Home of the all-around movie/book/TV/music geek girl. 21 years old; college student majoring in Film with a minor in Art History. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Fan of (in alphabetical order): Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, Blackadder, The Blacklist, Doctor Who (and - to a lesser extent - Torchwood), Elementary, Freaks and Geeks, Grimm, Harry Potter, House, Indiana Jones, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Inspector Lewis, James Bond, Jane Eyre, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Law & Order (all kinds), Lost, LOTR, the Millennium trilogy (Stieg Larsson); Murder, She Wrote; The Nanny, Paul Newman, The Office, Once Upon a Time, Parks and Recreation, Project Runway, Pushing Daisies, Saturday Night Live, Sherlock, Three's Company (though I am usually laughed at for that), The Twilight Zone, Undeclared, Tom Waits, The Who, movies in general (especially older movies but not exclusively), analyzing movies via a blog (http://theironcupcake.wordpress.com) and many other awesome things. I think I'm an INTJ, if you know about MBTI.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #265: Old Acquaintance (1943) - dir. Vincent Sherman
Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins go head to head as best friends and rival writers in this enjoyable soap opera, which has fine acting from these two ladies, even if the film doesn’t have the courage of its convictions to be 100% soap - there are a few too many comic touches for my taste, making the tone seem weirdly bumpy. But Davis and Hopkins are such pros - and Davis’s real-life affair with Hopkins’ husband, Anatole Litvak, mirrors the film’s plot so perfectly, not to mention Hopkins’ resentment of Davis for becoming so big a star while her own career shrank in importance - that you can really believe that they would be jealous of one another. John Loder doesn’t have much in the way of star quality, but it’s nice seeing Gig Young at such a young age. I didn’t mind Dolores Moran either, and it was good seeing Roscoe Karns and Anne Revere in their brief amounts of screen time. Franz Waxman’s score and Sol Polito’s cinematography do add a good bit to the soap opera feeling, making the film quite entertaining. I don’t think it succeeds in the way that some of Bette Davis’s other romantic dramas of the 40s do, like Now, Voyager and Deception, but it’s still a fine effort by all involved.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #264: The Indian Tomb (1921) - dir. Joe May
I was not initially sure whether to count this as one film or two since it’s split into two parts and I think it was originally released in German theaters as two films, but anyway, I think it should be counted as one big epic since that’s what it was intended to be. Conrad Veidt is of course, excellent in this leading role, very much the matinee idol with his flowing garments and sensual stares. It’s just too bad that the movie has to be so darned long, much too long for me to sit through in one night. (I split it between Friday night and tonight.) The sets, costumes and cinematography are extraordinary for the time - probably greatly influenced by Griffith’s Intolerance - but oy gevald, the leading lady (director May’s wife, Mia May) is so dumb, she’s dumber than dumb. Everything she does is stupid.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #263: God’s Little Acre (1958) - dir. Anthony Mann
Taking the same sizzling Southern appeal of Baby Doll (1956), A Face in the Crowd (1957), The Long, Hot Summer (1958) (especially that one) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and amping it up several strange degrees, God’s Little Acre stars Robert Ryan in a particularly likeable role (given what he was usually cast in) as the patriarch of a large Georgia clan. Tina Louise, Fay Spain and Helen Westcott are memorable as the ladies of the family, while Aldo Ray, Jack Lord, Vic Morrow and Lance Fuller are the men. Buddy Hackett is very good as the fellow who’s sweet on Fay Spain, while Rex Ingram has a good supporting role as a working hand on Ryan’s farm and Michael Landon has a bizarre but interesting role as an albino boy who Ryan recruits to help him on the farm (as one reviewer noted, bringing a whole new definition to “white trash”). Ernest Haller’s cinematography is occasionally quite good, especially in the scene when Ray and Louise meet up outside the house late at night. The whole film is such a crazy potboiler, though, filled with every possible stereotype of Southern farm life (kind of like how I felt about another film I recently saw that’s also based on an Erskine Caldwell novel, Tobacco Road), so it’s just too ridiculous to take seriously. It’s entertaining once around, as steamy and sexed-up as it is, but I don’t imagine I’ll ever want to sit through it again.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #262: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) - dir. Rouben Mamoulian
This excellent horror talkie, with plenty of Pre-Code appeal, stars Fredric March in his first Oscar-winning role, perfectly balancing the empathetic and romantic hero with his menacing, violent alter ego. As great as March is, his performance wouldn’t have worked nearly so well without Miriam Hopkins as Ivy. She is so believable in her transitions from flirtatious dance hall patron to terrified and cowering slave to Hyde’s horrid whims that she lends credence to March’s performance. Rose Hobart is OK as Muriel, but she’s not too bad, so I don’t mind her. Karl Struss’s cinematography and William Shea’s editing are pretty impressive for 1931; I’m sure that Lee Garmes must have done fine camerawork on Shanghai Express, but Struss really seems revolutionary here. Also take note of the exceptional makeup by Norbert A. Myles and Wally Westmore. It’s hard to believe it took another 50 years before a makeup category was created at the Oscars. Anyway - see this movie!
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #261: The Juggler (1953) - dir. Edward Dmytryk
This film is interesting for having been shot entirely in Israel. The WWII camp survivor story is a compelling one. It has a fine performance (of course) by Kirk Douglas, better than anyone else in the film. Some good cinematography by J. Roy Hunt too. I’m not a huge fan of director Dmytryk, but he’s basically a good director - just not a great one.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #260: The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957) - dir. Norman Taurog
Ah yes, the old kidnapping narrative. From The Sheik (1921) to Three Days of the Condor (1975) to Out of Sight (1998) to Labor Day (2013), there’s been a cinematic storyline (and not as a running gag) that if a really hot guy kidnaps a woman, somehow she’ll forget she’s being held against her will and she’ll find herself falling in love with him. (Should I really have expected more from Taurog, who famously threatened to shoot nephew Jackie Cooper’s dog in order to get a better performance out of the boy for Skippy in 1931?) In this case the dude in question is Ralph Meeker (I wanted to see something else with him after enjoying his performances so much in Paths of Glory and The Naked Spur). I’ll admit that his voice does have an effect of intoxication on me - like a sort of de-Bronxified Tony Curtis - yet for all his appeal it’s hard to get over the ridiculousness and discomfort level of the plot. As much as I enjoy Jane Russell (always the queen of sass in the 50s), Keenan Wynn, Adolphe Menjou (who, like Meeker, made Paths of Glory that same year), Fred Clark, Una Merkel and the other actors in the film, it’s just too silly. It reminded me of Irving Wallace’s novel The Fan Club, published in 1973 yet similar in the idea of kidnapping a blonde bombshell around the time that she has a new movie come out. The only difference is that this movie has a happy ending, as implausible as it seems. Watch the film if you’re a Jane Russell fan, but otherwise, it’s not much to write home about.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #259: Virtue (1932) - dir. Edward Buzzell
I had some vague memories of having seen this pre-Code drama a few years ago, and I remembered bits of the plot, but it was good to see it again with fresh eyes. Carole Lombard is great as the former prostitute who tries to make a new life for herself with husband Pat O’Brien, who thinks he knows all about dames and how to read them until he finds out about Lombard’s past. There’s good support by Ward Bond as O’Brien’s pal, Shirley Grey as the no-good gal who does Lombard wrong, Mayo Methot as the friend who helps Lombard out and Jack La Rue as a real scumbag (when did he ever play anything else?). Given the running time of 68 minutes, the film moves along at a pretty zippy pace. It’s not the best pre-Code out there, but it’s an interesting watch for fans of Lombard and for those who want to see a pretty good performance by Mayo Methot (who would later be Mrs. Humphrey Bogart between 1938 and 1945).
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #258: Paths of Glory (1957) - dir. Stanley Kubrick
I’m so glad I got to see this at MoMA earlier tonight, and with an audience that was better than usual. (Plus there was an excellent introduction by the distinguished Columbia professor Annette Insdorf.) It is on the big screen that you get an especial sense of just what an impact this film makes. There were many times when audience members made noises of shock and indignation at the horrific acts, both physical and moral, being presented onscreen. Of course the acting is great right down the line, from the main characters to the smallest supporting roles. Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker (I was really pleased to hear the round of applause when his name was shown in the end credits), Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Joe Turkel, Christiane Kubrick (then known as Susanne Christian), Peter Capell, Timothy Carey, Fred Bell and all the others gave career-best performances. The screenplay written by Kubrick, Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson (yes, that Jim Thompson - author of pulp novels The Killer Inside Me, The Getaway and The Grifters) is certainly well-done. The film editing by Eva Kroll and especially the cinematography by Georg Krause are amazing too. But the most important thing to come away with is just how well the film demonstrates the tragic absurdity of World War I. It was a battle for nothing, an unbelievable amount of carnage for no worthy purpose. Paths of Glory illustrates the dehumanization of its characters to the most extreme degree. I know some people in the audience (like one guy sitting behind me who muttered a curse or two during the court-martial scene) got angry over the ridiculousness of it all. Well, that’s how the movie is supposed to make you feel; you’re supposed to be angry and indignant at the nonsensical brutality of WWI. Kubrick and his cast and crew succeeded at their jobs.
P.S. Some subject lines of IMDb boards which I have taken note of:
- "The acting was so flat" —> I don’t know how you could watch Douglas, Meeker or Carey and think that.
- "This movie blows chunks like a *beep*"
- "Why did the soldiers in the end start crying ?" (followed with the comment "Cause of that german girls singing ? it was horrible, plus the singing itself was bad, i dont get this ending")
- "last scene with the german babe, what does it stand for?" ("i’m not sure how to intepret it.. ")
- "This is one of the most idiotic movies I have ever seen." ("In the same class as Night of the Hunter. Enjoy. LOL")
- "Other good black and white / old films?" —> from a person who says that "I love film, but in my life time only about 10% of the films I’ve seen were produced before 1990. Paths of Glory is the only black and white film I’ve seen that I enjoyed. Can anyone recommend any old and/or b&w movies that I might enjoy?" Um… where to begin?
Obviously, some people are just trolls, but part of it is having empathy (some people don’t). If you watch the scene with Christiane Kubrick and you can’t understand the reactions from the soldiers, I don’t know how anyone else could possibly explain it to you. You might as well ask what Kirk Douglas was so riled up about at the trial and afterwards.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #257: The Sniper (1952) - dir. Edward Dmytryk
An interesting precursor to Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets (1968), The Sniper moves along at a decent pace but never really bothers to actually get inside the head of its main character, the antagonist played by Arthur Franz. Adolphe Menjou (his character is the amusingly named “Lt. Frank Kafka”) and Gerald Mohr are good as the policemen after Franz, but Marie Windsor has a totally thankless role as Franz’s first victim. (Couldn’t Columbia do better for this leading lady than to bump her off in less than half an hour?) Wally Cox and Charles Lane appear in brief but entertaining bit parts. Burnett Guffey’s cinematography often makes good use of the San Francisco location (including Telegraph Hill), with a final shot that’s really excellent. But the film never really gets past the tiresome “psychological mumbo-jumbo” (to quote one character) that tries to generalize about the killer’s motives without ever attempting to actually explain why this particular fellow does what he does. We never get to hear the backstory.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #256: Down Argentine Way (1940) - dir. Irving Cummings
This fun, if thin (plot-wise) Fox musical stars one of its most famous leading ladies, Betty Grable, alongside the much more talented Don Ameche. Singing and romancing ensue. I never got Grable’s appeal, but she’s never terrible, just not terribly interesting. The film is much more interesting to watch for its character actors, including Charlotte Greenwood as Grable’s aunt, Leonid Kinskey (his finest hour!) as a gigolo who accompanies Greenwood everywhere, Henry Stephenson as Ameche’s uncle, J. Carrol Naish and Chris-Pin Martin as two of Stephenson’s workers on his farm and Gregory Gaye as a waiter in a Buenos Aires nightclub. Then of course there’s the wonderful Carmen Miranda, playing herself in a series of musical vignettes. You also get to see the Nicholas brothers do some great dance routines and Six Hits and a Miss show up too. Down Argentine Way is good, brainless fun for an hour and a half. Plus it has gorgeous costumes by Travis Banton and pretty Technicolor cinematography by Ray Rennahan and Leon Shamroy.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #255: Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) - dir. John Ford
This Ford drama, a combination of Westerns, war films (Revolutionary, to be exact) and romance, is one of his finest efforts. Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda are wonderful (of course) as the couple whose young marriage is tested time and time again by attacks by Native Americans in collusion with the English (the main villain being John Carradine, although he doesn’t get nearly enough screen time and hardly does more than stride around and sneer). Edna May Oliver steals every scene she’s in as the tough-as-nails widow, Mrs. McKlennar, who helps Colbert and Fonda, as well as the town’s soldiers, in all their times of need. I also really liked Ward Bond as the townsman who has a rather sweet crush on Oliver. Many other character actors show up, including Eddie Collins, Jessie Ralph, Arthur Shields, Spencer Charters, Jack Pennick, Chief John Big Tree, Beulah Hall Jones, Robert Greig, Clara Blandick and an uncredited Tom Tyler. The best aspect of the movie, however, is the 3-strip Technicolor cinematography by Bert Glennon and Ray Rennahan. Not only does it look beautiful, it shows Ford’s amazing eye for unique and eye-catching shots. The history in the narrative may not be 100% accurate, but for the photography and the acting, this film is a must and one of the underrated gems of 1939.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #254: We Live Again (1934) - dir. Rouben Mamoulian
I don’t like this Mamoulian as much as the other early 30s films of his that I’ve seen (City Streets, the romantic comedy-musical masterpiece Love Me Tonight, Queen Christina) and his final film, Silk Stockings, but it’s still a well-executed drama. Gregg Toland’s cinematography, Omar Kiam’s costumes and Alfred Newman’s score add to the atmosphere. I love Anna Sten in everything I’ve seen her in and Fredric March was good too, so the leads are quite fine to watch. Not a perfect film, but worth seeing, especially if you’re interested in Tolstoy adaptations.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #253: The Giver (2014) - dir. Phillip Noyce
Ah, where to begin? You’d probably think this was a pretty good movie if you’d never read the Lois Lowry novel. The idea of “innocence lost” with 12-year-old Jonas is totally different when the character is a teenager on the verge of adulthood (and played by an adult, Brenton Thwaites, who does better here than in Maleficent). Thwaites is one of the more effective actors in the film; he and Jeff Bridges are the best in the movie, while Meryl Streep (her Chief Elder character, complete with her villainy wig, is greatly expanded from the one scene in the novel) does OK with what she was given, but the result still isn’t great. Odeya Rush is kind of whatever-ish as Fiona, but again, she’s not supposed to be a teenager and the romance part of the plot was manufactured to make the movie more marketable. Alexander Skarsgård and Katie Holmes are blander than bland as the parents; understandably, the community makes them that way, but they could have done something different with the performances than what they ended up with. (Also, Holmes’ characterization of the mother is far removed from the one in the book.) The characters of Asher and Fiona are given different jobs from what they get in the book, which adds much different elements to the film’s climax. Ultimately… not a bad movie, not actually the worst I’ve seen in 2014, but it could never hold a candle to the novel. It’s summer entertainment, good for popcorn viewing with friends (as I saw it), but don’t expect it to be anything more. At the very least you won’t mind Taylor Swift in the few minutes that she’s onscreen.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #252: Drácula (1931) - dirs. George Melford (credited) and Enrique Tovar Ávalos (uncredited)
The two things about the Spanish-language version of Dracula, filmed on the same sets as Tod Browning’s film (but at night; Browning and his English-language cast worked by day), that work in its favor are that Lupita Tovar is a better Mina (in this case, “Eva”) than Helen Chandler and certain plot points are altered or changed entirely, so those are improvements. There’s some music in the scene when we first see Dracula (also, throughout the film we actually see him inside or coming out of his coffins) and also some music in the last minute and into the final credits. Dracula’s “I am Dracula” entrance is filmed in a different way with a tracking shot. Renfield actually eats the food that’s been set up for him and he gets his cut from his knife, not as a paper cut. Dracula doesn’t attack any flower-seller girl when he comes to London, which I thought was a distraction in Browning’s film. The film actually shows the biting or attempts instead of fading to black, as well as showing Lucy’s bite marks. This Dracula actually looks into the mirror that Dr. Van Helsing holds up (before smashing it), as opposed to Lugosi, who smashed it right away. (In general, this film draws out its scenes and the actors’ actions, especially Renfield.) SPOILER: We actually see Renfield’s dead body. We also actually see sunlight affecting Dracula in the climactic scene, which I don’t recall happening in the English-language version. And the ending is a little clearer as to why Dr. Van Helsing doesn’t leave right away (Browning’s one has a murky “I just have some more things to do”), including standing over Renfield in the final shot of the couple ascending the stairs. Drácula is worth seeing (even though Carlos Villarías isn’t as great as Bela Lugosi - way too much smiling and bulging eyes!), but its 1 hour 44 minute running time does feel lengthy in comparison to Browning’s 1 hour 15 minute film.
365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #251: That Man from Rio (1964) - dir. Philippe de Broca
I saw this delightful adventure film in a glorious new restoration at the Film Forum earlier this evening. Jean-Paul Belmondo has a fantastic showcase for his charm, comedic skills and lots of athleticism in some daring stunts all across Paris and Rio. Françoise Dorléac is lovely as Belmondo’s girlfriend, often laughing that wonderfully resonant laugh of hers. Jean Servais, Adolfo Celi, Simone Renant, Ubiracy De Oliveira and Roger Dumas round out the cast, all doing fine work too. Perhaps best of all, the Eastmancolor cinematography by Edmond Séchan (White Mane, The Red Balloon) looks terrific in widescreen, adding to the fun. Catch this movie if you can!
P.S. I’ve never seen so many people walk out of a Film Forum screening (which didn’t have too many people to begin with, maybe 15 or 20 at most). Were they too jealous of Belmondo’s ab-fabulousness?
P.P.S. Funny story: I was on my way to the bathroom, walking behind a woman who was taking her sweet time to sway down the same corridor, and then she stopped at the doorway to the ladies’ room to say hi to a woman who was texting (I think) and was apparently someone she knew. Since neither woman was getting on the line inside the bathroom, I walked ahead and went in. Then the woman who had stopped said in a very snooty voice, “Oh, I guess I better go in. People are CUTTING IN LINE NOW.” Uh… excuse you, lady. You stopped to chat and didn’t go inside (and therefore were not on any line), so you forfeited your place. (Bonus: she kept talking about it with her friend even as she was on the line behind me. Classy.)