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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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Takoma1 wrote:
A comedy made before 1970: The Thin Man

I've mostly tried to watch movies for these challenges that I've never seen before. I was looking at the sequels to The Thin Man, but quickly realized that I didn't remember much about the original.

I've seen the film years ago, and I've also listened to an audiobook of the novel (I'm a big Dashiell Hammett fan). It's a light, charming mystery-comedy.

The story follows Nick Charles, a former detective who has moved to New York with his new wife, Nora. Nick gets pulled into the mystery surrounding the disappearance of an old client of his and the subsequent murder of the man's secretary/mistress.

Along the way there's a lot of banter between Nick and Nora. Despite his protests that he is retired, Nick keeps getting pulled into the murder mystery, encouraged by Nora who is excited at the idea of solving a crime. William Powell and Myrna Loy have great chemistry as the lead couple, and their dog Asta is also a fun character. The mystery itself is chock full of characters (including the absurd family of the missing man), and the plot crackles along at a good clip until the final Agatha Christie-like scene where all of the characters from the entire movie are gathered at a dinner table where Nick untangles the mystery. ("Serve the nuts," Nora tells the waiter. Catching a look from Nick she amends that to, "I mean, serve the guests the nuts.").

This one's a classic for a reason, and if anyone in here hasn't seen it, I highly recommend it.

This is one of my favorite movies. I just read the book, which is so different it's hard to believe. I would like to have seen a movie version of the book in addition to the film that was made.


Mon May 14, 2018 2:18 am
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Wooley wrote:
This is one of my favorite movies. I just read the book, which is so different it's hard to believe. I would like to have seen a movie version of the book in addition to the film that was made.


Red Harvest is my favorite of his novels.

I think it would be hard to see a straight adaptation of The Thin Man at this point, the 30s film is so iconic in terms of the characterization of the main couple.


Mon May 14, 2018 2:40 am
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A Korean language film: Hwayi: A Monster Boy

A group of ruthless criminals known as the Day Breakers kidnap a young boy. When the ransom exchange goes bad, the criminals decide to raise the boy instead of killing him. They name him Hwayi, after the tree under which they hid him as a hostage.

The film picks up again when the Hwayi is a teenager. He has been trained by his five "dads" (and a woman who is the wife of one of the criminals but is chained up and a prisoner in the home) for a life of crime, but he frequently doesn't have it in him to do harm to innocents. When the criminals are hired to murder a family who refuses to leave their home (it has to do with a mall being built and the family being in the way), Hwayi comes up against his past.

This movie was incredibly dark. There are beats that you expect the movie to hit that it just doesn't--glimpses of hope that simply never pan out. The movie throws out several "redemption" tropes (like a teenage girl Hwayi comes to like), but most end up in blood. Most of the characters in the film are destined for violent, and often meaningless deaths. In a way, I appreciated that the movie didn't romanticize the criminals. Their decision to spare the life of the boy has its own dark side, and the movie never plays the characters as fun outlaws.

Like many Korean thrillers, there is a lot of melodrama built into the action. The movie explores some incredibly dysfunctional notions of "family". Yeo Jin-Gu is good in the lead role as Hwayi, but the film is really anchored by Kim Yoon-Seuk (I've seen him before in The Chaser) who plays the leader of the Day Breakers and the man who has the most complicated relationship with Hwayi.

This one was a little too bleak for me--especially in the final act when a woman is (SPOILERS)
mocked by the man who raped her years earlier, taunted about never seeing her son again, and then shot dead
. The action is good and the performances are pretty solid. As Korean action thrillers go I'd put it above average.


Mon May 14, 2018 3:15 am
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I've started Room (about 30 minutes in) and it is rough. Like, I was expecting an emotional reaction around a 6 or 7 and it's already like a 9 for me. Does not help that the child bears a strong physical resemblance to one of my students who is in an abusive home life situation.


Mon May 14, 2018 4:49 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I've started Room (about 30 minutes in) and it is rough. Like, I was expecting an emotional reaction around a 6 or 7 and it's already like a 9 for me. Does not help that the child bears a strong physical resemblance to one of my students who is in an abusive home life situation.

Yeah, not what I'd have picked for Mother's Day.... ;)

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Mon May 14, 2018 5:10 am
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A film from the IMDb Top 250: Room

Well, that was harrowing.

I'm going to skip talking about all the feels I had watching this one. Needless to say, there were some pretty awful parallels with the issues that some of my students have dealt with (none as severe as captivity) and even just watching the mentality of a child who has grown up in an abusive situation and literally does not know any different.

What I thought was amazing about this movie was the way that it honored the perspectives of all of the characters (aside from the perpetrator, and I can't stress enough that I LOVED that he was given minimal screen time, that the sexual assaults were never shown, and that there was no talk about why he did what he did and no actual flashbacks to his crimes). There were several heartbreaking moments of realizing that two people can never be at peace with events because they come from such different sides. Like when Jack asks if they can go back to sleep in Bed, the only place he knows and yet from his mother's point of view the place where she has been raped for seven years. The core opposition that everything Jack knows and trusts is also a symbol of his mother's victimization is really hard to see play out. You feel for both of them as Joy wants nothing more than to discard and move away from the trappings of their life in Room, while this leaves Jack unmoored and disoriented. Both Jack and Joy are emerging into a new world, but from very different starting points.

I loved Brie Larson in Short Term 12, and this was another example of her portraying a mix of strength and vulnerability. I thought that Jacob Tremblay, playing Jack, did an amazing job. I did think that the movie maybe slightly underplayed the degree to which children who come through trauma have a lot of weird stuff going on--behaviors and emotional turmoil that plays out in strange ways.

This movie at times made me think of the moments when the show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt gets dark. There's an episode where Kimmy meets a war vet and they immediately recognize in one another a victim of trauma. There's a funny-but-tragic sequence where they end up in a physical altercation because they have both been triggered in ways that are forcing them to relive their emotional hurt. In another episode, Kimmy wants to have sex with her boyfriend, but every time he reaches for her she panics and lashes out at him. It's nice to see media that addresses the aftermath of trauma without feeling like it is exploiting the trauma itself.

I don't know. I've been in tears or on the verge of tears for the last two hours. Time to go grocery shopping so I can drown my negative emotions in a ton of calories!


Mon May 14, 2018 6:40 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I did think that the movie maybe slightly underplayed the degree to which children who come through trauma have a lot of weird stuff going on--behaviors and emotional turmoil that plays out in strange ways.

This is the issue I referred to the other day:
Captain Terror wrote:
I loved it while I was watching it but had some issues/questions after thinking about it days later. Would like to hear the opinion of someone that works with kids.

I was
certainly relieved to find that things were going well for the kid at the end, and an unhappy ending would've been unbearable to watch, but afterwards I couldn't help thinking that things were going a bit too well, much better than a real-life story would have ended. I mean it's not like the kid was feral or anything, I just think that his first few years on the planet were way out of the ordinary and his introduction into society would've been a lot more of a struggle than depicted in the film.
Again, while the movie was in progress I didn't have a problem with this, it was only after days of consideration that it started to bother me.

But yeah, I'm a movie-crier in general, so this one really did a number on me. It'll be a few days before you've shaken this one off, I'd guess.

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Mon May 14, 2018 6:54 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
I was
certainly relieved to find that things were going well for the kid at the end, and an unhappy ending would've been unbearable to watch, but afterwards I couldn't help thinking that things were going a bit too well, much better than a real-life story would have ended. I mean it's not like the kid was feral or anything, I just think that his first few years on the planet were way out of the ordinary and his introduction into society would've been a lot more of a struggle than depicted in the film.
Again, while the movie was in progress I didn't have a problem with this, it was only after days of consideration that it started to bother me.

But yeah, I'm a movie-crier in general, so this one really did a number on me. It'll be a few days before you've shaken this one off, I'd guess.


Yeah, I would have expected that Jack would have
had a much harder time transitioning to sleeping without his mother and even the detail about how she had still been breastfeeding him but she stops when the leave the Room.


Something that the movie also totally avoided was
how Jack will come to understand that he is the product of the rape of his mother and the torture that was inflicted on her by his biological father. In the movie, Joy never seems to see Jack as anything but her child (and this makes sense as it's framed that having him as a companion makes her generally happier in her captivity), and this is only addressed twice--once when the father won't look at Jack, and once when the reporter asks about Jack's father.

He will one day realize that he slept in the wardrobe for years while his mother was victimized just feet away.

The movie kind of steps around the part where Jack actually realizes the nature of what happened to him and his mother. It's not a complaint, per se. The movie is clearly focused on the transition out of captivity for both Jack and Joy and their different reactions. But those thoughts weighed heavily on me as I watched the film.

I don't think that the movie was avoiding the issue, necessarily. It's really zoomed in on Joy and Jack. It does give hints that things will still be really hard at points--such as the fact that the whole thing might go to trial.


But, yeah. Kids who experience trauma have some standard responses (such as bedwetting--which I am surprised the movie only mentioned once), but also some odd habits that they develop and moments of explosive emotion (anger or sorrow). We see this in Joy but not so much in Jack. While it's true that he doesn't totally understand what happened to him, it IS true that literally having your whole reality turned on its head is a trauma and his response felt too even-keeled for me.


Mon May 14, 2018 7:50 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Red Harvest is my favorite of his novels.

I think it would be hard to see a straight adaptation of The Thin Man at this point, the 30s film is so iconic in terms of the characterization of the main couple.

No, I think if you made an adaptation of the novel now, you would get eviscerated by the only people who went to see it.
But I would have been very happy if there had been a faithful adaptation anytime between, say 1935 and 1955, or if Robert Altman had done one in the 70s.


Mon May 14, 2018 9:13 am
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Yeah, Takoma, that convinced me that some of my worst fears were true. But I'll get around to it.

Also, no way could I get around to Room today. Of all days!

My big changes that I hinted about earlier was swapping out Valerian for Metropolis (hopefully get done by tomorrow night) and swapping out The Big Sleep for Mother (Yeah, it is a thriller, plus it's an opportunity to see a film I missed in Cinema International!)


Mon May 14, 2018 9:20 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
My big changes that I hinted about earlier was swapping out Valerian for Metropolis (hopefully get done by tomorrow night) and swapping out The Big Sleep for Mother (Yeah, it is a thriller, plus it's an opportunity to see a film I missed in Cinema International!)


I feel that you should see all four of those movies!

I liked Mother, but I saw it after a ton of hype. For me it didn't surpass Memories of Murder, which is probably still my favorite from Bong Joon-ho


Mon May 14, 2018 9:47 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
The movie kind of steps around the part
where Jack actually realizes the nature of what happened to him and his mother. It's not a complaint, per se. The movie is clearly focused on the transition out of captivity for both Jack and Joy and their different reactions. But those thoughts weighed heavily on me as I watched the film.

I don't think that the movie was avoiding the issue, necessarily. It's really zoomed in on Joy and Jack. It does give hints that things will still be really hard at points--such as the fact that the whole thing might go to trial.

Right-that's for another movie altogether which is why I'm not really holding it against the movie that we got. My tear ducts barely survived this one, after all.

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Mon May 14, 2018 9:52 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Yeah, I would have expected that Jack would have
had a much harder time transitioning to sleeping without his mother and even the detail about how she had still been breastfeeding him but she stops when the leave the Room.


Something that the movie also totally avoided was
how Jack will come to understand that he is the product of the rape of his mother and the torture that was inflicted on her by his biological father. In the movie, Joy never seems to see Jack as anything but her child (and this makes sense as it's framed that having him as a companion makes her generally happier in her captivity), and this is only addressed twice--once when the father won't look at Jack, and once when the reporter asks about Jack's father.

He will one day realize that he slept in the wardrobe for years while his mother was victimized just feet away.

The movie kind of steps around the part where Jack actually realizes the nature of what happened to him and his mother. It's not a complaint, per se. The movie is clearly focused on the transition out of captivity for both Jack and Joy and their different reactions. But those thoughts weighed heavily on me as I watched the film.

I don't think that the movie was avoiding the issue, necessarily. It's really zoomed in on Joy and Jack. It does give hints that things will still be really hard at points--such as the fact that the whole thing might go to trial.


But, yeah. Kids who experience trauma have some standard responses (such as bedwetting--which I am surprised the movie only mentioned once), but also some odd habits that they develop and moments of explosive emotion (anger or sorrow). We see this in Joy but not so much in Jack. While it's true that he doesn't totally understand what happened to him, it IS true that literally having your whole reality turned on its head is a trauma and his response felt too even-keeled for me.


I felt that the film leaned more towards the psychological aftermath on the mother rather than the son; which is not a bad thing, but I suppose it's tougher for the filmmaker and the audience to picture how a kid born in such situations would behave afterwards than it is to picture how a grown teenager/woman would. I suppose that for the kid to grasp and adapt to this outside world would be a longer process than it would be for her, who would probably have a more notable reaction to everything.

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Tue May 15, 2018 12:22 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I feel that you should see all four of those movies!

I liked Mother, but I saw it after a ton of hype. For me it didn't surpass Memories of Murder, which is probably still my favorite from Bong Joon-ho


To be fair, I was already planning on seeing Mother anyway because that was my entry for Korean film.


Tue May 15, 2018 2:53 am
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A PG-rated film


Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

Quote:
"I finally came to the frustrating conclusion that I had taste and style, but not talent. I knew my limitations. We all have our limitations, Freddy. Fortunately, I discovered that taste and style were commodities that people desired. Freddy, what I am saying is: know your limitations. You are a moron."


Part of succeeding in life comes from acknowledging what we're good at and what we suck at, trying to steer away from the latter and embracing the former; even if it means becoming a con man. That is the mantra of Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine), a refined gentleman who uses his charm and charisma to con unsuspecting people into giving him money. That is until he stumbles upon two special players in his game: one that seems like the perfect target, and another who ends up being a worthy partner/adversary.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels follows Lawrence and Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) as they try to outperform each other in their way to con a young woman called Janet (Glenne Headley) into giving them $50,000. A master in the con game, Lawrence initially dismisses Freddy as too vulgar and reckless to excel in the con game, but eventually realizes that there's also "art" in Freddy's way of doing things. The pairing allows for a perfect comedic showdown between both actors, and it's in their banter that the film excels. Caine is perfect in his suave and confident persona, while Martin does best with the more physical and anger-filled bits. Headley is also pretty good as the target.

I wasn't that crazy about the use of Martin's "Ruprecht" persona. It seemed more like an excuse to bring out the excessive physical comedy, rather than relying in the more subtle and smarter. I thought Martin was great, but I preferred seeing him struggling to match Caine than going "all overboard" as Ruprecht. In fact, one of my favorite comedic moments was Martin in jail trying to remember Lawrence's name; a moment so simple in its premise and execution, but in the hands of a gifted comedian like Martin and a patient direction by Frank Oz, it was comedic gold. I couldn't hold my laughter all throughout.

As I was watching it last week, I was pretty sure that I had seen this back in the day, even if I didn't remember it that much. But still, even if you remember the outcome or if you think that the "twist" is predictable, the joy of the film comes from seeing all this talent interacting: all taste, all style, all moron.

Grade: A-

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Tue May 15, 2018 5:56 am
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Thief wrote:
A PG-rated film


Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)



Part of succeeding in life comes from acknowledging what we're good at and what we suck at, trying to steer away from the latter and embracing the former; even if it means becoming a con man. That is the mantra of Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine), a refined gentleman who uses his charm and charisma to con unsuspecting people into giving him money. That is until he stumbles upon two special players in his game: one that seems like the perfect target, and another who ends up being a worthy partner/adversary.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels follows Lawrence and Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) as they try to outperform each other in their way to con a young woman called Janet (Glenne Headley) into giving them $50,000. A master in the con game, Lawrence initially dismisses Freddy as too vulgar and reckless to excel in the con game, but eventually realizes that there's also "art" in Freddy's way of doing things. The pairing allows for a perfect comedic showdown between both actors, and it's in their banter that the film excels. Caine is perfect in his suave and confident persona, while Martin does best with the more physical and anger-filled bits. Headley is also pretty good as the target.

I wasn't that crazy about the use of Martin's "Ruprecht" persona. It seemed more like an excuse to bring out the excessive physical comedy, rather than relying in the more subtle and smarter. I thought Martin was great, but I preferred seeing him struggling to match Caine than going "all overboard" as Ruprecht. In fact, one of my favorite comedic moments was Martin in jail trying to remember Lawrence's name; a moment so simple in its premise and execution, but in the hands of a gifted comedian like Martin and a patient direction by Frank Oz, it was comedic gold. I couldn't hold my laughter all throughout.

As I was watching it last week, I was pretty sure that I had seen this back in the day, even if I didn't remember it that much. But still, even if you remember the outcome or if you think that the "twist" is predictable, the joy of the film comes from seeing all this talent interacting: all taste, all style, all moron.

Grade: A-


I agree and, personally, it really dragged the film down for me. I really didn't find the whole Ruprecht gag funny in the least and thought it was low-hanging fruit for Martin, almost lazy to use such a ridiculous character. I never got over it and therefore have never thought of the film as more than something in the C range.


Tue May 15, 2018 6:09 am
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Wooley wrote:

I agree and, personally, it really dragged the film down for me. I really didn't find the whole Ruprecht gag funny in the least and thought it was low-hanging fruit for Martin, almost lazy to use such a ridiculous character. I never got over it and therefore have never thought of the film as more than something in the C range.


Fortunately, the Ruprecht bit didn't take much time. It was only about 10 or 20 minutes, but I can see it feeling like more. Another thing is that it makes no sense within the context of what the film shows. I mean, the film spends a good amount of time before we meet Ruprecht showing us how Caine is teaching Martin to act refined and whatnot, but instead they follow that bit with the Ruprecht character for which there was no need to be refined, etc. It felt like a bit of a cheat in terms of the narrative of the story. Plus, it left me wanting to see more of Martin struggling to act refined. There's a moment in the montage where we see him learning how to act like Caine where he is trying his best to walk gallantly, while sipping champagne and smelling flowers which was genius in its subtlety. I would trade the 10-20 minutes we had of Ruprecht for a bit more of that.

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Tue May 15, 2018 6:18 am
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Thief wrote:
I felt that the film leaned more towards the psychological aftermath on the mother rather than the son; which is not a bad thing, but I suppose it's tougher for the filmmaker and the audience to picture how a kid born in such situations would behave afterwards than it is to picture how a grown teenager/woman would. I suppose that for the kid to grasp and adapt to this outside world would be a longer process than it would be for her, who would probably have a more notable reaction to everything.


But the film is narrated by the child, and there are several scenes (especially in the first third) that are from his point of view--sometimes literally.

Also, oh my goodness, that shot where he is in
the rug and he's looking out at the mom and then we see her point of view looking in at him--I almost had to take a break from the movie at that part. Like, despite knowing that the whole point of the film is that they do escape. I think it really says something about how well that element is handled that I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Like when he's trying to hand the note to the man walking the dog and Old Nick grabs it away from him.


I think that, on one hand, the child narrating the story adds a poignancy as his innocence only puts into stark contrast the suffering of his mother. But it also leads you to expect to see more of their "new life" through his point of view. And the movie does that (most scenes follow the boy as he watches what his mother is going through), but Jack becomes a lot more passive as a character. Does that make sense? Sort of. But I think that the mixture of shyness and curiosity is only one part of what a child in that situation would be going through. If anything, Jack's disfunction would make things harder for Joy (as in the scene in the hospital where he won't eat the pancakes).

Thief wrote:
A PG-rated film


Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)


We owned this one on VHS and it was frequently watched in our home. So much so that I got a call from a family member the day it became available on Hulu. Honestly, though, it's been years since I've seen it.


Tue May 15, 2018 8:48 am
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A PG-rated film: Ace Wonder

After Room I needed some lighter fare. Enter Ace Wonder.

This movie made me think a lot of the sort of made-for-tv ABC movies that aired when I was a kid in the early/mid-90s. It's a simple story with an affable cast and a lesson to be learned about valuing family.

Ace Wonder is a boy who draws comics in which he imagines himself to be a noir-style private eye. When his family goes on vacation, he befriends Derek, the son of the owners of the bed and breakfast where they are staying. Derek's grandfather recently passed away, and left Derek a mysterious note. Soon Derek and Ace are working through various clues involving the local library, secret inventions, and father-son family history.

This movie is adorable, and surprisingly good. I would easily show this movie to a group of kids--it's just "grown up" enough to feel like a real mystery (with real stakes and real danger), but it also has an optimism and an ease to it. Every actor in this movie, save a handful, seem to be actual family members. Looking down the cast list, 90% of the names end in either Moore or Moreland. Many of the characters simply have the same names as the actors who play them. That should be disastrous, but it isn't. The acting isn't great (or even good, per se), but the actors have a familiarity with each other that takes away the awkwardness of non-professional acting. Gator Moore and Derek Moreland (who play Ace and Derek) have an easy chemistry and it's fun to watch them work through the mystery.

I also have to give props to this movie for not embracing any kind of cynical, annoying "kid humor", which is something I find so grating. There's nothing smug or smirky about the teen or pre-teen characters, and it's a real breath of fresh air.


Tue May 15, 2018 9:30 am
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I've never gotten around to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I suspect it might be good, but I've never seen it.

It looks like my 4th film for May will be quite the doozy. Racing the expiration clock, but I got a pretty good chance of pulling this off.

Really good so far.


Tue May 15, 2018 10:29 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

But the film is narrated by the child, and there are several scenes (especially in the first third) that are from his point of view--sometimes literally.



You're right. I honestly didn't remember that and now that you mention it, I seem to recall that specific point (how the director uses the kid's point of view) being a big deal for me in terms of appreciating the film. It's been a couple of years since I saw it, so I guess I should rewatch it before discussing it fully... but then again, it's not a film I would rewatch very often.

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Tue May 15, 2018 11:59 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
I've never gotten around to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I suspect it might be good, but I've never seen it.

It looks like my 4th film for May will be quite the doozy. Racing the expiration clock, but I got a pretty good chance of pulling this off.

Really good so far.

You have my curiosity.


Tue May 15, 2018 5:02 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
It looks like my 4th film for May will be quite the doozy. Racing the expiration clock, but I got a pretty good chance of pulling this off.

Really good so far.

Wait, are you watching Metropolis?!
That's a goddamn masterpiece. All the hype is true.


Tue May 15, 2018 5:04 pm
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And with hours under the wire!

A Science Fiction Film
A Film in the IMDb Top 250 (109 at the moment)
A Film with over 95 percent Tomatometer rating (99%)


Metropolis (1927):

As some of those have said on my thread and on Thief's thread that it definitely meets the hype.

My response: And then some.

The iconic visuals of the glorious views of the city (both the glamorous world of the upper class and the slummish world of the worker class) are awe-inspiring. Plus some things that seem impossible to imagine in 1927 are pulled off (flying cars! robots!).

But let's step away from the visuals to explore the story. It's essentially The Time Machine as Freder, our hero and the city master's son, finds out what life is like down below, thanks in small part for having fallen hard for a rebel leader named Maria he met while she was briefly upstairs. Once he learns this, he tells his father what is going on. But when he's pretty much dismissed, he decides to serve as that mediator that she keeps talking about that could serve to unite the classes.

Also in play is the town inventor who has invented something wonderful and might have a secret agenda involving his late wife and the city master.

Not only is it a visual masterpiece, but it's also both a warning against populism (which wasn't noted by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels who were both fans) and a message urging for more equality between classes.

Easily my favorite silent, it's probably a lock for the top 25 films I've seen for all time.

Grade: A+


Wed May 16, 2018 9:48 am
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99%?

Who the? Variety?!? Looks like they were too ashamed to keep the review posted, those fetid fartmongers.


Wed May 16, 2018 10:49 am
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I remember watching a version of Metropolis in the late '80s or '90s, probably the Munich version. It was great artistically but definitely challenging to follow. Seeing the restored version with the missing scenes a few years back was a real revelation.


Wed May 16, 2018 10:59 am
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kgaard. wrote:
I remember watching a version of Metropolis in the late '80s or '90s, probably the Munich version. It was great artistically but definitely challenging to follow. Seeing the restored version with the missing scenes a few years back was a real revelation.

This was the point I was trying to get across to Thief. My first copy was a wretched public-domain VHS which was only 1.5 hrs long, so my introduction to the film left me thinking "Pretty cool" but I wasn't exactly clear what it was "about". "Challenging to follow" is a good way to put it. For example, the whole thing about Rotwang's love triangle with Hel and Fredersen was completely missing from my tape. So when I got to see the first big restoration (early 2000s) it was, as you say, a revelation.

So to reiterate for Thief's benefit, my recommendation is to go for the 2010 version. While it's true that the "new" footage is noticeably damaged, I think it's worth it just for a better understanding of the plot.

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Wed May 16, 2018 11:12 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
This was the point I was trying to get across to Thief. My first copy was a wretched public-domain VHS which was only 1.5 hrs long, so my introduction to the film left me thinking "Pretty cool" but I wasn't exactly clear what it was "about". "Challenging to follow" is a good way to put it. For example, the whole thing about Rotwang's love triangle with Hel and Fredersen was completely missing from my tape. So when I got to see the first big restoration (early 2000s) it was, as you say, a revelation.

So to reiterate for Thief's benefit, my recommendation is to go for the 2010 version. While it's true that the "new" footage is noticeably damaged, I think it's worth it just for a better understanding of the plot.


Outside of one scene which I have to presume was damaged needing the intertitles to explain what happened, I too would push for the 2010 version. It's long, but totally worth it.


Wed May 16, 2018 11:21 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
99%?

Who the? Variety?!? Looks like they were too ashamed to keep the review posted, those fetid fartmongers.


To be fair, I thought it might have been our old nemesis Armond White.


Wed May 16, 2018 11:22 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
My first copy was a wretched public-domain VHS which was only 1.5 hrs long

Image


Wed May 16, 2018 11:49 am
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Yep that's the one.
"Colorize the cover photo. Maybe the kids will think it's Star Wars."


Image

Funny part is I felt like such a film buff when I got it.

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Wed May 16, 2018 12:16 pm
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So that's where Laura Dern got her purple hair from.

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Wed May 16, 2018 12:18 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
And with hours under the wire!

A Science Fiction Film
A Film in the IMDb Top 250 (109 at the moment)
A Film with over 95 percent Tomatometer rating (99%)


Metropolis (1927):

As some of those have said on my thread and on Thief's thread that it definitely meets the hype.

My response: And then some.

The iconic visuals of the glorious views of the city (both the glamorous world of the upper class and the slummish world of the worker class) are awe-inspiring. Plus some things that seem impossible to imagine in 1927 are pulled off (flying cars! robots!).

But let's step away from the visuals to explore the story. It's essentially The Time Machine as Freder, our hero and the city master's son, finds out what life is like down below, thanks in small part for having fallen hard for a rebel leader named Maria he met while she was briefly upstairs. Once he learns this, he tells his father what is going on. But when he's pretty much dismissed, he decides to serve as that mediator that she keeps talking about that could serve to unite the classes.

Also in play is the town inventor who has invented something wonderful and might have a secret agenda involving his late wife and the city master.

Not only is it a visual masterpiece, but it's also both a warning against populism (which wasn't noted by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels who were both fans) and a message urging for more equality between classes.

Easily my favorite silent, it's probably a lock for the top 25 films I've seen for all time.

Grade: A+

That's a funny choice, as H.G. Wells himself LAMBASTED this movie, going so far as to call it "silly". One has to wonder, in light of the comparison you made, if there wasn't perhaps some professional jealousy.
Regardless, I had the same reaction as you when I saw it and I still hold it in the highest regard. I actually have a Robot/Maria throw-pillow (no joke) on my sofa as we speak.


Wed May 16, 2018 1:34 pm
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Captain Terror wrote:
Yep that's the one.
"Colorize the cover photo. Maybe the kids will think it's Star Wars."


Image

Funny part is I felt like such a film buff when I got it.

I still have my VHS copy. This was the version that I used to redub the soundtrack with instrumental Pink Floyd selections.

I still considered it mindblowing even in this truncated format. I was especially keen on expressionist silents anyway, and it's one of the few genres where the patchy prints actually helps to give it that cryptic, eerie otherworldlyness. I believe that it's this effect that later cult films, like Eraserhead, Forbidden Zone and Begotten are playing from, capitalizing on the specific anciently exotic distance, a true glass darkly.

And also, at the time, it seemed like such a pipe dream that someone could uncover a fresh print, even a modestly tattered one, that would restore the film very nearly to its full length. Instead, we were left to silently wonder what in the world an extra hour could expand upon. The Good Times cut seemed like an impossible keyhole where we get a glimpse but so much remained shrouded in shadows. It's like looking at the Great Pyramid, and only through imagination being able to conjure the sparkling limestone splendor of its halcyon days of fertile Nile soil. I always liked silent films because they are decrepit, like sunken hulls on the seafloor.


Thu May 17, 2018 12:55 am
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A Russian film: Adventures of a Dentist

Probably one of the most well-known Russian films is Elem Klimov's Come and See. When I saw the prompt for a Russian film, I decided to see what other films of Klimov's I could find. Filmstruck had two of his movies, and I was shocked that one of them was a comedy. (Yeah, I know that talented people work across genres, but still!).

Adventures of a Dentist follows a man named Sergey Chesnokov who arrives in a town to join a dental practice. On his very first day a man in the dental chair insists that Sergey pull one of his teeth without the use of anesthetic. Afraid at first, Sergey is shocked when he extracts the tooth without a hint of pain from the patient. Soon Sergey is working on client after client, their teeth springing out of their mouths and into the dentist's forceps (accompanied by a magical BOING sound effect) without the use of pain killers.

Sergey is at first the toast of the town (his fellow dentist quickly and quietly leaves town), but a nasty strain of resentment begins to poison Sergey's relationship with the townsfolk. As a committee watches, Sergey finds that he cannot bring himself to extract a young woman's bad tooth, and everything slides downhill from there.

As I watched this movie I had the sensation of enjoying it while at the same time feeling that there was a lot of social commentary going over my head. From a style point of view I really liked it. There's a great editing cut where Sergey is talking to a woman at a carnival, and it suddenly cuts to them, still in conversation, but riding horses on a carousel. There are also several scenes where every actor in the background suddenly stops moving and turns to watch Sergey, amplifying his sensation that everyone is watching him and fueling his preoccupation with what everyone else thinks about him. In one scene, we watch a green screen descend behind two characters as they then "walk" through different backgrounds in a montage-like sequence. The humor in the visuals transcends social commentary, and was very easy to appreciate.

Going back to the themes, it's obvious that there's a central concept of the way that those with natural talents are both celebrated and resented. It was hard for me to tell, though, in certain scenes if there were Russian culture-specific criticisms that I just wasn't seeing.

Even setting aside the vague discomfort of "am I understanding this?", I still quite liked this one. And it was a trip seeing a silly comedy from a director I associate with a film that is deeply emotionally intense and disturbing.


Thu May 17, 2018 9:47 am
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For those following, I still have three reviews pending for...

An NC-17-rated film: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
A film from the IMDb Top 250: Blade Runner (rewatch)
A Biblical film: Barabbas


After that, these are the ones I have on queue for what's left of the week and the weekend...

A Russian film: Come and See
A film featuring a non-human lead character: Fantastic Mr. Fox
A film with a number in its title: Blade Runner 2049

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Thu May 17, 2018 12:03 pm
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Jinnistan wrote:
I still considered it mindblowing even in this truncated format.

I can't say the same. I loved a lot of the images, and I was impressed with myself for having bought an "Important" film (I was in my early 20s), but I couldn't fully embrace it just because I was always slightly confused as to the plot. I don't think I was aware of how much footage was missing. So yeah, I loved it enough to buy probably 5 more copies over the ensuing years, but the "mind-blowing" didn't happen until I saw the restoration.

Jinnistan wrote:
I was especially keen on expressionist silents anyway, and it's one of the few genres where the patchy prints actually helps to give it that cryptic, eerie otherworldlyness. I believe that it's this effect that later cult films, like Eraserhead, Forbidden Zone and Begotten are playing from, capitalizing on the specific anciently exotic distance, a true glass darkly.

Yes, this is definitely a thing. The really cruddy prints almost give the film a found-footage aspect, like you're watching actual newsreel footage of Quasimodo from the 15th Century, as an example. And the act of even finding some of these things took so much effort, that when I got them and the print literally looked like an ancient artifact of some sort it made me feel like Indiana Jones. My main source was some Xeroxed mail order list that I used to get (no idea where). There would be nothing but a title and maybe a one-sentence description, so pretty much all of it was blind-buys, adding to the mystique. That's where I got Lon Chaney's Blackbird and to date that's the only copy I've ever seen in person. So yeah, I'm glad we've got 1080p now, but I do miss that archaeological feeling, the joy of the dig.

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Thu May 17, 2018 9:43 pm
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Thief wrote:
For those following, I still have three reviews pending for...

An NC-17-rated film: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
A film from the IMDb Top 250: Blade Runner (rewatch)

A Biblical film: Barabbas


After that, these are the ones I have on queue for what's left of the week and the weekend...

A Russian film: Come and See
A film featuring a non-human lead character: Fantastic Mr. Fox
A film with a number in its title: Blade Runner 2049


Man, I'm envious.


Fri May 18, 2018 5:12 am
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Thief wrote:
A Russian film: Come and See

My favorite war film of all time.

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Fri May 18, 2018 5:14 am
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Wooley, I just compared Metropolis to The Time Machine because it reminded me of the conflict between the Morlocks and the Eloi. Although the majority of my understanding comes from Ransom, so make of that what you will.

I agree that there's some iconic things that are still remembered decades later, such as the robot. I mentioned Radio Gaga in my thread, but it seems to have also influenced Whitney Houston's outfit for Queen of the Night as well as several Madonna videos (Express Yourself, most notably).


Fri May 18, 2018 5:16 am
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Thief wrote:
A Russian film: Come and See


Amazing, but really intense. By the same director of the Russian film I just watched.


Fri May 18, 2018 7:35 am
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A film set in a place you've been to: Hooked Up

No bueno.

So this film is set in Barcelona, but I was immediately disappointed on multiple fronts.

1) While it is set in Barcelona, it is really just set in a house that could be anywhere.
2) The two leads are American and there are only a handful of words in Spanish.
3) It's found footage. Ugh.
4) It is . . . not good.

Hooked Up follows two horrible, truly unlikable men (Peter and Tonio) on vacation in Barcelona. Peter is still reeling from a breakup with his girlfriend. Tonio pushes Peter to have a wild night out on the town and the two men pick up two different girls, one of whom invites them back to her house for a wild night of sexy exploits. Soon, though, Peter and Tonio realize they are trapped in the house by someone (or something) bent on vengeance.

This movie is one of those horror-comedies that is neither very scary nor very funny. For the first 40 minutes I genuinely could not tell if the movie was supposed to be serious or not. There is one really nicely frightening image (a woman seen from a distance down a hallway wearing an eerie mask), and one really funny moment (a person is accidentally impaled on a statue of the Virgin Mary), and that's about it.

The real issue with the film is that there's nothing to hold onto, so to speak. Peter and Tonio are pretty repellant protagonists. They engage in a lot of "bro" behavior (in one shot Tonio urinates in a bathtub where Peter is bathing. Ha?), but there's nothing charming about it. In one scene Tonio tricks a man in a bar into drinking a pint glass full of urine. Later, Tonio badgers a woman who is so drunk she's on the verge of passing out into performing oral sex on him, berating her when she wants to stop. Peter is supposedly the "nice" one, but when a woman can't give him the information he needs in a timely fashion he quickly becomes physically rough with her.

With such awful "protagonists" I was totally ready to root for the killer. Unfortunately, she is even more sparsely drawn than the two male leads. We learn about her motivations through a 30 second exposition dump in which Peter and Tonio read a newspaper article about a young woman who was
raped and set on fire by American tourists.
. She gets virtually no dialogue and doesn't even physically appear in the movie all that much. There's no explanation as to why she
attacks and mutilates the woman who the men bring back to the apartment
.

A lot of the movie is just the two leads screaming at each other. The found footage element frequently doesn't make sense (who films a person they are arguing with?). The idea of being trapped in a house in a foreign country has a lot of potential, but here it just doesn't pan out.


Fri May 18, 2018 8:34 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Wooley, I just compared Metropolis to The Time Machine because it reminded me of the conflict between the Morlocks and the Eloi. Although the majority of my understanding comes from Ransom, so make of that what you will.

I agree that there's some iconic things that are still remembered decades later, such as the robot. I mentioned Radio Gaga in my thread, but it seems to have also influenced Whitney Houston's outfit for Queen of the Night as well as several Madonna videos (Express Yourself, most notably).

I didn't mean funny like an odd choice on your part, I just meant that it was a funny coincidence that you brought up Welles when I was just reading how he was so outspoken in his disdain for a film that is now considered one of the great masterpieces, and I wondered if he didn't have some kind of jealousy over it.

Also, check out the album cover for Janelle Monet's The Archandroid. (I would just post it but I haven't had image-sharing since I quit photo-bucket like a year and a half ago).


Fri May 18, 2018 1:11 pm
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A film about food: Unsupersize me

This is a really low-budget film--it looks almost like it was made with a flip camera and iMovie. But I still found it really interesting.

The film follows a man named Carly Asse, the owner of a gym, as he helps an obese woman named Tracy lose weight through exercise and a vegan diet.

This movie could have played like an extended episode of The Biggest Loser, but it has some elements that I think make it worth checking out, especially if you are interested in diet and lifestyle type things.

To begin with, Asse has an interesting background: when he was in his early 20s he was arrested for dealing ecstasy and sentenced to 7 years in prison. In prison he discovered his passion for diet and exercise, and when he is released (after serving what seemed like close to or all of his 7 years) he struggles to find employment because of his record. He gets a job training and is able to open his own gym. From there he works with Tracy as a sort of "test case" to show the power of a vegan diet and exercise. Throughout the film, Tracy reflects on the fact that she never appreciated the things that she was able to do---things that Carly could not do in prison.

I really liked the approach endorsed by the film in terms of lifestyle. Even if you find the anti-meat/dairy message of the movie to be extreme or fear-mongering, I appreciated the emphasis on shifting away from processed foods and toward a more plant-based diet. I also liked that the trainer emphasizes that Tracy is doing at most an hour workout each day. She is not going to extremes and working out 24/7. This film is about how to shift a lifestyle, not just how to drop a ton of weight for short-term effects.

The movie also benefits from Tracy's candid discussions about her own life. She reflects on the fact that her weight and eating issues are part of a pattern of a lack of self-care. During the film she finally gets braces to fix her teeth. She pursues a better job. Trying to take better care of herself ripples out into many aspects of her life.

Is this movie kind of a long-form ad for the trainer's gym and supplement products? Yeah. But I still enjoyed it and found Tracy's journey inspiring.


Sat May 19, 2018 6:41 am
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A Comedy Made Before 1970
A Black and White film


Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Bringing Up Baby is a classic screwball comedy whose performance labeled co-star Katherine Hepburn as box office poison for several years. Co-star Cary Grant was like the sixth choice for his role of paleontologist David Huxley. On set, laughing fits frequently stopped filming. Hepburn tended to overact at the start of it, trying to hammer down the joke. Her acting coach ended up getting cast as a sheriff.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that under these circumstances, Bringing Up Baby, a film about a fossil doctor, a high society woman and a leopard, should have been a disaster. But 1938 audiences weren't quite ready for all the hilarity that followed.

Huxley (Grant) is fixing to be married to cold fish Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker) who is more interested in his research than love or a family. While trying to win over a lawyer (George Irving) whose client is mulling a million dollar donation to the museum, first at a golf course and later at a fancy restaurant, he becomes entangled with Susan Vance (Hepburn) who's a bit daffy and finds various ways to keep from sealing the deal.

Later on, Huxley and Vance get stuck into a series of silly, escalating circumstances involving a leopard brought from Brazil, a Connecticut farmhouse that belongs to her aunt Elizabeth (May Robson), a dinosaur bone, and a pesky dog.

There was some pretty big belly laughs to be had here. The chemistry between Grant and Hepburn is strong and it helps that the film recognizes Vance as an equal rather than an accessory. Callbacks tended to be clever and helped add to the atmosphere (for example, not once but twice do characters on the phone note that the person they're supposed to recognized are likely in bed). Oh, and the scene in jail where Vance turns into Swinging Door Susie is just a treat to watch.

There's one sequence I'm kinda torn on though. There's one scene where Huxley, being dirty, decides to take a shower and Vance decides to have her gardener press his clothes at a dry cleaners in town. The only thing he can find is a frilly bathrobe presumably belonging to a woman. While desperately searching for better clothes to wear, the doorbell rings. He answers it and it's Elizabeth who wants to know why he's dressed up that way. He declares "Because I went gay all of a sudden" and jumps up.

Not sure if that was supposed to be a play on the term back on the day (meaning joyful) or a wink and a nod at homosexuality, but it does come across as a bit of a clunker. Also, I'm not sure if screwball comedies insist on having its characters on the verge of marrying stuffed shirts instead of more compatible characters, but that was a weakness as well. It might have benefited the film if Alice was more charming making that final decision tougher.

But even with its flaws, Bringing Up Baby proves to be superior to It Happened One Night. I give this film 3 1/2 leopards out of 4.

A-


Sun May 20, 2018 2:41 am
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A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%: Florida Project

I thought that this was pretty great.

Mooney is a little girl living in a motel with her mother, Hailey. They live on the outskirts of Disneyworld, an area full of Disney outlet stores, cheap motels, and abandoned condos. The motel where they live is called the Magic Castle. Other motels in the area have names like "Futureworld" and "Arabian Nights". Everything is painted in cheery colors, and even the characters' clothing (and hair) tends to bright pastels that belie the misery and desperation in which these people live. As Hailey struggles to pay her rent and the children run wild, it becomes clear that something bad is inevitable.

Getting a fair amount of screentime is Willem Dafoe as Bobby, the weary manager of the motel (and the most stable adult in Mooney's life); Mooney's new friend Jancey; and Mooney's friend Scooty and his mother Ashley.

What makes this film challenging (especially in the beginning) is the behavior of the children--they are disrespectful, largely unlikable, and seem borderline sociopathic. Within the first ten minutes Mooney is calling an old woman a "ratchet bitch". But what quickly becomes apparent is that disrespect, aggression, mistrust of authority, and money-by-any-means are all habits that these children are learning from the adults around them. Hailey frequently enlists Mooney in her attempts to scam and/or beg from tourists.

While I recognized the behavior of the children, what the movie really nails is the behavior of these kinds of parents. Everything is someone else's fault. They think that a few good times make them good parents, and they are totally blind to the way that their bad decisions impact and seriously endanger their children. They model horrible choices and provide no useful structure for their kids.

I had a students a few years ago in an eerily similar situation. Her mother lived with her in a cheap motel and (I don't know if it was drugs, prostitution, or both) there were strange men in and out of the room all the time. Eventually, she was put in to the custody of her grandmother. While nothing was ever proven or reported, she showed several tell-tale symptoms of sexual abuse.

I think that the movie did a really good job of demonstrating how, for a child, elements of this kind of life can be magical and exciting. At the same time, the movie itself doesn't romanticize what is happening. The children don't realize that Bobby is the only adult even remotely supervising them and that he saves them from a child predator. Mooney doesn't understand that an all-you-can-eat trip to a waffle house is part of a nasty, passive-aggressive move by her mother to get back at a friend with whom she is feuding. Because the children are so inundated with their parents' us-versus-them mentality, they perceive outside forces (like child services) as the villains, not understanding that it is their parents who have put these consequences in play.

Over the whole film is a critique about the wealth gap in our country. While Mooney depends on a charity van for food, other happy families spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on trips to an amusement park just blocks away. Hailey's issues go beyond poverty, but her friend Ashley holds down a steady job and still can only afford to live in a motel.

This one is available on Amazon Prime and I highly recommend it.


Sun May 20, 2018 8:54 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
A Comedy Made Before 1970
A Black and White film


Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Bringing Up Baby is a classic screwball comedy whose performance labeled co-star Katherine Hepburn as box office poison for several years. Co-star Cary Grant was like the sixth choice for his role of paleontologist David Huxley. On set, laughing fits frequently stopped filming. Hepburn tended to overact at the start of it, trying to hammer down the joke. Her acting coach ended up getting cast as a sheriff.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that under these circumstances, Bringing Up Baby, a film about a fossil doctor, a high society woman and a leopard, should have been a disaster. But 1938 audiences weren't quite ready for all the hilarity that followed.

Huxley (Grant) is fixing to be married to cold fish Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker) who is more interested in his research than love or a family. While trying to win over a lawyer (George Irving) whose client is mulling a million dollar donation to the museum, first at a golf course and later at a fancy restaurant, he becomes entangled with Susan Vance (Hepburn) who's a bit daffy and finds various ways to keep from sealing the deal.

Later on, Huxley and Vance get stuck into a series of silly, escalating circumstances involving a leopard brought from Brazil, a Connecticut farmhouse that belongs to her aunt Elizabeth (May Robson), a dinosaur bone, and a pesky dog.

There was some pretty big belly laughs to be had here. The chemistry between Grant and Hepburn is strong and it helps that the film recognizes Vance as an equal rather than an accessory. Callbacks tended to be clever and helped add to the atmosphere (for example, not once but twice do characters on the phone note that the person they're supposed to recognized are likely in bed). Oh, and the scene in jail where Vance turns into Swinging Door Susie is just a treat to watch.

There's one sequence I'm kinda torn on though. There's one scene where Huxley, being dirty, decides to take a shower and Vance decides to have her gardener press his clothes at a dry cleaners in town. The only thing he can find is a frilly bathrobe presumably belonging to a woman. While desperately searching for better clothes to wear, the doorbell rings. He answers it and it's Elizabeth who wants to know why he's dressed up that way. He declares "Because I went gay all of a sudden" and jumps up.

Not sure if that was supposed to be a play on the term back on the day (meaning joyful) or a wink and a nod at homosexuality, but it does come across as a bit of a clunker. Also, I'm not sure if screwball comedies insist on having its characters on the verge of marrying stuffed shirts instead of more compatible characters, but that was a weakness as well. It might have benefited the film if Alice was more charming making that final decision tougher.

But even with its flaws, Bringing Up Baby proves to be superior to It Happened One Night. I give this film 3 1/2 leopards out of 4.

A-

Big fan here, if it comes on I always end up watching the whole thing.


Sun May 20, 2018 12:43 pm
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A British film: The Redeeming

I mean . . . eh.

On a dark and stormy night Joyce, a woman alone in a rural house, hears a knock at the door. A young man with an injured arm, John, asks her to let him in. She does, and the movie quickly turns into a "which one's the truly dangerous one?" type of film. John, the young man, holds tight to a backpack containing some suspicious items. Joyce, already eccentric, has increasingly odd flashes of memory.

About 90% of the movie is just Joyce and John having awkward conversations. John, trapped by the storm and his injury, is in the challenging position of being freaked out by Joyce's odd behavior, but not being able to escape. The best element of the movie is capturing that "can't leave, can't stay" discomfort that most people have probably felt at one point or another. In the final act it all kind of dissolves into some rote psychological stuff. I don't totally understand the ending. The acting was fine (this is basically a two person film), but the writing eventually steers the characters into a dynamic that isn't very interesting.


Sun May 20, 2018 12:49 pm
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Will have to see Florida Project sometime in the near future. What did you think of Tangerine?


Mon May 21, 2018 5:55 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Will have to see Florida Project sometime in the near future. What did you think of Tangerine?


I really liked it also.

I'd rank them about equal. Florida Project looks more formal (ie it was not filmed on an iPhone), but it has a good sense of movement and I like the way that it moves the camera as it shifts points of view from kids to adults and back again.


Mon May 21, 2018 5:57 am
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