For the first 3+ mos of quarantine I was watching at least one @tcm movie every night. Realizing I should have been tweet-reviewing them all along, but figure I might start now, even if my pace is slowing. So, FWIW, you might start seeing those in wee-morning hours. Will thread.
Gun Crazy (1949) Breakneck pacing & creative camera work by dir. Joseph H. Harris propel story of Bonnie & Clyde-like couple played w/ strong chemistry by Peggy Cummins & @jaketapper look-alike John Dall. Strong female lead + genuine action w/ real driving & no obv stunt doubles.
Man With A Movie Camera (1929, silent) Groundbreaking cinéma vérité by Ukrainian Dziga Vertov. Riveting celebration of life and filmmaking powered by brilliant, propulsive editing of Elizaveta Svilova. Still feels modern/cutting-edge. Thrilling and utterly essential.
The Boy With The Green Hair (1948) Anti-war children’s movie with 12-year-old Dean Stockwell as titular war orphan. Doesn’t find its feet until second half, when the soon-to-be-blacklisted filmmakers anticipate the backlash to their message, which they undermine in final scene.
The Steel Helmet (1951) Samuel Fuller's breakout overcomes low budget by drawing on Fuller's WWII experiences to show on-the-ground reality of infantrymen in then-new Korean War. Addresses racial issues via diverse cast's fine performances. A war film about senselessness of war.
They Drive By Night (1940) Melodrama about hard life of long-haul truckers George Raft & Humphrey Bogart veers off the road when final third is hijacked by frantically thirsty femme fatale played at 11 by Ida Lupino, a character literally imported from another movie, Bordertown.
Also, not part of my @tcm viewing, but introduced my daughter to Dial M for Murder (1954). Good bonus feature on the DVD about how Hitchcock shot it for 3D throughout (lots of depth to the shots, foregrounded objects). Would love to see it in 3D, but it's a classic either way.
Queen Christina (1933) Biopic of 17th c Swedish Queen is Pre-Code queer classic. Affair w/ Spanish envoy (frequent Garbo leading man John Gilbert) is fictional, but Greta Garbo’s portrayal of Christina as pansexual and gender non-conforming is believed true to life of both women.
Knife in the Water (1962, Polish) Roman Polanski's 1st feature is a 90 min. pissing contest between middle-aged man & young hitch-hiker he invites on an overnight sailing trip with him & his young wife. Nice jazz score & some beautifully composed shots can't salvage that premise.
The Mouse That Roared (1959) Peter Sellers plays one role too many in satire about U.S. postwar policy and nuclear proliferation. Strong premise betrayed by flat, sitcom-quality execution. Smart but not very funny. Five years later, Sellers would get it right in Dr. Strangelove.
Harvey (1950) Sweet, charming, offbeat film about the power of kindness. Harvey is unseen giant rabbit pal of Jimmy Stewart's main character, the crazy man who ultimately proves to be the most sane. Very funny w/ deep, well-drawn supporting cast. Josephine Hull is esp. hilarious.
Incidentally, this film's Dr. Sanderson, actor Charles Drake, would have made a great Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees. Not only did he look like Gehrig, but he was also from New York, and thus sounded like him, too.
Bachelor Mother (1939) Tremendously well-executed romantic comedy. Chain-reaction plot. Great chemistry between extremely likeable leads, Ginger Rogers (a personal favorite) and David Niven. Hilarious, propulsive. Even somewhat salvages woman-forced-into-motherhood plot. A gem.
Sadly this thread might slow a bit, even grow cold, due to the start of the 2020 baseball "season" on Thursday, but I'll still add to it if I can squeeze in some more @tcm flicks between games.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Uproarious madcap farce about eccentric family's penchant for murder. Cary Grant, never funnier, pulls some of greatest faces/double-takes in cinema history. Deep cast incl. hilarious Josephine Hull. Fun fact: Boris Karloff played Jonathan on Broadway.
The Thin Man (1934) William Powell and Myrna Loy (and Asta the dog) are disarmingly funny and charming, as advertised, but they're not on screen enough, especially Loy. Overstuffed Dashiell Hammett murder plot dominates but fails to engage, to the detriment of the film.
The Virgin Spring (1960) The other Ingmar Bergman film to put Max von Sydow in a medieval setting, this story of rape & murder explores the tension between man's violent, animalistic instincts and higher moral (in this case Christian) aspirations. Harrowing, gorgeously filmed.
The Birds (1962) Hitchcock's purest horror film barely skirts self-parody and fails to reward deeper readings (I suspect the central metaphor is misogynistic, giving the title a double meaning). Hitch's mastery remains evident, but this is second-tier Hitchcock in my book. [DVD]
The Lost Patrol (1934) This story of WWI British troops pinned down by snipers in Mesopotamian desert addresses absurdity of war, but this brief, creaky John Ford version, with overacting Karloff, is stiff and ineffective. Would've been better off rewatching The Steel Helmet.
Talk of the Town (1942) Screwball comedy, love triangle, action, mystery, suspense, crime & punishment all in service of left-wing messaging & debate about legal ethics/philosophy. Overstuffed? Sure, but still delightful, w/ Jean Arthur stealing the film from peak-era Cary Grant.
Jamaica Inn (1939) Tale of land-bound pirates from titular den of thieves sees teenage Maureen O'Hara debut & Charles Laughton devour scenery. Hitchcock's last UK production is ploding by his standards, still full of action, intrigue, twists, great photography & grotesque faces.
A Dog's Life (1918, silent, 33 min.) Chaplin's first longer than two reels, first with complete creative control, and first prioritizing plot (and pathos) over gags. Homeless Tramp befriends a mutt and a nightclub singer, together seek a better life. Gags still strongest parts.
Shoulder Arms (1918, silent, 46 min.) Tramp as WWI recruit, released just before Armistice. Big step forward from Dog's Life, fascinating bookend w/ Great Dictator. Plot & gags great in equal measure as [spoiler] Tramp bumbles his way to capturing the Kaiser and saving the world.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) Starts off as crackling, stylish heist film then rapidly decelerates due to lousy script and cold-fish lead performance from miscast Steve McQueen. Faye Dunaway does her best, but cat-and-mouse element is D.O.A. Strong premise & female lead wasted.
Easy Living (1949) Wooden, misogynistic story of pro quarterback (Victor Mature, too old for the part) with career-ending medical issue. Notable for supporting players Lucille Ball, Jack Parr & L.A. Rams, including speaking part for Kenny Washington, who integrated NFL in '46.
Bye Bye Birdie (1963) Great cast (incl. underused Dick Van Dyke in film debut, hilarious Paul Lynde, firecracker Ann-Margret, Janet Leigh, M. Stapleton) in dumbed-down version of already dumb Elvis-parody musical. High concept, but loosely plotted. Way less than sum of its parts.
Cat People (1942) Classic horror from dir. Jacques Tourneur & prod. Val Lewton. Effectively gender-swapped werewolf story w/ full moon replaced by intimacy issues, but rises above that description thanks to excellent execution on all fronts. Well-paced/photographed/acted 73 min.
Sergeant Rutledge (1960) Before To Kill A Mockingbird was published, John Ford made this film about a Buffalo Soldier on trial for rape, murder. NFL pioneer Woody Strode drops truth about Black man's struggle for justice in America, but the Apaches are still depicted as savages.
A Day's Pleasure (1919, 17 min.); Pay Day (1922, 21 min.) A pair of Charlie Chaplin's First National 2-reelers. Both funny but otherwise undistinguished. Chaplin is more common man than tramp in both, on an outing with the family in the first, working construction in the second.
The Circus (1928, silent, 71 min) Made during time of great personal turmoil, considered lesser only next to Chaplin's true masterpieces. The Tramp stumbles into circus work. Laugh-out-loud funny, sweet, death-defying (gags with big cats and tightrope walking), and heartbreaking.
A King In New York (1957) Chaplin's last starring role. Made while in exile from U.S. about King in exile *in* U.S. Chaplin has things to say about contemporary 1950s culture, most pointedly about HUAC via the creepy monologues of his 10 y.o. son, Michael. Stagnant, rarely funny.
The Goodbye Girl (1977) Neil Simon grafts the Odd Couple onto boilerplate romcom plot. Dated in many ways, but put over by winning performances and great chemistry from 3 leads (Richard Dreyfuss, Marsha Mason & Quinn Cummings as Mason's 10 y.o. daughter), all Oscar noms, he won.
Footnote: A few months ago, I chose to watch The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975) over The Goodbye Girl, opting for the darker Neil Simon script. I chose poorly. I didn't love or hate either film, but The Goodbye Girl is superior in almost every way.
High Sierra (1941) Regarded as key step toward noir & seminal heist film but spends too much time establishing heart of gold of Bogart's hardened criminal by having him fall for girl half his age (played by a 15-year-old). Further marred by shuffling comic relief of Willie Best.
Say Amen, Somebody (1982) Gospel documentary spends time w/ two foundational legends: singer Willie Mae Ford Smith & composer Thomas A. Dorsey. Outstanding sound design maximizes impact of many stirring performances, from intimate at-home moments to full-blown church rave-ups.
Note: Same director, George T. Nierenberg, had similar success w/ tap-dancing doc No Maps On My Taps (1979), which featured Sandman Sims, Bunny Briggs & Chuck Green. In both docs, these greats interact, reminisce, rehearse & perform. All valuable as both history & entertainment.
The Kids Are Alright (1979) Non-chronological compilation/collage of performances & often comic interviews by The Who. Includes great early footage & many of their most famous (Smothers Bros., Monterey, Woodstock). New performances filmed for doc now, deservedly, equally iconic.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) Earliest surviving animated feature. Arabian Nights-adjacent story well-told via Lotte Reiniger's ornate silhouettes on colored backgrounds w/ pioneering multiplane-camera effects. Surprising detail in movement & art. Beautiful. Must-see.
The Set-Up (1949) Boxing noir in real time (73 min). Former collegiate pugilist Robert Ryan (never better) is aging palooka who can't win; best hope is survival. Emphasizes brutality of the sport and bloodlust of its fans. Great B&W cinematography. Huge influence on Raging Bull.
The China Syndrome (1979) Smart, taught thriller about dangers of nuclear energy w/ great dramatic turn by Jack Lemmon & strong lead by Jane Fonda. Anticipated 3 Mile Island. Finds room to address sexism & corp. influence in media. Still feels fresh after "Chernobyl" & Bombshell.
Big Time (1988) Tom Waits capped his career-altering mid '80s trilogy w/ this concert film which wants to be Captain Beefheart as filmed by David Lynch but, in retrospect, seems more conventionally "weird" in a very '80s way that can distract from great band, songs, performances.
Harlan County, U.S.A. (1976) Oscar-winning documentary about eastern Kentucky coal miners whose lives are threatened by both the lack of unionization and the attempt to unionize. Scathing indictment of American capitalism w/o direct commentary from filmmakers. File under: Horror.
Fail Safe (1964) Correctly overshadowed by Dr. Strangelove, this from same year plays accidental triggering of nuclear attack straight. Compellingly directed by Sidney Lumet. Henry Fonda perfect as POTUS, but some other casting decisions & an absurd plot twist undermine the rest.
All The King's Men (1949) Epic novel about Huey Long-inspired populist's rise and descent into corruption & demagoguery crammed into overstuffed 110 min. Broderick Crawford & Mercedes McCambridge won deserved Oscars. Painfully relevant in age of Trump, including sham impeachment.
Possessed (1931) Pre-code pairing of Joan Crawford & Clark Gable starts out inventive and compellingly amoral (factory girl goes to NYC to marry rich) only to descend into a conventional and clichéd love story with false breakups, grand gestures, and a climactic kiss in the rain.
Tamango (1958) Remarkable-for-its-time portrayal of slave ship. Title warrior urges captured Africans to rebel. Dorothy Dandridge, excellent as captain's kept woman, caught in between. Pulls few punches. French/Ital., in English (some dubbing), dir. by blacklisted white American.
No Way Out (1950) Impressive melodrama about racism notable for giving all its characters depth, humanity & lives, from Richard Widmark's vicious racist to Amanda Randolph's maid. Feature debut of Sidney Poitier (starring as doctor w/ Widmark as patient) & Ossie Davis (bit part).
Key Largo (1948) Hostage drama w/ excellent direction by John Huston & performances from Bogart, as the hero, & Edward G. Robinson, as the mob boss w/ many Little Caesar echoes. Set on titular isle w/ approaching hurricane ratchetting up the tension inside otherwise empty hotel.
Also, I can't tweet-review that film w/out mention of Bertie Higgins' awful yacht rock earworm of same name, which is about watching old movies on late-night TV with a lover, but seems to conflate this film, which contains no romance, with Casablanca.
Losing Ground (1982) Kathleen Collins' low-budget arthouse flick, long thought lost, was among first features written & directed by a black woman. Depicts intellectual philosophy professor's fraying relationship w/ her trifling artist husband & her search for organic fulfillment.
Children of a Lesser God (1986) Icky, able-savior "romance," rife w/ cliché, others its main character. Only slightly redeemed late by strength of American Treasure Marlee Matlin's character & performance. First female-directed film nom'd for Best Pic Oscar, but no directing nom.
Dead of Night (1945) Seminal British "Horror" anthology tells 5 tales, one ill-fittingly humorous, only 2 seriously creepy: Haunted Mirror & famous capper Ventriloquist's Dummy. Framing device works as 6th and is among strongest. Casual integration of Elisabeth Welch is notable.
Carnival of Souls (1962) Horror cult classic about a accident survivor seemingly caught between two plains of existence. A micro-budget one-off for filmmakers w/ lousy ADR/Foley work, but a compelling lead character & performance and gorgeous B&W cinematography. Very influential.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) Well-cast throughout. The 4 leads are perfect. First 30-50 min. are outstanding, but the undead pirate concept & effects are lame, and the whole thing is *at least* a half-hour too long. [rewatch, last seen in theater]
Touch of Evil (1958) Film noir masterpiece restored to dir. Orson Welles's vision by 1998 edit. Bleak tale of corrupt, racist police captain (Welles, unrecognizable) at Mexican border sadly resonant, undermined by Charlton Heston's brownface as heroic Mexican narcotics officer.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020) Ugly, unpleasant & unnecessary, but logistically impressive. Unscripted interactions succeed in revealing best & worst of human nature, sometimes in same person, but too much is scripted. Also, creepy as he may be, Rudy was tucking in his shirt.
Viridiana (1961, Spanish) Luis Buñuel's cynical take on the resilience of human vice & futility of charity isn't necessarily funny, but it is darkly comic, and it has more affection for its characters than you'd expect given bleak plot. Great ensemble of indigents in second half.
The Lighthouse (2019) Must-watch director Robert Eggers' 2nd feature is a nightmare about isolation & madness shot in claustrophobic 1.19:1 ratio & stark orthochromatic B&W. Outstanding 2-hander w/ Wilem Dafoe as craggy Sea Captain-type keeper & Robert Pattinson his new recruit.
A Face in the Crowd (1957) [spoiler] A ne'er-do-well son of a con man rides a gift for gab and populist improv to TV stardom and right-wing political influence only to be exposed as a lecherous phony and left alone and screaming in his empty penthouse. Andy Griffith's film debut.
Mark of the Vampire (1935) More compelling as curiosity/footnote than entertainment. Tod Browning & Bela Lugosi reunite at MGM for a non-Dracula vampire flick, but drastic cuts by studio (20 of orig. 80 min. gone) cripple it. The impact of the big twist is still there, though.
The Firemen's Ball (1967, Czech) Miloš Forman's last film in his native Czechoslovakia is a charming farce about a local fire brigade's mismanagement of its annual ball. Doubles as satire of the country's Communist government. Assured filmmaking. Quite funny throughout.
Twentieth Century (1934) Howard Hawks' seminal screwball film anchored by John Barrymore's rare comic turn as pompous Broadway auteur who hilariously overacts every scene. As his protégé, Carole Lombard matches his manipulative melodrama in climactic fight aboard titular train.
The Unknown (1927, silent, 49 min.) This typically grotesque tale from Tod Browning stars Lon Chaney as an armless circus performer competing with the strongman for the love of a young Joan Crawford, who recoils at any man's touch. Full of twists worthy of a macabre O. Henry.
Rafiki (2018, Kenyan) One of the most beautiful depictions of falling in love put to film, complicated by fact that the lovers are young women in country where homosexuality is (still!) illegal. Second feature of brilliant "Afrobubblegum" dir. Wanuri Kahiu. (in English & Swahili)
Rafiki brings to mind 1961's Victim (recommended), a British film about a closeted lawyer (Dirk Bogarde) fighting back against blackmailers at a time when homosexuality was illegal in England. Those laws changed in '67. Hoping Rafiki's existence portends similar changes in Kenya.
Island of Lost Souls (1932) Effective '30s horror version of H.G. Wells' Dr. Moreau story w/ Charles Laughton as suave, diabolical Moreau, pre-code sexuality & surprising violence. A touchstone that gave us: "The natives...they are restless" "House of Pain" & "Are we not men?"
Winchester '73 (1950) I keep trying, but westerns just aren't for me. This one has gun fetishization (the title rifle is almost the main character), a high indigenous body count, a Confederate hero & macho posturing. Shelley Winters, one of just 2 women in the film, is best part.
The Blackbird (1926, silent) A non-horror entry from Tod Browning & Lon Cheney. Cheney is the titular thief who lives a double life as his own crippled brother, the charitable Bishop. Love and theft are themes, but the duality of man is the point. Implausible but effective.
The Devil-Doll (1936) Lionel Barrymore spends most of this Browning film in drag as innocent man escaped from prison & disguised as old lady to exact revenge on the fat cats who framed him via Ant-Man/Downsizing-style shrinking technology. Good FX for the time. Huge plot holes.
I misspelled Lon Chaney's last name a couple of tweets back. My apologies, but you can see where I got confused. While Lon Chaney often portrayed grotesquely twisted monsters and scoundrels on screen, Dick Cheney was one in real life.
Tunes of Glory (1960) Character study of 2 colonels w/ post-WWII Scottish brigade. Acting Col. (Alec Guinness in a career highlight) is a cavalier, working-class lush. His replacement (John Mills, also excellent) is a rule-bound elite. Trauma & insecurity lurk beneath for both.
The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) Original B-movie is broad, funny, totally worthwhile (non-musical) comedy w/ Jack Nicholson as masochist, bad puppetry & v. different ending. Surprising how much @TheFrankOzJam & co. retained characterizations of Seymour, Audrey & Mr. Mushnick.
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) Roman Polanski's parody of Hammer's Dracula films is, outside of a handful of gags, a better vampire movie than comedy. Polanski met Sharon Tate on this film and plays the bumbling lead character who attempts to rescue her from a death cult.
Exit Smiling (1926, silent) On stage & radio, Beatrice Lilly was one of the great comics of the first half of the 20th c. Her film debut aims for Harold Lloyd (sharing dir. Sam Taylor) & nails the charm, but the gags aren't crisp enough. Charming rom-com w/ surprising ending.
A Colt Is My Passport (1967) Japanese noir w/ elements of Spaghetti Western & James Bond follows a hit man & his sidekick/best friend in the aftermath of an underworld assassination. Sleek, cool, well-staged, good score. Highly recommended to fans of the genres listed above.
Hustlers (2019) "Goodfellas but strippers" is a hell of an elevator pitch. Transcends exploitation thanks to female writer/dir. & producers who made it about inclusive, supportive faux-family of women. Scorsese influence is obv. & stakes are low, but those are minor complaints.
They Won't Believe Me (1947) Only after watching did I discover that, contrary to form, @tcm shows an edited version of this (15 of orig. 95 min. missing). I doubt that 15 min fixes the central flaw, however, that [spoiler] the film fails to recognize attempted murder as a crime.
They Live By Night (1948) Closer to Romeo & Juliet than Bonnie & Clyde in vibe, dir. Nicholas Ray's debut is handsome, and Farley Granger is dreamy as young man on the lamb, but his girl (Cathy O'Donnell, surprisingly unglamorous) isn't three-dimensional enough. Didn't move me.
The Knack . . . and how to get it (1965) Dir. Richard Lester's surreal comic riff on sexual frustration in swinging '60s London is heavily influenced by French New Wave. Based on play by Ann Jellicoe, it gives near equal weight to female lead's struggle to find safe haven.
Ball of Fire (1941) Awkward linguistics prof. Gary Cooper enlists sultry, mob-connected nightclub performer Barbara Stanwyck to update encyclopedia entry on slang in Billy Wilder-penned screwball riff on Snow White. Bit slow & long for dir. Howard Hawks, but good fun nonetheless.
Ford v Ferrari (2019) A tragic story in which corporate suppression of individual brilliance & usurpation of foreign artisans is awkwardly portrayed as triumph. Christian Bale is terrific, racing scenes crackle, but b/c it misunderstands its own message, it's just a sports movie.
Les Diaboliques (1955, French) Hitchcockian murder/suspense based on novel by same authors as Vertigo. Talk-to-the-screen suspenseful as wife & mistress collaborate on murder of monstrous husband & Columbo-prototype detective sniffs around mysterious aftermath, "Dial M"-style.
Häxan (1922, Danish, silent) Epic seminal horror film traces history of belief in witches & persecution of accused via illustration & dramatization. Wild scenes of Satanic ritual. Excellent (for 1922) special effects & makeup. Uncompromised, uncensored. A must for horror fans.
The Day I Became A Woman (2000, Iran) 3 shorts about life as a woman under the theocracy. A girl negotiates one last hour of freedom before "becoming a woman" on her 9th birthday, a young wife tries to out-pedal the patriarchy & an old woman tries to create a life she never knew.
Orlando (1992) Tilda Swinton stars as the titular lord & lady whose life spans centuries in this lean adaptation of Virginia Woolf. Explores identity, particularly gender, via Orlando's wide diversity of experiences. Handsome, dreamlike, unique, an ideal vehicle for its star.
Frenzy (1972) Hitchcock's penultimate film. His fastball is gone, but the muscle memory is still there, and he can keep the audience guessing with the changeup. Nude scenes for every victim & prolonged rape scene suggest limitations of previous decades were to Hitch's benefit.
Dos Monjes (1933, Mexican) 17 yrs before Rashomon, writer/dir. Juan Bustillo Oro shows us both sides of the backstory behind an assault at a monastery. Acting isn't great & camera movements are literally shaky, but German Expressionist aesthetic & two-sides conceit rise above.
I Walked With A Zombie (1943) Handsomely staged Lewton/Tourneur "horror"/melodrama set in Caribbean is notable for its sympathy for the descendants of slaves and respectful portrayal of Voodoo ritual, but, as a result, as the leading man says, "It's not very frightening."
On Approval (1944) Actor Clive Brook's only writing, dir. & prod. credit is this cheeky four-hander about two aristocratic couples who travel to a Scottish manor for a test-run at marriage. Witty & devilish w/ rare lead performance from Beatrice Lilly, but lacks big laughs.
The Man Who Would Be King (1975) Faithful & dashing adaptation of Rudyard Kipling short story by wr./dir. John Huston with Michael Caine & Sean Connery as a pair of colonialist rogues. Has the usual Kipling baggage, but no one is valorized here. Great settings, classic adventure.
The Gangster (1947) Less than the sum of its parts. Deep roster of supporting characters/players, artful noir direction from Gordon Wiles, compelling idea of small-time gangster losing his grip (on his confidence, his girl, his territory, etc.), but doesn't gel until very end.
The Petrified Forest (1936) Leslie Howard & Humphrey Bogart, well-coifed in one of his 1st notable roles, reprise their Broadway parts. Still feels like a play (in a good way: smart, crisp, deep cast). Howard, in search of meaning, finds it in a young Bette Davis. Has aged well.
The Curse of the Cat People (1944): Sequel to Cat People (1942) retains three leads, but focuses on 6-yr-old daughter in sweet, at times heartbreaking look at childhood loneliness and anxiety & need for parental understanding. A beautiful little (70 min) film w/ fantasy elements.
Hotel Berlin (March 1945) Fascinating American film made during & depicting last months of WWII from German (not nec. Nazi) perspective Grand Hotel-style (source novel by same author, updated during prod. to reflect events) as the Allies close in. Accents vary, needs restoration.
Point Blank (1967) Revenge film starring Lee Marvin drained of all personality. Stylish debut by dir. John Boorman, who gets experimental w/ rapid-fire flashbacks, psychedelic colors, dream-like elements. Theories that question its reality make it more interesting than on face.
White Heat (1949) Exciting cops & robbers action flick w/ James Cagney in one of his most iconic roles as psychotic mama's boy gangster Cody Jarrett. Jam packed w/ action, double-crosses, under cover work. Strong women: Virginia Mayo as Jarrett's moll, Margaret Wycherly as Ma.
Jane Eyre (1943) Melodrama bordering on horror with its Bernard Herrmann score, gothic staging, and sharp B&W cinematography by George Barnes. First 30 min are great w/ Peggy Ann Garner excellent as young Jane, then Orson Welles tramples over the remainder & poor Joan Fontaine.
Lolita (1962) Being problematic is feature not bug for this remarkable Stanley Kubrick adaptation of Nabokov's novel about sexual obsession & manipulation. Kubrick dances around Hays Code in startling ways, while his actors, Mason, Winters, Sellers & 14-yr-old Sue Lyon, excel.
Torn Curtain (1966) Hitchcock directing a cold-war spy movie staring Paul Newman & @JulieAndrews at peak hotness. What's not to like? Nothing for the first hour, but then things get a bit slack and the script gets lazy. Still good fun & great to look at. Hitch still in top form.
Topaz (1969) Hitchcock stuck w/ cold-war espionage for this fictionalization of the Sapphire Affair in lead-up to Cuban Missile Crisis, but unfinished script led to a muddled mess. Still, has one great shot: from above, a woman, shot, collapses, and her skirt spreads like blood.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) A fine adaptation w/ Michael Caine playing it straight as Scrooge. Amid all the expected zaniness and character cameos are a surprising number of Dickens's actual words. Sadly, Paul Williams' songs feel like superfluous padding. (first viewing!)
Big Business (1929, 19 min., silent) Textbook example of comedic escalation as Laurel & Hardy's door-to-door Christmas-tree salesmen effectively go to war with a reluctant client (James Finlayson). Warning: wanton destruction, violence toward plants.
Angora Love (silent), Perfect Day (both 1929, ~20 min): In Angora Love, Laurel & Hardy are followed home by a goat. In Perfect Day, a planned picnic fails to launch. The farewells in latter are best bit in either due to use of repetition. Neither short is particularly special.
Unaccustomed As We Are (1929, 21 min): In their first sound short, Laurel & Hardy are upstaged by actresses Mae Busch--as Mrs. Hardy, displeased that Ollie brought Stan home for dinner unannounced--and Thelma Todd, as a sexy neighbor who has a wardrobe malfunction.
Brats (1930, 21 min.): In one of their most famous shorts, Laurel & Hardy play both fathers charged with watching the kids &, via oversized sets, their own sons. Cute, creative, well-executed. Of the 5 Stan & Ollie shorts described here, this is probably 2nd best to Big Business.
Gaslight (1944) The film that gave us the term "gaslighting." Ingrid Bergman's new husband slowly convinces her she's losing her mind to keep her incapacitated. Earned Bergman her first Oscar. Nominated for one was teenage Angela Lansbury, who makes her debut here as saucy maid.
Sons of the Desert (1933) Often mentioned as Laurel & Hardy's best feature, this did nothing for me. A Honeymooners lodge plot stretched out to 64 minutes w/o any memorable set pieces. A few chuckles, generous screen time for strong female leads, but a dud in my book.
Sinbad the Sailor (1947) Cartoonish Arabian Nights swashbuckler with brownface as far as the eye can see. Purple prose, gaudy Technicolor, and orientalism all cranked to 11. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. hams it up as Sinbad. Maureen O'Hara is the devious beauty. Anthony Quinn his rival.
Hog Wild (1930, 19 min.) Laurel & Hardy are at their best when they keep the plot simple or nonexistent. In this, they are in top form as they attempt to install a radio antenna on Hardy's roof. Good showcase for Ollie; Stan doesn't appear until 5 min. in. Some use of stuntmen.
Chickens Come Home (1931, 30 min.) Mae Busch is almost a third member of Laurel & Hardy as a woman blackmailing would-be mayoral candidate Hardy, who again overshadows Stanley here. Busch does antic physical comedy in heels & a low-cut dress & extra 10 min allows for extra plot.
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) Low-budget B-movie, would be unwatchable if not for Bernard Herrmann's score & Ray Harryhausen's iconic stop-motion "Dynamation" monsters. Harryhausen's compositing has aged terribly, but he imbued his creatures w/ life. Doesn't depict 7th voyage.
Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947) Ex-night-club singer's descent into alcoholism as husband rises to fame as radio crooner. Likely based on Dixie Lee & Bing Crosby. Sympathetic portrayal of the disease & its causes w/ Susan Hayward great in lead, Eddie Albert in support.
Didn't have room to mention it, but, given that @tcm typically shows the best available versions of films, Smash-Up is in serious need of restoration.
TXH 1138 (1971) George Lucas's technical strengths (world-building, special effects, sound design) are evident in his debut, but the nostalgia that defined the rest of his career is replaced by uncharacteristic cynicism in this monochromatic dystopic nightmare. Challenging watch.
Note on TXH 1138: The version to watch is the 1977 re-release w/ restored footage cut from 1971 release by Warner Bros. Sadly, that's hard to find. @tcm shows the 2004 directors cut with the usual Lucas updating. New footage/effects are obvious and distract from film's reality.
Downhill (1927) In follow-up to breakout The Lodger, dir. Alfred Hitchcock makes good use of depth of field, dramatic dolly shots, tinting & superimposed images & minimizes intertitles, but last leaves some things vague & all is in service of misogynistic women-ruin-lives plot.
Come Clean; One Good Turn (both 1931, ~20 min.) Both of these Laurel & Hardy shorts have an excess of plot, but Come Clean seems to have time enough for neither big gags nor logical plot, while One Good Turn successfully weaves in both and ranks among their best work.
Helpmates; Scram! (both 1932, ~20 min.) Arthur Housman's drunk is the highlight of Scram!, which has a good Curbed-type twist at the end, but Helpmates is Laurel & Hardy at their best trying to clean up Hardy's house before his wife comes home, with typically disastrous results.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) Issues of class & conformity reverberate in this British New Wave film about a rebellious working-class teen sent to a borstal for stealing. Alternates between his life in & before incarceration. Might need subtitles for accents.
David Copperfield (1935) Haven't read the book, but omissions are glairing. David arrives in a new place in one scene, then says an emotional goodbye in the next. Well-regarded among Dickens adaptations, but did little for me beyond excellent cast, incl. W.C. Fields as Micawber.
We're No Angels (1955) Three Devils Island convicts become enmeshed w/ local family & have change of heart. Seemed like less than sum of its compelling parts (Bogey, Ustinov, dark comedy, tropical Christmas setting, uplift). Perhaps I need to rewatch, but not motivated to do so.
It's A Wonderful Life (1946) Jimmy Stewart at his best in epic anti-capitalism drama covering the American experience in the 1st 1/2 of 20th c. The supernatural stuff everyone knows is just last 30 min of excellent 2+hr film. Not for kids or for Christmas, but still a classic.
Desk Set (1957) Delightful Technicolor Tracy-Hepburn confection with Hepburn’s reference dept. (research for a TV network) in danger of being replaced by Tracy’s room-sized computer. Love triangle is problematic (both men are effectively Kate’s bosses), but not central to plot.
Hell’s Heroes (1930, 68 min.) One of the earliest Western talkies to be shot on location. Excellent version of frequently filmed “Three Godfathers” story of three bandits saddled with a newborn in the desert. Strong work by dir. William Wyler helped boost his career.
Holiday (1938) Self-made free-thinker Cary Grant, in screwball mode, sees money as a means, but the heiress he's impulsively engaged to and her father see it as an end. Katharine Hepburn, as her sister, shares Cary's worldview and slowly emerges as the film's main character.
Marnie (1964) As in Vertigo, the mystery surrounding the icy blonde (Tippi Hedren as a thief suppressing childhood trauma) is eclipsed by the creepy behavior of the man/Hitchcock surrogate obsessed with her (Bond-era Sean Connery). Judges but justifies Marnie's hatred of men/sex.
Bill & Ted Face The Music (2020) Good-natured fan service. Alex Winter falls back into role easier than Keanu. Brigette Lundy-Paine is perfect but underused as Ted's daughter. Some chuckles. Low-budget feel is at least true to original. Heartfelt. For fans of earlier films only.
Wonder Woman (2017) The first 2 hours are extremely enjoyable superhero origin story, and Gal Gadot is implausibly perfect for the lead. Ending suffers from too much CGI & indestructible hero, but I didn't hate the last 30 min. on this 2nd viewing as I did on the first.
Soul (2020) Top-tier Pixar, but not top of the top tier. Pairs well with Inside Out & Coco, but lacks their scientific & spiritual underpinnings, respectively. Also, music is less central than I hoped/expected. Still, Pete Docter should be counted among our greatest filmmakers.
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