#308- Pickup on South Street

Quick recap: A pickpocket unknowingly intercepts some microfilm that was about to be given to the Communists. Now he must decide whether he is going to stay a two-bit felon or move on up to full on traitor status.

it’s a film-noir so expect plenty of sass from this dame

Fun (?) fact: In the French and German versions of the film, the dialog is changed completely and turns into a story about drug dealing.

My thoughts:Apparently, pickpocketing was one of the worst crimes one could commit in New York City in the early 50s. Skip McCoy, the thief with the heart of gold (or something) had already been convicted of stealing 3 times before and one more time would send him to the chair. When my mom’s wallet was stolen in Chicago a few weeks ago, we dutifully reported it even though we knew that sucker was long gone.

Pickup on South Street was a wild ride but overall a weak addition to the film-noir genre. There were several thrilling scenes and violence galore but a spying ring just felt like a letdown. The Communists were bad news but by the end this felt more like a propaganda film for the Red scare than a true film-noir. Part of my issue is that I never really bought into Skip McCoy as a hero. Not only was he a pickpocket but he was violent towards the girl he stole from and then made out with her too, which was I guess a thing back then. Candy, the love interest, had her own issues and I found myself internally screaming on her behalf for continuing to choose such bad guys to fall in love with. In the end, Skip and Candy end up together and we are made to believe this is a good thing but realistically we know there is no good way this relationship will go.

My favorite part of the film and the reason I liked the movie so much was because of Moe, the stool pigeon. I really wish they had cut out all of the Commie BS and mystery and focused on this woman. Moe spent her life selling ties as a front and keeping tabs on all the crooks and criminals. When the police needed help, they called her in and she set a price to give info. I loved the symbiotic relationship she had with the crooks and especially Skip. Neither were happy with the other’s life choices but both understood the need to make a living. For all this, Moe was saving up for a nice burial plot when she died. When of the Commies offed her, Skip paid for a funeral so she wouldn’t be sent to Potter’s field.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Destry Rides Again

#275- No Country for Old Men

Quick recap: Llewelyn Moss is caught in a deadly cat and mouse game when he stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong.

screen-shot-2012-03-19-at-9-39-45-am-585x400

But, like, more violent

Fun (?) fact:  While filming in Marfa, Texas, shooting was halted for the day when a cloud of dark smoke came into view. It turned out to be a pyrotechnics testing for the movie There Will be Blood, which was filming nearby.

36190303nocountryforoldmentrailerign-1447690380585_1280w

Only the Coen brothers could find the most perfect haircut for a maniac

My thoughts: It’s no secret that I love the Coen brothers. Or maybe some people don’t know,but that would be a totally lame secret to have in the first place,tbh. Anyway, I love them and they can do no wrong, not even with Burn After Reading, which I think is underrated. No Country for Old Men is a different monster, though. Many of the same trademarks are there, but this film just feels different. It’s darker, more violent and less funny than their previous projects. And it is perfect.

I don’t use the word ‘perfect’ lightly, except for all those times I’ve used the word ‘perfect’ lightly. But that’s just what this film is. I can’t find fault in it, not that I’ve tried really hard to do so. Take the music, for example. There is none. At all. And with most other movies, this would bother me. Not this movie, though. No music really heightened the feeling of dread I got anytime Anton Chigurh was onscreen, and it felt as though he could be outside hunting me too. The scenery is another home run for me, not just because it’s in Texas, but it’s the most gorgeous part of Texas. I’ve been talking about a road trip to Marfa for years now and maybe subconsciously I’ve been thinking about this movie and that’s why I haven’t gone. It’s so desolate out there and perfect for just the sort of thing that played out onscreen.

But really, just like any good Coen brothers film, I’m in it for the characters. There isn’t a lot of dialogue, but there doesn’t need to be. I still don’t really understand the ending but I also kind of like that. It is what it is and it always will be that way. That’s good enough for me.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: the Sins of Lola Martès

#268- The 39 Steps

Quick recap: A man goes on the run after a woman is found dead in his apartment. However, the woman was actually a spy so not only does the man have to hide from the law, he is also tasked with taking down a bunch of villain spies out to steal information.

Fun (?) fact: The sheep that were brought in for one of the scenes ate up the plants and bushes and the crew had to keep replacing them. Sheep are going to do what sheep do.

Film_56_39Steps_original

Surprisingly, no one said ‘by jove!’ in this movie.

My thoughts: Seeing as this is my 6th Hitchcock film, I now feel qualified to have an opinion of him as a director. And so far, I think I like him best when he isn’t doing horror. It’s almost comforting to watch his films, knowing that even when this movie was made in 1935, Hitchcock had his trademarks set up: a man falsely accused, a MacGuffin, a director cameo, stairs. It’s all there. At the same time, each film is wildly different from the rest and seeing as this one was all about spies, I was fascinated even more than I normally am.

The character Hanney, the man on the run from the law, is one of my favorite elements of the film. When the movie opens, he’s just a regular guy, maybe hoping to get some action from this random woman who enters his life. But when she’s murdered by an evil spy ring, he gets thrust into the spy life. Throughout the movie, he never really does anything like a stereotypical spy and yet he has enough wits about him to stay one step ahead. In doing so, it made me root for him and want him to solve the mystery before the bad guys got to him first. It also surprised me how much I liked the character Pamela, who ended up handcuffed to Hanney, despite having no previous involvement with either side. She wasn’t just a dumb blonde and made her own decisions, thank you very much.

Seeing as how this movie was made over 80 years ago, I don’t really feel like I’m spoiling it to say that the secrets The 39 Steps were trying to smuggle out of the country were housed in a man called Mr Memory. It was a huge surprise to me when this was revealed, but I also kind of felt bad because his act was a super lame party trick. His schtick was basically that he knew a ton of facts and the audience could shout out obscure questions for him to answer. I mean, considering there was no Wikipedia back then, I guess it’s cool, except how does anyone know if he’s telling the truth? Except if you already know the answer to the question you asked and then in that case, you are just as lame as this guy. Anyway. Just as Hanney figures out he is the key to the whole thing, Memory is shot, but not before divulging his secret to Pamela and him. As he takes his dying breath, Hanney and Pamela hold hands and it was a beautiful ending to actually a really good movie.

the39steps2

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Happiness

#256- Blow-Up

Quick recap: A photographer believes he has witnessed a murder as evidenced by close ups of photos he recently shot.

blowup-hemmings_1759487c

Watching Blow-Up gave me a newfound appreciation for Austin Powers

Fun (?) fact: Blow-Up features a performance by the Yardbirds, back when both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck were still in the band.

tumblr_m4qwgt5QMr1rnk8yfo1_1280.jpg

The movie also basically brought about the end of the Production Code. The rating system was installed a couple of years later.

My thoughts: As noted above, Blow-Up was a huge influence on the Austin Powers movies, which I always thought just parodied James Bond. And Coppola’s The Conversation, one of my favorites,also plays homage to this film. On paper, Blow-Up has everything I could ever want in a movie, yet I just didn’t care for it very much.

Although it wasn’t my cup of tea, Blow-Up is a beautiful, complicated film and one that I think people should try out. Each scene felt like its own set of photographs pieced together, from the antique shop to the analysis of the pictures to the party. Everything was woven together beautifully and it added to the mystery of whether or not Thomas witnessed a murder. Thomas himself I didn’t care for, but I don’t think I was meant to. It makes more sense for him to be a pretentious artist whose work is so important that it solves murders. I won’t give away what I think about the reality of the body, but one of my favorite quotes from the film says it all:

‘They don’t mean anything when I do them…just a mess. afterwards I find something to hang on to…like that leg. Then it sorts itself out and adds up. It’s like finding a clue in a detective story.’

I can’t put a finger on why the film didn’t do much for me, which is frustrating. It might be because it is slow moving or maybe because there is no resolution, sort of like Two-Lane Blacktop. Or it could just be because I hate mimes. At any rate, if I watched it again with an audience, maybe in a theater, I might have a different opinion.

Final review: 3/5, although it really is an essential film to watch

Up next: She’s Gotta Have It