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2001

Title: Director [Year]
"North By Northwest" Alfred Hitchcock [1959]
"Platoon" Oliver Stone [1986]
"High Noon" Fred Zinnemann [1952]
"Blazing Saddles" Mel Brooks [1974]
"Ground Hog Day"* Harold Ramis [1993]
"All Quiet on the Western Front" Lewis Milestone [1930]
"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" Richard Lester [1966]
"Easy Rider" Dennis Hopper [1969]
"Topkapi" Jules Dassin [1964]
"Annie Hall" Woody Allen [1977]
"A Man for All Seasons" Fred Zinnemann [1966]
"The Ipcress File" Sidney Furie [1965]
"The Stunt Man" Richard Rush [1980]
"Trouble In Paradise"* Ernst Lubitsch [1932]
"Cross of Iron" Sam Peckinpah [1977]
"Me, Myself and Irene" Bobby and Peter Farrelly [2000]
"To Have and Have Not" Howard Hawks [1944]
"The Philadelphia Story" George Cukor [1940]
"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" David Swift (II) [1967]
"The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger [1943]
"Erin Brockovich" Steven Soderbergh [2000]
"The Maltese Falcon" John Huston [1941]
"The Blue Max" John Guillermin [1966]
"The Naked Prey" Cornel Wilde [1966]
"Full Metal Jacket" Stanley Kubrick [1987]
"Good Morning Vietnam" Barry Levinson [1987]
"The Big Sleep" Howard Hawks [1946]
"The Usual Suspects" Bryan Singer [1995]
"Memento" Christopher Nolan [2000]
"Bull Durham" Ron Shelton [1988]
"South Park" Trey Parker [1997]
"Wooster and Jeeves" various [1990]
"MASH" Robert Altman [1970]
"Playtime" Jacques Tati [1967]
"Oliver!"* Carol Reed, Lionel Bart [1968]
"Q"* Larry Cohen [1982]
"Charade" Stanley Donen [1963]
"Mr. & Mrs. Smith" Alfred Hitchcock [1941]
"The Sand Pebbles" Robert Wise [1966]
"We‘re No Angels" Michael Curtiz [1955]
"Fail-Safe"* Sidney Lumet [1964]
"Moulin Rouge!"* Baz Luhrmann [2001]
"We're No Angels"* Michael Curtiz [1955]

* Indicates that our staff is still researching the information for the review, Stay Tuned!™

Liner Notes.

© 2001 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."


"North By Northwest" [Alfred Hitchcock] 1959

"North By Northwest is one of the greatest english language films. It occupies number 40 on the AFI list. Considered by many as Hitchcock‘s most entertaining film, it showcases his ability to blend both comedy and suspense. Oddly enough, it was not nominated in any major category except for Ernest Lehman‘s screenplay and indeed won no Oscars. Its high position in the AFI list indicates how wrong the Academy was at the time. Indeed, Ben-Hur [1959] took best picture and director. While a good epic, Ben-Hur is not nearly as good a film. Ben-Hur sits at the 72nd position by the way.

"North By Northwest stars Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in the leads, with James Mason and Martin Landau in pivotal supporting roles. Each give fine performances, with Grant at his best as a debonair but refined man thrust into the role of a secret agent by circumstance and against his will.

"This film looks wonderful. Hitchcock used both VistaVision wide screen and Technicolor. If it is showing at a revival on a big screen, it is worthwhile going out of one‘s way to see it. It also sounds wonderful, having a superb Bernard Herrmann score."

--ggf

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"North By Northwest" [Alfred Hitchcock] 1959

"North By Northwest is one of the greatest english language films. It occupies number 40 on the AFI list. Considered by many as Hitchcock‘s most entertaining film, it showcases his ability to blend both comedy and suspense. Oddly enough, it was not nominated in any major category except for Ernest Lehman‘s screenplay and indeed won no Oscars. Its high position in the AFI list indicates how wrong the Academy was at the time. Indeed, Ben-Hur [1959] took best picture and director. While a good epic, Ben-Hur is not nearly as good a film. Ben-Hur sits at the 72nd position by the way.

"North By Northwest stars Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in the leads, with James Mason and Martin Landau in pivotal supporting roles. Each give fine performances, with Grant at his best as a debonair but refined man thrust into the role of a secret agent by circumstance and against his will.

"This film looks wonderful. Hitchcock used both VistaVision wide screen and Technicolor. If it is showing at a revival on a big screen, it is worthwhile going out of one‘s way to see it. It also sounds wonderful, having a superb Bernard Herrmann score."

--ggf

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"High Noon" [Fred Zinnemann] 1952

"High Noon is perhaps the one, purest exponent of the western ever made. It occupies #33 on the AFI list of greatest American films. Nominated for seven academy awards, including best picture, director and screenplay, it won best actor, editing, music and song.

"High Noon lost best picture to The Greatest Show on Earth [1952] and best director to John Ford for The Quiet Man [1952]. While it is easily argued that The Quiet Man was a superbly directed and beautiful looking film, choosing The Greatest Show On Earth as best picture is one of the academy‘s truly poor peformances. In my opinion, this was an act of moral cowardice (see below).

"High Noon stars Gary Cooper in the role of retiring marshall Will Kane. This role defined Cooper‘s place in history and has become for many the finest exposition of male heroism on film. Will Kane is deserted by his fair-weather friends. He must make his decision and face his fate alone.

"Heroism in High Noon is stripped of the lyrical and romantic attributes that almost always accompany it on film. This is aided by the spartan sets and high-contrast black and white filming. If there is one adjective for this film it is essential. There is no fat.

"High Noon is one of the best suspense films made. It is told in near real-time. This accentuates the suspense as the viewer can see the minutes counting down until Kane must meet his destiny. Grace Kelly made her debut in this film as Kane‘s new wife, a Quaker who cannot understand Kane‘s decision because she does not understand the nature of the evil that he faces.

"The moral punch of High Noon is not accidental. The screenplay was written by Carl Foreman, who at the time was a victim of the McCarthy witchhunt, having been blacklisted by HUAC (House Unamerican Activities Committee). He had to flee the country before the film was released.

"Foreman‘s screenplay is an allegory. The bulk of Hollywood then was people who were all talk and who had no spines. Only a precious few stood up for their rights and those of others, and as Foreman did, they often paid a heavy price. Foreman continued to do other fine work. While in exile he wrote Bridge On the River Kwai [1957]."

--ggf

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"Blazing Saddles" [Mel Brooks] 1974

"Blazing Saddles is one of Mel Brooks best comedies. Directed and co-written by Brooks, it sends up every tradition of the western film. Nothing is sacred, nothing is spared. If it moves, he skewers it. Blazing Saddles was nominated for three academy awards, including best song, which is a joke in itself, since the lyrics were co-written by Brooks as a spoof and sung by Frankie Laine parodying himself.

"Brooks is one of the great comedic writers. He started out writing for Sid Caesar‘s legendary Your Show of Shows in the early 1950s, a breeding ground for the best US comedic film and television writers of the 20th century. His co-writers then were Woody Allen, Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart ... not forgetting Sid.

"When shown on TV this film is edited in bizarre ways. I can only presume that the politically-correct gremlins have been nibbling at the negative. Particularly hard to understand is why the campfire farting scene is considered too offensive. Crude, yes, but something to protect children from?

"My personal opinion is that this film could not now be made in the US by Brooks. It would be considered racist. Eddie Murphy would have no trouble though...consider the P.J‘s. Back in the early 1970‘s people apparently had better senses of humour. Those today who have politically correct rods up their asses find this film offensive. Screw them.

"Does this film have a plot? No. Is it high art? No. Does it need these thing? No. It‘s broad comedy. Brooks did pretty well on this film. It was the first or second highest grosser in 1974. Would that he could do as well again."

--ggf

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"All Quiet on the Western Front" [Lewis Milestone] 1930

"All Quiet on the Western Front is a great film, winning best picture and director Oscars in 1930. Based on the novel by Eric Maria Remarque, with adaptive screenplay by George Abbot, it was directed by Lewis Milestone. All Quiet sits at position 54 on the AFI top-100 list.

"All Quiet is one of the first talking films, sound recording on film being only about two years old when it was made. Given the primitive nature of The Jazz Singer [1927], which was carefully recorded on stage, it is amazing how much progress was made to provide sound for an epic like this film. All Quiet is one of the very few early talkies that is still watched by modern audiences.

"All Quiet remains perhaps the best anti-war film made and certainly the best known. Yes, it is old, and the acting reflects the stagey nature of early talkies. However, it was made by many who witnessed the horror of trench warfare first hand in the WWI. It brings to the screen an emotionally intense and believable treatment of those horrors and the psychological disolution of its main character.

"Milestone was an innovative director. He spanned an amazingly long period as a director, starting with silents in 1925 and ending with the Marlon Brando remake of Mutiny On the Bounty [1962]. In between, he directed several other fine films, including the comedy classic The Front Page [1931], Of Mice and Men [1939], A Walk In the Sun [1945] and Les Miserables [1952]. He also directed ‘the‘ rat pack movie, Ocean‘s Eleven [1960] (not so good, but that wasn‘t this film‘s point).

"Milestone was so sensitive about authenticity that most of the German soldiers in All Quiet were indeed WWI German veterans. They authenticated the small details, such as uniforms, badges, equipment and methods of employment. It being too early for today‘s relatively safe special effects, given the directorial sensitivity concerning authenticity, the effects in this film were dangerous.

"Made as a serious anti-war film, it is sad indeed that Hitler came to power only three years later. Nazis intensely disliked this film. Even before they were in power, Nazis interrupted screenings by shouting and releasing rats into theatres.


"As an added bonus, we have this on DVD. DVD is just reaching the stage where it has enough saturation that providers are beginning to take chances on classic films. With luck, it‘ll become like CDs, where extent of coverage is very impressive. For now though, no.

"This is a long film, running about 140 minutes. It was butchered in 1939 and later as a piece of anti-Nazi propaganda. In 1980, shortly before his death, Milestone asked Universal to restore the picture to his original cut. This was done finally in 1998 and is the version that we will watch."

--ggf

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"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" [Richard Lester] 1966

"‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum‘ started out as a successful Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical, starring Zero Mostel in the role of Psuedolus. It was made into a not-quite-so-successful-but-still-enjoyable movie, directed by Richard Lester, also starring Zero Mostel. The movie cast also includes Phil Silvers (Lycus), Buster Keaton (Erronius), Michael Crawford (Hero), Jack Gilford (Hysterium), and others.

"This is one of Buster Keaton‘s last film appearances before his death; it‘s short, so keep an eye peeled for it. Also watch out for sight gags of various sorts. And, of course, before viewing this movie be sure to arrange food, drink, entertainment, and a sit-down orgy for forty.

"This movie is a comedy/musical; that means that you have to search two sets of shelves at each of the rental stores you patronize. (If I weren‘t so patronizing, would I get better service?) The store I first called, Hollywood Video, was closed due to flooding by the time I got there last night. 20/20 had shut down their cash registers, so they could tell me that they had the title, but couldn‘t rent it to me. Blockbuster (National & Overland) and their open-till-midnight hours came through."

--Craig Milo Rogers

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"Easy Rider" [Dennis Hopper] 1969

"Easy Rider stars Dennis Hopper, who directed, Peter Fonda, who produced, and Jack Nicholson. It was written by Hopper, Fonda and Terry Southern. Southern is perhaps best known for Dr. Strangelove [1964] and The Cincinnati Kid [1965], while somewhat infamous for writing the satire Candy.

"Reminiscent of the spirit of the beats or perhaps seen as a radicalized Route 66 on motorcycles, Easy Rider is a road film for 60‘s drug culture. The plot revolves around two bikers who chuck it all and tour the roads, searching for what they hope is the real America, against a backdrop of conservatism and bigotry. Jack Nicholson made his career here as a drunk lawyer.

"A low-budget film, Easy Rider was stunningly successful, leading to several dismal copy-cat failures. A prime example is Antonioni‘s Zabriskie Point [1970]. Easy Rider is also credited by some with the introduction of cocaine to Hollywood (and if true, this would make it one of the most influential films ever made).

"Easy Rider has become the representative film of the 60‘s generation. It portrays a desire for a different way of life that was sweeping a generation in a turbulent time. It broke cleanly with tradition. Hollywood‘s reaction to that time had been denial, portraying the values of the ‘50s. Uneven and slow at times, the film has a abrupt and unexpected, but not unrealistic ending, that leaves most viewers shocked when first seen.

"Graced with some good visuals, a then innovative style and a very good period sound track, Easy Rider sits at position 88 on the AFI list. It won the best new director award for Hopper at Cannes and received Oscar nominations for screenplay and for Nicholson as supporting actor.


"Hopper is without a doubt one of Hollywood‘s most vibrant and widely talented individuals. He has a screw you attitude that resulted in Louis B. Mayer‘s blackballing him and later to a reported defamation suit by Rip Torn. He still has periodic troubles for drugs, the last in 2000 for marijuana. Drugs and drink bedeviled his career in the 70‘s. Hopper is a photographer of some note who has had showings internationally. He took classes in painting from Thomas Hart Benton, is one of the great collectors of modern art and was both present and a primary recorder of the art scene of the 60‘s. His house nearby in Venice is considered a serious architectural statement. Hopper is also somewhat legendary as a ladies man, married five times."

--ggf

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"Topkapi" [Jules Dassin] 1964

"Topkapi is one of the better respected film comedies. It gets a rare top rating from Leonard Maltin and won for Peter Ustinov a best supporting Oscar. That aside, it is best known for its principal, the smoky-voiced Greek actress Melina Mercouri. Filmed on location in Istanbul, the camera work is notable in that many steadicam shots were done before steadicam existed.

"Topkapi is a caper film that concerns a theft from the Topkapi Turkish State Museum. The cast is a strong one. The male lead is played by Maximilian Schell, with strong supporting roles by Peter Ustinov, Robert Morely and Akim Tamiroff. The film strongly resembles episodes from the later Mission Impossible, where Barbara Bain/Martin Landau were the duet.

"Topkapi is based upon the Eric Ambler novel The Light of Day. The adaption by Monja Danischevsky contains some witty dialog. As might be expected by the supporting cast, there are indeed elements of light comedy.

"The director of Topkapi is Jules Dassin, who was also Mercouri‘s husband. Made an American ex-patriot by the Hollywood blacklisting, Dassin became primarily known a `foreign‘ film director. His best-known works here are Pote tin Kyriaki (Never On Sunday) [1960] and the Charles Laughton vehicle The Canterville Ghost [1944].

"Dassin also directed two breakthrough films. The first is The Naked City [1948] which introduced the semi-documentary method of dealing with crime drama. Recent TV series have so overused this technique it has become hackneyed. The second is Du Rififfi Chez les Hommes [1955] which is credited with introducing the caper film. Dassin also, co-authored the screenplay for this film.


"Born in 1923, Melina Mercouri was an early woman activist. Protected from imprisonment and death by her fame, she was expelled from Greece in 1967 by the Colonel‘s Junta government. She returned in 1974 after their overthrow and was elected to the Greek parliament in 1977 and eventually was appointed as Minister of Culture, the first senior Greek cabinet position held by a woman. In her cabinet role she successfully lobbied for the return to Greece of the Elgin Marbles, sculptures taken from the Parthenon by Britain. She died in office in 1994 and is considered a Greek national hero.

"One can speculate on her successful marriage to Dassin. Both were brilliant, politically leftish, active and exiled from their homes."

--ggf

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"Annie Hall" [Woody Allen] 1977

"Annie Hall is generally considered to be Woody Allen‘s best film, the other contender being Manhattan [1979]. Residing at 34 on the AFI top-100 list, Annie Hall was nominated for five academy awards and won four, including best picture, best director for Woody Allen, best screenplay, shared between Allen and Marshall Brickman, and best actress for Diane Keaton. Allen was also nominated for best actor.

"Woody Allen films have now almost become cliches. Many of them center on bright but weak, conflicted, self-centered men. Annie Hall provides the first and definitive example. In Alvy Singer, Woody Allen plays his alter-ego, a man who has emerged from the liberation of the late 60‘s and ‘70s, unsure of who he is. To make matters worse, Alvy has fallen in love with the somewhat scatterbrained Annie Hall, played by Diane Keaton. The film follows their relationship and is considered by many the best exposition on film of love in the ‘70s.

"The most endearing aspect of this film is that it does not take itself seriously. Annie Hall is good light comedy. The writing is both superb and witty. Where the film falls a bit is Alvy‘s character development. Being serious seems out of character for him.

"Trivia:

"Sigourney Weaver made her first motion picture appearance here as one of Alvy‘s dates. Other bit parts were given to Jeff Goldblum, Shelley Hack and Beverly D‘Angelo before they became famous. Marshal McLuhan also has an amusing cameo

"According to the BBC, Allen originally shot Annie Hall as a murder mystery. It didn‘t work well, so he cut an hour of footage. Apparently, good editing can at times work near miracles.

"The other principal contender for best film in 1977 was Star Wars. Critically, that was no contest. It is good that the academy didn‘t embarrass itself.

"We will watch the DVD version."

--ggf

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"A Man for All Seasons" [Fred Zinnemann] 1966

"A Man for All Seasons is one of the best films made in the 1960s. Directed and produced by Fred Zinnemann, this film was nominated for eight academy awards and took home six: best picture, director, screenplay, cinematography and costume. The two nominations it received that it did not win were for supporting actor and actress Even its losses should tell you that the level of acting in this film is very high.

"A Man for All Seasons was adapted by Robert Bolt for the screen from his play of the same name. The story details the personal conflict between Henry VIII and Sir Thomas Moore, which eventually led to the split with the Pope and the creation of the Church of England. Although Bolt did not write extensively for the screen, being credited with seven films, five of those seven are indeed impressive: Lawrence of Arabia [1962], Doctor Zhivago [1965], this film, Ryan‘s Daughter [1970] and The Mission [1986].

"Fred Zinnemann is best known for High Noon [1952]. He was nominated then for best picture, but lost, most likely for political reasons, since High Noon was an allegory for the Hollywood blacklisting. Zinnemann took home best director for A Man for All Seasons and it was well deserved.

"Paul Scofield won best actor for his work here as Sir Thomas Moore, playing against Robert Shaw as King Henry VIII. Scofield created this role on Broadway, won a Tony and reprised it for the screen. Scofield is primarily a stage actor. Another role for which he is famous there is that of Antonio Salieri in Amadeus.

"The cast in A Man for All Seasons is indeed deep. Robert Shaw plays Henry VIII. Sadly Shaw is a memorable rather than awarded actor. Nominated for supporting actor here, he never won an oscar. The one role that most people remember him for is the salty sailor Quint in Jaws [1975]. Other actors of note in this film are Leo McKern, John Hurt and Orson Welles.

"Today this film would be called a docudrama. It stands as an example of just how fine a docudrama can be. It also portrays a man who has become a historic figure for his moral courage."

--ggf

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"The Ipcress File" [Sidney Furie] 1965

"The Ipcress File was the film that put Michael Caine on the map. The movie was produced by those who brought us James Bond, but the material here is not a farce. Based on the novel by Len Deighton, Michael Caine plays Harry Palmer. Reasonably bright, Palmer works for British intelligence to avoid military disclipline for having been a crook.

"Caine gives a solid performance here, one that is considered to have made his career. He plays Palmer in a day-to-day style, rather than as some special character. The film is also notable for the directing of Sidney Furie, who made use of odd camera angles and symbolism. This may well be Furie‘s best work. Furie seems to be locked into directing what used to be called B-films.

"The characterizations in the Ipcress File are believable and the dialogue fine. Morality is somewhat subjective. Harry does what needs to be done. Like any cold-war movie viewed today, there is a risk that the film is perceived as somehow obsolete. But the writing and acting remain solid and the film suspensful.

"Unfortunately, this was a widescreen film and the VHS version is not letterboxed, so much of Furie‘s technique will be missing in action (the DVD doesn‘t have this problem)."

--ggf

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"The Stunt Man" [Richard Rush] 1980

"The Stunt Man is an unusual film that mixes the real with the make-believe of a Hollywood film-shoot. Originally shot in 1978, the film sat for some time before Fox would risk releasing it. Perhaps that is not too surprising when one considers that the film is a black comedy, somewhat experimental and quite complexly written.

"The Stunt Man stars Peter O‘Toole. It was directed by Richard Rush, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Lawrence B. Marcus. Rush‘s pet project, this represented nearly a decade of work on his part. It was nominated for three Oscars, actor, director and screenplay. The acting, writing and direction are strong. Some critics consider this one of the best scripts ever written, while others find it muddled or self-important.

"The plot involves a tyrannical director Eli Cross, played by O‘Toole, whose key stunt man is accidentally killed by the fleeing fugitive Cameron, played by Steve Railsback. Knowledge of Cameron‘s status allows Cross to make Cameron an offer he cannot really refuse, servitude as a substitute stunt man until the shooting is finished.

"Cross than also becomes a director of real lives, jerking the strings of Cameron‘s life, liberty and love. Trying to determine just what Cross is doing is the fun in this film. One is reminded of a Greek god, powerful, mischievious, bored perhaps, but not truly bad."

--ggf

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"Cross of Iron" [Sam Peckinpah] 1977

"Cross of Iron is Sam Peckinpah‘s only war film. This film takes place on the eastern front in 1943, after the tide of battle has turned and Germany is retreating. What makes this film noteworthy is that it is told from the German point of view.

"Some go so far as to call this film a masterpeice, in particular, Orson Welles did so. However, most critics disliked it and the film was coldly received by critics. The violence portrayed by Peckinpah in his earlier films had become his trademark. It was viewed as too real, almost disgusting. Therefore, Peckinpah became what we now call politically incorrect. Critics savaged his work even when it was excellent, as was Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia [1974].

"Cross Of Iron is a good film of epic proportion. It certainly does not lose the viewer‘s interest. It is generally well-directed and written. The battle scenes in particular are very well done, lending an air of reality and horror that is still uncommon. Peckinpah also exposes the irrationality of wartime life.

"The central figure of Sergeant Steiner is played by James Coburn, who probably does his best work here. Steiner is a seasoned, cynical commander who hates the war and most of his commanders, drawing what little meaning his life has from his responsibilty to his men.

"What doesn‘t work? The central conflict in the film is between Steiner and his cowardly, vain commander Capt. Stransky, played by Maximillian Schell. Steiner is such a strong personality that Stransky seems too weak as villain. Another problem is that the german soldiers speak english. This clashes with the reality portrayed elsewhere in the film, like watching Das Boot [1981] dubbed. Finally, the ending seems limp and out of character.

"These flaws make this a weaker film than Alfredo Garcia, but still one worth watching."

--ggf

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"Me, Myself and Irene" [Bobby and Peter Farrelly] 2000

"Six years after Dumb and Dumber [1994], Jim Carrey reunited with Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly for this anarchic comedy with a hint of romance.

"Charlie (Carrey) is a good-natured Rhode Island state trooper who likes helping people. But years of internalizing his frustrations about his work and his family have caused Charlie to develop an alter ego: Hank, an abusive, violent, sexually compulsive police officer. Charlie can keep Hank at bay with medication, but just barely. When Irene (Renee Zellweger) finds herself in legal trouble through a series of misunderstandings involving her ex-boyfriend, Charlie must escort her on a long drive to New York for questioning. After Charlie loses his medication, he and Hank wind up vying for her affections: Charlie wants Irene to marry him, while Hank has more brutal intentions. Me, Myself, and Irene also features Chris Cooper, Robert Forster, and Jessica Harper, as well as Anthony Anderson, Mongo Brownlee, and Jerod Mixon as Charlie‘s rotund, African-American sons.

"The DVD picture, presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen format, is fantastic; colors are bright and clear, especially in the outdoor sequences. There‘s a commentary from Bobby and Peter Farrelly, a host of "making of" featurettes, and a video for the Foo Fighters‘ video "Breakout." However, the real treat for fans of the movie is the bevy of deleted scenes. Offered with or without a director‘s commentary, these scenes help to expand certain plot threads and add additional humor to others. Much as they did with their X-Men DVD, Fox offers this film in an "extended branching version," which allows the deleted scenes to be inserted into the movie. A logo pops up to let the viewer know when a deleted scene is playing. This feature also allows viewers to jump to behind-the-scenes footage from the movie for certain sequences.

"Regardless of what one thinks of Carrey or the gross-out style of the Farrelly brothers, Me, Myself & Irene is worth a look."

--ggf

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"To Have and Have Not" [Howard Hawks] 1944

"To Have and Have Not was directed by Howard Hawks and stars Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Walter Brennan. This is the film that introduced Bacall. Considered a minor classic, it was overshadowed by the later Bogart/Bacall film The Big Sleep [1946], which was also directed by Hawks and written largely by the same very-skilled team.

"To Have and Have Not has solid performances from its main stars. What makes this film so notable is the treatment of the romance between Bogart and Bacall. When watching this film it is important to remember that Bacall was only 19 years old. Bogart fell head over heels in love with her on the set and married her shortly thereafter. The sparks that seem to move back and forth between the two were likely real.

"To Have and Have Not is considered by many to be Hemingway‘s weakest novel. It is claimed that Howard Hawks bet Hemingway that he could turn his worst book into a good film. Hemingway took the bet. He lost.

"Hawkes was a bright and awesomely talented director. He knew who he needed and he could get them. Hawkes teamed an author of some minor skills, William Faulkner, with veteran writer Jules Furthman to adapt the novel for the screen. Furthman was amazingly productive, writing over a hundred stories for the screen spanning the years 1915-1959. As for Faulkner, he could write too.

"This gross arrangement worked so well that Hawks repeated it for his next film. The Big Sleep again starred Bogart and Bacall. Added to the team for this effort was Leigh Brackett, the famous science fiction author, who went on to work with Hawkes for some notable John Wayne films.

"The lesser cast of this film contains Hoagy Carmichael and Sheldon Leonard. Carmichael is of course cast as a musician. Leonard went on to become one of the great producers of early television. He was responsible for Make Room for Daddy, Dick Van Dyke, Andy Griffith, Gomer Pyle and I Spy. I Spy launched the television career of Bill Cosby and broke social ground by pairing black and white stars."

--ggf

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"The Philadelphia Story" [George Cukor] 1940

"The Philadelphia Story is one of Hollywood‘s great early comedies. Directed by George Cukor, it stars Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Ruth Hussey. It was nominated for all the top awards except best supporting actor. It won best actor for Jimmy Stewart and best screenplay for Donald Ogden Stewart.

"This film successfully translates the popular Phillip Barry play to the screen. Like the play, it is long on witty dialogue. Considered a classic, it is in the same league as Bringing Up Baby [1938] and His Girl Friday [1940]. The dialogue, acting and delivery are superb by all concerned.

"George Cukor is a legendary director who enjoyed working with Hepburn. Little needs to be said about him except to mention some of his great successes: Little Women [1933], David Copperfield [1935], Adam‘s Rib [1949] and of course My Fair Lady [1964].


"The version of the film we have is unfortunately colorized by Ted Turner. However, with a wire cutter it should not be difficult to find and disconnect the chroma circuit in the Scheding‘s television. This will let us see the film in its original form."


Trivia:

"The leading lady in The Philadelphia Story is named Tracy Lord. Some may remember the scandal in the late 1980‘s when it was revealed that the then infamous adult film actress Tracy Lords used a phony driver‘s license to prove her age, making movies when she was only fifteen. One supposes her stage name came from this film.

"The US government tried to prosecute the producers of her earlier films for child pornography, claiming that the producers should have known the license was a forgery. The cases fell apart when it was revealed that Tracy Lords travelled using a similarly deceptive US passport. Apparently, the US government didn‘t know any better either. Pot, kettle, black. Are any of us surprised?"

--ggf

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"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" [David Swift (II)] 1967

"I lieu of a review from John Fedel, I have ‘borrowed‘ this from IMDB by Lee Horton

"J. Pierpont Finch, a young but bright window-cleaner buys a book - "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying." and following it‘s advice joins the multi-national but poorly-connected "World-Wide Wicket Company". Starting from the mail-room he rises to Vice-President in Charge Of Advertising using sneaky and dubious ways so that the person above him gets either fired or moved to another section of the company. He also starts slowly falling in love with secretary Rosemary Pilkington. Meanwhile, the president of the WWWC, J.B. Biggley, tries to have an affair with drop-dead gorgeous bubble-head Hedy LaRue, but she becomes a weapon used both by Finch and Bud Frump, Biggley‘s brattish and annoying nephew who believe that he should get all the breaks and not Finch. Can Finch rise to the top or will it all go down in flames... "

--wls

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"The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" [Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger] 1943

"The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is a film that most people have not even heard of, let alone seen. Yet it is considered outside of Britain to be one of the best films ever made there and it is sometimes called a masterpiece.

"The film was written and directed by the team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who called themselves The Archers. The film stars Roger Livesay as officer Wynn Candy, Anton Walbrook as his Prussian counterpart and Deborah Kerr as the different loves of Candy as he progresses through 40 years of life. The title of the film refers to a satiric comic strip character Colonel Blimp, who was a dim-witted member of the British ruling class.

"The team of Powell and Pressburger made some of the best films of the 40‘s. The Red Shoes [1948] remains today a classic of cinema, while the Thief of Bagdad [1940] and Black Narcissus [1947] are considered excellent. Most notably, the team and its cinemetographers had a masterful command of scenery and color.

"The film is sentimental. It is centered around two gentlemen born in the late Victorian era, one a British officer and the other a Prussian officer. They eventually become friends and as the years pass they watch as their countries change around them, from ones where honor is everything, to ones where honor is a drawback. The film also makes the point that serious friendship can transcend national differences.

"Although originally thought of as a work of propaganda, this is a complex film far removed from typical war-time fare. Powell and Pressburger were not jingoists. It is also important to realize that when the film was made, the outcome of the war was unknown.

"The War Office and Winston Churchill thought that the film was insufficiently patriotic. First, because it portrayed a senior British officer as outdated, and second, that it allowed a friendship to develop between British and German officers. Churchill did succeed in banning it for export, but the film was approved for British release in 1943 and apparently did well. The film has been heavily chopped for reissue though, sometimes losing over 40 minutes. Amazingly, even though shot in Technicolor, it was often shown in B&W.

"Part of the reason for the film‘s cold historic reputation is likely the reputation of Michael Powell. Already somewhat suspect for Blimp, he seriously pushed at the limits of film material with Peeping Tom [1960]. This was a Freudian film about a serial killer. It was a frank film that was called sick and nasty by critics, who attacked Powell personally. Curiously, Hitchcock was not so criticised for Psycho [1960]. Powell could not find work in Britan afterwards for decades. The recent revival of his reputation internationally is largely a result of his work being championed by Scorcese and Coppola.

"The version of Blimp we will see is remastered Technicolor and apparently full-length at nearly 163 minutes. It is currently unavailable in the USA.


"Trivia:

"The War Office refused any support and would not release serving actors to work on the film, such as the originally cast Laurence Oliver. The directors worked around all the difficulties put in their way. However, this raised costs to the point where it remains one of the most expensive British films."

--ggf

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"Erin Brockovich" [Steven Soderbergh] 2000

"Julia Roberts stars in this legal drama based on the true story of a woman who helped win the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit. Erin Brockovich (Roberts) is a single mother of three who, after losing a personal injury lawsuit, asks her lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert Finney), if he can help her find a job. Ed gives her work as a file clerk in his office, and she runs across some information on a little-known case filed against Pacific Gas and Electric. Erin begins digging into the particulars of the case, convinced that the facts simply don‘t add up, and persuades Ed to allow her to do further research; in time, she discovers a systematic cover-up of the industrial poisoning of a city‘s water supply, which threatens the health of the entire community. Erin Brockovich was directed by Steven Soderbergh; Julia Roberts earned a $20 million payday for her work on the film, the highest salary paid to a female film star up to that time."

--md

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"The Maltese Falcon" [John Huston] 1941

"The Maltese Falcon is an icon of cinema. Directed and scripted by John Huston as his first film, it stars Humphrey Bogart as the private detective Sam Spade. This film made Bogart a star and allowed him to leave behind his previous career as a B-film gangster. The film‘s success also launched Huston‘s career. The film was nominated for best screenplay, picture and supporting actor, but won no Oscars. It had the misfortune of competing against How Green Was My Valley [1941] and Citizen Kane [1941], both stronger films.

"An ocean of words and reviews have been written about The Maltese Falcon, the third and charmed film version of the Dashiell Hammet novel. Since most are familiar with what has been said about this icon, the more obscure bits are presumably more interesting to us.

"The first film version was The Maltese Falcon [1931]. It is faithful to the novel and well thought of, even though few have seen it. Made shortly before the code rigidly controlled content, Sam Spade clearly plays the field sexually and a homosexual affair is suggested between Wilmer and Guttman.

"It is generally conceded that the Huston version was a direct remake of the 1931 film. Many scenes are similar. Reviewers point out that with the exception of the roles of Fatman Gutman and Joel Cairo, the first version has more believable characterization. However, Huston was a better director and was interested in developing new shooting styles. His experimentation was successful and lent a novel air to his version, which some consider the first film-noir movie.

"The second version was Satan Met a Lady [1936]. It is not distinguished, except that it is perhaps Bette Davis‘ most forgettable leading role ... assuming that is possible. Rather than a jewel-encrusted falcon, Davis searches for the horn of a ram full of jewels. Some think this was a spoof. Most have never heard of it."

--ggf

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"The Blue Max" [John Guillermin] 1966

"Friday is certainly an odd day for this, but as Wednesday was taken up with parades and fireworks, we rescheduled. Tonite we will be sampling some interesting Spanish liquors, imagining what it was like to be around Hemingway, and then recovering by watching the WWI aviation epic The Blue Max.


"The Blue Max is an epic film of WWI aviation told from the German side. Directed by John Guillermin, it stars George Peppard, James Mason, Ursula Andress and Anton Diffring.

"Although a great deal of money was spent on this epic, it is not a great film. Five writers had a hand at shaping the script and what results is somewhat implausible. However, it remains memorable for two reasons. First, it has a great soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith. Second, the extensive scenes depicting WWI aviation remain superb and were very dangerous to shoot. Some consider them the best aerial scenes ever captured. Peppard was a pilot and flies in some scenes.

"Ostensibly, this film is about a lower-class man who siezes an opportunity to cross class boundaries in German society by becoming a fighter pilot. Fighter pilots in WWI were seen as, and often came from, the aristocracy.

"George Peppard plays a common soldier, Bruno Stachel, who tries to break out of the trenches and enter society. Although Peppard is a good actor, this is poor casting. Peppard‘s face and bearing are aristocratic, making his role a bit unbelievable. Although Stachel desparately wants to be upper class, without the right breeding, he cannot control his ambition. He becomes a hero, but commits taboos that eventually doom him.

"The film also includes a love affair between the Stachel and the wife of an aristocratic staff officer. Although this is in the book from which the film was made, the treatment seems much like a soap opera.

"Unfortunately, we will be watching a pan-and-scan version, a sad thing for a widescreen epic film. Regrettably, it is only available in VHS. The film is 155 minutes long and was shot entirely in Ireland."

--ggf

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"The Naked Prey" [Cornel Wilde] 1966

"The film tonight will be a bit unusual. The Naked Prey [1966] is on the one hand a traditional 1950/60s safari film, but on the other, raw, personal and treads very much not on the beaten path.


"The Naked Prey was directed and stars Cornel Wilde. Wilde was a well-known B-grade actor, best known as a swashbuckler who could wield a sword well. His physical skills were impressive. An Olympic-class athlete, he maintained his prowess well into middle age. Not getting the roles he wanted, he decided to direct.

"Wilde was an average actor and director. However, with The Naked Prey he hit a home run that earned him serious professional respect.

"This film is exceedingly unusual in that it has virtually no dialog for 3/4 of its length. It is a color epic that could almost be considered a silent. However, it is riveting. Nearly unique among modern films, it demonstrates how much can be done with situation, physical acting, scenery and plot, without the need for dialogue. Curiously, the film was nominated for best screenplay!

"The dominant centerpiece of this film is a foot pursuit of Wilde across the African veldt. This is shot with no apology for the squeamish viewer. Both the pursuit and nature are shot here raw and unfiltered, unusally so. The only reason why the viewer feels that Wilde may have a chance at survival is his superb endurance conditioning. If this were shot today with Stallone or Schwarzeneger, it would not be convincing.

"This film has been severely criticised for being racist. Viewed from the hothouse of the late 1960s and 1970s, it is easy to see why. It remains politically incorrect to this day and for that reason many consider it severely overlooked an underrated. Viewed in historic setting and considering how the natives are portrayed during the chase, the racism charge is weak. That said, this film will not be everyone‘s cup of tea. The only other safari film similar in quality is Hatari! [1962].

"Unfortunately, the beautiful color and scope of this film is, like the The Blue Max [1966], badly hurt by being presented in pan-and-scan rather than letterbox format."

--ggf

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"Full Metal Jacket" [Stanley Kubrick] 1987

"Requests were received to watch another Stanley Kubrick film, so Full Metal Jacket [1987] was picked.


"Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest directors. He made only eleven films since 1955, more then half of which are considered great films. Full Metal Jacket [1987] was his next to last film and the second purely military film that he made, Paths of Glory [1957] being the other.

"Critics do not consider Full Metal Jacket to be one of his best films. Which isn‘t to say that it is weak, merely that it does not come up the the level of his best. Compared with earlier Vietnam War films, The Deer Hunter [1978], Apocalypse Now [1979] and Platoon [1986], it is found wanting, especially with respect to the first.

"The film is divided into two halves, the superb section covering the main character‘s basic training and later his in-country experience on the battle field. The first half profoundly affects the viewer. It is better written than the second half, which covers battlefield material already seen in other films and done better there, whether one considers the reality of Platoon or surrealism of Apocalypse Now. The first half also has the stronger roles. As a result the second half lets down the film.


"Although this film is out on both DVD and tape, calling around the DVD is still hard to find, so we will be watching this on tape."

--ggf

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"Good Morning Vietnam" [Barry Levinson] 1987

"Last week‘s film was Kubrick‘s serious take on Vietnam. Partly as a reaction to that, we‘ll watch Good Morning Vietnam [1987] the film that is sometimes called the Vietnam war‘s "MASH".


"Good Morning Vietnam was directed by Barry Levinson and stars Robin Williams. Loosely based upon the experiences of Adrian Cronauer, a wise-cracking US Air Force DJ, this film is a tailored showcase for Robin Williams‘ talents as a comedian and actor, but it is not a biographical depiction of Cronauer.

"Critics are all over the map on this film. Some believe it to be Robin Williams best work to date, a position I take exception to. Others think the movie a manipulative, inaccurate, politically-correct failure. Still others see the film as a getting-of-wisdom film in which Cronauer comes to see the humanity of the Vietnamese and the pointless horror of the war.

"Almost inevitably, one would expect tension between Williams techniques and the desire to film a docudrama about Cronauer. Williams monologues are well-written and delivered comedic material, although some of it is out of place for the mid-1960s. His shtick functions as the core of the film around which the plot is wrapped, rather than the other way around. Levinson apparently decided to give Williams his head of steam and lets accuracy and plot development take second seat. Thus, if you want to see who Cronauer was and what happened to him, the movie is a work of fiction, which could explain some of the bitter reviews."

--ggf

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"The Big Sleep" [Howard Hawks] 1946

"Most people have seen The Big Sleep at one time or another. It is considered a classic of american film. However, although critically successful, it was a mess that was torn apart, recut and partially refilmed before its release.

"Based upon Raymond Chandler‘s first novel, the plot was too complex and involved to translate to the screen well. The film was finished in 1945 but held on the shelf awaiting a better time for release. Meanwhile, To Have and Have Not [1944], also with Bogart and Bacall and also directed by Hawks, became a huge hit. This catapulted Bacall from a minor actress to a star.

"Bacall‘s agent noticed that in her role as Vivian Sternwood she was seriously overshadowed in the Big Sleep by Martha Vickers, who played her sister Carmen apparently too well. Concerned about Bacall‘s career as a big money generator, the studio recut the film to remove most of Vickers‘ scenes. This removed 18 minutes from the film. The result was apparently incomprehensible. Hawkes threatened to sue and the studio called him back to shoot additional scenes so that the film could be recut and pieced together for a third time. Sixteen minutes of material not in the original cut were put into the third cut that became the film‘s released version.

"Missing from the William Faulkner‘s original screenplay and from Chandler‘s novel were the saucy interplay between Bogart and Bacall that helped make To Have and Have Not a hit. Hawkes and the screenwriters added a key scene that changed the tone between Bogart and Bacall to that of a romance.

"Reviewers often note the smoldering romance between Bogart and Bacall in this film and point to it as a key reason for the film‘s success, but it was an afterthought. With the plot being so complex and hard to follow, what apparently happened was a decision to turn the film into a romance, moving the plot toward the background. To actually see the Chandler novel brought to the screen more accurately, one needs to watch the 1978 version of The Big Sleep with Robert Mitchum as the lead. While much closer in spirit to the novel, this version also plays games with the material, being set in England and brought forward in time to the 1970s.

"Hawkes was an amazingly talented director. Able to make singularly fine films in most any genre, whether that be comedy, Bringing Up Baby [1938], film-noir such as this film, horror/SF, The Thing from Another World [1951] which he co-directed, westerns, Red River [1948] or action, Hatari! [1962]. Hawks made forty films since 1930 and most are well-above average. During the last years of his career, Hawks primarily made films with John Wayne, of which Rio Bravo [1959] and Hatari are superb."

--ggf

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"The Usual Suspects" [Bryan Singer] 1995

"Tonight we are going to watch The Usual Suspects [1995] for comparison against Memento [2000] in the not too distant future.


"The Usual Suspects was a commercially successful film that got tremendous ‘buzz‘. It was in general not well liked by older professional critics, yet often liked by younger critics or critics writing for youth-oriented outlets. Why? What are the film‘s strengths and weaknesses?

"The acting in this film is its big strength. It has a fine ensemble cast. The role of Verbal Kint won a best actor oscar for Kevin Spacey. Pete Postlethwaite as Kobayashi is superb as an evil right-hand man for the mysterious mastermind Keyser Soze.

"The film also won the best screenplay oscar. But oddly enough it is the plot that many critics feel is the film‘s big flaw. The plot is complex, conspiracy oriented and has a final twist that surprised audiences. It is this twist that bothered critics who did not like the film. For some it was seen as a negating all the logic of the plot. Generally, it was seen as being just too clever to be believed. Often critics went to some effort to understand the plot, becoming frustrated with its outcome. Overall, the feeling here seems to be that this is a film with a Mission Impossible TV episode quality that initially promised much more.

"Younger critics seemed to adore the Kobayashi character. But this script idea is not original. Conan Doyle created Colonel Sebastian Moran and Moriarty more than a century before. Another feature that seemed to wow younger critics was the heavy use the film made of flashback. That again is nothing new. I am left wondering whether or not the divide between younger and older critics is one of experience or possibly pandering to an inexperienced audience.

"However, this is still an enjoyable diversion."

--ggf

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"Memento" [Christopher Nolan] 2000

"Susan has grabbed a copy of Memento [2000] for tonight. This is to be compared with last week‘s The Usual Suspects for plotting. Memento is considered to be both a fine example of modern film noir and stylistically inventive. Like Usual Suspects, Memento has a complex plot that angered some reviewers.

"I am told that Mr. Bill will write a more extensive review."

--ggf
Ed. Note: OK, fine here goes.


"The reason this film caught my attention was not the plot of a revenge-seeking husband trying to find his wife‘s murder, nor the short-term memory loss that plagued our hero, Leonard Shelby (played by Guy Pearce), but how the clever cinematographers, directed by Christopher Nolan, could take 20 minutes of raw film and create a two hour movie.

"Like "The Usual Suspects" the film has a story with many flash backs which like Lenny - "Don‘t call me Lenny," trying to reach back into his memory, is used to reveal the true story. We start at the end of the story with a murder, but is this the real killer of Leonard‘s wife? Then we meet the seductive Natalie (played by Carrie-Anne Moss), who may have her own agenda and a grudge to settle with a local drug dealer. Finally, Teddy, whose real job is not clear, but bears a striking resemblance to a close family friend and turkey farmer - Glen. In any case they manage to score some cash and a nice new car, which needs a car wash. It‘s surprising that in this farm town only one car is dusty.

"The very creative use of flash-backs and timing of plot segments leads to a film that you either love or hate. One soon to be famous quote is "Let‘s see what’s going on here. I‘m chasing him? NO! He‘s chasing me!" demonstrates how difficult short-term memory loss can be for an investigative insurance claim adjuster.

"Lenoard faced with trying to sort out the facts, depends on a Polaroid Camera, tattoos, and body real-estate to remember critical facts. The key is to keep an eye on the left breast.

"All in all it has moments that like Psycho could rattle you in your seat and great mystery elements to sole. It is a fine film, it‘s out in DVD the week after it closed in the theaters. I plan to own a copy. Hurry, two of the three DVDs at the local Blockbuster have already been stolen!"

--wls

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"Bull Durham" [Ron Shelton] 1988

"Time for a comedy we think. After having taken requests, the film tonight will be Bull Durham.


"There is something about the nature of baseball that lends itself to the telling of stories, whether that be in the form of comedy, musical, satire, myth or tragedy. Bull Durham [1988] is a light comedy/romance and a case in point.

"This film was both written and directedby Ron Shelton, who was nominated for best screenplay for this work. Shelton makes the viewer believe that the characters really know baseball. This is no accident, since Shelton apparently spent some time in the minor leagues as an infielder. Shelton has made a career out of making sport-related movies, covering basketball, baseball, boxing and golf. One wonders what sport will be next?

"Baseball players often consider Bull Durham the best movie about baseball that has been made to date. As a baseball comedy, it easily surpasses Major League [1989], which was overly broad and made to cash in on Bull Durham‘s success.

"The two central characters in the film, Crash Davis and Annie Savoy, are played by Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon. Sarandon‘s character is not believable, but then neither was Julia Roberts‘ character in Pretty Woman. If you put the baseball aside, the romance in this film resembles a fairy tale. Being part fairy tale didn‘t hurt Pretty Woman and it doesn‘t hurt this film either. If there is a weakness, it is that Bull Durham lags toward the end. Perhaps it could have been cut a bit."

--ggf

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"South Park" [Trey Parker] 1997

"Tonight we partake deeply of a recent example of America‘s artistic and comedic creativity ... and then try to redeem ouselves with some inspired British lunacy.


"South Park Conceived and primarily written by Trey Parker. This is a very successful minimalist-animated comedy series. The lead in disclaimer when an episode is broadcast is nearly correct: "The following program contains coarse language, and due to its content, it should not be viewed by anyone."

"On the whole the material is sophmoric, like a Porky‘s film, if you have been so unlucky as to have seen one of those. So why watch a couple of episodes? Because it can be amusingly politically incorrect. The drawback is that episodes are also quite topical and so become dated quickly. Tonite for example a poke is taken at Brando for The Island of Doctor Moreau [1997]. Few people saw this disaster of a film. Very few remember it now.

"The episodes chosen for tonight‘s viewing are examples of Trey Parker‘s political attitude. The second is perhaps the best example. Apparently, Parker doesn‘t like Barbra Streisand‘s public political posturing. If you do like Babs, you won‘t like this episode.

"If one were to get serious about South Park, it can be described as an anti-Peanuts strip. The central theme of both is a group of kids growing up in a small town. Where Peanuts is warm and fuzzy, South Park is cold and prickly. South Park has been repeatedly nominated for Emmy‘s.

"Following the two episodes of South Park will be a Wooster and Jeeves episode to help us all feel righteously clean again."

--ggf

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"Wooster and Jeeves" [various] 1990-1993

"Wooster and Jeeves was a series of BBC adaptations of P.G. Wodehouse‘s best-known characters, the lovable, upper-class twit Bertie Wooster and his brilliant butler Reginald Jeeves.

"The Wodehouse world is that of the useless upper-class society in Britain of the 1920s. Wodehouse was a master at writing light-comedy. Probably the most successful author in the genre, easily forty of his novels and short-story collections are still in print, even though most are more than fifty years old.

"This series of adaptations for television star Hugh Laurie as Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves. This is easily the best adaptation of these characters that has been done to date and it is hard to believe it could be done any better. If I could I would invite the actors and producer Brian Eastman to the Drones Club for some dinner."

--ggf

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"MASH" [Robert Altman] 1970

"We have a consensus, such as these are around here. We will be watching M*A*S*H , the comedy upon which the TV series was based.


"MASH was directed by Robert Altman. It was based upon the novle by Rickard Hooker and adapted for the screen by Ring Lardner. The film received Academy nominations best picture, director, editing, supporting actress for Sally Kellerman and screen play. It won best screenplay. This was Lardner‘s second Oscar.

"MASH was Robert Altman‘s first big success. A black comedy, the film takes an irreverent look at the wartime exploits of a MASH unit (mobile army surgical hospital) during the Korean war.

"The film was a great success critically and with younger audiences. This was no accident. The attitude of the film is contempt for authority and hatred of war. In the year of its release opposition to the Vietnam war was nearing its zenith. The film matched well the attitudes of protesters and the college aged.

"MASH has a fine cast, Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland star, with Robert Duvall and Sally Kellerman in supporting roles. The film is also notable for its directorial style, which was highly improvisational.

"Oddly enough, the super-patriotic Patton won the Oscar for best picture in 1970. One can speculate whether the Academy was a bit hesitant about displeasing the political powers. While the film can be compared with the TV series version of MASH, the film is more honest, harder edged and darker.

"As a bit of trivia, the theme somg was written by Altman‘s 14 year old son."

--ggf

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"Playtime" [Jacques Tati] 1967

"After last week‘s amazing consensus ... this week nobody chimed in. We do have a vote for Boys From Brazil for next week.

"In a bold and probably dangerous bid to reclaim the high ground from the previous three weeks of comedy ... we‘ll see a comedy, Jacques Tati‘s film Playtime.


"Playtime was directed, stars and was co-written by Jacques Tati. This film is French and has no sub-titles. Our rule being no sub-titled films, if you do not understand French, bring a friend who does and who can whisper in your ear [before exploding in righteous indignation ... read on].

"Playtime is considered a comedic masterpiece by many critics, who give it four out of four stars. Tati‘s realm is that of the complex, subtly choreographed sight gag. Since dialogue is very incidental to this film, there is very little of it. What little dialog is needed by an English-speaking audience has been added by Art Buchwald.

"Lack of dialog coupled with the visual comedy has made some compare Tati‘s work to that of Buster Keaton. Playtime is not silent though. Indeed, sound itself becomes a comedic element in several key scenes, but not dialog. And although Keaton is a master of visual comedy, Tati‘s work here is both much more complex and pointed.

"Tati saw the French government and businesses begin to embrace the modern International Style of architecture after the end of WWII. This style is most closely associated with the work of architects Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rowe and Le Corbusier. We primarily notice it as the concrete, steel and glass cube look of so many of the skyscrapers built between 1950-1975. It is also seen in the tall housing project blocks built after the war that failed miserably to better the lives of the poor and lower-middle classes.

"The charge of inhumanity now sticks to this type of architecture. Indeed, Mies called his "machines for living". The hope of this design school was that human health and happiness could be engineered into peoples lives through their surroundings. A noble attempt, but not a successful one.

"As Tati experienced International Style buildings in person and saw the skyline of Paris being changed irrevocably, he decided it was time to point out how un-human this architecture was and how much more beautiful old Paris is. Playtime is the visual satire that resulted. Tati took this jab a decade before ‘modern‘ style was oveturned as the dominant style for large-scale architecture.


"This is a bit risky, some may not like this film. But as it and its creator are nearly unique, it seemed worth the risk. If you don‘t like it, blame Fedel, who‘ll be at the Microscopic Society tonight. I had nothing to do with this ..."

--ggf

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"Charade" [Stanley Donen] 1963

"Time to answer long-standing request for another Cary Grant film. Tonite we watch Charade [1963].


"Charade [1963] stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Although not considered a great film, Charade is certainly well made. Where it does excel is being enjoyable.

"Charade was produced and directed by Stanley Donen. The supporting cast is strong, in particular Walter Matthau. The theme song by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer was nominated for an Oscar. Peter Stone deserves credit for a witty script.

"A romantic mystery, Charade is often taken to be a Hitchcock film. This is not surprising. The film has a pacing similiar to two of Hitchcock‘s lighter films that indeed starred Cary Grant, To Catch a Thief [1955] and North By Northwest [1959] (Many consider Hitchcock invented this genre with The 39 Steps [1935]).

"Donen tried his hand at two films that could be called Hitchcock-like: Charade, and Arabesque [1966], the latter more strictly a thriller. Both were fine efforts and demonstrate that Donen was a broadly talented director. However, it is for his classic musicals that Donen will be remembered: On the Town [1949], Royal Wedding [1951], Seven Brides for Seven Brothers [1954], Funny Face [1957], Damn Yankees [1958], and the jewel in his crown, Singin‘ in the Rain [1952].

"As director of first rate musical film, Donen has only one competitor -- Vincente Minnelle. Curiously, Donen never got a director Oscar for his work when it was made. It was many years later in 1998 that he was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar. Minnelli won his Oscar for Gigi [1958].

"Nearing the end of his career, Grant at 59 was still effective as a leading man. Although Hepburn was 34, the romance between them in Charade is believable. So effective was Grant that Ian Fleming patterned James Bond on Grant‘s personna. Where Grant was concerned, life immitated art. Grant retired three years after Charade, married Dyan Cannon and became a father. Incidentally, Cannon was then 28."

--ggf

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"Mr. & Mrs. Smith" [Alfred Hitchcock] 1941

"As agreed last week, we watch a Hitchcock comedy, Mr. & Mrs. Smith [1941].


"Mr. & Mrs. Smith stars Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery. The screenplay was written by Norman Krasna, who was nominated for four Oscars. Krasna‘s place in film history is perhaps best cemented by The Devil and Miss Jones.

"Alfred Hitchcock did direct a couple of comedies. Mr. & Mrs. Smith [1941] is one of these. Although not his normal material, Hitchcock was a great director and had a wicked sense of humour, so it is not too surprising that when he tried his hand at comedy, what resulted was successful. However, directing this film was not his idea, but Carole Lombard‘s. Another Hitchcock comedy is The Trouble With Harry [1955].

"This film is a screwball comedy and generally considered to have too weak an ending. It is suspected that production was cut for some reason, with a clumsy, unplanned ending the result. The fine performances by Lombard and Montgomery are what set it apart.

"Carole Lombard is considered to be one of Hollywood‘s best comedic actresses. Of unusual intellect for a starlet, toward the end of her career she could pick her scripts and commanded a statospheric salary. Unfortunately, she died when only 33 in a plane crash during a war bond sales tour in January 1942. My Man Godfrey [1936], Nothing Sacred [1937] and To Be Or Not To Be [1942], which she never saw, are considered her best comedies.


"As an aside, the French film Le Fabuleux destin d‘Amelie Poulain [2001], often shortened to Amelie or Amelie from Montmarte, has gotten astoundingly good reviews. It is directed by the visual artist Jean-Pierre Jeunet, made famous by Delicatessen [1991]. It is currently ranked 9.0/10 by many thousand reviewers in IMDB, which ties it for top film with The Godfather. This sort of overwhelmingly rapid response has not happened before."

--ggf

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"The Sand Pebbles" [Robert Wise] 1966

"Last week, due to a lack of organization, we had pot luck, which turned out to be The Sand Pebbles, directed by Robert Wise and starring Candice Bergen, Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough.


"The Sand Pebbles, is directed by Robert Wise and stars Candice Bergen, Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough. Wise had just completed a string of fine films, West Side Story, The Sound of Music and The Haunting. The Sand Pebbles was his war movie. Although nominated for eight Oscars, best picture, actor, supporting actor, cinematography, music and others, it lost out primarily to A Man For All Seasons [1966]. Two things worked against this film, its political content and its pacing.

"Sand Pebbles is considered over-long by some reviewers, who see the film as having too much peripheral character development. The feeling is that one or more sub plots could have been entirely removed without altering the film‘s overall point yet improving its sometimes slow pacing. The part of the commander, played by Richard Crenna, is perhaps too thinly sketched to be effective. On the other hand, each subplot serves to flesh out McQueen‘s anti-hero character and this film is often taken to be the zenith of McQueen‘s professional skill.

"Wise made the film have a Vietnam anti-war theme, disguising it by placing the film in 1920‘s China during a civil war. He also made explicit US racial prejudice. These were not popular positions to take in 1966. Perhaps the film was three years too soon.

"These negatives aside, the film is beautifully shot and the action scenes, appearing toward the end of the film, are well orchestrated.


"As a peculiarity, the oriental female supporting actress, Emmanuelle Arsan, later became (in)famous as the author of the Emmanuelle novels and screenplays, which are enshrined in adult cinema history."

--ggf

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"We‘re No Angels" [Michael Curtiz] 1955

"We have four votes for We‘re No Angels. As that is a reasonable consensus and I was able to find it, that‘s what it will be.


"We‘re No Angels was directed by Michael Curtiz. Based upon the play by Albert Husson, the film stars Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray acting as an ensemble. Supporting roles are played by Basil Rathbone, Leo G. Carroll, Joan Bennett, and lest we forget, Adolphe the viper.

"Curtiz had a long career as a director. He was also one of the first directors, starting in his native Hungary in 1912. He directed 171 films by the time of his last film in 1961. With that many films to his credit, it is not surprising that most were unremarkable. Equally, it would be surprising if none were remarkable, and indeed, Curtiz directed some of Hollywood‘s best films. He is remembered primarily for Captain Blood [1935], The Adventures of Robin Hood [1938], Yankee Doodle Dandy [1942] and Casablanca [1942]. Curtiz was nominated for best director five times and won with Casablanca.

"We‘re No Angels falls into Curtiz‘s second-best category of films. It is a black comedy and rarely seen now. The film makes plain its evolution from a play, which some saw as a fault, while others believed it oversanitized the play. However, the performances given by the ensemble are unnaturally warm and carefree, supposedly the result of an unusually happy set. This feeling is often transmitted to viewers, making this an enjoyable film. Some consider this film holiday fare, which is odd, considering what happens in it.


"Aldo Ray had a disappointing and sad career. He became so typecast as a tough guy that it became increasingly difficult for him to find work. By the early 1970s he had to accept roles in cheap exploitation films. A fine example being Bog [1978] wherein dynamite fishing revives a prehistoric monster that requires the blood of human females to survive. Financial troubles eventually drove him to act in non-union productions, which cost him his SAG membership in the 1980‘s. We‘re No Angels, Pat And Mike [1952] and The Naked And the Dead [1958] are likely his best films."

--ggf

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