#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 things standing in her way are her ex-husband and a tabloid reporter, who also just so happen 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 would’ve been better off

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 that now that 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 her. 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

 

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#333- Le Samouraï

Quick recap: Jef Costello is either a great hitman or a really terrible one. After completing a job he almost immediately gets picked up by the police and questioned. He manages to weasel his way out, only to find himself in trouble with the guys who hired him. What’s a hitman to do?

maybe start by wearing different clothes than the ones that literally EVERYONE identifies you in.

Fun (?) fact: The quotation about samurai at the beginning of the film is entirely fictional. This movie actually has nothing to do with samurai.

and everything to do with looking cool

My thoughts:  Crime movies are a dime a dozen on this list, but very few of them come from France. And of those, this is the only one where I could’ve kept watching for several more hours and at the same time almost lost my sanity because of the incessant bird chirping.

Director Jean-Pierre Melville borrows much of the aesthetic for Le Samouraï from America at the time- slinky jazz clubs, dapper people running around everywhere. And yet, this is very much a French arthouse film. The first 10 minutes have no dialogue whatsoever and yet, the scene is so enthralling. I also loved that there is a mystery about who this hitman is and who hired him but I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be getting any answers. Le Samouraï exists within himself. It’s even impossible to figure out whether or not he is a ‘bad guy’. I mean, he killed someone, yes, but that guy could’ve been evil or something. So I ended up dividing my time between wanting the guy to come out on top but also wanting him to get caught and pay for his crimes. It was a rare feeling to not know how I’m supposed to feel about characters.

One reason the characters are so confusing is because the audience is just thrust into the story. We don’t know how many years the hitman has operated or what business the people who hired him have. In the first few scenes, the hitman sets out creating an alibi for himself before he commits the murder. He visits a woman, Jane, and expects her to lie for him, which she does, when the police call her into question. It is assumed that these two have some sort of relationship but it could also just be that she works for him specifically for this purpose. And the police themselves make this plot even more complicated. I could never figure out whether the hitman was really bad at his job and that’s why he was caught so quickly or if the police were really good at their job and it was only a matter of time. Once again, it was hard to know who to trust.

But above all, there is that stupid bird. God, I hated that bird. I recently lost some of my hearing due to sickness and it’s been both a blessing and a curse. But watching this movie, I heard every single chirp. EVERY. SINGLE. CHIRP. I’m sure there is a fancy French reason to put that in so many scenes but I don’t have the patience to find out. I’m not a fan of hurting or killing any animal but when the guys broke into the hitman’s apartment to leave a recording device, I half hoped they would put that poor bird out of its misery. I’m sure he hated his life as much as I hated hearing him but enough is enough.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Night and Fog

 

#328- Umberto D

Quick recap: A sad old man makes sad choices about his dog.

This movie is sad.

Fun (?) fact: Most of the actors in the film weren’t professional. The main character, Umberto, was played by a professor of Linguistics and the maid was played by a woman who had shown up to the audition to support her friend.

PSA: Don’t watch this movie if you have a heart

My thoughts: I’m starting to catch on to the idea that if an old Italian movie is on my list, it’s going to be sad. Even movies like 8 1/2, which are supposed to have comedic elements end up leaving me in a state of depression I can’t shake. And don’t even get me started on Rome, Open City. Good lord, that movie should come with a warning.  So, when you look at films like Umberto D from this perspective, it’s downright pleasant considering what it could’ve been.

The movie starts with a protest by old men whose pensions aren’t enough to sustain them. One of those men is of course, Umberto. His story is especially sad because his only companion is a dog who loves and trusts him unconditionally. There’s a bigger story here about how the elderly are treated and the lengths some of them go to in order to survive, but, let’s be real, all I cared about was the dog. At one point, Umberto is going to be evicted from his apartment and knowing that he can’t support his companion, looks to find a caretaker. The only one in his price range refuses to take the animals out for walks and keeps them in deplorable conditions. The poor dog shivers at the sight of the bigger dogs and it broke my heart to see Umberto have to make such a hard decision. In the end, he decided to look for another solution. I was relieved but that scene showed me that there were no easy answers.

Some other solutions  Umberto tries: checking himself into a hospital until his pension check arrives and he can pay his rent, giving his dog away to a little girl who played with him and the most heartbreaking- trying to take his and the dog’s life on the railroad tracks. Luckily, the dog freaked out and ran away at the last second because I wouldn’t have been able to endure the other result. The movie ends with Umberto and the dog walking through the park. Nothing is resolved- neither of them have a shelter or food, but they are both still alive and they are both together, which is I guess the moral of the story? Honestly, I’d just rather not think about this movie anymore if I don’t have to.

Final review: 4/5 But good luck being able to sit through this without calling your doctor and being prescribed an anti-depressant.

Up next: The Right Stuff

#326- Badlands

Quick recap: There’s nothing quite like young love: Going on a cross country adventure together,  being wrapped up in the very essence of the other person, going on a shooting spree after violently murdering your girlfriend’s father. So sweet.

That Martin Sheen was quite a looker back then

Fun (?) fact: Martin Sheen’s sons, Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez, have uncredited roles as boys playing under a lamplight.

EVERY.SINGLE. TIME Emilio Estevez’s name is mentioned, this clip comes to mind

My thoughts: Usually, I try to crank out a review about a day after watching the movie. I like it to be fresh on my mind as I add my All Important Opinion to this tiny space on the internet. This time, however, life got in the way, so it’s been about three days since I watched Badlands. Had I stuck to my schedule, I would’ve given this movie a negative review with plenty of sarcastic comments thrown in for good measure. As it is now, more time means more opportunities to think about what I watched and I’ve  come to an understanding that  Badlands really is an exceptional film.

As the credits rolled the other night, I would describe my mood as ‘unimpressed’. I really enjoyed Sissy Spacek’s performance, especially considering she was in her 20s perfectly playing a teenager. Her diary voiceovers were so unnerving because she sounds every bit like a normal girl having her first romance, but here she is, on the lam with the guy who murdered her father as well as several other people along the way. She mostly gives off an air of boredom, as if small town life in South Dakota was the worst so why not join a killing spree? My nonchalance was mostly due to the inevitability of the ending, I think. Of course Kit and Holly couldn’t run forever and seeing as how I disliked the two of them as a couple, I was relieved when it all went down and both were captured. My mistake in dismissing this movie was the focus on the characters and their relationship instead of literally everything else in the film.

Seeing as this is a Terrence Malick film, it should go without saying that Badlands is gorgeous. Despite the horrible and sometimes needless killing, everything about the drive Kit and Holly made was beautiful. I’ve always had a fantasy of driving West but this film has me thinking that North might be the best direction to go. As for the theme, it really resonated with me how the entire country lived in fear of Kit and Holly until they were caught, and then he became a celebrity of sorts. He got his comeuppance in the end with a trip to the electric chair but Malick really captured America’s obsession with true crime and how we are constantly in a state of fear and adoration over the same people.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Drugstore Cowboy