Saturday, September 01, 2007

Movie Diary August 2007

Movies seen for the first time are in green.

  1. The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), Anthony Asquith. Creaky, mannered vehicle manages to suck most of the juice out of Oscar Wilde's witty play, but Joan Greenwood as Gwendolen and Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell contrive to inject a little fun into the proceedings.
  2. Becket (1964), Peter Glenville. I missed the first hour, when Becket (Richard Burton) was still a libertine; maybe that part was more fun. But the part I saw was dull and (literally) reverent. It hardly matters that the script was so completely unfair to Eleanor of Aquitaine, because the real love story is between Becket and Henry II (an almost demonically beautiful Peter O'Toole); by the time Henry's mother says that the king's obsession with his friend is unholy and unnatural, I was only surprised that someone said it aloud.
  3. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), David Lean. More entertaining than I thought it would be, but somewhere along the way I lost the thread, because I was completely bewildered by the ending. Alec Guinness's performance as the Col. Blimpish Nicholson was impeccable. William Holden gives a watered-down version of his lovable heel routine, which as you know I prefer to his saintly hero routine.
  4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Frank Capra. See post to come.
  5. Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Otto Preminger. Slow-moving, fairly realistic story of a murder trial. Mostly remarkable for how often the characters get to say "rape" and "panties" in probably the least sexy way ever. Lee Remick is good as the bored wife who likes to get her husband's motor revving with a little infidelity and George C. Scott contributes some much-needed intensity as a prosecutor.
  6. The Outlaw (1943), Howard Hughes. Damn, you can cut the homosociality with a knife in this interminable version of the Billy the Kid story. Dewy young Billy (Jack Buetel) takes Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) away from lifelong pal Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell), who goes off after the newly inseparable pair like a lover scorned implacable vengeance. Billy and Holliday trade quips, a horse, and girlfriend Rio (Jane Russell); with her pouty lips and cantilevered rack, Rio comes in a far distant second to the horse in the men's priorities. Overall a snooze, but I did really like the S&M glint in Buetel's eyes as he banters with Russell after she betrays him, half threat and half foreplay.
  7. Macao (1952), Josef von Sternberg. Glossy, enjoyable, meaningless noir about a drifter (Robert Mitchum) and a chanteuse (Jane Russell) in the shady Orient. Gloria Grahame should have worn a big sign saying "Plot Device," since her actions make no sense whatever.
  8. Libeled Lady (1936), Jack Conway. Spencer Tracy is at his most irritatingly pugnacious as newspaper editor Warren Haggerty, who is being sued by heiress Myrna Loy. William Powell as a Don Juanish reporter and Jean Harlow as Haggerty's long-suffering fiance round out the all-star cast. Harlow has the most thankless role; I keep hoping at the end that she'll ditch the emotionally stunted and controlling Haggerty, but she always goes back to him.
  9. Love Crazy (1941), Jack Conway. Delightful screwball comedy pairing Myrna Loy and William Powell and with a terrific supporting cast including Jack Carson, Gail Patrick, and Florence Bates. Hijinx in the second half, including Powell in drag, go on a little too long.
  10. The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Cheesy inside-Hollywood story. Seems impossible to believe that the rabid Hollywood press wouldn't find out about that little penchant Maria (Ava Gardner) has for rough trade. Also the product of an era where a man wouldn't tell his wife he was impotent until after the wedding (even for a Catholic, even in the '50s, I'm pretty sure that was grounds for annulment); also, other forms of sex besides penetration hadn't been invented yet. What was Humphrey Bogart doing in this mess?
  11. Lili (1953), Charles Walters. See, here's the thing: I hate how Leslie Caron participates in yet another movie that inappropriately sexualizes a teenage girl while pretending everything is delightful and wholesome; I hate how the bitter puppeteer (Mel Ferrer) can't express his feelings, yet gets mad when Lili can't read his mind; and I hate how all the men in Lili's life think they have the right to control her sexuality (maybe if they sent her to school to learn a decent trade, it wouldn't be such a freaking issue!). But the story makes me cry like a sap. What are ya gonna do?
  12. Whispering Smith (1948), Leslie Fenton. Fairly dull Western about a railroad detective (Alan Ladd). Robert Preston is hammy fun as Ladd's best friend, romantic rival, and eventual quarry.
  13. Ordeal by Innocence (2007), Mystery! Another badly adapted Miss Marple mystery that can't live up to its star-studded cast or expensive production values. Seems like the absent-minded professor Dr. Calgary must have been the detective in the original story, because there's no other reason for him to stick around the way he does. Revelation of the murderer, though predictable, is truly creepy. Also, my money still says that Hester needs lots of therapy and Philip can walk.
  14. My Sister Eileen (1942), Alexander Hall. Unwatchably bad "comedy" about two sisters from the sticks who move to New York, where wacky neighbors and hijinks ensue. Ugh.
  15. The Westerner (1940), William Wyler. Improbably entertaining story of a charming cowhand (Gary Cooper) who pals up with, then faces off against the notorious Judge Roy Bean (Walter Brennan). Enjoyed the unconventional romance between Cooper and spunky homesteader Doris Davenport.
  16. Reveille with Beverly (1943), Charles Barton. Ann Miller is very fresh and pretty in this slight story of a female DJ during WWII, mostly notable for the full-length musical numbers by the likes of Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra (I hate him, but the guy can sing "Night and Day").
  17. Born Yesterday (1950), George Cukor. Despite Judy Holliday and Broderick Crawford's performances, I've never cared for this picture. Unlike the freshness and earnestness of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, its patriotism seems forced and mawkish. Also, this is the type of role I hate William Holden in -- so starchy with righteousness he can barely walk.
  18. All the King's Men (1949), Robert Rossen. Interesting but melodramatic film based on the award-winning Robert Penn Warren novel. Mercedes McCambridge and Anne Seymour stand out as two of the women in Willie Stark's (Broderick Crawford) life. How does he get all those women? I know power is an aphrodisiac, but Willie never had that much power.
  19. Ace in the Hole (1951), Billy Wilder. I wanted to see this because I recently read an interesting review on, but Kirk Douglas's relentless overacting sucked all the oxygen out of the room and I was forced to turn it off. It's now official: I hate Kirk Douglas. In other hands, might have been a fascinating, and still timely, commentary on the press and its role in our society.

No comments: