Tuesday, April 26, 2011

These are 10 Ways to Save the Movies?

EW, rampant list-makers that they are, have come up with yet another compilation, although this one is more interesting than their umpteenth take on the best summer songs of all time. (Just put "I Get Around" at number 1 and call it a day, OK?)

This list suggests Ten Ways to Save the Movies. There are some good ideas here - but some are more practical than others.

1. For every jumbo-size, CGI-filled, action-adventure extravaganza a studio greenlights, it should commit to one modestly budgeted drama or comedy. - A fine idea in principle, but I'm not sure it works in the real world. Or at least what passes for the real world in Hollywood. Look, folks, we can whine about the death of the American cinema all we want, but as long as we have Scorsese, Spielberg, Joel and Ethan Coen, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofksy, etc. the American Cinema is going to be just fine. What I WOULD suggest is spreading out the release dates of Oscar-quality films throughout the year, so that we get more than just one during the summer and none during the spring.

2. Don't Remake Good Movies, Remake Bad Ones. - Another fine idea. Just because it's a remake doesn't automatically make it bad. The Bogie version of The Maltese Falcon was the third attempt. But it would also be nice if a studios development department didn't consist mostly of old movies and tattered copies of TV Guide

3. Stop Killing Us with Your Popcorn - Oh, c'mon. Look, I'm all for healthy eating, but is this REALLY a reason people dislike the moviegoing experience"? No. In fact, studies have shown that when theaters try to switch to healthier popcorn, patrons say, "Puke. We want the unhealthy stuff!" I'd suggest adding one word to this idea: Stop Killing Us with Your Popcorn PRICES. This is why I never buy concessions at big theater chains.

4. Treat 3D Like Good Silverware: Only bring it out for truly special occasions. Hear frickin' hear! I want to see what Martin Scorese does with 3D in Hugo Cabret, but that's about it. And quite honestly, even though I trust Peter Jackson, I really don't care about seeing The Hobbit in 3D. The Hobbit on the big screen is lure enough for me.

5. Embrace the On Demand Button: I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I am a fervent advocate for the theatrical experience. And I strongly believe that since people watch so many movies at home, that's a BIG reason why they think of the theater as their own personal living room when they DO go out. However, I think On Demand is a good solution for indie flicks without massive advertising budgets. Indeed, I saw All Good Things on demand (solid little film)  - but I did so mainly because no theater in Dayton played it.

6. Admit you're jealous of TV - and start hiring its best writers: I'm not enough of a TV creature to comment with thoughtfulness on this idea. However, I know one particular friend of mine will agree wholeheartedly with this idea, just for the quality of AMC TV shows alone.

7. Before a film gets a green light, someone involved with the project — the director, the star, the boom-mic operator — has to believe it will be a good movie: This suggestion is made in the spirit of avoiding movies like The A Team, etc. And I agree with that. But believe it or not, no one sets out to make a bad movie. I don't think even Uwe Boll does that. A wiser suggestion might be "Just because something was once a popular TV show, game or toy doesn't mean it will make a good movie." Do not rely on nostalgia alone as your attraction.

8. Can the commercials: I don't so much mind the 15 or so minutes of ads that show on the digital projector before the movie itself starts. Like it or not, I've come to accept it as part of the landscape. But for the love of god, don't hit us with MORE ads after the pre-reel is done! I heartily applaud the idea of more cartoon shorts, though.

9. No more than four screenwriters per script: Generally speaking, if you see more than four names on a movie, that means it's been rewritten, pre-marketed and focused grouped to death.

10. Create separate screenings for schmucks: If only. The whole problem with schmucks is they don't know they're schmucks. Or worse yet, they don't care if they're schmucks. Be more specific: Have screenings for cell phone users and for people with squawling children.

As many of EW's readers have pointed out, the staff forgot one BIG suggestion: BRING DOWN THE PRICES. If theater owners can't or won't charge less for tickets or concessions, at least offer the occasional discount, like the Bargain Tuesdays that used to be a regular feature in the area. Only one chain theater that I know of in Dayton still has cheap day, and I'm sure it's going to fade away since it's gone from all but one venue. Regal has never offered it at all. It would be nice if theaters in Dayton adopted the AMC Theatres practice of cheap showings for screenings before noon - when the schmucks are too lazy to get out of bed. I'm sure customers would appreciate all the more when gas prices go off the charts.

Any other bright idears?

Monday, April 25, 2011

BIG small screen catch-up

It's been quite awhile since I've reviewed anything I've seen on the small screen, so here are quite a few capsule reviews to swallow. I'll try to keep these pithy:

Missing: Sterling Costa-Gavras drama about a man searching for his missing son in Chile and has his ideology shaken in the process. Great work, as usual, by Jack Lemmon. GRADE:  A

Cyrus: Disappointing black comedy has a good cast (John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei), but needlessly gimmicky camerawork and an overly bitter tone undo it. GRADE: C

The Leopard Man: Underrated Val Lewton chiller about a wild leopard on the prowl. Castanets never sounded so scary. GRADE: A

Broken Blossoms: Lesser-known film by DW Griffith isn't as visually florid as his more famous works, but its dramatically powerful. Racist iconography toned down from Birth of a Nation, but still prevalent.  GRADE: B+

Marty: No, not a Scorsese picture, but the 50s film that won Ernest Borgnine a well-deserved Oscar. Pretty much deserves its reputation; only drawback is an abrupt ending. The girl, Betsy Blair, was Mrs. Gene Kelly at the time. GRADE: A-

The More the Merrier: Delightful comedy is superior to the other Jean Arthur/Charles Coburn pairing, The Devil and Miss Jones. Joel McCrea adds to the fun. GRADE: A-

Jane Eyre: The best-known film version of the Bronte classic benefits from terrific atmosphere created by director Robert Stevenson, who later went on to direct Mary Poppins. Leads Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles are great, but Mia Wasikowska bests Fontaine in current remake. GRADE: A-

Isle of the Dead: More Val Lewton fun, with Boris Karloff alternately chilling and sympathetic. GRADE: B+

Here Comes Mr. Jordan: The original Heaven Can Wait is nothing less than wonderful and actually very moving. Claude Rains is terrffic, as he always was, in the title role. GRADE: A

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer: Fascinating story of a powerful man undone by his own hubris, and, the documentary would have you believe, a few powerful enemies. That can't be proven, but what's beyond dispute is that Spitzer could have made  a difference - and he blew it. GRADE: A-

Red Dust: As expected, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow generate major heat in this tropical drama, and so does a surprising Mary Astor, the third point in their love triangle. Major debit: Ugly racist Oriental caricatures. Still better than the remake, Mogambo. GRADE: B+

Z: The film that made Costa-Gavras' name, and rightly so. Superior editing and camerawork make the drama crackle, even if it is a little too sprawling. GRADE: A-

Victor Victoria: Like so many post-50s musicals, this one is a bit flat-footed and strains too hard for effect, Tootsie was the better "drag" movie the same year. Even so, excellent work by Julie Andrews and Robert Preston make it well worth seeing. GRADE: B+

The Wolfman: It's a typical Hollywood story: Technically superior but dramatically wanting. The film is beautifully designed, but the script is half-baked, especially in the underwriting of the lead character. GRADE: C+

Running on Empty: There may not have been a better actors' director than Sidney Lumet; although the Judd Hirsch character is a tad overbearing, affecting work by River Phoenix and Martha Plimpton make the movie linger. GRADE: A-

These Amazing Shadows: A movie that covers the National Film Registry in 90 minutes is going to be a little superficial, but this documentary remains a great testamant to the power and importance of the moves.

The Actress: A minor George Cukor effort isn't nearly as effective as his best movies, but good performances from major players like Jean Simmons, Spencer Tracy, Teresa Wright and Anthony Perkins (in his first film) make it stick. GRADE: B

Prince of the City: Underrated police/court procedural by Sidney Lumet is one of his best. Very nearly the equal of Serpico or Dog Day Afternoon. GRADE: A

Jesus Christ Superstar: A good musical soundtrack turns into a weird botch of a movie that suffers from a massive failure in tone. It doesn't know just how seriously too take itself. It's too gaudy to be reverent and too reverent to be guady. Show-offy visuals by director Norman Jewison are extremely distracting. GRADE: C

Sunday, April 24, 2011


"Scream 4 bombs" a recent Yahoo headline declared breathlessly - and inaccurately, in more ways than one.

A "bomb" is a movie loses a lot of money for its studio. And that's not correct in this case.  Scream 4's opening was softer than expected,  but Wes Craven and Co. will make their money back in fairly short order. More importantly, however, Scream 4 is not an artistic bomb. It's a return to form, and the best film in the series since the first.

It's a good thing I liked it too, because my colleague Hannah Poturaski gives a big shout-out to the Scream series.

Let me start this with saying I am extra biased in favor of all things Scream. Since the original film in 1996, this has, and always will be, my favorite trilogy. Granted I was eight when the first film came out but it wasn’t long after that I saw it. When a see a reference or hear someone talking about the trilogy I get as giddy and giggly as a school girl. Not joking.

(Wow, eight. Maybe I shouldn't feel so awkward about the fact that there was a girl who looked like she was six at my screening.)

I saw the original Scream last year, and it holds up extremely well. It's always been my favorite film by Wes Craven - yes, even more so than Nightmare on Elm Street. It was  the rare horror film that was sharp, funny scary and bloody. (There is a difference in those last two  adjectives).

Then the inevitable sequels followed, and they were OK as far as sequels went. Scream 2 was solid, but Scream 3 was a bit of a mess. It got the job done well enough, but writer Kevin Williamson's departure from the series did the third movie no favors. It seemed like an all too typical pattern was forming: Excellent first movie followed by increasingly inferior follow-ups.

Williamson returns to the fold this time, and Scream 4 breaks the pattern. Though it's not quite as good as it could be, it's more entertaining than many people have seem willing to admit.

The hook of the Scream movies has always been that its characters are hip to the rules of horror movies. And that's as true as ever, considering how much the landscape has changed since the first Scream. When that movie came out in 1996, cell phones were only starting to make inroads. I saw the original with a crowd last year, and the line "What were you doing with a cell phone, son?" got a big laugh. Moreover, in the years since, quality has drained from American horror movies like guts drain from a carcass in the "torture porn" movies - a phenomenon Scream 4 cannily acknowledges right off the bat.

As all the Scream movies have done, Scream 4 opens with a bloody prologue, which folds in upon itself in ways that are more fun to watch than to describe. It's Williamson and Craven's way of avoiding a common sequel trap. Too often, sequels forget or over-amplify what people liked about the original classic. The Nightmare on Elm Street films were good examples. The sequels drowned in blood, tits and smart-ass Freddy Krueger wisecracks, but usually forgot to be ... you, know ... scary.

Scream 4 does not forget to be scary, even if It does push too many "We know all the film references" buttons. If a person were nudging at me as often as this film does, I'd have that person brought up on assault  charges.  The film didn't need to try so hard. The references are clever, yes - but they're not the only reason the Scream series exists. Craven stages a number of very effective scares, including a suspenseful parking garage attack, and one scene where a character goes on a major masochistic streak is genuinely unnerving.

The cast certainly goes a long way toward keeping the interest up. It's always fun to see the surviving originals, and most of the newcomers are good too, especially Rory Culkin as one of the film geeks and Emma Roberts playing Sidney's cousin. Roberts has begun to convince me that she belongs in leading lady territory with her aunt.

Hannah liked the young cast too, though she was a touch less enamored of Roberts:

I was impressed by how well the line-up of younger actors delivered in their characters/lines/nuances, etc. Hayden Panettiere as the hot film buff Kirby was probably my favorite character in terms of the new cast. Emma Roberts as Prescott’s cousin Jill was so-so; her acting was really good up until it became over-the-top. But I have to think of it in terms of the bigger picture, in which her exaggerated acting works. This would be way too long of a review if I listed all the new characters but I enjoyed those played by Marley Shelton (Grindhouse, Sugar & Spice), Shenae Grimes (“90210″), Anthony Anderson, Rory Culkins, Adam Brody, and Alison Brie (“Community”).

Having seen it twice when she wrote her review, Hannah noted:

The film made great use of foreshadowing, a lot of which isn’t picked up on until the killer is revealed — at least for me. The writer and director definitely threw in a lot of plot twists/characters solely to throw the viewer off guard, which I appreciated.

Everyone combines to make Scream 4 a lot of fun, and it's nice to see the franchise regain its footing. But since this series is so hung up on rules, I would suggest following a very important one that is ignored by most horror filmmakers - quit while you're ahead.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

REVIEW: The Conspirator

Robert Redford's new film calls itself The Conspirator, but it's not really about Mary Surratt - and that's part of its problem.

The movie details the aftermath of the Lincoln assassination, focusing particularly on Surratt (Robin Wright), the most controversial figure in the case. Many people over the years, myself included, have raised their eyebrows over the fact that Surratt was hung with John Wilkes Booth's confidantes, when evidence suggests that at worst, she was an accessory. There are other schools of thought that say Surratt was fully an accomplice - so much so that "she built the nest" in which Booth hatched his plots.

Unfortunately for Surratt, the person who says she built the nest is her own defense attorney, Union war hero Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy). He is thoroughly convinced of Surratt's guilt but takes her case at the behest of Senator Reverdy Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). Johnson believes Surratt's rights are being steamrollered in the names of revenge and swift justice.

Redford and his screenwriter James D. Solomon clearly aim to contrast the Surratt cast with the lack of scruples resulting from the war on terror. I won't spend my time dwelling on the comparison except to say that it's revealing to draw the parallels.

What I was more interested in was the personal stories - but the film does not succeed in telling all of them. McAvoys plays his character with conviciton, and it was fascinating to witness opposing forces at play. I only wish that conflict were more in evidence in the character of Mary Surratt. We see plenty of Aiken's soul, but precious little of hers.

I disagree with those who fault Wright for the opaqueness of Mary Surratt. As anybody who has seen Forrest Gump should remember, Wright is more than capable of playing a multi-faceted character. Clearly,  Solomon's aim was to make Surratt something of an enigma, so we never can tell for sure just how guilty she was. And that's the character Wright played. We will never know just how complicit Mary Surratt was. The answer to that question has been lost to history - if, indeed,  a definitive answer ever existed at all.

However, I think Solomon's reach exceeded his grasp. I understood his intent, but I think he went too far in concealing Mary Surratt's soul. That deficiency stands out when McAvoy is so compelling, as is Evan Rachel Wood, playing Surrat's bewildered daughter.

Redford and Solomon err too in emphasizing extraneous characters and subplots. The film has a wartime prologue and a post-execution epilogue, neither of which is necessary. Good actors like Alexis Bledel and Justin Long are wasted on subplots that add nothing to the story.

Even with its faults, The Conspirator is worthwhile. Still, I expected better with this pedigree. The story of the madness that extended beyond the Civil War is indisputably great - but the movie is only, disputably, good.


Sunday, April 17, 2011


To say Win Win  is the best film I've seen so far this year is to say very little - not when a year has been as underwhelming as this one. However, I can say with utmost confidence that this wonderful movie will still be one of the best films of the year come December.

Co-writer/director Tom McCarthy remains one of our keenest observers of humanity - in all of its guises. None of his characters ever turns out to be as clear-cut as they seem at first. As his stories progress, they gradually reveal new layers - some of them appealing, some of them regretful - all of them fascinating.

Take Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), for example. He's an eminently decent guy, but he's also a frustrated one - frustrated enough that he becomes the legal guardian of an elderly client (Burt Young), because said client has a deep-pocketed estate that would bring Mike some badly-needed extra income.

That decisions ultimately brings into Mike's life the old man's grandson - a taciturn teen named Kyle  (Alex Shaffer) who rarely says more than five words at a time. But he's more than he seems to be as well. At first glance, he appears to be a sullen, withdrawn boy who doesn't much care for anyone. But he turns out to be a gifted wrestler - something that's advantageous to Mike, who is a high school wrestling coach. And there are still more secrets in store.

I notice that I've spent more time than I typically do describing the plot. Most of the time I try to keep that to a bare minimum because I try to be sensitive about spoilers, and because so many Hollywood films these days tell their whole stories in their ads.  Win Win revels in more than what's obvious, and that makes it fascinating.

And its strength is not just in the writing and acting.  There are lots of knowing visual details too, such as the very first shot of the movie, which shows Giamatti jogging, his back to the camera - and then two other joggers easily outdistance him. Without saying a word, Win Win establishes that it's a movie about a character feeling like he can't keep up.

McCarthy hasn't worked all that often, with only three films as a director - The Station Agent and The Visitor being the others. But in these three films, McCarthy shows more of the world than most filmmakers do in their entire careers.

When we screw something up or talk about how flawed we are, we often say, "I'm only human." Win Win shows that side, but  reminded me that being human entails what's good about us too.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge: Favorite Actor and Actress

I'm catching up and doubling up on the 30-Day Film Challenge because I'm woefully behind - but also because the themes for two days fit together so nicely.

First off is a film starring my favorite actor. The choice of actor is easy - that's Jimmy Stewart. (It has always seemed wrong to call him James, even though he was never once billed as Jimmy).

The choice of a Stewart film, though? Not so easy. I already cited his best performance, from Hitchcock's Vertigo, and my goal is not to repeat titles.

So where did that leave me? It struck me that two styles dominated Stewart's acting. There was the kindly
"aw shucks" persona most people remember him by. But there was also the darker, despairing Jimmy - the Jimmy that came out after he flew bombing missions in World War II. That Jimmy was prominent in Anthony Mann westerns like Winchester 73 - but I wanted to pick something that fused the the two styles.

I finally settled on It's a Wonderful Life - a familiar choice, to be sure. But one of the many brilliant things about that movie is that Stewart takes his "aw shucks" persona and completely turns it on its head. He goes to some dark places in this movie, and people tend to forget that - partly because, I think, they flinch at it. They only want to remember that nice George Bailey. But George Bailey had a dark streak without which he was an incomplete person. Just watch this scene between him and Donna Reed on the phone. It's all at once romantic and tormented.

The choice of my favorite actress is also easy. That's Judy Garland. But for her film, I wanted to go with a not so obvious choice. People remember her as a singer, and rightly so - but they also remember her as a tragic figure. Sadly, there is truth in that also, but that shouldn't dominate her memory when at her best she was so full of life and charm. I wanted to pick a performance that subverts both reputations. One is The Clock, from 1945, made right after Meet Me in St. Louis and also directed by the great Vincente Minnelli, who by this time was her husband.

It's notable in that it's her first film in which she doesn't sing a note - and she still makes you smile while breaking your heart. It proves what a great actress she was, even apart from her peerless singing skills.

PS - It's a real kick in the head to see Robert Walker play such a gentle character - in stark contrast to his villainous turn in Strangers on a Train.

PPS - What a shame that my two favorite actors never appeared together on film, even though both of them were MGM contract players. They were both in Ziegfeld Girl - but alas, shared no scenes.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The 30 Day Film Challenge Day 7

Day 7 of the 30 Day Film Challenge isn't so lucky - not when you consider film content. My choice for the scariest film I've ever seen is The Exorcist. It still chills me to the bone harder than any other film out there.

I've heard too many people claim this film isn't scary or even laugh at it. I can only shake my head and say it sucks to be them not to be affected in some way by such a traumatic story.

It isn't so much the possession that scares me - it's the deterioration of a young girl's soul, whatever you think the cause might be. It's not the bedroom scenes that scares me the most - it's the medical procedures, especially the spinal tap (shudder). That's only a a hint of what's to come. And a hint is often more frightening than the real thing.

Just to make sure this post isn't all gloom and doom, I'll share a lighthearted story about The Exorcist (I'll let the irony of that phrase sink in for a second.)

My dad saw this film in its original release. Like most people, he came out of the theater rattled. So what's the first thing that he hears on the radio once he turns on his car? "Tubular Bells."


Thursday, April 07, 2011

The 30 Day Film Challenge Day 6

I was going to double up on the challenge like I did yesterday, but I really wanted this entry to stand alone - a film from my childhood.

There are many films from my childhood. Most of those are Disney films. But there is another film above all others that stands out, because it's the first film I can remember seeing in a theater.

What is now called the Victoria Theatre in Dayton used to have the slightly shorter name of Victory Theatre. And back in those days, they would play "cult" films. When I was about 5, they played Yellow Submarine. The experience has never left me, since my two major claims to fame are Beatlemania and movie-mania.

This clip goes up to about where the song starts, so I'll pick it up from here.

In the town, where I was born, lived a man, who sailed to sea ...

You'll now have that song stuck in your head all day. You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The 30 Day Film Challenge Day 5: Sniffle

More 30 Day Film Challenge - hey, I posted this one after midnight, I'm playing fair and I'm trying to catch up!

It's all too easy to start my waterworks. There are lots of movies that make me tear up: The Wizard of Oz. E.T. Just about anything by Pixar. Heck, sometimes even Singin' in the Rain makes me well up sometimes because it's so beautifully performed. I'm a sap.

Not many films had the effect that Schindler's List did, though. I saw this devastating film five times in a theater. Many people couldn't manage that. The first time wiped me out. Then I kept going back, trying to analyze the film technique, geek that I am.

I never managed it. Once they liquidated the ghetto I was always done for and I would start sobbing. And I don't care how many people complain about the "I could have got more" scene. Yeah, it's a bit much. Yeah, it's a little overwritten. But dammit,  it Gets. Me. Every.Time. And that's before the memorial scene at the end, which pushes me even further. I don't watch this film often, but whenever I do, it stays with me for a long time.

Big screen catch-up

Ever since I got back from Florida I've been swamped in one way or another, so I need to catch up with some big screen titles I haven't reviewed. By now, some of these are on disc or close to it; if that's the case, I will indicate as much.

The Adjustment Bureau: Endearingly silly thriller that becomes less credible the more one thinks about it, but it's actually rather smart about its loopiness - and it works primarily because Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have terrific chemistry. GRADE: B+

Blue Valentine: Searing anti-romance that haunted me for weeks. Features heartbreaking performances by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling that sum up too many dysfunctional couples. And for me, the film shed a lot of light on that age-old question "How did that (lovely girl) end up with that (douche)?" GRADE: A+ (On disc May 10)

Gnoemo and Juliet: I expected nothing more than a cute kid-pic, and got basically that, but I also got something that was charmingly weird and not afraid to show it. The Elton John song score is quirky to say the least. GRADE: B (On disc May 24)

Hall Pass: A lot of folks slammed the Farrelly brothers' latest comedy, but I found it one of their better efforts in a while. As is the case in their best work, there's plenty of raunch, but the Farrelly's genuine affection for their characters grounds the film - even if the ending does get a bit too manic. GRADE: B

The Illusionist: A beautifully animated bore. I admire the intent in Sylvain Chomet's adaptation of a previously unproduced Jaques Tati story, and I loved the look of the film, but it never engaged or moved me the way most quality animated films do. I grinned once in awhile but rarely laughed. I had a similarly cool reaction to the overrated Triplets of Belleville. Chomet's work is too emotionally distant for my taste. GRADE: C (On disc May 10)

Insidious: The new poltergeist film from the director of the original Saw starts off very well, building suspense effectively, often by using silence. Then as the scares get more literal, the movie gets sillier, especially when one of the demons bears an unfortunate resemblance to Darth Maul. Still, I applaud it for relying more on character and less on blood. GRADE: B-

Rabbit Hole: Some might think this film depressing, and being about coping after the death of a child, it's certainly not a happy film. What makes it stand out is that it's about the distant aftermath of the tragedy, when the wound is not fresh, but the memory still is. Sensitively and thoughtfully rendered all the way around. GRADE: A

Rango: Delightfully quirky animated romp that looks gorgeous, and of all things, most reminds me of Chinatown. A nice return to form for director Gore Verbinksi, whose strength as a director got submerged under all the clatter and clutter of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. GRADE: A

Unknown: As was the case with Taken, Liam Neeson's presence and strong action scenes propel the movie, but if anything the plot is even more far-fetched. Like way too many movies these days, it tries to hard to pull the rug out from under the viewer via third act twists.  GRADE: B-

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The 30 Day Film Challenge Day 4: Favorite sci-fi film

Catching up on the 30 Day Film Challenge - hey, no one said anything about consecutive days!

A lot of people claim that they don't "get" 2001: A Space Odyssey. And that's actually appropriate considering it contemplates nothing less than the infinite and our place in the universe. Even with the dated trappings (the Pan Am shuttle, the kitschy furniture that looks like it's from 1967 - heck even the title is dated now), the movie still feels futuristic and timeless because it wonders about things like few other movies do. If it were more concrete and explainable, it would be a lesser film.

Other contenders: Aliens, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Friday, April 01, 2011

The 30 Day Film Challenge - Day 3: Funniest film

I thought this would be hard, but it's not. Many comedies make me laugh a lot, but none makes me laugh as much as Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot.

But it isn't just the volume of laughs that counts. Yes, there are many jokes here. Many great ones. But they're so great, that I laugh just as much every time I see them. For instance, the dialogue at 6:56 in this clip never fails to slay me.

Whenever I see  Some Like It Hot, it feels like it's the first time. That is the mark of a truly great comedy - and indeed, any truly great movie.

Other titles considered: Bringing Up Baby, Dr. Strangelove, Blazing Saddles, Airplane!