Fanny and Alexander

Film on TV: December 12-18

Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander, playing Sunday on TCM

A few choice new ones this week, including holiday favorites A Christmas Carol (the 1951 British version) and The Bishop’s Wife, plus iconic Newman film The Hustler, Amy Adams breakthrough film Junebug, Katharine Hepburn-Cary Grant collaboration Holiday (playing in a block with their other three films together), and Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander.

Monday, December 12

6:00pm – MGM – A Shot in the Dark
Here’s your counter example for the “sequels are never as good as the original” argument. This second film in the Pink Panther series is easily the best, and stands as ones of the zaniest 1960s comedies ever.
1964 USA. Director: Blake Edwards. Starring: Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom.

8:00pm – TCM – A Christmas Carol
Usually considered among the best of the classic adaptations of A Christmas Carol, with Alastair Sim certainly playing a pretty definitive Scrooge surrounded by a great cast of British character actors.
1951 UK. Director: Brian Desmond Hurst. Starring: Alastair Sim, Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison.
Newly Featured!

9:45pm – TCM – Oliver Twist
One of a couple of definitive film versions of Dickens’ novels that David Lean did in the ’40s. This is one of the few Dickens stories I actually do like, yet I haven’t gotten around to this version of it yet.
1948 UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: John Howard Davies, Alec Guinness, Robert Newton, Kay Walsh, Anthony Newley.

2:00am (13th) – TCM – Great Expectations
David Lean’s definitive version of one of Charles Dickens’ most well-known books, about the boy Pip and his rise to fortune through the aid of a mysterious benefactor. I’ve avoided this because of my distaste for Dickens, but hey. The movie can’t have time to ramble on like Dickens does, so maybe I’d like it.
1946 UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: John Mills, Tony Wager, Valerie Hobson, Jean Simmons, Bernard Miles, Martita Hunt.

4:15am (13th) – TCM – Pygmalion
A straight non-musical version of the George Bernard Shaw play that would later become My Fair Lady, with Leslie Howard as the prickly Professor Higgins who takes in street vendor Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) to turn her into a lady. A bit more acidic than the musical version.
1938 USA. Director: Anthony Asquith, Leslie Howard. Starring: Leslie Howard, Wendy Hiller, Wilfrid Lawson, Marie Lohr.

Tuesday, December 13

11:15am – IFC – My Life as a Dog
Lasse Hallstrom gives us this simple but effective coming-of-age story, focusing on the every day life of a young boy as he’s sent to live in a provincial village after acting out at home.
1985 Sweden. Director: Lasse Hallstrom. Starring: Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Lidén, Melinda Kinnaman.

3:10pm – Sundance – Man on Wire
One of the most highly-acclaimed documentaries of recent years tells the story of high-wire walker Philippe Petit as he embarks on perhaps his most dangerous stunt yet.
2008 UK/USA. Director: James Marsh. Starring: Philippe Petit, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau.

8:00pm – IFC – American Psycho
A virtuoso performance from Christian Bale leads this controversial thriller about an affluent Wall Street investment banker leading a double life as a psychopath carrying out his amoral and misanthropic fantasies through sex and murder.
2000 USA. Director: Mary Herron. Starring: Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon.
(repeats at 2:00am)

9:00pm – Sundance – Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Sadly this turned out to be Sidney Lumet’s final film before his death. But from what I hear, this is a fine one to have as a swan song, an intense and well-constructed heist thriller – something Lumet was certainly skilled at directing. I have got to get around to checking it out myself soon.
1997 USA. Director: Sidney Lumet. Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney.

11:00pm – IFC – The Shining
Kubrick’s take on one of Stephen King’s most well-known novels may not stick that closely to King’s original story, but manages to capture the creepy factor of the Overlook Hotel and Jack Torrance’s descent into madness in a supremely cinematic way. Many memorable and disturbing scenes, and one of the few movies in which I actually like Jack Nicholson. So there’s that. Definitely not one to be missed.
1980 USA/UK. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers.
Must See

12:00M – MGM – The Great Escape
I expected to mildly enjoy or at least get through this POW escape film. What happened was I was completely enthralled with every second of it, from failed escape attempts to planning the ultimate escape to the dangers of carrying it out. It’s like a heist film in reverse, and extremely enjoyable in pretty much every way.
1963 USA. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, James Donald.
Must See

Wednesday, December 14

10:00am – Sundance – A Town Called Panic
One of the most delightful films I saw in 2009, a whacked out stop-motion film from Belgium that follows Horse, Cowboy, and Indian throughout a series of adventures, mostly focused on trying to rebuild their house which keeps getting stolen every night. This is mile-a-minute absurdity with more inventiveness in 75 minutes than I usually see all year.
2009 Belium. Directors: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar. Starring: Stéphane Aubier, Jeanne Balibar, Bruce Ellison, Vincent Pater.
(repeats at 3:00pm)

1:00pm – Sundance – Flight of the Red Balloon
Hou Hsiao-hsien’s dreamy homage to the classic French film The Red Balloon, but with the Hong Kong director’s signature pacing and visual style. Action-filled it ain’t, but in it’s place is the lyrical nostalgia that Hou is so well known for.
2007 France. Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien. Starring: Juliette Binoche, Hippolyte Girardot, Simon Iteanu.
Newly Featured!

1:05pm – MGM – The Long Goodbye
One of the most delightful films I saw in 2009, a whacked out stop-motion film from Belgium that follows Horse, Cowboy, and Indian throughout a series of adventures, mostly focused on trying to rebuild their house which keeps getting stolen every night. This is mile-a-minute absurdity with more inventiveness in 75 minutes than I usually see all year.
2009 Belium. Directors: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar. Starring: Stéphane Aubier, Jeanne Balibar, Bruce Ellison, Vincent Pater.

8:00pm – MGM – The Raven
Another of the several Edgar Allan Poe adaptations teaming up Roger Corman and Vincent Price, this time expanding greatly on Poe’s famous poem, making it about a bunch of magicians turning each other into ravens and fighting over the lovely Lenore, with a lot more comedy than you’d think one of the creepiest poems in literary history could inspire.
1963 USA. Director: Roger Corman. Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Hazel Court, Olive Sturgess, Jack Nicholson.

Thursday, December 15

8:00am – IFC – Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is likely my all-time favorite book or very close to it, and it’s a book that you’d never expect could be made into a good film. It depends an awful lot on stream of consciousness, internal monologue and memory, and a subjective experience of time – all stylistic and narrative elements that don’t translate well to film. However, this 1997 version of the novel with Vanessa Redgrave perfectly cast as the older Clarissa Dalloway and Natascha McElhone as flashback-Clarissa comes about as close as I think is cinematically possible. It doesn’t come close to matching the book for me, but it is a solid film and captures a lot of Woolf’s spirit.
1997 USA/UK. Director: Marleen Gorris. Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Natascha McElhone, Michael Kitchen, Alan Cox, Sarah Badel, Lena Headey, John Standing.
(repeats at 2:00pm)

11:00am – MGM – Manon of the Spring
The sequel to the equally good Jean de Florette (but not really dependent on it), this quiet and pastoral French film focuses on Jean’s daughter Manon, who tries to right the wrongs done to her father.
1986 France. Director: Claude Berri. Starring: Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Beart, Hippolyte Girardo.

11:30am – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
The sequel to the equally good Jean de Florette (but not really dependent on it), this quiet and pastoral French film focuses on Jean’s daughter Manon, who tries to right the wrongs done to her father.
1986 France. Director: Claude Berri. Starring: Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Beart, Hippolyte Girardo.

2:15pm – TCM – Witness for the Prosecution
This courtroom drama/thriller is among the last great films for all three of its stars, as Charles Laughton plays the crotchety judge overseeing the murder trial of Tyrone Power, with the major witness in the case being Power’s wife Marlene Dietrich. But not everyone is playing on the level here, and as the trial goes on, loyalties shift and double-crosses are revealed right and left.
1957 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power.

6:00pm – TCM – In a Lonely Place
Simply a brilliant film from director Nicholas Ray – Humphrey Bogart gives probably his best performance as washed-up screenwriter Dixon Steele, who’s trying to make a comeback with a new adaptation. When a coatcheck girl gets murdered after he was the last to see her, he naturally comes under suspicion, but his neighbor Laurel (Gloria Grahame) gives him an alibi and soon the two begin a relationship which just might save Dix from more than a murder charge – or might not. There’s a raw intensity here that few films have ever matched.
1951 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame.
Must See

10:00pm – IFC – Zodiac
One of David Fincher’s most acclaimed films, and deservedly so, tracing the obsession of one journalist (Jake Gyllenhaal) with the Zodiac serial killer. Years of following the case and the clues left by the Zodiac bring investigators no closer to success, but Gyllenhaal can’t let go – the story is much more a character study of him than a mystery of the killer, and it’s among the best of the genre.
2007 USA. Director: David Fincher. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox.

10:35pm – Sundance – Tiny Furniture
Written, directed by, and starring Lena Dunham, this film has both staunch supporters and vocal detractors – some drawn to its DIY aesthetic and the post-grad ennui of the main character, others put off by those very things. When Criterion announced they were releasing it (part of their deal with IFC Pictures), it caused a good bit of controversy. That release is coming in February, but Sundance is running it now, so you can decide for yourself which side of the fence you’re on.
2010 USA. Director: Lena Dunham. Starring: Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:35am on the 16th)

11:30pm – TCM – Mister Roberts
Henry Fonda is the title character, an XO on a cargo ship who often butts heads with the captain (James Cagney), who runs the ship with an iron fist. The tone is a satisfying combination of comedy and drama, and with a cast that also includes William Powell in his last role and Jack Lemmon in one of his first, you can hardly go wrong. Though John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy share credit for the film, it’s mostly Ford – LeRoy was brought in to finish it when Ford had to undergo emergency surgery, but he tried to emulate Ford’s style as much as possible.
1955 USA. Director: John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon, Betsy Palmer, Ward Bond.

2:15am (15th) – Fox Movie – Naked Lunch
This is a whacked out movie, more of an exploration of beat author William S. Burrough’s life and writing process than an adaptation of his novel of the same name, with addictive bug powder, murders, hallucinogenic trips, typewriters that turn into cockroaches, and espionage plots. I saw it ages ago when I probably wasn’t ready for it; ought to try it again sometime.
1991 Canada. Director: David Cronenberg. Starring: Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm.

Friday, December 16

12:45pm – Sundance – Lolita
“How could they make a movie of Lolita?” runs the tagline, and indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone even trying in 1962 – both because of the pedophiliac content and the interior nature of the narrative, very difficult to reproduce in cinematic form. But Stanley Kubrick decided he was up to the task, and though it isn’t considered one of his best films, it still rates pretty highly.
1962 UK/USA. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: James Mason, Sue Lyon, Shelley Winters.

8:00pm – TCM – The Bishop’s Wife
Cary Grant is an angel sent to help Anglican bishop David Niven, but not in the way he expects – Niven wants to get a new cathedral built, but his single-minded drive is hurting his family and parish more than he realizes. This has never been one of my favorite Christmas movies, but most people I know seem to love it.
1947 USA. Director: Henry Koster. Starring: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – Christmas in Connecticut
The always-worth-watching Barbara Stanwyck is a magazine columnist who makes up a traditional country home for her column while living in New York, a subterfuge which causes no problems until a serviceman on leave wants nothing more than to spend Christmas on her farm and her editor thinks it’s a great human interest piece. Her attempts to recreate that world while falling for the serviceman are funny, warm, and enjoyable enough to add this to your holiday rotation.
1945 USA. Director: Peter Godfrey. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, Reginald Gardiner, S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Una O’Connor.

11:00pm – Fox Movie – The Hustler
One of Paul Newman’s early iconic roles as Fast Eddie Felson, an up-and-coming pool shark whose cockiness leads to a devastating loss. But the return from that loss with a new manager could cost him even more. Great character work from George C. Scott and Jackie Gleason support what remains one of Newman’s finest performances.
1961 USA. Director: Robert Rossen. Starring: Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie.
Must See
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 2:00am on the 17th)

12:00M – TCM – The Shop Around the Corner
The original version of You’ve Got Mail has James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as feuding employees of a shop who are unknowingly exchanging romantic letters. Ernst Lubitsch directs, bringing his warm European wit to bear.
1940 USA. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring: James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan.
(repeats at 10:00am on the 18th)

Saturday, December 17

6:00am – IFC – Junebug
There’s not a whole lot to this film about a newlywed couple going to North Carolina to meet his family – a place the wife, a Chicago urbanite, can’t really relate to at all. But the real story is in his drifter brother, a solid role for O.C. alum Ben MacKenzie, and his pregnant wife, a breakthrough role for Amy Adams. These two overshadow the ostensible leads of the film completely, and they’re worth the movie.
2005 USA. Director: Phil Morrison. Starring: Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams, Ben MacKenzie, Amy Adams.
Newly Featured!

3:30pm – TCM – Gypsy
One of the best shows ever written about stage mothers turns into a pretty decent film – it purports to be the story of vaudeville/burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, but ends up being much more about her mother Mama Rose. It’s a good showcase for any actress, and Rosalind Russell, though not quite the singer that the role pulls on Broadway, does a fine job. Plus, it’s chock-full of showstopping tunes.
1962 USA. Director: Meryvn LeRoy. Starring: Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood, Karl Malden.

5:30pm – IFC – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Not Wes Anderson’s best perhaps – it skirts the line of self-consciously quirky and ends up a bit too awkwardly artificial even for him. But there’s still a lot about it to like, and the attention to detail is top-notch. It’s worth a watch for sure, especially for Anderson fans.
2004 USA. Director: Wes Anderson. Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe.

8:00pm – TCM – Bringing Up Baby
Poor Cary Grant just can’t get away from delightfully ditzy Katharine Hepburn, especially after her dog steals his museum’s priceless dinosaur bone. Oh, and after her pet leopard escapes (and a dangerous zoo leopard escapes at the same time). Incredible situation follows incredible situation in this zaniest of all screwball comedies.
1938 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, May Robson, Barry Fitzgerald.
Must See

8:00pm – MGM – Blood Simple
The Coen Brothers’ first feature is already a pretty good indication of their style – a noirish thriller with a black comedy edge where everything goes more and more wrong the more people try to fix their mistakes. When the “mistakes” involve murder, leaving evidence at murder scenes, and having the worst time ever trying to get rid of a body, you’re in for a good time at pretty much every character’s expense.
1984 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh.

8:00pm – Fox Movie – Young Frankenstein
My pick for best Mel Brooks movie of all time, yes, over Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs. Gene Wilder is the title character, a relative of the original Dr. Frankenstein who derides the research into the animation of dead tissue as poppycock. Until he inherits the Frankenstein castle and starts doing some experimenting of his own. And hilarity ensues. Pretty much right up there with the most quotable movies ever for me.
1974 USA. Director: Mel Brooks. Starring: Gene Wilder, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman.
Must See
(repeats at 12:00M)

8:05pm – IFC – Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Easily one of the most absurd, random, hilarious, and quotable comedies of all time. A more hapless bunch of Round Table knights couldn’t be found, and Monty Python has never been better than they are here.
1975 UK. Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones. Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones.
Must See
(repeats at 2:00am on the 18th)

9:55pm – MGM – Blue Velvet
I’ll be honest, this is not one of my favorite David Lynch films. There are a lot of things I like about it. The unsettling take on suburbia, the gorgeously disturbing photography, the kids playing detective, the severed ear, you know, the normal Lynch stuff. But then it just gets to be too cruel for me. Still, it’s a Lynch classic, and you oughta see it. And I oughta see it again, see if my opinion has changed.
1986 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Kyle McLachlan, Laura Dern, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper.

10:00pm – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Katharine Hepburn is Tracy Lord, a spoiled socialite about to marry Ralph Bellamy when ex-husband Cary Grant turns up. Throw in newspaper columnist James Stewart and his photographer Ruth Hussey, along with a bunch of great character actors filling out the cast, and you have both rollicking wedding preparations and one of the best films ever made.
1940 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Katharaine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Ralph Bellamy, Virginia Weidler.
Must See

10:05pm – IFC – Monty Python’s Life of Brian
After dismantling the King Arthur legends, Monty Python turn their attention to the Bible itself, satirically suggesting what might happen if a random 1st century baby got mistaken for the Messiah. Irreverent and hilarious, though not as consistently so for me as Holy Grail.
1979 UK. Director: Terry Jones. Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin.
(repeats at 4:00am on the 18th)

12:00M – TCM – Holiday
Overshadowed by the same year’s Bringing Up Baby, this Hepburn-Grant team-up is a really solid little film about a young man (Grant) engaged to a wealthy heiress. But her family doesn’t take too kindly to some of his more unorthodox ideas about business and life, except for his fiancee’s two black sheep siblings (Hepburn and Lew Ayres). Not up there with Baby or Philadelphia Story, but definitely worth watching.
1938 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres, Edward Everett Horton, Henry Kolker.
Newly Featured!

3:45am (18th) – TCM – Victor/Victoria
Pretty classic among gender-switching comedies, this one has Julie Andrews as a singer who finds she has more success pretending to be a man working as a female impersonator. Lots of fun and confusion ensues.
1982 UK/USA. Director: Blake Edwards. Starring: Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston.

Sunday, December 18

6:00am – TCM – Little Women
This first sound version of Little Women has a young Katharine Hepburn in the lead, along with a roll-call of great 1930s starlets and character actors. It’s a bit wooden compared to the 1994 version, but it’s got a lot of charm nonetheless.
1933 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Paul Lukas, Edna May Oliver, Jean Parker, Frances Dee.

9:45am – IFC – Exam
Setting a film entirely in one room is a constraint that often results in some very interesting cinema, and Exam certainly sounds interesting, placing a bunch of people in a single room for a job interview that consists of only one question. But they aren’t told what the question is.
2009 UK. Director: Stuart Hazeldine. Starring: Adar Beck, Gemma Chan, Nathalie Cox.

1:00pm – TCM – Since You Went Away
A WWII homefront story of a middle America family offering a room for rent to help make ends meet while the husband/father is off at war. The great ensemble cast helps sell this, which covers day to day issues like food rations as well as major events like the daughter’s romance. Not as immediate or gripping as something like Mrs. Miniver, but still a solid and entertaining look at the American homefront.
1944 USA. Director: John Cromwell. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Monty Woolley, Jennifer Jones, Robert Walker, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Temple, Lionel Barrymore, Hattie McDaniel, Agnes Moorehead.

4:00pm – TCM – An American in Paris
Expat artist Gene Kelly in Paris meets Leslie Caron and woos her away from rival Georges Guetarey, all set to Gershwin music and directed with panache by Vincente Minnelli. All that plus Kelly’s ground-breaking fifteen-plus-minute ballet to the title piece.
1951 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetarey.
Must See

6:000pm – TCM – State Fair
The only musical Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote directly for the screen, and yeah, it’s fairly inconsequential, but it’s a lot of fun. And really made me want my dad to take me to the Iowa State Fair when I was a kid. He never did, so I never got to find out if it was as much fun as this. Probably not.
1945 USA. Director: Walter Lang. Starring: Jeanne Crain, Dana Andrews, Dick Haymes, Vivian Blaine.

10:00pm – TCM – The Man Who Came to Dinner
A rare comedic film for Bette Davis, though the film mainly focuses on Monty Woolley as an acerbic newspaper critic forced to take up residence with a midwestern family when he breaks his hip outside their house. Woolley was a great character actor here given the spotlight, and he takes it and runs with it. A great script by Julius and Philip Epstein (of Casablanca) doesn’t hurt, either.
1942 USA. Director: William Keighley. Starring: Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Monty Woolley, Jimmy Durante, Billie Burke.

12:00M – TCM – Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
Everyone knows about Charlton Heston’s Ben-Hur. You know, the one that won eleven Oscars, a record which stood for, like, fifty years? This isn’t that one. This is the 1925 silent version of the same story, with pre-talkie hearththrob Ramon Novarro as Ben-Hur, and an equally impressive (for its time) chariot race sequence. In some ways, I actually prefer this version to the bombastic 1959 version, and it’s definitely worth a watch.
1925 USA. Director: Fred Niblo. Starring: Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman, May McAvoy, Betty Bronson, Kathleen Key.

2:30am (19th) – TCM – Fanny and Alexander
One of Ingmar Bergman’s most beloved films, and one I’ve sadly yet to catch up with myself, about a pair of children who are uprooted from their theatrical milieu into an austere chancery when their mother marries a bishop after their father dies. TCM is showing the 189 min theatrical cut, not the longer TV edit.
1982 Sweden. Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Pernilla Allwin, Bertil Guve, Börje Ahlstedt, Allan Edwall, Ewa Fröling.
Newly Featured!

dvd-triage

DVD Triage: Week of December 6

A bunch of summer release movies out this week that I…didn’t see. Seriously, I haven’t seen any of the new releases this week. Except the Dragon Tattoo films, and those are extended from the versions I saw. So there’s a lot of “I’m hoping to see this sometime…” in this post. Thankfully, I HAVE seen the two Criterion releases and I can recommend them wholeheartedly, and there are also some very excellent choices coming on Instant Watch, including all the James Bond films. Again.

New Release Picks of the Week

The Help
This seemingly innocuous little film about domestic race relations in the 1950s gathered a fair bit of critical controversy over the summer, but audiences generally loved it. I’m curious to check out the hullabaloo myself.
2011 USA. Director: Tate Taylor. Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain.
Amazon DVD | Amazon Blu-ray | Netflix

Cowboys & Aliens
Across the board negative reviews or not, I can’t shake my interest in checking this out, at the very least to see how bad a trainwreck it is. Are we talking Wild Wild West level horrific here?
2011 USA. Director: Jon Favreau. Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford.
Amazon DVD | Amazon Blu-ray | Netflix

The Debt
The second film out this week with Jessica Chastain, who was in eleventy billion movies this year, a flashback structured spy film that got a mixed reaction, but I’m still down to give it a shot.
2010 USA. Director: John Madden. Starring: Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain.
Amazon DVD | Amazon Blu-ray | Netflix

Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition
Now this sounds interesting. The second and third Dragon Tattoo films were apparently chopped down for theatrical release here, and these are the full versions that were on Swedish TV – 30-50 minutes longer. Here the whole trilogy is split into six segments, like a miniseries. Curious if this improves parts 2 and 3.
2009 Sweden. Director: Niels Arden Oplev, et al. Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist.
Amazon DVD | Amazon Blu-ray

OTHER NEW RELEASES
The Hangover Part II (2011 USA, dir Todd Phillips, stars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis; Blu-ray/Netflix)
Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011 USA, dir Mark Waters, stars Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino; Blu-ray/Netflix)
Point Blank (2011 France, dir Fred Cavayé, stars Gilles Lellouche, Roschdy Zem; Blu-ray/Netflix)
A Christmas Wedding Tail (2011 USA, dir Michael Feifer, stars Jennie Garth, Brad Rowe; Netflix)
A Christmas Wish (2010 USA, dir Craig Clyde, stars Edward Herrmann, Kristy Swanson)
The Love We Make (2011 USA, dir Albert Maysles, stars Paul McCartney; Blu-ray/Netflix)

Classic Picks of the Week

Design for Living
One of Ernst Lubitsch’s best films, a late pre-Code about a love triangle that the participants try to resolve by simply all living together as “friends.” A bit scandalous for the time, carried off with wit, sophistication, and a bit of naughtiness by the sparkling cast.
1933 USA. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring: Fredric March, Gary Cooper, Miriam Hopkins.
Amazon DVD | Amazon Blu-ray | Netflix

Histoire(s) du Cinema
Jean-Luc Godard’s extended documentary about the history of cinema – something I’ve wanted to get my hands on for a long time. I’m sure it will be just as biased and idiosyncratic as the rest of his work, which for me will probably increase my enjoyment of it. :)
1997-2004 France. Director: Jean-Luc Godard.
Amazon DVD | Netflix

OTHER CLASSIC RELEASES
The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection Vol. 1 (1943 USA, dir Irving Reis, et al, stars George Sanders)
Reach for the Sky (1956 USA, dir Lewis Gilbert, stars Kenneth More, Muriel Pavlow; Netflix)

Blu-ray Picks of the Week

The Lady Vanishes Criterion
One of Hitchcock’s finest British films (pretty near the top of all his films, to be honest) gets the Blu-ray upgrade treatment. It’s been too long since I’ve seen it; this is definitely a tempting release.
1938 UK. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas.
Amazon Blu-ray | Netflix

OTHER BLU-RAY RELEASES
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970 USA, dir Richard Fleischer, et al, stars Jason Robards, Joseph Cotten; Netflix)

wayne's-world

He Says, She Says: Wayne’s World

My boyfriend Jonathan and I both love movies (thankfully!), but we’ve found that even though we have fairly similar tastes a lot of time, we’ve each seen a lot that the other hasn’t, simply due to what we’ve been exposed to over the years. So we’ve been taking turns choosing movies that mean a lot to us for the other one to watch. We thought it would be fun to share some of this journey, covering both our viewpoints – why the person choosing the film likes the film and thought the other should see it, and what the person who hadn’t seen the film before ended up thinking about it. I wouldn’t count on us doing it for EVERY film we get each other to watch, but we’ll try to for a good portion of them, starting with this one.

The Movie

Movie: Wayne’s World
Info: 1992 USA. Director: Penelope Sheeris. Starring: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Tia Carrere, Rob Lowe.
Chooser: Jonathan
Date and Method Watched: December 3rd, at home via Zune rental on Xbox Live

He Says…

There are a few films out there that have shaped my sense of humor into what it is today. I’ll quote them without hesitation and many of their gags will make way into conversation without me even thinking about it. In college, if one of us started talking about any of these movies, the rest of us would begin barking quote after quote to try and get the other laughing. I can’t count how many times we would mimic John Cleese talking about the terrors of that evil rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail or how many times we’d try and out-quote each other from Mystery Men. But it was one film that stood out among the others in terms of defining my sense of humor, rising above the rest in quotability and being able to match my silly outlook on life; and after the fourth or fifth time I quoted Wayne’s World to Jandy without her having any idea what I was talking about, I decided it was time to share.

It’s difficult to pick one thing to like about this film; there’s so much fun to be had. The humor here is self-aware, something that I immediately take a shine to. There’s a scene in particular where Wayne and Garth tell Rob Lowe’s character that they won’t bow to corporate sponsorship, all the while being advertisements themselves. The humor is also kind of abstract, making references that not everyone my age might necessarily get. For example, there’s a scene where our heroes re-create the opening to Laverne and Shirley which gets me laughing every single time I see the film. Garth interrupts it fairly quickly to get us back to the plot at hand, which goes back to that whole “self-aware” thing. Absolute gold.

And furthermore, Wayne and Garth keep from falling into the “idiot” stereotype that plagues other buddy films (Dumb and Dumber being perhaps the most prevalent example). I tend to like my buffoonery laced with a bit of smarts and this film does it plenty. There’s a scene fairly early on where Wayne tries to woo chick-rocker Cassandra with his rather quick adoption of Cantonese. The interchange is hilarious and I usually “lose my shit” when he stops talking and lets the subtitles continue for him.

I could go on and on with this film, citing moment after brilliant moment, but I think you get the idea. What made it fun this time around was watching Jandy’s reaction to the film. None of the jokes or references were lost on her and it was kind of awesome to realize that we share much in the way of humor. It was also nice to be able to give Jandy some context to my overall silliness.

Jonathan’s Flickchart ranking: 82 out of 1174

She Says…

There are a lot of early ’90s films I missed because I was too busy watching classic films – I say that neither as an excuse nor out of elitism, but purely as a fact. Thus there are a lot of films like Wayne’s World that all my peers just assume I’ve seen, and Jon is slowly but surely helping me make sure I get around to them. I actually had written Wayne’s World off as a stupid comedy of the sort that I don’t really like – along with Dumb and Dumber, which we watched a few months ago and I enjoyed decently enough, but isn’t really my style. In fact, I had those two so closely associated in my head that my first thought when Jon suggested we check out Wayne’s World next was “will I like it more or less than Dumb and Dumber?” He assured me I would like it a lot more, and he apparently knows me well, because I really liked, borderline loved this movie.

I’d seen a couple of the skits on SNL, so I had a little bit of an idea of the cable-access show premise, though the film does quite a nice job of fleshing that out with a corporate buy-out plot with a smarmy Rob Lowe trying to cash in on Wayne and Garth’s youth demographic appeal. That’s all pretty predictable. But what makes the film so much fun is the devil-may-care attitudes of Wayne and Garth themselves, more intent on partying on and enjoying their lives (even when that consists of nothing more than hearing a band at the local club or playing street hockey in between passing cars) than anything else, and the extreme level of self-awareness the film displays. Wayne and Garth are constantly talking and mugging directly to the camera, even to the point that when another character starts giving his life story, Wayne pulls him aside, warning him that only he and Garth are allowed to talk to the camera. Other times, the pair tell Lowe in no uncertain terms that they’ll never sell out for sponsorship, while eating Pizza Hut, drinking Pepsi, and wearing Reebok apparel. It’s quite obvious there, but it’s still funny, simply because it’s so shameless about the jokes it’s going for.

I also loved how these apparently dumb and aimless characters would suddenly start saying incredibly smart and learned things. Like when Wayne learned enough Cantonese to speak to Cassandra using big words and advanced concepts, and Garth knew how to reroute the satellites to get Cassandra’s band a big audition. Of course there’s nothing truly believable here, but the film takes that and runs with it, even giving three different endings with Wayne and Garth choosing which one to show next. This is my type of fun – very meta, very knowing, playing on expectations in really unusual and interesting ways, while never really being false to the characters of Wayne and Garth as initially set up. Several of the scenes or lines were familiar to me, through cultural osmosis, I guess. It was great to see where they came from and enjoy them in context – as much context as anything in Wayne’s World has. And yeah, I see what Jon means when he cites this film as being really influential on his sense of humor. Lots of the jokes he makes are obviously in this vein. :)

Jandy’s Flickchart ranking: 527 out of 2839

The Bank Dick, playing Saturday on TCM

Film on TV: November 5-11

The Bank Dick, playing Saturday on TCM

Pretty good grab bag of Newly Featured ones this week, from Christmas classics like A Christmas Carol (the 1938 version, Monday on TCM) and A Christmas Story (Tuesday on TCM) to more recent releases like Nights and Weekends (Wednesday on Sundance) and that thing you do! (Tuesday on Fox Movie Channel). Plus, W.C. Fields’ finest hour in The Bank Dick, playing Saturday on TCM.

Monday, December 5

11:45am – IFC – A Prairie Home Companion
One of Robert Altman’s final films, and one I’ve not yet gotten up to in my attempts to rectify my Altman blind spot. As much as I’ve enjoyed the films of his I have seen, though, I’m definitely putting his entire filmography higher on my to-watch list.
2006 USA. Director: Robert Altman. Starring: Woody Harrelson, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Lily Tomlin.

12:15pm – TCM – The Man With the Golden Arm
Frank Sinatra gets one of his best acting roles as card dealer Frankie Machine, recently back from rehab and wanting to become a drummer, but held back and lured back into dealing and addiction by those around him. Solid direction and supporting performances, plus a great jazz score, make this a hard-hitting and excellent film.
1955 USA. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak, Eleanor Parker.

9:45pm – TCM – A Christmas Carol (1938)
Generally, the 1951 British version of Dickens’ classic novella is considered the best of the classic adaptations, but this 1938 version is pretty solid, too, with a solid group of character actors taking on the roles of Scrooge, Cratchit, and others.
1938 USA. Director: Edwin L. Marin. Starring: Reginald Owen, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, Leo G. Carroll, Ann Rutherford.
Newly Featured!

12:35am (6th) – IFC – Valhalla Rising
Nicholas Winding Refn’s nearly wordless take on the Viking action film, privileging visual storytelling and a somewhat surreal and philosophical feel.
2009 Denmark. Director: Nicholas Winding Refn. Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Maarten Stevenson, Alexander Morton.
(repeats at 2:35am)

Tuesday, December 6

6:00am – TCM – Johnny Belinda
Jane Wyman won an Oscar for playing a deaf/mute woman surrounded by a rape/pregnancy scandal, and may have given the best acceptance speech ever. Paraphrased: “You gave this to me for keeping my mouth shut, and I think I’ll do the same now.”
1948 USA. Director: Jean Negulesco. Starring: Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford.

10:00am – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
(repeats at 4:00pm)

4:00pm – Fox Movie – that thing you do!
Tom Hanks took his first turn behind the camera of a feature film with this film about a 1960s one-hit wonder band. It’s pretty slight, but it’s a lot of fun, with a rollicking soundtrack of oldies and imitation oldies.
1996 USA. Director: Tom Hanks. Starring: Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Steve Zahn, Tom Hanks, Charlize Theron.
Newly Featured!

6:00pm – Fox Movie – An Affair to Remember
For some reason, this has become one of the best-loved melodramas of classic Hollywood (possibly because its main plot point is memorialized in Sleepless in Seattle); it’s not one of my personal favorites in the genre, but as three-handkerchief romantic weepies go, it’s not bad.
1957 USA. Director: Leo McCarey. Starring: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr.

8:00pm – IFC – Full Metal Jacket
Kubrick takes on the Vietnam war with one of his most highly-regarded films, following a unit of Marines from basic training under a tyrannical sergeant through fighting in the streets of Vietnam.
(1987 UK/USA. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey.
(repeats at 11:00pm)

9:00pm – TCM – A Christmas Story
A staple on cable channels for years, this classic of childhood holiday cheer takes its turn on TCM (but only plays once, instead of all day!). The adventures of Ralphie are well-known to most everybody under the age of 40, but it’s always fun to revisit them around this time of year.
1983 USA. Director: Bob Clark. Starring: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin.
Newly Featured!

9:00pm – Sundance – Hunger
A look at the last days of IRA member Bobby Sands, the leader of a 1981 hunger strike undertaken by IRA prisoners in the face of brutal prison conditions. I have yet to see it, but first-time director Steve McQueen’s stark yet artful style brought him huge amounts of critical acclaim, plus the film stands as Michael Fassbender’s breakout.
2008 UK. Director: Steve McQueen. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Stuart Graham, Laine Megaw, Brian Milligan.

10:05pm – Fox Movie – The Panic in Needle Park
A harrowing tale of NYC heroin addicts, exemplifying the dark side of youth culture that New Hollywood does so well. A star-making turn for Al Pacino, just a year prior to The Godfather.
1971 USA. Director: Jerry Schatzberg. Starring: Al Pacino, Kitty Winn, Alan Vint.
(repeats at 2:05am on the 7th)

12:00M – TCM – Miracle on 34th Street
The original classic Christmas tale of a Macy’s department store Santa who claims to be the real thing and the family whose cynicism is tested by his presence. One of Natalie Wood’s most memorable pre-growing-up roles, and an Oscar-winner for Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle.
1947 USA. Director: George Seaton. Starring: Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne.

2:00am (7th) – TCM – Meet Me in St. Louis
The ultimate nostalgia film, harking back to the turn of the century and the year leading up to the 1903 St. Louis World’s Fair. Judy Garland holds the film and the family in it together as the girl who only wants to love the boy next door, but it’s Margaret O’Brien as the little willful sister who adds the extra bit of oomph, especially in the manic Halloween scene and the violent Christmas scene that carries the film from an exercise in sentimentality into a deeper territory of loss and distress.
1944 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Judy Garland, Tom Drake, Lucille Bremer, Margaret O’Brien, Leon Ames, Mary Astor.
Must See

Wednesday, December 7

8:45am – TCM – You Can’t Take It With You
Capra won his third directing Oscar for this film (the others were for It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), but to me it’s not one of his more interesting pieces. Young couple James Stewart and Jean Arthur invite chaos when his staid, wealthy family meets her wacky, irreverent one.
1938 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Spring Byington.

10:45am – IFC – Dancer in the Dark
Bjork plays a factory worker whose increasing blindness threatens to keep her from being able to do her job, which will keep her from earning the money she needs for an operation that will prevent her son from suffering the same blindness. Add in the relationship with her not-as-happy-as-they-seem neighbors and a trenchant critique of the justice system and death penalty, not to mention several musical numbers juxtaposed throughout, and you have a film that’s unlike any other.
2000 Denmark. Director: Lars von Trier. Starring: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare.

1:00pm – TCM – The Misfits
John Huston directs and Arthur Miller writes this final film for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. Though the film is remembered for that tragic fact, it’s also a pretty solid film on its own, about a divorcee caught between two rough and ready men of the west (Gable and Montgomery Clift), then opposing them when she discovers their plans for the wild horses in the area. And of course, with Miller behind it, there’s far more going on than just that.
1961 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach.

3:15pm – TCM – How the West Was Won
Mostly notable for cramming pretty much every star in Hollywood (and three directors!) into the same film, this film is quite Hollywoodized from actual history and rather overlong in its attempt to tell a long and sprawling history, but for fans of westerns and cameos, it’s an enjoyable watch.
1963 USA. Director: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall. Starring: Caroll Baker, Lee J. Cobb, Henry Fonda, Carolyn Jones, Karl Malden, Gregory Peck, George Peppard, Robert Preston, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, Eli Wallach, John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Walter Brennan, Andy Devine, Raymond Massey, Agnes Moorehead, Harry Morgan, Thelma Ritter, Russ Tamblyn.
Newly Featured!

3:30pm – MGM – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Tom Stoppard’s brilliant play about the “in-betweens” of Hamlet, following two minor characters around as they discuss existential philosophy and various other topics while the main action of the play happens elsewhere, becomes an almost-as-brilliant film. I still recommend seeing the play if you can, as it’s slightly different and I think better, but the film is still wonderful.
1990 UK/USA. Director: Tom Stoppard. Starring: Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, Richard Dreyfuss.

8:00pm – TCM – From Here to Eternity
There’s the famous part, yes, where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr make love on the beach among the crashing waves. But there’s also a solid ensemble war tale, involving young officer Montgomery Clift and his naive wife Donna Reed, and embittered soldiers Frank Sinatra and Lee J. Cobb.
1953 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Montgomery Clift, Lee J. Cobb.

10:45pm – Sundance – Nights and Weekends
Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig are two of the most visible faces in the Mumblecore movement, such as it is, and this is one of their more highly-regarded collaborations (both credited as directors, writers, and actors), with a typically lo-fi relationship-driven story of two people struggling through a long-distance relationship.
2008 USA. Director: Joe Swanberg, Greta Gerwig. Starring: oe Swanberg, Greta Gerwig, Alison Bagnall.
Newly Featured!

12:00M – MGM – Manon of the Spring
The sequel to the equally good Jean de Florette (but not really dependent on it), this quiet and pastoral French film focuses on Jean’s daughter Manon, who tries to right the wrongs done to her father.
1986 France. Director: Claude Berri. Starring: Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Beart, Hippolyte Girardo.

4:15am (8th) – TCM – They Were Expendable
There are films that don’t seem to be all that while you’re watching them – no particularly powerful scenes, not a particularly moving plot, characters that are developed but don’t jump out at you – and yet by the time you reach the end, you’re somehow struck with what a great movie you’ve seen. This film was like that for me – it’s mostly a lot of vignettes from a U-boat squadron led by John Wayne, the only one who thought the U-boat could be useful in combat. But it all adds up to something much more.
1945 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond.

le-cercle-rouge

Scorecard: November 2011

[At the end of every month I post a rundown of the movies I saw that month, tallying them according to how much I did or didn't like them. You can always see my recent watches here and my ongoing list of bests for the whole year here.]

Even though I just finished recapping all the AFI films in their own posts, I went ahead and included them here as well, just because I like seeing how they all came out in relation to each other. All the capsule text is exactly the same as in the other posts, so if you read them in one of the AFI posts, don’t bother looking at them again here, but I figured, hey, nice to have them all in one place and be able to see they all compared in my overall rankings, plus if anyone happened to miss any of the previous posts, here you go. There are also a few non-AFI film capsules crossposted from the Movies We Watched series on Row Three. Hey, I’m just reusing and recycling, doing my part for the environment. You may notice I included my Flickchart rankings for each film this time – I’m going to start doing that for the monthly recap posts from now on, I think. Flickchart is a great site built around a deceptively simple premise – it presents you with two films and asks you to choose which one you like better. Do that enough (I’ve done it over 45,800 times as of this second) and it builds your list of films from favorites to least favorites. Take these with a grain of salt, though – I think these are roughly accurate, but my Flickchart changes every day.

What I Loved

Le cercle rouge

My one repertory screening of AFI Fest, thanks to Pedro Almodóvar programming a Jean-Pierre Melville film I’ve wanted to see for quite a while. And it was totally worth giving up a new movie to be able to see this one for the first time in a theatre with a full, appreciative audience. It’s a crime story, like most of Melville’s films, an intricately plotted combination of criminals on the run, police on the chase, the mob on the make, and a well-planned jewelry heist. All these elements get their due, with great characters in every part. It’s not quite fair to give a 40-year-old film my “best of fest” vote, but it was unquestionably my favorite. Full review on Row Three.
1970 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Alain Delon, Bourvil and Gian Maria Volonté.
Seen November 5 at AFI Fest, Egyptian Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 76 out of 2828

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Now here’s one that will DEFINITELY be on my top ten list this year – I was expecting a lot from this film based on the buzz from other festivals and advance screenings, and it delivered even more than I could’ve hoped. Almost a psychological horror film, delving into the disturbed psyche of a mom whose son seems to be a child of the devil. But whether the boy really is astoundingly fiendish or whether she’s an incapable mother (or more likely, somewhere between those two extremes, as they both bring out the worst in each other) is left ambiguous, as Lynne Ramsay builds a portrait of a woman who’s lost everything and vascillates between blaming everyone else and assuming blame herself. The film is structured with a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, keeping the audience in doubt as to the exact chain of events until a chronology starts building up to a terrible end – this structure, standout performances from everyone involved, and an enormously effective soundscape combine to make this one of the most terrifying pictures about parenthood ever made.
2011 UK. Director: Lynne Ramsay. Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John C. Reilly.
Seen November 9 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 78 out of 2828

Melancholia

It stands to reason that Lars von Trier would be a stellar director for a film with the end of the world as a metaphor for depression. It isn’t a particularly subtle film, but it’s nonetheless a perfect depiction of “melancholia” in both metaphorical and literal terms, as Kirsten Dunst gives an incredible performance as a woman struggling with depression, seemingly the only person who truly understands the import of the planet hurtling toward earth (dubbed “Melancholia”). Her sister, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, tries to help her through the depression, but when it becomes clear that Melancholia is not going to miss Earth as predicted, she falls apart – the shifting roles of the two sisters brings a dynamism to a film that can get downright stately (in a good way). No one but von Trier could make this film, but it is probably his most accessible in years.
2011 Denmark. Director: Lars von Trier. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgaard, Stellan Skarsgaard, Charlotte Rampling.
Seen November 6 at AFI Fest, Egyptian Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 223 out of 2828

Attenberg

My first foray into the new wave of Greek cinema emerging over the past couple of years was an unmitigated success, at least for me. I have yet to see either of Yanthos Lorgimos’s films (which I need to do, especially Dogtooth, as it’s a frontrunner in current Greek cinema), but I pretty much loved Attenberg, from his friend and collaborator Athina Rachel Tsangari, from start to finish. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but what I got is something very similar to a Czech New Wave film, closely focused on a single twenty-something character and her struggle to come to terms with her father’s impending death and the way that’s all tied up her late-blooming sexuality. On the surface, not a whole lot happens here, but there’s a lot underneath, and that’s what I like to see. Right now this is in my top ten for the year. We’ll see if it can hang on through the final month of big-name releases. Full review on Row Three.
2011 Greece. Director: Athina Rachel Tsangari. Starring: Ariane Labed, Yorgos Lanthimos, Vangelis Mourikis, Evangelia Randou.
Seen November 9 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 246 out of 2828

Cafe de Flore

Parallel stories seemingly connected only by the importance of the title song in each take place in 1969 Paris and present-day Montreal. In 1969, a mother devotes herself to her Downs Syndrome son, their close bond threatened only when the boy becomes attached to a Downs girl he meets a school. In present-day, a DJ leaves his wife of many years for a young beauty. Both stories are concerned with multiple loves, lost love, new love, and letting go, and they may be connected even closer than that. This film will sneak up on you with how good it is, rising to an amazingly edited and scored crescendo. There currently isn’t US distribution for it that I’m aware of, and that’s a crying shame. This is one of the best films of the year.
2011 Canada. Director: Jean-Marc Vallée. Starring: Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent, Hélène Florent, Evelyne Brochu.
Seen November 6 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 326 out of 2828

This is Not a Film

This is not a film because Iranian director Jafar Panahi has been placed under house arrest and banned from filmmaking for 20 years by the Iranian government, because his films are seen as subversive and politically dangerous. This is not a film also because what he’s doing instead of making a film is having a friend record him telling his next screenplay, and a description of a screenplay is not a film. But this is a very real, very heartbreaking, very frustrating, and surprisingly very funny documentary about a man denied the ability to do what he does. It’s fantastic, and the knowledge that Panahi’s appeal was denied in the middle of October only makes it more poignant. Full review on Row Three.
2011 Iran. Directors: Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Jafar Panahi. Starring: Jafar Panahi.
Seen November 4 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 342 out of 2828

Extraterrestrial

I’m a big fan of Nacho Vigalondo’s time travel film Timecrimes, so when I saw his new alien invasion film was coming to AFI Fest, it was an immediate must on my schedule. I’m not as big on alien invasion films as I am on time travel films, but that’s okay, because this is far from your typical alien invasion film, focusing on a quartet of characters left behind the evacuation when an alien ship appears. Their biggest fears, though, are the secrets they’re keeping from each other and the theories they hatch about each other. Great script and performances to match from the young cast make this a hugely fun time from start to finish. Full review on Row Three.
2011 Spain. Director: Nacho Vigalondo. Starring: Julián Villagrán, Michelle Jenner, Carlos Areces, Raúl Cimas.
Seen November 4 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 343 out of 2828

Kill List

Main character Jay has been out of work for eight months, a situation that he seems okay with, but his wife Shel most certainly is not. At first, it’s not clear what he does for work, but as the film wears on and a former colleague approaches him with a potential job, it becomes clear that he’s a hit man. As they take on the job, which consists of a list of people to be killed, the situations get weirder and weirder until the film takes a turn that switches it from slow burn to high-octane in almost a split second. That turn may not work for everybody, but it worked like gangbusters for me. Even the earlier kills have a bit of the old ultraviolence to them, and the twist at the end is horrible, but not necessarily unearned. At least, not in terms of the emotional and adrenal impact. I’m not sure the whole trajectory of the story makes logical sense in any way whatsoever, but by the time Jay and his cohort are being chased around in a set of dark, dank tunnels, it doesn’t really matter anymore. Terror takes over, and I have to say, this is one of the most terrifying films I’ve seen lately, even with a whole month of horror films just behind me in October. I loved it.
2011 UK. Director: Ben Wheatley. Starring: Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Harry Simpson.
Seen November 5 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 612 out of 2828

Headhunters

A downright fun thriller with a heavy dose of dark comedy, as a mousy headhunter who uses his contacts as a way to find potential targets for his side business as an art thief ends up embroiled in a scheme way over his head and has to overcome his many character weaknesses just to survive. The plotting is intricate, but rarely confusing, and the cast (including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, best known in the US for his villainous Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones) carries off all manner of ridiculous situations with believable aplomb.
2011 Norway. Director: Morten Tyldum. Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Aksel Hennie, Julie R. Ølgaard, Synnøve Macody Lund.
Seen November 5 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 617 out of 2828

What I Liked

Born to Kill

I hadn’t heard of this noir film until a friend of mine mentioned that he’d bought it and offered to lend it to me, and I ended up really liking it. But then, I like most noir, so that’s not really surprising. This one has a few intriguing twists on the genre, though, and two of the most watchably despicable characters I’ve seen for a while. Trevor’s next-door-neighbor gets killed by her jealous boyfriend (Tierney) when he catches her with another man (whom he also kills), but he escapes being noticed by Trevor, who discovers the bodies but then skips town rather than involve herself by, like, calling the police. She and Tierney end up on the same train, neither knowing who the other is, and their lives continue to be intertwined after that. Tierney is almost an homme fatale, the guy who simply won’t scram out of Trevor’s life and entrances her with his bravado and charisma, even though she knows he’s bad for her. But at the same time, she turns out to be hardly a straight-and-narrow kind of person herself, pulling double-cross after double-cross as she realizes who Tierney is (while Tierney interestingly stays pretty true to his admittedly amoral ideals). And of course, there’s the obligatory supporting turn from Elisha Cook, Jr., the staple of so many great noir films, and he’s just as great here as ever as Tierney’s mousy friend who has to do most of his dirty work. In fact, there’s great supporting work from everyone involved, especially Walter Slezak as a mostly kind but also kinda sleazy detective, and Esther Howard as a well-past-her-prime matron who doggedly pursues her friend’s killer – her performance and appearance may well bring new definition to the word “camp.”
1947 USA. Director: Robert Wise. Starring: Lawrence Tierney, Claire Trevor, Walter Slezak, Phillip Terry, Audrey Long, Elisha Cook, Jr.
Seen November 25 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 684 out of 2828

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

This is one I went into with really no quality expectations whatsoever. I chose it because I’d never seen a Turkish film, and because I like slow burn procedural films – to a point. I was a bit concerned that this would go past that point, because it is very long and I was perfectly prepared to be bored stiff. But even though it is very slow, it is never boring, and I ended up liking the film a whole lot more than I thought I would. A caravan of police and army officers are escorting a pair of suspects in the middle of nowhere, trying to find a body that one suspect says is out there, but can’t remember exactly where. This odyssey takes all night, and along the way, different groupings of the police and suspects talk. The topics of conversation are as mundane as anything, but over time, this mundanity becomes the real focus, and takes on in importance even greater than the body they seek. It’s a narrative subversion that only works because of a really solid script and believable acting turns by the whole cast, and it’s a welcome one – by the end, you care more about these people’s individual lives than the mystery itself. There’s a lot more dry humor in it than I expected, too, which actually made the nearly three-hour runtime go by rather quickly.
2011 Turkey. Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Starring: Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan, Taner Birsel.
Seen November 10 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 859 out of 2828

Snowtown

Everything I’ve heard from Australian bloggers and other festival-goers indicated that this film was a) really well-done and b) really hard to watch. That’s not far off, although I didn’t find it as difficult to watch as I thought I might. It’s based on the real-life John Bunting, Australia’s most notorious serial killer, but it’s far from a standard biopic. It filters its portrait through the character of Jamie, a teenage boy growing up in a single-parent, low income home. We spend a good bit of time with Jamie and his family before John shows up, suddenly Jamie’s mom’s new love interest. John is charismatic and heroic to Jamie and his younger brothers, someone who protects them from the pedophile next door but slowly brainwashes Jamie into his bigoted and violent worldview – but what at first seems to be just extreme vigilante justice against actual bad people soon turns into more and more self-serving kills. Some of these are very hard to watch, and I admit to closing my eyes a few times, but even more disturbing is how John brings Jamie into his group, and how he treats his “friends” at any provocation. It’s an extremely effective approach to Bunting, but probably not something I’d want to watch again.
2011 Australia. Director: Justin Kurzel. Starring: Lucas Pittaway, Bob Adriaens and Louise Harris.
Seen November 5 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 860 out of 2828

The Dish and the Spoon

Greta Gerwig is an indie goddess for a reason, and this little film proves why. Taking a simple story of a woman angry at her husband’s infidelity and throwing in some adventures with a young unmoored British man, Gerwig finds a character arc and runs with it, alternating funny, awkward, raw, and quirky as needed. The film is something of a collaboration between director, writer, and stars, and though things like this can get loose and uncontrolled very quickly, that doesn’t happen here, and the film remains charming and cohesive. Full review on Row Three.
2011 USA. Director: Alison Bagnall. Starring: Greta Gerwig, Olly Alexander.
Seen November 6 at AFI Fest, Egyptian Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 867 out of 2828

The Kid with a Bike

I’ve never seen a film from the Dardenne brothers before, but I know them by reputation, and they seem to often do stories that deal with unwanted or unwelcome children. In this case, the main character is an eleven-year-old kid whose dad puts him in an orphanage (“temporarily”) but then ends up abandoning him totally. A kind neighbor takes him in, despite a rather inauspicious meeting, but they’ve got several bumps in the road left to go, not least of them the kid’s temptation to fall in with a bad crowd. It’s a bit on the sweet side, but doesn’t stray too far into saccharine territory – really good turns from Doret and De France help a lot, making an unlikely relationship realistic and meaningful. There’s not enough in the film to really push it over the edge into “loved” territory for me, but it’s solid for what it is.
2011 Belgium. Directors: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Starring: Thomas Doret, Cécile De France, Jérémie Renier.
Seen November 10 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 972 out of 2828

Buried

An extreme form of one-room film, with the whole thing set in a coffin buried somewhere underground. Ryan Reynolds carries the film admirably as an army contractor who gets taken hostage and buried alive with just a cell phone and a few other items, with the intention that he will get a sizeable ransom from the US government for his release. As we know, the US government doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, leaving Reynolds hoping that the dispatched search and rescue team will find him before his air runs out. The film ratchets up tension admirably, keeping the audience engaged through 95 minutes of basically nothing happening except a man talking on a phone. There are nitpicks to be made, and I do wish there had been some better explanation for why he didn’t try to dig out through the obviously loose and relatively shallow dirt above him, but for the most part, it’s pretty effective as a tight-space thriller.
2010 USA. Director: Rodrigo Cortés. Starring: Ryan Reynolds.
Seen November 24 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 1113 out of 2828

The Day He Arrives

This one has been at the top of my must-see list for the festival since it was announced, since Hong Sang-soo’s film HaHaHa was my favorite film of last year’s AFIFest. And I did see it, but I’m disappointed to say that I was exhausted and zoning in and out throughout it. As such, I can’t really justify reviewing it fully, but here’s a few bits about it from my half-remembered daze. It’s got a lot less story than HaHaHa did, but similar to that film (and other Hong films, from what I’ve heard), a lot of it involves people conversing over drinks. In fact, that’s mostly what this film is, but Hong is so good at sussing out great little moments and character interactions in social situations like this that it remains enjoyable to watch, and I expect would be really good if I had been awake enough to catch more nuances. The main character is a filmmaker who arrives in a small town, intending to meet up with a friend, but he gets waylaid by a fan first, then a bunch of film students, then visits a former girlfriend (awesome awkward conversation there), then ends up killing some time with a friend of his friend, since his friend isn’t home. Eventually there are four of them, hanging out over drinks and chatting – this stuff is great, and seems to come really easily to Hong. This basically feels like a recharge film, a quickly produced affair maybe as he’s working on something more complicated. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There are some really interesting conversational tacks, all carried out with aplomb by the charismatic cast. There’s also some timey-wimey stuff going on – one section of the film is repeated almost verbatim twice, but with slight differences, and the end is basically the beginning, except his friend turns out to be home. I’m dying to see it again to connect that stuff up properly, but I can’t, having dozed off enough to make deciphering timey-wimey stuff impossible. The worst part is I have no idea when, if ever, I’ll get a chance to rewatch this – Hong’s stuff is not easy to find in the US.
2011 South Korea. Director: Hong Sang-soo. Starring: Jun-Sang Yu, Sang Jung Kim, Bo-kyung Kim, Seon-mi Song.
Seen November 8 at AFI Fest, Egyptian Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 1252 out of 2828

Bonsái

An opening voiceover tells us that all we need to know about this story is that at the end, Emilia is dead, and Julio is not dead. “All the rest is fiction.” I love when stories play with storytelling itself, and that’s what this film does, giving us a multi-layered look at a relationship that may be real, or may be partly real, and certainly is partly fiction. Julio is a wanna-be writer who tries to get a job typing up the latest work of a famous novelist. When he fails to get the job, he tells his girlfriend about it anyway and starts making up the story based on the brief logline the novelist gave him, tying it back to a relationship he had nine years earlier with a girl in college. At some points he seems to be telling their story exactly, but other times it’s clear that filtered through both memory and fiction, it’s vastly different than what actually happened, if indeed, anything actually happened at all. The story owes a lot to Proust, whose opening lines in Remembrance of Things Past get repeated a few times (Julio and Emilia also met over them both pretending to have read Proust) – I won’t repeat them all here, but they have to do with the main character falling asleep reading and in a half-wakeful state imagining himself to have become part of the book he was reading. That’s very much what’s going on here, and I loved it. The love story (or stories, both the remembered one with Emilia and the current one with his girlfriend) is sweet and genuine, and though the film as a whole is pretty slight, it’s very enjoyable and made me want to read Proust myself. So there’s that.
2011 Chile. Director: Cristián Jiménez. Starring: Gabriela Arancibia, Cristóbal Briceño and Julio Carrasco.
Seen November 5 at AFI Fest, Egyptian Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 1265 out of 2828

Pina

After thinking that Werner Herzog’s The Cave of Forgotten Dreams was the best use of 3D I’d seen so far, I figured I’d give Herzog’s countryman Wim Wenders a chance to challenge with his dance documentary/tribute to groundbreaking choreographer Pina Bausch, who died while working a film with Wenders. He abandoned the film upon her death, until her dance company convinced him to complete it as a tribute to her. The film itself is lovely, a collection of dance performances, some on stage, others in various urban and rural laces throughout Germany, intercut with brief interview excerpts from members of the company about Pina and her approach to dance. The 3D, though…something may be wrong with me, but I find it impossible to focus on movement in 3D, and dance is a LOT of movement. The still parts look pretty cool in 3D (including, surprisingly, the interview segments, which are done as a shot of the dancer not talking with their quotes given in voiceover – more effective than you might think), but as soon as the dancers move with any speed, it’s just a blur and trying to focus on it gave me a massive headache. I think I would prefer to watch this in 2D. Full review on Row Three.
2011 Germany. Director: Wim Wenders. Starring: Ensemble of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.
Seen November 5 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 1267 out of 2828

Dementia, aka Daughter of Horror

What a bizarre and intriguing little curiosity of a film. Shot in 1953 completely silent, but released in 1955 with an added voiceover narration, the film screened at Cinefamily with live narration from a local comedian, who read the voiceover script when called for, but filled in the many non-voiced parts with MST3K-style joking around. So it’s not an experience that’s likely to be repeatable, but it was certainly memorable and hilarious to see it that way. The film itself is a nightmare-scape, with a woman waking in the middle of the night and taking a noirish odyssey through the dark streets of a city populated with winos, pimps, and scumbags. Is it really happening, or is she dreaming? Who knows? It’s rather surreal, and filled with memorable details like a midget newspaper seller, a graveyard flashback with images of fatherly abuse, a swinging jazz club, a gluttonous lech, and a crisscross of legs blocking a vital piece of evidence – all rendered in high contrast black and white with long shadows and striking angles. The pacing is often disjointed, and the acting often simply bad, but there’s something mesmerizing about the film that I think exists apart from the amusing commentary we got that both enhanced and diffused the film’s nightmarish impact. I enjoyed the experience greatly, but I hesitate to say the film would be unwatchable without it (as most MST3K films are). There’s more inherent interest in it than that.
1955 USA. Director: John Parker. Starring: Adrienne Barrett, Bruno VeSota, Ben Roseman.
Seen November 16 at Cinefamily.
Flickchart ranking: 1421 out of 2828

The Loneliest Planet

I’m not entirely sure what to say about this film, even after having had a few weeks to think about it. It’s an extremely slowly-paced film, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – unless it’s 10pm the last day of an exhausting festival, which, oh wait, it was. It was difficult to stay awake in the film, but again, that’s not the film’s fault, and though I struggled while watching it, thinking back about it has made me appreciate a lot of what it was doing more. Hani Furstenberg and Gael Garcia Bernal play a couple about to be married who are vacationing in the mountains of Georgia (the country, not the state), backpacking and camping along with a mountain guide. A lot of the film is just them walking around, maybe taking a few minutes to wander around an abandoned house or interacting with village locals before heading out into the wilds. They converse some, trying to learn about their guide (who is actually played by one of the premier mountaineers in the world) and practicing bits of Spanish, but a lot of it is also wordless. Somewhere in the middle a traumatizing event causes Furstenberg’s character to start distrusting Bernal’s, which leads to some darker places in the rest of the film. A lot of this is pretty subtle, and I was frankly too sleepy to catch all the acting nuances all the time, but the Q&A and thinking over the film in the subsequent days has definitely made me want a rewatch at some point.
2011 Germany/USA. Director: Julia Loktev. Starring: Hani Furstenberg, Gael García Bernal, Bidzina Gujabidze.
Seen November 10 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 1753 out of 2828

The Last Command

I’m consciously trying to watch more Josef von Sternberg films, just because he’s got a healthy reputation among early Hollywood film directors – especially for his work with Marlene Dietrich, but also for late silents like Underworld and The Docks of New York, and this film, which is especially notable for being one of two films to bring Emil Jannings the very first Best Actor Academy Award ever. (They gave awards based on all films an actor appeared in that year; in this case, the other is The Way of All Flesh, which exists now only in fragments.) But I don’t quite get the von Sternberg thing. All three films of his I’ve seen, including this one, are fine, but I haven’t loved any of them, and none of them seem that distinctive to me. In this one, I liked the framing narrative that puts Jannings as a Hollywood extra who claims to have once been a general for the Czar – most everyone laughs him off, but the majority of the film is a flashback showing him leading the Czar’s army in 1917 and how he escaped Russia penniless during the Revolution. Jannings is really strong, especially in the current-time period (the flashback gets a little long and dull), and it’s fun seeing a really young William Powell as the revolutionary-turned-director who recognizes him in Hollywood. The ending goes for emotional resonance over logic, which didn’t quite work for me, either. But back to von Sternberg. I liked how he shot Brent as the lone female character, clearly gearing up for his work with Dietrich, but aside from that and Jannings’ performance, the film is honestly pretty flat. I guess I need to see more von Sternberg to get the hoopla.
1927 USA. Director: Josef von Sternberg. Starring: Emil Jannings, Evelyn Brent, William Powell.
Seen November 2 at Cinefamily.
Flickchart ranking: 2447 out of 2828

What I Thought Was All Right

Beyond the Black Rainbow

I had no expectations at all of this, other than a recommendation from one friend who likes weird genre stuff and random Internet reviews that hated it. The trailer’s pretty trippy, so I was expecting that. Turns out there is a sci-fi story of sorts involving a happiness clinic, a girl held there against her will, a creepy psychologist-type guy, a bunch of androids or something, and…other stuff. The best part is the almost fully abstract flashback that sort of (but not really) explains the girl’s background; the parts that try to be story-led are just kind of off putting.
2010 USA. Director: Panos Cosmatos. Starring: Michael Rogers, Eva Allan, Scott Hylands.
Seen November 2 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 2461 out of 2828

Coriolanus

This adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays boasts a strong cast including Ralph Fiennes (who also makes his directing debut), Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, and James Nesbit. But there’s a reason that Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays. It’s frankly not that interesting, even transposing its story of a military hero double-crossed and banished into a modern setting. The acting veers from classical overblown Shakespearean antics to more minimalist approaches, giving the film a very uneven feel – only Redgrave and Cox seem to know how to navigate switching between these two as the material calls for it. Chastain is really underused. There are some great moments, particularly Redgrave’s tour-de-force scenes as Coriolanus’ mother, but the whole thing is unwieldy and uneven. Full review on Row Three.
2011 UK. Director: Ralph Fiennes. Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain.
Seen November 7 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese.
Flickchart ranking: 2462 out of 2828

Faust

I quite liked Alexander Sukorov’s one-shot odyssey through Russian history in Russian Ark, but this film is nothing like that. It does have the framework of the Faust story, but a whole lot of the film is taken up by angsty philosophy (“where does the soul reside”) that might’ve intrigued me a little more if I knew more German and Russian philosophy, and a bunch of random running around as the devil and Faust hang out, crash parties full of women, wander through a city and the woods, etc. There’s some pretty cool imagery here and there, and after Faust actually signs his soul away, the rest of the film is good. But everything up to that (which is a LONG TIME) is really dull. Really.
2011 Russia. Director: Alexander Sukorov. Starring: Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adasinsky, Isolda Dychauk.
Seen November 4 at AFI Fest, Mann Chinese Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 2463 out of 2828

What I Didn’t Like

Target

I so wanted this to be good – a Russian sci-fi film about a group of people who seek out this target-shaped area in Thailand with a well at the center of it that supposedly grants eternal youth. Seems like a good deal, but all is bound to go wrong. That much I figured, but it goes wrong in really offputting, cruel, and pointless ways. By the end of its two and a half hour runtime, I didn’t care about any of the characters and just wanted it to end. There are some great visuals spread throughout, and it’s shot and acted quite well, but it’s just…punishing to watch.
2011 Russia. Director: Alexander Zeldovich. Starring: Vitaly Kishchenko, Danila Kozlovskiy, Nina Loshchinina.
Seen November 7 at AFI Fest, Grauman’s Chinese.
Flickchart ranking: 2643 out of 2828

Rewatches – Love

The Thin Man

As you can see by my Flickchart ranking below, this is one of my favorite films of all time, and I’ve been really excited to show it to Jonathan for quite a while, so I was glad he picked it out of my collection to watch. It’s a decent little mystery that keeps you guessing all the way up until the Agatha-Christie-spoofing “gather all the suspects for dinner” finale, but the real joy is watching William Powell and Myrna Loy play off each other as Nick and Nora Charles. I’ve said many times, and I hold it to be absolute truth, that the Charleses are the best example of a married couple in all of cinema history. They have a depth of knowledge about each other and trust of each other that doesn’t even need to be verbalized – you can see it right there on the screen in the way she responds to his story about another girl being his long-lost love child, and the way he teases her about how she spends her money. They’re helped, of course, by some of the most sparkling dialogue in any movie ever (by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich), and a wide range of excellent supporting characters right down to the gangster and his moll who have about five lines of dialogue each but are utterly unforgettable. Thirties movies excelled at using character actors to good effect, and The Thin Man is right up there with the best of them. I could gush forever about this film, but I won’t.
1934 USA. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan.
Seen November 25 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 21 out of 2828

Totals

Films seen for the first time: 25
Rewatches: 1
Films seen in theatres: 23
List of Shame films: 0
2011 films: 19
2010 films: 2
1970s films: 1
1950s films: 1
1940s films: 1
1930s films: 1 (1 rewatch)
1920s films: 1
American films: 8 (1 rewatch)
British films: 3
Canadian films: 1
French films: 1
Belgian films: 1
Danish films: 1
Norwegian films: 1
Spanish films: 1
German films: 1
Russian films: 2
Greek films: 1
Iranian films: 1
Turkish films: 1
South Korean films: 1
Australian films: 1
Chilean films: 1