December 1st-Stagecoach from 1939 (Director: John Ford, Writers: Dudley Nichols and based on “The Stage to Lordsburg” by Ernest Haycox, Stars: Claire Trevor and John Wayne, Cinematography: Bert Glennon, Runtime: 98 mins)
Don’t have a lot of time to write up the type of review a classic like this probably deserves, but hey, I sometimes skimp on reviews of classics. I liked Stagecoach. It was fun. We meet the characters, they set out, that bastard John Wayne comes along as he is headed to a town to kill a man. There is drama and action. Its a technically great film, it has several wonderful performances including Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Thomas Mitchell.
Look, if you don’t want to watch a John Wayne film (or a western) at least check out the chase with the Native Americans. Its an incredibly well put together piece of action entertainment in 1939. Some incredible stunts, scenes, and just overall frantic movement. It holds up well as a piece of action cinema.
Thats all I’m writing for now, you can probably read up on more in dept reviews. I will say though, for the greatest year in cinema-I think Wizard of Oz is my favorite.
December 2nd-Domino from 2005 (Director: Tony Scott, Writers: Richard Kelly with Story by Richard Kelly and Steve Barancik, Stars: Keira Knightly with Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Delroy Lindo and Mo’Nique, Cinematography: Dan Mindel, Runtime: 127 mins)
A fictional story about a real woman. Domino Harvey was British woman that was the daughter of an actor and model, and would become a LA bounty hunter. The fiction is the story of a bails bondsman who works out a scheme to help his granddaughter that gets screwy with a armored truck robbery scam, four fall guys, connections to mob, Las Vegas money, the FBI and bounty hunters in the middle. Plus a reality tv show.
Directed by Tony Scott this is an ADD flashy, quick cut, style over substance piece of work. I like it. I like Keira Knightly, Edgar Rameriz, and Mickey Rourke. Its a strong cast that really carry this sometimes head scratching, convoluted story. Plus mixed in with some good laughs including Mo’Niques whole Jerry Springer sequence. But lets get back to Keira, I love her. Sure the character is over the top but Keira is so good in it. Flirty, confrontational, and full of energy. I think its a fantastic performance.
Now I should probably rip into the crazy story or some of the other under developed elements. Hmmmm… Nah. Domino on my rewatch is not a particularly good movie, but I really enjoyed it so I will ignore its short comings thank you very much.
Macabre from 1958 (Director: William Castle, Writers: Robb White and Based on The Marble Forest by Theo Durran, Stars: William Prince and Jacqueline Scott, Cinematography: Carl E. Guthrie, Runtime: 73 mins)
A doctors daughter is kidnapped. The same doctor is becoming a pariah in town. Stuff is happening, decently acted and directed film with a good twist that made me raise my letterboxed grade.
JEAN SEBERG DOUBLE FEATURE: December 4th-À Bout de Souffle aka Breathless from 1960 (Director/Writer: Jean-Luc Godard, Stars: Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, Cinematography: Raoul Coutard, Runtime: 87 mins)-DVD
Bonjour Tristesse from 1958 (Director: Otto Perminger, Writers: Arthur Laurents based on the novel by Françoise Sagan, Stars: Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Jean Seberg, Mylène Demongeot and Geoffrey Horne, Cinematography: Georges Périnal, Runtime: 94 mins) -comedy/crime usb
One of my favorite podcasts is You Must Remember This, about Hollywoods first century. However I skipped two seasons. One about Joan Crawford and the other about Jane Fonda and Jean Seberg. I corrected that this year and was very curious about Jean Seberg. Her Hollywood story os tragic. Plucked out of obscurity by an abusive director who grew tired of her, becomes an icon of French New Wave cinema, has a complicated personal life which includes supporting Black Panthers, and then sad end. So I acquired a handful of her films to check them out.
First is Breathless, about a criminal who shoots a police man then tries to hide out. Staying with a woman named Patricia who he is trying to seduce while trying to get a loan to flee to Italy. A lot of the film is focused on the two leads relationship. Her keeping him at arms length unsure if she should commit to him in anyway. Him pressing her to join him on Italy, and of course sex.
Breathless was Sebergs 4th film, first French film. She is beautiful and you can see in her style the popular French Girl fashion aesthetic. This is my first film with her and I am blown away with her French. I can’t find if she was dubbed, if she wasn’t her American accent is gone. She speaks so naturally. She moves-or graces around so effortlessly. She does so much with facial expressions and body language. Her co-star Jean-Paul Belmondo is good, in his wannabe 40s noir outfit but the character is a bit of a jerk. I only care when its him reacting and engaging Sebergs Patricia.
I don’t find the story it self to be engaging. Or rather Jean-Pauls character. The whole criminal on the run doesn’t do much for me. Its is less developed then the characters relationshiop. Sonwhen it goes to that stuff its boring. Well, the film is rough and drags in my opinion. I do recognize its style. The quick cuts, hand held feel, jumpy action, its an incredibly stylish picture. I am sure Seijun Seijun Suzuki borrowed some of this for his iconic Japanese gangaster flicks. I prefer those to this, but this is still a cool little picture from a technical level. With great black and white photography. I thought it was good, not in love with it by any means.
Bonjour Tristesse follows Cecile as she is out with her playboy father, both hob-nobbing with fancy people searching for fun. She reminisces about when a fashion designer Ann came to visit, became involved with her father, and how it threaten to hurt the carefree life she was enjoying. So Cecile engineered a way to break them up that ended badly.
So the team behind Breathless felt Patricia was the continuation of Cecile and I am not sure I see it. What I see is Jean Seberg delivering a varied performance. She is depressed, angry, happy, flirty and so on. She is doing a lot with a very deep character and it makes me wonder what the fuck was wrong with Otto Preimnger. He controlled her so much in their first film, gets mad at how it was recieved i part to the performance he crafted for her, then does this film and gives up on Jean? Of course this film has aged better than initial reviews but its clear Seberg had the spark. Oh well.
Co-stars David Niven and Deborah Kerr are also very good. Niven seems likeable enough as Raymond though he is a older playboy type. As the film progresses its clear he is a jerk. Deborah’s Ann is someone who wants happiness and sees a life for herself with Raymond and Cecile, and is fine but brings so much weight to those final scenes. Talk about face acting, her reaction to Raymond returning to his younger lover is rough. The way it makes Jean’s Cecile respond too is powerful stuff.
Preminger is one of the great old directors but I am not one of his fanboys. I think he delivers very good movies, and has a great eye for style and performances. Yet I am never fully enthralled in any of his pictures. Still, I liked Bonjour about as much as I liked any of his other films I have seen. The black and white scenes are a great treat, then you get the vibrant color. Very cool.
So I do like Jean Seberg. I only have one other film from her, Lilith. I might be that one Spanish Giallo film. You know me, got to watch Giallo films.
BONUS FILM: Dolemite Is My Name from 2019 (Director: Craig Brewer, Writers: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, Stars: Eddie Murphy, Cinematography: Eric Steelberg, Runtime: 118 mins)
Earlier this year I watched Dolemite. One of the classic blaxploitation films. Three reasons for this one. First, it was Black History Month (was it?). Second was that I knew it was an oft cited classic of its subgenre. Finally, for this film. I liked this film more than Dolemite. This movie about Rudy Ray Moore rise from failed entertainer to leading his film is an entertain film that just feels good.
Dolemite Is My Name tracks Rudy as he struggles. He has not made it as a singer and is working as an MC. He takes some old rhyming proclamations and name Dolemite from a homeless man then stretches it i to a comedy routine. He becomes an underground success, then a billboard success. Travels, helps along one Lady Reed into becoming her own comedy star. Eventually decides to make a film where he puts his savings on the line, and wagers his comedy catalog with his studio putting up financing. A film no one wants to distribute until sold out independent showings score big.
Eddie Murphy is really good. Rudy is a pretty relatable guy, just trying to accomplish his goal of being a performer. Of being a star. Ultimately trying to prove his father wrong. Its not really dug into but the little gems we get show Rudy resents his fathers dismissal of him as a child. Da’Vine Joy Randolph is fantastic as Lady Reed, a woman who Rudy pushes to become a performer. Their first scene together is gold. Her support of Rudy’s efforts is heart warming. Wesley Snipes plays D’Urville Martin, an actor who is lured into the film with the opportunity to be the director. He is high, over the whole production, and its amusing to see Snipes reaction to everything in Rudy’s film. The cast is filled out nicely with great character actors too.
This film has been compared to the Disaster Artist and Ed Wood, I have only seen Ed Wood. I think I like this better than Ed Wood. While Ed Wood is a better put together film from a technical standpoint, I think this one is more likeable. Both are important movies about people making art.
RITA HAYWORTH DOUBLE FEATURE: December 5th-You Were Never Lovelier from 1942 (Director: William A. Seiter, Writers: various, Stars: Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth, Cinematography: Ted Tetzlaff, Runtime: 97 mins)
Cover Girl from 1944 (Director: Charles Vidor, Writers: various, Stars: Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly, Cinematography: Allen M. Davey and Rudolph Maté, Runtime: 107 mins)
Rita Hayworth is one of the most famous golden age Hollywood starlets. Her visage is iconic among lovers of old cinema. She was many times portrayed as a woman that men (usually the male lead) fell over themselves for. While Rita never won an oscar, or may never been nominated, she did fool people into believing she loved her job. Rita hated Hollywood, wanted to get out but was sort of forced into the industry and had to keep working. Her smile betrays her truth. Knowing her story it makes her performances something else.
You Were Never Lovelier and Cover Girl present her in a slightly different way than the other films. While men fawn over her, the film structures are a little closer to traditional romcoms. Plus more dancing and singing. The men are not really obsessing over her like other films. She is not needling them. Not playing a gold digger looking for advancement. Not to say either are my favorites of hers. Strawberry Blonde is, and I have to rewatch Gilda sometime.
You Were Never Lovelier has a bit of the ice princess (but not really) and romantic mix up. Fred Astaire is trying to get a job dancing for this rich guy who is trying to find a way to get his second daughter married. To who? Well, right now he just tricking her with letters. Yes, creepy. Things bring the two together and they have fine chemistry. The dancing is good, not up to the Astaire/Rogers films. Though I kind of like this better because of the plot. Its amusing, good old film.
Cover Girl plot is weaker, with Rita’s character becoming a popular model driving business to a small theater where she performs. Her boyfriend (I guess) is struggling with her new fame while the modeling company wants more with her. The modeling company boss was in love with Rita’s grandmother, played by Rita Hayworth. While a weak plot I liked the dancing better. Gene Kelley has a fantastic number. Also, glorious technicolor. I would put it about the same as You Were Never Lovelier.
Good films. Rita is beautiful, and deserved better.
December 6th-The Bone Collector from 1999 (Director: Philip Noyce, Writers: Jeremy Iacone and Based on the novel by Jeffery Deaver, Stars: Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie, Cinematography: Dean Semler, Runtime: 118 mins)
A film with a bunch of actors far beyond the material. Still, okay way to kill two hours.
December 7th-Secret Six from 1931 (Director: George W. Hill, Writer: Frances Marion, Stars: Wallace Berry, Lewis Stone, John Mack Brown, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Marjorie Rambeau and Ralph Bellamy, Cinematography: Harold Wenstrom, Runtime: 83 mins)
Another pre-code gangster film. This one has Wallace Beery rising up the ranks to be a big shot gangster. He works for a corrupt lawyer who has his own racket going. Film features early performances from Ralph Bellamy and more famously, early performances from Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. Harlow would appear in the much more famous The Public Enemy, just the week after Secret Six. Also a uncredited “cameo” in Scarface.
Okay, Wallace Beery’s Scorpio is one of the least interesting of all the gangsters I have seen. Ralph Bellamy looks intimidating at first but really feels miscast. It is unfortunate. However Gable is smooth in the film, Harlow is still not quite there. She shows flourishes of the actress she would become here (and some others) but its not really until Red Headed Woman, and working with people like writer Anita Loos or director Victor Fleming did she really soar.
Visually the film looks pretty good. Some nice action. However it does not hold a candle to some of the other gangster films of the time. This was not MGMs wheelhouse. Anyway, yeah…
BONUS: Frozen 2 from 2019 (Director: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, Writers: Jennifer Lee with Story by several people, Stars: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, and Ciarán Hinds, Cinematography: Tracy Scott Beattie on layouts and Mohit Kallianpur on lighting, Runtime: 103 mins)
Why don’t they just give the lesbian a girlfriend?
Anyway, more singing and better visuals then the first, weaker story. Overall a good film if predictable at points. I don’t like Olaf but the kids in the theater were laughing. So it all worked.