sneers at IMF’s old school espionage techniques. Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) is back as the nihilist villain; even in jail he’s able to control events. There are plenty of plot twists. Allegiances are tested as to whose side the assortment of characters is on. Vanessa Kirby, playing an arms broker named The White Widow, is a nice addition to the cast, which includes Rebecca Ferguson as Ethan’s love interest/possible double agent, and Alec Baldwin as the IMF boss. I’m already looking forward to the next installment.
  3. cinemaspeak59


    No argument from me about The 39 Steps. I love it and have watched it many times. Saboteur, from 1942, also a great film, can be viewed as an American version of The 39 Steps.
  4. cinemaspeak59

    Changes Coming for the Academy Awards

    I think the change was due to the commercial and critical success of the Marvel franchise, for example Black Panther, and also DC Entertainment's Wonder Woman. This then begs the question, why not simply nominate these films for Best Picture? My sense is the Academy views them as escapist entertainment, albeit with artistic merit. The Oscars aren’t perfect, and never will be because art is ultimately subjective. I read that Disney lobbied hard for the change because they own Marvel Studios, and they own ABC which televises the show.
  5. cinemaspeak59

    BRITISH CINEMA during the 1930s and 40s

    I like Hitchcock's British output, a few of my favorites are The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935), Secret Agent (1936) and The Lady Vanishes (1937).
  6. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched Horror

    Mark of the Vampire (1935). Bela Lugosi is back as the iconic Count, this time he’s Count Mora, and he’s assisted by his daughter Luna (Carroll Borland). The Count’s castle is infested with bats, rats, roaches – making it a scary place even if vampires didn’t live there. Count Mora smiles with pride at Luna’s hunting skills, and a deliciously diabolical smile at that. Lionel Barrymore plays a role similar to Van Helsing. I had the rug pulled out from under me by that twist ending, and it was quite a pleasant surprise, although it’s the kind of ending that may not appeal to everyone. Mark of the Vampire drips with atmosphere. It was directed by horror ace Tod Browning and lensed by legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe.
  7. cinemaspeak59

    Safety Last! (1923)

    Safety Last! (1923) remains a cinematic marvel and a comedic masterpiece. Watching Harold Lloyd scale De Vore Department Store, dangling from a giant clock, just so he can win $1,000 and get married, still gives me sweaty palms. The inventive gags come lightning fast, blink and you'll miss one. Considering the madhouse Harold had to endure working at the store - waiting on a horde of rabid women fighting over fabrics, concocting a charade to trick his girlfriend into thinking he's the General Manager rather than a lowly clerk - climbing a skyscraper was just another day at the office. The supporting cast was great, especially Westcott Clarke as Mr. Stubbs, the tyrannical Floorwalker, and Bill Strother as Harold's best friend and, of course, Mildred Davis, as Harold's sweetheart. Also, the scenic backdrops of 1920s downtown Los Angeles were a treat.
  8. cinemaspeak59

    When 'good guy/gal' actors suddenly play evil....

    Demure, refined Joan Fontaine, so nice and agreeable in Rebecca and Suspicion, showed she was capable of playing a femme fatale extraordinaire in Ivy (1947) and Born to Be Bad (1950).
  9. cinemaspeak59

    Unlikely Sex Objects

    Although Durbin had a girl-next-door image, Universal recognized her erotic appeal, hence pairing her with more mature men, in effect trying to have it both ways. This is true as she got older. For example, in His Butler’s Sister (1943), her leading man was Franchot Tone. Compared to say Rita Hayworth or Lana Turner, Durbin was an unlikely sex symbol.
  10. cinemaspeak59

    What are your Top 10 Favorite Romantic Comedies

    All good choices here. May I add I couple of my favorites: The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) A great Christmas farce starring Bette Davis, Monty Woolley, Ann Sheridan and Jimmy Durante Bell, Book and Candle (1958) A beguiling comedy with Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon. A great New York-set story that pokes fun at the city's Greenwich Village beatnik scene. Broadcast News (1987) Hilarious look into journalism, starring Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks and William Hurt
  11. cinemaspeak59

    Unlikely Sex Objects

    Well, for me it’s Deanna Durbin. I think Universal was aware of it by pairing her with much older leading men. And I also liked Priscilla Lane. She had good chemistry with Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace, and she was very good in Saboteur, a worthy addition to the legendary Hitchcock blondes.
  12. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched Pre-Codes

    The Front Page (1931) sizzles with Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s script, the barbs and sexual innuendo flying back and forth. Pat O’Brien plays ace Chicago reporter Hildy Johnson, looking forward to marriage and a less hectic life in New York. Adolphe Menjou, as Johnson’s cagey editor Walter Burns, will use any trick in the book to keep him from leaving, knowing that Johnson is a reporter through and through. The narrative hook is the escape of death row inmate Earl Williams (George E. Stone). Is Williams guilty, or is he being framed by politicians looking to get reelected on a law and order platform? Ably directed by Lewis Milestone, The Front Page uses quick cuts to maintain a breathless pace. Mary Brian plays Johnson’s patient fiancé, and Mae Clarke shines as Williams’s gaudy but good-hearted girlfriend. Great supporting work comes from of an assortment of character actors, including Frank McHugh as a sleazy tabloid bottom feeder, and Edward Everett Horton as a persnickety germophobe. The Front Page was remade, brilliantly, in 1940 as His Girl Friday, with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. But this Pre-Code adaptation of the famous 1928 Broadway play more than stands on its own.
  13. cinemaspeak59

    Vanishing Movie Cliches

    Very true. Drug stores nowadays are owned by chains and have harsh lighting and long lines.
  14. cinemaspeak59

    Vanishing Movie Cliches

    I like it when someone runs away or skips town, they say "he took a powder" or "she took a powder." I heard it used in 1930s and 1940s films, usually gangster pics and screwball comedies.
  15. cinemaspeak59

    Noir Alley

    Party Girl (1958) is a solid gangster pic that pulled its punches because of studio politics. Robert Taylor as mob lawyer Tommy Farrell gives a fine, nuanced performance, conveying through gestures, pauses, and rhythm of speech the character's moral torment. It's one of his better performances. He's older, wiser, and with his world-weary persona, avoids the smugness that crept into some of his earlier work. Cyd Charisse as showgirl Vicki Gaye proves she was a dynamic but sadly underutilized dramatic presence. Sure, her dance numbers were a little incongruous, but her dancing is so sensational that it's not worth quibbling over. Now, I would have liked for Lee J. Cobb to have underplayed mob kingpin Rico Angelo, if just to make him more menacing, rather than resorting to broad cartoonish mannerisms. Although his showdown with Tommy, quietly reminding him that one can never know when a thug might come along and douse Vicki's face with acid, when Tommy said he wanted out, was chillingly effective. It was interesting to hear Eddie Muller say that 10 years after Party Girl, its director, Nicholas Ray, was in legal trouble and hired, without knowing it, a lawyer who had represented Al Capone. And from what Ray learned made him reflect on what Party Girl could have been without MGM's interference. That being said, it's still a very watchable film.
  16. cinemaspeak59

    Recently watched Noir

    City That Never Sleeps (1953) started out promisingly, and then became enamored by its own style. There was plenty of flat dialogue that should have been left on the cutting room floor. And the final chase scene dragged out, losing energy, becoming anticlimactic. Nonetheless, there was beautiful black & white photography of Chicago at night, with notable performances by Edward Arnold as a crooked lawyer, and William Talman as a murderous blackmailer. Mala Powers, playing an exotic dancer, also gave a sympathetic portrayal. Gig Young as the conflicted policeman was okay, but his character lacked inner turmoil.
  17. cinemaspeak59

    And Then There Were None (1945)

    There was a miniseries that aired on Lifetime back in 2015. It was very well done, with the original ending intact. Out of all the despicable characters, the one that tops the cake is probably Vera Claythorne, at least based on this miniseries.
  18. cinemaspeak59

    Noir Alley

    I liked Armored Car Robbery (1950). It was a tight, well-paced crime drama that made good use of its L.A. location. There was fine acting, and William Talman, with his steely determination and scary face, made for a great villain. Clocking in at 67 minutes, it never felt under-cooked.
  19. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched SF & Fantasy

    I went into Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom knowing what to expect, and I wasn’t disappointed. The CGI-rendered dinosaurs are still great to look at. This time, the question is whether to save the creatures or let them perish at the hands of a very active, and angry volcano. The movie even manages to let slip in sly political commentary, as greedy oligarchs compete to buy and weaponize the dinosaurs. As in the previous installment, Jurassic World (2015), the ocean predator Mosasaurus is the scariest one, and I would have liked to have seen it featured more.
  20. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched Horror

    Ari Aster’s Hereditary creates a building atmosphere of dread. Making it look like it takes place inside a doll’s house, (miniature houses figure prominently), creates a disorienting, other-worldly feel. The textures, colors, even the sunlight, feel artificial and not quite right. The family house becomes a central character, accomplishing close to what the Overlook Hotel did in The Shining. Enormous credit goes to the cinematographer, set designers, and lighting technicians. There’s nothing original about Hereditary, except the horror movie tropes are executed with such insidious brilliance. Something routine such as looking at your reflection is something you think twice about doing. A portrait of grandma, how perfectly normal, meriting nothing more than a cursory glance, pulls us in with that ghostly, ominous subject staring back at us. Yes, the third act is a disappointment. The ending draws back the curtain and announces “See, you’ve since this all before, haven’t you?” Well, yes, we have. But there’s enough chilling, blood-curdling imagery, and sound, that not even an ending this over-used could spoil. The cast, led by Toni Collette, and including Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Ann Dowd, are outstanding.
  21. cinemaspeak59

    High Class Pornographic Films

    Boogie Nights (1997), directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is a film about the porn industry, set in the so-called Golden Age of Porn, the 1970s, in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley. It opened to critical applause. It's worth checking out.
  22. cinemaspeak59

    Recently watched Noir

    Tokyo Drifter (1966). Tetsu “The Phoenix” is a gangster who decides to embark on the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, he still abides by an archaic, and for him dangerous, code of loyalty, specifically to his boss, Kurata, who has disbanded the criminal gang he led. A rival crime boss, sadistic Otsuka, with his bright red jacket and penchant for wearing sunglasses indoors, wants to muscle Kurata out of a valuable piece of real estate, thus drawing Tetsu back into the business. Tokyo Drifter is all over the place genre-wise, and every place is wonderful. For example, there are sets that resemble MGM Technicolor musicals. A drifter, as referenced in the title, is a self-imposed Monasticism, a life devoted to being constantly on the move, unencumbered, even by women, which in Tetsu’s case is rather poetic. TCM has been airing a few yakuza films of late. Last month I had the pleasure of watching another gem, A Colt Is My Passport (1967). Nikkatsu, the studio behind Tokyo Drifter, didn’t care for director Seijun Suzuki’s experimental style, and fired him in 1968. Suzuki would be blacklisted from making films for another 10 years.
  23. cinemaspeak59

    Recently Watched Pre-Codes

    A Free Soul (1931) is a showcase for Norma Shearer, who plays Jan Ashe, the daughter of alcoholic defense attorney Stephen Ashe (John Barrymore). Stephen ends his losing streak by winning the acquittal of gangster Ace Wilfong (Clark Gable, exuding the masculine super confidence that would launch him to stardom). For Jan, its love at first sight upon meeting Ace. Supposedly refined women falling for crude alpha males is nothing new. And there’s always a sensitive soul who gets kicked to the curb. Here the discarded lover is Leslie Howard, playing renowned polo player Dwight Winthrop, who takes the rejection with philosophical resignation, a trait that made Leslie Howard’s doomed characters so memorable. A Free Soul is hurt by sluggish pacing. Gable’s performance is uneven. He’s more effective as the suave bad boy who courts Shearer than the thug who turns on her. Barrymore is poignant as the washed-up lawyer with nothing left except the love of his daughter. Shearer dominates the picture by her dynamic screen presence. The predictable third act finds Barrymore back in court, working his magic for the last time, defending Howard against murder. My favorite part was Gable’s Ace Wilfong threatening Shearer’s character with the ultimate Pre-Code punishment, not physical violence, but spreading the news she’s been sleeping with him, shaming her and thereby ending any chance of a respectable marriage.
  24. cinemaspeak59

    Top Ten Films of...

    I liked Ivy (1947), a gaslight noir starring Joan Fontaine, which aired on TCM a couple years ago. I would like them to show it again.
  25. cinemaspeak59

    Noir Alley

    Nice to see The Letter getting so much love. Bette Davis understood quite well Somerset Maugham’s characters. Some of her best work involved adaptations of Maugham literature: Of Human Bondage and of course The Letter. Maugham's female protagonists were often sexually avaricious, cold and unlikeable. Davis captured the essence of Mrs. Crosbie, a woman for whom Hammond was a sexual addiction: shame at first, followed by a junkie-like anticipation until her next fix. The character’s hair style choice, prim and conventional, concealed her true nature. Bette's expressions, at times blank-faced, carry on the lie this is a dull and passionless English woman. The Letter never gets old. A wonderful film through and through. Eddie Muller almost made the case the first fully realized film noir was not The Maltese Falcon, as film historians claim, including Muller, but the stagey and refined The Letter. And why not? It has the stylistic visuals: inky, high-contrast black & white cinematography (a Warner Bros. hallmark), stark shadows, jagged light, all of which would figure prominently later in what became classic noir.

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