Here are some two sentence reviews of the movies I watched in February.
- Movies watched – 24
- Movies that were new to me – 19
- Shitty Hitchcock movies – 2
- Monthly Masterpieces – The Docks of New York
- Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood (2010) – This documentary has some impressive archival footage and photos, but otherwise is of only moderate interest. Seven hours and all the same old stories.
- Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (1927) – Pretty awesome docudrama with some really astounding wildlife footage. Highlights include all the sweet traps and the baby elephant stampede.
- Barnum and Ringling Inc. (1928) – Ok Little Rascals short that spends too much time with the animals running around a hotel. The sociopathic cute little rich girl that goes around stabbing people is a novel inclusion at least.
- The Circus (1928) – This probably only feels like a minor Chaplin because of its relatively short length, but otherwise it is full of his usual assortment of brilliant gags. Even the pathos is only delivered with a tack hammer rather than his usual sledge hammer.
- The Magician (1927) – Bizarre animated short that leaves me wanting more. Even aside from the crudity of the animation, the story and gags are not particularly clever.
- The Last Command (1928) – Another of Sternberg’s silent masterpieces of light, shadow and emotional manipulation, this is the usual “torture Jannings into a nervous breakdown” story. Unusually political for Sternberg too, as it carries a rather strong underlying anti-communism message.
- A Thief Catcher (1914) – This minor keystone is primarily known for being one of the first screen appearances of Chaplin–where he shows that he was a violent asshole from the beginning. Ford Sterling’s mugging is amusing as usual too.
- From Soup to Nuts (1928) – Laurel and Hardy are kind of like silent comedians for illiterates…still funny at times, but kind of obvious and stupid too. This is no different…overall decent but rather unexceptional.
- 7th Heaven (1927) – It feels a little primitive considering the year it was made, but there is no denying the beauty of the fairy tale atmosphere of the story. It’s just too bad it has to almost ruin things by throwing in all that Christian bullshit!
- Fluttering Hearts (1927) – Charlie Chase doesn’t usually do much for me, but this really has some pretty funny bits in it. Eugene Palate was great in his silent role–proving he was more than just a funny voice.
- Speedy (1927) – Don’t let the naysayers (including myself) convince you otherwise, this is one of Lloyd’s good ones. Granted, there is no story, just a string of gags, but they are, for the most part, quite high quality!
- Temple Grandin (2010) – I suppose Claire Danes is quite good in this even if her role calls for an annoying amount of mugging. Otherwise this is standard biopic fare: of mild interest, unadventurously structured, and ultimately rather forgettable.
- The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) – Quite fascinating document of the aftermath of a nation’s occupation. Makes plenty of good points, but the personal account method of understanding history is obviously going to be as biased as some of the interviewer’s questions, thus it suffers a bit from an objectivity standpoint.
- No Strings Attached (2011) – I was pleasantly surprised to find that Kutcher can play someone who is a rather likable nice guy and not a horrible “host of punked” douche. Some of the jokes fall flat and Kline’s father character is entirely unnecessary, but it is otherwise rather enjoyable.
- Cyrus (2010) – A romantic comedy with “something to say” beyond the dictums of formula. Of course, Hill’s sociopath doesn’t exactly make for a very enjoyable experience in a film that is ostensibly a comedy.
- The Tall T (1957) – Great western with a snappy script and a bad guy to match Scott’s effortless poise. Definitely one to check out if you are wondering what all the fuss about this Boetticher guy is.
- The Docks of New York (1928) – Brilliant cinematography and two riveting leads mark this as one of the great late period silent films. Anyone who thinks silent film is of merely historical interest should see this movie.
- Westbound (1959) – Not quite as good as the other Boetticher/Scott collaborations, mostly because of Kennedy’s scriptwriting absence. Still the nice action and always clean direction make up most of the difference.
- The Man from the Alamo (1953) – Boetticher is kind of like a more classical Mann; his films are quite psychological without deviating too far from the traditional hero cycle (a good thing in my book). Ford gets himself in quite a reputation pickle, and is then forced to shoot, ride and chase his way out in a string of great action set pieces.
- Seven Men from Now (1956) – Nice tense revenge western with one of Lee Marvin’s best performances. The desert landscape is beautifully photographed, and Scott makes for an impressively square-jawed stoic hero.
- Under Capricorn (1949) – Supposedly the French love this film, but I can’t find much that would make me want to recommend it to anyone. A woefully mundane script is the primary culprit.
- Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) – There are some interesting social interactions in this film, but it is still a screwball comedy at heart. And, as such, it is unfortunately quite painfully unfunny and doesn’t hold a candle to something like The Awful Truth.
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) – It walks a thin line between too clever for its own good and just clever enough, but succeeds thanks in no small part to Downey Jr. Overall quite a fun slice of pulp noir entertainment.
- Sweet Home Alabama (2002) – Another run of the mill rom com that is buoyed by its two charismatic leads. Provided you can get past an implausibly precious picture of Southern life, this is pretty fun really.
My father once met Lee Marvin on set in London. He reported that Lee had “Enormous hands. Really enormous.”
Thinking about it, I guess Lee must also have had an enormous schwanzstucker.