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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...


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I think this is an underrated gem in the Hepburn/Tracy filmography, and I watch it fairly often (I have all their collaborations on DVD). 

 

 

I have to watch this every time it airs.  I love pre-Code Stanwyck, and this movie is just delightfully dark.

 

Yes,  Night Nurse is very dark even for a pre-code film.    Gable character is really mean and heartless.    The ending is funny, but in a very dark comedy sort of way.

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I saw six movies last weekThe Ice Pirates is a low budget sci-fi movie full of ideas, none of them good ones.  We can start with the premise which suffers from the same flaw that Silent Running has.  Just as human life can't survive on earth without plant life, making the authorities decision to kill Bruce Dern exceptionally idiotic, it's hard to believe an interplanetary civilization could last very long if water is as rare as it is in this movie.  Also the characters are not very interesting, there are cheap homophobic gags, and in retrospect Angelica Houston's talents are just wasted.  Lara Croft Tomb Raider:  the Cradle of Life may be the most uninteresting high budget summer blockbuster movie ever made.  It's like Angelina Jolie could not be bothered to show anything but the most perfunctory personality.  And the film couldn't really take up much interest in a final plot twist which might give it some gravitas.  But Looker is exceptionally disappointing.  It was one of four movies Albert Finney made in quick succession to revive his career in 1981-1982  (the other three were Wolfen, Shoot the Moon and Annie, none of which I've seen).  But it is a ghastly failure, dramatically less competent than Michael Crichton's previous movie The Great Train Robbery.  Finney gives a performance that Pauline Kael suggests may be the laziest in film history.  He has little motivation for his actions, his love interest is also dull, showing more nipples than personality, and the conceit--a plan for brainwashing people during commercials--has dated very badly.  There is a hypnotic pulse gun which gives its victims the illusion of jumping through time, but other than that, it's a waste of time.

 

So it's the three Asian movies  that are worth watching.  Ginza Cosmetics and Wife are both interesting thoughtful dramas about women under difficult circumstances, one trying to remain in business, the other one dealing with an adulterous husband.  Even more striking is Street Angel, which is a vague remake not of the Janet Gaynor movie of the same name, but of the other Gaynor movie Seventh Heaven.  Although made in 1937, it's an early sound film for China.  Unlike other early sound movies, when given a choice between camera movement and proper sound, it chooses camera movement.  Its rhythms are completely different from what one would think given the didactic nature of Chinese culture at the time, and for decades to come, as its characters are humorous, eccentric and off-beat.  Zhou Xuan gives a striking performance (she would die two decades later as a consequence of Mao's purges).

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This week I saw five movies.  The best one would probably be The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, a 1927 Soviet film that commemorates the tenth anniversary of that event which is composed, with the exception of the director's subtitled commentary, entirely of footage from that time and before the war.  It's rather striking, especially in the absence of pre-1917 Russian documentaries.  Stray Dogs is not an easy film to appreciate, but one slowly gets used to its long takes and little movements as it shows a wretchedly poor Taipei family, where the father is reduced to holding a placard in the rain for real estate companies.  Conflict is best known as the movie where Humphrey Bogart is the villain and Sydney Greenstreet is the hero.  I'd have to rewatch it again to see if the clue that ultimately reveals Bogart works on the screen.  Bogart is good, but one wonders whether the police could get away with hiding the corpse for that long. I also saw the 1967 The Taming of the Shrew, which is probably the most important Shakespeare play I hadn't seen up to that time.  I must confess I didn't give the movie my full attention as it played, and so I'm not sure whether my problem was with the actual play or with how Zeffirelli directed it.  Certainly the advertising campaign for it was crassly sexist.  Finally, there's Judge Priest shown in a wretched version.   Certainly Stepin Fetchit is almost inaudible, which is probably for the best.  Will Rogers is not bad as the humane and tolerant minded judge.

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I saw six movies over the last two weeks:  five this week, one the week before.  Walk Cheerfully is a silent Ozu film before he had adapted his trademark style.  It shows his compassion, but basically the story of a criminal redeemed by the love of a good woman is an old theme, and the result is less interesting that That Night's Wife, made the same year and which I saw last year, or Dragnet Girl which considers a criminal redeemed by the love of a bad woman, played with considerable energy by Kinuyo Tanaka, best known as the star of The Life of Oharu and A Hen in the Wind, as well as the mother in Sansho the Bailiff.  The Three Musketeers is, as I suspected, better than the two sequels that appeared later in the seventies, though it not an especially memorable movie.  '10" is a typically uneven Blake Edwards movie.  One is inclined to compare it to a number of movies, such as Bedazzled, Avanti or Manhattan, and Edwards compares poorly to all three.  He lacks Donen's inventiveness, or the equivalent of Peter Cook's performance.  The style is one of crude slapstick (and the cinematography isn't that good either).  Love and Mercy is a competent telling of the life of Brian Wilson, even if one doesn't believe that Paul Dano and John Cusack are the same person, or that Wilson is not genuinely crazy and not just being manipulated by his greedy psychiatrist.  Elizabeth Banks does give a good performance.  Life of Riley was Alain Resnais' last film.  As such it is a movie of a play about people performing a play while at the same time involving three couples concerned abut the never seen title character.  While not unenjoyable, I prefer his penultimate movie You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet.

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Saw five movies New to me, one I saw decades ago:

 

"One Million B.C."--(1966)--Nothing to recommend it except Ray Harryhausen's dinosaurs & Raquel Welch.  Raquel doesn't appear until 31 minutes into the film.  People fighting over & tearing at obviously plastic food gets old fast.  I was wishing dinosaurs would appear & eat the cast an hour into the film.

 

"She"--(1965)--Hammer Horror remake of 1935 film should be instant "camp"  But it's not, thanks to Hammer wanting a more dignified image.  They poured on the money & took out the fun.  Best line: Peter Cooks' valet says of She, the 2000 year old Queen "They don't make them like that anymore, do they?" & is promptly slapped for his remark.

 

Am doing in multiple posts. 

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"They Won't Believe Me--(1947)--Robert Young playing against type in a film noir, with Susan Hayward & Jane Greer as his girlfriends, & Rita Johnson playing a cliched role (wronged wife) & turning it upside down in a icy performance.

 

"Act of Violence"--(1948)--Rare MGM noir, with Van Heflin & Robert Ryan giving brooding performances.  Twenty year old Janet Leigh gives the best performance in the film, as the frightened, then disillusioned wife.  I bet Alfred Hitchcock saw this before casting Leigh in "Psycho" (1960).

 

"The Portrait of Dorian Gray"--(1945)--Excellent film damaged by Albert Lewin's misdirection of Hurd Hatfield.  Angela Lansbury is exquisite, & Peter Lawford gives one of his best performances.

 

"Pandora and the Flying Dutchman"--(1951)--I saw this in 1978/79 on the CBS Late Movie.  TCM showed a restored version last night, so film was as gorgeous as I remembered it.  Nobody could brood so handsomely as James Mason, & Ava Gardner has the heedless quality of one concerned only with her pleasure.  Film is too talky, but enjoyable anyway.

 

Worst film--One Million B.C. (1966)--except for Harryhausens' dinosaurs.

 

Best-- "Act of Violence" (1948)

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I saw four movies last week, and surprisingly all of them were worth watching.  The Emigrants isn't as good as Here's Your Life, and the version shown on TCM had an appalling English language dubbing job.  And the confrontation between the bigoted official clergymen and the former prostitute did not win any points for subtlety.  But the long voyage across the Atlantic does show a certain power.  Jeremiah Johnson was also interesting with a downbeat theme suitable to its subject matter that Hollywood probably wouldn't try today.  The Immigrant is certainly better than the last James Gray film I saw.  While this story of a Polish immigrant suborned into prostitution doesn't make clear the brutality of the trade the way Vivre sa Vie so memorably did with such concision, (or even the much lesser film Ken Russell whose title I can't give because the auto-censor will cancel it), it does have a degree of dignity and intelligence.  Marion Cotillard  is impressive, bur arguably Joaquin Phoenix is even better as her pimp who under his manipulative patter and apparent ease of corruption reveals both flashes of violence and even more surprisingly, the vestiges of a conscience.  But the best movie of the week is clearly Inside Out which, if not the most profound movie about childhood, shows remarkably inventiveness and beauty, as well as considerable wit and fine vocal performances from the quintet of voices in her head.

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Saw seven films this week, including the Mame-a-thon:

 

"Auntie Mame"--(1958)--adapted from the Broadway comedy starring Rosalind Russell, this remake is surprisingly good.  Russell is the whole show, except for a viperish cartoon of a Southern girl drawn in less than 5 minutes of screen time.  Overrated but very watchable.

 

"Mame"--(1974)--Good supporting performances by Bea Arthur & Robert Preston, who do their utmost to make this musical work.  It works when they're on screen and singing, otherwise--pass this one by.

 

"Jeremiah Johnson"--(1972)--Good work by Robert Redford in a downbeat western that would be disastrously expensive to film today (credits said was filmed in 7 National Parks).

 

"Little Big Man"--(1970)--Rambling. jokey western that is stolen by Faye Dunaway as a less-than-virtuous preachers' wife and a marvelous performance by Richard Mulligan as a bat-**** crazy General Custer.

 

"The Seventh Victim"--(1943)  Kim Hunter debuts in this wonderful Val Lewton film that is fine almost until the end and finishes most infuriatingly and bafflingly.

 

"The Terror"--(1963)--Boris Karloff & Jack Nicholson in an underwritten, somewhat infuriating film that doesn't fix itself until the last ten minutes.  Great last shot, though.

 

"The Living Desert"--(1953)--Oscar winning Disney nature documentary I saw on re-release as a kid.  Better than I remembered it.

 

Best film(s)--The Living Desert (1953) & The Seventh Victim (1943)

 

Worst film--Mame (1974)

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A friend gave me a copy of ALL THE FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS, one of my favorite movies never shown on TCM. It looked like it was video taped off TCM because the quality was awful. But great to see it again-it was as great as I remember. Fave Susan Koehner is a standout, and really the only actress I can think of to hold her own next to Natalie Wood. 

ATFYC used to be on heavy rotation until the DAY I bought my DVD recorder....then it stopped broadcasting it!

 

I took out JERSEY BOYS and FROZEN from the library. As many of you know, I'm anti-Disney, and I disliked the charactor artwork seen on kid chotchke. But I'm open minded. I'd heard a lot about JERSEY BOYS being a great depiction of Frankie Valli's career.

 

Well, I hated it. There was very little charactor development; I had no idea if Valli was a good kid, a trouble maker, a brave pioneer? Instead, the movie was just a string of hits sung. Wha? I took out the disk after 45 minutes. I simply did not care.

 

I put in FROZEN thinking it might be at least visually interesting. Well, I loved it. I loved the charactors, the story and the look of it. Yeas, I cried at the end over CARTOON charactors. The SNOW QUEEN was always my favorite story as a kid and this was a spin off of that story. I fast forwarded through all the songs which seemed to drag the story somewhat-it worked FINE without them. The artists paid attention to detail, including depicting all the horses as Fjord ponies, the correct horse type for Nordic regions. One, even had the traditional checkerboard cut into it's mane.

 

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I won't be buying any FROZEN chotcke, but Disney earned my respect for putting out a good movie.

 

The library also had THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY PT 1 & 2. It was pretty complete, had great interviews both past & present, and great old film footage of the boys performances. The boys were so young, cute & innocent. The story ended at '64 so there was none of the really interesting later stuff. It was an amazing look back, they really were talented singers & musicians. Their popularity was no accident, but so overly dramatic. All the young girls who were crying at the sight of them were right to cry-they'd never see the likes of these lads again. Kind of fitting, Ringo is 75 today.

 

Someone on this board mentioned Madeline Kahn being in WHAT'S UP DOC? a Peter Bogdanovitch movie I had never seen! so I got that out from the li-berry too. It was spotty-slid into "dumb" at times. But the always underrated Ryan O'Neal and effervescent performance by Streisand elevated the movie. And what a stellar supporting cast! Kahn was great as usual, also notable Kenneth Mars with his fractured German accent.

I howled out loud at the ending line, which I will not repeat here for any first time viewers, but it's a classic (but yukky) movie line. I am forever amazed when seeing early Streisand movies just how electric she was on screen. Sure, her charactor is zany, but Babs pulls it off well.

She's so gorgeous, even with that h o n k i n' nose, really something. And a perfect figure and cute clothes, always fun to watch. Too bad Babs is so polarizing-I guess big personalities can get tiring after awhile.

Ryan O'Neal, as I said earlier (I think) is underrated. You're struck by his handsome looks and he plays the straight man. But it's HARDER to play the straight man and be likeable and a stand out. And O'Neal is all that. He brings really subtle comedy to his role, just by his body movements, like running.

 

So the best movies I saw were FROZEN & WHAT'S UP DOC? and by far the worst was JERSEY BOYS. 

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I saw four movies this week.  Bed and Sofa was the best of them, with this Soviet silent movie having a particular sexual frankness that would not really be seen again until its end.  Lyudmila Semyonova's portrayal of the woman at the center of the triangle is particularly worth noting.  Donkey Skin is certainly a movie made by an auteur, since only an auteur would make a fairy tale movie that children couldn't actually watch.  While interesting visually, the score is less distinguished than in his two earlier movies, nor is the story as involving as Lola or Bay of Angels.  This Happy Breed was one of David Lean's first movies, and I'm afraid this adaptation of a Noel Coward play is closer to Cavalcade in supporting the assumptions of its well-healed audience than in getting the effect of Brief Encounter. Finally there's Magic in the Moonlight, which while not a bad movie, and while some have seen more depths to Emma Stone and Colin Firth's performances does seem rather predictable in Allen's clashes between faith and reason, pessimism and optimism and love and rationality.

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I saw 6 movies this week--2 new & 4 I'd seen who knows how many times:

 

The 1st new one to me was "The Viking(s?)" (1928)--after reading TomJH's post about how 90% of films made before 1929 were lost, I made sure to see this one--& what a  nice surprise I found--film was one of the first 2tone/2strip Technicolor productions--& it was gorgeous to watch!  Acting & actors were nothing to write home about--but the color shimmered!

 

"The River" (1951) was the 2nd new one--directed by Jean Renoir & cinematography done by Claude Renoir--simple story set in British colonial India very well directed & acted--but again, the Technicolor was an absolute knockout--individual scenes looked like they were painted onto the film, not photographed--can't recommend film highly enough!

 

the 4 I've seen--all classics

 

"Singin' in the Rain--(1952)--Very funny musical about Hollywood & the advent of talkies.  Jean Hagen is a standout.

 

"The Bandwagon"--(1953)--Marvelous--is being scheduled so often because of the parody of film noir it contains (The Girl Hunt--"she came at me in sections"--Cyd Charisse sizzles in this one).

 

"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"--(1953)--Marilyn Monroe & Jane Russell are the show, plus some good songs.

 

Kiss Me Deadly--(1955)--For me, The classic noir.  A must see.

 

Best film--"The River"--(1951)

 

Worst film--none this week.  All six films should be seen at least once, IMO.

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The 1st new one to me was "The Viking(s?)" (1928)--after reading TomJH's post about how 90% of films made before 1929 were lost, I made sure to see this one--& what a  nice surprise I found--film was one of the first 2tone/2strip Technicolor productions--& it was gorgeous to watch!  Acting & actors were nothing to write home about--but the color shimmered!

 

Did it surprise you to see good ole Donald Crisp in the lead?

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lafitte-Yes, it did--I always had viewed him as a character/supporting actor in Lassie Come Home (1943), & the doctor(?) who tells Bette Davis about her ex-fiancee having malaria in Jezebel (1938)--come to think of it--wasn't he in "Birth of a Nation" (1915)--as General Grant (was Grant or Lee--I'll go with Grant )?

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lafitte-Yes, it did--I always had viewed him as a character/supporting actor in Lassie Come Home (1943), & the doctor(?) who tells Bette Davis about her ex-fiancee having malaria in Jezebel (1938)--come to think of it--wasn't he in Birth of a Nation (1915)--as General Grant (was Grant or Lee--I'll go with Grant )?

 

Donald Crisp is right up there with Ward Bond (and others of course) as it relates to being in so many films.    I wasn't aware of this until I did some research a few years back after I keep seeing him in film after film.  

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"The River" (1951) was the 2nd new one--directed by Jean Renoir & cinematography done by Claude Renoir--simple story set in British colonial India very well directed & acted--but again, the Technicolor was an absolute knockout--individual scenes looked like they were painted onto the film, not photographed--can't recommend film highly enough!

 

I was home on a lunch break and turned on TCM for background noise as I checked my mail, etc. There was a scene where a homely little girl is talking to her mother, asking her "am I pretty?" and she and the mother proceed to have a long, frank discussion about the role of women, the nature of beauty and what it means to be a mother.

 

I stopped what I was doing and possibly even said out loud "what is this movie?!"- I mean, people did not talk like this in films made before 1960- which this movie clearly was. I looked it up on the schedule- and saw that it was based on a novel by Rumer Godden.

 

I watched a little more, then actually made the choice to turn it off, not because it was bad, but because I found a copy of the source novel at my local library and wanted to read it first.

 

(have it at home now, but have not starting reading it yet- so don't ruin the ending for me!)

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I saw five movies over the last two weeks, and they were a fairly respectable bunch.  The Bad Sleep Well was a tough intelligent thriller by Akira Kurosawa, with Toshiro Mifune giving an effective low-key performance.  I'm not a really big fan of the Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, but Winter Sleep was the first movie of his I really warmed to as he shows the failures of a quasi-intellectual as both a husband and a local landlord, much of which is presented in a series of intelligent conversations.  I read Young Torless back in the nineties, and I'm afraid I don't remember it very well, and the fact that I paid only peripheral attention to the movie when it was on television meant that it had only a limited effect.  If A Damsel in Distress isn't quite of the same calibre as the same year's Shall we Dance, it does have a charming Joan Fontaine, amusing comic relief from Gracie Allen, and a wonderful set piece in a fun house.  Noah isn't entirely successful, with perhaps too much taken from The Lord of the Rings and some unimaginative confrontations towards the end.  But the beginning actually shows an interesting use of CGI while Aronofsky's presentation of the legend is both theologically interesting and genuinely strange.

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I watched a half dozen film noir this week and enjoyed them all with "Too Late for Tears" being my favorite due to the pure fun of watching a housewife out evil a hard nosed thug.

 

However, the two movies I want to compare are "Gilda," and "Picnic".  "Gilda" was a wonderful surprise for me.  I had thought of Rita Hayworth as strictly a musical star, but she was so much more in this.  I loved the dialogue, almost every line had clever double meanings, the storyline was fast and tense, the chemistry between the young Glenn Ford and Rita was smoldering.

 

I was surprised by "Picnic," too. I expected much better from a William Inge play, but not a single line rang true to me.  Do real people express their deepest thoughts in every other sentence?  Do they actually look up at the sky when they talk about wanting more "out there."  Throughout the film I kept asking, how old are these people supposed to be?  William Holden at 37 and looking a haggard forty due to his alcoholism, plays a young man not long out of college.  I guess that's okay because he acts about fifteen. He can't talk to girls without shuffling his feet, swinging on ropes and then burying his face in his arms.  He is quickly set up on a date with Kim Novak's "ugly" sister played by Susan Strasberg, who is actually very pretty but dressed like Scout in pig tails and jeans. Quite a creepy pair, this little girl and old man together.

 

Then there's Kim Novak. Maybe it was too soon after being dazzled by Rita Hayworth's beauty and sparkle but I found  Kim  dull, fleshy, and as ordinary as a sullen waitress.  The famous dance scene where she walks down a flight of stairs, slow clapping to the music, looks like some sort of frightening robot dance compared to Hayworth and Ford dancing together. 

 

Rosalind Russell, whose first line refers to herself as an old maid school teacher (so we'll know) is such a loud mouthed, sex starved braggart, I can't imagine the community allowing her near a school, but she got a supporting actress Oscar for her part and she actually was the best thing in the movie.

 

 

 

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I watched a half dozen film noir this week and enjoyed them all with "Too Late for Tears" being my favorite due to the pure fun of watching a housewife out evil a hard nosed thug.

 

However, the two movies I want to compare are "Gilda," and "Picnic".  "Gilda" was a wonderful surprise for me.  I had thought of Rita Hayworth as strictly a musical star, but she was so much more in this.  I loved the dialogue, almost every line had clever double meanings, the storyline was fast and tense, the chemistry between the young Glenn Ford and Rita was smoldering.

 

I was surprised by "Picnic," too. I expected much better from a William Inge play, but not a single line rang true to me.  Do real people express their deepest thoughts in every other sentence?  Do they actually look up at the sky when they talk about wanting more "out there."  Throughout the film I kept asking, how old are these people supposed to be?  William Holden at 37 and looking a haggard forty due to his alcoholism, plays a young man not long out of college.  I guess that's okay because he acts about fifteen. He can't talk to girls without shuffling his feet, swinging on ropes and then burying his face in his arms.  He is quickly set up on a date with Kim Novak's "ugly" sister played by Susan Strasberg, who is actually very pretty but dressed like Scout in pig tails and jeans. Quite a creepy pair, this little girl and old man together.

 

Then there's Kim Novak. Maybe it was too soon after being dazzled by Rita Hayworth's beauty and sparkle but I found  Kim  dull, fleshy, and as ordinary as a sullen waitress.  The famous dance scene where she walks down a flight of stairs, slow clapping to the music, looks like some sort of frightening robot dance compared to Hayworth and Ford dancing together. 

 

Rosalind Russell, whose first line refers to herself as an old maid school teacher (so we'll know) is such a loud mouthed, sex starved braggart, I can't imagine the community allowing her near a school, but she got a supporting actress Oscar for her part and she actually was the best thing in the movie.

 

You have Picnic down pat.   Russell is interesting even if she is over the top and she is about the only thing in this film worth seeing.   Holden clearly was no longer a golden boy at this stage of his career and Novak was indeed flat  (but yea,  after seeing Rita in Glida, any actress would come off that way to some degree).

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I saw four movies last week.  The Age of the Earth is an important, strange and final movie of the great Brazillian director Glauber Rocha, fascinatingly filmed without a clear narrative and without the benefit of subtitles from the Portuguese.  The Look of Silence is a companion piece to The Act of Killing, which deals with an Indonesian trying to find the facts about the murder of his brother before he was born, and which slowly become worse as the movie proceeds.  Ex Machina is an interesting film about an encounter with artificial intelligence.  While not as original or strange as Under the Skin, and at least one revelation shouldn't surprise anyone, it does offer a striking view of men who think, in Stuart Klawans' words, they want sex with these strange women but actually want them to wave goodbye when they leave.  Finally, A Most Wanted Year benefits from one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's final performances.  On the other hand, this adaptation of Le Carre shows some of the pat ambiguities one expects from him.

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I saw eleven films last week:

 

Monday--"Svengali"--(1931)--Excellent old horror film.  John Barrymore's performance makes the movie (although I think he looks more like old photographs of Rasputin).  Marian Marsh as Trilby is OK although her performance is hurt by not being a better singer/dubbed by a better singer.  "The Sorcerors"--(1967)--a bleak horror film with an excellent performance by Boris Karloff, directed by Michael Reeves, who died at 25 after directing just 3 films.  The Mod/Swinging London background of TS dates this film.

 

Tuesday--"The Thin Man"--(1934), "After the Thin Man"--(1936), & "Another Thin Man"--(1939)--all three classics of wit.  The 1st two are must sees, the 3rd adds a baby, which slows the action--slightly.  "Summer Holiday"--(1948).  MGM made this in 1946, then it sat on the shelf for 2 years--MGM had been going for Meet Me in St. Louis, Part II--& didn't get it.  SH is a pleasant enough film, with 2 especially good songs--"The Stanley Steamer" & Marilyn Maxwell's song to Mickey Rooney--SH is pleasant, but no MMISL.  "In The Good Old SummerTime"--(1949)--is more a comedy with songs--but Van Johnson and Judy Garland are comedic experts, & Garland is in glorious voice--one just wishes there were more songs for her.

 

Thursday--"Small Town Girl"--(1953)--Busby Berkeley staged this--a must-see for musical fans because of Ann Miller's song ("I Gotta Hear That Beat") is staged among the disembodied orchestra--if you didn't see the film, check the number out on YouTube--& Bobby Van's human pogo stick number (the dog joining in at the end is priceless).  Jane Powell, as always, sings well--the other musical numbers are worth seeing--but junk the non-singing parts of the film.  "Pennies from Heaven"--(1981)--a relentlessly Grim musical--its' technical innovations, performances, & dancing (especially Christopher Walken's & Bernadette Peters') are admirable--but the plot & characters?!--I'm glad I saw it, but it's recommended with reservations.

 

Friday--"Party Girl"--(1958)--a Technicolor noir--with Cyd Charisse & Robert Taylor  guided (referring to Taylor, prodded,?) by director Nicholas Ray into giving good performances--who knew Taylor could act?  TCM hadn't shown this since 2010, so am very glad I saw it.

 

Saturday--"The Egyptian"--(1954)--Gene Tierney acts rings around the rest of the cast & walks off with the film--film is also memorable for Victor Mature's comment about those hired instead of him as the palace guard being "twittering birds.  Lovely cinematography (Tierney is especially gorgeous)  & musical score.

 

Most favorite--Of the films I hadn't seen before, "Party Girl" (1958)--the films I had seen before--"After the Thin Man"--(1936).

 

Least favorite--"Summer Holiday" (1948) put me to sleep.

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I saw four movies last week.  The Great Garrick was an amusing movie I suppose, about the great British actor playing games with French actors playing games with him.  The next two movies I probably wasn't in the best emotional state to fully appreciate.  Mad Max: Fury Road certainly does show more invention that many Hollywood summer blockbusters, even if I see no particular need to remake The Road Warrior with fifteen to twenty times the original budget.  The Ipcress File shows some of Michael Caine's early promise, even if it arguably doesn't show enough, and the mind control mechanism at the heart of it appears quite dated now.  Finally Foxcatcher is an interesting, tasteful drama, like Bennett Miller's earlier movies Capote and Moneyball, though it's hard to feel much empathy with Steve Carell's entitled weirdo or Channing Tatum's pathetic idiot.

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Am limiting myself to movies I'd never seen or had been far too long since I'd seen them or this post would be endless.  Saw 4 movies this week.

 

"New Moon"--(1930)--Pre-Code operetta starring New York Met. Opera singers Lawrence Tibbett & Grace Moore.  MGM junked the script & setting, but kept the entire score of 10 songs--film runs 78 minutes--that's roughly 3--4 minutes of dialogue between each song.  Characters are Not prudish  at all--a delight to find, & very well sung.

 

"The Little Foxes"--(1941)--Ignore the heavy-handed moralizing at the beginning & watch William Wyler direct a dream cast through this drama of greed in the Deep South.

 

"Shadow of a Doubt"--Hitchcocks' favorite film & a top ten pick among his films.  Teresa Wright & Joseph Cotten both give the performances of their lives, & the supporting cast matches them, in this character study/thriller.

 

"Quality Street"--(1937)--Unbearably arch, cutesy, drowned in corn syrup adaptation of James Barrie--I was hoping for some bitterness to fight the archness, George Stevens having directed--but he seems to think the archness is an asset.  It ain't!  Katherine Hepburn's occasional intelligent line & Cora Witherspoon's vinegary, spiced with hemlock performance are all that make this watchable.

 

Most favorite--"Shadow of a Doubt"--(1943)

 

Least favorite--"Quality Street"--(1937)

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Saw 17 movies this week:

Monday:"Our Dancing Daughters" (1928)--Joan has Huge eyes in this enjoyable picture of The Jazz Age.  Mildly risque film where Crawford plays "Diana the Dangerous".  She goes into a speakeasy in a dress of fringe, has 3 or 4 drinks, then does an enthusiastic Charleston--in films' 1st 15 minutes.

 

"Dancing Lady" (1933)--OK film has Fred Astaire making his film debut in a number called "Let's Go Bavarian"--film also has Clark Gable & choreography that looks like it was done by Busby Berkeley--or wishes it was.

 

"Flamingo Road"(1949)--Mid Warner Bros. Joan has her vs. Sydney Greenstreet  & his politicians & thugs.  Good fun.  Gladys George is fine in a supporting role.  Joan as a carnival dancer Does stretch credulity.

 

Tuesday--"Escort West" (1959)--Mediocre Western.

 

"The Talk of the Town" (1942)--Classic comedy, but Rex Ingram doesn't appear until the last 45 minutes of the film?!

 

"The Green Pastures" (1936)--Gorgeous soundtrack, but all-African American film is too stereotypical to take seriously.  Ingram is excellent in his three roles (The Lord, Adam, & Hezdrel).

 

"Cabin in the Sky" (1943)--All-African American musical has a wonderful score, stereotyped plot.

 

Thursday--"Viva Las Vegas" (1964)--Ann-Margaret steals film from Elvis.  He only wakes up for title number, & the rest of the film is hers--she even knocks Elvis off the screen in their duet ( an "I love you, I hate you" type of song--Elvis & Ann-Margaret, respectively).

 

"Bye Bye Birdie" (1963)--Ann-Margaret shows great screen presence & a good voice.

 

Friday--"Room Service" (1938)--Disappointing comedy.

 

"At the Circus" (1939)--Fitfully funny comedy.  "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" is the films highlight--very funny.

 

"The Cocoanuts" (1929)--When Groucho isn't handicapped by the script, very funny early musical.  Kay Francis, in her 2nd film, also shows potential as a farceur.

 

"Animal Crackers" (1930)--"Hooray for Captain Spaulding" is film's highlight.  "Hello, I must be going" is typical of its' logic.

 

"Monkey Business" (1931)--Groucho & bros. are stowaways in this one.  Anarchic & nearly impossible to sum up.  Very funny.

 

"Horse Feathers" (1932)--Groucho has somehow become president of a college--song is "Whatever it is, I'm Against It".  Watch Thelma Todd try to worm secrets out of Groucho while they are canoeing.  Gangsters are involved & film ends with a football game--played with Groucho's rules.

 

Saturday--"Gunga Din" (1939)--Cary Grant is the revelation here.  Playing a greedy fool, he is marvelously funny--his character whinnies in 4 different keys for, greed, panic, terror & surprise--Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was the days honoree.

 

"The Exile" (1947)--Soundstagebound actioner--Maria Montez's accent is as impenetrable as ever.  Director Ophuls name was misspelled on the copy Comcast showed.

 

Best film--Horse Feathers (1932).

 

Film to avoid--Escort West (1959).

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I saw four movies this week.  Clearly the best movie was When Marnie was There, supposedly the last Studio Ghibli movie.  If not as good as The Wind Rises or The Tale of the Princess Kaguya it is very touching and certainly better than the director's previous The Secret World of Arietty.  Oddly enough two other films are about Japan.  A Pot Worth a Million Ryo was mildly amusing and touching in places, as various people searched for a pot that has a valuable treasure map embossed upon it.  I suppose another look would see its virtues more clearly.  By contrast, The Yakuza was rather dull, notwithstanding Robert Mitchum and what in an another director might be the interesting touch of a husband pretending to be a brother.  Finally, there's Calvary which is often contrived, shallow and manipulative.  I wouldn't say Brendon Gleeson redeems the movie with a great performance, but he does work very hard.

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Saw 10 films & 1 documentary for the 1st time this week:

 

"The Fountainhead"--(1949)--Impossible to take seriously--the definition of camp (failed seriousness--I forget who thought up this definition, but it is a good one)--Cooper& Neal do generate heat in their love scenes.

 

"The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"--(1962)--Deeply flawed but watchable drama of just before & during WWII.  Director Vincente Minnelli does all the small things perfectly; the colors & textures are so lifelike they almost jump off the screen, the backgrounds are OK, but the casting is disastrous--Glenn Ford looks and sounds like he just came from out of the MidWest, Ingrid Thulin is dubbed by the very British sounding Angela Lansbury--Kudos to Charles Boyer, who gives the films best performance;in his later scenes, the film hits true notes of tragedy.

 

"Dark Journey"--(1937)--Vivien Leigh excels in this drama of double agents in WWI.

 

"Fire Over England"--(1937)--Vivien Leigh is radiant in this drama of Elizabethan England.  Laurence Olivier costars as her lover, & Flora Robson is excellent as Elizabeth I.

 

"The Making of a Legend: Gone With the Wind"--(1988)--Fascinating film history, especially the screen tests.  Something clicks in the mind when Hattie McDaniel & Vivien Leigh do their scene.

 

"The Quiet Man"--(1952)--classic Wayne comedy (dramedy?)  O'Hara also shows her acting ability.

 

"The Searchers"--(1956)--Waynes' best dramatic performance & arguably his best film.

 

"Mohawk"--(1956)--Maltin gave this disaster 2 & 1/2 stars;he hit the nail on the head when he called it "unintentionally hilarious."  Clarke is a silent Indian chiefs wife--my theory is, she read the script & refused to speak her lines.  That wisdom makes her the only actress to emerge from this debacle with dignity intact.

 

"Fast Workers"--(1933) John Gilbert's 2nd to last film starts out well, then gets overly melodramatic at the end.  Clarke is good in this one.  

 

"The Penguin Pool Murder"--(1932)--Edna Mae Oliver is a delight in this one & overshadows all.  Started a short-lived "Hildegarde Withers" mystery series--if all are as funny as this one, hope TCM shows them all

 

"Shanghai Express"--(1932)--Marlene in enjoyable romantic nonsense with Oscar winning cinematography.  Great fun.

 

Best film--The Searchers (1956)

 

Hardest to sit through--The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962)

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