Saturday 5 December 2015
I watched 9 movies in November. Here's the first batch of 5.
173. (920.) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)
This movie (based on a book of the same name) is also known as The Hideaways, which is a much more accurate name. Either the children's book or movie was the inspiration for character backstories in The Royal Tenenbaums (which, I will point out for the thousandth time, is one of my favorite, favorite movies). This movie is a little light on story, but does successfully manage to convey a child's impression that the world is a big, amazing place, which is the point. Not at all bad.
174. (921.) Whipsaw (1935)
Ah, Myrna Loy. She's perfect in this film as a mob moll on the run, trying to stay a step ahead of her rival (and love interest!), G-man Spencer Tracy. Very enjoyable.
175. (922.) The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
This is an old-school adventure story, with princesses and attempted regicide, star-crossed romance and sword fights. These days, the sword fights would all be done with CGI. Douglas Fairbanks Jr has a smallish role, but he steals the screen with an evil smirk. Totally worth watching if you like Victor Hugo-style adventure.
176. (923.) Shanghai Express (1932)
TCM host Ben Mankiewicz told me that this movie was considered equal to Grand Hotel when it was released, and in fact it was nominated for a Best Picture award. I have a hard time understanding why. Putting aside the fact that it hasn't aged well — it's unfair to judge 80-year-old attitudes by standards of modern culture — the story and characters are still paper thin caricatures. I think that my disappointment with this film may have more to do with the many movies (mostly westerns) made in the decades since that treat similar material much better. I didn't love it, but I don't regret having watched it.
177. (924.) Hud (1963)
I regret having watched this. It reminded me of Five Easy Pieces in the fact that the cinematography was masterful, and the west Texas scenery never looked better on film. (It deserved the Best Cinematography award it won.) But like Five Easy Pieces, the protagonist was a waste of character study that completely failed to entertain me or enrich my life. Once again, I blame Paul Newman. I think he only plays people I would never want to meet. Even in my favorite Paul Newman movie, The Hudsucker Proxy, Newman plays a complete dick. Maybe it was an all an act, but I'm still not inclined to buy his salad dressing.
More to come.
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