Monday, December 27, 2004

What I Did on My Winter Vacation.

I watched sixteen movies. Here's a list, with some brief comments. I'll give 'em a 1-5 star rating, with 4 or 5 stars meaning it's going on my Top 100.

Bruce Almighty - It was okay, and I had a few laughs. The car was cool. No really, it pretty much sucked, and all the good parts were in the commercials. *

The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup - I watched all five movies from the new Marx Brothers collection (they're not very long), and I liked each of them more than I remembered. Duck Soup is still my favorite, by far. (Interestingly, it was a box office flop and almost ruined Paramount.) *** for the first four, **** for Duck Soup.

The Third Man - famous film noir. Obviously an inspiration for Hitchcock movies, like North by Northwest. Simple American writer gets involved with international intrigue in Vienna, then governed by four different countries. Beautifully photographed in black and white, with a unique zither score (yes, I said zither). ****

The Thin Man - I've always loved this movie, and wanted to see it again since I read the book. The movie changes the order of the events and their revelations, but all the snappy dialogue is lovingly retained. Great performances, especially Myrna Loy. ****

The Maltese Falcon - Another movie I'd seen but recently read the book. Like The Big Sleep, it puts large chunks of the book right on the screen. Unlike The Big Sleep, it doesn't leave out crucial plot points. A great film of a great book. *****

Fargo - Watched this again, with commentary and trivia track. My appreciation for the movie grew as a result. It's a terrific film, and a great Coen Brothers film. I like stories that are uncategorizable as comedies or dramas, having the characteristics of both. They seem very real to me. I think that's how life is built. Even though I'm from a much warmer part of the Midwest, the characters in this film are like people I grew up with. *****

His Girl Friday - I have a peculiar history with this film. I was directed to it by the IMDB trivia for The Hudsucker Proxy, which referred to its rapid-fire dialogue. I bought the DVD on eBay, and when it arrived it had the wrong disk in it. Disgusted and unwilling to negotiate a return, I threw it away. Now that I've finally seen it, it's a delightful film. It's well known for its complex dialogue which features actors talking over each other constantly. Very enjoyable indeed. ***

Hellboy - My curiosity got the better of me. It was too boring and too corny. *

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre - Stunning performances from Bogart and John Huston's father. Has a good ending that ties everything up too, which is rare these days. ***

The Manchurian Candidate - The original from 1962. A complicated and excellent thriller, with a chilling performance by Angela Lansbury (go figure). This movie had just about everything: politics, martial arts, fantasy dream sequences, science-fiction, suspense. ***

Napoleon Dynamite - Well, they got me. I totally fell for the setup and the payoff just floored me. I shoulda seen it coming. I pity those who left during the credits. "I hope you guyses experiences are incredible." ***

Sunset Blvd. - The Psycho of film noir, as one reviewer said. Both for its early plot switch and Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond, more terrifying than Norman Bates. Narrated by a corpse, just like American Beauty. Shows where you go when you go over "over the top," an amazing rarified atmosphere. I saved the best for last! *****

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