Movie Resolution: Week 11

March 12: The Lodger

If I had known about this film, I would have made sure to see it much sooner. It’s all about Jack the Ripper, with whom I have a slight interest. It’s one of those confounding and surely overanalyzed cases with a solution surely much simpler than we expect. It was probably just a lucky lunatic that developed a criminally-induced cult following. Nobody knows of course, maybe someday we will. Maybe Jack wrote a diary and it’s rotting away unsuspected in some gorgeously stuffed manor library sitting on a melancholy English moor. Oh dear…now I have to write a screenplay based on that thought. When I went to London a few trips ago, I wanted to go on the Jack the Ripper walking tour. I wanted to lay macabrely in the places of his victims, but Eddie Izzard was appearing at the Apple Store on Regent Street, and I could not pass that up! I’m glad I went too, I met the voice of the German Piglet–for real! Anyway, this film was an interesting take on the story. It’s a bit hard to follow because it never follows any particular character’s point-of-view. On the evening of one of Jack’s attacks, Mr. Slade takes up an apartment in a lovely London townhouse. The viewer automatically suspects that he is a villain or Jack himself as he’s a rather suspicious character. The owners of the house slowly begin to suspect him–he goes out at night, he doesn’t socialize, he has a bizarre hatred of actresses, he makes odd chemical concoctions in his attic lab, he burns his clothing–he’s just creepy! Well, one day, or evening, rather, Kitty, the talented actress daughter of Mr. Slade’s landlords comes over to invite them all to her show–to everyone’s shock he accepts. He LOVES her, even though she’s an actress! (This all happened rather suddenly and unexpectedly.) So off to the theater they go and it’s a marvelous va-va-voom production. Mr. Slade goes backstage to congratulate her and when they are alone he tries to throttle her–he is the Ripper! Police go on the chase and sadly lose track of him. He has drowned himself in the river, it appears. It was an odd, eery, quite well-done film. When I’m in Europe, I love to walk around late at night when I can be alone and study the architecture, the layout of the city, the nightlife, but this makes me rethink my nocturnal hobby. I don’t want to be ripped. Anyway, I’m left with lingering questions. There was an odd scene when Slade shows Mrs. Bonting (landlady) a portrait of his brother. He gushes over how handsome he is and how talented he is…or was, but it seems odd. Maybe he became a serial killer because a theatrical woman had ruined his brother. I just don’t know. Good though. [My Rating: 7/10]

March 13: A Night at the Ritz

A couple of blogs ago, I told you that The Toast of Wall Street was the dullest picture of the year, and it still holds the honor, but this one comes close second. It really is terribly uninteresting. The story is about a man who is in love with a woman. In order to win her affections, he decides it’ll be good to install her brother as head chef at the Ritz. This would be a good idea if he could cook, but he can’t. He’s awful! Unfortunately, the man, is unaware of this and gets him the job. That is basically the show. During the last few scenes, it is revealed that the brother is going to cook a banquet for all the big shots in the banking industry. Quelle horreur! He concocts something that tastes delicious but is terrible on the digestive system. It’s mildly amusing, but not worth watching. I was a trifle disappointed as I expected something more entertaining. [My Rating: 2/10]

March 14: Paris is Burning

Paris is Burning is an inside look at the drag ball culture of the 90s just before it died out. It’s a sad, beautiful world filled with sad, beautiful, but always hopeful creatures. It’s a documentary that follows a number of drag queens and supporters of the drag world. There is not a real plot to the story, not a real message besides acceptance, it seems to exist to bring awareness to these people and their lifestyles. And it’s wonderful. You fall in love with the different characters and root for them as they’re voguing and posing their way down the runway. Some are abused, some die, some make good. All of them want fame, but are not always able to make it. One quote that sounded like I said it was, “Sometimes, I sit and look at a magazine. I try to imagine myself in the front cover, or even inside. I want so much more. I want…I want my name to be a household product. I want everybody to look at me and say ‘There goes Octavia.’” I nearly cried. And I loved that the song, Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous by RuPaul, samples some of the best quotes from this documentary. “Touch this skin, honey, touch all of this skin, darling. You can’t take it, you’re just an overgrown orangutan.” I die. We learn about shade and reading and voguing and about being a baller. I think it’s an important piece and I strongly urge you to see it. [My Rating: 9/10]

March 15: I Was a Male War Bride

This is, I believe, the first Cary Grant picture I’ve seen where he uses his British accent. Normally he uses his charming Hollywood accent. I love the Hollywood accent that actresses and actors used in the Golden Era of cinema (back when I should have been alive rocking that town…le sigh.) Nobody talks like that anymore and it’s an awful shame. The only person that I can think of that carries on this happy tradition is Naomi Judd. She uses crisp diction, an evenly modulated pace, and elegant phrases. It’s a delight to hear her speak, even if she seems a bit pompous with all her education and such. Anyways, this picture is about two soldiers (Henri (Cary) and Catherine) who can’t stand each other, but really love each other tremendously. It’s a classic situation, yet still feels fresh in this picture. They are assigned a mission with each other and after trying to outdo one another the entire time, they admit their feelings and become engaged. From here, the story takes off into amusing territory. Henri is a French citizen and so there is a lot of red tape to get through before he can go to America with his new bride. The only way that they can manage it is for him to register as a war bride. For reasons I find sexist and rude, though that was certainly the case back in the 40s, there was no documentation for a war husband. They have to change the wording of the forms to make it work and it’s all rather amusing. The rest of their picture shows them in different situations explaining their unique problem. It becomes tiresome after a while, but the conclusion is amusing. The bossy naval officers refuse to let him on the boat because they didn’t believe his story so he dresses up like a woman and gets on. Let me tell you, he wins my award for ugliest  man in drag ever. I thought that Tootsie was bad, but this is beyond. He didn’t want to do it, but still, a touch of rouge and mascara would have helped. It was a decent picture, not one of my favorites. [My Rating: 4/10]

March 16: George Washington Slept Here

This might be the most autobiographical film I’ve ever seen. Well, not really, as I haven’t done anything like what happens in the film, but I dream of it. Oh, how I long for a gorgeous, old home, preferably Victorian. I must now tell you my tragic tale of woe. Once upon a time, not too long ago, I was about to become the proud owner of a wonderfully dilapidated brick Victorian home. I called it the Palazzo, I had happily renovated every single room in my mind, I had even planned out the fences and formal gardens, it was going to be a new Eden. But then my happiness was cut short and stamped on by this horrible woman and her hipster husband who put in a lowball bid and took my Palazzo from me. I hate them. I will always hate them. Each day, I root for the failure of their marriage. I started praying just so that God would smite them. So far, no such luck, but as I watch their ridiculous website, I can see the cracks in the walls of their romance widening. It won’t be long now. Then, I will sit at the sidelines, terribly smug, and buy the property off of them right after their divorce is finalized and they both start drinking. Such fun! Their dog already attacked a neighbor, so maybe they’ll get sued! What a dream that’d be! Anyway, this film is about Bill (played wonderfully by Jack Benny) and Connie Fuller who love antiques and can’t seem to find a permanent home–they keep wandering from apartment to apartment looking for a sense of place. Unbeknownst to Bill, Connie has found this place, a Colonial home in the country, where George Washington once spent the night. It’s in worse shape than my Palazzo was. Floors collapse, doors fall off, some rooms don’t have walls. But Connie has vision, just like I do. We can see a place as it will be, not as it is, so she bought it and is determined to fix it up. She does, and it’s gorgeous, and must have cost a small fortune, but then again, back then things like this weren’t so expensive. The Summer Cottage, an affectionate term for my second home, was built in 1956 for around $15,000. Unbelievable! A wonderful home, too, and I’m having a delightful time fixing it to my liking. Anyway, Connie hires local craftspeople and hires a groundsman named Mr. Kimble to take care of the property. They run into issues with the neighbors with property line disputes and such. It’s a wonderful film! Sadly, they run out of money and find out that the house is going to be repossessed and their horrible neighbor is going to snatch it up from them. I hated him with such real passion. They think that their Uncle Stanley (played by Charles Coburn, he seems to keep popping up) will save them as he’s very rich, but it turns out her is a fraud and hasn’t a penny. Fortunately for them, Mr. Kimble finds an old boot on the property and inside they discover the draft of a speech written by George Washington! They are rich and they are saved and they can keep the home that they love. I was so happy for them and only hope my story has such a happy ending. I won’t be happy for the bitch and the hipster, but it’ll be merry for me. Of course, I have other prospects–a penthouse that I’m hoping for, but I’ll never feel the way about it that I felt about the Palazzo. I had some kind of bond with that home, with the bricks and doors and wavy windows. I thought of it as a friend, a loved one that needed my help. It’s terrible to lose a loved one. Back to the movie. The Fuller’s maid was played by Hattie McDaniel, whom I absolutely adore. She was Mammie in Gone With the Wind and appeared in a number of other roles where she played the exact same character. Always a harassed house servant with a sassy tongue and a heart of good. It’s so sad that she was typecast as this, but she played the roles exceedingly well and is wonderfully memorable in her scenes. A charming picture that you simply must see. [My Rating: 10/10]

March 17: Singin’ in the Rain

You all know how much I love musicals, and I’m willing to forgive almost anything for a good song, but I thought this was terribly overrated. Allegedly, it’s a beloved American classic, but I don’t understand why. It’s a musical look at the makings of a starlet, in this case, Kathy Selden, played by Debbie Reynolds. She is a theatrical actress who turns up her nose at film work because she doesn’t consider it real acting, but secretly, she longs for success. One day, while driving through Hollywood, her car is hijacked by Don Lockwood, the Brad Pitt of that time. They spat a bit about what real acting is, but they have a romantic connection, though she’s loathe to admit it. Later at the premiere party of Don’s new film with his alleged romantic partner, Lina Lamont, they meet again when she is working at a chorus girl. Lina is incredibly jealous and has her fired. Luckily for Kathy, Don decides to get her a job and she becomes the voice of Lina Lamont. Lina has a horrid singing voice and speaking voice as well, so Kathy’s crisp diction and fabulous voice together save Lina from public humiliation. I’m tired of writing this review, I didn’t care for this. The was only on decent scene, the song Good Morning, which I have used as my alarm for years. Click the title above and give it a watch. Sorry for writing such crap, dear reader. Forgive me.  [My Rating:1/10]

March 18: Gaslight

Even in 1944, Hollywood was messing things up by making remakes of perfectly good movies. This film had been made in England in 1940 and was perfectly good, better than this remake, in my opinion. (I reviewed that picture a few months ago.) The remake followed a similar plot, only they changed the names up a bit. Paul and Bella became Gregory and Paula–everything else is the same. Paula falls in love with Gregory and upon his insistence they move into the home she inherited where her aunt had been mysteriously strangled. Once they’ve settled in, Gregory begins to play mind tricks with Paula and make her think she is losing her mind. It’s really atrocious and uncomfortable, especially coming from Charles Boyer. Finally, Paula is at the breaking point when Brian, a fan of her aunt and an investigator takes an interest in the oddities that take place in their household. Finally, it is revealed that Gregory isn’t who he says he is and is actually the killer of Paula’s aunt! He wanted to get back into the house so that he could search for her famed rubies. The original was so much better, this one didn’t have the suspense or drama of the original. And there is no ending better than the original as Paul (Gregory in the remake) drools over the rubies and Bella (Paula) maniacally threatens him with a knife. This version was simply lackluster. See the original 1940 version, which happily was not destroyed by MGM, though they tried. [My Rating: 5/10]

Film of the Week: George Washington Slept Here Sadly, this film hasn’t been released on DVD, look for it online or on TCM. You will not regret it.

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