Monday, June 3, 2013

TCM's 31 Days of Oscar Reviewed

The Capitol Theater Movie Room
Photo credit: Princess Theater
Almost every time I turn on the TV, it's tuned to TCM. This is life married to a filmmaker. It also saves me from accidental Kardashian sightings. 

Every year, they do 31 Days of Oscar, showing films that have been Oscar nominees or winners, and I stuff the DVR will movies that I fell I should've seen by now. And then it takes me months to get through them all. Pro tip: Do NOT record them in High Def. There are just too many movies. The DVR will start deleting them before you get to them all. And it'll take a while because you're not always going to be in the mood for something high falutin'. 

In fact, I only just finished getting through this year's batch of movies this weekend. Five months later. Here are my mini-reviews.

Guys and Dolls 

This is the only one I'd seen before, but I couldn't resist. Day-m Marlon Brando was gorgeous in his youth. So much so that he was probably entitled to get fat and weird in his old age.

The Deer Hunter 

Three hour movie about the horrors or war, and the first third is about the horrors of 1970s wedding receptions. Not as grueling as I expected.

East of Eden

Another entry from the James Dean school of overacting. It's as if he's playing the same guy from Rebel Without a Cause. At least in Giant he didnt have a big tantrum.

The Sting

What a jaunty, fun tale. And the ending managed to surprise me, which is nice because so many great movies get copied so much that when you see the original, it seems cliche.

Cool Hand Luke

Is it just me, or is this movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in jail?

The Three Faces of Eve
A lot less campy than you expect from a movie about multiple personality disorder. I seem to remember a movie of the week starring I want to say Melissa Gilbert in the 80s. Remember tv movies of the week? Now its Lifetime channel every night of the week. 

Grapes of Wrath
This film is so bleak that it makes the Deer Hunter look like Guys and Dolls.

Norma Rae
A postcard from the days when government was pro-union. Should be required viewing these days, but heavens to Betsy, as if the pro-worker message weren't bad enough, characters drink beer and Norma Rae even has an illegitimate child (clutch pearls and faint). 

Bela Lugosi is freaking hilarious. Who knew?

Only Hitchcock can turn the story of a couple with communication problems into something Oscar-worthy. Sort of.

Far From the Madding Crowd
I confess that I recorded this movie so that I never have to read the Thomas Hardy book. I never even made it through Tess of the d'Urbervilles, though I suspect that may be because my copy smelled of lo mein for some reason, probably a dorm room take out mishap. 

The film was made in 1967 when movies had Overtures, but didn't necessarily explain what was going on. So Julie Christie packs up and leaves her home in the beginning because??? From what I was able to piece together a few scenes later, her uncle died and left her his farm. Apparently explaining this sooner would've compromised the filmmaker's artistic vision. As would explaining why all the farmhands dressed up and sat down to a formal dinner together. Easter, maybe? Celebrating the events of the previous scene? Is this Ireland or England?

The Goodbye Girl
Great movie written by Neil Simon, who has written so many great plays that I spent the first half of film trying to picture how it was staged in the original stage version, which only exists in my mind because it was written as a screenplay.

Travels With My Aunt
I made the mistake of starting this one while I was tired. I dozed off (not the film's fault) and when I woke up a few minutes later there was singing and dancing and I had no idea WTF was going on. It was a flashback. What a relief.

Stage Door Canteen
How the Hell did this win an Oscar? No shitting, there is a 10 little Indians style song about shotting down "jap planes". The plot about soldiers visiting the USO canteen run by broadway stage folk is just a framework/excuse for performances by a buttload of famous people, not all whose fame endured so it's hard to catch all the cameos.

Ok I checked and it didn't win an Oscar. Just two nominations for score and best song. And to their credit, they did have real actual Chinese actors playing the pilots from China, instead of gringos in bad makeup.

The Lady Eve
Forgot that I've seen this before. It's hlarious. You can't really go wrong with Preston Sturges.

Holy shit, Michael Caine used to be young. And Jude Law looked just like him in the remake - or in the publicity photos for the remake. I didn't actually see it. This is ostensibly about the swinging sixties, and I guess all that swinging required some hardcore objectification because he starts referring to women in general and one girlfriend in particular as "it" instead of "she." I'm having trouble imagining that was OK even in the sixties. 

Looking at the chatter on the imdb forums, women tend to think the character is an asshole and the film is terrible. It's not the worst film I've seen (that would have to be The Cube, which is pointless even when you listen to the director's commentary, which I did--ugh), but otherwise, I don't really disagree with that assessment. If I wanted to watch women being treated like objects, I'd just check the news. Or large swaths of the internet. 

Seven Days in May
Not about the Cuban Missile Crisis, as I thought for some reason, but about a planned military coup to stop a nuclear disarmament treaty in the early 1960s. It's one of those stories that makes me want to visit the characters as a person from the future and tell them that they totes need to get on that before the Soviet Union collapses and the nukes fall into the hands of whoever can steal them. Of course, since the Soviet Union collapsed because of all the military spending involved in the cold war, nuclear disarmament in the 60s would've changed that. Anybody know of any speculative fiction that explores that?

You Can't Take It With You
Lionel Barrymore plays the grandfather of a family where everyone in the house does as they please, ballet dancing in the living room, writing plays, inventing things, and they survive as "the lilies of the field". Except for their two black servants. They seem as laid back as the rest of the family, but I can't imagine it's easy to make dinner for a big family when you have no idea what Grandpa is going to bring home for you to cook, and he may bring home someone new to live with the family on a whim.

Very cool to see Lionel Barrymore play a character who's as different as Mean Mr. Potter as can be.

Easy Rider
What a boring, lame nihilistic piece of crap. Watching people do drugs. That's exciting.

As the film opens, our two heroes buy some cocaine, sell it for a hefty profit and then the soundtrack plays a song that goes "Goddamn the pusher." So...they're antiheroes, then? And there are several instances in the movie where they're treated like shit just for having long hair, but in the beginning, they pull up to a motel and holler, asking if they have a room. The owner or whoever comes out, takes a look at them, goes right back inside and changes the neon sign to say No Vacancy. I guess we're supposed to think it's because they're hippies, but maybe it's because they're assholes who didn't bother to turn off their motorcycles before inquiring about a room like civilized people. 

Midnight Express
I found it hard to have sympathy for this guy. Trying to smuggle almost two kilos of hashish via plane just weeks after some big hijackings? And they only caught him because he had all those bricks of hash taped to his torso. They totally missed the one in his cowboy boot. So if he couldn't be too smart to not smuggle any hash, couldn't he have kept it to a couple boots' worth?

Prison is violent and dehumanizing? You had to get thrown in a Turkish prison to find that out? Did you never see I Am a Fugitive From A Chain Gang? They seem to have more freedom of movement in the 1970s Turkish prison than in a modern American one, which I see as a big advantage as a claustrophobe. 

You've got to be white and male to be that clueless. One review I read described him as a naive tourist unaware of the consequences of his actions. Yet he was sweating balls before he got caught, so he must have had some idea

Georgy Girl
Where has this movie been all my life? Lynn Redgrave plays a frumpy, gawky woman who still has several men interested in her despite her frumpy gawkiness. You'd pribably be arrested if you'd try to make a film with that premise these days.

In Cold Blood
I'm sure it was incredibly violent and brutal for its time, but now in the time of Tarrantino, it seems positively gentile.

Have you seen any of these movies? What did you think of them?

1 comment:

  1. I agree that it's hard to go wrong with just about anything by Preston Sturgess.

    But man, that wedding reception in The Deer Hunter went on forever! It's never a good sign when you're rooting for the film to finally shift to Vietnam where they can shoot themselves.


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