Sunday, July 01, 2007

Movie Diary June 2007

Movies seen for the first time are in green.

  1. Going Hollywood (1933), Raoul Walsh. Another movie that promotes the idea that stalking is romantic, only this time with gender reversal, with French teacher Marion Davies going after crooner Bing Crosby. Davies, with her overcareful enunciation, seems lifeless; I've never cared much for Crosby, but I must admit he sounds awfully good here.
  2. Take the Money and Run (1969), Woody Allen. Remember when Woody Allen movies were funny? This mockumentary about the world's worst bank robber is the first of them all where Allen demonstrates his triple threat skills as actor/writer/director. It's amazing how fully formed his persona of neurotic dweeb already is in this first outing.
  3. Too Many Crooks (1959), Mario Zampi. Very slight story about gang of inept criminals who mistakenly kidnap the wife of a shady businessman (Terry-Thomas), only to find he's delighted to have her gone. Best part is George Cole as the head crook, who can't keep his accent on straight. Brenda de Banzie as the kidnapped wife has some funny moments as she takes over the gang, but she pathetically goes back to her husband at the end.
  4. Larceny, Inc. (1942), Lloyd Bacon. Uneven tale of ex-cons who buy a luggage store to break into a bank, from a play by S. J. and Laura Perelman. Edward G. Robinson spoofs his gangster image, something he did much more effectively in the earlier Brother Orchid. Jack Carson engaging as always.
  5. They Drive By Night (1940), Raoul Walsh. Negligible melodrama about truckers, not really helped by the presence of Humphrey Bogart or George Raft. Ann Sheridan co-stars as the waitress who becomes involved with Raft; I'm constantly amazed by the reminder of the crude remarks that supposedly nice guys could get away with making to women. Ida Lupino shows some signs of life as the predatory wife of Raft's boss, although her breakdown is a stupid plot contrivance. It's not her fault, but once Robert Osborne mentioned that Bette Davis had played that role in an earlier film, I kept seeing Bette saying the lines.
  6. The Sign of the Cross (1932), Cecil B. DeMille. Orgies! Lesbians doing seductive dances! Empresses bathing in asses' milk! Lions devouring Christians! Too bad these delights had to be surrounded by a tedious and conventional plot. Starring Claudette Colbert before she became a virgin and Fredric March when he was young and (who knew?) beautiful.
  7. Bound for Glory (1976), Hal Ashby. Excellent, low-key biography of how Woody Guthrie got to be Woody Guthrie, effective without ever being preachy. I forgot there was a time when David Carradine could act (and sing).
  8. Rain (1932), Lewis Milestone. The scene where Sadie Thompson (Joan Crawford) goes down on her knees to the dominating missionary Mr. Davidson (John Huston), and her subsequent hollow-eyed brainwashed conversion, are appalling. Davidson wins my Fuck You Award. I don't think the movie disapproves of him enough, or for the right reasons.
  9. The Awful Truth (1937), Leo McCarey. I don't like Irene Dunne even when she doesn't sing (and she does); her whole repertoire consists of simpering, smirking, and drawling. But she's punished plentifully for it in this comedy, both by the movie's unquestioning acceptance of the double standard -- Cary Grant has been fooling around, but the only issue is whether she has too -- and by her horrible clothes, which include the world's most ridiculous hats. Grant comes off somewhat better, since he gets to look good until his loser nightshirt at the end. Both of them are arrested adolescents who make things worse for each other and themselves because they can't tell the truth, but Dunne seems more mean-spirited in her attempts to keep Grant from moving on to somebody new.
  10. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Michael Curtiz, William Keighley. Give me Errol Flynn in some tights and I'm a happy girl. But this rousing historical adventure also boasts a top-notch cast, witty dialog, gorgeous costumes, and fabulous action sequences.
  11. I Married a Witch (1942), Rene Clair. Funny, light romance with a very sexy Veronica Lake and Frederic March, no longer so young or so beautiful. Great contributions from Cecil Kellaway and Robert Benchley.
  12. Mississippi Masala (1991), Mira Nair. Disjointed story of intercultural romance, but hello! Denzel is hot. Best parts are the sequences showing the heroine's family in Uganda.
  13. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), Albert Lewin. Beautifully crafted and creepily effective version of the Oscar Wilde story. More voiceover than I normally care for, but it works. Script full of Wilde's finest aphorisms, delivered in George Sanders' most cultivated sneer. Fabulous use of color to reveal the portrait at critical moments. Also featuring a very young and lovely Angela Lansbury as the tragic Sybil Vane. Edited August 7 because George Sanders is not a 19th Century French novelist.
  14. Made in Paris (1966), Boris Sagal. The kind of smarmy sex comedy I absolutely cannot stand, with extra added bonus stalking and '60s sexism. But killer clothes (that orange evening gown in Louis Jourdan's show? fabu!) and killer Ann-Margaret. As for the ending, let me just say: wrong choice, girlfriend.
  15. While the City Sleeps (1956), Fritz Lang. Sassy, exciting noir drama about newspaper reporters hunting for a serial killer. Rampant sexual harassment and the usual dubious '50s psychology (best line is when the sissified killer tells his adoptive mother, "You wanted a girl, Dad wanted a boy. Guess neither one of you got exactly what you were looking for"). Interestingly, neither the slutty columnist (Ida Lupino) nor the adulterous wife (Rhonda Fleming) winds up dead.
  16. The Amazing Adventure (1936), Alfred Zeisler. Nonsensical but entertaining story of bored plutocrat who supports himself for a year as a workingman, based on a novel by that perennial chronicler of the upper classes, E. Phillips Oppenheim. Nobody's motivations make any sense, but Cary Grant is as appealing as ever, and the clothes and decor pure eye candy.
  17. Waitress (2007), Adrienne Shelly. I was going to write a whole review of this but realized I don't really have that much to say. Keri Russell was good, Nathan Fillion was cute, and Andy Griffith was funnier than he's been since he hung up his sheriff's uniform. Shelly was really talented and her murder was a terrible tragedy. Didn't mind most of the plot holes but was bothered by the fairy-taleish ending: there's no way Jenna could continue to live in the same town as her controlling, violent, jealous ex-husband without his killing her. (Edited July 18.)
  18. My Favorite Wife (1940), Garson Kanin. OK, I've officially seen this movie ENOUGH. There'd be no plot if either Nick or Ellen Arden (Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, in their second go-round) acted like an adult for 5 minutes. Gail Patrick has her usual thankless role as Grant's scorned second wife; I know I'm supposed to hate her, but she's totally the innocent victim here. Randolph Scott puts a manly twist on the emasculated Ralph Bellamy part as Dunne's desert island companion. Newsflash, Cary: your wife was alone on an island with that guy for 7 years? She did him.
  19. The Bigamist (1953), Ida Lupino. Holy cow, how can a movie about a guy violating one of 1950s society's most fundamental taboos be so freaking dull? Lupino plays against type as a nice-ish girl who falls for married Edmond O'Brien in spite of herself; but it's not his fault either, because his wife Joan Fontaine drove him to it by being a career woman and not wanting to adopt a kid. Laughed at one cheeky meta-reference: on a tour of Hollywood homes, the bus driver points out the house of Edmund Gwenn, who here plays the social worker who discovers O'Brien's double life.
  20. Outrage (1950), Ida Lupino. Moderately interesting story about a rape victim (Mala Powers). Enjoyed seeing the operations of the orange grove where she fetches up.
  21. Walk on the Wild Side (1962), Edward Dmytryk. Ever since TCM started their Screened Out series, I've been waiting for them to show this magnificently cheesy, monumentally perverse mess from a Nelson Algren story. You can tell it was written by a man: numerous references to what a soft, easy life the prostitutes have, despite having to sleep with slimy politicians or be beaten by psycho enforcers. Features an unforgettable performance from Barbara Stanwyck as a lesbian brothel owner obsessed with sculptress/whore Capuchine, who's so laden with ennui and world-weariness she's practically comatose. (I really bought them as lovers when Stanwyck coaxes, "C'mon, you can sculpt me again," and Capuchine pouts, "Aw, you don't really want to.") Mucho sexy Jane Fonda makes the most of her small part as a teenage prostitute. Also stars Laurence Harvey as a Texan farmboy named Dove Linkhorn and Anne Baxter as a Mexican spitfire/cafe owner. Really, there's no snark you can add to that.
  22. A Cinderella Story (2004), Mark Rosman. I was willing to go along with this movie up to a point, and that point was when Sam (Hillary Duff) started raging on Austin (Chad Michael Murray) for not being brave enough to deserve her or something, and I went, "Where did that come from?" Duff is a pretty girl, though weighted down with too much eyeliner. And I may be the last middle-aged broad in America to clue into the fact that Murray is cute.

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