Wednesday, January 31, 2007

January Films

Watched this up in Sligo with the folks, who I think were a little apprehensive. Dare I say their doubt was completely unfounded? Yes, I do! Jimmy Stewart is the perfect choice for the loveable Elwood P. Dowd, an amiable gentlemen who's best friend just happens to be a six-foot tall bunny rabbit (the eponymous Harvey). Touching, genuinely funny and cute without being irritating, this is a must see.

Okay, I love Hitchcock as much as the next person. And I especially like it when Hitch is directing James Stewart (see: Rear Window and the criminally underrated Rope). I also like the sinister stories about how this film reflects Hitch's desire to mold every actress into his ideal of an ice-cool blonde. Unfortunately, I also liked the hilariousness of this film...which I doubt was the desired effect.

All About Eve
My all time favourite film. Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Bette Davis (as an ageing actress, suitably fitting), All About Eve is not only a scathing look at Hollywood, a disturbing account of growing old and an almost Hitchcockian tale of double-crossing and identity-thievery, but it is also one of the wittiest films I have ever seen. It's the role Davis was born to play and also stars Marilyn Monroe in a small cameo. Off the top of my head, I can think of numerous fabulous quotes and snatches of dialogue. Relentless. Brilliant. Depressing. See it!

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis again, this time paired up with her "arch-nemisis" Joan Crawford. I'm slightly skeptical about the whole Davis/Crawford fued story. I don't doubt they disliked each other ("Joan Crawford has slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie", Bette Davis) but I'm also fairly sure that part of their supposed hatred of each other was fabricated by the studios. The casting in this sinister, yet amusing film is inspired though, with Davis (slathered in make-up and looking fairly demented) cackling away over her crippled sister.

Kill Bill Volume I
Bright, super-stylised, violent, joyful pastiche of every film Quentin Tarantino has ever loved, ever (including some of his own). I knew that this film lacked some of QT's trademark sparky-dialogue, which I did miss. However, I settled down to enjoy blood spurting from every corner, Uma Thurman holding court in a yellow tracksuit and, my personal highlight, the amazing soundtrack (constant rotation I tell ya, constant rotation).

Guys & Dolls
It's Marlon Brando! Singing! In really bright technicolour! "Luck Be A Lady" is the stand-out song, Frank Sinatra is a little annoying and it doesn't enter the same ballpark as Singin' in the Rain or West Side Story. It's still a fun, colourful picture with some neat dialogue.

The Usual Suspects
I hate Channel Four. It was on one of their inane countdown of the top 100-whatevers that the central twist of this film was divulged to the nation....before I had seen it. Undeterred, I caught it on FilmFour earlier this month and although I enjoyed and admired it, the overall impact was slightly lessened by the fact that I already knew who Keyser Soze was! Argh. Oh, fun fact: year ago, Gabriel Byrne, one of the Suspects, used to deliver the post round where my dad lived. He had the hots for one of my aunts and used to ring the bell in the hope she'd answer. Ah, in a paralell universe, I am Gabriel Byrne's niece.

His Girl Friday
For some reason, I watched this whole film thinking the Hildy Johnson character was played by Katharine Hepbrun. Probably I was getting it confused with Bringing Up Baby. I got a bit of a shock when the end credits rolled with "Rosalind Russell". Ah, fuck it, they're both from Connecticut. Justified. I was laughing too hard to notice who the hell she was played by at any rate. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

Bad Education
Almodóvar does Hitchcock, while retaining his love for transvestites and the like. Out of all his films I've seen, the cinematography is probably the best so far (the football game, the swimming pool shots, the scene at the lake) and Gael Garcia Bernal makes a thoroughly convincing woman.

The Pursuit of Happyness
I've already written about this: nice turn from Smith, cute kid, uplifting message blah blah blah.

Bringing Up Baby
Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in The Best Comedy Film. Of All Time. Ever. In The Universe. In My Opinion. Okay, but seriously, this is a total gem. Screwball, slapstick, innuendo, irony, puns and a leopard. All tied up in a crazy plot (try to explain it to somebody, sounds utterly stupid, doesn't it?) with Cary Grant having the time of his life and Katharine Hepburn falling down and into rivers and off dinosaurs and through bushes and in love. Hah!

Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down!
Almodóvar again. The earliest of his that I've watched. It's funny, sexy and a little dark. Antonio Banderas is a delight!

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Jimmy Stewart again. Idealistic, big-eyed senator Mr. Smith with his genuine love for America and his eager plans doesn't stand a chance in Washington. For climatic, filibuster scene, Stewart dried out his throat with bicarbonate of soda. Now THERE'S the kind of man we need taking an active part in the running of this country. E
h, that country, rather. America.

Now, Voyager
It's Bette Davis! (Yay!!) With big eyebrows and frumpy dresses! (Boo!!) Smoking like a chimney! (Duh!!) Did someone just scream "Melodrama!?" Yes, indeedy, the mother of all melodramas. The plot's slightly implausible (from slightly insane frump to slim beauty in three months?) and the continual break-downs may grate a little if you're in the wrong mood, but it's still a classic. And you can't deny the ending: the lighting of the two cigarettes, "Don't lets ask for the moon Jerry, we have the stars!" and the swelling music as the camera pans up to the moonlit sky...excuse me, I've got a little something in my eye..

Bobby're going to have to excuse me for a good while, folks. By the end of this Emilio Estevez film I was a complete wreck. This nearly beats the finale of Doctor Who in the Makes-Catherine-Cry polls. This film, along
with Mr. Smith goes to Washington and The West Wing, does the difficult job of making me feel hopeless patriotic towards a country I've never been too. While some of the interlocking characters and storylines don't quite work (Ashton Kutcher's stoner treaded the fine line between dispensible and vomit-inducing), the ultimate point was poignant and well-crafted. The use of the music, especially Simon & Garfunkel, was noteworthy in the quiet manner it scored the tragedy. I swear, the next film I see in the cinema better not make me cry...

So there we have it, every film I watched from the 1st-31st of January. Pas mal, pas mal.

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