Friday, October 05, 2007

Why I Hate Halloween

News flash: I'm a big wuss.

Which means that scary things scare me. Which means that I can't watch horror movies. (The last one I saw was An American Werewolf in London. Yes, Junior, in the theater. Terrific movie. I didn't sleep for three nights.)

Which means that, as Halloween continues to grow into a holiday Frankenstein's monster* that has totally burst the bounds of its assigned day, basically TCM is dead to me** for the entire month of October.

Which sucks.

*Because I'm a wuss, but I'm a literate wuss, and I know that Frankenstein was the doctor.
** Ha ha! Dead to me! Get it? Because I'm a wuss, but I'm a funny wuss.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Oh Goody, Another Bookish Meme

Bored at work? Must be time for another time-wasting Q&A!

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why?
Paperback. I always travel with reading material, and hardcovers are too bulky and heavy to stash in my purse.

2. If I were to own a book shop I would call it . . .
This is actually a really relevant question, since I continually fantasize about retiring to open a little mystery/fantasy bookstore in a pretty tourist town somewhere. Currently, I'm leaning toward Mysterious Intent.

3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is . . .
"Fate just keeps on happening." Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be . . .
This is a real toughie. I'm going to have to go with Shakespeare. I mean, what a conversationalist he must have been! Not to mention he knew Queen Elizabeth I personally.

5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except for the SAS survival guide, it would be . . .
Hands-down, has to be Ulysses. It's a book that takes concentration, so the lack of distractions will be helpful, and you see more in it every time, so repeated rereadings won't drive me crazy. Can I sneak a few lit-crit articles into my carry-on bag?

6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that . . .
Would scan my book to find the quote I always think I'll remember but can't quite recall verbatim.

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of . . .
My mom and her garage full of old mysteries.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be . . .
I was going to say Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, but the truth is I'd really rather be Stephanie Plum (One for the Money and so on). Sure, she gets shot at a lot and her cars blow up rather more frequently than one might wish, but she's got a loving family and good friends, gets to eat a lot of donuts and lasagne without gaining weight, and has two seriously smokin' hot men on a string.

9. The most overestimated book of all times is . . .
Anna Karenina. If it had been written by a woman, they would slap a pink cover on it and sell it in the mass market paperback Romance section.

10. I hate it when a book . . .
Trails off inconclusively because the author has no real idea of how to end it.

Thanks to doppelganger for the tag.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Movie Diary September 2007

Movies seen for the first time are in green.

  1. Red River (1948), Howard Hawks. ¿QuiĆ©n es mas macho, John Wayne or Montgomery Clift? Wayne, of course, but Clift gives him a surprising run for his money. I hated that although Wayne's character is arrogant, patronizing, dictatorial, ruthless, and a thief of both land and cattle, we're supposed to find him admirable. Rather than turning on each other, I wish one of them had shot Joanne Dru.
  2. Man on Fire (1957), Ranald MacDougall. Stars Bing Crosby, and he doesn't even sing? I can't exactly say what a waste, 'cause I don't really love his singing either, but at least it might have added something to this bitter, misguided story of a divorced couple fighting over custody of their son. Anne Seymour is warm and human as the judge, who nevertheless makes a stupid decision (Bing's ex, Mary Fickett, has asked for joint custody; the situation cries out for joint custody; the judge awards her sole custody), kicking off the sentimental denouement; Malcolm Brodrick as the son is also quite natural and appealing. I don't understand the point of Inger Stevens' not-quite-a-lawyer status, unless it was to give her an excuse to hang around at critical junctures without being a threat to Bing; and I really hated how she pouted and punished Bing for failing to pick up on her signals, rather than just telling him what she wanted. Loved how Fickett's new husband (Richard Eastham) smacked her down for asking an intrusive personal question!
  3. The Marrying Kind (1952), George Cukor. Middling comedy/drama about hard-luck couple on the verge of divorce, with the judge serving as marriage counselor. The part where they lose their young son raises this to one-hanky-job level. Instantly recognizable as having the same faux-realistic dialog as It Should Happen to You from the same creative team of Cukor and Garson Kanin.
  4. Pffft (1954), Mark Robson. Pretty funny story of couple who divorce for the wrong reasons, then want each other back. The only Judy Holliday movie I've ever seen where she's allowed to speak in a normal voice and act like a reasonably intelligent woman. I loved how her ex, Jack Lemmon, tries to seduce her by doing her taxes. Jack Carson very funny as Lemmon's bachelor pal.
  5. An Ideal Husband (1947), Alexander Korda. A good cast weighted down with stiff direction and hideous costumes (and for Paulette Goddard, as blackmailer Mrs. Cheveley, hairstyles). Michael Wilding looks rather like Danny Kaye, if Kaye were beautiful. Glynis Johns shines as the blackmailed politician's young sister.
  6. Radio Days (1987), Woody Allen. Episodic, scattershot tribute to Allen's youth, with some funny bits. Two standout moments: when Cousin Ruthie (Joy Newman) lip-syncs to Carment Miranda, and when mobster Danny Aiello takes witness Mia Farrow home to Mama (Gina DeAngelis), who calmly feeds her stuffed peppers while discussing where to dump her body.
  7. Love and Death (1975), Woody Allen. For me, the funniest and best of all of Allen's films. Spot-on parody of Russian literature, with plenty of digs at other targets. Two of my favorite lines: when Sonia's (Diane Keaton) would-be lover gives her a long philosophical argument, she snaps, "Can we please not talk about sex so much?"; when poetry-writing Boris (Allen) painstakingly composes two lines of T.S. Eliot, he crumples it up with: "Nah, too sentimental."
  8. Captain Blood (1935), Michael Curtiz. The ultimate swashbuckler. I adore everything about it, from Errol Flynn's cheesy Irish accent to Basil Rathbone's cheesy French accent. The sexual tension between Flynn and Olivia deHaviland has never been stronger, and the poetic-justice ending is sweet as Jamaican sugar cane.
  9. The Corn Is Green (1945), Irving Rapper. Wow, how is it that I remember scenes and lines that weren't in the script? Oh well, their version is good too. Bette Davis gives an outstanding performance, Joan Lorring is fun as the slutty Bessy, and the vision of Welsh village life is fascinating (and dig those accents!). I strongly dislike the melodramatic ending, though.
  10. Moonstruck (1987), Norman Jewison. I tried to watch this again to see if I could possibly hate it as much as I remembered. I do. I just don't get the popularity of this movie -- Loretta's a shrew, Charlie's a dope, and they have zero chemistry. Add to that the wooden dialog, the mother asking her stupid question until she gets the answer she wants, and the unbearable grandfather shouting, "La luna!" and it makes me want to stab myself with a fork. Nic Cage looks damn good, though, I must say.
  11. Something Always Happens (1934), Michael Powell. Light, rather charming "quota quickie" about a happy-go-lucky drifter, an orphan, and a millionaire's daughter.
  12. Crown vs. Stevens (1936), Michael Powell. Dull, muddled thriller about femme fatale trying to bump off her husband, among other things.
  13. Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Robert Z. Leonard. Soapy story of three showgirls: Lana Turner is the OMG!slut who dumps truck-driving boyfriend Jimmy Stewart for orchids and champagne; Judy Garland is the good girl clearly destined for stardom because she won't leave her hambone vaudevillian father behind; and Hedy Lamarr is the glamorous European who decides to stick with her controlling loser husband (I love how he denies being jealous; he just knows that the minute he turns his back, she'll let other guys hit on her). Edward Everett Horton has a rare non-buffoonish role as Ziegfeld's right-hand man, who pimps out the girls without a qualm while refusing responsibility for their downfall.
  14. Marnie (1964), Alfred Hitchcock. Oh, the Freudianness of it all. Tippi Hedren is beautiful, but she has such a flat, inexpressive voice. I do love how at the end, Marnie allows as how staying with her blackmailing, marital-raping husband probably is better than going to jail.
  15. Saboteur (1942), Alfred Hitchcock. Effective if rather nonsensical thriller about innocent man trying to clear his name and stop a sabotage ring. Greedy fifth-columnist villains are no match for the sturdy wholesome Americanness of Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane. Scene where the traveling carnival freaks hide the fugitives is haunting, if a little overly symbolic; setpiece at the Statue of Liberty is awesome as only Hitchcock can be.
  16. Vertigo (1958), Alfred Hitchcock. Caught the last half-hour or so. I really like Jimmy Stewart in his less-than-heroic roles, but Scotty is one of the creepiest, most fucked-up protagonists in all of moviedom. His cruelty toward Judy (Kim Novak), his ruthless destruction of her personhood, effectively kills her way before her plunge off the mission tower.
  17. The Prestige (2006), Christopher Nolan. My father and sister both rebelled after half an hour; I was willing to persist, but not enough to actually finish watching it by myself.
  18. Premonition (2007), Mennan Yapo. Truly one of the most atrocious movies I've seen in a long, long time. Even Sandra Bullock, usually a reliable, game-for-anything actress, can't do anything with this drek. The ending has a cheap irony that was old when Scheherezade told the story about Death and the merchant from Damascus.
  19. The More the Merrier (1943), George Stevens. Having only seen the mediocre Cary Grant remake, I was unprepared for the charm and tenderness of this film about a working girl who decides to share her apartment during the housing crunch in WWII Washington as a patriotic gesture. Charles Coburn (normally one of my favorites) is tedious as the matchmaking businessman (and I certainly was tired of Adm. Farragut long before the end of the picture!), but Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea are terrific, with genuine chemistry: the scene where they make out on the stairs of the apartment building is truly erotic. McCrea looks younger and more vulnerable than in his other roles; Arthur looks beautiful, with fabulous clothes (check out her "slippers," with heels just as high as the ones she teeters around on all day).
  20. Christmas in July (1940), Preston Sturges. Dick Powell is warm and funny in this non-crooning role as Jimmy MacDonald, a downtrodden clerk who is given a confidence boost when some buddies trick him into thinking he's won a slogan-writing contest. Could have lived without the Jewish stereotypes. Worst part is hearing Jimmy's horrible slogan repeatedly throughout the movie.
  21. Waiting to Exhale (1995), Forest Whitaker. I remembered this movie as being trashy fun: at least I had the first part right. I still like the scene where Angela Bassett sets fire to her cheating husband's clothes (and car!) -- anybody who could leave a goddess like that deserves what he gets.