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Discussion in 'The Moving Picture' started by Amy Jeanne, Aug 5, 2007.
I love "The Hudsucker Proxy". A real charmer and wonderfully shot. Paul Newman is astonishing too.
Special Agent from 1935 with Richard Cortez, George Brent and Bette Davis
A good-guys-win, code-enforced movie that still brings some verve with a reasonably believable Feds-vs-the-mob script and A-list acting from Davis, Brent and Cortez
Cribbing from the real-world takedown of Al Capone on tax evasion, undercover Federal Agent Brent sets out to convict New York City mob-boss Cortez on tax-fraud charges
The local police and prosecutors have repeatedly failed to nab Cortez on racketeering charges as he's good at hiding evidence of his illicit business and, when that fails, killing off any potential witnesses against him
The lynchpin in Brent's effort to bring down Cortez is Cortez's top bookkeeper - super smart, young and cute - Davis (note: she's a young woman acknowledge by all as a numbers and business whiz), who is portrayed as stuck working for Cortez as, as she says, "you don't resign from this job"
And while it works and makes sense, the story would have been better in pre-code land where Davis would have been sleeping with both Cortez and Brent and would have had to decide which one of her lovers to, ultimately, sell out
But alas, by 1935, the Production Code didn't allow good girls to sleep with bad men (or any they weren't married to), so the climax revolves around Cortez trying to kill Davis before she can testify against him. A lot of gun-play and bullets flying ensue
Brent, as always, is solid but stolid, Davis is too corralled in the role to really flex her acting muscles but Cortez shines as the oleaginous crime boss. He's polished, urbane, ruthless, evil and always wearing glove - this was seemingly a thing for mob bosses back then (see Bogey in All Through the Night)
It's an entertaining enough hour-and-fifteen-minute flick held back by the Production Code and not enough screen time for Davis
Crossroads from1942 with Wiliam Powell, Hedy Lamarr, Basil Rathbone and Claire Trevor
A rising-star French diplomat (Powell) with a beautiful young bride (Lamarr) is on the verge of being promoted to ambassador to Brazil when he is accused of identity fraud owing to an amnesia-inducing car accident he had over a decade ago. While he wins the fraud trial, he is subsequently blackmailed by two individuals (Rathbone and Trever) claiming to be former accomplices in a robbery and murder all three supposedly committed before Powell's loss of memory.
They present Powell with, what they claim is, evidence of his former life and then demand a large sum of money in return for their silence. With that set up, the rest of the movie is watching Powell desperately trying to remember his past as he runs around Paris attempting to confirm the blackmailers' story while also trying to keep his wife unaware of his troubles and his career on track.
If this sounds Hitchcockian, it's because it is very Hitchcockian - amnesia, blackmail, important man's successful life at risk, dramatic trial, beautiful wife (albeit, not blonde), harrowing chase scene at the climax - but it misses the master-director's touch. Here, director Jack Conway does an adequate job, but he doesn't frame scenes with Hitchcock's eye for tension and fear, nor does he use Hitchcock's audience-friendly faster pace. Hence, the movie drags in several spots despite its charismatic stars and engaging story.
That said, it's still worth the watch, especially with the always lovely-to-look-at Hedy Lamarr playing the devoted and befuddled wife. Having seen Lamarr clearly comfortable being fully naked in 1933's Ecstasy, I always half expect her to take her clothes off in any movie she's in just for the heck of it. She always looks like she wants to - but alas, the Motion Picture Production Code scores another victory. Even with her clothes on though, she's still an enjoyable actress to watch.
Exact the docu, I got on the german VHS since 1997.
B.F.'s Daughter from 1948 with Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin (now that's a name), Charles Coburn and Keenan Wynn
Once in a while (almost never now), Hollywood makes a movie that looks at capitalism versus socialism (in this case, as a secondary plot) and, while giving the nod to capitalism (wait, what?), presents both sides with nuance and respect.
A wealthy industrialist's (Coburn) daughter (Stanwyck) drops her slowly rising businessman and father-approved fiance to marry a left-wing, socialist professor and writer (Heflin) who's the ideological antipode to her capitalist pater.
Her father describes himself thusly, "I'm a builder, the world needs builders," and if, in my life, I stood for something "I stood for rugged individualism." Somewhere Ayn Rand is smiling. Conversely, his daughter's new husband opposes wealth and capitalism and reflexively supports any group perceived as weak and needy regardless of facts and circumstances.
In a beautiful early scene, when the father and new husband meet, neither play to pat stereotypes: the father sincerely wants to understand the daughter's choice and the new husband sympathetically realizes the pain his marriage is causing the old man.
Modern writers would have flexed their virtue-signally progressive muscles by turning the scene into one of a cold-hearted capitalist disowning his daughter as the socialist son-in-law denounces everything the old man stands for. Here, the daughter isn't disowned and the son-in-law doesn't denounce - making the scene real and powerful.
And while the theme of competing economic systems will also indirectly drive the newlywed's bumpy marriage, the marriage itself is the main story. These newlyweds, like most newlyweds, enthusiastically believe their love will overcome all obstacles, the first ones being all but no money to live on and Heflin's career as a writer/speaker stuck in idle.
While Heflin refuses all offers of assistance from his father-in-law, Coburn covertly helps the newlyweds with money he passes to Stanwyck, while, also unbeknownst to Heflin, Stanwyck uses this money (and her father's influence) to jump-start Heflin's career. And as Heflin's career grows, his wife, combining her husband's new money with her father's, purchases a home and the other accoutrements necessary to place her and her husband in society.
As all this slowly dawns on Heflin, he and his wife become estranged as he resents her surreptitious aid and her social aspirations, but also has no intention of going backwards professionally. Instead, a modus vivendi takes place in the marriage as she stays in society in New York, while he goes off to join, his heroes, the New Dealers in WWII Washington.
With the marriage aging poorly, her father, on his deathbed, encourages his daughter to fight for her husband, despite his ideological disagreements with him as he knows her husband is a good man even if he hates his politics. And upon the old man's passing, Helfin reflects that he wasn't fair to a good man who saw the world differently than he does. The movie's strength is its nuanced balance of competing ideas and personalities versus the approach most movies today take of political and ideological purity (and virtue signaling).
Also running in the background are a couple of on-message subplots. Stanwyck, playing to type for a moment as the jealous society wife, assumes her husband is cheating on her when she finds bills in his things related to another woman's living expenses. Accusing without asking, she eventually discovers, to her embarrassment, her husband is helping a blind war refugee get a new start in America. So, we learn that even those who narcissistically put charity on the highest moral pedestal for all to see do some sincere and private good at times.
Conversely, a cocky liberal reporter (Wynn) and friend of Heflin's who denounces Ivy league commissioned officers as the pampered elite of the war - which starts another fight in the Stanwyck-Heflin household - has to eat crow as one of the "elites" he singled out for public mockery (a long-time friend of Stanwyck's) dies heroically on a voluntary mission. So, we learn that having been born to money and status doesn't define, perforce, a person as cowardly and callous.
And all of this reflects on the one question the movie asks repeatedly, can a marriage of ideologically opposed people work? The movie - until the Motion Picture Production Code forces a not-believable happy ending in, literally, the last thirty seconds - says no, while real life says it's hard at best. In our politically polarizing times, many married and dating couples are probably asking themselves the exact same question that 1948's B.F.'s Daughter debated so well.
Gambling Lady from 1934 with Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, C. Aubrey Smith and Pat O'Brien
Another sixty-ish-minute-long movie that's the 1930's equivalent of today's hour-long TV drama - and that's meant as a compliment.
Barbara Stanwyck is the honest gambler daughter of an honest gambler father who managed to avoid the corruption, tricks, cheats and deceptions most gamblers of that time used. Also, a gambling syndicate - a mob group that controls the illegal betting in the city - regularly tries to recruit her father; however, he manages to play it straight and solo.
But Stanwyck will need all of her aleatory talents to survive and dodge the syndicate when her father passes away suddenly leaving her a young single woman with little money. Okay, she's Barbara Stanwyck, so a few men pop up quickly like gambling shark and syndicate member Pat O'Brien. He's a long-time friend who wants to marry her, but despite having affection for him, Stanwyck feels no spark.
Next up is wealthy society scion Joel McCrea; there's a spark, but also a rub - he's "class;" she's, well, not. And in a neat twist, this bothers Stanwyck, not McCrea, as he's just a sap in love, but she's thinking big picture and sees the challenges her background will create in his world.
But McCrea's father (Smith), a prominent industrialist with, like his son, a taste for gambling dens, after initial suspicions, supports his son's efforts. The father understands that Stanwyck - whom he's known for years, having met her while gambling - singularly has more character than any combination of five of the society debutantes chasing his son.
So, despite a few more typical 1930s movie misunderstandings, McCrea and Stanwyck find their way past all of it and get married. Things initially go pretty well even with McCrea's jealous streak, especially when it comes to O'Brien. To be sure, his society friends have mixed feelings about his new wife - the men love her (tip: men tend to love pretty women); the women look down on her especially since she stole away one of the catches of their clique.
But then O'Brien gets arrested and Stanwyck, despite husband McCrea's objection, comes to his aid out of long-time loyalty that McCrea mistakes for romantic affection. From here, more misunderstandings and a concealed self sacrifice all but doom the marriage, or do they?
And remember, while we are almost at the end, all of this happens in about sixty minutes. They really knew how to pack a lot of plot into these fast efforts. To be sure, the plot is mainly contrived and cliched, but still enjoyable especially when being propelled forward by pros like Stanwyck, Smith, O'Brien and McCrea.
Is it a great movie? No. But thought of as an hour-long show in a pre-TV era, it more than holds its own with most modern TV efforts. It provided a 1930s audience with at least as much escapism as television does for us today.
It's Claudette Colbert Day on TCM. Had it on in the background on mute for several of her movies. No matter how young she is, she still looks like a mother. Maybe it's the ringlets or something, but she reads mother all the time.
Finally watched..."All Fall Down". It was a good movie. I am not a great fan of Beatty but he was good in this one. Still playing the womanizer but a darker than usual role for him. I liked Karl Malden but I thought Angela Landsbury a bit over the top....but then I struggle with this style of classic movie and the tendency to overact. DeWilde was interesting although playing the exact same part as he did in Hud. Must be a bitch to be so cubbyholed/typecast at such a young age....but a paycheque is a paycheque.
RE: Claudette Colbert: Have you ever seen De Mille's pre-code The Sign of the Cross or Lubitsch's The Smiling Lieutenant? In the first, she plays Poppaea, (Nero's wife), wearing nothing but a milk bath and inviting ladies of her court to disrobe and join her. In the second she plays a cabaret singer who ends up advising her rival in song to Jazz Up Your Lingerie. I must admit to finding CC rather appealing. It probably has something to do with seeing her toes curl in The Palm Beach Story.
I haven't seen either (that I remember), but I have seen the pic of her in the milk bath and happily concede, yes, she's looking anything but mother-like in that. To be fair, my statement wasn't meant in an absolute literal sense, but more in a light-hearted way that she often looks motherly in movies where, I think, she's suppose to be the striking young female.
The Night of the Iguana from 1964 with Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Grayson Hall and Sue Lyon
It's a play turned into a movie by Tennessee Williams that ends on an upbeat note. Wait, what?
Yup, the master of stories about broken people breaking some more, wrote a story about broken people healing somewhat and finding hope. And somehow, despite being about depressed people failing in life, The Night of the Iguana doesn't weigh as heavily throughout as other Wiliams' moribundity, such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Glass Menagerie.
A defrocked (or not, a bit unclear, but definitely on the outs with his church) minister (Burton) - he canoodled with a parishioner - makes a bare-bones living running tours in Mexico for, at least in the movie's case, Christian school teachers looking for a morally uplifting holiday.
Well, they chose the wrong guide. Richard Burton (who, just a side note, should never have been allowed to act in the same movie with Elizabeth Taylor) is pitch perfect here as the wayward man of God. Tested immediately, Burton spends the beginning of the tour trying not to sleep with comely-and-curvy blonde and come-hither teenager Sue Lyon, especially as her ascetic and dessicated chaperone, wonderfully played by Grayson Hall, breathes down his neck threatening to get him fired at every turn.
To escape her threats, the heat and the bus-load of bible-song-singing women, Burton, in desperation, breaks with the tour's itinerary and all but shanghais the women to a remote mountain hotel run by an old girlfriend, Ava Gardner. Here, Burton hopes to buy time to save his job. With the women grumbling, and Gardner not sure she wants her old boyfriend around, into the hotel walks a middle-aged sketch artist (Kerr) and her ninety-year-old poet grandfather.
The rest of the movie is, one, watching Burton, fueled with alcohol (supposedly, not just a fiction as he was said to reek of booze throughout the filming) fight his demons and conscience as this damaged man tries to use sex and drink to overcome doubts about Church and faith. Second, is Ava Gardner having her own mid-life crisis, but suffering no such pangs of guilt as she throws back liquor while sleeping with two young, buff local boys that she keeps on the staff, seemingly, just for her enjoyment.
But while Burton writhes in agony over his dilemmas, Gardner appears to almost enjoy having them as she wisecracks her way through each crisis. The third leg of this my-life-is-crumbling stool is the approaching-forty and still-virginal Kerr, broke and hiding from life as her grandfather's caretaker.
With the chaperone still trying to get Burton fired and the other women constantly caterwauling, Burton, Gardner and Kerr alternately support and berate each other through their personal crises. Yet, as opposed to most Wiliams' offerings, there's a little light and mirth mixed in with the angst and distress. You don't want to miss seeing Burton, first with cynicism, and then, with empathy, cajole middle-aged Kerr into telling him why she's still a virgin: it's real, raw, painful and, sadly, believable.
And it comes down to this: all three ultimately realize that life is agonizingly hard for everyone, but the trick is to find out how you can fight off your own pain and despair. You'll have to watch to see what each one decides to do, but as a hint, toward the end, the titular and metaphoric iguana - tied to a rope to be fattened up as a meal for the locals - is cut free by Burton with this declamation (and awful pun): "I just cut loose one of God's creatures at the end of his rope."
It's a good, solid story and the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography beautifully captures 1960s Mexico. But this is an actors' movie and Burton, Gardner and Kerr (with a healthy assist from Hall) all rise to the challenge by giving some of the best performances of their careers.
I just recently showed my daughter The Night of the Iguana, which I first saw as a kid and have always liked. Yeah, these are typically broken Tennessee Williams people, but I've always found them a more interesting group than in many of his other plays/films. And you're right, it has an atypically vaguely positive ending for a Tennessee Williams piece. "Not now, Nonno."
Woman Walks Ahead - pseudo-western with Jessica Chastain as NYC artist Caroline Weldon, who in 1890 traveled west to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull. This is a true story... but I don't think it played out quite as shown here!
It started well, but eventually went off the rails, at least for me. Only recommended for western history buffs and Chastain completists.
I noticed that as well. Even though she may have been young I caught the last half of that movie where she and John Wayne were on a road trip together... Fluff and drivel but she seemed to me "too old" for the role. Her youthful exuberance a little too forced. So it ain't just you...
Best in Show.
The Paramount Network is airing a mini-marathon of the Friday the 13th movies today, and they're currently on "Part V, A New Beginning". None of these movies are particularly praise-worthy, but even as low-budget rubbish some are better than others. This movie isn't one of those. In fact, this movie is part of the franchise in name only because the hockey-masked serial killer in this one isn't Jason Voorhees. Yeah, that's a spoiler, but I don't care because this movie is like a big middle finger from Paramount to the fans of the franchise. "Oh, look, aren't we clever? We've wasted your time with an unimportant movie, and got your money in the process. Yay us!" I'm just pleased that I never wasted my money and time to see this in a theater.
Ocean's Eleven from 1960 with Frank Sinatra, his Rat Pack and a bunch of other stars
I had never seen this one before (other than ten minutes here and there), but having just read a Frank Sinatra biography (see comments here: #8435) that talked about this movie, when it popped up on TCM, I hit record.
I'm glad I did. Yes, it's silly and contrived, but it's not hiding any of that. This is a personality movie - you either like Sinatra, his crew and their Rat-Pack-ness or not. The fun is seeing the stars - Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. - basically play themselves (or, at least, their public personas) with nonchalance but not mockery.
The plot is simple enough: a group of WWII 182 Airborne Division vets, a decade and a half after the war, are pulled together by their former leader, Sinatra, to execute a heist of the five major casinos in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve. And the plot serves its purpose to give these guys a reason to be in a movie together, wear cool clothes, say cool things and run around a cool town.
Each star plays to type: Sinatra is the bit-angry, bit-sarcastic, but caring leader with women troubles (a reason to bring in hot-thing-of-the-moment Angie Dickinson who never gets to really do anything in the movie); Martin is relaxed cool; Lawford is the rich boy only in on the heist so that he doesn't have to keep asking his mother for money and Davis Jr. is the funny, smart guy who gets the joke all along but stays in on the heist out of camaraderie.
And in his best role ever (that I've seen him in), Cesar Romero plays a "retired" professional crook, now Lawford's rich mother's fiance who's tasked by the local sheriff with sussing out the who and what of the heist after the fact. It's kind of like the Rat Pack's father shows up to teach the boys a lesson. Romero is completely comfortable in his role, neither under nor over playing it, and seemingly having as much fun as the Rat Pack "boys" were.
The denouement is enjoyable, if not that original, with the closing shot so iconic that Tarantino riffed on it thirty-plus years later in Reservoir Dogs. I'm sure the public got the movie's joke at the time - just enjoy Sinatra and his buddies having fun and looking cool in Vegas and don't worry too much about the rest of it.
And that might be why it's aged pretty well as it was never a serious effort in the first place. It's a time capsule of early '60s cool when "cool" meant well-tailored dark suits, skinny ties, smoking, Vegas, cocktails in tumblers and crooners. By the end of the decade, all that would look "square," but it was cool in its day and it's cool to look back at it now.
As a self-proclaimed slasher aficionado, I've never cared for Part V of the Friday franchise, and in fact find it wholey skippable. In fact, I find pretty much every Jason movie past IV to be disjointed from the other, seemingly having no interest in even the loosest coherence. At least parts II - IV can claim to have some semblance of an overarching story. Part VI connects back into it, but the franchise quickly became a lower and lower quality parody of itself after that. I find "New Blood" and "Takes Manhattan" enjoyable only when under the influence.
Of all the films, I've truly only appreciated the original. Give me Halloween 4 - 6 over the Friday movies any day. At least the Thorn Trilogy, as it's come to be called, contains enough atmospheric tone and '80s and '90s nostalgia to keep me entertained.
My personal history with "slasher" movies is dodgy at best because I just don't care for them for the most part. I grew up watching Universal's "classic" horror movies on television and, unlike almost every "horror" movie I've seen since the early 70s, even the worst of those has some form of plot. The term "torture porn" that's used to describe modern horror movies is very appropriate because modern "horror" movies have become very much like low-budget porn movies with murder replacing sex--10-20 minutes of weak plot to establish the premise, then scenario after scenario of the most imaginative ways to kill people.
I have two reasons that, I think, explain why I gravitated towards the Friday the 13th franchise rather than the Texas Chainsaw, Halloween, or Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. Reason #1: The first Friday the 13th movie was what the young lady who would become my wife chose to go see with friends on it's opening weekend in May of 1980. She picked it out of all of the newspaper movie ads and, although I knew it wasn't her kind of movie, no one objected so that's what we saw. Although it was unofficial (long story), that was our first date so I have a soft spot for that movie. On a side note, a week ago we celebrated our 39th anniversary as husband and wife.
Reason #2: Why Jason Voorhees? The mask. Yes, Leatherface had a mask of sorts, but it was clearly intended to be a human face. The Shape, a.k.a. Michael Myers, had a mask of William Shatner's face; still human. Freddy Krueger had a face covered with scar tissue; still human. Jason Voorhees--seen as a deformed child in the first movie; wearing a sack mask with one eye hole in the second; he finally gets the now-iconic hockey mask in the third movie, and wears it in some form throughout the franchise. It's not human and it's expressionless; just a blank approximation of a human face. And I think that's why it works for me; it somehow makes Jason even less human than he already is. Just a theory.
That said, I immediately acknowledge they're all rubbish, but some are just more fun than the others. And I've seen only four "horror" movies that were made in the last 20 years: Jason X (2001), the 2009 Friday the 13th remake/reboot, Rob Zombie's Halloween remake/reboot (2007), and it's sequel Halloween II (2009). Meh.
I grew up on a lot of Alfred Hitchcock. I think my first real scary movie for me was "The Birds" at age 5 or 6, so the slower, more natural suspense of the Halloween movies always appealed to me. Plus, Halloween was always my favorite holiday as a kid, so I think that's what attracted me to slashers in the first place: they're scary, and they wear a "costume" of sorts. I can't stand the "Saw" movies, or any of the other torture porn gorefests they come out with nowadays. There's a few gems hidden in among them, like "Hell Fest," but I otherwise stick to my Universal Horror Classics, Hammer Horror, and '80s horror.
I never cared for "Jason X", or the Friday remake, though I did think the costuming was pretty cool. What I loved best about it was how naturally it could fit within the confines of being "just another Jason movie". I have a love/hate with the Rob Zombie movies. I really enjoyed what he did with the first remake, though I hate the characterizations within it. The costume design was really enjoyable, though, as was Tyler Bates' scoring. I hated the 2009 sequel. The costuming makes it barely salvageable for me.