Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

No stars, I will HAVE to watch it again.

Unfortunately for me, Mr. Deeds, Gary Cooper and my blog, Mr. Cooper bears a slight resemblance to some guy who has treated a friend of mine very badly recently and I could not concentrate on this movie while I was noticing this resemblance.

I kept finding fault with the main character. He seemed simplistic, disingenuous, fatuous, self-centered and pompous. Like George W. Bush in black and white.

Poor Gary Cooper. Poor Mr. Deeds. They have suffered for actions that are not their own. Maybe when the memory of Mr. MisDeeds has passed, I'll be able to watch unbiased.

I hope so, it seems like it would be entertaining if you didn't hate the main character's guts.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

An American in Paris (1951)

As a romantic tale about Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly), a very-much-older-than-19 man who falls in love with, stalks, and eventually dates 19-year-old Lise (Leslie Caron), the plot to this movie did not win me over. There is much more to the plot than that, because what is a love story without big complications, but I got really stuck on the age difference and way Jerry pursued Lise.

This is also largely a movie about Gene Kelly dancing, and I did enjoy the dancing. I always enjoy Gene Kelly's dancing, although the 17-minute ballet at the end was a bit over the top.

Gene Kelly singing and dancing to Gershwin songs, including "S'wonderful," was definitely what made this movie worth watching for me.

Here are some of my favorite lines that Jerry says to Lise:

"With a binding like you've got, people are gonna want to know what's in the book."
"Lisa, I don't know if you're a girl of mystery, or just a still water that doesn't run deep..."

Does this make her feel good?

I will continue to hum "S'wonderful" but will go rent "Singin' in the Rain" next time I want a Gene Kelly movie!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

An Affair to Remember (1957)

"Don't you think life should be gay and bright and bubbly like champagne?"
Yes, Cary, yes I do...

Good movie to watch while sipping champagne cocktails.

A remake of Love Affair - this movie gave me a headache since I happened on it by accident a few years after having seen the original. The whole time I was watching it, I thought I was watching a movie I'd seen before but it was all wrong, like a bad dream. The effect of Sleepless in Seattle was just a compound headache (sorry I only love When Harry Met Sally, Nora).
I'm really relieved to meet this movie again after having forgotten them all pretty thoroughly now. It's really quite charming and I already love DK's outfit!

Question: how can a kiss that takes place off screen be so hot? brilliant.

Plot synopsis: a woman and a man, both engaged to others, meet on a ship crossing to Europe. They fall in love but both need time to break off their engagements so they agree to meet again six months later. They both intend to meet, but through circumstances beyond their control, they miss each other and tragedy ensues.

But for a chance meeting, they might never have seen each other again, then fate throws them together. Will bitterness and misunderstanding from their missed meeting keep them apart forever? Or will love triumph over all? I know you know love triumphs, but it is so great watching how it unfolds.

The perfect excruciating ending where you are yelling at the TV one second and wiping tears away the next.

His Girl Friday (1940)

This movie has a scene I have to replay over and over again - Cary Grant chases Rosalind Russel around a desk and she transforms into his lover and partner again. I love this moment. I pretty much love the same moment in all my favorite romantic comedies - call it the "melt moment" it's the moment when one character melts the other's heart, melts through his or her resistance, and...amor vincit omnia, of course!

The Melt Moment - recreated for a still, of course...

It's the moment in Jerry Maguire when she says "you had me at hello" and it's the moment in Pride and Prejudice when they come upon each other unexpectedly - he's disheveled and wet, she's checking out his - holdings. The melt moment is the orgasm of the movie, and a good one can be enjoyed again and again. It's a good thing that DVDs don't wear out like VHS tapes, that's all I have to say.

The brilliant thing about this particular melt moment, though, is that Rosalind Russell's character doesn't even realize that she's melted. She thinks she's just giving in to one more little story...but in reality she's leaving her staid fiance and the life of a housewife in Albany to go back to her ex-husband and the newspaper business she loves.

What makes it great is not that you don't see it coming, it's that you do, and she doesn't, but it's still perfectly obvious that Cary Grant's character knows that he's won her back, and he is happy as only a man who has made his the love of his life return to him can be.

There are many other reasons to love this movie, let's count them!
1. Costumes, hers
2. Newspaper lingo and newspaper lifestyle - journalists were the TMZ of the 1920s so this is a bit like watching "The Springer Hustle" or "TMZ on TV" - except the newspapermen have a tiny tiny bit of integrity and a political angle (they want to get rid of the corrupt mayor).
3. Fiesty lady reporter who doesn't get tame at the end.
4. great character actors in all the little bit parts doing great bits
5. screwball plot twists on the level of A Fish Called Wanda

Five Stars, will watch again and again and again. And so should you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Women (1939)

Four Stars. Will watch again forever!

Norma Shearer plays a wealthy New York woman who learns that her husband is cheating on her from a gossipy manicurist. Her gossip-loving friend Syliva is played by Rosalind Russell who also stars in "His Girl Friday".

There are so many things to love about this movie. Starting with the opening credits where each character is introduced as an animal first, and then converted to a woman:
Norma Shearer as the Doe ~ Mrs. Stephen Haines (Mary)
Joan Crawford as the Leopard ~ Crystal Allen
Rosalind Russell as the Cat ~ Mrs. Howard Fowler (Sylvia)
Mary Boland as the Monkey ~ The Countess DeLave (Flora)
Paulette Goddard as the Fox ~ Miriam Aarons
Joan Fontaine as the Lamb ~ Mrs. John Day (Peggy)
Lucile Watson as the Owl ~ Mrs. Morehead
Phyllis Povah as the Cow ~ Mrs. Phelps Potter (Edith)
Virginia Weidler as the Fawn ~ Little Mary
Marjorie Main as the Horse ~ Lucy

Virginia Weidler is Dinah in the Philadelphia Story making her the strange precocious young girl in two of my favorite movies.

The movie is also deliciously self-conscious. "I know plenty I wouldn't breathe about my friends' husbands," says one woman, "oh, so do I!" responds another - they both stop talking for a moment and the thought is so clear it doesn't need to be said - what might my friends know about me? A minute later the subject of the juicy gossip, Mary, leaves the room singing "please don't talk about me when I'm gone..." fat chance, Mary.

The funny thing about the movie is it celebrates the epitome of cattiness without letting it triumph in the end...although sexism and classism come out on top. The rich and virtuous triumph over the poor and slutty and the men are proven to be the victims and the women the instigators of all the evils of divorce and adultery. The [Evils of] Women could be the unofficial title of this film.

One of the central morals of the story is that the woman whose husband is cheating on her should stick loyally by his side and say nothing. A man is a man and adultery is just what comes with the territory. She should wait for him to come to his senses (it's okay to wait in Bermuda, for example) - but she most certainly shouldn't let her girlfriends talk her into divorcing him.

"Don't confide in your friends. They'll see to it in the name of friendship that you lose your husband and your home."

So instead the woman in question decides to fight the "other woman" (OW) - not the cheating man. This is in direct contradiction to what Oprah tells us to do! Eventually she caves to the advice of the crowd and finds herself divorced and - naturally - miserable. What's a woman without her man?

There are echoes of The Awful Truth, here - you can leave your spouse, but you will eventually regret it!

Not surprisingly, in the movie we learn conclusively that the man in question is hapless and a little helpless and was lured into the arms of a cunning and conniving woman a "terrible man trap". It's hard not to get enraged while at the same time being amused watching Joan Crawford curl an imaginary man on the telephone around her little finger.

Of course, in real life, ninety-nine times out of a hundred "the other woman" is the hapless-helpless one and the man is cunning and conniving. Or the OW is hapless and desperate and the man is helpless and lying. Or all three parties are hapless, desperate and miserable. Watch Jerry Springer if you need a case in point.

However you slice it, I wouldn't say this movie contains a lesson to be absorbed too deeply. What it can teach you is how to converse with queens. Try these lines for instant success at gay tupperware parties:
About red nails: "Jungle red - looks as if you've been tearing at somebody's throat."
About bread: "Go ahead, dear no starch it's gluten."
About hand towels: "Cheap chinese embroidery - I bet Peggy gave these to her."
About the man trap: "She's got those eyes that run up and down a man like a searchlight."
About adulterous husbands: "Say nothing, and don't forget that's my handkerchief."
About children: "I'm all the baby he wants, toots!"

You'll want to keep your remote handy for this one - and if you don't have Tivo, rent it - there is no possible way a human being could catch all the catty one-liners without rewind or instant replay. And if you love catty one-liners as much as we women do, you will love this movie.

Fire Over Africa (1954) aka "Malaga"

Two stars: one is for Maureen's wardrobe and the other is just for a movie about a femme fatale spy. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did.

A female spy is left out on a limb in Tangier when her only contact with the agency she works for (the OSS, precursor to the CIA) is assassinated. She carries on with her mission while trying to discover who killed her contact. This is the kind of film that leaves you with more questions than answers.

Question 1: Who is MacDonald Carey and why is he the lead in any movie? According to IMDB, he wound up on Days of Our Lives, which is strangely comforting since this movie does nothing to suggest that he is capable of rising above melodrama.

Question 2: Why is an apparently American movie with American stars about an American spy called by the British name in IMDB? And why would they need to change the name to Malaga in the first place when Fire Over Africa is so delightful and meaningless all at once.

Question 3: Why does the hero have to save her in the end? I liked her as the spy who might seem like an arm charm but could fend for herself against some of the nastier characters in Tangiers.

Kim fell asleep during this one and I went out and took a quick dip in the pool while she was dozing. The witty repartee isn't too witty and the plot is hard to follow, even if you care, which I didn't, really.

Maybe I was just too tired for a romantic spy thriller action adventure dramedy.
Will never watch again.

People Will Talk (1951)

Two stars. Might watch again if I was in a the mood.
Strange, a little long but charming in its own way.

CG plays a Patch Adams character - a doctor who is persecuted for his unconventional but successful methods and who has a noble and eccentric character. He gets mixed up with an unwed mother whose pregnancy he will not abort and they fall in love ~ surprise!

Unfortunately for his leading lady, Jeanne Craine, any woman playing opposite this character is just a pretty backdrop to his act. JC played the oldest daughter in the original bitterweet version of Cheaper by the Dozen. Once a martyr, always a martyr, I guess. In Cheaper she sacrifices her future to help her mother support the large family her family-planning-averse parents raised after her eccentric father's sudden and tragic death.

Later, she would go on to play Rose Smith, martyr older sister in a remake of Meet Me in St. Louis - also with Myrna Loy as the mom. In PWT she plays an unwed mother who is willing pay the ultimate price to protect - someone - we're not sure if it is herself, the baby or her poor father.

Anyway, with a nod to her performance, despite my actor-brother's disapproval of same, I think this is Cary's movie. He does a great job playing the charming eccentric - much better than Robin Williams, in my opinion.

The movie has a touch of seriousness to it, which makes for some odd transitions between humor and melodrama, but it is likable just the same, even if not lovable.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Big Brown Eyes (1936)

My *current favorite* - four stars!
Will definitely watch again!

This may be the only romantic comedy I've ever seen in which a baby is shot. Yes, the baby is shot by the villain's henchman, and yes, the happy couple spends the rest of the movie tracking him down and bringing him to justice. But still, you have to imagine how today's studio executive would have treated this script. I imagine the meeting in his office the day after he reads the script.
"In act two, a baby is shot?"
"It drives the plot!"
"A baby! Gets shot!"
"But it gives the story a moral depth..."
"Moral Schmoral, why can't we kill a bum - or a really fat guy? Nobody minds seeing an ugly person get shot!"
"But you see then it wouldn't be something the reporter could sensationalize!"
"You can sensationalize a bum!"
"How do you sensationalize a bum? A bum's not sentimental!"
"You're the writer, that's your job! You can make a bum sentimental if I tell you to!"

But I digress. This is my new favorite movie so I must tell you why! Cary Grant impersonates a woman flirting with himself (he's an amateur ventriloquist). Manicurists wear uniforms with little bows on them. The dialogue is faster than a machine gun. The women are smart and sassy and the men are big lugs who do their bidding without being aware of how easily they are played.

Can you see how all this adds up to a movie in which a baby being shot seems kind of irrelevant?

Benny: And me as honest as the day is long.
Eve: Yeah, but how 'bout the nights?
Benny: The nights too! I'm the soul of honesty.
Eve: You sure you don't mean 'the heel?'

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tea for Two (1950)

Three stars - one for Uncle Max, one for the tap dancing one for Eve Arden.
Won't watch again - unless maybe in mute.

It seems to have been Doris Day Day on TCM this past Saturday. This early Doris flick is based on the broadway show "No No Nanette" it has a very silly premise that a girl and her guardian bet that she can't say "yes" to anything for 48 hours. Hilarity Ensues!

Featuring S.Z. Sakall - aka Sasha from Casablanca and the cook in Christmas in Connecticut. I'm getting so close to this man with the charming thick german accent combined with bumbling antics that make him non-threatening that I'm going to adopt him as my official vaguely-jewish honorary uncle. In fact, in the movie, he plays Uncle Max who is suprisingly BAD with money...what? What kind of vaguely jewish uncle is he?

Besides dear darling Uncle Sasha-Max, the best part of the movie is the tap dancing.*

Robert Osbourne of TCM tells me the songs all came from the vast library Warner Bros had purchased in anticipation of the advent of sound movies. Meaning, in Robert-Osbourne's euphemistic double-talk, that this music sat around for, oh, about 30 years and no-one cared to use it till now.

All the songs are pretty sappy and forgettable, but the dancing is great. Comparable to White Christmas.

I find it irritating that Nanette has to say "no" to anything she's asked, but sometimes she turns right back around and says "but I'll do it anyway!" - she a really bad cheater and it irks me, since that's the whole premise of the movie. If I were her Uncle Max, I'd have spanked her.

In typical DD fashion there is NO kissing, NO hugging, no emotion or sensuality of any kind. No stocking scenes, even! However, when the hero and heroine want to express their feelings and they can't dance, they lean their heads together and harmonize! Rapture!

*Strike that! Eve Arden is better than the tap dancing and I almost forgot! She gets a star of her own (I've had to revise to three stars). It's worth watching just for her reaction to DD. If the whole movie could be from her perspective, you'd have a classic. Just goes to show - a bitter and beautiful brunette is far more entertaining than an innocent blonde ANY day of the week. Even Doris Day Day.

That Touch of Mink (1962)

One Star. Will not watch again.

Oh my. Doris Day Day on TCM, or so it seems, and this has no dancing or singing, so it was hard to bear.

Cary Grant was by far the best part. Sexually frustrated CG is one of my favorite CGs to watch. He has his comedy down pat by '62 and he seems to be trying very hard to do his bit without ever being in the same scene with Doris Day.

Maybe that's because they were apparently intent on putting vaseline on the lens every time she appeared on screen since she had reached the ripe old age of - gasp - 38! Meanwhile, Cary Grant was - get this - 58 - and wasn't considered old enough to merit vaseline. A perfect example of Hollywood's age problem. A problem that it only seems to have with women.

Truth be told, though, DD's bit I'm not so fond of - Mary Tyler Moore does daffy better, in my opinion. Even Sally Field does indignant virgin better. But it's DD's schtick so if you love her, then here you go!

Costumes are mildly entertaining and the fashion show sequence is a nice touch.

Again, the same as in Yours Mine and Ours there is something vaguely Brady to these clean-clean comedies that try to be "romantic" comedies. You'd get more play taking your date to Shrek than you would watching this at the drive-in.