September 15: Two-Faced Woman
This was such an awful picture! How could Melvyn Douglas and Greta Garbo do this to me? It started off charmingly, but quickly became a convoluted mess that left you wondering if Garbo’s character was of sound mind. I had to read plot summaries online to figure out if I had missed something, but I had not, it was just stupid. Melvyn plays a fellow who goes on a skiing vacation, while there he falls passionately in love with Garbo’s character, an affable ski instructor. They’re soon married. Before long, Garbo’s character starts pretending to be her own twin sister. It’s as stupid as it sounds. I couldn’t stand the film, no redeeming qualities. [My Rating: 0/10]
September 16: The Secret of Madame Blanche
This picture was like a 1930s soap opera–full of unbelievable plots, garish dialogue, overacting, but wonderfully watchable. I rather enjoyed this film, especially the ridiculous plot twist that came at the end, even if the very final scene was a bit…off. Sally is a young woman who marries Leonard, a wealthy man who is madly in love with her. She falls for his charms and they are married. Leonard’s father does not approve at all! He threatens to disown his son, who then commits suicide because he can’t be with the girl he loves so much. Tragic, then we discover that Sally is pregnant. Unable to support herself, she sings in a lounge. Her dead husband’s father is almightily pissed about this and has the baby taken away and raises it himself. Years pass. Now, Sally has become Madame Blance, the proprietress of a restaurant and inn. Her son has been lost to her for years and she has no hope of ever seeing him again. In a twist of fate, he brings a date to that restaurant. He is entangled in a brawl and is knocked out. Madame Blanche takes him upstairs to a room so that he can come to. The young girl he came with shares his name and Madame Blanche realizes that she is face to face with her beloved child. Deliriously happy. But, in all good soap operas, good times do not last. The dumb kid shoots a guy in proclaimed self defense. Madame Blanche decides to admit to the crime so that her son can go on with his life, but his guilt gets to him and he confesses. In court it is revealed that she is his mother and he’s very happy. He goes to prison for a few years and his mother comes to see him. She says that she had made him a chocolate cake, but the guards wouldn’t let her being it in. This was more unbelievable than the rest of the film–French people do not bake, they buy baked goods. Mother and son embraces each other as the credits roll and it feels tremendously inappropriate. Makes you giggle, though. [My Rating: 6/10]
September 17: D.O.A.
This film had an interesting premise, not very well executed, but different. It was about a man who has been poisoned and he must find out who did it and why he has, quite literally, been murdered. The poison that he accidentally consumed has no antidote and he will die within the next twenty-four hours. So, he backtracks and goes through his past few days and discovers that he has been poisoned by mobsters who are using this poison for crime. He notarized the shipment of the poison, so he has to be eliminated. It was quite a flimsy plot, really. The more interesting aspect of the film was watching the main character react to his imminent death. Makes you think, too. If I only had 24 hours to live, I don’t know what I’d do. Probably get myself to Hollywood or Sarasota quick and then go skydiving into the Ocean. I’d love to see the Great Pyramids before I die, but I don’t know if I’d make it there in time. Bury me in Père Lachaise–make it happen somehow. [My Rating: 5/10]
September 18: Edison, the Man
I have never understood what Katharine Hepburn saw in Spencer Tracy. He seemed like a lonely, grumpy fellow. Perhaps he was a delight? I don’t know. At least they loved each other. This film was a fairytale spin on the life of Thomas Edison. I’ve never been a huge Edison fan, I appreciate him, but I was–and still am–team Tesla. God, I talk as if I were alive back then. I am obsessed with Tesla’s conceptual wireless energy towers. I want them to be a reality so badly! Edison also had great ideas that never came to part. He wanted to capture the energy of the ocean’s waves. It’s a never ending source and one that needs serious looking in to. I love green energy. It constantly fascinates me. This film shows Spencer Tracy’s portrayal of Edison through his beginning and this greats successes: the stock exchange ticker, the phonograph, and the incandescent light. He seemed to be made of luck and money! The film wasn’t very engaging because there wasn’t much tension–there was no bad guy and no real threat of disaster. Perhaps it’s because we knew the ending already? I enjoyed it, but only in passing. [My Rating: 5/10]
September 19: Paris
This film was in a similar vein to Woody Allen’s vacation films. I’m glad Hollywood still makes them. They basically make: action, crap romance, edgy female comedies, and travelogues. I still haven’t seen that new one about Rome. Midnight in Paris was wonderful, if you remember my review from earlier. Paris is a French film that shows how a diverse group of people live in the city and how they feel about it and how they cope to their ever changing lives. People romanticize living in Paris, but in truth, it’s not so different from the lives we lead wherever we are. Don’t get me wrong, Paris is wonderful and I’m sure that I’m going to spend many more years of my life there, but it’s far from perfect. It’s pessimistic and lonely–but there are lemon tarts on each corner, so…whatever. The story is roughly about Pierre, who discovers he has a heart disease and is going to die. In his malady, he begins observing the lives of people around him and this spins off into the lives of people in those lives. It’s intriguing in a very simple way. We see the lives of social workers, immigrants, professors, students, vendors at the Bastille market, socialites, and more. My favorite segment was about a very snobby bakery proprietress. Made me laugh. There was a wonderful quote at the ending as Pierre was on his way to the hospital…but I can’t find it anywhere. Basically is said that Parisians are grumpy and negative, but they love it and that’s why they love Paris. Very true. [My Rating: 7/10]
September 20: The Whales of August
Netflix is really an amazing tool, I keep finding movies that I never knew existed, like this one. I’m very familiar with Bette Davis’ career, so I find it odd when I see things like this that are completely foreign to me, like that picture where she played an aged bank robber. Genius. This was a simple, but tremendously beautiful film. It didn’t really have a plot. It had no special effects budget. It didn’t really have a message, but it entranced me. This film stars tremendously famous and talented people: Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, and Vincent Price. I know, right? Bette plays Libby, a foul, blind, pain in the ass. Her sister, Sarah, played by Lillian, is the complete opposite and is a very kind woman looking for companionship in her old age. The two live in a cottage in New England overlooking the sea. It’s absolutely beautiful. They’ve summered there all their lives and in their youth, they would see the whales come near the shore. Sarah takes an interest in Mr. Maranov, an exiled Russian aristocrat. Libby is having none of this, she knows that she is a burden on her sister, but she wants to stay with her. There’s nothing more to say, really, the story told is so simple. It’s just about loving people and how wonderful that is and can be. The ending is so very sweet. I recommend it totally. [My Rating: 9/10]
September 21: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
The other day, I went to the Half Price Bookstore to peruse their selection of laserdiscs. I’m a huge fan of laserdiscs. You probably aren’t familiar with them, they never took off in the United States, they were much more popular in Japan. Laserdiscs are basically a crossing of vinyl records and compact discs, they were, in a sense, the first DVD. They have much better sound and video quality that VHS, so I can’t understand why they didn’t win the format war of years ago. It’s one of the rare examples where technology progresses backwards, such as the discontinuation of the Concord. It makes no sense to me that this wonderful piece of aviation technology has ceased to exist. If we could still fly to Europe in a couple hours, life would be even more marvelous. So, I bought a handful laserdiscs. A couple Joan Crawford features that I’d already seen, just wanted the covers. This film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, intrigued me from the first moment I laid eyes upon it. Bizarre set design, made in the 30s, classic German horror. So, with enthusiasm, I set aside a chunk of my afternoon to devote to it. What a waste of time, I could barely stay conscious through it, I was more intrigued in the lemon tart I was eating. I make amazing lemon tarts. The film was about a fellow who relates the story of he and his onetime fiancée to an older gentlemen. It was beyond mind numbing. It involved a fair, a somnambulist, a gaunt man that reminded me of Billy from Hocus Pocus (truly the greatest Halloween movie ever made), murder, bizarre existentialist sets, and an insane asylum. Sounds like it could be marvelous, but it was just dull. The ending was a plot twist where the man telling the story is really patient at an asylum. I was all…whatever. [My Rating: 1/10]
FILM of the WEEK: The Whales of August Watch it to see true Hollywood legends do what they do best, besides it’s a charming picture.