Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mission: Movies

I have a Tivo DVR. I can record about 300 hours of programming. So now when I record a movie I don't really need to worry about deleting it before I watch it to make room for new stuff. I have only used about 19% of the space so it's not like I'm a movie HOARDER. Hmph.

That being said, it really oppresses me when I get so far behind. I have a choice: delete the movies and start over fresh OR watch them! The last week or so I have been really trying to watch some of these movies.

(It helps that "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" are off for 2 weeks right now.)

(It also helps that CPA Boy had a couple of baseball games to go to, too.)

So here's what I watched over the last week:
  • The Magnificent Ambersons
    • Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello (Drew Barrymore's grandmother), Agnes Moorehead, Tim Holt, and Anne Baxter.
    • Orson Welles' next movie after "Citizen Kane", control was taken from him and the film was re-edited by the studio. And then they destroyed the removed footage!
    • Tim Holt's character is loathsome so it's hard to love the movie as a whole because his character is almost always front and center. I never recognize Anne Baxter in anything; she always looks different to me in every movie I've seen her in. (I do the same thing with Teresa Wright.)
  • The Merry Widow
    • Jeanette MacDonald, Maurice Chavalier, Una Merkel, Edward Everett Horton and directed by Ernst Lubitsch
    • Cute film but I have never been a fan of the singing style that Jeanette MacDonald uses. That operatic style was very prominent in those days. There is an MGM short starring both Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland. Deanna sings in operatic style that sounds old fashioned to my modern ears whereas Judy still sounds fresh today.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    • Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, Cedric Hardwicke, Edmond O'Brien and Thomas Mitchell
    • Good version of the story (though somewhat changed due to the Production Code of the era).
    • I always confuse Cedric Hardwicke with C. Aubrey Smith when I see their names. They were both in many movies. Smith was the ubiquitous kindly old man in almost every MGM movie in the 30s and 40s.
  • How Green Was My Valley
    • Roddy McDowell, Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Donald Crisp and directed by John Ford
    • Best Picture Oscar winner for 1941 (also had wins for Crisp and Ford).
    • The movie has a narrator, Roddy McDowell's character grown up. What's funny is that young Roddy sounded pretty much the same as an adult and the grown up narrator sounds NOTHING like young Roddy! This was something that took me out of "The Silence of the Lambs" too: when we flash back to Jodie Foster's character's childhood and the actress playing her looked nothing like young Jodie.
    • Good movie but not sure it deserved Best Picture over the others but by the time of the awards in 1942 the United States was at war. This might have been a more nostalgic choice than, say "Citizen Kane". Who knows.
  • East of Eden
    • James Dean, Julie Harris, Raymond Massey, Jo van Fleet, Burl Ives and directed by Elia Kazan
    • The film only covers the last section of the book which I loved. The book is great, a sprawling story and a bit of a potboiler. I think high school students would love Steinbeck a whole lot more if they read this book over The Grapes of Wrath or The Pearl, both great classics but oh so depressing reading. East of Eden has it all: adultery, attempted murder, prostitution, war, a Cain & Abel allegory. The Grapes of Wrath has people traveling from Oklahoma to California where one misfortune after another befalls them.
      • Yes, I know that many parents would be against their kids reading it but the goal should be to get students to read not make them more depressed!
    • The movie is okay. I am not a fan of James Dean or the 1950s version of Method acting (I think today's Method actors are much better). I feel the same about Marlon Brando. I see how powerful their acting is but it seems overwrought. I am taken out of the moment in those big emotional scenes. I find myself wondering what Dean's thinking about as he acts out a tormented moment. And since he spends much of the movie tormented...
  • Witness for the Prosecution
    • Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power, Elsa Lanchester and directed by Billy Wilder
    • This movie is based on an Agatha Christie story, a murder mystery. Tyrone Power is accused and Charles Laughton takes the case as his lawyer.
    • A couple of years ago I watched 1938's "Marie Antoinette" which starred Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power. I had never seen him in anything before. I watched for a while before realizing I was keeping an eye out for Errol Flynn (who is NOT in the movie). Somehow, like Cedric Hardwicke and C. Aubrey Smith, I got these two actors confused! Now I am straight on who's who.
    • Tyrone Power was only about 43 when he made this film but he looks older. He would die of a heart attack within the year. As I was watching this film I realized that his voice is VERY similar to that of George Clooney's.
    • It's a pretty good mystery with a couple of twists at the end, like a good Agatha Christie story should have!
  • Robin and Marian
    • Sean Connery, Audrey Hepburn, Robert Shaw, Richard Harris
    • Basically a retread of the Robin Hood story: outlaws live in Sherwood Forest, Sheriff of Nottingham wants Robin's head, Robin loves Marian.
    • So the movie is not a great one. But any moment with Sean Connery or Audrey Hepburn is not a wasted one! Their scenes are great.
  • Seconds
    • Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph, Will Geer, Richard Anderson
    • A man played by John Randolph is unhappy in his life so he goes to the Company. They will give him plastic surgery and a new identity while faking his death for the benefit of his family and employer. Voila! He's now Rock Hudson!
    • This is kind of a horror movie in that the Company people are so creepy.
    • Salome Jens plays his love interest. She is known in Star Trek circles for having played the Female Changling on "Deep Space Nine."
    • Rock is great in this movie but the film moves slowly. It's not for everyone.
  • Vanity Fair
    • Reese Witherspoon, James Purefoy, Jonathan Ryhs Meyers, Gabriel Byrne, Bob Hoskins.
    • Based on the book by William Makepeace Thackeray, it's not bad. The book is better because the Becky Sharp character is utterly amoral and uses all devices to get ahead. In the movie, Reese Witherspoon could scarcely play such an awful character so she's softened up quite a bit. The movie, while following the book plot pretty closely, just doesn't have the same bite. And Gabriel Byrne just freaks me out.
  • Finding Neverland
    • Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Freddie Highmore
      • Based on the relationship of James Barrie (author of Peter Pan) and the Llewelyn Davies family. He based some of his Peter Pan characters after the boys in the family.
      • Sweet little trifle of a movie with a good ending. I especially liked the performance of Kelly Macdonald as Peter Pan.
  • Blue Jasmine
    • Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C. K., Bobby Cannavale and directed by Woody Allen
    • Cate was fabulous but I didn't really like her character much. 
    • This was a movie where the performances are good but the screenplay is missing a bunch of scenes. One character just disappears after a while and breaks up with another over the phone later in the movie. That seemed weird to see only one side of the conversation (maybe the actor was unavailable for filming?). SPOILER AHEAD! The stepson hates Jasmine because she turned in her Bernie Madoff-like businessman husband to the Feds. Hello! Your dad was a CROOK who deserved to go to jail.
And I still have about 20 more movies on the DVR to go! And this weekend both "Frozen" and "Gravity" will record. Isn't this a nice change of pace from books?!

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