Showing 1 - 10 of 33 posts found matching keyword: william powell
Sunday 24 September 2023
84/2250. Elmer, the Great (1933)
The premise here is that baseball player Elmer (Joe E. Brown in an over-the-top performance of buffoonery that would embarrass Adam Sandler) is such a great batter with such intolerable eccentricates that the Chicago Cubs are forced to lie to him about his love interest in order to ride his bat to the World Series. Of course, the lies lead to crime, specifically a gambling syndicate, that potentially compromise the game. Because that's what lies do.
85/2251. Skippy (1931)
Never heard of the comic strip "Skippy"? I doubt this film will make you seek it out, although I'm lead to believe it was a big hit in its day. Li'l Jackie Cooper breathes life into one of the most famous comic strip characters of the early 20th century in a series of misadventures involving, among other things, dog murder. Seriously. Cooper was nominated for an Oscar for this because everyone is heartbroken to see a child crying over a dead dog. Shame on you, Hollywood!
86/2252. Three on a Match (1932)
While the popularity of the Skippy comic strip inspired a peanut butter brand to steal the name, Three on a Match was built on the popular superstition encouraged (created?) by a safety match tycoon to sell more matches. The story is a salacious tale of intertwining lives of three former classmates. Naturally, the third one to light on the match suffers a bad end, although that's owed more to her use of drugs than her thrifty use of matches. (Trivia note: this movie also supposedly includes Jack Webb's first screen appearance, but good luck spotting him in the crowd.)
87/2253. Private Detective 62 (1933)
Decades before Remington Steele, debonaire but destitute William Powell fast-talks his way into a becoming a partner in a private detective agency. Too bad for Bill that his new partner is no Stephanie Zimbalist and lacks any sort of scruples.
88/2254. The Castle of Sand (1974)
I interrupt today's list of pre-code Hollywood films with this Japanese police procedural with a very strong social justice message. (Lepers are people too!) The last act leans a little too heavily into sentimentality for my tastes, but the extended Dragnet-style investigation that precedes it earned my tolerance as the killer's motivations are finally revealed.
89/2255. Svengali (1931)
From the German Expressionism of the set designs to the Horrific gothic shadows of the lighting and costumes, it's pretty clear this production was heavily influenced (for the better) by the original Dracula. What's most surprising about this adaptation of the novel Trilby is how sympathetic it actually is to the hypnotic outsider Svengali, who really could (and perhaps should) be presented as something of a demonic sexual predator. I think the movie is much less kind to the prudish English fop Billee, who in his own way, isn't any better than the story's titular "villain," although I'm certainly willing to admit that my 21st-century perspective probably colors my interpretation of what "acceptable behavior" is. Worth a watch.
More to come.
Thursday 3 June 2021
The more I've seen, the more I've tried to get at least a little more discerning with the movies I watch. Have I been successful? You be the judge.
53. (1912.) How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)
I watched this strictly because I'd seen the two previous — the first I liked a lot, the second not so much — and I genuinely wanted to know how the trilogy was going to end. Even if this was more or less the same plot as the second movie, I very much appreciated how the characters and themes matured over time. (I'd still say that no one needs to see past the first film, but I'm not mad at the series.)
54. (1913.) A Tale of Two Cities (1937)
I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that I am no fan of Charles "Why Write One Word When Ten Will Do" Dickens, and this critically acclaimed adaptation of his best selling novel didn't change my mind. Take the words out, and Dickens is still just stalling for time until the curtain drops.
55. (1914.) Mortal Engines (2018)
Imagine a movie pitch meeting where someone says "Let's remake Star Wars but with cyberpunk!" It's got everything Star Wars is known for: densely decorated sets, orphans destined for great things, cool-looking villains, suave mercenaries, alien robots, world-ending turbolasers. Unlike Star Wars, its actors don't have the charisma to cover for thin characterization and giant plot holes. Oh, well. They can't all make a billion dollars.
56. (1915.) Pather Panchali (1955)
This Indian movie is on a bunch of all-time "greatest" lists because there isn't really much like it. It is beautiful, but its thin narrative rolls along so slowly that I found it very hard to maintain focus. I won't argue with those who call it great, but I won't call it one of my favorites.
57. (1916.) Hairspray (1988)
I'd seen (and liked) the musical but never the original. Though, like most John Waters movies, the choppy editing belies a modest budget, the film overflows with an exuberance that makes it impossible not to enjoy. Quite a gem.
58. (1917.) The Hoodlum Saint (1946)
William Powell plays a newspaperman (Act I: comedy) who cons his way into business (Act II: drama) and then finds himself at the mercy of a fake religion he started to get his good-for-nothing "friends" off his back (Act III: tragedy). Ho hum. I really will watch anything William Powell is in.
More to come.
Tuesday 12 January 2021
America may be collapsing under the weight of the single worst mental health crisis the country has ever seen, but at least we've still got movies.
194. (1848.) Times Square (1980)
Two teenaged girls, a runaway and a homeless manic depressive, struggle to find their own way to adulthood. There are hints that this is supposed to be a lesbian love story, but the finished product never quite gels. Still, it's not entirely without some charm (in large part thanks to Tim Curry).
195. (1849.) Carnival Story (1954)
A runaway falls in with a carnival barker who turns out to be a cad. The bad romance gets more complicated when both the carnival high diver and strong man also fall for her. Equal parts exploitative and macabre, it's very much a B movie.
Every carnival has a Coca-Cola stand, right? Right?
196. (1850.) Frenzy (1972)
I'm slowly working my way through every Alfred Hitchcock movie ever, and Frenzy is one of the best. Even though it spends a lot of time with the killer, it's still very suspenseful. Recommended to suspense fans.
197. (1851.) Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962)
If you haven't figured it out by now, TCM featured circus movies in November. This one is a Doris Day/Jimmy Durante musical comedy of errors, and frankly, it's not as entertaining as Carnival Story.
198. (1852.) Too Many Kisses (1925)
This romantic comedy is the first film appearance of any Marx Brother. Given that it is a silent film, you won't be surprised to learn that Marx Brother is Harpo. I liked it, mostly because I like the lead, Richard Dix, and I like the actor playing the villain even more: William Powell. (Here he's an evil Spaniard. What range!)
More to come.
Monday 26 October 2020
Movie reviews part 1821 through 1823 in a series of indeterminate length:
167. (1821.) Reckless (1935)
This movie's script is, frankly, bad. (What starts as a romantic musical comedy collapses into bland melodrama based on current events with a preachy ending.) It seems the studio paired William Powell and his sweetheart Jean Harlow with the intention of overcoming that shortcoming. I don't think Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone could have saved it.
168. (1822.) People Will Talk (1951)
This anti-hypocrisy morality play could only work with someone like Cary Grant in the title role. Dr. Noah Praetorius' self-righteousness would be insufferable without Grant's impish charm.
169. (1823.) Lost in America (1985)
Albert Brooks and Julie Haggerty yell at each other across America. The comedy exists largely in what is not said, as the characters are blind to their own absurdity. It definitely has its moments, not the least of which is when the couple's RV travels through Atlanta and the delightful hamlet of Newnan, Georgia:
Thirty-five years later, Lagrange Street still looks like this on the way to Newnan High School. Of course, in 1985, that sign was pointing to I-85 Exit 8. They now call it Exit 41, which is just as well since they added an additional exit just up the road when they moved the hospital from Hospital Road to Poplar Road to accommodate the giant Summergrove residential community built on the east side of the Interstate back at the turn of the 21st century. They call the new exit 44, which is probably a better name than 8½.
More to come.
Saturday 3 October 2020
It's finally October, so let's get to some movies.
151. (1805.) Promise Her Anything (1966)
Softcore pornographer Warren Beatty does some very questionable things with a child in order to bone the kid's mom. It's a very 1960s take on 1950's idea of a sex comedy.
Planning to get a widow so drunk she'll let you in her pants? Don't forget the Coke!
152. (1806.) Illegal (1955)
Imagine what a John Grisham book might have looked like in the 1940s and you'll have something near this pretty good legal thriller. Edward G. Robinson plays a crackerjack attorney who makes a mistake that destroys his world. (The innocent who is put to death for a crime he didn't commit is a young DeForest Kelley!) The road to redemption is very rocky indeed.
153. (1807.) Dream Wife (1953)
Cary Grant unintentionally discovers that when you educate a young, subservient middle-eastern Islamic woman in the ways of America, she'll make your life miserable! As close as the 1950s was capable to getting to women's lib.
154. (1808.) Sitting Pretty (1948)
This is the movie that introduced the character of the perfect butler Mr. Belvedere to the screen. There's some dated sexual politics misadventures in this, too, but they're handled with a more empathy for women's point of view. Very enjoyable.
155. (1809.) McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Robert Altman's idea of a Western is an iconic representation of his style, but it's not an entirely satisfying cinematic experience thanks in no small part to a very weak narrative. (We're all just prostitutes doomed to live in shit and die. Fun!)
156. (1810.) The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947)
The always delightful William Powell plays a corrupt and stupid old Senator who tries to blackmail his way into the White House. With a little plot tightening, this would be the perfect digestif to the unrealistic optimism of Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I liked it plenty even before discovering the film closed with an uncredited appearance by Ms. Nora Charles herself, Myrna Loy! Hooray! (This is their last movie together. Boo!)
More to come!
Tuesday 3 December 2019
I only saw 11 new-to-me movies in the month of November. I'm no numerologist, but that seems an appropriate number.
193. (1632.) Caged Heat (1974)
This was the first movie that Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) directed. They grow up so fast! No, really, it looks only slightly more professional than the average women-in-prison exploitation flick. Hard to imagine while watching it that the guy behind this went on to Philadelphia.
194. (1633.) Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
TCM spent the month highlighting films chosen by the The American Society of Cinematographers, and I'm so glad they did. This silent film directed by the legendary F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu) with the assistance of two great cinematographers (Charles Rosher and Karl Struss) is almost as perfect as a movie can be. There are very few title cards; the movie simply doesn't need them. This should be a must watch for everyone who loves movies.
195. (1634.) Fashions of 1934 (1934)
A comedy of errors? A screwball? A romantic comedy? A little bit of all of them. Not quite a classic, though it does feature a pairing of William Powell and a criminally underused Bette Davis, for those who love such things.
196. (1635.) The Big Picture (1989)
Kevin Bacon is put through the wringer of the Hollywood system in this satire a la The Player (with less murder). I didn't love it. Didn't hate it. Maybe it just didn't speak to me.
197. (1636.) Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
After watching a Murnau movie, I decided to watch this, a fictional re-telling of the making of Nosferatu as if the vampire was a real vampire. I remember William Dafoe promoting this on the talk show circuit at the time. It's a pretty good atmospheric horror. I liked it.
More to come.
Sunday 15 September 2019
Not so many movies watched so far this September (because football!), but I saw more than enough in August to take up the slack.
139. (1578.) Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
The big eyes are a mistake. The story arc is a mistake. The acting is a... well, let's just say it's for children. In any case, I can see why audiences turned a cold shoulder to it. I'm sure the Pacific Rim crowd loved it. I didn't.
140. (1579.) Susan and God (1940)
A busybody uses religion to justify her holier-than-thou attitude and comes to regret it. A passable way to spend an afternoon without football.
141. (1580.) The Key (1934)
A bad melodrama, this is the worst William Powell film I've seen. He's the only good thing in it, which is not a recommendation.
142. (1581.) A Dry White Season (1989)
When one good man discovers that operatives of the South African government are so terrified of the oppressed native peoples that they are willing to murder anyone who dares question them, he begins to work against them. Then his family turns against him. It's really a horror film as much as a tragedy.
143. (1582.) Fort Apache (1948)
Having seen it in bits and pieces before, I watched the whole thing beginning to end and very much enjoyed myself, especially the dark ending conceding that the myth of American history has been built by those determined not to admit their mistakes.
144. (1583.) The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)
Shirley Temple never grew into much of an actress, but Myrna Loy is really the star of this romantic comedy (as she ought to be).
145. (1584.) Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
The improved version of Pretty in Pink where everyone gets what's coming to them. Nice.
More to come.
Sunday 28 July 2019
Since I started seriously tracking the movies I watched in 2012, the actor I've seen the most is William Powell (33 times). That isn't an accident.
Powell is one of those "actors" who always turned the characters he played into some variation of himself. We usually call that class of actor — which includes the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Clint Eastwood, and Tom Cruise — "movie stars."
Powell's cool, confident, and sarcastic persona was perfect for playing con men, attorneys, and especially gumshoes. He's most famous as Nick Charles, the detective who caught the Thin Man in seven movies (the best of which is the first), but you may recognize him as Philo Vance who he played in five other films (beginning with the silent-turned-talky The Canary Murder Case).
I mention this because tomorrow, July 29, would be Mr. Powell's 107th birthday. TCM is celebrating with seven films between 6AM and 6PM. Manhattan Melodrama is in the middle (11:15AM). That's the movie that Public Enemy Number One John Dillinger was walking out of when he was gunned down by G-Men. It's also the first film to pair Powell with his on-screen soul mate Myrna Loy, the future Nora Charles (and not-coincidentally, the actress I've seen the most, 35 times). Oh, and Cary Grant is in it, too (14 times).
Happy Birthday, Mr. Powell.
Tuesday 25 June 2019
Where were we? Oh, yes. Movies!
88. (1527.) My Man Godfrey (1936)
William Powell plays William Powell as a down-on-his-luck fellow in the Depression who lands a job as butler to a family of rich cads. Very entertaining. (It's easy to see why William Powell was Cary Grant's mother's favorite actor.)
91. (1530.) Ruby Herring Mysteries: Silent Witness (2019)
Someone got the breakdown of a typical Hallmark Movies and Mystery channel movie... and shot it as-is. The result, as you might expect, is average.
90. (1529.) Moana (2016)
Catchy songs! Not much else to say. Are all Disney animated films so bland? I think the answer is yes. That's why you have to get kids watching while they're so young.
92. (1531.) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Watches like a marketing exercise in "How to squeeze more blood out of the Harry Potter franchise." This is only the second movie I've ever seen in said franchise, and frankly, that's two too many.
94. (1533.) The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
I really think I watched this character study of an old woman coming to terms with living in the imaginary past in a civics class in 1989. It's not my usual cup of tea, but it's well done.
95. (1534.) The Chocolate War (1988)
I can best describe this as A Separate Peace done right. I've read that the ending differs from the book, but it's about as dark as "Hollywood" can manage. (I was the right age for this in 1988. Why hadn't I seen it before? Was I too busy watching old ladies visit Bountiful, Texas?)
96. (1535.) Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
This much maligned sci-fi Christmas film is much maligned for a reason (low budget, bad acting, bat-shit crazy story...). But it was clearly made to entertain children, like television's Batman of the same era. Watched through that prism, its flaws are forgivable (and its imagination, laudable). I chuckled at the intentionally camp sensibilities more than once, especially when Santa Claus escapes an air lock shaped like a chimney without further explanation.
More to come.
Tuesday 12 July 2016
Finishing up movies from June:
59. (997.) The Outfit (1973)
Robert Duvall stars in this, essentially the same story as Lee Marvin's Point Blank, although Marvin got to work with Keenan Wynn instead of Joe Don Baker. That may be a big part of why Point Blank is a better movie.
60. (998.) Mystery Team (2009)
As with all comedies, your mileage may vary, but I found this movie to be a hysterical satire of Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. Lots of fun.
61. (999.) The Ghost Goes West (1936)
Hollywood loves the ghost story/romance mash-up. I think watching a living person fall in love with a dead person to be kind of disturbing, but this movie keeps it light. I liked that.
That's only seven movies watched in June. Part of the reason for the low total was my vacation. The other part is that my next movie will be my 1,000th since starting to keep track in 2012, and I want it to be significant somehow. You'll find out what I picked in my next movie update.
In the meantime, this seems like a good place to mention that in the past 4-and-a-half years, I've seen 31 William Powell movies and 20 Myrna Loy movies. Micheal Caine comes in a distant third with 14.
Alfred Hitchcock (15) has been my most watched director, and MGM (142) has produced the most (fitting, given that I watch so much TCM). My list of writers has been a little better distributed. Neil Simon is in the lead with 6, though Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, Richard Brooks, and Robert Riskin are only one back.
And without a doubt, I prefer comedies. More than a quarter of all the movies I've tracked have been classified as comedies, easily beating out dramas, crime stories, and action/adventure films (and 20 other categories) by a wide margin. What can I say? I like to laugh.