This was probably one of the greatest movie weeks I’ve ever had. While there was an obviously superior film, there were three pictures that received perfect marks from me. I’m sure this is an aberration and won’t happen regularly, but I hope that it will. I’m used to watching barely interesting movies with a few exceptional gems interwoven, I’m not used to being so treated!
February 12: Lady in a Cage
I need not tell you how excited I was for this to appear in my mailbox. I couldn’t if I tried–there are no words! Olivia de Havilland (you know how I feel about her!) was the star and she was genius just as she always is. She is a damn fine actress. It’s a shame that she retired. She’s in her 90s, but I bet you $1,000,000 that she could act circles around Meryl. Her mannerisms, her accent, her complete dedication to the character of Mrs. Hilyard were fantastic. This picture is about Mrs. Hilyard, who lives with her middle-aged son to whom she is devoted. She has recently broken her hip and has had a private elevator installed in her beautiful home (which does not match the outside of the house at all! It’s such confusion for the eye when you’re as intrigued by architecture as I am). Her son decides he’s had enough and leaves. He lies to her and says that he is going to their lake house, but we see in a letter at the very beginning of the film that he needs to cut the imaginary umbilical cord that is suffocating him. So he leaves and because of a freak electrical accident, Mrs. Hilyard finds herself trapped in her elevator. She assumes that she will be saved soon–she is ringing her alarm bell and the electricity can’t be out forever. Or can it? [Dramatic music.] Unfortunately, she seems to live in a shady neighborhood and nobody pays the slightest attention to her cries for help and so she is up there for hours and hours and hours and hours! A hobo hears the bell ringing and decides to infiltrate the house. He’s a wino and happily raids the wine cellar. Once he realizes that there is a ton of stuff there to steal and pawn, he goes to a hooker acquaintance of his to help him raid the house. Unfortunately for them, they are followed by a gang of sadistic thieves/killers/fighters. They’re just nasty people. James Caan, in his first film role, is just a nasty (disgustingly hairy) man named Randall. (Shave your back, seriously! A touch of manscaping will not kill you. Leave the chest and stomach alone–but shoulders and back are bad. Bad, James Caan, bad!) Where was I? Back hair is distracting, sorry. So, Randall and his gang come into the house and start pillaging. They made me so uncomfortable. They were horrible people. Randall’s girlfriend, Elaine, seems oversexed and mentally unstable. Essie is the third of the crew and seems to be a whipping boy. They all strike fear into the heart of Mrs. Hilyard who attempts to reason with them and to bargain with them, but nothing seems to work. They just laugh and laugh and continue their thieving. Finally, they decide they have to kill her, the wino, and the hooker. Essie knives the Wino and then goes after the hooker, who manages to lock herself into a closet. She’s only safe temporarily, though, Randall says they will finish her later. When Randy is about to kill Mrs. Hilyard, Essie comes running down with the letter her son had written saying he needs to leave. He also mentions a safe and that intrigues them all, even Randall, who seems determined to finish this murder. Thankfully, Hilyard had made herself some makeshift knives out of elevator parts, but sadly, they were weak aluminum and bent as she tried to kill Randall. Randall is PISSED! But, he needs her alive to find the safe, so they go off looking. She finally has her opportunity and decides to get herself out of that damn elevator! In what was the most difficult way possible, Mrs. Hilyard flops herself out and onto the marble checkerboard floor below and slams right back into her hip. She won’t give up! She scurries to the door, in what was the creepiest crab scuttle ever and out onto the sidewalk, but nobody pays any attention to her. This was so frustrating for me! There was an elderly woman, obviously in distress, and nobody paid a bit of attention to her. It was downright disrespectful. Randall wasn’t going to let her escape and so he drags her right back into the house in full daylight in view of everybody. Hilyard had had enough! She takes her makeshift knives that she kept with her and stabs Randall in the eyes! He is blinded and in his distress to find help, walks straight into the street and is run over. Dead. The rest of his gang tries to escape, but are caught. The ending is a relief, but it is not happy because Mrs. Hilyard realizes that she has lost the only thing that was important to her–her son. She had smothered him and he was never coming back. Now she was to be forever alone and surely traumatized. This was an excellent, well told film that fit perfectly into my favorite genre: Grande Dame Guignol (psycho biddy/hag horror, etc.). I loved it, wonderful acting and a solid message. Watch it. [My Rating: 10/10]
February 13: The Eyes of Tammy Faye
I’ve suspected it for awhile, and this documentary confirms it–I love Tammy Faye Bakker. She’s earthy, honest, and hilarious (though usually unintentionally.) Sadly, as it is with most of my celebrity discoveries, she died a few years ago and I will never get to meet her. This documentary, narrated by RuPaul (hey squirrel friend!), is a disjointed account of her rise to fame and subsequent fall from grace. Before watching, I really knew nothing about her, nothing more than the basics anyway. I was fascinated by her rise to the top of the televangelical world with her husband, a world they founded with their multiple cable networks and plans for a massive theme park that failed halfway through–which I’m kind of obsessed by, I love abandoned things. The world was cruel to Tammy and she felt every sting. I really sympathized with her attempts to become famous again. There is a certain innate need in a few individuals, like myself, to be loved by the world, to be seen, to be known, and it is simply devastating when we are not recognized. It was crushing to watch her pitch television ideas and see her smile as she was rejected, even though we could see the sadness in her trademark eyes. It was short, a bit discombobulated, but enjoyable. [My Rating: 7/10]
February 14: Joyful Noise
Dolly Parton is everything. I live for her. Go and see this film. I recommend it with every fiber of my being. I really don’t need to go on, but I will because I loved it so much! There was not a frame of this picture that I didn’t enjoy. Of course the plot was vapid, pointless, and predictable, but who cares? Who gives half a crap? IT’S DOLLY! Let me give you my personal equation for a good time: Dolly Parton + gospel choir + plastic surgery jokes = HEAVEN! When it is released on home video, I will wear it out! This movie is about a poor town in Georgia that has been hit hard by the downward economy. The church choir, one of the town’s last remaining joys is advancing to the next round of the Joyful Noise competition and everybody is rooting for them. Sadly, they always lose, but they keep hoping and praying to take home that trophy someday. Dolly plays a wealthy widow named G.G Sparrow (love this name, by the way!). I adore her and Randy, who plays her grandson, is one lucky bitch. In my celebrity family tree, Dolly is one of my grandmothers. My other grandmother is Joan Rivers who is sisters with Betty White. Kathy Griffin and Queen Rania of Jordan are aunts and Paris Hilton is my cousin. Martha Stewart is something, too, but I haven’t decided. Probably a beloved step-grandmother, who helped raise me. If only that life were real! Summers in Jordan in the palace, touring with Grandma Joan, singing with Granny Dolly, eating doughnuts with Aunt Kathy, working on a cookbook with Grandma Martha. Le sigh… Anyway! G.G.’s husband was the choir leader and upon his death, she assumed that she would take over. Instead, the church choir chose Queen Latifa’s character, Vi. Dolly accepts this, but is not amused. Vi is very old school and doesn’t want to take the risks that Randy wants to do with the choir. He wants to use pop music and everybody but Vi agrees. Vi is pissed about the idea and continues down the safe and traditional way. Vi is also pissed because Randy is crushing on her daughter, who is absolutely smitten with “bad boy” Randy. (If he’s a bad boy, I should be imprisoned.) She’s also pissed because her husband left her and because her son has also befriended with Randy. She’s just pissed! Vi leaves her job as the choir leader because she’s just so pissed. Meanwhile, the choir that beat their choir has been disqualified, which means they get to move on to the finals in LA! And then Vi comes back to the choir to lead them. (She’s wishy-washy.) God, I was so excited for them. Dolly becomes a qualified preacher online and away they go! The choir ahead of them is the shit. Honestly, they Are. The. Shit! It’s a childrens choir and their lead singer made Michael Jackson sound like an untrained amateur. Jaw on the floor. Then it was their turn and Vi begins their boring but lovely routine. In the middle of the song, something happens and she understands how boring this is and Randy’s orchestration is used. They. Tear. That. Place. Down. Oh God, I was bouncing in my seat, snapping my fingers, and driving everybody in that little theater insane as I sang along (I’ve had the soundtrack for weeks! Buy your copy here!). “It’s like I’ve waited my whole life!” I sang with Dolly, pitch perfect, mind you. And they won! Somehow this translates into economic success for the town and all the businesses are back in business. Who cares if it makes any sense? It fas fabulous. GO SEE IT! [My Rating: 10/10 (The rest of the movies I’ll watch this year are going to have to be very good if they hope to beat this for PICTURE OF THE YEAR!)]
February 15: A Face In The Crowd
I have had this picture on my DVR for ages–both before and after Ma’s “accidental” deletion of my to-watch movie library. I didn’t love this movie. It was in no way bad, but it was certainly not what I had anticipated and not at all to my genre of cinema. It’s about a layabout traveling vagabond (fancy phrase for hobo) named Lonesome Rhodes–I’m sure that was not what his mother called him–who is discovered by a radio host who does a show on random, common people called, A Face in the Crowd. For some reason, people really respond to his music, his humor, his antiestablishmentarian ideas, his values, and his ideas. Soon he is a regular on the station. It is not long after that that he is called to Nashville to host his own show. He’s awkward and uncomfortable at first, but soon he gains millions and millions of fans and viewers. He becomes one of the most powerful men in the nation because when he endorses a product, people will buy it. He loves this power and wants more of it, so he agrees to help a presidential candidate win the election and thereby get himself a seat in the new President’s cabinet. This lust for power has gone to his head, so the woman who discovered him and loves him, Marcia, realizes that she must stop him for the good of the nation. To do this, she broadcasts a live feed of him saying wretched, horrid things about his public. Everyone turns on him and he is utterly ruined. The ending is marvelous and had the rest of the picture been as thrilling, I would have given a much higher score. [My Rating: 5/10]
February 16: Suspicion
I will always and forever be team Olivia, but this picture, for which Joan Fontaine (Olivia’s estranged sister) won an Oscar was absolutely wonderful. That bitch can act! Joan is so beautiful in this film–thin as a rail and her entire body hangs from her razor sharp cheekbones. Her wardrobe is fantastic and I’ve never seen such gorgeous hair. Why don’t women do marvelous, yet causally elegant hairstyles anymore? For that matter, why don’t men slick back their hair with pomade anymore? I still do it on occasion, but I look a bit ridiculous with my perfect hair amidst my Iowa brethren with their buzz cuts stuffed under John Deere caps. I mean, have you been to Jordan Creek on the weekend? Good God! It’s hillbillies on parade. (Another aside, sweatpants are NEVER acceptable in public, they’re barely permissible in the home. These same rules apply to track suits as well. Only wear them in a gym! Instead, wear a nicely fitted pair of dark wash jeans with a nice shirt–a crisp, clean white shirt, for example. So chic!) Anyway, Joan was simply stunning, and I kind of wanted to be her.
Her costar in the film is Cary Grant, so obviously, I was thrilled from the onset. The fact that it was an Alfred Hitchcock film was the cherry on the top. This movie is about Lina’s (Joan) unexpected and deep love for Johnnie (Cary) who she marries soon after they meet. Their marriage was unexpected and out of character. Lina was something of a spinster homebody, her parents decided that she would remain with them forever, and had grown accustomed to the idea. She was mousy, stiff, and quiet, so romance of any kind was a foreign concept. Johnnie quickly relaxes her and they both fall in love. After they are married and go on an extravagant honeymoon, they move into a stunningly (STUNNING!) redecorated Georgian mansion in the same village as her family’s manor house. Lina was rather well off. It isn’t long before we discover that Johnnie is broke–never worked and he never had a dime. Lina is uncomfortable about this, but she loves him so much that she will work through it. So, Johnnie gets a job, but is soon fired for stealing money from work to spend on horse racing. To try and earn some money, he decides to start a real estate development with his best friend, Beaky, on a gorgeous, yet dangerous looking, cliff overlooking the sea. I would love to live there. So lovely. Around this time, Lina starts wondering if she truly knows her husband. She begins to wonder if he was a murderer. He asks uncomfortable questions to a famed criminal novelist about untraceable potions, he investigates her life insurance policies, he seems different. The development plans don’t work out and so he goes to London with Beaky to dissolve the company. While they are away Beaky dies suspiciously and Lina is terrified that Cary committed the crime. She is now terrified that he is going to kill her and starts to lose her mind slowly. Everything drives her mad. After a terrifying drive amongst the cliffs, we come to the ending. Turns out Johnnie is not a killer. It’s not the most satisfying ending, but I accepted it. In the novel the movie was based on, he was indeed a killer, but in the 1950s, it would have been unacceptable for Cary Grant to have been a killer–especially to audiences who adored him. Film historians and amateur film buffs have been pissed about the ending for decades, but I really enjoyed it. Lina’s terror all came from a little thought in her head that grew exponentially. It was brilliant, because these thoughts could so happily happen to anybody. In all honesty, how could you ever know the person you love? You only know what you learn from them, thoughts and ideas live unheard in their minds. Lord only knows what people would think of me if they knew all my thoughts and secrets. I thought it was a wonderful film, beautifully shot, excellently cast, and with a well-told story. No loose threads at the end, which I just love in a film. [My Rating: 10/10]
February 17: Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (the English title) was, officially, the worst movie I have seen so far this year, and potentially ever. This alleged comedy has no plot and no humor. It’s nothing more than a series of vignettes of people on holiday in a coastal French village. Monsieur Hulot finds himself in different situations that are stale and dull. People say that the film is artsy, heartwarming, and hilarious. Well, I have doubt. I have such doubt! (Read that in your best Meryl Streep voice. If you don’t understand, watch this.) Anyway, it was atrocious and earns a nomination for Worst Film of the Year. [My Rating: 0/10]
February 18: Serial Mom
This John Waters’ film was crude, lewd, hilarious, and I loved it! I love me some John Waters. I’m not overly familiar with his work, I’ve only seen Hairspray. I’ve been meaning to see Pink Flamingos for ages, but I haven’t brought myself to it, yet–allegedly, it’s the most repulsive film ever made. I’m more intrigued by John Waters as a person, and that’s mainly because I love his little Errol Flynn mustache and the interview he gave on Celebrity Ghost Stories. I adore that show. I can’t wait for the next season! Serial Mom stars Kathleen Turner as a deliciously demented blend of Martha Stewart and a serial killer. I’m almost positive that the makeup, wardrobe, and mannerisms are a caricature of post-incarceration Martha. I like her so much more now that she’s been to the concrete Hilton–more likable, relatable, and funnier. Sorry, when I start talking about my beloved Martha, I get rather distracted. I just love her SO MUCH! This picture is about Beverly, a perfect housewife who has the perfect family, perfect home, and perfect life. She and her husband are perfect together and enjoy birdwatching. Her children are perfect and lovable. The children are played by Ricki Lake and Matthew Lillard–he’s Shaggy from Scooby-Doo (here’s a bonus!) and that unattractive fellow who caused so many issues in The Descendants, I didn’t recognize him at all! Anyway, everything is perfect! But, suddenly, something happens to Beverly–a switch inside her is turned or something that has always been inside of her is unleashed. Now, whenever she or her family is threatened in some way, she takes bloody and hilarious revenge. She hits a teacher with her car multiple times, a boy that breaks her daughter’s heart gets his liver removed with a fire poker, a woman who refuses to rewind a video she rented is bludgeoned to death with a ham–so many madcap murders! Eventually people begin to suspect her and she is investigated by the police and is finally arrested after a hilarious car chase that involved hijacking, a chef’s knife, a human torch, and death metal! When her case goes to trial, she fires her attorney and decides to defend herself. This seems like it will be a horrible idea and guarantee her spot in the electric char, but she brilliantly defends herself with pranks and lies and gets herself a not guilty verdict–much to the terror of her family who knows that she did it. Absolutely hilarious! [My Rating: 9/10]
Film of the Week: Joyful Noise (not yet released) [tied with Suspicion and Lady in a Cage (all were wonderful and excellent, but Joyful Noise was clearly superior in my mind.)] I couldn’t love this movie any more. I couldn’t if I tried! It’s absolutely wonderful. Run to a theater near you and join in the fun! DOLLY PARTON, BITCHES!