Movie Resolution: Week 14

April 1: The Road to El Dorado

This picture popped into my mind the other night–no idea why, but I’m certainly glad it did! I haven’t thought about it for years and years! It was never a favorite of mine (don’t know why now), the honor of favorite animated feature goes to The Emperor’s New Groove. I could watch that forever–“is that my voice? Is that MY voice?!??” Hysterics. Anyway, this is a fabulous DreamWorks picture that has a great story and isn’t sugarcoated with the Disney label. There are more than enough adult references to keep us old folks amused while still entertaining children. Armadillos fornicate in the opening scene! It’s about two Spanish conmen, Tulio and Miguel, who are quite obviously lovers, and though it is never spoken about in the show, it’s clear as day. (Also, after googling this, it’s clear I’m not alone. There’s an entire world of fan fiction that I’m not going to get into. See example below.)

Because of an amusing accident involving weighted dice, a map to the lost city of El Dorado, and a sword fight, the two of them are loaded up on Cortez’s ship to the New World and imprisoned aboard. They escape via a rowboat with a wonderfully anthropomorphic horse named Altivo. Starving, with no supplies, under constant threat from sharks, etc, they are lost at sea for some time, confessing their undying love for each other before washing up on shore. Miguel realizes that they are near the starting point of the map. They decide to follow it and find El Dorado and become richer than the King of Spain! Find El Dorado they do, and it is a wonderland. Beautiful people, beautiful architecture, gold, gold, and more gold! Plus, they are mistaken for gods–life could not get any better for them! The only thorn in their side is the high priest Tzekel-Kan who is hungry for sacrifice. They don’t want any of that, they just want the gold! Tulio, the smarter of the two, realizes that they need to get out as quickly as they can with as much as they can, so he insists a boat be made for them to leave. While waiting for the boat Miguel explores the city and falls in love with the culture and the people, but is ruining his relationship with Tulio. Tulio is now intrigued by Chel…a woman. Maybe he’s a bisexual? His hair is too nice to be bisexual. Confused machismo I’m guessing, you see that a lot in Latin culture. Anyway, while playing an insane game reminiscent of both soccer and basketball, Miguel suffers a small cut and Tzekel-Kan realizes they are mortals and not gods at all! Vengence! Tzekel-Kan creates a giant stone jaguar and runs rampant through the town, but is foiled. We think we’ve reached a happy ending, but no, Cortez is looming. Tulio and Chel decide to leave for Spain and leave Miguel behind. Miguel and Tulio are crushed, they’ll be apart forever! But, their love cannot die and they cannot be seperated. To protect the city, Tulio and Miguel realize they need to sacrifice their treasure and go off on a new adventure. They do. My review doesn’t give enough credit to the story or to the humor and excellent animation. Truly a spectacular film that is far better than it is given credit for. A true shame. Hopefully Miguel and Tulio found happiness in the brave new world they could create and Chel decided to be their sassy friend. I hope anyway, they’re all so cute together. There was supposed to be a sequel, but poor box office ratings poisoned that dream. Another tragedy.  [My Rating: 10/10]

April 2: The Ex Mrs. Bradford

Jean Arthur and William Powell together again! I love these guys! Two of my favorite talents that I’ve come across again and again and again. In this film, Jean and William play Paula and Dr. Lawrence Bradford. They’re divorced, but unhappily so and so Paula wants to get back together. Paula is a mystery novelist who is always poking her nose into real crime and dragging her husband into murder mysteries. The second she’s back in his life they’re on another case, this time the strange death of a jockey. He was in great health except he’s dead. They must discover who did it to clear Dr. Bradford’s name. Through the film, he becomes the prime suspect. It’s a bit slow moving, but very good. I simply can’t get enough of Jean Arthur. The solution is original, terrifying, and quite clever. Jessica and I were shrieking like terrified children as they evidence was displayed. Good fun. [My Rating: 6/10]

April 3: Meet Me In St. Louis

I oftentimes regret not being alive in the Victorian era. Sure, it had some nasty aspects: poverty, industrial pollution, horrible sexism, racism, homophobia, lack of modern electrical devices, Jack the Ripper…actually, being alive in the Victorian era must have sucked. I admire the architecture, the wonder of invention, the social codes, and the simple charms something unusual brought to people. This film brought all these things together for me: strange courting rituals, beautiful architecture, lovely fashion, and the World’s Fair. I love the idea of the World’s Fair–I find it wonderfully alluring and charming and I want nothing more to attend. Sadly, they don’t exist any longer. There is something called World Exhibitions now (Milan 2015) but it wouldn’t be the same. Now it would be stuffed with carnies, cheap food, ugly people, and terrible entertainment. It would not have the dripping elegance of the World’s Fair. When I’m in Paris down around the Eiffel Tower, I amuse myself walking around the Champs du Mars pretending that the 1889 fair was still going on. I’d look in the beautiful buildings full of the latest technology, I’d eat food from strange locales and admire the natives, I’d talk with elegantly dressed men and women and then drink too much wine before talking about generating electrical current from ocean waves with Thomas Edison. I’ve rambled for quite some time now. Meet Me In St. Louis is about a reasonably affluent family in St. Louis. They absolutely adore their lives and they have no real worries. The eldest girls are courting new beaus, their youngest is amusingly unhinged (she has a delightful interest in the macabre), there’s a a brother, too, but I don’t recall much about him. Their lives are a idyllic, a dream, an innocent wonderland that we haven’t seen since WWI. Tragic that bullets and boots and grumpy old men ruined happiness for generations. The fair is coming and the entire town is abuzz with wonder and expectation. It is going to be absolutely fabulous, but sadly, Father gets a promotion and is being sent to New York. Everybody is devastated, they don’t want to go, they never want to part with their heaven, but they do. The last half of the film shows them grieving their way of life as they prepare to leave. Esther (Judy Garland’s character) gets engaged quickly to stay, they all are fighting to stay and finally it dawns on Dear Old Dad that they are miserable because of their departure and says screw it–they are staying! They go to the Fair and it is just as marvelous as they dreamt it would be. Lights and French food and…le sigh. Good movie and marvelous music. The music is worth it alone. “Zing zing zing went my heart strings…” [My Rating: 7/10]

April 4: Please Don’t Eat the Daisies

I fully intended to love this film, everything about it sounded wonderful. Doris Day moves with her theater critic husband to a crumbling manor in the country? Fabulous! Sadly, that sentence synopsis is better than the entire picture. Larry and Kate are city folk with horrible children dreaming of moving to the countryside. These dreams are on hold when Larry is promoted to critic at the newspaper he works at. He quickly gains notoriety for his acerbic and amusing reviews trashing the plays he views. He goes too far when he harshly reviews the latest play and leading lady of his best friend. Schism! Doris (Kate) after scheming her way to the country the first dull hour of the film finally has her dreams come true and they move to a truly marvelous manse in the countryside. It doesn’t look at all like an American constriction, so it felt off kilter. Once they made it to their home, they begin fixing it up and I had to laugh when Doris said it would only take a week. Fool! Larry and Doris fight a bit when they discuss a potential affair Larry could have had with the leading lady in that play he roasted. Larry and Doris then fight about helping with a play in the village. They argue a bunch and then they get together and I wasn’t really amused at all. Quite a dreary picture, really. [My Rating: 3/10]

April 5: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

Jean Arthur! I simply adore her, she is magnificent even when she’s bad (but she’s never bad, well, not that I’ve come across, yet. Even in dreadful pictures like The Devil and Miss Jones, she outshines all those around her.) This picture was about a young man named Longfellow Deeds, the distant relation of a very wealthy banker who inherits twenty million dollars upon the banker’s death. Deeds is a very simple fellow, honest, an industrious tubist, very kind and has no use for all this money. When he travels to New York City with a court of lawyers and bankers, none of them can believe his disregard and disdain for his new fortune. The story is so wonderfully bizarre that it is being covered by every newspaper in the city. Babe Bennett, played by Jean, is one paper’s greatest reporter and she seduces her way into Deeds life. He immediately falls in love with her and trusts her with everything, not suspecting for a moment that she could be stabbing him in the back. Soon his stories are front page news, he’s being made a mockery of and is devastated when he finds out that Babe is the one that is doing this to him. He quits her like a bad habit and focuses his energies on spending his money on helping the poor by buying them farms. The greedy bankers are terrified that he is spending all his money and that they won’t be able to swindle any out of him, so they proclaim him insane and he has to go to court to prove that he is sound of mind. He does and he defends himself fabulously–truly a delightful scene, probably the best out of the whole picture. Babe confesses her love and we’re all happy. I enjoyed the movie quite a lot, but I was disenchanted with how quickly Deeds resorted to violence, it was out of character. He was a poet…not a fighter. That was the only thing about the film that felt disingenuous to me. Other than that, rather good. [My Rating: 8/10)

April 6: The Caretakers 

I knew this film was dreadful long before I turned it on, but because of my eternal quest to watch every Joan Crawford film, it was my duty to add this to my repertoire. I attempted watching this one awhile ago and just couldn’t do it, so I decided to have it on while I assembled my new IKEA desk. Actually, it’s a dining table for six, but I need my space. I need zones for writing, for computing, for sewing and crafting, for my paperwork, for my scanning. I need lots of space, such a large amount of space for all my things: modern vintage iPod speaker, antique sewing machine, iPad station, laptop, research, things and more things! So, I had the movie on, and it was just as awful as I remembered. The only decent bits were when Joan was on screen as Nurse Terry and that was so infrequent that she couldn’t save the picture. The story was a power struggle between Nurse Terry and Doctor MacLeod. They had different methods of dealing with the insane. Nurse Terry was more for preventative measures and trained all her staff in self defense while wearing delightfully amusing leotards. Meanwhile, Doctor MacLeod believed in treating them like normal human beings (but he also used electroshock therapy which seemed terrible, so I’m not sure what his real motives were.) Not at all great or good. Joan’s ten minutes of celluloid made it worth watching, but only if you’re watching for Joan. [My Rating: 2/10]

April 7: Born Free 

At first, I was not at all intrigued with this picture. Joy and George, the main characters had very posh, unaffected accents and seemed very stoic and unemotional. Thankfully, they come across a litter of baby lions. I would have just died! Died, I tell you! I can think of absolutely nothing that would bring me greater joy in my whole entire life. I long for a lion baby. Anyway, Joy becomes very attached to the runt of the litter who she calls Elsa. She’s an adorable, precocious little angel/demon kitty. She grows fond of her, like she is a child of her own, but that time comes when Elsa and her siblings need to go to a zoo. Joy is devastated, so they keep Elsa behind as a pet. More time passes and George and Joy realizes they are disillusioned and that the lion has to return to nature. It isn’t fair to her to keep her as a pet. (I don’t agree with this, but I do appreciate the sentiment.) The rest of the film shows their efforts to return her to the wild and the struggles they had to do so. It was heartbreaking to watch them lose their baby. A year later, they went back and looked for Elsa, and at first it seemed they wouldn’t find her, but they do. My heart melted. It was so joyful. The movie as a whole wasn’t fabulous, but individual scenes make it worth viewing. [My Rating: 6/10]

MOVIE of the WEEK: The Road to El Dorado Buy this movie now! Watch it, LOVE it, adore it for all your life! This picture is all kinds of yes. Ancient cultures, good music, charming lovers, fornicating armadillos…it’s everything you could want in a children’s movie.

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