Monday, May 23, 2022

[At the end of every month I post a rundown of the movies I saw that month, tallying them according to how much I did or didn’t like them. You can always see my recent watches here and my ongoing list of bests for the whole year here.]

AKA, the TCM Classic Film Festival edition. There are a few others mixed in, but the majority of these are from that Fest. Which means it was a damn good month of moviewatching. Oh, and apparently my two favorite new-to-me films were both silent. I honestly do not try to do this, people. It just happens that way, I swear.

What I Loved

Girl Shy

I wouldn’t say Harold Lloyd is a recent discovery for me as I continue my odyssey through silent film; I saw Safety Last quite a while ago and always included him as one of the great silent comedians. But beyond that obligatory name-checking, I hadn’t had a lot of exposure to his work. I was very grateful to put that to rights this month with not one but THREE Lloyd films seen at the TCM Fest and at Cinefamily, and the presentation of Girl Shy at the Egyptian Theatre will definitely go down as a lifetime filmgoing highlight. This film is awesome, taking the nerdy, girl-shy Harold through a series of misadventures whereupon he meets a girl and overcomes his stuttering shyness as he tells her about his book – which is about how to get all kinds of women to fall in love with you. It’s extremely charming and quite funny, and all capped off with one of the most incredible chase stunt sequences I’ve ever seen, and yes, I’m including Keaton’s motorcycle chase in Sherlock Jr. in that assessment. Just when you think Lloyd has done about all he can do with this gag, he tops himself and does something even more gasp-worthy. Insta-favorite. Full review on Row Three.

1924 USA. Director: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor. Starring: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Richard Daniels, Carleton Griffith.
Seen April 14 at the TCM Film Fest, Egyptian Theatre.
Flickchart ranking: 372 out of 2930

For Heaven’s Sake

My other Lloyd experience was a double feature (the other one is a bit lower on the list) Cinefamily and the Silent Treatment showed in honor of Lloyd’s April birthday. These were actually before Girl Shy, and were already enough to solidify my Lloyd fandom, I liked them so much. Particularly this one. Thoughtless millionaire Lloyd accidentally funds an inner-city mission, but his apathy turns to extreme interest when he meets the preacher’s lovely daughter. I really enjoyed this film, which has two fantastic extended chase/action sequences – one with Lloyd provoking all the street thugs he can find into chasing him right into the mission (where he wins their loyalty by nonchalantly passing the collection plate to rid them of stolen jewelry before a police search), the other with Lloyd trying to corral a group of five drunk friends and get back to the mission for his wedding. Both are filled with physical gags and insane stunts, all done with a charm and physicality that belies Lloyd’s milquetoast first impression.

1926 USA. Director: Sam Taylor. Starring: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Noah Young.
Seen April 4 at Cinefamily.
Flickchart ranking: 512 out of 2930

Cabin in the Woods

I’ve been looking forward to this Joss Whedon-penned horror film for literally years now, as it went through distributor hell along with everything else MGM owned as they fought bankruptcy. In fact, I’ve been watching its progress so long that I remember being disappointed that I was going to have to watch a horror film to keep up with Whedon, because I wasn’t into horror films yet. Thankfully by the time it came out, I had overcome that hurdle and managed to see and enjoy most of the films Cabin in the Woods references, plus this film isn’t really going for scares as much as laughs and meta in-jokes, which are precisely up my alley. I had a great time with this film, which is extremely clever in the way it plays with expectations, horror tropes, and manipulation. I won’t go as far as some in saying that revolutionizes the horror genre – it doesn’t do that so much as celebrate it, poke loving fun at it, and layer a great workplace comedy in on top of it. It’s a lark, not a deep satire, and that’s fine. I laughed a lot, gasped some, and had a ginormous smile plastered on my face the whole time.

2012 USA. Director: Drew Goddard. Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Amy Acker.
Seen April 21 at AMC Burbank 16.
Flickchart ranking: 534 out of 2930

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Featured Links

Remaking Metropolis by David Kalat at Movie Morlocks

Once again, David Kalat blows me away with one of his wide-ranging and highly informative posts. This time, he approaches the Complete Metropolis with some trepidation – not because the restored version of the film isn’t amazing (it is, and he agrees), but because the push to market it as the full version of what we’d only known in part before downgrades the earlier cuts unfairly. After all, that shorter cut is what most people have known and fallen in love with for the past 75 years. On his way to this argument, though, he also details the production and troubled distribution of the film, discussing in detail how the cuts got made in the first place and why, and the seemingly subtle but actually quite significant changes to the story that resulted from them. Probably the best post I read all week.

A Meditation on Mad Men by The Lady Eve at The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

The Lady Eve has been hosting a whole series of excellent posts about Mad Men on her blog (most of which seem to be relatively spoiler-free, discussing the overall aesthetics and appeal of the show rather than specific plot details – which is good for me, since I’m still back in S3 somewhere), and this collection of thoughts from the Lady Eve herself captures a lot of the major themes of the show – the sense of nostalgia that calls us to a show about the ’60s even as Don Draper uses it to hearken to an even earlier time in his ad campaigns, the search for identity that haunts Don and his family and to some degree the ’60s as a whole, and of course, the exquisite detail of the production design and scripts that seem to bring not just the look of the ’60s, but the hopes and fears of that era into startling reality.

The Psychology of Betty Draper Francis by Terry Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts

Yes, another Mad Men-related post. What are you gonna do about it? Just please don’t take this opportunity to spoil me on what was apparently a brilliant episode last night, because I am a season and a half behind. This post pulls some stuff from season 4, I think, but not enough to bother me. Betty is pretty much a shoo-in for least-liked character on the show, and Canote certainly doesn’t whitewash any of her frankly horrible behavior throughout the show, but he does take the opportunity to psychoanalyze her a little bit, in terms of her family background, life with Don, and the social atmosphere of the ’60s. I don’t always agree with psychoanalytical approaches, but this one manages to discuss an awful lot about the show in general, and the way the writers have set Betty up to be the person she is.

Memories of Midnight Movies by Will McKinley at The Cinementals

A simply delightful post, relating Will’s experience with midnight movies on Long Island in the ’70s and ’80s. He discusses the midnight movie phenomenon in general, even though he was too young at the time to really be a part of it, and the first time his dad took him to a midnight movie – not Rocky Horror Picture Show or Eraserhead, though those were two of the films to popularize the concept in the late ’70s – but a midnight screening of classic Three Stooges movies. I guess we know why Will’s a Cinemental!

Pioneers of the Corman Film School by Alex Withrow at And So It Begins

Alex reminds us that without Roger Corman, we’d be unlikely to have the many of the most talented directors of the past few decades, and New Hollywood itself probably would’ve been a very different time. Known for his low budget, quickly shot B movies, Corman used his studio AIP to give young directors a shot at making films the same way he did – quick and dirty. But by giving them the freedom they needed, he ended up launching careers for people like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, and more. Alex runs through a bunch of these directors, talking a bit about the films they made for AIP and what they went on to do later. Thank you, Mr. Corman, for your contribution to American cinema.

Playing by Different Rules: Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray by Marilyn Ferdinand at Ferdy on Films

Classic Hollywood loved to pair the same actors together over and over again, with many costarring teams becoming almost inextricably linked – Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Marilyn Ferdinand points out that Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray costarred no fewer than three times together (not quite as often as those other teams, granted, but still a decent amount), and yet all their films are so decidedly different that it’s tough to consider them a “team” in the same way as some of the others. She takes a look at these three films and at Stanwyck and MacMurray’s performances in them.

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Noteworthy News

  • Nicole Kidman will play Grace Kelly in an upcoming film from Olivier Dahan (La vie en rose) – if you don’t believe that’s great casting, just watch her in The Others and get back to me
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt won’t be in Django Unchained after all; he has a scheduling conflict due to his directorial debut. That’s a good reason, I think, but still.
  • Apparently Greta Gerwig is a director now, with a surprise film headed for festivals this fall
  • David Michôd’s debut Animal Kingdom turned a lot of heads, including in Hollywood, but he’s following it up with another small Australian film – good for him, and I’ll be there to watch it
  • Vincenzo Natali is set to follow the underrated Splice with backwards ghost story Haunters, with Abigail Breslin in the lead

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