ClassicViewer

LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...

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Reel.jpeg *LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...*

 

LIBEL was my *most favorite.* I wrote about it in the thread called 'Miss Olivia's day.' I thought it had great performances, a clever script and excellent set design.

 

I also liked HIGH TIME which I mentioned in the thread on men dressing in drag. It was one of those feel-good comedies that works in any era. And the scene where Bing plays piano and sings the melodious Second Time Around was sublime. I am convinced the campus exteriors were filmed at UCLA.

 

Another film I enjoyed immensely was on FMC recently, PEOPLE WILL TALK. I saw it years ago on PBS. I remember liking it, but I didn't remember it being so good. I think Cary Grant and Jeanne Crain have very good chemistry and what a shame they did not make more movies together. It's easy to see why Zanuck considered her his favorite actress...she's probably one of the best that ever worked at Fox. The way she takes a character that is so naive (but not so innocent) and gives her life and romantic charm is truly skillful. And I think Cary is more at ease in this picture than he is in some others from the same period.

 

Also...I recently wrote that one of my *least favorite* films was a B-western called FORT BOWIE. I was all set to record over it, but I decided to give it another chance. I have to say it was not as bad as I had originally thought. While the plot strains credibility in places, I do like the atmosphere of the picture, with all these characters confined at a fort that is under attack. There's an interesting scene where natives have captured some white men and nearly get away with torturing them; they are prevented by a native woman that has fallen for one of the white officers. That did seem like an ironic twist. Needless to say, I have now decided that I am not going to record over this film.

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Of the recent ones I have seen:

 

I think my *most favorite* was THIS PROPERTY IS CONDEMNED. It aired on Flix last night, and I did not know much about it...by the time it was half-way finished, I was completely smitten with Natalie Wood (and to a lesser extent, a young Robert Redford).

 

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There are some great performances by the supporting players...namely child actress Mary Badham (of MOCKINGBIRD fame) and Canadian stage actress Kate Reid playing Nat's grotesque, unseemly mama. A story like this could only come from the mind of Tennessee Williams whose one-act play is substantially expanded in Coppola's script. Director Sidney Pollack really keeps the performers in check, so that any moment when hysteria could easily break out, we are instead given a more subdued, but nonetheless just as potent emotional outpouring. The best scene is where Nat's Alva forces her mother's boyfriend to propose and she runs off and gets married, betraying her mother. This sets up another good scene when it's Mama's turn to betray the daughter. What a shame that Paramount has not released this on DVD yet...it's a smashing film and you even get to see bad-boy Charles Bronson in action.

 

***

I also watched FAR FROM HEAVEN, which aired on the Encore Drama channel. It was released in 2002, but for some reason, it kept eluding me. This film has probably stuck with me a little more than the other films I have seen recently. I think it's because I like and dislike it and I can't figure out completely why.

 

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I think Todd Haynes does a good job of getting the look right (he's attempting to emulate Douglas Sirk's 50s melodramas). But it still seems anachronistic. The kids talk in cliches, the other housewives talk in cliches, and the husband is very cliched. If the intention were to spoof the 50s or to do it a bit more tongue-in-cheek, that would be one thing (and that's what Sirk often did), but I think Haynes gets too serious and wants to make a point about racism and closeted gay men, to the point that it overtakes the more simplistic, natural aspects of the story, which should really be about cookie-cutter conformity. I also don't think the actors got the 50s mannerisms quite right, with the exception of Celia Weston as the despicable Mona Lauder, the town's chief gossip ****. I think that if you are an actor or a director and you are doing a period piece such as this, you really do need to look at the people of the period. Americans in the 1950s were for the most part earnest in their endeavors and had a down-to-earth, let's rebuild the country after the war, mentality. I don't think they were really trying to be perfect...that was the ideal we see in TV programs like Leave It to Beaver and The Donna Reed Show.

 

The other thing that was 'off' for me in this film is that when the husband struggled with his sexuality, it was one snap of the finger and he was on his way to see an analyst. I think nuclear families of the 50s probably consulted their ministers about this stuff first, then if it was still a problem, a doctor or hypnotist might be used. The fact that there is not one bit of religion in this middle-class American home doesn't seem realistic, especially because we know that Julianne Moore's character is guided by a strong moral compass, even when she is drawn into the vortex of these social problems. Finally, I have to say that I think the music seems a little too contemporary...and it would've been nice to hear some actual music from the 50s in this film.

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It's been more than a week...so I have quite a few to mention:

 

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I'll start with HOLD THAT CO-ED. Wonderfully funny film with a few 'messages' about politics and gender. A puffed up John Barrymore, nearing the end of his career, plays a governor who bets his re-election on an underdog college football team. The team is led by coach George Murphy, and it happens to have Joan Davis as one of its players (she's the star kicker)! The ending is truly suspenseful, because they cannot earn their final scoring touch-down very easily with a tremendous wind storm blowing them down on the field. What a clever script, excellent comic performances and the usual good Fox production values from the late 30s.

 

I enjoyed THE FRENCH LINE very much. I had a hard time getting past the terrible condition of the RKO Technicolor print. Someone, please restore it. Jane Russell is superb as a sassy southern belle on a cruise to Europe, and she's joined by some strong character actors like Arthur Hunnicut and leading man Gilbert Roland. This project seems to prefigure some of Jane's work in other hit films of the period, especially GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES with pal Marilyn Monroe. The musical numbers are indeed risque but the lyrics and choreography are not to be missed. Neither is Jane's costuming which has to be seen to be believed! The only way this film could've been better would've been if Bob Mitchum had been in it.

 

Speaking of Mitchum, I finally watched THUNDER ROAD due to a recent TCM airing. I don't know why I put it off so long, but I rather liked it. There's something easy and natural about Mitchum's delivery in this film. And while it's not quite noirish, it does have crime elements and the story is rather powerful in terms of how Mitchum's character tries to leave his old life behind and how he tries to protect his younger brother. The black-and-white cinematography works well for this type of story.

 

Meanwhile, the black-and-white cinematography in Mitchum's other recent TCM showing, TWO FOR THE SEESAW, makes an otherwise snappy story a bit dull. Since Mitchum and costar MacLaine's characters are supposed to have this bright, unexpected energetic romance, it follows that Technicolor might've been the better choice. Robert Wise's direction is great as always, and the character-driven piece, based on a stage play, gives us a lot to mull over.

 

Probably my *most favorite* film this past week was THE GREAT MAN'S LADY. The Paramount western features Barbara Stanwyck in another of her tough-gal roles, plus frequent costar Joel McCrea (they did six films together, mostly westerns). There are scenes reminiscent of Stanwyck's earlier ventures, like ANNIE OAKLEY and THE GAY SISTERS. Plus, there is that familiarity that comes from other settling-the-west tales such as CIMARRON. Aspects of the plot in LADY are a bit weak, presumably due to constraints imposed by the production code (involving the bigamy of McCrea's character and an extra-marital affair between Stanwyck's character and supporting player Brian Donlevy). But the hard work of Stanwyck helps pull off the story, and the flood scenes are very well photographed, especially one with an overturned stagecoach and infant children.

 

My *least favorite* film was THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE. I don't think I'm alone in not particularly liking this title. I expected more. After all, it has Kim Novak and Peter Finch, plus some good supporting actors such as Ernest Borgnine. But the script, about the behind-the-scenes life of a movie crew, just seems to veer too far into the strange and implausible. I can understand it if it were meant as a tongue-in-cheek satire (which I think was partly the aim), but I also think it's meant to be a serious critique of the inflated egos and selfishness of stars in the business. It doesn't engender any sort of sympathy from the casual viewer, and because the story and its characters lack such heart, it makes a person who actually watched the whole thing, feel guilty for wasting time on it.

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I saw four movies last week, and they were all interesting. I think the best one was Tropical Malady. The Champ is not the sort of movie I would ordinarily wish to see, but it actually works rather well. At any rate, this Wallace Beery boxing picture is better than Barton Fink. Underworld USA was interesting, though not completely successful. Dancer in the Dark was overwrought and manipulative, but watching Bjork dance with Joel Grey was cool.

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I just finished watching UNDERWORLD USA. I think it works, mainly because of Cliff Robertson...the plot is definitely far-fetched. Larry Gates also does a nice job as Driscoll. I was trying to look at the film as a love story: the guy's love for his father and avenging his father's death; and his unusual relationship with Cuddles, the girl who helps him exact revenge.

 

Director/writer Sam Fuller does not try to challenge the rules of the production code..but he does make a point of having the hero go bad at the end, so they all wind up dead (except the two women).

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> {quote:title=MyFavoriteFilms wrote:}{quote}

> Meanwhile, the black-and-white cinematography in Mitchum's other recent TCM showing, TWO FOR THE SEESAW, makes an otherwise snappy story a bit dull. Since Mitchum and costar MacLaine's characters are supposed to have this bright, unexpected energetic romance, it follows that Technicolor might've been the better choice. Robert Wise's direction is great as always, and the character-driven piece, based on a stage play, gives us a lot to mull over.

>

 

I think that film had to be in B&W. The romance may be unexpected, but it is constantly hot and cold, each unsure of and not trusting the other. VERY moody. It is set in the beat scene of NYC. Technicolor would have been totally out of place. I'm a Mitchum fan, and had never seen it. I did like it, but I wish he had had the guts to cut the ties to Tess, in the end. I think the reason it wasn't written that way is that, in that era, they were just considered to be irreconcilable opposites, a Bohemian artist, and a lawyer, and both from different social strata.

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ValentineXavier -

 

I too agree that TWO FOR THE SEESAW had to be filmed in B&W. I think most melodramas of this type are best in B&W (seeing Shirley MacLlaine I immediately think of THE APARTMENT). The subject matter, the gloominess in both of their lives, the ups and downs of their relationships, the run down apartment, and even when MacLaine is sick - all made for B&W.

 

I will say that I disagree about the ending. I found the ending to be very realistic. I think even by today's standards that ending works. Shirley MacLaine's character was simply a rebound. Mitchum leaves Nebraska and wants to start all over and he kicks up a relationship or fling with someone who is totally opposite of him - and probably his wife too. I think for people in relationships sometimes it is easier to find comfort and companionship in another person - even if temporarily - rather than face their issues head on and deal with them. Mitchum's life with MacLaine gave him time to miss his wife and really contemplate if the divorce is what he wanted. From the way they spoke on the phone and him being somewhat secretive about the divorce being final, it is clear that he is quite unsure of it all. I also think this film being made in 1962 means that Robert Wise probably had more control over the content and the messages in the film (basically it would have been okay if Mitchum did end up with MacLaine).

 

This, at least, was my interpretation of it all. Also, I felt for MacLaine's character because she was a rebound and took a risk dealing with a recently separated man. I think that from a woman's point of view, she felt that what they had could actually turn into something seeing as how his soon to be ex wife was thousands of miles away....but in the gloomy, realistic end, we see that no amount of distance can really tear an emotional connection apart. Although we never see his wife on screen, and see all his adventures with MacLaine, it is clear by the end of the film that his wife still has his heart.

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I watched a few great films this past week. I just want to mention them quickly before I forget:

 

First, in the Van Heflin department. THE PROWLER is a fun film noir from the early 50s where he gets play a truly despicable character. This is a rarity for Van. But he also plays a villain in THE RAID. Thanks to Fox Movie Channel for pulling this one from the vaults. The Technicolor photography and the costars (Anne Bancroft, the always dependable Richard Boone, Will Wright, James Best and Lee Marvin) make it truly must-see. And it's based on an actual story about Confederate soldiers near the Canadian border who take over a town to get back at the Union. Excellent all-around.

 

My *most favorite* film this week, though, was probably STABLEMATES. What's not to like with Mickey Rooney, Wallace Beery and Margaret Hamilton. This is probably Hamilton's meatiest role (aside from OZ's wicked witch). I am surprised MGM did not pair her with Beery again. I guess they found Marjorie Main instead, to continue the formula created by Beery and Marie Dressler earlier in the 30s. What's good about this film, however, is the more humane aspects of the plot. The way the horse and veterinary medicine is discussed and shown is really superb. And Wallace Beery gives a superior performance in an operation scene where he needs one more sip of liquor. Beery had problems with alcoholism in real life, and that is one of his most raw, most intelligent, most compassionate and most true scenes on film. I am glad he was given the chance to confront his dark side with this movie. And it falls perfectly into MGM's family film cannon, with its redemptive ending. (Note: Beery also plays a drunk in AH, WILDERNESS, but it's a more comical interpretation...in STABLEMATES, it is much more dramatic and more effective).

 

My *least favorite* was MURDER ON A BLACKBOARD. This was part of the mystery series Edna May Oliver did for RKO in the 30s. TCM showed two of the entries. Oliver gives a delicious performance as a spinster school teacher solving murders. But the murder plots are so mundane (lame even) that it makes the viewer scratch their head in amazement. How could these films have been so popular? The audience must've been too busy liking Oliver and costar James Gleason to overlook the weaker aspects of the plot. It's not a terrible film, but it could've been better. This series could've produced some four-star classics if the scripts had been more plausible.

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"Three Times" by Hou Hsiao-Hsien was clearly the best movie I saw last week, three love tales told with impeccable simplicity and class. As for the other movies I saw, "The Prowler" had a considerable creepy energy, while "Iraq in Fragments" was one of the most interesting documentaries I've seen in some time. I liked "The Merry Widow" when I saw it on TCM, but I can't say I was paying proper attention to it. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" has intimiations of subtlety, but on other hand it has Jason Segal acting like an idiot as a crucial plot point.

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I thought the idea of this thread was your most & least favorite of what TCM has broadcast the past week. crazy.gif

 

I really enjoyed the 27th highlighting Dane Clark...I just love those fluff comedies, especially THAT WAY WITH WOMEN which gave us the rare opportunity to see Sydney Greenstreet in a comedy role.

 

But my absolute favorite of the week was Underground's educational short PERVERSION FOR PROFIT described as "a floodtide of filth". It was a 31 minute riot.

 

My least favorite this week is a tie. I watched RANDOM HARVEST which was beautiful and superbly acted. The story was just a tad unconvincing and I was disappointed overall, since I expected it to be wowie.

But DAYS OF HEAVEN sucked me in with the gorgeous cinematography, costumes & settings. When I saw Ennio Morrecone as musical director I thought I might as well give it a whirl. I only wish I could get my 2 hours back.

In the closing commentary, Robt O stated most of the dialogue was improvised, it was obvious. There wasn't one line that sticks in my mind except the narration, obviously scripted and spoken in a thick accent.

Both the principle actors were simply terrible, the story was unbelievable and I never felt any connection or interest in what happened to them.

 

No need to show that one ever again TCM.

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Completely agree about DAYS OF HEAVEN. It's the third time they've shown it this year (the first time was during the Oscar build-up). It's not a finished film. It's an obvious example of how the soundtrack and visuals don't match up, and they had to go back and cover it with extensive narration. It's an experiment that failed.

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I think I'm going to have to start a new thread called LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the day...

 

I usually watch about two or three films per day. And when I get to the end of the week, I only select a few for this thread, and I'm overlooking/neglecting the others. :)

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*I think I'm going to have to start a new thread called LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the day...*

 

Or you could create a daily blog at the CFU where you could go into more depth each day about the films you least and most like that you watch that you feel you are neglecting.

 

The CFU also has allows for comments so that readers can share their comments with you.

 

Just a thought.

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> {quote:title=ClassicViewer wrote:}{quote}

> I don't think it has to forcefully show the POV of the other sex, but it does need to consider it and evidence of that needs to be in the film. The example of LITTLE WOMEN (1994) that I gave yesterday really illustrates this...the director is a woman, and she's definitely a feminist, but she does not delete out the father...she does not tell the film from his point of view, but she does show him as a contributing factor in the lives of the girls. I don't think Huston ever took the women's contributions into account when he was making those buddy action flicks and capers. He could easily have shown flashbacks of them recounting scenes with the women in their lives, while they were out in the desert hunting for gold...one of the men could easily have suffered from delirium and seen the mirage of a woman...Huston could've added that, even if it was not present in the book...but clearly, he's not interested in representing that...he wants to show these men isolated from the rest of civilization and women folk. He should've made prison dramas or stories of homosexuals where logically we would not find many women.

> {quote:title=ClassicViewer wrote:}{quote}

> I think ANNIE had great potential but Huston did not approach it correctly. PRIZZI'S HONOR he approached correctly, ANNIE he did not.

 

I have to jump in and say you're wrong here, Classicviewer-- Annie failed because it was, I think, wrong for the times. It should have been made in the 30?s with Shirley Temple. (The thought of Shirley Temple in a red clown wig makes me smile, though. Hee hee) Prizzi's Honor works because it's a tight suspenseful drama, laced with humor and cynicism, which was right for the times.

 

As far as Huston?s work goes, who cares what he chose to direct? As long as what he did was well done? So he doesn?t have a feel for ?women?s issues??most of the best known and best respected directors had a particular type of movie they felt most at home in and specialized in. They knew what they did well, and stuck to it. And I know there were also some directors who were jack-of-all trade types and directed many different types of films. But how many can your average person name? (I KNOW there are a bunch of people on these boards who can name them  )

 

This has been an interesting line of discussion, and I am essentially a feminist at heart, but I get annoyed when stories are ?doctored ? for the simple purpose of adding diversity. Adding females who lived in the town and letting them talk about the men searching for gold to Treasure of the Seirra Madre is just silly. And a waste of film. People didn?t/don?t watch that film for a feminist viewpoint?they watch it for the adventure and the effects of greed, distrust, and hatred on three prospectors searching for gold. And of course for the mesmerizing performances of the lead actors.

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Actually I liked all three movies I saw last week: "Offside," "Unknown Pleasures" and "Maskerade" starring Anton Walbrook, when he was still Adolph Wohlbruk.

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Many (and I must say, many-many) favorites this week:

 

WINTER MEETING...not played too often on TCM, but it should be. Bette Davis is great as always, and Janis Paige milks a limited role like nobody's business. But the most pleasant treat is the presence of young leading man James Davis. Yes, _that_ Jim Davis who went on to make a slew of westerns and starred as patriarch Jock Ewing on TV's long-running Dallas. He is just so appealing in this film, turning in a very heartfelt performance and more than holding his own with the ladies. However, I think the real star of this effort is Catherine Turney who wrote a stellar script.

 

FALLEN ANGEL...the classic Otto Preminger noir that served as a follow-up to his earlier hit, LAURA. Again, Fox has cast Dana Andrews in the lead role; and this time, he's joined by Alice Faye and Linda Darnell. There's been a lot written about this being Faye's last picture as a lead actress-- she was apparently unhappy at how her role was edited by Zanuck and drove off the studio lot, enraged. But I don't see her being slighted at all. Darnell's character dies mid-way and Faye's character clearly has more screen time if you add it all up. I think a musical number was cut, but I don't think a musical number would've added to Faye's role...the character was a single woman who played religious hymns. To see a church-going spinster sing a pop ballad would've been unrealistic. It seems as if Zanuck knew what he was doing. And it's a great film. The dialogue crackles, the sets are good, and the supporting cast is wonderful (including Percy Kilbride, Charles Bickford and Anne Revere).

 

CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA...Barbara Stanwyck is always consistently good in her pictures, regardless of genre and director. But in this one, she really demonstrates her range. I can't recall seeing a picture in recent memory where the lead actress is more authoritative. Savage natives? Rough cowboys? They all have plenty to fear when Babs is on the scene. By the way, the on-location scenery is truly marvelous (filmed in Glacier National Park). And hunky costar Ronald Reagan adds to the scenery rather nicely.

 

My *most favorite* film this week was ...TICK...TICK...TICK. I created a separate thread for it on this forum. So I won't repeat my comments. But if you haven't seen it, you're missing a great picture.

 

My *least favorite* film was THIRD FINGER, LEFT HAND. Interesting title and top-name talent, including Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas. But what an utterly inane script. This could've been such a great story, about a woman who needs a man to pretend to be her husband. There could've been all sorts of zany screwball complications. But instead, we get Myrna pushing the lie that she's married and getting away with it, due to the flimsiest of circumstances. And the reason given for her creating a phantom husband is that she needs to be married in order to be an executive. It's just hard to swallow. This would've worked better if she was a closeted lesbian or if she was trying to prevent her family from arranging a marriage with a guy she did not love. Instead, we get all this other hooey.

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Well leaving aside that last week I saw The Earrings of Madame De for the second time, I think the movie that I liked most last week was The Horse Thief. This little seen 1986 Chinese movie about a Tibetan thief is fascinating and visually striking. Moolaade, Sembene's last movie was interesting. I can't say Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Silk Stockings made much impression on me. Indeed the latter movie seems less to vindicate American society because it's a constitutional democracy than because it's much much richer than the former ally who bore the brunt of the second world war.

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However, Marooned was the movie that meant the least to me last week. Good grief it is boring, and everyone is so dull. I can imagine why they shut down the space program, what unbelievably drab and empty people. And I can't believe how much Gene Hackman is wasted.

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Well I saw Men of War and 3:10 to Yuma having taped them on Saturday. They didn't mean too much to me. I must say I was a bit disappointed in the Chinese movie The World, though I wasn't paying full attention to it while I watched it. Having had no interest in seeing the original Nightmare on Elm Street when I came out, I saw it yesterday, and while finding it more impressive than one might think, still thought it was basically derivative. I did see The Sun, Alexander Sokurov's film about Hirohito, and was very impressed with it. But the two movies I liked the most last week was rewatching Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love.

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I will be very very glad when this horror weekend is over, this is my least favorite genre and it has been a veeeerrrry long weekend, I am having withdrawals...its almost worse than musicals.....blech:(

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I'm not much into horror movies either...some are okay, but I can't stomach too many. LOL

 

If the programmers wanted to help make horror a more respected genre, then they would sprinkle these films throughout the year, instead of overdosing viewers on them in October. I dread the October schedule every year because it lacks balance.

 

December is almost just as bad, when they not only show the usual classics, they often repeat them, so we have three showings of both versions of LITTLE WOMEN...three or four showings of SCROOGE, and so forth.

 

I thought it was refreshing to see PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE, a film that usually only gets trotted out once a year for Thanksgiving, back in August. That's because they were short on titles for Gene Tierney's SUTS. If it had been Van Johnson or Spencer Tracy's SUTS, it would not have aired.

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I must say Abbas Kiarostami's Ten was my favorite movie for the first week of this month. As for last week Uncle Boonmee who can Recall his Past Lives struck me as the best movie that I saw last week. By contrast Bhowani Junction struck me as a bit silly, with Ava Gardner supposedly half-Indian, and with a silly anti-communist plot (that came from the original novel apparently). The Last Battle was interesting, if a bit opaque, and Mr. Skeffington shows they don't make competent dramas with great actors like that used to. Has anyone else seen I'm Going Home?

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