Friday, September 22, 2006

all these things that i've seen, part 1

with the combination of a dvr and comcast's digital program guide, it is very easy to go through the line-ups on american movie classics, turner classic movies, and even tnt, and just record everything that looks interesting. i currently have some 20 movies recorded and waiting to be watched [and have told myself i will not record any more until i can get these viewed]. i will post brief reviews of them as i go.

maybe you will find something you like.

my man godfrey [1936] -wonderful example of a 1930's screwball comedy. it began with an interesting social commentary, as a couple of clueless or heartless socialites go to the city dump in seach of a 'forgotten man' as part of an upper class scavenger hunt. the man becomes the butler [seinfeld, anyone?] of the family, the only island of reason amidst the family of two silly, bickering, and completely undisciplined daughters and an equally shallow mother. the dialogue is extremely funny at times, delivered with lightning speed and returned with deadpan counter-comments. my only complaint was the supposedly 'happy ending', feeling contrived and unbelievable; yet it was the only choice the movie left itself and is pardoned, due to the depression-era audience, looking for all ends to be tied nicely. still, the movie deserves its spine number on the criterion collection.

the magnificent ambersons [1942]-welles's second movie, following shortly after his making the greatest movie of all time. with a voiceover by the man himself, the story is more linear and traditional than 'kane', and, while never overly-compelling, is worth seeing and a good movie that has stood the test of 60+ years. the cinematography was beautiful [as is to be expected], full of light and shadows, and hearkened so gently to citizen kane that i was quite surpised to see the credit belong to the great stanley cortez and not the great gregg toland. as was common with welles, there were several of the mercury theatre actors involved, and i loved the closing credits; instead of title cards, welles's voice introduced the players, giving the names of all the department head as the camera showed a sound recorder, costumes, an editing machine, or a movie camera. really cool.

the last samurai
[2003]-i've liked most of tom cruise's movies that i've seen: jerry macguire, minority report, war of the worlds, and m:i:i & iii [didn't like born on the fourth of july, but that's more of oliver stone's fault]. and i liked the last samurai, which could have just as easilly be entitled dances with samurai. a little long at times, the battle sequences were great, realistic enough to contain the emotional impact of war without becoming overly graphic [thank you, amc]. the japanese people spoke japanese to each other, instead of speaking english with thick accents, and the subtitles were really good translations, carrying the idea instead of the words.

the phantom of the opera -1925 and silent, and i liked it every much as last year's movie. and in some ways, more. 81 years old, it held my attention for the entire way--the proscenium sets were great, especially the backstage and underground chambers, lit with great chiarascuro skill, and the pacing of the story moves smoothly. the print was dyed different colors depending on the location of the scene, and the masquerade was filmed in color [a primitve three-strip process and very impressive], nicely showing off the phatom's 'red death' costume. it was pointed out to me that, in mr shumacher's movie, the phantom wasn't really repulsive; he looked like a versace model with a deformity on one side of his face--some people might even find that kind of attractive. lon cheney, however, is perhaps the most famous make-up artist in cinema history, and as the phantom, he looks like a ghoul. his eyes are sunken, his face gaunt, his skin leathery; he is repulsive.
not scary anymore, but certainly worth watching, and just in time for halloween.

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