Sunday, September 30, 2007

Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

Three Stars. Would have been four except: NO love interest and there are several scenes that I just don't get. I can respect a movie that doesn't spell it out for you - in fact, I prefer them - but there was one scene that just didn't make it clear if the man involved was happy or angry at the end - maybe the actor is to blame for that.

And there is the final airfight, which the movie proudly announces is real air combat filmed by German and British fliers (the RAF and the Luftwaffe, if you prefer), which is one of those scenes that I have to watch again with closed captioning on in order to understand. Radio-talk with slang and poor audio might be realistic, but it's rather hard for the average viewer to understand.

Gary Merrill and Gregory Peck listen attentively

Summary: Gregory Peck (charming and lovely) plays a general who is put in the position of relieving his best friend as Commander of a group of army airmen in the early days of World War Two. As the movie itself explains, these soldiers doing highly dangerous daylight precision bombing were the first Americans involved in the fight and the only ones as of the fall of 1942 (i.e. before Pearl Harbor). This group has taken some hard hits and the Commander is too loyal to his men to send them out on another risky mission.

This is a great set-up for us to watch Peck's character take a different approach and whip the unit into shape, and it plays out well. Raises interesting questions about how hard and how far the military ought to push its men.

Costumes: Funny air force boots. Great sexy flight jackets (you can see why civilians would want to steal them). Button-up uniforms with ties (! do military uniforms have ties nowadays?).

Also, the planes have great names! Reluctant Dragon, Picadilly Lady, Fluffy Fuzz! What could be better?

Will probably not watch again soon, but it was a great one the first time.

Kimberly says: "It was alright."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lady in the Lake (1946)

A Phillip Marlowe detective mystery before Humphrey Bogart became the Phillip Marlowe of the screen.

I read this book a while ago and it was really get a real sense of place from it which is interesting because none of the movies made from Raymond Chandler's novels seem to happen anywhere - they happen in Anytown, Anywhere.

This adaptation has Phillip introducing himself to us and to the story for FOUR LONG MINUTES at the beginning of the movie - this is something a test screening would have done away with if they had existed in 1946. Phillip explains that you will see the story as he sees it. This seems unexciting until the movie itself rolls and you realize that the characters are all talking to the camera and reacting to the camera like it's Marlowe. We are not going to see Phillip Marlowe in action because you are going to be Phillip Marlowe.

Maybe the purpose of this movie is just to prove how great the Big Sleep is? The plot is hard to follow and makes little sense - but that's true in the Big Sleep, too, and I never cared. In fact, until I saw the deleted scene and understood what the missing information was, it had never bothered me that for half the movie I had no idea what lead Phillip Marlowe was following or what he was figuring out. I was just thrilled to watch Bogey and Bacall in love.

The leading lady's lipstick outlines her lips in an exaggerated way that I can't stand. Lauren Bacall's lips need no exaggeration to wow me.

The list of things I can't stand about this movie is long: the scenes are waaay to slow and full of silly little comedy moments by bit players that could have be cut. At one point an injured Marlowe crawls to a phone booth: we watch him as his hands drag him along the ground slowly toward the phone booth. If this were a key moment or suspense, it would be Hitchcock-esque - but it's not. He gets to the phone booth and makes a call and then passes out. End scene.

Also, Phillip Marlowe seems to like making mean comments to women and, more irritatingly, he insists on referring to women as "females" - as in: "do me a favor and get me everything you can on a female named Mildred Havilland." Ugh.

The acting is pretty lame, but the costumes are great. There is a suit that the femme fatale wears in the second scene which had me thinking about how I could manufacture new clothing from patterns of old movie costumes.

Something Always Happens (1934)

Three stars - it was easy to like this movie but I probably won't watch again.

A young man with a dream and a pretty girl who helps him get there. Some good plot features: the girl has a secret which the audience is in on for a while, then the guy has a secret and then the secret gets turned around on him - it's a great little collection of plot twists. And there is an adorable orphan boy. Also, the whole movie takes place in a few rooms, like a play, but the action seems interesting enough.

I liked it despite it being very slow to develop and over-acted. It is very well put together but you can feel the extra seconds ticking by in the cut. It is just full of shots that don't need to be there and it is hard not to will the movie just to get to the damn point.

We skipped the first few hours - I mean the first hour - and the second half picked up in pace. Ended so abruptly I tivoed back to see if I had missed something.

Crown vs. Stevens (1936)

Two stars, will not watch again.

I had to fast forward at the end, it was so painful.

This movie is a good example of why it's hard to watch thirties movies - harder than, say, forties or fifties movies. The lips are thin and drawn on like caricatures so if the story and acting aren't great (and this is the phase where the acting is still stage acting caught on film) it's harder to just enjoy the atmosphere. This is also a low-budget movie so that doesn't help.

The story is there, and it's way too obvious in the first five minutes what the moral of this story is going to be.

Watch out for gold-diggers!

Ziegfeld Girl (1941)

These days it isn't hard to have an award-winning film. Since every two-horse town has a film festival and only industry insiders know which town's festivals really matter, just about every film released since 2000 has multiple awards to its credit.

So that got me thinking - why shouldn't I start giving out awards of my own?

Let me kick off the awards with this one:

* ~ * ~ * Silliest Costumes * ~ * ~ *

What is so amazing about this movie is that THIS is the most conservative and simple costume in it. This movie makes Bjork's swan dress look tame when I woman walks out wearing a full-sized stuffed flamingo on her shoulder.

However, I cannot begin to do justice in print to the insanity of these costumes, but I urge you not to blink while watching this movie, because to miss just one insane costume, is to miss the point.

What is so amazing is that a real, simple love story - no three of them! - survives this insanity intact.

This is a movie about the girls who prance and parade in the costumes - but the larger-than-life quality of their stage life acts like a magnifying glass intensifying their personalities, their foibles, and their - well their follies.

Honorable mention to Eve Arden as Patsy "the best bad example you could have" and Jimmy Stewart as Gil the truck driver with lines like "Dames are like traffic, sometimes you've gotta stop, and sometimes you've gotta go!"

Oh my god! The last musical number is outdoing itself in insanity!

Will watch again!

Four Stars!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer (1947)

I watched the WHOLE MOVIE without realizing that the teenage girl is played by Shirley Temple!

She's great. Only very rarely when she says something with a lot of S's, can you detect little curly-head in this pretty, sophisticated and oddly precocious young woman. She makes a good little sister to Myrna Loy, which is high praise in my book.

Myrna Loy and Cary Grant and a great script full of quips and high-speed conversations full of misunderstandings and assumptions and underhanded accusations. Great stuff!

Seven More things to love:
1. stuffed-shirt Assistant District Attorney in a sack race
2. Myrna Loy in outfits with TONS of sequins
3. lovable old uncle who also happens to be a psychiatrist manipulating everyone
4. vocabulary words "sklonklish" and "klunk"
5. lyrics from Labyrinth the movie happen to come up in dialogue
6. cooch dancers get their day in court
7. latin jokes

Do not miss this one! Four stars. Am watching again right now!

Okay and if you must have a plot summary here goes: affable charmer and playful artist Richard Nugent can't keep out of trouble - mostly because of the women who swoon over him wherever he goes. Only levelheaded judge Margaret Turner is unmoved by his charm. Judge Turner's little sister is another story, however, and when she falls for the artist, she falls MADLY in love.

In steps kooky Uncle and court psychiatrist Matt to iron things out - but he has an ulterior motive: to get the emotional artist and the logical judge together and get rid of the stuffy Assistant District Attorney who is Judge Turner's steady beau.


A Moderen Singer of Moderen Songs

Monday, September 10, 2007

Until They Sail (1957)

Four Stars - and I don't usually like dramas.

Four sisters: Anne, Barbara, Delia and Evelyn (pronounced Eve-lyn) - are left alone in the world with their parents dead and their brother and Barbara's husband gone off to war. Each one copes differently: pragmatic Barbara puts up a map to track the soldiers' movements, prim Anne makes a pot of tea, little Evelyn day-dreams about her young boyfriend going off to war like the men, but flirtatious Delia matter-of-factly marries the town slob and then, desperately bored, runs off to meet more men as soon as her husband is finally drafted. She might as well be called Scarlett Delia O'Hara - I'm sure she is the descendant of the New Zealand Branch of that same family.

Anne considers Delia's actions indecent, but Barbara is less judgmental, even going so far as to visit a bar with Delia and her soldier beau. The beau insists on introducing the prim and proper sister Barbara to his mopey recently-divorced Major played by a young and very pretty Paul Newman. You can see how the guy became an institution, he has the same lips that Michelangelo carved onto David.

These newly arrived soldiers that Delia befriends are Americans and they are ruder and raunchier than the nice young men who went off to war. Anne's so incensed with them that she writes a letter to the paper. In answer to her letter a very well-bred American officer stops by to apologize. Decent Anne becomes a little more human under his influence, but then he, too has to leave.

The youngest daughter, played by Sandra Dee, is of course innocently fascinated with the Americans - just as she is genuinely touched by all the losses the sisters experience.

First their brother, Kit, then Barbara's husband, Mark are killed. The worthless slob that Delia married just ends up a prisoner of war, but that doesn't stop Delia from taking up with the American soldiers.

Barbara seems to hold up the best to all of this loss, but she is lonely. Ultimately, the whole movie is about what people will do to combat lonliness - but it's remarkably un-sad. There are sad moments, of course - it would make a good movie to cry to if you were feeling lonely and sorry for yourself - but it's plenty entertaining and really what pulls you through is knowing that Barbara, who seems to be the most reasonable, is the most desperately lonely, from the beginning. She is the lonliest the longest and in the end, she and the Mopey Major make for an interesting, and ultimately satisfying ending.

The Mopey Major Makes His Move

I love a sad movie with a Happy Ending :)
Will watch again, maybe right now!

The Canterville Ghost (1944)

I love Margaret O'Brien! Four stars for her!

The goofy old ghost is good. The young American is brash and awkward all at once. We didn't watch from the beginning, but despite that annoying chipper attitude that makes wartime movies almost unbearable during peace, the story is endearing in its own way.

Charles Laughton, who plays the daffy old ghost, played roles like Dr. Moreau in the Island of Lost Souls and Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This must have been a nice break for him - to play a silly old man in funny old clothes and the most ridiculous mustache ever.

Will watch again - good one to watch with kids.

The Reluctant Debutante (1958)

Four Stars. I should dock it a star for the corny jokes and the dialogue and clunkiness of the timing, but I like the ending so much I'm giving it back.

Saw this one a while back and it's adorable. It's not quite the sixties but the same themes apply as in "Yours, Mine and Ours" and "Take Her, She's Mine" - the parents spend a lot of time shaking their heads in dismay at Kids These Days. But at least in this one the parents have their own conniving schemes - with the British Mum determined to get the most noble young man for her new step-daughter.

Sandra Dee in classic Sandra Dee fashion is crazy for a young drummer, despite being introduced to all the nice young society men at the parties of The Season in London she insists on dancing with a member of the band.

It's fun to see that the debutantes are direct descendants of the noble young ladies depicted in historical romance novels - only we're catching an imaginary version of the events as they faded into modern times. Rock'n'Roll was about to blow the waltz out of the water.

In a twist at the end the young drummer turns out to be more noble than the young gentlemen of the ball.

Rex Harrison is very funny as the overprotective father.

This is a favorite, will definitely watch again.

Here Comes the Groom (1951)

I almost missed out on blogging this one!

After the war, a war correspondent exasperates his fiance by staying in France, trying to convince families back home in America to adopt war orphans. She sends him a sort of a Dear John letter bemoaning all the children she should have if they had been married when they should have.

This gives him an idea to surprise her with an orphan.

In the first half hour of the film, the most memorable moment comes when a young orphan girl sings Caro Nome. They just let her sing the whole thing without interruption, and it's beautiful. It doesn't necessarily make some greater point in the movie, but it's moving, and it's something that would never happen in a modern movie, I'm sure. It doesn't feel like a moment too long.

The comedy picks up when you get back to America with Bing, orphans in tow, and learn that our girl back home has left him and it is the eve of her marriage to a blue-blooded millionaire.

Of course that doesn't discourage Bing - the hijinks that follow are partly about the clash of cultures when the humble daughter of a fisherman marries into a family of high breeding. It's more of a send-up of the wealthy than of the working class, but it does play both ways.

In the middle of it all is Bing, using wrestling to loosen up the upper class and bring them down to his level.

This movie is darling and wonderful. Four stars, will definitely watch again!