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WNM Movie Night Liner Notes

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2004

Title: Director [Year]
"All About My Mother"* Pedro Almodovar [1999]
"Open Range"* Kevin Kostner [2003]
"The African Queen"* John Huston [1951]
"Catch Me If You Can"* Steven Spielberg [2002]
"Pirates of the Carribean"* Gore Verbinski [2003]
"Avanti!" Billy Wilder [1972]
"Ace in the Hole" Billy Wilder [1951]
"Dogma" Kevin Smith [1999]
"Heavens Above!" John and Roy Boulting [1963]
"Boogie Nights" Paul Thomas Anderson [1997]
"Assassination Tango" Robert Duvall [2002]
"Vixen"* Russ Meyer [1968]
"Tokyo Decadence"* Ryu Murakami [1992]
"His Girl Friday"* Howard Hawks [1940]
"Clockwise"* Christopher Morahan [1986]
"Intolerable Cruelty"* Joel & Ethan Coen [2003]
"A Fish Called Wanda"* Charles Crichton [1988]
"A League of Their Own" Penney Marshall [1992]
"Bubba Ho-tep" Don Coscarelli [2002]
"Sweet Smell of Success" Alexander Mackendrick [1957]
"Saving Private Ryan" Steven Spielberg [1998]
"Saint Jack" Peter Bogdanovich [1979]
"Cactus Flower" Gene Saks [1969]
"The Man in the White Suit" Alexander Mackendrick [1951]
"Dirty Harry" Don Siegel [1971]
"Touching the Void" Kevin Macdonald [2003]
"The Enforcer"* James Fargo [1976]
"After Hours"* Martin Scorsese [1985]
"Mona Lisa" Neil Jordan [1986]
Error: 'Mystic River' has a wrong year seen in the review. It should be 2004. Or you have seen it more than once.
"A Touch of Class" Melvin Frank [1973]
"Blood Simple" Joel and Ethan Cohen [1984]
"The Pink Panther Strikes Again" Blake Edwards [1976]
"Jeeves and Wooster"* Second Season (TV) [1992]
"Heaven's Above"* John and Roy Boulting [1963]

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

Liner Notes.

© 2004 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."


"Avanti!" [Billy Wilder] 1972

"Billy Wilder was likely Hollywood‘s best writer/director. He was nominated for eleven best writing and eight best director Oscars, winning six times including the hat trick of best picture, director and writer for The Apartment [1960]. His credits include Ninotchka [1939], Double Indemnity [1944], The Lost Weekend [1945], Sunset Blvd. [1950], Ace in the Hole [1951], Stalag 17 [1953], The Seven Year Itch [1955], Some Like It Hot [1959] and The Apartment [1960].

"Avanti! [1972] was made toward the end of Wilder‘s career. Not many people have seen this film and it was not a critical success when released. It was criticized for being overlong and suffering by comparison with films he made earlier that were judged great. Is it a great film? No, it‘s not Sunset Blvd. or The Apartment, but the criticism is not really well justified. Avanti‘s strengths remain its well written screenplay and excellent performances by Jack Lemmon, Juliet Mills and Clive Revill.

"Sometimes the subject matter of a film runs into social taboos that overwhelm its positive qualties. Hitchcock‘s The Trouble with Harry [1956] was a comedy about a corpse that wouldn‘t stay buried. This turned audiences off and the film became a commercial failure even though it was a fine film. In Avanti Wilder made a similar mistake, again making corpses the McGuffin. He also took the position that having a mistress can be a fine thing, surprised his audience by making some use of nudity, casted against type and included a crime-of-passion murder in a comedy. This mix didn‘t attract either contemporary audiences or critics.

"Is this film long? Yes. Running 2 hours and 25 minutes puts it into the epic category. But although some consider it overlong, Jack Lemmon‘s central chacracter needs time to develop and change from an unpleasant businessman for whom everything else is secondary to relaxed man who rediscovers the pleasures of life. If it had been made a standard 90 minute feature, the story wouldn‘t have worked. Length also gave Wilder the time to develop small sub-plots and make good use visual comedy bits that are scattered throughout the film.

"The most interesting thing about this film will be whether you like it or not."

--ggf

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"Ace in the Hole" [Billy Wilder] 1951

"Billy Wilder‘s professional life can be divided into three big major chunks: His German one, his collaboration with Charles Brackett, who was president of the Screen Writer‘s Guild, and his last chunk with I.A.L. Diamond.

"The Brackett chunk was 13 films, starting with Bluebeard‘s Eighth Wife [1938] and terminating with Sunset Blvd. [1950]. Ace in the Hole [1951] was the first story he created, flexing his muscles and pushing Paramount around a bit to get the film made.

"The Ace in the Hole story is based upon two big news stories. The first is the 1925 story of Floyd Collins who owned Crystal Cave in Kentucky. He was trapped in his cave by a landslide and eventually died after a few weeks of being trapped. It was a huge national story that ran day after day. This incident is mentioned in the film. As in the film, a reporter frm a single paper to a great degree managed the rescue effort.

"The second incident that Ace in the Hole was based upon is the Kathy Fiscus well tragedy of 1949, wich took pace in San Marino. This was the first major live story done by television. Fifty hours were spent trying to rescue Kathy and 27 of those were broadcast live from the site. As in the film, rescuers tried to reach her by digging a well from the top to reach her, but they arrived too late to save her life. There were only 20,000 TV sets in LA at this time, which shows how quickly TV news learned to count on sensationalism for its audience.

"Ace in the Hole was inexpensive at $1.8M, but although Wilder got an Oscar nomination and the film was well received in Europe, it flopped badly in the US. This cost Wilder his autonomy and two years in the woods. He started doing adaptations again right away with Stalag-17 [1953]. It is said that it wasn‘t until 1960 that he risked creating another story [Sunset Boulevard, by Ed Sikov].

"Ace in the Hole was uniformly savaged in the press. The tabloids saw it as an attack on them. The red scare and McCarthyism was on its way. Anything seen as critisizing America was in touble. For his part, Wilder in his later life stated that Ace was the best picture he ever made, but it was also the "runt of his litter".

"As to why this film remains unavailable to buy on either tape or DVD is a bit of a mystery. It would find a small but ready market, since it is a fine film and many appreciate Wilder‘s works. Ace can be purchased on VHS as a collector purchase from Roberts Hard to Find Videos. The quality of this copy is unknown. It is also available on DVD as a recording from an apparently Portuguese sub-titled print. The DVD quality is unfortunately poor."

--ggf

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"Dogma" [Kevin Smith] 1999

"Tonight we are watching the irreverent Kevin Smith film Dogma [1999].


"Kevin Smith is an independent who sprung onto the scene fresh out of film school with the well-received comedy Clerks [1994]. Smith wrote and directed Clerks, which concerns poorly paid, disenchanted and young counter-help at a quickie mart. It cost an amazing $25,000 to make. Successful as it was, Smith was considered to have his thumb on the pulse of Generation-X concerns.

"Fresh from the success of Clerks, Hollywood gave Smith a few millions to make his next film Mallrats [1995]. This time Smith fired a loud blank. His next film was another low-budget film, Chasing Amy [1997]. Critics were again impressed with his writing talent. Both Clerks and Chasing Amy are on their way to being cult classics. Able again to get a large budget, Dogma [1999] proved that Smith was not a flash in the pan.

"If you are a Christian, whether you like or dislike Dogma will likely depend on how seriously you take your religion. Dogma is a comedy about God and the Catholic church. It is well-written, at times surprisingly so. It is also edgy. Its violent sequences mix disharmoniously with the comedy.

"Dogma ignited a storm of religious controversy when it was released. Many devout Christians considered it to be blasphemous. Smith provided them plenty of ammunition. The casting of Alanis Morissette as God was a stick in the eye. The devout usually do not mix their religion with serious satire.

"At its NYCity premiere in Lincoln Center, nearly two thousand protesters showed up. Disney and Miramax were apparently caught off-guard by the storm that Dogma created. Why they would be surprised is the surprise. Subtlety is not Dogma‘s strength. Perhaps they are godless. Disney ran for the hills, sold its rights to Miramax, who then distributed it via Lion‘s Gate as camouflage.

"Some critics dislike Dogma, while others praise it. Most agree however, that like or dislike it, Smith is quite inventive as a writer, while his direction is by comparison less spectacular.

"The cast includes Linda Fiorentino, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris Rock and a number of others in cameo roles. Smith himself plays the character Silent Bob, which he introduced in Clerks. As implied, Bob has few lines."

--ggf

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"Heavens Above!" [John and Roy Boulting] 1963

"Tonight we are watching the Peter Sellers film Heavens Above! [1963].


"Heavens Above! [1963] comes at the end of Sellers‘ time as an actor known almost exclusively to British audiences and the beginning of his ‘Hollywood‘ career.

"Better known at the time for his work in Ealing Studio comedies, Sellers was contracted to British Lion studios during the later 1950s and early 1960s. This film is considered by some to be the best of the work he did for British Lion.

"The plot involves a clerical error that sends the unworldly Rev. John Smallwood (Peter Sellers) to a parish that he is quite unqualified to lead. The plot revolves around naivete and good intentions gone horribly wrong.


"This film was produced, directed and partially written by the team of John and and Roy Boulting. Roy was a ladies man who was married six time. He was the cause of a great deal of scandal and heartache when he moved in with Hayley Mills, who was 33 years younger at the time. They married five years later and had a son. As a career manager for Hayley, he was judged a disaster and is credited with effectively destroying her screen career."

--ggf

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"Boogie Nights" [Paul Thomas Anderson] 1997

"Tonight we are watching Boogie Nights [1997].


"Boogie Nights was one of the best films made in 1997. Both written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, it was nominated for best screenplay, supporting actor and actress. It had a fatal flaw though, its subject matter was the porn film-making and what happended to it as it transitioned from its ‘golden age‘ in the mid-to-late 1970s, when features were shot-on-film, to the era of the cheapie shot-on-video features of the ‘80s.

"Making the porn industry the topic for a mainstream movie went too far for many. The film won no Oscars. However, Boogie Nights is not itself a porno film, but about the business of making porn films; its directors, money men, stars and their social lives.

"Anderson is touted as the best director to come out of the X-generation. The quality of his four films bears this out. Born in 1970, his first feature film was Hard Eight [1996], a fine, but smaller, and less ambitious film. His other two films were Punch-Drunk Love [2002] and Magnolia [1999]. Magnolia is considered to be perhaps a great film. Time will tell. Anderson is certainly precocious. He was only 26 when he wrote and directed Boogie Nights.

"The performances in Boogie Nights are uniformly good and the cast is a strong one. The main character, Dirk Diggler, is played by Mark Wahlberg. Particularly fine performances come from Burt Reynolds and Juianne Moore in the supporting roles for which they were nominated. Reynolds performance as the porno director Jack Horner is considered to be his best performance to date.

"What singularly impressed the critics was how this film treated the crash and burn excesses of the optimistic ‘70s as it progressed to the hangover of the ‘80s. It chronicles the sexual freedom, relative wealth and rise of the hard-drug culture in the porn industry of the San Fernando valley that in turn infected mainstream Hollywood. This came crashing down with the presidency of Ronald Reagan, his renewed War on (Some) Drugs and the advent of aids.

"===================================================================

"The golden age of porn filmmaking was roughly from 1970 to 1982. It was ushered in by a combination of factors. Chief among these were landmark liberal rulings by courts in the 1960s that freed the porno industry from its illegal ‘smoker room‘ past. Led by the tongue-in-cheek works of Russ Meyer and the films of Radley Metzger, porn films had became chic by the mid 1970s, showing regularly in art theatres next to Ingmar Bergman films.

"The golden age of the porn industry on the other hand thundered in when inexpensive video tape machines allowed people to watch these films in the privacy of their own homes. Once the primary venue became the television screen, the quality of shooting on film became superfluous. Overhead costs then collapsed, sales and profits went through the roof.

"If you are curious about what research Anderson did for this screenplay, I include his own answer:

" "My memories of 1st discovering porno film in my pre-adolescence and then my stronger memories from adolescence which is the 2nd half of the movie are certainly the grounding for any research that I did, and you know, I‘ve just seen a million porno movies and I‘ve read a lot about it. Sort of a general fascination with it. When I wrote the script I had never physically been to a porno set. I stayed away until after I‘d written it. (Then) I kind of went and verified what I thought was the truth and was in fact the truth." [Mark Rabinowitz - interview at 1997 New York Film Festival]

"The character Dirk Diggler is a loosely disguised stand-in for the legendary porn star John Holmes (Johnny Wadd). For those who would like a rather more documentary version of the life and times of John Holmes, see the film Wonderland [2003]. It is not a pleasant life story."

--ggf

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"Assassination Tango" [Robert Duvall] 2002

"Tonight we are watching Assassination Tango [2002].


"Assassination Tango [2002] was created almost wholly by Robert Duvall, who wrote, directed and stars. This hat trick is quite unusual and certainly risky. There is nobody to blame but yourself if the result is less than expected. There is also a big risk that the film will be seen as a vanity project.

"The result here, while not wonderful, is certainly a cut above the norm, psychologically complex and quite interesting. The main character, John Anderson, is now an aging man, who was badly psychologically damaged, presumably by his service in Vietnam. Slipping into the trade of professional assassin, he drifts through life trying to become whole again, desperately holding onto the pieces of what he hopes will become a normal life.

"Anderson almost manicly pursues his interests and keeps them tightly compartmentalized from one another. A very bright and talented man, one senses that he is becoming unstable, could easily break into pieces and that it is his intellect that just manages to keep him together.

"The film follows follows him on his last job, which is both uncertain and complex, but which he takes both because he needs the money to retire and suuport his adopted wife and daughter and because it is located in Buenos Aires, which allows Anderson to pursue his intense interest in the Tango, which is the distinct second focus of this film.

"The two focuses of this film do give it a split personality. Like its protagonist, is the film about an assassination or about the dance? This is a criticism that you may feel is warranted.

"Some critics think this film is too psychological. That seeing the world through the eyes of Anderson conceals too much, making it too difficult for the audience to realize what drives Anderson. Others feel that, while the film includes some superb writing, it is fundamentally absurd and unbelievable. However, if one accepts that Anderson is close to a breakdown, the disjoint mix of his life and the structure of the film can also be seen as understandable, if unusual."

--ggf

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"A League of Their Own" [Penney Marshall] 1992

"A League of Their Own [1992] Directed by Penney Marshall Starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O‘Donnell, and others

" I have read that in 1885, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat said, "The female has no place in base ball, except to the degradation of the game." This movie tells a story of societal adaptations during World War II, specifically women in baseball.

" During WWII, the men went off to war and the women stayed behind. Women filled spots in traditional male-dominated jobs, accelerating social changes that redefined the role of women in American society in the 20th century. Like the eponymous Rosie the Riveter, my mother worked as a riveter during WWII, and in this film we see women as professional athletes: pitchers, catchers, etc. We see them struggle to adapt (or not) to the opportunities they are presented; will society change and adapt to them, as well?

" Professional baseball was (and is) a male-dominated business (although there have been female franchise owners, such as Marge Schott). The manpower depletion of WWII threatened the financial stability of professional American baseball: who will fill the stadium if the good players aren‘t around? The response was the creation of the All-American Girls‘ Professional Baseball League: perhaps with women filling the role of ballplayers, fans would fill the role of paying for seats. However, will they pay to see women play baseball in recognition of the women as athletes, or for the novelty of seeing women bouncing (so to speak) around the field?

" Part of what makes this movie work well is that we see the characters grow. Women must fight tradition and prejudice both in professional baseball and in a society in tradition; later, racial barriers would be fought the same way. For some women, baseball was a way to fill time until the war ended and normality returned; for others, it was an escape from a boring life caged in by gender-based restrictions. These contrasting views are held by the two sisters, Kit and Dottie, who are the focus of the film. One wants her husband and old life back, the other wants to explore a larger world. Who will be happier?

" Tom Hanks plays the role of Jimmy Dugan, a real-life baseball player whose career was ruined by alcoholism. As the coach of the Rockford Peaches, we see Jimmy Dugan sober up and rebuild his life. At the start, he‘s a crude, drunken lout; in fact, most of the men in this movie are unenamoring. At the end, he has gained his teams respect, and regained a little self-respect. Did Tom Hanks really have sufficient emotional range to convey Jimmy Dugan convincingly at the start of the film?

" The movie is framed by a reunion of people who worked in the All-American Girls‘ Professional Baseball League. These scenes don‘t work well, according to various reviewers. Women‘s professional baseball survived until 1954, and was belatedly recognised by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988. See? A single sentence suffices.

" While women‘s professional baseball was not an enduring financial success, it was a harbinger (or stormcrow?) of enduring social changes to follow. This movie illustrates those changes in a general sense, and captivates us with as it shows us how individuals‘ lives were changed by and with the times."

--Craig Milo Rogers

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"Bubba Ho-tep" [Don Coscarelli] 2002

"Tonight we are watching Bubba Ho-tep [2002].


"Bubba Ho-tep [2002] is a B-movie in the horror/comedy genre. It stars Bruce Campbell, who is a horror cult star, famous from his roles in Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness. Ho-tep was written and directed by Don Coscarelli, who is principally known for his Phantasm series of films, of which the first is passable, and the Beastmaster series, of which none are.

"Why are we showing this? Bubba Ho-tep is a rare animal, a good B-movie horror satire. Most such satires are dreadful. Few rise the level of the merely bad, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra [2001] is an example. Very few, such as Scream [1996], are actually good. Off the top of my head I can think of only one fine example, which is Young Frankenstein [1974] (those of you who would mention Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein [1948] need to have your two heads examined).

"What is Bubba Ho-tep about? Did you ever wonder what really happened to Elvis and JFK? It‘s all convincingly explained."

--ggf

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"Sweet Smell of Success" [Alexander Mackendrick] 1957

"Tonight we are watching Sweet Smell of Success [1957]. This was unavailable locally for some reason on DVD, possibly because they made only a small run. However, it has recently become available more widely.


"Sweet Smell of Success [1957] was directed by Alexander Mackendrick. The screenplay was written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehmen, based upon Lehman‘s novel. The film stars Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. This is generally considered to be Curtis‘ best work.

"Sweet Smell is considered by many critics on both sides of the Atlantic to be one of the greatest English-langauge films. While the script is considered to be its strongest feature, the acting by Lancaster and Curtis rise fully to match it. The film was entirely overlooked by the Motion Picture Academy, not even receiving a nomination. This is something it shares with another great film, Night of the Hunter [1955]. A likely explanation is that both these films were box-office disasters.

"The story revolves around a powerful newspaper columnist, J.J. Hunsecker, played by Lancaster, who hires a press agent, Sidney Falco, played by Curtis, to destroy the life of the fiance of Hunsecker‘s sister. Lehman based his novel on an incident that occurred in the life of Walter Winchell, who was the most powerful newspaper columnist of his day. History is now unkind to Winchell, whose ethics apparently declined as his power rose.

"A script like this comes along only rarely. A brief bio of the two writers suggests why. Ernest Lehman was one of the most respected screnwriters of his day. A short list of his credits is: Sabrina, The King and I, North by Northwest, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Who‘s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Hello, Dolly!.

"Cliford Odets was at one time considered one of the two or three best playwrites in the US. A founding member of the acting troupe founded by Lee Strasberg, Odets wrote several successful plays in the late 1930s. He was a socialist though. His career fell to the blacklisting of the 1950s. Resurrected late in his life, we get to see in Sweet Smell of Success just how good he could be.

"Alexander Mackendrick tends to get overshadowed in this film by the team he directed. It should be remembered that he did fine work at Ealing Studios befor this film. He is best known for his work with Alec Guiness, The Man in the White Suit [1951] and The Ladykillers [1955]. Unfortunately, the failure of Sweet Smell of Success doomed his Hollywood career."

--ggf

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"Saving Private Ryan" [Steven Spielberg] 1998

"Tonight we are watching Saving Private Ryan [1998].


"Saving Private Ryan [1998] was directed by Steven Spielberg. It is considered possibly the best war film ever made. It is also generally considered one of the best 100 films of any category made. Nominated for eleven Academy Awards, it won the director, cinematography, sound, sound effects and editing Oscars. The film stars Tom Hanks in a role for which he got a best actor nomination.

"To call this film gut wrenching is an understatement. Its opening sequence of the Normandy landing is as graphic as Hollywood has ever been, except possibly for scenes in Platoon [1986].

"What this film did was bring back both dignity and integrity to the war film in Hollywood. Most war films made in Hollywood after WWII were jingoistic, overblown, unrealistic and inaccurate. Private Ryan is none of that.

"This is a very disturbing film on an emotional level. Audience reaction when it finished varied from applause to stunned silence. Uniformly praised by critics, if you have not seen this film, you should. You will not forget it."

--ggf

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"Saint Jack" [Peter Bogdanovich] 1979

"Yes Gloria, even though it is the first Wednesday of the month, we are watching a film, which in this case is Saint Jack [1979].


"Saint Jack [1979] is an unusual film about a somewhat distasteful subject. The strength of it lies primarily in the writing. It avoids the simplistic characterizations and obvious cliches of the genre. Matching the writing are the performances of the two leads Ben Gazarra and Denholm Elliot.

"Based upon the well recognized novel by Paul Theroux, Saint Jack was directed and co-written by Peter Bogdanovich. Many consider this to be Bogdanovich‘s best film to date (the recent Cat‘s Meow [2001] is also quite good).

"In what is likely the best role of his career, Gazarra plays a good natured expatriate US hustler, Jack Flowers, living in Singapore in 1973, toward the end of the Vietnam war. Jack is a sometimes pimp, very knowledgeable about what goes on in the city after dark. The film is about Jack‘s lifestyle, his talent for survival, his friends, morals and reactions to what is going on around him.

" Trivia: Cybil Shepherd wrote the first draft of the screenplay, but she got no credit. Such apparently, is the fate of girlfriends.

" Much of the production credit goes to Roger Corman, who fostered Bogdanovich‘s early career and recognized what a good project this film could be, even if there were no cheesy B-movie monsters in it. Hugh Hefner also co-produced."

--ggf

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"Cactus Flower" [Gene Saks] 1969

"Tonight we are watching the comedy Cactus Flower [1969].


"Cactus Flower [1969] was directed by Gene Saks. Written primarily by the play‘s authors, help was provided by I.A.L. Diamond. It stars Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn.

"Gene Saks is primarily known as a Broadway director. He and Neil Simon partnered to create some of Broadway‘s best light comedies. This partnership extended to the screen version of several of Simon‘s plays as well, such as Barefoot in the Park [1967] and The Odd Couple [1968]. In Cactus Flower, Saks brings others‘ material to the screen.

"Cactus Flower is remembered as Goldie Hawn‘s principal debut, the first film she did after working in Rowan and Martin‘s series Laugh-In. The strength of her performance was a serious surprise. She took the best suporting actress Oscar here for her role as Toni Simmons.

"While Cactus Flower is not a great comedy, it is a noteworthy one. One problem often mentioned was casting of Ingrid Bergman in a comedy. Some think her timing and speaking are unsuited to comedy. Others think she did a fine job. As with any comedy that is topical to its time, there is a risk of seeming dated. You decide."

--ggf

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"The Man in the White Suit" [Alexander Mackendrick] 1951

"Tonight we are watching the comedy The Man in the White Suit [1951].


"The Man in the White Suit [1951] is one of a group of classic comedies produced by the Ealing Studios in Great Britain. Most notable are those which star Alec Guinness: Kind Hearts and Coronets [1949], The Lavender Hill Mob [1951], and The Ladykillers [1955].

"This film centers on an unworldly inventor and his invention of a revolutionary fiber, producing a cloth that almost completely resists dirt and that never wears out. This sets in motion a series of events and reactions which place the inventor at the center of a storm he is not capable of understanding.

"This movie is not as well-known as either Kind Hearts or Ladykillers. This is likely due to its somewhat unpleasant take on the reaction of society to the invention, which is comprised both of unsavory management scheming and labor unrest. The socialist program in Britain was then in the offing. The view presented in the film of both labor and capitalists could be disliked by both."

--ggf

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"Dirty Harry" [Don Siegel] 1971

"Tonight we are watching the ‘policier‘ Dirty Harry [1971].


"Dirty Harry [1971] was nominated for no Academy Awards. Indeed, it was nominated for virtually no awards at all. Yet it has become an icon of American cinema and perennial favorite of audiences. The film was directed by Don Siegel and stars Clint Eastwood as the no-nonsense San Francisco detective Harry Callahan.

"Dirty Harry is a name that describes its main character. Callahan cares little for politicians, protocol or rules that would get in the way of catching the criminal. Siegel and the screenplay, by Harry and Rita Fink plus Dean Reisner, paint Callahan as a tough man and hard to get along with. It is no surprise that he is not married and hard on his partners.

"Critics were ambivalent about this film. Callahan is not above physically abusing criminals if it solves a case or saves a life. This makes him quintessentially politically incorrect. But because he succeeeds, the film becomes politically incorrect and so must not be condoned. This critical reaction was even more heated for Death Wish [1974], where an architect became a successful vigilanti.

"If the formal reaction to this film was cold, the popular reaction was the opposite. Dirty Harry became not only a very successful film, it became a defacto classic. While often not recognized at such at home, it is abroad.


"Don Siegel was a director who received few awards during his life. He was often credited with being no-nonsense and doing a lot with a small budget. Unfortunately, he rarely had the budget to show what he could do if not handcuffed. Nevertheless, he directed several successful and notable films, in particular: The Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1956], Hell is for Heroes [1962], The Killers [1964], Dirty Harry, Charlie Varrick [1973] and The Shootist [1976].

"--- ggf"

--ggf

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"Touching the Void" [Kevin Macdonald] 2003

"Tonight we are watching the documentary Touching the Void [2003].


"Touching the Void [2003] is a British documentary about disaster faced by two climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who in 1985 tried to be the first to climb the west face of Siula Grande, a 20,814-foot mountain in the Peruvian Andes. With only one support person at base camp, once the two pushed for the peak, they were on their own. All did not go well. What followed is an amazing example of human endurance and astounding luck. This is a truly gripping documentary, shot on location.

"--- ggf"

--ggf

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"Mona Lisa" [Neil Jordan] 1986

"Tonight we are watching the Neil Jordan film Mona Lisa [1986].


"Mona Lisa [1986] stars Bob Hoskins. It was directed and co-written by Neil Jordan. This is considered one of a handful of fine films to come out of the British film industry in the 1980s. It has often been compared to Scorsese‘s Taxi Driver [1976]. Unlike that film though, Mona Lisa‘s characters are much less bleak and stylized.

"This is a fine film built around a sordid subject, streetwalkers, call girls and the people that prey on them. The acting and writing set this film well apart from other films that have covered similar material. George, played by Bob Hoskins, is a poorly educated man who just got out of prison and is owed a job by virtue of having kept silent. This does not give him the credits he has expected though. He is relegated to a job as driver for a call girl, Simone, played by Cathy Tyson.

"The center of the film is the personal relationship between George and Simone. George is poor working-class, unsuited to accompanying a high-end call girl. Simone has worked her way off the streets. She helps George fit in, at least visually. A relationship of sorts is built between them.

"Unfortunately, Simone has been scarred by the time she spent on the streets. Just how badly scarred is not clear. Her boss, played by Michael Caine, is unscrupulous and power mad. His attempts to use her to gain influence in high places eventually results in tragedy for Simone and a bit of wisdom for George.


"Neil Jordan‘s career has had its ups and downs. Clearly an accomplished writer/director, he has made a few clunkers. Most notably High-Spirits [1988], which has the distinction of being a poor comedy starring Peter O‘Toole. Jordan took the hit for this as he also wrote it. On the plus side he wrote and directed The Crying Game [1992] and The Good Thief [2002], which we recently watched.


"Mona Lisa takes place in London. The accents are not westernized for our benefit. For the most part it is easily understood."

--ggf

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"A Touch of Class" [Melvin Frank] 1973

"A Touch of Class [1973] was directed and partially written by Melvin Frank. This is a well-written romance about a professional woman, played by Glenda Jackson, and a married American executive played by George Segal. They meet, the chemistry is undeniable and they decide to have an affair.

"It is a pleasure watching these two characters. Jackson‘s character in particular is a bright woman. You don‘t see that very often in romances and it is refreshing. The ending of the film though is somewhat unsatisfying and perhaps unrealistic, but that should not stop one from watching it."

--ggf

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"Blood Simple" [Joel and Ethan Coen] 1984

"The first Wednesday of the month we normally go out to a fine restaurant. However, since next Wednesday there will NOT be a movie night, it has been decided to mix things up and watch a film tonight.

"The film that was requested, A League of Their Own [1992] is unfortunately hard to track down on DVD. After calling and visiting a number of stores, including Vidiots and Cinefile, there was no joy in Mudville. It just doesn‘t seem to be stocked.

"As a fill-in emergency it‘s off to the back-catalog of former requests ...

"The films of the Coen brothers are highly respected. Most have seen and appreciated Fargo [1996] and O Brother Where Art Thou? [2000]. But many have not seen their first effort Blood Simple [1984]. Subject to a mistake with the reservation, that‘s what we will be watching tonite.


"Blood Simple [1984] was the first feature film written and directed by the Coen brothers Joel and Ethan.

"It is no secret that most of the films one sees are based on the same basic set of plots done over and over again with minor variations. One of the things that reviewers enjoy is having something both good and different show up at their doorstep. It rarely happens. It did when the Coen brothers burst onto the scene with Blood Simple.

"A very-small-budget indie film, Blood Simple opened on only three screens. However, it quickly went on to become a commercial and critical success. The success of this film encouraged the efforts of many independent filmakers.

"Put simply, Blood Simple is one of the best film-noirs made and likely the best made over the last quarter century. The plot is complex. It follows somewhat improbable ideas logically. The originality of plot was what attracted the critics."

--ggf

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"The Pink Panther Strikes Again" [Blake Edwards] 1976

"Tonight, in honor of Henry Mancini, who recently passed away, we are watching one of the better Pink Panther movies, The Pink Panther Strikes Again [1976]. Finding this on DVD turned out to be a bit of a problem. But if I can trust the other end of the telephone, I have managed to find one. Look for Reggie Perrin.


"Since Blake Edwards is more closely associated with the Pink Panther films, whereas Mancini wrote only the music, the showing of a Pink Panther film more properly commemorates Edwards. Unfortunately for Edwards, he is still alive. Better luck next time.

"Blake Edwards made several Pink Panther films, starting with The Pink Panther [1963], which was an ensemble piece concerning a jewel heist that starred David Niven. Edwards aparently realized that Sellers was uniquely suited to his comedic role as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in that film and quickly followed up with A Shot in the Dark [1964], in which Clouseau became the central character. This second film in the series is usually considered the best of the series and was quite successful.

"Edwards kept the Pink Panther in his pocket as a way of making money when needed, while Sellers, whose career had its ups and downs, needed a way of making money for his personal project Being There [1979]. These desires coincided in the mid 1970‘s, when Edwards and Sellers made three Panther movies in quick succession after a hiatus of eleven years: The Return of the Pink Panther [1975], The Pink Panther Strikes Again [1976] and Revenge of the Pink Panther [1978]. The second of these is usually considered the next best Panther film. The series went steadily downhill afterwards.

"When Sellers died unexpectedly in 1980, Edwards lost a meal ticket. He tried to make another Panther film using bits and pieces of Sellers left on the cutting room floor. This flop was Trail of the Pink Panther [1982]. Following that, Edwards made Curse of the Pink Panther [1983], about a bumbling detective who was looking for the missing Inspector Clouseau. It was unsuccessful. This was followed by Son the Pink Panther [1993], where Roberto Benigni tried to revitalize the franchise.

"While Edwards is justly considered a great comedic writer, he is also credited with driving the Pink Panther franchise into undeserved mediocrity. He is curently in pre-production on yet another Panther film."

--ggf

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