April 8: The Talk of the Town
No clue why I put off watching this one for such a long time. I taped it a month or so ago when TCM had a kind of Jean Arthur marathon–something I can never get enough of! Currently, she’s right after Joan Crawford as my favorite actress. She’s just magnificent, but I’ve told you that about a hundred thousand times before. You really should do yourself a favor and watch everything she’s ever done, I’m adding that to my bucket list. Speaking of bucket lists, does anybody have a clue what that expression means? I’m thinking a list of things you wish to do before you kick the bucket, but I’m not sure–there’s no Internet where I’m at right now and I feel like a caged animal. Seriously, Internet service and universal health care should be basic human rights by now, maybe I’ll use that as my platform for my eventual run for governor/president. Just imagine the galas I’d give and the speeches and the good I could do! To the story! This movie is about a revolutionary named Leopold Dilg (played by Cary Grant) who is accused of burning down a mill in town and inadvertently killing the foreman. The townsfolk are out for blood because the mill boss is raising a public outcry. Nobody is really fond of the boss or the foreman, but they are against Dilg on principal–he killed a man! Dilg escapes from prison and hurries off to the cottage of a woman he knew from school (I never could figure out if they were in school together or if she was one of his teachers. That was odd, but it proved unimportant.) Miss Nora Shelley played exquisitely by Jean Arthur. Oh, she was a goddess of celluloid! She is sympathetic to Dilg and agrees to hide him in her attic. The only issue is that the cottage is being rented the next day by a renowned law professor named Michael Lightcap, convincingly portrayed by Ronald Colman. Now that the pieces are in motion, the screwball comedy can begin! Nora hires herself as Michael’s secretary/cook so that she can keep an eye on Dilg, who injured himself in his escape and is unable to fend for himself. You can’t keep a man in the attic forever, so they decide he is to be called Joseph the gardener. This arrangement works swimmingly. They become a very happy friendly unit. To the modern viewer, the relationship between Dilg and Michael seems on the verge of something more potent, but of course we never see this. They just talk and talk and talk abut how much they value their friendship. Nora and “Joseph” talk often about the Dilg case, hoping to make Michael more sympathetic to the cause. Nora shows him around town to see the crooked individuals in their local government hoping to get his goat. Another bizarre expression! He softens a bit, but then tragically, because of a quart of borscht, it is revealed to him that Joseph is actually Dilg. He’s annoyed to have been hoodwinked, have his future as a Supreme Court Justice troubled, and to be put into a spot with somebody he considered a friend. After a spell, though, Michael starts understanding that just because the law is printed does not mean that it is followed or acknowledged, sometimes it has to be taken into one’s own hands. And so, they do. They discover certain evidence that will clear Dilg and they take action. I don’t want to give the rest away, but it’s wonderfully charming with fabulous dissertation on law interpretation. Doesn’t sound fascinating, but it is. Charming! (The link above is the entire film! You’re welcome, my lovelies.) [My Rating: 10/10]
No idea why I taped this one, but am I ever glad that I did! When it first came on, I had the annoying experience of having Anthony Bourdain pop up on my screen. Oddly, my disdain of him has ebbed in recent months, especially since he is leading a crusade against Paula Deen. Somebody had to do it and I’m glad that it was somebody respected in the culinary world. He might not be my favorite fellow, but she deserves this roast, even though I love her dearly. I’ve met Paula and she is lovely, gives good hugs, good advice, but whatever made her choose to endorse diabetic medication was madness. But enough of deadly disease, on to the review! This picture is absolutely beautiful and completely bizarre, I’ve never seen anything quite like it in all my life. The film is about a surgeon, Docteur Genessier, who is on the verge of discovering how to graft foreign tissue onto a new subject. He’s quite respected, but tragically his daughter is dead. Her body had just recently been found and he seems devastated. He’s not, though, because his daughter is not dead at all! She has been in a terrible accident and her face was ruined, her skin is tragically disfigured. Her father pretends that she is dead so that he could use the body of another girl to experiment with her skin and then dump the corpse into the Seine. The experiments are an almost constant failure, and his daughter, Christiana, must resort to wearing a mask all the time so that she doesn’t have to think of how hideously disfigured she is. This mask is the epitome of horror chic realness. When I saw her put it on the first time, I think I gasped with delight. It’s a perfectly vague Venetian mask, molded exquisitely to what her face must have once looked like. The mask is bone white, too perfect to be true, and the only life behind it is the eyes.
That woman could SMIZE! When Docteur Gennessier is ready to try again to salvage his daughter’s beauty he sends out his assistant, Louise, to lure another girl to their château outsider of Paris. Louise seemed almost vampiric to me, stalking around the city looking for girls of a particular type of beauty. She finds one named Edna and lures her back with her with the promise of low rent. Once there, they chloroform her and get her ready for surgery. Christiana wakes Edna up after her surgery and causes her to go mad and jump out of a turret after viewing her bandaged face. Seems a bit much, but so chic. Well, the surgery is another failure. Hashtag sad face. The doctor and Louise are prepared to try again, but Christiana comes to realize that she will never be cured. She stabs Louise, who dies rather well, but a bit over enthusiastically with too little blood. She releases the hounds, who adore her even though she’s hideous and walks hauntingly into the night with a dove on her finger as her father is torn to shreds by the bloodthirsty hounds. A remarkable film, tremendously well done. I do hope there is a Criterion restoration. If not, get on that! (Update: THERE IS! Ordering a copy now!) [My Rating: 10/10]
April 10: Movie Crazy
Good premise with a good cast, but the film felt tiring. Harold Hall is a bumbling fool with no acting potential at all, but after a mixup at the studio offices, he is called in for a screen test. The idiot is over the moon, as anybody would be, as I would be, but sadly his screen test is absolutely dreadful. He has no talent at all! By the own force of his stupidity, he gets himself into more and more ridiculous scenarios. He is ruining shots, ruining relationships, ruining movie sets, ruining parties, he ruins everything. But, somehow, Mary Sears, a popular actress takes a fancy to him and they fall into an awkward love. Sweet. In the end, Harold gets into a fight with Mary’s suitor, completely unaware that the entire thing is being filmed. When the studio boss sees the ridiculous situation, he laughs and laughs and gives Harold a contract after heralding him as a comedic genius. Quite dull, really, but not at all offensive. [My Rating: 4/10]
April 11: The Iron Rose
Ugh…the 70s…a time for over saturated film, horrible fashion, pompous and convoluted plots, gentleman with no body hair grooming, and ridiculous subconscious interpretations. This steaming pile of crap had them all! It’s so pretentious that the leads don’t even have names, they are referred to in the credits as The Boy and The Girl. God, gag me with a rusty, syphilis-encrusted spoon. The Boy and The Girl meet at some party and then decide to go on a date. They bicycle around town and stumble upon an old cemetery. They decide to have their date there, could anything be more private or more romantic? Well no, actually. If somebody took me on a date in a cemetery, especially an old one, I’d run for the nearest chapel. Put a ring on it! So they wander around the lovely old, dilapidated cemetery for far longer than they should, bumping into freaks and weirdos. I’ve never seen such odd people in a cemetery and I’ve been in many. There were women dressed like they were from the Victorian Era and others dressed like clowns. Just bizarre. Anyway, they climb into a grave and do things to each other and then they leave the tomb. When they’re out of it, the sun has set and they are hopelessly lost. The rest of the film shows them panicking because they cannot find their way out. I don’t know if I’m just more brave, but I would have been out of there in an hour. All you do is walk in a straight line, find the gate, haul out. Not difficult, but for them…Lord. They run and shriek and scream and have more sex and then she locks him in a crypt and dances naked on a beach. I was all kinds of, “Huh?” I suppose it’s supposed to be artsy or Freudian or something like that, but it just came off as irritating. [My Rating: 2/10 (Points for the lovely graves, they’re interesting to see.)]
April 12: Fearless Fagan
This picture is a true delight, I absolutely adored it. I didn’t expect it to be more than a time filler while I worked on a baking order, but I found myself drawn back to the screen and eventually forgot all about what I was doing. It had a childish magical allure to it that makes it timeless and easily worthy of repeat viewing. I have also decided that when I sit down with Robert Osborne, this will certainly be one of my choices, along with Die! Die! My Darling!, Suspicion, and Possessed. I haven’t picked any more than that, not sure how many choices I’ll get, but I intend to wow the viewers with my fantastic taste. This story starts off at the circus where we meet Floyd and his best friend, Fagan, a gorgeous lion. They are as close as can be and it is so charming to see their relationship and all the gags and tricks they play with each other. He wrestles with Fagan! I want to wrestle with Fagan! I love lions! One day the FBI arrives at the circus to arrest Floyd for evading the draft. It’s all a misunderstanding as Floyd has travelled so much and so often that he never could have possibly received his notification. Floyd has no time to find a home for Fagan, so he takes him to the Army camp and hides him in the woods. He couldn’t sell him, he loved him too much, and he couldn’t leave him at the circus, they wouldn’t treat him like he deserved. It was his only solution. Everything was going along just swimmingly until Abby Ames, a famous singer/actress arrives to entertain the troops. She snoops around and come across Fagan and Floyd. She is petrified and thinks that Floyd is mad and that Fagan will tear everybody to shreds, so she tells somebody higher up and they bring Floyd in for questioning. Because of a new Army order that insists that the higher ups consider the emotions and feelings of the recruits, they decide it is their duty to find a home for Fagan. Floyd and his friend become celebrities when they were photographed by every paper in town and then the country, seeking a home for Fagan while Floyd is on active duty.
Finally a home is found for him on a farm and they weepingly part. (I was a wreck.) Abby Ames is still around causing a big stink, and Floyd lets out this killer line, “If a person is fond of someone or something, and somebody else don’t want ’em to be fond of it, there’s only one explanation, I figured: must be jealous.” I died, nearly cried. We think everything is going to be fine and dandy now, but that is not to be, Fagan gets out of his cage and goes exploring. This does not end well at all because Fagan has now become a danger and a nuisance, so the Army has no choice but to sell him. He is sold to the circus that Floyd used to work at, but the other lion trainer is not so friendly and treats Fagan as a beast. Fagan attacks as can be expected. The Army shoots Fagan, but he is only wounded and very angry. I was on the edge of my seat. Floyd takes his gun and stalks off into the woods to find Fagan and finish him off, he’s a threat to everybody, a wounded lion is allegedly a killer. In a clearing, Fagan and Floyd confront each other, Abby is there again (she’s always meddling) and Floyd raises his gun to put his friend down. My heart was palpitating with sadness and fright. Would he really do it? It was the only thing he could do, but thankfully he couldn’t. Abby takes Fagan with her to heal and then one day on leave he goes to Abby to find out the fate of his beloved friend. There’s a lion rug on the floor and he realizes that Fagan’s injuries were too much to survive. He’s crushed, but then Abby shows Floyd that Fagan is just fine and is diving into the pool. I started weeping like a child. It was magnificent, a triumph of cinema! No film I’ve ever seen deserves a remake or remastered release more than this movie. It is beautiful. I’m weeping as I write this. [My Rating: 10/10]
April 13: My Week With Marilyn
I don’t consider myself a fan of Marilyn Monroe, but I do appreciate her work when it’s good. For example, her film Niagara is one of my favorite examples of film noir that I’ve ever seen. And the classic Some Like it Hot is a classic for a reason. When she was good she was good, when she wasn’t, she stunk. This film is based on the filming of her picture The Prince and the Showgirl, which I reviewed quite poorly some time ago. Truly a dreadful picture, but the fault of that largely fell on Sir Laurence Olivier, who was not at all convincing in his role. After watching this allegedly true behind-the-scenes film, I can understand why the whole thing felt tense and unbelievable. More on that in a bit, though. As you can tell from the title, the film is not really about Marilyn, but about a young man named Colin who was trying to break into the film world and had managed to become the Third Assistant Director on the film. He is very pleased with himself and the whole thing feels pretentious and disingenuous. I’ve not read the book, but it feels like he celebrates his own mediocre achievements far too much. Indeed, Marilyn might have used him for a while, but if what we know about her now is true, that wasn’t that difficult of a thing to arrange. Anyway, Marilyn is on set and she’s a wreck. She would get so nervous that she wouldn’t arrive for hours and hours and hours and it was wrecking the budget. Sir Laurence was no help either, he was loud, rude, cruel, and degrading. That chemistry shows on the finished project. Marilyn is lonely and craving attention, so she falls for Colin. Everybody warns him and demands he stops, but he is totally smitten. They have a love affair that lasts about a week and it’s charming in a way, but unbelievable. Michelle Williams never really captures Marilyn. She bears a resemblance to her, but resemblance does not an interpretation make. She lacks Marilyn’s vitality, her sensuality, her star power. Michelle’s Marilyn is a frightened child kept going on pills and lies. This is true, but Michelle never taps into Marilyn when she was in her element. Every cutesy move felt forced, as if she were nothing but a marionette that looked like Miss Monroe. It’s an entertaining film, but it’s just pretentious fluff stuffed inside of a mediocre confection. I should do this for a living! Did you read that line? Genius. [My Review: 5/10]
April 14: Titanic 3D
When I eventually have a past life regression, I will not be at all surprised to learn that I was on the Titanic, survived, and went on to become a great success in Hollywood. I will also learn unblinkingly that I was an ancient Egyptian about one hundred times. It won’t be a shock to me in the least to know that I was once a priest. But, we are talking about the Titanic, the ship of dreams. I didn’t realize, all those years ago, when I went to see this when it was first released that it would be a classic. It stands up to the test of time and holds its own against the great masterpieces of Hollywood. It has everything: drama, romance, tragedy, fully fleshed out characters, and a hearty dash of humor. What struck me the most during this viewing was actually how funny it is, I think it’s a fabulous example of black comedy. Odd, I know, but that humor is what makes this movie great. One does not sit still for three hours watching hundreds of people suffer and die without needing a good giggle. We all know the story, so I won’t spend too long on the plot: poor girl meets rich girl and fall in love, this is tricky because of social standings and financial obligations and some frozen water, boat hits ice and sinks, boy dies, girl crushed forever but triumphantly lives out the rest of her days. Phew! Now that that’s over, we can talk about the important things I’ve noted down. 1) I want to know absolutely everything that happened to Rose from the moment she stepped off the Carpathia to when she saw her portrait on the television. She was an actress, had kids, lived in Cedar Rapids (that intrigues me), became a potter, obviously had an incredible life full of adventure and delight. I am sure James Cameron knows her as a fully fleshed out individual–maybe someday he will be prompted to let us all in on what her life entailed. I think it would be absolutely fascinating and inspiring. I suppose I could write him a letter, I do have fabulous letterhead. 2) I have always been terribly upset with Rose for letting Jack die and for letting go of his hands only to watch him sink to the bottom of the sea. Maybe I’ve matured or maybe it’s only apparent when I watch now, but I completely understand and I forgive her. I forgive her for everything. Jack wanted her to live more than anything, he basically sacrificed himself to ensure her survival and in the end, she knows that. When she sees that lifeboat slowly making it’s way through the sea of corpses, she has to let him go to move on. Never move on emotionally, but move forward, I suppose. I found it touching and I understand. That line she says, “I don’t even have a picture of him. He exists now… only in my memory,” is so tragically beautiful that it brought tears to my eye. It made me think. 3) I thought that the 3D was going to be a gimmick, but it added so much dimensionally to the film, it felt like a living thing that I was a part of, like being in a play. It was marvelous, I’ve become quite a fan of 3D to my total surprise. I was completely opposed when theaters first started offering it, but the few films I’ve seen have totally won me over. They are fabulous and the glasses are not the hindrance I assumed they would be. Titanic is beautiful and it will always remain a classic to me–it’s an inspiration of elegance and of what romance is and can be. Truly a delight. (Watch this!) [My Rating: 10/10]
MOVIE of the WEEK: This has been a fantastic week for films, absolutely magnificent! The Talk of the Town, Les Yeux Sans Visage, Fearless Fagan, and Titanic 3D were all marvelous! If I had to choose just one, it’d be Fearless Fagan. Buy it. Love it. Watch it a billion times.