August 19: The Great Dictator
This movie is a masterpiece. It should be required watching for the world. You should check it out now. Criterion did an excellent restoration, it’s beautiful. The beauty of the sets and the film was one of the most striking things about the picture. It looks almost as if it were filmed yesterday. Another fascinating thing was hearing Charlie Chaplin’s voice, he had a beautiful speaking voice, gorgeous dictation. It must be some kind of cruel irony that he is best known for his silent features. The film starts off with the barber, another version of his famous Tramp, at the end of WWI. He has rescued a fellow soldier, but unfortunately suffers an injury and is hospitalized for years and years. When he is released, he has little to no memory of his past or what happened to him. He doesn’t realize that an anti-Jewish dictator, Adenoid Hynkel, has taken power and has enacted vast changes in Tomainia. He soon learns how much times have changed when officers harass him in the street. Thankfully, Hannah, a sympathetic washer woman helps him out by banging them on the head with a cast iron pan. They’re in trouble now, one of Hynkel’s honchos, Schultz, shows up, but miraculously, he is the same man that the Barber had saved in the War, so he is given the protection of Schultz and is free to go. My favorite lines in the film were said here:
SCHULTZ: “I always thought you were an Aryan.”
BARBER: “I’m a vegetarian.”
I laughed hysterically.
Another beautiful line was by Hannah: “Do you ever daydream? I do. It’s the only time I’m happy.” Same here.
Now we go to Dictator Hynkel’s headquarters. I’m obsessed with this place. I’m going to build an office that looks just like his. Look at the elegance:
Hynkel is a funny character because he is so ridiculous, he poses for half a minute for sculptures, he watches people die in weapon testing, he plans on getting more powerful, and he’s always making sure he looks good. I’m not going to lie, I’m deeply amused by him. I really don’t want to tell you much about this, because I want you to watch it yourself. The video posted above is the entire film, isn’t the Internet is a wonderful place? I’m going to finish by showing you the very ending. The Barber is mistaken for Hynkel and makes a beautiful speech about the virtues of freedom. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Required viewing.
(Another interesting thing I learned is that Hitler started wearing his mustache in his iconic fashion after Charlie Chaplin popularized it years earlier. He wanted to appeal to the masses who adored Chaplin. Isn’t that just amazing? I’m gobsmacked.) [My Rating: 10/10]
August 20: Bride Wars
This was a dreadful picture, but honestly, I enjoyed it. I like mindless comedy once in a while, and gurl was this mindless. It could have been written by a four year old and had more depth and meaning. It was frivolous and non redeeming. In all seriousness, I can’t figure out how it was financed. You would think studio heads would be a smidgen brighter, but, I just realize how ridiculous that was. Those fools have no clue what they’re doing, for the most part–they approved Battleship, a film based on a board game. Anyway, if you’ve seen the trailer for Bride Wars, you’ve seen the movie, I’m not kidding, it’s that simple. Liv and Emma have been best friends since forever. They are engaged. They both want to, understandably, be married at the Plaza, but the dates are booked wrong and their weddings are to be at the same time. Drama. The rest of the film showcases the two of them fighting each other, cruelly harassing each other, it’s childish and crude. I really don’t understand why Anne Hathaway was doing a dance with a rope in a club. I laughed a few times, but mainly for Kristen Johnston, an underrated actress. She played Patsy in the American remake of Absolutely Fabulous, which was never picked up. I want to watch the pilot desperately, but it hasn’t been seen, yet. Probably for the best. Watch Bride Wars if you’re bored or have the flu. It made Jessica sob for some reason, but only because she realized she had no lover, so she weeped, “I HAVE NO ONE!” [My Rating: 3/10]
August 21: Vertigo
I’ve long known about Vertigo, but never had any real inclination to see it. Before this year began, I was not a big Hitchcock fan and even now, I’m not very fond of James Stewart. He never did anything in particular to annoy me, I just don’t enjoy his acting and I don’t like to watch him. He has a very annoying voice and his eyes creep me out. Too blue. But, when I read the other morning that this picture had succeeded Citizen Kane (another I’ve yet to see) to be considered the greatest film of all time, I knew I had to see it. How could it be better than Joyful Noise, The Others, and Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec? Impossible! It was a good film, after all, but I didn’t think of it as a masterpiece. A very good classic. James Stewart plays Scottie, a police detective who has taken a break after developing vertigo. It’s affecting him pretty badly and his life is rife with associated complications. An old college friend calls him up one day and asks him if he will follow his wife, Madeleine. He believes that she is possessed by the suicidal spirit of her ancestor. I’m totally into that. Scottie reluctantly agrees and soon becomes obsessed with Madeleine and wants to save her. Madeleine is played by Kim Novak, who is excellent in her role. She is effortlessly elegant and mysterious, just wonderfully done. They fall in love, but it isn’t meant to be and Madeleine throws herself off of a bell tower. Très chic. Scottie is beyond devastated. He becomes obsessed with women who look like her. Finally, he finds Judy, a woman who looks very much like a rougher version of Madeleine. It took me a while to realize it, but it was really Kim Novak all over again! What does this mean? It means that Madeleine wasn’t Madeleine and that this woman, with whom Scottie had been obsessed is still alive! In Hitchcockian fashion, we know this, but Scottie doesn’t. He thinks that she just bears a striking resemblance to Madeleine. So, he begins a cruel crusade to turn Judy into Madeleine. She doesn’t like this at first, but Judy really does love Scottie, so she goes along with it. He buys her Madeleine-esque clothes, dyes her hair, styles her, makes her into another Madeleine. He never seems to realize that Judy is not Madeleine and that he is in love with a fabrication, a woman that was never real. That is the real, poignant drama in this story, his love with a ghost. Hitchcock did a wonderful job of representing this by bathing Judy in a ghostly neon glow. It’s a magnificent scene, the best in the film, amazingly subtle. Finally, though, Scottie discovers that Judy played Madeleine and that Madeleine was never real. In a déjà vu accident in the bell tower, Judy dies. It’s an abrupt shocking ending worthy of the film. I wonder if Kim Novak will be willing to play Margo in my book’s cinematic adaptation, or at least do a cameo? I’d love that. Great film, but not as outstanding as I’ve heard. [My Rating: 9/10]
August 22: Jeopardy
Most movies are way too long for me. An hour and a half is perfection, anything more is too much. An hour and forty-five is doable, but that’s pushing it. I don’t have time to sit around on my ass all day watching poorly put together films. Something I’ve learned with this movie resolution is that, in general, movies suck. They’re dreadful. They’re time fillers. Jeopardy, on the other hand was well written, well acted, and only an hour and ten minutes! Perfection! The character development had a few holes and the plot was occasionally cheesy, but it was loads better than many things I’ve seen. Barbara Stanwyck stars as Helen, wife of Doug, and mother of Bobby. These three are driving down Baja California to a tiny, deserted beach way down on the tip of the peninsula. We can all agree this is a bad idea, right? To make it worse, these dummies barely speak Spanish, hardly even a word, they don’t even bother. They’re Americans, dammit. This was not an expressed sentiment, but I could feel it. They have no problems getting down to their beach, but there were a few silly moments that were put in for plot development. For example, Helen stumbles upon Doug’s pistol, which he keeps I the glovebox. Who does that? It was a deserted beach. The drug cartel was just a twinkle in an opium farmer’s eye. But, as you will find out, the gun plays a role. Then, when they stop at an abandoned farm, Doug find a building an unlocked padlocked on the door. He says, “Let’s help them out. They’re probably on a fiesta.” Not entirely sure what that was supposed to mean. So, he looks the door–obviously they’ll need in later, probably in desperation. They finally reach the beach and they ooh and ah over how marvelous it is. I didn’t think it looked that lovely–dilapidated peer, lots of driftwood, lack of cabanas, no hotels, but whatever, some people like to rough it. It doesn’t take long before their fun is over. Bobby goes playing on the peer, where he is not supposed to go and gets stuck in some kind of ironic foretelling. Doug rushes off to save his son, and does, but on his way down, a rotted piece of lumber falls free of the peer and traps Doug’s leg. He’s not in any pain for some reason. He says he can’t feel it–probably severed a nerve or something, this was never explained satisfactorily. Helen tries to free him, but she can’t, the jack breaks and the wood is far too heavy for she and Bobby. Helen sets off for the abandoned farm to look for rope. As she drives along, she approaches a teams of farmers. She can’t speak Spanish and shakes them violently. It was stupid. Circumlocution is key! With a few words, she could have solved her dilemma. But no, she drives off. At the farm, she finds rope, but she also finds an escaped convict/murderer, Lawson. He takes her hostage and off they go, dodging the police. She hates him, with reason! He’s a nasty piece of work, but oddly you can feel some attraction between the two of them. Lots of driving and then Helen comes up with a bright idea. She will gives Lawson her husband’s clothing and documentation so that he can escape, if he helps free her husband from them log. He will probably drown, by the way, since the tide is coming in. They hurry back and it’s very dramatic, but they save Doug just before he drowns. The tire of the car goes flat and Lawson is apprehended by the police. Helen isn’t sure how to feel, she has got a bit of Stockholm Syndrome. I don’t support remakes, but I think this could be an interesting one if it had more of Helen’s feelings towards Lawson. A great picture! [My Rating: 8/10]
August 23: Maid’s Night Out
This picture was the very definition of madcap! We need to bring that word back. I’ve been trying, but it’s not catching on. It’s just a beautiful word, I want my existence to be a madcap adventure full of whimsical frivolities. Not only was this a wonderful film, but the female lead was my dear, dear friend Joan Fontaine. You remember how we are very close? We correspond via mail, she borrows money from me, etc. This is one of her earliest roles and she plays the comic role very well. I didn’t see much of my beloved Fontaine smirk, but no matter. The title of film is about her, but the story revolves around Bill. He is the rich son of a dairy tycoon. His father wants him to carry on the family business, but he has no interest in that, he wants to study marine life. Yawn! Because of this, he wants to take the family yacht to the South Seas to study the fish of the area. His father says no way, but they strike a bargain. If Bill can work in the dairy for a month and do a good job of it, he can borrow the yacht. So, off Bill goes to work. He does a marvelous job and will probably win the bet, but he soon becomes infatuated with Sheila Harrison, whom he mistakes for a maid. How anybody could mistake Joan Fontaine for a maid is beyond me–my Joan reeks of elegance and glamor. What Bill doesn’t know is that Sheila is a rich socialite like himself. The comedy develops from this–they both think they’re poor laborers! Hilarious! Once they become engaged, madcap adventures ensue. The police are chasing them because they think that Bill has has kidnapped Sheila. Silly! Madcap! They throw milk bottles at the police which results in my favorite line in the film, “I never liked milk anyway.” Don’t know why it made me laugh so much, but it did. In addition, this was another short film! Only an hour. Loves it. [My Rating: 7/10]
August 24: The Affairs of Annabel
[Don’t have a clue what this video is, but it shows a bit of the film.]
I thought this was hilarious. Most people don’t. Most people are dumb. Lucille Ball films prior to I Love Lucy were great. Those that followed it weren’t so much. Du Barry was a Lady is on my DVR, I’ll give that a go soon, and what is this from?
Lucy stars as Annabel Allison, one of the biggest stars from Wonder Studios. Her last film was a total flop and she needs publicity to make it back to the top. Her insane publicist, Lenny Morgan, decides that the best way for her to get attention is to go to prison for awhile. Annabel is good with this idea and off she goes to prison for a month, much more than she had bargained for. When she is finally released, she is not amused. Now she’s even less famous! So, Lenny comes up with another scheme. Wonder Pictures has a great script about a maid and Annabel wants it, but there is no way that cultured and fancy Annabel could play a convincing maid. He decides hire her as a domestic to an unassuming family. It’s funny to watch Annabel wander aimlessly through the house, not knowing how to do a thing. She can’t cook and she certainly can’t clean. She’s about to call it quits when the house is taken over by crooks and they’re all held hostage. Hilarious! Now, Lenny has to capture the crooks and free the family. He decides that the best way to do this is to do it like a film shoot. So he hires tons of actors and dresses them up like cops and sets them on the house. They’re not firing real bullets and it’s funny to watch the army of actor cops run off after the crooks shoot a couple real ones. Finally Annabel is free and is finally famous! Very funny film. Nice and short, too. [My Rating: 8/10]
August 25: Annabel Takes a Tour
[Couldn’t find a video.]
These Annabel films were intended to be a series, and if all the installments were as good as the first one, it probably would have been successful. Unfortunately this second and last picture was pretty abysmal. There was no originality, the jokes were recycled, the plot was barely different from the previous film, and the humor fell flat. There was potential in the storyline for something new, but it was utterly wasted. Annabel is back and she is upset because the current star in the magazines is an upstart who has become engaged to a marquis. Who wouldn’t want to be engaged to a marquis? Gosh, it’d be marvelous. Have you seen the preview of that new show, Secret Princes?
I’m obsessed already. I never understand why royals haven such a hard time finding true love. There are a million and four of us bitches just dying to be aristocrats. Oh well, somehow I’ll get my in with the royals. Annabel is upset because of her competitor and decides to land a royal of her own. Get it girl. Do it for all of us. The film goes stale quickly and wasn’t at all very funny. Annabel’s affected posh accent was amusing at times, but speech patterns don’t carry a film. [My Rating: 5/10]
FILM of the WEEK: The Great Dictator This is a masterpiece. See it. That’s an order.