Challenge Week 39: The Docks of New York

I’ve actually had this on my media server for quite a while unwatched, so I was really glad that Jeremy gave me the boost to go ahead and watch it. Unfortunately, I’ve had it for long enough that I have no idea if it had the score he recommended (Gaylord Carter) or not, but I didn’t mind whatever music was with it, so I guess it was all right.

Josef von Sternberg is kind of hit or miss with me – I’ve mostly seen his films with Marlene Dietrich, and I loved Shanghai Express, but am only fair to middling on the other two or three I’ve seen. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this, but it’s a fairly simply story of a boilerman (George Bancroft) on leave from his boat saving a girl (Betty Compson) from committing suicide by the docks and then falling for her.


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Challenge Week 39: Little Man, What Now?

I love that people have dug deep in this challenge and brought me some classic-era films that I not only hadn’t seen, but hadn’t even heard of! I’ve see a few Frank Borzage films but never really gotten the hype, so I was glad to get another chance to check him out – and spoilers, I got another one the following week, heh. Based on the strength of the two films, I need to reevaluate all the others I’d seen and dismissed, because I loved them both.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, Little Man, What Now?. The two main characters are poor folks in Weimar-era Germany, and we first meet them at a gynecologist’s office. The doctor confirms Lammchen’s pregnancy, then takes just about all of Hans’ paltry salary in payment. The unmarried couple (the only real reason it deserves a Pre-Code tag) gets married secretly, because his boss is set on getting him to marry his daughter – without stringing her along, Hans is in danger of losing his position.


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Challenge Week 38: Fanny and Alexander

This is one of my least favorite kinds of posts to write, because it’s so hard to write about beloved films from master filmmakers that I liked but didn’t strongly connect to. It’s one thing if I DISLIKE a film like this, because at least that’s something to hang a reaction on. I will say that I watched the theatrical cut because while 3 hours is doable, 5 1/2 wasn’t really, but I would like to return and watch the television cut later on.

The first half of Fanny and Alexander places the titular siblings in a large, warm, and loving theatrical family. It’s difficult at first to tell exactly how everyone’s related to each other, but it doesn’t matter too much, because everyone loves and cares for each other – even when the children’s father has a fling with the maid, it doesn’t seem too troublesome or out of the ordinary. This half is not dissimilar to Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night, though the addition of color and kids makes it even more light and whimsical.


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Challenge Week 38: I’ve Loved You So Long

This is in a way a mystery, but a very quiet and unassuming one. Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) goes to live with her estranged sister Lea and her family, but there’s obviously a lot of baggage that we can’t figure out immediately. Over the course of the film it’s revealed that Juliette has just gotten out of prison after a 15-year sentence, and for what – I don’t want to spoil it because each deeper revelation really is wonderfully paced and acted by Thomas.

It’s hard to write much about the film, though, without spoiling it. I’ll just say that even though some of the subject matter is pretty devastating, I really felt at home in this movie, somehow. It’s to the great credit of the actors and director that even though the characters are often aloof and frustrated with each other, finding it difficult to connect after such a long time apart (and for such a reason), that I felt great empathy for all of them and wanted (in some cinematic way) to be with their dysfunctional family, and to understand them.


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Challenge Week 37: Silver Linings Playbook

I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. David O. Russell films often leave me feeling a little bit off, and with the combination mental health and football fan angles in this one, I was afraid it would be overly simplistic and/or maudlin and/or too sports-related. It’s actually a very enjoyable, old-fashioned romantic comedy/drama, very well balanced between the main character’s attempts to get healthy and his budding romance.

I’ve liked Bradley Cooper since Alias days, so I’m glad he’s getting some great parts like this and recognition for them. And he’s very good as a bipolar guy just getting out of the hospital, moving back in with his parents, and trying to figure out how to reconnect with his wife…who has a restraining order against him. He’s a bit delusional about her, but it’s very believable and even if you wish you could smack it out of him, you know it’s just something he’s got to learn for himself.


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