Directed by Nathan Juran
Starring Kerwin Mathews, Kathryn Grant, and Torin Thatcher
This is fact: all special effects will eventually look like shit. No matter how good they appear in the moment to audiences of the time, or how cutting edge they may have been, they will all come to look janky, threadbare, and horribly laughable. The only unknown is the amount of time it takes, and the size of the laugh they get. For The Scorpion King, that turn happened instantly, literally the moment the images left the computer. For 2001: A Space Odyssey and Zodiac, it hasn’t happened yet. And maybe in that juxtaposition we can learn a valuable truth: the best VFX are those that don’t reach beyond their capabilities, while the worst try to live out there just beyond the cutting edge. Continue reading
Directed by Mervyn Leroy
Screenplay by Francis Edward Faragoh and Robert N. Lee, based upon the novel of the same name by W. R. Burnett
Starring Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Rico (Edward G. Robinson) is a criminal with ambition. Too bad he’s small-timing it out in the sticks, making ends meet robbing gas stations with his partner, Joe (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). But a man with his ambition won’t be small-time for long and within the space of the transition from one scene to another, Rico is joining one of the top criminal outfits in Chicago. His partner Joe comes to the city too, but he puts aside his criminal dreams for dancing shoes. Because he’s ambitious, and ruthless, Rico rises quickly through the organization, eventually installing himself as boss. Unfortunately, to rise that quickly you have to step on a lot of toes, which doesn’t end well for the man doing the stepping.
Directed by Billy Wilder
Screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Bracket, based upon the play “Connie Goes Home”, by Edward Childs Carpenter, and the story “Sunny Goes Home” by Fannie Kilbourne
Starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland
If I asked you – and I mean you specifically – to name Billy Wilder’s greatest films, chances are you’d name some, or all, of the following:
- Double Indemnity
- The Lost Weekend
- Sunset Boulevard
- The Apartment
- Ace in the Hole
- Stalag 17
- Some Like it Hot
And because the Billy Wilder oeuvre runs so deep, there’s even room for the contrarian, or smartass, to include some of Wilder’s lesser films and not be laughed off for it. So, you go ahead and do you, and throw The Fortune Cookie and One, Two, Three into the mix. Me, I’m throwing Avanti!
Directed by Ladj Ly
Written by Ladj Ly, Giordano Gederlini, and Alexis Manenti
Starring Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, and Djebril Zonga
By far the biggest story of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival was Parasite being the first Korean film to win the Palme D’or, and doing it unanimously. Part of the excitement for that film had to be what is, but also, what it is not – it is not some highbrow thing with no chance of winning awards outside the French riviera. And by that I mean at the Oscars. Nor is it a borderline-experimental film that lots of people love, but others find impenetrable and bewildering. Nor is it something fresh and arty and cool and hip that’s a harbinger of a talent on the rise, which is instantly off-putting to older viewers. In other words, it is not the type of film destined to win lesser Oscars, at best, but nothing more. Continue reading
Directed by H.C. Potter
Screenplay by Allen Rivkin and Laura Kerr, from the play by Hella Wuolijoki
Starring Loretta Young, Joseph Cotton, Ethyl Barrymore, and Charles Bickford
Here’s a new thing: let’s start this entry by just carrying on the discussion from the last entry on Mogambo. But don’t you worry – I promise it will circle around to being about this entry’s film, The Farmer’s Daughter. But first, let’s take a sidetrack into yoga. Continue reading
Directed by John Ford
Screenplay by John Lee Mahin, based upon the play “Red Dust” by Wilson Collison
Starring Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, and Donald Sinden
A confession to start – I did not finish Mogambo. I know how it begins, but not how it ends. Although, because it’s a remake of Red Dust, which I have seen, I can probably guess how it ends. This is how it went: I started it, watched about 35 minutes in the first sitting, then spent three weeks slogging through the next 25 minutes. And then, at roughly the 1 hour mark, facing down the possibility of having to watch another hour of the movie, I gave up. That’s why this entry is 47 ½ and not 48. And is also the why the moral of this story is don’t be afraid to quit things that no longer give you pleasure. How ever you define pleasure.
Directed by Ranald MacDougall
Written by Ranald MacDougall
Starring Harry Belfonte, Inger Stevens, and Mel Ferrer
Sigmund Freud was a famous proponent for the subconscious and imagery of dreams – he might not have been the first to subscribe to the idea, but he’s the only one most people know about, so he might as well be first. Of course, being a proponent of symbols and the subconscious does not mean he thought everything was symbolic or a result of the subconscious – that reading just stands to reason. After all, if everything is a symbol then nothing is a symbol. Anyway, to put it the way Freud was purported to say himself: sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Directed by George Cukor
Written by Norman Krasna, with additional material by Hal Kanter
Starring Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand, Tony Randall, Frankie Vaughan, and Wilfrid Hyde-White
Several entries ago we tackled what was probably the first big hit of Marilyn Monroe’s career – Niagara. Or, at least the first hit of her career that was attributable to her. She’d been in other films before – All About Eve, especially – but the success there was not her’s. She was merely incidental. Niagara, though, was the first that succeeds off of her and part of the reason for that is because Monroe is so desperately beautiful and magnetic you can’t help but want to see her. It would’ve been insane if it failed to make money. Continue reading
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho
Screenplay by Bong Joon-Ho, story by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin-won
Starring Song Kang Ho, Lee Sun-Kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun and Jang Hye-jin
The Oscars sure are an eclectic bunch. Usually when you describe somebody eclectic it refers to their tastes, specifically to mean varied tastes. That they like serious drama as much as they like camp. That they like arty films as much as they like populist films. That they like John Wayne as much as they like the anti-John Wayne. Basically, it’s meant to say a person who likes both sweet and savory.
But when applied to the Oscars, the meaning should be more along the lines of having a lack of taste. Or, rather, a lack of knowing what taste they have. After all, some years the Best Picture goes to an artier film like Moonlight. Other years it’s deadly serious films like Spotlight or 12 Years a Salve. Then in other years still, middle-brow junk masquerading as high art wins the big prize, like Crash and Green Book. It’s all just so…erratic. Continue reading
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Screenplay by Calder Wilingham and Dale Wasserman, based upon the novel by Edwin Marshall
Starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine, James Donald, Frank Thring, and Janet Leigh
When Kirk Douglas died a couple weeks ago it was almost literally the final expiration of old-style Hollywood stardom. That’s what happens, I guess, when you live to 103 — whether you like it or not, your death is literally the end of something.
Douglas made his name in films from the late-1940’s onward, just before the ‘method’ style of acting came into vogue and the traditional notions of who could be, and who could not be, a movie star gave way to a system dominated more by unique faces and character actors. In other words, the age when guys with a sense of stylization to their acting stopped winning Oscars — see e.g. Laurence Olivier — and guys with a touch of naturalism started winning. Guys like Ernest Borgnine. Continue reading