Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Revision to the Themes Idea

Just wanted to slap up a quick post and inform anyone who's reading (and myself, when I read this down the road sometime) of the slight changes I've made to the "themes" idea, that I came up with the other day.

Instead of doing random themes, I've decided to make every theme go by director's. There are now six different categories for me to choose from, they are:

CATEGORY #1: This category contains ten films and are all films from director's who directed only one movie from the book or have one movie left, not counting what I've watched thus far.

CATEGORY #2: This category contains ten films and they are comprised of five different director's, each who have directed two films from the book or have two movies left, not counting what I've watched thus far.

CATEGORY #3: This category contains nine films and they are comprised of three different director's, each who have directed three films from the book or have three movies left, not counting what I've watched thus far.

CATEGORY #4: This category contains eight films and they are comprised of two different director's, each who have directed four films from the book or have four movies left, not counting what I've watched thus far.

CATEGORY #5: This category contains ten films and they are comprised of two different director's, each who have directed five films from the book or have five movies left, not counting what I've watched thus far.

STANDALONE CATEGORY: These categories are reserved for director's who have directed six or more films. Names include: Ingmar Bergman, Martin Scorsese, Jean-Luc Godard, Billy Wilder, Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock. **NOTE** Alfred Hitchcock was given a special category containing fifteen films, the number of movies he has remaining in the "1001" book.

So that's the list of categories. My wife took her day off to help me categorize all of the films, and every category is now set in stone. I can pick whichever category I choose, but when a category is chosen, I must watch all films from that category, unless of course, they're unfound.

I know I said this the last time and didn't come through, but I WILL be starting on this new method, probably tomorrow and we're still going to kick things off with Ingmar Bergman films and thus knock off our first standalone category.

EDIT: On second thought guys, I think the break that I was taking from the "1001" book, was a much needed one and I've decided to carry it out for a little while longer. I'll certainly return to this blog and the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book at some point, but right now I just need a break from the pages of that book. I really pushed myself in January and February to watch as many thing as I could from the book and I think I'm just "booked" out at the moment.

March 17, 2010 3:47am
REVISED: March 19, 2010 1:01am

#1: Ginger Rogers

TOP TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL ACTRESSES OF THE 1930s: #1

1001 MOVIES FEATURING GINGER ROGERS:
*42nd Street
*Gold Diggers of 1933
*Top Hat
*Swing Time

March 16, 2010 10:30pm

Monday, March 15, 2010

Themes It Shall Be!

So I've listened to the few people that have stopped by to give their opinions (thank you, by the way) and I've taken into account my own feelings and what I want to do, and I think we're going to go ahead and do the themes idea. I actually think this will be a lot of fun, trying to break down the remaining eight hundred and some movies into categories of ten films or so. Anyway, here are the ground rules, they're pretty simple:

A) Each theme must consist of at least five films, and may not contain more then ten films. I'd like to keep them all at ten, but there are some themes too good to pass up (Kubrick films, for instance) that don't have ten.

B) Themes can range anywhere from movies by the same director, actor, actress, writer, genre, certain like award winners (ie. Best Picture winners), basically anything that ties 5-10 movies together, can be used as a category.

I'm cutting my hiatus a little bit short and we're going to go ahead and get going on this, more than likely tomorrow. The first theme will be...

...INGMAR BERGMAN FILMS!

Here are the Bergman films that are on the list:
*Smiles of a Summer Night
*The Seventh Seal

*Wild Strawberries
*Hour of the Wolf
*Persona
*Fanny and Alexander
*Winter Light
*Cries and Whispers
*Through a Glass Darkly

That makes our first category nine films. "Shame" would be included, but I can't find it anywhere, so we'll just go with these. These are the only ten Bergman films in the "1001" book.

Here is a list of some more themes, that will be coming up in the weeks and months to come, in no particular order:
*Robert De Niro Movies
*French Films
*Horror Films
*Film Noir
*Best Picture Winners
*Stanley Kubrick Films
*Newman & Redford
*Box Office Blockbusters

March 15, 2010 12:51am

#2: Jean Arthur

TOP TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL ACTRESSES OF THE 1930s: #2

1001 MOVIES FEATURING JEAN ARTHUR:
*Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
*Only Angels Have Wings
*Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

March 15, 2010 12:24am

Sunday, March 14, 2010

If anyone is reading...I need your opinions

Ok guys, so here's the deal. While I've been on my hiatus from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" project, I've been thinking of switching things up a bit, as far as the order in which I watch the movies in goes. I've had two ideas and I'm leaning more toward one at this point, but I just can't decide which one to go with, or if I should just stick to the way I've been doing things. Here are the two ideas:

IDEA #1: Instead of continuing to go through the book chronologically, and thus continue on through the 1940s, I've been thinking of going in reverse, starting with the last entry in the book. The book ends with Atonement (2007), meaning I would start there and work my way backwards for a little while. Then whenever I felt like it, maybe after I finished the 2000s and the 1990s, I'd jump back to the 1940s and start going forward again, until I met in the middle.

IDEA #2: Instead of continuing to forwards or beginning to go backwards, I had the idea to go in a themed order. The idea is basically this: I would pick a theme, for example; Alfred Hitchcock movies. From there I'd pick ten random Hitchcock movies from the book and watch them. Then I'd pick another theme, say German films, then I'd watch ten German films. I'd keep doing that, never watching more than ten films from each category.

Why do I want to switch things up? Well I'm tired of restricting myself as far as what I can watch. If I continue to move chronologically through the book, then I DO NOT want to watch anything that comes up later on in the book. For example: I bought the movie "Run Lola Run" the other day on Blu-Ray. I was all set and ready to watch it and then I realized that it's in the "1001" book. Basically I'm a very anal retentive person when it comes to things like this and if I go in order, then I don't want to break from that order. So I figure, if I decide to go in a themed or backwards order, then that will give me a little lead way as far as what I can watch.

Anyway, if anyone out there cares enough to voice their opinions, please do so, as I just can't seem to make up my mind.

March 14, 2010 8:42am

#3: Joan Blondell

TOP TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL ACTRESSES OF THE 1930s: #3


1001 MOVIES FEATURING JOAN BLONDELL:
*The Public Enemy
*Gold Diggers of 1933
*Footlight Parade

March 14, 2010 5:24am

Saturday, March 13, 2010

#4: Madeleine Carroll

TOP TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL ACTRESSES OF THE 1930s: #4


1001 MOVIES FEATURING MADELEINE CARROLL
*The 39 Steps

March 13, 2010 6:17am

Friday, March 12, 2010

#5: Paulette Goddard

TOP TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL ACTRESSES OF THE 1930s: #5


1001 MOVIES FEATURING PAULETTE GODDARD:
*Modern Times

March 12, 2010 6:20am

Thursday, March 11, 2010

#6: Gail Patrick

TOP TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL ACTRESSES OF THE 1930s: #6

1001 MOVIES FEATURING GAIL PATRICK:
*My Man Godfrey

March 11, 2010 1:12am

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

#7: Fay Wray

TOP TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL ACTRESSES OF THE 1930s: #7


1001 MOVIES FEATURING FAY WRAY:
*King Kong


March 10, 2010 12:00am


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

#8: Vivien Leigh

TOP TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL ACTRESSES OF THE 1930s: #8

1001 MOVIES FEATURING VIVIEN LEIGH:
*Gone with the Wind

March 9, 2010 12:05am





Monday, March 8, 2010

#9: Myrna Loy

TOP TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL ACTRESSES OF THE 1930s: #9

1001 Movies featuring Myrna Loy:
*The Thin Man

March 8, 2010 3:56am



82nd Annual Academy Awards - Random Thoughts

Much like I did when I posted a list of the Top 25 Movies of the Decade, back on December 31, 2009, simply because I have a blog that revolves around film and not because it had anything to do with the '1001' book, I figured I'd go ahead and do the same thing with the 82nd OSCARS. Here are some random thoughts, eventhough I'm far from seeing all the films that were nominated tonight...

BEST ACTOR - JEFF BRIDGES

There was a time when I called Jeff Bridges my favorite actor, hands down. Nowadays, whenever anyone asks me who my favorite actor is, I still cite Jeff Bridges as one of them. I was always proud of that choice, because I knew that Bridges was a fantastic actor, despite never being given any real acclaim for it. Tonight, Jeff took home the little gold man for "Crazy Heart", a film I've yet to see, but one that I'm dying to. I teared up a little when Bridges came up to accept his award. He looked so flattered and so happy to be standing on that stage.

TRIBUTES

One of my favorite parts of the OSCARS is always the tributes, most notably of the movie associated people who've passed away in the last year. I also quite enjoyed the John Hughes tribute, as I'm a big fan of Hughes and seeing guys like Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall on the OSCAR stage was fun. The tribute to horror films was also cool, and probably the only time we'll see/hear "Leprechaun" mentioned by the Academy.

CHRISTOPH WALTZ

Having only seen two of the Best Actor in a Supporting Role Nominees (Stanley Tucci and Christoph Waltz), my hat was still solely behind Waltz, as he delivered a standout performance in "Inglorious Basterds" and deserved some sort of recognition for it, and an OSCAR was a great way to give that recognition.

KATHRYN BIGELOW and THE HURT LOCKER

I really can't comment on "The Hurt Locker" or the merits of Bigelow as a director, since I haven't seen the film or any of her films for that matter (except for "Near Dark" and that was ages ago). I will say that I saw four of the movies that were nominated tonight, for Best Picture: A Serious Man, Inglorious Basterds, District 9 and Up...and from those four I would've picked "District 9", but again, I really have no business talking about it, since I've still yet to see six of the nominees. I will say this though...for being fifty-eight years of age, Kathryn Bigelow is still very attractive!

It must be very exciting for Kathryn Bigelow right about now and I hope she takes a moment and realizes that she's now part of an illustrious group of filmmakers, the likes of which include: Frank Capra, John Ford, Billy Wilder, Michael Curtiz, Elia Kazan, David Lean, Leo McCarey, William Wyler, George Cukor, Mike Nichols, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, Oliver Stone, Bernardo Bertolucci, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Roman Polanski, Martin Scorsese and The Coen Brothers.
March 8, 2010 12:24am

Sunday, March 7, 2010

#10: Olivia de Havilland

TOP TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL ACTRESSES OF THE 1930s: #10

1001 MOVIES FEATURING OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND:
*Captain Blood
*The Adventures of Robin Hood
*Gone with the Wind


March 7, 2010 6:53pm

BIG UPDATE

So I felt the need to pop in here and update the small, but awesome crowd that occupies my blog. I guess I'll start by directly addressing said crowd and say...Thank You. If you're a regular reader or commenter here, then my heartfelt thanks belongs to you. If you're taking time out of your schedules to read and sometimes comment on what I wrote, that means a whole lot to me and again I say...Thank You!

A SHORT BREAK

I'll be taking a very short break from the '1001' book, now that the 1930s are wrapped up. I've been planning this for a long time now and it's probably going to be a break that lasts for about two weeks, give or take. For a while now, since I've been working primarily out of the book, I've been keeping a notebook of movies that aren't in the book, that catch my eye. The purpose of the break is to finally watch some of those films and have some, "whatever I want" time, to get caught up on some other films that are interesting to me, that aren't in the '1001' book. Basically, I've added fifteen films to my Netflix queue and however long it takes for me to receive those fifteen films and watch them, is how long my break is going to be. In between waiting for movies to arrive in the mail, I'll also probably be watching some things on Netflix via their streaming section. For the curious, here are the fifteen "whatever I want" films that I added to my Netflix queue:

Dogville (2004), Libeled Lady (1936), (500) Days of Summer (2009), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), Equus (1977), Manderlay (2005), Saraband (2003), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), The Squid and the Whale (2005), The Odd Couple (1968), Port of Shadows (1939), Naked (1993), Carnal Knowledge (1971) and Insomnia (1997)

Available to watch instantly on Netflix titles that are catching my eye: Antichrist (2009), Europa (1991), John and Mary (1969), College (1927), Let the Right One In (2008), The Front (1976), Dreams (1990), You Can't Take It With You (1938), Yojimbo (1961), The Hidden Fortress (1958), Sanjuro (1961) and High and Low (1963). I'll more than likely not get to all of these, but these are the ones that are standing out above the rest. Keep in mind, that NONE of the moves mentioned above are in the book.

BEST OF THE 1930's

TOP TEN ACTORS of the 1930s: (in no particular order)
*William Powell (My Man Godfrey)
*James Cagney (Angels with Dirty Faces)
*James Stewart (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
*Errol Flynn (Captain Blood)
*Spencer Tracy (Captains Courageous)
*Clark Gable (It Happened One Night)
*Jean Gabin (Daybreak)
*Paul Muni (I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang)
*Thomas Mitchell (Stagecoach)
*Charles Chaplin (Modern Times)

TOP FIVE DIRECTORS of the 1930s: (in no particular order)
*Frank Capra (It Happened One Night)
*Howard Hawks (Bringing Up Baby)
*Michael Curtiz (Angels with Dirty Faces)
*John Ford (Judge Priest)
*Leo McCarey (Make Way for Tomorrow)

*The films in parenthesis are my favorite films from those actors and directors, that I've seen from the book so far*

WHAT NO ACTRESSES?

Instead of ranking a list of the Top Ten Actresses of the 1930s, I've decided to, instead, do a Top Ten Most Beautiful Actresses of the 1930s and post one each day, for the next ten days, starting tomorrow. I figure it'll give the regular audience to the blog, something to look at, although more than likely, the posts will only consist of a picture of the actress and maybe a list of the movies that they appeared in, from the book. Only actresses who were in movies that I watched from the book and from the 1930s are eligible.

SNEAK PEEK AT THE 1940s

The following are the first ten films in the '1001' book, from the 1940s, which we'll commence with as soon as I come back from my short hiatus:

1. His Girl Friday (1940 - Howard Hawks)
2. Rebecca (1940 - Alfred Hitchcock)
3. Fantasia (1940 - Ben Sharpsteen)
4. The Philadelphia Story (1940 - George Cukor)
5. The Grapes of Wrath (1940 - John Ford)
6. Dance, Girl, Dance (1940 - Dorothy Arzner)
7. Pinocchio (1940 - Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen)
8. The Mortal Storm (1940 - Frank Borzage)
9. The Bank Dick (1940 - Edward F. Cline)
10. Citizen Kane (1941 - Orson Welles)

ONE LAST PIECE OF BUSINESS

For those of you who have been paying attention carefully, you'll remember that we skipped over "Dodsworth", back in the 30s. To date, there has been no new information on "Dodsworth" and right now it still sits as a "very long wait" on Netflix.

That should do it, don't forget to keep swinging by and checking out the blog, as I count down my personal list of the Top Ten Most Beautiful Actresses of the 1930s, over the course of the next ten days. For those of you who are interested, you can follow me on Twitter @ adduvall1984 I usually put up tweets regarding the films that I watched and a short (no more then 140 characters, of course) blurb about what I thought of them.

Thanks again for all of you who traffic this blog.

March 6, 2010 10:17pm




From 30's to 40's

I've spent a considerable amount of time getting to know the scope of cinema that was the 1930s. It was a colorful decade, full of lots of great characters and the actors and actresses who portrayed them. Once again, I mounted my steed. I looked ahead to the untraveled road that I've yet to discover. I faced forward, ready to take on the films that lie before me, whether they be good or bad. I couldn't help but take one last look behind me, and wave a fond farewell to the characters and people that I met in the past decade. I turned around and saw a bevy of hands in the air, waving, wishing me well on my journey: Caesar Bandello, Count Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, The Little Tramp, Tom Powers, Tony "Scarface" Camonte, Shanghai Lily, Fred and Ginger, The Marx Brothers, Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, Peter Warne, Nick & Nora, Captain Blood, Robin Hood, Godfrey the Butler, Longfellow Deeds, Manuel the Fisherman, Snow White and her seven tiny pals, Rocky Sullivan, David Huxley, The Ringo Kid, Jefferson Smith, Dorothy Gale, The Tin Man, The Scarecrow, The Cowardly Lion, Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara. I'd spent the last four months getting to know those characters and some of them I'll remember more fondly than others.

I faced forward. I saw a road marked "The Forties" and I took it. I was immediately bombarded by the sight of the films that lie ahead of me. There were ninety-one of them, but some stuck out over others: Fantasia, The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, How Green Was My Valley, Casablanca, The Ox-Bow Incident, Laura, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, The Lost Weekend, Brief Encounter, It's A Wonderful Life, Red River, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Third Man. I look forward to the months that I'll spend getting to know these and all of the films from the new decade. The decade of the 1940s.

Your courageous journeyman,
Andrew

March 6, 2010 9:45pm

Saturday, March 6, 2010

131. Wuthering Heights (1939)

Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: William Wyler
Written By: Charles MacArthur, from novel by Emily Bronte
Main Cast: Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, David Niven, Flora Robson, Donald Crisp

GOODBYE THIRTIES...

We wrap up the 1930s with "Wuthering Heights", a love story for the ages, which sports some classic performances by Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon.

The film begins with a lone man named Lockwood, traveling on a snowy night and seeking refuge at Wuthering Heights, a lavish estate. Upon being granted entry into the estate, he is shown hospitality, from the hostile master, Heathcliff. While sleeping in the room that he's been lent for the night, he hears the window making racket. When he gets up to pull the shutter closed, he sees the figure of a woman and cries out in the night, bringing Heathcliff into his room. Heathcliff rushes to the window and begins to cry out the name "Cathy". He goes downstairs, rushing out into the cold. Once Heathcliff leaves, Lockwood begins to inquire about what has just happened and the housemaid Ellen, begins to tell him a tale.

The tale begins, when Mr. Earnshaw arrives home from town one day, accompanied by a child. The child is dirty and rambunctious, yet orphaned. Earnshaw, being the generous man that he is, tells his staff at Wuthering Heights that they'll be taking the kid in and giving him a place to stay for a little while. His own children are a bit perplexed by the presence of the boy. His daughter Catherine, however, becomes fast friend's with the new boy, who's name is Heathcliff. The son of the pack, Joseph, doesn't like the boy at all and resorts to scorning him, by throwing rocks at him, jealous of the attention that Mr. Earnshaw is paying him. Atop a hill Cathy and Heathcliff make a pact to be friends forever and christin a large rock on the side of The Moors, to be their "castle". Some years later when Mr. Earnshaw passes away, Jospeh takes over control of the estate and reduces Heathcliff to a stable boy, belittling him every chance he gets. Despite the love that they share, Heathcliff and Cathy can't seem to get past the class barrier that stands between them and Cathy winds up married to a neighbor, Edgar Linton (Niven). Heathcliff disappears for a while, going abroad to the United States. When he returns he's a rich man and Cathy has nearly forgotten all about him, living happily with Edgar.

While I wasn't totally crazy about "Wuthering Heights", it was still a classy love story, with a high amount of drama, romance and emotion. Laurence Olivier would go on to become a much better actor, as it seems here he was still honing his skills. Although, I really had no complaints with the rest of the cast, as Merle Oberman was also a pretty good, little actress and very enjoyable to watch, as she shifted her emotions between Heathcliff and Edgar. The one problem I had with the story, was that the romance between Heathcliff and Cathy wasn't emphasized enough. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not hard to see that these two characters are in love with each other, but despite a few scenes atop their "castle", there's really no screen time, with high amounts of romantic dialogue, between the two. The climax is awesome and the final scene in the film is a marvelous sight.

RATING: 6/10 Well that just about wraps up the 30's, and not a terrible note to go out on either.

NEXT UP: His Girl Friday...but first a short break...More on that to come later on, in an update post.

March 6, 2010 4:14pm

130. La Regle du jeu/The Rules of the Game (1939)

Running Time: 106 minutes
Directed By: Jean Renoir
Written By: Carl Koch, Jean Renoir
Main Cast: Nora Gregor, Marcel Dalio, Roland Toutain, Jean Renoir, Paulette Dubost, Mila Parely

INFIDELITY

To say that I was just a little disappointed by this film, would be an understatement. Not to say that it was bad, I just really had high hopes for it and while they didn't fall flat, they certainly fell, to some degree.

Andre Jurieux (Toutain) has just finished flying across the Atlantic, and when arriving at the airport, Le Bourget, he is saddened when his old friend Octave (Renoir) tells him that Christine, the love of Andre's life, didn't show up to greet him. With a radio station there and wanting some words from the aviator, he gets on the air exclaims his disappointment that Christine isn't there. Soon later we meet Christine (Gregor), who is married to Robert de la Chesnaye, a man who openly knows about her previous feelings for Andre. We also meet Lisette (Dubost), Christine's maid, who is also married. The two ladies talk about their marriages, infidelities and things of that nature. Robert excuses himself to make a phone call to Genevieve, his mistress who he arranges to meet the next morning. When the next morning arrives, Robert meets with Genevieve and tells her that he's decided to make a real go of his marriage and to stop the sneaking around and cheating. Genevieve doesn't take it all that well, but Robert invites her to spend the weekend with them at their estate, La Coliniere. Later, Octave convinces Robert to also invite Andre. Robert agrees, citing that if Andre and Christine really are in love, keeping them separate won't help matters.

When everyone arrives at the estate, we set many combustible elements into motion, with mistresses meeting wives and men who are in love with the same women in one room. Upon arriving at the estate Robert tends to the grounds, meeting up with groundskeeper Schumacher (Lisette's husband) and showing his disdain for the rabbits that are running free on his ground. Robert meets up with wily little poacher Marceau, who has wandered on to the grounds to try and retrieve a rabbit from one of his snares. When Schumacher catches him and tries to kick him off the grounds, Robert puts an end to it and ends up hiring Marceau as a servant. When matters are taken inside the house, is when the movie's intensity level is kicked up a notch, and all of the men and women are forced to converge together and settle their affairs...no pun intended.

For me, this movie had extreme potential and for some reason in the idea and the execution, they lost me somewhere. Everything was set up for this to be a great film. You had all of these combustible elements thrown into one estate and there was bound to be an explosion sooner or later. But, for me, the explosion just turned into a big cluster, where nothing got resolved. One thing that I would complain about is the fact that with so many characters, this film lacked character development. There was definite potential here to split open these characters and really show them in full bloom, but they didn't. This could have been a film with great dialogue scenes, great character interactions, but instead we get none of that. Not that the character's weren't interesting: I loved Marceau, Octave and Robert, and thought all three men turned in great performances. Now don't get me wrong, I didn't hate this movie and in fact, I think this is something that would be appreciated with one or two more viewings, but I was just very disappointed in it. If you were to ask me my opinion on the ultimate Jean Renoir film, my answer would emphatically be "La Grande Illusion", a prettier and much better film than "La Regle du jeu", and the fascinating thing is that I USUALLY dislike war or wartime films and love films like "The Rules of the Game".

RATING: 5.5/10 I get the feeling that this is either a love it or hate it movie, so I'll call my score right down the middle, as I really didn't love or hate it.

NEXT UP: Wuthering Heights...Capping off the 1930s with our introduction to Laurence Olivier.

March 6, 2010 12:35pm

Friday, March 5, 2010

129. Ninotchka (1939)

Running Time: 110 minutes
Directed By: Ernst Lubitsch
Written By: Melchior Lengyel, Charles Brackett
Main Cast: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart, Alexander Granach

Sidenote: The "Angles with Dirty Faces" review has finally been written, after Netflix finally shipped the movie and I got the chance to watch it. The review can be found by clicking here.

IS THERE ANYTHING WORSE THAN AN UN-FUNNY COMEDY?

I don't know what it is about Greta Garbo, but I find her very unappealing and very boring, even when put into a so-called comedy like "Ninotchka".

When three Russians, Iranoff, Buljanoff and Kopalski, come to Paris to sell jewelry that was confiscated during the Russian Revolution, they find themselves swept off their feet by the luxuries of France. They start out by opting for a larger, grander room at a swankier hotel, as they are enamored by the fact that three simple bell rings, will bring a French maid right to their suite. When they finally get a buyer to show interest in the jewels, they are stopped by a court injunction, presented by Count Leon d'Algout (Douglas), representing Grand Duchess Swana, who claims that they jewelry was stolen from her. Thus the three men are at a stalemate, unable to sell the jewels until the court order is settled. Enter Nina Ivanovna Yakushova a.k.a. Ninotchka (Garbo), who is sent in by the Soviets to retrieve the three men and proceed with the selling of the jewelry.

Ninotchka first plans to become acquainted with the city of Paris, and while doing so one evening, meets Count Leon, who immediately is swooned by her. The Count offers her his company as she travels to the Eiffel Tower, where their romance buds even further, despite a cold shoulder from the straight faced and serious Ninotchka. The Count continues to work her over, trying to win her heart over and over again, but failing just as much. At one point he parks himself beside her at a restaurant and tells her that he will not leave her alone, until she laughs. He tells her several amusing antecdotes, until finally the sight of The Count falling out of his chair, and crashing through the table behind him, puts Ninotchka into stitches. They eventually realize who one another represents, with The Count representing one party for the stolen jewels and Ninotchka representing Russia. Despite all of those details, they still fall in love and The Count sweeps Ninotchka off her feet...that is, until Grand Duchess Swana sticks her nose in the center of things, citing that if Ninotchka returns to Russia, that she'll give up the jewels. All that Ninotchka will have to give up is Count Leon.

I don't know what it is guys, but Greta Garbo just bores me to tears and has an amazing ability to lull me to sleep, lest I fight to keep my eyes open. I've really tried now to enjoy three of her films, and three times she's failed to give me any satisfaction from her movies. If you're a Garbo fan and you're reading this, then more power to you and I'm glad you're able to find appealing qualities in the woman, that I just can't seem to realize. As for this picture, eventhough we were dealing with comedy, this film barely made me crach a smile and to me, it was just the same old, boring Garbo flick, that I wanted to see end more than anything. As for one note of goodness, I found Melvyn Douglas to be quite the charming actor and on those rare occasions where I did crack a smile or a chuckle, they usually were the result of something delivered by Douglas. The three Russians were semi-amusing too and to tell the truth, I actually did crack up near the beginning when they were ordering room service, and all we could hear were their bellows outside the room, when they surely spotted the French maids. As for everything else, I'm glad it's over and I'll happily move on, leaving Garbo and her mind numbing films in the dust.

RATING: 3.5/10 Melvyn Douglas was a new find, except what I really need to find is a suitable picture that showcases his talents.

NEXT UP: The Rules of the Game...Now here is a movie that I'm looking forward to, as I've heard amazing things about Renoir's 'Game'. Review should be up later tonight.

March 5, 2010 6:12pm

128. GUNGA DIN (1939)

Running Time: 117 minutes
Directed By: George Stevens
Written By: Ben Hecht, from poem by Rudyard Kipling
Main Cast: Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Sam Jaffe

ENTERING THE HOME STRETCH OF THE 1930s

With only four movies remaining (including this one) until we wrap up the decade of the 1930s, we enter the home stretch with "Gunga Din", a movie that seemed to drag on forever, with no end in sight.

The film starts out with a small fleet of British soldiers being captured by a group of quasi-terrorists, later named the Thuggee's, and when they don't answer to communication, the British Indian Army sends in a fleet of troops to investigate the matter. The group is led by three buddies, who are part of the Royal Engineers, MacChesney, Cutter and Ballantine. Upon arrival at the post, they find no trace of the missing soldiers, but do find themselves under attack by a large number of Thuggee's. The fleet fight them off without much trouble, making for a semi-entertaining action sequence, complete with sticks of dynamite and sword fighting. After their small victory, they trek back to their commanding officers, and on the way there, Cutter and MacChesney learn that Ballantine will be leaving the armed forces in a matter of days to get married. When they report to their commanding officers, the three are filled in on the history of the Thuggee's and told that they're basically a cult of killing machines.

Meanwhile, Gunga Din, a water bearer, who longs to be a solider, tells Cutter of a treasure on the outskirts of the town. Cutter, being a known treasure hunter, takes the bait and goes with Gunga Din to check out the treasure. When they arrive at a large temple, which Gunga Din claims is filled with gold, that's just what they find, however it's also the shelter for hundreds of Thuggee's. Not knowing that the Thuggee's are inside, they march in and find themselves caught, unable to get out. Cutter lets himself be known, so that Gunga Din can get away and go get the cavalry. Din goes back to get MacChesney, who swindles Ballantine into going with him, despite the objections of his bride to be. MacChesney and Ballantine, along with Gunga Din, go alone to the temple, and give orders that if they don't return within a day, that the rest of the fleet is to follow their trail.

This film was an odd mix of comedy and action adventure and as per my tastes, those two usually don't mix well. The story, which ultimately is centered around the lowly water bearer Gunga Din, doesn't pay enough attention to this character, therefore, when the movie finishes and we're supposed to be "Hooray for Gunga Din!!", I'm left with only the feeling of relief that the picture is over and those lovely words "The End" are appearing. Despite my dislike for Cary Grant, I actually found him to be the most likable character in the movie, with the most comedy that actually got a few chuckles out of me here and there. The rest of the performances were fine, yet nothing to get excited over. The movie was just dull, in my opinion, with a big chunk in the middle with literally nothing happening. It pretty much went like this: beginning, action sequence, nothing, action sequence, end. I didn't even find the action sequences to be as dazzling as the '1001' book made them out to be.

RATING: 2.5/10 Another disliked film goes on the watched list and I get to move on and try to put this one out of my memory.

NEXT UP: Ninotchka...How do you (usually) spell boring...G-A-R-B-O. I'm would be lying if I said I was looking forward to this one, but I'll keep my attitude positive and hopefully I'm pleasantly surprised. Review to come later today.

March 5, 2010 2:28am

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

127. Le Jour se leve/Daybreak (1939)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Marcel Carne
Written By: Jacques Prevert, Jacques Viot
Main Cast: Jean Gabin, Jacqueline Laurent, Jules Berry, Arletty

A MAN BARRICADES HIMSELF IN HIS ROOM AND RECOLLECTS ON HIS CRIME

I opted to go ahead and watch this one last night, instead of today, and I'm glad I did, because it was amazing. I've been becoming a rapid fan of Jean Gabin and this was the movie that cemented me as a fan of him.

The film is shown to us in flashbacks, following some murmuring and gunshots coming from the apartment of Francois (Gabin). When the door to the apartment opens, we see a man stumble out, clutching his chest and fall down the stairs...dead! When the camera makes it's way inside the room, we see Francois alone. It's a tiny apartment, with a bed, an armour and a night table and not much more room for anything else. The cops arrive soon and try to talk their way into the apartment, but with shots fired from Francois, the retreat. The flashbacks begin and we see that Francois was a factory worker. One day, while working in the factory, a flower delivery girl came looking for someone. Francois and the flower girl, Francoise, hit it off immediately and we're taken immediately to a time, three weeks later. At this point, the two have been dating, and despite Francois' insistence that they take it to the next level and move in together, Francoise relents. One evening, she cuts their date off short, citing that she has to meet someone.

Francois follows her to a small out of the way spot and it is here he sees her watching a show, with a vaudeville performer. The assistant to the vaudeville performer, with it being her last night, leaves the show early and goes to the bar to get a drink. Her name is Clara and she begins to make small talk with Francois, as he watches Francoise. Eventually, Francoise and vaudeville performer, Valentin leave the place together. We flash forward and Francois is now seeing both Clara and Francoise, but his feelings for Francoise are much stronger. Valentin calls for a meeting with Francois and tells him that he is Francoise's father and that he only has her best interest at heart. Francois tells him off and then later learns, from Francoise herself, that Valentin was lying and that he's not her father. The film continues to switch back and forth between the history of the characters and the sight of Francois barricaded in his room, fending off the police.

It's always nice to see a different approach to the conventional way of storytelling. Not that this is much different by today's standards, as it seems that everybody and their brother are making movies that involve heavy flashbacks and unconventional camera movements, but for 1939, it was a breath of fresh air. Jean Gabin plays the cool cat once again and I continue to be astonished at how much of an actor this guy really is. This guy is such a patient and concealed actor, that he always adds a degree of depth to the characters that he's portraying. This film seemed to have a tone, that seemed to say that life was so fragile and no matter what happens, days are going to continue and time is going to keep going by, with or without us. I felt this point made extremely clear, by the ringing of the alarm clock at the end. This film was right up my alley, as I'm a sucker for simple stories, with deep meaning and character development and this was perfect for fans of that. I liked it enough to add, "Port of Shadows" to my Netflix queue, so if anyone reading this has seen that, fill me in.

RATING: 10/10 I'm a full fledged fan of Jean Gabin now, the guy is just too good to ignore. The '10/10' was the obvious choice for me here.

NEXT UP: Gunga Din...Pretty sure Cary Grant just tied Buster Keaton, for most appearances by a lead actor in the '1001' book, thus far. This and the next one will arrive from Netflix tomorrow and that means that we SHOULD be able to wrap up the 1930's on Friday!

March 3, 2010 2:56pm

126. Gone with the Wind (1939)

Running Time: 238 minutes
Directed By: Victor Fleming, George Cukor
Written By: Sidney Howard, from novel by Margaret Mitchell
Main Cast: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland

I HOPE I DON'T CATCH TOO MUCH HELL FOR THIS ONE

So finally we arrive at the grand epic, that is "Gone with the Wind". Eventhough this is one long, nearly four hour film, I'm going to bust the synopsis up into two parts, just for the sake of keeping things a bit more organized.

PART I

The film is set on Tara plantation in the state of Georgia, in 1861. Right off the bat we're introduced to the main character of the film, Scarlett O'Hara (Leigh) and her receiving the news that Ashley Wilkes (Howard) is getting married. Scarlett has had her eyes on Ashley for sometime, but she missed her opportunity, as Ashley is all set to marry his cousin, Melanie Hamilton (de Havilland). The following day at an annual barbecue, the news of the marriage is made public and Scarlett, being her usual selfish, spoiled self, proceeds to flirt with every man at the party, until finally, out of spite, accepting a marriage proposal from one of her many suitors, Charles Hamilton. It is also at this party that we're introduced to Rhett Butler (Gable), a suave gentleman from Charleston, who exchanges only few words with Scarlett, when he overhears her quarreling with Ashley and professing her love for him. At about the same time, war is declared and the Civil War begins, with all men enlisting, including Ashley and Charles. Before going off to war Charles ties the knot with Scarlett and in just about as quick of time, Scarlett becomes a widow, after Charles dies of pneumonia, during battle.

Scarlett's mother later suggests that Scarlett go to the Hamilton home in Atlanta, so that she may forget about Charles and hoping to see the return of Ashley, she jumps at the idea. Upon her arrival, Scarlett is accepted with open arms by Melanie Hamilton, a very kind-hearted, unselfish lady, the exact opposite of Scarlett. While attending a charity bazaar, Scarlett once again meets Rhett, and the two share a dance together, despite the fact that Scarlett is supposed to be in mourning for her late husband. The war carries on and the battle of Gettysburg is tough on the confederacy. Ashley is granted a three day leave over Christmas and arrives home long enough to visit his wife and hear Scarlett profess her love for him, yet again.

Eight months pass and the Union soldiers are running roughshod over the town of Atlanta. With Melanie in labor and with all the doctors in town tied up, tending to fallen soldiers, Scarlett is forced to deliver Melanie's baby herself. The baby boy is born, but the Melanie and Scarlett realize that they need to flee Atlanta. Rhett Butler arrives on a horse and carriage to take the girls, along with the baby and Prissy, the house servant, out of town and back to Tara. They travel far, but eventually, once the gang is out of trouble, Rhett leaves the ladies to fend for themselves, stating that he's going to enlist. Scarlett and Melanie make the rest of the trip alone, arriving at Tara, to find that it's surprisingly still standing. She finds her father, two house servants and her two sisters, but is pained to find out that her mother died. With no food and the Union soldiers still in charge of the area, Scarlett goes to the top of a nearby hill and makes her famous exclamation, "As God as my witness, I'll never be hungry again!"

PART II

Following the intermission, the movie picks right up, with Scarlett taking charge and putting her servants and sisters to work in the fields picking cotton. Melanie is still weary from the long travel home, so she's pretty much bed ridden and Scarlett's father has gone a bit mad, after the loss of his wife. Soon after, Ashley arrives home and Scarlett obviously still holds a flame for him, catching him alone in the field and begging him to take her away from all this, so that they can be lovers. Ashley admits that he wouldn't mind doing so, but that he could never break the heart of Melanie. The O'Hara/Hamilton/Wilkes bunch get more bad news when they realize that they must come up with $300 tax money, or they'll lose Tara. Scarlett makes a visit to see the now imprisoned Rhett Butler, who is being held by the Union and begs for the money, but he doesn't give in. Eventually the money is given to Scarlett, by another one of her former suitors, Frank Kennedy, who now owns his own lumber mill and who Scarlett schemes into marrying her, so that she can get at his money.

With the taxes paid and Scarlett now married for a second time, she takes over the lumber mill, also taking over the profits and using them to open up a sawmill, which later becomes a success during the rebuilding stage, after the end of the war. Some time passes and Scarlett becomes a double widow, after the death of Frank during a melee with the Union troops. With Frank's body barely in the ground, Scarlett makes her third marriage, and this time to the recently released Rhett Butler, who promises her a life of luxury, as he is now rich. The two get married and have a baby, which they name Bonnie Blue Butler. When visiting the mill one night, Ashley catches Scarlett alone and they are caught embracing, by two women of the town, including Ashley's sister, India. The embrace was harmless, but the rumor is spread and the reputation of both are in jeopardy.

----

Let me start off by saying that if I were rating this film in sets, costumes, score, cinematography or acting, it'd be a winner. However, I feel the need to rate this film on an enjoyability level and when doing so, I'll have to admit that I didn't enjoy it all that much. Everything pre-intermission was fantastic. The story flowed along well and everything just meshed together beautifully. Scarlett gives her famous speech on the top of the hill, in a jawdroppingly gorgeous scene and BAM!...we're into the intermission. Then part two begins and they lose me. I mean, I'm still able to follow everything that's going on, but there's not a whole lot going on and this movie really starts to wear out it's welcome and get extremely boring. Part one is jam packed with stuff: the whole Ashley/Melanie wedding and Scarlett's protests, the beginning of the war, the birth of Melanie's baby, the trip back to Tara...all great stuff! Part two barely has anything going on, except for Scarlett's final two marriages and the return of Ashley Wilkes. Everything else is just filler and maybe I'm wrong, but it seems that even the cinematography diminishes in part two, as I can remember a lot of gorgeous imagery from part one, but barely any from the second part.

Another complaint, and maybe this is a silly one, but I'm going to try and explain it anyway, is that this movie, in some places, is too GRAND for it's own good. There's a scene with Scarlett and Rhett on the top of a hill, right when Rhett leaves the two girls to continue to Tara on their own. They sky is bright orange, the placement of the actors is perfect, the shot is breathtaking, the dialogue is all crisp and perfect, and then I realize that this is so good, that it's taking me out of the film. I'm finding myself breaking off from the picture and realizing that this is blatantly over the top, and not necessarily in a bad way, but in enough of a way that it's taking me out of the film. It's like all the realism that this picture could possess is lost, because everything just looks TOO good and the film is screaming "I'm JUST A MOVIE!!". I don't know, maybe none of that makes much sense, but bottom line is, that this is a real chore to sit through, ESPECIALLY everything post-intermission. Like I said, the movie really wears out it's welcome, and in my opinion this could've been cut down to right around three hours, and I would've enjoyed it that much more and probably would've actually considered myself a fan of the film. Vivien Leigh was amazing, Clark Gable was great, there were a lot of great things about this film, but when it comes down to it, I was bored out of my freaking skull, and ultimately I didn't really enjoy myself, and really that's what movies are all about...enjoying yourself.

RATING: 5/10 I've never and will never apologize for a rating I give, but I'll understand anyone who wants to come here and put up a fight over that rating. It's just the rating that I thought this film deserved overall.

NEXT UP: Le jour se leve...or Daybreak...Entering the home stretch of the 1930's and with only five films remaining, we begin those five with this one. Review will be up tomorrow night.

March 2, 2010 10:41pm

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

125. Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Running Time: 121 minutes
Directed By: Howard Hawks
Written By: Jules Furthman, Howard Hawks
Main Cast: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess, Rita Hayworth, Thomas Mitchell

PROBABLY THE BEST FILM ABOUT PILOTS/FLYING I'VE EVER SEEN

I actually wasn't expecting a whole lot out of this one going in, but Howard Hawks continues to impress me and doesn't fall short with "Only Angels Have Wings".

Cary Grant plays Geoff Carter, the manager and chief pilot of a rundown airfield that carries mail in Barranca, Colombia, over the Andes Mountains. His crew is comprised of a bunch of ragtag old veterans, including The Kid (Mitchell) and a group of young upstart pilots. One evening Bonnie Lee (Arthur) arrives by boat and makes a stopover in Barranca and is quickly swept off her feet by a couple of the pilots. When one of them is called away to make a delivery, she sticks around and winds up witnessing the pilot make a crash landing and end up dead. She sticks around with the rest of the crew, as they toast drinks and sing songs and celebrate the life of their fallen comrade. Later that night, Bonnie and Geoff exchange words and we're given a bit more details about the character of Geoff Carter and that is, that he doesn't get involved with women anymore, as they've burned him too many times in the past, especially one unnamed woman. With her infatuation for Geoff in full force, Bonnie decides to intentionally miss her boat and stick around the airfield.

Having to replace the fallen pilot, Geoff enlists the services of a man named Bat Kilgallen, a man trying to live down the cowardice that he was branded with, when he aborted a falling plane, leaving a man (the brother of The Kid) to die. He is welcomed as such, with the other men not wanting to work with him, but Geoff has his hands tied and being in need of a new pilot he takes Kilgallen on. His first assignment is to land a plane on a narrow slope of the Andes and take a doctor to see a man who has fallen ill. It's a dangerous assignment, and that's why Geoff sticks it with Kilgallen. He continues to stick him with the dangerous assignments, seemingly as payback for his act of cowardice. Meanwhile, The Kid, a twenty-two year veteran at flying planes is going blind and Geoff is forced to ground him. It also turns out that Kilgallen's wife is the same, previously unnamed woman who broke Geoff's heart, played by Hayworth.

This is probably the most dialogue driven adventure flick that I've ever seen. While the stunts and action scenes are so gripping; including the opening plane crash, the delivery of a crate full of nitro-glycerin and the climax with The Kid and Kilgallen flying through a storm, the dialogue and banter between characters is just as entertaining as what's going on in the sky. Jean Arthur is great and she's quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses. She was really a great actress, but also a great beauty and she really possessed a subtle beauty, unlike Hayworth who was an obvious beauty, although I prefer Arthur here. And while I'm on the subject of actors/actresses, I'm really beginning to love Thomas Mitchell too, as he makes for a really great supporting man, whether he's playing a blind pilot, newspaperman or town drunk. On the other hand, I'd have to say that after all the Cary Grant films I've watched thus far, I'd have to label him as a tad bit overrated, as he's really not doing anything to strengthen my opinion of him. He was okay in this, but nowhere as good as many people make him out to be. And what about Hawks, was he not one of the most versatile directors going in the 30s. He goes from good gangster flick (Scarface), to fantastic screwball comedy (Bringing Up Baby), to great action, adventure film with this picture. All in all, good to great performances all around and fantastic direction, gives "Only Angels with Wings" my seal of approval.

RATING: 8/10 Unfortunately I think this was my last Jean Arthur film for quite some time, and let me reiterate...she was GORGEOUS!

NEXT UP: Gone with the Wind...For those following the blog, you had to know that this one was on its way. My wife has agreed to watch this one with me and I believe we're going to do it tomorrow.

March 2, 2010 4:28am

Monday, March 1, 2010

124. Destry Rides Again (1939)

Running Time: 94 minutes
Directed By: George Marshall
Written By: Felix Jackson, from novel by Max Brand
Main Cast: James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Winninger, Brian Donlevy, Mischa Auer

STEWART AND DIETRICH MAKE A MARVELOUS PAIR

Jimmy Stewart is back, this time in a Western, alongside Marlene Dietrich and the two together make a great pair. As someone who hasn't seen a whole lot of Westerns, this one was one that I thoroughly enjoyed and the character of Tom Destry was a great one.

Following the death of the reigning sheriff of Bottleneck, after being shot down by gambler Kent, the crooked mayor and his even crookeder (is that a word?) sidekick, saloon owner and gambler, Kent, appoint the town drunk as the new mayor. They spread the lie that the former mayor was called out of town on business, never to return. The crooked duo feel that with the drunk as the peacekeeper in Bottleneck, that they'll be able to get away with anything. But the town drunk, who's name is Washington Dimsdale, decides that he's going to give up the drink and take his job seriously, with his first order of business being bringing in Tom Destry, a formidable enemy for the criminals of Bottleneck. Eventually Destry arrives and when he helps a woman off the stagecoach, by carrying her parasol and cage of doves, the townspeople get their first look at Destry, holding the items and from there on in he's a laughing stock. Destry further cements his character as a goody two shoes, by declaring that he doesn't believe in guns, due to the fact that his father was killed after being shot in the back. Sheriff Dimsdale has second thoughts about Destry, but Destry won't leave and sticks to his guns...or no guns.

Later Destry finds himself acquainted with the saloon singer Frenchy (Dietrich playing almost the same character she does in "The Blue Angel) and the two don't hit it off at first. After a wrestling match ensues between Frenchy and the wife of a man who lost his pants to Frenchy in a poker game, Destry cools the ladies off with a bucket of water and Frenchy follows that up by throwing everything in site at Destry. Destry keeps his cool throughout the film though, mainly by carving napkin rings out of wood and telling tales of men he once knew. He tries to keep the peace, but eventually the crooked ways of Kent and the mayor get the best of him and he's forced to show his claws and investigate the true whereabouts of the former mayor of Bottleneck.

Stewart plays his usual role here, as the goody two shoes with a heart of gold, but tough if need be. The character of Destry, in my eyes, held a lot of depth and had many different aspects about him. He had a no guns policy, yet he was the best shooter that anyone had ever seen. Also, the napkin ring carving and his little stories added even more of a depth to this character, who was a good man and someone you wanted to have on your side. Stewart and Dietrich played well off of each other and had an amazing load of chemistry, a duo that I really enjoyed seeing put together. Jimmy Stewart seems to have an amazing ability to suck me into his films and make me enjoy them, as I can't even think of a Jimmy Stewart film that I don't enjoy. "Destry Rides Again" was no exception, and eventhough I'm not the most knowledgeable of Western watchers, I really liked this one a lot. Another thing that came to me while watching this film, was that while this movie was made in the days of the "Code", it seemed to really push the envelope, especially in the form of Frenchy. The wrestling match that breaks out between Frenchy and the other woman is really risque, especially considering that they end up drenched and half clothed.

RATING: 7.5/10 Bring on more Jimmy Stewart! Actually my all-time favorite James Stewart movie doesn't even show up in the '1001' book and that would be "The Shop Around the Corner".

NEXT UP: Only Angels Have Wings...More Cary Grant and this time he has Jean Arthur and Rita Hayworth with him. VA-VA-VA-VOOM! Review will be up later tonight, probably very late.

March 1, 2010 6:15pm

123. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Victor Fleming
Written By: Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf, from the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Main Cast: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Margaret Hamilton

ON MY JOURNEY I FOLLOWED THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

Probably one of the most famous films in the history of cinema, our journey finally brings us to "The Wizard of Oz". While I'm not as gaga about this as most people tend to be, I can still admit that it's a definite movie viewing experience, that everyone should probably see at least once in their lifetime.

Dorothy Gale (Garland) lives in Kansas, on a farm, with her Aunt Em (short for Emily), her uncle Henry and three farm hands, as well as her little dog Toto. The film starts with Dorothy arriving home and complaining that Ms. Gulch struck at Toto, when he ran into her garden and chased her cat. The adults don't have time to listen to Dorothy's problems, as their busy taking care of the farm. Soon Ms. Gulch arrives in person, accompanied by a creepy score. She alleges that Toto bit her leg and that she had orders from the sheriff to seize the dog and bring him in to the authorities. Dorothy, obviously upset, goes to her room to cry it out, but it's not long when Toto sneaks away from the creepy, crabby Ms. Gulch and runs back home to Dorothy. When Dorothy sees Toto, she feels that her only hope of keeping him, is to run away. Dorothy runs, but is soon shown the error of her ways by an old fortune teller, who convinces her to return home. When Dorothy arrives back at the farm, a twister is approaching and she gets inside the house just in time to get clocked in the head by a window that gets blown out. A few moments later she wakes up, but she's not in Kansas anymore.

When Dorothy opens the door to her house, she finds that she's in the bright and colorful world of Oz and here the film switches from black and white to technicolor. Dorothy soon learns that her house was blown there by the twister and when it landed, it did so on top of the Wicked With of the East, killing her. Glenda the Good With soon arrives and relates this information to Dorothy and introduces her to the town of Munchkinland. After they sing Dorothy's praises for killing the Wicked With of the East, the Wicked With of the West shows up to see who killed her sister. She doesn't seem to concerned with her sister, and more concerned with the ruby slippers that she was wearing, which are now magically upon the feet of Dorothy. The Witch departs and Dorothy is told that if she's ever to get home, she'll need to travel the yellow brick road, all the way to Emerald City, where she'll find the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. She does so, and along the way meets several colorful characters, including The Scarecrow, who is in search of a brain, The Tin Man, who wants a heart and The Lion, who has no courage. They all travel the yellow brick road together to Emerald City, to seek the Wizard's help and get the things that they most desire. But the Wicked Witch of the West is still at large and plotting against Dorothy, the killer of her sister and the wearer of the magic ruby slippers.

Like I said in the beginning of the post, I'm not as gaga over this as some people tend to be. I guess I'm just not a fairy tale kind of guy and while I'll admit there are some lasting images that appear in the film, such as: the reveal of Oz and even Emerald City for that matter, in the end this one just doesn't do a whole lot for me. Now, be that as it may, I'll also admit that I think this is a picture that everyone should see at least one time. The colors are bright and beautiful and eventhough this wasn't the first film shot in Technicolor, it's still a nice touch when the film switches from grainy black and white, to explosive color. While I would give this film a perfect 10/10 for sets, costumes and cinematography, I still find the plot to be more up a child's alley and as an adult a lot of the tale just bored me to pieces. I understand why it's in the book, however "The Wizard of Oz" will never make a Top list of mine, as I just can't get as wrapped up in it as others do. There's nothing terrible about it, it's just not for me and while it's pretty to look at, I think this is a film that is just a bit more difficult to enjoy when you're older.

RATING: 5.5/10 Beautiful movie, just not for me guys. Like I said, if all I was judging on was sets, costumes and cinematography, then this would've been a definite '10'.

NEXT UP: Destry Rides Again...More Jimmy Stewart! I'm hoping to have the decade of the 30s wrapped up by this coming weekend, so this will be watched and reviewed tomorrow (or later today - it's after midnight here)

March 1, 2010 3:29am

122. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Running Time: 129 minutes
Directed By: Frank Capra
Written By: Lewis R. Foster, Sidney Buchman
Main Cast: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold, Guy Kibbee, Thomas Mitchell, Eugene Pallette

ON MY JOURNEY I MET A MAN NAMED 'JIMMY'

One of my all-time favorite actors finally shows up in the pages of the '1001' book and his name is James Stewart. In this particular film, Mr. Stewart provides us with one of the most inspirational characters in the history of cinema, Jefferson Smith.

When one of the senators of an unnamed state passes away, it's up to Gov. Hubert Hopper (Kibbee) to pick a replacement. Under some heavy pressure from the state's top political bosses, including Jim Taylor and the other senator, Joseph Paine to pick someone who won't mind taking orders and who will go along with them in a graft scheme, which involves the building of a dam, Hopper resorts to flipping a coin. When the coin lands on it's edge and calls Hopper's attention to a newspaper story involving Jefferson Smith, a man who recently put out a blazing wild fire and who was being hailed as a local hero, Hopper chooses Smith. Smith is taken by surprise by the announcement. Smith is the leader of a local group of boy rangers and takes his U.S. history seriously, able to recite some of the famous words of Lincoln and Washington. Smith, of course, accepts the offer and heads to Washington with Sen. Joseph Paine, a friend of his deceased father. Upon arriving in Washington, Jefferson is in awe of the history that surrounds the town, taking some time for himself to see the sites, including the Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial.

Jeff finally gets nestled into his office and eventually into the Senate building, where he sits with not much to say, just in awe of the whole spectacle. Eventually Smith is egged on by his colleague Paine to go forth with an idea that Jeff had for a boys camp in their home state. The plot is really set forth by Paine to keep Jeff's nose out of the scheme that is being plotted, however, what Paine doesn't know is that Jeff's plans will intersect with the plans of the "machine" that is Jim Taylor and his dam building scheme. Along the way Jeff makes friends with his sassy secretary, Clarissa Saunders (Arthur), who starts out disliking Jeff for his boy scout ways interfering with her big city attitude. When the dust settles, we realize that Smith is someone who isn't going to roll over and play dead for the political corruption that is consuming his experiences and that he's going to stand up for what's right and honest in America.

It seems to me that I just watched this picture about two weeks ago, except then it was called "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town". The films of Smith and Deeds have undeniable similarities. Both are headed up by two characters plucked right out of Little Town, USA. Both men are kind-hearted, innocent, shy and tough. Both have films are lead by the gorgeous Jean Arthur and in both films she ends up finding love and sympathy for the main men. Both men are pulled from their little hometowns and thrown into big cities and both have accounts of the men being put on trial and framed for things they didn't do.

However...

This film holds a lot of power and intensity that "Mr. Deeds" lacked. I'll start out by saying that the first ninety minutes or so of the film runs fairly slow, with definite things happening, just not as briskly as they should be. The final scene of the film, which I won't spoil here, for anyone who hasn't seen it, holds so much power, intensity and inspiration, that you soon realize the worth of the previous ninety minutes. Everything was carefully constructed in this film, every scene was a must and was needed to make that final thirty or forty minute climax seem that much more explosive. Jimmy Stewart carves his name into the annals of great acting with his final thirty minutes of performance in this film, as he and Claude Rains duke it out in a war of words, that is not just acting, but so much more than that and you soon find yourself getting lost in the middle of their argument and the power that holds. I've seen this film once before and I'll chalk up my original dislike for it, as being too young to really understand the emotions that were on display. I'm glad that I've finally realized the greatness of this classic and the tear strolling down my cheek in the thick of the climax shows what a truly inspirational and great film this is.

"I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don't know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for. And he fought for them once, for the only reason any man ever fights for them; because of just one plain simple rule: 'Love thy neighbor.'... And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any other. Yes, you even die for them. "

RATING: 9/10 As much as I loved this film, I just wasn't feeling the full '10' here, but make no mistake about it and don't worry about my silly numbers...This is a great film, that EVERYONE should take two hours and see.


NEXT UP: The Wizard of Oz...OOOOOOOOOOOooooh I'm off to see the Wizard and probably later tonight!


February 28, 2010 11:02pm