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Movie Watching, One Day in January

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So, catching up with more of my reactions to movies I saw in January.

I didn't have much to do up in Maine last month except watch movies, and it appears I saw 8 of them on one day...

January 18

The Beginning or the End (1947) directed by Norman Taurog

Dull, dull, dull, poorly-staged and shot, indifferently and unenergetically-acted. Only interesting insofar as seeing what a Hollywood film on the Manhattan Project in 1947 looks like -- bland and propagandistic. Two Stars

A Face in the Crowd (1957) directed by Elia Kazan

I've seen this before, in bits and pieces, and didn't like what I saw, but in toto it has immense power and works like hell. Kazan and Budd Schulberg (separately or together) usually annoy the hell out of me, usually so sweaty and overbearing and judgmentally moral (which is a goddamn laugh) but the excess works to a near-camp level here.

Maybe its also the times we're in now, where this all does seem to have come true. Andy Griffith is, of course, amazing as the demogoguish rube, but the whole cast is terrific. Three and a half Stars

The Philadelphia Story (1940) directed by George Cukor

Seen it plenty, always liked it, until the last time I watched it a couple of years ago, where everything in it seemed horribly forced and unfunny. This time, it was just as charming as I remembered from the previous times -- really just about as perfect an example of what a comedy from right around 1940 could be. A perfect cast in a well-made script. Not amazing, no, maybe overrated, sure, but solid and good for all that. Three Stars

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) directed by Irving Reis

Silly and charming as hell. Saw this a bunch as a kid (as with another film I rewatched recently, sometimes it was the only damn thing on worth watching), and I never liked it, but now it's just a damn fun timekiller, primarily because of Cary Grant, though there's several other nice performances. Two and a half Stars

Lifeboat (1944) directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Midrange Hitchcock. More uneven than most from Hitch -- usually his films are good, great, bad, or mediocre at the same level, this one varies wildly from moment to moment, scene to scene, performance to performance, even line reading to line reading. Makes it hard to decide what to think overall, as every fond memory is contradicted by something equally clunky. There's lots of Hitchcock I love and will happily rewatch and look forward to seeing again. Not this one. Two and a half Stars

Flowers in the Attic (2014) directed by Deborah Chow

Oh, ick. If you're GOING to do an overwrought, sincere, trashy but beloved gothic novel adaptation, then DO the goddamn thing for crissake! Ellen Burstyn knows what she's doing, and I'd argue Heather Graham pretty much does, too, but reducing the whole thing to "when does the incest start happening?" and then not even dealing with that when it finally does happen, and then getting the film over with as soon as possible right after... No good reason for this to have happened in the first place. One Star

That's the Spirit (1933) directed by Roy Mack

Mantan Moreland & F.E. Miller, the latter a black man with added blackface, go through some lousy period "afeard of spooks" humor leading into a hot little musical number -- a structure you'll find in lots of shorts from this time, where you have to sit through some horrible racist humor to get to an actual great performance by African-American musicians. Sometimes the racist humor is at least performed by talented comedians -- I've seen Mantan Moreland be funny, but not here. Oy. Glad that TCM is keeping these in the rotation at least -- both the racism and the talent should be noted and appreciated for what they are. Two Stars

Faithless (1932) directed by Harry Beaumont

I keep wanting to call this a "programmer," that is, a b-picture cheaply made to be thrown on a double bill with a bigger picture, but I wouldn't think of MGM making programmers. Maybe they did. I guess they did. This is a pretty lousy picture with a good performance from Talullah Bankhead. Robert Montgomery is good sometimes, hideous others. Hugh Herbert is amazingly miscast and terrible. It feels like a real Poverty Row film, not MGM, except better-shot. Most of the minor roles are played by TERRIBLE actors -- someone comes on for one freaking line and delivers it awfully. Even the extras walking by a diner in one scene can't just do THAT convincingly. Bankhead's performance and an occasional actual real feeling of Depression-era despair save this from being completely worthless. Two Stars

At this rate, maybe I'll catch up with myself right at the end of February...

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