Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

"I wish I had a million dollars... Hot dog!"

"Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight..."

"She lights up like a firefly whenever you're around."

"A toast! A toast! A toast to Mama Dollar and to Papa Dollar, and if you want to keep this old Building and Loan in business, you better have a family real quick."

"George Bailey lassos stork!"
"What're'ya... You mean you're... What is it, a boy or a girl?"

"...and are the local yokels making with those David and Goliath jokes..."

"Well, you look about the kind of angel I'd get. Sort of a fallen angel, aren't you? What happened to your wings?"

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

"Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!"

"Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings."

"Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends."

...and of course the original Ernie and Bert. Four stars. Whether I see it next December or not, of course I will see it again.

(Yes, I know the pictures aren't all from the same scene as the quote... It's hard to find exactly what you want out there...)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Apartment (1960)

I love Jack Lemmon. He really makes this movie. He plays Bud Baxter, an insurance clerk who lends out his apartment to higher ups in the company so that they have a place to bring their mistresses. Lending out your apartment to philandering executives is hard. You never get to sleep. Even if you have a bad cold, you're stuck outside on the cold stoop waiting for your keys to be returned. The best parts of Bud's days are his conversations with Fran (Shirley MacLaine), the elevator operator at his insurance company with whom he is falling in love. When Bud finally receives the promotion he's been hoping for, he tries to get out of the apartment game, only to be forced back in by the philandering head of the company Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), who cannot be refused. Matters become worse when the different threads of Bud's life start to come together in surprising and sad ways. I wish I could say that hilarity ensues, but I don't think hilarity is the right word...

...from a suicide attempt to Jack Lemmon straining spaghetti with tennis rackets... what is this movie? The box says romantic comedy. There is certainly a lot of comedy. But is it really a romantic comedy? I do not know. I do know I enjoyed it, though. Three stars, and I would see it again.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hollywood Hotel (1937)

Directed by Busby Berkley this 1937 musical is long and convoluted but pretty to look at. It stars Dick Powell and sisters Rosemary and Lola Lane with a cameo by gossip columnist Loella Parsons. The song Hurray for Hollywood debuts in this movie. Some songs are repeated. There is a cute scene when the 2 main characters sneak into the Hollywood Bowl after hours.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pagan Love Song (1950)

I am now the proud owner of TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams, Volume 2. The Box Set. Thank you Mom and Dad. Prepare for silliness.

My brother Jeremy very reluctantly sat down to drink tea and watch this movie with me when I received the box set...

Mimi (Esther Willimas) is a beautifully tanned, white resident of Tahiti. She longs to leave the island to find a higher calling than living in paradise. She already has a boat ticket away. Hazard Endicott (Howard Keel) arrives on the island of Tahiti (Hawaii) to take hold of a plantation he has inherited. When he first sees Mimi she is in a canoe with her friends. He mistakes her for a native islander and tosses coins for her to catch, while speaking to her in really painfully slow and loud English. Mimi decides to mess with him, adopting an island accent and pretending to be what he thinks she is.
***Jeremy rolls his eyes.***

Endicott hires Mimi's two friends (one of whom is a very young Rita Moreno) to be his housekeepers (although he really wanted to hire Mimi). He is surprised by how small and run down his plantation is, but his new workers tell him it will look great when it is cleaned up. Endicott sings a song about the "house of singing bamboo."
***Jeremy snorts.***

Endicott comes to love his new house and the island. He sings a song involving lines like "How-dee-doo" and "You are well I trust?"
***Jeremy laughs.***

Endicott sings a reprise of his "House of Singing Bamboo" song while holding a pig in his lap.
***Jeremy tries to leave, but is is convinced to stay at least a little longer and finish his tea.***

Endicott finally discovers that Mimi is not really a native, when she invites him to a party at her house. He shows up in island attire, only to feel out of place when he is surrounded by white people in fancy suits and dresses. Endicott and Mimi fall in love, and Mimi's family become hopeful that she will stay on the island to be with him.

Endicott ends up with three island children staying with him, and he sings with them about etiquette.
"Etiquette, etiquette, always fold your serviette..."
***Jeremy raises his eyebrows and says, "Okay Jess, enjoy." He leaves.***

And so on, with some twists and turns, one involving the native workers leaving Endicott's coconut crop outside where it can rot in the rain and him getting very very angry. It was not as much fun to watch once Jeremy left. He didn't even get to see the synchronized swimming. Not the real swimming and not the fantasy swimming.

I feel like I've been typing this a lot lately, but one star. It would be hard to have a good movie with silly, happy islanders, some of whom are probably white people with their faces painted. Oh my. I may someday watch it again, though, because as with my least favorite Cary Grant movies, I do own it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kiss and Make Up (1934)

Oh no no no! Not a good Cary Grant movie!

Cary Grant plays the dashing Dr. Lamar of the famous Dr. Lamar's Temple of Beauty. Having given up his scientific ideals after medical school, Dr. Lamar is a cosmetic surgeon and beauty specialist who promises to help all women achieve "the pink and white complexion that is every woman's birthright." Should I mention that these words are spoken as we watch a black African woman and her two daughters sitting on the floor of their tropical home and rubbing Dr. Lamar's suggested face cream all over their faces?

Of course all of the women in Dr. Lamar's life are desperately in love with him, from patients to secretary Annie, played by Helen Mack. One woman who is in the office to inquire about a procedure for her mother even strips down to her slip when asked before admitting that she is not in fact a patient. Dr. Lamar's beauty ideals and the female "masterpieces" that he has created around him blind him to the beauty of "normal" women such as Annie. Annie can't be bothered to powder her nose, and she is actually capable of getting dressed in 15 minutes, "zippers permitting."

Dr. Lamar's real trouble begins when he falls for a married patient. Mrs. Caron has been visiting him for a very long time, much to the displeasure of Mr. Caron (Edward Everett Horton). Mr. Caron is horrified by the transformation his wife has undergone and threatens, "Doctor, put my wife back the way she was when I married her, or I'll take steps." Mr. Caron does not want his wife back the way she was because of his great love for her, though. He finds her to be too high maintenance now and is also adamant that a beautiful wife will be surrounded by lovers. "Do you realize what the husband of a woman like that is up against?" At first Dr. Lamar resists all of Mrs. Caron's advances (because of course the woman is trying to trap the poor innocent man).
"Are you so professional with all your patients?"
"Then why am I so...honored?"
But when Mr. Caron finally divorces his wife, Dr. Lamar very quickly marries her, "his masterpiece." For some reason Annie remains enamored with Dr. Lamar through all of this, even when he ditches her in his apartment, where she is taking dictation for his book, to run off to meet his gorgeous former patient Mrs. Caron.

Dr. Lamar and his new wife go off on their honeymoon, bringing Annie along so that she can continue to take dictation for the book. Of course Mr. Caron is also at the honeymoon resort celebrating his new freedom. Who does he fall for? Annie.
Possible best exchange of the movie, after Annie meets Mr. Caron while swimming...
Dr. Lamar: You allow men to pick you up in the water?
Annie: Why not? I weigh less there.

Of course Dr. Lamar realizes that he cannot make it to dinner on time with a wife who needs so much primping time. And of course he is horrified by the tasteless food she eats. And of course he is disgusted when he sees her in her face mask at night. I'm sure you can guess the ending of the movie. But do you know what funny animal is featured in the unnecessary high speed car chase leading to the end? Watch if you want to find out. (Or read the labels at the bottom of this post...)

One star. I may someday end up seeing it again, though, because of the fact that I own it in a box set. A previously unmentioned reason to maybe see this movie is that there are a few songs involved. Less of a draw is the ode to corn beef and cabbage sung by Annie and Mr. Caron. More of a draw is the song that Cary Grant sings twice about "Love Divided by Two."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thirty Day Princess (1934)

Oy. One star. My knitting project helped me to survive the movie. I'm not sure I could survive seeing this again, even though I own it.

What to say? A rich business man visiting the tiny country of Taronia befriends the king and learns that the country is much in need of money. He brings Princess Catterina (Sylvia Sydney) back with him to help interest Americans in the plight of Taronia so that they will buy bonds to fund improvements in the country. Sadly, Princess Catterina comes down with the mumps right after arriving. Is the money-raising scheme doomed to end before it has even begun? No! The business man has the brilliant idea to find a look-alike, a "thirty day princess" to play the part until the real princess can get back out of bed. Nancy Lane (also Sylvia Sydney, of course) is discovered in an automat stealing food. It turns out she is an out-of-work actress desperate for any job. Nancy's first job as the princess is to seduce the grumpy newspaper man Porter Madison III (Cary Grant), who has been publishing nasty articles about his theory that the Taronian bonds are a scam. What happens next is too easy...

Here it is, the moment when Porter Madison III falls in love with Nancy Lane (in her princess disguise):
He cannot resist her playful tossing of the expensive crystal wine glasses as she makes toast after toast to her ancestors.

After this, the country is in love with the fake princess, Porter Madison III is in love with the princess... all goes along swimmingly until the real princess's dolt of a fiance shows up. Two more men who have become convinced that the Taronian bonds are a scam discover that there is in fact a missing New Yorker who looks a whole lot like the princess, and who better than the princess's silly fiance to help them uncover what is really going on?

Will Porter Madison III still love the princess when she is no longer the princess? Will Taronia get its much needed money? I bet you know the answers.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) accepts a case from a beautiful lady, Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor), who says that her sister has run away with a dangerous man. She wants the man trailed and her sister back. When Spade's partner tails the man through the city, he is shot and killed. To complicate matters, the man he was trailing is killed just shortly after, and the police are trying to implicate Spade in the murders.

Spade then goes about trying to find out what the lovely Brigid O'Shaughnessy knows about the events that have unfurled and what she was really after when she asked him to tail a man. While wanting Spade's help to reach her true purpose, O'Shaughnessy has no intention of actually telling Spade all that she knows. She can spin a good lie and is used to being able to manipulate the men in her life. She is no match for the brilliantly sardonic Spade, however.

Brigid O'Shaughnessy: Help me.
Sam Spade: You won't need much of anybody's help. You're good. Chiefly your eyes, I think, and that throb you get in your voice when you say things like, "Be generous, Mr. Spade."

As Spade gets deeper and deeper in to the case he comes across a large cast of characters, including a wonderful criminal played by Peter Lorre, all in search of a valuable statue...the Maltese Falcon. I think that one of my favorite scenes may actually have been the scene where Peter Lorre's character shows up to try to search Spade's office.

No more plot, because it's more fun to feel surprised in a movie like this. Four stars, mostly for Humphrey Bogart and his excellent delivery of funny dialogue. Will see again.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shall We Dance (1937)

This movie delivered all of the silliness that I have come to expect from a Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire movie but oddly not all of the dancing. One of the "nearly" dance acts involved the two of them walking somewhat rhythmically back and forth on a ship.... But why did they not dance together more often?

"I haven't even met her... But I'd kinda like to marry her."
Petrov (Fred Astaire) is a ballet dancer (he can do anything!) who falls in love at first sight when he sees a flip book of the dancer Linda Keene (Ginger Rogers).

"What? You do not want to dance with the great Petrov? Don't be a silly horse!"
Petrov's first attempt to woo Linda involves pretending to a be a crazy man: dancing about her apartment, speaking in a heavy Russian accent, and telling her that she is not good enough to ever dance with him. It turns out that Linda is sick and tired of silly dancers falling in love with her. She is about to return to America to marry her long-time admirer Jim and get out of the dancing business. Petrov, his manager, and the whole ballet then set sail from Paris to America on the same ship as Linda. Petrov's manager shakes a former member of the ballet who is interested in Petrov by telling her that Petrov has been secretly married for four years. The rumor festers...

"Oh, you've ruined your sweater. I'll have to fix it now."
Petrov finally gets Linda to pay attention to him when he stalks her in the dog walking area of the ship. He starts paying other passengers to let him walk their dogs. Finally one day he has so many dogs with him that Linda's dog excitedly follows him. Soon Linda and Petrov are walking together daily. In fact, they walk so much that Linda's little dog gets tangled in his sweater and has to sit down and watch.

"Do you realize that you're the father of my child?"
A rumor that Petrov and Linda are married reaches the ship. Linda is horrified and thinks that Petrov has started the rumor just to escape another woman. When Petrov's manager is shocked to hear the rumor, Petrov points out that the manager in fact was the one who started it.

"Who's got the last laugh now?"
Linda charters a plane to take her off of the ship. She in her plane and Petrov on the ship eventually make it to New York. When Linda is forced to dance with Petrov in a restaurant where they are both dining separately she realizes just how much fun dancing with him is. Yay! A dance number!

"I'll turn that dream stuff into a nightmare that will make history. Poor Lin."
Linda's manager wants to keep alive the rumors that she is married to Petrov so that she will not marry Jim and leave dancing. He comes up with a brilliant scheme to use a very realistic dummy of Linda that had been designed for some old promotion. He sneaks into Petrov's room at night, drapes the Linda model over him, and takes some new pictures for the press. Luckily, Petrov is such a heavy sleeper that he is not woken up by the flash bulbs.

"You like potatoes and I like potahtoes..."
In order to evade reporters, Petrov and Linda put on dark sunglasses and go rowing and roller skating in Central Park. This leads to song and roller skate dancing. A very good way to prove that you are in fact not a couple.

"Peter, you've got to marry me... If we can get married now, I can start divorce proceedings in the morning."
Again, another brilliant plan. Get married, so you can officially get divorced, thereby proving that you are not in fact married.

"I didn't realize getting married was so depressing."
After Linda puts on an amazing hat and marries Petrov, she begins to realize that she doesn't really want to divorce Petrov the next day. Until the original trouble-making lady appears in Petrov's room.

"All because of you and your practical dummy!"
Everything is a mess! Will Linda go through with the divorce? Will Petrov win her back with his crazy scheme to dance with dozens of women all wearing incredibly creepy Linda Keene masks? What will happen?

"If he couldn't dance with you, he'd dance with images of you!"
Awwww. And so on... I guess just two stars, as sad as that sounds, and I probably won't see this again. The Gay Divorcee is definitely my favorite so far.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)

So, here is my very naive question: Is there a movie in which Marilyn Monroe does not play a ditz? Yes, yes, I'm supposed to know things like this. I just haven't seen very many of her movies. Only Some Like It Hot and Bus Stop (Amy, do you remember Bus Stop?). Oh, and that little moment of a part in All About Eve. This time, Marilyn plays a ditz with glasses who has to take her glasses off any time there is a chance of being seen by men. "You know what they say about girls who wear glasses." Sadly, this causes her to bump into things frequently and get even more confused than she is with the glasses on.

Three models, Schatze (Lauren Bacall), Pola (Monroe), and Loco (Betty Grable) move into a luxury condo in order to meet and catch millionaires to marry. Unfortunately for them, the rent is much too steep and they are forced to keep pawning their rented furniture. Schatze, having been married and cheated before, is adamant that the girls not waste any time on men without a fortune. Men like the ones Loco keeps bringing home.

One of Loco's unacceptable finds, Tom Brookman, falls for Schatze, but she only has eyes for the rich Texan widower J.D. Hanley (William Powell). Little does Schatze know that Brookman is in fact a millionaire. But while Brookman goes to great lengths to court Schatze (even booking the three girls to model clothes for him in a store!), he is careful not to let Schatze know about his wealth lest she pick him based on that. While Schatze chases after Hanley, who is afraid that she would be wasting her life to marry an old man, her friends go off and find the loves of their lives: men with no money! I will not give away the hilarious circumstances under which they find their loves. Her friends' happiness eventually causes Schatze to re-think her obsession with rich men, with terrible timing for the poor Mr. Hanley.

Three stars, and I would definitely see this again. Now, if I only I could write a new ending for William Powell's character.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nancy Drew: Detective / Nancy Drew: Reporter (1938)

Gee, Gosh, was Nancy Drew really this ditzy? Not in the books. In fact, my friend Yvonne, who remembers the books quite well, was especially upset while watching Bonita Granville's pouty, ditzy performance.

In Nancy Drew: Detective, Nancy tries to find a missing rich lady who has disappeared right before donating a large sum of money to Nancy's prep school for girls. The search involves following a carrier pigeon by car, taking aerial photographs to find the kidnappers' house, and watching her friend turn an old x-ray machine into a radio transmitter to call for help. In Nancy Drew: Reporter, Nancy is disappointed in her assignment for a contest at the local paper and steals a real reporter's assignment. She finds herself trying to investigate a murder in order to clear the name of a framed woman. Nancy solves all of these crimes with the help of her reluctant "friend" Ted Nickerson (why the movie people changed his name from Ned is beyond me). She bosses him around, gets him in trouble, makes him dress up as a lady... he whines a lot and stumbles clumsily over things.

The world according to Nancy Drew:
"I think every intelligent woman should have a career."
"That conceited tweet-tweet!"
"Quit disturbing the molecules!"
"You hooligans!"
"I guess it's just my woman's intuition. Every woman has one, you know."
"Well statistics prove from ages 15-20 a woman is mentally 5 years older than a man of the same age."
"Guess my woman's intuition didn't function this time."

But, however ditzy she appeared to be in these movies, Nancy did get the job done. Two stars, and I really don't feel like checking out the rest of the series. My curiosity has been satisfied.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

Singing star (a la Elvis) Conrad Birdie is going to be drafted! Oh no! But that is not what the teenagers below are discussing in their wonderful "dancing while talking on the phone and clogging up all of the town's phone lines" number... No, just as worthy of hours of phone calls is the fact that Hugo and Kim (Ann-Margret) just got pinned!

"Did he pin the pin on? Or was he too shy?"

Adding more drama to the mix, struggling songwriter Albert (Dick Van Dyke)'s his soon-to-be-fiance Rosie (Janet Leigh) comes up with a brilliant and manipulative scheme to help Albert sell a song. Before Conrad ships off to the army, he will appear on the Ed Sullivan show to sing one last song, "One Last Kiss," and to kiss one last girl goodbye. And which lucky fan club member gets picked to receive the kiss? Kim, of course. Will Hugo like it? Will they remain pinned? Will Conrad and his hip-swinging, faint-inducing antics tear the town apart?

One of my favorite scenes is one in which Conrad sings at the town hall in Kim's town and causes almost everyone in the town to faint by the end of the song. While I don't have a picture of that scence, I do have a picture of my favorite outfit of Kim's. She wore this for a dance number that we may just need to do at my wedding. Or am I being sarcastic?

Four stars for joy inducing songs, animals and people being drugged with speed, crazy outfits, Dick Van Dyke dancing, and a movie that knows it is being over the top. The purpose behind this viewing was that David was Harvey Johnson ("Can I speak to Debra Sue...") in a high school production, and I was hoping to get him to sing along. I will of course see it again and again and again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Wedding Present (1936)

So, Richard Wallace creates a film in which Cary Grant and Joan Bennett are witty newspaper reporters in love who just can't seem to end up together. Then four years later Howard Hawks makes a film in which Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell are two witty, divorced-from-each-other newspaper reporters who just can't seem to end up back together. Hmmm. Very popular theme of the time?

In this one, Charlie (Cary Grant) and Rusty (Joan Bennett) work on the paper together and are "almost married." After a botched attempt to get a marriage license, Rusty declares that it was silly of them to try, and they should just stay in their happy "almost married" state. Not even a night spent carousing with a silly archduke, about whom they want to write a story, can convince Rusty that really they should just break down and try to get married again. Not even when the archduke tells them, "Oh, but [marriage] is a divine madness."

So on they go with their lives as flirting reporters until Rusty is granted a month's vacation. While she is in New York trying to make Charlie jealous, Charlie gets a surprise promotion to editor. Rusty returns to find him no longer his old fun-loving self. She thinks up a giant prank to help him get his sense of humor back, but ends up getting herself fired.

Rusty meets a new man on her way to New York to find a new job and soon finds herself engaged. What will Charlie do? Why, travel to New York to give her the best wedding present ever (involving fire trucks, ambulances, police sirens...).

No, the wedding movies are not my new theme (did you notice I watched Night of the Living Dead?), but maybe I can gleam some tips from all of these wedding-related movies... In any case, I would see this again (and probably will since David got me a box set that contains it). Probably just two stars from me, though: Fun and silly, but also dopey and silly if I'm thinking seriously about it, and it's definitely not as brilliant as its witty newspaper movie rival.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Classic horror...this fits here, right?

The music is horror movie music...
There are zombies...
There is a little girl zombie who eats her mother, blood dripping from her mouth...
There is a sad ending that may in fact be a social commentary...
and I was a little bored. In fact, had I not been simultaneously putting photos in my photo album, I might not have been able to watch the whole movie. It is definitely a movie to watch with someone, so you can say things like:
"I bet he'll slap the silly hysterical woman."
or "Did he really just say, 'Don't you know what's going on out there...this is no Sunday school picnic'?"
or "Are zombies really so scary when they move so slowly?"
or "Why bother to make the silly hysterical woman afraid of matches if they're not foreshadowing her turning into a zombie?"
or "Zombies, just get on with it! Storm the house already!"

Lesson learned: Without the Bennett sisters, the world is lost in the face of the living dead.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Father of the Bride (1950)

Poor Stanley (Spencer Tracy) has to deal not only with the fact that his daughter is getting married...and he doesn't even know the financial stability or sense of the groom... but also with the fact that the wedding is going to be a humongous, expensive affair.

The conflicts the characters had were just so silly. The wedding was almost called off when the groom had an idea that the bride didn't like for a honeymoon destination. Also, if the family couldn't afford it and the bride, Kay (Elizabeth Taylor), really wanted a small wedding as she claimed, why did the family pay movers to have all of the furniture removed from their home so that they could host almost 500 people at the reception? And why was Kay wearing this dress?

Weddings don't always have to make people crazy, right?
Two stars. I'm not sorry I watched it, but I probably won't watch it again.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

David chose this movie for us to watch one night...I waited too long to blog it...
Jessica: Why did you choose this movie?
David: You wanted something you'd never seen before. And you wanted a classic movie.
J: What do you like about it?
D: I don't know. I guess I have good memories of it. I probably watched it for the first time when I was eleven or so. We'd go to Hastings... that was when I started to really like Hitchcock... I like the suspense.
J: What should people know about the plot?
D: Well, I don't want to give it away...
J: A little sound-bite.
D: I don't want to give it away... Family man Jimmy Stewart finds himself in the middle of intrigue along with his lovely wife Doris Day. It would give stuff away if I said anything else. Except I'll say this. There's a scene that can only be explained by the fact that Hitchcock wanted to have a scene in a taxidermist's.
J: Thanks.
D: No, thank you. This interview has been lovely.

Four stars, and I would watch it again. I also want to re-watch Hitchcock's 1934 version, because I saw it too long ago to remember just exactly how different it was...I assume no "Que sera sera..."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Paper Moon (1973)

We watched this at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary on Saturday. The surprise guest was Tatum O'Neal. I was really very cool of her to come out, and we mean her no disrespect, but we have to remain honest as reviewers, even though we know Tatum may read this...

Don't look so shocked, Tatum!

Me: What do you want to say about Paper Moon?
Jess: Oh my gosh. Well...
Me: Was it as boring as I made you think it was?
Jess: No it wasn't as boring, I did wonder how long it was going to be sometimes, but it wasn't as boring. I guess there was a lot more comedy than I was imagining.
Me: What did you think of Tatum O'Neal?
Jess: She was good at glowering. The real Tatum O'Neal was there.
Me: Did that add to your experience?
Jess: No.
David: Except that when we were clapping at the end, you felt that there was really someone there to clap for.
Jess: Yeah, I had probably forgotten about her by then. The problem is, I don't really know who she is.
Me: Did it pull at your heartstrings?
Jess: Excuse me? No, was it supposed to? It didn't really pull at my heartstrings because it all seemed so over the top. I wasn't really concerned about the little motherless girl.
Me: What about you, David?
D: I'm not really part of the blog.
J: You can comment. Did it pull at your heartstrings?
D: No, there was no pulling. I laughed.
J: I definitely laughed, that was the thing, I wasn't really concerned, it was just what silly things will they do next.
Me: Were there any parts that you thought were particularly funny?
J: I thought it was kind of funny when she was sitting up on the hill and the dancer-lady had to go and talk to her and they came to an understanding.
Me: I'm giving it two stars.
J: That's fine with me, I thought it was funny but I didn't love it.

Two stars, will not watch again.
Sorry, Tatum.

Awww, don't look so sad! You've still got the Oscar.
J: For the record, I did not dislike this movie as much as Amy's posting makes it sound that I do. I found it really entertaining and funny. I was tired, and didn't know that my responses to the questions that were being fired at me were being typed up into a posting. That being said, I would see this movie again.

Please Believe Me (1950)

Deborah Kerr, Deborah Kerr, why are you so lovely? And why are you always embarking on steamship journeys when we meet you? Oh, I know - it's because that's where you meet the charming, debonair men who break your heart!

So you're on a cruise ship, bound for America where you will collect your inheritance of a Texas ranch which, unbeknownst to you, is completely worthless.

Having heard reports of her new-found wealth, three lovesick men find her loveliness irresistible in this movie: a gambler who needs to pay off his debts to a scary gangster, a wealthy playboy who could care less about her wealth, and the lawyer of the playboy, who makes love to her in the most awkward, over-blown, over-planned, clinical way imaginable.

Fortunately, Kerr's Character, Alison Kirby, is clever enough to decipher American slang, see through some of the most obvious angles her suitors are playing, and survive the somewhat confusing plot unscathed.

She's charming, her costumes are charming, and she's one of the most intelligent heroines I've seen in a classic movie. I mean plenty of women are witty in old movies - but how many are the authors of their own plot twists?

For that reason if for no other, three stars. I could give this four if the leading man had been a little bit charming, but he was a dork. Endearing, but I do love a dashing hero for my sassy heroine!

Probably won't watch again.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Tivo's description of this movie says "Action Adventure (1952) Betty Hutton, Charlton Heston, Cornel Wilde, Dorothy Lamour. A high-wire artist, the girlfriend of a circus manager, falls for a French aerialist." How it failed to mention Jimmy Stewart as a bad clown named Buttons who just happens to have learned enough about medicine in the Navy to save the circus manager's life at a key moment in the film is beyond me!
Let me repeat this slowly:
Jimmy Stewart.
In clown costume for the entire movie.
Playing Buttons the bad clown.
Who is secretly a surgeon.

There you have it, the reason to watch the movie, right there, nothing more required...but there is quite a lot more that is offered.

Oh what else? It's a musical. It's a big schmaltzy expensive costume musical with live animals and costumes that would shame Las Vegas showgirls. And this is what TCM describes as "Action Adventure"? (I happen to know that the program information on Tivo is usually supplied by the network....)

Okay, okay, all the music is diegetic, they sing as part of the circus, sing to cheer themselves up or to advertise the show - no-one sings a story or a monologue or a line that could have been spoken - but still - a coordinated number with dancing girls swinging from pineapple-bedecked ropes is quite, quite good.

By the way, that number would be, according to the ringmaster: 'The luscious Phyllis dances and sings to the sultry strains of Lovely Luawana Lady!" (Dorothy Lamour plays Phyllis)

Because Hawaii was only recently made a state we had to humiliate it, right? Like some kind of national hazing ritual?

On the more modern tip, the lyric "they don't pack that wicky whack" could easily be sampled for a hip-hop track - Diddy is probably all over it already.

WHAT is not to love about a circus movie? It allows people to say lines like
"You've got sawdust in your veins" and
"The only thing about you I'm interested in is your elephants" and
"When I kiss you, I need to have my feet planted firmly on the ground"
and while we're quoting favorite lines:
"I've never run from a fight" "and I've never lost one"
"What does a girl have to say to make a blind man see"
"Be careful of that halo, sister, it's phony, it'll slip and you'll be wearing it around your neck"
"Don't believe everything you hear, it's only half of what you see."
"Is that a professional opinion?" "That's a clown's opinion!"

The plot is thick - there's a rival circus named the Columbia, a crooked carnival games mobster, a jealous showgirl rival of the "high=wire artist" (who also does trapeze, by the way, so I'm not sure why she's a "high-wire artist" in the description). There is a german elephant-trainer who is in love with the showgirl rival, there is the crazy french aerialist who is completely obnoxious and deserves to fall and break his stupid arm.

Then of course there is a clown with a dark secret and a cute little dog (possibly named Squeaker?).

The aerialist tries a trick without a net to show off for the high-wire artist and ends up falling. The high-wire artist falls in love with his derring-do and leaves the poor hard-working sullen Charlton Heston - I've never liked him in anything but the aerialist is so arrogant and obnoxious it really makes it easy to love him. After this the movie goes on for another hour - the plot twists and twists again - the rival goes for the dumped circus manager, the high-wire artists chases the aerialist, a detective comes looking for the clown - and on and on...ending with a train crash in which a leopard escapes making me decide that this movie is the other side of the "Bringing Up Baby" story - remember the escaped leopard? It's dangerous? It escapes from a train that is crashed? This could be that leopard! I choose to see it that way.

They must have shot a lot of the crowd scenes in a hangar on the lot because the crowd has some stars in it (I spotted Bob Hope at one point) and I'm sure some executives if I knew who to look for. They must've hired some circus people to do the acts and filmed those, but they also used a LOT of green screen. A LOT. It's pretty entertaining to speculate on why - I mean the effects shots are obvious - but in one scene there are just a bunch of people packing stuff up in the background - they couldn't shoot that? Or they just forgot and had to pick it up as an insert shot?

Once in a great while a movie comes along that is so bad it becomes good again - one might even call it a Great Bad Movie. This is might just be the Greatest Bad Movie on Earth...maybe.
Three stars, would positively watch again. Probably going to do so right now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Some Like It Hot (1959)

I love this movie. I tried to watch it outside at the Boston Harbor Hotel last summer, and a thunderstorm half an hour into the movie foiled my attempt. Now a year later, I have finally seen it again. Four stars... plan to see it many more times. Why do I love it? Because it is fifty years old, and yet the comedy is still hilarious... Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are perfect... It is immensely quotable... It's just so funny.

Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon) have to flee town when they accidentally witness a mob mass killing. Best way to skip town? Dress up like women, of course, and join a women's band on its way to Florida.

Hilarity ensues as both men take turns falling for their band mate Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), who confides to Joe's alter ego Josephine that she is hoping to meet a dashing millionaire in Florida. Even more hilarity as a millionaire man falls for Jerry's alter ego Daphne.

And the wonderful ending. If for some reason you have never seen the ending or had it quoted to you and you just love surprises, don't watch.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Gay Divorcee (1934)

Ohh, wonderful wonderful silly movie.
Guy meets girl...
Mimi (Rogers) gets the end of her dress stuck in her aunt's trunk as her aunt locks it. Guy (Astaire) comes by and saves her by quite shockingly ripping her dress. He is smitten. She runs away. He spends weeks in London standing on the sidewalks and starting at every woman's face to find her until he finally rear-ends her car by accident.
Girl runs from guy...
Every silly dance movie needs a high speed car chase.
Guy pursues girl...
Lucky thing that Guy thought to buy a "Road Closed" sign at a sporting goods store. What a good way to bring a high speed car chase with one's beloved to a halt.
Girl starts to fall in love...
After losing Mimi again, Guy happens to find her at an ocean resort. She is there to try to secure a divorce from the geologist husband she hasn't seen for years. He is there with his lawyer friend who is helping Mimi to secure the divorce. But of course Guy does not know Mimi is the woman his friend is helping. Guy is charming and sweeps Mimi off her feet.
Girl becomes convinced guy is a gigolo (rather, a correspondent)...
The plan that Mimi's lawyer has concocted to secure her divorce involves her spending the night with a hired male "correspondent" and then getting caught by some detectives. Guy unknowingly says the code phrase to Mimi that the correspondent is supposed to use to find her, and Mimi is furious that Guy is not really interested in her but is there for a job. One of many many similar jobs.
Everyone dances...
They even twirl up onto chairs and over tables.
Happy ending...
Dancing solves all problems, of course!
I hope I get to see this again. It's now my favorite Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire movie. Four stars!

Ocean's Eleven (1960)

Danny Ocean (Sinatra) gets together with his eleven buddies from World War II to put together a huge Vegas heist. After much work to assemble the crew (really a huge portion of the movie), the heist is pulled off. Then hilarity ensues following their discovery by a soon-to-be-stepfather of one of the crew. With three singers, Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr., there are even a few musical numbers thrown in. I'm not feeling like I have a lot to say about this movie. I saw it during my last week of school...I fell asleep and had to re-watch large chunks of it a few days later. So, while I did think it was a good movie, I'm not really feeling inspired to say much.
So...three stars.  And I would see this again due to the wonderful ending about which I will say nothing so that it can be a surprise for anyone who has not yet seen it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lifeboat (1944)

This Hitchcock drama begins with a German U-boat bombing an American ship. As the ship goes down in the opening shots, we see a fabulously dressed Connie Porter (Tallulah Bankhead) adrift in a lifeboat, filming everything for an article she wants to write. She is soon joined by other survivors of the blast, including an engineer, a steward, a nurse in training, a woman with a dead baby, and even the captain of the now sunk German U-boat. They drift together for weeks. But despite what you may hope for, and despite the fact that there are so many pros to eating a number of the characters, no one even considers eating anyone else in Lifeboat.

Connie Porter: Apparently the actress is a diva just like her character. Probably wouldn't taste so good, but it might have been good to get her and her complaints about losing her luggage out of the way.

Kovak: So annoying. From the moment he steps on the boat he is arguing and wanting to kill or abandon other survivors. Eat him.

Gus Smith: Not so tasty. Gimpy leg, eventual gangrene. Ick. "What good's a hepcat with one gam missing?"

Mrs. Higley: She sadly jumps off the side of the boat and drowns herself after the death of her baby, is attached to the boat by a rope, and they cut her free. Did no one think to save her for later?

Mrs. Higley's dead baby: Inappropriate to comment.

Alice MacKenzie: Do not eat. She's a nurse. More valuable to have her alive.

Stanley "Sparks" Garrett: Could never have been eaten. The actor, Hume Cronyn went on to star in Cocoon and Batteries Not Included. Too important to eat.

Joe: Token wise black character. Plays a mean flute and prays...too valuable to eat.

Rittenhouse: Too sinewy. Probably not a good first choice of a meal.

Willy (the German captain): Oh, definitely to be eaten. He was trying to bring the boat to a German supply ship from which they would all surely have been sent to a concentration camp. And he had secret supplies he did not share.

But as I said, no one gets eaten. For tales of cannibalism, skip Lifeboat and take a Criminal Law class in law school.

The 39 Steps (1935)

Similar to Hitchcock's later movies Saboteur and North by Northwest, The 39 Steps is about a man who is accused of a crime he did not commit and then dragged into intrigue in order to clear his name, saving some people and possibly the world along the way.  The major difference: No one scales a national monument.  This time the hero is Richard Hannay.  During a performance by the amazing "Mr. Memory," Hannay meets a spy who runs to him for protection and then is murdered in his home.  Hannay must flee to avoid being arrested for her murder.  While on the run, he falls in hate with a lady on a train who gives him away, tries to complete the spy's mission, and then rediscovers and eventually falls in love with the lady from the train.  They hate each other so much, you just know they'll end up together.
The first time I watched The 39 Steps I couldn't get past the way that our hero treated his leading lady. He was obnoxious. I finished the movie, declared him to be a jerk, and reported to my dad that it was far from being my favorite Hitchcock. It's a few years later now, and thanks to my dad making me watch this movie again, I can now give it three stars and say that yes, I would see it again.