Tag Archives: 50 Day Movie Challenge

50DMC #33: Favorite Remake

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What’s your favorite remake?

I try not to have an immediate negative reaction when I hear about a remake. Sometimes it’s hard. I mean, they’re planning to remake The Thin Man! What the hell. But truth be told, remakes are kind of fascinating – it’s at last academically interesting to see what filmmakers of different generations, different culture, and different personal tastes will make of the same story, and sometimes many different versions turn out to all have their strong points.

When it came to just picking ONE, though, my mind was blank until I quickly ran through my list of watched films and one title stood out immediately. Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday is one of my all-time favorite films, and it also happens to be a remake, of the 1931 film The Front Page (later remade again as The Front Page in 1974 by Billy Wilder, no less). It’s also a prime example of how making some judicious changes can both improve a story and set a remake apart from the original – in The Front Page (both versions), Hildy Johnson is a man, and the relationship between Walter and Hildy is one of professionals and friends. Switching Hildy’s gender to female and adding a romance to the mixture was a brilliant move, and Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell play it for all its worth, while not losing the friends/professionals part of the relationship either. It’s a great film as a film, and also as a remake.

Here’s a bit from early in the film showcasing the wonderful dialogue, quick cadence and chemistry between Grant and Russell.

50DMC #32: Favorite Sequel

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What’s your favorite sequel?

This one’s too easy and obvious, but it’s true. It’s pretty commonly believed that The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars films, and I subscribe to that wholeheartedly. When I first watched Star Wars (as a jaded teenager), I was not suitably impressed, but I went on and watched Empire anyway. I’m a completionist, you know. Empire FLOORED me. I mean, Han and Leia, Imperial walkers, Yoda, I am your father, our heroes losing over and over, the ending that leaves them at their lowest point – it upped the ante at every turn. I loved it, and that caused me to go back and reevaluate the first one, and loved it too. So yeah. Empire not only bettered Star Wars for me, it actually helped me see what everyone else did in it and made me a fan for life.

Here’s the climax of the film:

50DMC #31: Worst Movie Ever Seen

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?

The worst-made movie I’ve ever seen is probably Troll 2, but that movie is awesome in its badness. When it comes to my absolute least favorite, suck-my-soul-out bad movies, they’re ones that are not only crappy, but dull and lifeless also. There are a few that could fill that role – Batman & Robin, Harvard Man, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and more – but I decided to go with the 1998 version of The Avengers, with Ralph Fiennes as John Steed and Uma Thurman as Emma Peel, because not only is it a terrible movie, it mangles source material I love very much. This SHOULD HAVE BEEN a good time. And it was awful. I’ve eliminated most of it from my memory, I just remember hating it.

50DMC #30: Last Theatrical Movie

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What’s the last movie you saw in theatres?

Well, the last general theatrical release I saw was Attack the Block a few weeks ago, though I hope to resume weekly new-release-going with Contagion this weekend. But the last thing I actually saw in a theatre was a screening of the 1924 film Changing Husbands as part of the Silent Treatment program at Cinefamily. The Silent Treatment is a bi-monthly newsletter published electronically by two LA-based film archivists (one at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, one at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences), focusing on silent film. They do a program once a month at Cinefamily, showing rarely screened silent films that are not on DVD, so unfortunately I don’t have a clip from the film to include. The best I can do is the poster-based trailer Cinefamily put together.

I can say that I enjoyed the film immensely; it’s something of a sex farce as Leatrice Joy plays a rich man’s wife who only wants to go on the stage, against her husband’s urging to live a quiet life with him, and when she gets to New York, what does she find but her exact doppelganger about to get kicked out of a show for her poor acting. She and the weary actress decide to swap places, never expecting her husband to come swooping in and whisk the poor young woman off to Long Island, not dreaming that she isn’t his wife. Meanwhile, his wife is dealing with the advances of her double’s beau. It gets pretty suggestive by the end; anyone who likes pre-Code films would get a kick out of this one. And Joy is great in her dual role. If you ever do get a chance to see Changing Husbands, I’d jump at it. It was a delight from start to finish.

50DMC #29: A Movie Everyone Should See

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What’s a movie you think everyone should see?

This is a question I never quite know how to answer. If “everyone” really means everyone in the whole world, then I have no answer. Movies are vastly important to me, but not to everyone, so I hesitate to tell anyone who doesn’t care for them that they have to see any one in particular. In that case especially, what they should watch depends extra heavily on what they do enjoy. You could say it should be a movie with a particularly important social message or something that makes it important outside of moviedom, but I tend to dislike message pictures personally, so don’t recommend them. You could say something of particular cultural impact, but those (like Star Wars or some such) tend to permeate the culture so much it doesn’t really matter if you’ve seen them or not.

If you limit it to people who like movies or are film buffs, then you get the big hitters like Citizen Kane, but choosing that is boring, and they’ve probably seen it. So here’s how I’m going to modify the question: What’s a movie that I think film buffs should see that they probably haven’t. Now, a lot of classic film buffs will have seen To Be or Not to Be, but I tend to find that a lot of people who do enjoy classic film haven’t. And they should. It’s a 1942 comedy directed by Ernst Lubitsch, who’s known for his sophisticated touch for romantic comedies. This one has that, but it’s also a satire aimed squarely at Hitler, who in 1942 was pretty much at the height of his power. The level of comedy at Nazi expense in this film is almost as ballsy as Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. Yet mixed in with the comedy (as it is in Chaplin’s film, too, I hasten to make clear) is a great deal of pathos. A company of Warsaw actors putting on Hamlet (hence the title) end up going underground when the Nazis come in, but they hatch a plot to fight back, full of impersonations and subterfuge – the most important acting roles they’ll ever have. But Lubitsch and company manages to balance a comic style with very serious stakes perfectly.

I couldn’t find the scene I really wanted to share, where one of the actors, in the midst of the blitzkrieg attack on Warsaw, gives Shylock’s “do we not bleed” speech from The Merchant of Venice. It’s pretty much the sobering moment when the bedroom comedy centered on Carole Lombard’s flirtation with a young flier to the consternation of Benny, her husband, turns into the war-torn spy plot of the second half, and it’s exquisite. But this one will do as well, as an interrogation of a young boy ends up in a loyalty-grabbing series of “heil Hitlers.” By the way, this was Carole Lombard’s final film, after more than a decade of being one of Hollywood’s most sparkling comediennes; she was killed the next year when her war bond tour plane was shot down. Her loss was tragic, but there couldn’t be a finer film to be her final legacy to us.