January 25, 2010

This Week in Retro

I watched Francois Ozon's "Angel" (2007) this weekend and pretty much loved it. As Victor Morton wrote: "A sort of female bildungsroman about a teenage dreamer who becomes a writer of cheap romances and then Britain’s biggest literary star, ANGEL isn’t in any way a parody or a pastiche or a travesty of the 30s/40s woman’s picture. It is simply an example of it, a re-creation of it— outdated conventions and all (complaining about the obvious rear-projection, as does the lead review on the IMDb as I write this, utterly misses the point)... you can imagine MGM of the 30s putting out this movie, with Norma Shearer or Joan Crawford or Greer Garson in the lead..."

Exactly. This film is everything films like "Far From Heaven" and "The Good German" wish they could be. It's a modern update of an older genre that manages to have the more "adult" content (i.e.: sex scenes) mix perfectly with the older Bette Davis-type woman's melodrama style. Romola Garai continues to be one of my favorite young British actresses. She's been wonderful in almost everything I've seen -- "I Capture the Castle," "Atonement," and now "Angel" (the less said about "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" the better) -- and I wish she had a higher profile. Make more movies, Romola!

TCM has several movies on this week that I've never seen. They include:

On Monday, "Lonelyhearts" (1958) -- Never heard of this movie, but what a cast! Monty Clift, Robert Ryan, Myrna Loy, and Maureen Stapleton.

On Tuesday: "Red, Hot, and Blue" (1949) -- I like Betty Hutton and this is one I've never seen before (don't ask me to explain my Betty Hutton love, it has a little something to do with her heartbreaking Private Screenings interview with Robert Osborne from 2000, a little something to do with her non-stop firecracker energy, and probably a little something to do with her being a Michigan girl and I always gotta support my home-state peeps). Also, this one is directed by John Farrow and that intrigues me.

On Wednesday: I'm stoked for the final night of the "Shadows of Russia" series, especially "My Son John." Again, I've never seen it but I've heard quite a bit about it. Also, Robert Walker = Love.

On Thursday: Yes, okay, I admit it! I am a sucker for middling 1940s comedies, especially the wartime ones, so I'm excited about "The Doughgirls" which stars three actresses I like very much: Eve Arden, Jane Wyman, and Ann Sheridan. Also, Thursday night is a whole evening of Bob Hope/Bing Crosby "Road" movies. I have never seen one of these. Repeat: I am in danger of losing my official "Old Movie Buff" card for saying this, but I have *never* seen a Hope/Crosby "Road" picture. I'll try to tune in.

On Friday: Time for me to try my third Sam Fuller movie (my second being "Pick Up on South Street" which I wrote about here). "I Shot Jesse James" plays on TCM Friday morning. The only other movie I'm interested in on Friday is the TCM Underground feature, "Girls on the Loose," directed by Paul Henreid (!) Seriously, WAT?! Paul Henreid??? Yes, I cannot wait to see the Paul Henreid-directed movie that is described thusly: "A nightclub owner runs an all-women robbery gang." From 1958. Directed by Paul "Victor Lazlo" Henreid. This. Is. Gonna. Rock.

On Saturday: I'm gonna tape "Saratoga Trunk" for later viewing. Never seen it before (yes, yes, I know, apparently there are a lot of holes in my classic movie knowledge, you don't need to tell me. But I'm young. I've got time to catch up).

Sunday: Sunday is kinda "meh" for me right now. Nothing's standing out. I might try and watch "Blue Skies" but I don't know much about it's reputation. Is it supposed to be any good? Well, it's Fred Astaire, it's got to be at least worth it for him.

A quick glance at the TCM schedule also turns up these favorites of mine that you should check out if you've never seen them:

"The Whole Town's Talking"

"The Ladykillers" (1955)

"Fifth Avenue Girl" (Gregory La Cava alert!)

"Only Angels Have Wings"

"The Dark Corner"

"Annie Get Your Gun"

Also, speaking of TCM, I like that they include so many clips, trailers, promotional materials, etc. for the movies in their database. It's a nice way to advertise the movies to an audience that might not know much about them. Think about it: A new movie gets advertised on TV and in print media, the stars make the rounds on the talk shows, it gets reviewed in the local newspaper -- all these things pique the interest of the general public. But old movies have no such support system to build anticipation or interest. A Newbie interested in watching old movies often has nothing to go on beyond the "big names" (the Casablancas, Gone with the Winds, Citizen Kanes, etc. that everyone has heard of) or recommendations from film guide books or knowledgeable film buffs (and this takes a bit of effort to seek out these books and film buffs). But the Newbie classic movie watcher doesn't have the usual media promotion to help him see what a certain movie will be like and possibly get him excited to see it. The TCM media database is one remedy to this. (Though, it must be acknowledge that it also takes some effort to go to the TCM website and search around for the media. It's not like "Only Angels Have Wings" trailers are being shown on FOX or NBC in between their primetime lineups.) Still, it's a nice resource. I only wish they allowed embedding.

Rossellini's "War Trilogy" is now available as a box set from Criterion (well, it will be available tomorrow, January 26). Sadly, I've never seen any of these (Yes, even "Rome, Open City." I suck). I've got a burned DVD copy of "Germany Year Zero" but I haven't watched it yet. Apparently, the new restoration of "Germany Year Zero" will have the original German language on the soundtrack as opposed to the Italian used previously on all North America copies. These will be going to the Netflix queue.

Ben Shapiro continues to be kind of an annoyance to us conservative film types who take movies seriously. It's not so much that I disagree with his list, it's just he doesn't make his case very effectively, even for the directors I agree with him about! Also, the absence of Howard Hawks suggests a big hole in his film knowledge.

This week's retro quote goes to Marty Scorsese: "Movies are the memories of our lifetime. We need to keep them alive." (from his Golden Globes speech last week)

This post is brought to you by the following song:

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