Feature Film: June2019


The Big Store (1942) & Room Service (1938)

I didn't fully consume either of these. Saturday morning at the Thteed household and the Marx Bros. are playing in two different rooms. I caught the first third of Big Store and the middle half of Room Service. Although both have solid moments, they are not good movies.

I suppose when your brother has gambling debts and that's the only reason you're making movies where you have very little creative control, what's the motivation to continue reinventing comedy? Imagine if someone had been willing to pay for their Dali collaboration! But instead, these. Their peak was Duck Soup. By Night at the Races the downhill is notable if not precipitous. We're now at full speed.

It's also easy to see how the studio uses the films to promote pretty voices and faces. In Big Store you see a marquee in the background promoting a movie starring J. Garland and M. Rooney. In Room Service you have Garland and Rooney lookalikes in the romantic leads.

The most impressive things about these movies is that that Marxian genius does yet find ways to shine through. And those moments make even those films worth an occasional revisit.

Besides. They cure cancer.

The Godfather: Part II (1974)

I really liked this movie. Maybe more than Part I. Although it's hard to tell. We split it over three sittings (maybe five days?) and I'm not sure it all stayed centered in my head. It's a lot to hold onto. I feel a great need to watch it again but, in all honesty, that second viewing is likely years off.

I don't think the orchestrated multiple deaths worked as well as in Part I, but that has to be one of the greatest scenes of all time.

It really is a wonderfully constructed film. Just, you know, freaking enormous.

To Be or Not to Be (1942)

The mid-WWII frisson of seriousness and comedy with Nazis is always curious from our standpoint now. Like The Great Dictator or Duck Soup, this film doesn't shy away from shades of horror, although it never loses sight of its identity as a comedy.

I didn't quite love it as much as I anticipated, but that could be a first-viewing thing. That's not unusual with movies that are older and don't quite match my expectations (I wonder if the Mel Brooks version would fare differently), but I did enjoy it more and more as it went along. It's nice to imagine normal screwball hijinks working against the crush of history, isn't it?

If only, if only.

Spirited Away (2001)

I wasn't enthused to watch this simply because I have seen it SO MANY TIMES.

But I can't regret watching it again.

The train scene alone is worth any length of movie.

Deathtrap (1982)

I'd seen that poster image a time or seven, but I never gave this film a penny's thought until the 80s All Over guys gave it a ringing endorsement. Even then, I didn't have immediate plans to see it until I bumped into the dvd for a dollar at Goodwill.

Well, well, well!

And now I've seen it! And wow but is it a great ride. I genuinely had NO IDEA what would happen next. I don't want to get into the surprises or why they work or how they connect to other films BECAUSE I DO NOT WANT TO RUIN IT FOR YOU, but, hoo, do I want to. (I also wonder how the meta elements worked in the original stageplay.)

It's such a new experience to be thrown off guard and then to never again know what will happen next.

The film's rated R, but I honestly think it could be given a PG today. Which is kind of the opposite of what I often say about older films and ratings.

The cast is great (Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, and, new to me and my favorite, Dyan Cannon). I'll even forgive using a psychic because, as Siskel pointed out, its old-fashioned theatricality.

Check it out!

Designing Woman (1957)

This romcom is So Great. It did some amazing stuff with the camera---I love seeing the camera being part of the joke---like in Arrested Development or Edgar Wright.

And it starts off like a protomockumentary and continues with some of the best use of voiceover I can think of. And the casting is great. The punchy former fighter is one of the finest dopes I've ever seen and Lauren Bacall and Gregory Peck look like fortysomethings in love (and surprisingly sexy considering---or perhaps, in part, because of---their fullyclothedness). Refreshing today, don't know how people felt then.

Anyway. It holds up. That's all I'm saying.

Man meets woman in LA, they whirlwind, marry, go back to New York where they're both from, they begin to get to know each other. Wind up and let it roll. Includes cameos from actors I know from The Dick Van Dyke Show, Green Acres, and Get Smart. What's not to like?

Louise en hiver (2016)

Here's the gist:

Elderly French woman, vacationing at a beachtown in Normandy, misses the last train back to civilization and is forced to live alone through the next July.

It's a very adult movie. By which I mean it's sole character is an old woman, grappling with aging, exploring her memories. It's a quiet film. Until near the end, all the vocals are in her mind, nothing is aloud.

It's quiet and thoughtful. And the watercolor backgrounds are marvelous.

Men in Black (1997)

It holds up pretty well! I liked it, Lady Steed liked it, the kids liked it. Most interesting to me, though, at this point, was how much it predicts the future. It's based on a comic book, and it has the wit and genuineness that picks up with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films and then finds full measure in the Marvel movies. Plus it has style and strong effects (and even themes) that will get even more striking and serious two years later when The Matrix comes out.

I hear little good out of the new film, but this film breeds good will. (Which is why I watched the previous lackluster sequels.)

Toy Story (1995)

File under Hold up, Movies that.

I do think that millennials have the best luck here---they were old enough to still remember first viewing and young enough to not only be able to appreciate it as a good movie now, but to have the full brunt of childhood nostalgia attached. I imagine being the age of Andy would be ideal.

Me, I was spending my first weekend in the MTC when Toy Story came out and I was a bit, as the kids say today, salty about it. (And another movie, but I no longer remember what that other movie was....)

It's still funny and it's still moving---and they only get more moving from here. (Excepting, I have to believe, the new one. But I haven't seen it yet and I didn't think 3 could outemote 2, so I've been wrong before.)

Toy Story 2 (2009)

I'm not sure I've ever really noticed this before, but Toy Story 2 directly references the first movie a lot. A LOT. Like, the amount a no-creativity sequel that's just the same movie in different locations might. The reason I never noticed, of course, is because Toy Story 2 is NOT a no-creativity sequel; it's one of the great sequels that prove sequels are worth having around. And so sequences like Running Under Items or Chasing Trucks at the Climax stand as their own highlights and not just as borrowed light.

Sure is a good movie, isn't it?

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

I remember this film well enough I suspect I've seen it multiple times although I have no actual memory of watching it even once. Just having had watched it. I remember liking it. And I liked it tonight as well.

Somehow the movie has been popping into my head off and on for months now so when the library had the dvd out on display, I checked it out. Then, watching two Toy Story movies in a row, I just needed some Tom Hanks and what would be easy to grab but the library's Sleepless in Seattle dvd? What luck!

It's a pretty great cast---I didn't remember Bill Pullman and Rob Reiner and David Hyde Pierce were in it. I like all three of them. I'm glad that Bill Pullman's character wasn't turned into schmuck, cuckold, nor villain. I wish Rob Reiner was in more movies. I suppose being Nora Ephron helps....

I am embarrassed twenty-five years have passed and I still have not watched An Affair to Remember, The Dirty Dozen, or Fatal Attraction, though.

UPDATE: Thinking about Sleepless the next day I realized the characters never kiss and maybe never even share the screen until the final scene. That's remarkable. But the way they look at each other is so great it doesn't even matter. Bold move, Nora.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

I am so mad at this movie. I'm the kind of mad I only get at movies I expected to be really good and just aren't. And because of that I can't tell if the movie was just sort of mediocre or if it was genuinely bad. My tone may suggest the latter, but recognize that may be more anger than reality.

The things that upsets me most is how the female lead is written. She is supposed to be the empowered master of game theory, but after that detail is pointed out her first win is because of a lucky coincidence and then she's immediately crushed and the only time her game-theory chops might be coming into play, the movie wants it both ways because then she's utterly surprised by Proposal #2*. So which is it? Is she a genius at people? a manipulating bitch? or a lovely little do-gooder whose guileless self-sacrifice leads to her reward? She can't be all these things but the movie can't make up its mind.

Which is emblematic of pretty much all my issues with the movie. And it's upsetting because I love a good romcom and the world has been depressingly shy of them of late.

* I should mention that the second proposal scene did get me right in the weepies even though it was utterly undeserved. All that reliance on cliche and shortcut managed one payout. Lucky movie.

Awkwafina was put to better use here than in the also upsetting Ocean's 8, but I'm still waiting to discover just how funny she can be. I suspect a lot, but we don't know yet---not from these two data points, anyway.

Also in acting, the female lead couldn't deliver all her lines naturally (an illness she shared with some of the minor characters), Michelle Yeoh was her normal great self (lucky for the filmmakers since she's barely used at all), and the male lead was good. Some other minor characters were solid as well (for instance the groom, the gay cousin) and some were confusingly presented (one was introduced to us as The Character Who Wears Glasses, then she never wore glasses again).

It's good this movie made money and shows signs of being a cultural milestone. Let's just hope the next cultural milestone is good.

(One last note: it dealt with the issue of internet communication brilliantly.)

Room 237 (2012)

I probably would never have seen this move, though intriguing, had I not been pressured multiple times by a friend. Because I did not like The Shining. I still don't like it and a lot of the stuff in this film is nonsense, but it points out enough curiosities which must be intentional to make me at least consider rewatching The Shining (something I was unwilling to do as recently as last month).

In the end, I'm not sure any of it "means" anything in terms of authorial intentionality. But I am willing to accept that Kubrick intentionally created a space where others could create meaning. And that this space could be more Kafka than Joyce.

It was a fun watch, regardless. And I would like to run down some of the films quoted herein, like Murnau's Faust and whatever that film in the theater.

Toy Story 3 (2010)

It's still great. I'll never be able to see it again for the first time, but it had been long enough that it held a couple surprises.

Perhaps viewing conditions were not ideal (they were not) but this affected me less than I anticipated. I have a high-schooler now. But maybe I don't yet believe in college. Or maybe it's because he wasn't home watching it with it. Maybe it's because I spent the entire movie interacting with someone younger than Bonnie.

Regardless. I'm now prepped to hit theaters for 4.


Previous films watched

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