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Monday, February 4, 2013

Film in 2013 | January

Anyone remember me?

I tried, like, five times to write a wrap post for all the movies I watched in 2012 (the button for that list is still in the bar if anyone cares to look; I'll be changing it to the new list soon). But overall, anything I tried to write just became too lengthy & laborious and I ultimately gave up, which is a shame, as I participated in (and failed) the 250 films challenge last year. It seems kinda stupid and useless that I never wrote about it. This year, I won't be doing a numbered challenge but I will continue to record each and every movie that I watch. However, rather than making the mistake of waiting until the end of the year to discuss the movies, I've decided to do an update at the end of the month. These updates may even include new films (but I don't watch them that often) if I find them noteworthy.

Because I watched only eight films this month, I'm going to talk about all of them: the good, the bad, the ugly, etc. And don't forget to leave comments letting me know what you watched this month!


MODERN TIMES (1936) | Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard ★★

I don't think I've mentioned it on here yet, but in the past month, I've become a total Charlie Chaplin junkie. I've finally opened myself up to silents (more on that to come later), and it's all because of Chaplin. I watched City Lights (1931) in December and fell in love. He truly was hilarious, and every performance of his I've seen has resulted in my laughing until my sides were splitting. So, the basic point: I love Charlie Chaplin to bits and pieces. That being said, Modern Times is probably my favorite Chaplin to date. The thing I love about Chaplin is his movies, whilst being ridiculously funny, also have this underlying tone of beauty. The Tramp is imperfection at its greatest perfection; sure, he's a goofball, but there's a childlike humanity to him that creates a lovely morality in each movie. Modern Times is a perfect example: yes, an incredibly hilarious film but also a very moving one. I don't think that the final scene of Modern Times (AND City Lights, while we're on the subject) could fail to make anyone sentimental. I can't say much about this movie that hasn't already been said, but I'll put it to you this way: it truly is all kinds of wonderful, and if you haven't seen it yet, don't be stupid and wait as long as I did. Go watch it now! (If you couldn't tell by the enthusiastic rating - it's definitely a new favorite.)

THE GOLD RUSH (1925) Charlie Chaplin, Georgia Hale ★★

Though not as flawless or memorable as Modern Times, The Gold Rush is also a really cute, funny movie. It contains the usual format for Chaplin movies, except this time it's set in Alaska and The Tramp has the hearts for Georgia Hale. Hale didn't have much of a movie career (though I'd say getting to work with Chaplin is an accomplishment to brag about), but like all of Chaplin's leading ladies, is quite beautiful (I feel like silent actresses had the most adorable faces). Anyways, this was a really enjoyable film and if you like Chaplin you'll love this one. A great watch.

ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939) Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth ★★

A star studded cast led at the helm by Howard Hawks; not much can really go wrong with this film. The foggy South American setting lends a thrilling environment to the film, and much of the action takes place up in the sky, which gives the movie a tone laden with adventure. All of the major players give great performances; Cary and Jean have wonderful chemistry and Rita, who wasn't yet a star, is enjoyable in her costarring role. 

NO MAN OF HER OWN (1932) Clark Gable, Carole Lombard ★★

My main reason for watching this movie was because it is the lone collaboration of Gable & Lombard - which is kind of ironic. They were the premiere couple of Golden Age Hollywood, and you would have thought that that studio moguls would've been eager to have them paired up again at some point, especially after getting married. Perhaps if Carole hadn't passed so prematurely. (And Clark was at MGM when Carole wasn't, so I guess it all makes sense.) Anyways, it was on the set of this movie that they met for the first time; but they didn't pull a Lucy-Desi and fall madly in love on the spot. It wasn't until a few years later that they met at a party and the sparks flew. Despite that, their chemistry in this is electric and even more fun because we know what's to come in years later. There is a cute library scene (pictured), where Carole climbs on a ladder to retrieve a book for Clark, and well... the look on his face says it all. (Who doesn't love pre code Hollywood??!!) This is a pretty average film otherwise, and the plot starts to drag towards the end. But it's enjoyable to watch just to see Clark and Carole in their only turn playing across each other, if only for that reason alone.

THE MAGIC CARPET (1951) Lucille Ball, James Agar ★★

For Christmas, I received several of Lucy's movies on DVD (because, no matter how bad they are, I want to see them all.) This was one of them. This movie can be noted as the final B movie Lucy made before catapulting to television fame, and there's a interesting story behind it. This was the last film she was obliged to make under contract to Columbia. She was unhappy with Harry Cohn because he had refused to loan her out to Paramount for a role she was being offered in Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth. He decided to punish her by sticking her with this 'E class' film by the infamous Sam Katzman, expecting her to turn it down. She startled him by agreeing to do the picture.  At the time, she was already pregnant with Lucie Arnaz. The picture was filmed in six days and she collected 85 grand for the film, concluding her contract at Columbia. She made certain that Cohn was not aware of her pregnancy (which would have abruptly ended the contract) until after the movie was completed, in which she called him up on the phone and basically said, "Mr. Cohn, I want you to be the first to know that Desi and I are expecting a baby." Then he called her a bitch. At this point, she had to drop the DeMille film as well, because of her pregnancy. DeMille made a comment to Desi that had all of Hollywood laughing, save the embarrassed Harry Cohn: "Congratulations, Desi. You are the only person in the world to screw Harry Cohn, Columbia Pictures, Paramount, Cecil B. DeMille, and your wife, all at the same time."

HOUR OF THE WOLF (1968) Max Von Sydow, Liv Ullmann ★★

It's probably a sin in the film world to criticize the efforts of Ingmar Bergman (God knows that no critic would dare do it), but I'll admit all the while I have yet to become a fan. That being said, it's probably too early in the game for this judgement: I've only seen three of his movies. But all three (Autumn Sonata and Persona are the other two) have been similar in their overly pretentious nature. If you want you can say maybe I'm too 'young' to 'get it', and that's okay with me. If it's any consolation, I don't plan to stop watching Bergman anytime soon (The Seventh Seal, Cries and Whispers, The Wild Strawberries here we come!). Because I have never failed to find one of movies entertaining. Hour of the Wolf is no different from his other escapist dramas, except this one is categorized as a "horror film." Basically, Liv Ullmann and Max Von Sydow talk a lot about the meaning of life in the necessary Bergman setting of a lonely cabin on a Swedish island. Liv reads his diary and is visited by a 176 year old women; Max fantasizes about similar old women (some of whom pull their faces off) men who walk on ceilings, and a naked Ingrid Thulin. Liv Ullmann is a pretty good actress and it's a shame so much of her career was spent making Bergman's pompous propaganda. 

RAINTREE COUNTY (1957) Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint ★★

Yet another Gone With the Wind wannabe film, but what drove me to watch it was the excellent cast; besides those pictured above, the cast is joined by the supporting talents of Lee Marvin, Rod Taylor, and Agnes Moorehead. Like any Civil War epic, this movie is also overly long at a three hour time length (Netflix sent it to us on two DVDs). A mostly forgettable film that drags far past its welcome. Something notable about the production is during this filming, Montgomery Clift had his famous car accident while driving home from a party at Elizabeth's house. Elizabeth, her husband at the time, and Rock Hudson traveled to the scene of the accident. She crawled inside the car's back door and relieved Monty of the two front teeth that threatened to choke him. Rock pulled his body from the car and they shielded him from photographers until the ambulance arrived. Most of the film is Monty as he looked after the accident, but there some scenes taken before the incident.

GAME CHANGE (2012) Julianne Moore, Ed Harris ★★

This movie basically capitalizes on the Republican Party’s choice of choosing Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 election. During the critical sixty days between that pick and Election Night, it demonstrates their original motives that drove their decision (the desire to shake up the campaign; to close the gender gap; bring a fresh face to the ticket so to draw away some of Obama’s attention, etc.) and the preliminary pleasure with their choice which ultimately spirals downward into a string of regrets. (So much so, that the campaign manager, Steve Schmitt, who is among those primarily responsible for picking her, apologizes to McCain on election night: “I’m sorry we chose her.”) Would it be harder for Republicans to like this movie? Okay, yes. But this TV film excellently emphasizes the fact at hand here is that, regardless of party, the compromising of popularity over experience came around to be a decision they regretted, McCain himself admitting that it turned into a campaign he wasn't proud of. Julianne Moore, who has won several awards for this performance, is so effective as Palin - I can't even begin to describe it. It feels as if you are watching Palin herself. Sure, this movie sends Palin into an unflattering light several times (in one scene, she even chucks her Blackberry across the room and in another she has to be explained to that the Queen of England is not the head of state), but Moore plays her so excellently to the extent where there are times where you do sympathize with her. You get the feeling that she is an average person who has placed herself in an extraordinary situation. And even the most ardent Democrat would feel sympathetic for Steve Schmitt and his colleagues who have to prep her for her interviews and the VP debate ("Senator O'Biden?!"). Regardless of your political party, if you concentrate on the overall message of this film, I would encourage you to watch this well produced TV movie. Julianne Moore's performance is near flawless and every detail is intense and entertaining. Definitely one of my favorites of the month. 

Favorite movie of the month | Modern Times (1936)
Favorite performance | Julianne Moore, Game Change (2012)


LĂȘ said...

Nice to see you again, Rianna!
Last year I ended up watching a little more than 300 movies,due to a new TV channel we subscribed. In Januray, my vacation month, I nailed 41. Yours were few, but good ones!
"City Lights" is my favorite Chaplin film and I'm glad you're now a silent film fan. About Ingmar, my favorite is "Wild Strawberris", a litle slow, but worth watching.

Laura said...

You're in good company when it comes to not being set on fire by Ingmar Bergman. Pauline Kael was one critic who dared to critique. Richard Kramer remembers being at party with her when Bergman walked in. "'“He’s done some good work,” Pauline said, with a nod in the direction of the stern master of Faro Island. 'I love ‘Smiles of a Summer Night.’ But I know how his mind works. Bergman, Fellini, Antonioni — I don’t write about those movies because I don’t have to see them to write about them. They’re important. Always. And I don’t give a shit about important. It’s dead by the time the lights go down.'"

Isn't Liz Taylor a boss? Crawling into a wrecked car and pulling out her friend's teeth from the back of his throat, saving his life. Couldn't stand her in Cleopatra, and I think her best acting was when she was twelve. But I'm a fan for life, just because I love her, y'know?

Dani said...

I agree with you about "Game Change". It certainly is enlightening in some ways as it shows the process that led to Palin's nomination. And I think Julianne Moore is one of the best actresses of her generation. She's incredibly natural and you don't see her playing someone, but becoming another person in front of the camera.

I still haven't been able to watch many silent movies, I don't know why, but it's something I've been planning to do for a long time. Maybe this will be the year to do it :)

Kate Gorman said...

Last month I watched Holiday Inn. I love it.

Rianna said...

Le: 300 films?! I envy you! ;) I wish I'd get more opportunities for film watching. Thanks for your suggestion on Ingmar, I'm definitely gonna give Wild Strawberries a try. :)

Laura: Omg, I love that. I'm glad to know there's one critic who didn't worship Ingmar, and a distinguished one at that. Thanks for sharing the story :) I like Liz Taylor as an actress, but I agree with you, I love her even more as a person. She lived her life with such honesty, such passion, and it made her an awesome woman. The work she did for AIDS is incredible. She was a pretty kickass lady.

Dani: Good to see you around again! I agree exactly with what you say about Game Change; I highly doubt I've seen Julianne in anything else but I'd definitely be willing to see more now. I never felt like I was watching an actress; I felt like I was watching Palin. I know how you feel, I was apprehensive at first about silents, but once I started I really get into them. I have to credit Chaplin for that, though.

Kate: I haven't seen that one yet, but I've meaning to. Thanks for the rec :)

Kate Gorman said...

Holiday Inn is a lovey, romantic and festive musical. I had never seen until I got for Christmas 2012. It's also a great film to watch when you need cheering up. :)

Kevyn Knox said...

I know this really has nothing to do with this particular post, but I wanted to get this information to you, and your regular crowd.

As you may or may not know, I hold court over at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World, and every coupla weeks I do a thing called Battle Royale, where I pit two classic film stars or directors against each other, and you vote for who your favourite is. I wanted to pas along the link to our latest Battle Royale - Battle of the Foxy Flappers, Clara Bow vs. Louise Brooks. Here is said link:

Hopefully you can be part of this.

Oh yeah, and I am glad to see Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings on your viewing list. Hawks is so great that this film often gets lost in the shuffle when speaking of his entire oeuvre, and that is a shame. Definitely one of my all-time faves.

Keep up the great work you do on this site.

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