Saturday, April 23, 2011

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

We're watching a legal movie so David can "study" for finals... Anatomy of a Murder.
Paul Biegler (James Stewart) is defending Lt. Frederick Manion, after Manion shoots and kills the man who raped his wife. Believe it or not, there are many funny moments in this film.

Lessons I learned:
*Lawyers have pretty books.
*Lawyers drink.
*There is no unwritten law. (Remember the pretty books.)
*Lap dogs like beer. It makes them sleepy.
*Always insist that your client and all related parties wear girdles. Attractive jiggling is not for the public.
*Everything goes in the docket.
*A jury can't really disregard what it's already heard.
*It's the role of the attorneys to provide the wisecracks in a trial.
*The prosecution will always object to "flagrant sneaking subterfuge" on the part of the defense.
*"People aren't just good or bad, they're many things."
*Cute furry animals can help your case, especially if they are smart enough to turn on and carry a flashlight.
*Research is important... You have to know your precedent.
*Buttering up the judge never hurts.
But David would point out that not everything in this movie was entirely proper. I think he's ready for finals. Three stars, and I would probably see this again. Maybe in preparation for the Bar.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

To Be or Not to Be (1942)

A World War II comedy set in Poland complete with a play about Nazis, real invading Nazis, and actors in their Nazi costumes trying to get the real Nazis to think that they are Nazis, too. Funny movie. The acting troupe at the center of this movie is about to have their first performance of a play about Nazi Germany, despite some disputes amongst the actors. For example, "Heil myself," while deemed great for a laugh by the actor playing Hitler, is believed by the director to be un-Hilter-like. Unfortunately, the play is shut down, because the Polish war board is afraid the play will offend Hitler. When the Nazis invade, though, the costumes and sets of the canceled play come in handy in unexpected ways.
When the Nazis invade Poland, the acting troupe is in the middle of its own drama. It is performing Hamlet with husband and wife stars Maria and Joseph Tura (Carole Lombard and Jack Benny) in the lead roles. Maria has been recently introduced to a young aviator who has been to see all her shows. He's been sneaking back to her dressing room to talk with her every night when her husband goes into his "To be or not to be..." soliloquy. Joseph has noticed the audience getting up to let someone out, but has not yet put the pieces together. He just thinks he has experienced "What every actor dreads... Someone walked out on me." Joseph is spared from finding out about his wife's admirer by the announcement of war. The young aviator goes of to war...
The real hilarity begins when the young aviator discovers that a German spy is on his way to Poland to give the names of important resistance leaders to the Gestapo. The aviator returns to Poland (by plane and parachute) and enlists the help of Maria in foiling the spy. With Joseph's permission of course:

Josef Tura: Wait a minute. I'll decide with whom my wife is going to have dinner and whom she's going to kill.
Maria Tura: Don't you realize Poland's at stake?
Lieutenant Sobinski: Have you no patriotism?
Josef Tura: Now listen, you... first you walk out on my soliloquy and then you walk into my slippers. And now you question my patriotism. I'm a good Pole and I love my country and I love my slippers.

Enter many mistaken identities and rescue attempts. One of the best scenes involves a dead man and a false beard. I would definitely see this movie again, but it's probably only a two star movie... But who cares. One star for Carole Lombard, who was a funny funny lady, one star for the false beard scene, and one more for being so quotable. Three stars! "You can't have your cake and shoot it too."

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Lady Eve (1941)

I think Barbara Stanwyck is fantastic. She really makes this movie. Stanwyck plays Jean, a con artist who works with her father to woo men into losing lots of money to them at cards. On a cruise back to New York from South America, Jean and her father set their sights on the handsome yet bumbling herpetologist Charles (Henry Ford). I knew I was going to enjoy the movie, no matter how silly the plot, from the moment Jean started her narration of what all the other women she watched trying to pick up Charles must be saying. Jean, though, does not need a pick-up line. She very suavely trips Charles as he walks past her table, convinces him to walk her back to her cabin so she can change into new and undamaged shoes, and seduces him by suggesting he put the new shoes on her. From the moment Charles starts handling her feet, his eyes go all swimmy, and he is ready to follow her anywhere.
He follows her back to the dinner table, where Jean's father starts to set him up to lose a lot of money. And the courtship begins, with Charles bumbling over his words, and Jean delivering great lines like:
"I know what you meant, I was just flirting with you." and
"You're not going to faint, are you?"

The plot takes a quick turn when Jean announces that she is actually in love with Charles. She convinces her father not to take any of Charles's money, and she accepts Charles's marriage proposal. Unfortunately for Jean, though, the very morning after Charles proposes, someone tips Charles off to the scam. Charles won't believe that Jean is reformed or that she really does love him, and they part ways.

The rest of the movie involves a very complexly nutty scheme to get back at Charles. For as Jean says, "I need him like the axe needs the turkey." Jean goes to some pretty crazy lengths to get her revenge. I spent a lot of time wondering why she was bothering... and then everything made sense at the end of the movie. It will be a lot more fun if you don't try to predict what is going to happen!

Only two stars due to many tedious moments and the stupidity of the male lead (Barbara Stanwyck's great line delivery just isn't enough to make me believe that her character Jean actually cares anything for Charles), but I would see this again. It also really makes me want to investigate more Barbara Stanwyck movies.