Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Inn (1942)

I want to go to Holiday Inn. But only if they promise that they've given up on the blackface acts. Be prepared for a really racist celebration of Lincoln's birthday, featuring the line, "Who was it set the darkie free?" Seriously.

So, I don't want to be at Holiday Inn for Lincoln's birthday. But I do want to ride in a horse drawn carriage instead of a taxi to be there to see Marjorie Reynolds and Fred Astaire dance with each other. Or just to see Fred Astaire do his Fourth of July cherry bomb dance on his own.

When we meet them, Ted (Fred Astaire) and Jim (Bing Crosby) are friends and fellow dancers.  After learning that Bing has wooed away his fiancee, another dancer, Bing goes off to his giant house in the country where he begins to renovate and create Holiday Inn.   He plans to spend most of each year on vacation, opening the inn just for fantastic performances on holidays.  Bing meets Linda (Marjorie Reynolds) at a performance in the city, and she comes out to the inn to audition for him.  They rehearse for performances, fall in love, and sing "White Christmas" together.
Sadly for Jim, Ted shows up drunk, having lost his dancer girlfriend.  Jim is convinced that if Ted meets Linda, he will try to steal her away both for a dancing partner and a girlfriend.  Ted is just this kind of friend.  Ted does meet Linda...he dances with her drunk... but once sober he cannot remember what she looked like.  He spends the next year showing up for holidays to search for his mystery woman, and Jim does everything in his power to keep them from meeting again.
Much dancing and hilarity ensue.  (I'm probably taking a ballroom class this spring.  Can I please come out of the class dancing like this?)

So, I'm sure I'll see this again some other Christmas season.  There are so many parts I like.  If Lincoln's birthday had not existed, I would be giving the movie four stars.  How much can I forgive old movies?  Jury is out.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Here is a movie so unbelievably wonderfully bad that I have had to re-watch large portions of it two times in under a month to share it with my dad and my boyfriend.  All lovers of bad science fiction MUST see this movie.  I've just learned that this was in fact used in an episode of Mystery Science Theater! Perfect.

Oh, where to begin?
The children of Mars have no real childhood.  From the time they are born, information is piped into their little heads, so that they are really like mini-adults, seemingly with no emotion (although that could have been due to the quality of acting).  When we first meet the Martians, we learn that the children, in need of childhood as they are, have become addicted to Earth tv, especially to broadcasts about Santa Claus.  Concerned Martian leader, Kimar, calls together the Martian council and goes off to talk to the wise and creaky elder Chochem.  Once Chochem explains the detrimental effect of not having a true childhood, the council decides that the thing to do is... go to Earth and kidnap Santa Claus!
I should take this moment to mention that the photo above is indeed of Martian children.  Green face paint and antenna on your helmet designate you a martian in this movie.

When the Martians land on Earth they meet and capture young Betty and Billy Foster, who tell them that Santa lives at the North Pole.  The children try to escape to warn Santa, and much drama ensues, involving terrible acting by the Foster children, silly antics of the Martian Dropo (their resident idiot?), a narrow escape from a man wearing a really bad polar bear costume (meant to be a polar bear), and a final capture by the cardboard robot pictured below.

Santa is captured and brought to Mars, along with Betty and Billy, where he immediately inspires the Martian children and begins to manufacture toys in a factory made for him by the Martians.  Santa chuckles a lot.  Dropo continues to be silly.
Conflict boils over, however, when the evil Voldar, who has been grumpy about the plan to bring Santa to Mars all along (grumpy to the point of having made an attempt on the lives of poor Santa, Betty, and Billy!) sabotages the toy factory and tries to kidnap Santa.  See how angry he is below?

I will go ahead and ruin the ending for you.  All works out well, the Earthlings get to go home, and Dropo becomes the Martian Santa Claus.
One star for my favorite scene involving Santa Claus's brilliant escape from an airlock on-board the martian ship.  It is worth seeing the movie just for this scene.  I am sure that I will someday see this movie again in its entirety, and there are so many people in my life who may soon need to be subjected to at least a few scenes.  So convenient that it is an "instant" movie on Netflix!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Bishop's Wife (1947)

Cary Grant can skate! (says Jessica)
Cary Grant can skate, but when he does, he shrinks by three feet. (says David)
But still, Cary Grant is perfect.  And he is a real angel.

This is possibly the definition of a feel good movie.  A bishop is busy trying to get the money to build a new cathedral and is ignoring his wife and daughter.  In swoops an angel to subtly help him see what is really important in his life.  Yes there is some drama, and there is some conflict.  There is even some relationship sketchiness, but there is never any doubt in your mind that all that happens is for the good of the characters and will lead to immense happiness.  Three stars, and I will see this again some other Christmas.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Love Crazy (1941)

William Powell and Myrna Loy.  What do you think I will rate this movie?

Susan and Steve Ireland are celebrating their fourth anniversary in a wonderfully witty Loy and Powell way.  Instead of exactly re-enacting their first date the way that they usually do on their anniversary, Steve suggests that they re-enact the date backwards.  Unfortunately, they are interrupted almost immediately by the arrival of Susan's mother, and hilarity ensues.  

Steve gets stuck in an elevator with an old flame who lives a floor down, Susan's mother trips on the ugly anniversary present she has bought them, Susan has to run her mother's urgent pick-up errand, and a cooped up Steve ditches his mother-in-law to catch up with the old flame. All of this leads to divorce proceedings and Steve's increasingly drastic attempts to keep Susan from divorcing him over a misunderstanding. Oh William Powell, are you ever bad in a comedy?
Four stars.  I would watch this again.  I'm looking into non-Thin Man Loy&Powell box sets...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Them (1954)

I would like to point out that despite what is shown on the poster/DVD cover, at no point do the ants overrun a city or chase mobs of people...anywhere. They seem to prefer to hang out in the desert and pick off loners. Although if those queen ants had gotten out of the L.A. sewer system...

The ants (atomic testing of course) need to be stopped, and a somewhat cocky F.B.I. agent, along with a father and daughter entomology team, are the main players in trying to stop them.  Unfortunately the female entomologist seems to think that heels are appropriate attire for tracking giant ants through the desert, meaning that she has a hard time getting out of situations like the one with the pipe-cleaner antennaed ant below.

But oh, how I love this movie. I do not know how many times I have seen it, but the viewings started by age 5. I used to play "Them" in my neighborhood. Who knows what lived beneath the streets of Lexington, MA.  The most recent viewing came after a group trip to see the "Big Bugs" sculpture exhibit at Garden in the Woods. I know I don't look afraid, but really, it was a beautiful ant.  And I knew I had worn the right shoes.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wings in the Dark (1935)

Favorite actor... favorite actress... yet another movie I had a hard time paying attention to without rolling my eyes.

Myrna Loy plays a stunt pilot.  Cary Grant plays a daring pilot who wants to be one of the first pilots to fly blind (the first?  I can't remember!)  Of course Loy has long admired Grant before she even gets to meet him.  And of course Grant is blinded by a freak accident with a stove.    What will become of Grant's budding relationship with Loy?  What will become of his ambitious plan to... fly blind?

Devastated Grant secludes himself in a cabin in the woods until Loy and a helper sneak up on him and make him accept a seeing eye dog into his life.  Before the dog he has to wander around with his arms outstretched.  More touching scenes and tragedy ensue.
One star for the seeing eye dog.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Graduate (1967)

The Graduate.  How many times have I seen this movie?  When I graduated high school, my dad counseled me to tell people that I was interested in plastics.  But had I seen the movie yet?  The first time I remember watching it was the night before classes started my freshman year at Swarthmore College.  Most of the freshman class and a whole lot of excited upperclassmen packed LPAC and cheered at lines such as:

Mr. Braddock: Would you mind telling me then what those four years of college were for? What was the point of all that hard work?
Benjamin: You got me.

Ahh, tradition.  The Swarthmore tradition of playing The Graduate to the incoming freshman has got me hooked, and I've been watching it at home every fall since.  Although now I watch it right before the first graders swarm.

So, now I'm finding that I don't really have anything to say about the movie.  Every line is a perfect line, every shot a perfect shot.
Some of the lines have become a part of my everyday vocabulary.  "He's a good walker."
Four stars of course, at least.  This is a perfect movie.

A Stolen Life (1946)

This summer the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square had a Bette Davis movie festival. Sadly I only made it to one movie. But this description, courtesy of the Brattle made it very important that I see this movie, if no other:

"A Stolen Life
(1946) dir Curtis Bernhardt w/Bette Davis, Glenn Ford, Dane Clark, Walter Brennan [109 min]
Kate (Davis) and her twin sister Patricia (also played by Davis) both fall for the charming Bill Emerson (Ford) while on a boat trip home to New England. Patricia steals Bill away from her sister, sending Kate into a deep depression. While Bill is away on a trip, Kate and Patricia are involved in a sailing accident. Patricia is drowned, but Kate washes ashore alive. She is mistaken for Patricia, which allows her to steal back the man of her dreams.
Not available on DVD"

What do you say? Bette Davis pretends to be her twin sister, Bette Davis, and steals a man from her? And one of the Bette Davises is involved in a fatal accident? And I can't get this from Netflix???

So, most of the movie was fun. Silly, but fun. Oh, but the ending. Eek. I went with Barbara, and as it was a few months ago now, I can't remember exactly what we said to each other when the movie finally ended, but I'm sure it involved eye rolling and laughter, and maybe some "What?!?"s.

One star for the wonderful special effects of having two Bette Davises lounging on the bed together talking men. So that star. I would recommend seeing it once, but not more than once!

Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948)

What a silly movie.  Mr. Peabody (William Powell) hears, goes searching for, and then fishes from the sea (dare I say kidnaps?) a young mermaid.  The mermaid is of course completely content to swim around in Mr. Peabody's fancy goldfish pond, just as long as he will kiss her every once in a while.  Did I mention there is a somewhat suspecting but also confused by the particulars Mrs. Peabody?

There is water-spitting, lying, swimming, a psychiatrist... 

One star for the moment in the film when a woman who desperately wants to win Mr. Peabody's attention goes swimming in the fish pond and has an underwater fight with the mermaid.  But that's all.  Go rent I Married a Witch.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Libeled Lady (1936)

Jean Harlow is my new favorite actress. She is the original blonde bombshell. I suppose that Marilyn Munroe did have more vulnerability, but I like Harlow for being the tough broad that she is, always a step ahead of the man, ready to head him off at the pass.

In real life she and William Powell were lovers and went to the Academy Awards together along with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard who was Powell's ex. It all sounds very free and 30s Hollywood.
I love Powell and Myrna Loy, so it's fun to find out who he personally was drawn to and see him play opposite her and Myrna in the same movie. In this movie he's the charming ex-newspaper man who is hired to seduce the heiress who is suing a newspaper for a false story.

In order to make his affair with ML a scandal, he has to be married to JH. It's quite entertaining, and I still don't know how it ends, which is good, but I'm really getting aggravated with Powell.


Okay, I finished watching - it was one of those comedies that keep you aggravated till the last second when of course it all works out. I know some people find those the best, but I felt aggravated on behalf of Spencer Tracy's character and Jean Harlow's character even AFTER they were all living happily ever after.

Well worth watching, some very fun, funny moments, but can't give it more than two stars and I WON'T watch it again.

It's also interesting to note that William Powell plays the same calm, wry, somewhat smug character out-witting everyone to his own advantage in these movies that he does in the Thin Man, but it's so much less sympathetic when he's outwitting people who you actually can care about like ST and JH's characters here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Pride and the Passion (1957)

Oh my schlocky goodness! If you are in the mood for some unbridled sentamentality about the heroism of a bloody resistance to occupation, this is your movie.

I was kind of avoiding this one. We now know that Cary Grant was so smitten with Sophia Loren that he would make just about any movie that cast him opposite her. In this movie she plays a Spanish peasant, Frank Sinatra plays a Spanish peasant, and Cary Grant plays a British naval captain - guess whose accent is the worst? I'll give joo wan gayce. Sinatra's accent begs the question - why do Americans playing people who wouldn't speak English have to speak with accents? In the beginning of the film, CG's character declares that the British sent him on this mission because he speaks Spanish and knows guns. Most of the Spaniards he spends the movie talking to are supposed to be peasants so we'll assume they don't speak English and the dialogue is kind of imagined to be translated from Spanish. So why does Sinatra have to speak heavily accented English? Why can't he speak like an American?

The movie is not quite as bad as Sinatra's accent, though. Mainly it concerns this giant gun, a cannon that is supposed to be 42 feet long and fire 96-pound cannonballs. It's kind of a cool concept - the gun was the pride of the Spanish army, but they are forced to abandon it during their retreat after being beaten by Napoleon. The Spanish resistance, with a little help from CG, who has been sent to retrieve the gun for Britain, decide to salvage it and try to move it to Avila, where the French have their headquarters in Spain, and attack the fortified city.

There are some great scenes involving the gun, those were my favorites. It's just huge and watching them figure out how to move it without alerting the French to its location is entertaining. It follows a good principle: you give your characters a clear goal and obstacles and you watch their character emerge as they problem-solve. And it works.

There is a love triangle: CG and FS both are in love with SL and she plays them both to get them to keep working on the project together when really they want to get into a fist fight over her. And there is resistance drama: FS rousing the peasants to do battle, FS authorizing his troops to steal from said peasants, and a couple of good scenes dealing with the finer points of guerilla warfare.

I would say it's actually not a horrible script, it's definitely a good story, but Sinatra's accent and to a lesser extent Sophia's accent and the little melodramatic touches get in the way. Also it's too long! 2:15!

Two stars for the story and the spectacular scenes with the gun. I'm going to try to forget Sinatra's accent. Will not watch again.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Marrying Kind (1952)

Q: What's not to love about Judy Holliday?
A: Nothing!
She's the best part of this picture, I'd say, and she gets to play a lighthearted but not lightheaded blonde. She's not too ambitious for herself, but she believes in things like her husband's crazy invention and radio contests and bright possibilities for her future.

Judy Holliday and Aldo Ray portray a couple who are divorcing. The story of their marriage told in flashbacks is comic and dramatic in turns and probably plays better with a married audience.
The voice over cleverly does not always match the story as the audience can see it so we're lead to understand how both husband and wife are distorting their side of the story as they are telling it to the judge.
It's reminiscent of the Crowd if anyone has seen that silent film - the young couple living the American dream in the city, trying to make ends meet, having a family, eventually encountering hardship.

Through it all there are glimmers of the couple being something a little bit better than they think they can be - enough to make you believe the judge's conclusion that they will not get a divorce after all.
Of course, she's right, they make up and stay together. It IS a romantic comedy after all.
Not a first date movie, though. One to rent to watch with your spouse during a difficult year.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

For Me and My Gal (1942)

I have a new favorite movie, and it is For Me and My Gal. It has a great love story, great dancing and singing, an actual plot that is interesting, and dramatic moments that don't make me cringe. It's black and white and the musical numbers are all performed on the stage so even people who don't like musicals might like this one. Other good points: lots of trains in this movie and it's a movie about show business, which is always awesome.

However, I attribute a lot of the charm to the chemistry between the stars. After seeing Summer Stock I was struck that the chemistry between Garland and Kelly was so good. I was surprised because I had previously thought of Garland usually as very young (you have that impression of her I guess from all those young roles like Dorothy and the Andy Hardy movies). Kelly is always so mature - even when he plays a young man he's so slick - even when he plays awkward it's smooth - so I was sort of surprised that they were playing opposite each other, but it worked.

Then I had to watch the Pirate - not much chance for chemistry there - but when they did have a quiet moment, it seemed like they were trying to be sincere. Most of the time they weren't playing it serious, though, it was pure comic over-the-top nonsense.

But this movie is - - perfect. It's Gene Kelly's film debut, and he's amazing. Judy Garland got him the role after she saw him perform on Broadway so there is some of the reason for their warmth for each other. They had some respect for each other before they even started working on the film.

I read a post on IMDB that described Garland as "fragile" and Kelly as "muscular" but I disagree - Garland is anything but fragile, she seems like she could survive anything, and HAS survived everything. When she talks to her kid brother and talks him out of quitting medical school you get the feeling that they might have been through a lot more together than they say. But she is vulnerable, and that plays so well on screen where movie stars seem so perfect. That was always her genius - ever since "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" she can make us feel that something is missing for her and we want it, too. She can wring the emotion out of any song, which is what makes her so great.

Kelly on the other hand is all slickness and polish with moments of softness thrown in a classic lover-not-a-fighter - when his smooth character reveals a moment of weakness you are touched because he's usually so brash and confident.

It's a great combination, and they are well cast for the roles in this film.

It's really kind of epic following them through a decade or so as they meet, join forces as a vaudeville act, face the war together, split up and eventually reunite.

There are great dancing scenes, some cute vaudeville acts, and I can't even recall a particularly offensive one among them - unless you count the one that acts out a man purchasing a woman-doll and taking her home. But on a scale of one to blackface musical number in White Christmas, it's a one.

Four stars - for great music - all classic American songs from the vaudeville era - great performances in the dramatic roles by all the actors - great costumes - only some of the stage ones are embarrassing, most of the others are great and some I really really want to own - and a great romantic story. Will watch again right away.

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

Bette Davis:
and Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth:
No, she was not ancient and at the end of her career when she filmed this movie. She is just wearing scary make-up so that we can tell that her character is much much older than Lord Essex, her not-so-secret lover, with whom she battles throughout the movie. Unfortunately, I found Bette Davis's make-up to be so distracting that I spent a lot of the movie pondering what the real Elizabeth looked like and speaking to the television to tell Elizabeth things like, "Sweetheart, if you just did your make-up like Olivia deHavilland, you wouldn't have to worry about Essex thinking you're old."

One of the DVD features taught me that Bette Davis and Errol Flynn did NOT get along during the filming of this movie. That made perfect sense to me, since my next most frequent comments, after those having to do with the make-up, had to do with the lack of chemistry between Elizabeth and Essex (Flynn), who are supposed to be madly in love. Of course the DVD feature then went on to say that they had great chemistry on screen. I don't agree, and the lack of chemistry made it really hard for me to enjoy this movie, despite loving the actors and having been really excited to see it. Alas.

This movie did spawn an exciting series of Wikipedia searches. Having read The Other Boleyn Girl earlier this year, I wanted to know exactly where all of the action in the movie fit in with the "history" I knew from the book. Much more interesting than remembering exactly how many monarchs came between Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth, however, was learning that there was an Ethelwulf, an Ethelbald, and even an... Ethelred the Unready, my personal favorite. One could really get lost in Wikipedia. Look here for the fascinating list of English monarchs:

One star for Bette Davis, because she is just a great actress, no matter the role. One more star for Olivia deHavilland. And an honorable mention for the amazingly creative and bizarre mechanical staircase leading into Elizabeth's throne room in the tower, through which Essex is led for his last meeting with Elizabeth before his execution. Barbara says, "I don't remember that from the tour." I really don't think I could watch this movie again.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Pirate (1948)

Where to begin?
Judy Garland is Manuela -- a romantic young girl in a strange hat. She has imbibed the legends of a pirate named Macoco and has decided that she would do anything for him if he abducted her, as she dreams he will someday do. Meanwhile she is engaged to fat, boring mayor Don Pedro.

Gene Kelly is Serafin -- a strolling player - a.k.a. actor - who wanders into town and falls in love with Manuela. Not surprisingly, he decides to pretend to be Macoco to seduce her.

Come to think of it - this has a plot not unlike an opera. It's unlikely, silly, and melodramatic and allows for a lot of big dramatic dance scenes and songs.

Cole Porter wrote the music so it's a little surprising that none of the numbers are very memorable, even with Judy Garland singing and Gene Kelly dancing. Well I take that back - the obtuse dance number with J.G. as a donkey and G.K. as a pirate in tight black shorts is memorable - if not in a good way. He cuts her ears off with a sword. It is no less bizarre than the dance in the middle of Singing in the Rain or Oklahoma. And therefore, just as memorable.

Overheard passing between us as we watched:

Jess:“Oh, do you think there will be a long, boring dance sequence?”

Amy: (about JG's plaid basket hat) “I nominate this for worst costume ever. If she put fruit on her head it would match better.”

Jess: “Sorry, I just can’t help laughing whenever I see their clothes.”
Amy: “I was hoping she would have changed.”

Jess: (about Gene Kelly's first outfit) “Amy Amy! Look at Gene Kelly! Look at Gene Kelly! Look at Gene Kelly! Look at Gene Kelly!”

Jess: “Wait, can you go back… I think he just sang, ‘When I arrive in any town, I look the ladies up and down,’ but I’m not sure.”
Amy: "That's what he said."

Jess: “Again with the wrapping paper hats."
Amy: "I’m liking this one, though.”

Jess: “Look at the poles, do you think there will be a stripper dance?
Amy: "I think Gene Kelly is going to dance with the poles. Yep, there he goes, Gene Kelly’s version of a stripper dance.”

Jess: “I do NOT like his hat.”
Amy: “I’m anticipating that his costume will become better when he becomes a pirate.”

Amy: (After commenting that JG's character has a lot in common with Kiera Knightly's haracter in "Pirates of the Caribbean.") “I wonder if they watched this before they wrote that script. I mean, not that that’s a hard plot to come up with.”

Amy: “Why has she got her hair in a sock?”

Amy: “I really like this outfit. It makes up for all the other outfits.”
Amy: “I want her skirt.”
Amy: “Ok, you have to admit, though, the outfit is awesome.”

About the wedding dress:
Jess: “Oh, oh.” (with extreme displeasure)
Amy: “I love it.”

Jess: “How long is this movie?”

Jess: “Here it is! Here’s the obtuse dance sequence… and he’s wearing the best shorts ever.”
Amy: “He has nice legs, though. We never see his legs.”

Jess: "How do you make it show how much time we have left?"
Jess:"Ok, it's almost over."

Jessica gives it one star because she can't give it zero and she "really thought it was a dreadful dreadful movie, anything that was entertaining about it was not intended."

I give it two stars - one half each for Gene Kelly and Judy Garland's charm, without the benefit of a really good part to play. One star for the costumes. There were many charmingly silly costumes that I think were meant to be charmingly silly.

I think it's a movie that must be watched by fans of either big colorful musicals, Judy Garland or Gene Kelly - if only because it is classically bad big Hollywood musical. However, we agree that we will not watch it again.

The Thin Man (1934)

Up until this week, Jess and I had no idea that Myrna Loy was decapitated. As a 16-year-old high school student in Venice, CA, Loy posed for a student-made statue representing the "Spiritual." Her statue was flanked by "Mental" and "Physical." The statue was eventually surrounded by a tall white fence to protect it from graffiti. Most recently it was seen headless, lying in a scrap pile behind the school. Now it is gone and the only way to see it is to watch for a glimpse of it in the movie "Grease," filmed at Venice High. Watch the screen around Danny when he meets back up with his friends after the summer. Sigh.

We went to see a screening of The Thin Man at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood sitting on a picnic blanket with palm trees in the background.

We don't know where to begin with this movie - it represents all the reasons to love classic movies: the costumes are awesome - remarkable without being laughable - all the details and style of another era plus the elegance that we miss these days. Jess wants this dress:

The writing is awesome: witty and quick and dry and calculated to keep the plot moving so that even though the movie is only an hour and a half long, the plot is quite complicated and intriguing.

There are great characters, and plenty of them, and the bit players are every bit as good as the leading actors.

The mystery is great and the clues are dropped in a satisfying way, creating suspense and leaving you lots of room to speculate without giving away the guilty party until the last minute.

Two things that this movie has, though, make it stand out above even other great classic films in its genre: the chemistry between Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) who play a canny, irreverent, affectionate couple who are as likely to elbow each other as they are to embrace and are constantly ribbing each other - and the antics of Asta, their adorable, clever and comical terrier.

Four stars, of course, from each of us. That means eight total. We will both be seeing this movie again.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Invaders from Mars (1953)

Here is a movie that terrified my Dad as a little boy. I wish I had known that before I called him up afterwards and said something along the lines of, "That was one of the funniest movies I've ever seen! What was with the aliens with the zip-up fur?"

At the beginning of the movie, our young hero David sees something land in the hills behind his house. When his dad returns from investigating, it is clear to David that something is wrong. His dad has become grumpy! One by one, adults in the film go up the hill, get sucked into the ground by the aliens that have landed there, and return grumpy, brainwashed, and controlled, ready to do the aliens' bidding. There is also one poor little girl who gets used by the aliens, with a tragic twist. After burning down her own house, her little brain explodes. Apparently when the aliens no longer need you, they pop your brain. David, no longer able to trust his parents, must find new, un-brainwashed adults who believe his story and can help him to fight against the alien invaders, who are of course here to take over the Earth.

One of my favorite moments in the movie was watching the zipped up teletubby-like aliens lumber through underground caves after our heroes. Was I supposed to be worried? Oh, and the head alien...

How could you not love an evil, rubber, many-legged head suspended in a glass globe? Especially if this creature can control its teletubby minions with only the power of its mind?

Sorry Dad, one star, but this movie is definitely worth seeing. And I can definitely make myself see how this could have been a scary movie to a seven-year old in the fifties.

PIllow Talk (1959)

"My pillow and I agree... there must be a boy for me."
And so goes the opening song...

When the movie begins, Jan (Doris Day) and Brad (Rock Hudson) have never met, but they share a party line.  Brad, player that he is, is always on the phone wooing some new girl.  Jan, furious that she never gets to use the phone and horrified by Brad's "sex mania," decides to lodge complaints and chew him out over the phone.  When Brad recognizes Jan's voice in a restaurant, he retaliates by adopting a new name and persona and trying to make her fall in love with him.

Part of the fun of this movie is the use of a split screen for phone calls.  Just as wonderful as the split screen moments are the moments when we get to hear Jan and Brad's thoughts.  "It couldn't be, or could it?"  So dramatic.  Or my favorite dueling thought moment:

in Jan's head: "He definitely respects me... He didn't even try to kiss me."
in Brad's head: "I'd say 5 or 6 dates oughtta do it."

And another great moment in Brad's head: "So that's the other end of your party line."  Hmmm.

Silly and fun.  Fours stars... would definitely watch again.  (And would like to see "Down with Love" again.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Stock (1950)

None of the songs in this musical are particularly memorable, but the dancing is. Gene Kelly and Judy Garland seem to really be alive when they are dancing and that makes the dancing scenes all the more lively.
There is one long tap-dancing solo by Kelly that's hard to get into if you're not really into tap-dancing, but I'd say that's better than an abstract ballet, any day (no, there is no abstract ballet in this one).

The chemistry between Garland and Kelly might not be sizzling but it seems both real and tender. They enjoy each other and seem to always look for each other in every scene. No-one else really stands out in this film. There are some great comic moments and some great character actors, but Kelly and Garland ARE the movie.

Judy plays the older sister who is determined to hold on to the family farm and make it a success. Her younger sister, meanwhile, is chasing stardom and men in the city. For the summer, JG expects the sister will come home and help out with the farm work - instead she brings an entire theater company to the farm to set up a makeshift theater in the barn.

Hilarity ensues.

Judy Garland is a little plump EXCEPT in this last scene:

But I like her plump and I like that her character is a practical, hard-working, long-suffering older sister.

There is only one offensive musical number, which makes fun of hicks and involves real live howling dogs. Go ahead, imagine it, your imagination would not be as bad as the number itself.

Three stars - will definitely watch again. It would be four stars but it's just a little hard to swallow all the country bumpkin.