peteg's blog - noise - movies

Arsenic and Old Lace

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Over three or more sittings. Continuing with the Cary Grants. B&W. I didn't really get into it as the comedy is mostly slapstick with references to horror (much is made of his brother looking like Boris Karloff; I guess the stage show traded on him being played by Boris Karloff). A couple of Aunties have taken to relieving lonely men of their lives. Grant is a theatre critic and adamantly a bachelor, so much so he gets married in his first scene. There are cops, another brother, a graveyard and many bit players. The odd zinger is obscured by endless frenetic action. Highly rated by a large number of people at IMDB.

Someone at the New York Times at the time.

It Had to Happen

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A Rosalind Russell jag from His Girl Friday. She seems a bit out-of-sorts in this clunker. The framing story has her returning from Europe and encountering some Italian migrants as she disembarks into b&w NYC in 1936. Clichés ensue: one (an entirely flat George Raft) takes a shine to her, and by means unexplained turns into a sort-of Robert Moses who "seems to hold all offices but none..." There are vast piles of high-minded civic BS, probity!, but ultimately this is about picking up another man's wife and how easy it was to make good in the USA back then. You too can marry an heiress! And she's entirely willing!

Raft fared better as a gangster, e.g. Spats Colombo in Some Like It Hot. His secretary Arline Judge's performance was more like what Russell later did.

Frank S. Nugent at the time.

Shadow

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On the strength of Glenn Kenny's review and expectations of Yimou Zhang's directing. There's not a lot to this that isn't a cliché. The kids are in charge of a kingdom in ancient China and intrigue as a distraction from their dismal little screens. Most of the movie is ponderous exposition with a pretence to cleverness. The camerawork/cinematography evokes a grim mountainous landscape, and yes, it's always raining in the valley of the shadow. The action is same-y same, claiming that "feminine moves" might win these days of bigly testosterone. The best parts involved zither playing.

The Philadelphia Story

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Another highly-rated Cary Grant headliner, but really this is Kate Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart's show; both are so young here, and bounce off each other wonderfully. It's an east-coast high society sex farce which gently roasts and finally endorses the old moneyed. Despite the unappetising premise it's very funny even as the dialogue gets obscure. Second-stringer Ruth Hussey delivered her part flat, and was therefore the funniest.

Bosley Crowther at the time, and sixteen years later on the remake High Society staring Grace Kelly, Sinatra, Bing Crosby.

Citizen Kane

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It's been a while. The parallels with the present day are striking: a lock-him-up rabble-rousing populist campaign speech; Kane being told to check his privilege (over working men, who might eventually expect things as their right, not his gift); a pile in Florida; a Gatsby-esque excess in a guilded age; the manipulation of the news; the vacuity of stuff; the over-extended mogul; etc. Still #74 in the IMDB top-250 but getting squeezed out by lesser works.

Bosley Crowther at the time. Roger Ebert in 1998.

His Girl Friday

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Second time around and just as funny. Continuing the recent run of Cary Grants. No longer in the IMDB top-250. I need to scare up more of Rosalind Russell's efforts.

This is Spinal Tap

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It's been a while.

Avengers: Endgame

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Opening day, The Ritz, 4pm, Cinema 1, $10 + $1.50 online booking fee = $11.50. Downstairs was closed because the previous session had made a mess of it. Upstairs was maybe a third full.

I'll just gesture at the paid noisemakers. Jason Di Rosso versus Jake Wilson. A. O. Scott got very sentimental. Dana Stevens: "Waiting for Thanos: Avengers: Endgame is like Samuel Beckett with superheroes."

Stoker

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Second time around. A Matthew Goode jag from Watchmen, and Park Chan-wook from The Little Drummer Girl. Doesn't really reward a second viewing.

To Catch a Thief

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A Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock jag from Rear Window, and Cary Grant from Notorious. Everyone goes to the French Riviera and the result is worse than when Audrey went to Paris (either time). Cary plays a retired cat burgler, noble due to an association with The Resistance, and despite being seriously north of 40, the young ladies (Kelly and Frenchwoman Brigitte Auber) can't help themselves. It's all a bit vacuous, but aren't the gowns, jewels, landscapes, etc. just fabulous.

Bosley Crowther got overly enthused at the time.

Gone with the Wind

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The Ritz, Cinema 1, $10, 1pm. We're deep into the pre-Avengers vortex now: all that's on offer are golden oldies (the 80th anniversary! in 4K! with an overture and an intermission!) and a Tarantino retrospective. First time around for me. Perhaps a third full, where most people looked like they might just have seen it back in 1939.

Is this the pre-Tennessee Williams mold for the Southern gothic? Is it just a dodgy, romantic, sentimental apology for the devil? It has its fans, then (8 Oscars!) and now (#163 in the IMDB top-250); the epic colour at Wikipedia gives some perspective. Here we have Southern princess Vivian Leigh husband hunting on the family plantation until the American Civil War interrupts. War profiteer Clarke Gable, looking a bit like Lee Van Cleef in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, or perhaps Omar Sharif, knows they're destined to marry but has to bide his time while she works through all the other men. (It could have been called three weddings and a funeral, but most of that isn't actually shown.) The storytelling is fluid for the first half then retreats with the war, leaving us with an unsavoury crowd. The scene at the railway station is timeless, and every so often a line crackles with knowing malice. There's a touch of the Gatsby, some dodgy accent work, and a strong assertion of property rights as understood by Irish migrants. It doesn't really have four hours of things to say.

The opening credits tell us that the Old South is "no more than a dream remembered" but the 2016 US Presidential Election shows there's more life in it than that.

Frank S. Nugent at the time. Roger Ebert around the 60th anniversary: "[GWTW] presents a sentimental view of the Civil War, in which the "Old South" takes the place of Camelot and the war was fought not so much to defeat the Confederacy and free the slaves as to give Miss Scarlett O'Hara her comeuppance."

Rear Window

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Second time around and I didn't remember a thing. Here Hitchcock would have us believe that globetrotting photographer James Stewart is equivocating about marrying "preview of coming attractions" Grace Kelly (!) while he mopes around his NYC apartment with a broken leg, passing the time by spying on the neighbours. The ending is too abrupt: I kept waiting for a twist that never seemed to come, which is perhaps in keeping with the steady ratcheting of the tension. #45 in the IMDB top-250.

Bosley Crowther at the time. Roger Ebert on its re-release in 1983 and in 2000.

White Hunter Black Heart

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A jag from The African Queen. Over two sittings. In 1990 Clint Eastwood tried to become John Houston as he chased his white whale (elephant) in the Congo while filming his Kate/Bogey classic. Clint set a few people straight on the need to fight for what's right, and not be ugly racist bitches; what he lost in fisticuffs he mostly won in verbal sparring. I was a bit surprised that Timothy Spall took on the minor role of the japing pilot. Jeff Fahey looked about the same as he did when working for ex-Ms Eastwood, as did George Dzundza. Some of it is funny, most is farcical. Apparently some was filmed onsite-ish in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Roger Ebert. Janet Maslin.

The Maltese Falcon

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John Huston's first effort as director, and what a way to start: babe-magnet Bogart leads in a black-and-white adaptation (also by Huston) of Dashiell Hammett's hard-boiled noir. Second time around for me. There's a bit too much saying and not quite enough showing towards the end, and it seems highly doubtful from 2019 that anyone gave the SFPD that much lip and survived let alone thrived. The convoluted storyline is juiced for suspense. #225 on the IMDB top-250.

Bosley Crowther at the time (1941) — apparently this was the second mouse that got the cheese (the source material). Roger Ebert in 2001 — he claims this is the third.

Watchmen

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Apparently fourth time around. Roger Ebert. A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens.

Us

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With Dave at the Odeon 5, 8:30pm, $17.50 each. Stuck for choice: I hadn't seen Jordan Peele's previous Get Out and everything else screening seemed worse. It's a horror movie. The kids were the best, particularly Shahadi Wright Joseph who has some great comic timing. Lupita Nyong'o worked hard. I didn't really get into it, but was sufficiently engaged to be unimpressed by the switcheroo when it arrived.

Manohla Dargis reckons it's heavy on the symbolism. Dana Stevens.

Topsy-Turvy

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A Mike Leigh effort from 1999, and one of the last of his features for me to see. Many of his usual cast (Jim Broadbent, Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, also Trainspotters Kevin McKidd and Shirley Henderson) participate in this portrayal of what may have been a pivotal point in the creative partnership of Gilbert and Sullivan. It's not at all my thing but there are loads of fine details to enjoy and the performances are uniformly excellent.

Grindhouse: Deathproof and Planet Terror

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Second time around with these ultra-trashy Tarantino/Rodriguez exploitation flicks: it's just like From Dusk Till Dawn but more so. This time around I noticed Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese from The Terminator).

Notorious

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A black and white Hitcock from 1946. Second time around apparently, but I don't remember a thing. Daughter Ingrid Bergman is supposedly everyone's but she's only got eyes for party crashing Cary Grant, who plays the straight G-man until he can't. In between she gets hitched to Claude Rains in a plot to bust open a uranium-fueled Nazi plot in Brazil. It could have been 50-100% longer and I would still have been there.

He Died with a Felafel in His Hand

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More Brisvegas completism. Apparently third time around. The soundtrack is 2001-nostalgia for the early to mid 1990s. It'd be a total bust if it wasn't for Noah Taylor's occasional outbursts. Director Richard Lowenstein has some form for this kind of thing: the canonical Dogs in Space and Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard which I still have to dig up. Here Howard covers Iggy Pop's The Passenger, and I finally got around to listening to Moby's Play, which I bought on CD in late 1999.