Friday, July 1, 2011

Pin It


Swingin' Hips, Flyin' Nannies, Bette Davis

Status reports I've promised, and status reports I'm delivering.  I started my own journey through the films of 1964 Monday, and am already up to ten. I had hoped to be closer to twelve, but patience, folks, patience!


Synopsis: An adaptation of Jean Anouilh's play, depicting the love/hate relationship between King Henry II and Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Capsule: Great start to this project. Burton and O'Toole deliver great performances, certainly one the best of the former's that I've had the pleasure of seeing. Costumes and art direction wow, and I swear I got goosebumps more than once, so awestruck was I by Peter Glenville's directorial choices. The Rome scene is a little out-of-place, both tonally and pacing-wise, but is immediately followed by a first-class scene featuring our leading men and the best horse actors in cinema.

Best in Show: Richard Burton as Thomas a Becket

For Your Consideration: All categories, except for Best Actress and Best Original Song.

Elvis films, horror flicks, and Oscar winners after the cut....


Synopsis: Racecar driver Elvis falls for swim instructor Ann-Margret. I think. There's no real story.

Capsule: Viva Las Vegas plays out like a partially-completed script outline, with dialogue provided by yelling improvised lines from just off-screen. It's really committed to the nonsense, and I have to admire the tenacity of a studio that's so confident in the audience's commitment to a star that it doesn't even bother trying to cover up its shrugging off of anything resembling story, consistency, or sense. They're good songs, though uncomfortably shoehorned in -- and the one song that actually reflects the narrative/character is quickly made irrelevant the next scene. Obviously, I loved it, as I do all films that bring the crazy, and Elvis is actually pretty great at deadpan humor. Besides: Ann-Margret, who can always be depended on for bringing a variety of shades to her roles; in this case, she runs the whole gamut from Pretty Horny to Holy Crap I Think She's About to Fuck Him Right Here.

Best in Show: Ann-Margret. I was tempted to say Cesare Danova as Count Elmo, but watching Ann-Margret get all sex kitten when she's up on stage just makes me so...happy.

For Your Consideration: Original Song, definitely, then Art Direction and Costume Design, I guess.

"I was Phyllis Dietrickson....and now I'm second fiddle to a pair of swingin' hips"

Synopsis: Young louse winds up working for a down-on-its-luck carnival.

Capsule: The difference between this movie and Viva las Vegas is staggering. Amazing how much better a movie gets when one writes a full story, develops characters, hires real actors, integrates songs within the narrative, etc., etc., etc. None of the supporting characters are annoying, all the songs are fantastic, the stakes are real, Barbara Stanwyck! Very satisfying.

Best in Show: It's a tie between Stanwyck as carnival owner Maggie and Sue Ane Langdon as Estelle the Fortune-teller.

For Your Consideration: All categories except Actress

Now they're just fucking with us

Synopsis: The army recruits a North Carolina pilot to help convince mountain people to lease some of their land for a missile base.

Capsule: Elvis plays lookalike cousins, and the dual roles allow him to demonstrate his Anyway, future Batgirl Yvonne Craig plays a hillbilly gal who army Elvis romances, and good Lord is she sexy. Oh, and also his character's cousin; if you couldn't tell from the title, this movie makes no bones about incest, even providing two (TWO!!!) songs about how it's all right, because they're just distant enough that it doesn't matter. Whatever, I didn't come for the story, I came for the lunacy, and the film does not disappoint, though it's still positively tame by Viva Las Vegas! standards.

Best in Show: Yvonne Craig

For Your Consideration: Original Song, Cinematography, Art Direction

My money's worth

Synopsis: A woman is released from an asylum twenty years after hacking her husband and his girlfriend to death, reuniting with her daughter just as murders begin to occur.

Capsule: William Castle is phenomenal at the atmospherics, with the eeriest music, scariest cinematography, and suspensefulest editing this side of Hitchcock. Joan Crawford is quite thrilling as Lucy Harbin, the aforementioned crazy lady who may or may not still be crazy, but the real surprise here is Diane Baker as Lucy's daughter. Not just a statuesque beauty, Baker brings great empathy to her portrayal of a woman who just wants her mother back, and the way she plays the last scene is unforgettable. Loses steam with the final coda, as many Castle films do -- there's always a need to explain away logically all the cool stuff that's happened, and that's fine as long as the actors don't suddenly change gears on us...but here they do. Where's Vincent Price when you need him?

Best in Show: Baker

For Your Consideration: Picture, Director - William Castle, Actress - Joan Crawford/Diane Baker, Original Score, Editing, Cinematography, Sound

My thoughts exactly...

Synopsis: When a fifteen-year-old girl murders her mother's live-in boyfriend, it gives her divorced parents pause to think fo the choices they made that led to this moment. Reportedly inspired by the real life scandal of Johnny Stompanato, murdered by the daughter of his girlfriend...Lana Turner.

Capsule: Dopey, soapy melodrama can at least boast a bellowing Susan Hayward, a villainous Bette Davis and a surprisingly deep turn from Joey Heatherton. The men are wan and colorless, though, and the ending leaves a lot of important questions unanswered, as the filmmakers try to have their scandal without being icky. Oscar-nominated for a title song as dull as its screenplay. Apparently, alcoholic fathers who verbally abuse their wives and commit marital rape aren't as much to blame for broken homes as artist wives who commit adultery: while the movie almost tries to consider to place equal blame, there's no doubt what the filmmakers really feel by the disgusting treatment of Hayward's character. Occasional camp, frequent boredom.

Best in Show: Heatherton

For Your Consideration: Joey Heatherton for Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Art Direction

So cool

Synopsis: When a womanizing screenwriter is killed by a conquest' jealous husband, he is reincarnated as a dishy blonde.

Capsule: It's actually shocking how well they pull this off. Debbie Reynolds plays the womanizer, and except for a few gestures here and there, she really gets the part down -- with hilarious results! Tony Curtis has some of the best comically befuddled expressions I've seen, and Walter Matthau is a hoot as the Hungarian gunman who starts this trouble. Another ending that forgets to tie up loose ends, while also trying to maintain a romance without know..."alternative". Still, until those final three minutes, it's loads of fun! Also, Ellen Burstyn when she was still billed as Ellen McRae!

Best in Show: Matthau

For Your Consideration: Curtis for Actor, Reynolds for Actress, Matthau for Supporting Actor, Art Direction, Original Score, Original Song - "Goodbye Charlie"

Watch your back, Julie Andrews, she's going for the gold.

Synopsis: A prostitute arrives in a small town and tries to turn her life around.

Capsule: One of the most shocking, disturbing, haunting, beautiful films I've ever seen. The frank yet tasteful handling of some of this subject matter -- which ones the gamut from hookers to perverts -- is to be commended, shocking (as I said) without being tawdry. The only way to describe Constance Towers' performance here is raw: she stands emotionally naked throughout the film, damaged but hopeful. That musical interlude is going to stay with me for some time.... A great American masterpiece.

Best in Show: A solid ensemble, but Constance Towers really shines

For Your Consideration: Picture, Director - Samuel Fuller, Actress - Towers, Score, Cinematography, Ensemble


Synopsis: Heist masterminds gather amateurs to steal the famous Sultan's dagger from the Topkapi Palace.

Capsule: The opening is a feast for the senses, and the movie never lets up on the energy. Peter Ustinov leads as a schmo who unwittingly falls in with the crooks, and almost walks away with the whole film. I say almost because Melina Mercouri is divine as the purring, elegant femme fatale who leads the group. Great fun, genuine suspense, a rousing score. Jules Dassin really knocks it out of the park on this one; there's not a single false moment.

Best in Show: Mercouri, but that ensemble as a whole delights

For Your Consideration: Picture, Director - Jules Dassin, Actress - Mercouri, Actor - Ustinov, Adapted Screenplay, Score, Cinematography, Costume Design, Art Direction, Effects, Ensemble


Synopsis: A practically perfect nanny comes to the aid of a family run by a strict, humorless father.

Capsule: I hadn't seen this movie since I was a kid, so I wondered how it would hold up eleven years later; very well, is the answer. Movies with a fun hero(ine) and a strict adversary always worry me, because sometimes the strict character is rather practical...but Mary Poppins plays fair, knowing that there is a time and a place for everything. Julie Andrews is just delightful, sweet without being saccharine, stern without being strict, practically perfect in every way. Dick Van Dyke always got a lot of criticism for his accent, but I adore him here; in many ways, he's the real heart of the film, and it is his character -- not Mary Poppins -- who teaches the children and their father about moderation and the importance of their family. The songs are rightfully legendary, with exciting choreography that should be the benchmark for all group numbers. It's the fun of Hairspray, the visual dazzle of Avatar, and the emotional heft of Speed Racer all rolled into one. (I will say, is it me, or is Mrs. Banks the most well-meaning yet inattentive wife/mother in Disney? Discuss)

Best in Show: Dare I say: David Tomlinson as the strict Mr. Banks, quite moving as he goes from "A British bank is run with precision/A British home requires nothing less" to "Let's go fly a kite/Up to the highest height/Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring..."

Ok, and now I'm a mess.

For Your Consideration: In all categories ever


Andrew K. said...

Ah, BECKET the lesser Henry II movie. but still good. Lord know how Gielgud was nominated for it, though.

TomS said...

Strait-Jacket! LOVE IT. I watch it for a good laugh or two, and some giddy chills... Hope you get to see "Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte", I think you might love that one too.

Glad to see you and I might be eventual soul-mates over "Mary Poppins"!