#405- A Place in the Sun

Quick recap: George Eastman takes up his uncle’s offer of working at his company only to end up knocking a girl up, falling in love with a socialite and getting the electric chair.

I’m really bad at recognizing movie stars so of course I had no idea this was Elizabeth Taylor. I loved her performance and just hoped whoever she was went on to do something special 🙂

Fun (?) fact:  Shelley Winters ( who played Alice) drove white Cadillacs for years after filming to compensate for feeling inferior to Elizabeth Taylor.

Thoughts and observations:

As a rule, I typically stay away from melodramas, but this one hooked me the moment Montgomery Clift appeared on screen.

From there, the plot was a wild ride from start to finish. I don’t remember ever being in a situation where I wanted both the best for every character and the worst. Even Alice, the poor factory girl whom George (Montgomery Clift) knocks up. She was absolutely a victim in every way but seeing her whine and pout when she was about to be shoved overboard was just too much to put up with from a character.

Even as I write this review, I’m still blown away by how much of a predator George Eastman was, yet I kept hoping things would turn around for him. On his first day at the factory, he was told that the most important rule was not to fraternize with the workers and he literally did just that moments later. And then while walking Alice home from the movies, his hands are all over her even though they had barely spoken before. I hated how pushy he was and knew their relationship would end badly. And I liked him even less when he started dating Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) because he seemed so desperate to appear well off. And yet- as he professed his love for Angela, I couldn’t help  but melt. I too was annoyed that Alice was around and found myself siding with George. I didn’t think he would murder her but I wanted him to live his life with his true love.

The end of the movie was just as much of a whirlwind and I still can’t decide how I feel about all of it. George was brought to justice as he should’ve been, but once again I found myself siding with him that he didn’t murder Alice. Even as the priest got him to confess that his inaction caused her death, I still wanted a different ending and wanted there to be some twist where everyone lives happily ever after. This movie was both frustrating and absolutely the most entertained I’ve felt in a long time.

Watchability score: 5/5

Up next: Europa Europa

#403- When Harry Met Sally

Quick recap: Harry met Sally after college graduation. And then again at an airport. And then at a bookstore. And then they got married!

Fun (?) fact: It was difficult but I did find trivia not related to that orgasm scene: The scenes of married couples talking were real stories but performed by actors.

Thoughts and observations:

  • Although this was my first viewing, this film is iconic enough that there were really no surprises. Except that Carrie Fisher was a main character, but that’s the best kind of surprise.
  • There were many scenes that made me laugh and so many memorable lines! I didn’t find the orgasm scene all that funny but that’s probably because I’ve seen it referenced so many times.
  • The main question in the film about men and women being just friends reminds me of all the earnest conversations I had while dating about this same topic, not realizing it came from a movie. I apologize to everyone who had to sit through one.
  • It’s probably blasphemy to say but I always forget about Meg Ryan as an actress, mostly because I don’t watch many RomComs. When Harry Met Sally reminds me that she is really good at what she does. Oh, and Billy Crystal is in the film too.
  • Is it weird that I was disappointed they got married in the end? After their first time together, part of me hoped they could just stay friends and prove everyone wrong. But I guess that’s sort of the plot of La La Land, isn’t it? And what a bummer of an ending that was, let me tell you. Still, I think 3 months is still an incredibly short time to get married, even if you have known each other for 12 years.
  • And finally- I’m never big on those ‘but what if there were cell phones’ debates people make about older movies, but I did find it funny thinking about Facebook. Had this movie taken place in modern times, Harry and Sally would have friended each other and then moved on with their lives. When they met again in the airport it would’ve been so awkward to know about the other’s life without having seen each other in years. I doubt that would’ve eventually lead to true love, just Harry quickly running away and hoping Sally didn’t see him.

Watchability score: 4/5

Up next: Chungking Express

 

#400- The Quiet Man

Quick recap:  Sean Thornton (played by John Wayne) moves back to his hometown in Ireland, where he falls in love with a feisty redhead and makes an enemy of her brother.

Fun (?) fact:  Maureen O’Hara whispered an unscripted line in John Wayne’s ear at the end of the movie to get a genuine shocked expression on his face. Neither she nor he or director John Ford ever revealed what that line was.

Thoughts and observations: 

Seeing as this is my 400th review, I chose a film I could easily snark on. So much low hanging fruit- from the casting of John Wayne to the ridiculous Irish accents, I was planning to let loose! But alas, I can’t, because I have fallen in love instead with The Quiet Man.

It may be the pandemic talking, but even the crowd scenes were lovely and made me feel like I was watching a real village. The horse races, the fishing obsession, the large gatherings to watch a man drag his wife across the countryside-I wanted to be part of all of it. The residents of the town all had stereotypical personalities and VERY thick Irish accents but it only added to the charm of the film. It was absolutely believable by the end of the movie that a person like John Wayne would settle in and find a wife just like Maureen O’ Hara.

What really drives the film for me is seeing Sean Thornton’s journey to truly fitting in to this sometimes backwards society. When he first rolls in (literally, in a horse and buggy) to Inishfree, he wants to move in immediately but his mind is still planted in the US. He initially scares Mary Kate Danaher by just walking up and saying hello and it takes him awhile to understand that things are done differently around here. I love how the movie is as much about character growth as it is a romance film. By the end, Sean has his girl after beating up her brother (also a tradition?) and all is right with the world…

Which leads me to my one big complaint about the movie- how often Sean shows that he ‘owns’ Mary Kate. The first time they have any sort of real interaction, she sneaks into the house he just bought and tidied up a bit. Upon catching her there, he kisses her hard and I can only imagine how bruised her lips must’ve been after that scene. This happens several more times when Sean loses his patience, including their wedding night when Mary Kate refuses to have sex with him for very (in her mind) valid reasons. And then there’s the penultimate scene where he literally drags his wife across the countryside, sometimes even pulling her hair so that he can ‘collect’ her dowry from her brother and they can finally consummate their marriage. Everything ends up fine and this was what audiences liked to see back then but geez, it’s still hard to watch and enjoy.

Watchability score: 4/5

Up next: My retrospect of the last 100 films

 

#397- Frankenstein

Quick recap: The classic story of Dr. Frankenstein, who manages to create a monster that wreaks havoc on the countryside and still lives happier ever after.

The monster even mauls the bride and SHE STILL MARRIES HIM

Fun (?) fact: Boris Karloff, who played The Monster, was such an unknown that he wasn’t even invited to his own film premiere.

I don’t get it either, buddy

Thoughts and Observations:

Welcome to another year of Horrorfest, that wonderful time of year when I only watch Horror movies from the 1001 Movies to See Before You Die list. In years past I have done themes but this year my goal is to watch whatever is streaming.

We start with Frankenstein, which is actually the perfect movie to kick off this celebration. As a monster, its terror factor falls somewhere between witches and werewolves. A bit scary when you think that it’s a dead guy, less scary when you realize his childlike nature. I talked my 11 year-old into watching the movie with  me, although he has vowed to not watch any horror. ‘Space is frightening enough for me!’, he brings up quite often. 

We both agreed that the effects were so good for this era and both regretted a little that we have lived only through the parodies and references. I think had I been around in the 1930s, this definitely would’ve creeped me out some. The first ‘reveal’ as Dr. Frankenstein coaxes The Monster into the light is so masterfully done. It gave me chills in a way I didn’t imagine a movie this old could. The fear was short lived as Karloff does such a wonderful job of playing a frightening monster as well as such a sympathetic man. My son felt the same until the scene where he drowns the little girl, and then he wanted only revenge. I’ll admit that scene of the father carrying his dead child through the wedding celebration was absolutely heartbreaking, but I still just wanted The Monster to be ok and maybe be loved by someone.

But that’s not to be, as we all know. I remember being shocked when I read Frankenstein in high school to find that it doesn’t end the same as the movie because to me at the time, they were one and the same. It says something to the makeup artists and designers that our version of Frankenstein comes directly from the movie and not the novel, even though it paints a much more horrifying picture. Even the beginning credits seem to downplay the novel, referring to Mary Shelley as ‘Mrs. Percy Shelley’. And the scientist seems more situationally mad in this adaptation as well, which I guess helps the audience to forgive him at the end for making something so awful.

Watchability score: 4/5 This made me want to binge watch all of the monster films of this time period

Up next: Only Horrorfest knows!