Tag Archives: William Wyler

Challenge Week 43: The Collector

The week before I watched this, its recommender Steve tried to scare me, warning me that it was pretty rough and that it surprising it got past the censors and whatnot. I knew it was about a man who kidnaps women, and that kind of storyline CAN go very wrong for me if it rubs me the wrong way. But on the other hand, it CAN go very right for me, and Steve will be pleased to know this is one of those times.

Terence Stamp is Freddie, a butterfly collector who also obsesses over a girl, Miranda (Samantha Eggar)…he wants her to love him, but really, he just wants to add her to his collection, like a rare butterfly that he would capture and pin for preservation. He buys a remote old country house with a large cellar, furnishes the cellar as a small apartment, and kidnaps Miranda and locks her in it.


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Challenge Week 7: Come and Get It

My knowledge of this one going in was limited to the fact that Walter Brennan won the very first Best Supporting Actor Oscar for it – thank you, high school-era Oscar obsession! When I realized it was based on an Edna Ferber novel, I had a bit more idea what to expect, as I’m familiar with several other Ferber books and their film adaptations, and they generally have a few things in common: sprawling, multi-generational stories featuring self-made Americans in some particular 19th century-specific profession. Cimarron is about pioneers entering the Oklahoma territory, Show Boat is about performers and gamblers on Mississippi River show boats, So Big about a teacher/farmer in an Illinois Dutch community, and Come and Get It is about a logger/paper mill magnate.


Multi-generational stories tend not to be my favorite thing, but I can be persuaded. Generally I prefer the earlier parts of these stories the best, before they move on to the second generation, and that’s the case here. In the first half of the story, Barney Glasgow (Edward Arnold) is a go-getter young businessman who gets his hands dirty with his logging crew, pushing for more productivity, but also right there pushing the timber into the river for transport, hanging out in the saloon after the work is done, etc. He meets and quickly falls for the saloon singer Lotta (Frances Farmer), but opts to marry his intended back east and continue his rise to the top of the business. All of these scenes have a lot of vitality and humor, capturing the scope of the frontier and the kind of men (and women) who made their way in it. I’m a big fan of westerns in general, so I loved that stuff, even if the attempt to point out how devastating over-logging is to the land kind of fell flat against the epic visuals of logs being transported and processed.

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Challenge Week 7: The Good Fairy

When I started this challenge, I had a few things in mind that I hoped for – I hoped people would give me stuff I needed to see but hadn’t gotten around to, stuff that I wouldn’t have sought out on my own, stuff I thought I would dislike and end up loving, and stuff I’d never heard of, with a particular hope that I’d get some classic-era stuff I hadn’t heard of, which can be a difficult feat. Well, this week did it, and I’m very glad it did.

Despite having a stellar pedigree – directed by William Wyler, written by Preston Sturges, starring a luminous Margaret Sullavan and a great supporting cast – this film seems to have gone under the radar quite a bit. Sullavan is Luisa Ginglebusher (a Sturges last name if ever I heard one), a girl who’s grown up in an orphanage her whole life, but leaves to take a job as an usherette at a theatre…but all that’s by the by. Once she’s out in the world, it doesn’t take long for her to be surrounded by men. She keeps the advice of orphanage director Beulah Bondi to be careful in her “dealings with the male gender,” but is also led by her admonition to do a good deed every day.


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Scorecard: May 2012

Apparently I turned a corner in moviewatching in May, finally having a solid streak of films I really liked to loved. I think there were a few months earlier this year that I struggled to come up with any films that a solidly loved. Obviously not last month with the TCM Fest going on, but that’s a special occasion. This month I saw and loved four very distinctly different films, which is exactly the kind of month I like to have. Not a lot of volume in May (thanks to my newly developed Minecraft addiction – seriously, if you get addicted easily, do NOT buy that game), but a whole lot of quality.

What I Loved

The Avengers

I actually wrote a sort-of review for The Avengers already, so I won’t go on about it here, except just to say that we went back to see it again the next week (we NEVER do that – I can count the number of films I’ve seen multiple times in theatres on two hands) and I still enjoyed it just as much. I expected the beginning set-up section at S.H.I.E.L.D. to drag a lot more the second time, but I was pleasantly surprised.

2012 USA. Director: Joss Whedon. Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Gregg Clark, Cobie Smulders.
Seen May 5 and May 12 at Arclight Sherman Oaks.
Flickchart ranking: 382 out of 2965

The Turin Horse

Over a blank screen we’re told the famous tale of Nietzsche seeing a horse being beaten in the streets of Turin, running to the horse, and throwing his arms around its neck, weeping – the beginning of a mental breakdown from which he never fully recovered. But what of the horse, asks Béla Tarr, and of its owners? Instead of the heady philosophy or dramatic psychosis you’d expect from a story that begins with Nietzsche, Tarr gives us a mundane, human, and deeply moving glimpse into a very difficult and despairing existence. The man and his daughter depend on the horse for their lives, such as they are – and we see them throughout a week as the horse, stubborn because of illness, gets weaker and weaker and their own hold on existence gets more and more tenuous. You don’t (or shouldn’t) sit down to a Tarr film without knowing what you’re getting into, and this one is nearly two and a half hours long of basically watching these two people do mundane chores over and over in very long takes. When things are so much the same, the differences become enormous, and Tarr maximizes that by varying camera placements, or by using slight changes in demeanor or action to telegraph the changing states of mind and being of these extremely taciturn people. Settling into the film’s rhythm yields an experience that makes mundanity into something transcendent, and by the end, seeing these two simply sitting at their roughhewn table was enough to bring me to the brink of tears. Tarr has said this will be his final film, and if that’s true, it’s a pretty masterful work to go out on.

2011 Hungary. Director: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky. Starring: János Derzsi, Erika Bók, Mihály Kormos.
Seen May 2 at Cinefamily.
Flickchart ranking: 433 out of 2965

Moonrise Kingdom

To some degree, you know what you’re going to get when you head into a Wes Anderson movie, so carefully has he refined his style, putting out one of the most self-consciously auteurist bodies of work of any director working today. This one is almost a spot-on distillation of the concept of a Wes Anderson film, and yet rather than devolve into parody, he’s created one of his best films yet. Here a boy scout and a young girl (who looks like a Margot Tenenbaum in the making) escape from her dysfunctional family, providing a young love of such innocence that it seems to provide a way out from Anderson’s typically ironic family drama, here played out by the world-weary and yet strangely childish adults. The film is so charming it’s easy to call it overly slight, but there’s more going on here than immediately meets the eye, and it has surprised me by never straying far from my mind since I saw it.

2012 USA. Director: Wes Anderson. Starring: Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel.
Seen May 26 at Arclight Hollywood.
Flickchart ranking: 480 out of 2965

The Love Trap

Silent-to-sound era transition films are almost innately awkward, as studios rushed to try to sound-ify any silent films currently in production, creating hybrids that sit comfortably as neither silents or talkies. The Love Trap is one such film, and I won’t deny it has its fair share of awkwardness when the film, completely silent for roughly the first two thirds, turns completely talkie and it takes a little while to settle into the new mode. Yet I also can’t deny that I loved this film far more than it probably deserves. Laura LaPlante (who after seeing just this and The Cat and the Canary is my new silent girlcrush) is a showgirl who’s bad at it and gets fired, her only recourse to try to get “powder room money” from rich men. When one gets a little too fresh, she runs out horrified and disgraced, only to find she’s been evicted. A man in a taxi rescues her and her furniture from the sidewalk, and after a quick romance they’re married – but what will his wealthy family think of his showgirl wife? It’s pretty typical of the time, but done with such charm and spontaneity that I thoroughly enjoyed almost every second of it – I say almost because there is a brief part in the taxi that bothered me, as the man begins behaving almost exactly like the cad back at the party, but somehow it’s different because we just “know” he’s the good guy. Double standard much? And the transition to sound is awkward, with poor LaPlante struggling a bit at first, but somehow by the end, she’s just as charming as she was in silent mode.

1929 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Laura LaPlante, Neil Hamilton.
Seen May 9 at Cinefamily.
Flickchart ranking: 555 out of 2965

Continue reading Scorecard: May 2012