#340- The Maltese Falcon

Quick recap: Detective Sam Spade gets caught in a web of criminals and murder and at the center of it all is a stupid bird statue.

smoke in front of the bird to show it who’s boss

Fun (?) fact: This one is an original! During the finale Joel Cairo is enraged and yells out, ‘You… you imbecile. You bloated idiot. You stupid fat-head, you’. The voice sounded familiar to me and I realized it was Ren from Ren and Stimpy. As it turns out, the voice of Ren, John Kricfalusi, was attempting a Peter Lorre impression (the actor who played Joel Cairo). Cairo’s explosion was a direct influence on the character and personality of Ren.

My thoughts: It was a sweltering June night and my dogs were worn out. I needed something nice and easy like a jorum of skee. I was behind the 8-ball on my reviews so what better way to kick off summer than with the greatest of film-noirs, The Maltese Falcon? This movie was no chippy, I’ll tell you that now. After watching it, I knew I would need someone to bump gums with, someone to check the facts with me. This cat, the guy I married, watched the movie with me as well as three literal cats. And seeing as I have run out of detective jargon, let’s get started. I’m not a dame who will make you wait.

So of course, I really enjoyed the movie. It’s been a hard few months and although I’ve looked forward to summer, the transition was a little rough. Film-noir is the chicken soup of movie genres to me. It hits the spot in all the right places. What stands out for me in the Maltese Falcon are the characters more than the mystery. Same Spade, played by Humphrey Bogart, was dashingly wonderful, although I could’ve done without all the forced kissing. Yes, it’s a trope, and a very odd one at that. This was my first taste of Peter Lorre, who was my favorite. He played the part of Generic Foreign Gangster so well, a man always on the brink of sanity. Mary Astor as Brigid O’Shaughnessy took awhile to grow on me, seeing as how most damsels in distress are young and blonde, but I warmed up quickly once Spade was on to her.

As for the mystery, I almost think it’s put there as an afterthought. When a director has to fit in all the tropes for this type of genre as well as fill a larger than life cast of characters, the actual murders just get shoved in. Let’s face it, I was mostly in it for the classic Sam Spade wisecracks, not for the puzzling clues. I enjoyed the ‘twist’ that the bird was a fake and the gangsters had fought and killed for nothing. It was like a wink from director John Huston, or actually from the writer of The Maltese Falcon-Dashiell Hammett.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: The 400 Blows

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#336- The Philadelphia Story

Quick recap: Tracy Lord, daughter of one of the richest families in Philadelphia, is about to get married for the first time. The only obstacles in her way are her ex-husband and a tabloid reporter who also just happens to be in love with her. What’s a girl to do?

ok,Katharine, give me the ‘oh, you guys’ look and boys, why don’t you just stand around her and…I don’t know, just point at her scalp. Perfect!

Fun (?) fact: 3 things I learned about James Stewart that endeared him to me even more:

  1. he never expected to win Best Actor for the film and planned on sitting at home instead of attending. A person tipped him off that he should show up anyway in a dress jacket, and he ended up winning.
  2. The Oscar has the word ‘Philadelphia’ misspelled on it
  3. Stewart never felt that he deserved the award, instead saying it was ‘deferred payment for my work on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’

Of all the James Stewarts in the world, he’s the James Stewartest.

I’m just saying, if there had been a James Stewart/ Cary Grant buddy comedy, maybe the world wouldn’t be in the mess that it’s currently in

My thoughts: To kick this off, I’d like to first acknowledge the elephant in the room: High Society. I watched it way back in the beginning of this blog and if you care to click the link, you will find that I didn’t enjoy it very much. I still stand by that review, except now I know it was just a remake, I kind of wish I could go back and lower my score. Which, I totally could, considering this is my personal project but something something about precedent and high standards and all that.

So, without a doubt, I enjoyed The Philadelphia Story infinitely more than High Society. The main reason being that I didn’t have to sit through all that silly singing. The plot made much more sense this time around, although I still classify it as ultimately silly. And I also LOVED the casting here. It makes even less sense to me why Grace Kelly would be chosen for the role Katharine Hepburn was made for. There was so much chemistry here, especially between Hepburn and Grant. Stewart seemed like an odd choice but he totally made it work. Everyone here was just perfect and although I didn’t really laugh much, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

That being said, this movie is hella problematic. In the very first scene, Dexter is leaving Tracy and as he is about to drive off, she storms out and breaks one of his golf clubs. This sends him into a rage and he comes after her, knocking her to the floor. Thereafter, the incident is referred to almost as a wistful, funny memory most couples have. I spent most of the movie either being disturbed by the lengths Dexter was going to in order to win Tracy back (like giving her a model of their honeymoon boat as a wedding present) or admiring him for his persistence. I still don’t know how I feel about their relationship but at the end when they decide to SPOILER remarry, they seemed genuinely happy and hopefully had both matured since then.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Jules and Jim

 

#313- Meet Me in St. Louis

Quick recap: The Smith family encounters many ups and downs leading up to the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1903. A better title for the film could’ve been, If You Love St.Louis so Much, Why Don’t you Marry it?

a special ‘thanks’ to Judy Garland for getting this song stuck in my head for a week straight

Fun (?) fact: The mother of Margaret O’Brien (who played Tootie) wanted her child to get paid more, but the studio refused. Instead, they randomly chose a lighting guy’s daughter to fill the roll, going so far as to dress her and give her lines. The studio eventually backed down and O’Brien took over her roll again. The lighting guy then dropped a light during one of Tootie’s scenes, just narrowly missing her. He was later committed to an institution. Hollywood didn’t play around back then.

let me tell you, though, this kid was amazing

My thoughts: I love a good musical, and Meet Me in St. Louis didn’t disappoint. There were infectious songs, beautiful costumes, romance and an absolutely terrifying Halloween scene that gave me nightmares, so what else could I ask for?

So, first off, the entire cast was fabulous, especially Margaret O’Brien (as mentioned earlier) and Judy Garland as Esther Smith. I have heard her voice over and over in the Wizard of Oz but never really appreciated its depth until this movie. Side note: I had no idea this was considered a Christmas film. Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was damn depressing, which is just about what I expect all my holiday movies to be, so I’m on board. Anyway, I loved everything about Garland except for her eyebrows, which really weirded me out. But I also feel guilty about that knowing the hell she went through on account of her looks. And maybe that was the style at the time?

Oh, honey. No.

And then there is that crazy Halloween scene, which just comes out of NOWHERE. The scene begins with Rose helping the little girls, Tootie and Agnes, with their costumes and I’m thinking it’s just going to be another cute peek into this family’s life. But then the girls go outside to join their friends, who have started a freaking BONFIRE in the street. What are they burning?Why are they burning things? Girls are dressed as boys and boys are dressed up as girls and it’s madness. There’s apparently some game going on where the older kids pretend to kill the neighbors by throwing flour in their faces and screaming, ‘I hate you!’. And the thing is, Agnes and Tootie already had a conversation with their mother about the flour so it’s a known thing. The rest of the movie is your typical romance and family fare, but this scene was downright creepy.

The hell?

Final review: 5/5. I was originally going for a 4 but when you get a song stuck in your head for a week, it does things to you.

Up next: Grease

#304- Fantasia

Quick recap: 8 pieces of Western Classical music are illustrated by the Walt Disney company.

Me, after eating that whole pizza the other night

Fun (?) fact: To this day, Disney still receives complaints from parents about the ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ sequence. It was removed from the film for several years after so many people complained that it frightened young children but later brought back to teach those kids to suck it up.

I blame the large nipples

My thoughts: I made invited my seven year old to watch Fantasia with me, hoping to further cultivate a love of music like I have. I loved this movie as a kid, but then again, I’ve always had a thing for the Classical genre. My grandmother listened to it often and I remember falling asleep to various pieces at night, painting pictures in my head as the music swelled around me. Alas, this bonding moment with my son was not to be because he was asking to turn it off within 5 minutes. It wasn’t a complete wash, as you will see as I break down each segment:

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor– the animation was just a bunch of abstract art, which is basically the very definition of torture for a kid. The look in his eyes as the music continued was one of betrayal, since I had promised him he would enjoy it.

Nutcracker Suite- My kid loves The Nutcracker and wanted to listen to it constantly around Christmas. He enjoyed this segment better but would’ve much rather seen the ballet than the changing of seasons. The mushrooms dancing (albeit a little racist) was pretty cute.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice– Mickey Mouse saves the day! My son thought the animation was really funny, except for the scene when he chops up the broom into little pieces.

Rite of Spring- The animation for this one started with the birth of our planet and ended with all the dinosaurs dying off. My kid has never really been into dinosaurs so he was mostly bored. I was amused watching what people in 1940 understood about our universe.

The Pastoral Symphony– The setting for this piece is Mt. Olympus. There are various centaurs, unicorns, and gods and not a nipple in sight. It was really creepy after awhile, this nipple-less world. My son thought the baby pegasus were cute but lost interest once the centaurs started hooking up. I don’t blame him.

Dance of the Hours-My son enjoyed this one as well, but didn’t understand how an alligator could lift a hippo. Buddy, you have no problem with an ostrich ballerina but an alligator and hippo dancing gives you pause? Moving on.

Night on Bald Mountain- My kid’s favorite holiday is Halloween so I thought for sure this would win him over. NOPE. Not even the screaming ghouls did the trick.

I’m sad that this movie didn’t really hold up as I remembered. On the positive side, I know what I can put on as punishment the next time my kid drives me crazy.

Final review: 2/5, although I would’ve rated it higher had I watched alone

Up next: Man of the West