Easy Rider

The Movie Snob takes in another classic(?)

Easy Rider  (D).  I saw this one courtesy of Fathom Events’ classic film series.  I went in knowing virtually nothing about it except that (1) it stars Dennis Hopper (Giant) and Peter Fonda (Ulee’s Gold) and (2) it’s some kind of “hippie movie.”  Boy, is it!  In a quick opening, we see Billy (Hopper) and Captain America (Fonda) make a killing in a cocaine deal in what is apparently Los Angeles.  After that, they saddle up their motorcycles and hit the open road for New Orleans, where they hope to be in time for Mardi Gras.  On their quest, Billy is twitchy and paranoid, while Captain America is laid back and philosophical.  They visit a commune that seems destined for starvation.  They smoke a lot of marijuana.  Most memorably, they are joined for part of their journey by a small-town alcoholic attorney played by Jack Nicholson (The Shining), in what was apparently his break-out role.  The movie gets progressively darker as it goes along, but I won’t spoil the ending despite its being 50 years old this year.  Although it’s a pretty efficient piece of moviemaking–it’s only 95 minutes long–and it got nominated for two Oscars© and several other awards, I couldn’t appreciate it.  I just kept thinking things like Do these guys ever shower?  Or brush their teeth?  What do they smell like after all these days riding motorcycles through and sleeping in the desert?  I was pleased to read critic David Thomson wrap up his review in the book “Have You Seen . . . ?” this way:  “And it is unwatchable–unless you are benefiting from the illegal substances it advocates.”

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The Movie Snob finally returns to the movies.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  (B).  Well, I’m trying to get back into the swing of regular moviegoing, so I decided to see if the Magnolia Theater is still running its classic-movie series on Tuesday nights.  Lo, it is, and I caught this 1969 Western this past Tuesday.  I had never seen it before and still don’t quite know what to make of it.  It stars Paul Newman (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) as the outlaws of the film’s title, and as best I can tell from extensive Wikipedia research the movie is actually fairly true to history.  It’s the late 1890s, and Butch, the Kid, and their Hole in the Wall gang are making a living robbing banks and trains—until they irritate some big plutocrat and he hires a very dangerous posse to bring them to justice.  So, in the interest of self-preservation, they make some unusual career choices after that.  Although IMDB.com categorizes the film as “Biography, Crime, Drama,” it has a strong comedic element, with Newman providing lots of amusing dialogue, Redford being amusingly laconic, and an oddly jaunty soundtrack playing in the background.  (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” won an Oscar.)  And yet, there is quite a bit of shooting and killing, albeit with very little blood visible.  Katharine Ross of The Graduate fame drops in for a while as the Kid’s love interest, but Butch shows more interest in her than the Kid ever does, and really this movie is a bromance between Butch and the Kid from start to finish.

Anyway, the film held my interest, but I still think it’s kind of an odd bird.  It’s #73 on the American Film Institute’s 2007 list of the 100 greatest American movies, so I guess it’s a classic.

Bonnie and Clyde

The Movie Snob takes in a classic.

Bonnie and Clyde  (B+).  I recently got to see a special screening of this 1967 release, directed by Arthur Penn (The Miracle Worker) and starring Warren Beatty (Dick Tracy) and Faye Dunaway (Chinatown).  It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was still very interesting and entertaining.  Beatty and Dunaway play Depression-era outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.  The fellow who hosted the screening said the movie should be considered “historical fiction,” but, if wikipedia is any guide, one thing this film gets right is that the Barrow Gang didn’t hesitate to shoot people, even (or especially) police officers, who got in their way.  It was considered an unusually violent and graphic movie back in the day, and I thought it was still a little shocking at times.  I was also shocked to see Denver Pyle in a small supporting role.  I knew him only from TV’s Life and Times of Grizzly Adams and especially The Dukes of Hazzard; I didn’t know that he had ever been an actor.  It also co-stars Gene Hackman (Heartbreakers), Gene Wilder (Young Frankenstein) in his film debut, and a kid named Michael J. Pollard who had recently appeared in the original Star Trek episode “Miri.”  It’s one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies.”  Definitely worth seeing, unless you really don’t like shoot-em-ups.


A new review from The Movie Snob.

Shane  (C).  I guess this is considered a classic Western—and it got six Academy Award nominations—but I didn’t think it was anything special.  Shane (Alan Ladd, The Great Gatsby (1949)) is a wandering gunfighter who accidentally wanders into a Wyoming range war between a big rancher named Ryker and a bunch of homesteaders who want to fence and farm the valley.  Shane throws his lot in with the sodbusters, led by stalwart Joe Starrett (Van Heflin, 3:10 to Yuma (1957)), his wife Marian (Jean Arthur, You Can’t Take It With You), and his annoying son Joey (Brandon De Wilde, Hud).  A very young Jack Palance (City Slickers) got a supporting-actor nomination for his performance as an evil gunslinger the rancher brings to town to deal with the farmers.  Roger Ebert calls it a great movie, but I thought it was only passable.

2001: A Space Odyssey

The Movie Snob takes in a classic.

2001: A Space Odyssey  (A).  I had seen this 1968 Kubrick masterpiece only once, many years ago, so I jumped at the chance to see it again at the Magnolia this past Tuesday night.  It was just as long and as trippy as I remembered it.  Basically, it’s about man’s first contact(s) with extraterrestrials.  There’s a prologue in which a black monolith of alien origin appears to our ape-like ancestors and (apparently) gives them the idea to start using tools.  Then we jump to the near future of 2001, when an identical monolith is discovered on the moon.  Finally, the bulk of the film is devoted to an ambitious space mission to Jupiter, led by astronauts Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea, The Thin Red Line) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood, Kitten with a Whip) and aided by the superintelligent computer HAL9000.  The special effects stand up amazingly well for their age.  See it on the big screen if you ever get the chance.

Double Indemnity

The Movie Snob takes in a classic.

Double Indemnity  (B).  Yes, it was classic movie night at The Magnolia again last Tuesday night, and I just had to take a gander at this classic film noir I’ve heard so much about.  Fred MacMurray (TV’s My Three Sons) plays Walter Neff, a talented but amoral insurance salesman.  He calls on a wealthy client and finds that the client isn’t home but his sultry wife Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck, The Lady Eve) is.  Sparks fly, and before long Walter is hatching a scheme with Phyllis to insure her husband’s life and then off him.  It’s a pretty good movie, but the effect was slightly spoiled in the early going by the audience’s frequent outbursts of laughter during some of the excessively hard-boiled dialogue.  And I didn’t quite buy the ending.  But still and all, I enjoyed the movie.  Edward G. Robinson (Soylent Green) co-stars as the insurance claims investigator who can smell insurance fraud a mile away.

Schindler’s List

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Schindler’s List  (A-).  I did not get around to seeing the winner of the 1994 Oscar for Best Picture until last night — I had bought the DVD years ago, but could never bring myself to watch it.  It is, of course, as good and as powerful as I had expected it to be.  A young Liam Neeson (Clash of the Titans) plays Oskar Schindler, an amoral, womanizing entrepreneur who moves to Krakow, Poland, and hatches a very successful plan to profit from WWII by using cheap Jewish laborers to manufacture things for the German army.  Gradually, his eyes are opened to the Nazi horror, and by the end of the movie he has spent his entire fortune on the bribes necessary to save the lives of some 1,100 Jews.  Neeson turns in a fine performance (Tom Hanks beat him out for the Best Actor Oscar for Philadelphia), as does a young Ralph Fiennes (Wrath of the Titans) as Amon Goeth, the psychotic Nazi commandant of the labor camp outside Krakow.  (Tommy Lee Jones beat Fiennes for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Fugitive.)  Ebert included Schindler’s List in his first book The Great Movies, and with good reason.

The French Connection

A new review from The Movie Snob.

The French Connection  (B).  I have a love-hate relationship with Dallas’s Magnolia Theater.  The parking situation is terrible, and I hate having to pick my “assigned seat” at the kiosk when I buy my ticket.  How is this an improvement over walking into the theater and picking your seat then?  On the other hand, some movies don’t play anywhere but the Magnolia, and it does have a great running series of classic films.  Tuesday night I saw their showing of this 1971 film, which won five Oscars including best picture, best director (William Friedkin, The Exorcist), and best actor (Gene Hackman, Heartbreakers).  I thought it was pretty good.  It’s a cop movie in which Hackman plays Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, a loose-cannon NYC cop on the narcotics beat.  He’s in the doghouse for some past screw-up that got another policeman killed, and when he hears rumors that a massive shipment of drugs is coming into New York from France, heaven help anyone who threatens to get between him and the bust.  Roy Scheider (Jaws) plays his calmer partner.  The movie is famous for an extended car chase, and it was good, but what struck me was the tedium of the cops’ job.  They do a lot of surveillance, which means a lot of following suspicious characters, losing track of the suspicious characters, and sitting in cars overnight watching to see what the suspicious characters are going to do next.  It is decidedly low-tech, and it does not look like a lot of fun.  Anyway, I enjoyed the film.

Nashville (the movie, not the TV show)

The Movie Snob checks out a classic.

Nashville  (B).  A local theater is continuing to show some older movies on Tuesday nights, so I took advantage of the opportunity to see this famous 1975 Robert Altman film on the big screen.  It’s kind of a weird, shambling movie.  Basically it takes a big cast of characters that are all in Nashville, and it follows them around as they come together and disconnect in various ways over the course of several days.  One unifying thread to the movie is a political campaign in full swing.  An upstart third-party presidential candidate (who is heard but never seen) is campaigning relentlessly in Nashville on ideas like taxing churches, changing the national anthem, and excluding lawyers from Congress.  One of his sleazy political operatives, well-played by Michael Murphy (Manhattan), is trying to recruit some country singers to perform at a rally.  A fragile queen of country music (Ronee Blakley, A Nightmare on Elm Street) is trying to get her feet back under her after recovering from a serious injury.  A music trio grapples with the fact that it is also a love triangle.  A ditzy BBC journalist (Geraldine Chaplin, Doctor Zhivago) wanders around interviewing anybody unlucky enough to stray into her orbit.  Lily Tomlin (A Prairie Home Companion) is a gospel singer.  Jeff Goldblum (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) drives a massive chopper around, wears big glasses, and gets called “Tricycle Man” in the credits.  There’s lots of country music, mostly pretty cheesy.  And there is much, much more in this 2 hour and 40 minute slice of 1970s Americana.  Although IMDB calls it a drama, it has quite a few funny moments.  In short, I got a kick out of it.

The Philadelphia Story

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The Philadelphia Story (C+). In this 1941 release, Katharine Hepburn (Adam’s Rib) plays Tracy Lord, a wealthy Philadelphia socialite who is two years divorced from another upper-crust fellow named C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant, Bringing Up Baby). Tracy is on the verge of remarrying, to a rather dull and earnest self-made man named George Kittredge (John Howard, Lost Horizon). Dexter gums up the works by smuggling a tabloid reporter and photographer into the Lord house to document the nuptials, and the reporter (played by Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) and Tracy unexpectedly hit it off. This movie was apparently adapted from a Broadway play, and the dialogue gets a little speechy at times. But it’s not a bad movie, and I did kind of look forward to finding out whom Tracy was going to end up with.

Bringing Up Baby

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Bringing Up Baby (B-). This 1938 screwball comedy starred a young and attractive Katharine Hepburn (The African Queen) as eccentric heiress Susan Vance and a dashing Cary Grant (North by Northwest) as earnest paleontologist David Huxley who is fated to cross her path the day before his wedding. They have numerous misadventures, some involving Susan’s tame leopard, Baby, which her brother sent to her from South America. Some of the movie is pretty silly, but some of it is still pretty amusing even 72 years later. I’m not saying run out and buy the thing, but you could easily do worse.

The Maltese Falcon

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The Maltese Falcon (B). Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca) plays San Francisco private eye Sam Spade in this 1941 release. A beautiful and distraught woman hires him and his partner, Miles Archer, to tail a man who has supposedly run off with her sister. Next thing you know, Archer and the man he was tailing both turn up dead, and the woman’s story about her sister is exposed as a lie from start to finish. Turns out instead that she and some other underworld types are in a race to find a fabulous gold-and-jewel-encrusted totem from the Middle Ages called the Maltese Falcon, and Spade will need all his wits to figure out what’s going on and save his own neck. Not a bad little story, although Mary Astor (Little Women), who plays the femme fatale, didn’t really strike me as all that gorgeous. Sam Spade is a much meaner, colder character than Philip Marlowe, the private eye Bogart played in The Big Sleep. This film also stars Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, who would go on to appear with Bogart again in Casablanca, and Elisha Cook, Jr., who would appear with Bogart in The Big Sleep and would also turn up as a guest star on the original Star Trek TV series. Worth a look.

High Noon

New review from The Bleacher Bum

High Noon -Turner Classic Movies – High Noon is an American classic movie and western. It was released in 1952. On the day he gets married and hangs up his badge, lawman Will Kane (played by Gary Cooper) is told that a man he sent to prison years before, Frank Miller, is returning on the noon train to exact his revenge. Having initially decided to leave with his new spouse, Will decides he must go back and face Miller. However, when he seeks the help of the townspeople he has protected for so long, they turn their backs on him. It seems Kane may have to face Miller alone, as well as the rest of Miller’s gang.

I was influenced to watch this movie by Bill Clinton. When Clinton left office, he was asked in an interview what movie would you advise George W. Bush to watch to prepare for being President of the United States. Clinton said that he would recommend High Noon. Now, I see why. Gary Cooper is terrific. He is literally scared to death, but his fear takes a back seat to do the right thing. However, doing the right thing is replaced by a sense of loneliness when he can’t get anyone to help him, including his friends. Cooper’s face tells the entire story. And his look at the end is priceless.

Bleacher Bum Movie Scale: Homerun, Triple, Double, Single, Strikeout

High Noon – Homerun

The Best Years of Our Lives

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The Best Years of Our Lives (B+). This movie won the Best Picture Oscar (and several others) in 1946, and was probably seen as an unflinching portrayal of the problems of G.I.’s returning to their civilians lives after WWII. It is mild and overly sentimental by today’s standards, but very good nonetheless. It’s also very long, almost 3 hours, so I watched it in two sittings. In the first hour we meet our three protagonists, ex-servicemen who happen to meet on their way to their mutual home town of Boone City. There’s middle-aged Sergeant Al Stevenson (Fredric March, I Married a Witch), who’s returning to a comfortable job in banking and an established family. There’s youngish Air Force Captain Fred Derry (Dana Andrews, Laura), who’s returning to a wife he barely knows, having married impulsively just before shipping out. And there’s the youngest of the trio, Sailor Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), who’s returning to a loving family and childhood sweetheart but is tormented by the fact that he lost his hands in the war. (Russell was a non-actor veteran who had lost his hands in a military training accident.) In the next two hours, we see how these three men adjust to their new situation. Old-fashioned in some respects but surprisingly up-to-date in others, this movie is worth seeing.

Annie Hall

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Annie Hall (C). I am trying to actually watch some of the DVDs that I have bought over the years and never gotten around to watching. I saw this movie once in college and didn’t remember it at all. On this second viewing, 20 years later, I am chagrined that this movie beat Star Wars for the 1977 best-picture Oscar. Although the movie is, I suppose, a romantic comedy, it is neither romantic nor funny. Woody Allen (Match Point) plays a neurotic New York comedian named Alvy Singer, and Diane Keaton (Baby Boom) plays the title character, a ditzy gal who’s apparently an aspiring singer. Perhaps the problem is that Annie is lovable but Alvy is not. He’s pretty much thoroughly unpleasant, and you don’t really want Annie to be with him. Tons of brief star appearances add some interest, such as Christopher Walken (Hairspray) as Annie’s brother and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) as a random guy at a lavish Hollywood party. I was surprised in the credits to see Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) listed as “Alvy’s date” in one of the last scenes in the movie, so I rewound, and although the people are too small to be recognizable, she is clearly towering over the diminutive Allen. And according to IMDB, Truman Capote has an uncredited cameo as a guy Alvy refers to as a “Truman Capote look-alike.” Not particularly great. Or good.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (B). Director Frank Capra (You Can’t Take It With You) re-teamed with Jimmy Stewart (Vertigo) and Jean Arthur (Shane) for this tale of a decent but apolitical guy (Mr. Smith, played by Stewart) who is unexpectedly appointed to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate. The senior senator from his state, at the direction of the political boss who basically runs the state, is on the verge of pushing through an appropriations bill that has hidden within it a dam project that will make the boss fabulously rich. Unfortunately, the innocent Mr. Smith decides to try his hand at bill-writing and proposes to build a camp for poor boys–exactly on the site of the dam project. This sets up a memorable showdown between Smith and the political machine. The depiction of corruption in the Senate was apparently quite controversial at the time. Completely corny, but still an enjoyable film.

It Happened One Night

DVD review from The Movie Snob

It Happened One Night (B). I got “The Premiere Frank Capra Collection” on DVD as a gift, and I decided to watch this movie, starring Clark Gable (Gone With the Wind) and Claudette Colbert (Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife), first. It was pretty darned good. Colbert plays spoiled heiress Ellie Andrews, who has defied her wealthy father by getting married before a justice of the peace to a man she hardly knows. She escapes from her father’s yacht in Florida and tries to make her way back to her husband in New York. On the way she falls in with down-on-his-luck newspaperman Peter Warne (Gable). He quickly figures out who she is and agrees to help her avoid her father’s detectives and get back to New York if he can publish her story. Made in 1934, it is certainly an old-fashioned picture, but pretty enjoyable nonetheless. Remarkably, it won the Oscars for best picture, director, actor, actress, and screenplay, a feat not duplicated until One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.


DVD review from The Movie Snob

Ben-Hur (1959) (B). I didn’t really know what to expect from this movie, other than a heck of a chariot race. My first clue was the subtitle that I never knew the movie had but that was right there in the opening credits: “A Story of the Christ.” Charlton Heston (Antony and Cleopatra) plays Judah Ben Hur, a wealthy young Jew living in Roman-occupied Palestine in the time of Christ. As the movie opens, Judah’s childhood friend Massala (Stephen Boyd, The Fall of the Roman Empire), a Roman, returns to Palestine as an ambitious military commander. The country is ripe for revolution, and Massala expects Judah to turn informant. When he refuses, an accident gives the Massala the opportunity to teach the restive Jews a lesson by sentencing Judah to be a galley slave and throwing his mother and sister into prison. From then on, Judah lives for revenge. Matters come to a head between Judah and Massala right around the end of Jesus’s earthly life, and the Passion of The Christ turns out to have a special significance for Judah. This 1959 movie gives Christ and Christianity a sweet and sentimental glow they sure don’t get any more. Not a bad movie, with great sets and, yes, an amazing chariot race. Now I know where George Lucas got the inspiration for the pod race in Episode I.

Lawrence of Arabia

New review from The Movie Snob

Lawrence of Arabia (B). A local theater has launched a new program of showing classic movies, and this was the first one in the series. David Lean’s 1962 epic stars Peter O’Toole (Troy) as T.E. Lawrence, an eccentric and flamboyant young British lieutenant stationed in Cairo during World War I. Arabia was apparently ruled by the Ottoman Turks at this time (please excuse my historical ignorance), and the Brits were interested in inciting the Arabs to rebel against their Turkish masters (and secretly interested in claiming Arabia for themselves after the war). They sent Lawrence to contact and observe the various Arab tribal leaders, and to his superiors’ surprise he went beyond his orders and persuaded them to unite long enough to revolt against the Turks. At 3 hours and 45 minutes long, this is not a movie for the faint of heart or the delicate of derriere, but it is pretty entertaining. O’Toole gives a great performance as the rather bizarre Lawrence, and there is plenty of spectacular desert scenery.

Because of Winn-Dixie; A Clockwork Orange

Reviews from The Movie Snob.

Because of Winn Dixie (C-). It is difficult to make a good family-oriented movie, as this sincere but unsuccessful effort demonstrates. The plot is serviceable — little girl moves to a new town with her sad, single-parent dad, she is lonely and has trouble making friends, she finds and keeps a lovable stray dog (which she names Winn Dixie), and through the dog’s antics she meets and makes new friends. Otherwise, the movie has troubles. The whole movie rests on the shoulders of the little actress who plays the protagonist, and unfortunately she is not up to it — in fact, none of the child actors is very good. The tone of the movie veers from sappy to hokey and back again. Subplots are introduced and never developed, like one about the shady past of the withdrawn, guitar-playing pet-store proprietor Otis (played by one Dave Matthews, who is apparently a popular musician in his own right). The filmmakers’ hearts were obviously in the right place, but they should go back and study the classics of the genre like The Parent Trap, The Karate Kid, and Wet Hot American Summer before they make another movie.

A Clockwork Orange (B+). I had heard a lot about this movie, but this was my first time to watch it. Apparently set in the near future, it is the story of an utterly amoral British hooligan named Alex, played with panache by a young Malcolm McDowell. He and his small band of vicious punks spend their nights hopped up on drugs and engaging in what he calls “the old ultraviolence”—they fight with other gangs, assault pathetic winos, steal cars, break into houses, and merrily beat and rape anyone unfortunate enough to get in their way. Finally, however, Alex is caught and thrown in prison. To shorten his sentence, he eagerly submits to an experimental procedure that a new government is touting as the answer to Britain’s crime problem. Basically, he is brainwashed so that the prospect of sex or violence automatically makes him violently ill. While this makes society safe from Alex, it immediately becomes clear that it is not safe for him in his new condition. What will ultimately become of him? What should be done with him? All this is very strikingly portrayed by director Stanley Kubrick against a wild soundtrack of both classical and futuristic electronic music. It’s a trippy ride, and its graphic portrayal of violence and rape were probably very shocking at the time. Tarantino and his ilk have raised (or lowered) the bar a lot since then, though.


A DVD review from The Movie Snob:

Titanic (A-). I recently stayed home from work sick – what better time to watch a three-hour Best Picture that I had never gotten around to seeing? Frankly, I wasn’t expecting it to be very good, having heard over the years that the plot is simplistic and the characters two-dimensional. And those criticisms are valid, but I still really enjoyed the movie. I thought the “Lady and the Tramp” romance between Rose (Kate Winslet, The Reader) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator) was reasonably believable, and the depiction of the doomed ship’s last hours was simply amazing. It must have been incredible on the big screen. I’d say it was well worth the $9 I spent on the DVD at Sam’s.

The Phantom of the Opera; West Side Story

New reviews from The Movie Snob:

The Phantom of the Opera (C+). This is a good rendition of a mediocre musical. Although I am a fan of some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s work, Phantom has never really worked for me. It has about three good songs right at the beginning, and the rest of it is pretty forgettable. However, I thought the movie had some strengths, especially the vivid visuals of the various opera productions and the Phantom’s subterranean lair. I’m no judge of vocal talent, but it seemed to me that newcomer Emmy Rossum sang very well as the female lead and that the guy who played the Phantom couldn’t sing well at all. For me, the lackluster songwriting dragged the movie down as it dragged on. If you liked the musical, I think you’ll be pleased with the movie, but I don’t expect the movie to make any converts. It didn’t me.

West Side Story (B). I bought the DVD maybe a year ago and finally got around to watching it. I liked it pretty well. Everyone probably already knows the story, which is basically Romeo and Juliet set in the context of rival gangs in New York City. Tony, a former member of the Jets trying to go straight, falls in love with Maria, the sister of the leader of a Puerto Rican gang called the Sharks. A couple of things stood out about the show. One was its candor about race-relations, which seems ahead of its time considering the movie was released in 1961. And I really enjoyed the song “Officer Krupke,” which satirizes the entire juvenile justice system in just a few minutes. It too comes off as way ahead of its time, with its references to judges, psychologists, and social workers who are taken in by juvenile delinquents who pass all blame for their behavior onto their environment. I liked it.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

From The Movie Snob:

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (C). I saw this movie for the first time last night at a midnight movie, and it was a strange and jarring experience from the outset. Before the movie, they showed a vintage Mr. Magoo cartoon that was as painfully unfunny as anything I have seen. I guess that’s what they did instead of showing previews back in those days. The movie itself did have a few laughs, but the humor was of the darkest, most painful sort. Released only a couple of years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the movie’s premise is that an American general (named Jack D. Ripper) has gone off the deep end and irrevocably ordered 30-some-odd nuclear bombers to attack the U.S.S.R. The big-guy general, himself a paranoid psychotic played by George C. Scott, has to give the president the bad news and theoretically help find a solution. Peter Sellers gives a triple performance as the well-meaning but ineffectual president, the weird ex-Nazi-turned-American-scientist Dr. Strangelove, and the only semi-normal person in this movie, a British officer who tries to convince General Ripper to recall the bombers. I’m not sure what the point of the movie was, since the Russians, though mostly off-screen, are portrayed as being as inept as the Americans. It was suspenseful but disturbing, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

A Streetcar Named Desire; The Anniversary Party

DVD reviews from The Movie Snob:

A Streetcar Named Desire (A-). Cultural illiterate that I am, until now I could honestly say that everything I knew about Streetcar I learned from The Simpsons. (Remember the one where the town puts on a production of a musical version called “O Streetcar,” starring Ned Flanders as Stanley Kowalski and Marge Simpson as Blanche DuBois?) Anyhow, I rented the movie with few preconceptions and was pretty much spellbound. Vivien Leigh is Blanche, a southern belle, no longer young, who leaves her ancestral home in Mississippi to stay with her younger sister Stella and her husband Stanley (Marlon Brando) in New Orleans for a while. Their rundown home in the French Quarter and Stanley’s brutish and even violent ways are quite a shock to Blanche, who seems none too able to stand very many shocks of any sort. Stanley, for his part, cannot stand Blanche or her affected gentility, and he makes it his mission to find out why she really left Mississippi. Lots of great dialogue and Oscars went to Leigh, Kim Hunter (Stella), and Karl Malden, who plays a friend of Stanley that Blanche sets her sights on. The ending didn’t quite ring true to me (and I have since read that the play ends quite differently), but I can see why this is considered a classic.

The Anniversary Party (D+). This mess of a movie is no classic. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming play a Hollywood couple (she’s an actor, he’s a novelist) who throw themselves a sixth-anniversary party. We quickly learn that they split up for a while and reconciled only a few months ago, and their relationship is still not exactly stable. I suppose that we are supposed to empathize with them as the evening wears on and we learn more and more about their troubles, but it didn’t happen for me. Eventually, almost everybody at the party takes ecstasy, secrets are revealed, there’s lots of yelling and crying, but I was neither touched nor entertained. The remarkable guest list (Kevin Kline, Gwyneth Paltrow, Phoebe Cates, Parker Posey, John C. Reilly) can’t save this party. Skip it.


From the shelf of The Movie Snob:

Jaws (A-). How is that the Movie Snob had never seen this movie before this past weekend? Well, I’ll tell you. When I was about 9 years old, this movie came on network television. My parents foolishly let my little brother and me watch it, and about halfway through I was totally freaked out by it. (You can guess the scene, the one where Richard Dreyfuss’s character gets into the water at night to check out a wrecked fishing boat.) Twenty-five years later, I am only just now able to face my fears. Anyhoo, I thought this was a terrific movie, if you overlook the rather dated special effects. The mechanical shark is somewhat more comical than menacing, but still, it’s a good suspenseful tale. The book was really good, too; I read it when I was about that same age, and it didn’t freak me out at all.