Friday, November 09, 2007

Looks Like Someone Forgot to Watch The Money Pit

Well, watching the special by What Not to Wear's Clinton Kelly about renovating his country house was surprisingly enjoyable (and much better than Stacey London's annoying extracurricular efforts). I liked the parts with his family, and laughed when he did makeovers of his contractors, including his dad. But really, he seemed overly bewildered by the realities of the time and money needed to achieve his vision. Shouldn't a big old queen like him have seen Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House by now?

I liked many of his design choices, especially in the master bathroom and guest bedroom (that orange chrysanthemum wallpaper? To die for). But he has got to be kidding about that purple sofa/yellow-and-pink rug combo and the antler chandelier ($5,500? you cannot possibly be serious). He told his interior designer that one of his goals was for some people to walk into the living room and hate it. Clinton, consider your mission accomplished.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Movie Diary October 2007

Movies not seen before are in green.

  1. Captains Courageous (1937), Victor Fleming. Sentimental coming-of-age story of a rich man's son (Freddie Bartholomew) who gets taught about life by a poor Portuguese fisherman (Spencer Tracy). I don't think Tracy's performance here, with his laughable accent, is Oscar-worthy, but he's more likeable than in some of his tough hero roles. The scene where he dies is genuinely touching, and Bartholomew really sells the film from that point on. (Am I bad and wrong to see the homoeroticism in the scene where Bartholomew begs to stay with Tracy rather than go back to his father?) Lionel Barrymore and Mickey Rooney are also effective as the fishing boat captain and his son.
  2. A River Runs Through It (1992), Robert Redford. Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt. Something about fish. Stupid voiceover. Brad Pitt. What else do you need to know?
  3. Separate Tables (1958), Delbert Mann. Star-studded version of the dated Terence Rattigan play about the residents of a second-rate English seaside hotel. As in many other plays of the '50s, people wander around purporting to be Terribly Frank and Earnest about Sex while actually being repressed and weird. However, the performances of David Niven as a retired soldier whose whole life is a fraud and Deborah Kerr as the spinster of indeterminate age (she was 36 when this was made, but she dresses and sounds like a girl of 18) who loves him wrenched my heart out. Wendy Hiller is also fine as the hotel manager who gives up her true love (Burt Lancaster) to his drug-ridden ex-wife (Rita Hayworth), although what either of the women wants with his drunken, abusive ass is kind of puzzling. Ironically, although the script is full of exclamations about how gorgeous Hayworth's character is, she's never looked harder or less beautiful.
  4. Fail Safe (1964), Sidney Lumet. Well-made, low-key thriller featuring Henry Fonda in the kind of role he did best, but almost impossible to take seriously after having seen Dr. Strangelove. Apparently audiences in 1964 (including Fonda) felt the same.
  5. Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940), Norman Taurog. Formulaic musical about dance team in love with the same woman, but featuring some iconic moments with Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell.
  6. The Trouble With Angels (1966), Ida Lupino. This used to be one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. Nowadays I identify with Rosalind Russell more than Hayley Mills, but it's still pretty fun.
  7. Sleuth (1972), Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Anthony Shaffer or no Anthony Shaffer, the thing is unwatchable.
  8. Young Bess (1953), George Sidney. What a glorious romp movies can make through history when they're not concerned with pesky things like accuracy or authenticity. Jean Simmons shines as Bess, Charles Laughton gives a sly reprise of his role as Henry VIII, and Stewart Granger in tights is a magnificent spectacle. Special mention must be made of Rex Thompson, who intentionally or not eerily reproduces the almost pathological detachment of Edward VI toward the horror of events surrounding him. And by the way, Robert Osborne, STFU about Queen Elizabeth.
  9. In Harm's Way (1965), Otto Preminger. God, did I really sit through this lousy movie again? Well, it was a slow night following the Mad Men finale. One thing I didn't talk about before was the subplot with Tom Tryon as the recovered sailor and Paula Prentiss as his wife, who presented a tender portrait of a happy couple in unhappy circumstances.
  10. Spencer's Mountain (1963), Delmer Daves. Another movie I remembered fondly from my childhood. This time I had to turn it off after 5 minutes. Maureen O'Hara looked fabulous, though.
  11. Elmer Gantry (1960), Richard Brooks. Burt Lancaster is absolutely mesmerizing as the traveling salesman turned evangelist. As in The Rainmaker, you know he's full of shit, but he almost makes you believe. Shirley Jones gives a hard-boiled performance that almost makes up for her saccharine turns in almost every other movie she was in. Not quite, but almost.
  12. Mister Roberts (1955), John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy. Well-written service comedy that is actually a study of different characters under the stresses of war and boredom. Jimmy Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon, and Henry Fonda all excel.
  13. The Manchurian Candidate (1962), John Frankenheimer. What a kick-ass movie. Both Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey, normally not among my favorite actors, are effective, but this film belongs to Angela Lansbury as the mother of all mothers from hell. Just one question: what the hell is Janet Leigh doing here? Her part has no purpose, except maybe to assure audiences that Sinatra's character isn't gay.
  14. Tender Comrade (1943), Edward Dmytryk. This is the film that ended Dmytryk's career? It's just a pleasantly weepy soaper about four women (well, five, if you count the carefully-not-quite-identified-as-Jewish housekeeper) sharing a house and waiting for their men to come home. Ruth Hussey is impressive as a sort-of slut who sees the light when her MIA husband resurfaces. Also, Ginger Rogers and Robert Ryan are kind of adorable as the childhood sweethearts at the center of the story, although they need work on their marital communication skills.
  15. Miss Congeniality (2000), Donald Petrie. Sometimes all you want is mindless entertainment. If it gets you through Halloween night without axe murderers, vampires, stomach-bursting aliens, or other monsters, so much the better. In a show of gratitude, I won't get into the part where the movie pretends to be about empowerment but is really all about looksism. Especially when it comes to Eric (Benjamin Bratt); yeah, he is smokin' hot, but what else does Gracie (Sandra Bullock) see in him? Instead, I'll just skip along to the part where I say Candice Bergen, William Shatner, and Michael Caine are all hilarious.